Monday, May 4, 2009

My new website is launched - May 4th

Thanks to all my readers of this blog. I have appreciated your comments and feedback over the past 6 months. As goal is to share insight and information with adult children of aging parents so their parents can "thrive and find joy" in every stage of life.

Now I have a treat for you! Today, I launch my new website. It has been a lot of hard work and a big learning experience but it is ready. Yes!!!!

This new website gives me the flexibility to offer more content in different ways, and interact with my readers in a more effective way. (Note: I'm in the process of moving all my old blog content to this site).

Please link out to my new site, explore, subscribe and share your thoughts (through the "Leave a Comment" area or Contact form).

Check out the new F*REE 5 part E-course. I am excited about sharing it with you! If you submit your email address in the E-course signup box, you'll also get my bi-weekly ezine packed with tips and information on resources, options, and new innovations for your aging parents.

I look forward to seeing you there! My best, Dale...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Electronic mosquito" to aid diabetics

I get very excited when I read about new innovations that could help my elderly mother. She has diabetes and needs to regularly test her glucose level. Pricking her finger is not one of her favorite activities, and she often has trouble with the glucose testing kit.

So, it was with interest that I read about a new device, the "electronic mosquito", patented by engineers at the University of Calgary. This innovation offers a "less invasive alternative" to diabetics who have to take regular samples of their blood. As the article points out, diabetes has been described as a global epidemic, affecting 246 million people around the world.

What is the "electronic mosquito"?
* a patch, like an adhesive bandage, about the size of a deck of cards

How does it work?

* "contains four micro-needles that bite sequentially at programmed intervals"
* controlled to penetrate the skin at just the right depth so the patient experiences little or no pain
* a sensor in each cell measures glucose levels
* data can then be sent wirelessly to a computer or some personal monitoring device
* alarm can be sounded if glucose levels go into the danger zone

What are the next design steps?

* Make components smaller to fit more needles on the patch, thus allowing the patient to wear patch for longer time or test more frequently
* The engineers hope to integrate a pump system for insulin injections that could become "autonomous based on data from the e-Mosquito".

* The university's technology transfer and incubation centre needs to find an industry partner to speed up product development and bring this new technology to market


Thursday, April 16, 2009's Progressive Party 04/17 to 04/24

STARTS TODAY (April 17th)

Family caregivers who blog and the companies that support them

Join:'s ProgressiveParty.April17-24

Click here to join the party! 14 blogs to explore!

Monday, March 16, 2009

2-1-1, Information about critical services for the elderly

In a recent survey, I was asked by readers to write about 2-1-1. I had never used this service but the request intrigued me. How widespread is 2-1-1 and what benefits does it provide?

Here's a brief summary of what I found. (If you've used 2-1-1, please leave a comment sharing your experience.)

As of March, 2009, 46 states (including Washington, DC and Puerto Rico) have established 2-1-1 lines to simplify access to information and expand availability of human services to individuals and families. Instead of dialing 911 (for an emergency), individuals dial 211 (for information). Trained operators link callers to social services and local programs. The information to specifically support the elderly includes: home health care, adult day care, congregate meals, Meals on Wheels, respite care, transportation and homemaker services.

In 2008, 2-1-1 services took 14 million calls. "While services that are offered through 2-1-1 vary from community to community, 2-1-1 provides callers with information about and referrals to human services for every day needs and in times of crisis."

This service is even available to children of aging parents who live somewhere else in the country. They can access the 2-1-1 website and enter their parents' zip code. The resulting web page displays complete information about the "supporting agency" in that area. The daughter or son can then quickly make a long distance phone call and get linked to social services and programs local to their parents.

This service is spearheaded by the United Way and the Alliance for Information and Referral System (AIRS). Legislation currently under consideration would provide federal money to states starting or enhancing a 2-1-1 system.

Click here for the 2-1-1 website

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

National Council on Aging campaigns to increase funding for seniors

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is campaigning to increase funding under the Older Americans Act (OAA) - by 12%. This act, dating back to 1965, provides food, jobs and care for America's seniors. One of its most well-known program is Meals on Wheels, a key program in enabling seniors to remain independent in their homes. Unfortunately, 85% of states report a wait list for Meals on Wheels.

