Seniors and the positive impact of social media

By MARTHA SWATS

Owner/administrator, Comfort Keepers

 

Despite the myth that older people can't manage technology because of cognitive deficits, seniors are flocking to social media at a rapid pace. In fact, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (and Hangouts), Pinterest, and Instagram all note higher adoption rates among adults 65 and older ─ and see seniors as their fastest growing audience.
Seniors benefit socially, mentally, and physically
Older adults who have had positive experiences on social media have reported elevated moods. An American Psychological Association study found that seniors who spend time on social media sites were more likely to participate in activities that can lead to greater health, such as cooking healthier recipes, and finding easier ways to clean and maintain their homes. The study also indicates that they have lower blood pressure and fewer instances of diabetes, and less negative health habits such as smoking, depression, or disease. This is attributed to the ability for self-education on any number of topics, and remaining in-the-know about the latest technology trends.
Social media keeps the family together
Facebook is particularly useful for linking up with loved ones. It makes for more frequent conversations and helps close the generation gap.
Sharing current photos allows seniors to see their grandchildren change and grow, and creates a closeness and involvement that may not have existed, especially if the family isn't living close by. Video chats also are a great way to communicate in "real time". There is also the opportunity to share fond memories or create new ones through postings of photos and home videos.
Family peace of mind
When a family lives apart, there can be stress and anxiety on both ends. Social media allows seniors and their families an easy way to check in as often as they wish. This is especially important if the senior is living alone and may experience ill health, a fall, or may not be eating or sleeping well, taking medications, or getting any form of exercise. Family caregivers can use social media to ask critical questions that will let them know what's occurring in their loved one's life.
Community engagement and a sense of belonging
Feeling connected is very important to any senior's well-being. Social media allows the senior to make plans with others to meet up outside of the home. It also allows seniors who are unable to leave home to socialize online to combat loneliness.
Shopping online offers convenience and savings
Even if a senior can't venture out of the home – due to physical limitations, inability to drive, or inclement weather, for example – he or she can always shop online and enjoy the ease of home delivery. In addition, there are lots of money-saving coupons and online sales, which can be especially convenient and sensible for those who are penny-pinchers or on a fixed income.
Some precautions should be taken
As a caregiver, you may want to monitor the senior's activities. You may want to make sure that the loved one is not falling for phishing scams and the like. You may also want to make sure they are connecting with trustworthy people – especially if they are conversing in chat rooms and through blogs. Also watch their monetary spending – you don't want your senior overspending on items they don't need.
Learning how to use social media
A great source for seniors – and family members – is AARP's Social Media Education Center. There, you can find out about how to use specific (and commonly used) social media websites, apps, and blogs. Visit http://www.aarp.org/home-family/personal-technology/tek/social-media-education-center/
Comfort Keepers caregivers also help families look after their loved ones. Our unique approach to in-home care, Interactive Caregiving, can help by keeping senior clients engaged physically, mentally and emotionally while living independently at home.

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Senior Safety Day is a proven life saver

LACONIA — In conjunction with area fire departments, LRGHealthcare is getting ready for its 15th Annual Senior Safety Day set to take place Saturday, October 17.

Senior Safety Day is a chance for local seniors to have a free home visit from their local fire department where they will supply and change smoke detector batteries free of charge. No need to search for which smoke detector is beeping and trying to figure out how to make it stop...my gosh make it stop! And, balance on that stool or chair no more to try to change out the batteries. LRGHealthcare and your local fire department will get it taken care of.

