Your Aging Parents: 8 Simple Brain Exercises to Improve Memory or Slow Down Its Loss

We all know that physical exercise is important to our bodies’ wellbeing, but did you know that cognitive stimulation is equally important to the health of our brains? Experts say that the brain can be strengthened through targeted exercise, just the same as any other part of the body. This is especially important for senior citizens—even for those who may already be showing signs of cognitive decline.
Helping your own aging parents to exercise their brains is easier than you may think, too. Depending on their level of overall wellness, your mom or dad may be able to add some or all of the following “brain-building” exercises into their routines. If Mom or Dad has a caregiver, speak to that person about the possibility of working the following ideas into the day:

• Social interaction
Social engagement is about more than companionship. The give and take of conversation, practice with word recall, and ongoing facial and environmental recognition help give the brain a workout.

Creative work
Does Mom or Dad play an instrument, paint, draw, knit, or sew (etc.)? Studies show that time spent creatively is time that reinvests itself exponentially in terms of health: the brain is open to problem solving and new ideas for hours after such pursuits. Maybe Dad no longer has his full woodworking workshop since downsizing homes, but is there a class at the local arts center he, or both parents, may enjoy attending each week? Maybe your mom would enjoy jewelry making or working with beads, and either parent can benefit from coloring with your kids. It’s easy enough to make sure that supplies are on hand. Show your parent(s) how to search for instructional videos on YouTube, and help them ignite a new or long-buried passion.

We can all benefit from exercise, but pumping oxygen through our veins is good for our brains, too. Safety first, of course, but perhaps some low-impact stretches or a few yoga poses could be added to your parents’ days? There is usually some form of movement we can all add into our lives, no matter our physical limitations. Talk to your parent’s doctor(s) first for clearance, then help Mom or Dad find a YouTube channel, website, exercise membership site, or even borrow a few DVDs from the library.

Do(es) one (or both) of your folks like to cook? So long as they are not displaying dangerous signs of memory loss or dementia (which could cause injury to self and/or environment), let them! Send your folks to a cooking class they can experience together; encourage them to use their favorite cookbook(s) and/or to buy new ones, as following a recipe uses problem solving, memory, logic, and other skills.

Gardening and getting outside
I’ve listed these together because the real benefit here is Vitamin D, which comes from the sun. Just like plants, we all need actual sunlight to thrive—and the elderly population tends to show the most Vitamin D deficiency. If Mom and/or Dad are no longer able to get digging in the dirt, see what plants will grow in containers right outside their door, then help set up an outdoor area where they can sit and enjoy the beauty of the garden each day (and possibly help improve cognition).

While your parents are outside drinking their morning coffee and soaking in the sun, they can further exercise their brains by doing some reading: magazines, daily newspapers (although the news can be upsetting…), novels, etc., these are all excellent for keeping the mind engaged. Help them download Overdrive and/or favorite their local library online, and your parents will have an endless supply of free reading at their fingertips.

Puzzles and Games
Old-fashioned puzzles, board games, card games, crossword puzzles, sudoku, online games, even popular game apps found on your PC/phone/tablet, are not only brain stimulators, but brain boosters, too. Teach Mom and Dad to better utilize their devices and you’ll help them build even greater critical thinking skills.

Change in routine
It’s fine to enjoy a routine … many of us do. However, when we do something the same way day after day, the task becomes so practiced that it’s done without thought. We could all benefit from a daily shakeup of sorts, such as: finding a new route to work or to a friend’s house, grocery shopping at a different store or location, applying makeup or getting dressed in a different than usual order, and so on. These small daily challenges call on our brains to reason differently, to use new processes.

All it takes is a little critical thinking on our parts to ensure that our aging moms and dads are getting the cerebral challenges they need to stay as fit as possible. If you need help thinking through this or any other aging-related topic, please reach out to me.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

Posted in Aging, aging in place, caretaking, Communication, health and wellness, prescriptions, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Your Aging Parents: 8 Simple Brain Exercises to Improve Memory or Slow Down Its Loss

Keeping Your Aging Parents Safe from Internet Predators: 3 Tips for Savvy, Safe Sales Transactions

Chances are you’ve spoken to your children about the subject of “stranger danger” and you continue to do so. They know to avoid strangers in real life as well as on the web and wouldn’t think about opening the front door to someone they didn’t know.