Funding under the OAA has remained level for the past 8 years. You can read about all the important programs being targeted for increased funding (at the NCOA link, end of my post).

I'll focus briefly on just one of the programs which would personally and positively impact me and other caregivers to aging parents. The National Family Caregiver Support program (NFCSP), under Title IIIE of the OAA, provides "services to help ease the burdens of caregivers, including respite care, counseling and supplemental services".

Some of the interesting facts about family caregivers include:

* Family caregivers provide 80% of non-institutional long-term care.
* The typical caregiver is a 46 year old woman, providing 18 hours of care for her mother
* The value of family caregiving services is estimated at $257 billion per year

Those of us who are (or have been) caregivers to our elderly parents:
* help keep our parents in an independent living situation, and thus reduce nursing home and Medicaid costs (good)
* cost our employers in lost productivity (not good)
* and most importantly, often sacrifice our physical and mental health in meeting all the demands of caregiving (really not good!!!)

This program would provide much needed support services to the caregivers out there.

To read detail about this funding campaign by the NCOA:

National Council of Aging (NCOA) Overview of Appropriations

To advocate for this and/or contact your congressional representatives:

National Council of Aging (NCOA) Advocacy Center

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Use Twickie to post Twitter conversation to your blog

I just found out about Twickie. A way to capture a Twitter thread and post it to your Blog.

I like it for several reasons:
* if a Twitter thread is composed of many replies
* to share a Twitter conversation with your blog audience (some of whom may not be on Twitter)
* I love the idea of the cross-over between Twitter and my blog

Try it. If you like using it, post a comment and tell me why.

Here's my example:
JaneHBDesignSF: I&#39ve heard about these, have a friend moving into one - Rossmore, in Nor Cal, East Bay.
about 3 days ago
daccarte: New post: Aging in place initiative, Nontraditional Retirement Communities (known as NORCs)
about 3 days ago

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Adaptive Lighting improves quality of life for the elderly

"Studies have shown that the quality and type of lighting can have a significant impact in our health and comfort", explains research Edith Maier in Austria.

She is part of a European research team, the Aladin project, that has developed a prototype for lighting that adapts automatically to meet an elderly person's individual need! The person does not have to take any direct action. The technology senses conditions in the person. I really believe that such 'personalized' technology is the wave of the future for the elderly.

What benefits does adaptive lighting offer?
* improves the well-being of people who spend long periods of time in artificially lit buildings
* reduces physiological/psychological problems caused by poor lighting: decreased energy, disrupted sleep, vision problems and reading difficulties

How does this work?
* A person wears biosensors in a glove.
* Heart rate and skin conductance is measured to determine level of activity.
* Measurements are fed wirelessely into a control system.
* The system then knows when to switch between "brightly lit active setting" and "more subdued relaxation mode.

If the person is trying to concentrate on a task, the light will intensify. If they are trying to go to sleep, it will dim. The research team is also experimenting with different intensities and colors of light. The system could eventually be used as part of building management to control lighting, temperature, communications and safety.

The research team expects there will be a large market for technologies that can improve quality of life in the elderly and keep them active and less dependent on others. Think of what it will mean, on a personal basis, to the elderly person.

Source: "Lighting up the Lives of the Elderly",

Friday, February 20, 2009

A day in the life of a volunteer at a nursing home

Wednesdays are my normal days to visit a local nursing home but this week, I ended up going today, Friday.
I often wish that more people would consider donating a couple hours in their week to go and visit with the elderly. For me, it feels like such a natural thing to do. As I approach the building, I really do look forward to seeing everyone, the receptionist, the director/chaplain and the lady I usually visit.

There's a different pace of life there. Yes, people move slowly with their walkers and wheelchairs. But, along with that, comes a patience and a calming atmosphere. There is no rushing. Everyone takes the time to smile, say hello and chat.

