“Open the Pod Doors, HAL!…” Part IV–High Tech, Disabilities, & Monitoring

Bluetooth is the best thing that’s happened to remote controls since the advent of infra-red technology made them easier than radio. For those with disabilities, connectivity to smart devices is making vast improvements in not only functionality, but in performance of daily routines.

Two examples are: hearing aids and assistance for the cognitively impaired. Companies are making available hearing aids that connect to smart phone apps via Bluetooth technology that allow volume control, TV program switching, phone calls, streaming music, as well as enhancing the audible sounds in a room/place. Management of daily routines is likewise available for those residents in assisted living facilities (“ALFs”)and the like with cognitive impairment. One app displays colored buttons in the person’s residence that flash until the task, for which the customizable button was designed as a reminder, has been completed and the button pushed. The next button in the sequence is then activated. Examples of such activities are the morning rituals of brushing the teeth, combing the hair, eating, taking medications, etc.

ALFs and Skilled Nursing Facilities (“SNFs”) are finding such new technology is enabling them to provide better care services. As we’ve previously discussed, residents’ particular vital statistics can be monitored, analyzed, and diagnosed, from a distance. If patients get out of bed, have fallen, are wandering, or needs a change of linens or clothing, is depressed, has developed an infection, or a variety of other abnormal change in daily routine, alerts are triggered and information can be sent such that providers are able to manage the situation appropriately and timely. When an alert is sent that a resident is anxious or is experiencing a rise in heart rate or blood pressure, calming soundtracks may be played to help alleviate the temporal situation. Similarly, wireless oxygen and heart rate monitors can also set off alerts that cause comforting sounds to help adjust breathing.

Motion sensors placed about the homes are something we all are beginning to use for security purposes. But, such sensors can also track a cognitively impaired person’s movements and routines about a home. Even simply for aging persons who aren’t exhibiting signs of dementia, data can be gathered and analyzed to learn the person’s routines, track behaviors, activity patterns such as sleeping/rising and eating. Deviations from the norm can then be spotted and appropriate action taken by those responsible for monitoring such behavior–or simply by a concerned family caregiver “watching” mom or dad from a distance. Smart sensors can even identify differences in a person’s gait and other early indicators of dementia or depression, enabling assistance and early intervention measures to be implemented “ahead of the curve.”

This series is just another showing of how my group stays on top of the “Four Ts of Retirement Income & Longevity Planning.” Stay tuned to this space for the next discussion on Robotic developments in this arena. Meanwhile, contact me via the scheduling robot, email, or phone if you need help with your family’s situation.

Aging Parents, Their Pets, and Long-Term Care

There’s no question that pets are family members that bring joy and comfort to us all, but particularly aging family members who have already lost a human companion. Indeed, an increasing number of assisted living facilities are becoming pet friendly–especially those offering independent living apartments. Skilled Nursing Facilities are bringing in pets on certain days for programs allowing residents to hold and play with animals on scheduled visits. There seems to be a special benefit for those with dementia.

But, pets and animals come with their risks also. Care must be taken to keep the situations under control to prevent accidental falls or other injuries. For those elders still in their homes, special consideration needs to be given for the situation especially where balance, diminished vision, and rambunctious pets can intermingle. Families may have to take over care for the pet and then bring it for visits. Pets too age and care needs to be taken that the pets aren’t lost in the fray of changes which occur when moving the elder to an ALF, SNF, or even when staying in the family home. If caregivers are contracted to come into the home, it is essential to include in the job description the caring for the family pets.

Cognitive decline can impair an elder’s ability to routinely care for a pet, despite their best intentions. So, just as we don’t want the pet inflicting unintentional harm on the elder, so too must we ensure the forgetful elder doesn’t wind up inflicting unintentional harm on the pet, such as forgetting regular food, water, and outside access for nature calls.

We plan for all these contingencies in our documents drafted and financial plans formulated to provide funding for the high costs of longevity. Contact us for your situation that requires thoughtful, comprehensive professional planning.

