Seniors Living Independent

fall prevention

Falling is scary. It is especially scary as an older adult. Unfortunately for seniors fall are a leading indicator for entry into a skilled nursing facility. That fact always shocks me no matter how many times I read it. There is good news.  It is possible to prevent many falls. One of the best tools in fall prevention is the grab bar.  I have blogged about grab bars before but they are such an integral part of fall prevention that they cannot be mentioned  often enough.

When should you get a grab bar?  It is my opinion that all bathrooms should have grab bars.  It is a wet environment and anyone can get hurt in a fall.  We hold the hand rail when the subway stairs are wet and yet we grasp flimsy things like towel bars or slippery surfaces like sinks for entry and exit of the bath.  If you or someone you love does not have a grab bar please consider that to be an important step in preventing a fall.

The number one objection that I hear is that they don’t want the bathroom to look medical.  I quite agree with this sentiment.  Luckily companies like Moen and Healthcraft also agree and have created very attractive grab bars that also serve other purposes like holding towels, toilet paper or acting as a shelf.  Check out their websites to see how great they look.

Wandering device

Wandering can be a serious issue for those with dementia or autism. It is estimated that 60% of those diagnosed with Alzheimers will wander at some time. Wandering is also a problem for those with autism.
Many companies are trying to create products that will assist in the safe return of loved ones.  The Alzheimers Association has a safe return project. They partenered with Medic alert and will provide a bracelet with pertinent information on it to aid in the return of a lost loved one. The cost of this is approximately 50$ with an annual enrollment thereafter of 30$.  CompfortZone is also offered through the Alzheimers Association.  It is a pocket or car mounted  device that can locate someone.  The current cost is $45 activation and $43 a month for the monitoring.  The only thing is that the small print at the bottom tells you they currently don’t havve a wrist device.  That seems critical to especially when you are then relying on someone with dementia or autism to put something in their pocket or purse before they go out.

One company that has addressed the issue of is EmFinders.  They have both a regular type watch band and one that prevents the person from taking it off themselves.  They use the 911 cellular network.  This is an advantage over other devices that use radio frequency or GPS because there are fewer issues with equipment and signal blocking among buildings or trees.   They even  have a link that allows you to check coverage in your zip code before you buy.  The cost of the equipment monitoring is about $40 a month. 

The Emfinders system is great because it looks like a watch, has the ability to be secured and doesn’t require special equipment on the part of the searchers.

New Guidelines For Fall Prevention

At Home Technologies is about preparing your home to help you age in place but it is at least as important to prepare yourself and your body.  Their American Geriatric Society cites strong evidence that combining environmental modification (grab bars, fewer hazards) with a focus on overall fall prevention such as getting eyes checked, medications reviewed, exercise etc. is an effective strategy.  The New York Times New Old Age blog talks about the new recommendations of the American Geriatric Society.

One of the big changes in the guidelines is the specific recommendation to do Thai Chi as exercise.  It just makes common sense that exercises that improve balance would decrease falls but I am really glad that the research is backing that up. You don’t even need to find a local class although that would be fun and social. I have seen DVDs of Thai Chi available. When it comes to fall prevention I encourage using every tool in the box.

The Geriatric group also recommended that all medications be reviewed to identify any that might cause an increase in the risk of falls. 

These are the guidelines given for those who need a risk evaluation  vs those who have a fall that is an isolated incident.  Of course, an evaluation never hurts.

  • An elderly person worried or frightened by a fall
  • Two or more falls in the last year
  • One or more falls with injury
  • Repeated difficulty with balance when walking

Here is the link to the American Geriatric Societies paper

Senator Krueger’s round table

NY State Senator Liz Krueger has been sponsoring senior round tables. The issues have covered a range of topics that concern seniors and their caregivers. I have found the discussions to be a valuable source of information. The latest topic was preparing for Long Term Care. I learned so many things. I think the most important thing was how much support is out there. Don’t go through these processes alone. Even the colossal giant Medicare has a group that will sit with you to go over benefits

The value of an elder attorney like Martin Petroff who gave a very clear presentation is emmense.  He covered nursing home and Medicaid eligibility.  The Legal support services offered by places like Lenox Hill Neighborhood House can help with things that seem complicated like pools and trusts. The heartache and anguish not to mention the money that could be saved by utilizing available supports is something to be considered before an emergency.