But what about your mom and dad? Do they know the most basic rules of keeping themselves safe from predators who troll the internet looking for their next targets? With more and more of the elderly population actively navigating their Smartphones and tablets and learning to navigate the sales and bidding sites and apps easily found on their devices, it’s easy to assume that Mom and Dad also know how to keep themselves safe. However, if your responsibilities include the wellbeing of your aging parents in addition to that of your own family, safe in-person sales transactions is a subject I’d urge you to find time to discuss.

Here are 3 tips for keeping your internet-friendly, elderly parents safe from harm by cyber criminals:

1. Remind them to never, ever discuss personal information such as their address, birthdays, the names and locations of relatives, daily schedules, etc. with sellers/buyers. It’s a known fact that the elderly are often socially isolated and in need of more companionship. It’s not difficult to imagine a criminal optimizing on this fact.
2. Advise them not to advertise merchandise as being available for pickup from their home. Sure, most buyers are harmless, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If Mom and Dad have items needing to be sold, tell them you’ll be happy to handle it for them. If you live in another state, tell them to keep a list, and you’ll help them the next time you’re in town—then follow through with that promise.
3. For those active elders who enjoy the hunt of a bargain, remind them that ALL in-person transactions should be made INSIDE the local police station and not in a nearby public parking lot. Period. Municipalities encourage these meetings and typically make their lobbies available to the public for this reason. If a seller or buyer refuses to meet in a mutually-convenient police station, end the transaction right there.

We can’t help but worry about the safety of those we love. Knowing that your elderly parents can keep themselves safe from harm may provide a little relief in your busy life.

Please reach out to me if I may be of help to you and your family in this or any other discourse.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

Posted in Aging, caretaking, Communication, health and wellness | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Keeping Your Aging Parents Safe from Internet Predators: 3 Tips for Savvy, Safe Sales Transactions

Suicide in The Elderly: Risk Factors and Warning Signs

The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain—both people whose lives seemed full and rich in every sense of the word, have helped to open the topic of suicide up for discussion across dinner tables all over the world.

If you’re caring for elderly parents or have parents who are aging, you need to be paying attention.

While no one knows specifically what drives another to take his or her life, one thing we do know is that those who commit suicide are suffering deeply, either from chronic, severe depression or grueling physical conditions, including long-term pain and illness. All of these circumstances are common in the elderly sector, and often compounded together.

According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates among older males, especially, have grown disproportionately to the rest of the population, with those age 85 and older having the highest suicide rate of any other populace in the US. Just as frightening, elder suicide is typically well planned and successful. It is not a cry for attention; it is a way out.

So what can you do to help ensure your own parent(s)’ safety?

Be proactive in battling the most common risk factors, including:


  • Isolation


Social isolation is a literal killer, particularly in the elderly. Imagine how you would feel, having lived an active and productive life for decades, only then to have your very mobility become more and more limited. While we are busy with our own chaotic lives, often our aging parents are growing increasingly isolated from activities, hobbies, outings, and friends.

  • Depression

Unfortunately, diagnosis of depression in seniors is often missed, as many health care professionals simply consider the effects of aging (illness, loss of mobility, death of close friends and loved ones, etc.) to be perfectly “normal” or anticipated and don’t offer treatment options. The fact is, there is effective treatment available, no matter a person’s age.


  • Pain


Chronic pain is grueling. It can lead to further issues with mobility as well as a dark outlook on life. Here again, treatment options should be explored (though opioids and the elderly are another topic entirely, so physical therapy and alternative paths of treatment should be explored first).


  • Illness


As with ongoing pain, above, a person in failing health may become increasingly frustrated with the state of his or her life. Illness is costly, it is time-consuming and downright depressing, and it can tend to take over anyone’s life.


  • Late in life mood disorder


A change in cognitive function of any kind may lead to erratic and/or unexpected behavior.


