Mother and daughter sitting by garden shed

 

If your house isn’t big enough to accommodate your aging parent or if a senior living community is out of the question, an alternative known as a “granny pod” – a tiny house in your backyard — may be a solution worth considering.

“Most people try to fit a living space for an aging person in their home, but the issue that always comes up is how to make the living quarters from the rest of the family separate, since most adult children doing the caregiving also have children of their own,” says home accessibility consultant and architectural designer Michael Saunders, who works with Toronto-based families to adapt their homes for multi-generational living.

“What ends up happening a lot is that the space ends up being a basement apartment, which isn’t ideal,” Saunders adds.

Saunders says granny pods, also known as MEDCottages or guesthouses, are a useful and relatively low-cost solution that gives aging parents their own space while allowing adult children to easily provide necessary assistance.

Designed by a Blacksburg, Virginia-based company along with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the pre-fabricated, portable homes are typically installed in the caregiver’s backyard.

While the homes range in size, a typical granny pod is about 12 by 24 feet and includes a living space, kitchen and bathroom. Costing anywhere from $85,000 to $125,000, these homes tend to resemble a miniature bungalow from the outside with vinyl siding and double French doors that allow access for hospital beds and other necessary equipment. They also come stocked with medical supplies and safety features designed with aging adults in mind, such as the following.

  • Hand railings
  • Lighted floorboards
  • Soft floors
  • Defibrillators
  • First aid supplies
  • Video devices that inform caregivers and doctors about vital signs, among other important information.

To get all the necessary utilities, Granny Pods are hooked up to the main home’s existing sewer, water and power lines.

“The most common difficulty I find with granny pods is complying with a municipality’s zoning by-laws. As these are a relatively new phenomenon, they aren’t explicitly covered in most by-laws, and are thus more likely to fall under ‘accessory structures,’ which may or may not be permitted, and may or may not include habitable space,” Saunders notes.

Still, he says, it’s best to approach your city officials and let them know what your intentions are for the home. “Some people are afraid to go to their municipality, but if you explain that it’s for an aging parent and that you’re not putting a house on the property to rent it out, they’ll be willing to work with you,” he says.

Before making the purchase, Saunders advises considering whether your yard has enough space and if it’s flat enough to hold the structure. Climate also plays a role. “If it snows a lot, you’ll have to build a path to get the person out,” says Saunders.

Better Options?

Even with all that granny pods have to offer, some believe the cons outweigh the pros.

“Depending on the granny in question, a person’s needs can change profoundly very quickly. So while you might think ‘I’ll deck out this little cool prefab room and my parent could be happy here for years’ if you’re really lucky that could be the case. But if you’re like most of us as we age, a person’s condition doesn’t stay stable for any period of time and the likelihood that they’d outgrow the environment that you’ve created for them is high,” says Tracey Lawrence, founder of Grand Family Planning which helps families find solutions for aging parents.

Lawrence adds that tiny homes only provide the “where.” You’ll still need to consider access to caregivers, doctors, and medications for your loved one. And if you’re comparing the cost of a tiny home to typical assisted living or nursing home costs, she says the price of care encompasses much more than where you live.

“It’s about all the resources, such as meals, people who evaluate your loved one, physical therapists, activities that help to enhance the person’s quality of life,” she says. “You’ll have to have somebody who is going to come in and care for your loved one if it’s not you, and if it is you, how realistic is that?”

Lawrence draws on her personal experience of losing both her parents to dementia. Her father passed away within a year of being diagnosed, but her mother lived for several years, living on her own at first, then in assisted living, then with Lawrence and her husband.

“That worked out for a while until she had a psychotic break and we had to hire caregivers to come into my home and help manager her care. In time, living in my home was no longer practical because she was falling and I needed her to be watched more carefully 24/7… I finally settled in a group home which was a small setting that was equipped to handle her behaviors,” says Lawrence.

It’s important to remember that if at some point your loved one can no longer live in the Granny Pod or once he or she passes away, you’re left with the home, she notes.

“It’s an impractical use because I would imagine the value would go down significantly and for the next user it’d have to be reconfigured completely,” says Lawrence. “The only time I can see something like these having value is if you could lease the home and when your loved one no longer needs it, the Granny Pod is returned.”

