Our AgeAssured Allies, professional aging experts who work with our members to help them age successfully in place, know how small adjustments can make a big difference in an older person’s life. This article exemplifies the “Aha!” moments and thoughtful solutions that arise when Allies collaborate with members to make their lives easier.

‘Mom, I told you that already!’

“No you didn’t! When? I don’t see a text. Was it an email?”

“It was on the phone. Yesterday!”

“Yesterday? You mean when you were driving on the highway and your voice kept cutting in and out?”

We are living in an era like none before. We are bombarded with information that arrives in a multitude of communication channels, in an unplanned and unmeasured way.

Each one of us encounters information from a multitude of sources at different times. Between mail, email, text, TV, radio, newspapers, websites, social media, apps, calls to the mobile, calls to a landline: we are all overwhelmed.

The quality of the message is often poor. We talk (and listen) while doing something else. One person on the call is driving;  the second is washing dishes.

Do you remember when a telephone had a cord? And a chair next to it? And a paper and pen? If you do, you probably remember that making a call wasn’t cheap. So if you made the call, it was for a reason. Both people on the line would stop their activity, sit down, and focus. They would give each other 100% of their attention, and convey their point. If it was really important, well, that’s what  the paper and pen were for.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), healthy aging is not just about your “intrinsic capacity,” i.e. what functional abilities you have as an individual. It’s also about your environment. And on that note, I’d like to empower you to make the world more supportive of your needs. 

How does this apply to modern-day communication? Many adults have a harder time hearing, especially with background noise, and multitasking or  switching between tasks. We all have the right to a supportive environment. There is nothing wrong in saying, “The line is noisy, happy to chat, but if there is something important you want to say, I might not get it all, can you email or call later?”

Three easy tips:

  • Find a place that is comfortable and not distracting for important calls.
  • Keep a pen and paper at hand.
  • Make it known to your family and friends what your preferred communication modes are. Some like texts, others prefer phone calls or email.

As part of our AgeAssured program, we want to help you find your balance in a world of information overload and fast-changing communication trends. Your environment can enhance your strengths and abilities, rather than frustrate and detract from them.  

Michal Herz
Before joining Assured Allies, Dr. Michal Herz,  our Voice of the Consumer Director, worked passionately for twenty years in the field of dementia and aging.

As a caregiver, I often ask myself, “Am I doing enough?” A few months ago, for example, I was at my mom’s house doing the dishes after cooking her dinner when she asked, “Angelina, could we spend time together out of the house sometime too?” I nodded, but inside I felt apprehensive, overwhelmed by my other responsibilities, raising a child and working full-time. I didn’t want to give her the little “me time” I had leftover, but I felt guilty that she had unmet needs, loneliness and maybe a lack of stimulation. 

After some reflection, I was honest with her. I shared how stretched I felt and together we came up with a “good enough” plan. We earmarked Saturdays as our day to go out shopping, eat out, and socialize. My 7-year-old son would come along too. Out of the house, I would be freed from thinking about chores and able to focus on spending quality time with both of them. They would enjoy family time with each other, and I could get some errands done. Lunch out would be a special treat for all of us. 

Happily, this multitasking solution met both my mom’s needs and mine, but it’s not always so easy. Each caregiving situation is unique, and creating balance is not a simple recipe. In this spirit, I find the following general guidelines helpful when I feel out of balance as a caregiver, and I hope that they help you too.

Guidelines for Caregivers: Five Tips

  1. Juggling is inevitable, but caregiver burnout – a chronic state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion as a result of caring for another – is not. Be aware of how you are doing, in addition to those you care for. Seek help if you see signs of burnout. 
  2. Communication is key to any relationship, including caregiving. When tensions or conflicts arise, brainstorm solutions together that respect everyone’s needs, including yours!
  3. Loneliness is a major issue for adults over 60, 43% of whom report feeling lonely. Caregivers often feel that they’re the only social lifeline. Aging parents may prefer to rely on you because it’s comfortable and investing in new relationships takes effort, but helping them to expand their social circle can benefit both of you in the long run. 
  4. It can be very difficult for people to express their needs and feelings directly, and proxy battles (i.e. a heated argument about buying the wrong kind of creamer that is not really about the creamer) are common. When emotions run high (yours or theirs or both), wait for a calm moment to try and analyze what the real needs are. Write them down on paper, if that helps. Clarity can help reveal solutions hiding in plain sight. 
  5. If you need help as a caregiver, it’s never a negative reflection on you! On the contrary, recognizing that you need help is a strength.

