Senior Care Corner is the source for insights and tips about caring for senior adults, whether you are doing so at home (either yours or theirs), remotely if you live at a distance, or if your loved one resides in a nursing home or other residential facility.
The risk of developing diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, increases when we are over 40.
There are many risk factors, such as weight management, physical activity, and high blood pressure or cholesterol, that can be controlled.
Lifestyle factors are actionable so seniors and their family caregivers can take steps to improve their health with the support of their healthcare team.
Unfortunately, not all seniors are benefitting from diabetes education for proper self-management.
Family caregivers are well positioned to help their senior loved ones improve their ability to manage their diabetes by connecting them with education and appropriate, easy to follow, individualized treatment plans.
Latest Report of Treatment Guidelines from the American Diabetes Association
Every year the American Diabetes Association (ADA) prepares a report with input from researchers, experts in the field, medical doctors, and others to guide practitioners, caregivers, patients, and payers to appropriate care and treatment.
Recently they published their latest report for 2018.
The goals for the care of diabetes expressed in this report:
Timely treatment decisions based on evidence in collaboration with patient based on their needs, preferences, and other comorbidities (diseases). Improved self-management support is vital.
“Care systems should facilitate team-based care, patient registries, decision support tools, and community involvement to meet patient needs”
Creating quality diabetes treatment programs and evaluating their effectiveness to promote improved processes.
The ADA encourages patient centered care which is respectful and responsive to the needs of the person with diabetes because one size does not fit all people diagnosed.
Evaluate social factors such as food insecurity, financial barriers, and housing when creating a treatment plan and refer to community resources as needed
Despite all efforts to educate and manage diabetes in the population, the ADA reports that “33–49% of patients still do not meet targets for glycemic, blood pressure, or cholesterol control, and only 14% meet targets for all three measures while also avoiding smoking”.
Innovations for Improved Diabetes Care
This report details specific innovations and changes in the care of people with diabetes that can help seniors and everyone with diabetes (29 million currently diagnosed and 8 million more unaware that they have diabetes) manage their disease for health and prevention of complications.
Increasing the percentage of people who are managing diabetes will lower healthcare costs and side effects from uncontrolled abnormal blood sugar levels.
Using the latest technology can help lower the cost of care, reduce the likelihood of unscheduled medical interventions, help control medication adjustments and reduce complications due to better blood glucose control.
Here are some of the technology advancements available to seniors that can benefit their self-management:
Apps provide improved blood sugar monitoring, communicating results in real time with the health team and caregivers so that emergencies can be avoided.
Telemedicine, especially for those with limited access or transportation obstacles, when more frequent follow-up and monitoring occurs, blood sugar control, and medication adherence is improved.
Electronic medical record (patient portal), which allow caregivers and seniors can view and track their lab work, have more individual contact with physicians and other health professionals, make appointments easier, and refill prescriptions, among other tasks.
Text an educator or health professional using text either as part of the electronic health record or using smartphones, being in touch with an experienced person who can guide you and your senior if trouble or questions occur.
Tracking medication adherence using electronic pill dispensers that will alert both caregivers and the medical team when medication is skipped or administered inappropriately
Reducing Cost of Care
Improved diabetes management will occur when the cost of care, supplies, medications, and a reduction in out-of-pocket expenses are controlled. This will improve treatment plan adherence.
The cost and availability of education and eye exams is an area needing improvement as well.
Continuous Glucose Monitors
Managing blood sugars without frequent finger sticks using a continuous blood glucose monitor will improve adherence to treatment plans. If a person with diabetes can keep blood sugar in better control without having to use strips or hurt themselves multiple times a day via fingerstick, they may be more apt to monitor as directed and administer medication accordingly.
Improved A1C Testing Procedure
Laboratory tests for A1C have in the past not been as accurate for certain groups of people. Advancements in testing procedures means that, especially for these people, a lab can be aware to use specific testing to overcome inaccurate results yielding more appropriate action based on the data. Ultimately meaning that more people will be able to manage blood sugars more effectively.
More emphasis has been placed on the connection between heart disease and diabetes. It is important to incorporate not only heart healthy lifestyle factors such as eating and activity but also be sure that medications do not contribute to heart attack and stoke for people with diabetes.
Some heart medications have been shown to potentially reduce the risk of heart disease and those should be used for people with diabetes.
Hypoglycemia in Older Adults
Low blood sugar has become a real concern for older adults managing their diabetes. The ADA recommends more education and close monitoring be done for older adults to prevent episodes of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Some older adults may be struggling with medication management and overtreating their diabetes. Using a drug regimen that is as easy to follow as possible is important for aging adults.