Today I arrived to find the lady I normally visit would be leading the monthly Resident Council meeting. She looked so very nice, said she was running a bit late and people would be waiting for her :-)
So, I sat and read to a lovely lady who is in end-stage Alzheimers. She was resting comfortably in a soft chair and she looked very intently at me as I read. Finally her husband came to visit at lunchtime. I'm told he comes everyday.

Being a part of this place for just two hours a week gives me an insight into what seems to be another world. These people are cared for with such love and they care for each other.
I wish everyone could experience the joy of serving at such a place.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

SCAN: New space technology may help the elderly with bone disorders

Space biomedical researchers are developing new technology called SCAN (Scan Cofocal Acoustic Navigation) to diagnose and assist in healing fractures. It's a small mobile device which uses "non-invasive and non-destructive ultrasound to image bones". Although the device was designed to address loss of bone structure and quality in astronauts, there are certainly applications for the elderly.

How is this different from current diagnostic ultrasound scans?
* its ability to assess a high number of parameters
* its ability to image hard tissue like bone

The researchers note that risk of bone fracture is probably more related to quality of the bone, rather than bone density alone (the usual test given the elderly).

At the current time, the device can image the heel or wrist. Scanning of the knee and hip is currently under development. The therapeutic part of the device is what I find most fascinating. It will help accelerate fracture healing by stimulating bone regeneration.
I can't help thinking about Star Trek as I write that last sentence :-)


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Technology-Assisted, Friendly Environment for the Elderly

There is fascinating, innovative technology, TAFETA (Technology-Assisted, Friendly Environment for the Third Age), being created and tested by a Canadian research partnership (Elisabeth Bruyere Research Institute, University of Ottawa and SCO Health Services, and Carleton University).

This partnership created a "smart apartment" in an Ottawa hospital. The apartment, designed to help patients prepare to go home, contains several electronic sensors ("helpers"). As the article states, "there are many lessons that could be translated into private homes".

These electronic "helpers" include:
* A voice that lets you know the refrigerator door has been left opened
* A pressure sensitive mat by the bed turns on a lighted pathway to the bathroom
* A motion detection sensor and timer. If away from bed too long (perhaps due to a fall), an automatic call goes out to emergency service

The research team is also creating software that would track small changes in movement that could be indicative of the start of a stroke or of a weakness predicting a fall and fracture. How about a smell monitor to detect rotting food?

The researchers believe the benefits of such a "smart home" could be "reduced medical costs, accident prevention and early detection of illness". They envision a delivery by components selected to meet specific needs and budgets.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Heat-seeking tool helps save lives of the elderly

Time is of the essence when firefighters respond to a fire and need to ensure they have retrieved everyone from a burning home or building, especially elderly or disabled persons.

Orangeburg, SC firefighters now have a new tool in saving lives.
They have a thermal imaging system based on infrared technology developed for the military. This handheld device can detect heat from any object within a distance of 300 yards.
This kind of range was not possible with older technology.

It can mean a matter of life and death for those elderly trapped by fire.

Yes, the units are expensive, $10,000 each. But,Orangeburg did not pay a cent for the unit. Local insurance broker Keith Hewitt made the donation from a fund aside to "give back to the community".

What a great win-win situation for the community of Orangeburg, SC!


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Retirement Community Goes High Tech

For those of us with loved ones in large independent-living retirement communities surrounded by acres of lovely woods, trails and nature....we love it that our parents have these beautiful surroundings. But, the elderly sometimes ignore warnings and go off by themselves for a walk in the woods. At my mother's community, there have been several residents who have done this and spent quite a bit of time lost in the woods until they are noticed missing. Depending on weather and health, this can be a dangerous situation.
On an everyday basis, residents may need help while walking between buildings or if they feel faint, take a fall, etc.

Finally there is a high tech solution to address this very need.
This is such a great application of technology to aid the elderly. Please read on....

Goodwin House Alexandria (set on 8 acres) now keeps its residents safe and secure with a WI-FI based Real Time Location System (RTLS) and software designed by Healthsense.

