Tag Archives: elderly safety

Four Tips To Increase Mobility

As your loved one ages, it’s common for them to experience a loss of mobility. When they’ve spent their entire lives unaided, learning to walk with a walker, cane or even using a wheelchair is a struggle. As a caregiver, it may be hard to know how to help them. At Caregivers Connection, we would like to offer four tips that can encourage them to increase their mobility. Continue reading

Holiday Safety

The holiday season is usually a joyful time of year meant for getting together with family and friends.  It’s a time to reflect on our lives and loved ones, and certainly a time for celebration.  The holiday season, with it’s celebrations and it’s decorations, is not without its health and safety risks.  In fact, it can be one of the most dangerous times of year for seniors.   Here are tips for keeping your loved one safe during the Holidays.

 Be Prepared: the Key to Senior Safety During the Winter and Holidays

From Comfort Keepers.com

Winter is an especially important time to keep an eye on seniors to make sure they are living as safely, healthfully and happily as possible.

Here are a few tips to help seniors during the season:

  • Check on elderly loved ones regularly, or if you live out of town, arrange for neighbors to check in and provide their number to call in emergencies.
  • Help your loved one arrange for someone to keep sidewalks shoveled and de-iced.
  • Make sure seniors have emergency supplies.
  • Arrange for transportation during severe weather to medical appointments or the grocery store.
  • If your loved one is physically or cognitively impaired, arrange for someone to stay with him during weather emergencies.

Holiday Safety Tips

Trees, lights and candles an important part of holiday traditions but pose a danger when not used safely.

Tree and decoration tips:

  • Buy an artificial tree that is labeled “fire resistant.”
  • Choose a live tree that has green needles that do not break when bent between the fingers. The bottom of the tree should be sticky with resin. When tapped on the ground, the tree should lose only a few needles.
  • Place trees away from fireplaces, vents and radiators. If using a live tree, remember to keep the stand filled with water.
  • Use only noncombustible or flame-resistant decorations.

Lighting tips:

  • Use indoor and outdoor lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Use only newer lights that have thicker wiring and safety fuses to prevent wires from overheating.
  • Before using, check lights for cracked sockets, damaged wires or loose connections. Throw out broken sets.
  • Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for stringing lights together. UL recommends using no more than three standard-size sets of lights together.
  • Make sure extension cords are rated for the intended use.
  • Check outdoor light labels to make sure they have been certified for outdoor use. Only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
  • Turn off lights before going to bed or leaving the house.

Candle tips:

  • Keep burning candles within sight.
  • Keep candles out of reach of small children and pets.
  • Extinguish candles before going to bed or leaving the room or house. Do not leave children, or adults with dementia, alone in a room with burning candles.
  • Keep lighted candles away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, decorations, curtains and furniture.
  • Always use non-flammable holders.
  • Use battery-powered candles whenever possible to avoid fire risk.

Fireplace tips:

  • Do not burn wrapping paper or plastic items in the fireplace. They can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • Place a screen around the fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby materials.

Keeping Walks Clear

Falls are always a concern for seniors. Winter poses a special risk, so put down road salt, cat litter or sand to keep sidewalks, steps and driveways as slip-free as possible.

Persons over age 65 — especially those with a history of high blood pressure and heart disease — should leave snow shoveling to others. The combination of strenuous work and blood vessels constricted by the cold air raises the risk of heart attack. Falls and severe muscle strains are also risks.

However, seniors who are able to shovel walks should:

  • Dress warmly and in layers, along with a hat and gloves, to retain body heat and prevent hypothermia. To avoid slipping, wear boots with non-skid soles.
  • Before starting, limber up with light warm-up exercises.
  • Push the snow in front of you, rather than try to lift it. If you must lift, pick up small amounts and lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Take frequent breaks. If you become dizzy or numb, stop immediately and go inside. Call 911 if you experience chest pain or other heart attack symptoms.

