Essential Senior Hydration in the Heat — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Our aging loved ones have specific nutrition needs that are changing as they age.

The need for nutrients such as protein, water, vitamins and minerals, and fluid remains constant as their calorie requirements decline due to declining physical activity.

Unfortunately, as they get older, seniors tend to decrease their overall intake, putting them at risk for nutritional deficiencies that can impact their health and wellness.

During the summer heat and humidity, the need for adequate fluids can become a medical issue for our senior loved ones.

Family caregivers can help them make hydrating a habit!

Hydration Habits

Aging adults can have many obstacles to getting enough nutrition and hydration to meet their daily needs.

Decreasing physical activity, chronic medical conditions, multiple medications, budget considerations, fear of needing the bathroom and possibly falling on the way there, difficulty chewing or swallowing, altered taste, lack of thirst, loneliness, and functional loss reducing ability to prepare the food and fluid they need are all obstacles to health for aging in place seniors.

Getting enough to drink is a serious problem for seniors, one that can lead to hospitalization.

Current statistics show that most seniors don’t get enough fluids.

Symptoms of poor hydration

Family caregivers should be aware that symptoms of poor hydration can mimic other causes.

Dehydration can lead to:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Labored speech
  • Dry mouth, lips, skin
  • Sunken eyeballs
  • Low blood pressure
  • Inability to sweat or cry
  • Decreased or dark urine
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

8 Tips to Get In The Habit of Hydration

Making some of these strategies part of your senior’s routine will help them make drinking fluids an everyday habit for better health.

  1. Select foods that give them fluids, such as soup, gelatin, dairy foods, fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, grapes and cucumbers, juices, and popsicles. Food can give your senior as much as 20% of their fluid needs.
  2. Have them drink a glass of water each time they go to the bathroom, such as taking a drink when hands are washed. Keeping a small glass at the bathroom sink will help facilitate this.
  3. Keep a container of water within reach during the day to avoid having to get up for a sip.
  4. Drink milk, juice, or water at every meal.
  5. Pour the amount of water needed each day into a pitcher and keep it cold. Your senior will be able to visual that they haven’t (or have) had enough to drink with one look.
  6. Increase the enjoyment of plain water by making infusions with fresh or frozen fruits, adding lemon/lime/citrus slices, float some mint leaves in the glass or serve it with a fun glass or straw to give the water a special taste or appearance.
  7. Use a small water bottle instead of a larger one so that it is easier to hold and drink for seniors who may be a bit too weak to hold the heavier bottle.
  8. If they don’t like their water ice cold due to mouth pain, tooth sensitivity, or preference, serve it at room temperature.

Don’t let your senior’s need outweigh their want when it comes to drinking enough fluids, especially as hot weather and humidity increase their needs even more.

Additional Resources

The importance of staying hydrated every day as senior loved ones age can help them avoid the need for medical intervention.

Here are some additional articles that family caregivers may find helpful to help their seniors get in the habit.

 

 




Spotting and Preventing Elder Abuse — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Raising awareness about the prevalence of elder abuse is important to help stop it in its tracks.

Every year in June, efforts to educate us all about this issue so we can spot it to stop it occur including educational campaigns in the media and events in your local community.

Family caregivers are often unaware of the extent of elder abuse and how it may impact their own senior loved one.

Who Is At Risk?

All seniors can at some point be victims of elder abuse. There are many types of abuse, including financial, emotional, neglect and self-neglect, abandonment, physical, and sexual.

Seniors can be victims of financial abuse if they get scammed over the phone or electronically via email. A criminal can steal their money, assets, or identity.

Trusting seniors could fall victim to someone who wants to do them harm if they answer the front door to someone they don’t know.

A senior’s mail could be stolen from their home mailbox. Many seniors continue to have paper copies of checks or account statements with personal identification information sent via the post office that can be vulnerable to theft, rather than switching to direct deposit or a secure online banking system. Criminals capitalize on this vulnerability by stealing their identity or their money — or both.

Seniors can be physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by someone they know, such as a caregiver (paid or unpaid) or someone who enters their life only to take advantage of their situation.

Seniors can neglect themselves with poor food consumption, failure to do personal care, or by living in unsafe conditions.

Seniors who are most at risk include those who:

  • Have dementia
  • Are isolated
  • Have a mental health or substance abuse issue
  • Are in poor physical health
  • Are women
  • Are over 80 years

Tips to Spot Abuse and Help Prevent It

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) wants us all, especially family caregivers, to report abuse of elders to our local authorities, such as adult protective services or local law enforcement. Even if you merely suspect abuse, report it so it can be investigated and stopped.

