Seniors are more vulnerable to overheating and heat stroke because older bodies don’t adjust to high temperatures as well as younger bodies.
In addition, chronic medical conditions can change their body’s response to heat. And, some prescription medications can prevent sweating or reduce the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
To help you protect your older adult from the heat, we’ve rounded up 6 inexpensive products that keep seniors cool and comfortable in hot weather.
6 affordable products that help seniors stay cool in hot weather
1. $9 Way 2 Cool Mesh Cooling Towel
Get instant cooling relief with this simple, lightweight mesh towel. Get it soaking wet, wring out the excess water, and put it around the neck. It can be reused over and over again and has 50 UPF sun protection.
3. $13 O2COOL Deluxe Necklace Fan
Wear this battery-powered fan like a necklace and get a vertical flow of cool air that keeps you comfortable in the heat. It’s lightweight, lays flat against the body, and has a breakaway lanyard for safety.
4. $16 Cooling Pillow
Fill this durable pillow with water to activate the ice crystals inside and start the cooling relief.
5. $25 Active Therapy Hot and Cold Gel Pack
This versatile gel mat is 21.5 by 13 inches and covers large areas including upper/lower back, stomach, legs and knees. In the summer, freeze it to keep the body cool for hours.
6. $32 Chill-Its 6665 Evaporative Cooling Vest
This vest is filled with a special material that soaks up water and slowly releases it over 4 hours to keep the body cool. When it dries, soak it again to re-activate. It’s quilted nylon on the outside and has a water-repellent liner and mesh side panels for breathability. Wear it over a shirt (it will get slightly damp).
All prices quoted were checked shortly before publication, but prices and availability change often and might not match what is found online. This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain some affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.
Caring for aging parents can feel overwhelming. To make it easier to prioritize how to help and protect your older adult, The Dollar Stretcher shares 6 practical tips that focus on helping seniors live as independently and safely as possible.
According to the MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers, there are nearly 10 million adult children over the age of 50 providing care for their aging parents. And as the Baby Boomer population ages, this number is likely to dramatically increase in the years to come.
We love our parents and want to see them well and happy, but sometimes it’s hard to move from being the cared for to the caregiver.
As time moves on, this is exactly what happens for many, and sometimes it can be a costly affair. So, how does one keep an elderly parent safe and secure while keeping the family budget intact?
Here are a few simple tips that just may keep your elderly parent a little more healthy, safe, and protected.
See to safety
Falls are the number one cause of accidental death or injury for the elderly. Therefore, anything you can do to prevent a fall will go a long way to keeping mom or dad safe.
A few simple things that you can do include removing throw rugs and keeping extension cords out of the way. Make sure all walkways are well-lit and clear of clutter.
In the bathroom, safety should be a priority. Install grab bars by the tub and the toilet. (Also, it may be a good idea to put one near the bed.) A wise caregiver would ensure that a non-slip mat is used in the tub or shower at all times.
Finally, making simple repairs around their home will help to keep your parent safe. For instance, fix wobbly hand rails and a broken step. Make sure that anything that could cause a slip or a fall is fixed.
While at it, make sure smoke detectors have fresh batteries, fire extinguishers are in working order, and burned out light bulbs are changed to create the safest environment possible.
Encourage healthy habits
Simple strength and balance exercises greatly lessen the likelihood of falls. Therefore, encourage aging parents to seek out senior exercise classes. Often these classes can be found at senior centers and local park and recreation departments.
As an added bonus, your aging parent will likely make new friends and increase their social circle. An active and healthy social life adds to senior health, well-being, and longevity.
Exercise, of course, needs to be combined with healthy food choices. It’s easy to let things slide when only cooking for one or two, but there are many benefits to keeping on track with food choices.
Sit down with your parent and ask them what they’re eating. Don’t be afraid to look in their refrigerator. A little encouragement from you will help.
Caregiving is hard enough without the added guilt that often comes with all the responsibilities.
