According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in seniors over the age of 65, falls are to be blamed most often for non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions. Even worse, two thirds of senior accidental deaths result from injuries sustained from a fall. In hard numbers, that’s almost 20,000 deaths and more than two million emergency room visits at a medical cost of over $28 billion dollars a year. Of fall related injuries, hip fractures are the most common and have the most long term effects with only a quarter of seniors who suffer a hip fracture making a full recovery. Almost half of these seniors will lose their ability to walk and 40% of them will require care in a nursing home. This is definitely a major concern for our rapidly increasing senior population that needs to be addressed.
Preventive measures can be taken once you can identify the major risk factors for falls. Medical issues such as poor vision, heart disease, arthritis, dementia, and diabetic neuropathy can cause mobility and sensory problems that can lead to falls. General inactivity on the part of the senior also leads to muscle weakness and inflexibility and increases fall risks also. Certain behaviors, such as alcohol use and interactions of medications pose a fall risk. Perhaps the most controllable risk is the senior’s environment. This includes hazards in the home and improperly sized walkers and canes.
By reducing these risk factors, falls among seniors can be significantly reduced. Several studies have show that an exercise program such as Tai Chi combined with strength training exercises increases mobility and flexibility while increasing muscle strength. Basically, moving more allows you to not only move more but also to do so with increased safety. Having medications reviewed by the senior’s doctor and pharmacist can identify possible side effects and problematic interactions. If necessary, alternative medications may be prescribed. Taking vitamin D3 supplements has been shown to reduce the risk of sustaining a fracture among women. A comprehensive vision exam can detect the presence of glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other vision issues that can increase the risk of falls. The senior’s home can be modified by adding stair railing, increasing lighting, eliminating clutter, and removing scatter rugs. Adding grab bars in the tub/shower area provide stability for getting in and out of the tub. A combination of these strategies can reduce fall risks on many levels and go a long way toward allowing a senior to remain safely at home. Please share your thoughts below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
According to AARP, over 70% of the wealth in this country is controlled by seniors. That statistic alone is more than enough reason for senior citizens to be targeted by scammers. In fact, while most crime victims fall in the 18-35 year old age bracket, the victims of the scammers are disproportionately senior citizens. Scams targeting senior citizens generally spike during the summer months.
Some of the most common scams include the “grandparent” scam, the “lottery scam”, and the “utility” scam. In the grandparent scam, the con artist typically calls a senior and tricks them into providing personal information by saying something like “Hi Grandma, this is your favorite grandson”. When Grandma responds with “Hi Tony” (freely supplying a grandchild’s name) the con artist then claims to be that grandchild and lets Grandma know he needs cash for some sort of emergency while swearing Grandma to secrecy so his parents won’t find out. Scammers prey on the grandparent’s fear that their grandchild may be in trouble and needs help. In the lottery scam, the scammer informs the senior that they’ve won a foreign lottery. They then request money to be wired to cover taxes and fees. In addition, the scammer may ask for banking information in order to supposedly direct deposit the winnings. Foreign lotteries are illegal and this scam steals a person’s identity and allows access to personal finances. According to the Better Business Bureau, over $100 million dollars is scammed from unsuspecting “winners” on a yearly basis. In the utility scam, a caller pretends to be from one of the local utility companies and claim there’s a past due amount. They demand immediate payment to prevent a service shut off and require the payment be made through a Western Union MoneyGram. These scams and others like them have cost senior citizens over 2.9 billion dollars a year. This figure will certainly rise as more an more baby boomers reach their senior years and the pool of available victims grows.
