Bidet Attachments: The Toilet Tweak That Can Keep an Older Adult Clean

Bidets are commonplace in bathrooms across Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, but this plumbing fixture has never really caught on in the United States. For some reason, Americans prefer to use toilet paper and wet wipes to cleanse themselves instead of water.

However, more and more people—myself included—are beginning to embrace the bidet. In fact, many seniors are finding that bidets offer a safer and more efficient method of freshening up after toileting.

Bidet Attachments: The Toilet Tweak That Can Keep an Older Adult Clean

Bidet Attachments vs. Freestanding Bidets

To clarify, I’m not talking about traditional freestanding bidets. They take up lots of bathroom space, and older users would likely have a great deal of trouble transferring from the toilet to straddling the bidet.

What I’ve found very helpful are toilet bidets. These devices simply attach to the existing toilet in your home and require no remodeling, plumbing work or additional floor space. Essentially, the attachment is a small wand underneath the toilet seat that moves into position and sprays water over the perineal area.

I don’t remember how I first learned about toilet bidets, but when I found a cheap one that could be easily installed on my toilet without major plumbing expense, I decided to try it. The Blue Bidet—now a feature on every toilet in my house—retails for just $37. There are countless models, each with different features on the market. Simpler electric models allow for adjustable water temperature and pressure, while so-called “intelligent” cleansing seats offer features like a nightlight function, a heated air dryer and remote-control access (at a hefty price).

When I installed my cheaper toilet bidet several years ago, I became an instant fan. As I age (and as my symptoms of Parkinson’s disease worsen), I am more and more disgruntled when I have to use a standard toilet and toilet tissue. After returning from a recent short trip, I told my housemates I had missed them almost as much as I had missed my bidet!

Bidets Help with Better Hygiene, Safer Toileting

“As people get older and frailer, it’s harder for them to do good personal hygiene, particularly if they have arthritis,” Dr. Mary Tinetti, Chief of Geriatrics at Yale School of Medicine, explained to New York Times blogger Paula Span via email. Maneuvering around to wipe and wash becomes surprisingly difficult for people as they age. In fact, attempting to do so can even lead to a dangerous fall from the toilet.

For many older adults, a bidet toilet could mean the difference between independence and needing assistance with toileting. Many seniors refuse help with personal care because it comes with a loss of privacy and often dignity. However, this can jeopardize their safety, and poor personal hygiene can lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), skin breakdown and general irritation. Prompt and thorough cleansing of the genitals, perineum and anal areas after toileting is crucial for maintaining skin integrity, especially for elders living with incontinence. Bidets can provide a higher level of cleanliness, safety and modesty while toileting.

For caregivers who must assist with toileting and personal hygiene, bidets can help immensely with this delicate task. It may take some practice to get the hang of using a bidet seat or attachment, but it can be easier, cheaper, more hygienic and less awkward than assisting with toilet paper or wet wipes. Better yet, adequate cleansing after toileting can help maximize cleanliness between the shower or bath days that caregivers and seniors alike typically dread.

Explore toilet bidets and other senior assistive devices in AgingCare’s Senior Product Guide.

Source: AgingCare by Joh Schappi

Robotic Assistants for Dementia Family Caregivers — Here Now!

Robotic Assistants for Dementia Family Caregivers — Here Now!There have been many technological innovations that help family caregivers as they care for older adults.

Do we always love — or even use — them when we get them? Nope!

When it comes to older adults, the population is quickly becoming larger than the number of those available to care for them. Many family caregivers can’t stop working, for financial reasons, to become full-time caregivers, have other immediate family needs raising their children, or live at a great distance away all, any of which may prevent them from being full-time caregivers.

What about the number of seniors who have no family members, never had children, or have outlived their family members? What can they do to get their aging needs met?

This is a prime reason that technology to fill the gaps of caregiving is here to stay and will only continue to increase in breath and scope of devices and innovations.

Non-traditional solutions need to be embraced by caregivers and older adults, as well as made useable and practical by tech companies.

