Archive for the ‘Senior Safety’ Category

Home Lighting Tips for Seniors Aging in Place

LightingTips

 

Just as it’s a good idea to adapt other parts of the house to accommodate the needs of older adults who want to age in place, it’s also best to upgrade the lighting in the home to make it a safer, more comfortable place to live. Here are some tips to help you create a safer home with better lighting, based on research by the American Society of Interior Designers and the Illuminating Engineering Society.

Throughout the House

  • Provide more ambient light. As people age, they tend to need brighter light, but it should also be glare-free. Points of light—such as exposed bulbs—cause glare, so all light sources should have shades or be concealed.
  • Light levels should be consistent from one area to the next. Avoid situations where a brightly lighted area blends into a darker area, as this can be dangerous for older adults to navigate.
  • A contrasting color scheme makes it easier for those with age-related vision problems to see shapes. Avoid monochromatic color schemes.
  • Opt for silent lighting fixtures – avoid those that flicker or have a humming sound.
  • Make the most of natural light. Remove heavy drapes and shades from windows. If it’s within your budget and makes design sense, have additional windows and skylights installed.

Living Areas

  • Provide uniform lighting from hanging fixtures, wall sconces and recessed lighting.
  • Use table or floor lamps near seating areas for reading or other activities, such as sewing.
  • Place TVs and computers so that their screens don’t reflect light from lighting fixtures or windows.
  • Lighting is just as critical in bedrooms. Jennifer Ballard, Chief Clinical Officer at Interim Health Care, Inc. recommends taking these steps to ensure safety: “Add a light that can be reached lying down. Use motion-sensor night lights that will ensure the path from the bedroom to the bathroom is well lit. Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case the power goes out, and get a desk phone with large, backlit numbers.”

Kitchens

  • Hanging or ceiling-mounted fixtures can provide general lighting. If there’s space above the wall cabinets, fluorescent or LED strip lighting can be installed there to reflect off of the ceiling.
  • Provide dedicated task lighting at all work areas, including counters, sinks and cooking appliances. Shielded under-cabinet lights make good task lighting. “Task lighting is especially important over the stove and over the kitchen counters when preparing food, as well as anywhere that a senior would be managing their medication,” adds Ballard.
  • Consider installing a contrasting edge on the countertop, contrasting inserts in the counter or even contrasting cutting boards placed on the counter. They’ll make the surfaces easier to see and safer to use.
  • Place a hanging fixture equipped with a dimmer over the table—the same goes for dining room tables. The light can be dimmed for dining and increased when someone is sitting at the table for an activity that requires more light, like paying bills, writing out grocery lists or using a laptop computer.

Bathrooms

  • General lighting should be bright and glare-free. If possible, place light switches outside of the bathroom so that the senior does not need to enter a dark room and try to find a light switch.
  • Place vanity lights on the sides of the bathroom mirror at about eye level.
  • Make bathtubs and showers safer by installing light fixtures designed for wet locations in the ceiling above the fixture.
  • Provide safety for people who need to use the bathroom at night. Light the path to the bathroom and the room itself, and use fixtures on dimmers or nightlights so that the person using it does not have to adjust to a brightly lit bathroom from a dark hall or bedroom. LED rope lights installed along the bottom of a vanity make good night lights.

Proper lighting can make a house safer and easier to navigate for elderly adults, providing a boost of confidence for those who wish to live independently in their homes. Choose the options that work best for you and your loved ones.

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Fran Donegan writes for The Home Depot on topics ranging from gardening to home improvement tips for seniors. He provides guidance on the best types of lighting seniors can use for different tasks. To see a selection of lighting and ceiling fan options, head to Home Depot’s website.

 

10 Bathroom Remodeling Tips for Seniors

BathroomRemodel

 

Seniors who want to age in place should consider remodeling their bathrooms so that they better accommodate their needs. Below are some ideas to keep in mind when planning a remodeling project.

1. Include a Bathroom on the Main Floor

If possible, place a bathroom on the same floor as the main living area. A bathroom located where the senior spends most of their time means they can avoid using the stairs. It’s a tall order for many homes, but can make a world of difference for older adults with declining mobility.

2. Provide Adequate Floor Space

The bathroom should be large enough to accommodate someone using a cane, a walker or even a wheelchair to get around. Someone who uses a wheelchair will require the most space—at least around 60 inches of open floor space to turn around. Doorways should be at least 32 inches wide so that a wheelchair can get through. Some chairs may require 36-inch-wide openings.

