Senior Sense

GRIEVING

Yesterday was a tough day. It was my husband’s birthday. I was fine until I got in the car to come into the office, then the tears started. Yes, the day was depressing, but somehow I made it thru until it was time to leave and the feeling came over me again. I got to the car and the tears started again. This will be a tough week or so. My husband died two years and eight days ago from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Surviving the loss of a close family member does not end at the funeral. I know that from experience. I also know that from seeing friends endure the pain for years after. I know that from being a facilitator for GriefShare. People come for help who have lost spouses, parents, children, more distant relatives and even friends. Some of the deaths they have sought counseling for include sudden and long term, accidents, strokes and heart attacks, cancer and Alzheimer’s, even murder and suicide. One thing they have in common is that the memory of that person lingers on and we who survive are left to grieve.

Many of us are fortunate in that we have busy lives working, caring for family members, activities with friends and neighbors. That helps to block out the memory of the recent death. However, for those who live alone, this can be an unbearable experience. And the feeling of loss can last for years.

Many of our caregivers have endured the loss of a loved one. They understand what it is like. If you are using or considering using one of our caregivers, talk to them about your loved one’s needs. Ask them to talk to your loved about their […]

LUNG CANCER

Wikipedia defines lung cancer or lung carcinoma as “a malignant lung tumor characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung”.  Common symptoms are coughing, wheezing, weight loss, shortness of breath and chest pains, weakness or fever, or difficulty swallowing.  Other symptoms may include swollen lymph nodes above the collarbone, a mass in the abdomen, weak breathing, abnormal sounds in the lungs, dullness when the chest is tapped, abnormalities of the pupils, weakness or swollen veins in one of the arms, changes in the fingernails, and high blood levels of certain hormones or substances such as calcium. (1)  Lung cancer can be diagnosed thru tests of mucus or lung fluid, a bronchoscopy, CT scan, or chest x-ray.  A medical team including an oncologist, radiologist, surgeon and pulmonologist review the patient’s records before completing a diagnosis and recommending treatment. (2)

The majority (85%) of cases of lung cancer are due to long term tobacco smoking.  The remaining are caused by second-hand smoke, genetic factors, and exposure to radon gas, asbestos, or other forms of air pollution. (2)  Worldwide, lung cancer is the most common cancer among men and the third highest among women.  The population segment most likely to develop lung cancer is people over age 50 who have a history of smoking.  Cancer develops following genetic damage to DNA and epigenetic changes.  These changes affect normal function of the cell.

Treatment depends on the cancer’s cell type, how far it has spread and the patient’s status.  Treatment’s include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and palliative care.  Treatments may be combined, depending on the type of cancer, the degree to which it has metastasized (spread) and the patient’s condition.(3) The practice of targeted therapy is growing.  Other treatments […]

DEPRESSION

You are “elderly”.  Your spouse of 50 years has died, your children are married and busy with their families and several have moved out of state to find jobs.  Most of your friends have either died or moved out of the area to be closer to their children. Neither you nor your few remaining friends continue to drive and taking the bus is just too difficult.  You don’t understand or want to be bothered with I-Pads, I-Phones, computers or e-mail.   Listening to the news on television these days is far too depressing, plus you are losing your hearing and the eyesight isn’t that great either.  So you sit alone day after day, wishing someone would call or come to visit or say they care.  Is it any wonder you are depressed?

 

Sadly, this is the fate of many of us in our later years.  As our health fails, it becomes more difficult to venture outside our four walls and discover new environments.  Plus our families are concerned about our wandering off.  In many cases, the children have convinced their parents to sign their assets over to them in order to preserve their estate or have them not have to worry about finances.  Often, the elderly are no longer able to handle their own finances and need help. 

 

So, the elderly person sits alone day after day.  Meals on Wheels delivers food at lunch time and again, lunch is eaten alone.  Sure, the children take turns calling and have a prearranged schedule of visiting when it is convenient to them.  But the days drag on.

 

Then one day, the children have a family conference where they decide Mom or Dad would be better off in a “facility”.  […]

INDEPENDENCE DAY

 
 
                                                                                                                          The unanimous Declaration of the united States of America, July 4, 1776.
 
