Homecare Agencies: Management and Scheduling Troubles?

In the past, I’ve told you about software like KeePass , the Oprea Browser, and Skype; software that offers some useful benefits for Seniors and their Caregivers. Today, I thought I’d mention a piece of software that I’ve been hearing goods things about that’s geared towards professional Homecare Agencies .

First, two quick disclaimers: 1) Elder Depot wasn’t put up to this, the only reason we’re promoting this software is that we’ve been hearing good things about it and because it strikes us as pretty useful. 2) As a supplier of Eldercare Products, Elder Depot does business with a lot of Homecare Agencies but we’re not a Homecare Agency and we haven’t actually used this software. So, Caveat Emptor.

Running any business can be a complicated headache at times, that’s all the more true for Home Care Agencies that face challenges like strict legal requirements, a need for accurate scheduling, and the difficulty of managing staff at a distance. My wife works at an Adult Day Program that tackles many of these problems by juggling several computer programs, mapping and remapping the weekly schedule on a giant dry-erase board, and making heavy use of cellphones. That kind of solution works… It even works well. But there’s something appealing about what is by most accounts an intuitive, easy-to-use, and integrated software package that does the same and more.

HomeTrak is a piece of software designed specifically to meet the management, scheduling, and legal needs of Home Care Agencies.

http://www.hometrak.com/

Judging from their website, the four words that guide HomeTrek’s design are Schedule, Manage, Serve, & Grow. At it core, the software is designed to get jobs scheduled, that sounds simple but it can be complicated. HomeTrak simplifies the process by providing detail and up-to-date information on clients and caregivers, while keeping track of referrers.

I thought the emphasis on integrated referral management was pretty insightful. The HomeTrak website breaks that down into the following benefits.

  • Keep track of anyone or any business that is sending clients and caregivers to your organization.
  • How many new referrals did you receive yesterday?
  • How many new clients did you receive yesterday?
  • How long is it taking to turn potential clients into active clients?
  • Information from the referral module can be used to make educated marketing decisions.

HomeTrak offers the following benefits in regards to clients. I thought it was particularly useful that it tracks changes to a client’s records – what an improvement over paper files, where you’d have to do detective work to track down who to ask about a change.

  • Tracks required dates specific to each client.
  • Allows for a permanent schedule and visit plan.
  • Records all the skills required to accommodate a client’s needs.
  • Connects external documents to each client for easy reference.
  • Tracks changes made to a client’s records, including information changed, who changed the information, and when it was changed.
  • Imports and exports demographic information with other contact management and accounting software.
  • Manages referral sources and contacts through the Referral Management System.

Staff Management is pretty straightforward but with enough detail. I like how it integrates skill-sets that it can then compare to Client needs.

  • Stores caregiver photographs.
  • Multiple options available for pay rates.
  • Connects external documents to each caregiver for easy reference.
  • Allows viewing of all clients that the caregiver is currently assigned to visit.
  • Allows viewing of all changes made to a caregiver’s record, including information changed, who changed the information, and when it was changed.
  • Allows creation of user-defined skills, user-defined locations and user-defined compliance data.

Scheduling. That’s what caught my interest when I first heard of HomeTrak. There are so many features here that I thought were so useful. In particular, I like the automation that saves management staff so much legwork and how the software keeps Client family members in the loop.

  • Automatic alerts to open schedules and caregiver overlaps.
  • Suggests caregivers best suited to care for clients based on user defined parameters.
  • Only matches available caregivers that meet the client’s request.
  • Client and caregiver information is visible side-by-side for a better match.
  • Eliminates double scheduling of shifts.
  • Notifies scheduler when a caregiver might go into overtime.
  • Invoicing and payroll are based on a confirmed schedule, thus eliminating errors in client billings and caregiver pay.
  • Single entry of duplicated data eliminates human errors.
  • Information is archived for later retrieval as needed.
  • Saves time and money by e-mailing schedules and other pertinent information directly from the schedule module to caregivers, clients and their families.
  • Provides integrated directions to client homes using an interface to Google Maps, an extraordinary new concept that allows viewing of maps to the client’s home and viewing driving routes between schedules.

As if all of that weren’t enough, HomeTrak also manages finances including Payroll and Billing.

