Giving Grandpa Slippers This Year? Be Sure They’re Not Slippery!

Slippers are a common gift for Grandpa (or Grandma) each year. Care should be exercised if that’s your gift of choice this year to make sure their slippers don’t cause them to, well, slip!

2.4 million seniors received medical treatment for a fall in 2011, with one in four of those being hospitalized as a result of the fall – – and far too many receiving disabling injuries. Many of those falls happened in the seniors’ homes.

Okay, we suspect there weren’t many of these falls caused by slippery slippers, but wouldn’t you feel awful if your senior loved one became part of the statistics while wearing the gift you picked for them with love?

Senior Fall Risk a Gift Consideration

Slippers are but one of the many gift items that could be a factor in a senior’s fall. Some other common gifts to keep in mind.

  • Throw rugs are a common gift that many people like to put to use in the home where they will be seen. Many falls in the home are the result of slipping on a rug that isn’t attached firmly to the floor.
  • Corded items that are often used while sitting comfortably in the family room. Often the cords are draped across a walkway, creating a tripping hazard for anyone walking through.
  • Pajamas that are just a bit too long can get caught under foot, tripping wearers of any age but especially those whose balance isn’t what it was in younger years. Yes, it can happen with other clothing, but pajamas aren’t sized as precisely as other clothes and are easy to purchase too long.
  • Games that come with multiple small pieces can easily create a slip hazard when a piece drops on the floor and isn’t missed or is too small to see and isn’t picked up right away.
  • New pets given to senior loved ones for companionship can get tangled up in legs or startle your gift recipient and cause a fall. You may think it’s safe because the new pet is replacing a long time companion, but the prior pet likely was accustomed to life with the senior and may even have seen their transition over several years.
  • Canes or walkers that aren’t sized properly for the recipient, or are not the same size as the one’s they’ve been using, can cause falls. That great design we find might be a treasured gift but can cause harm when they want so much to use it and show it’s appreciated.
  • Any gift that a senior will be bending over to pick up can cause a loss of balance and a fall.

Slippers Aren’t All Slippery

Are we saying you shouldn’t give any of the above items as gifts? Not at all. What we are saying is to consider the potential slipping or falling hazard with any gift you consider and think about what you can do to mitigate the hazard.

For example, many attractive and comfortable slippers – including the ones we wear ourselves – have non-slip soles. Whether for grandma or grandpa, you most certainly can find a pair that they’ll love and that will help keep them safe!

Been Treated by a Physician Extender? Do You Know What One Is?

Exponential growth in the number of seniors who are aging and require medical care is expected to continue in the next 15 years and would strain even the medical system we have today. Unfortunately, that system isn’t growing along with the senior population.

What we may not know is that the number of doctors poised to provide medical care is shrinking quickly. Not only are many doctors themselves boomers and retiring from the profession, but fewer doctors are entering the medical field. Combined with a potential surge in the number of patient contacts as a result of medical insurance availability to those previously uninsured as part of the Affordable Care Act, the growth in the aging population likely will lead to a shortage in physicians nationwide. According to several different sources of statistics:

  • The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) anticipates a shortage of 150,000 doctors in the next 15 years with an estimated shortfall of 63,000 doctors by 2015
  • The Association of American Medical Colleges and other sources predict a shortage of 200,000 doctors by 2025
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 145,000 new doctors will be needed by 2018

Fewer Doctors per Patient

The estimated physician to patient ratio is slowly declining as well. In 2010, there were 27.7 doctors per 10,000 people in the U.S. It is anticipated that the demand for physicians will be increasing, especially in those specialties that serve the senior population, such as cardiology, internal medicine, and most surgical specialties.

Many US medical schools are planning to increase their current enrollment numbers to help alleviate this doctor shortage but since medical school and full training is a lengthy process, generally taking ten to fifteen years to complete, it will be some time before the effects are felt.

Many patients in the U.S. have access to care from doctor extenders, trained medical professionals who do not hold doctor licenses. Last year there were 75,000 physician assistants (PAs) in practice and 168,000 nurse practitioners (NPs).

What Can Your Senior Expect from Physician Extenders?

A Physician Assistant (PA) is a professional who provides medical care under the direct supervision of a physician. A PA is trained in all aspects of medicine (unlike a Nurse Practitioner, who is trained in the nursing aspect) and requires a state license to practice in a variety of healthcare settings, including clinic, hospital, or other healthcare setting. A PA is not required to complete a residency, as a physician would, but must complete continuing education, as a physician would, to remain current in the field. A PA provides a broad range of medical services generally performed by a physician. PAs will perform physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, prescribe medications, counsel on preventive health care and may assist in surgery.