Like seemingly everything with aging and caregiving, planning ahead is empowering.  It gives you more options and potentially better results.

Bottome line is that if you are a senior or a caregiver call your local politicians to find out what resources are available.

tips for “the talk”

Imagine a future day when you see yourself aging. Maybe the arthritis is acting up more or it’s getting more difficult to do some of the things that used to happen every day without a thought. Will you be scared? Will you try to hang on to every ounce of independence.  I know that I will and so do many older adults.  Helping them accept assistance that will enable them to live a longer, more productive life takes very careful communication.  Listening is the most important thing and perhaps it will show you an opening to introduce the possibility of assistance.

Maria of    has the following tips.

Low hanging fruit-  Try to make the easiest transitions first.  They don’t like microwave food perhaps someone could cook a few meals for them once a week.

be content with small change-”Progress is Progress” .  People don’t age overnight and unless there has been a medical event sudden declines are unlikely.  Once the older adult can see that they are enjoying the better food they might be more open to something like help with errands once a week.

Hold out for the right person-  Having anyone in your home is a loss of privacy.  That person must have the right personality to fit with the situation.  When choosing any professional it is a good thing to meet several before making a decision.  If things aren’t working out move on to someone else. 

How does technology fit into this picture? Well, using technology also involves a loss of privacy.  It is important to have an open ongoing dialogue about the seniors living situation.  Carefully explaining the technology and showing how it will benefit everyone in the situation is important.  Many people initially fear “Big Brother”  but when you can see that your daughter is sleeping better because she is less worried about you and you have the confidence to know that if something happens help can be summoned there is benefit to that.

Does telehealth really work?

The New England Journal of Medicine just came out with an article that did not show a benefit for high risk heart patients using a telehealth system.

Does this spell the end for the use of telehealth? Not by a long shot. What the study did find is not new. It found that older adults either don’t want to or are unable to add one more thing to their schedules.  When that thing is calling a computer every day and pressing buttons to indicate responses I can’t blame them. Who can stay motivated to do that? I can’t even bear to take a survey over the phone.

Technology if it is going to be effective must integrate seamlessly into our lives. We should be able to set it up and forget it. The Simply Home system doesn’t require the person being cared for do anything but go about their usual routine. If they vary from the routine too much their caregivers are alerted and appropriate actions can be taken.  The action could be something as simple as a phone call to remind someone to take their medications or it could be summoning an ambulance because an emergency has been detected.

Telehealth has shown benefit in the VA studies and in other smaller studies.  This latest NEJM study shows us that one of the most important parts of using technology is actual participation.  Medications don’t work if you don’t take them and technology doesn’t work if you don’t use it. 

A toast to technology that makes life easier not more complicated!

All about Vision has a good article with tips on how to cope with vision loss. Most of these tips are common sense and include installing task lighting in kitchens and in other high use areas. Using night lights and lights that come on automatically when you get up at night can also reduce the risk of falls.

The article stresses the important of regular eye exams. Also, these eye exams should include critical tests for older eyes to rule out potentially serious age-related eye diseases that may affect your vision. Vision is critical to living independently. The article cites several studies and statistics that underscore the risk of having unaddressed vision problems.

Seniors connect in NYC

Senior Planet is a great website for seniors living or working in NYC. It has three main purposes.   

The Resource Exchange:  This portion of the website helps you find information about services, educational programs, senior-friendly entertainment, and much more.

Events Calendar:  One of Senior Planet’s best features it contains senior friendly suggestions for activities that are often free or low cost. 

Senior Blogs: Senior Planet sponsors several senior bloggers.  This support helps get the voices and perspectives of older adults out there on the net.