This Sunday, March 8th, starts the beginning of Daylight Saving Time for this year. Be sure to set your clocks forward one hour before going to bed Saturday night. Most of us get accustomed to this yearly time change with a few extra cups of coffee or if possible, an afternoon nap. Within a couple of days our bodies have adjusted and we’re back to the usual schedule. This isn’t the case with many seniors who are already dealing with sleep issues as they age and may have chronic conditions that lead to insomnia. Additional sources of sleep problems include medications, psychological issues like depression, and neurological illnesses such as dementia. Compounding these problems is the fact that as seniors get older they often develop “advanced sleep phase syndrome”. Their internal clock makes them sleepy earlier in the evening and wakes them earlier in the morning. Moving the clock ahead affects the senior’s circadian rhythm or natural sleep cycle. Because of daylight saving time, your loved one may have difficulty falling asleep earlier in the evening and more wakefulness in the early part of the night. This kind of sleep disruption can lead to grogginess, disorientation, and decreased ability to concentrate.
There are several things that can be done to adjust to the new “spring forward” time. Most importantly, get as much exposure to light during the day as possible. Natural sunlight suppresses your body’s production of melatonin which induces sleep. Keep window blinds open to sunlight and get outdoors if possible. Dim lights in the evening and avoid the bright lights of the television or computer screen before bed and be sure to use a night light in the bathroom at night instead of turning on overhead lights. If you find that you must take a nap, be sure it’s short and that you take it earlier in the day rather than later. You’ll be feeling hungry later in the day but be careful to avoid a heavy meal at least two to three hours before your bedtime. Stay away from caffeine after noon because it can affect your sleep for ten to twelve hours after consumption. Avoid alcohol before bed. Although it may help you fall asleep by relaxing you, it will actually make it harder for you to stay asleep. 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. Following these suggestions should help your senior adjust more quickly to the time change but if the sleep schedule doesn’t return to normal in a few weeks, it may be time to consult your doctor. How do you adjust to the time change? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
As our parents and loved ones grow older it may become apparent that it’s getting harder to communicate with them. As they age, communication becomes more difficult due to changes in their physical health, some cognitive decline, or even bouts of depression. Half of adults over the age of 75 have some hearing loss. In fact, it’s the third most common chronic condition in seniors. Fourteen percent of seniors over the age of 71 have some degree of dementia which affects communication because of the gradual deterioration of memory, attention, and perception which accompanies the dementia.
With some extra time and patience on our part we can compensate for these communication issues. This is so important because communication is vital to perform many of the functions of day-to-day life. First and foremost, try to be aware of your senior’s health issues and make an effort to overcome any barriers to clear communication. Pay attention to the environment you’re in. Reduce any background noises that can serve as distractions such as the television or radio. If need be, move to a quieter location or different room. Sit face-to-face with the person you’re talking with. Reading lips is actually used by all of us to some degree and facing each other allows your senior to readily see your lips. It also allows you to maintain eye contact and allows the other person to read your facial expressions. Speak clearly and pronounce your words carefully at a moderate rate. Speak with a comfortable volume without shouting.
Make your statements clear and uncomplicated. You may have to rephrase something if it’s clear you’re not being understood. Complicated phrases or questions can easily confuse someone who has some hearing loss or short-term memory issues. Stick to one topic at a time and keep your sentences and questions short. Be patient and give your senior the time and opportunity to respond. If they want to reminisce a bit, don’t cut them off. Remember to smile and speak to your loved one with respect and kindness. Do you have any other tips for good communication? Share below and 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
According to the study “A Review of Social Isolation” by Nicholas R. Nicholson, which was published in The Journal of Primary Prevention, over 40% of Seniors who live at home are living in isolation. This is an alarming statistic in light of the fact that there is an increasing trend for seniors to “age in place” and the senior population in the over 65 age group is predicted to more than double in the next 25 years. The alarming part is that social isolation is a major health problem in older adults and is expected to dramatically increase in the near future. Studies have proven that this isolation and resulting lack of social activities can be directly linked to an increase in cognitive decline. In addition, by not belonging to a social network seniors don’t benefit from the positive encouragement of their friends to comply with healthy practices such as not smoking or staying active. Another health risk of isolation is depression which can worsen many conditions that seniors suffer from such as chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease and dementia.
Isolation can happen for a variety of reasons—some by choice and some as a result of unexpected events. The death of a spouse often leaves the mate feeling alone and so sad that they can’t bear to keep up their old friendships with others. It’s also not uncommon for children to live a long distance away leaving get-togethers something that happens during the holidays or vacations. Getting older with now impaired vision or hearing can prevent a senior from driving and thus limit opportunities to get out. Problems with urinary incontinence may make it seem inconvenient to go anywhere and sleeping issues at night may make daytime drowsiness a deterrent from outside activities. If there are any safety issues with crime in the neighborhood, the senior may be reluctant to leave their home.