Many seniors have been slow to adopt new technology and many caregivers have stalled getting technology in place because they feel overwhelmed and undereducated about what is best for their senior loved one. Both of those must be overcome for caregivers and seniors to get the benefits of technology.

Smart home technology, voice activated assistants, and remote medical monitoring are all at the forefront in technology becoming part of daily life for our seniors.

Are we giving due consideration to robotics and the promise of great things to help manage chronic disease, reduce loneliness and improve the well-being of people living with dementia?

Dementia Decline Impacted by Robot Interaction

A new project has been focused on the effects that robots can have on the decline associated with dementia’s progress.

Advanced Brain Monitoring Inc (ABM) has introduced a robot companion that will interact with a person with dementia to determine if it can mitigate cognitive decline. ABM has received a grant from the National Institute on Aging at the NIH to carry out this study using socially assistive robot interventions. You can read more about it in this article.

Caregivers have been searching for strategies to meet the needs of their older loved ones and keep them mentally stimulated and engaged.

ABM used a socially assistive robot named Mabu from Catalia Health to interact with people with dementia in their own homes. The ABM team states, “We foresee the potential for the robot intervention to be used alone or in combination with other treatments for dementia.”

Mabu will ask questions, get answers, and give reminders as desired. It can be voice activated or directed using a touchscreen tablet. Daily conversations of only a few minutes at a time are individualized to the person and their needs. Although not mobile, the head and eyes move to interact with the person and follows their face to engage.

Change in Chronic Disease Needs Technology Solutions

Seniors today typically suffer from chronic diseases instead of an acute medical diagnosis that ends in their quick demise, as it did in the last century. The struggle then becomes managing chronic disease (and often more than one at a time) for optimal aging and independence that will allow aging in place.

Unfortunately, with the growth in the older population combined with the decline in number of people who can be caregivers to this population of elders, family caregivers will need to depend more on innovative technology to face health and aging challenges.

Success of technology to improve the life of our older adults will require engagement with this technology. That will mean, in a sense, having a relationship with our tech devices and staying engaged over time without abandoning it.

Clearly, if our seniors stop using a device, there is no benefit.

What if there was a technology that was engaging, effective, and acted as a companion that would become meaningful enough to achieve results of engagement that leads to true disease management and medication administration?

Technology such as this could keep a senior connected over a long period of time instead of being discarded. One that becomes almost a buddy.

Cost Versus Benefit of Technology Interventions

Many seniors who have begun needing additional care, but want to remain at home, need a helping hand.

Particularly for those older adults who live alone, a companion robot that interacts on a daily (even more than once a day) basis and is there to confirm they are following their treatment plan is very important to not only their medical status and quality of life, but also for the senior’s mental health to reduce loneliness.

Loneliness, which affects as many as one third of our seniors, has been shown to be a predictor of poor health.

The cost of most of this new technology rivals that of once a week in-home care. While the cost of care will likely rise over time due to supply and demand impacts, the cost of technology typically declines.

UBTECH Lynx (at Amazon)

Cost reductions in avoiding a medical crisis or hospitalization, home safety interventions, proper medication management, reduction in depression and loneliness, and the time given back to family caregivers far outweigh over the long-term other costs of facility or even routine home care.

Digital companions who interact with seniors and the healthcare team can help avoid health crises that lead to hospitalizations. It can also reduce the number of in-home visits needed when chronic diseases are monitored more closely and routinely using digital companions. Non-adherence to the treatment plan is a real barrier to health for many seniors.

Robots on the market and coming to market soon are not intended to take the place of in-home caregivers but to supplement the care they provide based on each senior’s situation.

It is important to note that many of these social robotic companions do not store health data. Any information relayed to a healthcare provider is encrypted, HIPPA compliant and secure.

Technology to Defeat Dementia

Robotics are being used with people with dementia in order to get their attention, engage them with companionship and stimulate them.