But often, the guilt that we feel isn’t deserved.
We tend to hold ourselves to unreasonable standards like being able to do everything without help, having a solution for every problem, always making the “right” decision, never getting upset or frustrated, and more.
None of that is realistic, but yet, we criticize ourselves when we inevitably fall short of the inhuman expectations.
We explain what causes caregivers to feel guilty, why it’s so destructive to health, and share 7 ways for dealing with caregiver guilt that improve your health and well-being.
What causes caregivers to feel guilty?
As a caregiver, it might seem like there’s nothing you don’t feel guilty about.
You might feel guilty over:
Feeling resentful, trapped, unloving, or other negative thoughts
Feeling that you’re not as good of a caregiver as you should be or that others are doing a better job
Realizing how you treated or judged someone with dementia before knowing what was causing their behavior
Doing things without your older adult that you used to enjoy together
Why guilt is destructive for caregiver health
Common misconceptions about how caregivers should feel or what they should do and the guilt that comes from not living up to those unreasonable standards can really hurt you.
These beliefs can push you to take on unrealistic responsibilities, avoid getting the help you need and deserve, and be too hard on yourself.
All these things add to your stress, worsen health, and can lead to poor lifestyle choices. Finding ways of dealing with caregiver guilt in positive ways helps you make choices that improve your health.
7 ways of dealing with caregiver guilt that improve health and well-being
1. Acknowledge that you feel guilty
The first step in solving a problem is to admit that it exists. When you suppress a feeling, it only becomes more intense.
Identify when you’re feeling guilty and acknowledge the thoughts and emotions. That can help reduce the feeling and let it pass.
For example, say “I feel guilty because I snapped at mom this morning over something trivial because I’m exhausted.” or “I feel guilty because I didn’t visit dad today because I need some time to recharge.”
2. Check your expectations against reality
Having unrealistic expectations causes unnecessary guilt.
When you think “I should be able to take care of everything without feeling resentful or exhausted,” check that against reality. Would you really expect that all other caregivers should be able to do that and keep it up forever? No, of course not. It’s unrealistic and not something you should expect of yourself.
Or, if you think “I should never move my older adult to assisted living or nursing care, no matter what,” think about the reality of the situation. There are so many situations where keeping someone at home is unrealistic and could cause serious harm to the older adult or the caregiver. If a friend had told you about a situation like that, you would agree that a move is the best solution for everyone’s health and safety.
3. Don’t compare your worst moments with someone else’s highlight reel
Based on what you might see or hear about other caregivers, it could seem like they’re doing a better job.
You might think they’re better at coping with stress, hands-on care, working with family, or finding resources.
The truth is that you only know about a small part of their lives. It’s not realistic or fair to compare what little you know about their situation against your everyday caregiving reality. Most likely, they’re struggling just as much as you are – or more.
In this situation, it’s helpful to be honest with yourself about how realistic your expectations are. Nobody can do everything by themselves and there is no such thing as a perfect caregiver.
5. Reframe guilt as regret
It’s impossible to do everything that theoretically “should” be done. This is the real world and there are always trade-offs that have to be made.
Instead of thinking, “No one does as good a job caring for mom, so I’m the one that has to be here all the time.” reframe that into “This is a difficult situation, but it’s not realistic for me to never take breaks and care for myself. I regret that I’ll need to make the tough choice to let someone else help, but it has to be done to allow me to keep caring for mom over the long term.”
And “I’m a terrible person for getting frustrated and angry yesterday” would instead be “I regret that sometimes I snap, but I know that I’m only human and am doing my best.”
6. Get support
A caregiver support group is great place to meet people who are in situations similar to yours. They’ll understand how you’re feeling and are likely to have their own stories of caregiver guilt.
Hearing from others helps you see that you’re not alone in feeling like this – and that you’re probably not being fair to yourself.
7. Remind yourself of your many positive accomplishments
Guilt makes us think of all the ways we’ve failed to meet our too-high standards. And we forget to think about all the wonderful things that you have done for your older adult.
