Updated Safe Driving Guidelines for Senior's with Memory Loss

Some things never change, as they say.  And being ready to give up the car keys and stop driving is one of them. Although many of us would be happy to give up driving if we knew we would have a car and driver at our disposal, this is rarely the case when medical conditions enter the picture.  Giving up the car keys can mean giving up your independence.  It brings to reality the changes that are happening in someone's life.

In addition, the situation of giving up the car keys is complicated when a senior is not able to understand the reasoning behind the decision.  The American Academy of Neurology has issued new guidelines for evaluating when it is time to stop driving when you have been diagnosed with dementia.

The driving exam laws vary in each state - some states require in-person driving tests at a certain age and other states do not.  However, that doesn't necessarily fix the problem - my own Great-Grandmother threatened the driving test administrator at age 95 and walked out with her driver's license.  At this point, she was having hit and runs and even drove off and left a state highway patrolman on the side of the highway when she was pulled over for not having a turn signal on.  She informed him that everyone knew where she lived and thus knew she would be turning off the highway at this particular intersection.  Our family only heard about this at the highway patrolman's retirement party.  He was so stunned by the age on her driver's license that it was one of his top stories.  He let her drive away.  But we were lucky that nothing worse happened, in a situation we were not able to control and in a situation which even the state laws did not help control.

As new technology is making our lives easier in so many areas, why not develop something new and innovative for driving tests - - perhaps a computer-simulated driving exam, just like the video games. If you don't wreck the car and make all the right turns you pass and if you run off the road or take too long to react to traffic signals, you fail.  If we can create driving games for amusement, it seems we could create such a computer exam for use at the Department of Motor Vehicles nationwide.

Having a required test would take this problem out of the hands of family members and medical doctors.  Age discrimination laws get in the way of requiring the driving exams at a certain age and certainly if a senior can still drive well at age 99, they should be allowed to do so.  But we need a better system for helping to discern when it is time to stop driving and to enforce it without causing additional conflict with medical doctors and family members.
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Healthcare Reform: Including Insurance for Senior Caregivers

Everyone agrees the current U.S. healthcare system is broken - including both Republican and Democratic Congressman while sitting at the same table discussing how to fix the problems.  While many special interests are fighting to make sure they keep their sweet deals, it is important to let your voice be heard.

The healthcare bill will not be perfect.  But overhauling anything is a challenge and you must begin by unloading the truck. Some items will eventually be tossed back onto the truck and the same thing will be true for the healthcare bill.  Once it is passed, amendments will come along to modify and change various aspects of it. 

Caregiverlist's survey of professional caregivers resulted in nearly 75% of senior caregivers not being covered by a company health insurance plan.  The reason?  Either small businesses did not offer it or offered a plan that was not affordable.

It is estimated that 66 million family caregivers assist a loved one with senior care needs.  If they must quit their job to assist with care, they also have the challenge of no access to health insurance as an individual, or paying an average of $250 per month for a high-deductible health insurance plan.  Yikes!

As a senior or caregiver, let your voice be heard by contacting your congressmen or senators.  To find out how to reach them, visit: www.congress.org or call the Capitol Switchboard, toll-free, at 1-800-828-0498.

Remember that many Americans never have health insurance until they turn 65 and qualify for Medicare insurance - which also burdens the healthcare system because all of these seniors did not enjoy preventive healthcare.  Imagine how much better Medicare insurance would be if those entering the system had prior healthcare to prevent and manage health problems rather than allowing them to escalate. 





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Hospital Care - Protecting Your Loved Ones

Yesterday we blogged about the increase in health care associated infections (HAI's) which are infections patients develop while staying at a healthcare facility such as a hospital or nursing home.  Those of us in the senior care industry are very familiar with the new friends - HAI"S - seniors gain when they go into the hospital for a hip-replacement or another surgery - MRSA being one of the most common infections senior's take home with them.

A new book provides information on how to naviagate the healthcare system and make it home alive:

Critical Conditions:  The Essential Hospital Guide to Get Your Loved One Out Alive

The book interviews more than 150 doctors, nurses, hosptial staff and family members and provides advice on how to avoid the medication mistakes, infectious diseases and prevent medical errors.  The book also helps with ways to develop positive relationships with medical staff.