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For 15 years, LRGHealthcare has raised money to provide the batteries and smoke detectors and worked with area fire departments to offer this program. It has helped keep seniors across the region safe and independent in their homes. Last year alone, they visited 300 homes on Senior Safety Day. Participating communities include Franklin, Tilton/Northfield, Sanbornton, Belmont, Hill, Andover, Bristol, New Hampton, Meredith, Center Harbor, Moultonborough, Laconia, and Gilford.
"Senior Safety Day has proven to be such an important opportunity to partner with our area fire departments for the safety of our seniors," stated LRGHealthcare Community Educator, Melissa Lee. "It gives emergency response workers a chance to get to know their community members at a non-emergent time where they can focus on preventing emergencies. We're making homes safer and more importantly, keeping people safe."
Earlier this year, it was proven that Senior Safety Day is, in fact, keeping seniors safe. At the end of 2014, Gilford Fire Department visited a home to do an inspection on a new oil burner that had been installed. While there, they noticed that the home was lacking in smoke detectors and they recommended to the home owners they get more installed and get signed up for Senior Safety Day. The homeowners took their advice and had their detectors taken care of on Senior Safety Day that November.
Just a few months later, the same homeowners were awakened by one of their smoke detectors. A fire had started around their chimney and wood stove and it was burning fast. They quickly called 911 and a police officer was first on the scene where he forced entry to save the homeowners who both struggle with mobility issues. Thankfully, they made it out safely. The home has since been rebuilt in the same location where the couple continues to live today.
Gilford Fire Chief, Steve Carrier commented, "It's nice to be able to link a save directly back to a program we work on and see the benefits of it."
Smoke detectors are an early warning that you don't want to be without. They are critical to give those in the home an opportunity to get out. But, detectors have to be maintained. Carrier recommends if your smoke detectors are more than 10 years old, they should be replaced. And, general rule of thumb is to change the batteries in your detectors when you change your clocks (twice a year). So, when you fall back or spring ahead, that's the time to change the batteries.
If you'd like to take advantage of Senior Safety Day Saturday, October 17, contact the LRGHealthcare Community Education Department at 934-2060 Ext. 8329. And, remember, this program is free. Deadline to sign up is Friday, October 9.

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Seniors and Sleep: How much do they need?

By Martha Swats

Owner/Administrator, Comfort Keepers

 

If you or your loved one is over age 65, it's likely that getting enough sleep has become an issue. Seniors typically take longer to fall asleep, and often wake up during the night numerous times. These are two main reasons many seniors don't get as much sleep as they need. In fact, according to an article on www.agingcare.com, studies of adults over 65 indicated 13 percent of men, and 36 percent of women, need more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.

 

Why do seniors have more trouble sleeping?

Several factors contribute to difficulty sleeping as one ages. Dr. Lim Li Ling, a consultant neurologist for the Singapore Neurology & Sleep Centers at Gleneagles Medical Centre, offered these as the most common reasons:

The natural aging process. As we age, our bodies make less of the chemicals and hormones that help us sleep well, such as Melatonin. Some seniors develop sensitivity to environmental factors affecting sleep such as noise.

An increase in neurological and other medical conditions. The parts of the brain that control sleep are affected by conditions such as Parkinson's disease or stroke. Arthritis can also play a role in sleep quality due to chronic pain. Additionally, Periodic Limb Movement Disorder causes one to kick involuntarily during sleep, and that contributes to daytime sleepiness.

The effects of medication. The medications that treat conditions associated with aging, and the fact that seniors are more likely to be on multiple medications, interfere with the duration and quality of sleep.

A higher prevalence of sleep disorders. In this case, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common. OSA causes blockage in the upper air passage during sleep. Two additional sleep conditions that contribute to seniors getting less sleep are Restless Leg Syndrome and Insomnia. For men, prostate conditions cause the need to urinate frequently throughout the night.

Mood factors such as anxiety and depression. Most seniors are affected to varying degrees by the loss of loved ones, spouses and close friends. Also, as seniors face retirement and other significant life changing events, they are more likely to have trouble sleeping.

 

The dangers of inadequate sleep

It's when we are sleeping that our bodies regenerate cells and clean our blood by circulating it through the liver. The need for sleep is as basic as that for water and food. Many people think it's OK to go without sleep—to power through the day anyway. But doctors warn that, just because you've gone without enough sleep for a big part of your adult life, doesn't mean it won't impact you as you get older.

Senior adults are already prone to some illnesses, as well as falls, accidents and balance deficiencies. Not getting enough sleep just increases all these risks. There is compelling research that indicates too little sleep contributes to an increased appetite and weight gain.

While many senior adults struggle with depression and anxiety, those without these conditions are more prone to developing them if they don't get enough sleep.

 

How much sleep do seniors need?

There are differing theories in answer to this question. Much data, including information from the National Institutes on Health, suggests seniors can remain healthy with less sleep than the general population. For example while the average amount of required sleep is about seven to nine hours nightly, some sleep experts say a bit less than that—maybe about seven and a half hours on average—is adequate for seniors.

