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Archive for Aging

OTC Hearing Aids are on the Horizon

Monday , July 6 , 2020

OTC Hearing Aids are on the Horizon

The mythical over-the-counter hearing aid has always seemed like a unicorn – a magical thing that everyone wants to believe exists, but no one’s ever actually seen.

As countless older adults know, regular hearing aids are extremely expensive and easily lost. Because of this, many people end up going without.

Unfortunately, poor hearing doesn’t just mean strained conversations or a higher volume on the television. It can trigger a landslide of other issues, including social isolation and hastened dementia symptoms.

Recently, however, I’ve been hearing a lot about lower cost hearing aids becoming a viable option. The U.S. is beginning to introduce OTC alternatives to the public. If they work well, they could be a boon for many people. People who, otherwise, can’t afford to take care of their hearing.

Keep reading for a recap of a recent white paper from HomeCare and learn how the dream of affordable hearing aids may soon become a reality:

Traditional Hearing Aids

Authors at HomeCare recently wrote that U.S. markets are beginning to introduce over-the-counter hearing aids to the public, and some models are already available. This fall, the FDA is set to approve and regulate additional less-expensive models.

Traditionally, acquiring a hearing aid is a lengthy process. According to one expert, “Once a person recognizes they have a hearing loss and wants to do something about it, they have to go to their doctor, and often get a referral to an ENT for a hearing test and then they are able to meet with an audiologist. Audiologists are not direct service providers as of yet, most of the time requiring a referral.”

Once all the testing is done, the patient will be advised of their hearing aid options. Typically, hearing aids range from about $3,000 to $5,000 – the more expensive, the more functionality.

Older adults, often on a tight budget, sometimes can’t afford the better models and have to settle for an inferior product. Some can’t afford the litany of doctor appointments in the first place and are left with no options at all.

OTC Hearing Aids 

New over-the-counter options may make it possible for people who couldn’t otherwise afford it to get the hearing aids they desperately need.

Available in two basic tiers, OTC hearing aids will start at under $100 per ear. These will provide sounds amplification with any special bells and whistles. The mid-level product, already available, starts at around $699 and has slightly more functionality than the lowest tier. Companies who sell these have an audiologist on staff, though an exam isn’t necessarily given.

There is hope that both products will qualify as durable medical equipment and, thus, allow the patient to qualify for more reimbursements.

Physician Concerns

Some medical professionals are concerned that the OTC availability of hearing aids will lead to patients missing critical diagnosis.  “There are two important exams that people might receive as part of getting a hearing aid. The first may be the exam carried out by their medical doctor or ear, nose and throat specialist,” they explain. The other is a hearing evaluation conducted by an audiologist. The physician’s exam—also known as medical clearance—is conducted to assess whether any medical conditions may be present. “It helps rule out any medical conditions that may be the underlying cause of the patient’s hearing loss.”

Without a prerequisite hearing exam, serious medical conditions could be completely overlooked.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is this: Thousands of people, previously forced to live a life of half-heard sentiments, will now be able to effortlessly take part in conversation, listen to the radio, or catch up on the evening news. Though they’re not a perfect solution, OTC hearing aids could be a game changer for low-income seniors in the United States.

Posted in: Aging

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Age is Just a Number

Monday , June 1 , 2020

Age is Just a Number

A few days ago, I got this text from a caregiver who has been with us since 2006: “I will be back in Jersey June 4th. Hope u have a job for me. It’s very hot here. I am ok, just very bored.”

Amazingly, this lady is 86 years old!

For the past few years, she has stayed with family in Florida every winter and returns in the summer. I never thought she’d be returning to New Jersey on the same schedule during Coronavirus, but you just can’t keep her in the rocking chair!

This woman is an excellent aide – smart and gracious – and she works harder than many aides a quarter of her age.

Moral of the story? Seniors can help other seniors – and we shouldn’t make assumptions about people’s ability and energy based on age!

Here are some ways we often underestimate seniors’ abilities and strength and what you can do instead:

We Meddle in Decisions

Do you often find yourself jumping into the middle of a situation where you don’t necessarily belong? Much like parents try to shield their children from harm and pain, we often do the same to protect older loved ones.

By making decisions for older adults (whether it’s what they should be eating or where they should live), we rob them of the chance to control their own lives. Don’t forget, seniors have overcome many challenges and difficulties throughout the years, and they’re often much more capable than we give them credit for.

We Don’t Recognize Strengths

Many of today’s older adults did not grow up in an easy environment. They’ve lived through wars, recessions, and social justice movements. They may have had limited resources in the forms of health care and education. If they are immigrants, they may have faced a language barrier or racism.

Even though these older adults are nearing their end of life, they still have a lot of reliance and strength. What you see as “protecting,” they may see as undermining.

We Limit Learning Opportunities

Growing older does not mean that a person is limited in their capacity to learn and grow. In fact, experts say that lifelong learning can help improve brain health!