  • Loss of a spouse/loved ones


Not only is there the loss of a partner or close friends to consider, but this awakening of one’s own mortality as age continues to encroach can be difficult to bear,

Just because your mom or dad is living with one, if not all of these risk factors, doesn’t mean you need to be in constant fear, of course—not at all. However, these are some of the major signs that your parent could be in danger:

  • Onset of a major depressive state
  • Loss of interest in hygiene
  • Stockpiling of medicines and/or sudden change in prescription medication routine
  • Firearm acquisition
  • Purposeful social isolation
  • Expression of intent—which should never, ever be brushed off. Comments such as “I am tired of being a burden,” “Maybe I won’t be here for (________),” etc. should always be taken seriously.

So what’s a caregiver to do? Open up the conversation, for starters. Don’t be afraid to ask your parent if he or she has been thinking about inflicting self harm. Additionally, reassess your parent(s)’ living situation and see where improvements to risk factors can be made.

If you are the caregiver of an aging parent, I want to let you know that there is help out there for you and your family. Please get in touch with me so I can help you find the resources you need.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.


Posted in Aging, caretaking, Communication, health and wellness, News and Press, prescriptions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Suicide in The Elderly: Risk Factors and Warning Signs

Strange Behavior in Your Aging Parent: It May Not be What You Think

As I have written here in the past, common medical conditions can manifest quite differently in the elderly than they do among the general population. Whereas an ongoing headache and fever after a cold of flu would indicate a likely sinus infection, it is not safe to jump to similar conclusions when your elderly parent becomes similarly symptomatic.

In a parent who is already suffering from deficiencies in memory, it can be especially difficult to distinguish a new physical ailment from his or her continued mental degeneration.

In this type of instance, err on the side of caution and get Mom or Dad an appointment with a doctor who is experienced in geriatric medicine.

I was reminded of this when I got a call from a client whose mother had been in the early stages of dementia for a year and a half. Not surprisingly, the disease was less pronounced during those first few months after diagnosis. However, after the year mark, Mom’s behavior began to change and her short-term memory started to falter.

This seemed normal enough to family members—unfortunate, but to be expected.

That is, until Mom began to behave outrageously and completely out of her norm.

Her behavior was described to me as “petulant,” “childlike,” and “manipulative.” While she was in no way aggressive, her moods swung wildly. Sometimes her actions bordered on the bizarre.

In one such example, she packed and mailed off a large box of holiday gifts for the son (and his family), but she neglected to include her grandson in the enclosed card. Equally strange, the “gifts” she did send (to her son and his wife) included such oddities as an old, ragged towel, random cutlery from Mom and Dad’s kitchen drawer, as well as the older couple’s guestroom bedspread.

While this may almost sound amusing, it is not. Think about if you had been the recipient of this holiday gift from your own beloved mother?

What was going on?

Was a new medicine to blame? Had her disease robbed her of her mental faculties this quickly?

This adult son lived across the country from his elderly folks, and he felt helpless. His own father seemed emotionally beaten down from taking care of the ailing wife, and soon family members everywhere were offering opinions and taking sides.

It was a mess.

This is when my phone rang.

I strongly suggested that Mom be taken immediately to a physician knowledgeable in elder care and geriatrics so that she could be given a thorough once-over.

And guess what? She was suffering from a severe urinary tract infection. It had been raging within her body, reeking havoc, for months.

Mom has now been through three very long, strong rounds of antibiotics and I am told that she is much more clear-headed again. Overall, her behavior has leveled out to a more tolerable state.

This family is not out of the woods. We have scheduled an online, group session, during which I will be walking them though setting up a next-step action plan so as to hopefully ease the burden on Dad, while securing the safe care of Mom.

I can do the same for your family or the family of someone you may know.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

Posted in Aging, caretaking, Communication, health and wellness, medication, prescriptions, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Strange Behavior in Your Aging Parent: It May Not be What You Think

How to Save Money on Your Aging Parents’ Prescription Costs

It’s no secret that while the costs of prescription medications continue to skyrocket, the majority of our incomes are not rising accordingly.

