Category Archives: Health care services

The Danger of Denial


If you care for an aging parent or loved one you need to be careful that you yourself don’t fall into denial. Denial is actually a strong defense mechanism that you may be using unconsciously to help deal with what you know is coming down the road. Perhaps you come to your loved one’s home daily just to make sure everything is okay. Maybe Mom doesn’t like driving so you take her on all her errands. You’re sure to be there the night before the garbage has to be set out so Dad doesn’t have to do it. And you go back the next day to take the cans in. It snowed last night so you get there in the morning so the snow gets shoveled and Dad doesn’t have to risk falling when he goes out to get the paper. Your loved one has a doctor appointment so you go along as a second set of ears and to pick up the prescription. It’s a lot of extra work in your life and takes up much of your time but so far you’re holding up okay. Does any of this sound familiar? Because you are with your loved one so often, you’ve surely seen changes in how your senior moves, how they function, and what their limitations are as they age. If you are taking on more and more of their activities of daily life, you’re probably in denial that they need help. You may not want to believe that and may dread having a conversation about it with them. If you hold off for a bit longer, perhaps they themselves will realize its time to get help. It can be a difficult and uncomfortable topic so you keep waiting. It’s perfectly normal to deny something unpleasant or frightening but it can prevent us from facing the facts and can in reality be dangerous for our loved ones because denial will keep us from preparing for what’s ahead whether its an accident or the worsening of some chronic condition. Not addressing the issue won’t keep it from happening. Take a realistic look at your loved one’s situation and be careful not to fool yourself into complacency. Making plans and decisions about the future care of your loved one is much easier to do when you’re not in the midst of some medical crisis. How did you come to the realization that your loved one needs some extra care? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Older Adults and Medication – Part 2

As you get older or someone you care for enters their “senior” years, you have to be very careful about which medications are used. Older adults usually have several chronic medical conditions they are dealing with at any given time so that means they’re probably using a variety of drugs. The more medication you take, the greater are the odds that you can end up dealing with the effects of drug interactions. In addition, seniors are more sensitive to some drugs due to the natural changes in their bodies as they age.

Among the most commonly used and abused drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Long lasting versions include Feldene and Indocin which are available by prescription while shorter acting ones include Motrin, Advil, and Aleve. Because the shorter acting NSAIDS are available over the counter, there’s a misconception that they must be totally safe but keep in mind that they’re mean for short term use only. In fact, all NSAIDS carry a risk of indigestion and ulcers and in the over 75 age group there is a possibility of bleeding in the stomach or colon especially if your senior is taking aspirin or a blood thinner like Coumadin for their heart. In addition, NSAIDS can increase your blood pressure so if you’re taking medication for hypertension which is very common in seniors and you take an NSAID for your arthritis, the medications are fighting each other.

Other medications to use with caution include muscle relaxants and over the counter allergy and cold medications. Muscle relaxants such as Flexeril and diphenhydramine , which is the active ingredient in Benadryl and over the counter sleep aids like Tylenol PM, can cause confusion and grogginess along with blurred vision. This can be particularly troublesome for seniors since it can increase the risk of falling. If your senior takes something to help them sleep and something else because their allergies are bothering them, you can see how easily they could be double-dosing without realizing it!

In light of the fact that there is an endless list of possible drug combinations you or your loved one may be taking, it’s important to keep a CURRENT list of all drugs being used, including any over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements. Take this list with you to every doctor visit and ask lots of questions. If your doctor prescribes a drug, be sure you are clear about what it’s for and how to properly take it. Ask if it will interfere with anything on your list and if any adjustments need to be made. Be sure to get all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy so the pharmacist can also keep track of any possible interactions. Using a pill organizer at home can help you keep track of whether you’ve taken the medication as prescribed. If you start noticing a possible side effect to a medication, don’t just stop taking it without contacting your doctor. Follow his advice and be safe. Do you have any tips for managing your senior’s medications? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Aging and Sleep

When we’re young we often burn the candle at both ends when it comes to our sleep habits. We stay up late watching TV, socializing with friends, or doing schoolwork and then get up the next morning and go to work or school. Weekends are “catch-up time” with some power sleeping —-or not. Somehow we survive these erratic sleep habits. That all changes as you get into your senior years and sleep becomes much more important. It allows your body to restore its energy levels and it refreshes the immune system so it can help prevent disease as we age. In addition, sleep improves concentration and memory function. As you get older your sleep changes and you can’t bounce back from lack of sleep as you once did. Your body produces less melatonin so you wake up more often at night. In addition, an aging internal clock makes you wake up earlier in the morning while making you sleepier earlier in the evening. You generally need more time to fall asleep and any noises you hear at night may awaken you more readily than when you were younger. The problem is that as you age you still need seven to nine hours of sleep at night, just as you did in your early adult life. According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost half of older adults experience insomnia at least a few nights per week. In the over 65 age group, 13% of men and 36% of women need more than a half hour to fall asleep.

