Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I Love the Internet

I love the Internet. I truly do.

It is a giant encyclopedia. It is medical information that you couldn't get before. It is a place for conversations and learning and sharing. It's a place to find your next date.

It is a place for music. It is a place for movies and theatre. It is a place to contribute your crafting talent. It is a place to shop for goods, food and services (and find out how good they are first.) And, it's the biggest library and bookstore in the world.

What Happens in an Internet Minute
It is a place to help with graceful aging. But, many older adults are afraid of the Internet. It is the big unknown. It is a place where identity thieves lurk. It is a place where bad things happen to your computer. Or as Betty White said on SNL, "I didn't know what Facebook was and now that I do know what it is, I have to say it sounds like a huge waste of time."

AARP has started a new project called AARP TEK to help the 50+ crowd better engage with resources available online. They are presenting short, hands-on sessions lead by youth to help people learn about tablets.  A great idea.

But how can each of us expand this in our own locale to bring people online. That is the conundrum. We did a survey in San Diego County over a couple of years and discovered these pertinent facts:
  • Seniors want to learn from peers who speak their language.
  • Seniors are okay to travel somewhere to learn, but not more than 10 miles from home (and a senior center was at the bottom of the list of preferred locations. Libraries and community centers were more acceptable locations.)
  • Seniors want to learn the basics about the newest stuff and they want to learn about tablets and smart phones.
I want everyone to love the Internet. And I'd love your ideas on how to get more older adults online.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

End of Life Care: The Conversation Project

Time and time again, I talk to caregivers who have reached that critical point in their sandwiched lives -- they have suddenly realized that they need to do something to help mom or dad because of an illness or diagnosis.

And, time and time again, I ask if they've had "the conversation" with the parent. Do they know their wishes for health care treatments? Do they understand the finances, where the money is (or isn't?) Are they worried about their parent living at home with no supervision? Will the parent willing go to assisted living or do they want to stay at home for as long as possible? Which of the adult children do they trust? And the list goes on.

Many times, "the conversation" hasn't happened and the adult caregiver is stymied as to how to proceed.

Enter the Conversation Project.  Here's what they say:
"The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. Too many people are dying in a way they wouldn’t choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty, and uncertain. It’s time to transform our culture so we shift from not talking about dying to talking about it. It’s time to share the way we want to live at the end of our lives. And it’s time to communicate about the kind of care we want and don’t want for ourselves. We believe that the place for this to begin is at the kitchen table—not in the intensive care unit—with the people we love, before it’s too late. Together we can make these difficult conversations easier. We can make sure that our own wishes and those of our loved ones are expressed and respected."
These folks have put together a great downloadable starter kit that helps guide a productive conversation about wishes (which is appropriate for end-of-life as well as serious illness.) 

Depression rates plummet if you've had this conversation.  Dianne Sawyer calls it "estate planning for the heart," in this clip about the guide.

ABC US News | ABC Business News

You can also download a CDC resource guide to help with advanced directive planning. [Everyone 18 and over needs an advanced directive... HIPPA rules and all.]

Start the conversation for yourself, your clients and your family. You will be glad you did.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Traditional Phone Service Retiring Sooner (or Later)


Rumor has it that traditional phone service in the U.S. will go the way of the dinosaurs in the next decade. The FCC has posted information with dates referring to 2017 and 2018. The traditional carriers can't wait to get away from it. 

The Wall Street Journal says: 
"In January, the FCC decided to allow carriers to launch "experiments" aimed at weaning people off old, circuit-switched phone networks."
PC World article states: 
"A rural Alabama town and a suburban area of Florida may be on the cutting edge of a historic shift away from traditional circuit-switched phone service, if AT&T wins approval to run trials in those areas. The carrier plans to test a transition from its circuit-switched TDM (time-division multiplexing) phone network to wireless and Internet Protocol services in Carbon Hill, Alabama, and West Delray Beach, Florida. It will need FCC approval to begin the trials."
"As full-time residents on Fire Island try to get life back to normal following Hurricane Sandy, Verizon Communications is using the barrier island as a test case in eliminating landline telephones. “We’re extremely vulnerable. You need the security of a landline,” one resident said. As CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan reported, Sandy submerged parts of Fire Island, destroying underground copper wiring. As a result, home service telephone transmission to the barrier beach was cut. Instead of costly replacement, Verizon is using Fire Island as test case, offering all 300 permanent residents and dozens of businesses a wireless alternative it calls Voice Link. But data and Internet access come at a monthly price. Locals complain they’re now without faxes and alarm systems. “I feel that they left us hanging with no real options to get our business back up and running,” restaurant owner Jon Randazzo told McLogan. Without a landline, Randazzo had no way to process credit cards and was forced to do it manually using his cellphone."