 

ALquestions

There are lots of important factors to consider when choosing an assisted living community for yourself or your loved one. You’re looking for a place that’s an ideal fit, and that means researching everything about the community, from cleanliness and ambiance to management activities and costs.

But it doesn’t have to be as daunting of a task as it might seem. Knowing what to look for – and which questions to ask – will help you make the best choice. Read on for some key questions to ask during your search.

  1. Where is the community located?

It’s convenient if the facility is a short drive from your home, of course, but experts advise against choosing a community based on convenience alone. Nonetheless, a community’s location is important for a variety of reasons, and some things you should consider include:

  • Is the neighborhood considered safe?
  • Is it close to doctor’s offices, pharmacies and other important places?
  • If the community isn’t near your home and doesn’t allow overnight guests, are there hotels nearby for when you visit your loved one?
  • Is it conveniently located for other family and friends to visit?
  1. Have you visited?

The importance of visiting the prospective assisted living community cannot be overstated. Likewise, it’s a good idea to visit at different times of the day, particularly during mealtimes. While there, take the time to talk to residents and staff to get a firsthand sense of the community’s features and atmosphere. Here are other key questions to consider:

  • Are hallways well lit and easy to navigate?
  • Are the common spaces clean, pleasant and appealing? Can you imagine your loved one using these common spaces?
  • Do most residents have a private or shared room?
  • Does each room have its own private (and handicap-equipped) bathroom, or is there one shared bathroom?
  • Is there enough closet and storage space?
  • Is the lighting good?
  1. How much will it cost?

The cost of assisted living can seem prohibitive since Medicare does not cover it for many seniors. That said, do your research to find the true costs, since fees can vary depending on your loved one’s needs. Also ask:

  • Are there move-in fees, or fees for services (such as laundry)?
  • How is the community funded? Is it non-profit or for-profit?
  • Is there a charge for transportation to and from doctor’s offices?
  • Will the costs go up in the future and why?
  • What payment options are available?
  1. What services are provided?

Be sure to ask what services the assisted living community provides, and whether those services are included in the overall price or will mean additional costs.

  • Is housekeeping provided and included in the price?
  • Are there religious services at the facility, or nearby?
  • Are barber and beauty services provided and are they included in the price?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Are there visiting hours, or are guests allowed to visit residents at any time?

5. Is there a written care plan?

Knowing the specifics about your loved one’s care and having those details listed in a customized written care plan is important.

  • Who’s involved in developing the care plan?
  • What types of specific care are available?
  • Who handles medication management?
  • Is the facility associated with a hospital or nursing home if additional care is required?
  1. Is the staff well-trained, friendly and stable?

The staff’s attitude and approach toward residents is of utmost importance; after all, they’ll be taking care of your loved one on a daily basis. Observe several staff members and how they interact with residents.

  • Do they listen and make eye contact with residents?
  • Is there a nurse or licensed practical nurse on staff?
  • How many people are actually involved in your loved one’s care?
  • Are they friendly and patient while taking care of residents?
  • How much training do staff members receive?
  • Have staff members undergone background checks?
  • What’s the staff turnover rate?
  1. What’s in the admissions agreement?

Take your time to read the admissions agreement carefully. In particular, make sure you understand the move-out criteria – in many cases there’s language that requires a 30-day notice to stop billing for services even if the resident has died.

  • Is there a negotiated risk agreement?
  • Is there a liability waiver?

Experts suggest that liability waivers may indicate that the facility may not have the resources or ability to meet your loved one’s needs.

 

Senior Doing Needlepoint With Younger Woman

Visiting an elderly loved one in a senior living facility can sometimes feel awkward or stressful. Many people make only brief visits, or avoid visiting altogether because of the challenges these visits present, but it’s important to remember that loneliness and lack of contact with loved ones can lead to major health issues for the elderly.

Here are some tips to make the most of visits with your elderly loved ones:

  1. Consult with the Staff

Your loved one may have certain dietary restrictions either due to their own health issues or facility guidelines, so it’s important to check with staff before the visit if you’re planning to surprise them with food.

  1. Set the Right Tone

Put yourself in the place of the person you’re visiting and think of how you would want to be greeted. Maintain eye contact, give a warm hug or handshake, and don’t stand stiffly in front of them but sit down so you’re at their level.

  1. Respect Their Privacy

Always knock first before you enter your loved one’s room, and step out into the hallway when they’re being given personal care by a staff member such as toileting, dressing or bathing. This way, they won’t get the feeling that you’re treating them as a child. Showing that you respect your older loved one’s privacy helps them retain their dignity and pride.