Putting Education Into Practice
All these advances can help our senior loved ones manage their diabetes and prevent adverse events from low blood sugar (or high blood sugar) as long as we advocate for them to get the individualized treatment plan and education they deserve.
Learning more about what foods to eat, heart health, weight management, physical activity, sick day care, and medication administration is key to a successful treatment plan.
Medicare pays for diabetes education as an annual benefit. One-on-one sessions with the diabetes educator and dietitian are a great way to create an individual care plan. Classes are available in most healthcare systems or wellness centers.
Family caregivers are able to attend diabetes self-management education sessions to help their senior manage their diabetes at home. If you haven’t taken a class or seen a diabetes educator, it is a good step in the right direction to control diabetes.
Family caregivers are responsible for many things requiring skills that they may never have had to use before and may be wondering what is the best way to accomplish certain tasks.
Caring for a wheelchair may be one of those things.
Often we are learning about wheelchairs at the same time as our senior loved one, so they are unable to direct us based on their experience.
That does not, of course, reduce our desire to care for them and their well-being as we care for their wheelchairs.
Tips for Safe Wheelchair Use
It isn’t enough just to push your senior loved one here and there, out in the community, or just inside the house from room to room.
Caregivers want to be sure that the wheelchair their senior loved ones use is safe and in good working condition.
There are many ways for wheelchairs to wear out or be used in such a way that harm could occur. In fact, in 2016, almost 18% of all wheelchair users were injured in a wheelchair-related accident and 44-57% reported a wheelchair breakdown. Worse yet, 20-30% of those with a breakdown were stranded at or away from home.
Here are a few tips for wheelchair safety:
Check the wheels regularly – ensure the wheels aren’t loose or have flat tires, which may impact its braking ability. Don’t forget the spokes, as broken spokes can keep the chair from moving freely. In addition, keep the spokes clear of obstructions, such as lap blankets.
Keep the wheels well-oiled for proper functioning.
Check the brakes often to be sure they still lock tightly to prevent accidents. Always lock brakes before transferring your senior in and out of chair!
Don’t overload the chair with heavy bags, especially on the back, which could cause it to tip over.
If the wheelchair is battery powered, inspect the system for safety and keep it out of the rain. Check the speed and reprogram it to a lower rate for safety if needed.
Don’t allow children to play on wheelchairs.
Keep the chair clean, including chair seat, arms, and wheels, to prevent the spread of germs and prolong its life.
Pay close attention to the surface on which your senior is riding to prevent tipping over due to cracks or holes in pavement or any change in grade, including carpeting.
Be aware of people nearby (not to mention small pets) so that they don’t get run over, causing injury to them or the senior in the wheelchair.
You may want to keep the owner’s manual handy in case service or warranty information is required.
Using a wheelchair can be vital to seniors who have difficulty walking or have limited stamina so that they can stay engaged in the community and socialized with those they love.
Keeping the wheelchair in good working order will help you keep them safe and them a part of the action!
Those tips are a quick snapshot about caring for a wheelchair but here are a few more articles you might find informative.
Now is the time for family caregivers to begin getting their plans in place to help their senior loved ones weather the storm and pick up after a disaster.
Natural disasters include events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or earthquakes that can cause great damage and even loss of life. We are also seeing widespread wildfires and even volcano eruptions that are causing homelessness. Falling trees, heat stroke, freezing, belongings being washed away or worse are some of the consequences of a natural disaster.
All natural disasters cause some type of loss. For older adults, much can be lost after a natural disaster that is currently allowing a senior to live independently, such as the help of a nearby family caregiver, access to medical care, adequate nutrition, safe housing, and getting medications.
When these lifelines are lost, even temporarily, a senior can be in real trouble physically, financially, and emotionally.
Seniors Struggle After a Disaster
Senior’s are affected more drastically than younger people following a disaster because, according to the National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER), they have fewer private resources to recover after a natural disaster.
Almost 80% of older adults own their own home. After a disaster, they must rebuild or repair their home. Sometimes they must find another place to live if the home is unlivable and until it can be made whole again.
Oftentimes, disabilities of age can inhibit seniors from participating in both the clean-up and the repair of their own homes.
Financially, the cost of this recovery could be out of their reach.
Another obstacle for seniors is the need to use technology to get the help they need from recovery programs. Their access to technology, hearing loss, and cognitive impairment are all obstacles.
