Please join me in welcoming Spike the Dog to the GeriJoy family! The current GeriJoy Companions, Buddy the Dog and Mimi the Cat, as we like to call them, are both adorably cute, and have been received very well by most seniors and caregivers. However, for those who prefer a more rugged, realistic look, Spike offers an alternative modeled after an adult boxer dog.
It's a funny coincidence that we are releasing Spike on Halloween. He's not scary looking, though you do get the impression that he's tough to scare! For many seniors, Spike is the perfect choice for a GeriJoy Companion.
In addition to the altered appearance, we've also introduced a variety of new behaviors that increase the level of touch interactivity with Spike; for example, the ability to roll him over and pet his belly. These new features will be adapted to Buddy and Mimi in the near future.
New GeriJoy customers can choose which GeriJoy Companion they would like when they subscribe
. Existing customers who would like to switch to Spike can simply make the request via email
. Pricing is identical for all three versions: $99/month for round-the-clock support from GeriJoy's care staff, as always!
P.S. Go Red Sox
My grandmother motivated me to bring GeriJoy to the world. It wasn't easy for her, living by herself, so far apart from family.
Every day, millions of Americans worry about a grandparent's health, isolation, or safety. And now, GeriJoy can help relieve that stress while enriching the life of the grandparent and providing a channel of communication with family. So, in honor of National Grandparents Day, please help yourself to a free month of GeriJoy, on us :)
To take advantage of this special promotion, valid through the week of Sep 8-14, new subscribers for GeriJoy’s virtual home companion may enter the referral code “GRANDPARENT”, which will result in a refund of the first month’s subscription fee, effectively extending the free trial period that GeriJoy ordinarily offers. Happy Grandparents Day!
For the history buffs: Marian McQuade of West Virginia founded Grandparents Day in the 70's, making it her goal to educate the youth about the important contributions seniors have made throughout history. On August 3, 1978, then-President Jimmy Carter signed the official legislation that proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. The statute states that the day's purpose is "to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children's children, and to help children become aware of strength, information, and guidance older people can offer."
-- Victor Wang
Are you a dog person or a cat person? According to the Humane Society of the US, 39% of American households own at least one cat, and there are over 86 million cats owned in the US compared to 78 million dogs.
So now, by popular request, I'm excited to announce the availability of the GeriJoy Companion as an adorable kitten! This new option will help foster even stronger connections with the millions of cat-lovers out there.
The GeriJoy cat companion shares all of the original dog companion’s benefits and capabilities, including all-day supervision from our trained care staff, intelligent conversation, and connection to family through photos and updates. You can choose a cat or dog when you subscribe as a new customer, and as a special promotion, if you subscribe for a cat (http://gerijoy.com/subscribe) by August 8, 2013, you will automatically get an additional free month of service. We are also happy to help current customers switch to a feline friend, if desired -- just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at our toll free line, 1-855-GERIJOY.
Thank you for being with us on our journey to help bring joy to seniors and families. As always, please give us a shout if you have any feedback or questions.
- Victor Wang
Technology has always been a near ubiquitous part of our society. However, owing to the recent improvements in mobile platforms and web services, technology has somehow become even further integrated into our everyday lives. From young children to the elderly, it is not surprising to see one person in possession of both a smartphone and tablet computer. Given the unprecedented resources and capabilities offered by these devices, it is unsurprising then that there has been great interest in utilizing them to complement current standards in health care.
As I have mentioned prior but what is certainly worth repeating, the population of elderly Americans is rapidly increasing in the United States. Outside of the formal health care system, the American people invest an enormous amount of time and resources in providing care for elderly family members. As it stands currently, there are approximately 43.5 million adult family caregivers providing care for someone who is 50+ years of age. All in all, total caregiver services were valued at $450 billion per year in 2009 and most industry forecasts project the market for using technology to enhance eldercare will be valued at 20 billion by 2020. In a previous blog post, we explored the dangers and risk factors of caregiving burden. Such a responsibility is a heavy emotional, financial, and time burden. From this need, we can clearly see that there is great utility for technology that could help to relieve some of these burdens and improve the caregiving experience for both parties.
Just as recently as 2011, the e-connected Family Caregiver: Bringing Caregiving into the 21st Century
study noted that two-thirds of caregivers polled believed that web-based/mobile technology meant to facilitate caregiving would be of great use to them.