  • Calculates payroll for any time period.
  • Calculates payroll for all caregiver groups or a single group.
  • Make minor adjustments to calculated payroll.
  • Easily creates payroll reports for both active and posted payroll periods.
  • Exports payroll to QuickBooks timecards.
  • Moves payroll information to the sales history system, so you can view profit and loss by type of work performed, clients visited, or payers.
  • Calculates billing for any time period.
  • Calculates billing for all client groups or a single group.
  • Produces an invoice that can include your company logo, and/or a tear-off remittance section.
  • Creates billing reports for both active and posted billing periods.
  • Sends invoices to QuickBooks accounting after created.
  • Capable of billing for holidays by individual client.
  • Allows correction of posted billing.
  • Easily creates invoices between normal runs for estate payment.
  • Capable of billing for mileage, errand mileage and expenses.

Quick and easy-to-generate reports have become an industry standard… But it’s nice to see them here.

  • Easily generate, display and print reports.
  • Choose the report or options that you want.
  • Quickly find the information that you need.
  • Create professional looking caregiver name badges.
  • Simple to generate mailing labels or envelopes for clients, payers or caregivers.

Management by…Telephony? I thought this was amazing and it saves management so many hassles.

  • Eliminate paper time sheets for good!
  • Client is no longer required to sign timesheets thereby avoiding potential conflicts
  • Significantly streamline payroll and invoicing
  • No additional phone lines or hardware required
  • Disciplines caregivers to show up on time and work for the authorized period
  • Provides management with a unique and powerful caregiver management tool

So… Maybe now you understand why I was impressed? I’m not alone, it seems like more and more Home Care agencies are switching over. I can’t say if HomeTrak is as good as it’s features or reputation make it out to be…but I think it’s one of the best examples of modern information technology put to a practical use that I’ve seen in a long time.

Creamy Ensure® Eggnog Pudding

This delicious holiday treat is healthy too! Packed with nutritional value from Ensure® products, this take on traditional eggnog pudding not only tastes good, it’s good for you.

Creamy Ensure® Eggnog Pudding

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1-ounce package instant vanilla sugar-free, fat-free pudding mix (can be substituted with one 3.5-ounce package regular instant vanilla pudding mix, if desired)
  • 1-1/2 cups COLD Ensure® Homemade Vanilla Shake*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus a dash for the top
  • 1/2 teaspoon artificial rum flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup fat-free whipped topping, divided

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the pudding mix, Ensure Homemade Vanilla Shake, nutmeg, rum flavoring, and vanilla extract.
  2. Whisk vigorously for 2 minutes until thick.
  3. Fold in 1/2 cup whipped topping.
  4. Divide the pudding into 4 serving dishes.
  5. Chill for 1 hour.
  6. When ready to serve, top each with 1 tablespoon whipped topping and a dash of nutmeg.
  7. Serve chilled.

Nutrition Facts (if prepared with Ensure®)
Serv. Size: 1/2 cup (106g)
Calories: 140
Calories From Fat: 40

Amount Per Serving % DV

Total Fat 4g 6%

Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Trans Fat 0g 0%

Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 160mg 7%
Potassium 155mg 7%
Total Carb. 20g 7%

Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sugars 12g

Protein 4g 8%

Vitamin A 10% Vitamin C 20% Calcium 15% Iron 10%

*This recipe can be prepared with Ensure® Nutrition Shake or Ensure Plus®. Nutrition information will vary with product used.
†Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 Calorie diet.

Is it time to “take the keys” to the liquor cabinet?

It’s a happy time. The whole family has come together for a holiday meal together and now, it’s time for a toast. On break from College, this is the first time that Junior is able to join in. It’s now that it occurs to you… Should Pop be drinking with all his medication? He’s already got a wine glass in hand and is having a laugh with Junior. You have to make a choice, do you cause a scene or do you risk his health by letting him drink?

Family toasting over holiday meal, should Seniors be included?It’s a question that often comes up at the last minute, when the bottle’s uncorked and you’re about to pour. Should you serve alcohol to a Senior? There isn’t one answer, but with the right information a Caregiver can make the right judgment call.

The importance of Drinking.

Drinking alcohol, like driving, is often seen as a rite of passage, something that separates children from adults. Caregivers should be aware that restricting a Senior’s use of alcohol may be received as attacking their adulthood.

Reasons to “Take the Keys” to the liquor cabinet.