Family caregivers can and may have to help older adults in the aftermath of a natural disaster so we want to share some tips to help you in the recovery process.
Resources for Recovery
There are a variety of sources that can help family caregivers and senior loved ones access the help they need after a natural disaster to help them recover, hopefully without losing even more, including their homes.
Caregivers may have to facilitate many of these interventions, so having the proper documentation will be essential for you to act on their behalf. You may want to collect it now and keep a copy safe in an emergency.
Private insurance (medical, flood, auto, and homeowners); be sure to follow directions for filing and meet the expressed deadline dates; this can be done over the phone or online
Federal, state, and local assistance (FEMA if the Governor and President have declared the disaster)
Non-profit organizations or governmental aid agencies (HUD, homeowners assistance programs, faith-based relief)
Mortgage relief because, while your senior is still responsible for payment of the loan, there may be adjusted payment plans or grace periods granted which reduce or suspend payments for up to six months after talking with a loan servicer
Tips for Getting the Help You Both Need
First, ensure your senior made it through the disaster uninjured!
Before your senior’s home suffers more damage, secure any property that might be impacted in the aftermath of the disaster, such as boarding broken windows or tarping a damaged roof against more rain.
Have a list of possessions cataloged before a disaster. Using a smartphone to take pictures or even video of each room is recommended. After a disaster, this can help generate a list of missing or damaged items for loss recovery.
Keep a list of any expenses incurred, such as rental car or hotel fees for claims. Ensure all receipts are retained.
If the disaster is a FEMA covered event, generally you and your senior will have 60 days to apply for assistance. This can be done at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621- FEMA (3362).
Caregivers may want to photograph important information, including all insurance cards, and upload to a cloud server so that the information can be obtained after the disaster.
There can be a 90-day moratorium placed on any foreclosure activities by the mortgage holder after a natural disaster. This could protect seniors from foreclosure or eviction if the mortgage isn’t paid on time.
If flood insurance is needed to protect your senior’s home from the next disaster, you can contact floodsmart.gov for more information or to purchase flood insurance. FEMA will only cover costs of home repair for one flood event.
Advance planning and preparedness won’t stop the next disaster from occurring but it will help caregivers manage a successful recovery and improve the likelihood that seniors can continue to age in place.
Millions of older adults receive care and support from loved ones. For many, it’s those family caregivers who enable them to age in place successfully.
But more than 20% of current seniors — and even higher percentages of future seniors — don’t have spouses, partners, or children to care for or about them.
In addition, many other seniors have family members who live a long distance away or are estranged. Either way, they aren’t around to provide the caregiving many of older loved ones need.
In an unfortunate irony, many who will face this situation in the future are — or will be — family caregivers themselves, providing for the needs of their parents or other senior loved ones.
What are these “elder orphans” to do when they need help with those things, big and small, they can no longer do effectively for themselves?
In this episode of the Senior Care Corner® Podcast, we want to help raise awareness and let current and future elder orphans know there are many others facing challenges similar to theirs.
Click on the ▷ below to play the podcast (note: you can continue reading while you listen if you want)
Raising awareness of elder orphans is important, first, because many of us may know one who could use some help and not realize it. Understanding their situation is a step toward connecting them with what they need.
Promoting awareness in family caregivers and others who be elder orphans in the future enables them to start planning to meet the needs family caregivers might otherwise provide, things they might not otherwise consider in advance, such as these.
Determining who would care for them or where they would go if something happened to make them no longer able to care for themselves.
Establishing a network of people with whom they can communicate and socialize to help avoid isolation.
Arranging transportation for activities such as shopping, healthcare appointments, social activities, and more, should the elder orphan no longer have the ability or desire to drive.
Naming a healthcare proxy, someone to make medical decisions should the elder orphan become unable to do so.
Setting up emergency procedures, such as someone who will check in to ensure the elder orphan is okay, such as after a storm, during a heatwave, or simply after time has past without any interaction.
There are many more things current and future elder orphans should consider doing in advance to help them age successfully.
Conversation with Carol Marak
When we decided to focus a podcast episode on elder orphans, we knew a conversation with Carol Marak was the only way to do it.
It is through social media interactions with Carol that we first learned of this hidden minority among our growing senior population. Finally, we got a chance to meet her at Aging in America this year, where she shared her insights as part of a panel.
After being a family caregiver to her own parents, Carol realized “there is no one who will do that for me.” Since then, she has researched, written, and spoken on the topic of elder orphans.
