Senior Safety

Don’t Ditch Your Landline Just Yet

Don’t Ditch Your Landline Just Yet

I’m part of a rapidly shrinking group of people who still has a landline phone in my home. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which keeps track of phone usage in the U.S., cell phone usage had increased by 35 percent in 2012 from 2008. I’ve even had friends jokingly harass me and ask why I don’t just rely on my mobile phone. My rationale is I live in a rural area that often has bad electrical storms and although my cell phone coverage is usually fine, there have been times it has been less than ideal.

There really are a number of very valid reasons to keep your landline and most seniors will tell you their first concern is for safety and security. So if you’re considering ditching your landline, you may not want to do it just yet.

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5 Tools to Help Seniors Stay Safe While Driving

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Approximately 500 seniors are severely injured in traffic accidents each day, with another 15 dying in car crashes, according to recent statistics from the CDC. Younger drivers have faster response times and are more likely to bounce back after an injury.

In spite of the dangers on the road for seniors, older drivers also tend to be safer drivers. They tend to stay close to home, wear a seat belt, are less likely to drive drunk and many avoid driving in bad weather. Some may also avoid night driving or driving in congested areas during rush hour traffic.

If you’re a senior who’s concerned about your safety on the road, but still feel confident in your driving abilities, there are several tools you can use to make driving even safer.

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New Study Gauges Effectiveness of GPS Tracking for Seniors

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GPS tracking devices and other technology can help seniors live at home longer, if that’s their desire, while also assisting caregivers in Memory Care communities to protect seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia who may be at risk of roaming. But how effective is it?

A collaborative research project in Canada, run by researchers at Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, and funded by Innovation and Advanced Education within the Government of Alberta, seeks to find out.

The Locator Device Project has provided 10 clients in two Canadian cities with GPS technology from SafeTracks GPS of Red Deer. The technology provides caregivers with real-time location information via text or email, accessed through computers, tablets or smartphones.

The study, in addition to providing real information on the effectiveness of GPS tracking for seniors, also offers training opportunities for occupational therapy student researchers in Calgary.

One caregiver enrolled in the project to keep a better eye on her grandfather-in-law stated on the Alberta Health Services website, “The locator device gives us all peace of mind.”

Challenges of GPS Tracking
While the GPS tracking itself is reliable, caregivers could face challenges in getting seniors to wear new devices or remembering to carry a smartphone with GPS tracking installed as an app. That “peace of mind” could be shattered if a caregiver finds a loved one has left home – and left the GPS device behind. Fortunately, there are ways to encourage a loved one to use the device.

Using GPS Tracking More Effectively
Devices that blend into the wearer’s lifestyle are more likely to be accepted by patients with Alzheimer’s. For instance, fashionable bracelets or pendants might be worn by women with Alzheimer’s. If a man or woman is accustomed to wearing a wristwatch, they might not balk at a GPS locator watch that also tells time.

You might also consider devices that can be hidden inside outerwear or shoes. If an Alzheimer’s patient already carries their smartphone everywhere, a GPS tracking app might be the best solution, requiring nothing to remember and no change in their daily habits.

Finally, GPS devices only used on certain occasions might be helpful. For instance, visitors to parks in the Three Rivers Park District in Minnesota can receive a GPS tracking device free for the duration of their visit. The device sounds an alarm if the Alzheimer’s patient (or a child, for that matter) leaves a specific perimeter. The device also makes it easier to track down a loved one in minutes if they do wander from sight.

Adopting new technology to aid in caregiving is a personal choice. Certainly, tools are available to help caregivers work more effectively. The technology chosen and how it’s introduced can make all the different in success.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Low-Tech Tips To Keep Alzheimer’s Sufferers Safe

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High-tech measures, from personal GPS devices to home monitoring systems, that keep Alzheimer’s patients safe have been making the news lately. But many seniors are reluctant to adopt sophisticated technologies, fearing they might be hard to use, while their caregivers might feel these cutting-edge tools are too expensive to implement in the home.

There’s no doubt that today’s technology can keep seniors safer than ever, but there are also many ways to keep yourself, or the loved one in your care, safe without breaking the bank or relying on today’s most advanced technology.

Let’s look at some of the best ways to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and keep loved ones safe.

A Memory Wall to Empower Seniors with Alzheimer’s
Short-term memory is usually the first to go in dementia caused by Alzheimer’s and other diseases. A memory wall can help your loved one remember doctor’s appointments, important phone numbers and grocery lists. With this information at hand, seniors will not notice their memory loss as easily, resulting in feelings of empowerment, and reducing feelings of helplessness and isolation that may lead to depression.

