Tips to Fight Seasonal Allergies in Seniors – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Spring is upon us. The flowers and trees are starting to bloom.

The budding flowers and trees are beautiful, the birds are singing, and the sun is shining, but it also marks the start of seasonal allergies for many.

It is estimated that more than 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from allergies each year.

Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Allergies are often unrecognized — and therefore untreated — in seniors.

It is an inflammatory condition that can have a greater impact on seniors than in the younger population due to age-related changes in their immune systems.

As the pollen level rises, you may hear people say they have hay fever, which is another term for seasonal allergies. They aren’t allergic to hay but seasonal pollen or other irritants.

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

There are a number of symptoms associated with affliction by seasonal allergies.

  1. itchy eyes, nose and throat
  2. sneezing
  3. coughing
  4. stuffy or runny nose
  5. tears
  6. fever
  7. dark circles under your eyes
  8. aches and pains
  9. fatigue and weakness
  10. sleep disturbance

Recognize these in your senior loved one or yourself?

Tips to Prevent Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

You can take some action now to prevent symptoms from slowing your senior down. Some symptoms can lead to more serious illnesses, including sinus infection, ear infections and upper respiratory infections.

  1. When pollen counts start to rise, limit time outdoors
  2. Keep your windows and doors closed when pollen is at its peak
  3. Change your air conditioner filter, keep the air circulating to filter the outdoor air or use an air purifier indoors to clean the air of pollen
  4. Wash your hands frequently especially when returning from the outdoors
  5. Avoid outdoor activities that stir up pollen, such as lawn mowing, and wear a mask if they cannot be avoided
  6. Dry your laundry in the machine, not outdoors on a clothes line, to keep pollen off your clothes and bedding
  7. Avoid visiting with people who have colds
  8. Learn about what triggers your senior’s allergies and avoid the trigger

Hopefully your senior can prevent some of the uncomfortable symptoms from happening to them this spring and summer!

Additional Resources

Here is an informative story which might help you learn more about allergies:

Here are a few articles about spring safety reminders that might be needed at this time of the year too!

Email Safety for Seniors (and the Rest of Us) – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Many seniors took their time in adopting technology such as smartphones and getting online in general.

Fortunately, most are now realizing the benefits and frequently communicating with family, friends and others via email.

They can use a traditional computer or a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone.

The challenge continues to be keeping them and their private information safe during their time spent interfacing with technology.

Email, especially, can be a source of scams and malware for all segments of the population.

Seniors, who are unsuspecting and give away more information than they should, can be even more susceptible. They are trusting and unknowingly too forthcoming with items such as social security numbers and passwords.

How to Keep Seniors Safe When Viewing Emails

According to recent Pew Research reports, such as those Barry often discusses with us, seniors in growing numbers are getting connected and active on the web.

Older adults are keeping up with family and friends via email not only on their home computers but now on smartphones.

Here are a few tips, really reminders, to stay safe when using email:

  1. Never open an email from someone you don’t know. It is very tempting, after all it came to the phone in your pocket, but don’t do it. These are all too often filled with scam offers and viruses that you don’t want.
  2. Don’t give any personal information out through email, including address, social security numbers, passwords or any other private information. Your bank or Credit Card Company should never contact you via email to get information. Don’t even share this personal information with family via email since it can end up in the wrong hands.
  3. Remember that emails are written in ink and can be forwarded to anyone. Be careful what you say because chances are the email you least want others to see will be forwarded all around. Think twice sending an email complaining about your neighbors’ misdeeds or your family arguments — it might just come back around to you.
  4. Don’t open attachments unless you know who is sending it AND you are expecting that from them. Attachments can infect your computer and may come in emails that look like they are from a friend or family member.
  5. Don’t be tempted to click on websites contained in emails. If you want to visit a website identified in an email, type the address directly in the browser because emailed links can mask the real destination and send you to a site with malicious intent.

Additional Resources

Helping Seniors Stay Safe Behind the Wheel – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Age should not be the measuring stick we use to decide if someone should be on the road and behind the wheel.

Driving helps our senior loved ones stay mobile and independent.

We need to determine whether that driver is safe, medically able to drive safely and free from unsafe distractions while driving.

There are accommodations that can be made for seniors in the automobile that they drive as well as more driver’s training, even driving rehab, that can improve the safety of our senior drivers.

Tips to Keep Your Senior Safely in the Driver’s Seat

To help keep drivers safely on the road for a lifetime we have these tips from The Hartford.

  1. Be a healthy driver — getting your senior’s eyes checked, knowing effects of any medications, getting exercise regularly, and getting medical checkups to be healthy behind the wheel.
  2. Keep learning — reminders are helpful, so have your senior attend defensive driver classes in your area; they may even get a break on their automobile insurance.
  3. Adjust to changes in skills as your senior ages; make changes in driving as your senior’s ability changes, such as limit night driving, limit driving in busiest traffic at rush hour or long distance trips.
  4. Choose a safe car that fits your senior-consider comfort and control.
  5. Be sure your senior learns about their car’s safety features to ensure they are used properly.
  6. Keep your senior’s car properly maintained following manufacturer guidelines.
  7. Use the seat belt every time in every car whether you are the driver or a passenger.
  8. Limit driving when the conditions are limited, such as darkness and poor weather.
  9. Don’t drink and drive, limit distractions such as phones, eating, loud music or talking with passengers.

Driving is important to your senior’s independence so help keep them, their car and others on the road safe.

Additional Resources

In addition to these quick tips, we have more information that might help you and your senior loved one learn more about safe driving.

Preventing Malnutrition in Seniors — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Caregivers of seniors are often concerned with the vulnerability of their family members to developing malnutrition as they age and their intakes begin to decline.