Some of the more exciting ideas for technology designed to improve caregiving for seniors include:
1. Health Monitoring Services – As many seniors have chronic disorders or physical disabilities, technology that would help either record or transmit data regarding seniors’ medical history would greatly help management, treatment and even prevention of certain medical disorders. These services also include technology designed to remind seniors of medication regimens and other important activities.
2. Interactive Services – Caregiving is an extremely involved process that represents a significant responsibility. Web-based technology that helps monitor/interact with elders when their caregiver was unavailable or in conjunction with normal activities, can increase the quality of care for seniors, and reduce the incidence of caregiver burnout. It would also help seniors better stay in touch with their friends, family and community.
3. Activity Tracking – Mental and Physical exercise is important for people of all ages. However, both have been observed to have great benefits for the elderly as well when performed safely and properly. Technology that would help schedule appropriate physical and mental exercises would not only help keep seniors engaged, but would also help maintain a healthy lifestyle at such a crucial time of life.
- Joey Orofino
It is widely accepted that physical exercise is of key importance in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages. Despite the uncertainty surrounding whether exercise can be considered a protective factor against cognitive decline, there is still strong evidence to suggest that it can make significant contributions to healthy aging. Although this evidence has been widely disseminated, rates of physical activity are relatively low among seniors. Obviously, due to physical limitations, not all older adults can engage in intense aerobic activities. However, even mild physical activities such as stretching or balance exercises, when performed safely, can be of great benefit to all seniors.
For older adults, there are four main areas of physical health experts recommend focusing on: endurance, balance, strength and flexibility. Endurance activities are useful for seniors in order to carry out their daily living activities. Balance exercises may help seniors prevent dangerous falls and tumbles. Strength and flexibility training can allow seniors a greater range of movement and also reduce the incidence of injury. Of the many proven health benefits of exercise for older adults, some of the more significant include the delay or prevention of diabetes, reduced arthritis pain, and decreased incidence of depression and anxiety. Though the exact neurological benefits have yet to be definitively proven, there is still ongoing and promising research in this field attempting to demonstrate the existence of any physiological benefits of exercise on cognition.
When considering the positive health effects of exercise for senior citizens, it is critical to remember that safety is of the utmost importance. Here is a site run by the NIH, which is a great resource for learning more about exercise and older adults:
Whether you are an older adult or if you care for one, it is highly recommended that you consult with a primary care physician regarding what should be considered a suitable and safe exercise routine before engaging yourself or encouraging another to participate in any potentially stressful physical activity.
- Joey Orofino
Image sourced from the Providence Journal Blog - http://blogs.providencejournal.com/arts-entertainment/lifestyles/fitness/2012/11/study-finds-exercise-may-help-prevent-dementia.html
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Older Americans Month, the Senate Special Committee on Aging is holding a Healthy Aging Forum
in Washington, DC. The “Healthy Aging Forum” is a great idea to tap the challenges to aging Americans that can help us better adapt to both greater longevity and the aging of the baby boomer generation.
Imagine a society with many more walkers than strollers. Tomorrow's America will be a unique Aging Society, forged by two critical forces. First, we will experience the effects of the remarkable increases in life expectancy. Second, within this decade, the enormous baby boomer generation, 76 million strong, will reach retirement age. Taken together, these forces will create an America populated, in large part, by previously unimagined numbers of older people. The Challenges of Aging
Life expectancy is increasing for Americans. And the fastest-growing segment of the population is the 85-and-older age group. Despite advances in health care, however, many elderly people have chronic, incurable progressive diseases and need assistance with the activities of daily living. The greatest challenge facing us as we age is the prevention of physical disability and the extension of "active life expectancy." Fortunately, recent studies suggest that healthy ("successful") aging is achievable, with sound planning for old age.
Illnesses like diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure, and some forms of dementia can be delayed or even prevented. Even loss of muscle strength with aging is partly preventable. Most importantly, perhaps, a positive attitude will enable us to overcome illness and personal losses while looking forward to days to come. Here is a great video to watch and learn from Heart and Stroke Foundation "The Last Ten Years in Life". What will your last 10 years in life look like? It is your choices! Make health last. http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ikIQLcMWJtE&b=3485819&ct=12941223
The Choices of Aging
As we age, we make choices about our lifestyle, health care, personal pursuits, and our plans for old age. A few "steps to successful aging" will help guide us to healthy and active golden years. What are the steps to successful aging?
