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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. A new radiotracer to detect prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. The world’s smallest MRI machine, which can detect cancer cells and bacteria at the cellular level more efficiently than biopsies.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.




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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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!




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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:

Physical abuse

Unexplained bruises

Fractures

Cuts or sores

Burn marks

Sexual abuse/sexually transmitted disease

Neglect

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

Financial

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

Emotional

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

Caregiver verbally abusive, demeaning, controlling, bullying, uncaring

Who Is At Risk?

Unfortunately, no one is immune to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It occurs in every demographic, and can happen to anyone.

Abuse can occur wherever the senior adult lives – home, hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation, or on the internet.

Older women are more susceptible to abuse as are both male and females over 80.

Dementia, isolation, mental health and substance abuse are also risk factors for types of elder abuse.

Unfortunately, the abuser is often someone in the senior’s own family.

As many as 10% of seniors (not including those with dementia) when asked, report some form of abuse. However, as few as 1 in 14 cases are ever reported to the authorities.

What Can You Do?

Everyone can act to save seniors from abuse.

Here are some things that caregivers and all of us need to do to protect our seniors.

  • It is important to be aware of the possibility of elder abuse in those seniors you know.
  • Look for warning signs and act!
  • Talk about elder abuse and teach others about the danger seniors face every day in our communities.
  • Talk to and observe your senior loved one and other seniors in your life so that you can spot signs of abuse early. Remind them about how much you care for them and their safety.
  • Ask questions and listen to their answers, you may learn something surprising.
  • Pay attention to senior’s financial condition and, if needed, review financial accounts for signs of mismanagement.
  • Volunteer in programs that give support or assistance to elders who are victimized.
  • Help caregivers by giving them respite so that they will not burn out or mistreat elders in frustration. Doing tasks for caregivers to lighten their load could prevent abuse.
  • If you are suspicious about abuse of seniors in your community, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency or Long Term Care Ombudsman to report your suspicions.
  • If you fear for a senior’s safety, contact 9 1 1 immediately!

Your efforts could protect an elder from being abused!




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Have you heard someone say, “100 is the new 60” when it comes to aging?

We don’t know if that is true, but older adults are more active and engaged, healthier, and they are living in their homes forever, unlike generations past.

Seniors are not the same as they once were, but many are still facing multiple problems as they age.

The statistics found in the latest edition of Profile of Older Americans created by the Administration of Community Living — which  includes the Administration on Aging, is an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — remind us just how much the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Let’s look at the results of the 2017 version of the Profile and how it impacts family caregivers. Keep in mind that this is a profile of a large number of people, each of whom has an individual profile and their own needs.

Results of Profile of Older Americans

Older adults make up about one in every seven, or 15.2%, of the population of America.

If these seniors are healthy enough to reach age 65, they will have an average life expectancy of an additional 19.4 years (20.6 years for females and 18 years for males).

There were 81,896 persons age 100 and over in 2016.

Older women outnumbered older men, with a 27.5 million to 21.8 million advantage.

About 28% (13.8 million) of non-institutionalized older persons reported living alone (9.3 million women, 4.5 million men). Almost half of older women (45%) age 75 and over were living alone.

Over 4.6 million older adults (9.3%) were below the poverty level in 2016 making most issues they face more difficult such as healthcare, medications, living costs, paying for in-home care or medical devices/technology, or just buying healthy food.

Aging and Health

If seniors live almost 20 years after their 65th birthday, are they healthy?

Are they caring for themselves to be successful living independently as they age?

The report reveals that most older persons have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions. In 2015, among persons age 65 and over, the top five chronic conditions were

  • hypertension (58%),
  • hyperlipidemia (48%),
  • arthritis (31%),
  • ischemic heart disease (29%), and
  • diabetes (27%).

A big challenge with chronic disease is to manage it, thereby preventing it from debilitating your senior loved one to the point of loss of mobility and independence.

This can be devastating and result in needing to live away from home in a facility.

