Vermont Assembly of Home Health and Hospice Agencies Announces New Name

December 1, 2014  
Filed under News

The Vermont Assembly of Home Health and Hospice Agencies (VAHHA) recently announced a new name to represent its statewide reach, experience and commitment to community-based health care. VNAs of Vermont was chosen by its member agency board as the new name for the collective of Vermont’s 11 nonprofit home health and hospice agencies.

Developing a new identity will enable VAHHA to highlight its statewide presence, support collaboration among the member agencies and better serve its shared customers through easier access to home health care and hospice services in Vermont communities.

Newly organized Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) have requested statewide solutions and a consistent experience. Hospitals want an easier way to refer patients to the appropriate agency upon discharge. The new identity is a first step toward addressing these needs.

Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Earns Five Awards

December 1, 2014  
Filed under News

Seven employees of Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center were honored at the annual convention of the Vermont chapter of the American Health Care Association (VHCA/AHCA) in October. Kelly Johnson won for Physical Therapy Assistant of the Year and Theodore (Ted) Myotte earned recognition as Speech Language Pathologist of the Year.

Danielle Flynn won recognition for Nursing Home Chef of the Year, highlighting the Center’s STAR (Specialized Therapy and Rehabilitation) program. Margaret Lavigne won for Outstanding LNA of the Year and the Center itself won for Guest Services Team of the Year – Sarah Leahy, Lynne Curtis, and Ashley Hammond.

NCOA to Continue Supporting Vulnerable People with Medicare

December 1, 2014  
Filed under News

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) was recently awarded a grant from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to continue its efforts to help thousands of low-income people with Medicare to get help enrolling in programs that make their health care affordable.

As the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) Resource Center, NCOA will provide technical assistance and support to state health insurance assistance programs, area agencies on aging, and aging and disability resource centers for outreach and enrollment activities that help struggling Medicare beneficiaries receive the Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) and Medicare Savings Programs (MSP). Since 2009, these state agencies have helped nearly 700,000 seniors and adults with disabilities to save over $2.1 billion on their prescription and health care costs.

Funding to NCOA also supports outreach to low-income Medicare beneficiaries via web-based technology and person-centered assistance. Specifically, NCOA will enhance and maintain its free online screening service BenefitsCheckUp®, which has helped close to 4 million people find more than $14.5 billion in annual benefits. Grant funding also will be used to expand NCOA’s network of Benefits Enrollment Centers, which provide comprehensive enrollment assistance into a wide variety of programs that help low-income Medicare beneficiaries achieve economic security.

“For those who are eligible to receive these benefits, enrolling in LIS and MSP can mean thousands of dollars in savings each year,” said Leslie Fried, director of NCOA’s Center for Benefits Access, which administers the Resource Center. “The work being carried out under MIPPA helps millions of Medicare beneficiaries who are struggling to access affordable health care and unites the aging and disability networks across the country to improve the lives of older Americans.”

De-Stress the Holidays

December 1, 2014  
Filed under Feature Stories

By Diane Lang

Everyone knows that the holidays can be a stressful time of the year. There’s a lot of planning that goes on for family get-togethers, holiday parties, dinners and even traveling. The conflicts that are bound to arise bring up mixed feelings and can lead to stress and anxiety. However, the holidays can also be a time to reflect on all of the good things you have in your life and enjoy spending time with your close friends and loved ones. If you’re prone to holiday stress once November comes around, try following these eight tips.

#1 Start early

One of the best ways to avoid holiday stress is to start planning early. This means making to-do lists, grocery lists, getting a head start on your gift shopping and more. When you wait until the last minute to do these things, that’s when the stress really gets to you. You can avoid all of that by just making a few lists early on and taking time to complete them a few tasks at a time instead of all at once.

#2 Take care of you

When you’re starting to feel overwhelmed by all of the tasks you have to do and by the idea that you will soon have to spend time entertaining your large, extended family, create some personal time to relax. Make time in your schedule to do whatever it is that makes you happy, whether it’s a day at the spa, snuggling under the covers and reading a good book, or enjoying a glass of wine before bed. Some solitary time is important and it’s good to indulge every once in a while.

