Category Archives: Caring for Aging Parents

Tech Lab Working to Make Caring for Aging Parents Easier

Concerned about caring for your aging parents? Here’s some good news: Tomorrow’s aging at home technology will make today’s medical alert buttons look like rotary dial phones from 1955.

Wireless motion sensors that monitor your aging parent as they walk around the house, lay in bed, and use the bathroom. Computer-based word and memory games that help a remote healthcare professional monitor brain function and motor skills for warning signs of impairment. An electronic pill dispenser that tracks when medication is taken and signals when to take it.

It’s the future of aging at home — and it’s being developed now by major corporations who want a piece of the enormous market for technology that makes it easier and safer for aging baby boomers to age in place as long as possible.

In an excellent Los Angeles Times article, writer Walter Hamilton details the extensive research conducted in the homes of 480 elderly in Portland, Ore., to field test these new technologies. The studies are being run by the Oregon Center for Aging & Technology at Oregon Health & Science University and funded, in part, by Intel and General Electric.

…Rutherford’s two-bedroom condominium has been outfitted with an array of electronic monitoring gear that might eventually find its way to retail shelves — all of it light years away from those rudimentary medical-alert necklaces advertised in an endless loop of TV commercials.

Motion sensors along hallways and ceilings record her gait and walking speed. A monitor on her back door observes when she leaves the house, and another one on the refrigerator keeps tabs on how often she’s eating.

A few months ago, the former waitress even tested a robot with a Skype-like video monitor that lets faraway relatives check on loved ones.

Rutherford’s granddaughter Katie Cooper piloted “Celia” from home in rural Wyoming, steering the machine — shaped like a 4-foot paper clip on wheels — around Rutherford’s house as they spoke.

At first, Cooper struggled to control Celia, bumping the robot into tables and running over a shopping bag. But she got the hang of it quickly.

“My grandmother’s furniture hasn’t changed in 20 years. I knew the layout of the house,” she said. “Anybody who’s ever played a video game would have no problem using this.”

The equipment in Rutherford’s home is monitored by researchers at the Oregon lab, which was established in 2004 and developed most of the gear.

The lab includes a “model home” to test new gadgets. One is a special bed laced with sensors to assess breathing patterns, heart rate and general sleep quality. If someone lying on the bed holds a breath for a few seconds, the computer monitor flashes “subject has stopped breathing.”

A pill box fitted with electronic switches records when medication is taken. And a Wii video game system has been rejiggered so that players stand on a platform that measures their weight and balance.

More is on the drawing board at the Oregon tech lab and elsewhere: software to help dementia patients find their way home if they get lost, devices that interpret facial expressions for signs of depression and robotic “pets” that have lifelike interactions with seniors.

Read the full article

Experts are cautiously optimistic about this new generation of safety and healthcare monitoring technology.

The technology is appealing for health insurers and Medicare hawks because it is seen as a way to reduce or control skyrocketing healthcare costs. Compared to an in-office visit, it’s a lot less expensive to monitor basic bodily functions like blood pressure if you can get an elderly person to put their arm in a cuff that’s connected to a computer. And remote monitoring can be conducted by technicians who make considerably less per hour than a physician’s assistant or registered nurse.

More advanced monitoring technology also promises to bring additional peace of mind to the adult children of aging parents — many of whom are caring for aging parents while trying to raise and support their own families.

But there is serious concern that the new aging at home technology may also isolate elderly adults, especially if they are predisposed to staying at home in the first place. Social interaction with family and friends is critical for mental health and healthy aging. No sensor can anticipate or prevent every health or safety problem. And tracking mom as she moves around her home is no substitute for visiting in person and often.

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Signs Your Aging Parents Need Help Managing Their Finances

One of the best way to help your aging parents avoid the pain and loss of financial exploitation or financial elder abuse is to recognize that they need some help managing their money BEFORE someone takes advantage of them.

At what point should you step in to help your parents manage their finances? A recent article in Money Magazine details some of the red flags to watch out for:

• They are dealing with issues that are new to them. In many marriages — especially in your parents’ generation — husbands and wives split up financial duties. When one of your parents dies or becomes seriously ill, the other will very likely be handling unfamiliar problems, whether it’s picking mutual funds or making sure the utility and cable bills are sent out on time. Anyone in that situation, young or old, could benefit from extra help or advice.

They’re still sharp but find money tasks more taxing. Even normal aging can bring gradual changes in mental function. Those changes may not affect the ability to make sound financial decisions, but if Dad takes longer to work with numbers than he used to, he may become less diligent about checking his account statements.

General health issues can also make things harder…. Other possible red flags: increased complaints about having to fill out forms from an insurer or brokerage, trouble reading fine print, or a general rise in stress about paying bills.

They are showing signs of bigger problems. About half of people in their eighties suffer from significant cognitive impairment. That includes Alzheimer’s but also other issues. This mental deterioration often takes families by surprise. “Older people may be able to answer questions and respond well in social situations, but people end up shocked when they finally look at their finances,” says Beth Kallmyer of the Alzheimer’s Association.

