Elder Living

The Best Technology for seniors Aging in Place and their caregivers

A big part of American life now includes technology and it is becoming more pervasive in senior populations as the tech industry targets this growing market demographic. A new survey by AARP projects by the year 2030 close to 132 million Americans aged 50 or more will annually spend more than 84 billion dollars on technology products. Today, 91 percent of those aged 50 or more use a computer, and 94 percent say that technology allows them to keep in touch with family and friends. Even smartphone use in older Americans (80 percent) maps out to the same number as the population at large. Also, many parents and grandparents are spending considerable amounts of money on tech-focused gifts for children and grandchildren. Even people aged 70 or more are showing a growing interest in technology and its applications to better their lives.

A Cambria Health survey finds that an estimated 100 million people, 45 percent of the US population, currently care for a loved one and that 64 percent of these unpaid caregivers are increasingly using digital tools to help them. Technology applications are ubiquitous in the paid caregiver world. Applications that are most commonly used include virtual medicine and health trackers worn as digital watches, home automation, motion-sensing devices, medication reminders, GPS devices, and emergency response systems.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held every January in Las Vegas, NV showcases more than 4,400 exhibiting companies from all sectors within the technology industry attended by 170,000 people from 160 countries. The blog, Aging and Health Technology Watch, which tracks industry market trends, research, and analysis, identifies ten intriguing new technologies that currently address the older adult digital tools market. While these are specific to proprietary development companies, there is an expectation as the technology takes off, other tech companies will follow suit. Some of these digital tools are available, while others are not. The booming market for senior technology tools and their associated applications is undergoing very intensive development.

CarePLUS, though not yet available on the open market, uses discreet cameras throughout a household which can detect not only motion but the postures of loved ones. Through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) the system is capable of releasing warning messages in a moment of danger in real time. The artificial intelligence can detect hazards, including falling, sitting for too long, remaining too long in the bathroom, leaving home at an undesignated time, skipping medications, and more. This system reduces the need for multiple individual digital tools by combining many monitoring aspects into one technology product.

The Essence Group Fall Detector Radar is exclusively a multi-sensor fall detection system using Texas Instrument radar technology. Though this product is not yet available, the application programming interface (API) works with Essence’s Care@Home™ monitoring platform for seniors. Radar mmWave (extremely high-frequency millimeter-wave bands) technology tracks a person’s position in their home and provides immediate detection of a fall, alerting healthcare providers. 

For those aging adults with hearing loss, HeardThat™ is capable of turning a smartphone into a hearing assistant by tuning out background noise. Through the use of AI, this technology enables individuals who have hearing loss to more clearly hear speech, allowing them to more fully engage in conversation. The “de-noised” environment can also work with Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids and other listening devices like earphones in conjunction with your smartphone. While this is not yet available an invitation to become involved in the beta testing program and information about a release date is available through their webpage.

AARP Innovation Labs is developing an augmented reality application HomeFit AR™ that enables users to scan a room, discovering what improvements can be implemented to help seniors who choose to age in place have a safer home environment. Appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves, commonly used spaces like sinks and stairs, are identified for specific fixes to put in place that will make a home safer as well as a more comfortable fit for senior living. While the HomeFit AR Guide is still in beta version (part of a software release cycle), the public release date is slated for the year 2020.

Voice-enabled AI is adding integrated voice and conversational intelligence into your digital products using an independent platform that is continuously learning. Houndify™ is a “speech to meaning” engine that can interpret language with unprecedented accuracy and speed. Deep Meaning Understanding™ technology allows a user to ask multiple questions and receive filter results all at once. As the platform is non-brand specific, it can work with your existing device.

A smart remote caregiver solution known as Kytera Companion™ can provide insight into the activity of aging at-home seniors. This home system solution includes data collection, a mobile app for loved ones and a dashboard for professional caregivers. This product can detect both hard and soft falls using a wristband, location sensors, a base unit, and an internet-connected dashboard. Soft falls are the most common type of fall among the elderly and this is the first technology able to assess such a fall. Using AI the system provides comprehensive wellness monitoring that can detect physical and mental deterioration, and be predictive as to evolving disease conditions like depression, dementia, and UTI all based on behavioral symptoms.

