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.

Be Informed for the Better During Stress Awareness Month

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

 

Stress is defined as mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress is inevitable—everyone deals with it. So, during Stress Awareness Month, it is an excellent time to learn more, recognize stressors, practice stress relief and get help as needed.

 

Stress isn’t all negative; positive stress can motivate and help with concentration. Setting goals and accomplishing them feels good and rejuvenates the mind and body for the next challenge.

 

However, most of the time, stress is associated with something difficult or negative. When stress becomes a way of life, it is very hard to relax and recover. When stress becomes chronic, a person’s physical and emotional health suffers.

 

Caregiving is a demanding and stressful role. Being a caregiver can be an extremely rewarding and gratifying experience, but it can also be daunting, challenging, exhausting and overwhelming—especially if caring for someone who is ill.

 

Whether you are caring for someone daily, occasionally, long distance or 24 hours a day, there will be stress. While you may not be able to change the situation, there are steps to help manage the emotional, physical and mental impact.

 

First, it helps to recognize what personally stresses you. The body treats these stressors as threats, which prompts the adrenal glands to release a surge of adrenaline and cortisol.

 

Adrenaline increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream. It alters the immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex, natural alarm system also communicates with regions of the brain that control mood, motivation and fear.

 

When under constant stress, the body’s fight-or-flight reaction stays on alert. The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all of the body’s processes.

 

When under this kind of negative, constant stress, there is a significant risk of numerous health problems, including:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Compromised immune system
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart disease and increased blood pressure
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Memory and concentration impairment

 

Due to the health risks, it is very important for caregivers to learn healthy ways to cope with stress.

 

Stress management strategies include:

  • Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep
  • Practicing relaxation techniques or learning to meditate
  • Fostering healthy friendships
  • Laughing—have a sense of humor
  • Keeping a journal—jot down thoughts as an emotional outlet
  • Seeking professional counseling when needed
  • Educating yourself—become informed about stress, disease process, etc.
  • Utilizing community resources that offer assistance and support
  • Visiting your doctor regularly
  • Finding opportunities for Respite Care—Oxford HealthCare can help
  • Chewing gum—studies have shown this simple act can lower anxiety and ease stress
  • Reminding yourself of comforting phrases that speak to you personally—God won’t give us more than we can handle. This too shall pass. Serenity Prayer. I can do this. Encourage yourself the way you would a friend.
  • Believing in yourself—find the necessary means to withstand stress and look forward to brighter days ahead.

 

Although April is officially Stress Awareness Month, we all know that stress affects us in some way, every day, year round. If you are a caregiver, it is extremely important that you also care for yourself. Oxford HealthCare offers numerous home care programs that provide the help, support and relief you need, so you may enjoy time with your loved one and continue to provide care at home. If you need help or have questions, contact an Oxford Care Coordinator.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

By Carol Combs, MSW Oxford’s Memory Care Coordinator

After my recent hip surgery, I not only gained a new hip, but also a newfound understanding of what it must be like for those who are ill, disabled and homebound.

I have always been a very independent person, so being dependent for almost everything during my recovery did not come easy for me. I needed help to get up from a chair, get into bed, to use the bathroom and bathe. I couldn’t stand long enough to fix a meal. I was frustrated and impatient with myself, even though I was told to expect weeks or months of recuperation.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We all try to empathize, and sometimes say, “I know how you feel.”

But, do we really?

Maybe instead we should just say, “This must be difficult for you,” and offer support and a hug. As you encounter those who are struggling and need care and support, think about how challenging their lives may be and try to “walk a mile in their shoes.” I know I will.

Fortunately, I had a great caregiver in my husband and other family members. I am very grateful, because I know that not everyone has that kind of support. If you or someone you know is in need of help and support—whether it be short term or long term help—please call and speak to one of our Care Coordinators, they will be glad to assist you.

 

WHEN WINTER WEATHER STRIKES – ARE YOU PREPARED?

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, exposure to the cold—whether indoors or outside—can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are most at risk, but anyone can be affected.

Be safe and be prepared for hazards associated with extremely cold weather.