What exactly is this system? It includes
1. Standard WI-FI network
2. Wireless nurse call system consisting of 475 pull cords in residences and common areas, and 100 lightweight pendants that residents wear around their necks

How does it work?
1. A resident can be anywhere on the grounds, indoors or outdoors.
2. If he/she needs helps, she activates the pendant or pulls one of the cords.
3. The software tracks the resident's location.
4. An alert is sent out to the WI-FI phones carried by staff
5. The resident is quickly located and helped.

An added benefit:
The WI-FI system provides quick and easy wireless access to the Internet anywhere in the facility.

One resident said, in addition to feeling much safer, he is "delighted they are trail blazers in the technology arena".

To read the complete Press Release,

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Test for Deb - Calendar in blog

First option/test:

Here is my test blog entry in which I added in a calendar. This software can't import a Word document, so I copied the calendar, pasted it in MSPaint, and saved the file as .jpg (an image). This is the largest Calendar will show.
Second option/test:
But, I tried the other free blogging software,
Click on the link below; it will take you to my Wordpress blog. I was able to attach the Calendar (Word document). Follow the instructions and it will allow you to view/open the doc in Word.

Success :-)

Third option/test:
02/05/09 ... Deb, here's the best option using Google Calendar

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Danger of hypothermia for your aging parents

Did you realize hypothermia poses a threat to the elderly even inside their homes?
It is a very real threat. Hypothermia kills 600 Americans each year, half of whom are 65 or older.

To the elderly, it might make sense to try and save money by setting the thermostat back to 60-65 degrees. But, that is probably a very dangerous thing to do.
Next time you speak with or visit your aging parent, this is definitely something to check up on and discuss with your parent.

There are several factors that make the elderly more vulnerable to hypothermia indoors
1. Their bodies have less fat and muscle. Their metabolism is slower and, therefore, they generate less heat
2. They may lack awareness of feeling cold, due to dementia or the effect of prescription drugs.
3. Dehydration, common in the elderly, can be a factor.
4. A healthy person will wake up shivering in the night but an elderly person may just sleep through it with serious consequences.


Monday, January 26, 2009

NCOA Succeeds in Adding Senior Priorities to Economic Stimulus Bill

When we hear the billions of dollars being requested in the Economic Stimulus package, we wonder just where will the money go? Read on to learn about specific senior issues that hopefully will receive much needed funding.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has added several Senior priorities to the Economic Stimulus package. Congress is scheduled to vote on the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" this week.

Jobs: An additional $120 million for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) in order to create 24,000 jobs.

Senior Nutrition: An additional $200 million for senior nutrition programs (congregate and home-delivered meals)

Medicaid Temporary Increase: An additional $87 billion to increase the federal Medicaid match rate (FMAP)

Additional SSI Payment: An additional $4.2 billion for a one-time additional Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment (an average of $450 for an individual and $630 for a couple)

Prevention and Wellness Fund
: An additional $3 billion to fight preventable chronic diseases, including $50 million for injury prevention

To read more detail about NCOA's request,

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

US Navy "Sea Chanters" perform at the Inauguration

In honor our our family friend, Sarah, who performed with the US Navy "Sea Chanters" at the Inauguration ceremony ... here is her picture and her journal entry of the experience.

In Sarah's words:

Wow! What an amazing day!

The Sea Chanters and the Navy Band stayed the night at the Navy Base at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. We had to report between the hours of 9 and midnight because all the bridges into D.C. were going to be shut down by 2 in the morning and after midnight no personal vehicles would be allowed to check in on the base. I reported around 10 and tried to go to bed by 10:30. I set up my air mattress and closed my eyes, but never fell asleep. We all "woke" up around 3:15 and one of the band member's wife catered breakfast for us and we had pancakes, sausage, coffee, and OJ. We loaded the bus around 4:15 remembering to bring our scarves, ear muffs, and most importantly our military IDs; we arrived to the Ancostia Air Force base where we were "swept" by police before heading to our final destination, the Capitol building. We got to the Capitol about 7:30 and just waited...much of the military is hurry up and wait. We stepped out on the platform around 10:40 and from there the rest is history. I hope everyone was able to watch it on TV. The event was very thrilling and it was such an honor to represent the Navy and my country by singing the National Anthem.