Use a cork board with large pushpins, which are easier for older hands to manage. Keep the corkboard organized, since patients with Alzheimer’s thrive when they feel a sense of order. You might also consider a whiteboard, while eliminates the need to handle pins or individual pieces of paper. Make different sections on the board using washi tape to write down information in different categories, clearly marked.

Place the board in a high-traffic area where your loved one can refer to it easily.

Keep Seniors Safe with New Door Locks
While high-tech locks can integrate with home automation systems to permit remote locking or provide access to caregivers, you don’t have to pay a lot or be locked into a monthly fee to enjoy the peace-of-mind of safer locks. A simple slide lock at the top of the door can provide an extra buffer to prevent a loved one from wandering if no one is paying attention. Never lock a senior in a home alone unless they know how to operate the locks and can get out in the event of a fire or flood.

Another inexpensive method to help keep seniors safe is frequently employed in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Since dementia patients often have problems with depth perception or interpreting things they see, placing large rugs that are very dark blue or black in front of entry ways may lead a senior with Alzheimer’s to believe there is a pit or pool blocking their path and they will avoid the area.

Install Safety Bars to Prevent Falls
Falls are a top ranking cause of injury and death for seniors, with one in three people over the age of 65 falling each year. Those affected by dementia may have a higher risk of falls due to side effects of antipsychotic medications that may be prescribed and, in the later stages of dementia, diminished balance and reduced depth perception. Adding hand holds throughout the home can slash the risk of falls dramatically. Shower bars as well as rails by stairs and along hallways can be installed inexpensively by a caregiver or a handyman.

Provide Reminders for ADLs
As people age, the immune system’s ability to fight off disease-causing pathogens weakens, so hygiene becomes even more important to prevent disease.

Set alarm clocks to remind seniors with Alzheimer’s to wash their hands frequently and also remember to check the senior in your care for injuries. Cuts, scrapes or burns that go untreated can lead to infection or blood poisoning.

Healthy meals are another aspect of maintaining good health in seniors. Make sure easy-to-prepare foods, like fruits and vegetables, are readily available, and, again, set reminders for the senior to eat if the senior isn’t monitored by a caregiver 24/7 or living in an assisted living community where meals and snacks are served regularly.

Look For Changes in Patterns
Seniors with the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia may not require round-the-clock care if simple safety measures, such as those shared above, are followed.

Caregivers should watch for changes in behavioral patterns, which could indicate a worsening of the condition, an illness or even depression. For instance, if an aging parent typically phones you every day at noon and you don’t receive a call, check in. Reluctance to do activities they normally enjoy, whether that’s grocery shopping or a walk in the park, could indicate depression, or the senior could be trying to hide an illness.

Whether you take a low-tech or a high-tech approach, vigilance and awareness is key to helping seniors age-in-place longer, and also the key to greater peace-of-mind for you, the caregiver.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

5 Risk Factors Associated with Falls in Seniors

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Every year, two million adults over the age of 65 are treated in emergency rooms around the country for fall-related injuries. While a reduction in coordination, balance and even vision can increase the risk of falls, many falls are caused by easily preventable environmental factors. Let’s look at five of the leading causes of falls and ways to make your home safer by reducing these risk factors.

Loose or Sliding Rugs or Mats
Seniors may be more apt to trip and fall on rugs that slide or on throw carpets where the corners turn up. Make sure all mats lie flat on the ground. There are a number of ways to improve the safety of throw rugs.

  • Remove any throw rugs that could prevent a fall hazard.
  • Use non-slip backing on all throw rugs.
  • Secure area rugs with carpet tacks or double-sided tape.

Power Cords
Make sure all power cords run along the wall to an outlet. You might even tape the cords so they stay against the wall. If you’re using fans as temperatures heat up, duct tape power cords to the floor if they must run across the middle of a room.

Wet Surfaces
Wet surfaces, especially in the bathroom, can create a fall hazard for seniors. Place throw rugs with non-skid backings in front of the bathtub, bathroom sink and kitchen sink, which are areas most likely to get wet.

As April showers bring slippery floors and muddy shoes, place a rubber mat with non-skid backing in the entryway. Encourage seniors to take off their shoes, which may be slippery, when they first enter the home.

Low Lighting
As we age, our eyes may not adapt as easily to the dark. Lights on motion sensors can help seniors from falling, while keeping electric bills low. Make sure entryways, hallways and staircases, especially, are well-lighted.

