Mobile Technology Allows More Seniors to Stay Safe and Healthy at Home

senior technology has many faces

More seniors are embracing in-home health technology.

Seniors have been historically slow to join the digital revolution. But over the past several years, technology adoption rates for seniors have strongly outpaced the overall adult population, according to a Pew Research Center study.

And there’s no better time to jump on the digital bandwagon. Phones, tablets and computers have never been easier to use, and the latest advances in home technology include voice-directed digital assistants, like Google Home and Amazon Echo. These small tabletop units can place phone calls, send text messages, change TV channels, browse the internet and even shop online – all without the user lifting a finger or touching a device.

But some of the biggest impacts of senior technology are in the area of healthcare. As the movement toward aging in place continues, more people are expected to use electronic communications to access their healthcare provider network. Many geriatricians and other senior care providers are beginning to conduct tele-health check-ups via Skype or other teleconference platform.

Wearable senior technology

wearable senior technology

Wearable technology devices can help keep seniors safe, healthy and living independently.

Wrist-bound devices like FitBit health trackers and Apple’s iWatch are opening up new channels for patient health. These devices can monitor motion, heart rate, and even sleep patterns – all of which can alert healthcare providers to warning signs or developing medical issues.

Today, this type of mobile technology allows patients to extend their independence and remain safe at home, while providing peace of mind for themselves and loved ones. Our Oxford Healthcare solution is called LifeLine, and we have three service options to fit your needs;

HomeSafe

This service provides at-home coverage that uses either a landline or wireless technology to connect the patient with caregivers. Our 24-hour Response Center, is staffed 365 days/year, and the waterproof wearable pendant can summon help with a simple push of the button.

HomeSafe with AutoAlert

AutoAlert adds automatic fall detection and reporting to the above benefits. The system utilizes predictive CareSage analytics, and can not only report falls, but can also help prevent them.

GoSafe

Our mobile version of the HomeSafe solution includes the AutoAlert features. For active seniors, it adds GPS-enabled location services and two-way mobile communication. These features provide safety and security, wherever life’s journey takes you.

Gerijoy tablet for seniors

Gerijoy tablets offer senior users important reminders and encourage social interaction.

Seniors can also stay connected through a user-friendly GeriJoy tablet, which provides 24/7 access to a team of caregivers and enables two-way communication via touchscreen. This better connects care processes and provides a human connection that improves both medical outcomes and quality of life. The GeriJoy tablet also provides important alerts and reminders for the patient, as well as stimulating social interaction.

If you already use a smartphone, check out AARP’s list of helpful health-related apps. If you are interested in one of our Oxford solutions mentioned above, reach out to one of our Care Coordinators. They’ll be happy to help choose the senior technology solution that best suits YOU.

 

When Do You Know Loved Ones Need Care?

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

Over the years I have talked to many family members who come home for the holidays and become concerned because they have noticed “changes” in their loved one or their circumstances.

They are not always sure if home care services are needed or if their concern is unfounded. The following indicators can be used as a guide to help determine if your loved one could benefit from home care services.

Medical Condition

  • New diagnosis
  • New medications or treatments ordered by a physician
  • Terminal illness
  • Recently discharged from a hospital or nursing facility
  • Physician has restricted activity during a period of recuperation—this could be a few days or several weeks
  • Frequent falls or fear of falling
  • Confusion, forgetfulness, depression or other changes in mental status
  • No longer able to/should not drive or driving is very limited
  • Frequent trips to the doctor, urgent care or ER
  • Uses an assistive device (cane, walker, wheelchair or stair climber) to help with balance or walking
  • Is required to take several daily medications

Caregiver Relief

  • The person being cared for should not be left alone and may require 24-hour supervision
  • Spouse/family members work
  • Caregiver appears to be stressed and overwhelmed
  • Spouse/family members in poor health
  • The person being cared for needs more assistance than the caregiver is able or willing to provide

Strong Desire to Remain at Home But is Unsure of How to Manage Because…

  • There is limited support from family or others
  • Spouse is in poor health
  • They worry about emergency situations
  • Family does not want loved one to be alone
  • They need assistance with housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, shopping, bathing, hair care, medication reminders, transportation, or other essential daily tasks

If your loved one has one or more of the indicators listed above, call Oxford HealthCare and ask to speak with a Care Coordinator.

