Category Archives: Senior Safety

Getting By with a Little Help……

735910_64656392Many people benefit from products known as assistive devices in the medical equipment world.  These are products that help people continue to be independent in their activities of daily living.  They allow people with physical limitations to feed, bathe and dress themselves, do things around the house, as well as move from place to place.  All kinds of activities can be maintained through the accommodations made with assistive devices.

We are all familiar with the most obvious ones like canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters.  And many of you may also have seen raised toilet seats and grab bars.  But there are also all kinds of reachers, grabbers, extenders and grippers that can modify activities such as pulling on your socks, reaching your lower legs and feet in the shower, grasping your toothbrush and holding onto your utensils.  These devices not only create a way to complete a task but also, often, a safer way to do them.

Simple things like grab bars, raised toilet seats and shower chairs can make bathroom activities safer and easier to do.  Many items you can find on your own and purchase from a medical supply store.  You’ll even find a basic selection of these types of items in drug stores and the other stores you frequent.

However, if you know that your loved one needs some assistance but are unsure of what would really help the most, you might want to consider asking the physician for an order for a Physical Therapy and/or Occupational Therapy assessment.  The therapist can work with you and your loved one to identify the deficits, maximize their ability and make recommendations about the products that might be helpful as well as work with them on how to use the device!

Also remember that many medical/assistive devices may be covered by Medicare or your insurance (with a script from your physician).  It would be worth asking and investigating the possibilities before making a purchase (look for the Durable Medical Equipment benefit information in your policy).

There are also many little things that you can try based on your own observations!  While my father was still living at home I noticed that he was having a difficult time with the heavy glassware that my mother was using and actually dropped his glass at dinner one evening.  I suggested to my mother that she try using lighter glasses at meals and this really helped!  With the increased number of falls that Dad was having I also encouraged Mom to pull up all the little scatter rugs (tripping hazards along with clutter, electrical cords, poor lighting, and raised doorway thresholds).  Just be observant and try minor adjustments.

For a time, my father was using walking sticks to aid with his balance (something one of his friends suggested to him) and it did seem to work well for him until his dementia advanced and weakness became more prominent.  Then, I came to refer to them as his tripping sticks as he was no longer able to use them in a beneficial way and more often than not they were getting tangled up in his feet rather than aiding him in his balance.  He resisted the change to a walker but when he had to be placed in a facility, the therapist was able to prevail upon him that the walker would be safer and he began to use the walker (though the dementia still affected his safety awareness and judgment when using it).

For optimal mental health and wellbeing, the goal is to stay independent for as long as possible in the safest way!  Seek the help of a physician and/or therapist in helping you to find the devices that might best help you help your loved one remain active!

On the journey with you…….Kathy

For more information about fall prevention check out:  http://www.scdhec.gov/health/chcdp/injury/docs/home%20safety.pdf

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Seniors and Cell Phones

Kathy Eynon, Eldercare, Elder CareWho knew that getting my mother her own cell phone plan would be such a difficult task!  What three of us thought would be a relatively simple and painless task, turned into quite an event.

Years ago, when my father was still living, Mom expressed an interest in having a cell phone.  She had experienced a few unsettling episodes while she was out and about by herself and felt that this would give her a measure of safety and security.  The 3 kids, and our spouses, all agreed that this would be a small piece of insurance and would provide her with a little piece of mind.

In those days, my father was still very much in control of many of the decisions that were made regarding their lives, which is as it should be, and was strongly opposed to taking on a cell phone plan.  He could not see the benefits and felt that it was an expense that they did not need to incur.  Oddly, maybe due to his early stage dementia, he seemed unable to see the benefits that it would provide to my mother at the time.

So, of course, as I often say caregivers have to do, we found the back-door-in solution.  For my mother’s birthday that year, she got a cell phone from her children.  My sister added a line to their cell phone plan, we all paid a third of the yearly expenses, and Mom was up and running.

And while Dad had been so strongly against the idea of a cell phone, he began to use it for all of their long distance calling on the weekends when it was ‘Free’.  Oh, the irony!

Since my father has passed away, the idea that the kids needed to continue to pay for Mom’s cell phone plan has been revisited.  She is currently on my plan, but I rarely remembered to ask my siblings for ‘their share’ of the costs.  Mom thought it would be best at this point to have her own plan.

So, my brother, my husband, Mom and I set off for the mall on Saturday afternoon to do the ‘simple’ task of making the change.

We had looked at the Jitterbug due to its simplicity:  No contract, basic phone and options for how many minutes to purchase each month.  After all, a smart phone is not what Mom needed.  When we arrived at Sears, who carries the Jitterbug, there was another option to be considered (Consumer Cellular).  Both had similar options and pricing.  But, the store does not complete the activation process.  They claimed that it was simple and the Mom could still keep her cell number.

