Keeping Seniors Cool for Less When Aging in Place

Seniors, particularly the most elderly, are especially susceptible to heat-related illness and death, so the beginning of what is expected to be another long, hot summer means it’s time to plan ahead and assure your senior loved ones keep their cool.  While the CDC suggests an air conditioned environment as a preventive measure, the electricity costs to operate the A/C continue to grow.

Combine summer’s heat with so many seniors already challenged in paying energy bills and we get a potentially dangerous temptation to scrimp on the air conditioning to keep the costs down.  Our feature segment explores steps that seniors and their families can take to reduce the cost of staying cool this summer and beyond.

Fortunately, staying cool is not just a matter of turning down the thermostat and paying more for air conditioning. As you’ll hear, there are many other steps we can take that combine comfort with economy.

Mentioned in this episode:

For thermostat product and purchase information:

What are you doing to help your senior loved ones beat the heat this summer?  Leave a comment and tell us about it.

In Memory of Heroes

We make war that we may live in peace. – Aristotle

As we celebrate the men and women who have served our country, we want to add our appreciation.

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” – Maya Angelou

Many families have sent brave young men and women off throughout the globe to preserve our freedom and protect the lives of people in need.

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” – Jose Narosky

We wish to thank those brave service members and their families who have sacrificed greatly for our nation.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

We want to share a few items with you about Veterans:

From the US Department of Veterans  Affairs–   VA.gov

At 100, A Competitive Edge

Jack Faust is a Veteran of World War II, and at 100, the oldest competitor at the Golden Age Games. He joins 950 Vets that will compete in the games this year in Hawaii. Learn more about Jack and the Golden Age Games on VA’s blog VAntage Point.

Veterans Descend on Honolulu to Compete in the National Veterans Golden Age Games

For 25 years, military Veterans age 55 and older have come to the National Veterans Golden Age Games to compete and demonstrate the warrior spirit never fades. This year, the competition will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii, May 26 – 31. More than 900 Veterans from across the country will compete in 14 different categories for medals.

VA Accepting Caregivers Applications

VA has assisted more than 625 Veterans, Service members and their Family Caregivers in applying for services under the Caregivers act. Applications are still being accepted.  Read more about the Caregivers program.

Post–traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) App Helps Thousands

The PTSD Coach smartphone application (app), launched in April by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD), has already helped more than 5,000 users connect with important mental health information and resources.

From the Book Store

Chicken Soup for the Veteran’s Soul: Stories to Stir the Pride and Honor the Courage of Our Veterans Editors Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Sid Slagter

“I dare you to read this book without puddling up with admiration for the courage displayed by our soldiers and an appreciation of Chicken Soup’s philosophy that one person can make a difference to those whose lives he touches, even in the terrible toils of combat.”  Walter Cronkite, Special News Correspondent CBS News

Chicken Soup for the Military Wife’s Soul: Stories to Touch the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Charles Preston, Cindy Pedersen

We would love for you to share your stories and memories about your veteran with all of us.

A Common But Dangerous Infection in Seniors

As a family member and/or caregiver, seeing your senior suffer is very hard.

Seniors can be affected with a variety of different types of infections ranging from sores that don’t heal to surgical sites that don’t close up as fast as expected and respiratory infections that hit hard and hang on.

One of the most prevalent infections impacting seniors is a urinary tract infection.  Sometimes our seniors can’t tell us what the problem is, where the pain is or when something doesn’t feel right.  Urinary tract infections (UTI) can be very dangerous when not treated quickly.  Symptoms in seniors can be different than in younger people.  Oftentimes they don’t feel pain or pressure when urinating; there is no fever present or other symptoms that we generally associate with a urinary tract infection.

Signs of a UTI in seniors:

  • Confusion, any change in mental status
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Behavior changes
  • Falling or unsteady gait
  • Problems with motor skills
  • Dizziness
  • Facial grimaces

A startling number of times, dementia is blamed for these symptoms by healthcare workers instead of connecting these symptoms with a UTI.   Therefore, treatment can be slow to start.

Symptoms you may notice:

  • Foul, strong smelling urine
  • More frequent trips to the bathroom especially at night
  • Inability to empty the bladder fully leaving a feeling that your senior needs to go when they just went
  • Blood tinged urine
  • Pressure or mild pain when urinating
  • Night sweats, shaking or chills
  • Lower back pain

Your senior may not express these symptoms to you, but if you are on the lookout you will notice.  Contact their doctor when these symptoms appear.