Unlike driving, there are few guides that help Caregivers decide if a Senior should “turn in the keys” to the liquor cabinet. Here are some reasons to think about restricting a Senior’s access to alcohol.

  • Dangerous Alcohol and Medication Interactions: Many medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol that lead to increased risk of illness, injury, or even death. The elderly are especially at risk due to the large amounts of medication they often take.
  • Increased Effect of Alcohol: Several studies have shown that Alcohol has an increased effect on most Seniors, reducing their ability to function to a greater extent and for a longer period of time. This can be especially dangerous for Seniors suffering from cognitive impairment.
  • Worsen Medical Conditions: Alcohol can worsen certain medical conditions, such as High Blood Pressure and Ulcers.
  • Increased Risk of Injury: Drinking alcohol can greatly increase a Senior’s risk of injury from falls.
  • Late Onset Alcoholism: Depression, social isolation, and physical pain can lead to Seniors abusing Alcohol later in life. This is a growing problem in the United States and one that often goes overlooked.
  • Malnutrition: Drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis can flood a Senior’s system with empty calories, quenching appetite and causing malnutrition without weight loss.

The Checklist

If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the items on the following check list, it may be time to take control of your elderly loved one’s access to alcohol.

  1. Is there a risk of dangerous interaction between Alcohol and the Senior’s Medication? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this risk?
  2. Does the Senior have a medical condition that is exacerbated by alcohol consumption? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this condition?
  3. Does even a small amount of alcohol have an exaggerated effect on the Senior? Is the Senior no longer able to drink responsibly?
  4. Are there signs that the Senior is at higher risk of incidental injuries such as falls when they drink alcohol? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this danger?
  5. Is the Senior showing a signs of Alcohol abuse? Do those signs merit an intervention?

This guide is meant to educate and inform, it is not meant to be a substitute for a Medical Doctor’s advice. The best judge of whether a Senior should give up drinking is their Doctor and a Caregiver should always consult with a Doctor if they’re worried about a Senior drinking.

Preserving health, dignity, and relationship

Refusing to serve alcohol to an elderly loved one might leave them feeling embarrassed, excluded, and like you stripped them of their adulthood. It might result in a nasty scene and hurt feelings, ruining what had been a happy time together. With some forethought you can set up a compromise that preserves both a Senior’s dignity and their health.

  • Talk to the Senior’s Doctor about your concerns beforehand, don’t wait until the family toast to think about alcohol.
  • Talk to the Senior beforehand, tell them your concerns and ask them to compromise. Let them know that you want them to be part of the family traditions but that you’re worried about their health.
  • Serve Low-Alcohol Beverages like ‘Near Beer’ or a light ‘Mixed Drink’; lowering the alcohol content can go a long way, just be sure to always check with the Senior’s Doctor first.
  • Serve Non-Alcoholic Beer like O’Doul’s instead of alcoholic beer or Sparkling Grape Juice instead of Champagne.

These suggestions might not be enough to prevent hurt feelings or wounded pride, but in the end the important thing to remember is that you’re not stealing your loved one’s dignity – you’re trying to protect their health.

More Information

To help equip you to make an informed decision we’ve compiled some additional information that we hope proves helpful.

Some Medications that interact dangerously with Alcohol.

The following are some common medications that can interact dangerously with alcohol. This is by no means a definitive list and to be safe always check the medication warning labels and consult with the Senior’s Doctor.

  • Antibiotics are a common medication used to fight off infectious diseases.
  • Anticoagulants are prescribed to impede the blood’s ability to clot.
  • Antidepressants are an increasingly medication used to counter clinical depression.
  • Oral hypoglycemic drugs help lower blood sugar levels for some individuals suffering from diabetes.
  • Antihistamines are commonly taken to lessen allergic symptoms and to treat insomnia.
  • Antipsychotic drugs are prescribed to lessen psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
  • Antiseizure medications are primarily prescribed to treat epilepsy.
  • Cardiovascular medications are prescribed to treat heart and circulatory system ailments.
  • Narcotic pain relievers are prescribed to lessen moderate to severe pain.
  • Nonnarcotic pain relievers are the most common nonprescription pain relievers and are commonly used by the elderly.

Many other medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol so, again, to be safe always consult with the Senior’s Doctor. It’s a good idea to keep a list of all medications that the Senior is taking, including over the counter drugs and supplements, on hand to check with the Doctor.