Seated Stretches for the Elderly or those with Limited Mobility - YouTube
Seated stretching improves senior health
Chair exercises like stretching are perfect for seniors because they can be adapted for physical limitations, minimize the risk of injury due to falls, and still give health benefits. The only equipment needed is a sturdy, non-slip chair.
Stretching helps ease joint pain and muscle aches and also improves mobility, flexibility, coordination, and circulation. On top of the physical benefits, it also reduces stress and boosts mood.
We found a simple and quick 4 minute routine of seated stretching exercises for seniors. This free video takes seniors through 12 gentle stretches that ease tension and improve flexibility throughout the body.
Follow along with the 12 seated stretching exercises for seniors
1. Begin by sitting with good posture in a sturdy, non-slip chair (20 sec in video)
The ideal posture is to sit upright, engaging abdominal muscles, with feet on the ground, knees over toes, thighs parallel to floor, and hips aligned with legs.
Not everyone will be able to use this ideal position due to physical conditions, surgery, or injuries. To prevent injury, just do the best possible and focus on keeping the body aligned and comfortable.
2. Overhead stretch (30 sec in video)
Take a deep breath in and stretch arms up toward ceiling. Exhale and bring arms back down.
3. Upper back stretch (44 sec in video)
Make a circle with the arms and drop the chin down toward the chest. Push toward the opposite hand and focus on spreading the shoulder blades apart.
4. Chest stretch (1 min 12 sec in video)
With arms at sides, focus on pulling the shoulder blades together and down toward the ground.
5. Side stretch (1 min 38 sec in video)
Slowly lean over to one side without collapsing the upper torso, keeping abdominal muscles engaged. Repeat on the other side.
6. Deeper side stretch (1 min 54 sec in video)
Reach one arm up and over while leaning the body to the side to get a deeper stretch. Keep the arm by the ear. Repeat on the other side.
7. Spine twist (2 min 11 sec in video)
Cross arms over chest and slowly twist upper body to one side. Try not to move the rest of the body. Repeat, twisting to the other side.
8. Back of thigh stretch (2 min 40 sec in video)
Scoot forward on the chair and sit a bit closer to the edge. Extend one leg straight out in front with heel of the foot on the ground, foot flexed. Slowly and gently, bend forward at the hip, keeping the back straight. Repeat on the other side.
For a deeper stretch, extend arms toward toes while bending forward at hip.
9. Ankle circles (3 min 27 sec in video)
Sit back in the chair again and lift one foot up off the ground. Slowly circle the ankle in one direction and then in the other direction. Repeat on the other side.
10. Shoulder rolls (3 min 42 sec in video)
Bend arms at the elbow and roll shoulders back, making slow circles in the air with elbows. Then, make the same motion, but this time, the circles would be going forward.
11. Head circles (4 min in video)
Turn head to look over one shoulder. Very slowly, drop the chin and circle the head around and bring it up to look over the other shoulder. Then drop the chin again and circle the head back to the original side.
12. Overhead stretch (4 min 13 sec in video)
Take a deep breath in and stretch arms up toward ceiling. Exhale and bring arms back down.
Reminder: safety and comfort are most important
The most important thing in exercise is to keep your older adult comfortable and injury-free.
Follow the instructor’s movements only as far as is comfortable. None of these movements should cause pain.
Even if someone can only do some of the range of motion or needs to skip some stretches, they’ll still benefit from the routine. Over time, their flexibility and strength will improve and they’ll be able to do more and more.
Remind your older adult to always move slowly and gently and to pay attention to their body. It’s better to do a little less rather than risk getting hurt.
"Calming & Comforting a Person Living with Dementia" with Teepa Snow - YouTube
Use special techniques to calm difficult situations
When someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia is distressed or upset, the first thing to do is help them calm down. Reducing their agitation will allow you to figure out what’s wrong or help solve the problem.
