The internet of things (IoT) is responsible for many conveniences via embedded electronic devices, and many seniors are making use of these technologies. It is becoming increasingly common for everyday items like refrigerators, thermostats, and doorbells to be internet-connected making our homes and personal information subject to hacking. A hacker will subvert computer security for malicious purposes. Seniors who employ IoT devices for safety and convenience may be less wary of all the ways their devices can be compromised. If you are a senior or have a loved one who is, it is imperative to have them, or a trusted friend, update software from device manufacturers and routinely monitor their devices.
A Smart TV provides many hacking opportunities. The problem can be an annoying prankster blasting the volume control, switching channels, or even ordering movies you did not select. Or the hacker can also compromise your security and safety as your Smart TV is a gateway to other internet-connected devices in your home. TV apps can be data mined for credit card payment information since many manufacturers reuse default passwords, and users neglect to change them. Even companies who sell Smart TVs are now post-purchase monetizing the Smart TV by harvesting your information via data collection and using it for advertising and direct sales of entertainment to the consumer.
Digital Thermostats are a great way to keep heating and cooling costs down. However, a hacker who takes control of your thermostat can crank up the heat or cooling until the owner pays a ransom to regain control of the device. An older person can experience health consequences due to extremes temperatures as well as the anxiety and fear it breeds. Baby monitors are often connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network for the convenience of a mobile app to check the display at any time. Many homes use these monitors for seniors instead of small children.
Typically, people do not change the default password on the monitor, meaning that it is visible to the network. A hacker can scan transmitting internet protocol or IP addresses (numerical labels assigned to every device that connects to a computer). Once they have your IP data, they can find the baby monitor and watch you or your loved one at any time. For better protection shop for baby monitors that are made to be invisible to scans. If you have a Samsung smart refrigerator, it can be hacked. The wiring in the fridge leaves the new owner’s Google login credentials out in the wild for a hacker to grab and then infiltrate your home’s IoT devices.
Smart cameras have vulnerability issues allowing a hacker to remotely access audio and video feeds. Be sure to keep track of all of your IoT devices that are network connected. Actively seek out all software and firmware updates for maximum protection against hackers. Smart voice-activated speakers like Alexa, Google, Echo, and many more open up every conversation you have in your home to be monitored by a hacker. Without even being aware, you can divulge sensitive information like doctor appointments, luncheon dates, and upcoming trips. Even your bank account and credit card information can be compromised. If your home security system is connected to your voice-activated speaker, a hacker can turn it off and enter your home.
Even pacemakers are subject to hacking however improbable that might seem. Anyone with bad intentions toward you can remotely change the pace of your heartbeat, which can even result in your death. Implanted medical devices, in general, are now subject to more stringent controls that use code to secure data and instructions in these devices and monitor them in real-time. Talk with your medical professional to know that you are protected against medical hackers.
Default passwords need to change in order to protect your devices from hackers. Most internet-connected devices have simple default passwords, and a search run on the name brand of a device will often yield the manufacturer’s default password. When you change your password, make it very strong, and use unique passwords for each device. Out of convenience, many seniors will use the same password for everything. In this case, if a hacker gets into one device, they can be in all of them if you do not use different passwords.
Cell phones, home Wi-Fi routers, and even landline voicemail are susceptible to hacking. Inexpensive signal-proof cases are good to use for protection when you are out in public. It is possible for a hacker to clone your phone in seconds while standing next to you and they will get everything you store on your phone. Home Wi-Fi routers must be up to date on all software and firmware, and a unique, strong password can help protect you from hackers. Once a hacker gains access, all of your devices connected via the internet of things have been compromised as the router is the nerve center of your digital footprint. Many seniors still like to have a landline telephone and its associated voicemail. Passwords to access voicemail must be very secure, or a hacker can listen in to your conversations as well as delete potentially important messages.
