Caring for an elder takes time, patience, and a lot of energy. While people want to do best by their loved ones, it’s essential that there is also a support system in place for those doing the caring. The majority of caregivers have their own lives, families, worries, and jobs. Trying to do it all yourself will only lead to burn out, and compromise your ability to provide good care. The benefits of creating a support network are numerous, and not only is it good for the caregiver, but for those ailing as well. Support Networks for Elderly Caregivers Most communities have a wide variety of support programs in place to assist caregivers. In addition to friends, family members, and community groups, it can give immeasurable amounts of relief to those taking on the primary job. Some places to find support include: Local hospitals and senior service organizations: Many communities have programs that provide meals, rides to appointments or shopping, and additional caregiver services. Health care: Check coverage to find out if the person you care for is qualified for any additional assistance, like in-home nursing, occupational or physical therapy, or a social worker. Community groups: Many churches, due-paying community groups, and other non-profits have assistance programs in place. These services can range from phone check-ins to home visits and transportation. Personal services: Hired aides will come into the home to assist with basic daily living tasks. Consider finding help with cleaning, bathing, feeding, and laundry. Adult daycare: Retirement communities and senior programs often have adult day programs. These centers can give you a much-needed break while offering enrichment activities and social opportunities. Friends and family: Make a list of weekly caregiving needs you fulfill. Pull trusted friends and family members aside and ask if they’re willing to help. If they are, find tasks that they are both comfortable with and good at. Don’t hesitate to call on others if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Most organizations that involve working with the elderly population are more than happy to answer questions and point you in the right direction. Get to know what’s available in your community by making some calls. 6 Benefits of Having an Elderly Caregiver Support Network The ability to do your best: Caring for the elderly can get overwhelming and exhausting. By calling on your support network, you’ll be able to rejuvenate and de-stress, and continue to give the best care possible. A more organized approach: By creating a support network, you’ve already started to identify the needs of your elderly loved one. It gives you the fuel to organize care, put consistent weekly routines in place, and make things work more functionally. This takes a lot of excess time and energy out of the process. Financial relief: Many people overlook free or reduced-cost services in the community. They also don’t look at medical coverage thoroughly enough. If you’re paying for everything out of pocket, a support network can give some much-needed financial relief. Emotional support: Handling issues solo encourage feelings of isolation and loneliness. Having others to simply talk to can boost your own morale and overall well-being, and help you feel validated for all that you do. Enrichment: You are not the only one who will benefit from a support network. The elderly thrive with additional social interaction, contact with a variety of people and personalities, and programs that boost their physical, mental, and social health. Personal time: Everyone needs time to do the things they love. Enlisting the help of your support network lets you engage with your family and hobbies, and relax.
Signs and Symptoms of Winter Dehydration Dehydration is often seen as an issue that comes up during the hotter months of the year. It's when you're exerting yourself physically on a hot day that you become dehydrated most often, isn't it? The thing is, dehydration can occur at any time of the year no matter what the temperature might be. This means that you could suffer from dehydration during the winter as well. In fact, dehydration may be even more dangerous during the winter. Why is Dehydration More Dangerous During the Winter? When you become dehydrated during the summer, it's often much easier to tell. Simply sweating tells a lot of people that they need to hydrate. During the winter, sweat will evaporate much faster, which means that people often don't remember to hydrate. Then there's the fact that cold weather causes your blood vessels to constrict, which in turn results in blood being sent to your body's core. This process ends up tricking your body into thinking that you are hydrated even if you're not. Last but not least, dry air can cause dehydration as well. When it's particularly cold and dry out, you may see your breath as you exhale. What's actually happening is that you are losing water vapor with your breath. What Are The Signs And Symptoms of Dehydration? Seeing as how it can be difficult to know whether you're dehydrated during the winter months, it's important to keep an eye on possible