Winter Weather Prep Tips:

Have a winter survival kit in your home that consists of:

  • Food that needs no cooking or refrigeration such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods and dried fruits. If you have young children, don’t forget baby food and formula.
  • Water stored in clean containers or bottled water. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 5 gallons per person on hand in case pipes freeze or rupture.
  • Medicines that any family member may need.

Remember, if your home is isolated, stock up on additional food, water and medicine.

Have an emergency supply list. Some handy and essential items to include:

  • an alternate way to heat your home during a power failure
  • blankets
  • matches
  • fire extinguisher
  • flashlight or battery-powered lantern and extra batteries
  • battery-powered radio and clock/watch
  • non-electric can opener
  • snow shovel
  • rock salt
  • special need items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications etc.)

Your ability to feel a change of temperature decreases with age, and older people are susceptible to health problems caused by cold. If you are 65 years of age or older, check the temperature of your home often during winter months. If a warm, indoor temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.
Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room. Provide warm clothing for infants and try to maintain a warm indoor temperature. If a warm indoor temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.

If you are using a fireplace, wood stove or kerosene heater, always install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Heat your home safely!

Conserve heat. Keep as much heat as possible in your home. Close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels/rags in cracks under doors, close drapes, cover windows with any extra blankets at night.
Dress warmly and stay dry. Do not ignore shivering—it is an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a sign to return indoors.
Avoid exertion. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have to work outside, dress warmly and work slowly.
Eat and drink wisely. Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages—they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.
Listen to weather forecasts regularly. Weather forecasters often give several days’ notice when impending cold weather is approaching. Check your emergency supplies when periods of extreme cold are predicted.

GET PREPARED! DON’T BE LEFT OUT IN THE COLD!

Excerpts from the CDC Extreme Cold Prevention Guide

*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.

November is National Hospice Month and National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

By Elizabeth Lee, RN, BA, CHPN Oxford’s Hospice and Palliative Specialist and Carol Combs, MSW Oxford’s Memory Care Program Coordinator

Hospice is a wonderful and caring option for people who are facing end of life illness. The primary goal of hospice care is to help maintain the highest quality of life in the last stages of an illness.

Hospice serves individuals with any terminal illness, including Alzheimer’s disease. The Hospice Interdisciplinary Care Team includes the physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, aide and grief services. This team works together with the patient and family to help manage the unique needs of end stage Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias.

Hospice focuses on comfort, support and managing pain rather than providing treatment. People with Alzheimer’s disease become more disabled over time; and with advanced dementia, individuals can no longer communicate their wants and needs. Focusing on the senses—touch, hearing and sight—can bring comfort when verbal communication cannot.

An Alzheimer’s patient could be eligible for Hospice care if they:

  • Are unable to ambulate without assistance
  • Are unable to dress or bathe without assistance
  • Are unable to swallow
  • Are unable to speak or communicate meaningfully
  • Have urinary and fecal incontinence
  • Have UTI’s (urinary tract infections), decubitus ulcers and/or aspiration pneumonia

The end of life path of hospice patients can be divided into one of three typical patterns:

  1. A short period of obvious decline at the end (typical for most cancers)
  2. Long-term disability with periodic intensification and unpredictable timing of death (typical for a patient with chronic organ system failure)
  3. Steadily declining function with a slowly dwindling course to death (typical for a patient with frailty, dementia or Alzheimer’s)

End of life decisions become more complicated if wishes have not been or cannot be expressed by the dying person. Families then have to speak for the person based on their knowledge of the individual’s values and beliefs.

What is the current quality of life, and how will the on-going treatment potentially impact quality of life?

Patients and families need to understand benefits versus burdens before treatment continues or is introduced. This requires truth telling and explanations in a language the patient and family are able to understand.

Family members caring for a dying loved one with Alzheimer’s often express relief—for the patient and themselves—when death comes. It is important to understand that these feelings are normal.

Hospice can help the patient and caregiver deal with the challenges faced in the patient’s final months, and offer grief support both before and after the loved one dies. Hospice helps ensure the highest quality of life while being treated with dignity and respect.

For more information about Oxford’s Hospice or Memory Care Programs, please contact one of our Care Coordinators, today.