Need for Care Increases with Age

Most agree that the need for caregiving increases with age, so the statistics in this area are no surprise – – but still important to know.

In January through June 2017, the percentage of older adults age 85 and over needing help with personal care (22%) was more than twice the percentage for adults ages 75–84 (9%) and more than six times the percentage for adults ages 65–74 (3%).

About 31% of persons age 60 and over reported height/weight combinations that placed them among the obese. This results in difficulty managing chronic disease and also remaining functionally independent. More help from caregivers may be needed when obesity impairs self-care ability.

Slightly under half (44%) of persons ages 65-74 and 29% of persons age 75 and over reported that they engaged in regular leisure-time physical activity. Not staying physically active further contributes to obesity and chronic health conditions.

Implications of Increased Healthcare Needs

When older adults require more medications to control symptoms of multiple chronic diseases, it can be more likely that medication administration will result in emergencies.

Falls increase when lack of activity, mobility issues and declining health are present. This is evidenced by increased visits to the hospital.

In 2015, 7.1 million people aged 65 and over stayed in a hospital overnight at least one night during the year.

The more hospitalizations and doctor visits a senior requires, the more healthcare dollars are needed to cover expenses for healthcare. In 2016, consumers age 65 and over averaged out-of-pocket health care expenditures of $5.994.

Older Americans spent 13.1% of their total expenditures on health.

Caregiving Demands When Seniors Help Seniors

Many caregivers of seniors are seniors themselves.

Spouses, informal caregivers, and adult children are aging themselves which can make caregiving responsibilities difficult, if not impossible, to meet.

The risk of injury for a senior adult providing care to another senior adult can be great.

If it were to occur, it puts them both at risk for not being able to remain in their home. Who will care for the senior who is not hurt and the one who hurt themselves caregiving? Hopefully there is a plan in place in case of emergency.

The risk is also present when older adults who themselves need care and also provide care to younger family members. For example, approximately 1 million grandparents age 60 and over were responsible for the basic needs of one or more grandchildren under age 18 living with them in 2016.

Being a family caregiver to a younger person when you feel as though someone should be caring for you could result in caregiver burnout for older adults.

Don’t Try to Face Caregiving Alone

The older a family caregiver is, the more obstacles there are to overcome.

We at Senior Care Corner often say that it is important to build a network when you are a family caregiver. This is especially important if a senior is the family caregiver of a senior.

While the numbers and statistics may be on the rise, the issues of aging are consistent over time.

With the help of family caregivers, seniors need to spend time working at staying as healthy and physically active as they can to be a success when aging in place.

Successful aging takes effort — and often some help!




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As we age, we are at risk for development of a variety of medical problems.

Our senior loved ones may already have multiple medical issues and could be at risk for more.

They want medical care that is thorough and consistent, seeking expert advice to prevent worsening medical issues.

Family caregivers hope that their senior’s medical team is taking the time needed to diagnose and manage disease.

5 Ms Of Geriatric Care

Your senior’s healthcare team members who are trained in geriatric medicine are focused on five areas.

They treat older adults with an individualized approach to meet their needs.

The five focus areas (source HealthinAging.org) are:

MIND
  • Maintaining mental activity
  • Helping manage dementia
  • Helping treat and prevent delirium
  • Working to evaluate and treat
MOBILITY
  • Maintaining the ability to walk and/or maintain balance
  • Preventing falls and other types of common injuries
MEDICATIONS
  • Reducing polypharmacy (the medical term for taking several medications)
  • De-prescribing (the opportunity to stop unnecessary medications)
  • Prescribing treatments exactly for an older person’s needs
  • Helping build awareness of harmful medication effects
MULTICOMPLEXITY
  • Helping older adults manage a variety of health conditions
  • Assessing living conditions when they are impacted by age, health conditions, and social concerns
MATTERS MOST
  • Coordinating advance care planning
  • Helping manage goals of care
  • Making sure that a person’s individual, personally meaningful health outcomes, goals, and care preferences are reflected in treatment plans
Getting Focused Healthcare for Your Senior

Doesn’t that plan look like it would be very beneficial for you and your senior loved one?

