Care Angel Tracks Recovering Senior At Home For Families

After five weeks in the hospital for a heart operation, she is recovering at home alone in another town and state.

So how to keep track of mother?

Officially since the spring of 2015, Wolf Shlagman, founder/CEO of Care Angel in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., entrepreneur and, for 20 years, telemedicine expert, has been offering a solution.

Care Angel is a computerized system that can record and report an aging relative’s vital signs to alert families of any change in health status before they take action.

Billed the “Virtual Caregiver,” the Smart Care “artificially intelligent voice response technology” platform can be customized to record a soothing family member’s voice for the sick relative in question to hear, to provide the relative with care by landline or cell phone using Apple Play or Google Play and to provide health data about the relative for family members.

Shlagman explained that, through company research, he learned that other organizations such as the Diabetes Foundation, offered such health-oriented customized software service.

“Seniors don’t want to burden families,” he said during a demonstration/interview with this writer at an annual conference of the American Society on Aging, a 5,000-member, multi-disciplinary organization addressing different aspects of aging, in response to a question about the program’s different facets.

“[They] won’t check in. It helps seniors [become] more independent. [You] just answer the phone. It’s all audio. [You learn about mother’s vitals and you say, ‘Good’ or ‘Oh, not good.’]

“[You can then communicate by asking your mother,] ‘What’s your blood pressure? [Do you] need anything?’”

The Care Angel program answers questions by family members about their senior relative. The answers are converted into ready-to-use dashboard notification, alerts, care insights and reports on the Care Angel Caregiver app.

If the answers show that all isn’t well or the relative is in need, Care Angel will notify the selected family-and-friend network, also known in the product’s parlance as the Care Circle, to empower them to act quickly to prevent larger problems or tragedy.

“When I set my mother up [with the Care Angel system], it gives [up] information,” he said. “Who else do you want to receive alerts? [You can set up the program to send data to] friends, sisters, brothers and neighbors.”

He explained that senior long-term care and short-term care and chronic illness management in general make up two-thirds of the $3 trillion-plus spent yearly on health care.

Federal research, some of which appears on the Care Angel website, counts at least 50 million seniors in the country, which will increase to 120 million over the next 20 years and more than 1.5 billion around the world.

Research predicts that, in coming decades, adults will live at least 20 years longer, deal with several health conditions, take several prescription drugs, suffer from injuries and fight to stay alive, fully-functioning and independent.

“One of the realizations in healthcare [is that we are spending $4 trillion[-plus in] health care [costs],” Shlagman said. “Two-thirds [of that is in] senior care.”

Meanwhile, about 70 million caregivers are providing much of the senior care, he added. Shlagman pointed to federal research finding senior care fast-becoming the greatest expenditure to every layer of society.

“[The industry of senior care forms] 20 percent of our gross national product (GDP) and [it is] growing,” he said. “ … The task of caregiving [can] take a decade of a person’s life.”

Nearly 40 percent of adults in the nation serve as caregivers for more than 20 hours to their aging relatives who have serious medical issues, taking its emotional and financial toll on them and their families and triggering the $300 billion in costs to businesses, insurers and other facets of society.

As a result, he said, families, insurers and businesses are confronting these issues, finding new means of enabling seniors to age in place and addressing the high costs for senior care.

“It really is about [balancing work with family obligations],” Shlagman said. “It is relevant [to] those issues. You [can’t] be there for [aging] mothers and fathers [as you balance] family [and] work. You don’t connect. Days and weeks [can pass with] no connection [to your aging mother or father].”

In response, he said, Care Angel, also titled Care Angel VIP Care Service, is meant to alleviate such healthcare costs by using technology to inform families of medical problems in advance, decreasing the number of unneeded and pricey hospitalization visits and repeat visits, enhancing results and being detailed about the health status of patients.

“We are growing our company [and we’ve done the] research,” Shlagman said of the company and the previous firms he ran. “We got bought out. We got sold. I asked a colleague of mine [to join me in a new venture and we put together our] collective experiences and know-how.”

Prior to owning Care Angel, Shlagman served as CEO and founder of Consult-A-Doctor from 2007 to 2013, a former telehealth company connecting patients to physicians, and to MyCity Networks, an IT company.

He added that he and his business partner were inspired by their own roles as caregivers to their aging mothers.

“I realized how I took care my mother [and] my partner took care of his mother for 10 years,” he said. “[We both] had caregiving duties and tasks. … It [caregiving] impacts so many people. It has a ripple effect into life and work.

“Among [several] things in my head, [we thought about] what was going to be [our] approach. We really came together [to study this]. We had research and sleepless nights.

“[What we offer through Care Angel] is not out there. I looked at [several programs].”

Shlagman said that the flu, a fall or the wrong medication can worsen matters for chronically ill seniors and their families.

Vital details such as skipping prescriptions, neglecting to make refills, not drinking enough water or other fluids, not eating enough or at all and being inattentive to symptoms should not be overlooked — just because, for instance, an aging mother does not wish to phone family members and burden them with her troubles, he added.

