How To Support Seniors With Technology

how to support seniors with technology

Social isolation and lack of connection are especially challenging for seniors. And, the current pandemic is making it harder than ever for seniors to safely navigate the public arena. As a result, we’ve been doing all we can to support senior clients with technology, as they learn to use a gadget and the video and social platforms that keep them connected to loved ones, friends, and the world-at-large. 

For example, technology provides multiple ways to personally engage with loved ones – even when they live hundreds or thousands of miles away. And, if you are in The Sandwich Generation, taking care of both aging parents and a family at home – you’ll appreciate that tech-savvy seniors rely less on immediate caregivers when they are able to connect with other friends, family, book clubs, and other support groups. 

Tips To Support Senior Success With Tech 

That said, technological glitches are discouraging, so you need to provide ample support to seniors who haven’t had experience with computers or tablets in the past. For seniors with cognitive decline, or who experience high levels of stress due to sheltering-in-place mandates, are more susceptible to frustrated or angry outbursts that can make them quit before they’re fully launched. 

With the right support, a senior-friendly gadget, and ample, guided practice, your senior will be on his/her way. 

Purchase a senior-friendly gadget 

Less is definitely more is seniors are on the beginning side of the technology spectrum. To that end, tech manufacturers intentionally design senior-friendly tablets and gadgets that keep things as simple as possible. 

Examples include: 

In addition to ease of use, these tablets have built-in accessibility features like larger user interfaces, easy volume adjustment, and they have live support available enabling seniors to get the help they need when they need it. 

Provide a list of senior-friendly tech support resources 

There are several Bay Area, senior-friendly tech support resources available online, via the phone, and in-person. Print a list of them and tape it somewhere visible, so your loved one has help available when s/he needs it.  

Examples include: 

Encourage your loved one to take these organization’s online tech classes (another great way to keep those neurons firing!) and get familiar with their gadget. The more they learn to do for themselves, the less they’ll need to call you for real-time tech support. 

Encourage syncing connection time with companion time 

The ideal scenario is to have someone on hand to help when seniors need it. While that isn’t always possible, scheduling a companion to come by once or multiple times per week yields exponential benefits. In addition to providing human-to-human connection, your companion can provide general support with most tech issues, OR your companion/caregiver can help seniors make the calls or online connections they need to solve the problem. 

BONUS: Syncing your connection time to hours when a loved one’s companion or caregivers is present gives you a chance to get to know the caregivers better. Our caregivers have nothing but positive things to say about how client “video chats” with family and friends have supported their bonding process with the client, deepening their connection because it feels more like being part of a family. 

Foster a positive relationship with technology to support seniors 

If your senior is new to the tech world, texting and emailing may be more challenging. However, video chats are a wonderful way to positively bring our elders into the technological world.  

To begin, we recommend scheduling a weekly (or daily, if your schedule allows it) meal or snack time. Seeing your face and hearing your voice, while both of you enjoy a meal, a drink, or a snack together, can feel almost like the real thing. 

This strategy is a win-win because social isolation can result in loss of appetite or unhealthy eating patterns, along with depression and anxiety. The satisfaction and heartwarming anticipation of weekly meal dates can literally transform a senior’s landscape, giving him/her something to look forward to each week, while allowing you to see him/her “in person,” which is the best way to assess senior wellbeing. 

Help them set up apps that align with their interests 

It’s best to start simply to avoid overwhelm. So, we don’t advise going too app crazy. However, there are plenty of apps that support senior connection, fun, engagement, learning, creativity, and wellbeing. 

Depending on their interests and needs, there are all kinds of apps that open the world to homebound seniors: 

  • Audible and/or text-based reading apps 
  • Games (cards, dominoes, board games, etc.) and puzzles 
  • Art apps 
  • Senior Blogs 
  • Medication reminders 
  • Telehealth apps from their healthcare providers 
  • Health apps such as Blue Button from Medicare 
  • Crossword, number puzzle, and word game apps 

Playing games, reading, or being read to, working on puzzles, creating art – all are available with the download of an app.  

Spend “time” with tech savvy grandchildren  

There are so many benefits from seniors spending time with their grandchildren, and bonding through tech is right up the 21st-century grandchild’s alley. Visit our post, 8 Ways to Connect With Grandchildren Online, and see if your kids are inspired by any of the suggestions. 

If nothing else, we bet your tech-savvy children, teens, and young adults could be the go-to tech support for their grandparents or elder relatives when needed, providing a win-win for both sides. 

Is your senior loved one starved for company and something to do while sheltering in place? The Caregivers here at HomeAide Home Care are available to help as much or as little as you like. We observe stringent health protocols and while they aren’t designated tech experts, our caregivers are certainly happy to support seniors with technology in any way they can. 

We’re Here To Support Seniors Any Way We Can

Contact us to schedule a free in-home assessment or to learn more about home care services and how they enhance senior health, wellbeing, and quality of life. 

How To Detect Undernourishment In Seniors

how to detect undernourishment in seniors

It may be difficult to imagine that the parent who consistently put food on the family table each and every night, and who insisted you eat all of your peas and carrots, is now malnourished herself. Sadly, that’s the case for many seniors who lack the energy, strength, or mental ability to properly plan, shop for, and prepare nourishing meals.  