This is especially true for the elderly. How can you help your aging parents stay healthy when many are too embarrassed to mention the fact that they are skipping doses of their medications, just to save money?

You may be able to alleviate some of your parents’ stress by teaching them to use the internet to comparison shop their medication refills. (If Mom and Dad are not technically savvy or require assistance, offering to be in charge of refilling their medications for them will yield the same results.)

t all boils down to this: Like any business, your corner pharmacy stays afloat by making a profit. Pharmacies in particular use complicated formulas to establish their wholesale costs (and contracts) with various drug companies—and none of these formulas are transparent to the public. This means that the cost of a given medication can vary dramatically from pharmacy to pharmacy, even those in the same city or town. Believe it or not, having insurance coverage (private and/or Medicare) does not guarantee the customer will pay the lowest price. To the contrary: quite often, the cash, or self-pay, price is going to be the cheapest option, most notably when the medication is a generic and the sale is combined with a discount card (which may be found online using your search skills, and/or at physicians’ offices, etc.). Please note: not every medical condition and/or patient makes a good candidate for a generic substitution. Thyroid issues, as well as health issues in the elderly, in general, can be especially finicky to manage. Please track any changes in medication carefully and see your physician for a followup.)

These cards are not gimmicks. They work. (Well, I cannot vouch for all of them, of course.) It was my own doctor who told me about GoodRx, in fact, as he, too, is now “of a certain age” and swears by not only this website but by Google, in general. (He even helps his patients search online for the cheapest medications for their needs, prior to writing out a prescription.)

Of course, the downside is the fact that refilling Mom’s medications will require a few moments of internet sleuthing, as well as extra phone calls to her physician’s office and possible followup regarding the electronic filing of said prescription(s), and as mentioned above, followup with Mom to make sure she’s feeling fine.

However, saving real money is worth these few moments invested, not to mention, for some families this can mean being able to keep the electricity turned on while still taking much-needed medications.

Here are my three best tips for refilling your parents’ prescriptions for the lowest price:

  1. Always comparison shop prior to submitting that refill (or first prescription) is an excellent starting point and takes mere seconds to use. is another favorite. Order their free prescription discount cards and carry them in your wallet. Try using these and the “self-pay” option (which means you’d like the prescription charged through without the insurance contract price) at your current pharmacy, or go online and type the name of the medication you need into the discount card websites. You may find yourself driving to a different pharmacy each time you need a refill, but saving several hundred dollars is worth a few minutes of your time.
  2. Do not blindly accept the name brand version of any medication from your doctor without questioning him or her first. Would a generic suit you (or Mom or Dad) equally well? The difference in cost will likely mean a savings of hundreds of dollars a month to your family, per prescription.
  3. Consider ordering from a reputable Canadian pharmacy. There is no substitute for health, and sometimes only a certain brand of medication will do. In these instances, you may find marked savings by having your medication filled across the Northern border. (Don’t forget tips 1 and 2 while you’re at it.)

I hope this information is useful to your family and that you will share it with others. If you, or anyone you know, is dealing with the stressors borne of aging and its impact on the extended family, I am here to help. Please reach out to me.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson


Posted in Aging, caretaking, health and wellness, medication, News and Press, prescriptions, The Middle Ages | Tagged | Comments Off on How to Save Money on Your Aging Parents’ Prescription Costs

Your Aging Parents: Ignoring the Situation Won’t Make it go Away

When I last heard from Lacey, she was having a crummy holiday season.

She’d spent Christmas Eve in an airport, catching an exorbitantly-priced, last-minute, cross-country flight home to be with her ailing, aging parents, both in the same hospital but on different floors.

She then missed the rest of the holiday season as her husband, back at home, struggled to find care for their school-aged daughter—home on break—while Lacey sorted through the hassles of her parents’ insurance issues and future care needs and plans. For the most part, she told me, she was just trying to get through every day.

Once her parents made it through their life-or-death issues, she flew back home.

Lacey is a responsible adult who loves her family. Yet despite knowing that her parents were in rapidly declining health and had no one nearby to help them with their care, she’d opted to wait until an emergency occurred (her father fell and broke several ribs and then subsequently developed pneumonia, all from trying to care for her mother on his own), rather than to have put into place some kind of emergency plan of action.