“My mother takes medications,” he said. “She’s up and down. I don’t know how she feels. Care Angel [would serve as a] virtual caregiver, checking on mother [and her] blood pressure [and] alerting me and family members when something’s wrong. [Care Angel is meant to] prevent [mother’s health status from escalating [into something] worse.”

Shlagman said that Care Angel executives and product developers researched and thought about the absence of family caregivers from the care of seniors at home and the level of expense and training required to hire home health care nurses and other staff and to purchase medical devices for use in their homes.

“Home [health care] workers [and] devices in the home are costly [to hire and purchase],” he said. “[There’s] a lot to learn and train. [There’s] a lot involved.”

He added that his team also also took into account every phase of senior care in designing the Smart Care platform.

“We saw [the] senior care continuum [and took it into consideration when developing Care Angel],” Shlagman said. “[It] shifts management [of] care [of] seniors [to this system]. [It helps the] family [keep track of mother].”

They also pondered ease and convenience in developing the platform.

“Our solution is aimed at being so simple since you need to answer the phone,” he said. “You can reach out and talk [to your aging relatives about] services.”

First, a family member using Care Angel registers with the platform and starts the app. He and she then clicks on a green circle with a “person+” icon on the page.

A Care Wizard will appear and instruct the family member to go through the sign-up process, which, Shlagman said, takes two minutes. During registration, he or she will be given the choice of recording a personalized greeting.

If the family member elects to, he or she can click on an “Care Recipient” icon and a “gear icon.” Finding a “Greetings” tab and a pencil icon, the family member can record and listen to his or her recording or hit “Re-Record” to start again.

“[A family member signs in to] Care Angel [and adds all of the information, following the instructions,” he said, demonstrating the platform at the conference. “You tell the system] who to watch [whether that is] mother [or] father and what conditions [they have]. I can record my voice.”

The calls to the aging relative from the Care Angel platform are referred to as “Care Angel VIP Care Calls,” which, Shlagman said, take less than two minutes.

The default setting allows the program to phone once on Monday, Wednesday and Friday but family members can edit the defaults to customize the system for their sick relative’s needs, he added.

Questions include “How did you sleep? How do you feel? Are you in pain? Did you take your medicine? How is your appetite? Did you drink enough water? Have you been exercising?” The system also inquires about blood pressure, blood sugar and oxygen level of the aging relative.

“[Care Angel will] call mother from the app,” Shlagman said. “ … [The] service will call [the family to let them know what is happening]. [The family] checks in on her. It [asks] her questions. [It learns if] she’s in pain [or if there is] blood.”

Family members can view data about the senior relative daily, weekly or monthly on the Care Angel VIP Care dashboard if they set it up and have access to Care Insights to learn about negative or positive health trends concerning the patient.

“[When we program the system,] we are asking [Care Angel] to take [our loved one’s] medical, blood pressure and glucose readings,” he said. “[The system] tells us what [mother’s vital signs] are. [The] reports [on mother’s vital signs] will be sent to families.”

In fact, the dashboard, which obtains its data from the Care Calls, includes information about the relative on sleep, feelings, needs, water, exercise and appetite. The Vitals section of the dashboard contains readings on blood pressure, sugar and oxygen levels if the family members set up Care Angel to retrieve it.

Through the calls and Care Alerts, the members can learn, for example, whether the relative is drinking enough water, taking his or her medicines or what their blood pressure readings were in a month.

“I [as a family member] will get alerted,” Shlagman said. “I will see the Care [Angel] insights, including blood pressure and glucose. [I learn if she is] sleeping or [how she is] feeling or, [for example, what is her] glucose [level].”

The Medications section of the dashboard exhibits whether medicines were taken, missed, skipped, ran out or were scheduled to be taken later. The Care Reports section maintains a summary of the relative’s health data in one site.

“Mother has high blood pressure,” he said. “[The Care Angel programs] are managing the blood pressure. [The Care Angel programs] are self-managed. [The program is designed to guarantee prescription drug use] adherence [and to deal with] unplanned [events].”

And the entire system can be accessed by families for free.

“Millions will use [it for] free,” Shlagman said, mentioning other software platforms Pandora and Spotify in terms of pricing and profit margins. “[There are] additional features. We want to provide as much value [as possible]. We [want to provide] additional value.”

He added that he worked with a number of senior-care organizations at the conference to forge partnerships to support and further develop Care Angel.

“[I am] working [with] partners at this conference,” he said.

“Everyone [is] in the care continuum. We may interface [with] organizations and may have contracts. [We are interested with partners who want to] help seniors and lower costs [for families]. A lot of [people] want to add value. [A] lot of customers look at what we are giving [them].”

Shlagman said that his team is dedicated to growing and enhancing Care Angel.

“Whenever you have any product, it’s a living, breathing thing,” he said. “You can get incredible [results]. [There is] constant [research and fine-tuning]. [It’s] never-ending. [It’s more] improvement. [We] take feedback.

“We want to help a million-plus families. [We are] helping families watch their loved ones. We [will] grow as quickly as it takes [to make it] grow.”

Age-Friendly Banking Instructs Seniors On Services, Guards Against Abuse, Experts Say (Part Five)

Chen said the Federal Reserve Bank there hosted two discussion events of their own. Participating seniors learned what services are being offered by their local area banks. Quarterly newsletters are released about these services and products. The center’s work is available at its website at http://www.centeronelderabuse.org.

In like fashion, Aery said the coalition recruits ambassadors to teach seniors about financial abuse and exploitation issues and to go to Sacramento, the state’s capital, to lobby on their behalf. The ambassadors are recruited in Folsom in Sacramento County in California.

“[These seniors are visible] advocates for [all] elder adults in their community,” she said. “[They are] valuable partners [and model] citizens [in our initiative].”

One of the most critical pieces of legislation watched by the coalition is the California Homes and Jobs Act (SB 391), a popular bill designed to provide jobs, financial investment and safe and affordable apartments and single-family homes for state residents in need, including families, seniors, veterans, the disabled and the homeless.

As of February 2014, with 31 co-authors, 600-plus sponsoring organizations and 400-plus individual sponsors, the bill lacks three votes in the state legislature to achieve passage into law.

Rangel, Bank of the West’s senior executive, said her bank provides a financial services roundtable of BITS, a non-acronym of an organization also known as the Financial Services Roundtable’s Technology Task Force, which represents an association of the nation’s 100 top financial services with interests in technology.

Bank officers provide services in financial exploitation, at-risk adult training curriculum and education, fraud detection, identity theft and secure retirement and a working group on these issues.

“[We look at and address] challenges and impediments,” she said of her bank. “[We provide] group training for advocates and education for seniors. BITS [serves by providing the] at-risk adult training curriculum.”

Rangel said that the bank contacts other banks and tries to avoid embarrassment for its senior customers with respect to financial abuse and exploitation. She said bank officers check credit reports to protect older customers against identity theft.

“[We make sure our senior customers] stay active and engaged with others,” she said. “[We ensure that they] establish [a] budget and keep money management.

“Isolation is a great danger. [It is important that our senior customers] protect [their personal and financial] identity. [We caution them not to] give away [their] Social Security numbers. [We try to] take away [the] stigma [of their victimhood for abuse and exploitation].”

Rangel said that Bank of the West sponsors “Be Aware” workshops. The bank started the program in 2007 to comply with California laws requiring banks to create and host customer education workshops.

“[We] partnered with nonprofits,” she said. “[We] let the [bank] branches [customize their educational programs]. [We brought in community] resources, law enforcement agencies and [the] FBI [in to] talk about scams. [We had participants] share [their] experiences.”

Rangel added that the bank took part in a governmental program, especially with the different counties and other states to enable industrial shredders to dispose of documents containing sensitive data about senior customers.

As an example, she said, one of the bank branches in Omaha, Nebraska sponsored an event program titled “Be Aware” Seniors. The program was started and run by a legal aid society in Nebraska, she said. The Attorney General in Nebraska provided a free shredding service.

Rangel said the bank “[carried out much of the] heavy lifting” to inform seniors about financial abuse and exploitation on their website. The nonprofit Elder Financial Protection Network’s (EFPN) work can be viewed at http://www.bewiseonline.org and http://www.elderfinancialprotection.org/.

She said the development of the website was “labor intensive [and took] a lot of time to manage in 2009”. The intent, Rangel said, was to reach more people about financial abuse and exploitation.

“[Our bank was responsible for] education and outreach [with a] broad dissemination [of content to our] target audience,” Rangel said. “[In our materials, we] defined financial elder abuse [with an] actionable message [from] trusted sources. [We formed] partnerships [with a variety of public and private sponsors].”

Event participants were advised not to let caregivers isolate seniors and urged them to make surprise visits of their homes.

The bank participated in and supported the San Francisco District Attorney’s campaign, she added. The campaign was a citywide multilingual business advertisement effort on elder financial abuse. She said the bank made sure that its officers generated “linguistically and culturally appropriate community outreach and press events [and materials].”

Rangel said the challenges of the bank’s age-friendly banking initiatives are “reporting out of their benefits, licensing of financial professionals serving elders, meeting the need for additional education and lobbying support for a national reporting statute.”

She explained that it is the duty of the executor of a will and the power of attorney to exercise the authority to authorize a protective hold on a customer’s finances and property and to grant permission based on age-based fraud monitoring.

“[We need to ask basic questions like:] are we violating other laws by monetary fraud?” Rangel said. “[We need to address the] hold harmless [clauses and instances of] suspected fraud.”

She explained that the bank approaches the financial institution’s trusted advisor on behalf of its customers. Bank officers take into consideration the turnaround time for reporting and exercising authority.

The bank performs internal training on SARS, also known as “suspicious activity reports” and trains families. Its officers check for fraud and the speed with which it is committed. During banking events, the officers field questions in the audience about the training and fraud monitoring programs. Many banks participate in the Elder Financial Protection Network, a “turnkey solution” meant to address the financial abuse and exploitation questions that has “received a great deal of support,” she said.

“[Seniors are at a] vulnerable stage [in their lives] and [have] given so much to society,” Rangel said. “[We believe it is worth the effort to] galvanize people to care about this.”

Read This Story From The Beginning:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.

Age-Friendly Banking Instructs Seniors On Services, Guards Against Abuse, Experts Say (Part Four)

“[This meant that there were] a lot of people [without affordable housing in California. There was] only one of me, my boss and support staff [performing this work]. We wanted to produce something of value.”

Firstly, Aery said, the coalition performed assessments of units and properties in rural communities. Coalition staff visited the member organizations in their offices. They examined the current services of their organizations, resident characteristics and site capacity.

Secondly, coalition personnel examined the implementation of the coalition’s recommendations and directives through resident surveys, educator workshops about financial empowerment and roundtable discussions, she said.

The surveys consisted of 11 questions, which were multiple choice, and were meant to be confidential. Aery said that the objective was to discover what seniors were dealing with in terms of banks and financial exploitation.

She explained that senior respondents were asked about checking accounts, banking and check cashing. Coalition staff found it interesting to tabulate the number and type of questions they skipped on the surveys.

“[We examined] implementation [at our] roundtable discussions,” Aery said. “We wanted to show real people are being affected. [We wanted to] do something other than surveys.

“[So we carried out] raffles for surveys. [We had] appetizers [and drinks for] two-hour long discussion events.” The events occurred at the Reserve Bank in Napa, California.

At the event, she said 15 to 25 older adults related the incidences of quality services, abuse, neglect and exploitation they experienced and the time of the events. There were three- to five-person discussion groups to allow them to share stories of banking experiences.

She added that coalition staff discussed implementation of the umbrella group’s recommendations of housing and financial services at the financial education workshops. Coalition personnel have used these discussions and data to implement solutions to the problems raised by seniors attending the event.

The seniors at the event, Aery said, “strengthened the well-being of their peers [through open dialogue].”

“[We talked about] examples,” Aery said. “[We presented scenarios of seniors who] won a fake lottery or [who participated in] a fake banking event. [Seniors explained] what they [would] like to [have] happened and [what actually] happened. Each group talked to everyone [after their own discussion sessions]. People were excited.”

Elaine A. Chen, training coordinator of the Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine’s Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology in Orange County, Calif., said the center is performing similar age-friendly banking activity. The center serves as the local clearinghouse for the federal National Center on Elder Abuse with funding from the federal Administration on Aging (AoA).

Continued: Part Five

This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.

Age-Friendly Banking Instructs Seniors On Services, Guards Against Abuse, Experts Say (Part Three)

“[We make] recommendations [to enable banks to] create and customize financial products, [including] low-cost, low-fee accounts,” Zdenck said. “[This] requires financial institution staff to identify fraud and abuse. [It all supports] age-friendly banking.

“[Under the GO Direct program sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank and the U.S Department of the Treasury,] all benefit payments [are scheduled] to go electronic. Direct deposit [is] better [for seniors] than debit cards with hidden fees. Yearly benefit check-ups [are offered] for older adults [to ensure that they are being served properly by government agencies]. [And we help banks work to] expand housing and financial options. [We examine and improve upon] CDFJs [County Department of Job and Family Services] and reverse mortgage.”

The next steps are to generate age-friendly banking papers, Zdenck said. NNS must provide introductory policies, campaigns and age-friendly banking standards to further assist banks in helping seniors, he said.

“[We need to look at the] recession in terms [of] elder abuse,” he said. “It’s so underreported. [There is] an uptake in outreach efforts. [For example, the] Hispanic community [is in great need of such initiatives to examine and prevent elder abuse].

“It may be [a series of life] circumstances [that are involved]. [The] climate [of the caregivers may not be conducive to ending elder abuse]. Elders [should] feel comfortable [enough to conduct financial activity without the fear of abuse]. They [should] know what steps to take and how to report crime. We are realistic partners [with banks] when it comes to assessing and acting on the life circumstances of seniors].”

Stacey Easterling, Program Officer of the Atlantic Philanthropies, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a nonprofit senior services organization, and Better Directions, a program by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions to help low-to-moderate income seniors become economically secure, formed a team to develop and offer earned income credit to low-to-moderate income taxpayers around the country through the Internal Revenue Services (IRS). Benefits checkup for individuals, especially seniors, is only available in at least 20 states, he said.

“We don’t expect [a] doubling [of] banks, [especially the most age-friendly ones],” Zdenck said. “Banks are [expected to learn about], understand [and urge their aging customers to use] benefit screening. Elder individuals are not the only ones who don’t [know about this service].”

NCOA developed benefit calculators of government social assistance programs online at http://www.benefitscheckup.org to enable individuals to determine which forms of aid they qualify for in their states of residence.

Rebecca Rangel, senior vice president of community affairs of Bank of the West in San Francisco, which has branches in 19 states in the Midwest, West Coast, North Central and Southwest regions of the country, said that benefits screening impacts the tax season because of seniors’ financial and government benefits habits.

“IRS has a form [known as the] 888 refund,” Rangel said of the IRS application sheet used to direct taxpayers’ refunds to their bank accounts or to purchase savings bonds.

“[If seniors] don’t see [the] money, [then they] don’t spend. [The idea is to] increase bank networking. Younger people are decreasing bank networking. [They are banking more and more by] telephone [and on the] Internet. [These are critical issues in] branch banking. [We need to make our banks] more accessible.”

To learn more about senior’s banking practices and experiences, Sonia Aery, director of the Asset Building programs of the California Coalition for Rural Housing in Sacramento, Calif., said her organization performed their own research. The coalition’s work can be viewed at its website at http://www.calruralhousing.org.

One of the discoveries made through research, Aery said, is that California has one of the oldest housing industries in the country as well as some of the most affordable homes, many of which are owned or occupied by seniors. The coalition has 15 grantees receiving funding and technical assistance to support community empowerment and eco-activity.

She added that there are three phases of coalition work: the invitation and engagement of member organizations under the umbrella group, assessment of the state of housing and socioeconomic status of communities and the work of the organizations and the implementation of their solutions to issues and problems.

To perform the assessment aspect of the coalition’s work, Aery said that research was conducted on its member organizations.

“[We] sent surveys to [community housing] developer members [of our coalition],” she said. “[We asked what was the] number of [housing] properties [in the state and] where [were they located. How many tenant organizations [were there]? [We learned by] RSVP [that there were] 3,400 [affordable senior housing] units [and] 64 properties statewide.”

Continued: Part Four

This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.

Age-Friendly Banking Instructs Seniors On Services, Guards Against Abuse, Experts Say (Part Two)

With the struggling economy, bank savings among the nation’s population, including seniors, are decreasing and the use of defined benefits is rising. Additionally, Social Security accounts for 30 percent of the average older adult’s income and this figure is growing, he added.

Zdenck said federal research also found that 19 percent of seniors are unbanked; they didn’t have a bank account or participate in any banking services at all. The reason, he said, is that many seniors feared predatory lending, financial fraud, abuse and exploitation.

“[It] surprised me,” he said. The American Association of Patients and Providers (AAPP), a Seattle, Wash.-based organization aimed at promoting more efficient and cost-effective delivery of healthcare services, and the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), an organization targeting “unbanked” and “underbanked” consumers, such as seniors and low-to-moderate income families and communities, released the figures.

To carry out the research project, a survey of interviews of 14 of the largest banks in the country was conducted. The investigative effort consisted of financial practices research data and expert interviews and relied on the experience of banking practitioners.

“[Researchers learned that] financial institutions had no data on older adult customers,” Zdenck said. “No single bank [the researchers interviewed] developed an array of comprehensive products and services armed at seniors. Services [didn’t] meet the needs of older adults.”

As a consequence, he said government agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Reserve System (FRS), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)’s Consumer Response Center and state banking authorities, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Department of Commerce worked with the banking, housing, community development and geriatric medicine sectors to address this gaping need.

“[We need to] improve regulations, data collection and law enforcement at the state and federal boards,” Zdenck said. “[We] work with federal regulators to have [aging in place directives] as explicit [as the] CRA [Credit Reinvestment Act] investment and [bank] service test [to motivate banks to invest in low-to-moderate income and disadvantaged communities].

“Our principles [are to] protect older adults from fraud and abuse. [We are constantly] adapting and learning [how to achieve this better]. [We] train bank officials on detecting fraud and abuse. [We get them to] customize financial products and services for older adults. [We get them to] offer transparent, low-cost, low-fee accounts. [We ask them to] expand affordable financial management.”

Zdenck said NNS and other federal agencies must help banks to engage seniors in investigating the government benefits that may support them.

“[We help their customers to] access critical income supports and offer education to older adults,” he said, stating that NNS’ Housing Counseling Network and National Training Academy provides seniors with financial and housing consumer education.

“Financial institutions should have benefit screens. [For example, seniors are] not applying to food stamp programs or SNAP [the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] because they don’t know about them.”

Zdenck said that one of the issues raised by seniors about conducting business with banks is their physical accessibility. He said that LEED represents voluntary standards for building designs and the banking, architectural and civil engineering markets responded to the government’s age-friendly banking endeavors with implementing them to accommodate senior customers. As a result of government and business partnerships, most bank branches are now LEED-certified.

“[The development and opening of branch banks is] modeled after LEED building principles,” Zdenck said, explaining that LEED, also known as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to regulate environmentally correct building and construction.

“[We want to] improve access to bank locations and services [and build and open more] bank branches and online development. [To further physically accommodate seniors, we want to] facilitate aging in the community [with such services as] home repairs and modifications.”

He said that NNS assists banks in providing products and services, offering income supports and benefits and housing counseling to seniors. This has reduced the number of unbanked seniors.

Continued: Part Three

This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.

Age-Friendly Banking Instructs Seniors On Services, Guards Against Abuse, Experts Say (Part One)

State and federal agencies and banks are partnering to enact age-friendly banking practices to teach seniors about the different services and products they offer and social benefits and to protect them against financial abuse and exploitation, four panelists at a conference on aging said.

Four government, banking, housing, community development and geriatric experts in their panel presentation on “Age-friendly Banking” at the Aging in America conference hosted by the American Society on Aging in downtown Chicago said that, with the new national policy, which is aimed at eliminating discriminatory practices toward seniors, older customers can learn about financial services relevant to them, government benefits, retirement plans, financial abuse and exploitation, fraud detection and identity theft.

Robert Zdenck, director of the National Neighbors Silver (NNS), the age-friendly banking division of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), a federal agency in Washington, D.C. charged with increasing capital and credit to underserved communities nationally and ending discriminatory banking practices, said his department has 15 grantees around the country.

“[We provide] community development counseling,” Zdenck said. “We are eclectic [in terms of the nonprofit housing and community programs we fund and provide technical assistance for]. [The aim to increase capital] flow and credit to communities.”

He explained that NNS has a multi-year funding and technical assistance campaign to fund 15 units around the country in the areas of advocacy, organizing and direct service.

It works closely with the banking industry, having cultivated 15 partners, including the California Coalition for Rural Housing, an umbrella group of fair, adequate and affordable housing advocacy organizations in the agricultural regions of California that carries out its policy objectives with the seniors it serves.

He said that NNS assists seniors with their finances in the case of bank foreclosures. NNS also helps seniors secure their estate plans, modifying them to their wishes as necessary, and locates funding and resources for their home improvement goals.

“Why not [provide seniors with] more advice about [their] investments?” Zdenck said. “[Why not tell them about] senior discounts [when they make purchases?] How does the recession limit [their purchases and other financial activity]? Why not [choose] credit unions? [They are a] better deal for seniors.”

One-third of the country’s population banks with credit unions, Zdenck said. The credit unions are the hub of socially beneficial banking, he said.

Among the senior population, the membership of NNS has noticed increased fraud and abuse. The Atlantic Philanthropies funded NCRC’s organizational and advice campaigns against elder financial abuse and exploitation.

“Why age-friendly banks?” Zdenck said. “[With the] increase in the number of older adults [in the country comes] growing economic vulnerability. Fraud and abuse [are] rampant. Financial institutions have a critical role to play [in] fostering [the movement by seniors to] age in place.”

What are banks doing about this upsurge in senior financial abuse and exploitation, he asked? Zdenck responded that, according to federal research, banks and lending institutions will have served 35 to 72 million individuals between the period of 2000 to 2030 on this issue. Twenty percent of these customers will be older adults.

With the decline of what economists call “the three-legged stool,” namely, savings, pensions and income supports, less than 30 percent of the country’s population have defined benefit pensions, the common category of pension plans in which employers promise to pay a specified monthly benefit on retirement determined by a formula based on employees’ earnings, length of time of service and age.

Continued: Part Two

This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.

Assistive Technology, Home Modifications Boost Senior Mental, Physical Functionalities (Part Three)

“One of the ladies [I provide services for] has arthritis,” she said. “She lives in [a senior independent living facility]. In that place, there is [a] senior facility [that contains] bars [to prevent falls]. [Other places say] ‘We don’t [carry] bars, grab bars.’

“[In] every [senior long-term care facility and assisted living center I visited in the past], [I see chairs with] one or two arms or two legs. I have some problems [like getting] chairs with arms.

“[When I talk to some seniors in long-term care, I will get comments like, ‘The] kids are too busy. I tell my wife to get me [a] chair [with particular features to accommodate my illness and disability’]. How many [assisted living facilities or senior long-term care centers] don’t have a table? They put [so many objects] on it [that it no longer functions as a table for mealtimes].”

Eckhouse established her business using her master’s degree training in gerontology from 2000, her work in senior long-term care and rehabilitation services, her 30 years of experience as an occupational therapist and later her certification as an “aging in place” specialist in 2008. Her thesis project for her master’s degree at Northeastern Illinois University was “Internet-based Resources on Information for Successful Aging and Independent Living.” Her website is at http://www.MyElderSpace.com.

A member of the Chicago chapter of ASA and the AARP, Eckhouse networks locally with the Senior Lawyers Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, Senior Services Division of the City of Chicago Providers Council, CJE SeniorLife and Covenant Methodist Homes to learn about the latest trends, research and practices in senior long-term care and home care to inform her commercial services.

“[With our current] health (care) system, you [may have, for example,] one week of [emergency room medical center or hospital care or] housing and three or four [weeks of] rehabilitation,” Eckhouse said. “You are lucky [to have] two weeks [of adequate transition time in between categories of care].”

As do most local companies, ElderSpace staff must consider the material, designs and regulations under which private family residences built after World War II were constructed to determine home improvement plans.

“[In the] post-World War II [era,] [there was a brand of] emerging housing [that they created to accommodate new middle city and suburban families throughout the country],” Eckhouse said. “[The] standards never changed. Cabinets and door knobs used [a particular material and design].”

Part of the counseling to homeowners and some of the products used for transforming homes include assistive technology such as computers, tablets and Skype, she said.

For example, if seniors living at home or in a long-term care facility need to take five or six bottles of medicine and they are forgetful, a specially-built machine may be set to help them remember to take them on time, in the correct dosage and with the right frequency.

“We call [on] assistant technology [to enable seniors to perform basic daily life functions],” Eckhouse said. “There are different ways that technology can help. Some technology is to help people [with tasks on a step-by-step basis] and others are sensors. [In either case,] technology is for communication.”

Still, she said, the difficulty of working with technology is learning the rules and laws governing use and implementation.

“With technology, it is complicated,” Eckhouse said. “The definitions aren’t the same. The government passes laws [on the definitions and regulations]. You are working with documents, namely electronic paperwork, and working with patients to try to implement [those machines or equipment].”

Read This Story From the Beginning: Part One

This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.

Assistive Technology, Home Modifications Boost Senior Mental, Physical Functionalities (Part Two)

Loeb-Aronin praised another collaborator, Sherri Snelling, California-based CEO and founder of the Caregiving Club, executive producer of the “Handle With Care” TV show and newsletter editor, for bringing in a caregiving component to the intergenerational program activities. Snelling’s website is at http://www.caregivingclub.com.

At the workshop, all professors and cognition, gerontology and geriatrics experts demonstrated how a variety of intergenerational activities around the country improved self-sufficiency, health care, mental and physical functioning and access to technology. The panelists shared “mind-building activities” and Internet-based content.

“[At] Pace and Case universities, [I and a team of instructors developed products to assist seniors with] loss of memory,” Loeb-Aronin said. “[The] computers and tablets [were used] with programs for recognition. [These programs] sensitized college instructors in [the] senior center [when they are working] with tablets [to address seniors with] memory disorders.”

“I [work on these projects with a team of] collaborators. [I get] advice and help from visitors and advisors [at my centers and universities]. Sometimes, there is an agency or group [that sponsors, leads or funds our work].”

Eckhouse said she started ElderSpace in July 2006 to assess the houses of seniors and enhance their living space at affordable rates to enable them to continue their lives at home and in their neighborhoods.

“[We encourage] planning, saving and aging in place,” she said. “[Most people don’t say] ‘I’m thinking of talking to [a] planner.’ Most people don’t want to plan. [They remain in] denial and worry. Don’t wait for a crisis [to occur to take action].”

Assessments focus on the mental and physical functions of a senior in his or her home, problem areas in his or her quality of life and health care and high-risk spots for injuries or falls in houses. Eckhouse said the assessments take into account whether there is sufficient lighting, safe and usable bathrooms, availability and use of house keys and accessibility of faucets and appliances in the kitchen as a whole.

She added that, after assessments, she offers modifications, adaptations, occupation therapy and products to the homes of her elderly customers using universal design and a specialized team of architects, engineers and construction workers.

“Home modification goals [are] safety, independence and functionality,” she said. “ElderSpace [provides] village members with communities and multi-generational housing. [We] retrofit space and create transportation and walking areas and visibility programs.”

She said ElderSpace helps Baby Boomers or seniors at different stages of rendering their homes more livable whether they are recovering from illness or accidents, coping with disability, remodeling or planning ahead for their houses and health care.

Aside assisting with planning changes to the house and staying at home, the company will also provide products, services and counseling on physical accommodations for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, accident and fall prevention, assistive technology and contractor referrals.

Changes can take the form, for example, of placing studs in walls for future grab bars, widening doors with offset hinges to avoid hands getting caught in door jambs, lowering the height of counters, cabinets, and toilets, providing solid office chairs, modifying lighting, adding lighting and ultra-sense faucets, placing walkers at the top and bottom of stairs to prevent falls and removing barriers.

“Escalators, stairs and even revolving doors [are] products,” Eckhouse said. “[When I went to visit] Lurie [Children’s hospital in downtown Chicago,] everything [went] up. [I saw a] two-story escalator.”

Eckhouse explained that many of her company’s ideas for in-home accommodations come from the structural features she finds missing as well as the ones present in many medical centers and senior long-term care facilities.

Continued: Part Three

This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.

Assistive Technology, Home Modifications Boost Senior Mental, Physical Functionalities (Part One)

Both assistive technology and modifications to one’s private home can connect seniors to the digital world, improve their intellect and knowledge base and enable to perform daily life tasks, a computer science expert and a gerontologist said on a panel at an annual conference on aging.

Felice Eckhouse, a gerontologist, occupational therapist, aging in place specialist certified by the National Association of Home Builders and founder/president of ElderSpace, Inc., a company started to assess and improve home environments to empower seniors to safely age in place in Chicago, and Dr. Gene Loeb-Aronin, founder/director of the Center for Technology and Cognitive Health of Older Persons in west suburban Wheaton, Ill. and the Center for Community Informatics in north suburban Wheeling, Ill., made their observations during their poster panel presentation titled “Are We Ready to Age in Place?” at the Aging in America conference by the American Society on Aging (ASA).

The presentation was also alternately called “Connecting Elders With Social Computer Networking via Intergenerational Community-Based Programs.”

“We invent terms because they sound pretty [such as] ‘aging in place,’” Loeb-Aronin said. “The problem is not re-defined. [There are different] pieces of the puzzle. Another problem [has to do with] doing enough [to promote successful aging in place and quality senior long-term care]. You look around. How many people are aging?

“Personally, it does not matter [which] neighborhood [seniors live in, how they obtain health care and what government services they participate in]. People are [not] writing about this but we don’t know how to implement [the technical resources needed to] to support home care.

Eckhouse said there are varying perspectives on age and this will color how prepared the industry and government are for the rise in the number of seniors.

“What [is life going to be like at age] 50, 60 and 70?” she said. “We’re in [the] middle [of a senior care revolution and transformation of the aging in place movement]. [Age] 75 [is the] beginning of the old and old-old. There are not that many [members of this age group]. [It depends on how you look at it.] [Either] no one’s old [or] everyone is old.”

Loeb-Aronin explained that both of his centers use volunteers to teach and initiate seniors in urban and suburban communities around the country to use information technology to hone their cognitive skills and become more knowledgeable about the world around them.

“[Our programs are meant to resolve] aging needs and [to promote] brain health,” he said. “[We want to help seniors attach names to] faces and [preserve their] memories.

“Volunteers help seniors [get] connected with people all over the world. [These aging] issues are all over the world. I lived in Australia [for a time]. I followed these organizations. I’ve got a lot of content.”

Editor of the Journal of Community Informatics and reviewer of the Journal of Informing Sciences and Merlot, Loeb-Aronin uses his educational background, research on learning, psychology and aging, instruction and travels to different countries and memberships in global organizations to enhance learning and development, create curriculum and technologies and write journal articles on aging and technology subjects. One of his websites include http://www.seniorslivewell.blogspot.com.

Locally, Loeb-Aronin sits on the planning committee on ASA’s Chicago Roundtable of bimonthly meetings of geriatric professionals at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s University Medical Center in Chicago. He is also affiliated with Roosevelt University in its campuses in Chicago and northwest suburban Schaumburg, Ill.

Aside from their poster session on aging in place, Loeb-Aronin participated in a 90-minute workshop at the conference titled “Intergenerational Activities and Community Involvement: A Winning Plan for Quality Senior Living.”

He co-hosted the workshop with Dr. T.J. McCallum, associate professor of psychology of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Jean Coppola, associate professor at Pace University, Dr. Kristin Bodiford, program director of the initiative Creating Aging-friendly Communities, Dr. Robert Winningham, associate professor and division chair of the Department of Psychology at Western Oregon University, gerontology professor and expert on cognition.

Continued: Part Two

This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.

Social Work Researchers Say Laws, Regional Policies to Senior Abuse Are Scattered, Inadequate (Part Three)

Both researchers said that each of the 50 states they studied protects seniors from physical abuse, financial or material exploitation and neglect but definitions vary. Forty-four states carried emotional or psychological abuse provisions or laws. Forty states had laws or provisions on self-neglect. Thirty-seven states addressed sexual abuse. Thirteen states protected against abandonment. Ten states – Alaska, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming – defined all seven NCEA categories of abuse.

For example, Virginia identifies adult abuse as “the willful infliction of physical pain, injury or mental anguish or unreasonable confinement of an adult,” combining both physical and emotional or psychological abuse. Hawaii defines psychological abuse as “the infliction of mental or emotional distress by use of threats, insults, harassment, humiliation, provocation, intimidation, or other means that profoundly confuse or frighten a vulnerable adult.”

For independently-defined abuse, no state, Jirik and Sanders said, had independent definitions of all seven NCEA categories of abuse. This held for six states on physical abuse; 46 states on financial or material exploitation; 46 states on neglect; nine states on emotional or psychological abuse; 16 states on self-neglect; 17 states on sexual abuse, and eight states on abandonment.

For age definitions, sixteen states specified ages 60 and older; six states, ages 65 and older; Hawaii, ages 62 and older; 14 states specified two ages for persons under its elder abuse law, age 18 and older and ages 60, 62 or 65 and older. Four states – Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia – had no specified age for a defined population. The remaining states defined the age of requirement as 18 years and older.

Jirik and Sanders pointed to a lack of consistency among the 50 states on training requirements under their elder abuse and neglect laws with some provisions being detailed while others were vague. Thirty-two states did not define any training requirements for investigators of senior abuse or the categories of professionals to be involved, although training could be at an administrative or department level or regulated in a different law or code. The remaining 19 states specified training for investigators of elder/dependent adult abuse and the type of professionals required.

Read This Article From the Beginning: Part One

This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.