Carol also created a Facebook group for elder orphans, a place where members can interact and share experiences with others who understand what they are facing.
Family caregivers often spend long hours caring for senior loved ones and their immediate family members but take little time to care for themselves.
Telling someone “care for yourself so you can care for others” is so much easier said than done for family caregivers, who struggle to find the time they need to finish everything that needs to be done each day.
It is all too easy, however, to put your own personal needs on the back burner or on the ‘I’ll get to it later’ list.
When was the last time you went to the doctor for yourself?
How about the beauty shop for a haircut, manicure, or pedicure?
When was the last time you went to a movie, ate in a restaurant, or had a date with your partner?
I hear you laughing – too long??
Family caregivers need the gift of time to not only complete essential household tasks but to care for their own needs.
How can you get back time?
Respite for Caregivers
Respite is a great way to get back time for family caregivers.
What is respite? Respite is planned or emergency temporary care provided for caregivers.
Respite programs provide planned short-term and time-limited breaks for families as well as a positive experience for the older adult.
Getting a break to care for yourself while caregiving is essential. You will need a hand with daily tasks or personal care needs for your senior loved one so that you can go to the doctor, get a haircut, take a nap, visit friends, or getaway on vacation.
There is no failure in seeking out respite care. Caring for yourself will help you be a better caregiver.
Where to Find Respite
There are many avenues to find a respite solution that fits both your senior’s needs and yours as a caregiver.
Whether you need daily, weekly, or occasional respite, you will be able to find the care you seek in most areas of the country.
Here are some opportunities for respite:
Family and friends – enlisting the help of family members or friends to help you do every day tasks that can relieve you to care for yourself. Perhaps they can help cook meals, take your senior to appointments, or just spend time with them while you get some rest.
Paid caregivers – hiring caregivers from a home health agency to provide support such as household chores, personal care, shopping, cooking, companionship, and other tasks can allow you to do things you may need to do, including remaining in the work force.
Day programs – senior centers can keep your loved one safe during the day, occupied with activities or learning something new. They are great places for socialization with their peers. Usually they serve a hot, nutritious meal and many provide transportation as well. There may be a fee for this program.
Disease specific (therapeutic) respite programs including dementia respite – these programs provide failure free activities, socialization and mental stimulation for people with dementia and give their caregivers a much needed break from caregiving. They may be run by faith-based organizations or other nonprofit groups to help support those challenged by dementia. A small fee for supplies and food is customary.
Retreat – how would you like a retreat specifically designed to nourish and refresh those who daily put loved ones’ needs first and give care on a daily basis? There is a place that has been offering caregiver respite and a way to look at your role with a new vision and a renewed commitment to continue in that role, but with a resolve to care for yourself at a deeper level. This particular retreat takes place in St. Francis Retreat Center at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, SC.
Out of home respite care in a facility – an assisted living facility, memory care, long term care facility, or even a hospice house will provide short-term care in their facility for up to a week (or longer as needed). This care is paid for by the senior or their caregiver and not covered under Medicare. It could be a weekly or per diem charge.
Palliative or hospice care – if your senior qualifies for this medical program, they can provide in-home care services that will help relieve some of your duties. This is covered by Medicare or Medicaid if your senior is qualified.
Help Paying for Respite
For many seniors and caregivers, paying for respite may be out of reach, even if the fees are small.
If your senior didn’t set aside enough funds to cover their retirement, healthcare and cost of living as they age, they probably don’t have the money to pay for supports such as respite or other long term support services (LTSS).
Sometimes a long-term care insurance policy may cover some of the costs of in-home care when a doctor says it is necessary. You should check your senior’s policy if they have one and use the benefits for which they have been paying for years.
There may be respite vouchers available to family caregivers through the State Lifespan Respite Grantees. Funded by the Administration for Community Living, US Department of Health and Human Services, State Lifespan Respite Programs or Projects are run by a designated state government lead agency, which works in collaboration with a state respite coalition and an Aging and Disability Resource Center Program/No Wrong Door System. The goal is supporting a statewide system of coordinated, community-based respite for family caregivers caring for individuals with special needs of all ages. Currently 37 states participate in the program. Here is a link to more information to help you access these services.
Some disease specific organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, also have respite funds available to eligible caregivers in the form of vouchers that can help with the cost of respite.
Your local Area Agency on Aging can help you locate other resources to help fund respite care so that you can continue to provide care for your senior loved one.
You can also see if there are more benefits for which your senior may be eligible to offset the costs of care through this government resource website.