There are several of these robots either on the market in specific sectors or available to the consumer including MABU, ElliQ, CareCoach GeriJoy, Buddy, Paro the seal, and Hasbro’s Joy for All pets.

Robotic pets cost in the $100 range and are easily accessible. One of these would be a great gift for many seniors!

The sad truth is the level of frustration and anger family caregivers have when caring for elders in the advanced stages of dementia who ask repetitive questions and need constant redirection at tasks. It is human nature to react when someone asks 15 times in a row what time it is.

Robot companions, however, don’t react with judgment or frustration and are able to maintain a constant tone of voice. This interaction may help avoid conflict which could escalate behaviors in the person with dementia. A robotic companion can relieve a daily caregiver when seniors need constant conversation.

Robotics Doesn’t Replace but Enhance Caregiving

Many caregivers will balk at the thought of machines taking over the caregiving role and replacing the human touch.

This has never been the intention.

Everyone we have seen and heard in the field of robotic research and those implementing digital companions with seniors agree that a human caregiver is essential. Robots are to be used to enhance the experience of aging and augment the capabilities of busy caregivers not replace it.

You are the most important caregiver for your senior loved one, but you need help.

Socially assistive companion robots could help you improve the quality of life for your senior while helping you be able to continue to be a strong caregiver!

Source: Senior Care Corner by Kathy Birkett

Could Having a Sense of Purpose Lengthen Our Lives?

Over the last few years, aging experts have been looking at the role played by a sense of purpose—the feeling that our lives have meaning, and that we have a place in the world, that we make a difference. A number of studies have found that having a sense of purpose motivates us to take care of ourselves, reduces stress, and lowers the risk of a host of ailments that become more common as we age.

In November 2014, an article appearing in The Lancet suggested that having a sense of purpose can even add years to our lives. As reported by University College London (UCL), seniors who experienced a certain type of well-being were 30 percent less likely to die over the course of a study that was conducted by researchers from UCL, Princeton University and Stony Brook University. The researchers explained that “eudemonic well-being” is the positive feeling we get when we feel that what we do is worthwhile and that we have a purpose in life.

Explained study leader Professor Andrew Steptoe, Director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology, “We cannot be sure that higher well-being necessarily causes lower risk of death, since the relationship may not be causal. But the findings raise the intriguing possibility that increasing well-being could help to improve physical health. There are several biological mechanisms that may link well-being to improved health, for example through hormonal changes or reduced blood pressure. Further research is now needed to see if such changes might contribute to the links between well-being and life expectancy in older people.”

The study appeared in the Nov. 6, 2014 issue of The Lancet. [optional link: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2961489-0/fulltext]

Source: AgeWise reporting on news release from University College London.

 

New Census Bureau Report Underscores the Need for Senior Care

The Baby Boom is now creating a Senior Boom. According to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of individuals age 65 and older is projected to reach nearly 84 million by 2050, almost double the size from 2012. Another factor contributing to the boom is the fact that people are living longer. Currently, the average American is living to be almost 79 years old, up from about 71 years in 1970.

 

This raises the question of how we, as a country, plan on taking care of our aging citizenry. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about one-third of people age 65 or older report functional limitations of one kind or another—limitations that require assistance in dressing, bathing, preparing meals, managing medications, etc. Among people age 85 or older, about two-thirds report functional limitations. And experts project that two-thirds of all seniors will need assistance to deal with a loss in functioning at some point during their remaining years of life.

“Changes in the age structure of the U.S. population will have implications for health care services and providers, national and local policymakers, and businesses seeking to anticipate the influence that this population may have on their services, family structure and the American landscape,” says Jennifer Ortman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Projections Branch.

The aging population presents numerous challenges and great opportunities for agencies and companies that provide senior care. Home care and home health care services, community care facilities for the older population, and continuing care retirement communities are all expanding. All showed an increase of 20 percent or more in their number of employees between 2007 and 2011. Additionally, age-restricted communities are becoming more and more popular. One such community, The Villages in Sumter County, Florida, was the nation’s fastest growing metro area from 2012 to 2013.

