Ways to make tasks easier around the home for seniors

September 12th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

cleaning-268068_640Many elderly people experience problems in their daily living due to age-related disabilities such as arthritis. These can severely restrict their ability to take care of themselves and perform tasks that younger people take in their stride. Grooming, bathing, dressing, cleaning and other self-care activities may be affected. Failing hearing and eyesight make getting around trickier, and arthritis affects the ability to perform the precise hand movements needed for many simple tasks.

Although these problems are in many cases a matter of degree, much self-care can be greatly eased by making domestic tasks easier to perform. This could include things like wearing different clothes if there is a problem handling zip fasteners, or using an electric can opener for arthritis sufferers. Here are a few other ideas for making tasks around the home a bit easier.

Household trolleys

Trolleys can be used around the house for transporting things, rather than as aids to mobility. Elderly people with failing eyesight, for example, will reduce the risk of dropping items if they first place them on a trolley for wheeling into other parts of the home.

Cleaning and laundry

There are specially designed, convenient alternatives to many common products for home cleaning. Long-handled brushes and dustpans, for instance, take the pain out of activities that usually necessitate bending or kneeling, and a laundry steam press makes ironing clothes effortless.

Drinks preparation

Preparing drinks like tea and coffee can present particular problems for elderly people with declining hand-eye coordination. The task can be greatly helped by using lightweight kettles, different methods to heat up water and a tipper to support a kettle when pouring. An audio liquid level indicator to show that a mug or cup is full is useful when the pourer is visually impaired or suffers from poor coordination.

Step stools

Step stools are very handy pieces of equipment that are lightweight and can be stored in a corner when not in use. Stretching to reach high objects is a major cause of broken hips in older people, and simply increasing effective height by using a step stool is the ideal solution.

Preparing and cooking food

There are many different products available to help people with reduced movement or strength in their hands and wrists to prepare and cook food. These can also help people with impaired vision and even those with only one hand. There are serving utensils available with weight-distributing and right-angled handles. Simply using tongs instead of a fork to serve food can offer more stability and control. Rather than using strenuous peeling equipment, potatoes can be cooked in their skins, and vegetables put straight into the oven without the need for any peeling, mashing or grating.

People with age-related impairments that make it difficult to perform tasks around the home need first of all to see what common-sense changes they can make, such as fitting a kitchen with easy-clean shutters. More complex problems can then be tackled by seeing what specialist or alternative equipment is available.

Pilot exercise program may help dementia patients

August 25th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

silhouettes-278791_640Researchers at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have developed and tested a pilot exercise program for dementia patients. The program, called PLIÉ (Preventing Loss of Independence Through Exercise), combines elements of exercise methods such as tai-chi, yoga, Feldenkrais, and dance movement therapy and focuses on basic functional movements, developing  mindful body awareness and promoting social connection. A clinical trial of eleven adult participants over an 18-week period yielded  positive qualitative results indicating that the exercise program provides functional, emotional and social benefits for patients with mild to moderate dementia.

Read more about the study

Preventing Loss of Independence through Exercise (PLIÉ): qualitative analysis of a clinical trial in older adults with dementia, published in Aging & Mental Health, 2014

New Study – Alzheimer’s disease can be slowed through mental exercises and social interaction

August 21st, 2014 by Doris Bersing

figures-96101_640Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible thing. It destroys a patient’s mind, memory, and personality, leaving them just a shadow of the person they once were. It is a degenerative disease, and once someone receives this dreaded diagnosis, there is nothing that medicine can do to prevent the decline. A new study does provide some hope, however. Though we still cannot stop the disease, it may be possible to slow its progression.

Lifestyle changes

Patients in the study were all between the ages of 60 and 77. The study showed that making lifestyle changes, even this late in life, can help to slow down the disease. This study provides the strongest evidence to date that physical and mental exercise, together with social interaction and a healthy diet, can slow the deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s.

The research study’s lead investigator, Miia Kivipelto, presented the group’s findings at the annual Alzheimer’s Association meeting. Kivipelto said that this message is very important, because it shows that people can still do something to protect their brain functions, even when they are beyond 70 years old.

The study on preventing cognitive impairment and disability followed over 1,200 patients in Finland. These people had either average cognitive performance for their age, or cognitive skills which had been worse for two years. They were all deemed to be at high risk of dementia. Patients were randomly split into two groups. The control group received regular cognitive testing, along with the best medical advice that was available. The second group had a number of interventions.