As you get older, there are a lot of factors that can directly affect your sleep. Most seniors are dealing with multiple health issues such as arthritis, heartburn, lung disease, or heart problems and the pain and discomfort they result in can keep you awake at night. These health issues are usually accompanied by a litany of medications and they too can affect the quality of sleep. These medications include anti-depressants, diuretics, decongestants, and high blood pressure medications. Psychological issues like depression and neurological illnesses like dementia are an additional source of sleep problems.

There are steps you can take to ensure a good night’s sleep. Many of them are simple lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol at least 6 hours before bedtime and not eating heavy meals late in the day. Sticking to a regular schedule for going to bed and getting up in the morning (even on weekends) gets your body into a regular routine. Getting regular exercise reduces stress and according to the Feinberg School of Medicine results in dramatic improvement in the quality of sleep. Limit the amount of liquids you consume for a couple of hours before you go to bed. Getting up to go to the bathroom is the major cause of waking at night for seniors. If you make these changes yet are unsuccessful in getting a good night’s sleep, it’s time to talk to your family doctor. Do you have any good sleep tips to share? Visit us at www.trilliumhomecare.com

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The Flower Shop

I was at the florist last weekend to order flowers for a special occasion. While there I noticed an elderly lady looking over the pots of daffodils and tulips. We struck up a conversation and she confided in me that she needed some flowers to boost her spirits. It has been such a long and cold winter that she just needed a reminder that spring really is coming. As we talked, she told me she could count on one hand how many endless winters like this one she had seen in her ninety two years. After she made her purchase, she asked if I would help her to her car. She had one of those four-pronged canes in one hand and a pot of daffodils in the other. I took the flowers from her and offered her my arm for support as we walked through the door, chatting the whole time and marveling at the warmth of the sunshine. She pointed out her vehicle, a massive old model Grand Marquis. As we approached the car she suddenly exclaimed “Oh no honey, I drove!” I had automatically escorted her to the passenger side, assuming someone had driven her to the florist and was waiting for her in the car. After making our way to the driver’s side she fumbled in her purse for her keys and I helped her get in, loading her daffodils and the cane on the passenger seat. We said our good-byes and I stood in dumbstruck silence noticing a variety of scratches and dents as she drove away. I kept thinking “there’s an accident, just waiting to happen”.

Hopefully, that lovely lady made it home in one piece and without incident. It seems to me that somewhere along the line a family member or friend should talk with her about assessing her driving. As you reach your senior years, at some point you may need to limit your driving or stop altogether. There are so many issues that can limit the ability to drive. Reaction time slows with age and mobility problems can make it difficult to look over your shoulder to change lanes or move your leg back and forth from the gas pedal to the brake. In addition, vision declines leaving many seniors to deal with glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration. Hearing problems would make it harder to hear the warning sounds of honking horns or ambulance sirens. Combinations of medications can affect the senses and reflexes. Everyone ages differently and some can drive later in life than others but if you have a senior in your life, it may be time to assess their driving. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to start that conversation before they got to the flower shop! Visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com"

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It’s Flu Season!

It’s flu season but you probably know that. All you have to do is turn on the TV to hear some sad story about a young adult succumbing to the influenza virus. It’s in all the headlines. According to the Center for Disease Control, 3% of the population is now sick with the flu. More than 2,600 people have been hospitalized due to the flu since October of 2013. Dozens of healthy adults have died. As caregivers we need to be aware that if our loved one has an underlying condition, they are at much greater risk of getting the flu.
Of all the adults who have been hospitalized this year the most commonly reported underlying conditions include obesity, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disorders and neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, stroke and spinal cord injuries. That covers an awful lot of people. The very best way to keep your senior or loved one safe is to get the flu shot.