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse with additional national board certification and a state license. Depending on the state, NPs can work with a doctor or independently in their area of training. NPs will perform physical exams and assessments, diagnose problems in their specialty areas, manage chronic diseases, order and interpret tests such as blood work and diagnostic tests, prescribe treatments such as medications and therapy, provide oversight in acute, critical care and rehab settings, provide well checks including immunizations, perform or assist with minor surgical procedures and provide education and counseling about disease management depending on the guidelines in each state. A nurse practitioner is a patient advocate and focuses on preventive care, well-being and treatment options for optimal health. NPs will refer to the primary physician any person who has a complicated case or fails to respond to treatment given.

PAs and NPs can bill Medicare and Medicaid for their services if they are enrolled as providers in the Medicare system. For private insurance companies, services are reimbursed through a separate credential or directly under the name of the physician for whom they work. NPs can be paid at a lower reimbursement rate-85% vs. 50% in some states by private insurance companies.

Both of these types of medical professionals are well qualified to treat our aging seniors (and ourselves) and we will all be seeing more of them when we visit our doctor’s office or other healthcare facility.

Is Your Senior Loved One’s Home Fit for Aging in Place?

Many seniors are living the life of their dreams in their homes and hope to stay there forever. In fact, it is said that 89% of older adults desire this. Living in their own homes, that is.

As family caregivers of our senior loved ones, we want that for them also since that’s what they want.

In order to remain comfortable and happy but most importantly safe, we need to be aware of the fitness of our senior loved ones homes. It often becomes our job to check things out and make the changes needed to be sure the homes are safe for the long haul.

Aging in Place Home Design

  1. Are there steps at the front door just to get in the house or steps to climb to go to bed at night or into the basement to do the laundry? Eventually, navigating steps will be difficult if not impossible for many seniors. There should be at least one convenient entry point into the house that has no steps.
  2. What dimensions are the front door and other important doors such as the bathroom? The entry door should be 36 inches wide and hallways 42 inches wide. Are the sidewalk and driveway free from broken and uneven spots that could result in falls?
  3. Are all electric outlets, switches, thermostats and other important electrical features in reach of someone in a seated position? If your senior uses a wheelchair in the future, can they reach what they need to reach?
  4. Are all handles lever-style, such as door handles, faucets, showers, etc. so they will be easily used by someone with physical immobility such as arthritis? Many handles and faucets are easy fixes that can be done by most do-it-yourselfers. Grab bars in key points, non-skid floors, raised toilet seats, and no-threshold shower entry should also be added to the to-do list. Do you need to install a hand held shower or shower bench now to prevent shower slips?
  5. Can the windows be opened easily at a level that is accessible? Modifications should be made to allow your senior to open the windows easily in case of emergency. Keep the windows clean to allow vision in and out. Do all the door and window locks work right?
  6. Are all areas well lit? Staircases, porches, basements, hallways, closets and dark corners should be lit to prevent accidents.
  7. Are any handrails loose? Are the porches and floors in good repair? Are there any potential areas where a slip, trip or fall may be inevitable and corrections made? Remove throw rugs, replace worn out carpet or loose tiles, repair any popped nails, make stair treads slip proof, and install way finding lights wherever needed.
  8. Does the front door have a peep hole to prevent opening it to strangers? Could a motion sensor light be installed to alert seniors when someone is approaching or turn on when they go out?
  9. Is the water heater set at 120 degrees or lower to prevent accidental scalding? Are all electrical appliances in good repair and free from frayed cords? Are all the light bulbs functioning?
  10. Is there a smoke detector installed and a fire extinguisher available? Have you checked the batteries in the smoke alarm lately? Do you need to install a block on the stove to prevent fires? Is there an exit plan known to all in case of emergency? Has anyone checked the dryer lint system to be sure it is free flowing as well as furnace/air conditioning filters?
  11. Are there any dangerous substances stored in places that can lead to trouble such as kerosene, paint or toxic cleaning chemicals?
  12. Do you have a first aid kit handy?  Are there emergency supplies such as water, medications or batteries on hand if needed?

Home Seniorization

This is just the beginning of things to keep in mind. There are a multitude of other items to consider such as insulation, roof repair, gutter cleaning, bush trimming and other duties that can be scheduled with a handyman or company.

Some of these items are quick fixes and others may require remodeling to be sure that your senior’s home will stand  up to the test of time. You will rest easy knowing that you have done all you can to keep your senior safe at home.

Check out our Home Seniorization Toolkit to help guide you in this process.

