Fall Factors

One of the top reasons that we get calls or inquiries about assisted living is when families have an elderly loved one who has had a fall.  Falls among seniors are unfortunately very common.  It was recently reported in the news that falls are the number one causes of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among people aged 65 and older.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.  Now, falls can still occur in any environment but knowing what to watch for and having others looking out for you can help avoid potential falls.

 

Here are some key factors from the National Council on Aging to consider regarding falls:

 

  • Balance and gait: As we age, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance— primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall.
  • Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina—making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
  • Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
  • Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
  • Chronic conditions: More than 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.

 

Be aware of these factors and keep the dialogue open with your loved ones regarding falls and the issues related to them.  Ask questions and be proactive if you notice changes in health and/or behavior.

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Keep It Clean

There are many reasons that family members become concerned that an elderly loved one is not doing well.  One issue that is a cause for concern is bathing or rather the lack thereof.  A parent not bathing is a topic that many families are reluctant to discuss as they may be uncomfortable bringing it up. But be assured that this is an issue that many people face.  It is common…but there may be multiple root causes.  It is important to understand why they are reluctant.  Only when you understand that the underlying reasons can you better approach and address successfully.  Let’s look at some of the more common reasons.

 

  1. Fear of Falling

The bathroom can be a very dangerous place. If you have every slipped in the shower, you can relate. Now you pair the environment with physical issues like foot problems, balance issues, arthritis and more…and you have a recipe for disaster and fear.

 

  1. Depression

Often elderly have issues with depression that can zap their get up and go. When you lack motivation, bathing and concerns for your grooming often go by the wayside.

 

  1. Cognitive Issues

Another reason that is very common are memory issues. If your parent has dementia or other cognitive decline, keeping up with a bathing schedule can be extremely difficult.  Realizing that you haven’t taken a bath is not something they may be able to keep up with easily.

 

While it may be a difficult subject to approach, you must develop a plan. For some simply adding grab bars or safety equipment may help. Some may be able to follow a chart.  But if it is a depression or memory issue, it may be time to consider getting help.  As always discuss your concerns with a doctor.  A physician may want to consider medications to help with depression.  It may be time to enlist the help of a caregiver or look into an assisted living community where your loved one can have daily assistance with their activities of daily life like bathing and grooming.  But don’t avoid the topic because it is messy and uncomfortable.  The health benefits of cleanliness are far too important to ignore.

Making Steps in the Right Direction

One of the highlights of the many varied activities that we have in our Assisted Living community has nothing to do with entertainment.  It does have everything to do with health and prevention.  When it comes to taking care of our feet, it is no small matter.  Yet many seniors lose the ability to safely trim their toenails or inspect their feet for other issues.  That is why the periodic visits from a podiatrist keep our residents feeling one step ahead!  Since the feet are closely tied to our overall health…here are some simple tips excerpted from GREAT FEET FOR LIFE: FOOTCARE AND FOOTWEAR FOR HEALTHY AGING by Paul Langer, DPM to keep your feet headed in the right direction.

loofahs-jpg-838x0_q67_crop-smartFoot Hygiene   The single most important thing one can do for foot health is good foot hygiene. This means washing the feet daily, wearing clean socks and caring for the skin and nails on a regular basis.

Skin Care  The skin of the feet must be resilient enough to withstand thousands of footsteps each day. Bathing the feet daily, applying moisturizing lotions to dry skin and managing calluses with lotions and a pumice stone helps our skin hold up to the demands of an active lifestyle. Never ignore rashes, painful calluses or skin that is red or tender as this can be a sign of infection. For those whose feet sweat excessively, foot powders and socks with less than 30% cotton are best for keeping the skin dry.

ca5c5fa4-12a5-404b-86bc-05c404b1a623Nail Care  Toenails tend to become thicker, discolored and more brittle as we age. This can make it more difficult to trim the nails and contribute to painful nail conditions such as ingrown nails or fungal nails. Nails should be trimmed straight across and rough edges or nail thickness should be reduced with a nail file.

Footwear   For those who are vulnerable to foot pain whether from arthritis, previous injuries or toe alignment issues such as bunions or hammertoes, it is imperative that you wear shoes that fit well, provide proper support and are not excessively worn. Poorly fitting shoes contribute to many of the most common causes of foot pain. Take the time to visit a reputable footwear retailer and spend the time necessary selecting a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes.fuzzy-socks

Falling Risk and Your Feet  Risk factors for falls include: poorly fitting shoes, shoes with elevated heel height, excessively worn shoes, sandals or shoes with an unsecured heel.

April is Foot Health Awareness Month.  So step up and make good choices for your foot health!  It will help keep you feeling footloose and fancy free!