Fortunately, the Senior Boom wasn’t an unforeseen phenomenon. We’ve known for nearly 60 years that Baby Boomers would eventually grow old and need greater care. The associated industries caring for these individuals have, so far, been able to keep pace with demand, although occupancy at senior living communities is on the rise, reaching 89.9% in the second quarter of 2014. Fortunately, construction of new communities is also on the rise. It’s safe to say that senior care will be a growing industry for many years to come.

 

Source: IlluminAgeAgeWise

Geriatrician Looks at Sensitive Issue of Senior Gun Ownership

In the United States the debate around gun ownership often focuses on teenagers; however, research shows that elderly Americans are the most likely to own a gun and that presents both medical and legal problems for physicians and carers.

Writing in an issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Dr. Ellen Pinholt explored these issues and proposed a series of “red flag” questions which caregivers must ask.

While there is no upper age limit on owning a firearm, Americans aged over 65 have the highest prevalence of dementia, depression and suicide. Federal law prohibits mentally incompetent persons from possessing a gun; however, this only applies to a formal finding by a court and not necessarily to a physician’s diagnosis of dementia.

Using a series of case studies to explore the medical and legal dimensions of the issue, Dr. Pinholt suggested “5 Ls,” questions about gun ownership which should be asked as routinely as questions about driving.

  1. If there is a gun present, is it LOCKED?
  2. Is it LOADED?
  3. Are LITTLE children present?
  4. Does the gun owner feel LOW?
  5. Is the gun owner LEARNED about how to safely use the gun?

Source: Wiley Online Library News Release; Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 4 June 2014

Learn More

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a free online brochure, “Firearms and Dementia.”

Social Network Games Create Intergenerational Ties

If you have a Facebook account, you are probably well aware of FarmVille, Candy Crush Saga, Diamond Dash, Bejeweled Blitz and a host of other social network games (SNGs). Most of us think of these games as a pleasant diversion at best, and, at worst, a waste of time. But did you know that today, these games help create connections among family members who are separated by distance—and sometimes, by years?

According to a recent study from Montreal’s Concordia University, published in the journal Information, Communication and Society, more families are playing these games together, and it is a fun and meaningful way to interact—similar to the old board games many of us enjoy, but available to family members who aren’t able to sit across the table from each other.

Senior author Mia Consalvo says, “Maintaining those connections is especially important as families find themselves dispersed across countries and continents. SNGs give families a convenient and cheap way to transcend geographical boundaries.”

Consalvo and her team from Concordia’s Game Studies and Design department interviewed social network gamers about the ways they connected with family through gaming. The researchers reported, “These online games offer families a common topic of conversation and enhance the quality of time spent together, despite the fact that most SNGs don’t necessarily involve any direct communication.”

SNGs might also, in a sense, enlarge our family circle, as we connect with family members we’ve lost touch with—or have never even met. Chatty Facebook posts get us acquainted with distant cousins, and gaming with them helps cement the sense of family circle.

And the best news for seniors: the Concordia team calls social gaming “transgenerational.” Says Consalvo’s colleague Kelly Boudreau, “It’s not just siblings in their early 20s using SNGs to connect. Grandfathers are playing online games with granddaughters, mothers with sons. These multigenerational interactions prove social networks are tools that break down both communication and age barriers.”

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on study from Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada [optional link: http://www.concordia.ca/news/media-relations/news-releases/cunews/main/releases/2014/11/18/facebook-games.html]

Five Things to Know Before Consulting Dr. Google

Every evening for two weeks, Susan experienced a stomach ache. She kept meaning to call her doctor, but the pain always disappeared by morning. Susan decided to go online to research her symptoms. Going to her favorite search engine, she keyboarded “stomach pain.” Scrolling through the results, she clicked on links: Appendicitis? Colon cancer? A pulled muscle? Kidney stones? As she surfed from website to website, she became more alarmed and confused. Chat board posters offered harrowing stories. Official-looking websites were hawking expensive herbal supplements and strange medical devices, guaranteeing a cure. Finally, Susan made an appointment with her doctor, who diagnosed her problem as an ulcer caused by a medication she was taking for her arthritis. The doctor changed her medication and the ulcer quickly healed.