Senior home care agencies provide Geriatric Care Managers to assist families with making sure seniors are receiving quality care and that communication flows between all care providers and Caregiverlist provides information on quality standards for senior home care agencies.
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New Robotic Caregiver: the CareBot

In development for a few years, a new robotic caregiver is now being tested in senior's homes.  The CareBot, developed by GeckoSystems, is now doing caregiver duties through in-home trials.  The robot, which can be programmed to speak in various tones and to speak certain words in response to questions, can assist with daily tasks and give reminders to a senior with memory loss.

Manufactured out of steel, aluminum and plastic, the CareBot moves around on two wheels.  The onboard computers, combined with lots of software allow CareBot to be remotely accessed for video and audio monitoring.

The target market for the CareBot is seniors over age 65, who live alone in large metropolitan areas with braodband internet service available.  The company likens the CareBot to another home appliance, such as the dishwasher, as it can do tasks to help caregivers and seniors save time.

What tasks can the CareBot do?

  • Tells Jokes
  • Announce Medication Reminders
  • Play Songs
  • Alert When Visitors Arrive at Door
  • Give Reminders ("Your daughter will be here at 10 a.m.")
  • Give Notifications to other Caregivers (if a fall occurs)
  • Visit Family Virtually through Video System

Cost? The company says the financial payback for seniros will take place in a year - so the cost is more than a few laptop computers. The CareBot is not yet ready for market and an exact price is not available.  The company has spent $6 million on development and expects to offer the CareBot through computer retailers in 4 to 6 months.

While advances in technology are assisting seniors to live longer, the CareBot brings a technology solution to caregiving, to assist seniors to live at home longer.  However, no computer will ever be able to replace the human heart when it comes to caregiving.

But if it can fold clothes, I'll take one!


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Healthcare Legislation Update: Senior Caregivers Will Have Health Insurance

Many senior caregivers who work part-time or who work for smaller senior care companies do not have health care benefits.  However, the health care legislation which recently passed the House of Representatives and now is up for consideration by the Senate, would provide a program where all employees would receive health care.

Impact to Caregiving Employees of the Recently passed health care bill in the House of Representatives:

  • Employers will be required to cover all of their employees for health insurance
  • Employers will be required to pay 72% of the single premiums and 65% of the family premiums
  • Low-income employees will receive subsidies to purchase coverage
  • There will be no pre-existing condition clauses
  • The insurance rate difference between young and old employees will be less (rating bands will be shrunk)
  • Costs projected to be $1.2 trillion dollars (paid for via savings to Medicare and taxes on the wealthy)

The Senate debate continues, with most negotiations happening behind closed doors.  The Senate vote is expected after Thanksgiving or possibly in 2010.  The proposed health care changes would not take effect until 2013.

Find out about current caregiver employment benefits and training programs on Caregiverlist's Career Center.


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Caregiver Application

Interested in assisting seniors as a companion caregivers or nursing aid or home health aid?

Many positions are available for caregivers to work for senior home care agencies, assisted living companies and nursing communities as part-time or full-time caregivers.  Senior care companies provide benefits, including payroll tax contribution (this means you can retire someday and collect social security benefits yourself), worker's compensation insurance and usually health care benefits for full-time employees.

You may fill out a job application as a caregiver to reach professional senior care companies in your area, as new positions become available each day, as seniors are discharged from the nursing home, assisted living communities and hospitals.

You may also learn about pay, policies, certified nursing aide programs and view caregiver training videos.



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Healthcare Reform: Medicare Shouldn't be Only All-inclusive Insurance

President Obama and his team of leaders in the Democratic party are pushing for healthcare reform.  Plenty of folks are complaining about all the problems with the proposed healthcare legislation.  Let's not forget the problems we currently have with healthcare and that many caregivers, the people providing care for seniors, the largest segment of our population, do not have healthcare benefits.

That doesn't seem right, does it?

It seems we need to make some changes and certainly nothing is ever perfect when you first launch it.  That is the beauty of the creative process.  Remember the first cell phone?  You can still have a laugh when you see one in movies from the 1980's, as large as a lady's evening purse.  By beginning to offer some type of health program that will allow small business owners, the self-employed and the unemployed to have health insurance and to begin conversations about preventive health care (yes, we need to start talking about how to lose weight, eat right and live a balanced life because those of us in senior care see firsthand what happens when you don't take good care of yourself) we will all benefit.  Sadly, the majority of the folks barking about the problems with the proposed changes don't know the realities of health insurance costs - they have never owned their own business, never been unemployed, never worked a minimum wage job - they have always been able to rely on an employer to pay for their insurance and they just don't get what the real costs and challenges are for everyone else.