If you don’t want to upgrade to motion sensor lights, replace regular bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs and add dimmer switches. Keep lights on a low setting all night to improve visibility during trips to the bathroom or kitchen.

Light switches placed at both the top and bottom of stairs can help seniors if lights are not on motion sensors.

Consider lighting in the bedroom, too. If there is no easy way to turn on a light from bed, since seniors often awake before sunrise, place a lamp next to the bed or add a nightlight to the room.

Furniture
Obviously, make sure furniture is not placed where it may be a fall hazard. If a senior you love continuously trips over the coffee table, even if it’s been in the same spot for the past 10 years, it’s time to move it. In general, seniors should not have to walk around furniture to get to a destination, since tripping over furniture is a leading cause of falls.

Additionally, make sure any furniture a senior may lean on for support is secure. Make sure bookcases and other top-heavy furniture pieces are anchored to the wall.

Re-vamp the Home for Spring
Spring is a time for renewal and cleaning. While you’re cleaning, take a few minutes to evaluate your home’s safety and make any necessary changes with these five risk factors for falls in mind.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

New Study Shows Seniors May Be More Susceptible to Scams

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The idea of a cynical elderly man or woman doubting everything that comes their way may just be less common than stereotypes would have us believe, according to two recent psychological studies.

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5 Biggest Money Scams Targeting Seniors … And How To Avoid Them

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As security breaches in Targets and Michael’s Arts & Crafts earlier this year have shown, anyone can fall victim to fraud and identity theft. Unfortunately, seniors are often an all-too-easy source for thieves. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that one in five seniors has been a victim of fraud. When it comes to telemarketer fraud, 56 to 80 percent of calls are directed at seniors.

What are some of the most common fraud schemes, and how can you or your loved ones avoid falling prey?

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New Technology Detects Changes in Seniors’ Behavior for Better Caregiving

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Technology is evolving to make caregiving easier for the sandwich generation with aging parents. From hearing aids to walkers, all the way up to personal GPS systems that let caregivers detect when an aging parent or Alzheimer sufferer has roamed, technology permits seniors who need a little assistance or monitoring to age-in-place longer and remain independent in the face of diminishing abilities.

According to a recent study published by the American Journal of Public Health and reported here at SeniorLiving.net, 9 million seniors on Medicare have successfully adapted to a disability with the help of assistive technology. This number could increase as technology evolves and, even more importantly, as awareness of available technologies grows.

A new technology scheduled to ship this fall could help even more seniors age-in-place.

Technology Detects Changes in Behavior
CarePredict Tempo is a new wearable sensor that tracks activity and locations of a senior within the home. In much the same way a “smart” thermostat learns how you prefer to program room temperature settings and then mimics that behavior even if you’re not programming it, the CareDirect sensor first learns the senior’s “typical” patterns of behavior.

Then, if there is a deviation from this pattern, the program alerts loved ones or caregivers. This technology is different from current GPS technology, because it monitors the senior rather than the environment and does more than just detect a location or a change in location beyond specified parameters.

Like many personal GPS systems, the sensor is unobtrusive and can be worn on a men’s watch band or a ladies’ bracelet. Four additional room sensors and a communications hub that connects to the cloud complete the kit.

Real-Life Uses
Sattish Movva, founder and CEO of CarePredict and a member of the sandwich generation himself, with three young children (including a set of twins) and two aging parents he cares for, references a recent incident he experienced with his father. “I noted my dad had started shuffling instead of walking because of water retention in his feet, which, if left untreated, would have resulted in an ER visit.”

Movva was lucky that he noticed the change in behavior during a routine visit but, with CarePredict Tempo, he would have been alerted even sooner in order to get his dad the treatment he needed.

“As part of the sandwich generation we try to find a balance between competing demands on our time: work, taking care of parents and taking care of children among others,” Movva says. He points out that time spent on one activity, say, taking a parent to the hospital in an emergency situation, must come from some place else, perhaps time spent working or at a sports competition for a child. In a sense, technology like CareDirect Tempo helps caregivers be in two places at once, or at least be able to monitor an aging parent while you’re at work or at the park with your children.

Technology, of course, should not replace personal visits and one-on-one care, but can make seniors feel more secure and comfortable when they are left alone, and can provide them with greater independence. Both seniors and their caregivers can enjoy a peace-of-mind they may not achieve without monitoring through technology.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Caregivers: Protect Your Senior Loved Ones in Icy Weather

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“Oh, the weather outside is frightful…”

But that doesn’t mean seniors should stay confined indoors for the next three months. A fear of falling can force many seniors to do exactly that, but with a few precautions, seniors can venture out safely if necessary. Staying housebound isn’t the best way for your favorite senior to stay active and stave off winter depression, either.