Other experts report that seniors need as much sleep as they always have to function at their best. Either way, experts typically agree on three things: first, most seniors are sleep deprived; second, the sleep cycles of aging adults change; and third, the best indicator of achieving enough sleep is how one feels during the day.

According to an article written by Jennifer Dixon for WebMD, older adults slip into what is called an advanced sleep phase. When this happens the body's natural 'clock' desires both earlier bed and wake times. Seniors who have always been 'night owls' and keep their same sleep habits, may be at risk of sleep deprivation and all the health risks associated with it.

As we age, we tend to get less 'deep sleep,' according to an article for EverydayHealth.com, reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH. Additionally, Ling said it's more common for senior adults to spread their sleep out over a 24-hours period, sleeping 4-5 hours per night and taking additional naps during the day. Ling believes this habit is perfectly fine as long as the total amount of sleep is adequate.

Ling also warns that seniors should not accept a lack of proper rest and daytime sleepiness as a normal process of aging. If you or your loved one has experienced trouble sleeping for more than two weeks, a trip to the doctor is warranted.

 

Take steps to support healthy sleep

Doctors suggest numerous ways to help seniors get enough sleep, and many apply to people of all ages: avoid caffeine close to bedtime, avoid large meals near bedtime, and rise and go to bed at the same time every day.

EverydayHealth.com advises these additional habits to help foster adequate sleep:
*Make sure you are healthy, and all your medical conditions are diagnosed and treated.
*Exercise early in the day.
*If you can't sleep, don't just lie in bed. Get up and do something relaxing such as reading or listening to music.

Many people who have trouble sleeping also turn to natural remedies such as Melatonin and Valerian Root. Always check with your doctor before trying a natural sleep remedy.

About Comfort Keepers
Comfort Keepers is a leader in providing non-medical in-home care consisting of such services as companionship, transportation, housekeeping, meal preparation, medication reminder, bathing, mobility assistance, and a host of additional items all meant to keep seniors living independently worry free in the comfort of their homes. Comfort Keepers have been serving New Hampshire residents since 2005. Let us help you stay independent. Please call 603-536-6060, toll free 800-990-0727 or visit our website at www.comfortkeepers.com/office-633 for more information.

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Loneliness and isolation can affect seniors' health

By MARTHA SWATS

Owner/Administrator, Comfort Keepers

 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11 million, or 28 percent of people who are aged 65 and older, now live alone. Consider these facts from the Administration on Aging:

  • People over 65 have an average life expectancy of almost 
20 more years, which is a long time to live alone.
  • While 72 percent of men over 65 are married and living with someone, only 45 percent of women are married, and 
37 percent are widows.
  • Almost half of women over 75 live alone.

Lack of contact with others is a serious issue among seniors. Sometimes, a senior has no local network of family and friends, and feels disconnected from his or her community. Other times, a senior may withdraw into isolation as a result of health conditions, depression or mental illness. Fear of falling can keep a senior isolated in his or her home, as can fatigue, chronic pain or shame over memory problems. In addition, many seniors become nervous about driving. As a result of these factors, older adults may be alone for days or even weeks without someone to watch over them.


Loneliness Affects the Brain
Loneliness may speed up the onset of dementia. In a recent Dutch study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, researchers followed more than 2,000 healthy, dementia-free seniors for three years and found that 13 percent who reported feeling lonely developed dementia by the end of that time, as compared with six percent with strong social support.


Loneliness Harms the Heart
In 2012, the Journal of the American Medical Association compiled the results of numerous studies and concluded that there's a proven link between loneliness and heart disease. In one study, researchers at Harvard followed 44,000 people with heart disease and found that eight percent of patients living alone passed away after four years, compared with 5.7 percent of those living with a spouse or others.
In research on the outcomes of coronary disease, Swedish researchers discovered that coronary bypass patients who checked the box "I feel lonely" had a mortality rate 2.5 times higher than other patients 
30 days post-surgery, and that even five years later they were twice as likely to have passed.


Loneliness Can Mean a Shorter Lifespan
When researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, followed a group of seniors for six years, they found that by the end of the study, almost a quarter (22.8 percent) of all the older adults who had reported feeling isolated or lonely had died. Another 25 percent had suffered significant health declines. In contrast, among the seniors who said they were happy or satisfied with their social lives, only 12.5 percent had declining health, and only 14.2 percent had died.

