Are You a Caregiver Seeking Peace of Mind? These Tools Can Help

Written by Nurse Susan

Are you a retired adult helping to care for an aging parent or sick spouse? You’re not alone. In fact, the Family Caregiver Alliance reports that of the over 40 million adults in the U.S. currently providing care for a family member, 34% are over the age of 65. Family caregivers take on responsibilities including providing transportation to appointments, refilling prescriptions, even administering medicine and helping with bathing, dressing, and toileting.

If you provide care for an aging parent or sick spouse, check out these helpful tools that may help bring you and your loved one peace of mind:

Medical Alert System

Have you considered installing a medical alert system in the home of the person for whom you care? Depending on their age and health condition, your loved one’s care needs can vary. If they have experienced any of the following in the past year, however, a medical alert system may be a helpful investment.

  • Frequent dizziness
  • Stumbling or falling (even if they didn’t injure themselves)
  • Medicine side effects like low blood pressure or drowsiness
  • Difficult walking or standing without assistance
  • Hospitalization (or a trip to the E.R.)
  • One or more chronic conditions (i.e. arthritis, diabetes, dementia)

Medical alert systems come in a variety of shapes and sizes – from free-standing machines that sit on a countertop or desk, to wearable pendants you take with you on the go. As a caregiver, you can always be ready to take quick action to help your loved one in the event of an emergency when they have access to a system that signals for help at the press of a button.

Digital “Baby Monitor”

Technological innovation has made keeping an eye on your loved one easier than ever. Digital monitors which are traditionally used in nurseries to keep an eye (and ear) on infants can also be repurposed for your loved one. While on the pricier end, these devices allow you to set up a camera in your loved one’s room which streams a live video feed for you on your smartphone or other mobile device.

Some monitors even let you move the camera around and up and down as well as speak through the device to your loved one or play music. Check in on them when you are out running errands or right before bed to make sure they are sleeping.

Social Media

This may not seem like a “tool” but you would be surprised all the resources and help you can find simply be connecting with other caregivers and organizations online. Private Facebook groups like Caregiver Collective and Caregiver Hub Support Group allow caregivers to share their stories, frustrations, and questions with each other in a judgment-free zone. And following groups like the National Council on Aging and the Family Caregiver Alliance on facebook and twitter keeps you up-to-date on resources, policy changes, and events which may benefit your loved one’s care. Getting on social media is free and with advanced privacy settings you can easily control who you engage with.

Fall Mats

While you can take extra measures to prevent falls in your loved one’s home, the fact is if they are elderly, and especially if they have motor impairment like you find with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, they are at a high risk for experiencing a fall. Many falls lead to serious injury in older adults, including hospitalization and life-threatening bone fractures or head trauma. In the event of a fall, you want to do everything possible to mitigate the severity of their impact with the ground.

Fall mats provide a helpful solution here, adding padding to the floor of commonly used areas like by the couch in the living room or by the bed in the bedroom. In addition to cushioning the blow of a fall, some fall mats are also designed to alert caregivers when they pick up on an impact like a person falling.

Knowing your loved one is safe and well whether you are present with them or not will always help to ease up on the stress and anxiety a caregiver naturally experiences. Simple tools like digital video monitors and fall mats can go a long way in providing peace of mind and a happier overall care experience.

5 Helpful Tools for Hearing Loss

Written by Nurse Susan

If you’re a senior coping with hearing loss, you’re not alone. In fact, an estimated 25% of seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss, with that number growing to 50% of adults 75 and older. While advancements in technology have developed hearing aids that are smaller, sleeker, and more efficient, they aren’t necessarily the absolute fix many seniors are looking for and they can often be expensive and require more maintenance than you might expect. Support your hearing with additional helpful tools including:

Phone Amplifiers

Talking on the phone can pose a serious challenge for someone with hearing loss, from fuzzy connections to poor volume quality. Staying connected and maintaining regular communication with friends and family is key, however, to senior health outcomes. A phone speaker amplifier helps to solve this problem by offering an easy and portable way for seniors to ramp up the volume of the person they are speaking to on the phone. Some amplifiers also generate a digital text transcription of your ongoing conversation and let you adjust tones for even greater sound quality.

Live Video Chat

What’s even better than chatting over the phone? Chatting via live video feed with a friend or family member where you can both hear and see them (and read their lips). Free, online services like Skype and Google+ Hangout offer you the ability to call your friends and loved ones over WiFi from your computer or digital devices, as do apps for smartphones and tablets like Facetime (iOS/Apple products only).