So what should you be on the lookout for? A recent paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association lists warning signs. Your parent might have forgotten to pay utility bills or rent, or could be having trouble making change or writing checks. Or they may complain that money is missing from their bank account or that someone is stealing from them. Of course, your parents may never get to that point — and it’s best to start the process of helping well before they do.

Click here to read the entire article

Studies show that diminished financial skills and errors can be the first indications of memory and reasoning problems — signs that can make your aging parents appealing targets for financial exploitation and abuse.

Having that first talk with your aging parents about their finances isn’t easy. But the sooner you start a conversation, the better. Need some good advice about how to break the ice about this delicate topic? For solid tips about how to talk to your aging parents about money, check out this brief video.

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Senior Safety Tips for Summer Heat

As summer temperatures soar this summer, so do the health risks for seniors:

Sunburns are particularly dangerous for older adults. Not only because of the risk for serious skin damage, but because seniors are at greater risk for bacterial infections and other complications.

Prolonged exposure to excessive heat and humidity can result in heat exhaustion — a serious medical condition which, if untreated, can lead to heat stroke, a life-threatening situation that requires emergency care.

Dehydration is constant concern for seniors during hot weather because the ability to sense thirst often diminishes with age. Dehydration can cause dizziness that leads to falls, confusion, or disorientation.

Older adults are also more susceptible to breathing problems due to poor air quality caused by heat and humidity.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control that will help you or your aging parent or loved one stay safe in the summer heat:

• Drink Plenty of Fluids. During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour… Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol, or large amounts of sugar—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

• Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen. Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

• Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully. If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover.

• Pace Yourself. If you are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

• Stay Cool Indoors. Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

• Use a Buddy System. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

Click here to visit the original source of this post.

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How You Can Help Stop Elder Abuse in 3 Easy Steps

Would you know if your aging parent, spouse, grandparent was a victim of elder abuse? Maybe. Maybe not.

Elder abuse takes many forms, some more obvious than others. Physical elder abuse may cause bruises and injuries. Bedsores and poor hygiene and malnutrition are common signs of elder neglect — when a caregiver ignores a dependent elderly person’s health and personal care, safety, or emotional needs.

But other types of elderly abuse can be much more difficult to uncover. Financial elderly abuse — when a caregiver steals money, credit, and property by exploiting an elderly person’s vulnerability and dependency — can go undetected or unreported for months and years.

And there are far too many older adults trapped in a silent hell of repeated sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. Sometimes it’s because they are isolated and unable to get help. Sometimes it’s because they suffer from dementia. An elderly victim of abuse may not even know they are being abused — or their calls for help are dismissed as paranoia, confusion, or fantasy.

Sometimes the shame or fear of pointing the finger at a family member keeps victims of elderly abuse silent. Spouses, adult children, grandchildren, and other trusted relatives are often the perpetrators in cases of elderly abuse.

But the sad truth is that most cases of elder abuse still go unreported. Which is why June has been designated “Elder Abuse Awareness Month” — and June 15th is Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Across the nation, health and human services agencies are holding seminars and events to explain what elder abuse is — and how to stop it.

But all the media attention in the world won’t keep your aging parents or loved ones safe from elder abuse… if you don’t do your part.

Here are three easy steps you can take right now to help stop elder abuse:

1. Click here for an excellent fact sheet about elder abuse from the National Center on Elder Abuse. It covers the basics: What is elder abuse? Warning signs. Who is at risk? What to do. It won’t take more than a few minutes.

2. Send this post to a couple of friends or family members.

3. Ask them to do the same.

That’s it. Told you it was easy.

Of course, if you want to do more, the NCEA has no shortage of suggestions about how you can join the fight against elder abuse.

But the most important thing you can do to help keep your aging parents or loved ones safe from elder abuse is to help spread the word — even if it’s just a couple people at a time.

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Financial Elder Abuse Study: Older Americans Lose $2.9 Billion Annually

As more and more stories of financial elder abuse find their way into mainstream media, concern about the widespread nature of the problem has led some experts to tag financial elder abuse as “The Crime of the 21st Century.”

According to data from the MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse released June 1, older Americans are losing $2.9 billion annually to elder financial abuse, which is a 12% increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008.

“Our findings illustrate the dehumanization of victims that takes place in the process of financial abuse and further destruction of financial security that occurs,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

“In almost all instances, financial exploitation is achieved through deceit, threats and emotional manipulation of an elder. In addition to this psychological mistreatment, physical and sexual violence frequently accompany the greed and disregard of financial abuse. The vigilance of friends and family can help protect elders from those who are predatory, which may, unfortunately, include strangers or even other loved ones.”

Click here to visit the original source of this post

How can you protect yourself or an aging parent from becoming the next unsuspecting victim of financial elder abuse?

Check out these financial elder abuse prevention tips from Metlife, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University:

Financial elder abuse prevention tips for older adults

Financial elder abuse prevention tips for family caregivers

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