In reality, does your current healthcare team practice this type of geriatric care?

We hope everyone who treats a senior would look at them with these 5 areas of focus but likely not as many are trained in this type of care and treatment as we would like.

We know that there is a shortage of geriatricians who specialize in treating older adults. In fact, in 2013 there were estimates that 17,000 more were needed to meet the demands of aging adults.

Family caregivers can:

  1. Ask the healthcare team if they have been trained as geriatric practitioners and if they follow these 5 areas of focus when treating your senior loved one.
  2. Ask to what other members of the team they will refer you such as speech therapists for swallowing difficulties, registered dietitians for eating issues, psychologist for depression, care managers or social workers to help get services, pharmacists for concerns of polypharmacy, elder law attorneys to execute advance directives or end of life options, and others who can help fill gaps in care services. The doctor doesn’t have to do it all, but should be able to connect you with appropriate experts to help you.
  3. Have your questions ready, be prepared ahead of time so you get what you need during a visit without wasting valuable time. Doing a little homework ahead of time through observation and understanding your senior’s needs now and in the near future will help you get the help you need.
  4. Take notes during healthcare visits so you don’t have to back track to get information already provided and so that you can follow-up with all the team’s suggestions. Having notes will make it easier to share the information with other family caregivers or paid caregivers.
  5. Don’t give up! You know your senior loved one best and what would be best for them. Continue to seek the answers you need. Get information from other caregivers through support groups as well as learning all you can about whatever issues your senior has such as dementia or other disease processes.

As family caregivers, we want our senior loved ones to get the person-centered care they need from their healthcare team. With these actions, we can do our part to help them get that care.




 

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Family caregiving, as we have long discussed, is often a thankless, solitary labor of love for those providing care for senior loved ones.

The tremendous contributions of family caregivers have likewise failed to get their deserved recognition from the healthcare system or government agencies and officials.

None of that ruffles family caregivers, of course, as they are committed to caring. Besides, between caring for their senior loved ones and everything else going on in their lives, family caregivers often don’t have time to think about such things.

Flying under the radar like this, though, has meant family caregivers and the loved ones for whom they care have not been getting support they could use, support that could readily be justified based on the benefits our healthcare system realizes from their family caregiving.

In this episode of the Senior Care Corner® podcast, we’re pleased to explain two examples of how that may be changing.

  • Our family caregiver interest topic for the episode is a discussion of the RAISE Act, which became law earlier this year.
  • We’re excited to be sharing a conversation with Jay Patel of Seniorlink, a company that is transforming family caregiving.

Click on the ▷ below to play the podcast (note: you can continue reading while you listen if you want)

RAISE Act

In January, 2018, the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act of 2017 became law after bipartisan sponsorship and support in Congress.

The RAISE Act, as it is (fortunately) better known, is a signal that those at the highest levels of the US government are taking notice of the contributions and needs of family caregivers.

As you will hear in our discussion on the podcast, the RAISE act doesn’t directly make changes that help meet the needs of family caregivers or the seniors for whom they care, but it’s an important first step that will hopefully result in future actions by government agencies and/or Congress.

Conversation with Jay Patel of Seniorlink

We first encountered Seniorlink at CES®, where we had an enlightening conversation with Tom Reilly, the company’s President and CEO. What we learned at CES was enough to get us excited about what Seniorlink is doing.

Jay Patel

After hearing more at Aging in American and getting chances to chat with Tom and Jay Patel, Seniorlink’s Clinical Transformation Officer, we knew we had to share their story with you and asked Jay to join us in a conversation we recorded for this podcast.

