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Senior Care Guide

Services and products specifically for seniors likely help make day-to-day life easier, improve quality of life and provide needed assistance for seniors. This guide, presented by The Senior List, provides exceptional information and resources for seniors and their loved ones, including options when making decisions regarding equipment, aids and care for seniors.

Seniors today have the opportunity to experience technologically advanced accommodations in the comfort of their own home. This guide offers the opportunity to learn about products, medical equipment, and services, allowing for making more-informed choices about them.

Hearing Aids

The National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), explains that approximately one in three seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 has some degree of hearing loss. More than half of seniors over age 75 experience some hearing loss, typically affecting both ears.

The most-common device that seniors with hearing loss use to improve sound is a hearing aid. Hearing aids, powered by a hearing aid battery, are normally digital, with tiny microphones that aid in carrying sounds from your surrounding environment into your ear, and then make them louder.

Although hearing aids do not completely restore normal hearing, the Mayo Clinic advises that hearing aids help by amplifying certain sounds, such as soft sounds or certain sounds that you experience trouble hearing.

There are several hearing aid options. Some styles fit completely in the canal. Others fit in the ear or behind the ear. There are variations among different styles, which a specialist custom fits for you. Talk to your specialist about features such as noise reduction or synchronization of two hearing aids.

Medicare does not cover hearing aids. Medicare typically covers diagnostic hearing evaluations, which helps reduce some cost.

Avoid scams targeting seniors by making your hearing aid purchase only through reputable hearing aid sellers.

Durable Medical Equipment

Durable medical equipment is equipment meant for long-term use, is not disposable, and provides therapeutic benefits for patients. Each type of durable medical equipment (DME) provides a specific medical purpose.

Medicare covers several types of durable medical equipment, including blood sugar monitors, test strips, lancet devices and lancets. Other covered DME include canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters, patient lifts, and traction equipment. Commode chairs, hospital beds, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, oxygen equipment and accessories, infusion pumps and supplies, suction pumps and enteral nutrition equipment and supplies are also covered DMEs.

Medicare pays for various types of durable medical equipment in a variety of ways. You rent the DME, purchase the DME or possibly have the option whether to rent or buy the equipment. The patient pays 20 percent of the cost of Medicare-approved durable medical equipment. If you have both Medicare Extra Help, ask your medical social worker or care facility staff whether your benefits pay the remaining DME cost.

Medical Alert Systems

There are a variety of medical alert systems available for seniors, potentially relieving safety concerns of seniors and family members. Choosing the best medical alert system is often the primary concern of seniors or family members considering the purchase of a medical alert system.

The basic medical alert system consists of a home-based system that works over your either landline telephone or cellular network if you do not have a home phone. Pressing a wearable call button provides seniors with the means of speaking to a dispatcher through the home-based system.

GPS technology provides individuals using a cellular based medical alert system with emergency assistance capabilities when a senior becomes lost or pushes the call button for assistance when away from their home.

Make sure the system provides fall detection or prevention for increased safety and quicker emergency response.

Add-ons and other optional features help with home security monitoring of dangers such as smoke and fires and potentially provide daily check-in features.

Today’s technology provides systems that are high quality, wearable, water-resistant, and potentially offers in-home well-being monitoring and connection via your Bluetooth or Smartphone device.

Ask the company representative if there is an included lockbox. Inquire about availability of 24/7 customer service. Ask questions about the range and battery life of the system. Ask whether the company operates its own response center or contracts with an external source. Determine how the company handles technology upgrades of its systems and how the company provides cyber security protection.

Costs are sometimes a primary factor for many seniors in need of a medical alert system. Cost varies among companies and among the specific systems, features and add-on accessories. Make sure you fully understand all costs, including monthly monitoring fees, and whether there are discounts for seniors before making a purchase.

Medication Dispensers

Seniors often take several medications daily, requiring accuracy in taking the correct medication in its prescribed dose. One way of accomplishing this, thanks to modern technology, is by having a medication dispenser in the home.