Angelina Portuense, LSW
Angelina is a licensed social worker who has been working in the elder care field for over seven years. Her passion for working with older adults started in her teenage years when she became a family caregiver.

Are you a snacker? If so, you’re not alone. Snacking increased during the pandemic and research indicates nearly half of Americans eat three or more snacks a day. People turned to snacking during the pandemic for both indulgence and health. While occasional indulgent snacks such as sweets or chips can be eaten for enjoyment, healthy snacks can help boost energy levels between meals.

Research indicates for folks ages 65 and above, healthy snacks can help provide adequate fuel and needed nutrients. Snacks high in fiber, whole grains and protein not only increase nutrient intake but also satisfaction and satiety. Being mindful of including protein and fiber will turn your snack into a power snack!

Older adults may not always feel hunger due to medical conditions, medication side effects, or  mouth and swallowing issues that make it harder to eat. Having regular meals and including snacks can help keep nutrient intake and energy levels higher. Scroll down for savory and sweet snack ideas, and a delicious chocolate chia pudding recipe. Use the following tips as general guidelines. Happy snacking!

Tips for Power Snacking

  • General rule of thumb: include a snack if meals are longer than 3-4 hours apart
  • Aim for at least two food groups per snack – start with protein and add a serving of fruit, veggie, or whole grain.
  • Have at least 3-4 “go-to” healthy snacks on hand. Changing up snacks weekly helps prevent burnout and variety increases nutrient intake.
  • Plan both savory and sweet snacks and choose what suits your taste.
  • For people with diabetes or working on weight management, portion control snacks.
  • For weight gain, eat larger portions as tolerated.
  • Protein options – lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, legumes, Greek yogurt.
  • Fiber options – Fruit, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Savory Snacks

  • Pair fruit or whole grain bread/crackers + nut or seed butter, cheese, hummus or bean dip
  • Boiled egg + fruit or veggies
  • Tuna, egg, chicken or chickpea salad + whole grain cracker or bread + salad greens, cucumber, or tomato slices
  • Veggie soup + whole grain crackers
  • Half a sandwich + fruit
  • Pizza – top a halved whole wheat English muffin with tomato sauce, fresh spinach and cheese and broil until cheese melts
  • Popcorn – pop your own kernels in the microwave in a brown paper bag folded on its side.  Add toppings: nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor, flaxseed oil for a buttery flavor or cinnamon for a sweeter flavor. Add a handful of nuts for staying power.

Sweet Snacks

  • Greek yogurt or cottage cheese + fruit
  • Trail mix – nuts and/or seeds + dried fruit
  • Pudding + a side of nuts
  • Angel food cake + Greek vanilla yogurt + fruit
  • 1-2 ounces of dark chocolate + fruit or nuts
  • Protein bar + fruit
  • Smoothie – In a blender combine 1 cup fruit, a handful of spinach or kale, 1 Tbs. nut or seed butter.  Add ice and milk of choice to desired thickness.

Chocolate Chia Pudding: A healthy snack for a sweet tooth

Serves: 1


  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • ⅔ cup nut milk, dairy milk, soy milk, or oat milk
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of salt

 Instructions:Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate in a glass container overnight, or at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, top with ¼-½ cup berries.

Kitty Finklea
Kitty Finklea, is a lifestyle coach, registered dietitian and personal trainer at McLeod Health and Fitness Center in South Carolina.

Being a caregiver to a family member with Alzheimer’s disease, chronic physical conditions, or simply old age and increasing frailty is hard and sometimes heartbreaking work. According to research from AARP in 2015, about half the time, there is just one family caregiver handling everything, and if the person needing care is your spouse, that rises to three quarters of the time. And in nearly every family, there is a primary caregiver – the spouse, a particular grown child, grandchild, or sibling – the one who takes the lead and performs most of the caregiving tasks.

As the primary caregiver, you may find that you need to do more and more to keep your care recipient safe and well cared for. Perhaps you’ve moved your parent into your home, or you have to stop by their home several times a week to check up and help out. You drive them to doctor’s appointments and spend odd moments on the phone making arrangements. You buy their groceries and pick up their medications. You have to make decisions and get the help and supervision your family member needs.

