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Aging Wisely May 2011 - Aging Wisely

Celebrating Older Americans!


As we celebrate Older Americans Month, it is a time to reflect on all that older adults add to our community. How has an elder impacted your life? Does your organization thrive with the help of senior volunteers? Do you have a mentor who showed you what positive aging is all about?

Americans today are redefining age in many ways. NBC recently featured the story of a Centenarian and his exercise program. Ray Clark only joined a gym about a year ago and is making great progress with the help of his personal trainer, who refuses to underestimate someone just because of age. Ray’s son, daughter-in-law and grandson all work out at the gym too!

Here are some interesting facts about Centenarians (individuals over 100 years of age):

• In developed countries, the prevalence of centenarians is about 1-in-6,000.

• Centenarians are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

• The majority of centenarians, 85 percent, are women. However, the men who do survive to this old age tend to be fitter and healthier than their female counterparts.

• About 15% of centenarians live on their own, completely independently.

Technology and medical advances are helping many Americans to live longer. For most people, quality of life is most important and some of these advances are enabling healthier, more active lives and reducing the effects of certain chronic conditions. As we live longer and uncover more technological advances, we will face different moral, ethical and societal dilemmas about the balance of longevity, quality of life and costs (both individual and societal).

At Aging Wisely, we are inspired by our many interesting and diverse elder clients, who share their stories with us and allow us to be part of their lives. As elder advocates, we help clients and families look at options and think through decisions about healthcare so that they make choices that are right for them. Our patient advocates help with asking questions, assessing needs and supporting families as they make decisions related to quality of life, health and wellbeing.

For resources about eldercare, senior health, and aging issues, visit our Resources page.

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Technology & Eldercare


Technology is exploding, in all areas of our lives. Many of us can hardly recall what it was like to complete certain tasks before today’s technology. At the same time, the internet can cause us to feel overloaded with information. Technology is only useful when it works for our needs as they happen in real life. As part of Older Americans Month, we are looking at some of the ways technology is helping older Americans live more connected, healthier lives. Read our previous post about Electronic Personal Health Records, one of the emerging technologies that is still not widely used but can have great benefits especially for those with chronic conditions and their caregivers.

One of the best resources on this subject is Laurie Orlov’s Aging in Place Technology Watch. Her blog posts go beyond news and updates on the latest technologies to really examine (and critique) how technology is being used, integrated, marketed and applied in daily life for older adults. We have a way to go before much of this technology is used in a meaningful way, but the level of interest and discussion shows the progress in how technology is and will continue to impact aging.

A recent guest post on her blog from Julie Menack discussed the importantance of healthcare & eldercare professionals in facilitating seniors’ (and their caregivers’) use of technology. Family caregivers cited an involved healthcare professional as the top influence on technology selection.

In that spirit, here is a breakdown of some of the current aging in place technologies that our clients and their families have found helpful (in addition to the Personal Medical Record & online caregiver tools mentioned in our previous post):

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)-made famous by the “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials, these alert systems can be a lifesaver, but are growing more sophisticated and therefore useful every day. Now, systems include sensors so that they can sense falls (for times when a person may not be able to press the button or have the awareness, as we have experienced with some of our clients with dementia). Others are tied in with GPS and can be used outside the home, and some include added features like medication reminders and health monitoring.

We have had success with clients using more comprehensive home monitoring systems as well, but as with any of these technologies it is important to analyze benefits for the individual’s needs. One client was able to decrease her hourly care (from 24 hours when we first assessed her) using a monitoring system to alert us (or family) as to any changes or concerns at night so we could ensure that this scenario continued to be safe. She had caregivers with her from 7 AM-10 PM when she needed personal assistance, while the monitoring sufficed for the nighttime hours. She was able to save money and she liked feeling she had more privacy at night. Our care manager demonstrated the system to her to show her that there were no cameras watching her and help her understand how it would work.

Medication Management Systems
-we have had clients successfully use electronic pill organizer/alert systems, as well as reminders through a PERS. Additionally, simple “technologies” in packaging and organizing help many clients. Pharmacies may offer pre-packaged, tear-off medication packaging for easy use, and there are a wide variety of pill boxes available. Many of these technologies work best in combination with human assistance, such as a R.N. to fill the medication box and check on how the client is doing, or caregivers and monitoring combining to ensure 24/7 safety.

Technology that facilitates communication & interaction is increasingly popular, already being seen in such stats as Facebook usership, adoption of smart phones and online gaming among 55+ age groups. There are some wonderful Caregiver Coordination Systems and tools that allow families to communicate about what is going on with their elder loved one or a family member going through an illness.

According to a recent study sponsored by United Healthcare and the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are three technologies that families are more readily embracing than others for assistance with providing care for their loved ones: Personal Health Record Tracking (as covered in our previous post), A Medication Support System (as discussed here), and A Caregiver Coordination System (see Caregiver Stress Reduction Tips & Caregiver Resources for more information).

Sign up for our blog posts to receive our future posts on technologies that may help you with eldercare, including more in-depth coverage about Caregiver Coordination Systems and the system we use, Caregiver’s Touch. Contact us today for help determining what technologies and other resources will help you and your elderly loved ones with the best geriatric care management.

