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Assistive Devices

Assistive Devices for Seniors In recent years, we’ve seen a wide array of assistive devices for seniors become available.  Some solutions are very simple and others are very high-tech.  The good news is that there are a lot of options.  And the not-so-good news is that there are a lot of options.  It can be difficult to know what assistive devices exist that may be helpful.  And it’s a challenge to know how to choose the right solution. The goal of assistive devices for seniors is to increase capabilities that improve independence, and safety.  Therefore, assistive devices cover a broad range of activities from communication to mobility, personal cares to household chores. Communication The ability to communicate keeps you from becoming isolated.  Advances in technology have given us many ways to connect and stay in touch.  Simpler, large button cell phones are one option.  Computers and tablets have voice recognition for those with difficulty manipulating a mouse or keyboard.  If you have difficulty speaking, there are portable tablets that can be customized with pictures or phrases that you use most often. Assistive devices for the hearing impaired include closed caption telephones and TVs.  Hearing aids come in many forms.   Many hearing aids are now able to tap into  hearing loops in public venues.  Personal sound amplifiers attach to almost any electronic device, which brings you clearer music and dialogue. Mobility Mobility devices cover everything from canes to wheelchairs and stairlifts.  The variety in walker designs is staggering.    Wheel chairs can be manual and basic, electric and complicated, or something in-between.   You can get crutches, orthotics, a walker/cane hybrid or a...

What is an End-of-Life Doula?

An End-of Life (EOL) Doula.. also known as a death doula, provides comfort and support to a dying person and his or her loved ones.   The term doula has long been used to describe a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and after childbirth.  End-of-Life (EOL) Doulas are non-medical people trained to share resource information, education and companionship with those nearing the end of life.  As a birth doula helps usher a child into the world, an end-of-life (EOL) doula helps usher individuals out of the world. In earlier times, most people died at home, surrounded by loved ones.  With the advance of western medicine came the move to increased hospitalization and nursing home care.  Although most people would prefer to die at home, many will die in hospitals or nursing homes.   Today there is a cultural shift underway that is returning us to more natural death and dying at home.  Folks near the end of life are reimagining what death can look like for themselves and their families. Doulas work with Hospice providers Far from replacing hospice care or medical support, EOL doulas work with other providers to complement their efforts.  All wish to achieve the best possible death for the client. Therefore, EOL doulas focus on being present for the dying and filling gaps in the hospice and medical care support systems.   While hospice workers focus primarily on the physical needs of the dying, there is strong recognition among them that pain management is not enough.  The spirit must be attended to as well as the body. ...

Scams Against Seniors

Scams Against Seniors Seniors are often targeted by con artists. Most scams against seniors are conducted through the phone, mail or internet.   Realizing many seniors may have money, but are less tech savvy, criminals see opportunity.  Women over 60 who live alone are a prime target for scammers. The FBI’s Common Fraud Schemes webpage  provides tips on how you can protect yourself and your family from fraud. Financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered “the crime of the 21st century.” Scams against seniors are especially common because: Senior citizens are most likely to have savings, to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit—all of which make them attractive to con artists. Older folks were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Scammers exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up. Older Americans are less likely to report a scam.  They don’t know who to report it to, and may be ashamed at having been scammed.  They don’t want relatives to think they can no longer handle their own financial affairs. Financial scams can be difficult to prosecute, so they’re considered a “low-risk” crime for the con artist. With no face-to-face interaction, and no paper trail, these scams are hard to trace. Senior citizens are more interested in products promising better health and vitality. With on-going development of new cures and vaccinations, it is easy to convince a hopeful target that a “miracle product” may do what is claimed. Telemarketing scams against seniors Scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who...