3. Make Tubs and Showers Accessible

For some seniors, standard bathtubs are difficult to get in and out of safely. At the very least, replace shower doors with shower curtains and apply a non-slip surface to the bottom of the tub. A tub seat or chair makes using the tub easier.

For showers, the best choice is a roll-in shower that allows someone in a wheelchair to get into the shower without getting out of their chair. A shower seat is also a good option. Plan for accessible shower or tub shelf storage so that shampoo and soap are within easy reach.

4. Keep Tub and Shower Fixtures in Mind

Faucets should be clearly marked. Stick to lever models, as they’re easier for people with limited mobility to operate. For the most flexibility, install a hand-held shower head or one attached to a pole that adjusts up and down.

Replace a standard faucet with one that has an anti-scald valve. These maintain the temperature of the water when the water pressure changes, preventing the user from getting burned should someone flush a toilet or the water pressure changes in some other way.

5. Add Grab Bars

Avoid the temptation to use towel bars as grab bars—they won’t hold. If you’re installing grab bars yourself, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. The bars should be attached to wall framing or with special fasteners. Install a bar vertically near the entrance to the tub for support getting in and out of the tub or shower.

Add grab bars along the back and side walls to provide support while the person is standing on the wet surfaces. It is also a good idea to place a grab bar near the toilet.

6. Consider a Toilet Seat Extender

Some people have trouble sitting down on a toilet or getting back up after sitting on one. A seat extender can make these transitions easier. If you plan on replacing the toilet, opt for one that meets the requirement of the American with Disabilities Act.

7. Choose Sinks and Vanities Wisely

To accommodate someone who uses a wheelchair, consider installing wall-mounted sinks. These allow the user to pull right up and use the sink. Choose lever-type faucet controls, which are easier to operate than knobs.

8. Create Easy-to-Reach Storage

Storage is always a main concern in a bathroom remodeling. Shelves and cabinets should be within reach of whomever will be using the space. Consider sliding shelves in storage cabinets and countertops that allow someone in a wheelchair to pull up to the counter and use the surface comfortably.

Countertops should have rounded edges for safety. Edges can also be finished in a contrasting color or material to make them easier to see for someone with poor eyesight.

9. Use Bright, Clear Lighting

Lighting throughout the room should be bright with a minimal amount of glare. Plan on a ceiling fixture or fixtures to provide general room lighting, but you should also add task lighting around sinks, tubs and showers.

10. Stick with Non-Slip Floors

Non-slip tiles are a good choice for bathroom floors in a senior’s home. While throw rugs may serve an aesthetic purpose, they’re not the best choice for the bathroom, where an older adult could slip or trip on one.

Many of these bathroom upgrades are simple to accomplish and relatively inexpensive, while others may present more of a challenge. Choose the ones that fit your circumstances today, but remember that needs change. While you, or the person you are remodeling the bathroom for, may be independent today, it never hurts to design with assistance in mind.

 

Fran Donegan writes on home heating topics for The Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY writer and the author of the book Paint Your Home. He also writes advice for homeowners about remodeling rooms to simplify aging in place. For more information about bathroom remodeling services, visit Home Depot’s website.

 

When Denial is Dangerous: How to Keep Mom Safe

Alert1

 

Mom is fiercely independent and strives to do everything on her own. You love her for it, but that stubbornness also means she often doesn’t ask for help when she should.

Now that she’s older, you’re worried about Mom’s safety. She denies there is any problem at all, but you can see her struggling.

It’s tempting to go along with Mom and pretend everything’s OK, but denial can be dangerous. Let’s talk about how you can help Mom stay safe.

Driving

Mom loves to drive. She loves being able to get to all of her social events. But you’ve noticed her car has more dents than it used to, and you don’t feel safe with her behind the wheel.

Aging often comes with worse eyesight, muffled hearing and slower reaction times. If your mother is an unsafe driver, she is putting herself and other drivers at risk.

If Mom doesn’t believe she’s lost any driving skills, she may feel as though you’re trying to take away her independence. And if driving is her primary mode of transportation, losing her car may be unthinkable.

When it comes to getting Mom to give up her keys, give her alternatives so she doesn’t have to make any other sacrifices. While you’re at it, show her how much nicer the alternatives can be.