Protect Against Hypothermia

Seniors generally produce less body heat. That makes them especially susceptible to hypothermia, which if not detected early, can be extremely dangerous. Conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease and severe arthritis — even some medications — can limit the body’s response to cold, leaving seniors even more vulnerable.

Hypothermia prevention tips:

  • Limit time outdoors and stay indoors on windy days. Go inside if you begin shivering.
  • Wear warm, layered clothing of natural fibers. To reduce heat loss, wear a hat, gloves, warm socks and boots. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
  • Keep the thermostat at a comfortable level, wear warm clothing and use enough blankets to stay warm at night.
  • To keep your body temperature up, eat hot, nourishing meals and drink warm beverages.

Seek medical attention immediately for anyone you believe is suffering from hypothermia. Keep the person dry and warm with blankets. Do not rub limbs to warm them. Encourage the person to drink hot, nonalcoholic, caffeine-free beverages.

Home Heating Safety

House fires are a special concern for seniors. They also need to beware of the dangers of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the bloodstream and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, convulsions and even death. The effects can happen even faster for someone with a respiratory or heart condition.

To prevent home heating problems:

  • Have all chimneys and flues inspected yearly and cleaned as needed.
  • Before winter, have the furnace inspected to make certain it is in good, safe operating condition.
  • Install smoke detectors on all floors and carbon monoxide detectors in areas where fuels are being burned. Replace batteries annually.
  • Open a window slightly when using a kerosene stove.
  • Place space heaters at least three feet from curtains, bedding, furniture and anything else that might burn.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy, replace as needed and know how to use it.

Winter Driving

Avoid driving during and after winter storms, but if you must drive:

  • Keep the gas tank full.
  • Let someone know your destination, route and expected time of arrival. Bring your cell phone.
  • Keep an emergency travel kit in the trunk, including a snow shovel, blankets, flashlight, water and first aid kit
  • If your car gets stuck, stay with it. Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, so fumes do not back up in the car. Keep arms and legs moving to keep blood circulating and stay warm. Keep a window open to let in air.

For more information on winter safety and other emergency preparedness tips, visit the American Red Cross.

How to Care for a Loved One with Depression

As we get older, many of us lose sight of the importance of mental health and maintaining a positive attitude on a day-to-day basis. As a result, the number of elderly individuals dealing with depression often increases.  It is very important that these individuals have a support system in place to help them to deal with their depression and also ensure that they are able to take the proper steps to improve the environment around them. Often, exercise, time with friends and family and a good healthy diet can help reduce some of the depression related feelings.

Although depression is common in elderly individuals, they may be unable to recognize the signs or may be unwilling to admit that they are suffering from depression. There are many issues that could cause an individual to become depressed in their elderly years, but it is important to take note of the differences between having a down day, and going through ongoing depression, which could be a sign of other issues.

One of the more common reasons why elderly individuals experience depression can stem from loneliness. For individuals that become lonely, it is even more important for family members to stay in constant contact with them, not only to check on their well-being but to help to ease the feelings of loneliness.  One way caregivers and family members can help is to make plans with individuals that are suffering from depression, helping to give them something to look forward to throughout the week.

In elderly individuals, depression can also stem from a loss of independence. Injuries, medical concerns, and a loss of strength can make it more difficult for them to continue to do the same tasks that they have done throughout their entire lives.  It’s easy to see how these factors can lead to a sense of despair and frustration. Consulting a doctor is important to determine whether medication is needed or needs to be changed, and simply to ensure your loved one is in the best possible physical and emotional state.

Providing a support system to provide peace of mind and add a measure of safety can also alleviate some of the worries that lead to depression.  One option to consider is a medical alert system.  The person using the system wears a bracelet or pendant that includes an emergency help button. In the event of a fall or health issue, pushing the button will alert the emergency care center providing access to medical personnel or a call to a neighbor.  This ensures that your loved one gets the help that they need, as quickly as possible. Not only does this serve as a huge benefit to them, but it also allows family members to have peace of mind, knowing that their loved ones will always be able to get to the phone and call for help during emergencies. Elderly individuals with depression are much more likely to suffer a fall, and the medical alert button is the perfect tool to help provide a safe environment.