The Pew Research Center recently reported that three-fourths of internet users routinely look online for health information. An increasing number of patients are showing up for medical appointments having already consulted what physicians wryly call “Dr. Google.” The availability of healthcare information online has changed the way patients learn about health conditions and treatments. This increased accessibility of medical information can be a good thing, but there are definite pitfalls to avoid.

Is this phenomenon only common among younger people? Not today. The American Medical Association says that over half of Americans aged 65 or older now research health topics online. And you might be surprised to know that family caregivers are substantially more likely than other people to turn to the Web for health information. According to Pew Research Center associate director Susannah Fox, “Caregivers vividly illustrate a primary truth about the social impact of the internet: it enables people to quickly gather information on a complex topic in order to make better decisions.”

Before you settle in at your keyboard or smartphone to search out a symptom or to learn to learn more about a diagnosis, remember five important things:

  1. Not all web content is created equal. The Web is home to much reliable health information—and plenty of useless material, as well. A good rule is that if you would trust the source of the content in real life, the site is more likely to be trustworthy. Websites sponsored by government agencies, universities, hospitals and other reputable healthcare organizations and companies are most likely to offer good, up-to-date information—as well as the right level of caution to prevent consumers from self-diagnosing and making decisions with incomplete information. These sites are designed to disseminate information, promote health and provide updates as a service to the clients and customers they serve.
  2. Don’t rely on random search engine searches. Some searchers begin with a particular website where they know they will find information on the topic they are interested in; others merely enter the name of their symptoms or diagnosis in a search engine box, and click on the results. Remember, search terms may turn up just about anything! The best way to research a health condition or health procedure you’re interested in is to begin with the website of an authority on that topic. For example, Pam, above, might visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov), one of the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health (http://www.nih.gov) sites. There she would find an A-Z list of topics (http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/a-z.aspx), where she could read information about peptic ulcers (http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/topics/pepticulcers.aspx).
  3. Information on forums, bulletin boards and social media pages is usually posted by non-experts. The Pew Research Center study found that many people are eager to share their experiences of a particular disease or treatment; many other people are eager to read their accounts. Discussion boards, chat rooms and social media groups have created a global backyard fence, and it is natural to seek out these conversations. These sites provide emotional support and online companionship for millions of people who are dealing with a similar health problem. Participants commiserate, exchange practical tips and discuss how they handle the challenges of their condition. But the medical information participants post is often inaccurate. Rarely are these boards moderated by a qualified professional. These sites also can be infiltrated by commercial posters who try to sell their products.
  4. Bad products may have great-looking websites. Just as they do in the real world, many thousands of unscrupulous businesses operate on the Web, offering miracle cures, useless medications and treatments, impossible weight loss claims, ambulance-chaser attorney services, and elaborate but medically unsound “theories” of disease. These businesses prey on gullible consumers and bilk the American public out of billions of dollars a year…as well as preventing their victims from getting the care they really need. These companies often invest in sophisticated websites that masquerade as reliable expert sites. They may spend more on the site than they do producing their product—and they also may spend millions on shady search engine techniques to ensure a symptom search will lure unsuspecting users to their site.
  5. Be alert for signs of “cyberchondria.” This term was recently coined by medical pundits who noted that patients often develop anxiety as they surf through source after source on the internet. A patient might become convinced that a bunion is a tumor, or that their medication is causing their hair to turn gray, or that they have a mythical illness that doesn’t really exist. The Microsoft Corporation has even taken note of the problem, saying, “The Web has the potential to increase the anxieties of people who have little or no medical training, especially when the Web is employed as a diagnostic procedure.” Erroneous self-diagnosis is not a new phenomenon, of course. Medical and symptom guidebooks, long a steady seller at bookstores, are found in the home library of many families, useful to consult when symptoms arise. However, these books provide context, perspective and a manageable amount of information. Looking for similar health information online will often summon forth page after page of results—out of context and in no particular order when it comes to the reliability of the information.