Benefits of Drinking for Seniors?

Light to Moderate Drinking
No more than 14 drinks a week
No more than 2 drinks a day

Several studies have shown that Seniors who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol also have a lower risk of certain ailments. There are still a lot of unknowns in these studies but the message seems to be that ‘moderation may be best after all.‘ Let’s take a closer look at a handful of the studies.

The results of a study conducted by the David Geffen School of Medicine found that healthy Seniors who drank light or moderate amounts of alcohol were almost 25% less likely to suffer from incident disability or death as compared to non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

Three Seniors in living room drinking champagne and smiling

Researchers from the Tulane University studied 35 studies and discovered that individuals who drink one to two alcoholic drinks a day were almost 30% less likely to have a stroke than non-drinkers. The same study also found the disturbing correlation that heavy drinkers were almost 70% more likely to have a stroke.

Several studies have shown that individuals who drank light to moderate alcoholic drinks were less likely to suffer from heart disease. The same studies also showed that heavy drinkers were more likely to suffer from heart disease.

The material of this blog is provided for informational purposes only. Elder Depot does not intend to provide medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Please consult with a Medical Professional when deciding if a Senior should drink alcohol.

What is the Best Internet Browser for Seniors?

You might remember that in Step 7 of my 10 Steps to Better Protect Elderly Loved Ones Online I explained some of the dangers posed by using Internet Explorer 6. If that post left you wondering which Internet Browser would be the ‘best’ for your elderly loved ones then today is your lucky day because you’re finally going to find out.

The answer is that the best Internet Browser for Seniors is the Opera Browser. That may surprise many of you who have never heard of Opera before.

What makes Opera so great for Seniors?

  • Opera can be easily used without a Mouse: This is important because it is friendly for users with physical limitations like severe arthritis, it lessens repetitive strain, and it provides easier navigation for the visually impaired. Other Internet Browsers ‘can’ be used without a Mouse but not with the ease or to the same degree as Opera.
  • Opera can easily re-size webpages via Page Zooming: This feature allows everything on a webpage, including movies, to be easily and dynamically resized (20% to 1,000%) in order to assist users with impaired vision.
  • Opera can be controlled without a Keyboard or Mouse: The Voice Control feature, developed in cooperation with IBM, allows the Opera Browser to be controlled entirely by Voice Commands. This grants users with limited or no ability to use tactile controls access to the Internet.
  • Opera can read the Internet aloud: This is important because it allows users with vision impairment easier access to the Internet.
  • Opera comes with built-in Security Features: Out of the box Opera features strong secure website encryption and protection from common phishing and malware techniques.
  • Opera is highly customizable: This is important because it means that Opera can be configured to meet the needs of the user. For example, a user with vision impairment could configure Opera to use larger buttons and text.

On top of those features Opera is one of the fastest and most compatible Internet Browsers on the market. In fact, the Opera Browser was named the Best Major Desktop Browser by About.com’s 2010 Reader’s Choice Awards. Given all of that, you might wonder why, as of July 2010, only a little more than 2% of Internet users use Opera? I don’t have an answer to that question.

The Opera Browser is free for personal use and is available on virtually every major system including Windows, Macintosh, and Linux as well as the Nintendo Wii and many mobile phones. Give it a try, you should be surprised.

http://www.opera.com/

Guarding against Elder Neglect.

In our last post on Elder Abuse we shared that, “Laws vary from state to state but, by definition, Elder Abuse is any act, intentional or negligent, that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder.” Usually, in both ourselves and others, we can recognize the intentional immediately. The negligent is more insidious and often escapes notice until long after the harm has been done.

That may have been the case with Mary Madeleine Araujo, an eighty year old woman who according to police reports sat on a sofa recliner for over a month in her own urine and feces while developing infected bedsores. All of this in the home she shared with her daughter, son-in-law, and three adult grandchildren.

It is easy to write off Mary Madeleine Araujo’s family as monsters but there is an important lesson to be learned from them if we are willing to believe that they may have been ignorant of their crime. Being passive in caring for an elder can be a crime; it’s called neglect and even if the caregiver isn’t aware that they are causing the elder harm it is elder abuse.

How to guard against elder neglect as a family caregiver.