Seniors who are veterans can apply for in-home support through the Veteran’s Administration. This is an often overlooked source of assistance that should be investigated for any veteran.
Benefits of Respite
The obvious benefit for respite care is that family caregivers can begin to find time to care for themselves. Getting a rest, caring for your own health needs, working, socializing with friends, and getting mental health breaks is good for caregivers and essential to continue to be an effective caregiver.
However, there are other benefits for our senior loved ones when family caregivers get the support they need.
Getting as much support for seniors can prolong the time spent living independently at home. This can delay when placement in a facility becomes the only safe option.
Caregivers can avoid the potential for neglect or even abuse of their senior loved ones when frustration, anger, and fatigue are remedied by help from others in the form of respite. Caregivers can display their emotions by yelling, striking out at seniors or neglecting their needs when fatigue sets in. A nap or walk can make a big difference when tempers flare.
Accepting respite is not a failure but a good decision for both caregivers and seniors receiving care.
Seeking the perfect solution or a combination of more than one will make a big difference in everyone’s life.
It’s both exciting and overwhelming to try (I said ‘try’) to keep up with the technology innovations for aging in place.
As family caregivers, we want the best — and to do our best — for our senior loved ones who are living independently and are convinced technology innovations will be a big part of that.
In order for the tech of the future to benefit seniors, though, they will have to be comfortable making it part of their lives. That’s part of where today’s technology comes into play.
Each year we anxiously await the Consumer Technology Ownership and Market Potential Study (Study) from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), producers of CES®, to learn about changes in technology adoption by older adults. We realize growing numbers today are likely to result in more seniors benefitting from what technology has to offer.
Reporting on Seniors and Soon-to-Be Seniors
While the information in the Study is useful, we wish the information presented including additional age groupings, rather than reporting results for all older adults in the 55+ bracket.
While CTA research reflects what is desired by its members, we think the tech industry — and seniors — would be better served if the 55+ population was separated into additional groups.
As it is, the Study’s reporting for the 55+ age group includes both seniors and future seniors — as well as many family caregivers.
Now, on to the results…
Older Adults’ Tech Adoption Continues to Grow
The Study reflects increased technology adoption by the 55+ group, as it has the past several years.
Just as important, maybe more so, in many categories tech ownership by older adults looks more like that of younger age groups.
Why is that important? As technology companies see those results, their view of the market potential of older adults should be rising and, with it, the future of technology solving the problems of seniors.
According to the CTA Study:
Three out of four older adult households have at least one smartphone. While that lags other age groups, all of which are over 90%, it represents 50% growth in smartphone adoption by older adults in just three years.
Most older adults have a laptop or desktop computer, getting closer to other age groups. Interestingly, older adults’ desktop computer ownership has fallen below 50%, bringing them down closer to other groups in that regard.
Ownership of tablet devices (such as iPads) is seeing slower growth, as with other groups, and still lags other groups.
We found interesting a few sets of technology ownership statistics for older adults.
Their 18% bluetooth hands-free device ownership is very close to the 20% figure for all age groups.
Reported smart appliance ownership by older adults lags the overall results by only 1%.
When it comes to other smarthome devices, such as smart light bulbs, door lock controls, motion sensors, etc., older adults’ 15% ownership is closer than you might expect to the overall 17% result.
Sparing you further statistics, it is nice to see growing numbers of older adults expect to buy smarthome devices such as smart thermostats, appliances, speakers, and more.
Overall, the Study provides a lot of reason for optimism regarding technology adoption by the seniors of today and tomorrow.
Internet Access Still Shows Need for Help
A quarter of older adults still don’t have access to the internet. While that doesn’t lag too far behind the general population, this is one case where that’s not good enough.
Access to the internet is key to many of the benefits independent-living seniors can and will realize from technology, just as web access is important to those of us of all ages.
The connections to family, friends, community, healthcare professionals and more that are enabled by the internet can be particularly important to avoiding isolation for seniors who, for whatever reason, don’t get out of their homes as much as they once did.
So, no, learning that “only” a quarter of seniors lack internet access is not a good thing. We have to do better.
Some of those seniors may not see a need for internet access. Hopefully we can demonstrate to them the benefits they are losing.
Unfortunately, we suspect many of the quarter going without are due to living in areas without access, as is the case in some rural communities, or a matter of cost. After all, seniors who are having trouble buying medications and putting food on the table (as is the case with far too many) likely don’t have money for broadband or cellular internet service.