This picture was from my viewpoint of the inauguration. The Washington Monument and the millions of people!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Four steps to live 14 years longer

A new British study included 20,200 men and women, aged 45 to 99 years old, who were followed for 11 years. Their health habits were measured and analyzed.

I doubt the findings will come as a surprise to any of us. But, if you or your aging parent is seeking specific ways to create a healthier, longer life....then read on.

The death rate is 4 times lowers for people with the following four health habits.
This is equivalent to 14 additional years of life.

1. Don't smoke.
2. Get at least 30 minutes daily physical activity
3. Drink moderately
4. Get at least 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

To read the complete article,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Money saving tips for you and your aging parent

Last week I decided to thoroughly research our phone, cable and cell monthly bills. The bills constantly increase. So, I set out to explore all options and see how much I can save our household....and then help my aging mother with similar saving tips.

1. I called our local/long distance carrier and got on another plan that includes unlimited local and long distance calls. Simple and easy to do. Saved $20/month there.

2. I called our cable company. We decided to cut back to Basic cable. At first we thought we'd be missing our favorite CNN, Weather and other channels. Then we realized we could watch most of that stuff online with their streaming video.
Saved $40/month.

3. We investigated our current cell phone usage. I no longer travel as a consultant but now work from home. My husband only used his cell phone for emergencies. So, we switched from a major carrier to pre-paid cell phones and were able to keep our current cell phone numbers. Saved $80/month.

Savings for these small changes = $140/month which is $1,680/year.

Based on our findings, I advised my mother to swap out her cell phone coverage with major carrier and switch to pre-paid cell, saving her about $50/month. Her phone and cable is provided through her inclusive contract with her retirement community, so no savings there. But, I plan to review each of her other expenses: auto and renters insurance, Blue Cross supplemental, prescription insurance, etc. My advice is to sit down with your aging parent at least once a year and check every vendor/supplier to determine if you can reduce costs in anyway.

The other thing I shared with Mom was Suzy Orman's great advice. Say the following sentence to yourself before you buy anything. I guarantee it will put a halt to impulse spending.
"Before you purchase anything, ask yourself if you need it or if you just want it".

My mother was surprised and said she had never heard anything like this. I suggested she say use this line before she buys anything. For those of you who follow my blog, you'll recall she has shopaholic tendencies. It will be interesting to see if this strategy will help her.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Time for finance-checkup with your aging parent

January is a great time to sit down with our aging parents and review their financial status. As you're pulling together information for tax preparation, it's a good time to review monthly income, expenses and potential increased/new expenses for the coming year. In this post, I'll share a basic Excel workbook that I set up. I'll explain why this is so helpful to my mother and me. After reading this, please comment on any additional strategies that work for you and your aging parents.

"Financial review" may be a task that you and your parent do not look forward to. When I mention anything about finance, her checking account or expenses, my mother starts to shut down. She'll say "oh, I don't spend that much". She has friends whose adult children handle "all things financial". I will not operate in that mode. My mother is alert and of sound mind. And, I think she deserves to know and understand her financial situation.
She also is once again driving, shopping and spending money.
So, I believe the key is to give her enough information that will help her get the "big picture", understand her financial situation but not get overwhelmed.

In January, I prepare and share two different documents:
1. I copy and paste the summary information from her checking account statements (for October, November and December) into a Word document. I highlight the beginning balance, ending balance, and any deficit amount. I bold those deficit amounts. This allows Mom to see the trends in her income/expenses. By looking at the last 3 months, we also see any quarterly bills that she's paying.

2. Then I print off the basic Excel workbook I created when I helped her sell her home/move into her retirement community.
This includes 3 key figures:
1. her monthly income
2. her monthly expenses
3. how much leftover money she has for discretionary spending

I mail these documents to her and ask her to please check all the expense amounts and pencil in any corrected amounts. Then, I ask her to set a good time for a phone conversation, and we use these documents to guide our discussion. And, I update our Excel workbook. I can tell that Mom would far prefer to visit the dentist than deal with this. Hopefully, one year (in the not so distant future) this task will become more like "brushing her teeth"!