  1. Time Your Visit

The best time to visit depends on when your loved one’s energy and alertness are at their highest. For many seniors, this tends to be in the morning or after a midday meal. It may even be best to plan to share a meal with them.

  1. Keep Things Positive

It can be tough to keep up a cheerful attitude when a senior is being argumentative, depressed, or is in pain. Nonetheless, make it your goal to keep a positive, upbeat attitude throughout the visit. Avoid arguing with them and always talk to them with respect.

  1. Keep it About Them

Visits with elderly loved ones can sometimes bring feelings of sadness and grief, but it’s important to set your own feelings aside. Focus on the positives of their day; remember, they may feel sad or awkward, too. Additionally, focus on the “real” person inside of then, not the person whose outer appearance and health may have changed considerably.

  1. Keep Visits Intimate

You may be tempted to coordinate your visit with other family members or friends, but this isn’t always a good idea. A large number of people may be overwhelming for your loved one, and it’s always best to ask first if you can invite other people to visit with you. And if you bring children, make sure they’re well behaved and understand the rules of the facility.

  1. Change of Scenery

Visiting your loved one in a place other than their room can be a mood-booster for both of you. There may be a courtyard or garden at the senior living community, or you might consider leave the premises and taking a drive to check out some local scenery together.

  1. Bring Props

You can take some of the pressure off of yourself – and your loved one – as well as liven up the visit by bringing along meaningful objects such as a family photo album, some of your loved one’s favorite music, collectibles, etc.

  1. Shorter Visits Are Often Better

The length of your visit will often be determined by your loved one’s health and energy level, as well as how the visit is progressing. But, oftentimes, shorter visits are better. A half-hour of warm connection will be treasured more than a couple hours of silence and awkwardness.

  1. Communicate Clearly

Nearly half of people aged 75 and older have hearing problems, making it crucial for you to communicate clearly. You may have to raise your voice – but not shout – and it’s helpful to turn off the radio or other background noise while you’re talking with your loved one.

Also, keep your faces at the same level and be aware of your non-verbal communication, such as checking your phone every few minutes – which your loved one may interpret as a sign that you’d rather be someplace else.

  1. Promise to Visit Again Soon

Letting your loved one know that you’ll visit again soon will boost their spirits and help keep them from feeling lonely or down when you have to leave. Like most people, you probably lead a busy life, but a good rule of thumb is to visit your loved one at least once a month.

DifficultDad

There’s no question that being a caregiver for a difficult loved one can have its stressful moments. When that person is a parent or another person close to use, your stress levels can easily rise as you deal with emotionally fraught situations you may never have anticipated. Plus, old age and poor health or disability aren’t likely to improve your loved one’s disposition.

The good news? There are many strategies to deal with a difficult aging loved one that can ease your stress while helping to guide them more smoothly through the activities of daily living. What follows are some practical tips to help you cope.

1. Put yourself first.
It seems counter-intuitive that putting your own needs first would be helpful in dealing with a difficult loved one. But it’s crucial that you don’t sacrifice your own sanity to provide care. Putting yourself first means delegating as many responsibilities as you can to others. Nurture your own relationships and friendships to maintain your own well being. The healthier you are, the better care you’ll be able to give your loved one.

2. Know your limitations.
This tip also relates to delegating responsibility, because caring for a difficult aging loved one can be extremely time-consuming. Trying to do everything by yourself is admirable, but certainly not practical. There’s nothing wrong with saying “no” when you need to. Knowing what you can and cannot handle effectively is important for your own health and your loved one’s health.

3. Don’t expect praise.
This is particularly important if you’re caring for someone with dementia. The cognitive impairment your loved one is experiencing may mean that he or she is no longer capable of appreciating your efforts. Instead, their behaviors may include hostility, accusations and suspicion – behaviors that they never exhibited before. It’s important to accept doing a good job for your own sake and because it’s the right thing to do, and not for your parent or loved one’s approval.

4. Try something different.
Take a closer look at the interactions that are consistently negative and decide if there are less stressful ways to spend time with your loved one. Find other activities, like reading a book together, asking him or her to talk about their past, or even creating a photo album together. If sitting together often results in an argument, then volunteer to do a cleaning project, or to cook a special meal.