It's time to plan ahead for any product or service that uses regular telephone lines to work. It seems abundantly clear Verizon and AT&T will be out of the traditional phone business sometime soon. Verizon spent $3.6M on direct contributions in the 2012 election cycle and $15.2M on lobbying.  AT&T spent $6M on direct contributions in the 2012 election cycle and $17.46M on lobbying.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What the Heck is Palliative Care?

After a conversation with my colleague and neighbor, I decided to do a bit of research on palliative care. If you are hanging out in the medical reform circles, you hear a lot of buzz words like patient-centered home, reimbursement rates, etc.  After hearing enough of this stuff, it is nice to hear a "system" that is already in place, called palliative care, that provides a good model. 
Ask your medical professionals about the availability of palliative care for yourself or your loved ones. If you are developing a care-tech product, look at incorporating it use into palliative care. Where does it fit? How will it enhance quality of life or positively influence the course of illness? 
Here is some info from the CSU Institute for Palliative Care website:
Palliative (pronounced PAL-lee-uh-tiv) care is health care that focuses on improving quality of life and comfort for patients with serious or chronic illness. It focuses on relieving the pain and physical symptoms as well as the emotional stress, fear, frustration and spiritual concerns that major health problems can create for those with serious illness(es) and their families. Palliative care is provided by team of professionals, typically including doctors, nurses, social workers and spiritual counselors. 
Palliative care can be received at the same time as other treatment and has been proven to help those with serious illness live longer, have a more rewarding life and to ease the stress on those who care for them. It is available for patients of all ages who are at any stage in their illness. 

Palliative care:
·       Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms.
·       Enhances quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness.
·       Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care.
·       Uses an interdisciplinary team approach to address the needs of patients and their families. This typically includes a physician, nurse, social worker, pharmacist, chaplain and others as needed.
·       Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible throughout the course of an illness.
·       Offers a support system to help loved ones cope with stress during the patients' illness and in their own bereavement.
·       Is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to cure an illness or prolong life, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgical procedures, etc.
·       Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process.
I highly recommend signing up for the free caregivers handbook available from the CSU Institute for Palliative CareThis is an electronic version of an excellent San Diego County caregiver resource.  To get the e-book, you must subscribe to the Institute's consumer quarterly newsletter which keeps you updated on the latest information about easing suffering and improving quality of life for those with illness.  Click Newsletter cons (consumer) in the subscription screen or add any of the other items if you want the professional information.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Creating the AH HA Moment – It’s the Language

It’s the Language!  I’ve been shopping lately for my latest project, an aging-in-place home remodel for our own home. I had a big AH HA moment last week. – the language we use in our industry is kooky. I’m looking for an ADA-height toilet and when you go to Amazon to find an ADA Toto toilet, you get a title that says ADA. When you go to the Home Depot, the ADA toilet is called a “luxury height” or “comfort height” or “chair height” toilet. Now, which one do you want to buy … the ADA disabled toilet or the luxury one?

I also saw a title of a book the other day called “Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want”  which includes strategies for “going geriatric.” Staying Put versus Aging in Place. Hummmm. Which one do you think would vibe better with seniors?

Creating the AH HA Moment  I gave an Internet talk to a group of 50 older adults, most were 70+. Three had iPads. Part of the talk was geared towards iPads since a gerontologist (who is 80+ and brought me to the group) was annoyed that more people didn’t have tablets. It was interesting to see the AH HA moment when the audience members figured out they should be considering a tablet instead of a computer. What caused the AH HA was 30 iPad screenshots of a variety of apps – there was one in there that anyone could relate to. “I didn’t know they could do all that” was the common refrain.

Many of our aging in place tech products don’t position themselves properly to create the AH HA moment for the target demographic/psychographic. High-touch selling practices, infomercials, and hands-on events are important strategies that vendors should investigate for their AIP tech product. I almost never talk about frailty-oriented AIP tech products to audiences of older adults but invariably discuss them one-on-one after the talk is over. (But, I do talk about automated pillboxes as a great item for their cat or dog.)

Geezer Squad  The same gerontologist also has been encouraging our local Apple store to hire some older adults. He thinks that the “kids” they have working there don’t understand older adults and can’t help them decide to get a smartphone or iPad. I’ve also heard that from other older adults. We hear the same complaints about the Best Buy folks and their Geek Squad. But, should those businesses design their installation and support around seniors? Probably not. But, if they “designed for all” would other customers be happier? I bet so.

The Challenge  I’d love to hear from you what language changes you’ve made, what AH HA moments you’ve seen and successful high-touch installation and support scenarios work. Tell me. Please. Every one in our industry needs to know.