If you know or care for a senior living alone, there are things you can do to help prevent their isolation from the community. Encourage them to stay connected whether by phone or email or Skype. Make sure to regularly schedule and keep doctor and optometrist appointments so that vision or health problems are dealt with and won’t keep the senior house bound. Encourage involvement with others, whether it’s the local senior center or church group. If transportation is a problem, check into public transportation or community based volunteer drivers.If your senior is capable of and interested in caring for a pet it can give them a sense of purpose. It’s amazing how many people you meet just out walking the dog! You may also consider hiring a companion from a home care agency to assist with transportation and running errands or simply to provide some social contact and interaction. Small changes add up and make a big difference. Social isolation doesn’t happen overnight and can’t be remedied overnight. Do you have any tips on how to keep your loved one involved in life? Share below and visit us at www.trilliumhomecare.com
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
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"
We all come to the role of caregiver in a variety of ways. Some of us are thrust into this role when someone we love has a medical crisis and needs us to care for them until they are better and can return to their former healthy status. Some of us start out by gradually taking on more responsibilities for an aging parent as they become less able to handle daily activities. And then there are those of us who have a family member or loved one who is dealing with a chronic condition or illness and who will always need some extra support. Regardless of how we come by our caregiver role, the goal is always the same. We’re trying to help our loved ones live as independently as possible and with the best quality of life as possible.
Being a caregiver is a very demanding and often stressful job. It takes a lot of physical, emotional, and mental energy and can lead to incredible fatigue, anxiety, illness, and ultimately depression and burnout. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are things you can do to become a more effective and successful caregiver without compromising your own health and well being.
Educate yourself. Take a crash course in your loved one’s illness or condition. Remember the old adage “Knowledge is Power”. This is one of the most important things a caregiver can do. The more you know and understand about what your loved one is dealing with, the more you can successfully handle any challenges or changes in their health. This includes keeping an open line of communication with their doctor or health care team.
Take care of yourself. If you are worn out and/or physically ill, you certainly can’t be much help to anyone else. Being a caregiver is demanding work so you need to eat a nutritious diet, get enough sleep, and get some exercise. Don’t give up a social life. The last thing you need is to become isolated. Know your limits and don’t try to do more than you can in any given day. Be realistic about what you’re trying to get done. Try to schedule some “me-time” to help you relax.
Ask for and accept help. Tap family and friends for any help they can give you no matter how incidental it may seem. If they can run some errands for you or cook a meal, it’ll be less on your plate for a change. Don’t try to do everything by yourself. The goal is to keep from being overwhelmed and feeling trapped. Consider using the services of an experienced home care agency, even if on an occasional basis. This would give you a well needed and deserved break and an opportunity to recharge your battery. Just remember to ask for help before you are overwhelmed. Do you have any tips on being a successful caregiver? What has helped you? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
As we get older it’s typical to turn our attention away from exercise and fitness activities. Life gets in the way. We have jobs to go to, a family to raise, perhaps a loved one to care for. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. The fact is, that as we get older it’s even more important to exercise than we realize. As a part of aging, we will all gradually lose muscle mass. This in turn will increase our risk of falling and fracturing a bone. That sort of mishap can be devastating to a senior’s mobility. It’s all about being able to move and get around as we age. If we can’t get around, our lives would change dramatically. Independence would be a thing of the past — no solo trips to the store or afternoons out with family and friends, no participation in leisure activities we once enjoyed, and a new dependence on family and friends to do things for us.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. According to a study in the American Journal of Medicine, seniors can combat muscle loss and actually become stronger as they age…even into their 80’s and 90’s. The answer is exercise, and in particular, resistance training. The increased agility and balance that results from exercise fights off the frailty that comes with age. In addition, strength training builds up bone and helps fight off the effects of osteoporosis.
It gets even better. Strength training can improve sleep quality, help diabetics with improved glucose control, and works like an anti-depressant for those struggling with depression. It even helps with managing the pain of arthritis. According to a study done by Tufts University, exercise decreases the pain of arthritis by as much as 43%. It’s all about quality of life. If we want to remain in our homes as we get older, we need to do whatever we can to make sure that we can move about easily and with a good sense of balance. It’s never too late to start a resistance training program. A study in New Zealand of women aged 80 and older who did resistance training showed a 40% reduction in falls. As always, before you start an exercise program, consult with your doctor. Have you begun an exercise program later in life? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
As we and those we care for age, we have to be aware of our sensitivity to medications. This increase in sensitivity to drugs is mostly due to the fact that the organs in our bodies that absorb and eliminate drugs slow down quite a bit. Our kidney and liver function can slow to as much as 50% of their more youthful rate. Generally, we have more body fat and less muscle mass. Since many drugs are fat-soluble, our bodies may absorb more of the medication. The amount of water in our body decreases as we age and our hearts pump blood less effectively. This makes the effects of drugs much stronger. All these changes occur naturally as we age. The end result of these changes is that drugs are absorbed more slowly, take longer to start working, and stay in our bodies much longer after we stop taking them. This can definitely become a serious issue in light of the fact that most drugs are formulated for and tested on younger adults who aren’t so sensitive. For the senior population there is less information available on what the side effects of and reactions to different drugs are. This problem is compounded by the fact that senior citizens consume over 25% of all drugs prescribed in the United States. The average senior gets thirteen prescriptions a year. In addition, they buy almost 50% of over-the-counter drugs sold. Since seniors generally suffer from several chronic conditions, the number of prescriptions usually rises as we age. The best thing we can do for ourselves and our loved ones is to talk frequently with our doctors and our pharmacist. Make sure you clearly let your doctor know what you are taking, how often, and at what dosage. Ask if any new prescriptions are necessary for an underlying condition or is your doctor just treating the symptoms you have. Is there an actual diagnosis? If you are taking any over-the-counter drugs, please let your doctor know. They can easily interact with the prescribed medications. Being overmedicated from taking multiple medications often leads to confusion and an increased incidence of falls in the elderly. Pay attention to how your body reacts and how you feel when you begin a new medication. Be aware of your sensitivity and don’t be shy about communicating with your doctor. What are you doing to keep yourself or the one you care for safe with medications? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com