  • They had intensive exercise sessions, with muscle building workouts one or two times per week. At the beginning of the study, they did cardiovascular workouts two to four times per week, ramping this up to five or six sessions each week.
  • They had cognitive training exercises, done in eleven group sessions during the study, together with significant independent training.
  • They had both group and individual sessions on improving nutrition, with a focus on adding vegetables, fruit and fish to the diet, while avoiding most saturated fats.
  • They also saw a nurse at three-month intervals, to monitor for high cholesterol and high blood pressure.


Progress of patients in the two groups was measured with a series of tests covering memory, thinking speed, and executive functions. After two years of this treatment, the study showed that the test group had a statistically significant improvement compared to the control group. When researchers examined memory, the benefit to the test group was clear. For tests of psychomotor speed and executive function, Kivipelto said that the control group stayed stable, perhaps because of their level of medical care. However, the patients in the test group significantly improved.

Physical exercise (defined as at least three 30-minute sessions per week), has proven to be as good as, or better than, any type of pill that can be prescribed for people at risk of cognitive decline. He said that he was prepared to believe that other interventions beyond exercise could also yield benefits. There are still questions to be answered, but this study offers reason for hope.

Coping with Alzheimer’s disease

Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease is tough, especially for seniors who don’t want to lose their independence. Mental and physical changes will become inevitable, so it’s paramount to accept the illness. Try not to lose your temper, and don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Social isolation, anxiety and depression may also kick in. Rather than allow the disease to destroy your good mood, you should get as much support as possible from your loved ones. They will help you make the transition a lot faster.

Alzheimer’s is particularly common in seniors, who are in their 60s and 70s. The disease doesn’t have a cure, although many studies have been performed over the years. Some physicians argue that there are treatments that provide visible results; other on the other hand, recommends patients to enjoy life and not let this illness get to them. In some other circumstances, a patient may consider palliative care, which is an excellent type of medical care that offers relief from all the symptoms.


By Edward Francis and Foresthc.com!

4th Annual Legacy Film Festival on Aging, San Francisco SEP 12-14 2014

August 19th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Living Well is pleased to once again sponsor the Legacy Film Festival on Aging, to be held September 12-14 2014 in San Francisco. The festival’s programs showcase shorts, features, and documentaries from eight countries and the USA.

Friday, September 12, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 13, 10:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, September 14, 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 pm

1746 Post Street (at Webster)
Japantown, San Francisco

For descriptions of the films as well as ticket information, schedule, location and parking, go to www.legacyfilmfestivalonaging.org.

Who Cares (radio documentary about family caregivers)

August 15th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

The View From Here: Who Cares is a radio documentary produced by Capital Public Radio. The program explores the physical, emotional, and financial demands on family caregivers through the lives of three families.

Let Technology Pick Up Where Time Depreciated

August 14th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Safety at Home26 OTIwMDMxOTA0NC5qcGc=You are now facing those golden years that are not so golden after all. Are you finding it difficult to do many ordinary things in your everyday life? Have friends and family members questioned your ability to live home alone? Are you beginning to wonder about these things yourself?

Simple tasks like cleaning, vacuuming, dressing, cooking and preparing food are becoming increasingly difficult for you to do on your own. You need something that can help monitor your heart rate or other body functions. You’ve lost the ability to hear the TV or those around you. Getting around shopping and simply taking necessary medications seems to be a task for you now.

There’s Good News Ahead!

Your greatest fear is that soon all of those freedoms that you cherish so much will be taken away and you don’t want to become another dreaded number in a nursing home. The good news is there are many alternatives available to keep many of those freedoms right in your own home and preserve your dignity as well.

Around the Home

Regular upkeep of a home on a daily basis can be a struggle for some, but with today’s technology, you can live like the Jetsons (in a sense) and have a robot to do the cleaning for you! Floors can be kept clean and free of dust, dirt, bacteria, pet hair, and many other unwanted things with inventions like robotics company, iRobot, that offer the modern Roomba vacuuming device along with other home cleaning robots. With its robotic technology, it cleans your entire floor surfaces and roams throughout the house picking up debris. It actually reconnects itself when it’s finished to its own charging unit. The only help it would need from you is emptying it out whenever it alerts you it’s full.

And what about other cleaning aspects of the home, like in the kitchen? Thanks to companies like Samsung and LG, upgrading to more smart technology appliances not only save you time, but money as well. With more sustainable features, you no longer have to mess with dishwasher or laundry washer settings and figure out how your washer works uniquely to you. Most smart appliances simply need to be loaded and that’s about it. They can detect the soil level and will start the cycle on its own from there.