Whether it’s location or money, that’s a situation we have to find a way to change, not just for seniors but the population as a whole. Just as lack of electricity held back many families in years past, so does lack of affordable internet access now and more so in the future.
We appreciate CTA reporting on this important statistic, but are hopeful internet access becomes universal so it never again has a place in studies like this one.
Follow us here at Senior Care Corner® for updates on technology for our seniors — and for us as their family caregivers.
A continuing obstacle to staying healthy for seniors who age in place is food insecurity.
Family caregivers worry their senior loved ones may not be eating right but some, especially those who are long distance carers, may not realize how serious a problem they may be facing.
Worse, that this problem may be beyond their control without a little help from others.
Having food insecurity is not the same thing as senior hunger, although one can lead to the other. Hunger is a physical symptom of pain when there isn’t adequate food consumption which is usually temporary.
What is food insecurity?
Food insecurity is not having access to a sufficient quantity of wholesome, nutritious food that is affordable. It is a cultural, social and financial state which is often permanent.
Factors Contributing to Food Insecurity
It is estimated by the 2010 census that as many as 24 million people in households over 40 years old have some degree of food insecurity.
A major obstacle to accessing healthy food for many of our senior loved ones is money. Fixed incomes may not stretch to cover the cost of housing, medical care, medications, and food.
They may be forced to decide between prescriptions and food every month.
Maybe what they bought on their last shopping trip didn’t last until the next check arrived, so the funds weren’t sufficient to meet their eating needs. This could lead to skipped meals or eating smaller portions than they should for health.
Older adults may try to make their money go further, thinking that purchasing cheaper food will keep their budget in control. However, this means they are avoiding healthier food because it might be more expensive. Just having some food which isn’t nutritious enough to meet a senior’s physical needs isn’t the answer.
Another reason seniors may be food insecure is that they simply do not have healthy food sold near them. Perhaps they live in a rural area where the closest grocery store is too far from them. Sometimes living in a large, bustling city can also mean no grocery chains are close, instead only convenience foods sold in local markets or bodegas.
Areas without available healthy foods are known as food deserts.
Seniors may also have difficulty with transportation to go to and bring back healthy foods. They may no longer be able to drive and there may be no public transportation in their location. Paying for rides to get food could be out of question on a fixed income.
It is common sense that is proven by statistics – poorer people have more food insecurity.
Those living in the south also have higher food insecurity. This tends to illustrate the greatest problems resulting in food insecurity: economics and physical access due to geography.
So Many Affected by Hunger
Feeding America has created a map to help us all learn who is affected most by food insecurity and the number of people who are food insecure is shocking. This video explains more:
Recently the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Study) study reported that SNAP participants were not choosing healthy foods and ate only 1.3 servings of fruits and vegetables (lower than recommendations of either 5 A Day or DASH plan of 7-9 per day) and drank more sugar sweetened beverages than others.
SNAP has no restrictions on the nutritional quality of the food purchased with the benefits.
Consequences of Food Insecurity for Seniors
Why should family caregivers be worried about food insecurity?
The AARP report finds that households suffering from food insecurity are more likely to have adults with long term physical health problems, higher numbers of chronic disease, and greater frequency of depression.
With chronic health conditions and increased medical needs as a result of poor nutrition, costs for healthcare increases leading to a downward spiral and less money for food.
Lack of adequate nutrition to maintain health is a challenge many older adults can’t overcome.
What Family Caregivers Can Do to Fill the Gap
Awareness of Food Insecurity
Family caregivers initially should observe whether or not your senior loved one is food insecure.
Ask yourself a few of these questions:
Can they afford nutritious food in addition to costs of living and healthcare?
If they have adequate funds, are they making healthy food choices?
Can they get themselves to the grocery store, carry the food home, and prepare their own meals?
Is healthy food accessible in their location or do they live in a food desert?
Do they have a disability that compromises their ability to access healthy food?
Does their mental status impede their self-care, that is, are they too depressed to care whether or not they eat?
Once you determine the prevalence of food insecurity and the potential root cause, it is time to take action.
Acting to Solve Food Insecurity
How can you help your senior overcome food insecurity?
Complete the Benefits.gov checkup to be sure your senior receives all the financial help the government has available for which your senior is eligible.
Food pantries or banks – are there any local food banks either operated by a faith-based organization or community agencies that your senior could use to fill the gaps?
Online grocery shopping and food delivery – can you help your senior who may be too far from the grocery store get food delivered via online company?