In these situations, whatever threat or concern they’re experiencing is very real to them, so asking them to calm down or explaining why they don’t need to be worried won’t work.
What’s usually more effective is using a few simple techniques that rely on the body’s natural responses to bring calm. We found an excellent free video where expert dementia educator Teepa Snow demonstrates these helpful techniques.
Here, we highlight Teepa’s 4 key actions to take when working to calm down someone with dementia. After you’ve used these techniques to de-escalate the situation, you can move on to problem-solving.
4 key actions to calm down someone with dementia
1. At first, mimic their distress and repeat what they’re saying (43 sec in video)
Seeming to be as distressed as they are shows that you understand and accept their feelings. You’re on their side.
You could also use this technique to pick up clues to how they’re feeling or what’s bothering them. That will help you when you’re ready to move on to problem-solving. Teepa briefly does this at 56 seconds in the video.
2. Use the hand in the hand over hand method (45 sec in video)
When someone is upset, they may already be holding their hands out to you. If that’s the case, it’s the perfect opportunity to take their hand in a natural manner like Teepa does at 45 seconds in the video.
If they don’t offer their hand, try offering yours. When someone is in distress, they’re more likely to welcome this comforting gesture from someone who is on their side.
Avoid pulling or grabbing their hand if they don’t offer or willingly accept, that may feel like an attack to someone who is already distressed.
When holding their hand, try to stand on their dominant side (their writing side). This will make them more comfortable and help them relax – see the example at 4 min 43 sec in video.
Note: Teepa demonstrates the hand over hand method in detail at 1 min 42 sec in the video.
3. Take exaggerated deep breaths, putting the emphasis on breathing out (1 min 17 sec in video)
Transition from copying their distress to taking slow deep breaths. Put a big emphasis on blowing the breath out.
That helps to relax their ribcage so they’ll be able to take in more oxygen.
4. Pump into their palm in a heartbeat-like rhythm – squeezing and releasing with your hand (1 min 42 sec in video)
Continue the deep breathing while you start to gently pump (apply pressure into) their palm.
For extra comfort, keep your forearm along their forearm while you pump their palm. (2 min 38 seconds in video).
Be sure to watch their reaction to make sure the palm pump is providing comfort and isn’t causing pain or discomfort. If your older adult is frail or has arthritis in their hands, be gentle and avoid any known tender spots.
This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.
Prescription medications are a significant cost for most seniors. That’s especially true if they fall into the Medicare Part D coverage gap known as the “donut hole.” That’s when drug costs can skyrocket because they’re not covered. FamilyWize shares 5 expert tips on how seniors can afford to pay for prescriptions when they’re in the Medicare donut hole.
For many people, one of the most confusing aspects of using a Medicare drug plan is the coverage gap – sometimes casually referred to as the Medicare “donut hole.”
Each year, the coverage gap spending limits change. And each year, politicians discuss ways to do away with the gap altogether.
The good news is that there is support for seniors – and their caregivers – who fall into this “donut hole” in 2018.
What is the Medicare Part D coverage gap?
The coverage gap is a temporary limit on what a Medicare drug plan will pay for prescription drug coverage.
Within a given year, after a patient and their drug plan have spent a certain amount of money on covered drugs, the coverage gap begins.
Once a patient falls into “the gap,” or “donut hole,” their prescription drug plan will only cover a percentage of their costs and the patient must pay the rest out-of-pocket.
After that, when the patient meets a specific level of out-of-pocket spending for the year, they reach the other side of the donut hole.
Then, they qualify for “catastrophic coverage” until the end of the year. Catastrophic coverage ensures that seniors only pay a small amount for covered drugs for the rest of the year.
Some seniors will never spend enough money on prescription medications to reach this gap. Others reach it and exceed it each year – which means they have to plan ahead for the extra costs.
But planning ahead for the donut hole can be especially tricky for seniors and their caregivers because the spending limits change yearly.
Does the Medicare coverage gap apply to your older adult this year?