Who is Seniorlink? They do a good job of explaining it concisely on their website:

Seniorlink builds care collaboration solutions that combine human touch and technology to integrate and activate the entire care team, including case managers, care providers, family caregivers, and patients, resulting in high-quality, person-centered care and improved outcomes at a lower cost. 

As followers of Senior Care Corner know, our mission is all about enabling family caregivers to provide the best care possible to their senior loved ones while also caring for their own needs. A key focus area of ours is technology that improves the lives of seniors and family caregivers. It’s not surprising, then, that we are excited about the work of Seniorlink.

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Jay. We plan to follow the work of Seniorlink closely as they transform care and family caregiving, with updates to come in future articles and podcasts.

Links from This Episode Stay Tuned!

We hope you enjoy this reboot episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast and find it informative.

Stay tuned for future episodes and check back regularly to read our articles in the meantime or signup in the box at the upper right on our website to receive our twice-monthly updates. We ask no information other than your email address, will use it only to send the updates, and WILL NOT provide it to anyone else.




 

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Family caregiving, as we have long discussed, is often a thankless, solitary labor of love for those providing care for senior loved ones.

The tremendous contributions of family caregivers have likewise failed to get their deserved recognition from the healthcare system or government agencies and officials.

None of that ruffles family caregivers, of course, as they are committed to caring. Besides, between caring for their senior loved ones and everything else going on in their lives, family caregivers often don’t have time to think about such things.

Flying under the radar like this, though, has meant family caregivers and the loved ones for whom they care have not been getting support they could use, support that could readily be justified based on the benefits our healthcare system realizes from their family caregiving.

In this episode of the Senior Care Corner® podcast, we’re pleased to explain two examples of how that may be changing.

  • Our family caregiver interest topic for the episode is a discussion of the RAISE Act, which became law earlier this year.
  • We’re excited to be sharing a conversation with Jay Patel of Seniorlink, a company that is transforming family caregiving.

Click on the ▷ below to play the podcast (note: you can continue reading while you listen if you want)

RAISE Act

In January, 2018, the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act of 2017 became law after bipartisan sponsorship and support in Congress.

The RAISE Act, as it is (fortunately) better known, is a signal that those at the highest levels of the US government are taking notice of the contributions and needs of family caregivers.

As you will hear in our discussion on the podcast, the RAISE act doesn’t directly make changes that help meet the needs of family caregivers or the seniors for whom they care, but it’s an important first step that will hopefully result in future actions by government agencies and/or Congress.

Conversation with Jay Patel of Seniorlink

We first encountered Seniorlink at CES®, where we had an enlightening conversation with Tom Reilly, the company’s President and CEO. What we learned at CES was enough to get us excited about what Seniorlink is doing.

Jay Patel

After hearing more at Aging in American and getting chances to chat with Tom and Jay Patel, Seniorlink’s Clinical Transformation Officer, we knew we had to share their story with you and asked Jay to join us in a conversation we recorded for this podcast.

Who is Seniorlink? They do a good job of explaining it concisely on their website:

Seniorlink builds care collaboration solutions that combine human touch and technology to integrate and activate the entire care team, including case managers, care providers, family caregivers, and patients, resulting in high-quality, person-centered care and improved outcomes at a lower cost. 

As followers of Senior Care Corner know, our mission is all about enabling family caregivers to provide the best care possible to their senior loved ones while also caring for their own needs. A key focus area of ours is technology that improves the lives of seniors and family caregivers. It’s not surprising, then, that we are excited about the work of Seniorlink.

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Jay. We plan to follow the work of Seniorlink closely as they transform care and family caregiving, with updates to come in future articles and podcasts.

Links from This Episode Stay Tuned!

We hope you enjoy this reboot episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast and find it informative.

Stay tuned for future episodes and check back regularly to read our articles in the meantime or signup in the box at the upper right on our website to receive our twice-monthly updates. We ask no information other than your email address, will use it only to send the updates, and WILL NOT provide it to anyone else.




 

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Family caregiving, as we have long discussed, is often a thankless, solitary labor of love for those providing care for senior loved ones.