signs and symptoms of dehydration. The following are signs and symptoms that you are dehydrated: You are thirsty. Your mouth is dry and sticky. You are not urinating as frequently as normal. You are suffering from dizziness or light-headedness. You are constipated. You are sleepier or more tired than usual. Your urine is thick and dark. If you are properly hydrated, then your urine should be clear. Your skin is dry. You have a headache. These are all signs that you need to hydrate. There are also more severe symptoms that are associated with severe dehydration, which is a medical emergency. These symptoms include: Extreme thirst Extreme irritability and confusion Extremely dry mouth and skin Sunken eyes Low blood pressure Fever Delirium Rapid heartbeat Rapid breathing How to Treat Dehydration During the Winter Anyone that exhibits symptoms of severe dehydration should be taken to the emergency room. However, milder symptoms can easily be treated. The following are a few ways to treat mild dehydration: Drink water - The best way to treat dehydration is to re-hydrate using water. Make sure not to drink too quickly. In addition to drinking water, you can also drink decaffeinated teas, juices, sports drinks that contain electrolytes. Avoid certain fluids - Avoid drinking alcohol, soda, liquids that contain caffeine (which will only dehydrate you more) and sugar (which causes you to urinate more). Keep hydrating - If you've become dehydrated, you'll need to re-hydrate for the next 24 hours by drinking plenty of fluids - it can take a few days to replace all the lost fluids. Eat certain foods - Some foods have high water content. Fruits such as watermelon, oranges, grapefruit and cantaloupe have high water content. Vegetables such as lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, celery and zucchini all have high water content as well. To avoid becoming dehydrated during the winter, make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids even if you don't think that you are thirsty. Men should drink around 13 cups of water a day, while women should drink around 9 cups a day. And, of course, keep an eye on possible dehydration symptoms, especially during the winter months.
Have you considered purchasing a pet for an elderly loved one, but thought it might be too much for him/her to handle? The truth is that this added responsibility may be just what he/she needs. Recent studies have shown that pet ownership offers a wide range of benefits for the elderly. Below is a look at some of the top ways your loved one could benefit from introducing a pet into his/her life. Provide Companionship One of the most prevalent benefits of having pets is that they offer companionship. Common pets, such as dogs and cats, attach to people very quickly. This every day companionship can help to fight loneliness and depression, especially in elderly people. Pets can also boost a person’s overall mood and serve as a protector for seniors that live alone. Minimize Stress There is no need to worry about overburdening your loved one by giving him/her a pet. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Pets can actually help to reduce stress. Just playing with or petting a dog or cat for several minutes can lower a person’s stress rate almost instantly. This, in turn, can reduce the risk of several serious health conditions, such as heart attacks, and it can help to lower a person’s blood pressure. The benefit of introducing a pet into the home will far outweigh any extra work it takes to care for the pet. Gives Purpose Everyone needs to feel like he/she has a purpose in life. This is a serious issue for many seniors because they may not be physically able to complete many of the tasks they deem important. In addition, their children are all grown up and there is no need to care for them on a daily basis. This can leave many seniors feeling like they are not needed. The introduction of a pet into their life can give them purpose again. Best of all, most pets only require minimal care. Increase Activity Level If you are concerned that your loved one is not getting enough exercise or socializing enough, a pet may just do the trick. Caring for some types of pets, like a dog, requires consistent training, regular visits to the veterinarian, and daily walks. This will force your loved one to remain active on a daily basis in order to care for his/her pet properly. By taking the dog to the vets or the local dog park, he/she will also meet other people in the area and have the opportunity to socialize with other pet owners. It is important to talk to your elderly loved one before introducing a pet into his/her home. This will ensure that you select a pet that he/she will enjoy. You also need to be sure that your loved one is physically capable of caring for the pet, or that you have people willing to step in and help. If you are not sure if a pet is right for your loved one, many assisted living facilities and senior service agencies offer pet therapy opportunities. This will give you the chance to see how your elderly loved one responds to being around a pet before you commit to purchasing one.