In 2018, if an older adult and their plan have spent $3,750 on covered drugs, they are in the coverage gap.
And after spending $5,000 out-of-pocket in 2018, they are out of the coverage gap and automatically qualify for catastrophic coverage.
People with Medicare who are enrolled in the Extra Help program that pays for Part D costs don’t need to worry about the coverage gap.
5 ways to afford prescription drugs when in the “donut hole”
If your older adult might fall into the coverage gap this year, there are several free tools and strategies available to help them afford their prescription drugs:
1. Sign up for a prescription discount card
Signing up for a free prescription discount card is one of the fastest and easiest ways to save a significant amount of money on medication.
Most Rx discount cards are available by free download or mobile app installation. Physical cards can be easily requested as well.
Once you have a prescription discount card for your older adult, simply show it to the pharmacist every time you pick up a prescription.
Look for a card with no fees or eligibility requirements, and check to make sure it covers your senior’s medications and is accepted at your local pharmacies.
2. Download manufacturer coupons
If your older adult uses a brand name drug, it is likely that the pharmaceutical company producing it has a coupon or discount program of some kind.
To find out, visit the drug manufacturer’s official website and look for a “discount program” or “patient assistance” program. Alternatively, try searching for the name of your senior’s medication followed by “manufacturer coupon.” And check to make sure your older adult qualifies for the manufacturer’s coupon discount.
Some states don’t allow discounts to be applied to patients on Medicare and Medicaid. Your pharmacist can help you understand if a manufacturer’s coupon applies.
3. Comparison shop
It’s a common misconception that all pharmacies charge the same amount for the same drug.
They do not.
Taking a few minutes to compare prices among local pharmacies can reveal meaningful savings.
It’s also wise to check major chain and big box stores, as well as independent pharmacies. Large retailers are sometimes able to negotiate deep discounts for commonly prescribed medications.
4. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist about your options
Your older adult’s healthcare providers are very aware that the Medicare Part D coverage gap exists.
If you’re concerned about affording their medications, talk to their doctor and pharmacist right away.
They might be able to suggest a switch to an alternative medication that is lower cost or simply a different dose or treatment plan that can shave a significant amount of money off monthly refill costs.
5. Enroll in government programs
There are also 3 government programs that can help, though they may take a little longer to implement than just downloading a discount card or doing a quick internet search:
State Programs – Each state has its own assistance programs to help seniors and their caregivers afford care and treatment. Find your state programs here.
Additional plans – There are many different Medicare plans available, some with better drug coverage than others. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to see if there is one that may be a better fit for your situation.
While the Medicare coverage gap is certainly a challenge, it likely won’t last forever. Policy makers discuss new ways to close the gap every day.
In the meantime, there are programs and strategies available to help seniors and caregivers afford the prescription medications they need.
Guest contributor: Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D, is the Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize, an organization that provides a free prescription discount card and mobile app to help people better afford their medications, regardless of insurance coverage. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care.
Exercise has many benefits for seniors with dementia
Exercise is an excellent, non-drug way to improve well-being and reduce challenging behaviors in seniors with dementia. The important thing is to find exercises that are enjoyable and safe for their ability level.
Staying active improves sleep, strength, flexibility, and circulation. Exercising is also an effective way to reduce fall risk and can reduce pain. Plus, it’s a great way to boost mood and self-esteem.
We explain how to encourage someone with dementia to exercise and share 12 great exercise ideas for all ability levels.
We also describe how to figure out what amount of exercise is best, the benefits of exercise, and how to keep seniors safe while exercising.
How to encourage someone with dementia to exercise
Getting someone with dementia to exercise may not always be easy, especially if they haven’t exercised regularly in the past.
It may help if you don’t refer to it as exercise, but treat it as just another regular task in their daily routine or as a fun special activity like a “dance party.”
Another thing to keep in mind is that many people with dementia struggle to start activities on their own and remember sequences. That’s why it’s so helpful to exercise with your older adult.