Food assistance via SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) – getting them in the system and their benefits could be something caregivers can facilitate for seniors
Get knowledge about which foods are healthy, how to make the most of your food budget and ways to manage or prevent chronic disease through healthy eating and encourage seniors to follow a healthier lifestyle
Arrange for a meal delivery system such as Meals on Wheels to get them a nutritious meal
Enroll them in a senior center near them to get more information on nutrition, companionship, socialization and a hot meal daily.
Bring them foods for their pantry or hot meals and schedule other family members to do the same.
Helping them get what they need to stay healthy is important for seniors to remain independent as they age.
Technology innovations are exploding onto the market and ever-growing numbers of products useful for aging older adults (and family caregivers) are accessible.
We know many of these technology devices will be beneficial to seniors and their caregivers, though some will provide solutions looking for problems that your senior (and others) may never have.
It is important to investigate the new technologies coming to market with an eye toward usefulness.
Many new products aimed at older adults have been created by start-up companies trying to capitalize on the fast-growing number of seniors aging in place.
Other products are now being created to solve gaps to help seniors stay independent and healthy to age in place successfully and their family caregivers, with research funded by our tax dollars.
Government Funded Technology Development
The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering is producing biomedical innovations to improve our health.
I’ll bet you weren’t aware that our tax dollars are funding research into technology solutions that will one day be beneficial for our seniors in addition to their better-known clinical trial research.
Here are some new ideas taking shape right now:
A wearable skin patch with dissolvable microneedles capable of effectively delivering an influenza vaccine. This painless technology with promising early results may offer a simple, affordable alternative to needle-and-syringe immunization.
Fluorescent markers to help surgeons operate on tumors, removing tumor cells with greater precision in people with head and neck cancer, technology that might also be used to light up nerves, which can be very difficult to see and protect during operations.
A wearable tattoo that is a small monitoring device to detect alcohol levels in perspiration. It was designed to monitor alcohol intake, which could help reduce unsafe drinking that can lead to vehicle crashes, violence, and the degeneration of the health of heavy drinkers.
A new radiotracer to detect prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
A new supercooling technique that promises to extend the time that organs donated for transplantation can remain viable outside the body for as long as up to four days.
A new heart stent made of non-toxic, biodegradable material that completely dissolves once blockage is cleared, reducing long-term complications of lifelong stents currently in use.
The world’s smallest MRI machine, which can detect cancer cells and bacteria at the cellular level more efficiently than biopsies.
A handheld ultrasound device which, due to its portability, can be used at the bedside, in the operating room, or on the battlefield in place of the large machines now used in the office suite. One beauty of this ultrasound is that it can be used in rural settings and with underserved populations who have limited access to healthcare.
Using smartphones and computer-aided tools to rapidly screen people for tuberculosis (TB). The smartphone-based system will shorten the wait time for diagnosis from weeks to hours. Rapid diagnosis, in turn, will reduce the transmission of TB to others and hasten the start of medications.
Injectable hydrogel bandages to control internal bleeding and save lives in emergencies. The researchers combined a hydrogel base (a water-swollen polymer) and nanoparticles that interact with the body’s natural blood-clotting mechanism. The hydrogel expands to rapidly fill puncture wounds and stop blood loss.
Creation of Technology
Many may be unaware that our government, and thus our tax dollars, are funding research into technology. It isn’t always easy to discover and it is often part of smaller agencies and departments.
Did you know that microchips, computer networking, Siri, and the Global Positioning System were all developed by U.S. government agencies, often to solve a military problem?
Research happens at the government level while development of the technology generally is handed off to a private entity that assumes financial risk.
Regardless how tech advances that may benefit our seniors come into being, family caregivers will look for the solutions to their caregiving issues to help keep their senior loved ones healthy, safe, and independent.
We love, honor, and respect our fathers and celebrate them on Father’s Day.
Perhaps we cook their favorite meal (or let them share their prowess on the grill), encourage them to sit back and relax, or visit to hear them regale us with their favorite memories of years past.
But what gift can family caregivers give the dad who is aging?
A tie no longer seems appropriate for the dad who no longer heads to work everyday and rarely will wear one to church on Sunday anymore.
How often have family caregivers heard this mantra from our senior loved ones, “I have everything I need”?
What is the best gift for dad?
Engaging Gifts for Senior Dads
Dads who are seniors may prefer a simple visit from family members and sharing the day together.
Naturally, we want to do just a bit more to show them how much we truly appreciate all they have done for us over the years and what they have meant in terms of our own growth by being good role models.