Yes, caregiving is time-consuming and energy draining. The resources to help may be out there, but they are difficult to navigate and evaluate. And your family, like many families, may hesitate to bring in professional or hired helpers, believing you “should” keep things as normal as possible, not rock the boat, and try to do everything within the family, So you end up adding all these new duties and worries into the regular obligations and responsibilities of normal life.

People tell family caregivers to take care of themselves, but realistically, how? What should you do? At Assured Allies, we advise caregivers to keep four things in mind:

1. Establish your informal Care Team

No man (or woman) is an island, and no caregiver should be, either. Sooner rather than later, you must reach out for help and support. And keep reaching!! Get a Care Team together and keep them involved.Do not fall into the “only I can do this” trap. DELEGATE. It’s not at all uncommon that the care recipient, your wife or husband, mother, or brother, wants ONLY YOU to be there and do things for them. He or she probably doesn’t feel good, may be easily upset, angry, or demanding. And many of us WANT to be that one caregiving person, because we love our care recipient and we know them better than anyone. But – repeat this as many times a day as necessary: It is not disloyal, selfish, or in any way wrong for you to ask others to step in, whether family members, neighbors or friends, or hired caregivers.

Call upon out-of-town family members – and don’t wait till they offer! Ask them to come to town for a few days every couple of months. Set the dates with them and hold them to it. While they visit, you will be freed up to leave town or stay around and get some other things done. In-town family members or good friends who work could be enlisted to participate for an evening or weekend day. And if they do offer, say yes!

Your older teens or grown kids in the area who are “living their own lives” and whom you “hate to bother?” You know what? If they are reliable and able-bodied, get them on your team. They can spare a couple of hours a week to sit with their grandparent, go to the grocery store, or do other chores. They will be more understanding of what you are going through after they have spent some time doing what you do and gain valuable life experience.

2. Pace yourself

Caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. Try to make some extra room in your schedule so you are not simply adding your new caregiving tasks on top of everything else.

Set priorities. Learn to say no, or “not now,” to your care recipient, and anyone or anything else, when things are not critically necessary. Learn to leave some things for another day.

Do not expect perfection from yourself. Lower unrealistic expectations. Simplify routines and use available resources as much as you can. Is your dad truly unable to eat the meals from Meals on Wheels, or is it possible he could learn to like them and even enjoy the visits?

Be flexible and open to change. Old age and chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease are progressive, so your care recipient’s needs change over time, and so should your care plan. Work with family, health providers, and professional care providers on your team to continue to update your plans for meeting your care recipient’s needs.

3. Respect and care for yourself

Everyone needs nurturing and nourishing, body and soul, to feel good, maintain health, and do good work. As the caregiver to a family member, this is especially true.

Every day, try to get the sleep and nutritious meals that will fuel your body well.

Every day, prioritize getting some “me time”; 30-45 minutes of doing what you enjoy, whatever that may be.

At least every few days, get some exercise, and arrange for some free time to do something that recharges your batteries.

Protect your physical health. Don’t ignore your own medical appointments, check-ups, dental visits, and so on. Pay attention to signs that you are overdoing it. Learn the best ways and tools available to assist someone with transfers, toileting, or bathing without risking strain or injury. And when you can’t do it alone, get help.

4. Build a network of experts and people you trust

Caring for a loved one, can often feel lonely, and may not be something even your closest friends can relate to in a way to makes you feel understood. That’s why it is critical to develop a community you can trust to both gain perspective, and sometimes, simply vent your frustrations.

Seek out caregiver support organizations for meetings, online forums, or therapy groups. Sharing your experiences with others who are in the same boat can be very comforting and therapeutic and helps to grow your care network of support.

Talk to professionals in the industry who might be able to give you additional ideas or help you put together a plan. Aging Life Care Professionals help families navigate the challenges of caregiving and bring deep knowledge and often, personal experience with them.

Wherever you may be on your own caregiving journey, know that it is never too early (or too late) to make sure you care for yourself.

January is a great time for caregivers to set new intentions and goals for the coming year. How can you minimize stress and find time for yourself in 2022? Reflect back on the previous year and consider where you are headed now, what is going well (congratulations!), and what is becoming increasingly difficult to manage. If you anticipate that daily living activities will require more support, identify what you can manage on your own and which tasks you’d like more help with. Widening your circle of support is a significant task in and of itself: write down a Plan A, B, and C to steer your efforts.