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.-

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…-“

                                                                                                                                            The Constitution of the United States of America
 
“WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The above are excerpts from the two documents that established this Country and guarantee us the freedoms we have today.  We urge you to take time to read both documents in their entirety and be thankful for them and the many blessings we have in this country.

 

We at Home Assist Senior Care hope that you had a wonderful holiday.

 

MENS HEALTH

 

Men’s health is one of the many causes promoted during the month of June. Even though it is late in the month, it is not too late for you men to make that dreaded call to the doctor for either your annual wellness visit or to check on symptoms that may be of concern to you. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has listed the leading causes of death in men in the United States by age group and race. Heart disease ranks first followed by cancer and unintentional injuries (accidents). Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the causes had been treated.1

The National Institutes of Health’s publication Senior Health states that men should consider their relationship with their doctor as a partnership in that you work together as a team. The publication suggests that before your visit you should first list your symptoms including what the symptom is, when it started, how often it happens, anything that makes it better or worse and anything it prevents you from doing. Next, list all medications you are taking including vitamins, supplements and other over-the-counter medications such as allergy pills, pain medications and eye drops. Also include any medications you are allergic to and the symptoms they cause, changes in your life including divorce, death of a family member, change in income or work, what your sex life is like and if you smoke or drink alcohol. If you have seen any other medical professional since your last visit, bring that information also.2

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has issued Recommended Screenings for Men over 50 in its article Men Stay Healthy at 50+. Such screenings are for an abdominal aortic aneurism if […]

NUTRITIONAL NEEDS OF SENIORS

A decreased appetite is often seen among seniors.  Emotions such as stress, sadness or grief can cause an older person to lose his or her appetite.  Losing a spouse or other close family member can make one feel depressed.  If your family member’s spouse did most of the cooking, your senior may not want to or know how to prepare food for him or herself.  Others choose not to eat rather than cook a meal.  Health factors such as an illness or medications can also affect one’s desire to eat.[1]  In some cases, certain foods should not be eaten when taking a particular medication.  Many seniors experience a loss of the sense of taste or smell which causes foods to be less desirable.  Also, many older adults become sensitive to certain foods such as onions, peppers, dairy products and spicy foods.  Some medications can cause stomach upset which results in a decrease in appetite.

 

According to the National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Aging, one in four older Americans has poor nutrition.  Malnutrition puts one at risk of becoming overweight or underweight, can weaken muscles and bones and leaves one vulnerable to disease.[2]  Signs of malnutrition include frequent falls, broken bones or fractures, delayed wound healing, chronic digestive upset, brittle nails and rapid cognitive decline.

 

There are many things you can do if your senior is not maintaining a healthy diet.

Prepare healthy, colorful meals.  These can be leftovers from your previous meal which is prepared on a smaller, attractive plate.  Use fruits and vegetables of different colors to make the plate attractive.

 

The meals should contain items the senior enjoys eating.  If the senior doesn’t like creamed potatoes, prepare a baked potato with sour cream […]

FOOD SAFETY

Foodborne illness can affect anyone who eats contaminated food.  However, some people such as seniors, young children and those suffering from illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disease may be more susceptible to food which has been contaminated than others.   According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million persons get sick and 3,000 die from foodborne infections in the United States each year.  Symptoms of foodborne illness or food poisoning include fever, headache, muscle pain, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dehydration, nausea, vomiting and sometimes respiratory problems.

Sources of contaminated food include meat and poultry, hot dogs, deli meats, seafood, milk, cheese, eggs, sprouts, and vegetables.    The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration have a plethora of information on their websites.  They also advise everyone to check with their health care professional to identify foods that you should avoid including allergens which may affect you.

Some suggestions these websites provide are: cook meat or poultry to a safe minimum temperature, cook fresh seafood to 145 degrees, previous cooked seafood to 165 degrees, hot dogs and deli meats should be cooked to 165 degrees, milk should be pasteurized, along with eggs and egg products used in recipes calling for raw or undercooked eggs such as eggnog and mayonnaise.  The web site FoodSafety.gov also suggests you should wash hands and food preparation surfaces often with detergent and water, separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods, cook food to the right temperature, and chill raw meat and poultry as well as cooked leftovers within 2 hours.