5. Take breaks.
It’s easy to get so absorbed in caregiving, jobs and family obligations, and the stress of daily life, that you can forget how much time you’re putting in for others. Take time to nurture your spirit and soul in ways that ease your burden. You can take a peaceful walk by yourself, listen to soothing music, meditate, enjoy a hobby, or anything that helps you re-focus mentally.

6. Be proud of your efforts.
Sometimes your efforts will fail no matter what – and how hard – you try. Self-doubt can creep in, and it’s easy to feel guilty or get angry at the loved one who is being so difficult. But take pride in the knowledge that you continue to do what’s best for your loved one’s quality of life and that you’re doing it with a sincere heart. Admire your own bravery and persistence.

7. Bring in experts.
There are situations where bringing in a professional, such as a geriatric care manager, is necessary. You may not have family support, or the relationship has become too explosive and complicated. Whatever the case, a professional can provide support and advice, as well as coordinate care if you live far from your loved one.

8. Set boundaries.
Setting and maintaining boundaries is important for anyone in a caregiving role, and especially important if you’re dealing with a difficult loved one. Be clear about how much you can do (and are willing to do) and this will leave you less vulnerable to manipulative behavior and guilt trips. It’s not a bad idea to set boundaries about how much abusive behavior you’ll put up with, as well.

9. Communicate.
It’s important to discuss situations as soon they arise, when possible. Talking things through with your parent or loved one without getting defensive can make a world of difference. Try using “I” statements instead of accusations or “you” statements.

10. Understand their point of view.
A parent or loved one may feel frustrated with the role reversal in your relationship now that you’re taking care of them. This may make them uncomfortable and feel less like a parent and more like a helpless child. Change the dynamic to “How can I help?” which helps put the responsibility and decisions back on them.

If you think getting older means an automatic end to dreams of athletic glory, think again. In the world of professional sports, athletes are considered “old” as early as 30. But throughout the history of the Olympic Games, there have been a number of amazing athletes who were far older than that when they set records and won medals. The competitors on this list remind us that there’s no age limit to being an Olympian and pursuing your dreams.

 

1. OSCAR SWAHN

  • Age: 72
  • Country: Sweden
  • Sport: Shooting

This sharp-shooting, bearded Swede was the oldest-ever male Olympic medalist when he won the silver medal at the 1920 Summer Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium (this was after taking home gold and bronze medals in the 1908 and 1912 Olympic Games). He qualified for the 1924 games but withdrew beforehand due to illness.

 

2. ARTHUR VON PONGRACZ

    • Age: 72
    • Country: Austria
    • Sport: Equestrian Riding

Arthur Von Pongracz was one of the most celebrated equestrians of his time, and went on to compete in Dressage in the 1924, 1928 and 1936 Olympic Games. Born on June 25, 1864, the Austrian athlete was 72 years old when he competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Several months older than Oscar Swahn, he is the second-oldest athlete to have competed in the Olympics.

 

3. IAN MILLAR

Image by Grandslamjumping under the Creative Commons attribution license

    • Age: 65
    • Country: Canada
    • Sport: Equestrian

Nicknamed “Captain Canada,” the 69-year-old Canadian equestrian has competed in more Olympic Games than any Canadian in history, in any sport. He took home his first Olympic medal — a silver medal in Team Jumping — at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing at the age of 61. He plans to compete again in this summer’s games in Rio.

 

4. LORNA JOHNSTONE

    • Age: 69
    • Country: Great Britain
    • Sport: Equestrian

Lorna Johnstone is the oldest woman and the oldest-ever British competitor to have competed in the Olympics to date. The British equestrian competed in the 1956, and 1968 Olympics and was 69 years old when she competed in the 1972 Olympic Games.

 

5. GALEN SPENCER

    • Age: 64
    • Country: United States
    • Sport: Archery

This American archer brought home the gold medal at the 1904 Summer Olympics, competing on his 64th birthday! He was born September 19, 1840, and competed on September 19, 1904. He died exactly one month later.

 

6. LIDA “ELIZA” POLLOCK

    • Age: 63
    • Country: United States
    • Sport: Archery

Lida Pollock is the second oldest woman to have competed in the Olympics. The Ohio native won two bronze medals in Archery at the 1904 Games in St. Louis, just a couple months shy of her 64th birthday.