Maintaining Brain Power

As we age, many of us look for ways of improving memory and maintaining brain power. With the increasing prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, you may see every memory slip as a possible sign of decline.  However, research indicates that lifestyle factors can impact your brain’s ability to remember facts and events.   Therefore, you may be able to give your brain power a boost by implementing some of the following suggestions. Memory, like muscle strength, requires you to “use it or lose it.”     The more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information. There are a lot of brain games on the market, but they have not been shown to boost your brain power beyond getting better at brain games.  The best brain exercises break your routine and challenge you to use and develop new brain pathways.  So getting better at the same thing is not necessarily going to improve your memory. To strengthen the brain, you need to keep learning and developing new skills.   Therefore, you want to find activities that are challenging, enjoyable and give you satisfaction while building skills. Think of things you’ve always wanted to try, like learning to play guitar, taking an art class, playing chess, ballroom dancing, or mastering your golf swing.  Any of these activities can help you improve your memory, as long as they keep you challenged and engaged. Physical activity is good for the brain.    The National Academy of Science notes that fitness may be the best tool we have against cognitive impairment.  Aerobic exercise is...

CAREGIVERS: CHOOSE WISELY

CAREGIVERS NEED TO CHOOSE WISELY Caregivers have options for giving care.   It is important to choose wisely to insure the best and safest way to deliver that care. You, as the caregiver, may be a neighbor, friend, or family member who is able to provide some caregiving for free.  Or maybe you receive a stipend or some form of hourly compensation.  While this arrangement may work for a while, it may not be a good long-term solution. GETTING PAID Choose wisely:  While you didn’t mind helping out a bit for free, the need for your help may have increased.  Now you may be sacrificing other income to provide care and need to ask for payment to cover your own expenses.   Payment arrangements between family and friends can be tricky.  So in order to have a clear understanding of expectations and compensation, it is best to put everything in writing.   A professional caregiving agency will have a signed agreement for services to make sure everyone is on the same page. TRAINING Choose wisely: Perhaps your friend or family member needed only occasional assistance with cleaning, a meal or companionship.  Now that need may have grown to include help with walking, dressing and bathing.  At this point, you may be feeling out of your element and concerned about the safety of your loved one and yourself.   Therefore, a wise choice may be to work with an agency that can provide training in best practices. BENEFITS Choose wisely:  Working for yourself sounds attractive, but it can have its drawbacks.  If you get hurt at work, who will pay for your medical expenses? ...

Loneliness

Winter in the northern states can be isolating, increasing loneliness and depression.  The holiday season often highlights feelings of loneliness.  Today, 17% of Americans over 65 live alone, and an estimated 8.8% of seniors are chronically lonely.   The sad fact is that loneliness can cause health problems and affect quality of life. Health Factors of Loneliness According to an article in Forbes, persistent loneliness may be a bigger health risk than smoking, obesity, exercise or nutrition.   A few years ago, researchers at Brigham Young University found that social isolation increases your risk of death by 30%.  There are 3 main factors contributing to this outcome. Psychologically, loneliness and social isolation are often associated with depression, anxiety, dementia, substance abuse, and an increased risk of suicide. Practically, human beings have a better chance of surviving in social and family groups than in isolation. If you have an accident or a sudden health event, there may not be anyone around to help. You could be showing signs of decline or disease that no one is round to notice.  Self-maintenance and healthy hygiene habits are something lonely people are less likely to engage in without some sort of encouragement from others.  Lonely people tend to eat worse, get less exercise, and not sleep as well. Physically, loneliness itself appears to be something that negatively impacts the body, from hardening your arteries to depressing your immune system to deterioration of your brain. Loneliness can raise blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  This makes your heart muscle work harder and causes damage to blood vessels.  Obesity and low levels of immunity...

SENSORY LOSS

Sensory Loss   Sensory loss impacts millions of older folks in one or more of their primary senses.  Loss of even one sense can cause major changes in how you experience your life.  And sensory loss can lead to other health problems such as poor balance, poor nutrition, depression or even dementia.   Sensory Loss: Hearing A lifetime of noise can lead to hearing deterioration.  The tiny hair cells in your ears that send signals to your brain don’t regenerate.  And while the brain naturally shrinks as we age, hearing loss can accelerate the shrinking, which in turn increases the risk of dementia. Often the ability to hear high-frequency sounds goes first. You may have trouble telling the difference between similar sounds.  And when you can’t hear wellenough to get in on the conversation, loneliness and depression can become factors.   Hearing loss can mess with your balance, increasing the risk of falling.  You may have problems maintaining your balance as you sit, stand, or walk. Things you can do: Wear ears plugs or head phones to protect your ears from loud sounds. Watch your weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels to help keep the tiny arteries that feed the hair cells in your ears healthy. Use hearing aids or TV & phone amplification devices. Hearing aid users score better than nonusers on cognitive and memory tests. Have your ears checked for wax build-up – a common age-related cause of hearing issues. Sensory Loss: Sight Focusing up close becomes more difficult as you age and you may need more light to see.  Your eyes produce fewer tears, and may...