#3 Be upfront financially

Money is another big factor in holiday stress since most people plan to buy presents for the family, cook dinner for a group and even host big parties. The holidays are always a tough time financially and you shouldn’t spend money that you don’t have and can’t afford to be spending. If money is tight, create a strict budget for yourself and make sure to stick to it. Consider buying presents only for the kids, doing a Secret Santa/Yankee Swap for the adults or even use your creativity to make some homemade gifts.

#4 Get some exercise

Getting active and doing some form of exercise does wonders for relieving stress. Even going for a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day can be extremely beneficial. Grab a neighbor or a friend to accompany you so you can talk while you’re on the move and you won’t even realize that what you’re doing is exercising. If possible, get the whole family involved in a family walk so they can all benefit from lower levels of stress.

#5 Ask for help

If you’re the person in the family who is doing all of the planning, all of the cooking and all of the shopping, you really should consider asking for help. No one can be expected to do so many things at once so learn to delegate tasks to others. Ask family members to each bring a different dish to dinner to relieve some of your cooking duties. Everyone should be doing his or her part to help out, even during clean up.

#6 Gratitude

The holidays are really about spending quality time with your friends and family. It’s not about the presents, or the food, or the parties. We should feel grateful and happy for our health and for being surrounded by loved ones. These are lessons to pass on to your children and grandchildren and teach them to appreciate all of the little things in life that make us happy.

#7 Watch the signs

Listen to your body. If you are noticing any of the following signs, then it’s time to make changes:

Change in sleeping habits

Change in eating habits

Feeling irritable, moody and unhappy

Exhaustion and fatigue

Panic attack symptoms like dizziness, heavy chest, heart racing, headache, feeling nauseous, hot and cold flashes

Physical signs such as headaches, stomachaches, joint pain and low immune system – catching frequent colds and illnesses.

#8 Pay it forward

For the holidays, join a local charity and help with serving dinners, dropping off presents and giving hugs. Every time we do a random act of kindness, we help others while helping ourselves. Random acts of kindness give a boost of happiness that lasts 24-72 hours. Spread the joy!

10 Great Phone Apps for Family Caregivers

December 1, 2014  
Filed under Feature Stories

By Kaye Swain

Staying busy with real estate, caregiving and grandparenting keeps me on my toes! I love to use technology to help me. Being a very happy iPhone user, I have over 1000 apps (most of which I got for free) for my iPhone, though I only have about 100+ on my main iPhone at any given time.

Here are 10 of my favorite apps that are especially helpful for caregivers:

Pocket First Aid and CPR Smartphone App

This app is from the American Heart Association and produced by Jive. Available for both iPhone and Android, it “provides quick, concise, and clear first aid and CPR instructions from a user’s smartphone that can help a user save a life in the event of an emergency.” They have used both videos and illustrations to help you deal with a variety of medical issues in addition to a heart attack, including severe allergic reaction, bleeding and burns (large), breathing problems, choking, and stroke. I have never needed this app and hope I never do. But IF I do, I am really glad it’s right there in my cell phone which is always in my pocket or purse. This app is not free, but it’s definitely worth paying for.

CPR Hands-Only 

This app is also from the American Heart Association and produced by Jive for both the iPhone and Android. To quote them, “Studies of real emergencies that have occurred…show that Hands-Only CPR can be as effective as conventional CPR.” This app has written and recorded information to help you perform this life-saving technique on an adult who collapses. I tested it with my WiFi turned on and off on my cell phone and the recording worked either way. One note – the app refers to a video and has an arrow for one but on my phone, it is voice only.

iTriage

A free app for both iPhone and Android, iTriage offers several useful choices to help caregivers. I personally keep the privacy and location settings turned off and just use the symptom checker, as well as the conditions, medications and procedures “dictionaries” and the health news button and find them all very useful. If you turn on the “location,” it can also show you what doctors and facilities, including urgent care and emergency rooms, are close by – great for traveling or if you have just moved to a new area. In addition, you can sign up for an account and personalize it even further. Needless to say, I would check this out thoroughly before adding any personal information. There are a handful of apps and sites that offer this, but I tend to be ultra-cautious about using anything online that requires personal medical and financial info as, even if the site is safe and reputable, hacking is too prevalent these days.