Driving alternatives:

  • Create a driving schedule with your family to get your mother where she needs to go. She may love seeing her siblings and children more often.
  • Use a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft that can pick Mom up and drop her off at the touch of a button. She may love the feeling of having a driver at her beck and call.
  • Set up carpools with friends. Does her neighbor go to the same bridge club? Perhaps her friends can pick her up on the way to their bingo nights. Driving with friends is more fun that driving alone!

With every option, show your mother the cost savings. Without a car, she won’t need to pay for insurance, gas or car maintenance. More money in her pocket may be just the incentive she needs.

Memory Loss

 Between misplacing keys and forgetting names, we have all had our share of memory loss. But has Mom’s forgetfulness started to impact her safety?

With true memory loss, there is a point at which household tasks become dangerous. That may be leaving the stove on after making tea or burning herself while ironing her shirts. Signs like these mean it’s time to take action.

Rather than arguing over what Mom remembers, try using technology to make her safer. Use technology tools as substitutes so that she can continue doing the tasks she always has.

Memory loss tools:

  • Monitored stove guards automatically turn off the stove either after a certain amount of time or if there is no one in front of the stove. They reduce the risk of fires and burns.
  • Monitored smoke alarms automatically call emergency services if smoke is detected in the house. They decrease the risk of Mom not hearing or responding to a smoke alarm.
  • Reduced-temperature water heaters only allow the water to get up to a safe temperature, reducing the risk of scalding.

Mom may know she has trouble remembering things, but doesn’t want to admit it. Instead of approaching the topic directly, try emphasizing how these tools can make her life easier.

Living Alone

 For many seniors, living alone is the ultimate sign of independence. Mom may vehemently disagree with the idea of moving out of her beloved home. But for you, Mom living alone is a dangerous unknown.

Luckily, there are solutions to help her stay safe without needing to move quite yet.

Home safety tools:

  • Medical alert system. A medical alert gives Mom a way to call for help if she needs it. Choose a fall detection system so that it will go off if she falls, even if she doesn’t want to or is unable to press the button.
  • Grab bars. Install grab bars in the bathroom, where falls are most likely to happen. Find support bars that are decorative in addition to being sturdy. Mom will accept them more easily if they’re nice to look at.
  • Add night lights all around the house. This is the easiest addition to make, and a little extra light can make Mom’s fall risk a lot smaller.

It is unlikely that Mom will want any of these items. Ask her to accept them not because she needs to use them all the time but as a favor to you, just in case, so you don’t worry about her so much.

Keeping Mom Safe

 Mom may think that denial is the easiest way to pretend that she’s not getting older. “Out of sight, out of mind.” But this way of thinking is not a long-term solution. In fact, she may just feel younger when she doesn’t have to struggle with doing things the way she used to.

Your job is to be there for Mom as her support system. These conversations will be difficult, but they are necessary. With you by her side and a little time, you can work together to overcome denial and help her stay safe.

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.

 

5 Key Steps to Protect Elderly Adults in a Natural Disaster

Notepad with disaster plan on a wooden table.

 

Natural disasters affect everyone, but older adults are more vulnerable than others for a variety of reasons, including limited physical mobility, chronic health conditions and social and economic limitations. In fact, research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than half of older adults had some kind of functional limitation.

If you’re caring for or have an elderly loved one, it’s important to have a plan in place in case a natural disaster strikes. It’s a plan that potentially needs to accommodate a number of factors, from medications and medical devices to assistance with daily activities of living.

What follows are some steps you can take to make sure the elderly adult you know or care for is protected during a natural disaster.

1. Have medications ready

It’s vital that your elderly loved one has their medications with them during a time of evacuation. Adverse health events are more likely to occur if essential medications for chronic diseases aren’t available, especially for older adults with a history of heart attack, stroke, diabetes or cancer therapies, among others. Without his or her medications, the older adult is at risk for health issues that would require emergency care.

That said, it’s a great idea to keep their medications in easy-to-grab containers during a quick evacuation. Experts also recommend making a photocopy of prescriptions to make it easier to get refills from a different location.

2. Let others know

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends making sure your cell phone, laptop or other mobile devices are fully charged when you know a storm is coming.