The tremendous contributions of family caregivers have likewise failed to get their deserved recognition from the healthcare system or government agencies and officials.

None of that ruffles family caregivers, of course, as they are committed to caring. Besides, between caring for their senior loved ones and everything else going on in their lives, family caregivers often don’t have time to think about such things.

Flying under the radar like this, though, has meant family caregivers and the loved ones for whom they care have not been getting support they could use, support that could readily be justified based on the benefits our healthcare system realizes from their family caregiving.

In this episode of the Senior Care Corner® podcast, we’re pleased to explain two examples of how that may be changing.

  • Our family caregiver interest topic for the episode is a discussion of the RAISE Act, which became law earlier this year.
  • We’re excited to be sharing a conversation with Jay Patel of Seniorlink, a company that is transforming family caregiving.

Click on the ▷ below to play the podcast (note: you can continue reading while you listen if you want)

RAISE Act

In January, 2018, the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act of 2017 became law after bipartisan sponsorship and support in Congress.

The RAISE Act, as it is (fortunately) better known, is a signal that those at the highest levels of the US government are taking notice of the contributions and needs of family caregivers.

As you will hear in our discussion on the podcast, the RAISE act doesn’t directly make changes that help meet the needs of family caregivers or the seniors for whom they care, but it’s an important first step that will hopefully result in future actions by government agencies and/or Congress.

Conversation with Jay Patel of Seniorlink

We first encountered Seniorlink at CES®, where we had an enlightening conversation with Tom Reilly, the company’s President and CEO. What we learned at CES was enough to get us excited about what Seniorlink is doing.

Jay Patel

After hearing more at Aging in American and getting chances to chat with Tom and Jay Patel, Seniorlink’s Clinical Transformation Officer, we knew we had to share their story with you and asked Jay to join us in a conversation we recorded for this podcast.

Who is Seniorlink? They do a good job of explaining it concisely on their website:

Seniorlink builds care collaboration solutions that combine human touch and technology to integrate and activate the entire care team, including case managers, care providers, family caregivers, and patients, resulting in high-quality, person-centered care and improved outcomes at a lower cost. 

As followers of Senior Care Corner know, our mission is all about enabling family caregivers to provide the best care possible to their senior loved ones while also caring for their own needs. A key focus area of ours is technology that improves the lives of seniors and family caregivers. It’s not surprising, then, that we are excited about the work of Seniorlink.

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Jay. We plan to follow the work of Seniorlink closely as they transform care and family caregiving, with updates to come in future articles and podcasts.

Links from This Episode Stay Tuned!

We hope you enjoy this reboot episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast and find it informative.

Stay tuned for future episodes and check back regularly to read our articles in the meantime or signup in the box at the upper right on our website to receive our twice-monthly updates. We ask no information other than your email address, will use it only to send the updates, and WILL NOT provide it to anyone else.




 

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Alzheimer’s and related dementias touch the lives of us all.

Most people are either personally caring for a loved one with dementia or know someone who is living with dementia or caring for a person with dementia (or have it themselves).

It has become rare to not be affected by dementia.

Unpaid family caregivers are on the front lines trying to navigate the maze of balancing caregiving and work/life, learning about the latest advances, and doing what they can to care for themselves.

New information, hopeful research discoveries, and tools for caregivers appear almost daily.

We want to update family caregivers and give you some actionable items to help you on your caregiving journey.

Latest Dementia Statistics

The recent Alzheimer’s Association 2018 Facts and Figures report details the latest information in dementia prevalence:

  • Every 65 seconds someone in the US is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease
  • 7 million people are currently affected in the US; of those 5.5 million are over 65
  • 1 in 10 people over 65 have Alzheimer’s (the greatest risk factor is age)
  • 2/3 of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are women
  • 1 in 3 people die from Alzheimer’s or related dementias annually
  • 20 years before symptoms appear the brain becomes damaged
  • Because Alzheimer’s dementia is underdiagnosed and underreported, a large portion of Americans with Alzheimer’s may not know they have it

You can see more in this video from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer's Association 2018 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures - YouTube

Effects on Caregivers of People with Dementia

Family caregivers providing unpaid care for their loved ones with dementia don’t regret their decision to care for family members in need. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they are free from consequences of being a caregiver.