Reasons for UTIs in seniors:

  • Medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Immobility
  • Kidney stones
  • Previous bladder surgery
  • Bowel changes, incontinence or constipation

How to avoid UTIs:

  • Keep the area clean after using the restroom with front to back wiping
  • Drink enough fluids
  • If using adult briefs, keep them changed regularly
  • Include cranberry juice regularly or take cranberry tablets if prescribed by your doctor
  • Limit caffeine containing beverages which might irritate your bladder

UTIs can be prevented with the strategies above.  If recurrent UTIs plague your senior, you may want to ask your doctor about maintenance medications that might help reduce the number of infections present.  Not all infections are avoidable however.

We would like to hear what works for your seniors.

Senior Diabetics: Avoid Foodborne Illness

If your senior has diabetes, it is important to know about food safety so you can help prevent him or her from contracting a foodborne illness.  Oftentimes, seniors with diabetes are more susceptible to infection since their immune systems may not be able to respond as quickly as they once did to fight bacteria.  Some diabetics also have more difficulty with their gastrointestinal tracts due to damaged cells which may mean that bacteria have sufficient time to grow.  And lastly, the kidney function of diabetics can be impaired so that the kidney is not able to remove harmful bacteria and toxins resulting in infection.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year nearly 76 million people get sick from contaminated food; 325,000 people get hospitalized and 5,000 die.

Tips for Avoiding Foodborne Illness

Here are some tips to avoid foodborne illness in your senior’s home:

  • Wash your hands and encourage your senior to wash his or her hands frequently whether preparing or eating food.
  • Certain foods are more likely to contain pathogens such as uncooked fruit and vegetables and animal products.  Take precautions when using these foods such as cleaning well before eating, use a food thermometer in meats to be sure thoroughly cooked, keep fish and dairy foods cold, use pasteurized eggs and milk when possible, reheat all leftovers to 165 degrees, and store leftovers within two hours.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Don’t trust your nose or your eyes—you can’t tell by looking or smelling if a food is contaminated with bacteria.
  • Wash food preparation surfaces often such as cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counters.
  • Wash your cloth towels, wash cloths and napkins in HOT water.
  • Wash lids of all cans before opening.  Do not use cans that are dented or bulging.
  • Don’t cut raw foods and cooked foods on same surface or serve cooked meat on plate used for raw meat.
  • Throw away marinades used for raw meat.
  • Put a thermometer in both the refrigerator and freezer to be sure the temperature is appropriate to kill any bacteria present.
  • Refrigerate any cold food within one hour of purchasing it; go directly home from the grocery store and store in a cooler on the trip home.
  • Never thaw foods on the counter, use the refrigerator or microwave then cook immediately.
  • Always read the sell by date and expiration dates on packages before you buy it or use it.
  • Think about which food is safe for you “on the menu” in the restaurant–avoid sushi, undercooked eggs, and cold lunch meats.  You may want to avoid buffets since foods can be held out of proper temperature for too long.  Ask the server about any food ingredients or preparation techniques.

Learn the symptoms of food borne illness so you can recognize it quickly in your senior and seek medical treatment immediately if symptoms are present.  Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever can interfere with your senior’s diabetes treatment plan causing abnormal blood sugar.

Being prepared, learning the risks, and maintaining food safety guidelines when preparing and storing foods will reduce your senior’s likelihood of contracting this preventable disease.

Tips for Hearing Aid Care to Help Senior Loved Ones Stay Engaged

Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, is the most common chronic health condition for our seniors.

As the population ages, it is expected that there will be  28 million boomers with age-related hearing loss by 2030. Unfortunately, this condition is not curable — but may be treatable with hearing aids.

Untreated hearing loss can lead to depression and isolation in seniors so this is not something to leave alone if we have concerns our loved ones are effected.