However, since lines of communication may be limited or even lost during a natural disaster, it’s important to plan ahead for alternative ways to let family, friends and neighbors know where you and your elderly loved one can be found. Keep a stash of quarters to use at phone booths in case

your cell phone no longer works, plus a list of any relevant phone numbers you may not know by heart.

3. Have a detailed emergency plan in place

It’s important to be specific when it comes to being prepared for a natural disaster. Things can get hectic during the actual disaster, and explicit instructions with specific times, places, and things that need to be done will help avoid confusion during a time of extreme stress.

The plan may include other priorities, including:

  • What to do with pets – Most shelters don’t allow pets, so talk with the local animal shelter or a veterinarian to learn about emergency options. Also, make provisions to include any food or supplies for the pet.
  • How to transport other devices – Older adults may require mobility, assistive or communication devices that must come with them during an evacuation.
  • Choose a meeting place – It’s recommended that families designate a secure rendezvous point away from home that’s convenient for everyone.
  • Have copies of essential documents – Make sure to have copies of essential documents, such as Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance cards, birth certificate, Social Security card, etc. It’s also wise to bring a small amount of cash.

4. Turn off the news

Don’t constantly watch or listen to news of the disaster in front of your elderly loved one unless you absolutely must. This can make someone who already feels vulnerable more anxious and nervous. Instead, quietly prepare for the evacuation by gathering supplies.

Move quickly but don’t rush, while also leaving yourself ample time to do what needs to be done. Moreover, know where you’re going, whether it’s to a family member’s house, a hotel, or a shelter while making sure everyone knows of your plans ahead of time.

5. Have backup

Designate a backup person, whether it’s a neighbor or close friend who lives nearby to check on – and if needed, evacuate – your loved one in the event that you can’t be there yourself. Make sure that you have a reliable way to reach them and that they’re able to easily get in touch with your elderly loved one. This is particularly crucial if you’re a long-distance caregiver.

 

Aging in Place Safely: Home Automation for Seniors

 

 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.

7 Signs Your Aging Parent Shouldn’t Live Alone

Senior woman meeting with agent

 

Deciding whether it’s time for aging parents to stop living alone can be difficult. You don’t want to wait too long until after a major incident has occurred and done irreversible harm, but sometimes the early signs of a growing problem can be subtle. To make sure your parents get the care they need when they need it, keep an eye out for the following signs that your aging parents should  no longer live alone.

1. Difficult recoveries

If your aging parent’s last brush with illness or injury led to a longer-than-usual recovery, this can be a strong indication that their health is starting to fail. As we age, we lose our ability to bounce back from poor health. This is important to take into account, as even a mild injury or ailment can become a long-term drain on an elderly person’s well being. To avoid these types of lengthy recoveries and their detrimental impacts, it might be a good idea to start looking at alternatives to living alone.

2. Signs of dementia

Any sign of dementia should be taken extremely seriously. Forgetfulness, losing track of events or items or general disorientation can all spell danger for your aging parent without the proper supervision and help. It only takes a moment for a forgotten stove burner to start a major fire, for example.

If you even slightly suspect that your parent might be suffering from the early stages of dementia, you owe it to them to help them seek diagnosis, treatment and the proper senior care, whether assisted living, in-home care, or another daily care arrangement.

3. Recent accidents

There are a lot of little accidents that might not mean much on their own but can combine to paint a worrisome picture for elders living alone. For example, if you notice new dings and dents on your parent’s car, it’s probably time to join them on a ride to see how their driving looks.

If they’ve become prone to falls or stumbles, they may need help getting around the house or may need to move to an easier-to-navigate home. If you see signs that accidents are becoming a regular occurrence in your parent’s life, it might be time to talk about outside assistance.

4. Weight fluctuations

If your parent is experiencing serious changes in their weight, you should keep a close eye on how they’re doing. This includes both weight loss or gain, as either one can herald a host of health problems, psychiatric issues, or neurological problems, especially if there’s no easy explanation for the change. Difficulties preparing the same meals they used to make routinely or getting as much exercise as they previously did should be taken as warning signs.

5. Poor hygiene and personal care

If a parent who previously paid close attention to their appearance begins to slack on fixing their hair, makeup or other normal grooming before leaving the house, it may be a sign of deteriorating physical or mental health. You should also be alert to changes in hygiene; if your parent is no longer brushing their teeth, bathing regularly, or washing their clothes, it’s a huge red flag. These problems will only grow worse with time, and can complicate, encourage, or create health issues if left unaddressed.