That being said, I know there are a lot of people who claim they don’t get a flu shot because it gives them the flu. This just isn’t true. The flu is actually a respiratory disease so if they got a runny, stuffy nose and some sneezing or a sore throat, they actually got a cold. Flu symptoms include a fever, headache, coughing, fatigue, and general aches and pains. It takes two weeks after vaccination for the protective antibodies to develop in your body so you can actually get the flu for two weeks after the shot. If your loved one hasn’t gotten their vaccination yet, it’s not too late. As long as the flu virus is around it pays to get vaccinated. Typically, flu season doesn’t peak until February and can last as late as May. Although most flu clinics were held last fall in October, your loved one can still get vaccinated at their doctor’s office. In addition, vaccine is still available at your local pharmacy like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid. Many retailers that have a pharmacy, including Target, Kroger, Meijer, and K-Mart also have flu shots available. Don’t let the one you care for take unnecessary risks with their health and even their lives. Make sure they get their vaccination. Have you had to deal with your loved one’s reluctance to get their shot? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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It’s All About “Me”

The holiday season is finally in full swing and before your know it, we’ll be ushering in the New Year. We’ll be looking at the past year and promising ourselves that this new year will be different. We’ll think of all the things that went wrong and come up with a nice list of changes for the coming year that will make everything so much better. Sound familiar? As caregivers, it’s easy to blame ourselves for anything that might have gone wrong while we cared for our loved one. Did we put our loved one first? Were we attentive to their needs?

I’m sure the list of New Year resolutions will look something like this:
#1. I will get all the sleep and rest I need.
#2. I will do all I can to have a healthy lifestyle.
#3. I’ll ask for and accept all the help I can get.
#4. I will do something every day to de-stress a bit.
#5. I promise to keep up a social life.
#6. I will communicate and share with others who are going through the same experiences I am.
#7. I will use respite care whenever I can.
#8. I will learn all I can about my loved one’s condition.

After looking at all of these resolutions, you can see a common thread. They can all be replaced with an attitude adjustment. As caregivers, we need to shift our concerns to caring for ourselves! Somehow it seems wrong to even say that. We’ve spent an awful lot of time putting someone else’s needs ahead of our own and just thinking about yourself seems so selfish. The thing to remember is that if we aren’t in good shape physically and emotionally, we’ll be ineffective as caregivers and end up being useless to those we care for. This year my goal is to wake up every morning and remind myself that it’s all about me. What resolutions are you making for the new year? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Is It Reversible?

As our parents or someone we care for age, we may notice some behaviors and symptoms often associated with Alzheimer’s. Perhaps our loved one has gotten a bit forgetful or just can’t think of someone’s name or the correct word during a conversation. Maybe they seem to be getting a lot of “senior moments”.  It’s very easy to panic and assume they may be getting Alzheimer’s.  Actually, that panic is a good thing.  It may motivate us to get our loved one in to see their doctor.  If Alzheimer’s is the cause of their symptoms, early treatment may slow the progression of this disease.  Even more importantly, if it isn’t Alzheimer’s, it may be totally reversible.  Yes…….reversible.  That’s why it’s important to get the right diagnosis quickly. 

Early diagnosis is necessary so treatment can begin before any permanent damage to the brain occurs.  The most common cause of reversible dementia is medication.  The aging body reacts differently to medications.  The liver doesn’t work as well in terms of metabolizing the drugs and the kidneys are slow to eliminate them from the body.  This combination makes the amount of drugs in the body accumulate quite quickly.  Multiply this retention by the higher number of drugs consumed for a variety of medical problems and you end up with a lot of medication in your system at any given time.  The drugs that can cause dementia like symptoms include: corticosteroids, sedatives, antihistamines, heart medications, and antidepressants.

A low level of Vitamin B12 is another culprit.  A very low level of this vitamin causes pernicious anemia.  The first symptoms of this type of anemia are slowness, confusion, and apathy.  Sound a lot like Alzheimer’s, doesn’t it? B12 injections can eliminate the deficiency and get rid of those symptoms.

Another common disorder, a thyroid hormone imbalance, causes dementia like symptoms.  Hyperthyroidism, which is an overproduction of thyroid hormones, as well as hypothyroidism, which is an underproduction of thyroid hormone, both cause what looks like dementia.  Removing the thyroid or a thyroid replacement medication can often reverse the dementia.

So you see, panicking about what looks like Alzheimer’s can be a good thing.  If your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, early treatment will help slow its progression.  If the symptoms are caused by some other underlying condition, the cognitive problems may be reversible or well managed.  In either case, the sooner you know, the better the results will be.  What’s your experience been?  Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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The Real Work Begins

Once you’ve made the decision that you or a loved one is going to need some help to remain independently at home, the real work begins. Selecting an agency for yourself or your loved one is not an easy job. There are a lot of options out there but be aware they are not all the same. Before you make your choice, be sure to get the answers to some very important questions.