Senior Safety Tips And Advice

As we age, some individuals can become the target for a financial crime, identity theft, home break-in or some other scam.  Boomers raised in an era where being rude to a solicitor on the phone or door to door can actually put them in a more vulnerable position.  In some cases, those who would perpetrate a crime against the elderly will either rely on charm or bullying tactics to get the information that they seek. While a financial crime is a devastating time for anyone, it can be even worse for the elderly as they may not only question their ability to remain independent but will become fearful of living alone.

As a caregiver, there are steps you can take to protect your elderly loved ones:

  1.  Make sure the home is secure. Check the locks on doors and windows. Install a home alarm system with motion detectors and automatic indoor & outdoor lights. Make sure to post signs alerting vandals to the fact that the home has a security system. Another safety measure is to equip your relatives with a emergency medical device; these medical alert pendants provide a lifeline to outside help and assistance in the time of need.
  2. Trim all bushes around the house to eliminate any potential hiding places for a would-be burglar. Install doors with peepholes and advise them to not open the door to strangers. Never put keys under a door mat or other outdoor hiding spot. These are too easily discovered. Ask a trusted neighbor or friend that lives close to hold onto the extra key.
  3. Make certain the house number is painted in bright colors and large numbers to make it easy to find if emergency responders need to visit.
  4. Make certain additional cash isn’t left lying around the house. Keep enough cash on hand for daily needs, but keep large sums in the bank.
  5. Warn your elderly relatives to never give any personal or financial information over the phone. Make sure they are aware that no one – other than a family member – would ever be calling to solicit financial information. If your relatives are tech savvy and have signed up for online banking, make sure they are knowledgeable about the scams where it looks like their financial institution is asking them to sign in using the provided link. Their bank would never make this request, it is a scam.
  6. Don’t let your relatives make deals with door-to-door sales people. The scams perpetrated on the elderly involve everything from being overcharged for putting a new roof on the home to sealing the driveway to simply letting someone into the house so they can get the “lay of the land” and break in later. If, for example, your relatives need a new vacuum cleaner or a roof or driveway work, they should talk to you to help them get estimates from reputable contractors or take them to the store to make their purchases.
  7. If your relatives are still mobile and drive themselves to their appointments make sure they never carry more cash with them than what they need for that excursion. Also, advise them to not travel into areas with which they aren’t familiar. They should also always lock their car doors each time they get out. In some cases, it’s a good idea to lock the doors when driving along in unfamiliar locations.

These safety tips that will provide both the caregiver and the aging relative with peace of mind as they continue to age in place.

 

Health Tips For Preventing Falls In The Elderly

Because falls are the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the elderly, it is crucial that steps are taken to prevent both falls and the health issues that could lead to a fall. It’s also estimated that close to three million people, aged 65 and older, are treated in the emergency room for falls annually.

Death rates from falls in the elderly rose more than 55% between 1993 and 2003 and that could be because people are living longer, living alone, and are more frail, all factors which increase the likelihood of falls. One of the main reasons cited for admission into nursing homes or assisted living facilities is because of a fall.

As a caregiver, it’s crucial that you remain cognizant of the most common reasons the elderly suffer a fall, they are:

  • Medications that can cause disorientation, sleepiness or sleeplessness and dizziness
  • Visual impairment caused  by cataracts or glaucoma
  • Cognitive impairments caused by either Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Balance issues which could be caused by mobility issues, loss of muscle strength or diminished      flexibility
  • Blood sugar or blood pressure issues that could lead to dizziness upon standing

If your relatives are determined to remain independent and age in place, there are steps they can take, and you can help them with, to make that a possibility. Here are some steps you can take to help them avoid a fall and help maintain a stronger body:

  • Eating a balanced diet and drinking milk or getting calcium or Vitamin D from the foods they eat will help keep their bones strong.
  • Bone-strength building exercises such as walking, dancing, aerobic exercise or resistance training helps build both bone and muscle strength. You should check with their physician first to see if they are healthy enough to undertake an exercise routine. Even if your elderly relatives use a walker or a cane they can still become more active simply by getting up and moving every hour.
  • Balance can be improved by practicing yoga and daily stretches
  • Annual hearing and vision exams will detect any issues before they cause a trip or fall accident.
  • Ask the pharmacist whether any of the medications they take can cause any dizziness issues, especially when used in combination with each other.
  • Avoid using alcohol as it can interact with medications and add to drowsiness or dizziness

As part of your elderly relatives aging in place, make certain the home has been age-proofed to prevent trips or falls. Here are some measures to take:

  • Make certain hallways and closets are well lit. Install motion sensor lights with timers that will turn on and off upon entering or leaving a room.
  • Keep all walkways clear of clutter and power cords
  • All rugs should be secured to the floor with non-slip tape
  • A lamp should be next to the bed where it can be easily reached during the night. A touch lamp is a great option and prevents having to fumble around in the dark to find the switch.
  • All stairways should be in good repair and should have non skid treads on them.
  • Handrails should be installed on all stairways and even next to the toilet.
  • Grab bars should be installed in the shower and bathtub.
  • The bathroom should also have non skid rubber floor mats to prevent stepping onto a wet floor.
  • Put items that you use regularly within easy reach. Waist height is ideal placement for items in the kitchen and bathroom.

Helping your elderly relatives age-in-place if a gift for all family members. You can also help your relatives remain independent by offering them a home medical alert device. These devices can be a literal lifesaver in the event of a trip or fall or other health emergency.

Seeking Appreciation As A Caregiver

For some individuals, caring for an aging parent is a rewarding experience and a chance for them to give back to the person who may have played a vital role in their lives. Caring for an aging relative whose cognitive abilities or personality is changing can quickly take its toll on the caregiver and make her feel unappreciated.

It is not uncommon for a caregiver to feel they are being taken advantage of or that the time and effort they put into caring for an aging relative isn’t valued by other family members. These feelings, while not easy to address for the caregiver, are common and should be addressed. There are ways to cope with the feelings of depression and the stress that is inherent with being a caregiver.

Put Your Feelings Into Perspective

Caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or other illness that diminishes their mental capacity will bring with it personality changes that may be difficult to cope with. Try to keep in mind that their anger or disorientation is a factor of their illness, not an indication of their feelings toward you or the care you’re providing. On the other hand, caring for a relative or senior with full cognitive abilities may simply be frustrated. Don’t internalize your feelings of dismay at the way they behave. Instead, remember the love and attention you share is likely to have great value in the life of the one you are caring for.

Take Care Of Yourself

There will come a time when you simply need to step back and take time away from caregiving. It will likely be a difficult challenge to announce that you need to take care of yourself, but it’s crucial to your physical and mental well-being that you do so. Caregiver burnout is a real side effect of being the sole individual responsible for taking care of an aging relative. This can be even more difficult if you’re not only taking care of aging parents but raising your own family and pursuing your career at the same time. Seek out others who can relieve you for an hour, a day or even a weekend and do something fun for yourself.  Also enlist others to help with daily duties at home so you aren’t so overloaded. You’ll come back a bit more refreshed and ready to handle the tasks at hand.

Ask For Outside Support

Along the same lines of taking care of yourself is your ability to ask for help. Calling upon medical professionals or family members is necessary not only for your well-being but for the well-being of your relative. Seek out caregiver support groups or groups from which your relatives may benefit such as an Alzheimer’s Support Group. Search out federal, state and local organizations that provide assistance and support for the aging. Don’t be afraid to call on the services of a personal in-home caregiver when the need arises. If you’re dealing with a parent that is healthy mentally but is having other health or balance issues, take time to age proof the house and to install a home medical alert device as a way to support them when you’ve gone home at night.

Caregiving can be a time-consuming and mentally draining task, but the ability to spend quality time with your aging relative could be one that brings with it memories that will last a lifetime.

