Tag Archives: Senior Health

What Are Shingles? Are There Precautions I Can Take To Avoid It?

If you ask your physician he will explain that shingles is a disease related to chicken pox and individuals that had chicken pox at some point in their lives are more prone to developing a case of shingles. The virus that causes chicken pox is also responsible for shingles. In many individuals, the virus for shingles is dormant and resides in clusters of nerve tissue. The affliction typically affects the elderly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “one out of every three people in America will develop shingles.” Other statistics released point to the fact that individuals aged 60 or older have a 50 percent chance of contracting shingles. A shingles vaccine is on the market and adults who had chicken pox should receive the vaccine. While shingles is not typically fatal, the disease causes intense pain and that can impact quality of life. Some of the symptoms to look for include:

  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness in an area which leads to a feeling of burning pain and tingling
  • A rash which usually comes after the sensation of pain. The rash usually manifests on the stomach area
  • Fluid-filled blisters

Can You Prevent Shingles?

The shingles vaccine, administered one time, can help prevent the virus. Individuals 50-years-old or older who have had chicken pox should receive the vaccine. The virus can be transmitted if you come in contact with someone who has “active lesions.” If you have never had chicken pox, you can catch it from someone who has shingles; however, you cannot catch shingles.

Individuals should avoid the shingles vaccine if they’ve had an allergic reaction to neomycin or other ingredients in the vaccine. Those with immune deficiencies or undergoing cancer treatments or certain prescription drugs could cause an interaction with the drug. It’s always best to check with your doctor prior to getting vaccinated.

To prevent transmission of the shingles virus it’s crucial that those with the shingles blisters keep them covered and you need to avoid direct contact with the blisters. Frequent hand washing, not scratching or touching the blisters will also help prevent transmission. Once the blisters have healed, the Centers for Disease Control explains, they are no longer contagious.

While there are treatments for shingles and medications that can lessen the pain, it is best to avoid catching. The vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of shingles by more than 50 percent.

 

 

 

Staying Healthy When Living With Grandkids

As we age, our immune systems become taxed much more quickly than when we were young. Also, as we age, we are often surrounded by grandchildren and as any parent can tell you, children bring with them germs and illnesses that they may be able to easily fight off, but may prove to be problematic for an aging loved one.

If you’ve made the decision to move your aging parents into the family home, be aware that they will be exposed to many more germs and viruses than they would if they were aging in place. Also, if your children are school age, they will also bring home more germs than if they were younger than school age. What can you do to make certain your elderly relatives don’t get ill? There are several steps that can be taken and it doesn’t mean you will have to separate everyone until an illness passes.

Here are some steps to take to keep your aging relatives healthy while dealing with sick children:

 

  • The importance of hand washing cannot be minimized, especially when there are elderly in the house. The flu, fevers, sore throats, coughs and colds are germ-borne but can be minimized by washing the germs away. Make certain your elderly parents wash their hands after they’re in contact with your children and make certain your children wash their hands before they give Grandma a hug.
  • Creating a barrier between a sick child and an elderly relative can be as simple as slipping on a bathrobe or sweater. If your relatives will be caring for your child, have them get in the habit of donning an additional layer of clothing and then taking it off when they’re done.
  • Having tissues on hand is critical. If your child is sick and you have elderly parents in the home, consider having separate boxes of tissues for each. Also, if your child is old enough, have him wipe his own nose as a way to limit your relatives’ exposure to germs.
  • Depending on the type of illness your children have, your relatives may want to wear a mask if they’re going to be in the same room. The level of your parent’s health and their ability to fight off an illness is a major consideration if you feel you need to take this step. Disposable masks are available at all pharmacies and can greatly limit the risk of exposure to germs and viruses. Be aware, though that the masks may be frightening to your younger children.
  • Limited exposure to germs may help to build up an immunity, but as a caregiver, you need to keep everyone as healthy as possible especially because your senior relative will have a harder time fighting off a “bug.”

It is easy to co-exist with both your growing family and your aging relatives, even in the face of seasonal illnesses, you just need to have a plan in place.

Steps To Keep Aging Loved Ones Healthy

 

Susceptibility to illness is higher in senior citizens than in most of the other population. As individuals age their immune systems break down and with decreased activity levels and medications, these can lead to a diminished capacity to fight off illnesses. Medications can even lead to dizzy spells and falls.