Above all, it’s important to remember that online healthcare information cannot take the place of advice from your own healthcare provider. Fortunately, more and more healthcare providers are realizing that their own web presence can help support patient education. Hopefully your medical group’s own site is or will be a great place to start learning about your health and treatment!

A Good Place to Start Your Search

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services that is responsible for health-related research. It is divided into 27 institutes and centers ( http://www.nih.gov/icd), each of which has a website with quality consumer information covering a particular aspect of healthcare.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov) is another great place to begin your search. The NLM website includes information on a wide variety of health topics (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus) and each topic includes an extensive collection of approved links to web information, videos, tutorials from reputable institutions and organizations nationwide.

Copyright © AgeWise, 2014

Managing Money for a Senior Loved One

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently published four guides to help financial caregivers, particularly those who handle the finances of older Americans, carry out their duties and responsibilities in managing someone else’s money.

“In order to protect our seniors, we must educate the caregiver generation,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “The Consumer Bureau is publishing a series of guides called ‘Managing Someone Else’s Money.’ The guides are designed to help people meet the responsibility of managing money for a loved one.”

Millions of Americans are acting as fiduciaries, meaning they manage money or property for someone else. Many older Americans experience declining capacity to handle finances, which can make them vulnerable. Even mild cognitive impairment can significantly impact an older adult’s ability to handle finances and to detect fraud or a scam. About 22 million people age 60 or older have named someone in a power of attorney to make financial decisions for them—and millions of others have court-appointed guardians or other fiduciaries. In addition to older adults, many younger adults with disabilities may also lack capacity to handle their own finances. The fiduciaries that help them are a critical source of support, but often have no training.

To help meet that need, the CFPB released guides that explain the four main responsibilities of a fiduciary:

  • Act in the person’s best interest: The first duty is to act in the person’s best interest, which means, for example, that the fiduciary should not loan or give the person’s money to themselves or others. The fiduciary should avoid conflicts of interest, and the guides provide examples of actions that may pose conflicts.
  • Manage money and property carefully: The second responsibility is to manage the money and property carefully—such as by paying bills on time, protecting unspent funds, investing carefully, and having a list of all monies, properties, and debts.
  • Keep money and property separate from own: The third responsibility is to keep the money and property separate from the fiduciary’s own. That means avoiding joint accounts and paying the person’s expenses from their own funds, not from the fiduciary’s funds.
  • Maintain good records: Lastly, the fiduciary should maintain good records. The fiduciary should keep a detailed list of the money received or spent on the person’s behalf, avoid paying in cash in order to have a record of purchases, and keep all receipts.

Each guide contains information on the fiduciary’s responsibilities. The Bureau published four guides in order to tailor them to the needs of people in four different fiduciary capacities:

  1. People who have been named in a power of attorney to make decisions about money and property for someone else.
  2. People who have been appointed by a court to be guardians or conservators of property, giving them the duty and the power to make decisions on someone’s behalf.
  3. People who have been named as trustees under revocable living trusts. In these cases, ownership of some or all money and property has been transferred to a trust and, as a result, the person named as a trustee has the power to make decisions about what is in the trust.
  4. People who have been appointed by a government agency to manage income benefits, such as Social Security or veteran’s assistance, for someone.

All of the guides also contain tips on how to spot financial exploitation and avoid scams. Older consumers can be attractive targets for scams and financial exploitation because they often have higher household wealth in the form of retirement savings, accumulated home equity, or other assets. Common signs that someone is being exploited financially include atypical frequent ATM usage, multiple attempts to wire large amounts of money, and spending money on unusual items.

Additionally, the guides include a list of agencies to contact to report fraud or a scam, as well as contact information for other agencies and organizations that can help financial caregivers with their duties. The Bureau contracted and worked closely with the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging to prepare the guides.