Wardrobe Not-So-Mal-Function

For the elderly, getting ready can be a real hassle with buttons, zippers, and other intricate accents on clothing. Thankfully, specialized companies have many time-saving machine washable, wrinkle free shirts and pants and many keep away from buttons and zippers and offer styles with Velcro or snap closings. They also have a wide variety of adaptive styles of clothing and footwear designs for men and women. These make the task of dressing oneself more easy and simple.

There are other accessories that can be worn that are a growing trend in today’s modern tech world. Smart wrist bands that are worn throughout your daily activity that help monitor your heart rate and health statistics as you go about your normal day can be more than just a fitness monitoring tool. All the information is usually stored within an app, allowing yourself or a loved one to check on your status daily and can record how far you walked, your overall hear rate, your calories and body positions. It’s a great way to reflect on times of the day you have more trouble than others based on the activities you were performing at the time. If you’re looking for accessories that are more precautionary, such as Life Station, Life Alert, Alert-1, and First Alert, devices like these can help monitor your heart rate and other important body functions as well, but the benefit here is there’s immediate access to emergency services if needed. These can also alert authorities for such emergencies as fire, home intrusion, and will notify the police, should you ever need them. Some have no contract with low monthly service charges, and you can cancel at any time.

Healthy Accessories

And of course, when it comes to quality hearing, there are some incredible digital hearing aid devices available today. Whether you’re looking for actual hearing aid devices for more permanent use or hearing assistance for certain occasions, there’s something on the market for every situation. For some, all you want is to be able to listen to your favorite show without cranking the TV volume up too loud for anyone else in the household to tolerate. Opt for a set of low cost wireless headphones to make TV listening easier for you. They can allow you to hear everything around you again and there are several resources such as your local chapter of the Lions Club, and the Veterans Association to help you pay for them.

It’s more than likely that you’re also on a strict regimen for your prescribed medications. But it’s also fair to say that many seniors are taking more than just one or two medications and for some, the standard 7-day container isn’t enough. Today, automatic pill dispensers can be set to alert you when yo need to take your medications. To be specific, not all medications are the same and they don’t all require the same schedule of consumption. These smart dispensers can beep you when it’s time to take your medication designated to be taken twice a day, your three times a day prescription, even your every other day prescription. Now, taking the right medication at the right time of day couldn’t be any easier and it proven to be much more functional than your standard pill containers. See the video below as an example:

Living at home and getting around to perform daily tasks doesn’t have to be a strenuous, exhausting feat. You can live your daily life and allow technology to lend a helping hand and fill any void. By opting for technological advanced help whenever necessary, you can reclaim your independence and avoid any self-doubt or lack of dignity. These innovations were created in order to help make living easier, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of it!

Aging in Place versus Traditional Nursing Homes

August 5th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Aging in PlaceShould a time arrive when you realize that you need help in continuing to provide a safe and joy-filled environment that ensures the physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of your elderly loved one, you have several choices; two of these include: moving your loved one into a nursing home or securing the professional services of an aging in place or  assisted-living-at-home agency. As an article in the NY Times affirms, both of these options include the presence of new people in the life of your loved one on a daily basis; however, how that service is provided and when it’s provided makes all the difference between the two.

There are perks for each senior care scenario, but what’s important is to make the decision that gives the best care to what your elderly loved one needs most. Do they have physical pain and are prone to serious injury? What is their state of mental health and what would help improve or comfort that? How much attention do they really need and how capable are they to still do things themselves? All these questions are just the surface of what needs to be asked to make the right decision.

Individualized Care, Attention, & Focus

A traditional nursing home is required to have one RN on staff 7 days a week for 8 hours a day; the rest of the time a licensed LPN or RN must be on duty; in addition, the nursing home must employ a registered nurse for the full-time role of Director of Nursing. According to Elder Law Answers, there is no minimum requirement for the number of nurses’ aides during a shift. Since the aides are the workers who provide most of the personal day-to-day care for the residents, it’s not impractical to think that each individual resident at a nursing home is being provided with hours of focused, one-to-one care and attention.  The article goes on to share, “The important factor in improving the quality of care is the amount of nurse time each patient receives. If a nursing home met only the federal nurse staffing requirements…a resident would receive 20 minutes of nurse time per day.”