Here are some interesting tidbits about family caregivers and how dementia affects them:

  • 1 in 3 caregivers are over 65 themselves
  • Among primary caregivers of people with dementia, over half take care of their parents
  • It is estimated that 250,000 children and young adults between ages 8 and 18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s or related dementia
  • National surveys have found that approximately one quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers, caring for their older loved ones while also caring for their children
  • More than 6 in 10 (63%) Alzheimer’s caregivers expect to continue having care responsibilities for the next 5 years
  • 3 primary reasons caregivers provide care to a person with Alzheimer’s
    • desire to keep a family member or friend at home (65% percent)
    • proximity to the person with dementia (48%)
    • caregiver’s perceived obligation as a spouse or partner (38%)
  • 59% of family caregivers rated the emotional stress of caregiving for someone with dementia as high or very high
  • 30% to 40 % of family caregivers of people with dementia suffer from depression
  • Many caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias provide help alone
  • 74% of caregivers of people with dementia reported that they were “somewhat concerned” to “very concerned” about maintaining their own health
  • 6 in 10 caregivers of people with dementia were employed while giving care
  • Many caregivers of people with dementia: went in late or left their job early, went from full to part time or cut back hours, took leave of absence, or had to leave their job to be a caregiver
  • In 2016, dementia caregivers reported nearly twice the average out-of-pocket costs ($10,697) of non-dementia caregivers ($5,785)
  • The measure of burden of a disease indicates that Alzheimer’s is a very burdensome disease, not only to the patients but also to their families and informal caregivers; the sum of the number of years of life lost due to premature mortality and the number of years lived with disability, totaled across all those with the disease or injury
Impact of Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common cause of dementia. The characteristic symptoms of dementia are difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving and other cognitive skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. These difficulties occur because nerve cells (neurons) have been damaged or destroyed.

The progressive accumulation of the protein fragment beta-amyloid (plaques) in the brain and twisted strands of the protein tau (tangles) eventually damage the neurons.

Basic bodily functions controlled by the brain, such as walking and swallowing are involved when nerve cells in the brain are damaged. Difficulty remembering names, dates or events, counting money or balancing a checkbook, changes in mood, and depression are early symptoms.

People in the final stages of the disease are bed-bound and require around-the-clock care.

Alzheimer’s disease is ultimately fatal.

Actions That Improve Living with Dementia

Maintaining the highest quality of life as the disease progresses is the best treatment at this time until improved medication management or a cure is found.

Interventions can improve the health and well-being of dementia caregivers by relieving the negative aspects of caregiving as well.

Here are science-based steps and interventions family caregivers and seniors with dementia can take:

  1. Exercise – both aerobic exercise and a combination of aerobic and non-aerobic exercise had positive effects on cognitive function according to research
  2. Cognitive stimulation – activities such as object categorization activities to reality orientation exercises (chores, folding wash, puzzles, word games, naming objects, arts, cooking, etc.). No single type of cognitive stimulation was identified as being more effective than another. Benefits to cognitive function lasted up to 3 months after cognitive stimulation activities ended. It is interesting to note that cognitive stimulation did not impact mood, challenging behaviors or ability to perform activities of daily living.
  3. Active management of Alzheimer’s and other dementias can improve quality of life for affected individuals and their caregivers such as: appropriate use of available treatment options, management of coexisting medical conditions, participation in activities that are meaningful and bring purpose to one’s life, connect with others living with dementia, becoming educated about the disease and planning for the future.
  4. Respite – planned, temporary relief for the caregiver through the provision of substitute care; examples include adult day services and in-home or institutional respite for a certain number of weekly hours.
  5. Home care support – getting help with instrumental and personal activities of daily living such as housework, shopping, cooking, medication management, bathing, grooming, feeding, toileting and transferring.
  6. Managing behavioral symptoms including aggressive behavior, wandering, depressive mood, agitation, anxiety, repetitive activity and nighttime disturbances.
  7. Finding and using support services such as support groups and caregiving training.
  8. Addressing family issues related to caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease, including communication with other family members about care, decision-making and arrangements for respite for the main caregiver.
Caring for Loved Ones with Dementia