Created by physicians and medical device engineers, MedWand™ helps to fulfill the potential of telemedicine. The wand incorporates multiple diagnostic tools in one and is a handheld device. Clinicians are able to conduct remote office visits through the real-time collection of multiple vital sign readings allowing for key patient assessments among numerous medical conditions anywhere in the world.

Orcam MyEye 2 is an advanced wearable assistive technology for the visually impaired or blind. It helps to provide independence by audibly conveying visual information. It can read a text, recognize faces, identify products, and more by simply clipping the device onto your glasses. For the hearing impaired, OrCam Hear is a wearable assistive technology device that uses artificial intelligence, combining lip reading with simultaneous voice separation for better listening. The wireless hearing aid is worn as a necklace with camera modules and microphone sets, allowing for hands-free operation and crisp, isolated voice reception even among crowds.

A companion robot called PECOLA is in development by Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). It incorporates ambient intelligence for the elderly through the collection and analysis of the user’s life and physiological data. It is capable of detecting abnormal behaviors of a loved one allowing for preventative rather than responsive healthcare which can provide best outcomes. By following the senior around their home, PECOLA can identify emotions as well as perform video-generated diet analysis and fall detection. It can conduct sleep assessments through breathing and heart rate readings. The daily generated activity reports are then automatically provided to the user’s caregiver.

The Zibrio SmartScale is available for pre-order and enables a home user to measure and track their balance with a safe and simple 60-second test. The test itself is eyes open, stand still for 60 seconds while the scale assesses balance and provides a score (1-10); the lower the score in seniors 65 or more, the higher the risk for falls. This scale also provides personalized insight into lifestyle factors that affect your balance. 

Other notable new products are available for review at these websites:

Digital technology innovation specifically designed to address older adult care needs provide new ways for seniors to age in place successfully. Consultation with your healthcare providers as to what systems they employ can help synchronize your healthcare and reduce doctor office visits through the use of telemedicine and at-home monitoring. It also can provide unpaid caregivers reliable, real-time information about a loved one’s well-being that can help reduce stress on the part of the caregiver.

If you are caring for a loved one, please give us a call to see how we can help to ensure that the proper legal documents are in place for you and your loved one. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Living

Among Elderly Americans, Isolation is Increasing Self-Neglect

Because of the coronavirus, our elder population is experiencing isolation from their family and extended community interaction, increasing the likelihood of neglect. With the flu season fast on approach this isolation and the possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19, older Americans will likely continue living 2020 in mostly solitary circumstances. Rising instances of loneliness can give way to clinical depression and foster feelings of hopelessness.

Common Signs of Self-Neglect

Some of the common signs that an older adult is self-neglecting include changes in how they communicate and a lack of interest in family or community events. A loved one who always presented themselves in a put-together manner may suddenly stop bothering to dress for the day, or perhaps they have gained or lost a startling amount of weight. A once tidy home may now be piled high with unopened mail and heaps of garbage. They may stop or have difficulty managing their medications. Their demeanor and mood may change, and often there is the incidence of a fall.

ASA

Neglect is often a person depriving themselves of necessary care, whether it be adequate nutrition and hydration, medical care, hygiene, and a suitable living environment. In some instances, neglect may be an extension of diminished capacity of physical or mental ability to provide self-care. In some cases, negligence can be the precursor to abuse by an active or passive negligent caregiver. As reported by the American Society on Aging (ASA) outside of financial abuse, the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers identifies self-neglect as the more commonly encountered situation than physical or sexual abuse or neglect by others.

Each state has a mandatory reporting law requiring certain people to provide information about suspected abuse to the proper authorities. Typically, these people are nurses and doctors, as well as wellness check programs through CMS services. Some states require any person who suspects elder abuse to report the situation. Know your state law for reporting and be mindful that your elder loved one is isolated from medical professional groups who report signs of neglect.