Unfortunately, elder abuse isn't a minor problem. Studies have shown that over two million elder Americans are victims of elder abuse, while for every case of abuse reported, as many as five go unreported. As a caregiver for elder adults, nothing can be as disheartening than the suspicion that someone is the victim of abuse. But understanding - and recognizing - the signs of abuse can keep it from becoming an ongoing problem. While such abuse can take many forms, it can usually be classified under these categories: physical, sexual, psychological, financial, and neglect. Physical The use of physical force that results in injury, pain or impairment is a broad definition of physical abuse. Like abuse in general, it can take many forms, including hitting, shoving, slapping, shaking, kicking, pinching and burning. Signs of physical abuse include: Injuries with no easily explainable cause that are incompatible with the victim's medical history, such as cuts, lacerations, bruises, welts and discoloration. Injuries that appear to have been caused by cigarettes, caustics, or friction from ropes, chains or other objects. Injuries in areas covered by clothing. A combination of new and old injuries. Denial of an injured state. Sexual Sadly, this form of abuse happens in older adults. Signs of it include genital or anal infections, difficulty while walking or sitting, or bruising of the inner thighs. Psychological This type of abuse can be harder to detect than others, in part because it can be part of other aging, medical, mental or physical problems. But it can be detected by observing the actions of others, including family members. Are threats being made to an elderly parent? Or, perhaps someone speaks poorly of the person on a consistent basis, or ignores him or her and their needs. The victim, meanwhile, may seem depressed or withdrawn, or unwilling to talk openly and freely. Financial Financial abuse is not an insignificant problem, as studies have shown that 12 percent of all elderly abuse is of this kind. It can be defined as improper or illegal use of an elder's assets, and it can entail: Social security or pension checks cashed without permission. Coercing or deceiving the elder into parting with money or property. Diverting guardianship assets. A family member who is not willing to pay for an elder's basic needs when money is available. A warning sign could involve a family member who persistently seeks financial control while being financially stressed themselves. Or, also if bank statements are no longer coming to the victim's home. Neglect Neglect can take many forms, including not providing food, medicines, hygiene, or even personal safety. Signs of neglect include: Neglected bedsores, skin conditions or rashes. Untreated injuries or other medical issues. Hunger, malnutrition or dehydration. Poor hygiene Lack of clean clothing and bedding. Poor skin condition An excessively dirty environment than may smell of feces or urine. It's important to know the most common types of elder abuse and the forms they take. It's also important to note that people who suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia are at a greater risk of abuse and neglect. As a caregiver, understanding the signs and facts of elder abuse can help stop and prevent it.
Roughly a third of all elderly people between the ages of 65 and 74 have some degree of hearing loss. In addition, almost half of those over the age of 75 have trouble hearing. Difficulty hearing can cause a variety of problems for an older person, including making it harder for them to understand and comply with a doctor's orders. They may also have trouble responding to doorbells and hearing alarms in their home. Interacting with friends and family may also be a significant source of frustration. The first question a senior citizen will have to answer is: Do I have trouble hearing? Signs that this may be the case include: They have trouble hearing when using a telephone. They have trouble hearing when there is noise in the background. They are not able to follow a conversation if more than one person is talking at the same time. They often misunderstand what others are saying and respond in an inappropriate way. They may turn the volume on their television or radio to excessively high levels. Solutions for Elderly People with Hearing Loss If an individual is suffering from hearing loss, they should seek the help of a professional. One professional who can help is an otolaryngologist. This doctor’s specialty is the diagnosis of hearing problems. An otolaryngologist and can provide options for treating hearing problems. An audiologist is another type of doctor who may be able to help. Audiologists are trained to identify different types of hearing loss as well as the degree to which hearing has been lost. Audiologists may be able to fit a hearing aid. About Hearing Aids These are electronic devices worn behind the ear. They amplify sounds. To find the hearing aid that works best for a particular patient, it will be necessary to try multiple devices. An audiologist can provide help in this area. They will also be able to help an elderly person adjust to the fact that sounds are different with a hearing aid. Benefits of Getting a Hearing Aid Now The longer the patient waits, the harder it will be for their brain to adjust to a hearing aid. This is because wearing a hearing aid involves relearning certain sounds. Starting as soon as possible gives the patient’s brain more time to adapt. When people start using hearing aids, it can improve their quality of life, according to the national Council on Aging. They will have a greater sense of independence as well as improved mental health. Hearing loss has been tied to dementia. Seniors who do not have their hearing loss treated face a considerably higher risk of developing the condition. While the reasons for this are not known, it is thought that auditory deprivation is a cause. Hearing aids do not cure hearing loss but they do enable communication and thus can make an elderly person's life better. It is essential that the diagnosis and treatment of hearing problems not be postponed.