Giving Thanks for Family Caregivers

Family caregivers are special people whose contributions often go unrecognized but for whom we are most thankful.

Giving of themselves to make better the lives of loved ones is often not easy, especially when challenged by Alzheimer’s Disease or other life-altering affliction.

We want family caregivers to understand how special they and what they do are so they realize the need to care for their own needs to be able to keep on giving the best of themselves to loved ones.

This poem is something we found on the web, at The Ribbon, and want to share as one small way of saying “thank you.”

We are truly thankful for family caregivers and to Loraine (WilloRain) for these words to express our thanks.

CareGiver

by Loraine (WilloRain)


Two words that come together

When you speak of someone dear.

It is that special person

If you call, they’re always near.

 

You’ll see that in a ‘CareGiver’

Love comes from in their Heart.

With loving hands and guidance

They help each new day start.

 

Caring for the fragile soul,

Giving day to day.

They meet the needs of loved one’s

Spreading love along the way.

 

A gentle touch, a helping hand,

A glow that makes you smile.

Always near to comfort

And go that extra mile

.

They want no fame or glory,

And it puts their mind at ease,

To know they’ve helped a loved one

Deal with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

So show a little kindness

To CareGivers across this land.

You may be the one someday

Who needs a helping hand.

 

With Peace and Understanding,

Throughout the ends of time.

There’s someone who will care for you

And make your Spirit shine…

 

The CareGiver…

If you have sentiments you want to share, we would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment to this post to email us through the Contact page here at Senior Care Corner.

Handwashing for the Health of It!

Everyone has germs. We as caregivers especially need to wash our hands properly and thoroughly to reduce the likelihood of spreading germs to our vulnerable seniors.

We are in the time of the year when families and friends gather – – actually, we are always in that time of year – – and with the colder weather people are closer. That means that even greater precaution is needed because it’s easier to keep from spreading things to more people for whom we care or picking them up our selves. So, yes, we need to wash our hands properly.

Washing Hands Properly

The Centers for Disease Control offer specific guidelines to help us practice good hand washing.

  1. Rinse your hands under warm running water and then apply soap.
  2. Lather the soap between your hands, scrubbing your fingers and the front and back of your hands; don’t forget under your nails.
  3. Wash with friction for at least 20 seconds. That is about as long as singing Happy Birthday to yourself.
  4. Rinse thoroughly under clean running water, dry your hands on a dry towel or allow them to air dry. Turn of the faucet handle with the towel.

When We Should be Washing Our Hands

In an effort to successfully face the cold and flu season and prevent the spread of germs, let’s talk about when to wash hands.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips:

  1. Wash your hands: Before you prepare food, during food preparation and after food preparation.
  2. Wash your hands: Before you eat.
  3. Wash your hands: Before and after you help a sick person or care for a wound or cut.
  4. Wash your hands: After you use the bathroom or change a diaper or help someone else in the bathroom.
  5. Wash your hands: After you cough, sneeze or blow your nose.
  6. Wash your hands: After you care for an animal or their waste including feeding them.
  7. Wash your hands: After you handle the trash.

If you and your senior remind each other of these special times and proper way to wash your hands, you may be able to prevent illness this season and throughout the year.

Oh, and did we say wash your hands??

Family Caregivers: Close VA Benefits Info Gap for Senior Veterans

Only a quarter of seniors who are US military Veterans have enrolled to receive VA healthcare benefits and only a tenth of the rest feel they know what’s available to them through those benefits. Are some missing out? We can’t know unless they know enough about the health benefits to which they’re entitled to make a comparison.

Are your senior loved ones entitled to Veterans’ benefits? According to the Census, half of all senior men are Veterans. In addition, a good percentage of senior women are spouses or surviving spouses of Veterans, if not Veterans themselves. That makes the chances pretty good that your senior loved ones are entitled to benefits. If so, do they know that? Do they know enough about those benefits to make decisions? That might be a good place for family caregivers to lend assistance.

Veterans’ Benefits & Family Caregivers

The feature segment of this episode of the Senior Care Corner podcast delves into senior Veterans’ knowledge of, participation in, and feelings about the healthcare benefits available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It goes beyond Veterans, though, because surviving spouses are entitled to many of the same benefits as the Veterans themselves.

It’s not as if there isn’t information out there. The VA website alone contains a great deal, maybe so much info that it’s easy to get lost trying to find what you want. It’s not as if senior Veterans aren’t trying to learn, because many say they are. More senior Veterans are active on the web than non-Veterans, which is a great sign. It might be that some need help sorting through what’s there to find what they need.