Evernote

I tell people my smartphone has become “my brain,” and Evernote is a big part of that! It took me a couple of tries to really start using it but once I did, I’ve never looked back. I save a lot of information in Evernote. I have PDF ebooks in there for medical information, work documents and reading pleasure. I have a notebook for my senior mom and each time we go to the doctor’s I open a new page, date it, and jot down the important things I want to ask the doctor. Once we’re in the room with the doctor, I use that page to type in her latest blood pressure, weight, etc. along with notes of what the doctor says and orders. (If they talk too fast, I hand write it all on my ever-present shorthand notebook, then add it to Evernote later). I have photos and a list of all the medications each of us take. Whatever I put in my cell phone is synced to the “cloud” and then to my main laptop and any other computer I might want to have it on. I can’t tell you the number of shorthand notebooks I’ve filled with info, then couldn’t remember which notebook that info was in. With Evernote, I can do a search relatively easily. And that is just a small portion of what I do in this very handy app that is available for iPhone, Android, Mac and Windows. Evernote is free, however I choose to subscribe to the premium version. Among other reasons, it enables me to be able to search note history in case I accidentally delete something important. Again, do use caution in what you store there. I don’t save anything that would be a problem 

if the site were hacked and the information released.

Listary 

I love this iPhone app, particularly for grocery shopping. I can easily add items for my senior mom and myself. As I purchase them, I just check them off. It was also quite handy when we moved to a new state. I had a list of items to pack in the car, a list of places we wanted to visit when we drove cross country, and various other lists to help me keep on task with the various issues I was juggling on top of moving. The Android doesn’t offer this app but they do have other list apps. 

TurboScan/Surescan 3x

One thing many of us caregivers deal with regularly is a ton of paperwork. I have two apps that help me tremendously in dealing with it all. If all I need is a legible copy of a document, this is my primary app. It makes excellent scans of documents using just the camera setting. Once in a while, they aren’t clear enough and then I use their SureScan 3x. It takes three pictures of a document and blends them together to give me an excellent copy. I can then save those copies in my phone, email them and/or text them – to myself or to others. It even gives me the choice of saving them as pdf or jpg which has been very useful on more than one occasion when the office I sent copies to couldn’t read the jpg but could read the pdf. This tool has saved me a huge amount of time, not to mention money for the copies I used to have to pay for. This app is currently $2.99 and worth every penny. Currently, this app is only for the iPhone but they are working on one for the Android.

JotNot

Once in a while, I am required to send faxes rather than email or text. Then I use JotNot. It also has a scanner (though not the 3x option). I scan the document, fax it, (at the time of this writing, the charge was 99 cents for up to five pages). Talk about a time and money-saver. They offer a free and paid app so I would recommend you start with the free and see if you like if first. I did and I upgraded to the Pro which is 99 cents. This is only available for the iPhone.

The New York Times also has a good review of both of these with suggestions for alternate apps for Android users.

Instagram 

Due to health issues and unexpected illnesses, caregivers aren’t always able to get out as much as we might like, including to see other loved ones. Instagram is a free app for the iPhone and Android and it can be a lovely way to help “keep us in the loop” during this season of life. My granddaughter helped set me up to receive the Instagram feeds for her, her cousin and their moms. They all frequently post photos of daily happenings and those photos appear instantly for my senior mom and me to enjoy and download using another app, InstaSync — which is only for the iPhone, is $1.99 — allows me to download photos from anyone I subscribe to who has accepted me.

