Spring has officially arrived today and along with the arrival of warmer weather, you can expect the onslaught of springtime scammers, especially if you are a senior. Seniors are in fact targeted disproportionately by scammers for several reasons. According to AARP, they control over 70% of the wealth in this country and are readily available since they’re retired and usually at home. Many are widows or widowers and not adverse to any friendly conversation. Seniors often have land line phones and generally don’t register with the “do not call” registry and this makes them easy targets for phone scams. Almost 3 billion dollars a year is lost by senior citizens as a result of scams!
The most common scam is the door-to-door sales pitch. Typically, someone shows up at the door offering a greatly discounted rate on services or products because they’re already working in the neighborhood and have leftover materials. Of course, this is a limited time offer and you have to act fast. The senior may be asked to pay up front. The problem is these salespeople move on and if there’s a problem with the work or if you don’t receive what they’ve sold you, you’re out of luck finding them. A variation on this scheme consists of what appears to be a utility worker claiming to be from the city or your utility company and claiming they need entry into the senior’s home or back yard to perform some sort of test or check some equipment. While the senior is occupied by the worker, an accomplice can easily ransack the house in search of valuables. Very often, the victim doesn’t know they’ve been robbed until days or weeks later when the scammers have long gone. If you are a senior or care for one, it’s important to take some preventive measures. Never allow a stranger entry into the home and be sure to demand identification from “city workers” along with a phone number you can use to verify what they’re claiming. If you’re caring for a parent or senior, stay informed about who they’re giving information to and caution them not to answer the door to strangers. It’s also a good idea to pull their free credit report to check if their identity has been stolen or their credit rating has been compromised by some illegal activity. Be safe and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true. Do you have any other tips for dealing with scammers? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
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
It seems like this winter is never going to end. Oddly enough, there seems to be no mention of Polar Vortexes on the weather forecasts. Maybe it’s just not newsworthy this year. We seem to get a fresh blast of frigid air every two or three days. With that in mind, we need to be especially vigilant about the problem of dealing with low temperatures while caring for a senior friend or relative. Most people know about the dangers of broken bones from slip and falls or the breathing problems older people can experience outside in the cold air. What we generally don’t think about is the hypothermia that can occur inside your own home.
Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature which can result in illness or death. According to the National Institute on Aging, over 2.5 million seniors are especially vulnerable to hypothermia. As many as 25,000 of them die each year. According to the Center for Disease Control, when body temperature falls too low, it affects the brain and makes the victim of hypothermia unable to think clearly or move well. That means the affected senior doesn’t know what’s happening and isn’t therefore able to help themselves. When the body temperature drops to just a few degrees lower than the 98.6F that is normal, it can cause an irregular heartbeat leading to heart problems and death. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness.
Your loved one may be susceptible to hypothermia because older adults make less body heat due to a slow metabolism and less physical activity on their part. Their ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age and some medicines they use can increase their risk of accidental hypothermia. These medications include drugs used to treat anxiety, depression, nausea, or heart problems. To make sure your loved one stays safe from hypothermia indoors, keep the thermostat between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure they wear several layers of loose clothing that will trap warm air between layers. Be sure they avoid alcohol and caffeine which can make them lose body heat. Place an easy-to-read thermometer in and indoor location so your loved one can check the temperature of the home often. Be especially careful that you check on your senior regularly since isolation can be life threatening in cold weather. Try to set up a regular call schedule so if a call-in is missed you’ll be alerted to a possible problem. Do you have any other tips for preventing hypothermia indoors? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
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
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
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