If you think the abuse could be life threatening, dial 9-1-1.

Here are suggestions from NCEA:

  1. Keep in contact and talk with your older friends, neighbors, and relatives frequently.
  2. Be aware and alert for the possibility of abuse, such as bruising or injuries, changes in mood or new depression, isolation, sudden change in financial situation, poor hygiene, failure to eat or drink, unintentional weight loss, withdrawal, or acting out against others.
  3. Look around and take note of what may be happening with your older neighbors and acquaintances; be observant.
  4. Ask questions and listen to seniors.
  5. Talk with others about the problem of elder abuse to raise awareness.

Family caregivers need to be advocates against elder abuse.

Additional Resources

Elder abuse prevention is an important topic. Here are additional articles to help you learn more about it and how you can get involved.

 




Cars Best Suited to Senior Drivers — Family Caregiver Quick TIp

Independence – that’s what driving meant to many of today’s seniors back when they were 15 and anticipating getting their license.

After spending a life in which driving meant commuting to work, carpooling the kids, and so much more, it means independence once again, especially for seniors who are aging in place.

To many older adults, driving means not being stuck at home or calling on friends or family for a ride somewhere.

Still, as family members of these seniors, we worry if they are able to drive safely, if their eyes are still sharp enough to see potential hazards on the road, or if their reaction time is quick enough to avoid erratic drivers they encounter.

We have been pleased to see Consumer Reports is also concerned about the safety of senior drivers and have been following their reporting.

Interestingly, one of the Consumer Reports articles discussed that “giving up driving increases a person’s mortality risk and makes seniors more likely to land in nursing homes and suffer from depression.”

As family caregivers, we have to balance those possibilities against our fears each time we think about our senior loved ones behind the wheel.

That doesn’t mean we have to just stand by quietly as we honor our seniors’ desires to stay on the road. There are steps we can take to help them be as safe as possible, starting with the car they are driving.

Selecting Cars for Senior Drivers

In a recent report, Consumer Reports identified their top 25 cars for senior drivers. If you are interested in seeing their recommendations, you can check out their article, but we want to discuss the features that are essential in cars for older drivers with physical limitations.

Whether they get one of the recommended cars or would rather choose one more to their own liking, the features identified will help narrow down the search.

Features that make cars safe, reliable and senior-friendly.

  • Front seats that are easy to access, with doors that are wide enough to get through and openings that are not too high or low.
  • Comfortable 360 degree view out of the vehicle, allowing drivers of any height see everything going on around them.
  • Gauges and indicators that are simple to read and straightforward controls for such things as adjusting the radio and the car’s internal temperature.
  • Headlights that have enough power for safe nighttime driving for older eyes that don’t see as well in the dark as they once did.
  • Backup cameras make driving safer for all of us, not just seniors. Seeing what is behind us when we are driving in reverse can help us avoid many fender-benders and worse.
  • While they aren’t available in many models yet, automatic braking and collision warnings can help drivers whose reaction time has slowed stay on the road more safely.
  • Even cars with great visibility have blind spots that can cause us issues as we change lanes, so warnings that help us avoid them provide great value.

Helping senior loved ones pick a car that has features that make driving safer is important, though we also need to keep in mind it’s still their choice. After all, having the right car is an important aspect of the independence driving provides.

Additional Resources to Check Out

 




No Need to Wait for the Future – Technology Works for Seniors Now

Family caregivers and their senior loved ones who remain at home receiving any form of care increasingly realize their safety will rely greatly on technology in the future.

There are already many tech innovations that are helping and more in the pipeline to improve the quality of life and safety as they age in place.

For example, one in six consumers own and use wearable tech.

According to eMarketer in October 2015, of people using the internet, adults 65 years and older accounted for 15.1% of the wearable market in 2016 and project the number will grow to 20.7% n 2019.

They feel that US adults 65 and older will see the biggest growth rates for wearable adoption.

Have you or your senior seen the value in wearable technology yet and adopted one or more devices?

Technology in Home Care Study

A recent study performed by home care startup HHAeXchange of 250 home care users found that the biggest challenges to using wearables in home care were:

  • Home care industry slow to adopt new technology 52%
  • Caregivers disregard alerts 39.7%
  • Technology is not capable enough yet 25.2%
  • No Wi-Fi in home 14.1%

Wearable technology could monitor not just the seniors at home but also the caregivers paid to provide home care and report back to family caregivers.