Seeking Appreciation As A Caregiver

For some individuals, caring for an aging parent is a rewarding experience and a chance for them to give back to the person who may have played a vital role in their lives. Caring for an aging relative whose cognitive abilities or personality is changing can quickly take its toll on the caregiver and make her feel unappreciated.

It is not uncommon for a caregiver to feel they are being taken advantage of or that the time and effort they put into caring for an aging relative isn’t valued by other family members. These feelings, while not easy to address for the caregiver, are common and should be addressed. There are ways to cope with the feelings of depression and the stress that is inherent with being a caregiver.

Put Your Feelings Into Perspective

Caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or other illness that diminishes their mental capacity will bring with it personality changes that may be difficult to cope with. Try to keep in mind that their anger or disorientation is a factor of their illness, not an indication of their feelings toward you or the care you’re providing. On the other hand, caring for a relative or senior with full cognitive abilities may simply be frustrated. Don’t internalize your feelings of dismay at the way they behave. Instead, remember the love and attention you share is likely to have great value in the life of the one you are caring for.

Take Care Of Yourself

There will come a time when you simply need to step back and take time away from caregiving. It will likely be a difficult challenge to announce that you need to take care of yourself, but it’s crucial to your physical and mental well-being that you do so. Caregiver burnout is a real side effect of being the sole individual responsible for taking care of an aging relative. This can be even more difficult if you’re not only taking care of aging parents but raising your own family and pursuing your career at the same time. Seek out others who can relieve you for an hour, a day or even a weekend and do something fun for yourself.  Also enlist others to help with daily duties at home so you aren’t so overloaded. You’ll come back a bit more refreshed and ready to handle the tasks at hand.

Ask For Outside Support

Along the same lines of taking care of yourself is your ability to ask for help. Calling upon medical professionals or family members is necessary not only for your well-being but for the well-being of your relative. Seek out caregiver support groups or groups from which your relatives may benefit such as an Alzheimer’s Support Group. Search out federal, state and local organizations that provide assistance and support for the aging. Don’t be afraid to call on the services of a personal in-home caregiver when the need arises. If you’re dealing with a parent that is healthy mentally but is having other health or balance issues, take time to age proof the house and to install a home medical alert device as a way to support them when you’ve gone home at night.

Caregiving can be a time-consuming and mentally draining task, but the ability to spend quality time with your aging relative could be one that brings with it memories that will last a lifetime.

Checklist: Are Your Aging Parents In Need Of Assistance

It’s not always easy to ask for help and that is likely more evident as your parents age. You’ll notice that as they get older it’s harder for them to take care of themselves and keep up with the day-to-day necessities yet they don’t necessarily want to ask for help or admit their needs.  While aging isn’t anything we want to shy away from, it’s not always feasible to think your aging parents can continue to live the way they always have.

As they age, it may become physically impossible for them to carry out some of the tasks they are accustomed to and toward that end, family members may need to step in and help out. In many communities there are facilities that are equipped to provide services to seniors whether it’s a Meals on Wheels program, day programs at a skilled nursing facility or simply a day out at with a church group. As adult children, you may become tasked with making a determination on whether your aging relatives are healthy enough to continue living alone or whether they require additional assistance.

Observing them as they go about their daily routines at home is one way to see whether there is a need that needs to be. One of the first steps that can be very effective is to provide a medical alert device with a pendant or bracelet they push in the event of a medical emergency or a fall.  With this system, your loved has greater peace of mind and less worry in the event something should happen.

When you’re spending time with your aging family members, here are a few things to pay attention to. If you see struggles in any of these areas, it may be time to consider a caregiver or additional assistance from family members:

  • Can they still take care of themselves and their hygiene?
  • Are they continuing to shower, brush their hair and teeth and get dressed for the day? If you see these personal hygiene items being neglected you will want to speak with them about it and see if they simply are having a hard time getting in and out of the shower – this can be remedied with a shower replacement.
  • Are they still able to complete their routine tasks, cook meals, walk the dog, etc…?
  • Is their home falling into disarray because they can’t keep up with the cleaning?

