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How Seniors can Socialize Safely in the Wake of COVID-19

Monday , July 13 , 2020

How Seniors can Socialize Safely in the Wake of COVID-19

Stay home as much as possible. That’s what we’ve been hearing for months in the wake of COVID-19.

And for good reason.

Experts believe that coronavirus is mainly spread from person to person – sometimes by people who aren’t even showing symptoms. So, it makes sense to avoid others if you want to avoid getting sick. This advice is especially important for older adults, as the risk for severe infection increases with age.

Unfortunately, avoiding others isn’t as easy as it seems. Staying home all the time and not seeing friends or family members can be emotionally difficult, even for the most introverted among us.

Loneliness and social isolation can have a significant effect on mood and can lead to depression and anxiety. When the condition is more long-term, as is happening now, isolation can lead to more severe health problems, such as memory issues and increased risk of heart attack.

Luckily, there are some fun and easy ways that seniors can help combat feelings of loneliness (while also staying healthy and safe). Here are a few suggestions:

Be Neighborly

Joining your neighbor for a cup of joe isn’t currently an option, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t check in on the people that live nearby. Consider swapping home cooked meals or treats and leaving them on each other’s doorsteps. Or try swapping books and movies in the same manner, and having a weekly phone call to share your thoughts.

Write a Note

Old-fashioned letter writing has fallen out of favor since email and texting have become mainstream. But there’s something to be said for snail mail. These days, when mailboxes are filled with bills and junk, it’s a rare treat to find a note from a friend. Letters don’t have to be lengthy, perhaps just a note to say “hi” or to give an update on your family.

Hit the Streets

Sick of sitting at home? Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t get out of the house, and parks and trails are open in most communities. As long as you maintain a distance of at least six feet and wear a mask, you can enjoy a walk or bicycle ride with a friend.

Pick up the Phone

Nothing can replace face-to-face socializing, but a phone or video call are still great options. Call a friend, family member, or someone you haven’t talked to in ages and catch up. Talk about how you’ve been coping with staying at home, what you’ve been cooking, or favorite television shows to help make it through quarantine. Trust us – everyone wants to hear a friendly voice these days!

Virtual Group Activities

Video chats aren’t JUST for chatting. Many activities can be adapted for the virtual realm, including parties, card games, or a simple meal together. Some groups are even offering larger group activities, such as exercise classes or bingo nights, online. Check out Senior Planet, and organization that offers courses, classes, and other programs for older adults online.

A Note on In-Person Visits

While it’s not advisable, many people are choosing to meet with family and friends in real life. If you find yourself in this boat, there are some steps you can take to remain as safe as possible:

  • Delay or cancel your visit if you or your loved one have had symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus within the last 14 days
  • Remember that the more people you interact with, the higher your risk of contracting the virus. Try to keep gatherings as mall as possible
  • Visit with friends outdoors as whenever possible, or sit in a very well-ventilated room
  • Arrange seating to allow for social distancing (at least six feet apart)
  • Don’t shake hands, kiss, or hug
  • Wear a face mask and ask those around you to do the same
  • Wash hands often and limit contact with frequently touched surfaces

Final Thoughts

Social isolation doesn’t have to end in loneliness. There are many fun and creative ways you can use to stay in touch with those you love. Tell us: How have you been maintaining relationships in the wake of COVID-19?

Posted in: Health

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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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