6. Social withdrawal

If your parent has suddenly begun making excuses to avoid social outings, stopped attending church, hasn’t seen friends in a while, or has otherwise shown signs of social withdrawal, you should pay attention. Not only will getting out less worsen or exacerbate their general well being, it’s a potential sign of cognitive decline or depression.

Normally people do not, as a rule, stop socializing without reason—and in most cases, the underlying reason is something you should be worried about. The health benefits and social engagement of assisted living or a home care companion can be exactly what a withdrawn parent needs to return to their normal social activities and start thriving again.

7. Financial problems

When you visit your parent, do you spot unpaid bill warning notices in the mail? Do you have to help your parents make ends meet where they previously had no problems? These can be signs of deteriorating health and may indicate that the time for living alone has ended, as forgetfulness, apathy, and other problems begin to take a serious toll on their bank account. In some cases, forgotten expenses, scams, and other issues can add up to larger financial problems.

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You should think long and hard about the best interests of your aging parents and the rest of your family when considering senior care options. It’s better to have these conversations with your parent early on. That way, you can honestly discuss the potential pitfalls associated with living alone and the perils of ignoring them before any cognitive problems develop.

 

8 Senior Financial Scams You Should Never Fall For

Senior Man Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone

One day you get a call informing you that you’ve won a cash prize, or an invitation to buy into an investment that outperforms the market, or an email telling you that your medical insurer needs your insurance ID. Scenarios like these should raise red flags. While some of the time they may be legitimate, oftentimes these are scams.

As technology becomes more sophisticated, so too do unscrupulous scammers.

“The stereotype is that older adults have more money,” says Brandy Bauer, communications manager for economic security at the National Council on Aging. “That, coupled with the perception that seniors are in cognitive decline, means that older people are a target for economic exploitation.”

Falling victim to a scam can have real consequences. Seniors are often living on a fixed income and don’t have the time to recover and rebuild their savings should fraud lead to a large financial loss, says Bauer.

That said, for many of these scams to work, scammers want you to hand over your personal information. Knowing the red flags to look out for can help you avoid giving out the information they desperately need, protecting you and your assets from falling into the wrong hands.

“The key to avoiding many scams is to stay educated and to continuously monitor your accounts for suspicious activity,” says Liz Loewy, former chief of the elder abuse unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office who is now senior vice president for industry relations at EverSafe a service that helps protect seniors from fraud and identity theft.

When in doubt about whether an offer or request is legitimate, it’s best to have a trusted family member or friend take a look, Loewy says.

“It never hurts to have a trusted advocate serve as a second set of eyes,” she says.

What follows are some of the most common scams targeting seniors today.

1. Phone Scams
Scams that take place over the phone are one of the most common types to affect seniors. Some current schemes include people posing as IRS agents to collect personal information (the IRS does not contact you over the phone) and scammers pretending to be technicians from computer companies claiming to have detected a problem with your computer. With little way of verifying a caller’s identify, avoid giving out any personal information over the phone.

Once on the phone, it can be hard for many seniors to say no to caller requests. To avoid being put in an uncomfortable position in the first place, consider screening calls on cell phones and landlines with caller ID. If you don’t recognize the number, don’t pick up.

2. Medicare and Health Insurance Scams
Beware of people posing as medical professionals who request your medical information over the phone or online. Scammers can use your health insurance ID number and other personal information to fraudulently bill Medicare or insurance companies. In the meantime, you could get saddled with copays and percentage-based fees for care you never received.

Also be wary of companies selling durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, and claims that they’re covered by Medicaid. Since Medicaid has strict rules about which agencies you can use to acquire medical equipment, oftentimes this type of equipment is not actually covered.

Don’t provide your medical information to anyone unless you are 100 percent sure you know who you’re talking to. Review your insurance statements regularly to spot any suspicious activity.

3. Internet and Email Scams
Watch out for pop-ups on your computer, phone or tablet that ask you to download things like virus protection software. Ironically, you may actually be downloading a virus that will mine your computer for personal data.

Similarly, you may receive official-looking emails telling you to download something or click on an unknown link. “Phishing” scammers often use this tactic, and once you click, the scammer is given a porthole into the information stored on your computer. What’s worse, sometimes simply opening these emails is enough to give scammers access to your data.