Falling is dangerous for anyone, especially seniors. Bones become more brittle as people age and a fall can be seriously debilitating for a senior citizen. Broken hips, arms and legs mend at a slower rate as the body ages. Head injuries can be fatal. The Center for Disease Control is "taking a stand" on helping seniors prevent falls with programs for seniors and care givers. The program is called STEADI, Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries. You can take action to prevent falling and enjoy an active life as a senior with a few precautions. Exercise STEADI recommends Tai Chi, Yoga and other exercise programs for maintaining and improving legs and core muscle strength. Many senior living communities offer classes in these exercises along with aerobics. Walking, swimming, golf, tennis, bowling and other sports are also highly recommended for seniors. The objective is to stay in good condition, improve strength, coordination and balance. People want to stay independent as long as possible and enjoy their activities. Eyes and hearing check-ups Get an annual eye check-up and make sure you have glasses if needed. Be careful on stairs if you wear bifocal or multi-focal lenses. You want to see any obstacles that might be in your way. Hearing checks are also important so you can hear warnings that someone may call out to you. Stairway safety It's easy to trip on steps if you can't see them. Stairways should have railings and handholds. Steps should be lighted, especially at night. Special non-slip stair treads can be added to hard surface and carpeted stairways for better traction. Grab bars are helpful Install grab bars in bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens and other areas. They prevent falls. Showers without borders or curbs are elements of Universal Design that makes bathrooms easily accessible to everyone. Bathroom and kitchen flooring and mats should be non-slip and kept dry. Avoid heights Keep items you need on low shelves and cabinets so that a chair or step ladder is not needed to reach them. This applies to food, dishes, medications and other items used on a daily basis. Walkway safety Outdoor pathways and walkways should be free of debris, hoses, wheelbarrows and other gardening equipment. A person may forget to put away outdoor equipment and trip over a hose or bump into the lawn mower. An uneven pathway with cracks or broken flagstone can be dangerous. Walkways should be dry when possible and free of snow and ice during the winter. Indoor safety Keep all electrical cords out of the way and against walls. Unplug and remove a cord on a heating pad or other small appliance that has been used temporarily and may be in a pathway. Rooms should be well lighted. Carpeting and floor coverings Carpeting should be tight and tacked down at seams and doorways to avoid tripping. Area rugs and throw rugs should adhere to the floor. It is also easy to trip over a raised doormat. Hard surface flooring should be the non-slip variety in all rooms where it is used. Shoes Wear comfortable shoes with good support in place of flip-flops and high heels. If you wear slippers, use the type that have tread on the soles instead of a smooth surface. Medication reviews You should review any previous falls and your medications with doctors. Several prescribed medications may have side effects that cause dizziness and other problems. You should talk to your doctor about your risk of falling. The National Institute of Health advises seniors to take these preventive measures so they do not have to fear falling.
With the elderly, there is a fine line between the normal deterioration of vision and eye problems of a more serious nature. Knowing and understanding which eye conditions older individuals are at risk of developing will help to reduce their chances of getting them. Here are five common eye problems in the elderly your senior should watch out for: Glaucoma: Abrupt and severe pain in your eyes and seeing halos can be signs of glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye condition caused by elevated levels of fluid pressure in the eyes, which can potentially damage the fragile fibers of the optic nerve. This damage is irreversible and can even lead to blindness. Macular Degeneration: Macular degeneration, otherwise known as age-related macular degeneration, is the main cause of blindness in the elderly. Dry and wet are the two types of AMD that affect seniors. Dry AMD affects almost 90-percent of older people, and it occurs when the macula blood vessels thin over time. Wet AMD is when irregular blood vessel growths drain fluid and blood in the eyes, which in turn will cause loss of vision and even blindness. Dry Eyes: This eye condition happens when tear glands can't make enough quality tears. Dry eyes is a very uncomfortable condition that causes burning, redness and itching. In extreme cases, loss of vision can occur. A humidifier put in the home or special eye drops could stimulate real tears. In more serious cases of dry eyes, prescription drops or surgery may be necessary. Cataracts: Cataracts cause clouding in a person's eye lens. This occurs when there is a breakdown of crucial proteins that's main purpose are to help keep their lens clear. Cataracts are often found in people over 45. This is often the age when the lenses begin to have trouble changing shape to focus vision for far-sighted and close objects. Blurred Vision: Problems seeing in dim light conditions and declined color intensity are symptoms the elderly need to watch out for. Surgery is the only way to cure blurred vision, but it's only suggested when cataracts impair a person’s ability to do every day activities or if there is a lot of pain. These are the most common and damaging eye problems that affect the elderly. Make sure your elderly loved one visits their eye care professional on a regular basis, and notify their doctor if they experience any vision changes. Taking these preventive measures could save your senior's eyesight.