Malnutrition in our seniors is estimated to affect one in four older adults.

Not eating right can affect the ability of our seniors to remain independent.

Poor eating habits can affect them physically and mentally, causing loss of muscle strength, improper balance, increased falls, difficulty driving, weight loss, and confusion.

Tips to Increase Food Intake

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers these tips for family caregivers:

  1. Provide plenty of healthy foods and snacks; keep the foods accessible
  2. Flavor foods with fresh herbs and spices avoiding salt
  3. Offer prepackaged supplements when meals are refused or taken poorly
  4. Promote daily exercise, even a little bit throughout the day, to help stimulate appetite and keep muscles strong
  5. Plans social engagements centered around eating and exercise

Hopefully these reminders will give your senior a boost in his or her health!

Additional Resources

Here are some other articles that might provide more information you will find helpful:

Medication Safety is No Accident – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Each day more than 87 people die and over 2200 are treated in emergency rooms for poisoning, most in the home.

Managing medications is a crucial issue for the safety of seniors.

The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists report that “adverse drug reactions are among the top five greatest threats to the health of seniors“.

They also state that:

  • Adverse drug reactions and noncompliance are responsible for 28% of hospitalizations of the elderly
  • 36% of all reported adverse drug reactions involve an elderly individual
  • Each year 32,000 seniors suffer hip fractures caused by a medication-related problem

With many seniors taking multiple prescriptions plus over the counter medicine, there are many opportunities for accidents to happen.

8 Tips for Safe Medication Use

Here are some tips from the American Association of Poison Control Centers to follow to help keep your senior safe.

  1. Ensure they take only prescription medications that are prescribed for them by their healthcare professional.
  2. Always follow the instructions, don’t take more or less dosage or more frequent doses of prescription medications, especially those intended for pain management.
  3. Don’t share or sell prescription drugs. A medication that is right for one person may have severe consequences for another, even if they have the same condition.
  4. Be aware of the warnings on the labels and follow the precautions listed, such as directions to take with food, a warning the drug may cause drowsiness, or instruction to store the in the refrigerator.
  5. Discard medications, both prescription and over the counter, according to their expiration dates.
  6. Keep medicines in their original containers, out of reach of children.
  7. Participate in the National Drug Take Back Days in the local community.
  8. Follow federal guidelines disposal of unused, unneeded or expired prescription drugs.

If a poisoning occurs, it is important to remain calm.

If your senior has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911.

If your senior is awake and alert dial 1-800-222-1222 for the poison control center and receive instructions from them about what action is needed.

Additional Resources

Here is more information from the Food and Drug Administration for Medications and Seniors.

In addition to the FDA, you might find these articles and a family caregiver video to be helpful:

Helping Seniors with Alzheimer’s Eat More – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Family caregivers worry about our senior loved ones getting enough to eat to maintain their strength and health but when Alzheimer’s disease begins to progress, getting them to eat becomes a struggle.

As seniors’ dementia progresses, they may resist eating, forget they have not yet eaten, or forget how to eat.

When helping a senior loved one eat more becomes one of the family caregivers’ roles, there are a number of ways to approach the situation.

Adjustments to Encourage Eating

Here are some tips for caregivers trying to help seniors eat more.

  1. Make the dining atmosphere calm. Restrict distractions, loud noises, or scary TV news. Seat the person with their back to a window or room so that won’t look around or lose their focus.
  2. Eat with them. When the person feels alone it inhibits their intake. Let them observe your role modeling, they usually eat more.
  3. Use brightly colored plates to stimulate their appetite but not colorful, patterned placemats and tablecloths that can be a distraction. Familiar food smells can also increase appetite through memory.
  4. Don’t overwhelm them with too much food. Place a small amount of different foods in small bowls to keep them focused on their food. Finger foods also work well when utensils become confusing.
  5. Give frequent small meals especially if they can’t sit for long enough periods of time so that they will get more to eat by the end of day. Also offer finger foods throughout the day if they are pacing so they can replenish the spent calories they used in wandering.

There are many more things you can do to help them eat more, so keep trying new things until you find some strategies that work for you both.

Additional Discussion

Here are a few articles with more information to help improve your senior’s nutrition:

Preparing for Weather Emergencies – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Caregivers worry about the safety of their senior loved ones during severe weather.

It could be a winter storm, tornado, flooding, earthquake or hurricane depending on the part of the country where your senior may reside.

Each region of the US has its unique weather and potential emergency situations that could pose a safety risk for our seniors.

There are things that family caregivers can do before, during and after a storm to help seniors be safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled resources to help you keep your senior healthy in a disaster.

Before Severe Weather Happens

These are some steps to take before a disaster happens to ensure your senior loved one is prepared.

  1. Talk to local authorities before a storm hits. Inform them about any special needs our senior may have.
  2. Secure your senior’s important papers to keep them safe from loss or damage.
  3. Plan for the safety of your senior’s pets.
  4. Learn about the hazards in your senior’s home and plan for keeping it safe such as shutting off the gas or electric power and securing loose items that could become dangerous objects in a storm.
  5. Have a functioning fire extinguisher handy and be sure everyone knows how to use it.
  6. If it is necessary to seek shelter, locate the closest one and determine how your senior be transported there.
  7. Establish a family disaster plan, including how you will communicate after a storm.

There are more tips you might find helpful on the CDC website.

Additional Discussion

You might also like these articles to further prepare you senior for emergencies of all kinds:

Remember, preparation can make all the difference in helping senior loved ones — and ourselves as family caregivers — get through a weather emergency or other disaster safely and in good health.