Below are the columns contained in the 2 Excel worksheets. I cannot tell you how many times I have referred to this Excel workbook. It has been most helpful to our family!


Worksheet #1 - Income sources
Columns: Institution, Phone number, Income type, Monthly gross, Monthly net, Other info (with total of Monthly net)

Worksheet #2 - Expenses
Columns: Expense category, Monthly expense...with total of Monthly expense, and also show Net remaining amount (for discretionary spending)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UCLA research - postive impact on elderly of searching the web

Here's yet another research project that explores the positive aspects of internet searching in the elderly brain.

This time the researchers at UCLA selected healthy individuals between the ages of 55 and 76. Half had experience searching the internet. Participants underwent MRI scans as they read and also as they searched the web.

Of course, we'd expect to see greater brain activity in searching the web over reading. "When you read you are taking the information in and processing it, that's all. When you do an interactive activity you take it in, process it, and think about how you can use it".

There was another key finding
in particular research. The study showed a two-fold increase in brain activity among the websavvy compared with those having little internet experience.

Two of my thoughts:

1. I'd really like to see some longitudinal studies to follow a group of subjects, such as these, as they age. Does anyone know of such studies in progress?
2. All of us with aging parents should try to get our parents engaged in using a computer for research, blogging and communication. For those of you who have succeeded in getting your parents online, can you share your approach? Some of our parents don't even have access to a computer. One lady that I admire a lot is Claire who has a great blog (at age 84).

Here's the full article:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Elderly shopaholics killed by purchases

I happened to come across a news item from the UK, "Elderly Shopaholics Killed by Purchases". If you never knew a shopaholic, you would probably smile and think this article was a joke. It is not.

I know how serious this problem is because my elderly mother was (and probably still is) a shopaholic. I live 600 miles away from my mother. So, for the past 20 years she loved flying out and visiting our family. I never saw her home first-hand. My brother checked in on her each week and let me know "everything was fine". It was NOT. When I was called to her house last March, I walked into a home in total chaos. I found out that she would go out daily to shop (cheap clothes, non-perishables, all kinds of stuff). Until the EMT guys had to come to take her to the hospital, she denied entry to her friends and neighbors. It was like a hidden, dirty secret behind the facade of a lovely home. My mother finally admitted this was the way she dealt with her loneliness.

When I had her house cleaned out, a refuse guy carried away a ton of trash (after we had donated all the usable stuff). She also seemed to have a real hoarding problem. We helped her downsize, move and get organized in an apartment in a retirement community. I have to be vigilant that she doesn't begin this behavior again. The one saving grace is there is a cleaning service that comes in every Thursday and keeps an eye on things.

I think now that Mom has new friends and neighbors and activities that it will alleviate her loneliness and boredom, but I think her shopaholic activities were also somewhat of a compulsion. Has anyone out there addressed this kind of behavior in the elderly? If so, please comment and share solutions.

Here is the UK article about one woman who was knocked over by "pile of electrical appliances, suitcases and other objects" and then a man "believed to have been killed by dehydration when he could not find his way in a maze of tunnels through clutter in his home".

Friday, January 2, 2009

Top 5 Blogs of 2008 - Transition Aging Parents

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog in 2008! In honor of the New Year, here is a list of my Top Blogs of 2008 (as rated by my readers).

I started this blog in October 2008. As a long-distance caregiver to my mother, I helped her transition from her home of 30 years to a retirement community.
I share "lessons learned" on my Blog as well as interesting resources, research, stories that I find in my reading and blogging.

Top Blogs of 2008:
#5. "So far away - 20 questions for long-distance caregivers"

#4. "Checklist as you visit your aging parents"

#3. "Help your aging parents choose options before crisis strikes"

#2. "Top 10 list - moving into a retirement community"

And,the #1 favorite blog of 2008 is
"Book Review: Aging Gracefully - What the Nun Study Teaches us..."