Senior Falls: A Real Threat
Falling on ice or slippery snow is a valid fear. According to LearnNotToFall.com, a website run by Philips Lifeline to raise awareness about the dangers of falls, 31 percent of all senior falls are caused by accidents or environmental conditions, which can include slipping on icy steps or sidewalks.

Here are some other quick fall facts:

  • One-third of seniors over the age of 65 fall each year.
  • One-half of seniors age 80+ fall annually.
  • Seniors who fall once are two to three times more likely to fall again. A fall-related hip fracture greatly increases the odds of another fall within six months.

These tips can help prevent the senior in your care from falling when the temps drop.

Making the Entryway Safer in the Snow

Many falls occur right in front of a senior’s home. Therefore, focus your efforts on creating a safe entryway to prevent falls. Follow these steps:

1. Shovel snow, chip away as much ice as you can, and use rock salt, ice melt or sand to dissolve the rest of the ice on the steps and path leading to the door. In a pinch, cat litter will also work to create a less slippery surface.

2. Check the strength and safety of the handrail. It shouldn’t wobble when you touch it and should be easy to grasp. If a handrail is not in place, consider installing one, or even one on either side of the steps.

3. Add a rubber mat inside the entry way to wipe off shoes and avoid an indoor fall. Also consider placing a bench with shoe storage right near the entry way, so the senior can remove her shoes upon entering the house and avoid the risk of trailing water, snow and ice into the home, where it creates a fall hazard.

Additional Ice Safety Tips

Here are some more tips to walk safely in icy conditions.

Choose the right shoes. 
Even though the path to and from their house is clear, it doesn’t mean seniors won’t encounter ice in parking lots or on sidewalks. Grab those “silver sneakers” or snow boots with flat heels and rubber soles for safer walking on snow and ice.

Walk empty-handed for better balance.
Encourage your loved one to get help carrying packages inside, so he or she can use both arms for balance, instead. Seniors should walk with both hands at their sides or on a railing, not in their pockets.

Walk slowly. 
If you’re walking with a senior, encourage them to take their time and pay attention to their surroundings to avoid a fall.

Be mindful of medications.
Some medications can adversely affect balance. Ask your loved one’s doctor if you’re not sure about side effects of medications your loved one might be taking. If drugs can affect balance, encourage the senior in your care to always walk with a companion.

Winter Home Maintenance Made Easy

In a senior community, snow shoveling and sanding of the steps and pathway are included as part of the regular maintenance. The paths and walkways in the senior community should also be kept clear and free of ice and snow.

Seniors can request help from staff if they are walking the grounds to reach the dining hall or an activity. In a senior living community, there’s no need to stay housebound just because there’s snow and ice on the ground and, indeed, rather than fearing freezing temps, seniors can have the experience of walking in a winter wonderland.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Scientists Study Fall Prevention in Athletes and Elderly

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The changing seasons often bring special challenges to seniors. Like winter, but to a lesser degree, autumn is a time when older adults should be especially careful of falling. Wet surfaces, combined with fallen leaves are potentially treacherous for those with unsteady footing or balance issues. A huge health risk for the elderly, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites falls as the highest cause for death and injuries in people 65 and over. In 2010, over two million older adults went to emergency rooms as the result of a fall.

There are many preventive measures seniors can take to help prevent falls, such as exercises to improve stamina, avoiding clutter in their homes, and using mobility aids like canes and walkers if needed. While there has been much scientific research on fall prevention, scientists still don’t fully understand why exactly people fall. But in some exciting new studies, researchers are looking into the actual mechanisms in the body that contribute to falling. The studies hope to not just help the elderly, but also examine causes for athletes’ falls.

One study, which was conducted by physiology professor Kathleen Cullen at McGill University in Montreal, focused on learning how the brain controls and facilitates balance through signals sent to the spinal column. Another study at the University of Texas at Austin took measurement from reflective markers attached to different areas of the body, allowing a computer to compile a digital image of variations in steps of subjects while on a treadmill. Testing healthy young people and seniors, the research showed older people are more at risk from these small stepping and gait variations.

Although much insight into the science of falls has been gained, scientists are still unclear about exactly how balance and gait factor into falls and preventing them. But most researchers agree that more comprehensive evaluations by seniors’ family doctors would help them better assess risk factors for their patients.

 

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

 

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