  • Don’t let the elder dictate terms of Caregiving: It is immensely difficult to take control of an elder’s life. Often it feels like stealing their competence, stripping them of their adulthood – that’s not true though, aging is stealing their competence, not the caregiver. It is the responsibility of caregivers to provide care to balance out lost competence. The daughter in the Araujo case claimed that her mother refused help bathing, that refusal should not have ended the discussion. Caregivers can’t accept the word of their elders alone, they need to judge for themselves if the elder needs them to step in. A good practice is to follow a threefold decision making policy; listen to the elder’s opinion, discuss the matter with the elder’s Doctor, and make the decision that is best for the elder.
  • Clearly define and share Caregiver Roles: In the Araujo case there were five adults living in the same home as the elder. Five adults but the grandmother ended up with festering bedsores, sitting in her own urine and feces. According to reports, the daughter admitted that her mother had trouble getting to the bathroom on her own for several weeks. The family should have established clearly defined caregiving roles and responsibilities; for example, the grandchildren could have been responsible for checking on her and getting her to the bathroom, the husband could have been responsible for feeding her, and the daughter could have been responsible for bathing her and monitoring her health. Without clearly defined roles, it’s possible that four of the adults in the house thought that someone else was responsible for caring for the elder and were too caught up in their own lives to realize what was happening.
  • Failing to provide healthcare is Elder Abuse: At the time of her admittance to the hospital, Mary Madeleine Araujo had not had medical care for four years. We don’t know why that was the case but whatever the reason it was criminal neglect. The result is the same regardless of whether the reason was that the family didn’t want to pay medical expenses, that the elder refused to go to the doctor, or that the family didn’t see anything that merited medical attention. The elder should have had regular medical checkups, especially after significant events such as when she stopped sleeping in bed, after she fell, and as her health declined. Not providing the elder with medical attention was abusive.
  • Empower the elder by equipping them: Technology can lighten the burden of caregiving and allow elders to retain a large measure of their competence. In the Araujo case, a few simple pieces of equipment might have made a world of difference; an alternating pressure mattress overlay to help prevent pressure sores, an assist rail to aid in getting in and out of bed, a cane or walker to increase mobility and help protect from falls, grab bars in the bathroom for added fall security, and a transfer bench or bath chair to enable the elder to bath herself.
  • Be proactive in assessing and addressing the Elder’s needs: Don’t wait for a unmet need to become a problem, regularly reevaluate the elder’s needs and how they are addressed. Monitor the elder’s condition in a journal and calendar, seek advice from experts, and join caregiver support groups. It is better to provide too much support rather than too little. If an elder begins to have trouble reaching the bathroom, immediately take action  – don’t wait to find your loved one sitting in their own urine and feces. Only respect an elder’s refusal to accept help up to the point where it risks causing harm – then, as a caregiver, you are responsible to step in and provide the care that is needed.

When it comes to neglect, ignorance of the crime is no excuse. It is essential for family to be proactive, if the burden is too great or the family is unwilling they should seek outside assistance through in-home care, assisted living, or a nursing facility. Leaving an elder to languish on a recliner in the living room is horrendous regardless of the motivations of the people involved.

Family Caregiving is often like a Second Full Time Job

Home Instead Senior Care® recently completed a five year study that concluded that 42% of caregivers spend more than 30 hours a week personally caring for a senior parent.  Most caregivers don’t need a study to tell them that caring for an elderly loved one is like a second job, but hopefully the results of this study offer some well deserved affirmation.

First and foremost, caregivers thank you for taking on what is too often a thankless job. Thank you for caring for one of our greatest treasures, our elders. Thank you for taking on what is often a difficult, costly, and exhausting second job.

Next, we want to share some practical actions you can take to help with the load of your unpaid second job.