Are the caregivers who come to your home employees of the agency or are they merely referred by the agency and employed by you? If they are employed by the agency, their employer will take care of collecting all taxes and remitting them to the government. The caregivers will be covered under Workers Compensation insurance if they are hurt on the job. If they are simply referred by the agency, all of these bookkeeping and payroll responsibilities will be yours to handle.

Are the caregivers bonded and insured? Do they have background checks performed on them? Are they screened for drug use? What if you don’t want a smoker in your home?
It’s very important to feel safe when you have someone come into your home. After all, you letting someone into your personal life and you need to feel secure in the knowledge that safety isn’t an issue with them.

How experienced are the caregivers? Do they have any ongoing training? Who does the training? Is there any oversight while they are in your home? Are they supervised by a trained medical professional such as a Registered Nurse? When a caregiver comes into your home you’ll surely want some things done to your own specifications but do you really want to or have time to train someone? If there’s a problem, can you reach management or do you have to wait for regular office hours? Does the agency provide continuity of care by regularly scheduling the same caregiver to your home? What if your caregiver can’t come due to illness or vacation time off? How flexible is the agency with scheduling? If your needs change, will scheduling someone to come to your home be a problem?

When you’ve decided it’s time to get some help, don’t settle on simply checking prices and rates. Go the extra step and do the real work of asking specific questions. The more information you have, the more comfortable you’ll be while making your decision. You won’t regret going the extra mile. What method did you use to select your in-home care? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Shingles

Once you or someone you care for has reached the ago of 50, you need to be more aware of an infection called shingles which causes a painful rash.  If you’ve ever had chicken pox, you’re a prime candidate for shingles because it’s caused by the same virus that gave you chicken pox.  The varicella-zoster virus remains dormant in your body and can reactivate many years later as shingles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50% of seniors who live to the age of 85 will get shingles at some point in their lives.  In fact, if you are over 65, you’re seven time more likely to get shingles and over a million people get it each year.

Symptoms include pain and a burning or tingling sensation somewhere on your torso or on your face around an eye.  A few days after the pain starts, a red rash appears and then changes into fluid filled blisters.  The rash itches and eventually the blisters break open and crust over.  Shingles is contagious until the blisters scab over.  The pain can be very intense and sometimes it lasts a very long time after the blisters clear up.  It can be months or even years until all the pain is gone!

Fortunately, a vaccine for shingles became available a few years ago.  It doesn’t  guarantee that you won’t get shingles but it will reduce the risk of getting it by 50%.   It also will shorten how severe the infection will be  and how long the infection will last.  The vaccine can also reduce the risk of any painful complications by 66%. Despite the severity and duration of this infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control, fewer than 7% of seniors in the U.S. get the vaccine.  This is where you as a caregiver come into the picture.  Make it your business to get this vaccine and encourage the senior or loved one you care for to get it also.  The odds are pretty high that either or both of you will get this incredibly painful infection so you need to beat the odds!  Share your experience with shingles below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

 

 

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The Silver Alert

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone these days who hasn’t heard of the “Amber Alert” which requires law enforcement to issue public bulletins to the media as soon as a child is reported missing.  If an adult is missing, the family has to wait 24 to 48 hours before they can even make a missing person’s report.  If you care for someone who has Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia, you know the first 24 hours your loved one is missing can be the most critical.  There are almost 275,000 people in Michigan with some form of dementia and this number is expected to sky rocket as baby boomers age.  More than 60% of them will wander at some point.  This wandering will result in serious injury or death to almost half of them  within the first 24 hours they are missing.  Time is critical here and waiting 24 hours to report your loved one is missing will just stack the cards against their safe return.

 

Now there is hope.  In 2012, Governor Snyder signed the Mozelle Senior Or Vulnerable Adult Medical Alert Act into law.  It requires the police to take a report of a missing senior or disabled adult as soon as the department is notified. 

Before this law was enacted, the police were required to obtain documentation and signatures from appropriate people to verify that the missing person had dementia or was on life-sustaining medication.  This caused a delay in getting the name into the Law Enforcement Information Network system.  Now the word of the person reporting the missing senior is enough to get things rolling. The police are required to immediately forward all the information to all the law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction in the area where the person disappeared.  This information also has to go to at least one media outlet in that same area.  With this new law  the search for a missing wanderer can begin well before that first 24 hour critical time period has passed.  For a caregiver faced with a missing wandering loved one, the odds for a safe return have just gone up.  Have you ever had to deal with a missing loved one?  Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

 

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