Caring for a person with dementia is a duty family caregivers don’t regret. It can be fulfilling, exhausting, frustrating, maddening, joyful and a challenge you will be glad you accepted.

It is true that there will be days that are difficult as well as the days you will treasure. Getting all the help you can and learning as much as possible will make your journey a bit easier.

Care for yourself too so you can continue to provide care for as long as the person with dementia needs you.

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As family caregivers, we may feel strongly certain technology is just what our senior loved ones need to make their homes safer or healthier places for them to live — or maybe simply more enjoyable — but realize that will happen only if the technology is used.

How often do we give our loved ones yet another gift like a sweater or coffee mug only to have it set aside in a drawer, we suspect, only to have it pulled out when we visit?

We don’t want the same to happen when we give them a technology gift that could make a real difference in their lives. How do we avoid that?

Of course, it may not be a gift, since family caregivers are often the purchasers of technology for their senior loved ones.

If only there was a way we could introduce seniors to technology and let them spend a little hands-on time before a purchase decision was made. Trying before buying can give us confidence what we buy will provide benefits.

Sure, we can do that in some retail stores, but being surrounded by shoppers and “helpful” sales reps is not the best environment for testing.

That’s why we were thrilled to learn about local senior technology centers, which are in many communities, and invited to tour the Cobb County Assistive Technology Lab in Marietta, Georgia.

Assistive Technology Lab

We met Felicia Alingu, Outcomes Program Specialist with Cobb Senior Services, at Aging in America and were very impressed to hear about their Assistive Technology Lab (AT Lab). When she invited us to tour the facility, we jumped at the chance.

The Cobb AT Lab has several rooms, each with tech devices designed for a specific area of the house, including the family room, kitchen, and bathroom. We captured some if it in the pictures below.

 

In the AT Lab, seniors and caregivers can browse the different devices and learn how they work. They have created a nice atmosphere to experience how the tech works and how it might fit into the visitors’ homes — a great opportunity to try before you buy!

Not only were we impressed by the lab itself, but also learning from Felicia of the outreach, classes, and other activities available to seniors. While we are discussing the Assistive Technology Lab as an example of facilities around the nation, we plan to interview Felicia about their work for an upcoming edition of the Senior Care Corner® podcast.

Is There Something Similar Near Your Senior?

Yes, we realize most of you reading this don’t live in Cobb County, Georgia. With a little research, though, we found similar opportunities in communities across the US. Check with local senior agencies to learn if there is one nearby your senior and check it out yourself.

While you are in touch with a local senior organization, you might want to find out what other programs and benefits are available to your senior loved one. You just might find something they could use or an activity they would enjoy but is completely unknown to them.

Supporting Local Tech Demo Facilities

After seeing what the Cobb AT Lab is doing and what it can mean to seniors and family caregivers, we want make a pitch to those in a position to support them. Given the limited funding available to most community organizations and the cost of assistive and smart home technology, keeping facilities like the AT Lab up to date and relevant for seniors is difficult.

If you are with a tech company or retailer, we hope you see this as the opportunity it is to familiarize a new market segment with technology and what it can mean to their lives. Supporting the mission of these facilities with donations of money or products can — in addition to making a positive difference in communities — provide benefits through the education of a new group of consumers.

Please help them in their mission to help seniors and family caregivers!




 

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