Before opening any emails, make sure they’re from a legitimate source that you recognize. In general, before entering any personal information online, look for a padlock symbol in your browser bar (near the URL) or a web address that includes HTTPS at the beginning of the URL. Any information you type into a website that includes these markers is encrypted and protected by the website.

4. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
Scammers may inform you that you’re the winner of a sweepstakes or lottery prize, and that all you have do to claim your prize is pay a processing fee or taxes upfront. They may go so far as to send a fake check for you to cash, knowing that it will take a few days for your bank to reject it. In the meantime, the fraudster can pocket your money and disappear.

5. Investment Schemes
Seniors managing their finances after retirement may encounter investments that sound too good to be true. That’s because a lot of the time, they are. Investments that purport to be a limited-time offer or claim returns that are higher than the market—think the Bernie Madoff pyramid scheme—should raise red flags for any investor. Make sure you fully understand any kind of investment you’re considering participating in.

6. Asset Recovery Scams
An insidious and increasingly common scheme, asset recovery scams target older adults who have already been the victim of a scam. For example, a perpetrator might contact a senior taken in by a timeshare scam, promising to help the senior recover some of their lost money. The scammers then collect personal information from the senior that gives them access to the senior’s finances — victimizing them twice.

7. Social Media Scams
Increasingly, seniors are on social media, and that means a lot of their personal information is readily available to the public. If you’re on social media, scammers may find photographs of friends and family members, gathering names and other information. Then they contact you, claiming that one of the people you know is in some kind of financial trouble and needs you to send them money. Protect your information on social media by changing privacy settings so that only family and friends can view your profile.

8. Charity Scams
During the end of the year, the holiday season, or after a well-publicized disaster, some scammers try to take advantage of seniors’ charitable instincts by soliciting money for bogus organizations. Before giving, make sure to vet all charities to make sure they are legitimate and that your money will actually go to help those in need.

5 Important Preventative Health Screenings That Older Men Should Receive

There are many recommendations for health screenings for people in various age groups, but one particular demographic that’s not often discussed is older men. We’ve talked about the importance of regular screening for breast cancer for older women (through monthly breast self-exams and periodic mammograms), but what preventative health screenings should older men receive? We’ve identified five of the most recommended and important screenings to help older men be more proactive about their health.

Blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease prevention

While blood pressure and cholesterol screenings are actually different tests, we’ve grouped them together as a single recommended screening simply because it’s easy to have these screenings all performed at the same time. According to the National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, men over the age of 65 should have their blood pressure checked annually and their cholesterol checked every five years – if your levels are normal. An EKG (Electrocardiogram) may be included with this group of screenings and is recommended for adults over age 50 every three years. Important health screenings for older men

If your levels are abnormal, or you have high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or other related conditions, it may be necessary to have your blood pressure, cholesterol levels or both checked more frequently. Your healthcare provider will direct you if your current health status necessitates more frequent screenings.

Prostate screening

According to the Mayo Clinic, “The majority of prostate cancers are found in men age 65 or older.” The American Cancer Society recommends that discussions about prostate screening should begin between healthcare providers and men at the age of 50. Together, they can decide whether prostate screening is right for him. Should he move forward with testing, he will receive a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test, which is a blood test, with or without a DRE (digital rectal exam).

The frequency of prostate screenings moving forward is based on the man’s PSA level. However, PSA testing is only recommended for men with a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years, and as the Mayo Clinic points out, some experts and health providers have concerns with the risks involved with PSA testing. Therefore, most health organizations leave this decision up to the individual and his healthcare provider.

Colorectal cancer screening

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men in the United States, behind lung and prostate cancer. However, with proper screening and the removal of adenomatous polyps (precancerous polyps, or growths which can be removed before symptoms develop), most CRC is preventable. Yet, one-third of adults between the ages of 50 and 75 are not getting the recommended screenings.

There are a variety of imaging tests and laboratory tests which can be used to screen for colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy are the tests most frequently recommended by organizations such as the American Cancer Society, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), and most recommendations suggest that screenings should begin at the age of 50 and continue through the age of 75 for men (and women) with average risk. The general recommendations for those with average risk include a stool test annually, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 – 10 years with a stool guaiac test or a colonoscopy every 10 years. Men with a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors may benefit from more frequent screenings. These men should discuss their risk factors with their healthcare providers to determine whether more frequent, aggressive screenings are advisable.