On Friday, legislation was approved that would keep the healthcare reform moving forward to cover uninsured Americans.  Take a moment to learn about what is being proposed and let your local Congresswoman or Congressman know your thoughts.  All seniors receive healthcare when they are 65 and extremely low-income seniors receive Medicaid benefits.  But when someone has not had healthcare their entire life, the amount of doctor's visits, medications and care ends up costing a lot once they are covered - so many medical conditions can be lessened with proper attention early on and with proper diet and exercise.  How much money could we save if everyone who is insured at 65 was actually receiving preventive care their entire life?


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Caregiver and Nursing Aide Testing

Senior caregivers assisting seniors in their homes may be companion caregivers or may be certified home health aides or certified nursing aides, depending upon the state where they are working and the licensing requirements for that state's department of health.  If there is no hands-on care required, the majority of states do not require formal certification or training for a senior caregiver.  However, most professional senior home care agencies do require new employees to complete their training program and provide ongoing training in caring for seniors with memory loss, for hospice care and for other age-related diseases such as Parkinson's disease.

Caregivers interested in pursuing a career as a professional caregiver working for a senior home care agency or assisted living community or nursing home may further their skills by taking nursing aide practice tests and regularly reviewing the nursing aide exam questions.

Caregiverlist offers a free question of the day and 10-question certified nursing aide sample test, provided by Headmaster, a leader in administering state nursing aide test exams.  You may also find certified nursing aide training programs in your area.


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Caregiver Background Checks

One of the most important aspects of the hiring process of a senior caregiver is checking the caregiver's references (both personal and professional), along with performing a quality criminal background check.

For reference checks, it is important to ask references how long they have known the caregiver and how they know them and to ask for additional names of people you could talk to about the caregiver applicant.  While most caregiver job applicants would not knowingly give the name and phone number of someone who they think might not provide them with a good character reference, a professional employer knows how to ask the right questions, in the right way, to smoke out any potential issues.

This is one of the advantages of hiring a professional senior home care agency to provide for the senior's care needs.  Senior home care agencies have established standards and guidelines to follow when hiring caregivers and also understand how to conduct a professional background and reference check.  In addition, they have professional liability insurance and worker's compensation insurance which also provide safe hiring guidelines to be followed, based on many years of industry experience.

Even more important, senior home care agencies professionally manage their caregivers as employees.  This allows the senior and their family members to enjoy the benefits of the care services and avoid the stress of managing employee issues.  Ongoing performance reviews are performed and regular check-in visits make sure both the senior and the caregiver have the support they need.  Just as with any service you purchase, making sure professional quality standards are being followed by senior home care agencies will help insure the senior enjoys a positive relationship with the caregiver, along with professional care.

You can learn about the background check laws in your state and policies followed by senior home care agencies on Caregiverlist. , ,

Assisting Seniors with Switch to Digital TV

The switch to digital television has finally arrived, with the ability to access high-definition TV, or HD, presenting crisp and clear images and more channels.  The Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps says this takes us from the dinosaur age to the digital age.

However, change is always more difficult after we have become accustomed to a regular routine and system.  What this means is that seniors are actually the last group to make the necessary changes to be able to receive digital television.  In addition, with age-related diseases and other natural effects of aging, such as vision and hearing loss, it is more difficult for seniors to learn how to use the new technology for their television.

Local television stations are reporting non-stop telephone calls from older adults who have the new digital boxes but have not connected them properly.

What can you do to help?  If you are a caregiver for a senior, make sure they are receiving their channels with their new digital converters in place and spend some time with them to show them what content the new channels offer for them.  My brother helped my grandma to convert to digital.  Living in the country, she has spent her entire life just watching NBC and CBS - no other channels.  We discovered that even though she now has access to hundreds of channels, she was still watching the same ones.  After showing her what she was missing, she is now taking in some new shows, although she did inform me that she has cooked for years and sees no need, at age 93, to watch the Food Network or any shows about cooking.  She cooked a big dinner every day for everyone who worked on the dairy farm so I understand.  But, as she is living alone, it helps to have a variety of television shows to choose from and there are even many shows with content providing exercises and other information for seniors to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Other resources you can offer for seniors is to connect them to their local department on aging as many of the government funded senior centers have organized support to help seniors transfer to digital television.  Caregiverlist connects you with the department on aging resources in your state to help you find resources for senior loved ones.




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