Despite this, relatives and caregivers of older adults often underestimate the ability of seniors to learn. It is sometimes so bad that seniors are viewed as having child-like abilities, unable to understand simple instructions or comprehend normal adult conversation. Unless there is an underlying mental illness or significant health condition, this is not the case.

We Don’t Value Opinions

The opinions of older adults are often brushed aside as unimportant or trivial. We don’t recognize the importance of their views, even when it comes to their own finances or healthcare. An important first step is to take the time to actually talk to your older adult and find out what’s important to them. This can be a general conversation or about something specific.

Ultimately, whatever decisions you make for your older loved one should occur with their consent, as much as possible. In the long run, having honest conversations leads to better solutions!

Final Thoughts

Respecting seniors and involving them in the decisions surrounding their own lives helps to set the foundation for a honest, open relationship between you and your older loved one.

Posted in: Aging

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Cooking for Older Adults

Tuesday , May 26 , 2020

Cooking for Older Adults

There are many issues that can make it difficult for seniors to get the proper nutrition.

Numerous older adults take medications that make it difficult to taste, which can lead to a general apathy about eating. Changing taste buds can make it difficult to find food they still enjoy. Some seniors have special dietary needs. And many simply don’t like to cook.

Add to that the difficulties of trying to grocery shop during the COVID-19 crisis, and you have a recipe for disaster.

For many seniors, what was once a cumbersome or annoying task may now seem downright impossible.

How to help? As a caregiver or loved one of an older adult, you can make meal time easier by shopping for supplies, finding fun recipes, helping with prep, or even making up some ready-to-eat meals.

Here are a few things to consider when cooking for seniors:

  • Many seniors have dietary restrictions that may prevent common ingredients like butter, high-fat meats, and salt
  • Chewing and swallowing become more difficult as we age, so avoid tough meats and harder fruits and vegetables
  • Use whole grains whenever possible: They are higher in protein and fiber, and lower in carbs, which makes them a good choice for seniors who are pre-diabetic or have diabetes
  • Older adults often struggle to maintain their sense of independence: Give them a choice in what they’re going to eat!
  • Remember that sometimes it’s ok to splurge! Everything doesn’t have to be healthy all the time. Make favorite childhood dishes or foods that evoke memories on occasion, even if they’re not so good for you.

What foods are healthy for older adults?

Choosing the right foods for older adults can be tricky. Many food items that are considered “healthy” for younger people are no longer appropriate for seniors.

According to the World Health Organization, many of the diseases that seniors suffer from are the result of a poor diet. For example, a diet high in sugars can lead to pre-diabetes or diabetes, while too much salt can lead to high blood pressure.

As a caregiver, you want to provide your loved one with diverse and pleasing meals, while also keeping health in mind. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a good start, and they provide more micro-nutrients than their canned counterparts. In addition, meat and eggs are an important part of an older adult’s diet, because they are one of the primary sources of both protein and vitamin B12.

For those that no longer have teeth or have difficulty chewing, juices and smoothies made of fruits and vegetables are an excellent choice. Just remember: Make them at home! Store bought products are often loaded with added sugars, which can exacerbate many health problems.

Planning meals

When planning meals for an older adult, nutrition should be at the forefront of your mind. A freshly made fruit or vegetable drink is a great way to start any meal, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner should all include a source of protein.

In addition, snacks are an important part of any older adult’s diet. Try to avoid highly processed foods, as they have very few vitamins and minerals and are often loaded with unhealthy additives. Shoot for foods like bananas or oatmeal that are loaded with nutrients and easy-to-eat.

Tip: While milk may seem like an easy way to include calcium and protein in snacks and meals, studies show that the acidity can actually contribute to the development of osteoporosis. Yogurt is a better choice – especially if it’s made with soy or coconut milk rather than cow’s milk.

Foods to avoid

While meat and eggs are essential sources of vitamins and protein, they should be used with the utmost care. Food poisoning from the consumption of undercooked meats and eggs is a common issue, but it can prove deadly for older adults.

Refined sugars should be avoided, as they can lead to the development of inflammation throughout the body, as well as numerous diseases and health conditions. In addition, seniors should also avoid excessive use of caffeine and alcohol.

Oddly, though it seems healthy, grapefruit can also cause a number of health problems. If your older adult is on prescription medications, check for any interactions with the food, as it can cause them to be ineffective. If at all unsure, avoid it and opt for another fruit instead!

Helpful Resources

You may find these resources helpful when it comes to meal planning or finding recipes! Happy cooking!

Sample Menus: Healthy Eating for Older Adults (National Institute on Aging)

Cooking and Nutrition for Older Adults (American Society on Aging)

18 Quick, easy, and healthy meals for seniors (Care.com)

Single-Serving Make-Ahead Meals for Seniors (Ayuda Care)

Posted in: Aging

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