Dementia: Walking in the Shoes of a Caregiver

Dementia has devastating consequences on the patient to be sure. But, it’s toll on the caregiver can be just as great especially when they are giving never ending care. Dementia care is extensive and never ending. Some days it’s very hard. Often both patient and caregiver wonder, “Why, why am I here?” They may try and make light of it as best they can.  Although a caregiver may work outside of the home, they still must manage daily care for the person with dementia. They bathe their relative, help them in the bathroom, cook for the relative and manage the medicine.  But, it’s as if the caretaker’s life is not their own. It is hard. Naturally, the caretaker would like to go do things that other people might do, such as shopping and traveling. But the caregiver can’t do much of that anymore.  Even if the family is fortunate enough to have the financial and emotional support of other family members, they will still have to arrange for outside help several days a week. People who partner with caregivers say that’s the only way to survive it. It takes a toll on your body and your body will send out signals and those signals will lead to behavioral or emotional or physical stress that can affect who you are and what you are doing. Caregivers are at great risk of burnout which include social withdraw and irritability and health problems. To make time for themselves to get adequate sleep. The job of caring for dementia patient is a never ending, lonely task, especially as the disease progresses. Patience. A lot of patience. Dealing with personal care stuff. And — it’s hard.  There are accidents sometimes and the caregiver has no choice but to just suck it up and do it.

Many families struggle with the issues of care for dementia patients. If you are looking for ways to deal with caregiver stress, I’ve posted tips for you on my Facebook page, Atlanta Personal Family Lawyer and WRNichols Law.

10 Early Symptoms of Dementia You Should Know

10 Early Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia is a collection of symptoms that can occur due to any one of a number of possible diseases. Dementia symptoms include cognitive impairment, i.e., interruption of thought processes, difficulties with communication, and ability to recollect. If you or your loved one is experiencing memory problems, it is inappropriate to immediately jump to the conclusion that dementia is the underlying culprit. A dementia diagnosis requires a person needs to have at least two types of impairment that significantly interfere with everyday life to receive a dementia diagnosis. Subtle short term memory changes or trouble with memory can be an early symptom of dementia. The changes are often subtle and tend to involve short-term memory. An older person may be able to remember events that took place years ago but not what they had for breakfast.

Other symptoms of changes in short-term memory include forgetting where they left an item, struggling to remember why they entered a particular room, or forgetting what they were supposed to do on any given day. Difficulty finding the right words Another early symptom of dementia is struggling to communicate thoughts. A person with dementia may have difficulty explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves. Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be difficult, and it may take longer than usual to conclude.

    Changes in Mood

A change in mood is also common with dementia. If you have dementia, it isn’t always easy to recognize this in yourself, but you may notice this change in someone else. Depression, for instance, is typical of early dementia. Along with mood changes, you might also see a shift in personality. One typical type of personality change seen with dementia is a shift from being shy to outgoing.

This is because the condition often affects judgment.

    Apathy

Apathy, or listlessness, commonly occurs in early dementia. A person with symptoms could lose interest in hobbies or activities. They may not want to go out anymore or do anything fun. They may lose interest in spending time with friends and family, and they may seem emotionally flat.

    Difficulty Completing Normal Tasks

A subtle shift in the ability to complete normal tasks may indicate that someone has early dementia. This usually starts with difficulty doing more complex tasks like balancing a checkbook or playing games that have a lot of rules. Along with the struggle to complete familiar tasks, they may struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.

    Confusion

Someone in the early stages of dementia frequently becomes confused. When memory, thinking, or judgment lapses, occur, confusion may also arise as the person can no longer remember faces, find the right words, or interact with others normally. Confusion occurs for a number of reasons and applies to different situations. For example, the person may misplace their car keys, forget what comes next in the day, or have difficulty remembering someone they’ve met before.

    Difficulty Following Storylines

Difficulty following storylines is a classic indicator of early dementia. Just as finding and using the right words becomes difficult, people with dementia sometimes forget the meanings of words they hear or struggle to follow along with conversations or TV programs.