Preventing fraud and abuse in the home could be achieved using technology and wearables, according to this survey.

They found there were other areas in which current and future wearable technology could serve a purpose for family caregivers and seniors receiving home care including:

  • 52% said it could alert home care providers about unusual changes in activity level, heart rate, or temperature
  • 2% saw value in reminding providers about things like appointments, prescriptions, and meal times
  • 8% thought wearables would send real-time alerts from a home care agency to a member or their emergency contact
  • 39% hoped wearables could diagnose potential ailments in home care recipients

Overall, two thirds said wearables would be an important part of the future of home care.

What Wearables Are Seniors Using Now?

Wearables is a growing industry and their use is not the domain of millennials. It has been estimated that by 2019 there will be 5.5 billion users of mobile and wearable biometric technology around the globe.

It might be interesting to remember that seniors were actually the first adopters of wearable technology when millions began using Lifeline call buttons in the home.

Many seniors are wearing devices and using other tech innovations to keep them safe and healthy at home. These devices also help family caregivers stay in the loop on what is happening with their senior loved ones when they aren’t home with them.

The wearables that seniors are using can be placed into specific categories depending on the solution they offer:

Safety

There are many wearables on the market that can help seniors be safer at home. Many of these are worth the investment for family caregivers and some are specific to the needs of your seniors.

  1. GPS trackers – there are a variety of types of trackers that can be employed by caregivers. There are embedded trackers in the soles of your senior’s shoes or some that look like a watch. These devices are especially helpful for seniors who tend to wander or get lost.
  2. Monitors – there are monitors that will pattern their behavior so that when there is a concern, family caregivers will be alerted. The alert could be that they didn’t go to the kitchen or the bathroom as usual, they may have stayed in bed longer or not gone to bed at night. These changes in pattern often signal medical issues that are best addressed quickly. You may want a monitor that alerts you to falls or if the thermostat is not appropriate for the weather (too hot or cold or off altogether) or if they breached the exit.
  3. Hip protection – if your senior is prone to falls, how would they like a belt that has airbags that open in case of a fall to protect fragile hips from fracture?
  4. PERS – personal emergency response systems are still alive and well and getting more fashionable as time goes by. They also now use Bluetooth technology which allows seniors to leave home and still be able to get benefits in case of emergency while they run errands or visit friends.

Health

Health monitors abound for seniors with chronic diseases who require closer testing of certain medical or biometric measures such as weight, heart rate, oxygen levels or blood sugars. The beauty of these trackers is to intervene before an emergency occurs.

  1. Pulse Ox trackers for seniors with lung issues can alert caregivers when a medical crisis looms.
  2. Blood pressure cuffs that are no longer cuffs. There are several currently available or coming to market that don’t require the typical monitoring apparatus. One is so easy that your senior only needs to hold to their fingertip to get a blood pressure reading.
  3. Sleep sensors can alert caregivers if their seniors are sleeping at night, how long they sleep, the quality of their sleep and if modifications need to be made to their sleep environment to allow for restful sleep.
  4. Activity trackers are used by many younger people but older adults are also adopting them to monitor their own health through physical activity tracking. Many bands now also manage how much a person drinks or how well they sleep which can be important data for seniors too. This information is then easily shared with a physician. Several also monitor heart rate and many seniors want to know this information when they participate in activity. You are never too old to improve your health and staying motivated with an activity tracker can help.
  5. Cardiac monitors that can allow heart patients to stay active while monitoring their heart rhythm. Data is sent to their physician in real-time.
  6. Medication reminders from your watch? Yes, this is available. A voice controlled device that also alerts your senior that it is time for medicine, detects falls, and calls for help. A device that rolls the functions of some of the other tech products into one is in development and expects to hit the market soon.
  7. Health monitors that are discreet and stick directly onto the skin of our seniors is another new way that healthcare providers can monitor seniors with complex medical needs. Biometric data is sent from the skin right to the doctor via a mobile app that even caregivers can read.
  8. Stick-on skin monitors also be used to detect how much sun exposure your senior has gotten and could even tell caregivers about air quality wherever their seniors are in order to protect people with breathing problems from poor air quality.

These applications are just the tip of the iceberg and you can find a multitude of apps for your smartphones that will bring you even more peace of mind for their safety and health.

Family caregivers may not think that their seniors will want wearable technology and many wonder who will pay for it, but your senior might surprise you with their willingness to use it — and love it when they get it.