And what about caregiving – for yourself? Get enough rest: allow yourself to sleep in or take a delicious afternoon nap once in a while. Feeling lonely? Tap up your social network as needed with a Zoom happy hour, a book club, a game night, or a crafting group. And don’t forget that you have a body: sustain or increase your own strength and vitality (and ability to get things done!) with regular exercise. A new year is a great time to explore something new – a session with a personal trainer, a new game like pickleball (which doubles as social time), or a fun-themed obé workout.

Last but not least, know that if you feel underappreciated, you probably are. More than 48 million Americans are unpaid caregivers who are often too overwhelmed and exhausted to advocate on their own behalf. Knowing you’re not alone can be a great solace and source of hope for eventual change – share your struggles and learn from others’ by joining a caregiver support group, or gain a broad horizon for your experience by reading “Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America” by Kate Washington.

At Assured Allies, we appreciate and value everything you do as a caregiver and wish you a happy and prosperous 2022!

Alexandra Pritkin-Morin
Alexandra is an Age Assured Ally, a professional aging expert who is passionate about assisting older adults in maintaining a joyful and active lifestyle.

Brighten Winter Doldrums

If cold weather has your loved one cooped up inside, here are some ideas to keep their spirits up:

  • Let holidays linger: There is no law against playing holiday music and keeping decorations up and lights shining well into January and beyond if they inspire joy and fond memories.
  • Embrace natural light: Keep blinds open during the day to encourage everyone’s circadian rhythms and lift mood. Set up a comfy chair near a window where you or your loved one can sit and soak in the sunlight.
  • Grow indoor plants: Greenery inside contrasts nicely with winter’s spare palette outside. Plants are rewarding to care for and a wonderful focus for interaction. How about an air plant that your loved one can spritz daily with water, a potted lemon tree, or a tropical plant?

Observing how our Age Assured members thrive when they stay connected to friends and family, Senior Ally Angelina Portuense has put together the following 2021 holiday gift list to support year-round interaction, intellectual stimulation and engagement for older adults and their families.  Happy Holidays!

Grandpad: For a second year in a row, the Grandpad, a tablet designed for older adults, continues to be a hit. The tablet and corresponding subscription service allows users to videochat with loved ones and to send photos, videos, and voice emails. The tablet also comes preloaded with customized music and popular games. 

Customized Photo Album or Calendar: This gift requires more effort on the part of the giver to select photos, write captions, and customize, but the gift becomes that much more meaningful to the recipient. Every time your mother or father-in-law flips the calendar page up for a new month, he or she will remember special family times and feel connected. Online retailers like Shutterfly make creating the perfect custom calendar or photo album easy. Walmart and Walgreens Pharmacy also offer in-store kiosks that do the same.

Amazon Echo: Amazon’s Echo and Echo Show provide hours upon hours of stimulation and connection. The cylindrical Amazon Echo sits on a tabletop and uses artificial intelligence or AI to run a voice-controlled virtual assistant, Alexa. You can ask Alexa to play music, check the weather, turn off any wifi-controlled light or adjust a smart thermostat. The Echo Show adds a display screen to facilitate video chatting, web browsing, and more. 

Audible.com Subscription: For those who enjoy getting swept up in a good book, consider a subscription to Audible, an audiobook service from Amazon. A huge library of books, podcasts and guided wellness is accessed easily through an internet browser or Audible app on a smartphone or tablet. 

Online Education: “Inspire the person who inspires you” by giving the gift of online classes through platforms such MasterClass or GetSetUp. MasterClass is an all-you-can-learn subscription platform (starting at $15/month) featuring classes by artists, leaders and celebrities.   Take a cooking class with Gordon Ramsey or work on your singing with Christina Aguilera. GetSetUp is a social and educational buffet of online classes by and for older adults with strong offerings in computer literacy, fitness, personal finance, aging in place, art and more.  

Quality Time Coupon: A coupon for the gift of your time together — a dinner date, show, or nice walk around the neighborhood followed by tea and homemade cookies — is a great way to show someone you care. You can get really creative with this one! If you’re feeling ambitious, put together a homemade coupon book for a whole year of outings. 