 

7. CARL AUGUST KRONLUND

  • Age: 58
  • Country: Sweden
  • Sport: Curling

At 58 years old, Swedish curler Carl Kronlund was the oldest male medalist and competitor in the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix, France. He took home the silver medal in curling.

 

Senior friends enjoying meal in kitchen

Separating fact from fiction can be difficult for seniors who are looking for trustworthy information about nutrition. The fact is, most conventional dietary advice is geared toward middle-aged folks. But recent research has dug deeply into the nutritional needs of seniors and the findings have dispelled many common myths about nutrition and aging.

Here’s a look at some of the more common senior nutrition myths:

  1. Older People Lose Their Appetite

Metabolic changes coupled with decreased energy output mean seniors generally need less food than younger adults. However, that doesn’t mean seniors have less of an appetite; in fact, a loss of appetite could signal some serious health problems. There are other reasons why it may appear that a senior has lost his or her appetite – such as a decreased sense of taste or dental issues. That’s why it’s important for seniors to weigh themselves on a regular basis and monitor any sudden weight loss.

  1. Seniors Need Fewer Nutrients Because Their Metabolism Slows Down

It’s true that seniors generally need fewer calories than younger people. At the same time, older adults need more of certain nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D and B12. As people age, their ability to absorb these vitamins and minerals decreases, so they need to take in more from food.

  1. By 65, it’s Too Late to Follow a Healthy Lifestyle

There’s never an age when it’s too late to make healthy changes to your diet or lifestyle. For example, you can delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and by becoming more physically active. Studies have even shown that a person who makes lifestyle changes after suffering a heart attack are at less risk of suffering another attack. Indeed, one of the more dangerous senior nutrition myths is the notion that there’s no benefit to changing your lifestyle past a certain age.

  1. If You’re Not Overweight You Can Eat What You Want

Being overweight clearly increases the risks of chronic illnesses, but a poor diet can increase your risk of these illnesses even if you’re at a healthy weight. Following a healthy nutritional plan is important regardless of your weight. Even seniors who are trying to gain weight should do so through a balanced diet, rather than filling themselves with foods that are high in fat, sugar, or salt, and low in nutrients.

  1. Eating Something Is Better Than Nothing

Another common misconception about senior nutrition is the notion that it’s better to give an older person only the foods they enjoy to encourage eating. But that could mean overindulging in fast food, easy-to-prepare frozen dinners and processed snacks that are loaded with sodium and unhealthy fats. Eating too much of these foods can lead to serious health issues, vitamin deficiencies, as well as excessive weight gain or loss.

  1. It’s OK to Skip a Meal if You’re Not Hungry

There are several reasons why it’s a bad idea to skip meals. First, skipping meals may lead to excessive consumption of high-calorie, nutrient-poor snacks between meals. Forgoing meals can also lead to unhealthy fluctuations in blood sugar levels – which can fall too low when you don’t eat, and then spike to hazardous levels when you eat a big meal. Moreover, skipping meals can suppress appetite, leading to unhealthy weight loss and other health issues. Nutritional experts advise eating a big breakfast while making sure to eat something at every other mealtime.

  1. Senior Communities Have Bad Food

One of the common senior nutrition myths is the stereotype that senior living communities There may have been some truth to it in the days before assisted living communities weren’t available and nursing homes were highly institutionalized. Today, it’s not uncommon for assisted living communities to serve meals that could actually fall under the category of luxury dining and that provide all of the necessary nutritional benefits. If you’re in the process of selecting a senior community for yourself or a loved one, it’s a good idea to try out at least one meal at each community you tour.

  1. Dividing Meals In Half is a Smart Move

Leftovers can make cooking easier and help keep costs down, especially if you’re on a tight budget, but there are potential dangers to relying on leftovers, too. For example, meals delivered to an older person’s home are usually prepared to provide balanced nutrition. Dividing a meal in half can mean you’ll fall short on important nutrients. Moreover, storing leftovers for more than a day increases the risk of the food going bad. For an older person whose sense of smell has declined as they’ve aged, it can become harder to tell when food has spoiled, which raises the likelihood of food poisoning.

 

 

Domestic violence

At some point, most of us have worried about an elderly person we know – whether it’s a parent, family member, or acquaintance. And that concern may not just be for their overall health; it may also be about the type of care they’re receiving.

