This afternoon at the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) conference in Washington, DC, I saw clips from a documentary, Cyber-Seniors, about teenage volunteers in Toronto who work with elders — people in their mid to late 80s and older — and the rich clarity of their interactions. Many of these people retired before computers appeared in any significant way into the workplace.
The movie, which travelled around film festivals, has already screened in more than 80 viewings around Canada and the United States — with more to come. It shares special moments, difficult moments, looks of wonder, moderate shock (usually at what grandparents see on their grandchildren’s pages), and the excitement we all feel when we learn something new. And yes, sometimes it’s funny. Cyber-Seniors has garnered lots of good press. (I do wish, however, that people in the media would stop calling elders “cute.” You media folks will grow older some day andhttp://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_26931356/magid-exclusive-amazon-fire-phones-fight-ebola-west-africa you WILL NOT appreciate being labeled as cute.)
Here’s a clip of a teenage mentor teaching a woman to take a selfie.
Take a look at an article, George Mason Professor Champions Shoes with GPS Tracking, that describes how Professor Andrew Carledeveloped the idea of using GPS chips in the shoes of older adults who tend to wander because of brain diseases. According to the Washington Post report Professor Carle contacted a shoe company that produces GPS children’s shoes and proposed using the same technology in shoes for elders who have Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Visit a company that sells GPS echoes.
The February 25, 2014 article, by Tom Jackman, describes how the shoes, which cost around $299, can help families, caregivers, and police locate an older adult who has wandered away from home or is lost. The newest technology puts the GPS device into the insole of a shoe, allowing it to work in different pairs of shoes.
To be used successfully by an individual with dementia, a family needs to arrange for a cell phone plan and a way to charge the GPS device each day. The cost of the shoe combined with these extra expenses puts the shoes out of reach of many family budgets. However, the advantages of the device combined with technical advances and the sheer number of patients who will suffer from brain diseases in the coming years may make this technology more affordable to greater numbers of people.
When we look around at elders, it’s interesting (and a bit awesome) to observe many engaged and committed people leading rich lives for as long as they live — and often despite fairly daunting physical difficulties. I usually think of my parents who use their energy to help others and solve problems in the world, despite sometimes frustrating aging concerns and occasional physical roadblocks. Participating in these activities energizes them. My mother describes it as, “living the Sermon on the Mount.”
One of my favorite folk song books.
I’ve been thinking about Pete Seeger, the activist folksinger who died at age 94 about a month ago. An amazing and prolific musician — I’ve sung his songs since I was a baby — he taught us a lot about music and singing and, more importantly, how to sing along with others. Seeger also combined his music with a strong social conscience, using the songs to demonstrate the importance of helping others and improving the world, and he did these things it right up to the end of his life.
Pete — just about everyone I talk with thinks of him as Pete, whether they’ve ever met him or not — also demonstrated how well a determined and engaged person can overcome daunting problems and continue to live a successful life right through the late elderhood years.
Just when you think that you have settled the most significant adult child-aging parent issues — when you and your parents have spoken about medical care support, finances, and the range of their end-of-life wishes — along comes another concern to worry about, and it’s one that may be completely out of our control.
We now need to be concerned about the possibility of a parent entering a hospital and assigned to observation status for several days. Observation means that, rather than being officially admitted as a patient, the person is there to be watched, sort of like an out-patient, but not really an out-patient. The problem is, it’s difficult to discover what status a hospital assigns a patient — the two look almost alike with nurses, doctors, hospital rooms, blood pressure checks, etc. Admission and observation do not look that different to the patient and family, and apparently many hospitals are not especially forthcoming with the information.
Why is patient status significant? It’s simple, really. If your parent needs to enter a skilled nursing facility or nursing home after three days of observation status, Medicare will not pay and the family will be required to pay all of the bills, including the hospital costs. For Medicare to pay the bills, a family member must be admitted as a patient for at least three days and not assigned observation status.
Over the past year newspapers and medical or health journals have carried stories about elders and observation, and I share them here so that you can learn as much as you can.
Anyone who has spent time with an elder parent in the hospital knows just how easy it is for one problem to be solved only to have the person discharged with different problems. This is not necessarily the fault of the medical caregivers or the hospital itself — it’s a result of a system that puts older people into beds and keeps them there. Add in bed alarms, the inability to move much, and that hospitals isolate elder patients from their routines and support communities, and you have a recipe for unsuccessful care, a result of age associated hospital complications.
So I recommend reading The Hospital is No Place for the Elderly, a November 20, 2013 article that appeared in the The Atlantic. This piece aptly illustrates the conundrum of frail elderly patients with chronic health issues admitted to hospitals where medical care focuses primarily on fixing acute health problems. The difficulty is that most of frail elders’ medical issues cannot be fixed — but the quality of their lives can improve. Author Jonathan Rauch also describes several programs in the United States — teams of physicians, nurses, and other health professionals — that collaborate to keep patients as healthy as possible and out of the hospital. The teams even save money. Continue reading →
I chatted with Dr. Bill Thomas during the grand opening of the Green Houses in Virginia.
In case you missed it, listen to this terrific All Things Considered segment, Move Over Nursing Homes — There’s Something Different. The July 23, 2013 radio story describes a visit to a Green House community in Baltimore and features Dr. Bill Thomas, the geriatrician who created the concept of elder care communities that help residents maintain as much independence as possible.
The reporter also interviews staff members and residents who describe their daily lives the Baltimore community.