GoGo Grandparent Gift Certificate: GoGo Grandparent connects seniors to ride sharing services like Lyft and grocery and meal delivery options. By gifting a GoGo Grandparent gift certificate, you are giving someone the gift of mobility and independence, and the chance to attend an in-real-life event like a local class or museum exhibit.

Angelina Portuense, LSW
Angelina is a licensed social worker who has been working in the elder care field for over seven years. Her passion for working with older adults started in her teenage years when she became a family caregiver.

Caregiving is stressful. And the upcoming holiday season can add even more stress. Here are some tips to remind all hardworking caregivers to take care of yourselves, too. Reducing stress will not only improve your own health but enable you to be a better caretaker for all those in your circle of care.

  1. Accept help. Caregivers balance a lot in their day-to-day lives, and the holiday season is often a busy time of year with lots of items on the to-do list. Covid-19 continues to make life more difficult, and this may also mean that help for caregivers may look different. Maybe a friend or family member can arrange to have groceries or prepared meals delivered to the caregiver or person being cared for. Have a family member or friend go for a socially distanced walk or have a socially distanced visit with the person being cared for to give the caregiver a break.
  2. Get connected. Caregivers often feel alone in their role, and the holidays can be an especially challenging time for them. Covid-19 continues to make many feel more lonely, with restrictions on gatherings and canceled activities. Happily, many caregiver support services have become virtual, including caregiver support groups and other community programming for caregivers. Check out this list from Care.com of virtual support groups. You may also want to contact your local Council on Aging or Area Agency on Aging to find out what virtual support programs are available in your community.
  3. Seek social support. Family and friends provide important emotional support to caregivers. Even if your travel or gatherings continue to be constrained by Covid-19, do make sure you check in with extended family members to share your feelings and updates on how your caregiving is going. Do you need more help? What kind of help? You don’t have to have all the answers to reach out for additional support.
  4. Plan ahead. Now more than ever we see how uncertain the future can be. Planning ahead can really help to reduce anxiety. What will happen if the caregiver gets sick? What will happen if the person you are caring for gets sick? What happens if other care providers, such as an adult day program or respite, become modified or unavailable? Put a plan together for any of these questions now so that you are prepared later.
  5. Celebrate the holidays a little differently. Caregiving during the holidays can be difficult because of the physical and/or cognitive limitations of the person receiving care. Maybe they are easily overstimulated or have a hard time getting around. This year, take the opportunity to celebrate the holidays in a new, and simpler, way, focusing on what is most meaningful to you and your family. Is travel too difficult or risky? The pandemic has revealed that Zoom holidays can still be deeply meaningful, easier on the caregivers (less cooking, traveling, etc.) and on the person receiving care. Take advantage of some of the new holiday activities in your community, like drive-through light displays, or watching holiday concerts or movies on TV.  
  6. Fill your tank. Caregivers are constantly giving themselves to others, especially during the holiday season. “All that giving can leave you running on empty,” cautions AARP. Find ways to “fill your tank,” like getting lots of sleep, exercising, and enjoying holiday traditions like decorating the house, baking, or listening to holiday music. Put that “me time” on your calendar and enjoy it — you deserve it! 

You are not alone!
We hope these tips have been helpful, and we want to remind you that you are not alone, even though it might feel like it sometimes. Many caregivers have a hard time asking for help and may end up feeling depressed and isolated. During the ongoing global pandemic, even those of us who are not caregivers are feeling this way, so it’s even more important for caregivers to seek support. The theme of this year’s National Family Caregivers Month is “caregiving around the clock,” acknowledging the reality that caregivers never truly get a break from caregiving. For additional caregiving resources, check out Mental Health Americathe Caregiver Action NetworkThe Family Caregiver AllianceAARP, and the National Institute on Aging.

Smart devices can help older adults stay safe and engaged while living independently. Family and caregivers can have peace of mind, knowing that an older relative has taken their medications thanks to a notification from a smart pillbox, or seeing who comes to the front door thanks to a smart doorbell.

Too often, however, smart devices introduced into the homes of older adults don’t go according to plan. Either they never engage with the technology, don’t receive adequate support in learning how to use it, are afraid to break it, or, worst case, view it as a nuisance or even a menace. 

The following tips are to help caregivers be successful so that when they do spend the time and money to install a smart device in the home of an elder, it makes a positive difference for all concerned. 

