Getting to and from physician appointments can be tough for seniors who have given up or limited their driving, especially those who reside in rural areas that lack public transportation. If adult children live far away or work during the day, the situation can be even more complicated. For some seniors, not having easy, affordable access to transportation is a barrier to obtaining regular, quality health care.
Virtual physician visits, sometimes known as telemedicine, might be a solution to explore. The technology has gotten better and easier to use. Medicare and many insurance companies even cover some e-visit expenses and telehealth services. If you are a senior or a family caregiver, here’s what you should know about connecting with a physician virtually.
Advantages of Virtual Doctor’s Appointments
- Fewer distractions for your physician: Doctors’ offices are very busy places, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most employers, physician offices struggle to maintain full staffing. Patients often say their doctor gets interrupted during the appointment, and that they don’t feel as if they have the physician’s full attention. When it comes to virtual appointments, however, some patients say they have found their doctor to be more attentive and focused.
- No sitting around waiting: If you’ve been to a physician’s office in the last few years, you’ve probably spent more time in the waiting room than you did in the exam room. It can be stressful and a little aggravating. When you schedule a virtual physician visit, your home becomes your waiting room. You can fold laundry, do the dishes, or just relax and read a book until the doctor comes on the screen.
- Safety from viruses: Another benefit of not being stuck in a waiting room is you avoid exposure to other patients’ germs. Infections and viruses can be hard for older adults, especially those with a weakened immune system, to fight off. Meeting with your physician online eliminates the risk of catching a bug in the doctor’s office.
- Access to specialists: Patients who have a chronic health condition or life-limiting illness often want a second opinion to make certain their treatment plan allows for the best possible outcome. Accessing specialists used to take a long time in many areas of the country, and was difficult to arrange for people in rural communities with fewer physicians. Through the magic of technology, a patient in Maine can now meet with a specialist in California without ever leaving home.
Is a Virtual Visit a Good Option for You or a Senior Family Member?
Before you schedule your first virtual appointment, there are a few questions to ask the staff at your physician’s office to make sure this option is a good fit:
- Is the technology easy to set up and use?
- Is the senior’s internet fast enough?
- If you run into problems, who is available to help?
- Will your senior loved one’s insurance or Medicare cover a virtual visit? If not, how much will it cost? Do virtual visits have co-pays if they are covered?
There is another option to consider when transportation becomes challenging for an older adult: a move to a senior living community.
Transportation Is a Popular Service at Heritage
One of the most popular services at Heritage Senior Communities is transportation. Community staff makes arrangements to get residents to and from physician appointments, shopping centers, and more. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!
If you think the incidences of hacking and online scams are on the rise, you are correct. Experts project cybercrimes will cost the world an estimated $10.5 trillion a year by 2025. But it’s not just big corporations and small businesses that are being targeted.
From Facebook accounts to personal email, people are falling victim to hacking and online fraud every day. It’s a frustrating and frightening ordeal to recover from. For older people who might not be as tech-savvy as younger generations, it’s even easier to be caught up in one of these scams.
We have some suggestions you can share to keep seniors in your life safe online.
Tips to Keep a Senior Safe Online
- Use strong passwords: If it seems like every one of your older Facebook friends has had their account hacked, often multiple times, you might be right. Seniors may be more susceptible because some aren’t aware of how important it is to create strong passwords. Those that contain at least eight characters and are a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters are best. Another tip is not to use your name, loved ones’ names, your address, the name of a pet, or other easily identifiable information. Those are the words potential hackers try first.
- Password protect home Wi-Fi: You’ve likely noticed Wi-Fi accounts that aren’t password protected in your neighborhood when logging into your own. Having an unprotected network makes private information vulnerable. Even people with minimal technology skills can access a network from a car parked outside the home. So, check to be sure your senior’s Wi-Fi network has a strong password.
- Stick to secure websites: More people than ever have discovered how easy online shopping can be. What many aren’t aware of is the importance of shopping only on security-enabled sites. Websites that begin with https:// are usually the safest. The “s” means the user’s data is encrypted as it is being transmitted. Never enter financial or personal information on a site that lacks the “s.” If you or a senior loved one has any doubts about a site, do a quick Google search for reviews or complaints about the company.
- Use social media carefully: Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites are popular online destinations for everyone, including older adults. While they can be a fun avenue for staying in touch with friends and family, there are precautions to be aware of. One is to make sure loved ones know how to enable privacy settings. It’s usually best to keep accounts private so only friends can see your posts. Also, encourage your senior family members not to accept friend requests from people they don’t know offline.
- Click with caution: Receiving an email from a sender you don’t know or a mailing list you never signed up for can be a warning sign of a scam. It’s usually best to delete this type of email without opening it. It might contain a virus. Caution your family members to be especially wary of emails with subject lines promoting anything for “free” or claiming they’ve won a sweepstakes prize. Phishing emails are another concern. They often look like they are from your bank or another financial institution. These types of emails usually contain a link that asks you to update information related to your account. If you click the link, it can give the scammer what they need to steal a person’s identity or financial information.
We hope these tips help you and the older adults in your life stay safe while spending time online. If you suspect a senior loved one has been the victim of a scam that they haven’t told you about, this article will help you learn more.
Bookmark the Heritage Blog
If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to bookmark the Heritage Blog and visit often. Each week, we share new information on topics ranging from healthy aging to caregiving for an adult with dementia.
My mom has been caring for her older sister who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s almost 3 years ago. My aunt’s disease makes this a very challenging role for my 78-year-old mother. She’s been living mostly with her sister for the past year while my husband and I take care of my mom’s house.