1) Adopt and maintain healthy habits and positive lifestyles:
- Avoid cigarette smoking
- Have no more than one alcoholic beverage in a 24 hour period ·
- Exercise regularly, maintaining the weight bearing, aerobic, and balance activities
- Maintain a comfortable weight
- Get regular medical checkups 2) Maintain intellectual stimulation and socialization:
- Pursue hobbies/interests w/passion, particularly those that are social like dancing
- Strengthen family relationships
- Resolve intergenerational conflicts
- Engage in adult educational activities to challenge your mind 3) Be wise in financial planning:
- Plan in advance for retirement
- Carefully manage investments and assets
- Assure adequate insurance coverage
- Decide on your future living arrangements 4) Work to maintain dignity and good health in old age:
- Choose a physician knowledgeable in the medical care of older adults. ·
- Choose a health care system that facilitates appointments and care for elders.
- Communicate your goals of care to your family and physician.
- Express your advance directives in writing.Technologies for an Aging Population
Technologies have great potential for improving the quality of life for older people. For example, telemedicine/e-health will improve the physical and emotional well-being of older people. Technology can also enable older people to remain connected to family and friends, especially with those who are distant. References:
1. Challenges and Choices of Aging http://my.clevelandclinic.org/healthy_living/aging/hic_challenges_and_choices_of_aging.aspx
2. Opportunities and Challenges of an Aging Society http://www.agingsocietynetwork.org/
3. Technologies for an Aging Population http://www.nae.edu/Publications/Bridge/TechnologiesforanAgingPopulation/TheAgingofthePopulation.aspx
-- Vivien Lee
May is Older Americans Month
, a time to honor the value that elders contribute to our communities. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Older Americans Month, the Senate Special Committee on Aging is holding a Healthy Aging Forum in Washington, DC.
We are honored to have been invited to present the GeriJoy Companion at the event, with senators, their staff, and the general public in attendance. Always great to see government recognizing the role of technology and innovation in solving what we call at TEDMED the caregiver crisis
The Healthy Aging Forum poster on the Senate Aging Committee
website says that the event will feature "interactive demonstrations of homes designed for the aging, exercises geared to seniors, video games used for seniors' physical and mental fitness, and even a virtual dog who acts as a personal companion." I wonder what that last one refers to?
Hope to see you there!
- Victor Wang
Mother's Day is a special day indeed. It was my mother caring for her mother, who lived alone and far away, that inspired me to start GeriJoy.
To celebrate this day and in honor of all the mothers who have shaped our lives, please use the referral code "MOTHER" to get a full refund on your first month with GeriJoy.
All the best for a joyful and relaxing Mother's Day!
- Victor Wang
Whether due to acute medical events or long-standing disabilities, the elderly often need continuous care and assistance to go about their daily activities. With the population of older Americans growing steadily larger, more and more individuals will find themselves in a situation where they need to provide care for an older family member, either directly or indirectly. To put this in perspective, it is currently estimated that nearly 43.5 million adults care for an individual who is 50+ years of age and 14.9 million care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Even for family members, providing an appropriate level of care for an elderly adult is a highly taxing and stressful responsibility, not even considering the cases of seniors with severe mental and behavioral disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. While it is quite admirable that many individuals devote such passion and time to caring for their loved ones, they all too often neglect the impact this has on their own
health and well-being. This blog post will look at the often mentioned term, caregiver burden, and discuss a few techniques caregivers can employ to reduce their stress and frustration.
Caregiver burden is an umbrella term that refers to the combination of emotional, physical, and financial stress created by providing care. The formal definition of this term is generally measured by the Zarit Burden Interview which asks individuals to rate how they feel regarding various questions such as “Do you feel your relative asks for more help than he/she needs?” or “Do you feel angry when you are around your relative?” In any case, no scale can truly give an accurate depiction of such a complicated and unique emotional situation. However, we do know with certainty that there are various consequences to high levels of perceived caregiver burden. Some of the well documented health issues seen include depression, anxiety, increased psychotropic drug use, and increased risk of mortality.