Apps Gone Free 

Many caregivers’ budgets are extra tight and this app has definitely been a huge help for mine. Every day, this free app lists 4-8 apps available for free for that day. I’ve gotten fun ones for grandkids, tools I can use and caregiving apps – like taking a pulse with your cell phone. The Android has “Free App of the Day” that is also free. The site says, “Get daily notice of free games and applications.” Not as many freebies as for the iPhone, but every little bit helps!

Printed courtesy of Caregiving.com.

The High Cost of Family Caregiving

December 1, 2014  
Filed under Business

Almost most half (46 percent) of family caregivers spend more than $5,000 per year on caregiving expenses, according to a new Caring.com report. A family caregiver is defined as someone who takes care of a family member or friend, but is unpaid for their services. Their caregiving expenses include out-of-pocket costs for medications, medical bills, in-home care, nursing homes and more.

Of the 46 percent of family caregivers that spend more than $5,000 annually:

16 percent spend from $5,000 to $9,999

11 percent spend from $10,000 to $19,999

7 percent spend $20,000 to $29,999

5 percent spend $30,000 to $49,999

7 percent spend $50,000 or more each year

32 percent of family caregivers spend less than $5,000 per year

21 percent do not know how much they spend on caregiving each year.

“Caregiving can be a startlingly expensive endeavor that most people aren’t financially prepared for,” said Caring.com CEO Andy Cohen. “But yet only three in 10 caregivers have spoken to their loved ones about how to pay for care. Having an open and honest conversation about finances is a sensitive, but necessary discussion to have.”

Caregiving not only has an effect on finances, but it can also impact current employment and future retirement plans, too. One-third of family caregivers spend more than 30 hours per week on caregiving, making it almost the equivalent of a full-time job. Half of caregivers have made changes to their work schedule to accommodate caregiving, while 30 percent often arrived late or left early and 17 percent missed a significant amount of work.

“Family caregivers, especially baby boomers, run the risk of derailing their retirement plans if they don’t prepare for the costs associated with caregiving,” said Cohen. “Almost half of caregivers spend $25,000 on caregiving in just five years – that’s a significant chunk of money that could delay retirement by a couple of years.”

Additional Findings

For 43 percent of family caregivers, deciding on a senior care or senior housing option took only one month. But for 21 percent of caregivers, the decision process took six months or more. 

60 percent of caregivers say their caregiving duties have a negative effect on their job. 

54 percent of caregivers are caring for a parent or spouse/significant other.

More information about the survey results and resources to support family caregivers is available on Caring.com at http://www.caring.com/research/senior-care-cost-index-2014

11 Things Employers Misunderstand About Caregiving Employees

December 1, 2014  
Filed under Feature Stories

By Denise Brown

A 2012 report released by AARP found that 42 percent of U.S. workers provided unpaid eldercare for a family member or friend over the last five years. And, 49 percent expect to do so in the coming five years.

And, that’s just eldercare. We know caregiving is about caring for a family member or friend, regardless of age. Could you imagine how many employees are in a caregiving role when we include statistics for those caring for a spouse or a sibling or a child with a chronic illness, disability or disease?

Last summer, a colleague and I met with a benefits director of a large corporation which provides benefits services to other companies. We shared that statistic about 42 percent of employees.

“I completely disagree with that statistic,” he said. “We don’t have that many employees in a caregiving situation.”

“What’s your typical employee profile?” I asked.

“A woman in her mid 40s,” he answered.

A woman in her mid 40s is actually the profile of a typical family caregiver.

This benefits director just didn’t get it–he just didn’t understand how prevalent the caregiving experience is among his employee population. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s alone.

Here are some thoughts on what employers don’t understand about the caregiving experience and their caregiving employees:

1. Often, caregiving employees must attend the doctor appointments and be present during hospitalizations. 

The preconceived notion is that the health care system (doctors, hospitals) takes cares of individuals who need care. The truth is that the family caregiver takes care of the individual receiving care in the health care system. Without the family caregiver, the family member could be minimized and overlooked. Good care just doesn’t just happen–the family caregiver demands it. And, that’s why the family caregiver must be at doctors’ appointments and hospitalizations.