When shopping, check “sell-by and use-by dates, do not buy cans that are dented, swollen […]

NATIONAL SAFETY MONTH

The National Safety Council states that injuries are a leading cause of disability for people of all ages and they are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 44.  National Safety Council statistics also state that each year 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 will fall and about half of all falls are in the home.  June is National Safety Month.  We have talked about home safety and safety for seniors before, but thought it was fitting to once again visit this subject.

Some suggestions for making your home safer for everyone include the following: ask someone to move furniture which may be in your way, remove throw rugs or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so the rugs won’t slip, pick up books, shoes or other objects which may be on the floor or stairs, and tape electrical cords and wires next to the walls so you don’t trip over them.  Clean up spills immediately.

Other suggestions include fixing loose or uneven steps, both indoors and outdoors, placing an overhead light and light switches at both the top and bottom of stairs, replacing any burned out light bulbs, making sure any carpeting is attached firmly to stairs or removing the carpeting and installing non-slip treads to the stairs, and fixing or replacing any loose handrails.  Handrails should also be placed on each side of the stairway and extend from the top to the bottom stair.  Doors should not open over stairways.

Items which are used most should be kept in cabinets above waist level, keep emergency phone numbers in large print near each phone and wear an alarm device that will bring help if you fall and cannot get […]

PROTECT YOUR EYES

 
One of the most common causes of falls among seniors is poor vision.  As we age, our vision normally fails and we become more susceptible to diseases of the eye.  Several diseases affecting seniors are glaucoma which is damage to the optic nerve, macular degeneration or damage to the light sensitive retina in the back of the eye and cataracts which is a cloudy area in the part of the eye that is normally clear.  Please note that although these diseases primarily affect seniors, in rare cases those of all ages may be affected.  Other eye diseases include conjunctivitis which is inflammation or infection which creates a thin white layer on the eye surface, astigmatism or blurred vision due to irregular corneal shape and near or far sightedness which is the ability to see only close up or far away.  For more information, visit lifescript.com/health/briefs/l/list_of_all_eye_diseases.aspx. Please note that vision loss can be gradual and thus not readily noticeable.   If you or your loved one is experiencing any kind of vision loss, it is imperative that you make an appointment with your eye care professional as soon as possible. 

There are several steps to take to protect your vision.  First, have regular eye exams.  Your eye care professional can check your eyes to screen for any vision and other problems affecting the eyes. Your primary doctor often will do a vision test during a routine health exam.  Also, eat a balanced diet.  It is important that you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables that provide nutrients beneficial to the eyes.  Get plenty of exercise to protect your cardiovascular system and regulate blood flow to your brain and eyes.  When using the computer, reading, or […]

PLANNING FOR DISCHARGE

One of the events prior to being discharged from the hospital is a final visit from the doctor.  He or she will usually look at your hospital chart which includes notes by all professional staff who have been responsible for your care.  The doctor may also ask a physical therapist, occupational therapist, nutritionist and/or a social worker to evaluate you.  Often the physical therapist and occupational therapist will evaluate you jointly.

Wikipedia identifies physical therapy as including “prescription of or assistance with specific exercises, manual therapy and manipulation, mechanical devices such as traction, education, physical agents which include heat, cold, electricity, sound waves, radiation… and other interventions”.  Wikipedia goes on to state that physical therapists work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility by developing fitness and wellness-oriented programs.[i]  Wikipedia describes occupational therapy as helping a client to “achieve a fulfilled and satisfied state in life through the use of ‘purposeful activity or intervention designed to achieve functional outcomes which promote health, prevent injury …to sustain the highest possible level of independence”[ii]  Professionals in these two fields can work together to provide activities which can improve your overall health in a way that is enjoyable and will encourage you to participate in the activities.

According to Wikipedia, a nutritionist is “a person who advises on matters of food and nutritional impacts on health.[iii]  The nutritionist will usually consult with a patient to determine if his or her nutritional needs are met, especially if certain health problems exist such as diabetes or obesity.  Medical social workers assess the psychological functioning, environmental and support needs of patients and families.  They connect them to resources and supports in the community, counseling, or help a patient to expand and […]