My brother felt that it was worth a call to the 800 number on the back of the box to confirm this detail.  The 800 number did not seem to be operational.  It seemed a sign for us to walk away from this option.

So, how about just moving Mom off of our Verizon plan onto her own?

This required a LONG walk to the other end of the mall, which is difficult for my mother, only to discover that they can only make those changes Monday-Friday.  What???  Are you kidding me?

So, Mom now has a new upgraded phone (her old phone had to be 5 years old or more) and is still on my cell plan.  The decision, in light of all of the challenges we encountered, was to keep her on our plan and have her pay us for her cell service on a yearly basis.  She came out feeling satisfied that she is covering her own phone costs, has a new (basic) phone that she can navigate, and we will likely never revisit those other options!

A cell phone can provide great security to seniors, especially those that live alone or go out and about on their own.  As I mentioned before, we considered it cheap insurance for Mom.  Don’t try to overwhelm them with smart phone technologies; a basic phone is usually all that they need and want.  Keep it simple.

Mom was exhausted.  But, it was likely the last time that we will need to drag her through that issue.  Nothing is ever simple, is it?

On the journey with you…….Kathy

Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant who works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent.  She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.

The Magic Pill

The Magic Pill

The Magic Pill

Don’t we all wish there was a magic pill for what ails us at any particular time.  Something that didn’t have negative side effects, we didn’t have to remember to take 3 times a day and that didn’t cost an arm and a leg to get.

A pill that could lower our blood pressure, boost our immune system, relieve depression, manage our pain and keep our memory in good shape.  Now that would be a worthy medication, wouldn’t it?

For seniors, that prescription is socialization!

We humans are wired to depend on and crave, at some level, interaction with other humans.  Historically, being with others was the only way to survive and thrive.  But while we may have left behind some of the environmental challenges that were faced long ago, when the group had to hunt and forage for food and avoid dangerous animals, we still have the ingrained need for others.

Seniors are not exempt from this need but often find themselves in situations where their social circles are shrinking for a variety of reasons.  Others around them may be dying.  They may be limited in the ability to get out and about by medical complications.  Maybe they are unable to drive anymore.  Caregiving responsibilities for another may take all of their time and energy.    The life of a senior can become, socially, very small.

And while many have suspected that socialization plays a role in maintaining health and quality of life in the elderly, resent studies are now quantifying this theory and pinpointing the mechanisms behind the protective properties of human interaction!

There are studies that have confirmed the positive impact that socialization has on:  the immune system, blood pressure, brain health and memory, physical activity, depression, pain, nutrition and relationships.

So helping the senior in your life develop and maintain positive human interactions may do more for them than you realize.

I think of my mother who was caring for my father during the earlier stages of his dementia and physical decline.  Things had gotten to the point where she could not leave him for very long and the physical demands of his care were overwhelming her.  The mental and emotional toll was becoming pretty high as well.

Fast forward through several transitions…..  Mom has been settled into an independent living apartment in a Continuing Care Retirement Community for about 8 months.  And though my father passed away a couple of months ago, Mom is doing well.  She sees and greets others throughout her daily routine now.  She has meals with others.  She attends classes with others.

And we can all see the up-side for her.  She is more content than she has been in years.  Her life has once again expanded.

While socialization may not be the magic pill that gets a senior off of all of their medications, the proven benefits certainly make it worth the effort!

How might you help an aging loved one in your life reap these benefits?

On the journey with you…….Kathy

Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant who works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent.  She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.

3 Reasons Seniors End Up in the ER – Part III

Aging parents can suffer from many maladies and complications.  Keeping a senior as healthy as possible will help in preventing some of these complications.

In this 3 video series I have addressed the top 3 reasons seniors end up in the ER.  First, we discussed medication problems.  Second, we touched on Mobility and Falls.

In this third video I talk about the fact that 5 million seniors are at risk for malnutrition!  If you have an elderly loved one at home, you should be aware of the signs of malnutrition, what to look for, and why good nutrition is so important.

Pass this along to somebody you know who might benefit!

On the journey with you,

Kathy

Eldercare Coach/Consultant:  Your go to specialist for Eldercare concerns and questions.

Video – 3 Reasons Seniors End Up in the ER – Part II

1 out of 10 hospital admissions for seniors is related to a fall/injury!  The good news is that there are things that you can do to help prevent falls and keep your loved one safe.  This video will help you know what signs to look for (that may indicate your loved one is falling) and where falls are most likely to occur!

If you are having trouble determining if your loved one is at risk or would like help with know how to modify their environment to make it safer, please be in touch with me!  Just click on the link in my sidebar for my website, Parent Care Alliance, where you will find an opportunity to schedule a time to chat!

On the journey with you,

Kathy