While my aunt has adult children of her own, they seem to be in denial about how much care she needs and how difficult it is just to keep her safe. Worries about wandering, a new behavior for my aunt, keep my mom from getting a good night’s rest. It’s rare for my cousins to help with anything, even the upkeep and maintenance around her house.
I often ask my mom what I can do to help, but she just tells me she’s doing okay. I know that’s not the case. The physical and emotional toll it’s taking on her is tough to watch. It’s time for me to intervene, get her some help, and possibly have a frank discussion with my cousins about helping their mom.
Do you have any tips for me on how to proceed? My mom really needs some support.
Jayme in Grand Haven, MI
Caring for an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
Alzheimer’s is a disease that impacts the entire family. Unfortunately, you’ve discovered just how difficult it can be. I’m sure it’s tough for you to watch your aunt’s health decline, as well as your mom’s. This disease is referred to as the “long good-bye” for families because of how it slowly robs an adult of their ability to care for themselves.
I do have a few ideas that I hope you find useful:
- Utilize technology: Since you mentioned your aunt has begun to wander, I think it’s important to address this issue immediately. There are forms of technology that help manage wandering. It can help keep your aunt safe and allow your mom to sleep again. If the house doesn’t have a home security system that sounds an alarm if a door or window is opened, have one installed if you can. That will give your mom some peace of mind. In addition, there are a variety of GPS tracking devices you can take advantage of. From watches to pendants, “GPS Tech Products for Adults with Alzheimer’s” might help you choose a device that allows you to quickly locate your aunt should she wander from home.
- Provide healthy meals: Poor nutrition is common among people who have Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. You can help prevent that by providing simple, healthy meals. Stock the freezer with options your mom can pull out and heat up as needed. Another suggestion is to set up a Meal Train that allows friends and family to sign up to drop off food. You’ll probably find people in your life who’ve wanted to help, but haven’t been sure how to do so. This platform is free and easy to use.
- Explore respite services: A type of care you and your mom might not be familiar with is respite. This short-term stay at Heritage Senior Communities is designed to give loved ones a break. The senior stays with us for a few days or weeks so a family caregiver can rest or attend to personal business. Respite guests receive the same type of support as our long-term residents, such as nutritious meals, daily activities, medication reminders, and assistance with personal care. You could help your mom by exploring local assisted living communities that offer respite to figure out which one might be a good fit.
- Encourage a family meeting: It sounds like it may be time to organize a family conference. Ask a friend to stay with your aunt so you and your mom can meet with your cousins in another setting. Create an agenda for the meeting to share ahead of time, along with a list of tasks that your aunt needs assistance with. Give some concrete examples of how your cousins can assist their mom. Some families find it helpful to have a neutral party mediate. It might be their pastor or priest or even a paid geriatric care manager.
I hope this information is useful, Jayme! Please call a nearby Heritage community if you have any questions or if you would like to tour a memory care program on your aunt’s behalf.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four deaths in this country is linked to a cardiovascular-related condition. While some problems are due to genetic risk factors, others are related to the choices you make every day.
From exercise and movement to alcohol and smoking, here are some lifestyle tips that can help you keep your heart healthy.
Lifestyle Choices and Heart Disease
- Keep moving: Regular exercise plays an important role in heart health. Staying active throughout the day is equally important. That means reducing the amount of time you spend sitting. Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle can be almost as dangerous for your health as smoking.
- Manage stress: Unfortunately, stress is a part of everyday life for most people. How well you manage it, however, can impact your heart’s health. Finding positive ways to keep stress under control is important. Try exploring stress-reducing hobbies, such as Pilates, gardening, journaling, meditation, swimming, walking, and yoga.
- Watch your diet: Much has been written about the heart health benefits of a Mediterranean style of eating and the DASH Diet. Both focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean proteins. Research shows that people who adopt these types of diets tend to live longer, healthier lives.
- Limit sodium intake: From our restaurants to our reliance on processed foods, Western diets are notoriously high in sodium. Bottom line? Most Americans consume too much salt. Reducing your intake can help lower your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease.
- Monitor your cholesterol: High cholesterol is one of the biggest contributors to developing heart disease. While family history does factor into your cholesterol levels, so does lifestyle. It’s important to work with your primary care physician to have your cholesterol checked on a regular basis and to develop a plan for controlling it if necessary.
- Quit smoking: Most of us think of lung cancer when it comes to the risks of smoking. But experts say tobacco use is also a cause of heart disease and strokes. Secondhand smoke is deadly too. If you are a smoker or live with one, ask your doctor about cessation programs with high success rates. Even if you’ve been unsuccessful in attempts to quit in the past, your heart’s health is worth another try.
- Limit alcohol consumption: This one catches many people unaware. Alcohol consumption damages your health in many ways. When it comes to your cardiovascular system, alcohol consumption increases blood pressure while adding empty calories to your diet.
- Stay connected: Socializing is another way to improve your overall well-being. Seniors who live more engaged lives tend to be healthier. Whether it is volunteering, taking classes at a local community college, or spending time with friends, staying connected with the world around you is important.
Start by making a few small changes at a time and sticking with them. For example, give up two unhealthy foods a week while increasing your level of physical activity.
One more suggestion is to find a heart health buddy who shares your commitment to making changes. You can offer moral support to each other to stay on track.
Live Well during Retirement at a Heritage Community
From a wide range of daily activities to healthy menus, Heritage communities make it easier to live your best life. Contact a community near you to set up a private tour and learn more today!