Diabetes screening

The National Diabetes Education Initiative (NDEI) highlights the diabetes screening guidelines recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). These guidelines recommend screening for any adult who is overweight or obese (defined as a BMI – Body Mass Index – of 25 or higher or 23 or higher in Asian Americans) and has one or more diabetes risk factors.

Risk factors may include a first-degree relative with diabetes, physical inactivity, a history of cardiovascular disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), a high A1C (average blood glucose over a 2-3 month period) from a previous screening, risk factors related to race or ethnicity, or other conditions associated with insulin resistance, such as severe obesity or a condition called acanthosis nigricans. Testing should begin at age 45, particularly if the patient is overweight or obese, and if results are normal may be repeated every three years. A fasting plasma glucose (FPG) is typically the first screening method of choice. Results are typically confirmed with a second screening method on a different day, such as 2-hour postload plasma or hemoglobin A1C.

Dental, vision, and hearing exams

Dental, vision, and hearing exams are, of course, all distinct screening tests. While annual dental exams and cleanings and annual or bi-annual eye exams are considered pretty standard practice, it’s easy for older men to become less diligent about following through with these screenings as they get older.

Older men should have dental exams (and cleanings) annually, and vision exams are generally recommended either annually or bi-annually, especially for those who have vision problems or glaucoma risk. An eye exam can detect serious health problems like glaucoma before symptoms appear, and regular dental exams and cleanings will help to prevent problems such as gingivitis. Hearing tests are typically recommended only if you’re experiencing trouble hearing. However, as WebMD points out, “At least 25% of people age 65 to 74 have disabling hearing loss, most of which is treatable. That number increases to 50% after the age of 74.” If you feel like you’re not hearing as well as you used to, a hearing exam is in order.

While some of these screenings may not sound like a swell time, preventative health is extremely important for men who plan to live a long, healthy, and vibrant life long into their golden years. Spending time in a doctor’s office isn’t a whole lot of fun for anyone. But as the risks for many diseases and disorders affecting men climb with age, your body – and the people who love you – will thank you 10 to 15 years from now for being so proactive about your health today.

Benefits of Healthy Eating for Seniors

Aging woman in kitchen preparing saladHealthy eating habits are important for everyone, no matter what your age. But for seniors a healthy diet comes with many benefits to their health, overall well-being and longevity. Seniors who eat a well-balanced diet rich with vitamins and minerals are better able to ward off common colds and viruses, prevent chronic disease and have more energy—which can lead to increased physical activity, amplifying the benefits of a healthy diet alone.

Increased mental clarity

In 2013 Today Health & Wellness reported on a study conducted by researchers at the University of L’Aquila in Italy. Researchers evaluated 90 seniors who were experiencing mild cognitive impairment and had them drink a cocoa beverage daily for a period of eight weeks. The beverage contained “either low, medium or high amounts of flavanols, the antioxidants that naturally occur in cocoa.”

The study found that seniors who “consumed drinks with medium and high amounts of flavanols scored higher on tests that required attention and other mental skills compared to the subjects who drank the lowest levels of flavanols.” This, of course, doesn’t mean consuming vast amounts of sweets is a good idea, rather that a square or two of rich, dark chocolate (high in flavanols) should do the trick. Other foods linked to increased mental clarity and improved cognition in various studies include cauliflower, chili peppers, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, rice bran, beet juice, breakfast cereal and yogurt.

Resistance to illness and disease

A diet rich in vitamins and minerals helps to keep seniors’ body systems in check, including contributing to strong immune system functioning. A healthy immune system, in turn, helps seniors to ward off illnesses such as the common cold, influenza, pneumonia and other conditions that can lead to serious health consequences in the elderly.

Preventing chronic disease

In addition to warding off the common cold, flu viruses and seasonal sniffles, a healthy diet can help seniors ward off more serious, chronic health conditions. For instance, consuming a reduced sodium diet can help prevent water retention and high blood pressure, the proper fat intake can help control cholesterol levels. Additional calcium and Vitamin D is helpful for maintaining bone density and avoiding osteoporosis.