You can assist your loved one by finding ways to relieve stress and emotional burdens. If they’re dealing with health issues such as diabetes, cardiac problems, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, consulting with the family physician and understanding what steps need to be taken to address those health issues on a daily basis is a great first step. If they have any of these health issues, whether they live in their own home or an assisted living facility, you will want to equip them with a home medical alert system. These devices can be literal lifesavers if your loved ones slip or fall or experience some other medical emergency when you’re not around to help them.  Medical alert devices also allow family members to remain independent for longer periods of time.

When you’re helping your relatives, do a thorough check of their medicine cabinets. Many medications can interact with one another and if your parents have more than one doctor, this could lead to health problems. Gather the medications then call the physician’s office or go to the pharmacy to make certain none of the medications your parents are taking will cause any interactions.

Staying occupied and mentally alert are crucial to good health. The more sedentary and isolated they are, the more susceptible they become to depression. Keeping your parents active and involved either in community, church or family activities and participating in senior-friendly health classes are crucial to long-term health. If your parents are uncomfortable leaving the house, have a healthcare aide visit and help with physical activity at home. If they balk at having someone come to the home, make certain they are up and walking around, whether simply up and down the hallways in the home or around the yard.

If your parents are active enough perhaps you could discuss getting an animal. Cats or a fish tank can be relatively low maintenance while a smaller dog can serve as a loyal companion. Having the responsibility and the company of a companion truly helps to keep your elderly loved one involved and engaged. Before considering a pet, ensure that there are no allergies and that someone is willing to take on its ownership when your aging relative can no longer take care of it.
Staying in touch with your relatives whether on the phone or in person is the best way to assure they are healthy, happy and able to remain living independently. Having a home medical alarm system in their homes is also another step in helping your parents remain independent and it offers both of you peace of mind.

 

Monitor Your Elderly Relatives Daily Living Activities

 

Everyday activities play a larger role in the lives or your elderly loved ones and relatives and even more so if they are afflicted with health issues. These daily activities can be one of the determining factors in whether they can continue to age in place or whether they may need to relocate to an assisted living facility. Paying attention to what your aging parents can do on a day-to-day basis will be something that becomes more crucial as they age if they’re determined to age in their own home.

Talk with them about household chores and grooming, as well as those they don’t feel they can handle any longer, such as driving or managing finances can help you decide whether they’re still able to live on their own or if you need to become more involved.

Here are some daily activities to monitor and consider when deciding on your loved one’s long or short term capabilities.

Telephone:

  • Can they make and receive calls and hear the caller?
  • Do they need a special phone with caller ID, large numbers or those with more powerful speakers?
  • Do they misplace their mobile phone or a portable land line handset

Mobility:

  • Are they able to drive?
  • If he or she can’t drive, does a relative nearby that can help?
  • Does the local grocery store of pharmacy deliver?
  • Have they had fender benders or more serious accidents in recent months?
  • Can they still navigate the grocery store? If not, does the store deliver?
  • Can they handle pushing a shopping cart and the checkout process?
  • If they are on medication, does it make them drowsy?

Hygiene:

  • Are they bathing or showering regularly?
  • Are they brushing their teeth and combing their hair every day?
  • Are they keeping up with their laundry?

Nutrition:

  • Are they able to safely operate the stove and microwave?
  • Are they eating healthy meals?
  • Are they having trouble remembering to turn off the stove once they’re done

Finances:

  • Can they write checks and balance their checkbooks?
  • Are they able to afford their bills?
  • Are they paying their bills on time?
  • Do they have a budget they follow?

Medications:

  • Are they regularly taking their medications?
  • Are they getting their refills on time? You might want to see if the local pharmacy sends out reminders or can deliver.

Safety:

  • Are there any obstructions or obstacles in their way as they move through their home creating a possibility of falling?
  • Does the home or apartment have good locks?
  • Do they know not to open the door to strangers? They should not allow any door-to-door individuals sell them any goods or services.
  • Make sure they realize they should not give out any personal information over the phone unless they are absolutely certain who the caller is.
  • Do they have a burglar alarm installed?
  • Do they have a home medical alert system in the event of a medical emergency or fall?

Every family situation is unique and you find there are other activities you need to monitor. No matter what the situation is, be sure to identify ways to help them retain their independence as much as possible. Keeping them involved in the process of deciding what is manageable and what they need to relinquish to others is key to ensuring they feel in control of their own life!