2. Caregiving employees are everywhere.

In its 2009 report, Caregiving in the U.S., National Alliance for Caregiving estimated that 66 million individuals provide care. You often can’t tell if an employee is caring for a family member because they don’t wear a sign, they don’t readily share something so private and they are too busy managing two full-time jobs. Employers have caregiving employees in their manufacturing lines, in their rows of cubes and in the offices of their executives. They drive your delivery trucks, design your products and stand with you in the elevators. Employers have employees who care for grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, children and friends. Most important, employers have caregiving employees who may be men and women in their 20s through their 60s. The caregiving experience does not discriminate.

3. Caregiving employees fear losing their jobs.

The job provides the much-needed salary and benefits so working family caregivers worry about the time off they need for those doctors’ appointments and hospitalizations. They worry about the impact on their reputation at work. They worry a manager won’t understand the demands and needs of caregiving. They may stay silent, anxious that disclosing a personal situation will take them out of possibilities, promotions and their job.

4. Caregiving employees welcome the respite that the job provides.

The job also provides a break for family caregivers and a chance to be productive and creative. They enjoy the chance to focus on projects and responsibilities rather than a disease process and care needs.

5. Caregiving employees will be an employer’s most loyal employees when they feel supported.

Because they often experienced the disappearance of family members and friends once caregiving began, working family caregivers will be so grateful to an employer who supports them. And, the support only has to be understanding during a hospitalization or a chance for flexible work schedules once in awhile.

6. Caregiving situations have many tangles and webs–there are no simple fixes.

It’s difficult to find community resources which help, it can be a nightmare trying to get help from other family members, and hiring help can be time-consuming and costly. And, then there’s the caree, who often refuses to accept any help except from the working family caregiver. Fixes may come, but only after a long, winding road often traveled late at night.

7. A caregiving employee may be going through the worst time of his or her life.

Watching a family member or friend struggle and decline and endure pain is heartbreaking. Caregiving is lonely, isolating and sad. Caregiving employees don’t want special concessions, they don’t want to be treated with kid gloves. They just want employers to be aware that life outside of work may put life at work in perspective.

8. A caregiving employee often manages a health or medical crisis on his or her off hours.

Caregiving responsibilities mean that the day doesn’t end for working family caregivers. The day may begin and end with caregiving responsibilities and continue throughout the night.

9. Caregiving experiences last years.

Sometimes, caregiving lasts just a few months. Often, a caregiving experience lasts years, sometimes decades.

10. Being in one place while worrying that they’re not in the other place is an awful experience.

Worrying about what’s going on at work while caregiving employees advocate for their carees in the hospital is really stressful. It’s almost as bad as sitting in a cube while a caree is in the emergency room. Working family caregivers can’t be two places at once. Often, though, it can feel like that’s exactly what they must do.

11. Supporting family caregivers will save you money.

Gallup research estimates American businesses lose more than $25 billion annually in productivity from absenteeism among full-time working caregivers. When employers put programs in place to help working family caregivers, they save money. A program could be onsite support groups, regular lunch-time seminars and Friday morning yoga classes. When working family caregivers feel comfortable giving their managers a heads-up about a caregiving responsibility, managers and co-workers can appropriately plan for any absences.

— Printed courtesy of Caregiving.com

Mature Matters: Putting an End to Elder Abuse

December 1, 2014  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

Elder Abuse is one of the most underreported crimes. Its victims are often isolated or are dependent on their abusers for their care. It is estimated that 1 in 10 American seniors have been abused and the vast majority of their abusers (approximately 90 percent) were family members. In 2009, $5.3 billion was spent on the direct medical costs associated with violent injuries to seniors, while victims of senior financial exploitation were estimated to have lost $2.9 billion.

Many seniors are at high risk to be physically, emotionally and sexually abused. In addition, many seniors fall victim to financial exploitation. Seniors who rely on others to help provide care can be victims of neglect. Learning to understand the signs of abuse is a critical first step to helping to end this crime.