Lighten the burden by…

  • Getting Paid for your Second Job: In participating states Medicaid’s “Cash and Counseling” Program will pay a family caregiver a small salary for caring for their loved one. This assistance is usually not comparable to a normal wages but it can lighten the financial load of caregiving and might be just enough to allow a family caregiver to make caregiving their only job.
  • Senior Day Programs: Getting involved with a Senior Day Program can free up a lot of your time and get your loved one involved with healthy, social, and engaging activities while still living at home. There are many professional Senior Day Programs but also keep in mind that local groups, like libraries and churches, are also starting their own programs.
  • It takes a Village: Don’t wait until caregiving becomes too much for you to handle to ask for help, reach out to your friends, family, and local community for help. Ask your church to plan more Senior-oriented activities, join a caregiver support group, and  get more people involved in the caregiving process. Sometimes help isn’t there when it should be, but more often the help is there, you just might have to be the one to organize it!
  • Make use of Nonprofits: Don’t be shy about going to a charity for help that you need as a caregiver; it isn’t a matter of pride but one of necessity. Just remember to support and promote these nonprofits when you can.
  • In-Home Care: Sometimes a family caregiver has to acknowledge that they can’t do it alone anymore and that hiring a home care professional to help with caregiving is the best option for both the caregiver and their loved one.
  • Eldercare Products: From wander alarms to amplified telephones to the Ez-Chair table, innovative eldercare technology can lighten the load of caregiving, easing concerns and making difficult tasks less of a challenge. Caregiver robots are still at least a decade away, but don’t overlook the technology that’s available now to help you!

VPG’s MV-1 vs BraunAbility…which is the better choice?

Review originally written for the New Mobility Blog and posted here with permission.

I’ve been hearing about the new wheelchair accessible vehicle by the Vehicle Production Group called the MV-1 for about a year now, and actually, when we were in Chicago last week, I saw the semi parked on Navy Pier. Apparently VPG decided to go on a cross-country promotional tour in order to get to Washington, DC in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  I had not heard any specifics about this vehicle until I did some hunting around online and it will certainly fill a particular need for the disabled and mobility impaired, but it’s not for everyone.

I’ve mentioned before that I am currently the proud owner of a Braun Entervan and have been absolutely in love with it since I got it over 5 years ago (I had 2 previous accessible minivans of different conversions before, but this one is my favorite). It fits my needs perfectly. The downside is that it’s a very expensive vehicle (and I have a “low end” conversion).

With all the press about the new MV-1, it seems like an appropriate time to write about wheelchair accessible vehicles, what to look for, and how to decide which route to go.

There are other accessible/adaptive vehicle manufacturers besides Braun and generally in the same price range (a new vehicle will begin at $50,000; used wheelchair vans can be purchased via Ebay or wheelchair van dealers for less and sometimes can be quite good deals). Braun (and other) vehicles can be driven by disabled drivers with adapted seating, steering, and gas and brake options (which add to the cost). However, some of those costs can be defrayed by state and federal grants which are designed to help disabled people go to work (to learn more about this, contact the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation in your state). Also, these accessible minivans come from a variety of existing vehicle manufacturers, in particular, Chrysler, GM, and Toyota.

From the looks of things on their website, it seems that the MV-1 will start at about $40,000 for a new vehicle and is designed for the disabled or elderly passenger (*not* primary driver). The accessible vehicle utilized universal design concepts, which means that the design is meant to be used equally as easily for able-bodied and mobility impaired passengers. It is their own vehicle design, not a custom design of an existing car model. One of the positive aspects of the MV-1 is that it also can be multi-purpose, most specifically as part of a taxi or other municipal fleet of cars which can be used by able-bodied and mobility impaired folks alike.

So now we revisit the topic of this post…if the person driving the vehicle is disabled, then going with a Braun is probably the best solution due to the ability to customize the minivan for the person directly.  If, on the other hand, you are looking for a vehicle to transport a disabled, wheelchair using person and/or an older family member who no longer drives, the MV-1 is worth looking into with the caveat that it is a brand-new vehicle to the market and not everyone feels comfortable with purchasing the first year model of a new car.

Elder Abuse

Laws vary from state to state but, by definition, Elder Abuse is any act, intentional or negligent, that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone physically abuses a vulnerable elder by causing physical pain or injury, or by depriving them of a basic need.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone who has taken responsible for the care of a vulnerable elder abandons them.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone inflicts mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder through verbal or nonverbal acts.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone attempts non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elder.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone steals or misuses the funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone who is responsible for the care of a vulnerable elder refuses or fails to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection.

What factors make the elderly especially vulnerable to abuse?

  • Isolation – Most seniors have either lost or are in the process of losing their social circles. They have fewer people to turn to for help and often feel disconnected from those contacts they still have.
  • Physical Weakness – Most seniors are physically weak due to old age and illness. They are not as able to take action to defend themselves from abuse and are slower to recover from physical abuse.
  • Cognitive Decline – Many seniors experience cognitive decline leaving them less able to recognize abuse and take action to care for themselves. Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s are even more vulnerable.