What’s the role for family caregivers? As we discuss in the podcast, some senior Veterans might need urging to consider the benefit options, both healthcare and other types, available to them through the VA while others may need help determining if they are eligible and, if so, just what benefits are available. Considering those benefits may provide value and allow them to receive healthcare that might not otherwise be within their reach.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

News Items in This Episode

  • Could an Aging Face Reflect an Unhealthy Heart?
  • Exercise is a Likely Tool for Parkinson’s Patients
  • Cataract Patients Relax to a Soothing Beat
  • Doctors Often Misinterpret Patients’ Wishes

We are thankful for our Veterans and what they have done, and still do, for the US and for the family caregivers who work to make those Veterans’ aging years better!

Podcast Transcript – so you can follow along or read at your convenience

Communicating with Alzheimer’s Patients: Tips for Family Caregivers

We know that there are nearly 5.4 million people in the United States currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease which is now the sixth leading cause of death with many more new sufferers to follow as the population ages.

We also know that Alzheimer’s is a disease marked by a disruption in memory that leads to difficulty carrying out activities of daily life.  This is not a normal aging process.  Alzheimer’s is one type of dementia but there are other types with equally devastating effects.

Caregivers of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s are caring for family members day in and day out and putting in an estimated  $219 Billion worth of unpaid care.

The statistics are daunting and research is happening now to find a cure and hopefully at the very least, some treatment to help those who care.

Alzheimer’s Family Caregivers in for a Long Battle

Because people with Alzheimer’s lose function and memory over time, it is a long grueling battle for them and for their family caregivers.

Gradually people are unable to follow directions either spoken or written. They forget experiences first that just happened and eventually what happened in the past, including the ability to recognize their loved ones.

Those with Alzheimer’s eventually become unable to provide any care for themselves, including such basic tasks as tooth brushing, dressing, eating or drinking, toileting, walking and other personal care activities. Many also will forget where they are or where they should go so begin to wander and even elope. In addition, many sufferers become aggressive, argumentative and have behaviors that are not only hard to control but dangerous for their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s Communications Strategies

  • Speak to your loved one using clear and concise language. Speak slowly. Ask direct questions requiring yes and no answers that won’t frustrate your loved one as they struggle to remember the words to answer your questions.
  • Talk both low and slow.  Ask one question at a time instead of rapid fire, waiting for an answer before asking another. Use a calm voice.
  • Make face to face contact, look directly into their eyes and gain their focus before trying to get an answer.
  • Give a direction in a simple sentence with a great deal of details. “Put the blue plate onto the table in front of you” instead of “set the table, there are the plates”.
  • Use appropriate facial expressions to set the mood desired. If you show your frustration, anger or fear that is the way your loved one will respond to you.
  • Limit choices that you offer, giving just two options if possible, such as do you want an apple or a banana instead of we have grapes, bananas, kiwi and applesauce in the fridge – which one do you want for lunch later?
  • Repeat your questions, directions or chitchat if you don’t think you had their focus instead of getting upset over their lack of response.
  • Watch your body language. Just like your tone of voice, your body movements might be conveying the wrong message in your loved one’s mind resulting in inappropriate responses.

The more you know about effective, purposeful communication with your senior afflicted with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, the less stress you will feel as a caregiver and they will as the one for whom you are caring.

Feeding Tube: What Does It Do, Is It Time and How Will You Decide?

Many caregivers will be faced with these questions as they care for aging parents and other senior loved ones. What will you answer?

Unfortunately, this is a very personal decision that family caregivers may be faced with answering. Hopefully, you have been able to discuss this possibility and your senior’s desire for this course of treatment well before the need arose and before they were unable to express their wishes. If you haven’t, don’t delay!

Feeding tubes are actual tubes that are placed surgically into the stomach to provide nourishment and fluids to a person who is unable to take that nourishment on their own, whether there is a physical problem in the gastrointestinal system or a cognitive problem keeping them from eating.

Many seniors have thought this through on their own and have instituted some type of advance healthcare directive that will guide you making this tough decision. Do they have a living will that states whether or not they wanted to be kept alive with the use of tubes or other mechanical, artificial interventions? Do they have a DNR or other advance healthcare directive in place or have they completed the Five Wishes outlining their end of life wishes? If not, this option may be one you will have to decide to accept or reject. If that is the case, here is some information to consider when contemplating your choice.