Assess smart home readiness

The digital divide varies wildly. Is your mother-in-law open-minded and familiar about new technology or defensive and dismissive? If they are already using a smartphone, tablet, smart TV, or smart speaker, they can download apps to control and/or voice-activate a range of smart home devices. If they aren’t using a smart device at all or only within a very narrow range of function, then installing other smart devices in the home is going to involve a steep learning curve. If they rely exclusively on landlines and cable TV, consider standalone smart plugs, doorbells and lights that operate with both a traditional (manual) and a smart interface.

Tech hurdles

High speed internet is required for most smart devices, but 22 million older Americans still lack access. If this is a problem, try AgingConnected.org, a non-profit that matches seniors with affordable internet options by zipcode. Best Buy also has dedicated resources to help seniors get online.

Beyond broadband access, the top three barriers to tech entry cited by a 2021 survey of over 2,300 older adults are cost, complexity, and security. Before purchase, try to calculate the complete cost, which may include not only the sticker price of the device but installation/home configuration and subscription fees. Next consider ease-of-use versus complexity. Configuring and customizing a new device, which often pops out of its packaging with no manual, and learning how to use basic features are challenging steps for everyone. including older adults. Plan ahead for adequate time and support for caregivers and receivers to achieve competency. If memory issues are a problem, consider a posted “cheat sheet.” And be sensitive to the fact that many older adults have privacy concerns when it comes to sharing personal information. And many don’t like monitoring devices — they feel like they’re being watched. If they have concerns, how can you help address them?

What’s in it for them?  

Many older adults reject a smart device not because of a digital divide or other barrier-to-entry but because they just don’t see a need for it. Seniors “learn new tech skills when that tech has value to them,” writes Joelle Renstrom in Slate. It’s easy for caregivers to get excited by the latest smart device and dream about all of the ways it can make life easier. But think about it from your care receiver’s perspective. What’s in it for them? How will it improve their day-to-day life? Are there any features to play up such as gamification? Can they customize it to match their favorite color scheme, music, or voice? Does it open the door to communicating more often with a favorite grandchild? 

Also, consider their real needs and tackle what’s most important first. Installing smart lighting in the dark bedroom hallway to prevent falls, for example, might be a higher priority than a smart doorbell if your grandmother lives in a relatively secure, gated community with neighbors who watch out for each other. 

Discuss together first, then decide 

This may seem obvious, but it’s tempting to bypass this step, especially when considering a smart device as a gift. Surprise! Your loved one may not tell you that the wifi-enabled digital photo frame you got for their birthday went dark a day after you set it up, or got moved behind a large plant. If an older adult is not on board with your gift in advance, this sort of tech fail is a distinct possibility. 

There is no replacement for you

Smart devices can help keep an older person safe and provide back-up and relief for caregivers, but should never be seen as a replacement for a caregiver’s human touch and care. A monitoring device, for example, still requires a person to take note and make decisions if a dangerous situation occurs. Says Wendy A. Rogers, PhD, in a recent American Psychological Association article about optimizing tech for older adults, “I can’t emphasize enough that technology’s purpose is not to do away with human support, but rather to enhance what is possible.”

Bigger smart screens

Older adults generally prefer larger screens to smaller ones and are one of the most likely demographics to upgrade to a Smart TV, but many don’t know about its videoconferencing ability. So this might be something to explore together. Seeing family faces on a 30” smart TV in “gallery” mode on Zoom versus one-at-a-time on a small smartphone screen could make a world of difference. 

What about Age Tech? 

Age Tech, or devices designed exclusively for people 65+ like the Jitterbug smartphone with its larger buttons and the simplified Grandpad tablet, might be a helpful way to introduce some older adults to smart tech. But David Stewart of Ageist warns that it’s better to “just make a good product and forget about age targeting” because “to equate age with a handicap is to ghettoize a huge group of highly capable people.” The 80- and 90-year-olds that Stewart observed in a pilot study who were given free Apple watches loved them, using them to count daily steps and view text messages. “There was also a noticeable embrace of a device they perceived as being of-the-moment and very cool.” 

Age-specific products that are one-off solutions and/or which carry a stigma (i.e. older adults are prone to fall) are trending down. From 2011 to 2021, according to LInkAge’s 2021 technology study of older adults ages 55-100, use of medical alarm pendants fell precipitously from 35% to fewer than 10%, and key fob panic buttons usage fell by 10% in the two-year period from 2019-2021 alone. Some of this plummet might be due to all-in-one solutions like the Apple Watch, which can detect hard falls and dials 911 if you’ve been immobile for one minute. 