What kind of monster would do such a thing?

Most of us have heard shocking stories of elders subjected to immense cruelty by those responsible for caring for them. These stories often feature a villain, a monster of a person motivated by rage, greed, or sadism. The alcoholic son-in-law who screamed obscenities, the daughter who gambled away all of dad’s savings, or the nursing home staff who enjoys brutally manhandling clients. These “villains” do exist and must be guarded against – but they are not the only perpetrators of elder abuse.

The fact is that if we’re only expecting a monster to be abusive we can overlook obvious signs of abuse committed by friends, family, or dedicated staff, decent well-meaning people who cross the line. How could decent well-meaning people do such things? Frustration, burnout, and desperation can also motivate Elder Abuse. The son who, already late for work, cursed out his dad for soiling himself again and who screamed that he wished he would just die already. The staff, the sole breadwinner for her family after her husband lost his job, who tricks her client into paying her twice so she can make ends meet. The husband who roughly shakes his wife, suffering from dementia, and knocks her to the floor breaking her hip. Even loving caregivers can push themselves too far and become abusive, often without even realizing the full implications of what they’re doing until its gone too far.

The most common perpetrators of elder abuse are family. Don’t make the mistake of refusing to recognize obvious signs of elder abuse until you see a monster; even loving caregivers can cross the line. Always act in the best interest of the victim. Stop the abuse. No excuses, no rationalizations, no justifications. Stop the abuse.

What are signs of Elder Abuse?

  • Signs of Physical Abuse: Any type of unexplained injury.
  • Signs of Neglect: Filth, pressure sores, malnutrition, dehydration.
  • Signs of Emotional Abuse: Sudden unexplained changes in behavior. Difficult to determine in cases of dementia.
  • Signs of Sexual Abuse: Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases and bruises around genital areas.
  • Signs of Financial Abuse: Unexplained changes in finances, unexplained changes in wills or trusts, and loss of property.

What are some concrete steps Caregivers can take to avoid becoming abusive?

  • Caregivers should: take care of their physical, mental, and financial health before accepting the responsibility of a caregiver.
  • Caregivers should: seek help for personal problems that may impact the person they are caring for; some common problems are anger management, substance addiction, depression, and debt.
  • Caregivers should: join support groups and invest in a supportive community.
  • Caregivers should: share the burden so that it does not become overwhelming. Be realistic about their needs and limits.

How can Seniors protect themselves from Elder Abuse?

  • Seniors should: plan for their own future by choosing a trustworthy power of attorney and writing a living will.
  • Seniors should: consult someone they trust who has nothing to gain before signing any documents.
  • Seniors should: stay connected with friends and family. Keep engaged in a supportive community.
  • Seniors should: understand their legal rights and be proactive in defending them.

How to fight Elder Abuse?

  • Watch for the signs of elder abuse, regardless of who the caregiver is.
  • Report suspected elder abuse to local law enforcement.
  • Proactively keep Seniors involved socially. Follow up on their well-being.
  • Support and utilize local agencies like Meals on Wheels.

10 Ways for Seniors to Keep Cool

It is hot this summer. Heat Stroke and Dehydration are serious problems for everyone during this hot season, but Seniors are especially at risk. Here are some tips on how to help them stay cool.

  1. Seniors should eat light meals with water saturated foods in the summer. Over 20% of body fluid comes from food, so serve foods like Watermelon, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Berries, and Soups.
  2. Seniors should drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydrate and heat stroke this summer. Water is best but fruit juices and iced teas are also good.
  3. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, this means that they promote water loss in the body. If a Senior drinks a caffeinated or alcoholic drink in the summer they should also drink some other fluids as well to offset the loss.
  4. Perspiration is one of the best ways for the body to cool off. Forget deodorant and towels, let sweat air dry as nature intended and it will carry body heat away with it.
  5. Letting the body air dry after a shower or swim will carry off body heat in the same way as perspiration. Misting the arms lightly in water and letting them air dry will also do the same.
  6. Did you ever wonder why they like it spicy down in New Orleans? Hot spicy foods promote sweating which is, as listed above, one of the best ways to cool off.
  7. Seniors should dress for the heat by wearing light-colored loose-fitting clothing. This will protect from the sun while allowing sweat to air dry. Include a light wide-brimmed hat for added shade.
  8. Even in an air conditioned house fans circulate air and help to keep the room feeling cooler. Consider putting a bucket of ice cubes in front of box fan for an added kick of coolness.
  9. It’s easy to forget how many heat sources fill out modern lives. To keep cool, turn off the computer, monitor, lights, and use the microwave instead of the oven. If possible, switch incandescent light bulbs out for cooler and more energy efficient compact florescent bulbs.
  10. Mint tricks our nerves into feeling cooler. Help a Senior to feel less overheated with a nice mint skin lotion massage or a cool glass of mint ice tea.