It’s the same thing I find myself harping on time and again: Talk to your parents before something happens. Know what to do before these inevitable events take place. Have a plan at the ready.

In Lacey’s family’s case, she told me that since Mom had refused to consider leaving home for assisted care living, she didn’t bother pushing the issue. Since the other, much nearer, sister was in school, worked full time, also had her own family and refused to be of any help, she, Lacey, has to hop on a plane and fly across the country in the event of parental troubles.

This family needs help.

It’s always easier to be an outsider looking in on another family’s issues, it’s true. However, in this case, I sense either denial or avoidance of something … I’m just not yet certain what that something is. I’m hoping that a conference call with the two sisters can help right this ship and get them working more as a team, especially for the sake of their parents—who are now out of the hospital and left at home on their own to convalesce once more.

Perhaps the problem has more to do with the sisters’ relationship than with their relationship to their parents? It’s too early to tell. Regardless, through counseling, even by phone, I aim to help both sisters feel heard and understood, and to guide them to finding imminent solutions before the next crisis arises.

It’s not as if this situation is going away anytime soon….

If you know of another family with aging parents and that family is also in crisis, I urge you to send them to my website, directly to my blog or Facebook page, etc.

I want to help.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.


Posted in Aging, aging in place, Assisted Living, caretaking, Communication, health and wellness, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Your Aging Parents: Ignoring the Situation Won’t Make it go Away

Working Through Sibling Rivarly to Care for Aging Parents

Recently, I counseled a woman who was struggling with the ever-increasing demands of caring for her aging parents while trying to manage her own family’s needs. “Mia” has two young children, a husband, and a full-time job—in addition to her caregiving duties.

In our first meeting, I learned that she had been the sole outside caregiver for her parents for nearly two years. Mia’s mom and dad had been less than friendly to dog walkers and house cleaners alike and had developed a terrible habit of simply firing anyone who’d been contracted to lend a hand, which made their daughter feel all the more more tied to their needs.
I also discovered that Mia has a sister—in perfect health—who lives about 25 minutes away.

In an all-too-common caretaking scenario, one sibling had neither asked for the other’s help; the other had not stepped up to offer.

“How is this possible?” you may be wondering. (Yes, the sister was well aware of her parents’ health and activities, as she has had regular phone exchanges with them and they have kept her up to date.)

It’s quite simple, really: No matter their true age, siblings tend to take on the same roles they played in childhood whenever they are engaged in stressful family dynamics—parents’ aging being one of the most stressful situations we will ever encounter. Our relationships to our parents and siblings are vital in shaping our personalities and our views of ourselves; each family member takes on a different role within the unit. Times of difficulty only tend to heighten unresolved feelings. “Dad never listens to me, anyway,” “They’ve always liked my brother better than me,” “Sissy has always had it so much easier than the rest of us!” etc.

In my role as a mediator for such families in crisis, my goal is not to heal these old wounds, but to help each family member better understand how he or she can play a role in the successful operation of the family unit as it stands today.

Not all of us are as self aware as we’d like to be. Sometimes we need a third party to come in and help us see where we really stand.

Such was the case with Mia and her sister, who were stuck in their roles from yesteryear. By first speaking with each woman separately and reminding them of the real focus, caring for their parents, the sisters were able to come together and articulate how each could best be of aid—be that financially, physically, or through making phone calls and arrangements.

Mom and Dad were also brought into the conversation, and they agreed to stop haphazardly firing contractors and instead to bring any complaints to the sisters, who would then take these concerns to their proper places.

Thus far, this family is doing much better, and Mia and her sister are able to see one another as the capable, grown women they are, and not the children they were so long ago.

If I may be of assistance with your family, or if you know someone whose family unit is also struggling with the fallouts of aging, please reach out to me

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.