A copy of the guides can be found at www.consumerfinance.gov/managing-someone-elses-money. Paper copies of guides may be ordered online at: http://promotions.usa.gov/cfpbpubs.html.

Source: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.

Test Your Medication Safety IQ

Medications play a big role in managing health problems, and help us live longer. But medications can also be the cause of health problems, especially for seniors, who are more likely to take a number of prescription drugs. Take this short medications safety quiz to learn more. (Answers at bottom.)

True or False?

  1. Medications are helpful, so the more, the better!
  2. When I buy off-the-shelf drugs, I should check the packaging carefully.
  3. If I am taking prescription drugs, it’s still OK to take any over-the-counter medications I choose.
  4. I can ask my pharmacist for a regular cap rather than a childproof lid.
  5. Since herbal remedies are natural, they are all safe.
  6. Pain medications only mask pain, and cannot improve the condition that is causing the pain.
  7. I should check the label of prescriptions to be sure I have received the correct medication.
  8. Physical activity can decrease or even eliminate the need for many medications.
  9. My doctors all exchange notes to keep track of my prescriptions.
  10. If I am taking medication and start to feel better, I should stop taking my medication right away.

Answers to “Test Your Medications Safety IQ”:

  1. Medications are helpful, so the more, the better!
    FALSE—It’s important to take the exact dosage your doctor prescribes. If you have trouble remembering to take your medication, a container with compartments can help. Or keep track with a chart.
  2. When I buy off-the-shelf drugs, I should check the packaging carefully.
    TRUE—Most medicines today come in tamper-proof packaging, such as a sealed box and bottle. Examine the outside packaging before you make the purchase, and check the inside seal once you get the bottle home.
  3. If I am taking prescription drugs, it’s still OK to take any over-the counter medications I choose.
    FALSE—Drug interactions can take place even with nonprescription drugs. When you begin a new prescription, find out from your doctor or pharmacist what other medications should be avoided.
  4. I can ask my pharmacist for a regular cap rather than a childproof lid.
    TRUE—You don’t have to be a child to have trouble with those childproof lids! If arthritis or other conditions make it difficult to open safety lids, ask your pharmacist for a regular cap. You’ll have to request this each time you refill your prescription—and be sure to be doubly careful to keep all medications out of the reach of children.
  5. Since herbal remedies are natural, they are all safe.
    FALSE—Herbal medications may contain dangerous contaminants, and some can interfere with or cause bad interactions with prescription medications. Some herbal medications can be toxic in large doses. Always tell your healthcare provider about any herbal remedies you are taking.
  6. Pain medications only mask pain, and cannot improve the condition that is causing the pain.
    FALSE—Some pain relievers also reduce inflammation. And treating the pain of arthritis and some other health conditions can allow you to get the kind of exercise that actually improves the condition itself.
  7. I should check the label of prescriptions to be sure I have received the correct medication.
    TRUE—While pharmacy errors are rare, they do happen. As soon as you receive a prescription, read the label. If you have any questions about the correct drug and dosage, ask your pharmacist.
  8. Physical activity can decrease or even eliminate the need for many medications.
    TRUE—Diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, high cholesterol and other conditions often improve with increased exercise. Ask your healthcare provider about an exercise plan that’s best for you.
  9. 9. My doctors all exchange notes to keep track of my prescriptions.
    FALSE—If you are seeing two or more doctors at the same time, tell each about all the medications you are taking, to avoid overmedication and drug interactions.
  10. 10. If I am taking medication and start to feel better, I should stop taking the medication right away.
    FALSE—You should take your medication for the full length of the prescribed treatment. It is also very important to complete the whole cycle of antibiotics. Also, do not go off a long-term medication without checking with your doctor.

For More Information

The National Institute on Aging offers a free booklet, “Safe Use of Medicines” [add link to:  http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/safe-use-medicines/questions-ask-about-your-medicines], which you can order or download online.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers information on medication safety for older adults.  [add link to: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/ucm163959.htm].