What price are you (or they) willing to pay for their health and safety?

 




Bridging the Gap Between Hunger & Health for Senior Loved Ones

10 million older adults in America face the threat of hunger and end each day hungry.

Seniors we know and love could be affected — sometimes without family caregivers knowing it.

Food insecurity affects seniors in all parts of the nation.

Food insecure adults eat fewer calories and are deficient in key nutrients such as protein, vitamins A, C, B6, and thiamine as well as the minerals iron and magnesium.

It has been estimated that as many as 50% of community dwelling seniors are malnourished.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines hunger as a “potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food, results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation.”

There are local, state and federal programs that can help ease their hunger, but many of these assistance programs are hard to access, don’t collaborate, and may even be underfunded to meet the great need.

Some programs are wait-listed for many months, during which time many seniors are suffering.

Family caregivers can help their senior loved ones, not only by recognizing their need, but helping them connect and participate with beneficial programs.

Obstacles to Adequate Eating

There are many factors that can inhibit your senior loved one from attaining the nutritious foods that will help them stay well and independent.

All older adults face common challenges, such as these.

Having sufficient finances to access adequate, safe and nutritious food. They need adequate funds to pay their bills and medical care or prescriptions without diverting their food budget to maintain basic needs on a fixed income.

The ability to shop, select foods that are appropriate for health, and then transport them home.

Being physically able to prepare and store food safely.

Receiving social support during meals to enjoy their meals without feelings of isolation or depression.

Increased prevalence or worsening of chronic medical conditions when nutrition is inadequate.

Poor nutrition can mean reduced muscle mass, worsening cognition, poor wound healing, increasing falls, fatigue, and the inability to remain independent for many adults trying to age in place.

Consequences of Choosing Care Over Food

Some older adults who feel they have limited funds to purchase healthy foods often develop coping strategies that are harmful to their health.

Seniors may overly stretch the healthy foods they have to make ends meet.

They may eat less of healthy items they do have or skip meals altogether.

They often substitute cheaper, less nutritious foods, losing out on key nutrients.

They may feel the need to find ways, such as selling personal possessions, to afford food.

Many seniors will choose food over their prescription medications, making a bad situation worse.

Some seniors may seek help from others, including family members, faith community, elder resources, or neighbors, but many will not ask for a helping hand.

Caregiving Interventions

Family caregivers can help their senior loved ones get the nutrition they need with these strategies.

  1. Connect them with all the benefits for which they are eligible, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Some seniors don’t think the amount of help is beneficial, but even $125 a month will help feed a hungry senior. Completing the application and getting the benefits may be difficult for many seniors and your assistance may be needed.
  2. Find and secure home delivered meals.336x280A Silver Cuisine with AARP Members
  3. Register for senior services or senior care in a day program that serves one healthy meal a session to get additional nutritious foods, along with nutrition education to make the best food choices with their available budget.
  4. Are there local food banks or pantries that could be helpful in your senior’s locale? Does their faith community run a food bank that they could access? Removing the stigma from taking a “handout” could keep them home and independent longer.
  5. Set up family helpers to bring meals or take out for regularly scheduled outings to local restaurants.
  6. Gift your senior loved one with delivered groceries or meals from local restaurants for holiday gifts. Encourage all family members to do the same to ease their burden and offset their need to choose food over medicine. You can also order pre-made or meal kits that are easy for seniors to cook themselves and get delivered to their home.
  7. Upgrade their kitchen so that they can more easily prepare their own meals with adaptive devices and accommodations for their physical limitations.
  8. Increase their socialization during mealtimes by inviting friends, family or visiting them during meals. You can use technology to Skype or Facetime with them during their meal times so they can have virtual visitors to feel less alone.

What Our Seniors Need

Seniors need all our help to eat the most nutritious foods to keep them well as they age.

They need family caregivers to support and assist them in taking advantage of all the resources available to them in the community and through family.

Older adults often could benefit from education to guide them in making nutritious food choices with the food budget they currently have and not using it on convenience foods that don’t meet their nutritional needs.

They need public transportation to get to the market, community garden, faith community, senior center, and healthcare facilities.

Their homes may need modifications to allow them to continue to care for themselves, including improved accessibility for storing and preparing their meals.

Older adults need the help of their local community, private partners, state and federal agencies, and us to volunteer and support programs that provide them with nutrition assistance. We can be advocates for better nutrition interventions that are easier to access for every senior who is at risk for food insecurity.

Together we can help solve the crisis of hunger in our seniors.