Common medication management issues that seniors struggle with include following the prescribing doctor’s advice, taking the correct dose of medication at the proper time, and properly adjusting medications, based on physician‘s advice. Mistakes and non-adherence related to medications increases risk of illness and death caused by the detrimental outcomes.

Seniors, family members and caregivers likely reduce the risk of error with a medication dispenser. Seniors no longer struggle with remembering to take medications at different times of the day or knowing the correct dose of each medication. A Smart In Five article indicates that automatic pill dispensers, electronic, automated and wireless technology allows for dispensing of medications.

The specific brand, style and features of a medication dispenser depend on several factors, ranging from dispensers that dispense and confirm correct medication and quantity, dispense medication based on a designated medication schedule and those that feature visual and audio alerts. Some medication dispensers, such as the Live Fine dispenser, offer easy-to-use and simple features, and are budget-friendly. Others, such as Livi at Home, offer cellular and Wi-Fi  connectivity, with battery backup. This, and similar dispensers hold more medications and larger amounts of each medication in addition to offering the audio and visual alerts.

Researchers examined the perceptions of seniors using a medication-dispensing device in their home. At the end of the study period, nearly all the ninety-six older adults indicated that the system was easy-to-use, helpful and reliable in dispensing their medications, with 84 percent of participants indicating a desire to use the system in the future.

Walk-in Bathtubs

Walk-in tubs potentially help increase safety and decrease injuries from falls when getting into or out of a bathtub, or while in the tub or shower. There are a variety of styles and models, ranging in cost from a couple of thousand dollars to more than $10,000 for fancier models.

Walk-in tubs have a low step-in feature, built-in seating, anti-slip features, grab bars, anti-scald valve and a watertight entrance door. These features are of particular advantage to seniors with limited mobility. Consider a walk-in tub with optional, custom features listed by Consumer Affairs contributor Shelley Webb, such as a neck rest, hand-held shower location option, and lower entry step-up.

Choose a soaker tub, wheelchair-accessible walk-in tub, hydrotherapy walk-in tub or combination tub, which combines aero therapy and hydrotherapy jets. Ask walk-in tub sellers and installers about additional features when you schedule your in-home consultation.

Make sure you get the tub professionally installed and receive a warranty package.

Smart Homes for Seniors

Smart home technology provides several options that potentially assist seniors and help keep them safer at home. Smart home technology offers multiple advantages for seniors.

Seniors with hearing difficulties have the option of installing colored lights notification. Some systems provide different colors for different alerts.

Smart home innovations aid vision-impaired seniors in a number of ways with a number of products. Voice-controlled entertainment systems allow visually impaired seniors the ability to change TV channels by voice command.

Family members of seniors with cognitive difficulties likely feel relief when their senior loved one possibly benefits from systems that monitor individuals with cognitive difficulties from a remote location.

Senior homeowners have the capability to give voice commands to control various devices within their home or to access information. Alexa and Google Home are examples of these devices.

Smart home locks and security systems provide seniors with added security in their home. Unlock or lock doors, monitor your home from a remote location or purchase more-advanced security features and products that likely benefits seniors.

In-Home Senior Care

Seniors stay at home longer, partly due to more in-home care provided today. There is a variety of services available for seniors living at home, ranging from home aides, home health nurses, therapists and non-professional caregivers such as family members.

When discussing research results of ‘Home Care: More Than Just A Visiting Nurse,' study authors reveal that home care decreases costs, reduces hospital stays and improves overall health outcomes.

When choosing an in-home caregiver, make sure the caregiver understands the needs of the senior, directions and care prescribed by physicians or other medical professionals and are enthusiastic about improving the senior’s care and well-being.

Ask care agencies if they conduct background checks and require previous experience of caregivers. Make sure you understand the type of care, reasons for the care and costs associated with any in-home senior care provider.