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Technologies for Senior Health: Personal Health Records Online


This year’s Older American’s Month theme acknowledges the role technology is playing in Americans living longer, healthier, more active lives. We can all cite examples of medical technologies, research and advances that have been life-saving to someone we know. Screenings, preventative care and imaging have made major impacts on understanding and treatment of various diseases.

To coincide with this Older American’s month theme, we will share some insights in to emerging technologies and important health issues for seniors and family caregivers. We start here with a review of Electronic Personal Health Records.

Personal Health Records (PHRs) or Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are undoubtedly the next wave in our ever expanding “online life”. According to, “ A personal health record (PHR) is a confidential and easy-to-use tool for managing information about your health. A PHR is usually an electronic file or record of your health information and recent services, such as your medical conditions, allergies, medications, and doctor or hospital visits that can be stored in one place, and then shared with others, as you see fit. You control how the information in your PHR is used and who can access it. PHRs are usually used on the Internet so that you can look up your information wherever you are.” Typically the term EMR is used to refer to the records held by other parties (doctor, hospital, insurance company), just like you old medical chart. However, you will often see the terms used interchangeably.

Why is a personal health record good for your health? Most importantly, it allows you to provide the most accurate information to providers, which improves the care they can provide. Knowing your health history and keeping track of medications, concerns, and various specialists and tests is vital in a system that can be quite fragmented. As an elder caregiver, having a good system to help you makes this job so much easier. An electronic health record can be accessed easily from almost anywhere, which is great especially if you travel.

We have provided some questions to ask when looking at your options for an electronic health record system. It is also helpful to think about how you will be using such a system. Are you a family caregiver/healthcare surrogate managing a loved one’s healthcare? Are you at a distance and do you have other family and helpers with whom you need to share information? Are you a person with a chronic illness? Do you use medical equipment that may be able to link with such programs? Are you relatively healthy but very mobile and just wish to have basic information accessible?

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) provides a great website: My PHR with comprehensive information on health records. CMS is running several pilot projects right now for Medicare recipients, and several of the Medicare Advantage Plans are offering PHRs. Medicare and the VA have added the “blue button”, allowing you to download medical records they have for you (claims, etc.). In addition, there are many stand-alone plans and websites where you can purchase and control your own PHR.

Important questions to consider in assessing options for Personal Health Records systems:

1. What are the privacy policies and security features to keep your information from being accessed? Most programs are password protected, but research the level of security and encrypting. Also, if you choose a program offered by a provider or an insurance company, ask to review their privacy practices statement.

2. How is the reliability of the technology? Does their server experience downtime? Do they have redundancy and backup so that you don’t have issues accessing the site any time?

3. How easy is the entry and navigation of information? Are there forms or fields that are easy to complete? How intuitive is it to navigate through the system? Are there limits on how much information you can enter?

4. How do you access the information? Most programs are available online and all you need is a web connection. Some may also have a mobile phone app. that makes it easier to review and access from a Smartphone. You can also create a record yourself and use a USB device or other storage method, but you give up some accessibility and possibly ability to share information with caregivers or different providers.

5. What additional features are offered? Some to consider: uploading and storing documents (i.e. advance directives, scanned copies of tests), sharing access (and allowing limited access/read only to certain parties, emergency only access to basic information), mobile phone apps/add ons, integration with other programs (health/behavioral tracking, medical devices to upload data/communicate), comprehensive programs (for example, that include pages for non-medical but relevant information such as Activities of Daily Living needs, financial/legal information, demographic and family information), and programs designed for family elderly caregivers (for example with shared calendars, secure place to share notes and updates).

6. Portability/what happens if the product is no longer offered? If the company decides they will no longer offer the service, will you be able to export your information/port it to another site?

7. Fees/costs? What are the fees and are they charged monthly/yearly? Is there a start up fee? Is there any limit on access or how much information you can have?

Medicare’s website offers some information on choosing a PHR that you may find useful as well: Medicare PHR info.

There are many options for electronic personal health records (to say nothing of your options available offline), so we have not tried to compile a comprehensive list here. Based on your situation and needs, plus a review of the systems using the questions we have provided, there are likely several programs that will help you to be better organized, have access and mobility for your health information.

Aging Wisely is proud to have used an electronic system for client care continuity for many years. We currently use Caregiver’s Touch, which not only helps us ensure better continuity but provides communication to families and even features a mobile app. for those who appreciate that functionality.

Aging Wisely’s care managers can help you gather your medical history and records (and confirm accuracy, help seek further diagnosis/information for family caregivers), organize and create a personal health record, as well as assist at doctor’s appointments and maintain the information and continuity of your care. CONTACT US today to learn more.

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Older Americans Month: Honoring Elders


May is Older Americans Month and this year’s theme is “Older Americans: Connecting the Community”, to honor the ways in which older Americans contribute to the community. This year’s focus also highlights the ways technology is aiding Americans to live healthier, more engaged and longer lives.