Posted in Aging, aging in place, caretaking, Communication, health and wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Working Through Sibling Rivarly to Care for Aging Parents

Emergency Disaster Planning for Senior Citizens: Putting a plan in place for your aging parents

During these past days and weeks, as the entire country has been transfixed by news of first Hurricane Harvey’s, and now Hurricane Irma’s, impending upheaval, I’ve been thinking about disaster-preparedness and the elderly.

If you have aging parents, I would venture to guess that this same topic has been on your mind as well.

Imagine being in the path of a potentially deadly storm and having to worry about not just your nuclear family’s physical safety, but the safety of your aging parents, who have also come to depend on you. Equally terrible, what if you and your family are not in danger but your folks are, yet simple distance prohibits you from being able to help them prepare for, or evacuate from, a life-threatening storm? You would feel powerless and scared.

Then you would probably kick yourself for not having had a disaster-preparedness plan already in place. Below, I’ve written up the basics for you, but I recommend that you visit the links I’ve added in order to more thoroughly read up on the specifics as they apply to your family.

Geography/natural elements

First, consider your parents’ location and any seasonal or likely natural forces for which their area is known. Obviously, no one can predict the future, but if Mom and Dad live in an area known equally for its forest fires as for its beauty, along coastal waters, or perhaps in an earthquake-prone part of the country, etc., you can help them be far more prepared for the risk(s) they’re likeliest to encounter.

Create a plan (and practice it with Mom and Dad)

This website is fantastic. In fact, it even has a dedicated page for senior preparedness, complete with an on-target YouTube video for Mom and Dad to watch. The key to a disaster-survival plan involves putting into place, in advance, the following three elements:

  1. Support network

Your support network is someone who has agreed that in the event of disaster/community emergency, he or she will check on Mom and Dad immediately following the crisis. This can be a neighbor, a trusted friend, a pastor. This person will be given a key to your home and access to medical information. Remember that in a crisis event, travel may be challenging, so factor distance into your decision-making. More information about establishing a support network for an aging parent is offered by the American Red Cross.

  1. Communication tree

What could be worse than being hundreds of miles away from loved ones whose community is in turmoil and worrying whether or not they’re okay? Your parents’ disaster plan will therefore include specifics on communication (among your extended family as well) in the event of a disaster. While cell towers may be too jammed to allow for phone calls, texts are usually successfully delivered. Teach Mom and Dad how to text, download a texting app on their tablets, etc.—whatever it takes. Then practice texting with them routinely, so it’s not a foreign concept when the time comes.

           3Emergency kit

An emergency kit should contain not just food and water for each person for several days, but also a stash of medication, which is going to need to be replaced once a year or so if stored beyond its effective date. Other items to stash in the kit: a NOAA radio and extra batteries, important documents such as insurance policies, doctor’s names and numbers, medical information/limitations/allergies and schedules, a copy of the emergency plan, etc. You should also add a portable battery charger for Mom and Dad’s electronic device(s) and schedule a reminder for yourself so that you can have the folks recheck the charge a couple of times a year. Don’t forget about Fifi and Fido, who will need the same few days’ worth of food and vital supplies.

It’s a good idea to also include a flash drive of the same information—not for the folks, but for them to hand off to an aid worker or to the trusted family friend who is in your support network.

More information, including what to do after a disaster hits, where to seek shelter, how to have Mom and Dad’s Medicare payments wirelessly deposited directly into their bank account from now on (to avoid disruption in payment), etc., may be found online, HERE.

At some point in time, your parents  or parent may be safer in a different setting, one in which there would be more assistance during a crisis, but that is a conversation for another day (one I am happy to help you and your family to evaluate). Please reach out to me so that I may help lead you all through a constructive dialogue.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

More resources:

For even more perspectives on this topic, see the CDC’s page on senior emergency preparedness HERE

To stay atop disaster awareness and to locate shelter by area, download the FEMA app

Posted in News and Press | Comments Off on Emergency Disaster Planning for Senior Citizens: Putting a plan in place for your aging parents

Why Your Aging Parents Need a Voice-Activated Home Speaker

While voice-activated smart speakers (Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo  and Google Home)  were not created specifically with senior citizens in mind, these fairly inexpensive gizmos are a futuristic dream come true for any member of the sandwich generation who is caring for an aging parent (either onsite or from afar).