Signs of physical abuse may be the most obvious. Does the senior have bruises, black eyes, broken bones or open wounds? Has the senior reported being abused, has his behavior suddenly changed or is his caregiver refusing to allow visitors to see the senior alone? These are all signs that abuse may be occurring.

Abuse associated with neglect or self-neglect can be more complicated. Seniors who are dehydrated, malnourished, have untreated bed sores or poor personal hygiene could be a victim of neglect or self-neglect.  Self-neglect is when the senior refuses to take care of himself, putting his health at risk. Neglect is when a caregiver does not provide proper care. There may be unattended health problems, or unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.

Emotional abuse of a senior typically results in behavior changes. Seniors who have been emotionally abused may become withdrawn or non-responsive. Some seniors exhibit unusual behaviors that people often attribute to dementia such as sucking, biting or rocking.

Though sexual abuse of seniors is less common, accounting for 5 percent of abuse cases in Vermont according to the most recent Adult Protective Service report, it can cause physical and emotional trauma. Typical signs include bruises in the breasts or genital area, unexplained venereal diseases, unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding and torn or bloody underclothing.

The most common type of abuse is financial exploitation. If there are unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money, the inclusion of additional names on accounts, unauthorized withdrawal of cash using a seniors’ ATM card or abrupt changes to a will, it is time to ask questions.

Many seniors are afraid to report abuse because they are dependent on the abuser to provide their everyday care needs. Often times, seniors are worried that they will not be able to remain at home if their abuser is reported.

If you have concerns or questions about elder abuse, call the CVAA Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119. If you would like to report suspected abuse, contact Adult Protective Services at 1-800-564-1612.

Any time a senior reports abuse, it should be taken seriously. Together we can put an end to elder abuse.

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA, the resource for seniors since 1974.  For more information on services for seniors call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119 or click on cvaa.org.

Fit to eat: Fruits & Vegetables— Do You Wash Them or Not?

December 1, 2014  
Filed under Food, Places I’ve Played

Stuart-Offer---Headshot-CMYK

By Dr. Stuart Offer

My wife Leslie and I are traveling around the U.S. in our motorhome. Recently, we spent a wonderful day at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Wash. The market was enormous with indoor and outside displays of every imaginable food. There were numerous fruit and vegetable stalls selling their produce, some of which was in the form of cut fruit sold in cups and fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. My first impression was “Wow, what a beautiful and healthy display of foods.” However, knowing what I know I also had the thought, “Does the public know of the dirty little secret about fresh produce that could make you sick or even kill you, and yes even from organically grown produce?”

The dirty secret — much of this produce can be contaminated.

So, should you wash your produce? The short answer is an absolute yes. Let’s face it nobody likes to get a mouthful of sand and grit when eating a salad, however there are many more reasons to wash your produce than this. Many of us may just carry on the traditions that our families did from the past, washing or not washing. For those who never wash, here is some information that may make you reconsider.

There are three reasons to wash your produce: contamination from soil; microbes; and pesticides. As I said, no one likes biting into a gritty salad, and the problems connected with microbe-contaminated produce have been well publicized. Pesticides are designed to be toxic and their effects on people are well understood, so it’s best to avoid them when you can.

Federal health officials estimate that nearly 48 million people are sickened by food contaminated with harmful germs each year, and some of the causes might surprise you. Although most people know animal products must be handled carefully to prevent illness, many don’t realize that produce can also be the culprit in outbreaks of foodborne illness. In recent years, the United States has had several large outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated fruits and vegetables including spinach, tomatoes and lettuce.

Fresh produce can become contaminated in many ways. During the growing phase, fruits and veggies may be contaminated by animals, harmful substances in the soil or water or poor hygiene among workers. After produce is harvested, it passes through many hands, increasing the contamination risk. Contamination can even occur after the produce has been purchased, during food preparation or through inadequate storage.

The FDA has some very good guidelines and recommendations when it comes to produce. Here is what they recommend: 

Buying Tips

Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.