These are just a few items that may lead you to make a decision about their ability to care for themselves. Until a time comes that you realize they are unable to remain at home, using a medical alert pendant and making certain their home is age proofed will go a long way to providing a safe and secure environment.

Five Senior-Friendly Upgrades To Consider

The Golden Years bring with them both advantages and disadvantages; more free time to enjoy all kinds of activities and yet, the possibility of falls, health issues and the possibility that your senior family member or friend may need to move to an assisted care facility.  In some cases a move to an assisted care facility or a nursing home may be inevitable but there are steps that can be taken to help your senior age in place for a longer period of time.

Because aging also brings with it decreases in agility, mobility and diminished faculties as it relates to hearing and eyesight, the home needs to become more senior friendly and there are many alterations that can be made to a home to make it more amenable to aging individuals.

Here are five ways to make the family home safer for aging individuals:

  • If the home is two levels, it may make sense to install a chair lift to help your aging relative make it safely to and from the second floor. Because stairs are one of the most dangerous places for those with limited mobility, stair lifts sometimes make sense. Installing handle bars throughout the house is also a way to enhance mobility; these handle bars can be placed in walkways and hallways to aid in getting around the house. Handle bars are also wise investments for the bathroom and bedroom.
  • Remove all clutter. In many cases, the elderly find it hard to part with items to which they’re sentimentally attached and this can lead to clutter and even trip and fall hazards. Clutter can also lead to a fall if it spills out into the walkways and makes mobility even harder to manage.
  • Outdoor stair ramps can also be useful for aging individuals that need to use the stairs to get in and out of the house. Ramps are easy to build and can either share space with steps or replace the staircase, but can be removed if the house is sold.
  • Automatic motion detection lighting can add safety inside and out.  These lights make it easier for the senior to navigate the home without fear of fumbling around for light switches and alleviate the need to remember to turn the lights off.
  • Bathroom remodeling is typically a wise investment. Consider installing walk-in bathtubs and seating areas in the shower stall. Non slip floor and bathtub mats and grip bars can also help prevent slip and fall accidents.

In addition to these steps, equipping the home with a medical alert system can be invaluable. These devices help elders age in place while providing peace of mind to both them and family members that if an emergency arises, they can easily summon emergency assistance.

Protect Your Parents From In-Home Hazards

As your parents age, there is an increased risk that they will suffer an injury from a fall in the home.  That risk increases if your parent has been hospitalized and is now being discharged to continue recovery at home; a fall can lead to a continued decline in their health. When you consider that one-third of all falls take place in the home, usually as a result of clutter, pets or an aging adult being unable to reach object, it is important to implement safety measures. Health issues increase if mobility is restricted and can lead to depression or pneumonia among others.

While there may be no failsafe way to prevent all in-home falls, having a home medical alert system can offer your aging parents a way to have immediate access to medical assistance in the event of a fall.

When dealing with an aging loved one that has been hospitalized and is on the verge of discharge, here are a few items to take into consideration when bringing them back home:

  • Get involved in the discharge process. Talk with the caregivers your parent has been involved with during the hospital stay. Request detailed information on how to care for the injury or illness once your parent is released and ask what signs to look for that should be cause for concern, ie. fever, swelling, etc.
  • Equip the home with a medical alert device prior to the release from the hospital. With this device, your relative will be provided a medical alert pendant and at the push of a button, will have immediate access to emergency care as needed.
  • “Adult-proof” the home. Make space for any medical equipment your relative might need once he or she is discharged. Look for trip and fall obstacles in walkways, move items to lower shelves or countertops so your relative isn’t forced to reach too far or might have to climb on a chair or stepstool to reach an item. Look around the bathroom to make certain there are non slip rugs and items in the bathtub to keep them safe from falls.

With careful planning, you may be able to help your aging parent remain safely in the family home. If, however, there comes a time when they need to move into an assisted living facility, keep in mind that their medical alert device can move along with them.