These speakers are small in size (the same size as most portable speakers) and sit unobtrusively on a table or desk in the room, where they are listening, at-the-ready, for the appropriate wakeup word or phrase. Over time, they get even “smarter” after better adjusting to a person’s voice. Fun, yes? While I would never suggest a plastic speaker take the place of a caregiver, I can say that a smart speaker can ease the load on a caregiver’s shoulders, and I highly recommend that everyone make sure their aging parent has one in their own home.

Here are but a few examples of what these devices can do (with additional improvements being made all the time)

  1. Depending on the system you choose, a smart speaker can greet your parent every morning and tell him or her the local weather forecast, traffic, day and date, scheduled appointments, and news updates.
  2. A smart speaker can play music, direct-dial other users, play podcasts, movies and audiobooks, and even link to certain television systems. Mom or Dad can even ask the speaker to call for an Uber or deliver food.
  3. Depending on the system, the speaker can become the hub of your parents’ smart home, connecting to the digital thermostat, doorbell alert, even making sure the deadbolts are locked, all adjusted or activated by voice command.
  4. For safety’s sake, several medical alert companies offer monitoring through the speaker hub, as do major home security systems. Pill reminders can also be connected to the hub, alerting Mom or Dad when it’s time to take their medicine.

If your parent has memory issues, well-placed signage could be of assistance here, as only the right word or phrase will awaken the speaker and put it to use.

Of course, certain services may need to be turned off through the online settings; say, if Mom or Dad has a heavy-duty shopping habit….

Overall, however, this could be the perfect device for the elderly person who is suffering from some degree of dementia and who asks the same question over and over again.

If you’ve put one of these speakers to use in your own family, I’d love to hear about your results. Please reach out to me.

As always, if I may help you and your loved ones in seeking relief from the stresses brought on by caring for your aging parents, I am here for you.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.


Posted in Aging, aging in place, Communication, health and wellness, medication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Why Your Aging Parents Need a Voice-Activated Home Speaker

Make a Phone Call, Make a Difference

How often do you call your aging parents?

(Pause for uncomfortable silence…)

I completely understand. I have been there myself. Now, In this digital age especially, it can feel as though your days are not your own: work seems to demand more from us all than it ever has; friends, colleagues and acquaintances are able to reach out to us 24 hours a day on multiple social media platforms; plus, as a member of the sandwich generation, you have your own growing family to care for. With the day-to-day errands and chores needed to keep dinners rolling out nightly and children (not to mention yourself and your spouse) dressed in clean clothing, it’s no wonder that days, even weeks, may go by in between check-ins with Mom and Dad.

This past week, an article about the development of a robot companion for the elderly caught my eye. Intrigued, I began to read it in greater detail, initially thinking that a blog post about geriatric technology could soon be in order. Instead, the real detail which stuck with me was nothing new, and that is this: Our elderly are dangerously lonely.

Here’s an example from the article: “According to Age UK, nearly half of all people aged 75 and over live alone and more than 1 million say they always or often feel lonely. Thirty-six percent speak to fewer than one person per day and 11 percent say they spent five days or more a month without seeing anyone.”

Additionally, since science and medicine are helping to extend people’s lives, our aging population is living longer–and mostly “confounded by” the very technology needed to stay interactive and engaged with the rest of the population.

And so … a team in Israel is working on creating a robot, one which is programmed to know the aging person’s likes and dislikes (among other things) as reported in part by family members, in order to provide missing companionship as well as guidance for technological needs.

I’m sure that this is a good thing (yes?), and yet for some reason it causes me just a twinge of pain.

Can’t we also all resolve to make a few more phone calls, specifically to those we know who are old and lonely?

If you have a loved one who is elderly and alone, or if you know of such a person in your neighborhood, I’d like to ask you to please schedule five minutes into your day today to phone that person.

Making a difference in someone’s life doesn’t necessarily take a team of engineers. Sometimes all it takes is just one small action.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.


Posted in Aging, Communication, health and wellness, News and Press, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Make a Phone Call, Make a Difference