The Older Americans Month proclamation from the Administration on Aging states, “our community can provide that recognition and respect by enriching the quality of life for older Americans by:

• Increasing their opportunities to remain in their communities as active and engaged citizens
• Providing services, technologies, and support systems that allow seniors to foster and maintain connections within the community
• Emphasizing the value of elders by publically recognizing their contributions to the diversity, strength, and unity of our community”.

Our elders bring so much to the community, including significant contributions in volunteerism and community support. At Aging Wisely, we often see how senior citizen neighbors and community members pitch in to care for and support those needing some assistance. Many seniors help friends and neighbors, as well as volunteering for hospitals and organizations such as Meal on Wheels. We say a special thanks to all the seniors who contribute so much to the vitality, diversity and richness of our communities.

In honor of this month, we will be sharing some information on technologies and their potential impact on the health and well-being of elders, as well as additional resources. If you are an elder caregiver or senior living with a chronic condition, sign up for our blog feed or monthly newsletter for senior care tips and health resources.

Contact us today if you need more information on resources to assist with eldercare, senior caregiving or geriatric care management in the Tampa Bay/Clearwater area.

Aging Wisely honoring seniors/elders

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The Alzheimer’s Disease Epidemic


CNN recently aired a special hosted by Larry King about Alzheimer’s Disease. On the special, “Unthinkable: The Alzheimer’s Epidemic”, King hosted celebrities such as Seth Rogan, Leeza Gibbons, Maria Shriver, Ron Reagan and Angie Dickinson, all of whom have been affected personally by the disease in their families. King also interviewed experts and visited the Mayo Clinic and Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health at Cleveland Clinic and discussed new diagnostic advances and research. CNN will be rebroadcasting the show on Saturday, May 7th if you did not get the opportunity to view it. We thought we would share some thoughts from the show, especially the nuggets of wisdom shared through the celebrities’ personal experiences.

Maria Shriver reiterated the importance of families communicating and mentioned that while caregiving often falls to women, it should not be thought of as solely a women’s domain. She stated, “Daughters, talk to your brothers. Men can do this too.” Her message that families need to come together around caregiving duties and discuss how they will handle things is so important.

However, it is not always easy and many families struggle with relationships that were already strained before dealing with Alzheimer’s, which is certainly stressful on any relationship. At the same time, many families come together and grow through their caregiving experiences. For those that have concerns, consider seeking a counselor, geriatric care manager or family mediator to assist.

In the course of our work, we often meet with families who are setting off on the caregiving journey to help them think through different considerations and weigh decisions. Later, we’re often involved with families who feel the need for a professional geriatric assessment to have a comfort level that they are making the best decisions. This can be particularly helpful if families are in disagreement (or there is concern over future disagreement, questioning of decisions). Family mediation is a more formal process for settling disagreements.

Leeza Gibbons talked about her reaction to her mother’s diagnosis…as she said she “went in to it kicking and screaming” and was in denial. She mentioned that everyone in the family went in to their corner. Everyone reacts in their own way to such a tough diagnosis and it is important to remember that and consider allowing family members to have the space and time to come to terms with it. Again, a professional counselor or care manager can help facilitate discussions as needed as well. Leeza also talked about the difficult reality of the time when her Mom no longer recognized her, which she described as a “stab to the heart”.

Ron Reagan emphasized that the chances of having the disease or being a caregiver are very high. He said it was important for his father to bring awareness to the disease and he would have hoped that his sharing his diagnosis did that. He also made a very important point that Alzheimer’s patients can feel the love and the emotional temperature in the room. Even when faced with the difficult situation of a loved one not recognizing you, your visit and the warmth the person feels can make a difference in his or her day.

It was great to see Seth Rogan and his wife discussing her mother’s struggle with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Seth is concerned that the disease gets very little attention, especially from people in the younger age groups. It is often associated with old age, but more and more young people are dealing with it, whether in grandparents, as caregivers for someone with early-onset or as the children of parents who are caregivers for their spouse or parent with the disease. It is nice to see him speaking out and important to have a younger presence in the world of awareness.

Angie Dickinson made a wonderful statement (paraphrasing), “You should love them—with your touch, your company, whatever pleasure may still be there for them”. Angie also mentioned that she was comforted by being able to provide the care and ensure someone was with her sister all the time. The emotional impact of the disease is just as challenging for someone who can afford services, but certainly being able to pay for care and ensure her sister had help eased the situation for the family and helped keep her sister cared for and safe. In situations where other family members are also seniors, it may be difficult for them to provide the care, especially hands-on personal care. Having quality home healthcare providers to turn to can make a big difference for those families.

Those featured on the show were hopeful about research advances and finding better treatments, if not a cure, in the future. But, as many pointed out, this disease is already an epidemic which many families struggle with and is only expected to impact more as our population ages. The crisis for families is right now, caregivers are struggling. It was good to see attention not only for the disease and research, but also spotlighting the personal struggles and the need for services and support for caregivers. We at Aging Wisely have been dedicated to helping caregivers for over 10 years and continue to develop expertise and services to support families.

Sign up for our newsletter for tips, news and information on eldercare and Alzheimer’s caregiving to help save you time navigating through the extensive information available.

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Our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.