A qualified home care professional will:

  • Identify needs and available services
  • Evaluate funding sources and community services
  • Coordinate services upon request 

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

Brothers and Sisters and Parents. Oh My.

Senior Lifestyle

By Carol Combs, MSW, Oxford’s Memory Care Coordinator

Caring for a parent is hard. And sometimes, often in spite of the best of intentions, siblings can make that care more complicated. Often, one child becomes the primary caregiver for a parent and may become resentful that other siblings aren’t helping as much as they could. Some siblings may skirt caregiving responsibilities with excuses of “I don’t have enough time,” or “I just don’t have the money.” Sometimes one sibling might refuse help or advice from others, certain they can best handle things by themselves.

Many families don’t take time to consider the best supporting role each member could play while caring for a parent. There is a lot to do, but by supporting each other and sharing responsibilities, families can make caregiving a success. Share the load. Pitch in. There are always ways to help. Make phone calls, offer emotional support, run errands, or simply give someone a break.

When it comes to caring for a parent, brothers and sisters have to work together, and communication is the key to working together.

Family meetings can be instrumental in determining roles, pooling resources, and allowing everyone a voice. Open communication is the best way to overcome disagreements, resolve conflict, and reach consensus on the hard decisions your family faces.

But teamwork takes effort. There may be disagreement on what is best for your parent. Conflicts may arise out of present anxiety and fear of what lies ahead. Caring for a parent may re-ignite sibling rivalries thought long since over.

The best way to handle these struggles is often to simply acknowledge them and discuss them honestly. Admit your concerns and limitations, and embrace those of your brothers and sisters. Remember that you’re all after the same thing: what is best for your parent.

Sometimes it is best to agree to disagree. If you reach an impasse, consider involving an impartial observer, such as a social worker or counselor who can help families work through issues and stay focused on the task at hand.

Consider these tips for winning support from your siblings:

  • Ask for help clearly and directly. Be specific.
  • Be realistic—don’t ask for the impossible.
  • Try to accept your siblings as who they are, not who you wish they were.
  • Listen to your siblings’ concerns openly, without judgment, and carefully consider their feedback.
  • Consider the relationship your sibling has with your parent and look for tasks that work within that relationship. If your sister can’t be with mom for long without arguing, send her out shopping, or ask her to do some paperwork.
  • Be careful how you ask for help. If your tone reflects anger, your brothers and sisters are more likely to react in unhelpful ways.
  • Avoid making your siblings feel guilty. Guilt makes people uncomfortable and defensive, which only hurts things in the long run.
  • If your family isn’t able to assist with caregiving, explore outside resources for help.
  • Perhaps most importantly, be sure to take care of yourself. You have to be healthy to be up to the challenge of caregiving.

Families have long, complicated histories, and with the challenges of caregiving it is often hard to communicate without overreacting or misinterpreting. Dealing with siblings over parent care can be difficult, complex and emotional, but it is important to understand your emotions and to try to have sympathy for your siblings’ feelings as well, even when you disagree.

Family dynamics were in place prior to the need for parent care, and you may not be able to resolve existing conflicts to your satisfaction right now. The important thing now is to get support for yourself so you can find peace during your caregiving journey.

Oxford Health Care offers numerous home care programs that can provide you the help, support and relief you need, so you can enjoy time with your loved one and continue to care for them at home. If you have questions, our Care Coordinators will be happy to assist you.

Don’t Get Scammed by Home Repair Schemes

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

Just like migrating birds arrive as the weather warms, so do the scammers. Home repair con artists are out in force this time of year—“flocking” to your neighborhood. These scammers are looking to make a quick buck; and unfortunately, older adults are most vulnerable.