Here are some gifts that you can give to your elder dad to spend time in an enjoyable way and taking the time to engage:
Participate in an activity he used to love to do with you, such as playing cards. Maybe he will find it easier using a large print card deck or one that is easier for him to hold in his stiff hands. Play a game and keep score. Bragging rights are important! The opportunity for socializing and reminiscing that sitting at a table playing even a simple game like Go Fish provides will be priceless.
Pull out a family photo album from years past or make a new one with pictures you have been collecting. This is a great time to talk about family members, learn more about the family tree, and ask questions about his life. You could even journal his answers. You may be surprised at the tidbits you never heard!
Install an app on his tablet or smartphone for fun like Snapchat or a game like Trivia. Teach him how to use it and have fun with the challenge and potential connections with others in the family.
Set up music playlists with him incorporating some of his favorite songs. Talk about what kind of music he enjoyed in all phases of his life. Separate them into task lists such as Dinner Time music, Porch Sitting music, Get Up and Go music, Riding in the Car music, Bath Time music, or any other list that you decide together would be enjoyable or helpful for him throughout the day in a variety of scenarios. You might learn something about his life talking about what kinds of music he finds enjoyable or what challenges he has during his day when determining what types of lists he would find helpful.
Invite family members, including great-grand and grand-kids, to a meal. Let your dad help plan the menu, set the table, and be the ‘host’ instead of being the one for whom others are caring. Keep the conversation going with the attention of the family focused on dad. Rejoice in the moment!
Watch a ball game together. Talk about his memories of past games, relive when you played ball together (maybe he coached your little league team) or when you went to a professional sports team’s stadium. Do you have baseball cards from years ago? Did he have a favorite player or team?
You can certainly buy dad things he may really need like a new shirt or pair of shoes to mark the occasion, but taking the extra effort to engage will be appreciated by him — and you.
Take Advantage of the Moment
Family caregivers give love and affection every day, in every way, by caring for the senior men in their lives. You may be helping them with household chores or personal care tasks. You may be managing their finances for them or driving them around town to appointments.
Family caregivers perform a variety of tasks big and small for their senior loved ones.
These are all essential tasks and they do show how much you care for your dad, but in finding ways to give him one of these engaging gifts you will enjoy time spent together when sharing is pleasurable and not daily care that is a means to an end.
Time flies quicker than we realize. Pausing to engage with dad, focusing on him as a person and not just his need for care, is something you won’t regret in the future.
Happy Father’s Day to all the senior fathers and caregiving dads!
You might be horrified at the number of our beloved seniors who fall victim to elder abuse.
Each year, an estimated 5 million older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited.
That is 1 in 10 seniors — we should all be horrified!
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), elders throughout the US lose over $36.5 billion annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation, money that they could have used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care.
Senior Care Corner® joins the awareness campaign of the National Center on Elder Abuse as we Build Strong Support for Elders on June 15.
What is Elder Abuse?
Abuse of elders refers to the intentional or neglectful act by a trusted individual or caregiver that can or may lead to the harm of a vulnerable elder.
Abandonment and self-neglect are forms of abuse, as are physical, emotional, financial and neglect.
Some believe that elder abuse can occur by strangers who seniors may trust but who are not familiar, such as through the internet. But it can also be at the hands of someone they know.
How To Recognize Elder Abuse
Every one of us can potentially interact with — and help! — a senior who has been a victim.
Many seniors don’t tell that they have been scammed, injured, or bullied by someone out of fear or embarrassment.
There are warning signs that will help us all spot potential abuse and report it. You only have to suspect abuse to make a report to authorities. They will investigate.
Many don’t tell because they are afraid the abuse will only get worse.
If you believe that an elder is in imminent danger, call 911 or local law enforcement.
Here are some common signs of elder abuse:
Cuts or sores
Sexual abuse/sexually transmitted disease
Lack of food or clean clothes
No supervision for safety, if needed
Poor living conditions – dirty, safety hazard, poorly maintained, no stove or refrigerator, lack of water or heat/cooling
Lack of medical necessities, such as glasses, dentures, hearing aids, medicines or assistive devices
Untreated wounds or other medical conditions
Confined to bed or room
No control over money, if able
Vulnerable senior signing over assets without comprehension
“Voluntarily” giving to charities or gifts in excessive amounts, especially in return for companionship
Unable to have access to items that they can afford
Being coerced into giving money, passwords, or property
Withdrawal from usual behavior or activities
Change in usual behavior or personality
Isolation at the hands of another, being cut off from family and friends