Hearing Aid Care

With so many seniors facing hearing loss, caregivers often have another thing to worry about—hearing aids.  Hearing aids need regular care and maintenance to work properly.  Here are some tips for you to keep your senior’s “ears” in shape:

  1. Avoid getting hearing aids wet.  Remember to remove them in the bath or shower and when your senior goes swimming. Take them off in the rain or cover to protect them from moisture.  Don’t store the aids in the bathroom.  If your senior is sweating a lot, dry the area of the ears frequently to reduce moisture exposure.
  2. Avoid getting the hearing aids dirty.  Be sure your hands are clean and dry when you take the hearing aids in and out, store them, change the batteries or care for them.
  3. Be careful when they are put in or taken out to prevent them from falling on a hard surface to reduce the likelihood that they will get damaged.
  4. Regularly remove moisture with a dryer specially designed for hearing aids.  We have many years of experience with the Dry and Store Professional.
  5. Protect them from heat sources such as direct sun, heaters, radiators or hair dryers.
  6. Keep them safe from pets that might be attracted to their sound and enjoy chewing them to pieces or putting them in their favorite hiding place.
  7. Check the batteries regularly and recycle old batteries.
  8. Clean the aids regularly removing any built up wax or oil.
  9. Have the aids checked by an audiologist or technician every six months or so to have the tubing replaced if they are over the ear aids.  The tubing can dry out and crack, reducing their effectiveness.  Ear molds need to be remade when they get dry to prevent hurting the ear canal.
  10. Store the aids in a safe and dry place every time they are removed, the same place each time to avoid losing them.  Don’t let your senior put in his pocket to avoid running them through the washing machine.
  11. Check your senior’s ears for excessive wax buildup that might cause discomfort and reduce the effectiveness of the hearing aids.  The doctor may need to check your senior’s ear health during a scheduled visit.
  12. If you are afraid your senior may lose them, there are devices that hold the hearing aid onto eyeglass frames so that won’t get lost.

Hearing aids work best when they are in good condition and when they are actually worn.  The gain your senior receives from the use of his hearing aids will benefit him and you every day.

We look forward to hearing your experiences and tips for caring for and keeping your senior’s hearing aids on.

More on Dry and Store

We cannot over-emphasize the importance of keeping hearing aids dry and, as we mentioned, have used the Dry & Store Professional for many years.  While it has been discontinued, you should consider the Dry and Store Global II model, about which we have heard and read good things, and their Zephyr travel version.  Key to all of three is the Dry-Brik II Desiccant Blocks , which absorbs the moisture that hearing aids pick up from usage.

Seniors Deserve Relief from Pain

76 million Americans suffer from pain, primarily arthritis and back pain.  Chronic pain in seniors can be devastating to their ability to live a full life.  Pain can also interfere with cognition and attention and lead to depression in older adults.

Many doctors agree that we are doing a poor job of controlling chronic pain.  The Institute of Medicine believes that “we need to treat pain as a disease of the body and the mind.”  To quote Dr. David Borshook from Time magazine’s report on pain, “chronic pain … affects the sensory, emotional, motivational and cognitive pathways.”

Pain Drives Doctor Visits

The number one reason most people visit a doctor is to treat pain.  Acute pain usually results from an injury or infection and usually doesn’t last long once treated.   Long term, chronic pain is frustrating for seniors but can be treated.  Finding the source of the pain is sometimes difficult and frequently unable to be identified.  Your senior’s doctor will need to ask many questions to help formulate a plan of action so you may want to get the answers ready before you go.

  • Where does it hurt?
  • Does the pain move around?
  • How long does the pain last or does it come and go?
  • Does the pain interrupt your sleep?
  • Is this new or have you had it for a while?
  • How does the pain affect your activity, lifestyle, relationships, or mood?
  • Does something make the pain better or worse?

Seniors Want Relief from Pain

Pain relief is what your senior is hoping to achieve so you both need to be part of the treatment plan.  Pain relief is the first step in the process of getting your senior back into life.  Regaining any lost function includes exercising, walking, climbing steps and even sleeping.  It is important for your senior to sleep in his own bed and not awaken from pain.  It will take time to recover fully.

Pain relief may include medications-either in prescription or over the counter forms.  Pain medication used appropriately according to the doctor’s instructions rarely is addictive to your senior.  These medications may make it easier for your senior to participate in daily activities in which he or she was previously unable.  Sometimes other types of medications are prescribed that will help your senior handle chronic pain such as antidepressants, stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs.  Sometimes the treatment plan may call for a combination approach.

Other parts of the treatment plan may include injection therapy, physical therapy, exercise training, counseling, acupuncture, massage, hypnosis and other complementary approaches.  Your senior might benefit from weight loss and learning new body mechanics.  Staying as active as possible and avoiding isolation will also help improve your seniors outlook when dealing with chronic pain.

Your senior does not need to suffer with pain.  Relief from pain is within every senior’s reach!

We hope you will share your experiences with facing your chronic pain or helping your senior loved ones obtain relief and look forward to your comments.

