Thursday, November 15, 2018

Safety On The New Senior Playground...The WWW

For those who grew up with the WWW, online safety is somewhat part of their being. They have a working understanding of viruses, hackers and the likes which are used to manipulate and steal personal information. For the senior population however, these things are not so clear. The seniors did not grow up exposed to computers from infancy. Their introduction to the world of technology is often at the suggestion of someone with a much better understanding of the dangers it can present. The idea that someone could/would use their information in a negative manner is almost foreign to them.
Despite seniors inexperience, they are expected to assimilate, often blindly, into that world. Just think of it, many services they use and need are processed online. Even when you call for customer service help you are directed to refer to the website. So how can we help keep seniors safe as they venture into the WWW.

PC protection.
As the computer is the easiest target for theft of sensitive information, choosing a robust virus protection is key. Make sure that the software installed has automatics updates so that will not be another step for them to be concerned with. You may also want to periodically do a manual check to be sure everything is up-to-date.

Surfing safety
The ability to spot bogus website and choosing secure passwords will assist seniors to surf the web safely. Family members can help educate seniors with a few training session. They should learn how to identify safe and unsafe sites and certain cues that may alert them to use caution or avoid the site altogether. Explain and help them create secure passwords for websites that require login.

Email safety
 Email is the yellow brick road hackers use to trick people out of vital information using the technique called phishing. Unknowingly many people are fooled by this cyber scamming method and inexperience users fall prey before they even realize it. Seniors also need to be aware to never open emails, attachments or links from an unfamiliar source. If they have any doubt, they should scan the email to be sure it contains no malware.

Scams...scams and more scams
Sad to say, the elderly are a primary target for scammers. Many seniors are aware of telephone and snail mail scams, but the internet is another avenue predators use. Help them learn how to spot the more frequent ones such as getting an alert that there is a virus on their computer and they should download this virus protection to protect their computer.

Staying safe online is an ongoing learning process. Online Safety Tips for Seniors is a good starting point to assist your senior family members as they venture out onto the new playground...the WWW. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Much Needed Ally...Technology

Caregiving is often complicated by life responsibilities of caregiver or the distance between the caregiver and the individual in need of care. According to Senior Living, up to 15% of caregivers travel at least an hour or more to provide care for a family member. Such demands can impair communication and coordination between those tasked with ensuring the needs of the individual are being met.
Back in the day we all marveled  at the "Clapper". That smart device that when you clapped your hands the lights would come on...clap on...clap off. Today technology has advanced way beyond just being able to control a light bulb. From the GPS tracker to a completely Smart Home, there is no denying that technology can provide not only safety but even more, great peace of mind to the aging and their caregivers. The following are some of the technology recommended by AARP.

GPS Technology- for someone with impaired cognition this is an excellent device for a caregiver to use.  This device can always let the caregiver know the exact location of their loved one. Some devices can even send an alert via email or text if the individual goes outside of a preset geographical area.

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) - most folks are familiar with a Medical Alert device. The individual can push a button to contact a central call center during an emergency. Today there are many different PERS available and the caregiver should explore which one will meet their loved ones individual need. To assist in your choice read the Buyers Guide choice of the 2018 Best Medical Alert Systems

Medication Reminder Systems - one of the biggest concerns caregivers can have is making sure their loved one takes their medication consistently and as prescribed. As people age the number of medications they take often increase making it difficult for some seniors to manage this task efficiently.  Again there are many different medication reminders to choose from. Senior Safety Reviews has chosen the Best Reminders for 2018.

Health Tracking Tools - keeping up with appointments and health records can be almost impossible without help. Online platforms such as Health Vault and Mayo Health Manager allows for a space to store and share vital information.

Wireless Home Monitoring (Smart Home) - for the distant caregiver this can be a dream come true. It allows the caregiver to have control over many functions and visualization of the home to help their loved one stay safe. Explore the various Smart Home Technology which will support independent living and greatly reduce the caregivers stress.

Technology seems to be ever growing and should be a welcomed ally of all caregivers.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

"It Takes A Villiage"

The phrase "it takes a village" is often heard in reference to raising children but another role where a village community is helpful is that of caregiving. Caregiving requires not only finances, physical, mental and emotional energy but it is often a task many individuals attempt to do alone. Most have no idea what is required until they are often abruptly thrust into the role. As people are living longer due to the wonders of modern technology it becomes vital to plan and look ahead as to how one can be prepared to navigate this role.
We all know the saying "when you fail to plan, you plan for failure" and when it comes to caregiving, not only the individual who needs care suffers but the one tasked to provide care often suffers more.
Caregiving often robs caregivers time to care for themselves causing an array of physical, emotional and mental problems. Those in need of care can often fall victim to abuse and/or neglect.
Remember, you cannot care effectively for someone else, unless you first take care of yourself.  Spend some time gaining an understanding of caregivers stress and ways to take control of your life as a caregiver. 
The big key to caregiving is resources...resources...resources. What things are available to you that will allow you to make aging and the role of caregiving a bit easier. Finding those resources often is not easy but they are out there. A very interesting concept I've recently learned about is called "village movements". This is where a group of individuals usually 50+ form a non-profit with the goal of providing services for themselves which will allow members to remain in their homes as long as possible. Many of the services provided are at reduced rate or provided by a network of volunteers. Villages are continuously expanding across the country. To learn more if there is one near you check the helpful village map.
I do not know about you but with the grace of God and the help of family and friends. I hope to live a long, full and vibrant life. Spend time thinking about what your caregiving needs may be and who will be involved. Caregiving is a full time job but definitely does not have to do alone. Check back next week where I will have more on how technology can be a useful tool for caregiving.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

All About Having a Clear Understanding

As a community patient advocate I spend many hours with friends, family and community members in healthcare environments. One thing I've noticed, over the past 10 years strides have been taken to help ensure individuals who speak a different language have an interpreter and/or printed material in their primary language. In addition, some facilities usage of graphics have aided greatly to convey vital health information and navigation throughout facilities.
One area I often see that still has a way to go is to ensure what is said by the provider is completely understood by the patient. Just recently a triage nurse said to my cousin,"so you have CHF" and to her that had absolutely no meaning. Before I told her the meaning, Congestive Heart Failure, her  response was "if  you say so, I guess that is what I have". Imagine if she had very little concept of the definition of CHF chances are she had even less understanding of the consequences of her diagnosis.
The use of medical abbreviations and acronyms can be confusing and often intimidating to someone without a medical background or low health literacy. Health literacy is not only important when an individual utilizes the healthcare system but it  plays a vital part in prevention and wellness.
The first step an individual can take is to be advocates for themselves in the healthcare system. Providers only know you do not understand something unless you inform them of that. Your overall course of adequate and quality care depends on good communication. Take steps to do your part in this two way system called communication by learning "Questions to ask your doctor". Never feel you do not deserve answers and if you have a doctor unwilling to take time for your questions...perhaps it is time for a new one.