 

Steps To Help Your Aging Relative Feel Young

As your parents age you may notice they don’t remember things as well as they used to and it is worrisome to think of them living alone. If your parents are suffering memory lapses it is quite possible they could turn on a stove, for example, and forget to turn it off. Trips and falls in the home are also a concern as your parents get older. There are many ways to deal with health issues and to make your parent’s home more senior-friendly; from age-proofing by removing trip and fall hazards to make the home more senior-friendly, to equipping it with a medical alert system, here are some ways you can work

with your parents to help them stay active, healthy and in good spirits:

  1. Develop new, better habits: As your parents age it is easy for them to fall into bad habits such as not brushing their teeth as often as they used to, not taking their vitamins or even neglecting personal hygiene. Make certain your parents are keeping up with their hygiene and that they’re not relying on take out foods or other junk food because they don’t want to be bothered with cooking. If cooking is becoming problematic for them, look into services in your community such as Meals-0n-Wheels. Remind them that their health is important.
  2. Lifelong learning: Urge your parents to get involved in community learning activities. Many communities offer free or low cost classes at senior centers or community colleges. Stimulating the mind will help improve memory and boost self-confidence.
  3. Laughter truly is the best medicine: Whether it’s watching funny movies, seeing a play or just visiting with friends or family, laughter will help improve memory, lower stress and blood pressure and can even protect against infection.
  4. Regular exercise is crucial: Even if your parents are housebound because of the weather, they can still get up and move around the house. A walk up and down the hallways is better than sitting on the couch all the time. Ask their doctor about exercise equipment they could purchase to help them stretch and get some cardiovascular activities while they’re at home.
  5. Friendship matters: Whether your parents are members of a church or attend classes or even go out for coffee on a regular basis, they should try to keep in touch with friends or even their siblings. Studies show that having six hours a day of social interaction helps people retain their mental acuity.

In addition to the above tips, your parents should stick to regular sleep routines even though they may need less sleep as they age, getting a full night’s sleep is crucial to good health. Keep in mind that your parents may feel more confident with moving around the house and living alone if they are equipped with a medical alert system. These devices offer both you and them peace of mind that if they suffer a fall or a medical emergency that medical help will be dispatched.

Preventative Health Screenings in your 50s

Once reaching the age of 50, it is extremely common for individuals to come to a very exciting realization: they are in the prime of their life. 50-year-olds have reached a stage in which they can enjoy a renewed sense of self and truly appreciate what they have accomplished and where they want the next 50 years to take them.

However, reaching the age of 50 can also mean individuals have entered a stage in their life in which they are not only responsible for their childrens’ well-being, but their parents well-being as well. Being a caregiver is taxing enough without having to deal with your own health-related issues. Maintaining your health will make your caregiving job more rewarding and consequently less stressful. So this year as you celebrate life in the half-century lane, schedule your annual physical and ask your doctor to perform these simple tests:

  • Colon exam: Screenings allow doctors to detect abnormalities even when patients are not experiencing any symptoms. In some cases screenings allow doctors to detect a polyp in the colon or rectum before it has a chance to develop into cancer. While you may dread the procedure, it could save you from a lot more discomfort in the future.
  • Thyroid hormone test: Think of your thyroid as your body’s powerhouse. It produces the hormones needed for metabolism. Aging takes a toll on a variety of bodily functions, especially in women. Beginning at the age of 50 it is recommended you get your thyroid tested every five years.
  • Weight gain: People tend to begin putting on some weight once they reach their 50s. Assessing your weight now will allow you to adjust your eating and exercising habits so that you don’t have to deal with a larger weight related issue in the future.
  • Blood pressure: Untreated blood pressure can lead to serious complications, it kills your heart, your brain, your eyes and your kidneys. Don’t let hypertension be your downfall. The test is simple and extremely quick.
  • Blood sugar: Diabetes can destroy your health if not properly managed, which can lead to heart disease, kidney failure and even blindness. Ask your doctor for a fasting blood test at least once every three years to take control of diabetes early.
  • Cholesterol: Controlling your cholesterol can add years to your life. Get it checked out once every five years.
  • For women only: Pelvic, pap and mammograms, the trifecta. Make sure you get a pelvic exam and pap smear every one to three years. At 50 you should never let a year go by without getting a mammogram.

With so many years ahead of you, and so may plans to fulfill, don’t let your health stand in your way. Taking a few precautions may help elongate your life and allow you to accomplish things you never even thought possible.