Helpful Hearing Apps

If you need a little extra help with recognizing sounds around you, there are loads of apps you can download to your digital device to assist you. Apps like Braci Smart Ear, My Ear Droid, Tap Tap and Otosense use sound recognition software to detect sounds around you (phone call, doorbell, smoke alarm, etc) and alert you with visual and vibrating aids on your smartphone. A different app called BioAid enhances sound clarity and adjusts ambient noise volume through the microphone on your smartphone, delivering clearer sound real-time to you through headphones.

Voicemail to Text Services

Voicemails are notoriously hard to hear, especially if the person who left them was standing in a crowded or loud environment when they did. Save yourself the trouble of trying to make out their every word by using voice-to-text tools. You may have already received an offer for a voicemail-to-text subscription from your phone provider, however, there are apps like VoxSciences that facilitate this helpful service too. When someone leaves you a voicemail, these tools transcribe it into text which is either messaged to you on your smartphone or sent via email.

Sound Box

Just as you can amplify the sound from your own phone, so can you do the same thing for your TV. With a portable sound box, you can wirelessly amplify the sound from your TV wherever you are – in your bedroom, in the living room, etc. You no longer have to worry about turning up the TV volume so high that it bothers the people watching with you. Simply set your sound box down beside you and count on a louder, clearer-sounding experience.

So where can you find these assistive hearing gadgets and gizmos? Look online, at your local pharmacy, or even in big box stores like Walmart or Target. And for apps, simply visit the app store on your smartphone or tablet (iTunes App store for Apple users, Google Play store for Android users) – or ask your kids or grandkids to help you!

Five Health and Safety Mistakes Seniors Commonly Make

Written by Nurse Susan

As you age, it becomes more important than ever before to take responsibility for your overall well-being.

Unfortunately, many seniors don’t prioritize things like health and safety — some willfully and some because they don’t know any better — and put themselves at risk for serious illnesses and injuries.

In order to maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible, make sure you’re not making any of these five common health and safety mistakes.

  1. Not Being Honest with Your Doctor

Many seniors are reluctant to discuss intimate health problems, such as urinary or sexual difficulties, with their doctor. They may also avoid bringing up problems that they deem trivial, such as stomach pain, jaw pain, or constipation.

By refusing to bring up concerns, or by waiting until they become unbearable, you’re setting yourself up for a more difficult healthcare journey. The longer you wait, the longer and more intense your treatment will need to be.

In addition to not addressing concerns, some seniors are hesitant to ask for clarification when their doctor gives them instructions. Often, it’s because they’re embarrassed to admit that they didn’t hear or understand the first time.

Don’t let embarrassment stop you from getting the clarity you need, though. When your health is on the line, a few minutes of awkwardness are absolutely worth it.

  1. Neglecting Health Aids

Whether it’s out of pride or due to forgetfulness, many seniors are guilty of neglecting health aids like walkers, canes, hearing aids, glasses, and medical alert devices.

These tools aren’t always fun to use, and nobody likes to be reminded that they’re getting older. But, these health aids can bring you and your loved ones safety and peace of mind.

If you find them uncomfortable or awkward, remember that it takes time to get used to using a new device. Use them regularly for a couple of weeks. If the discomfort continues, talk to your doctor to get an adjustment or replacement.

  1. Not Managing Medications

It’s important to take the time to put a system in place to manage your medications properly.

It’s very common for seniors to miss doses or accidentally overdose. Things get even more confusing when they’re working with more than one doctor. To avoid confusion and accidental noncompliance, seniors should make sure they have one primary care physician who oversees their whole medical plan.

When they have one person handling all their medications, they’re less likely to accidentally take two or more prescriptions that interact negatively with each other. They should also figure out a system that helps them keep track of their prescriptions. Daily alarms or pill boxes are all good options to avoid accidentally missing or doubling up on doses.

  1. Not Taking Advantage of Preventive Care

Many seniors forget to take advantage of the preventive care options available to them. Most insurance plans will offer free or low-cost health screenings that can help seniors learn about and avoid a number of common illnesses and conditions.

It can be tempting to skip these screenings, especially if you’re feeling fine when they’re scheduled. Remember, though, that you could have a condition but not be showing any symptoms. The earlier you catch something, the easier it is to treat.

  1. Disregarding Limitations

Many seniors are hesitant to acknowledge their limitations. Like it or not, though, you’re getting older and some things that used to be easy for you might be a little more challenging.

For example, you might need to start moving a little slower to avoid falls. Plan ahead and give yourself time to prepare for appointments so you don’t feel rushed. You also need to evaluate your ability to drive safely. It can be hard to give up driving and the independence that comes with it. But, you need to think about the safety of others and be willing to admit you need help getting around.

Are you guilty of any of these common mistakes? If so, it’s time to make some changes.

Small adjustments can make a big difference. Start by committing to just one change, and you’ll be living a safer, healthier lifestyle before you know it!