When selecting fresh-cut produce such as half a watermelon or bagged salad greens, choose items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products.

Storage Tips

Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs and mushrooms) in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below.

Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled.

Preparation Tips

Begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.

Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded. The bruised and damaged areas are where bacteria thrive. 

All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking. The more water the better here. 

Many precut, bagged produce items like lettuce are pre-washed. If the package indicates that the contents have been pre-washed, you can use the produce without further washing.

Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first. For instance, if your melon has bacteria on the outside of it and you do not wash it, then cutting into the melon will introduce the germs into the flesh of the fruit. 

Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended. The effectiveness of detergents and commercial products have not been proven and can leave residue on the produce. Yuck, who wants detergent on their strawberries?

Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. 

Drying produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.

Also, keep in mind that packaged fruit and vegetable juices are required to be pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. Farm stand and cider mills that sell fresh juice by the glass are not required to be pasteurized or have a warning label. Also, make sure that fresh cut fruit, such as melon, is stored under 40 degrees or packed on ice. The FDA has recommended the young, elderly or people with weakened immune systems avoid any unpasteurized juices or cut fruit that has not been stored properly. 

One final piece of advice ­ be diverse. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This is not only nutritionally beneficial but may help limit exposure to any one type of pesticide residue.

Savvy Senior: Wandering Solutions for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

December 1, 2014  
Filed under Savvy Senior

savy-sr

Dear Savvy Senior,

My mother, who lives with me, has Alzheimer’s disease and I worry about her wandering away. What tips can you recommend to help me protect her?

—Concerned Daughter

Dear Concerned,

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 60 percent of people who suffer from dementia wander at some point. For caregivers, this can be frightening because many of those who wander off end up confused and lost, even in their own neighborhood, and are unable to communicate who they are or where they live. But there are things you can do to guard against this and protect your loved one.

Wandering Prevention

For starters, to help reduce your mom’s tendency to wander, keep her occupied and involved in familiar daily activities such as preparing dinner or folding the laundry. It’s also important to encourage daily exercise and limit daytime napping to reduce nighttime restlessness.

There are also a number of simple home modifications you can make to keep her from wandering away. Some possible solutions include: adding an extra lock on the top or bottom of the exterior doors out of the line of sight; installing childproof door knobs or levers; placing a full-length mirror, or putting a “STOP” or “Do Not Enter” sign on the doors you don’t want her going through; or getting a signal device or motion sensor that lets you know when the door is opened. See alzstore.com for a variety of product solutions. And, be sure you hide the car keys to keep her from driving.

It’s also a good idea to alert your neighbors that your mom may wander so they can keep an eye out, and have on hand a recent picture to show around the neighborhood or to the police if she does get lost.

Wandering Services

If you want some added protection in case she does wander off, there are a number of services you can turn to for help, like the MedicAlert + Safe Return program (medicalert.org/safereturn).

This service comes with a personalized ID bracelet that will have your mom’s medical information engraved on it, along with her membership number and the toll-free MedicAlert emergency phone number.

If she goes missing, you would call 911 and report it to the local police department who would begin a search, and then report it to MedicAlert. Or, a Good Samaritan or police officer may find her and call the MedicAlert number to get her back home safely.

GPS Tracking

There are also a number of GPS tracking devices that can help you keep tabs on your mom. With these products, she would carry or wear a small GPS tracker that would notify you or other caregivers via text message or email if she were to wander beyond a pre-established area, and would let you know exactly where to find her if she did.

To find GPS trackers, consider the PocketFinder (pocketfinder.com) or the Alzheimer’s Association Comfort Zone (alz.org/comfortzone). Or, if you have concerns that your mother wouldn’t wear a GPS device or would take it off, there’s the GPS SmartSole (gpssmartsole.com), which is an insole with an embedded GPS device.

For more wandering prevention tips and solutions, visit the Alzheimer’s Association Safety Center at alz.org/safety and This Caring Home at thiscaringhome.org.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.