* As with all medical suggestions and advice, you should be sure to consult your personal physician for recommendations as they pertain to your care and not rely on material provided herein.

Exercise Increases Memory in the Elderly

While staying mentally active through mental stimulation (i.e. crossword puzzles, social interaction) is important to maintaining memory, physical stimulation through exercise is equally important to enhancing brain power. Physical activity helps to protect the brain from certain strains of aging according to a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Those elderly individuals who engage in physical activity are better able to protect their brain from aging, and exercise has even been shown
to reverse some indications of aging.

According to recommendations from The Department of Health and Human Services, the elderly should participate in 150 minutes of moderate exercises a week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercises a week. Partaking in physical activity gets your blood pumping everywhere in your body including your brain, which may aid in keeping your mind sharp.

The study by the PNAS showed that just one year of moderate physical exercise reversed shrinkage of the brain’s hippocampus and improved spatial memory. The hippocampus plays a vital role in long term and other types of memory, but as we progress into late adulthood the hippocampus begins to shrink – leading to memory loss and the increased risk of dementia.

Adults who remain active tend to have larger medial temporal lobes, according to the PNAS study. In the study 120 sedentary elderly adults were broken up into two groups: one group walked around a track for 40 minutes a day three days a week, and the other group stretched and did toning exercises. The researchers found that the group who participated in aerobic exercises increased the size of their hippocampus, leading to improved memory in the participants.

All the participants in the study had MRI brain scans done before the study began and then had another MRI a year later at the conclusion of the study. The individuals who participated in the walking group saw an increase in volume of their hippocampus by 2 percent – which is the equivalent of turning back the clock two years, according to the study. The individuals in the toning and stretching group lost about 1.5 percent of their hippocampal volume.

This study shows that regular aerobic exercise does in fact play a significant role in memory. Motivating your loved one to stay active not only makes their body less susceptible to falls and injuries, but also serves as an anti-aging device for their brain.

Exercise Increases Memory in the Elderly

While staying mentally active through mental stimulation (i.e. crossword puzzles, social interaction) is important to maintaining memory, physical stimulation through exercise is equally important to enhancing brain power. Physical activity helps to protect the brain from certain strains of aging according to a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Those elderly individuals who engage in physical activity are better able to protect their brain from aging, and exercise has even been shown
to reverse some indications of aging.

According to recommendations from The Department of Health and Human Services, the elderly should participate in 150 minutes of moderate exercises a week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercises a week. Partaking in physical activity gets your blood pumping everywhere in your body including your brain, which may aid in keeping your mind sharp.

The study by the PNAS showed that just one year of moderate physical exercise reversed shrinkage of the brain’s hippocampus and improved spatial memory. The hippocampus plays a vital role in long term and other types of memory, but as we progress into late adulthood the hippocampus begins to shrink – leading to memory loss and the increased risk of dementia.

Adults who remain active tend to have larger medial temporal lobes, according to the PNAS study. In the study 120 sedentary elderly adults were broken up into two groups: one group walked around a track for 40 minutes a day three days a week, and the other group stretched and did toning exercises. The researchers found that the group who participated in aerobic exercises increased the size of their hippocampus, leading to improved memory in the participants.

All the participants in the study had MRI brain scans done before the study began and then had another MRI a year later at the conclusion of the study. The individuals who participated in the walking group saw an increase in volume of their hippocampus by 2 percent – which is the equivalent of turning back the clock two years, according to the study. The individuals in the toning and stretching group lost about 1.5 percent of their hippocampal volume.

This study shows that regular aerobic exercise does in fact play a significant role in memory. Motivating your loved one to stay active not only makes their body less susceptible to falls and injuries, but also serves as an anti-aging device for their brain.

Medical Alert System Helps in the Event of a Fall or Serious Medical Concern.

Falls can have serious consequences. About 10% to 15% of all falls in older people will result in some serious physical injury.  Fractures occur in 5% of all falls while fall-related injuries are reported to be the fifth most common cause of death in the elderly population and the most likely cause of accidental death. According toYaleUniversityMedicalSchool, the chances of surviving are six times greater if an individual who falls is found within an hour.

Facts about falls

  •  More than one third of adults 65 and older fall every year in the United States.
  • Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
  • Over 1.8 million people 65 and older each year are treated in emergency departments for injuries from falls.
  • Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls. Continue reading