Warning: It is possible for individuals with serious heart, liver, or kidney problems to over-hydrate. If an elderly loved one has serious health problems ask their Doctor how much fluid they should drink each day.

10 Things to do on Father’s Day

With strength fading and independence slipping away, many elderly Fathers feel lost and out of place. Father’s Day offers us a great chance to celebrate and honor them but many of us have trouble with the how… There is no one answer as every father is unique but here are a few suggestions.

  1. Take Him out to the Ball Game – Father’s Day is the third weekend in June, a great time to catch a game. Order tickets early, get great seats, and consider a special surprise – like an autographed ball, a picture with the mascot, or a message on the score board.
  2. Hang with the Grandkids – Few things can make a Grandfather feel like part of the family like Grandkids who want to be with him. If you need to bridge the generational gap, try the Wii – let Granddad get some ‘street cred’ by trouncing the kids at bowling.
  3. Skype Reunion – You might remember me recommending Skype as a great free software gift for Dad. Here’s a chance to take it a step further, coordinate with your Dad’s old buddies to arrange for a great big Skype reunion. Hopefully this will open the door for regular video chats.
  4. Quickest Way to a Man’s Heart – Get Dad his favorite meal, take him out if you can or take it to him if you can’t. If he drinks, remember to double check his medication before buying him a beer. He might want to contribute, if he does a good compromise is to remind him that dinner is your treat but ask him to get the tip.
  5. Favorite Shared Pastime – Chances are that your Dad gave you a love of one of his pastimes. Consider taking your Dad out for a few hours of your favorite shared pastime; fishing, golfing, crafting, gardening, etc. Tell him how meaningful sharing this pastime has been to you over the years.
  6. Movie Marathon – Is your Dad a huge fan of John Wayne, Bob Hope, Katharine Hepburn, Groucho Marx, or other vintage film stars? Consider a three movie marathon of his favorites with lots of snacks. Get the whole family involved if you can without drama, this is about enjoying his favorites together as a family not giving him lonely reign over the entertainment system for a few hours.
  7. Daddy’s Little Girl – You may be a influential professional or a successful parent yourself, but in many Dad’s eyes their daughter is always first and foremost their Little Girl. It can be hard to step back into that role but its a surefire way to make many Fathers feel like they still belong in the family. Let Dad feel like a provider; listen to his advice or let him treat you to a coffee, basically let him do something for you even though you don’t need him to.
  8. Classic Game Night – Break out the classic card and board games for a good time with Dad and the whole family. Play games he already knows the rules for; games like Monopoly, Hearts, Canasta, or Pokeno. Remember to play with Large Print Playing Cards if Dad is visually impaired.
  9. His Greatest Adventure – Did Dad live overseas, serve in the military, meet someone famous, or do something else that might qualify as an adventure? Remind him of it and get him to tell the story one more time, even if you’ve heard it hundreds of times already. Get the kids to hear it too if you can without too much drama.
  10. Cherished Memory Book – Get in touch with everyone whose life your Dad has touched; ask them each to send you a letter to him along with some photographs. Put them together into a scrapbook commemorating him and letting him know that he’s not forgotten. Not only will it make him feel special now, years from now it stands to become a treasured family heirloom holding memories that would otherwise be forgotten.

After a lifetime in the role, many Fathers feel insecure after they step out of the provider role for their families. Because of this it is important to avoid anything that might make Dad feel unwelcome. Chances are that you don’t see eye to eye with Dad on everything but, at least for Father’s Day, try to let remarks and points of contention slide. Be gracious and patient, focus on the good and avoid drama. Remember, your goal is to celebrate and honor Dad, not get drawn into old arguments.