    A Failing Sense of Direction

Dementia onset commonly brings with it the deterioration of the sense of direction and spatial orientation.

This can mean not recognizing once-familiar landmarks and forgetting regularly used directions. It also becomes more difficult to follow a series of directions and step-by-step instructions.

    Repetitiveness

Repetition is common in dementia because of memory loss and general behavioral changes. The person may repeat daily tasks, such as shaving, or they may collect items obsessively. They also may repeat the same questions in a conversation after they’ve been answered.

    Difficulties adapting to change

For someone in the early stages of dementia, the experience can cause fear. Suddenly, they can’t remember people they know or follow what others are saying. They can’t remember why they went to the store, and they get lost on the way home. Because of this, they might crave routine and be afraid to try new experiences. Difficulty adapting to change is also a typical symptom of early dementia.

If you know someone dealing with these indications and want to know how to plan for the inevitable consequences of dementia, use the scheduling robot to set up an appointment to discuss planning options in confidence.

As found on Youtube

Romance in the Nursing Home

A perfect storm has developed on the elder care forefront that is comprised of sexual desire, dementia, and nursing home liability. The last sensation to deteriorate as a person reaches the end of life is that of touch. And, the desire for physical contact of whatever sort–whether it be sexual or otherwise, is merely a natural consequence of the human condition.

There has been an uptick in the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among nursing home residents. Those patients desiring sexual contact can become predatory. The diagnosis of dementia raises the issue of whether that patient has the capacity to consent to sexual activity. Further, dementia can lead to a loss of impulse control.

While many facilities are just ignoring these issues, at least one facility, the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, NY, has published articles about their early adoption of a policy regarding sexual conduct among their residents.

If your family has questions or concerns about paying for the high cost of longevity, contact us via email, facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, or phone.
Continue reading “Romance in the Nursing Home”

Aging Parents Can Forget to Pay Premiums Leading to Policy Lapses With Disastrous Consequences

If your older relative has a long-term care policy, photocopy the page listing the company, policy number and claims contact information. Keep the insurance company updated on new addresses, yours (if you are the third-party designee) and your relative’s. It wouldn’t hurt, if the policyholder is becoming forgetful, to check bank statements or call the company to make sure premiums are current.  One story reported by the NY Times shows the calamity that befell a Virginia family because paying the premiums slipped dad’s mind.  State legislatures seem hesitant to correct the problem by mandating insurance companies give more formal notice to policy holders or their third-party designees.

Use These 5 Strategies to Avoid Stress in Older Family Members or Those Cognitively Impaired

Following are five suggestions that may help elderly family members better enjoy the holiday festivities when all the younger family members are stirring up a ruckus celebration:

1. Prevent your elderly family members suffering from dementia from too much excitement or things like camera flashes, multiple blinking lights, over-exhuberant youngsters asking too many questions and generally just too many simultaneous visitors.  Their own inability to process information at the same pace can lead to frustration and disruptive behavior on their part in response.

2. Try to help the elderly stay in a good frame of mind by playing softer music and familiar songs to soothe their mood(s).  Perhaps predictably, those suffering from various forms of cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s or other dementia, have shown positive reactions to hearing their favorite kind of music.

3. Protect your aging parent with dementia from loud noises, even loud talking and laughter that seem part of a normal day of celebration. A person with dementia can become upset by loud noises, even if they are happy sounds.

4.  Like most of us, but especially those elderly suffering from cognitive impairment, need quiet time, for rest, reflection and repose.  Too much conversation and holiday excitement among family members can agitate the elder.  Subtle signs of fatigue or frustration are indicators that a break from the action is appropriate for them.

5. Stay on their current schedule. Keep the elderly family member(s) eating at that same times that they always do.  Otherwise, disrupting their routine could create unnecessary stress or confusion.

Our thanks to Dr. Mikol Davis at http://agingparents.com for this information.