All senior grandparents love pictures of their family to be proudly displayed. Picture frames that are digital and allow you to scroll through photos or change an art display with the swipe of a hand are vulnerable. If your frame becomes hacked, a thief can discern non-active times in your home by the frame’s ambient light sensors and can plan a robbery while you are away.
Garage door openers are also able to be hacked if you have a newer smart version device. A hacker can monitor garage door activity and identify times when you are not at home. It is very convenient for a burglar to avoid encountering people during a robbery. Be sure to update a manufacturer’s default password setting to something difficult to break, and a would-be robber will move to an easier target.
Cars and Self-driving cars can be hacked. It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to break into and start a vehicle, even disabling the alarm system. Car thieves now employ sophisticated hacking technology, especially when they must bypass the electronic anti-theft systems. If a self-driving car is hacked, the attacker can take direct control over the throttle, brake, and steering while remaining anonymous as to their identity and location creating a very dangerous scenario.
Convenience comes at a cost to your privacy when using the internet of things. Taking the necessary steps to protect your devices from hackers is of paramount importance. Once secure procedures are in place, it is crucial to monitor for suspicious activity that can lead to robbery, electronic banking theft, and more. Taking control of your internet-enabled devices is essential to protect your home and your strategy for aging successfully. No one wants to be victimized by unwanted hackers.
If you have questions or would like to talk about your legal needs, please don’t hesitate to contact our Cincinnati office by calling (513) 771-2444.
Aging is something you cannot escape, and it affects all family systems. It can be challenging for adult children to imagine their parents as seniors and to understand and respond to the reality that each parent will age differently. Even if you are in the fortunate circumstance where your aging parents can go it alone for a long time there will come a day when assistance or long term care will be needed. There are things to consider as you help your parents live their best possible aging scenario. Managing their welfare takes time, research, and planning.
Your parents and their abilities to remain independent are most easily defined by activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living (ADLs and IADLs). Activities of daily living address daily functional mobility like getting in and out of bed or a chair, self-feeding, bathing and personal hygiene, the ability to use the toilet, and the ability to get dressed. These are essential daily living requirements that promote dignity and physical as well as emotional well- being for your elderly parents. If your parents are having difficulty managing these ADLs, it is an appropriate time to find help for them whether it is you or another qualified caregiver.
IADLs include all ADL activities and more. The additions are grocery shopping and cooking, medication management, laundry, and other housework, bill paying and finance management, using a telephone, and driving or using public transportation. Recognizing your parent’s limitations in any of these categories is a sign that you need to develop a care plan that provides appropriate assistance. The degree of change or sometimes multiple changes is an indication that staying at home may no longer be appropriate and safe for your parents. If you require assistance in determining suitable care needs, you can set up a comprehensive geriatric assessment by a medical professional. Take an honest look at the stage of life your parent is experiencing and then find the support and help they require.
Your aging parents’ geographical location is critical to consider as a family. Families are fortunate when one adult child lives nearby and can ensure their parent’s well-being. Video chat either online or through a phone application is one way to daily check on a parent. A friend may live close by and can do wellness checks and provide information about behavioral or health changes. If none of these options are viable, it may be time to discuss the idea of your parent(s) downsizing into another more supportive location and living arrangement.
Having this discussion is best before a parent’s adverse health event. Making residential changes without a previous plan in place can negatively impact on the parent, especially when experiencing a health care crisis. When aging at home cannot be appropriately managed, it is time to consider the alternatives. These alternatives may include independent living communities, assisted living communities, nursing homes, or living with a trustworthy and capable relative or family member.
All of these assessments and changes in your parents’ lives impact their financial outlook. Making necessary residential changes can often be very costly, and your parents may need additional financial support from government or community programs to offset the difference in expenses. It is critical to take advantage of all possible financial help. As an adult child, you may have to begin managing their finances and retirement funds more actively. There are various federal, state, and non-profit groups that provide free tax assistance for seniors.