The best defense against scammers is knowledge. With that in mind, the Better Business Bureau will now be producing a series of videos with reenactments of scams that target seniors. The videos will include alerts and information on how to recognize the signs of a particular scam. The first video reenacts the “lottery” scam and can be viewed on BBB’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/bbb1936. When it comes to senior scams, knowledge definitely is power. Please share your thoughts below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
According to the US Department of Labor, over half of America’s workforce is involved in some way with caring for an aging parent or relative. Up to eighty percent of this help is unpaid and according to AARP, the average caregiver provides personal care and does household maintenance chores for at least twelve hours per week. The road to becoming a caregiver for a loved one is often winding with a son or daughter occasionally “helping out”. Your parents slowly age and adaptations are made to accommodate gradual changes in their abilities. Perhaps you offer to help with their banking or write out the bills. If they need groceries you offer to drive them to the store or pick up a few things for them yourself. Maybe you go to the doctor with them to make sure they clearly understand what the doctor has to say. At this point, you don’t view yourself as a “caregiver”. You’re just being a helpful child.
As time goes by and your “helping out” becomes a necessity, it will dawn on you that you are in fact a caregiver. You realize one day that if you stop doing all those helpful things, your loved one won’t be able to function on their own. You now feel obligated to do all these things or to make arrangements so that they do get done. Your loved one’s daily functioning is now your personal responsibility. Welcome to the world of caregiving. You will soon realize what a demanding job this is particularly because you’ll also be juggling a job, family, and personal issues of your own. If your parent or loved one suffers a medical crisis, your level of providing care will rise dramatically. Although your desire may be to tackle this job totally on your own, doing that will surely result in stress, exhaustion, and even physical illness. No matter how much you love someone, where will you find all the hours in the day that you and your loved one need? Be careful not to allow yourself to reach the point of total exhaustion. If you use up all your time and energy to be a caregiver, you will no doubt be robbing you and your loved one of quality time that could otherwise be spent with each other. Be aware there will come a time when it makes sense to get some help. Be wary of taking on so much that you lose sight of your well meant goal of providing the best of care which your loved one both needs and deserves. The road to caregiving is long and full of potholes. Don’t let yourself get run over. Please share your thoughts and experiences below. Visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
According to the Census Bureau, there are over 43.1 million persons in the United States that are 65 years of age or older. The elderly population is expected to double to 80 million when all the “baby boomers” have reached their elderly years. Due to advances in medical science these baby boomers will be living longer and that translates into huge numbers of people living with chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, or dementia. A large population of chronically ill older people means that more and more seniors will be dependant on others for help with their activities of daily living – in short, they’ll have a caregiver whether it’s a family member or a professional from an agency.
Caregivers are now and will increasingly in the future be an important component of doctor visits for the elderly. According to a study by Jennifer Wolff, PhD of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, doctor visits that include caregivers are an increasing trend that has important benefits. Her study showed that visits that included a caregiver lasted at least 20% longer and resulted in less social conversation between the doctor and the senior and more biomedical information being given to the patient. This is really important because a trip to the doctor is all about communication and the exchange of information. Doctors need information from patients to provide an accurate diagnosis and to provide treatment options. The patient needs to be able to clearly discuss and understand what’s going on. This is where the caregiver’s presence can be very valuable.
A caregiver can help the senior with every aspect of the visit beginning with getting ready for the visit by gathering all the necessary medical history information and making a list of current medications and by preparing a list of symptoms for the doctor along with any questions the senior may have. During the visit, the caregiver can make notes for the senior and can remind them of any symptoms they may have forgotten and can relate to the doctor any changes in the senior’s general health and abilities. In effect, the caregiver is a second set of eyes and ears and can request further clarification about the diagnosis, treatment options, and what can be expected down the line. After the visit, a caregiver can support the senior’s compliance with the doctor’s instructions by encouraging them to follow the prescribed course of treatment along with taking their medications as prescribed and by helping them further understand the doctor’s instructions if necessary. This in turn can help reduce possible hospital readmissions.