Home Technology for Senior Care with Greater Independence

In this episode we discuss technology that can help improve the lives of seniors in their homes and the peace of mind of seniors’ families.  We highlight some companies targeting the needs of seniors and point out where the consumer electronics industry misses opportunities with the senior marketplace.

Home technology is already making a positive difference in the lives of most people and seniors are no different.  Technology can not only improve the lives of seniors but enable them to safely and comfortably live in their homes long than before (known as Aging in Place), even if they are living alone.

Tech can also give elder family members greater independence living at home. Many seniors who would have needed in-home caregiver support in the past can replace that intrusion on their lives with some form of remote monitoring. The capabilities of monitoring and the numbers it will benefit should only grow tremendously in the next several years.

Senior Care Corner is following technology for seniors closely and this is our first podcast report. The largest showcase for home technologies is the annual International CES (often called Consumer Electronics Show) from the Consumer Electronics Association.  Our visit to the most recent showed the industry has a ways to go in targeting the needs of seniors with their products.  At the same time, there are a number of companies with technology products targeted to specific needs of seniors and their families. The following are some of the resources we discuss.

We will be talking more about home technology for seniors in future episodes and posts.  Please leave us a comment if there is a specific area or technology you would like us to cover.

Seniors Going Gluten Free

Caregivers of seniors are often responsible for providing their loved one with foods that are nourishing, healthy and satisfying.  Sometimes that means keeping them away from foods that are not healthy for them.

Recently there have been an increased number of Americans who have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, numbering approximately 2 million affected people — 1 in 133 people.  This condition requires following a gluten free meal plan for the rest of our senior’s life to remain symptom free.  However, those of us with affected seniors may not really understand how to incorporate gluten free foods into the daily lives of their seniors.

What is celiac disease?

It is a condition that damages the villi in the lining of the small intestine keeping your senior from absorbing parts of the food that they eat.  A reaction to the gluten in certain items can cause physical symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, inability to absorb nutrients and weight loss.

Where do our seniors get gluten?

Gluten is found in food, medications and fluids that our seniors ingest.  Choosing a gluten free diet requires new eating habits.  Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats that are mixed with wheat during processing as well as most grain, pasta, cereal, and many processed foods.  Not only is gluten found in many processed foods we all eat, but also some medications we take and some other products we may use such as lipstick .

What can your senior eat?

Your senior can enjoy a healthy and balanced meal plan using potatoes, rice, soy, tapioca, amaranth, nuts, legumes, quinoa, cassava, corn, millet, buckwheat, uncontaminated oats and bean flour.  You can select gluten free items which are now more readily available in local grocery stores including gluten free bread, gluten free baking flour mix, and gluten free pasta.  They can eat meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables that do not contain sauces or coatings made from wheat flour.

It is important to read food labels when shopping which are required to list wheat as an ingredient and many are specifically labeled “gluten free”.  You should also ask how food is prepared whenever you eat out to be sure it is allergy free.  Many restaurants are aware of this special food allergy and have gluten free foods available.  Your pharmacist can help you find medications that are gluten free to substitute for those that your senior now takes.

In your role as caregiver, you may want to seek out a support group in your area where you can learn a wealth of tips and strategies to deal with this disease and help others too with your knowledge!

We would love to hear how you overcome this food allergy so other caregivers can help their seniors.

A Tribute to Mom!

 

“All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother. I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” – Abraham Lincoln

 

We all have moms, or had, that we love and respect.

Some of us have moms that we see every day and some of us don’t see our moms as often as we like.

We look up to our moms, learn from our moms, and try to be like our moms.

Sometimes we think, “The older I get, the more I look like my mom!” or “I sounded just like my mom!”

Being a great mom takes a lot out of a woman-long hours, crabby kids, dirty floors, being the boss, making decisions, and being a role model just to name a few.  All this with no pay except smiles, hugs and smooches if she was lucky.

“Mother is the one we count on for the things that matter most of all.”

-Katherine Butler Hathaway

 

Our moms inspire us to be all we can be, achieve all we dream and be a better person.

We strive throughout our life to make her proud and raise our children in her image.

We will be forever thankful for the lessons she taught us, the patience she showed us and the unconditional love she shared with us.

My mother was the making of me. She was so true and so sure of me, I felt that I had someone to live for – someone I must not disappoint. The memory of my mother will always be a blessing to me.  -Thomas A Edison

 

With love and affection, we remember our mother’s on this Mother’s Day!