That way, you can demonstrate the movements, slow the pace as needed, and provide help when needed. Being able to mimic your movements and not having the pressure of having to remember what to do makes it a more enjoyable activity for your older adult.
12 ideas for physical activities for seniors with dementia
Walking – one of the best exercises around (and it’s free!). Walking around the house, the yard, or outside for any amount of time is wonderful for body and mind. You could even combine the walk by doing an errand together like walking the dog or going to the grocery store.
Tai chi – try these routines that can be adapted for a variety of physical conditions
Gardening – something simple like raking or pulling weeds gives a sense of accomplishment and is a great workout
Household chores – basic chores can be great exercise, like folding laundry, dusting, light vacuuming, or washing the car
Dancing – this is a fun activity that doesn’t feel like exercise. Play your older adult’s favorite dance music at home and lead them in a private dance party in the living room. Or, look for social events at senior centers that include dancing.
Exercise class – some senior centers or similar organizations offer classes specifically for people with dementia
Water exercise – consider going with your older adult to a local class at the YMCA or senior center
How much exercise is recommended?
Each person’s health, personality, and cognitive abilities are different, so it will take some experimenting to find the amount and type of exercise that works well for your older adult.
In general, aim for the amount that helps them feel good, both physically and mentally. And make sure to start slow and build up slowly. Any amount of exercise is great, no matter how small. Pushing too hard doesn’t help and could cause injuries.
For example, some people may enjoy a few 10 minute sessions throughout the day. Others might like to do 30 minutes all at once. And some may need to start with only 2 minutes and slowly build up from there.
Benefits of exercise for dementia patients
The benefits of exercise will vary depending on the person. But in general, being active improves health and well-being in many ways, including:
Improving mood, reducing stress, and increasing calm to reduce episodes of aggression, wandering, or agitation
Improving physical abilities for everyday tasks
Reducing fall risk because of improved strength and balance
Exercise is helpful in many ways for seniors with dementia, but the top priority is to make sure they stay safe before, during, and after physical activities.
Before starting, sheck with the doctor to make sure that exercise is safe for their physical and cognitive conditions.
Monitor the level of exertion by checking in with brief conversations. If they can speak without being short of breath, the pace is comfortable. If they can’t hold a conversation because they’re breathing too hard, slow the pace.
When older adults are included in group celebrations like 4th of July festivities, they feel more connected with family and friends and more engaged in life. But some traditional activities might not be well-suited for seniors.
Fortunately, there are many creative ways to adapt Independence Day activities to meet your older adult’s needs.
We’ve rounded up more than a dozen ideas for adapting traditional activities so seniors can join in the fun while staying comfortable and calm.
6 activities for seniors who enjoy going out
Many seniors still enjoy traditional celebrations like going to a relative or friend’s house for a lively barbecue. Others love to see live fireworks in the evening.
6 ways to make these activities senior-friendly:
Limit direct sun exposure by seating them in a cool and shady spot.
Bring a light jacket or blanket to keep them warm at night.
Standing is tiring. Make sure they always have a comfortable seat that supports their back. Bring a cushion, portable chair, or wheelchair if needed.
Many older adults aren’t able to go out, but would still enjoy participating in holiday celebrations. A wonderful way to enjoy the 4th of July is to bring the festivities to them!
5 great group activities
Throw a backyard barbecue at their house. Your older adult can participate when they want or just people-watch. This lets them join the fun, but keeps them from getting overtired or overstimulated, something that’s especially important for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
4 ways to have fun with food
Involve your older adult in cooking and food preparation as much as they’re able and willing. It may help them feel even more involved and included when they’re able to contribute to the meal.
Make traditional foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and coleslaw.
This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain some affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.
It’s frustrating when your older adult refuses to wear their hearing aids.
But the reality is that many hearing aids don’t improve hearing enough. That’s probably why they don’t like to wear them.