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) offers tips for using medicines safely. [add link to: http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/diagnosis-treatment/treatments/checkmeds/index.html]

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Speak to your healthcare provider if you have questions about your prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Copyright © AgeWise, 2014

 

New Technologies for Safer Senior Living

New Technologies for Safer Senior Living

With the aging of the baby boomers, developments in technology are expanding rapidly. Here are just a few examples of computer-driven senior support offerings on the horizon. Some are still on the drawing board, while others are being tested and used today.

Technology to keep seniors safe at home

At a recent convention of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, one of the most popular exhibits was the model “Idea House.” This display demonstrated some of the many ways technology can support aging in place, including systems that monitor the well-being of elders in innovative ways.

Today, many seniors take advantage of home security systems, personal emergency response systems, or wander guards for those with Alzheimer’s disease. But this is only the beginning! Some of the other developments we can look forward to as we age in place include:

Enhanced home safety monitoring. The “smart home” will turn lights on as we approach, remind us if we leave the stove on, even alert us when the mail or newspaper arrives. Whole-home emergency response systems will utilize sensors in carpets, walls, clothing and slippers to detect falls, and even to track our activities for patterns that would indicate a change of health condition.

Interactive telehealth “robots” will remind us to take medications and to perform home health tests (such as blood pressure or glucose level), and will then automatically transmit the results to our healthcare provider. Telehealth promises to allow seniors to stay in their home longer, and will cut down on the number of routine medical appointments.

Dementia support technology. Today’s tracking systems prevent people with Alzheimer’s and related conditions from getting lost, while providing peace of mind for family caregivers. These will become more sophisticated, as will simple handheld devices and smart phones that offer memory prompts and reminders. Research continues on memory-care computer programs that support brain health.

Do these developments represent a “Big Brother”-type intrusion on the privacy of seniors? Most who use them say no. They report that these technologies allow for greater freedom and independence. Research confirms that self-esteem is supported when reminders come from a computer…instead of from an anxious family caregiver!

Online health records

Online health records promise to streamline healthcare and allow patients more control over their own care. Older adults especially stand to benefit by a centralization of their records, as they are most likely to be dealing with multiple conditions, doctors and medications. Equally important, new security technologies are addressing the important issue of privacy.

Senior fitness innovations

Walk into a senior living community today and you are likely to see an exuberant group of residents gathered around the facility Wii, playing 18 holes of golf or bowling strikes and spares. Few game developers anticipated how quickly older adults would embrace these motion sensing video games! Do “virtual” sports games really give older adults a good workout? The American Heart Association says yes, demonstrating that many active video games provide benefits equal to moderate intensity exercise. Another study suggested that active games such as “Dance Dance Revolution” can help reduce fall risk. Game developers who formerly focused on teens are now working on more devices targeting the over-65 user.

“Senior-friendly” gadgets

Many devices designed to “make life easier” for people actually have the opposite impact on older adults! A confusing, complicated menu of features and choices makes for a daunting experience, especially when there are mysterious settings to inadvertently toggle. Fortunately, more companies are studying the needs of seniors and developing models tailored for users with low vision, decreased manual dexterity, memory loss—or just a disinclination to be continually learning “what’s new.” For example, mobile phones are available with larger buttons, high-contrast numbers, amplifiable volume—even a dial tone. Computers and software with simplified interfaces are available. Intuitive remote controls make home electronics more accessible. Developers are wising up that although technology can play a critical role in quality of life for older adults, technology can also be intimidating.

Of course, these emerging trends can’t take the place of the human touch when it comes to caring for seniors. But with the aging of the baby boom, with more and more older adults preferring to age in place, with the increased pressure on family caregivers, and the pressing need to control healthcare costs, new technical developments will continue to provide cost-effective supplemental support.

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Technology and eldercare expert Lori Orlov’s Aging in Place Technology Watch blog is a great resource for keeping up with the latest news in “silver tech.”

Copyright © AgeWise, 2013