The fact is, elder abuse is far more common than people may think. Studies done by the Senate Special Committee on Aging show that there are as many as 5 millions victims of elder abuse each year. To put it in perspective, up to 5 percent of the elderly population in the U.S. has suffered abuse. Recognizing the different kinds of abuse, and the related signs, is of vital importance in addressing the problem..

All of the following are warning signs that a loved one or another elderly person you know may be suffering from some type of abuse.

  1. Physical Abuse

Bruises, broken bones, burns and abrasions are all indications of possible physical abuse or mistreatment. These signs can also indicate rough handling by caregivers during transfers or re-positioning, and could even indicate force-feeding.

Another common indicator that physical abuse may be occurring is when an elderly person’s caregiver offers odd explanations for the injuries. The elder may be reluctant to discuss the physical abuse, so it’s a good idea to take them aside and have them talk specifically about the injuries and how they got them.

  1. Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can take the form of verbal abuse, so any type of verbal put-downs or aggression could be red flags. Other signs of emotional abuse include the person behind fearful or intimidated of the caregiver, or exhibiting unusual behavior such as rocking or biting. Also be aware of forced isolation imposed by the caregiver or family member, as well as any other threatening or controlling behavior.

  1. Sexual Abuse

Even discussing this issue is uncomfortable, but sexual abusers often target vulnerable people to victimize – and older adults can be perceived as easy to overpower. Signs of sexual abuse may include bruising around the breast and genital areas, vaginal or rectal bleeding, evidence of venereal disease, depressed or withdrawn behavior, and difficulty walking or standing.

  1. Neglect

Signs of neglect may be easier to detect than signs of abuse, but they are certainly no less serious. Is your elderly loved one experiencing unusual weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration? All could be signs of neglect. But there many other potential signs, including:

  • Untreated medical problems
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Soiled bedding and clothes
  • A senior who is left dirty or unbathed
  • Clothing that’s unsuitable for the weather
  • Unsafe living conditions, such as no heat or running water, or glaring fire hazards
  1. Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation is another common form of elder abuse. As the population ages and financial scammers can increasingly find their personal information online, it’s a crime that’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Those signs include significant withdrawals from the elder’s bank accounts and investments, missing items or cash, suspicious changes in wills, policies, power of attorney designation or titles, unpaid medical bills, and unusual activity such as a withdrawal from an ATM when the account holder is confined to a home or facility, or bedridden.

  1. Healthcare Fraud

Healthcare fraud and abuse is often closely related to financial exploitation and typically comes with it own warning signs. A prime example is duplicate billing for the same medical service and device, as well as evidence of either under-medication, over-medication, or both.

Another warning sign is any evidence of inadequate care, despite medical bills having been paid in full. Red flags at senior care facilities include insufficient and/or poorly trained staff or inadequate answers to questions about care.

  1. Self-neglect

Warning signs of an elderly person who is engaging in self-neglect are often similar to those of overall neglect. These include insufficient hygiene, unsuitable clothing, soiled bedding and clothing, a lack of interest in people and activities, apathy, or living in unsanitary conditions.

—-

The dynamics of elder abuse are similar to domestic violence in that the victim may be afraid to talk about it for fear of reprisal or further neglect. Or, in some cases, the victim may be unable to reach out for help due to physical or cognitive limitations or other reasons. That’s why it’s crucial to recognize the signs of mistreatment and carefully monitor your loved one’s care to ensure they don’t fall victim to this heinous crime.

 

 HomeSafety

As many seniors opt to age in place and live their golden years in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes, it’s natural for loved ones to want to ensure their safety when they can’t be around or when hiring a caregiver isn’t an option. The current slate of home automation devices in stores today offer practical solutions for keeping a helpful eye on seniors without feeling like an intrusion on their privacy. And since the gadgets available are so user-friendly, the high barrier to entry that once existed with products like Wi-Fi-enabled video cameras and smart home hubs no longer exists.

Today’s technological solutions are designed to be used right out of the box, meaning little installation is required. The days of dozens of cords and a novel-sized product manual are behind us. The seven home automation gadgets we’ve highlighted here not only provide ease of use, but peace of mind for seniors and their loved ones.

