Elderly Fall Prevention Tips to Keep Aging Parents Safe

Elderly fall prevention is a top safety concern for aging parents for a good reason. According to The Centers for Disease Control, one out of three adults age 65 years and older falls each year. Even more frightening: Falls are the leading cause of injury death for older adults and the death rates have been rising.

Unfortunately, when it comes to falls and the elderly, the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” doesn’t apply. Even non-fatal falls can have devastating life-changing consequences. Broken arms, legs, and backs are common, as are hip fractures and head injuries.

And the older you are, the more severe those consequences become. According to the CDC, “Adults age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.”

With those kind of cheerful statistics, it’s not surprising that elderly fall victims are often terrified of falling again. That’s understandable. But for many older adults, the fear of falling becomes a phobia that actually INCREASES their risk of falling.

Part of the reason may be psychological. Recent studies indicate that anticipating a fall may help precipitate a fall. But the main reason is that fear of falling can lead to reduced physical activity and fitness…which leads to weaker muscles and impaired balance…which is a recipe for more falls.

IMPORTANT: If you’re concerned that your aging parent or loved one may be risking serious injury due to a fall, you’re not alone. But don’t expect them to let you know they’re having trouble staying on their feet. Many older adults don’t tell their family or their doctors about balance problems because they are embarrassed or fear losing their independence as much as they fear falling.

But suffering falls in silence is dangerous — a point that senior health and home care columnist Sara-Lynn Reynolds recently made in an excellent opinion piece for the Foxborough Patch:

If you you begin to recognize that you are at risk of falling, it is time to be pro-active – denial is not helpful.  Do not let someone insist you are ‘just getting old’. Go for a ‘fall risk assessment’ at your local Physical Therapist office. Learn what they have to offer. They will help correct your posture and strengthen (with proper therapy) your muscles in no time. Frailty is not your friend.  If you are living alone, (or know of someone who is) and find yourself or them being inactive, know that inactivity DOES accelerate the loss of muscle, strength and balance and you will be at a higher risk for a fracture if you do fall…which equals possible nursing home care.

I understand that the body does not do what it used to (mine doesn’t either). I understand being on a fixed budget. I understand not wanting to exercise. However, we have to keep moving. And although canes are good to pirouette around and a walker is a good assistive device, it is important to realize that physical activity is the “key” to maintaining or restoring our bodies to an improved physical state which in turn will stimulate our brains and restore our confidence and desire to get out and live a more active and productive life for the time available to us.

Read the full article here.

For more information about how to keep your aging parent or loved one safe from serious falls, check out these elderly fall prevention tips from the Mayo Clinic.


How to Protect Aging Parents from Investment Fraud

If your aging parents haven’t been victims of investment fraud or financial elder abuse, the odds are good that it may just be a matter of time.

According to a 2010 Elder Investor Fraud Survey conducted by The Investor Protection Trust, one out of every five adults over the age of 65 have been victimized by financial scams. And one out of every three older adults are getting calls from telemarketers asking them to send money or hawking lotteries and similar scams.

The elderly are favorite targets for financial fraudsters for a few key reasons:

• First and foremost, “that’s where the money is.” Older Americans who have spent a lifetime working, saving, and investing tend to have more financial assets compared to the general population.

• Stealing from the elderly is relatively easy compared to other types of fraud — especially for predatory caregivers or family members. Many times all it takes is an account number, a password, or a legal document that can be used to commit financial elder abuse. The fact that so many cases of financial elder abuse go undetected and unreported for years has prompted some experts to dub financial elder abuse the “Crime of the 21st Century.”

• Many victims of financial elder abuse are isolated, trusting, and vulnerable — traits that are all too easy to exploit for fraudsters looking for easy marks. Older adults who suffer from dementia or even mild cognitive impairments that affect their memory or judgement are at even greater risk for financial exploitation.

Another reason your aging parents may be at financial risk…

A recent survey of 600 Baby Boomers conducted by a national in-home care company, shows that many are alarmingly unprepared to help their aging parents with their finances — even at the most basis level: 34 percent had no idea if their parents have a safe deposit box or where the key is; and 36 percent have no idea where to find their aging parents’ financial information to begin with.

Important: The number of elderly victims of investment fraud is rising and is expected to keep rising as the Baby Boomers themselves get older. And we’re not just talking about falling for emails pitching winning Nigerian lottery tickets and free cruise vacations.

Even sophisticated investors can get taken. Just ask Bernie Madoff’s victims how safe they felt with their “no brainer” investment right up until their security blanket was pulled out from under them.

Protect your aging parents from becoming a victims of investment fraud. Check out these free online resources to help you get started…

Consumer Guide to Financial Self-Defense from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Red flags that your financial advisor may be committing fraud and what to do to protect yourself.

Fighting Fraud 101: Smart Tips for Older Investors from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Worth the quick read just for the “Psychology of a Scam” section, which identified common tactics used by fraudsters.

North American Securities Administrators Association Senior Investor Resource Center. A superb resource. Topics include: A checklist of key questions to ask before investing; Ten tips to protect your nestegg; and Top Investor Traps.


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.


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.


Fire Safety Tips for Older Adults Aging at Home

When it comes to fire safety for older adults, what you don’t know can be deadly.

According the the Centers for Disease Control, adults age 65 and older are twice as likely as any other age group to die in a home fire. And for adults 85 and older, the fire-related death rate is five times the national average.

Protect yourself or your aging parent from with these fire prevention safety tips:

• Install working smoke alarms on every floor, outside every sleeping area, and inside every sleeping area. Warning from smoke detectors have been shown to almost double fire survival rates. Test all smoke detectors months monthly. Replace all batteries twice a year, when clocks are adjusted for Daylight Savings Time.

• Create an escape plan with your elderly parents. Practice it at least once a year. If your parents have limited mobility, hearing, or vision, your escape plan must take these limitations into account. Consider contacting your local fire department for suggestions.

Pay particular attention to the kitchen. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries for older Americans.

• Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires. If your aging parents cannot stay in the kitchen while cooking, get them easy-to-use timers. Another tip: Suggest they carry a spoon or potholder with them to remind them that something is still cooking.

• Check the burner, oven, and any overhead exhaust fan. Are they clean? Or are they grease fires waiting to happen?

• Is there a fire extinguisher in the kitchen? Is it still charged? Do your aging parents know how to use it? And CAN they still use it?

• Keep dish towels, paper towels, potholders and other flammable material away from the stove. And never ever cook over the stove with loose or dangling sleeves or scarves.

• Smother any cooking fire with a pot lid. Never throw water on a grease fire.

• Do not put metal objects or aluminum foil in a microwave. If a fire starts in a microwave, do not open the microwave door.

• Always check the kitchen stove and make sure all knobs are in the off position before you leave the house or go to bed.

• Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.

Losing a home to fire is a devastating event at any age. But it can be especially traumatic for the elderly, who may find it extremely difficult to cope with sudden displacement from familiar surroundings and the loss of irreplaceable family keepsakes.

For more fire safety tips to keep yourself or your aging parents safe, click here to download a copy of Fire Safety Checklist for Older Adults from the U.S. Fire Administration.

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