Avoid malnutrition and maintain energy levels

The body needs food—and, more importantly, proper nutrition—to maintain energy levels. In some cases, seniors who are feeling lethargic and don’t have the energy to get out and about for some daily exercise may be suffering from malnutrition, which contributes to feeling tired and groggy. It’s a vicious cycle. Getting the right amounts of vitamins and other nutrients in your diet can lead to a dramatic change in your energy levels.

There are many factors that can contribute to decreased nutritional intake, such as a decline in the senses of taste and smell, medication side effects including loss of appetite, dental problems. Even depression or forgetfulness,can lead to a loss of desire to cook or forgetting about regular meal times. If any of these factors are contributing to a decline in your aging loved one’s dietary habits, look into programs such as Meals on Wheels, which deliver nutritious, balanced meals right to seniors’ doorsteps, or talk with your loved one and her doctor about strategies your family can implement to improve her nutritional status.

Your aging loved ones’ health is important to you. Ensuring that your elderly loved ones are eating a well-balanced diet with the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals can help your senior loved one remain happy, active, and healthy for many years to come—and he may be surprised by how much better he feels with a few simple dietary changes.

Benefits of Service Dogs for Seniors

Recently, we discussed the benefits of pets for senior citizens. But the benefits of animals—particularly, service dogs—can extend far beyond the companionship and other benefits of sharing your home with a furry, four-legged friend.

What is a service dog? service dogs for seniors

Service dogs are specially trained dogs who provide tremendous benefits to people with physical disabilities, including seniors. Service dogs are probably most recognized for their ability to help individuals with vision impairment navigate their homes and neighborhoods, but they are used to aid people with a variety of disabilities and in a variety of circumstances. Service dogs are even being used to help Veterans cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and physical limitations resulting from service injuries. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are permitted in any public place where the general public goes.

Is a service dog right for your aging loved one?

According to Philips Lifeline, service dogs are being used to help the elderly today more than ever before. But how do you know if a service dog is the right choice for an aging loved one?

There are several types of service dogs who can serve seniors, including:

  • Seeing Eye dogs for the visually impaired
  • hearing or signal dogs for the deaf or hearing impaired
  • mobility assistance dogs who can aid with daily tasks, retrieve items, open doors, or even pull a wheelchair when needed

For instance, a service dog can serve as a senior’s eyes for an aging loved one with visual impairment due to glaucoma or any other chronic condition that causes vision loss. A Seeing Eye dog can give your aging loved one confidence and allow her to navigate streets, sidewalks, stairs and other areas safely. A service dog, in this and other cases, gives a senior greater independence by assisting in areas where the senior struggles due to his disability.

Service dogs are even beneficial for seniors who have family caregivers or outside caregiving assistance. When a service dog helps a senior to be more independent and carry out daily tasks without the direct assistance of a caregiver, caregivers have more time to dedicate to tasks that can’t be taken care of by a service dog, such as cooking, cleaning, and running errands.

Where can I find more information about service dogs?

There are several organizations dedicated to training and placing service dogs for individuals with disabilities, offering information on service dog training and ADA laws related to service dogs, and service dog registration.

  • Assistance Dogs International is “a coalition of not for profit assistance dog organizations. The purpose of ADI is to improve the areas of training, placement, and utilization of assistance dogs, staff and volunteer education, as well as educating the public about assistance dogs, and advocating for the legal rights of people with disabilities partnered with assistance dogs.”
  • The National Association of Service Dogs aims “to help people live a more enjoyable and productive life using service dogs.” The organization was established to register and certify service dogs and created the first formal process requiring documentation to aid in service dog verification.
  • The National Service Animal Registry maintains a service animal database and provides an abundance of resources on service dogs and the rights of service dogs.
  • The United States Service Dog Registry allows you to register a service dog, as well as learn about the laws and regulations that apply to service dogs. This resource also offers a simple service dog lookup directory.

There are also locally based organizations that train service dogs and provide service dog placement with Veterans, seniors and the disabled. If your loved one is a Veteran, one good starting resource is the National Resource Directory, which connects wounded warriors, service members, their caregivers and families with a multitude of resources that provide help, support, and assistance, including service dog organizations. DogCapes.com offers a useful, state-by-state listing of service dog trainers, as well.

Service dogs can literally be lifesavers for seniors and other individuals with disabilities, let alone the tremendous relief and help they can offer a senior in day-to-day activities. If you think your senior loved one could benefit from a service dog, seek out local resources and organizations, or start with the resources listed above and get more information today.