June 2013

Safeguarding Your Senior This Summer


As the summer approaches, many look forward to sunshine and warmer weather.  However, as the temperature rises, so do the health risks for your elderly loved one.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the elderly are more prone to heat related illness. When taking care of your loved ones, here are some health concerns to watch for.

1.  Heat stress and heatstroke.  It is one of the leading health risks in the summertime for people aged 45-65.  It occurs when the body becomes incapable of controlling its own temperature.  Warning signs of heatstroke include:  extremely high body temperature, red, hot, and dry skin that isn’t sweating, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, and rapid, strong pulse.  Some symptoms of heat exhaustion are shallow, fast breathing, weakness, fainting, paleness, muscle cramps, and heavy sweating.  If any warning signs are present, take the person to a shady area, call emergency services, and cool them down using whatever means possible.

2. Dehydration.  Dehydration is another leading health risk.  Some ways to prevent dehydration are to drink cool (not cold) nonalcoholic beverages, avoid caffeine, rest, stay indoors at peak times, and wear lightweight clothing.  Encourage your loved one to drink water, even when they may not be thirsty, as research shows the elderly may not perceive thirst as well as younger people.

3.  Food poisoning. An estimated 76 million cases of food poisoning occur each year with most in the summer months.  The elderly are at a greater risk of getting food poisoning and mild cases are often not reported. Watch for food, specifically meats, dairy products, and mayonnaise-based salads, that may have been sitting out for too long in the heat when spending time with your loved one.

While the summer months are about enjoying time with your family, make sure that your elderly loved one is being taken care of.  Make sure you understand how their medications might interact with the heat and make sure they wear adequate sun protection to avoid illnesses like skin cancer.  Most importantly, visit with them and check that they are not overexerting themselves in the heat.  With these tips in mind, your loved one is sure to have an enjoyable and safe summer.

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Taking Care of Yourself


Caring for a loved one can be a challenging and emotional experience.  For many of you, this could be your first experience taking on this kind of new responsibility.  While the health of your loved one can take all of your attention, it is important not to neglect your own health in the pursuit of making theirs better.  Here are some simple ways to help keep yourself in the best health and mindset while caring for your loved one.

1. Find someone to talk to about how you are feeling.  Talking about your feelings with someone or writing them in a journal can help you sort through them and express them in a healthy way.

2. Surround yourself with a network of people and do not be afraid to ask for help.  Seek out support from other family members, neighbors, friends, caregiver support groups, and service or religious organizations.  They are always more willing to help than you may realize.

3. Get enough rest.  This means not only get a full night’s sleep, but also find time to relax and unwind.  Make sure to regularly find time to de-stress and give yourself a break.

4. Maintain balance and normalcy.  While it may seem challenging, do not stop doing the things that are important to you.  Whether that may be work or a hobby, do not give up these activities.

5. Eat right and exercise.  Keep yourself energized and in the best health possible.

6.  Watch out for symptoms of depression or anxiety.  Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if needed.

Remember that by keeping yourself in the best physical, emotional, and mental health possible, you are in a better state to give your loved one the care they need.

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Preventing Falls


For many, a fall might seem like a minor injury.  However, for your elderly loved one, it is a serious concern.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths for people over the age of 65 and are the most common cause of nonfatal injury and trauma.  In 2010, there were 2.3 million elderly fall-related injuries treated in emergency rooms nationwide and approximately 600,000 of those cases resulted in hospitalization.  With statistics like these it is important to protect your loved one from preventable falls.  Here are some ways to safeguard the elderly in your care.

1.  Create clear walkways and pathways in the home.  Move furniture so it is not in the direct walkways and remove or secure rugs on the floors.  By making the path clear, there is a smaller chance your loved one can trip over furniture and slip on loose rugs. Make sure that there are accessible handrails if necessary and that there are no loose stairs.

2.  Create uniform lighting throughout the house.  Replace all light bulbs and make sure none are burnt out around the house.  Glare from un-uniform light can cause people to miss things in front of them.  Poor visibility can increase their chances of falling.

3. Have them exercise regularly.  Regular exercise can increase leg strength and improve balance and coordination.

4.  Have them visit their doctors.  You and your loved one should check with your doctor to ensure that the medications your loved one is taking do not create a reaction that makes them dizzy or drowsy.  Also, have their vision checked at least once per year, as poor vision can increase the person’s risk of falling.

If you are especially concerned about the chances of your loved one falling, consider giving them an alert device that can call for help if they cannot reach a phone.

By taking these precautions, you can create a safe environment and reduce the risk of easily preventable fall-related injuries.

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Pet Companions


Recently in the news, there has been a great debate over the health benefits of having a pet companion for an elderly person, particularly an elderly person who is ill. While some studies rave about the positive effects that pets have on an older person’s health, others are more skeptical about the extent of the health benefits and worry about the potential health hazards associated with having pets at an old age. Here are some of the pros and cons, so you can decide if having a pet companion is right for your loved one.

PROS: Studies have shown that owning a pet can bring joy, happiness, and companionship to the elderly, particularly those who live alone. They can give them a sense of purpose, someone to love and take care of, and someone who loves them in return. Researchers have found that owning a pet can reduce stress and lower blood pressure, and it can increase the amount of physical activity that an older person partakes in daily. They can also allow for increased social interaction by getting the elderly person out of the house and interacting with other pets.

CONS: Pets can create a potential fall hazard for older people, as they can get underfoot and are not always easily visible. A study done by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) showed that 30% of non-fatal fall injuries were the result of falling over a pet. Similarly, pets require significant care and taking care of them can lead to overexertion. Having pets can alter the living schedule of your loved one, which must be taken into account if your loved one does not adapt well to change. Additionally, if the pet were to die, researchers found that the grief reactions were severe and long lasting in their elderly subjects.

While some studies show that having a pet can greatly benefit the health of an elderly person, others remain inconclusive to the benefits and see many possible costs. It is important to look at your loved one’s current lifestyle, habits, emotional state, and ability when thinking about getting them a pet companion.

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