Senior Health Risks Increase With Poor Nutritional Intake 

A recent post in the Journal of Clinical Medicine states, “Malnutrition is reported in up to 50% of older adults, although prevalence estimates vary substantially…and represent a major geriatric syndrome with multifactorial etiology and severe consequences for health outcomes and quality of life.” In other words, in addition to being a more widespread threat than you might realize, malnutrition results in a wide range of physical and mental side effects that compromise overall health and a senior’s ability to enjoy life to its fullest. 

Some of the most common health issues related to poor nutrition include: 

  • A weakened immune system, making seniors more vulnerable to contagions and can exacerbate existing health conditions 
  • Diminished wound healing, of particular concern to seniors with diabetes 
  • Increased risk of hospitalization 
  • Higher fall risk, which leads to more invasive medical treatment(s) 
  • Mental decline that can replicate dementia or accelerate/exacerbate existing dementia 
  • Elevated mortality rate  

Common Signs Of Undernourishment In Seniors  

Here are some of the most common symptoms or signs that a senior may be undernourished: 

Decrease in food intake 

There are multiple reasons seniors may decrease their daily food intake. This includes diminished smell and taste, lack of energy to prepare tasty foods, medications that alter the taste of foods and/or suppress the appetite, or memory issues that cause seniors to forget (skip) meals altogether.  

Poor oral hygiene leading to sore teeth/gums, missing teeth, or poorly fitted dentures also diminishes a senior’s interest and/or ability to eat. This is one of the reasons why oral hygiene should be a high priority for seniors. 

Weight loss 

Weight loss is a natural result of undernourishment in seniors. If you don’t live with or near a senior loved one, it can be hard to tell whether s/he is eating well. However, over time, you’ll notice a decrease in weight and this should never be ignored. In addition to being a sign of poor nourishment, weight loss is one of the major red flags indicating seniors need support to remain safely and independently in their own homes. 

They seem lonely and/or depressed 

Loneliness and depression are common in the senior population. The combination of age-related decline, limited mobility or driving privileges, the loss of a spouse and one’s peers over time, or having to downsize or relocate put seniors at risk for the blues or bonafide depression. For many, this also results in a lack of appetite, or the tendency to gravitate towards salty, fatty, or sugary foods rather than the healthy and nourishing foods the body needs. 

More frequent bruising or illness 

Seniors who aren’t getting their adequate doses of daily vitamins and minerals are more prone to bruising. They also may get sick more often than normal or may comment about more intense side effects of existing health conditions – all a sign of immunosuppression that accompanies poor nutrition. 

Forgetful or more extreme dementia episodes 

Nutrition is key to mental health, and that includes cognitive (memory) function. Seniors who are not eating well can become more forgetful than normal – scaring themselves and others into thinking they have dementia (FYI: UTIs also lead to dementia-like symptoms. Click Here to read more about that). Poor nutrition also exacerbates and can accelerate the side effects of existing dementia. 

Fatigue and/or increased sleeping habits 

Not surprisingly, those who aren’t eating as they should are more likely to feel lethargic and sleepy. They may even start to nap more or sleep longer at night. Lack of energy and extra sleepiness are also signs of depression and/or maybe a sign that medications need to be re-evaluated by their healthcare professional(s). 

Additional signs of undernourishment in seniors are: 

  • Unusual irritability 
  • Inability to concentrate 
  • Feeling cold more frequently 
  • Longer time required to recover from illnesses or for wounds to heal 

Any of the above signs and symptoms should be noted and reported to your senior loved one’s physician. It may be time to put a more solid nutrition plan into place. 

Tips For Preventing Or Amending Poor Nutrition 

There are several things you can do to prevent or amend undernourishment in seniors: 

  • Implement a weekly weigh-in. Have seniors or their caregivers track weight on a weekly basis for a more accurate record of weight fluctuations. This will also come in handy when you need to schedule a visit with a physician because it provides quantifiable evidence for the staff to analyze. 
  • Observe their eating habits. If you’re nearby, schedule more frequent visits around mealtimes and sit with the senior while s/he eats, noticing what is eaten and what isn’t. This can provide important clues. Is it loneliness that leads to skipped meals? Are there difficulties chewing or swallowing? Have their tastes altered (adjustments in certain medications and altering spice levels can help with that)? Are they unable or uninterested in preparing meals? Consider implementing a meal delivery service or working with an in-home care agency so seniors have an ample supply of easy, delicious, and nutritious meals and snacks on-hand. 
  • Make healthy and tasty meals readily available. From meal services such as Meals-on-Wheels (available from most community senior centers) to caregivers who can grocery shop, meal plan, and cook meals for seniors, there are ample ways to ensure seniors have access to delicious and nutritious meals. Click Here to read about anti-inflammatory diets and how they support senior health and wellbeing.  
  • Keep seniors socially engaged. Social engagement boosts energy levels, enhances mental wellbeing, and can help to increase senior’s appetites – especially if they’re gathering together for meals. If transportation is an issue, reach out to local home care providers to discuss how companion and driving services can support your loved one’s social activity and appetite. 

We Can Help You And/Or Your Loved One

HomeAide Home Care is a licensed, Bay Area home care agency. Contact us if you are concerned your senior loved one is suffering from undernourishment or may need more mealtime support. The loving attention from a caregiver, combined with easy-to-heat or eat meals and snacks can notably improve a seniors physical, mental, and emotional health.

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