Hearing problems might not seem like a big deal compared to other health conditions, but untreated hearing loss is linked to serious issues like a faster decline in cognitive abilities like memory and concentration, hospitalization, fall risk, and depression.
We explain how to help your older adult get a hearing aid that truly improves their hearing.
Getting the right hearing aid takes more than basic testing
What most people don’t know is that listening needs are different for each person.
It’s not enough for an audiologist to check your older adult’s hearing, sell them a hearing aid, and call it a day. It’s much more complicated than that.
We found an article by Senior Planet that clearly explains why helping people hear well is much harder than helping them see well.
Here, we share essential information from the article. Find out:
What an audiologist should do
What seniors might need in addition to hearing aids
How to get better care from an audiologist and make sure the hearing aids actually work
How to get an audiologist to work within a budget
What an audiologist should do for seniors
An audiologist is a health-care professional trained to diagnose and treat hearing problems.
They need to look at your older adult’s specific type of hearing loss and consider all their hearing needs.
If a complete evaluation doesn’t happen, your older adult might not be able to hear, even with hearing aids.
Two assessments are needed:
A comprehensive hearing assessment
A communication needs assessment that considers their lifestyle
In the communication needs assessment, the audiologist finds out if your older adult has any trouble in 4 different methods of communication. That’s needed because different hearing technologies are available to help with different situations.
Needs in 4 methods of communication:
Face-to-face communication – For most people, it’s important to be able to communicate one-on-one and in groups. Assistive listening devices, like microphone systems that can be used at home or in public areas, plus hearing aids work well for these situations.
Media – Does your older adult frequently watch TV, use a tablet, go to movie theaters, etc? New technology can work with hearing aids or earphones. For example, TV audio can be sent directly to the hearing aids.
Telecommunications – Your older adult will most likely need to communicate on the phone. Some hearing aids can get audio directly from a mobile phone. Captioned phone systems are also a good option.
Alerts – Your older adult needs to be aware of important alerts like alarm clocks, doorbells, or smoke alarms. There are additional systems that use extra-loud sounds, flashing lights, or vibrations to help hearing impaired seniors stay safe.
What seniors might need in addition to hearing aids
If hearing aids can’t solve 100% of your older adult’s hearing problem, they may need to add an assistive listening device (ALD).
ALDs help seniors hear better in situations like rooms with bad acoustics, places with a lot of background noise, or when the sound source is far away.
How to get better care from the audiologist
Not all audiologists do everything they should, so you might need to advocate for your older adult.
The best way is to give the audiologist a clear picture of all of their needs. Make a grid of the four communication needs: face-to-face, media, telecommunications, and alerts.
The information in the grid helps the audiologist determine what types of hearing technology will work best for your older adult’s lifestyle.
In the grid:
Write the four needs along the top
Down the side, list all the places where your older adult needs to be able to hear: home, in the car, social gatherings, restaurants, grocery stores, etc
For each need, ask how well they’re able to hear in each place. For example, you older adult might have trouble talking with someone face-to-face at a noisy restaurant or hearing other cars honking when they’re driving. However, they might be able to hear pretty clearly when having a one-on-one conversation at home.
After your older adult gets their hearing aids, their audiologist should test them to make sure they work well.
The hearing aids should be adjusted and checked using “real ear measurement.” That’s when a small microphone is placed next to the eardrum to test whether the hearing aid gives enough amplification for soft, medium, and loud sounds.
How to find an audiologist who will work within a budget
Before making an appointment with an audiologist, speak with them on the phone to make sure they can meet your older adult’s needs.
Explain that you’re looking for someone who can evaluate hearing needs and can recommend a variety of technologies at different price points.
For example, an audiologist might suggest a hearing aid telecoil and a generic ALD as a budget-friendly solution instead of an expensive wireless hearing aid.
You can also ask them to “unbundle” their billing. The audiologist’s service fees are listed separately from the hearing equipment. Seeing exactly what your older adult is paying for can save money.