  1. Wi-Fi Video Camera

A Wi-Fi smart home camera allows seniors to verify that their homes and pets are safe while they’re away. For older adults living on their own, installing these cameras in a hallway, living room or any other space in the home will help family members keep a respectful eye on their aging loved one. The password-protected live stream of an Internet-connected video camera can be accessed on the camera’s website or a specially designed app. These cameras are particularly useful as an automatic communications device; many models have two-way audio to allow both the person in the room and the one watching remotely to speak to one another.

  1. Remote-Controlled Lighting

Thankfully, the era of the Clapper being the hottest thing in home lighting solutions is behind us. Now lights can be controlled via remote control, smartphone or even a smartwatch. Systems like the Lutron Caseta Lighting Kit let residents create schedules that adjust lights at specific times. The lights are also equipped to sense when a resident is approaching and illuminate at that moment, so there’s no need to shuffle around in the dark and potentially cause an accident.

  1. Smart Home Hub

Visions of yelling into a machine often pass through people’s minds when voice recognition products are mentioned. Yet, the technology has gotten so advanced that controlling any sort of voice-activated gadget is now more like speaking to someone sitting next to you, which is why home automation hubs like the Amazon Echo can be so effective for seniors at home. The device acts as the catch-all for activating things like streaming radio, audiobooks, getting the day’s weather report and even controlling other smart gadgets around the home.

  1. Automated Door Lock

Caregivers and extended family members may want to opt for a high-tech front door, as it allows them to control entry into the home without the old-school safety issues of leaving a key under the mat. Automated locks offer the ability to create unique digital codes for multiple users who need access, such as caregivers or other family members. The codes can also be changed at any time, which is a much easier solution than changing locks due to lost keys.

  1. Robot Vacuum

Lifting couches and crouching under beds to clean hard-to-reach places is a challenge that’s insurmountable for many elderly adults. Robotic cleaning gadgets eliminate the need for this.. Users can create schedules that signal when the vacuum should remove itself from its dock and start cleaning the floors. Most models automatically adjust as they move from carpet to hardwood to tile, so that every square inch of the floor is cleaned.

  1. Smart Smoke Detector

A smoke and carbon monoxide detector that requires little upkeep can be a dream come true for anyone who’s been woken by a detector that won’t stop chirping or who’s struggled to change a dead battery. A smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector like the Nest Protect lasts for up to a decade. It also helps cut down on false alarms while saving peace of mind by sending smartphone alerts should anything ever be amiss.

  1. Smart Sensors

Multi-purpose sensors can be used in all sorts of useful scenarios like detecting the buzz that signals the end of a washing machine cycle or a knock on the door. Elder caregivers and other family members will find it most useful for alerting when any doors or windows open, so that they can monitor who is coming into a house and, most importantly, when their loved one exits the house and returns safely home.

With smart technology now more user-friendly than ever, even seniors with little tech experience should find that home automation helps them age in place safely.

Kelly Schwarze writes about smart home technology, including how new products can improve the lives of seniors. Kelly provides her insight online for Home Depot. To research a large variety of smart home tech products, you can visit Home Depot’s website.

 

Your doctor can help assess your vitamin D levels and suggest ways to get more of it.

Your doctor can help assess your vitamin D levels and suggest ways to get more of it.

Mom always said to take our vitamins. We drank milk to make our bones strong and ate spinach to grow our muscles. Our growing bodies needed all of the strength they could get.

As adults, it’s just as important to keep up these healthy habits. Even if you take your vitamins regularly, after the long dark days of winter, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Why Do We Need Vitamin D?

Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Vitamin D is so crucial to our health that our body makes it all on its own. But there’s one important ingredient needed to do that —sunlight.

For years we have been hearing about the dangers of getting too much sun—wrinkles, sunspots and melanoma are only a few. But not getting enough sun has its dangers, too.

People who live in northern climates, those with dark skin or who spend too much time inside often do not receive enough of the sun’s rays to produce an adequate amount of vitamin D. And as an older adult, your skin doesn’t make as much of the vitamin on its own.

The Dangers of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D keeps bones healthy by increasing your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Vitamin D deficiency causes bones to weaken and become soft. This is called rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

Soft bones are more likely to bend, deform and fracture. Aches and pains, particularly in combination with fatigue, are classic symptoms.

As an older adult, you have a greater risk of falling down. Strong bones are better able to withstand falls without breaking. A lack of vitamin D increases your risk of hip and other non-spinal fractures. With weak bones, a fall can turn into a life-altering disaster.