Care for the Caregiver

Caregivers need to schedule regular care for the caregiver. Providing care for a loved one with a long-term illness or disability can be both fulfilling and challenging. Over time, the daily stresses can wear heavily on the caregiver. That’s why it’s so important for caregivers to take care of themselves. Staying hopeful, energetic and optimistic is vital to providing the best care possible. However, maintaining a positive outlook and a high level of energy will be difficult if the caregiver doesn’t take care of his/her own needs. Finding the time to care for the caregiver with proper nutrition, exercise and sleep will help relieve stress and prevent burnout.   It’s also important to ask for help when needed. Many of the things a caregiver needs to stay rested, healthy and optimistic can’t happen without the support of family and friends, or paid caregivers. Signs you may need to do more care for the caregiver include: • Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or angry • Making mistakes while giving care • Feeling alone, isolated or deserted • Not getting enough sleep • Gaining or losing weight without trying • Frequently feeling worn out • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy • Becoming easily irritated • Being constantly worried or sad • Having frequent headaches or body aches Physical ways to care for the caregiver may include: • Getting regular exercise • Eating a balanced diet • Pampering yourself (hot bath, massage) • Meditating • Getting regular sleep • Staying on top of your own health and physical check-ups. Mental/emotional ways to care for the caregiver may include: • Talking with...

TEN TIPS FOR LIVING LONGER

Following these Ten Tips for Living Longer is likely to improve the quality of your current state of being as well as giving you a fighting chance at a longer, healthier life. 1. Get regular sleep for the right amount of time. a. Seven to eight hours of sleep each night can help maintain cognitive function. b. Studies indicate sleeping less than six hours per night nearly doubles your risk of heart attack and stroke, and can contribute to depression and dementia. c. Avoid naps late in the day. Limit naps to 30 minutes in the early afternoon. d. Try a warm bath, wearing socks to bed, room temp below 67°, and a pitch-black room to improve sleep.   2. Cut back on pain pills. a. Regular use of over-the-counter pain killers may raise your risk of heart attack or stroke by 10%; prescription-strength pain killers by 20-50%. b. Try massage, mild exercise, aromatherapy, or muscle rubs first. c. Save the pain pills for more severe pain, using the smallest possible dose for the shortest possible time. 3. Drink plenty of the right kinds of fluid. a. Coffee can be good for you! Studies note daily coffee drinking may reduce risk of stroke, diabetes and some cancers. b. Anti-oxidants in green tea also combat diabetes and heart disease, increasing longevity. c. Drink whole milk! Research indicates those who consume the most dairy fat have a lower risk of developing diabetes. d. Fill up with water. Not only can sipping water help you lose weight, staying well-hydrated can reduce the risk of bladder infection and colon cancer. 4. Choose healthy fuel for...

Vision Loss among Seniors

Vision loss among seniors is a major health issue.  About one in three people over 65 will experience some form of vision-reducing eye problem. Since many eye problems develop slowly and painlessly, it is important to get regular eye exams. You may not notice the changes in your vision, but an eye exam could detect a potentially serious eye disease. Early treatment might save your eyesight. Since your 40s, you may have noticed that your vision is changing. Perhaps you need glasses to see up close. Maybe you have more trouble adjusting to glare or distinguishing some colors. These changes are a normal part of aging and don’t need to stop you from enjoying an active lifestyle or maintaining your independence. But as you age, you are at higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions. These include: age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma and dry eye. Early detection and treatment is critical to avoid vision loss. Eye exams may also uncover other health issues such as artery blockages, hypertension or diabetes. Common Age-related Eye Diseases and Conditions: Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) AMD is the leading cause of loss of vision in people over 65. AMD is a disease that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. Risk factors for AMD include age, family history, hypertension and smoking. Cataract Cataract is a common cause of senior vision impairment and a leading cause of blindness worldwide. In the US, cataract-related blindness is reduced due to surgery that is readily available, safe...