Quite the opposite is true with an assisted-living-at-home service. With this option, you and your loved one decide how much one-to-one care is required or desired. If you’re comfortable having a professional nurse or caregiver visit for 2 hours once a week, that is doable; however, if you want a compassionate, attentive, highly-trained caregiver to be with your loved one 24/7, that’s also possible. In fact, it’s not uncommon to create an open room for a caregiving to live at the senior resident’s home and be there in order to care for them at any time for any circumstance. There’s much more flexibility with in-home assisted living and the one-on-one time desired for your loved one.

On the same note, traditional care can also be a temporary option for those seeking some form of physical rehabilitation. If your loved one has undergone surgeries or have suffered from a stroke, fall, or head injury, only temporary traditional care may be needed. Short-term care specialists and therapists at senior rehabilitation centers like St. Anthony Cares state that sometimes for certain situations, physical therapy and rehabilitation are also just as crucial to bring residents back to optimum health and prevent such accidents from recurring. In some cases, opting for short-term care solely for rehabilitation from injuries can be the type of care needed so long as the resident can fully recover.

If you find that your loved one is a specialty case that needs round the clock medical attention, perhaps opting for traditional home care with certified specialists around 24/7 is more suitable. Not everyone can afford a professional medical setup in their own home and so traditional homes can fill in that void. So depending on your elderly loved one’s needs, traditional assisted living in a home may be better suited in order to give them the medical attention they will need to live more comfortably.

Individual People, Individualized Services

A nursing home environment has a set schedule for their meals, snacks, time to get dressed and out of bed, and activities. While at first this may seem appealing, the lack of flexibility often leads to nurses’ aides feeling rushed to get from room to room to ensure everyone is bathed and dressed – even when, perhaps, a resident feels like staying in bed for a few hours more. Further, if a resident misses a meal because he/she was visiting with family or dealing with a personal hygiene situation, it’s not uncommon for the person to go without the meal completely. The Ohio Department of Aging addresses this very real issue at nursing homes and advocates for de-institutionalizing nursing homes and transforming them into person-centered care facilities. Being on such a strict schedule can leave little room for the unexpected and patients not having a great day to begin with can be put in an even testier mood when forced to participate at times they don’t wish to. But don’t fret, not all traditional assisted living homes operate in this manner. If traditional senior homes are the route you and your elderly loved one are seeking, there are plenty of homes out available in most cities that offer much more flexible schedules and allow seniors to go about the property at their own leisure. Kitchens or cafeterias operate within certain hours or can postpone meals for particular residents that enjoy them later or earlier in the day. Snacks are on hand so long as the cafeteria is open and there are no set or mandatory activities or intermingling involved if the resident doesn’t want to participate.

With in-home assisted living, the resident is within their own property and are able to have their caregiver prepare meals or snacks whenever desired so long as it’s within their doctor’s recommended diet regimen. Each day can be different and the monotony of a daily routine doesn’t have to exist if the resident wants to do a different activity each day. Sleeping in isn’t an issue on days they are a little more tired than normal – there really isn’t a set schedule and if there is one provided by the caregiver from the doctor’s recommendations, it’s easy to move things around or find the time to ensure your senior doesn’t lose sight of the comfort provided within the boundaries of their own home. More and more families are looking deeper into in-home assisted living to provide maximum comfort for their loved ones with mental health issues. Depending on the severity and how the family is able to cope, providing your senior with a setting he/she is familiar with can lead to more good days than bad. Although the demand for taking on a role as a caregiver can be high for family members, opting for a professional to live in the home and be there to help assist them at any time of the day or night can do wonders. Those with unstable mental health may not do very well if they’re put on a daily schedule as they would find in a traditional nursing home whereas each day could be a different experience within the contentment offered by their own home they’re more familiar with.

Whichever you choose, ensure the decision is what’s best for your senior. Specialized nursing homes could be a great option if your elderly loved one can benefit from having around the clock care and can harmonize with other residents in the same scenario. Depending on their conditions and their state of health, short-term care may be what they need until they recover from previous injuries or pain and they can then continue on with normal life at home with the family. Or perhaps in-home assisted living is what’s needed for your loved one. Maybe they only need a specialist to visit once a day, twice a week, or perhaps they need someone around 24/7 and provide care from within the home at any accommodating time. There are many options out there that can cater to the medical needs and overall well-being of your loved one. We’re here to help you explore those options.

In collaboration with Amanda Kaestner.