 

Ways You Can Help Protect Seniors from Loneliness

  • Help seniors become more social-media savvy through their use of email, news sites 
and sites of interest, and connections through Facebook.
  • Provide companionship with conversation and activities such as cooking and eating together, reading aloud to the senior, playing games, scrapbooking, listening to music or taking a walk.
  • Provide transportation to seniors so they may visit family and friends, go shopping, 
attend events and visit outdoor venues such as parks.
  • Help a loved one find support and/or social groups at senior centers, YMCAs, places of worship ─ wherever seniors tend to gather.

Also, as a caregiver, make sure that older adults who live alone take their medications as prescribed, eat healthy foods on a regular basis, sleep well and get some form of exercise. Monitor them for these details, ask questions ─ and for extra support, encourage their family members to do so as well.
Isolation and loneliness are key signs that a senior lacks the support and tools needed to live a healthy, independent life and may be spiraling into decline. Comfort Keepers' Interactive Caregiving can help by keeping senior clients engaged physically, mentally and emotionally while living independently at home.

Comfort Keepers is a leader in providing non-medical in-home care consisting of such services as companionship, transportation, housekeeping, meal preparation, medication reminder, bathing, mobility assistance, and a host of additional items all meant to keep seniors living independently and worry free in the comfort of their homes. Comfort Keepers have been serving New Hampshire residents since 2005. Call 603-536-6060, toll free 800-990-0727 or visit www.comfortkeepers.com/office-633 for more information.

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Estate Planning and the Family Vacation Home, Part 2: Taxes

By Charles F. Tucker, Esq. & Danielle Flory, Esq.

Last month's article entitled "Estate Planning and the Family Vacation Home" highlighted important family considerations associated with the transfer of a vacation home. Lawyers can help families deal with complexities and develop a plan that will allow a vacation home to stay in the family for generations to come.

Lawyers can also help clients navigate the complex, frequently changing tax consequences associated with the transfer of a vacation home and, in some cases, minimize the tax burden. Tax consequences associated with a transfer of property depend on whether an individual chooses to transfer property at death or during life.

Individuals who wish to transfer property at death can name a recipient or recipients by developing an estate plan. An individual's estate will be subject to estate tax at the 40 percent rate if his or her taxable estate and lifetime gifts exceed $5.43 million. (This amount is subject to change, by law it follows inflation, but is also subject to periodic Congressional action.) A taxpayer-friendly provision called "portability" allows spouses to avoid estate tax if cumulative taxable transfers do not jointly exceed 10.86 million dollars, if the proper election is made.

And so, for most of us, this tax is not of concern. Additionally, if an individual transfers property to a spouse, the marital exemption will eliminate estate tax associated with the first spouse's death. If the surviving spouse has substantial wealth, the deceased spouse's executor should make a portability election by filing an estate tax return within nine months of the deceased spouse's death to allow the surviving spouse to utilize the unused portion of the deceased spouse's $5.43 million  gift and estate tax exemption amount. Under current law, if those who inherit sell the property, they are benefitted by a "stepped up basis" to the date of death value and, if sold shortly after death, will have little or no capital gains tax to pay.

Alternatively, an individual may also choose to transfer his or her property during life, by gift. An individual will be subject to gift tax at the 40 percent rate if lifetime gifts exceed the $5.43 million exemption amount. Lifetime gifts reduce the exemption amount available for an individual at death. However, individuals can transfer $14,000 per year, per recipient without "eating into" the 5.43 million dollar exemption amount under a provision known as the annual exclusion. Spouses can jointly transfer $28,000 per year, per recipient without "eating into" the applicable exemption amount. An estate planning lawyer can help you establish a long-term gifting program to transfer a substantial amount of assets out of your estate over time, without reducing the exemption amount available at death.

The tax disadvantage of a gift is that the person to whom the property is given has the basis of the donor. If the recipient sells the property, the entire appreciation from when the donor acquired it, either by purchase or by inheritance, (less the cost of improvements made) is taxable as a capital gain. If the donor in turn was the recipient of a gift, the value of the property is tracked back to the value at the time of the first person who gave the property.

Given the inflation in property values, especially vacation properties in New Hampshire, the capital gain, and therefore the tax, can be significant if the transfer is through a gifting program. Lawyers can help you develop strategies for gifting appreciated property and advise you in how to weigh the capital gains tax consequences associated with the gift versus the other issues surrounding acquiring the property through inheritance.

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