According to the study by Dr. Wolff, seniors and loved ones who have been accompanied by a caregiver to a doctor ended up being more satisfied with their overall care and were shown to be more likely to remember important information after their visit to the doctor. Please share your thoughts and experiences below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
It’s been slow coming but summer has finally arrived. It won’t be long before we start hearing TV and radio announcements about municipal “cooling centers” being opened. These announcements point to the importance of staying hydrated, particularly in the summer. This is especially critical for the elderly and the frail. Dehydration can quickly lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke for this group. Older people are at a greater risk of dehydration for several reasons. While a younger person’s body naturally cools itself through the production of perspiration, this mechanism may not work as well in a senior due to natural aging changes and the assortment of medications they may be taking for a variety of chronic conditions. These medications include antihistamines, antidepressants, motion sickness medication, anti asthma drugs, diuretics which are often prescribed for hypertension, and some heart medications. In addition, as we get older our kidneys are less efficient at conserving water and unlike camels, we can’t store it. By the time your aging loved one’s body sends them the “I’m thirsty” signal, they may be well on the way to being dehydrated. Seniors who have dementia may simply forget to drink and those who suffer from neurological disorders may have difficulty swallowing. Those who are frail need assistance to drink. Any combination of these factors can lead to dehydration.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there are signs of dehydration to look for: dizziness, confusion, constipation, increased fatigue, increased body temperature, dry mouth, reduced sweating, sunken eyes, and low blood pressure. As a caregiver, taking extra measures to keep your loved one hydrated requires vigilance but in this case, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. Be sure to offer fluids on a regular basis, at least every couple of hours. Although plain, clear water is the best choice, any liquid is better than none so offer your loved one their preferred beverage frequently. Be sure to serve beverages with meals and encourage more than a sip of water to wash down medications. Try serving foods that are naturally “wet” such as soups, yogurt, ice cream, and smoothies. Encourage your loved one to drink small quantities frequently rather than a lot at one time. A frail senior needs at least 6 cups of fluids per day but consult their doctor if they take diuretics, have kidney disease, or have congestive heart failure. How do you make sure your senior gets enough fluids? Please share your thoughts and experiences below. Visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
When you are younger and in need of medication for an illness or injury, things are pretty simple. You go to the doctor, get a diagnosis, fill your prescription, and a few days later you’re feeling better. If you get a headache or pull a muscle at the gym, you pick up some over-the-counter analgesics and in a bit you’re back to your busy life good as new. It never occurs to you to monitor what you’re taking because you’re not taking a lot of medications with a lot of frequency. That changes as you reach your senior years. As you get older, it’s typical to be dealing with more than one chronic condition resulting in taking multiple medications which are very often prescribed in multiple doses. In fact, the average older person takes at least four prescription medications and at least two over-the-counter drugs on a regular basis. Seniors over 65 are responsible for the purchase of 30% of all prescription drugs and over 40% of all over-the-counter drugs. You can see where this is going. As you get older or someone you care for enters their senior years, it becomes increasingly important to manage medications.
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to problems with medications for a variety of reasons. The more medications are taken, the greater the odds are that they may have an interaction that could be dangerous if not unpleasant. It’s not uncommon for a senior to simply stop taking a medication because of its side effects. Between 40% and 75% of seniors stop taking their medications at the right dosage and the right schedule. This issue is compounded by the fact that older adults are more sensitive to drugs because of their now slower metabolisms and organ functions, thus keeping drugs in their system for longer periods of time. Physical problems such as poor vision or a weak grip due to arthritis can result in dosing errors. Cognitive and memory issues can prevent the older adult from following the doctor’s orders and since so many seniors live alone there’s no one to assist them with nor monitor their use of drugs. Simply forgetting is a major reason medication doses are skipped by the elderly. With an increased number of chronic conditions the typical older adult sees a number of different physicians — the endocrinologist for their thyroid, the cardiologist for their heart problems, and so on. Multiple doctors equal multiple medications that can conflict with each other. You can see why studies have shown that any combination of these factors causes 30% of hospital admissions of older adults. It’s apparent that being able to manage an older adult’s medications is critical to their well being and even their ability to remain independently in their own home. Next time we’ll talk about which medications to be especially cautious about and what action you can take to help keep your senior safe with their medication. Visit us at www.trilliumhomecare.com