 

According to the National Consumer League, the most common types of home repair scams are:

  • Duct cleaning
  • Driveway sealant
  • Leaky foundations
  • Landscaping
  • Furnace and roof repair

Don’t be a victim—know the signs!

  1. A contractor shows up uninvited, or will call or email out of the blue.
  2. The contractor tells you he/she is in the neighborhood and has “extra material” left over.
  3. The person pressures you to make a decision today because the “special offer” is for today only.
  4. The contractor points out a “problem” or offers a “free” inspection. Some scammers have been known to break something on purpose so they can be paid to “fix” the problem.
  5. The person demands full payment up front and usually wants cash.
  6. The individual has no identification or permits from the county or city.
  7. You are offered a discount so your home may be used as a “model”.
  8. The contractor wants to show you the “damage”, while an associate steals valuables from your home.

 

Tips to avoid being scammed by home repair con artists:

  1. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. You have the right to say NO!
  2. Get several estimates on any home repair job.
  3. Check references including checking with the Better Business Bureau.
  4. Never pay in full up front, especially if paying by cash.
  5. It is very important that the contractor is insured and bonded—ask to see proof.
  6. Make sure everything is put in writing. Carefully read all the contracts and be sure you fully understand the scope of the work to be done, cost and time necessary to complete the job. Have in writing how payment will be handled. Make sure you understand the contract cancellation and refund terms.
  7. Ask for advice from a trusted friend or family member, especially if you are feeling pressured or have questions and concerns.

If you suspect you have been the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell someone you trust. You can turn to the police, go to your bank if money has been taken from your account or seek help from adult protective services. In Missouri the adult protective service toll free number is 1-800-392-0210. To find the adult protective service contact information in other states, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored resource line, at 1-800-677-1116 or at www.eldercare.gov.

 

Excerpts from National Council on Aging and National Consumer League

 

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

 

TRICK OR TREAT? How to Know When You Are Being Scammed.

jackolanternsBy Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

According to the National Council on Aging, financial scams targeting seniors are so prevalent these scams are now considered the “crime of the 21st century.”

Why target seniors? Many believe seniors have a lot of money sitting in their bank accounts; and unfortunately, financial scams often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute. This is why financial scams are often considered a “low-risk crime.”

Scammers are out to make a quick buck and target wealthy and low-income seniors. It’s very sad, but family members perpetrate many financial scams.

To help protect you or a loved one from getting TRICKED, the National Council on Aging provides a list of the Top 10 Scams that Target Seniors.

Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud

In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them personal information, or they will provide bogus services to elderly people at “makeshift” mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Counterfeit drug scams operate on the Internet where seniors go to find better prices for specialized medications. This scam is growing in popularity and has potential to cause physical harm. Besides paying money for something that will not help a person’s medical condition, victims may purchase and consume dangerous substances.

Funeral & Cemetery Scams

The FBI warns about two types of funeral and cemetery fraud perpetrated on seniors. In one approach, scammers read obituaries, call or attend the funeral service and take advantage of a grieving widow or widower by claiming the deceased has an outstanding debt with them. Scammers will try to extort money to settle fake debts.

Disreputable funeral homes will add unnecessary charges to a bill to capitalize on family members unfamiliar with the cost of funerals. One common scam is a funeral director will insist that a casket, usually one of the most expensive parts of a funeral service, is necessary when performing a direct cremation, which can be accomplished with a cardboard casket rather than an expensive display or burial casket.

Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products

Older Americans are seeking out new treatments and medications to maintain a youthful appearance, and scammers are ready to pounce. There is big money in the anti-aging business.

Telemarketing

The most common scheme is when scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who as a group makes twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average. With no face-to-face interaction, and no paper trail, these scams are hard to trace.

