Tag Archives: caring for aging parents

Good News for Older Drivers: OnStar Now Available For ANY Vehicle

Good news for older drivers — or anyone who wants to have more peace of mind about the safety of an aging parent or elderly loved one who is still behind the wheel…

As of July 24, you’ll be able to retrofit just about ANY vehicle with OnStar — the emergency aid and vehicle location system from General Motors that has only been available on new GM vehicles. The aftermarket version of OnStar, called OnStar FMV (For My Vehicle), is actually a replacement rear-view mirror unit which contains the OnStar technology.

The core appeal for safety-minded older drivers is the simplicity of being able to get emergency help from a live person with the push of a button — and the peace of mind knowing that the system can detect accidents and send emergency help even if you cannot push that button.

In other words, if you or an aging parent or loved one is in an accident, you don’t have to rely on having a mobile phone — or being able to use one in a high-stress situation — in order to get help.

Also critical: The OnStar service will connect you or your loved one with a trained “emergency advisor” during an emergency. Whether an older driver has been in an accident, suffered a medical emergency, or has just become confused or lost, being able to speak with a live person can be enormously reassuring and calming.

Although OnStar FMV gives you access to the same core services that GM builds into new Chevy, Buik, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles, most aging drivers will probably find the basic emergency response and roadside assistance services most useful:

• Automatic Crash Response, triggered by an accelerometer in the unit, connects the vehicle to a trained OnStar emergency advisor in the event of a crash. The advisor can provide the exact location of the crash to emergency responders using the mirror’s GPS location, even if the vehicle’s occupants are unable to respond.

• Emergency Services, summoned by pushing the red button, bring specially trained emergency advisors on the line immediately to help in a crisis, such as witnessing a collision or a crime in progress.

• Roadside Assistance for non-emergency situations, such as a mechanical breakdown or a flat tire, is a blue-button push away.

• Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance uses OnStar FMV’s global positioning satellite system to provide a stolen vehicle’s location to law enforcement officials.

Read the full article

OnStar also offers a Turn-by-Turn Navigation service, an upgrade that may be worth every penny to technophobic older drivers who want nothing to do with dashboard navigation systems. Instead, the driver pushes the blue button to give an advisor a specific address or location. The advisor downloads directions to the unit, which plays back spoken turn-by-turn directions to the destination. 

This is a much easier and safer navigation solution for older drivers who don’t want to riskbeing distracted by looking at an LCD screen, or who don’t always safe leaving the car to ask for directions. OnStar FMV is also compatible with hands-free calling through a Blue-Tooth connection to a mobile phone. 

OnStar FMV will sell for $300 and will initially be available at Best Buy stores, where you can also have it installed for $75. The system will also be available through other chain and online retailers, but you’ll still need to have the unit installed professionally. The basic service plans start at $18.95 per month, or $199.95 per year. Adding the Turn-by-Turn Navigation option (which is bundled with optional hands-free calling for a mobile phone) costs 28.90 per month or $299 per year.

For more information, check out the OnStar FMV website.


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.


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.


New Study Has Serious Message for Elderly Drivers

Even if  your aging parent is perfectly healthy and has a clean driving record, their advanced age may still affect their ability to drive safely. That’s the conclusion from a study on elderly drivers recently published in the journal Neuropsychology.

Overall, 17 percent of the elderly drivers in the study made mistakes such as veering or failing to use check blind spots that caused the professional driving instructor accompanying them to hit the emergency brake or grab onto the steering wheel.

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The research showed that the older the driver, the more likely they were to make serious driving errors. Participants between the ages of 85 and 89 made four times as many critical mistakes as those aged 70 to 74. None of the participants had dementia. All lived independently and still drove at least once a week.

Another key finding: Elderly drivers who had been involved in an accident within the past five years were the participants most likely to make a driving error. And for the record, the elderly male drivers made as many errors as the elderly female drivers.

Here are some safe driving tips for elderly drivers who want to stay behind the wheel as long as possible:

• If you’re an elderly driver in good health, at the very least it makes sense to take a defensive driving course and learn how to adjust your driving habits for slowing reflexes and diminished vision. For a nominal fee, AARP offers its well-respected Driver Safety Course in a classroom or online.

• If you’re the adult child of an aging parent whose had one or more driving-related accident in last few years, stop rolling the dice! It’s time for a more formal driving assessment. Check out the American Automobile Association’s Roadwise Review self-assessment software here. The online version is free or you can order a CD for a nominal fee.

• Ask your doctor to review your prescription and over-the-counter meds for interactions or side effects that can cause dizziness or confusion.

• Get your vision and hearing checked once a year.

• Don’t eat, drink, or blast the radio while driving! And don’t even think of dialing your cell phone. Distracted driving is a problem for drivers of all ages — but when combined with delayed reaction times, it’s often deadly.

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