Widen your tech support circle 

Caregivers can sometimes be reluctant to introduce new tech out of fear of being “on call” for endless technological difficulties. To avoid burnout, try not to be the only person on tech support duty. If the product comes with technical support (and the support has a good reputation, is not another layer of frustration), make sure that the phone number or email address is readily available, maybe added to the cheat sheet. 

If you have an older child or teenager in your family or community, consider asking them to pitch in for tech 101 support. Young people love being the authority on a subject that comes naturally to them, and solving tech issues can be a great intergenerational bonding experience. Organizations like Teeniors.com also offer trained teen tutorials on zoom for older adults for an hourly fee. 

Smart devices will continue to improve the ability of all of us to age independently in our homes of choice. Because we’re at the early stages of this age-tech evolution, the going can be a bit uneven. Being aware of any perceived or real tech hurdles you and your care receiver face before adding a smart home device — and discussing them together — will lay the groundwork for success. We wish you and yours the best of luck in your smart-home endeavours!

The pandemic is causing people to feel more stressed, grief, anxiety, and worry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are very natural responses to this difficult situation. While there are ways to manage these negative emotions, not everyone is equipped to handle them effectively. There are times when getting professional help is the best course of action. And the elderly are particularly vulnerable to both the virus and the bouts of mental health.

The effects of COVID-19 on mental health

For seniors, there has been a lot of fear and anxiety during the COVID-19 crisis. This is the age group that’s been hit the worst – they’re getting the sickest and they comprise a sizeable percentage of those who passed away from the virus.

It’s especially difficult for seniors to maintain relationships and links to people outside of their homes. Most socializing now occurs online, so they’re at an obvious disadvantage. Most of them aren’t technologically savvy. A recent study found that the pandemic has taken a severe toll on seniors’ mental health. Due to social distancing measures and stay-at-home protocols, 17% of seniors 65 and older feel isolated, while 26% have higher risks of early death due to loneliness.

Moreover, the pandemic’s mental health impacts have even stretched to family caregivers who look after seniors. Caregivers carry the psychological burden of keeping their senior loved ones healthy and safe, even before the pandemic. Add in the stress and anxiety over contracting the virus, possible financial struggles, and the inability to access much-needed health services, caregiving is proving to be a much harder task than it already was to start with.

How telemedicine helps

Telemedicine gives seniors access to mental health professionals, easing the strain on both the seniors’ and caregivers’ mental stress. However, while telehealth does connect more senior patients to psychiatrists, there’s still a shortage of these specialists to contend with. Fortunately, telehealth gives patients the option to obtain care from different types of mental health professionals, such as mental health nurses.

Plus, telehealth also gave rise to the widespread adoption of online healthcare learning. This strategy helps produce more graduates, addressing the shortages in specialized care. Nowadays, nurses can take online RN to BSN programs to upskill and advance their careers. Through these programs, nurses can earn specializations in sought-after tracks including mental health nursing. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education deems these online programs just as valid as traditional ones. This makes them great options for practicing nurses who want to advance their careers without taking time away from work due to the lessons being taught purely online. As these mental health nurses are trained specifically in psychotherapy and psychopharmacology, they’re fully equipped to handle telemedicine sessions for mental health. Telemedicine opens up lines of communication to alternative mental health professionals like these advanced-practice nurses.

Guiding seniors through telemedicine sessions

Caregivers are responsible for helping seniors through the telemedicine process. While the virtual calls can be set up by caregivers, seniors who can perform the task for themselves should be encouraged to do so. But when explaining technology to them, it’s important to break down the process step-by-step using simple language.

Start with explaining the value of mental health telemedicine before walking them through a practice session. It would also benefit seniors to have written instructions clearly outlined. After running through a session, have them repeat the process until they get comfortable with it. Remember to be patient and give them encouragement. Even care teams are struggling with the transition to telemedicine, so it’s even tougher for the senior demographic. They have to learn new technologies on top of adjusting to a new medium of care.

The pandemic may have exacerbated mental health issues in the elderly and their caregivers, but it also made telemedicine more commonplace. Having this type of access to much-needed mental health assistance could make all the difference between suffering mental distress and thriving. 

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