Some of the better organizations to help you navigate what is available are online and include Benefits.gov, Area Agency on Aging, and Benefitscheckup.org. These groups can help you assess the best strategies for housing, healthcare, financial assistance, legal aid, transportation, in-home services, prescription drugs, energy and utility support, and nutrition. BenefitsCheckUp is part of the National Council on Aging and is considered the nation’s most comprehensive online service for seniors with limited income and resources. The information available canvases all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Caring for your aging parents should not be the job of one family member. The commitment should not be a burden, and responsibilities should be shared. Look for caregiver support organizations and forums as well as involving all family members. Everyone should do their part. The goal is to find the best blend of options and resources to allow your parents to age happily and well. Your parents’ health changes require that programs and opportunities change too. Caring for your aging parent is a dynamic process that must be retooled as their needs change.
We help families who are trying to navigate the maze of long term care either for themselves or for an aging parent. Please contact us at our Cincinnati office by calling (513) 771-2444 to discuss your particular needs.
Concerns about your memory or that of a loved one should never be ignored. There are many resources available through a simple internet search, and professional associations that provide education and guidance through a maze of questions you may have regarding how to approach someone you suspect may be experiencing memory loss, or how to ask for help if that someone is you. There is even a free online memory test you can take in the privacy of your own home. But, did you also know that through many years of research, there is a link between diet, exercise and Alzheimer’s disease? It is never too late to start making proactive changes to your diet and lifestyle now to help lessen the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Even if you have been given an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, a study published in late October by Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, noted that it is possible to improve cognition with modifications to diet, exercise, and sleep.
This study, summarized by the Wall Street Journal, acknowledged that the methods tested would not prevent Alzheimer’s, but through their findings, healthy individuals, as well as those with mild cognitive impairment who followed personalized recommendations over the 18 months of the study, did show improvement in cognition. The study included 157 participants who varied in age from 25 to 86 and who all had a family history of Alzheimer’s. A small group in the study had mild cognitive impairment and were asked, after going through certain measurements and many tests, such as blood, genetic and cognitive function, to adhere to a little over 20 recommendations of food selection, daily vitamins and personalized exercise plans. Those who followed at least 60% of the recommendations showed significant improvement from their baseline in cognitive testing. Participants who followed less than sixty percent of the recommendations experienced cognitive decline similar to the control groups. Cognitive decline is a precursor to memory problems.
The larger group of participants studied were healthy individuals who had no memory loss though some in this group had less than ideal cognitive testing. After 18 months of following recommendations, all participants showed improvement in cognitive testing compared to their baselines and the control group, even if all the recommendations were not followed. Results showed that younger participants did better in general than those who were over 60 years old. Some of the measurements that went into developing a personalized plan included body fat and muscle mass, since the memory center of the brain, the hippocampus, is known to shrink as belly fat increases. Because cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, these values were monitored throughout the study.
In reviewing sites such as the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, a free memory test was found that will test how quickly and accurately you recognize repeated images during a timed test. On the Alzheimer’s Association website, one can find many recommendations for diet and lifestyle modification to follow, which are also listed in the Wall Street Journal article. Some examples of diet modification include limiting red meat, adding foods to your diet that are high in omega 3’s, such as a certain type of fish, and foods high in antioxidants, such as strawberries and blueberries. A mix of aerobic exercise and resistance training/weight lifting was recommended for good brain and heart health. Hours of sleep and quality of sleep were other factors that can affect mood and memory. It is generally recommended that a person try to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night and reduce caffeine consumption and ‘screen time’ well before bedtime to improve the quality of sleep. As for general brain health, meditation for stress reduction and learning a new skill, such as a foreign language were recommendations to keep you mentally sharp. There are many other ways to start now to improve or maintain your brain health with numerous online resources to help.
If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s, don’t let another day go by worrying about what may happen. Educate yourself and take steps now that could minimize your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Contact our Cincinnati office today by calling (513) 771-2444 and we can help you plan for you or a loved one’s situation.