Here are some strategies that may help caregivers cope with feelings of stress and stave off the negative health effects of long-term caregiving:
1. Knowledge: This is perhaps the most important and effective tool for a caregiver. A thorough and accurate understanding of the disease affecting one’s family member can give the caregiver a much better sense of the difficulties faced by the individual and from this sense, a much clearer picture of what is under their control and what is not.
2. Personal Time: Just as many find it helpful to separate their home and work lives; it is generally advised that all caregivers set aside time for their own personal needs and activities. Whether this means hiring a professional caregiver for one day a week or recruiting help from friends or local organizations, having this brief separation generally proves beneficial for all parties.
3. Vigilance: It is often reported that caregivers suffer from an abnormally high rate of depression. Knowing and watching out for the common symptoms of depression (feelings of worthlessness, physical and mental exhaustion) can help at-risk individuals seek and receive treatment as soon as possible.
4. Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help buffer individuals against the stress created by caregiving. This includes, but is certainly not limited to: eating a balanced diet, performing regular exercise, and keeping normal sleep cycles.
In short, to all caregivers out there, remember that your health is of vital importance not only to the loved one you take care of, but to the rest of your family. Make sure you take care of yourself!
Note: In this post, I generally consider the case of caregivers who are related to the individual in need. However, most of what is stated here can also apply to professional caregivers, who may also suffer from high levels of stress and anxiety.
Parks SM, Novielli KD, 2000. A Practical Guide to Caring for Caregivers. Am Fam Physician
In a previous blog post, I mentioned that the population of the United States is growing steadily older (ref 1). I have stated this fact yet again to emphasize the importance of preparing our healthcare system to meet the needs of this rapidly growing demographic. Though not often thought of in the same vein as childhood or adolescence, old age is a major stage of life characterized by great change and its own unique set of challenges.
One of these unique challenges for seniors is maintaining positive mental and emotional health. Recent figures suggest that nearly 5.6 million to 8 million seniors have some form of mental illness or substance abuse problem (ref 2). Seniors with mental disorders have increased disabilities and morbidity relative to their counterparts with physical illnesses alone (ref 3) . Compounding the issue, these disorders often go undiagnosed due to many seniors’ reluctance to seek specialized treatment, not to mention the shortfalls of our already burdened health care system (ref 4). Providing care and treatment for seniors with mental health issues should be one of our foremost priorities as we move into the future.
Healthy aging requires individuals to adapt to their changing situation. Old age is a period of time often marked by a withdrawal from the community at large and the loss of a sense of purpose. Other factors such as the loss of a spouse or limited contact with family can conspire together to create feelings of loneliness in the elderly (ref 5). It has been widely observed that seniors who report being lonely face an increased risk for depression, other mental health disorders, and suicide. Depression is a relatively common in the elderly and has been strongly linked to poor health outcomes, reduced quality of life, and morbidity (ref 6).
Though the task is daunting, we believe that technology can provide us with the means to care for the growing population of seniors who suffer from feelings of loneliness and depression. Technology has become widely integrated into our society and holds tremendous potential for improving our quality of life. The technology created by Gerijoy is designed to leverage the benefits of the internet, tablet technology and human compassion to provide affordable companionship to seniors around the nation. We are hopeful, yet confident that we will be able to do so.
1. Age and Sex Composition: 2010. Census Briefs.
2. IOM. The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands? July 10 2012.
3. Druss BG, Rohrbaugh RM, Rosenheck RA, 2009. Depressive Symptoms and Health Costs in Older Medical Patients. Am J Psychiatry 156: 477-479.
4. Bartels SJ, Coakley EH, Zubritsky C, Ware JH, Miles KM, Arean PA, Chen H, Oslin DW, Llorente MD, Constantino G, Quijano L, McIntyre JS, Linkins KW, Oxman TE, Maxwell J, Levkoff SE, 2004. Improving Access to Geriatric Mental Health Services: A Randomized Trial Comparing Treatment Engagement With Integrated Versus Enhanced Referral Care for Depression, Anxiety, and At-Risk Alcohol Use. Am J Psychiatry 161: 1455-1462.
5. Singh A, Misra N, 2009. Loneliness, Depression and Sociability in old age. Ind Psychiatry J. 18(1): 51-55.
6. Loughlin A, 2004. Depression and social support: effective treatments for homebound elderly adults. J Geront Nurs 30(5): 11-15.
- Joey Orofino