Seeking the services of a home care agency usually comes at a critical time - when you or a loved one is recovering from surgery, or need care for a chronic illness. Receiving quality assistance in this time of need is of utmost importance, and knowing exactly what kind of home care services you may need - such as skilled nurses or household support - is a good place to start. No matter what type of support you need, however, knowing what questions to ask when considering a home care agency can be crucial. Here are eight important questions that can help guide you through the process and help you make the right choice. Is The Agency Licensed? Most states require agencies to be licensed and subject to regular reviews. In many cases, those reviews are available through your state health department. An important note: Not all states require licensing, so be sure that check what your state's requirements entail. What Type Of Employee Screening Is Done? It's important to know how an agency selects and train its employees. Can the agency provide references who've had experience with the agency? Also be sure to ask if the caregivers are licensed and insured, and if background checks are done on them. What Type Of Supervision Is There? Ask if the agency has supervisors assigned to oversee the kind of care the patient is receiving. Moreover, do these supervisors make visits, and how often? Is There A Written Care Plan? Will there be a plan of care in writing before services begin? This plan should include details about a variety of things - from medical equipment needed, specific care needs, as well as input from the doctor. You should also make sure that they will provide you with a copy of the plan. What Are Their Financial Procedures? Make sure that the agency provides written statements explaining all of the costs and payment options. Ask for literature explaining all the services and fees. Of course, it's important to know what fees are covered by health insurance or Medicare. Check to make sure what your own health insurance coverage provides. Is The Caregiver A Good Fit? Naturally, you want to be comfortable with the caregiver and it can be of vital importance when it comes to quality of care. Does the aide have a positive, friendly attitude? Are you or your loved one comfortable working with them and having them around the house? Is There A Patient Bill Of Rights? Most agencies provide what is known as a 'Patient Bill of Rights' that covers all of the rights and responsibilities of the agency, patients and caregivers. It's also helpful to get an annual report or other informational materials about the provider. How Often Is Care Available? Check to see if caregivers are available around the clock, seven days a week. Also, ask what procedures are in place should a caregiver not show up for a scheduled shift. Is there a system in place that will quickly send another caregiver to fill in? Again, choosing the right home care agency for you and your loved one is an important decision. But asking the right questions to obtain the information you need before making that decision can make the process much easier.