What to Do if you Are Suspecting Elderly Abuse

If you have not already implemented virtual strategies to combat loneliness for your older adult, do so immediately. There are many communication, safety, health, and entertainment apps designed specifically with seniors in mind. If your loved one cannot manage a smartphone, use a larger tablet device. If that is unachievable, get a smart speaker where voice communication can provide the sorts of contact options, safety, and activity your senior needs.

Contact your loved one routinely. Implement fall detectors and set up video surveillance to identify any problems. Be sure not to create an overly invasive system allowing your senior some degree of privacy to protect their dignity. Always use firewalls, passwords, and other security options to address privacy concerns.

Take advantage of community programs such as Meals on Wheels or identify programs that check-in on independent living older adults or high-risk households. If they are so inclined, set up the technology for your family member to participate in the many religious services currently being conducted live on Facebook. Connect with their neighbors or local friends to request they occasionally check in on your family member.

AARP recommends whatever the legal obligation in your state to report any sign of elder neglect or abuse. If you believe the person may be in imminent danger, call 911 immediately. If not, address the concern with the person directly or with their caregiver or family member. Remember, you may be misinterpreting the situation. After you have raised your concerns, listen carefully to the other person’s point of view. There may be a quick fix for a small problem, or it could be something more profound. Act deliberately but with compassion. If you meet with resistance to change but still believe help is needed, learn how you can report your concern. Your local police department may have an Elder Affairs unit. Nationally, you can contact support through a public service of the US Administration on Aging called the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116), connecting you with local protective service agencies.

If you believe your loved one can no longer manage their health, safety, and wellness needs, we can help by providing advice on legal options to protect your loved one. We would be honored to talk with you. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 to learn more.

Elder Living

Living Alone in Your 50s and 60s Increases Your Risk of Dementia

Living arrangements for aging Americans are decidedly leaning towards aging in place. Nearly all older adults prefer to age in the comfort of their long time homes and familiar community surroundings. Aging in place often means living alone. Pew Research findings show that older people are more likely to live alone in the United States than in any other country worldwide. This preference of living solo, however, comes with hidden danger. Research from Science Times reports that living alone in your fifties and sixties increases the likelihood of dementia by thirty percent.

The conclusion drawn is based on a report from sciencedirect.com, a website replete with large databases of scientific, academic, and medical research. Findings indicate that social isolation is a more important risk factor for dementia than previously identified. In this age of gray divorce (also grey divorce) and social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, adults living alone in their fifties, sixties and beyond, are at greater risk than ever for cognitive decline, leading to dementia.

Understanding the Causes of Dementia Cases

The lead author of the study, Dr. Roopal Desai, says that overall increases in dementia cases worldwide can be due to loneliness, stress, and the lack of cognitive stimulation that living alone brings. Biologically, cognitive stimulation is necessary to maintain neural connections, which in turn healthily keep a brain functioning. Staying socially interactive is as important to cognitive health as staying physically and mentally active.

Strategies for Seniors Living Alone

Health care professionals in the U.S. are implementing a “social prescribing” strategy to improve the connection of a patient who lives alone to a prescribed range of services like community groups, personal training, art classes, counseling, and more. Unfortunately, in the days of COVID-19 social prescribing is limited to virtual connections between people. However, virtual social engagement is better than no social engagement at all.

Why can’t an adult, choosing to age alone, maintain their health with physical exercise, crossword puzzles, and other activities that stimulate their brains without the input of human socialization? It turns out that social isolation presents a greater risk for dementia than physical inactivity, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Brain stimulation is vastly different when a person engages in a conversation rather than in repetitive games and puzzles. Carrying on a conversation, whether in person or virtually, is far more stimulating and challenging to the brain’s regions.

Conversation with other people chemically evokes neurotransmitters and hormones, which translates into increased feelings of happiness and reduced stress through purpose, belonging, improved self-worth, and confidence. It turns out that being human is undeniably an experience at its most healthy when shared, and a mentally healthy person is prone to stay more cognitively capable.