The Not So Young and Stress Less

I think that the hardest part of being a caregiver is dealing with the guilt. There is never enough time in the day. You bought the wrong kind of soap, stamps or razors or whatever it is…you just can’t catch a break. I think that life in general can sometimes be structured to wear us down. We think we are so smart being so connected and so able to communicate and work and multi-task.  Sometimes we just need to stop, push back and say…no.  I am the world’s WORST at this.  I don’t want to let anyone down.  In my mind…my goal is to help everyone.  But if I (or you) don’t take time to rest then how can we be good for anyone?  So here are some tips to de-program and reduce caregiver stress.

caregiver-stress

  • Ask for help. You know the help you have been providing.  But write down what that help entails.  No one person can do it alone.  It may even be time to consider the move to an assisted living.  Asking for help doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you are not going to be part of the team.  It just means you care enough to reach out.
  • Realize your limitations. It’s impossible to be all things to all people.  Sometimes our mindset that “only we can provide the help” is actually damaging for our loved ones.  You may be thinking that you are helping someone by enabling them to stay alone…when in actuality they may do better in a community setting and your “help” may be depriving them of a better situation. Meanwhile it may also be running you ragged!
  • Take time for you. If you think that only taking your loved ones to their doctor visits and cancelling your checkups is going to serve you well…think again. You need time to recharge your batteries and make sure that you are healthy both mentally and physically. Many caregivers suffer serious health issues while taking care of others. Be sure to take care of you!
  • Talk it out. Phone a friend.. Have dinner with your spouse or seek the counsel of a peer going through the same situation. You can even find support groups for caregivers.  Your stress is not in your head!  Not to mention that it is not good to keep it all inside.  Having a friendly chat can prove therapeutic and can also be a way to give and get advice for those sharing similar experiences.

caregiver-timeout

 

Under Pressure

One of the hardest things that we all have to come to terms with is that we are not Superman or SuperWoman.  Why…our entire lives most of us are taught that we can do anything…if we just set our mind to it.  Recently, I had a personal struggle.  In the past couple of weeks, I have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and had to start taking a daily medication.  Have you been there?  I personally always thought…not me! No way!  I don’t want to have to take a medication every day.  But then I faced the facts, my genes nor my health were going to change.  I had to do something different.  What did Einstein say?  “Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity”.  So, I had to bite the proverbial bullet and start blood pressure medication.  You know what?  I feel SO MUCH BETTER!!!  I don’t end each day with a headache now and I don’t feel like I’m running a race with my days.  Are you or a loved one struggling with this health care situation?  You don’t have to be Einstein or a hard-headed woman like me to know that blood pressure is not something to ignore.

According to an article by senior advocate and health care provider Elizabeth Bemis, there are “Three Good Reasons You Should Keep Track of Your Blood Pressure”:

  1.  Blood pressure problems are easy to overlook. Your blood pressure is “out of sight and out of mind”. There are no visible signs of high or low blood pressure and few physical symptoms. Because of this, it is important to check your blood pressure on a regular basis. Blood pressure problems are a “silent condition”.
  2.  Low blood pressure can contribute to feelings of dizziness or weakness, which can increase the risk of falls and other injuries, but many people attribute these feelings to other things, such as being overtired.
  3.  High blood pressure may cause headaches as one of the few symptoms and can lead to:
  • An overworked heart
  • Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Hardening of the arteries

But regardless of your age, take heart!  Blood pressure issues are manageable.  Always seek the advice of your health care professional with any medical issues.  Be sure to report any problems you are having and don’t be a back-seat driver in your health!  Take the wheel and be sure you are being an advocate for your health and well-being.

elderly-with-dr

Heart Disease: It’s Not Just A Man’s Disease

Heart Disease affects more men than women, right?  Wrong, heart disease is the # 1 killer of both men and women.  In fact, 1 in 3 women die from heart disease I the US every year.  That’s roughly one death per minute.

As a woman, it is important to know the risk factors that increase a woman’s chances of having heart disease.  Those risk factors are:

  • Family History of heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High Cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • High blood sugar levels

Okay, we can’t change our family history, but we can work to reduce our risk in all the other areas.  If you smoke, talk to you physician about ways to quit.  Have your blood pressure checked.  If it’s high, ask your physician for ways to get it down.  When you go for your annual physical, pay attention to your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.  Ask your MD what your Body Mass Index (BMI) is and if it is in a safe range.

While we don’t like to think about heart disease, this is one problem that we can actually do something about.  Don’t put it off, check your risk factors today.

Celebrate National Wear Red Day this Friday, February 5th 2016!  “National Wear Red Day® — the first Friday each February — is our special day to bring attention to this staggering fact. We encourage everyone to wear red, raise their voices, know their cardiovascular risk and take action to live longer, healthier lives.”
To learn more about Great Oaks Management, click here.

For more information on National Wear Red Day, click here.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Doctor’s Appointment: How To Prepare For Your Visit

In today’s healthcare climate, we often find the time that our physicians are able to spend with us during our visits are short and can feel rushed.  There are things we can do to make the most of our time with our physician and that will help our physician in working with us to plan our care.  Below is a list of 5 things to do to prepare for next physician appointment:

  • In preparing for our visit, gather any information from visits to other healthcare providers since our last visit with our primary care physician. Any test results, reports or other paperwork is important to share with your primary care physician.
  • All prescription medications, in their original bottle should be brought to each physician visit. Point out any new medications that may have been prescribed by another healthcare provider so your physician can add it to your record.
  • A list of all over the counter medications, vitamins, herbs or other supplements you are taking.
  • A list of any new health problems you are having or questions. We often get into the physician office and completely forget to tell our provider about new health problems.
  • Ask questions. If your physician discusses something that isn’t clear or sounds confusing, ask questions or ask for more information.

Our physicians are our partner in helping us improve or maintain our health.  It is important that we share information that our physician needs to have a full picture of our needs and any medications or supplements we are taking.  Writing down our questions before the visit will help us remember the things we are concerned about and will make sure our physician has a chance to address our questions.  Preparing in advance will help make the most of our time with our physician.