The famous line attributed to 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli says it best: there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. And sometimes statistics can beguile and mask a reality that is very different. Case in point: life expectancies. In the United States, it has reached a record 79 years, on average. And in Canada, even higher: 82 years for the average Canadian. On the face of it, North Americans are living longer – and presumably healthier – than they ever have before. And if people are living longer, then they must be eating right, and exercising enough. Right? Not necessarily. According to Felice Kosakavich, Chief Clinical Dietitian at Workmen's Circle MultiCare Center, a healthcare facility in New York City, older people in North America may be living longer, but they’re not necessarily as healthy as we might think. Kosakavich told RetirementHomes.com that the biggest mistake made by older Americans and Canadians is a combination of eating too much unhealthy food, and too little healthy food. But it’s not as easy as simply buying more lettuce at the grocery store; it can be harder to eat healthy than it may seem. “Sometimes convenience and finances take over leaving older people unable to have easy access to fresher foods because of cost and possible shopping constraints,” Kosakavich said. “Processed high sodium/fat foods often have a more shelf stable life.” In other words, an older person who may be on a fixed income, or perhaps suffers from limited mobility, may find it difficult to regularly purchase healthy produce at the grocery store, and may instead opt to buy unhealthier, cheaper foods less often, because they can be stored for longer periods of time without going rotten. So when faced with a tough challenge – economic factors, mobility issues, and more – how can older people, many of whom were not raised in an atmosphere of healthy eating, learn how to take care of themselves in their advanced years? As for seniors living in retirement communities, the level of nutrition can sometimes vary with the type of care they are receiving. For example, someone suffering from cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s Disease may be at a disadvantage because they cannot remember which types of foods they enjoyed in the past, or, as their disease advances, they may lose the ability to swallow altogether, further limiting their ability to eat healthy food options. Still, for the majority of older people who, while experiencing some level of physical & cognitive slowdown which is common with advanced age, healthy eating doesn’t need to be impossible or difficult. Kosakavich recommends a varied diet which includes a combination of fiber, iron and calcium-rich foods. Fiber rich foods to help constipation, iron rich foods (such as lean meat, eggs, and vegetables) to maintain energy levels, calcium-rich foods are important to stem osteoporosis, and salt should be limited, as it increases the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in both the United States and Canada.
The National Institute for Mental Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness recently released statements addressing the issue of depression in elderly Americans. They point to a common misconception that the common symptoms of depression are just signs of aging, leading to millions of older citizens to suffer in silence. The elderly face a unique set of conditions that drive depressive thoughts. The death of their spouse, long periods of inactivity, and limitations on personal freedom or mobility rank as the most common issues elderly patients cite as the reason for their depression. Coupled with health and financial anxieties, many elderly Americans and Canadians feel hopeless and utterly alone. Symptoms Though there are significant changes to the mind during the aging process, there are clear cut warning signs that you or your loved one may have depression. Pain Without A Physical Cause. Joint and muscle pain are part of growing older; however, there is a strong link between physical pain and chronic or major depression. The mind refers mental pain to the body, and it’s impossible to find a physical cause for the discomfort. Unfortunately, as the pain intensifies, the patient’s depression deepens. If you or your loved one has unexplained pain, schedule a visit with a mental health professional, as well as a doctor, to uncover the root cause. Energy Loss. People at 70 don’t have the same energy level that they did at 20, and the loss of energy is natural. Where it becomes a problem is when the lack of energy leads to oversleeping, long naps in the middle of the day or the inability to motivate oneself to participate in activities once enjoyed. Again, this symptom creates a destructive cycle, where the person doesn’t have the energy to socialize, which leads to feelings of isolation, causing further depression. The image of the cranky old man or woman is a popular one in American culture, often played as joke. The reality is that irritability is often a symptom of depression. The suffering feels sad, anxious or hurt, and they don’t know how to resolve their issues, so they lash out at the people around them. Irritability can also be a reflection of insomnia or poor sleeping patterns. Constant anxiety and pain may make sleep difficult, leading to bad moods during waking hours. Neglected Personal Care. Once depression sets in, sufferers begin to neglect their personal care. This includes everything from taking a shower and washing their clothes, to eating regular meals. In a deep depression the sufferer doesn’t see a reason to keep going, and they start to see themselves as valueless, so taking care of themselves is no longer a priority. Suicidal Thoughts? Suicide rates for the elderly are rising, and people over the age of 80 are the second most likely to commit suicide in the United States. It's currently estimated that people over 65 now account for close to 20 percent of all suicides. The actual rate may be even higher than reported, because deaths labeled accidental by coroners, such as overdoses, may have been intentional. Any talk of suicide or losing the will to live should be seen as a cry for help, and never ignored. Depression in the elderly is a serious medical concern, especially as the population ages. Talk to your loved ones about their mental state, look for outward symptoms of depression, and stay engaged in their lives. Doing so will help alleviate the underlying causes of their depression, and make their final years as rich as their first.
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