Tube Feeding Facts

  • Approximately one third of nursing home residents with dementia have had a feeding tube placed because they have forgotten how to eat.
  • Sometimes feeding tubes are recommended when a person is at risk for a swallowing difficulty, called dysphagia. In this case, any food or fluids ingested can be aspirated into the lungs resulting in pneumonia. Placing a tube does not correct the dysphagia and aspiration pneumonia on secretions such as saliva can still occur.
  • Feeding tubes can also be used for administration of medications.
  • In some cases, but not all, feeding tubes can be uncomfortable for the senior. Often you can’t see the tube when it is not in use and can be covered with a senior’s clothing.
  • Some feeding tubes can be inserted through the nose into the stomach and are considered temporary compared to those inserted directly into the stomach. These are often used when the condition is reversible and the tube is easily removed.
  • Feedings via a tube can be done throughout the day, only at night or in small doses, called bolus feedings. Depending on the type of feeding schedule used, your senior may or may not need a feeding pump. Usually water is put through the tube before and after feedings or medications to keep the tube free flowing.
  • In some instances, a person can continue to eat by mouth with a feeding tube inserted. Often, the person is able to take some foods for pleasure while the tube feeding provides essential nutrition and hydration.
  • Tube feeding is often used for a short period of time for those facing a medical trauma to aid the recovery process. They have been used in the elderly to sustain life when inadequate nutrition for survival is achieved.
  • Your doctor, dietitian or other healthcare professional closely monitors the feeding for appropriate amounts to be sure adequate nutrition is being provided based on individual needs.
  • If a person is already actively dying, nutrients through a feeding tube will not be absorbed and this procedure will not prolong life.
  • For some, feeding tubes may prolong life and provide precious time for families. However, feeding tubes can sustain life beyond the time when quality of life becomes a concern.
  • It is not as difficult as it once was to stop providing feeding tubes. Many courts recognize that nutrition is another medical intervention and do allow discontinuation.

Whenever a feeding tube is suggested or recommended by someone on your senior’s healthcare team, you should discuss all the possibilities. There are effects and risks of a feeding tube in addition to the risks of not placing one. You should discuss it with all family caregivers and, if able, your senior loved one too. What are the long term consequences and quality of life concerns that should be discussed before a tube is placed? If your senior has not executed any advance directives, ask yourself would your senior have wanted this to happen or would they want a natural end of life. Discuss with your doctor the what ifs such as what will happen if you want to stop the feeding in the future, what if the tube is dislodged by the senior and any other family concerns beforehand.

This is not a decision made lightly but one where you will need to weigh all the benefits and risks to your loved one. There is no right or wrong answer to this life changing question, but one that is right for your family and senior loved one. Get all the information you need to make the best choice possible for everyone.

Do you have more questions about this topic? We would love to address them for you and others who may also have similar concerns.

Exercising Brain Power Essential for Seniors

Seniors need to exercise their brains to keep them functioning at optimal levels. This is true for all of us, but is even more critical as we age.

Our minds are like our other muscles and need to be stretched regularly to maintain their fitness and to help keep us sharp.

We now know that our brains continue to grow new cells throughout our lifetimes, even in our older years. Activities that increase blood flow to the brain, such as physical activity, mental stimulation and good nutrition will help exercise our brains which in turn enhances our brains.

Studies indicate mental stimulation can help generate new brain cells. These cells can further enhance overall function by migrating to areas where new cells are necessary and learning from the surrounding cells what skills are required. This is especially true when there has been an injury such as stroke or other brain injury for renewal of lost skills. We can also improve our overall cognition and brain fitness by helping our brain cells that are now inactive become active. Getting oxygen and nutrients to our inactive brain cells will improve their function.

Exercise for Our Brains

The most effective way to exercise our brains is through cognitive training. It should be stimulating, challenging and fun! However, they need to be deliberate activities that we do and not just everyday routines.

  • New experiences that inspire new thoughts and create new memories.
  • Alternate routine exercises such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles so your brain doesn’t get lazy! The key is to keep challenging creation of new pathways not rely on routine.
  • Learn a musical instrument.
  • Read a new book. Join a book club and discuss your favorite plots.
  • Learn a foreign language. Find new places in town or out to visit. Include museums and learn about the exhibits.
  • Try new foods or cooking styles and get cooking!
  • Take dance lessons and learn some new steps.
  • Incorporate a word of the day into your life, use it in a sentence and share it with others.
  • Get connected with online family, friends, and new people.
  • Play a game. It can be a board game, card game, or brain fitness game. Play with different groups of people who will stimulate new conversation.

Just as it is important to exercise our bodies and feed it well with nutritious foods, it is important to exercise and keep our brains fit. Helping your senior loved ones add some of these activities to their day can be great gift ideas too. Together you can exercise your brains while having family fun!