The pigeon drop: a con artist tells an individual a large sum of money has been found and he/she will split it if the person will make a “good faith” payment by withdrawing funds. Often a second con artist is involved posing as a lawyer, banker or some other trustworthy stranger.
The fake accident policy: the con artist gets the victim to wire or send money on the pretext that the person’s child or another relative is in the hospital and needs money.
Charity scams: money is solicited for fake charities. This scam often occurs after natural disasters.

Internet Fraud

While using the Internet is a great skill at any age, the slower speed of adoption among some older people makes them easy targets for automated Internet scams. In this scam, seniors receive email messages, which appear to be from a legitimate company or institution, asking them to “update” or “verify” their personal information.

Investment Schemes

A number of investment schemes are targeted at seniors looking to safeguard their cash for their later years. Investment schemes like Bernie Madoff’s pyramid scheme have long been a successful way to take advantage of older people.

Homeowner/Reverse Mortgage Scams

Scammers like to take advantage of the fact that many seniors own their homes. The reverse mortgage scam has increased in recent years. There are legitimate secured reverse mortgage companies; however, unsecured reverse mortgages can lead property owners to lose their homes. It is important to do your homework!

Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams

We hear about these all of the time. A scammer informs someone that he/she has won a lottery or sweepstakes and needs to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Scammers will often send a “prize” check that the senior takes to the bank for deposit. The scammer knows the deposit will show up immediately, but it will take a few days before the check is discovered as a fake. While the check is clearing, the scammer will collect money for supposed taxes and fees. The scammer pockets this money while the victim’s “prize money” is removed from his/her account as soon as the check bounces.

The Grandparent Scam

The scammer will place a call to an older adult and when the “mark” picks up the scammer will say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild, the scammer has established a fake identity. The “fake” grandchild will usually ask for money to solve unexpected financial problems.


If you suspect you have been the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell someone you trust. You can turn to the police, go to your bank if money has been taken from your account or seek help from adult protective services. In Missouri the adult protective service toll free number is 1-800-392-0210. To find the adult protective service contact information in other states, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored resource line, at 1-800-677-1116 or at www.eldercare.gov.

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

Is it Alzheimer’s? Learn The Early Signs and Symptoms

By Carol Combs, Oxford’s Memory Care Program Coordinator.

Dementia is a broad term that describes the progressive deterioration of a person’s memory. It affects the brain’s ability to think, reason and remember—and ultimately interferes with the person’s ability to function on a daily basis. Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia. It makes up about 70% of all dementia cases. It’s the 6th leading cause of death and an estimated five million Americans are living with the disease.

Dementia becomes more common with age, but is not a normal part of the aging process. For example, with normal aging, a person might misplace their keys, but then find them. However, a person with Alzheimer’s might misplace their keys, find them, but also forget what the keys are used for.

In the early stage of dementia, the signs and symptoms may be subtle. Early memory issues may present as depression, anxiety, mood or personality changes. By the time the person shows signs of the disease, the process in the brain could have been happening for a long time.

Here are 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s to look for (1, 2):

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life: This can include forgetting recently learned information, dates or events and needing memory aides such as calendars and notes.
  2. Challenges in planning or problem solving: Difficulty with concentration, tasks taking longer to accomplish, difficulty with working with numbers or following a plan
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure, following recipes, managing a budget and driving
  4. Confusion with time or place, losing track of dates, seasons, passage of time
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, vision problems, trouble reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing, trouble following or joining conversation or struggle with vocabulary
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps, putting things in unusual places, may accuse others of stealing
  8. Decreased or poor judgment, changes in decision making ability, may pay less attention to grooming
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities, may remove themselves from hobbies, projects or socialization
  10. Changes in mood or personality, may be suspicious, depressed, fearful, anxious or more easily upset

Some medical conditions causing memory loss are treatable and should be evaluated. If you, or someone you know, are having any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical assessment immediately.

1 Mace, Nancy and Peter Rabins: The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for Persons With Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementing Illnesses, and Memory Loss in Later Life (3rd Edition), Market Paperback, April 1, 2001

2 Alzheimer’s Association. What is Alzheimer’s? http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp