ParentCare » Vol. 6

Caregiving Now! Research, Trends, and Products

By Erin Hansen

Gas safety for senior citizens
Many elderly need additional safety devices to ensure that they operate their gas appliances correctly and with minimum risk of harm; these devices can protect them from appliance malfunction and/or alert them that an appliance has been left on unintentionally.

Individuals with a reduced sense of smell, impaired memory, and compromised vision and dexterity can benefit from the use of the following safety devices; their caregivers may want to pursue having them installed in the home.

Gas safety devices include:
• Gas detectors that emit a loud noise or automatically shut down the gas supply when unburned carbon monoxide or gas is detected.
• Gas shut-off systems like additional guards, easy-grip or clearly marked knobs, and devices that remind that cooking is in progress.
• Manual shut-off valves controlled by the caregiver to prevent appliance use.
Regular gas appliance servicing is very important for the elderly ~ safety checks to be performed at least annually.

…Taken from Energy Safe Victoria

Simple, Easy-to-Read Cell Phones for the Elderly

There really is a phone for every personality and lifestyle these days. While many boast of their advanced technological capabilities and sleek, smaller-than-ever size, there are now on the market simple, large cell phones geared toward senior citizens (or for that matter, anyone with limited dexterity and eyesight). These large cell phones are easy for seniors to adapt to because they’re designed to work just like traditional landline phones. The main attraction of these large cell phones is their simplicity; there are no complicated user interfaces or features. Most importantly, they make it easy to call 911 and other emergency numbers since they have large buttons that instantly connect the user with the desired party. They are extremely easy to navigate with straightforward “yes” and “no” options ~ there are no lengthy menu screens like “mainstream” phones have and these large cell phones don’t have Bluetooth, cameras, GPS, gaming systems or music players. Seniors can input as many numbers as they want into their large mobile phone, though, and they can call whomever they want. Some mobile phones may come with both extra large loudspeakers compatible with hearing aid usage plus high volume ring tone settings.

Lung inflammation from influenza could be thwarted by new discovery
A new discovery could lead to treatments which turn off the inflammation in the lungs caused by influenza and other infections, according to a study published in the July 28, 2008 journal Nature Immunology.

The symptoms of influenza, such as breathlessness, weight loss and fever, are made much worse by the immune system responding in an exaggerated way to the virus, rather than by the virus itself. The virus is often cleared from the body by the time symptoms appear and yet symptoms can last for many days, because the immune system continues to fight the damaged lung.

The immune system is essential for clearing the virus, but it can damage the body when it overreacts if it is not quickly contained. Such overreaction occurs in a number of diseases in addition to influenza, such as asthma and inflammatory conditions in the gut.

During influenza infection, the immune system’s prolonged response causes the lungs to become inflamed and this can clog the airways and cause difficulty breathing. This on-going battle and the resulting symptoms can be extremely dangerous for elders in particular.

The new study, led by researchers from Imperial College London, reveals how the activity of immune cells in the lung is normally kept under control by a receptor known as CD200R, working with another molecule called CD200.

CD200R is found in high levels in the lungs and the new research shows that it is able to limit the immune system’s response and to turn off inflammation once it has started.

Influenza overrides the CD200 molecule and without CD200 to bind to, CD200R cannot work to prevent the immune system from overreacting, so the lungs become inflamed.

In the new study, the researchers gave mice infected with influenza a mimic of CD200, or an antibody to stimulate CD200R, to see if these would enable CD200R to bring the immune system under control and reduce inflammation.

The mice that received treatment had less weight loss than control mice and less inflammation in their airways and lung tissue. The influenza virus was still cleared from the lungs within seven days and so this strategy did not appear to affect the immune system’s ability to fight the virus itself.

Following these results in mice, the researchers hope that a therapy could be developed for people which can quickly work with the CD200R receptor and stop the immune system from fighting when it is no longer needed. They hope that in the event of a flu pandemic, such as a pandemic of H5N1 avian flu that had mutated to be transmissible between humans, the new treatment would add to the current arsenal of anti-viral medications and vaccines. One key advantage of this type of therapy is that it would be effective even if the flu virus mutated, because it targets the body’s overreaction to the virus rather than the virus itself.


An Alternative to Dentures
With all the advances in technology and dental materials over the past decades, it’s only natural that we’d hope for alternatives to the cumbersome, high maintenance, often obvious dentures which many elders accept as the only available replacement for their real teeth. Enter dental implants, which can be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. Implants are a permanent replacement for lost teeth. They’re more realistic looking and more hygienic and their major benefit is that the patient doesn’t ever have to think about their missing teeth again. The implant is permanently fixed so they can go on to live normal, fulfilling lives. Only a bit of healing is required after the surgery. Patients usually have to eat softer foods for a while until their gums have fully healed. After everything has settled down, however, patients can eat anything they want, including hard nuts and other crunchy foods. The cost is usually greater as implants are considered cosmetic surgery and are not covered by most health plans, but they more closely resemble the feel of real teeth. Not everyone is a candidate for implants, so consult your dentist for advice.

doctor visiting senior woman patient in hospice

doctor visiting senior woman patient


Recognizing that many types of surgery require post-surgical care to ensure a successful healing process, an on-line company called Recovery Elements offers a variety of products and aides that can be ordered right from the home. If you are caring for an elder and do not have time to make frequent trips to a medical healing supply store, or if there is not one in your area, being able to shop and order on-line can be a significant relief.

To enhance its already extensive product line, Recovery Elements recently announced the addition of two major brands: Auriderm and Scar Fx. Auriderm products are effective for post-surgical bruising and swelling, dark circles around eyes, post-procedural care for spider veins and varicose veins, and other benefits. Scar FX speeds the healing process for wounds and is effective for surgical scar treatment, burns, keloids, and more.

One of the company’s owners, Cindy Dietz, explains the goals of Recovery Elements.

“We know that healing plays a vital role in an individual’s recovery from surgery so we strive to assist them in any way we can to help reach that goal. We work directly with the top surgeons to determine the products that will work best to aid in recovery,” states Dietz.

The website attracts people from all walks of life, including many women who have recently undergone a mastectomy. Recovery Elements specializes in breast form products, compression garments, support cushions and pillows, hot/cold therapy and gel masks, and other helpful healing products.

More information about Recovery Elements can be found at

Clothing Designed Especially for the Elderly
A wardrobe designed especially for individuals who have difficulty lifting their arms and legs and using their fingers can be a huge relief for both the elderly and their caregivers. Special open-back outfits are simply held by the caregiver and stepped into. The caregiver then fastens the outfit at each shoulder, ensuring the elder’s dignity and relief from the pain of having to contort his or her body or try to fasten small closures. Most open back clothes slip on easily even if the person is sitting or lying down.

Clothing for the elderly should be loose, too (although not so voluminous that it can get caught in doorways or snag on corners, etc.), allowing for easy movement and never causing friction sores or bruises ~ or even “non-damaging” discomfort. Loose clothing also provides extra room for sanitary requirements. Soft, smooth material that stretches just a little and provides warmth is ideal.

Velcro and dome (“push-button”) closures are very helpful for those who have arthritis or other dexterity impairment. Velcro is also very helpful on shoes, which sometimes need to be adjusted several times over the course of the day to accommodate swelling. Footwear with non-slip soles helps prevent falls.
Elderly clothing should also be able to withstand frequent, heavy duty laundering. Wrinkle resistant fabric helps garments keep their shape. In addition to reducing discomfort and frustration, elderly apparel should also provide dignity. It always stays fastened and covers what the wearer wants covered. Patterns help disguise stains, and vibrant colors lift the spirits and create a better sense of well-being.
To get an idea of some of the options available, visit

When David Bloom’s wife Shirley died, he made the fatal mistake of not disbursing her personal items to their three children. In time, David remarried and his new wife didn’t care for her step kids. So when David died, all of Shirley’s jewelry and effects went to the new wife’s children and David’s offspring were devastated. Every family has their own tale of woe, but that problem can be easily solved with the Here and After Book. The Here and After Book is a 20-page, fill-in-the-blanks handbook that outlines the disposition of everything ~ from heirlooms to pets and even one’s remains.

The Here and After Book provides detailed instructions for those who are left behind. It allows those you leave behind to know exactly how you wanted things done, alleviating the stress and potential guilt of having to second guess your wishes.

The Here and After Book contains blanks for vital statistics, guardianship of minor children, location of wills, trusts and assets. It includes blanks for wishes about a memorial service, what you want to wear and how you want your headstone and obituary to read. Whether you want a service at the beach, on a mountain top or in a formal setting, the Here and After Book sets out the details. It gives a place to list the people and organizations you want contacted, whether you wish to have outstanding debts collected for forgiven and where any keys, storage facilities or valuables are kept so they are not inadvertently overlooked.

For complete peace of mind and to make sure your wishes are clear and carried out even when you are no longer here, put it in writing in the Here and After Book.

For more on the book including how to order your copy, head to

Game Helps Family Boost Elders’ Memory
Familytime Products, Inc’s new game “Generations” encourages the entire family to participate in fun that allows both older and younger members to share stories, learn, and relive life experiences, thus keeping family history alive and keeping older members’ memories active.

“At times throughout the year when families are getting together for reunions, picnics, and holiday gatherings, we wanted to give seniors, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, an entertaining forum to spend quality time with their families,” says Larry Buttram, President of Familytime Products.

By using questions that test the players’ knowledge of family history, “Generations” makes it fun to hand family facts and stories down from generation to generation. Players can earn their way out of a household chore or win the privilege of choosing the next video rental or pizza topping.

“Generations” is designed for 3 to 6 players. Players try to match answers to questions such as “Name the city in which your maternal grandfather was born” or “Name the family member who snores the loudest.” Players also get to answer questions about famous families like the Osmonds, Jacksons, Kennedys, and TV’s Brady Bunch. The object of the game is to match answers and move your pawn up the “family tree” game board to the finish line.

Preserving precious family memories, laughing over family quirks, maybe filling in some blanks for younger family members while stimulating older members’ memories ~ “Generations” is fun and serves a very valuable purpose.

The web site attracts people from all walks of life, including many women who have recently undergone a mastectomy. Recovery Elements specializes in breast form products, compression garments, support cushions and pillows, hot/cold therapy and gel masks, and other helpful healing products.

More information about Recovery Elements can be found at

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