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increased risk for numerous serious diseases. The list includes breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and autoimmune disorders.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency was rare when we spent most of our days outside tending crops. Now that we spend most of our time indoors, we have to think about how we’re getting our vitamin D. You may be at risk if:

  • You don’t get enough sun. If you live in a northern climate (above the line between Philadelphia and San Francisco) or spend most of your time indoors, you may not be getting enough of the sun’s rays.
  • You have dark skin. The pigment in your skin limits your body’s ability to capture vitamin D.
  • You’re obese. If you have a BMI over 30, your body is less efficient at creating vitamin D.
  • You don’t eat enough foods with vitamin D. Vegans are particularly at risk. Vitamin D is rare in food, but you can find it in animal-based foods like egg yolks, cheese, fish and fish oils, fortified milk and beef liver.
  • You have a digestive disease. If you have Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis or celiac disease, your intestines can’t properly absorb the vitamin D from food.
  • You’re over 65. As we age, our bodies produce less vitamin D, even with regular sun exposure.

How to Get Enough Vitamin D

You could get vitamin D the old-fashioned way, by exposing your skin to sunlight. Without sunscreen, it doesn’t take much. The problem is that it’s easy to overdose. Too much sun is not only painful—it also increases your risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging.

Your other options are food and supplements.

  • Vitamin-rich food. Vitamin D is rare in food. Your best source is fish and shellfish—oil fish like salmon, halibut, cod and tuna are best. Egg yolks are a source of vitamin D, but they also contain nearly a day’s quota of cholesterol. Keep an eye out for milk, orange juice and cereals that are vitamin D fortified.
  • Most people require supplements to get the vitamin D they need. Read the labels carefully so you don’t get too little or too much. Make a note of how many other vitamins are in the supplements before you take them. Cod liver oil is a rich source, but it has too much vitamin A for regular use. A doctor may suggest you get tested to determine whether you’re vitamin D deficient and to see how much you need.

Stay Strong and Healthy

As an older adult, it’s essential to stay on top of the changes occurring in your body. Talk with your doctor and make sure your vitamin D levels are where they should be. Vitamin D deficiency can be subtle, but its effects can be devastating. Vitamin D keeps your bones healthy. The stronger your bones are, the stronger you’ll be.

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Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.

 

Veterans Saluting

If you’re a U.S. military veteran who is planning for your own long-term senior care or the care of an aging loved one who is a veteran, you’ve probably considered whether VA benefits could help cover the costs of that care. If this is the case, you’re in good company. According to a 2012 census figures, more than 12.4 million veterans over the age of 65 live in the U.S.. With the average annual senior care costs ranging from $17,680 to $92,378 for care ranging from adult day health care to private nursing homes each year, financial help is essential.

What Are Aid and Attendance Benefits?

The costs of long-term care add up quickly. VA benefits like the Aid and Attendance Benefit can help significantly, even if the veteran’s income is above the limit for a pension. For eligible veterans and their spouses, the Aid and Attendance Benefit can help cover the costs of a variety of types of senior care, including assisted living, in-home care, and nursing home care.

The VA pays Aid and Attendance Benefits to a veteran in addition to monthly pension benefits. These benefits are also paid to survivors of veterans who have been collecting death pensions. Aid and Attendance Benefits may add $700 each month for veterans and $500 per month for survivors. This type of benefit is available for veterans who have served 90 days or more, one of those days being during a time of war.

Who is Eligible for Aid and Attendance Benefits?

These benefits are set aside for individuals who require assistance to perform daily activities, including bathing, feeding, dressing, and getting out of bed. It is also available for patients in nursing homes, those who are blind, and those who are undergoing treatment for a disability. Eligibility depends on whether the veteran is receiving a VA pension or if the veteran’s survivors are receiving a death pension. Either party must provide a primary doctor’s report as evidence of a qualifying condition.

How to Apply for VA Benefits

Applying for veterans’ benefits starts by contacting the regional office for the VA where the veteran previously applied for a pension or the survivor filed for a death pension. The VA will place the veteran into a priority group and make contact when the claim has been filed.

Unfortunately, all too many veterans and their loved ones don’t know that there are benefits available to help pay for the costs of senior care. With these rates rising every year, VA benefits can make a significant difference in the type of care that aging veterans can afford. Housebound seniors and those who require consistent assistance should be aware that they may be eligible for these additional VA benefits.