The Importance of Human Connection to Decrease Dementia

Maintaining this human connection can be challenging, particularly if you are one of the many Americans who are opting to age in place. In the first place, aging is replete with reasons to reduce activity and become isolated when facing particular types of stressful events common to later life years. Role changes associated with spousal bereavement through death or divorce, household management, social planning, driving, and flexibility all fall prey to functional and cognitive limitations. Without the benefit of an involved family or social prescription, it is easy for an aging adult to spiral into social isolation, loneliness, and depression, all of which are causally linked to cognitive decline.

If you or your aging loved one actively chooses to live alone, it is imperative to maintain a vibrant social life. Staying cognitively healthy is associated to satisfying social engagement as well as physical activity. If you live alone, reducing the risk of developing dementia will allow you to continue living out your years as imagined, with independence and control, thanks to your continued human interactions.

If you have concerns about your current living arrangements (or those of a loved one who needs care), please reach out. We help families create comprehensive legal plans that cover care and financial concerns. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700. We’d be honored to speak with you.

Healthcare

Coronavirus Pandemic Dilemma for the Senior Living Workforce

It’s a cautionary tale that provisions in a coronavirus-related relief action by the US government could have severely curtailed the workforce in senior assisted living, independent living, memory care, and continuing care retirement communities. The bill, HR 6201, is a multi-billion dollar aid package known as Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill has recently been signed into law by the US President. Influential leaders, CEOs, and corporate Presidents in the senior care and housing industry addressed facility workforce concerns directly to the House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) before the passing of H.R.6201.

Families First Coronavirus Response Law

The Families First Coronavirus Response Law expands unemployment and Medicaid benefits, provides for free coronavirus testing, and mandates paid sick leave and childcare. Now that schools have closed throughout the country for an indefinite time, the fear is that many senior care workers will, unsurprisingly, put their family before their healthcare worker employment. A reprieve of sorts was added before the law being enacted, which states that only certain employees can qualify for paid sick leave.  Because of these loopholes, healthcare workers like first responders, and hospital and nursing home staff are ineligible for paid sick leave per the Families First Coronavirus Response Law (FFCRL) amid fears of staffing shortages among medical providers.

Healthcare worker exemption from some FFCRL benefits is a relief to the senior housing industry but by no means mitigates other workforce challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. The pervasiveness of this contagion means that healthcare workers will be exposed to, and some will fall ill with full-blown coronavirus symptoms and illness. Obviously, in these cases, the healthcare worker will be removed from the senior living facility for quarantine and recovery and to protect the facility’s residents and staff. One coronavirus confirmed healthcare worker begins a domino effect within a facility. Regular operations become short-staffed, and operators face the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols that co-workers must also face quarantine.

How Healthcare Workers are Responding to COVID-19 Pandemic

Beyond coronavirus exposure, symptoms, and the diagnosed virus itself, there is the problem of how healthcare workers respond in a pandemic. The non-stop news and social media coverage of the coronavirus has put many Americans on edge, including health care workers. In a crisis, some people respond logically and calmly, while others may become fearful of their own circumstances and respond emotionally. Most healthcare workers would put their own family’s health needs and care before any employment, and in a free society, there is nothing to compel them to stay in a job if they choose to tend first to their own family.

If your loved one is in a senior living facility, what can you do to mitigate the negative consequences of workforce disruption due to the coronavirus? In the short term, if you are able and your senior is well enough, you can put them under your care. Beyond family care, unless you have the resources for private pay at any cost, you, like the rest of us, are in the system and have to wait out the virus and its effects. There is no guarantee moving forward how the coronavirus will play out in senior living communities, America, and around the world.

One of the few things you do have control over is to assure your loved one has proper legal documents for end of life decisions. Take the time to review them to ensure they are in order. A do not resuscitate order (DNR), durable medical power of attorney, and end of life wishes should be on file with your loved ones living facility and the local hospital. Additional legal copies of these documents should remain in your car or on your person in the event a facility is unable to locate the paperwork. Preparing for the worst-case scenario is a harsh reality; however, it could make the difference between chaotic suffering and a peaceful passing.

We can help draft appropriate documents for you and your loved ones. Learn more about your options and contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.