Author Archives: Caregiver Connection
Author Archives: Caregiver Connection
Resuscitation saves lives. When someone's heartbeat stops, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is used to get the heart started again.
CPR can be performed in an emergency by a trained emergency response worker, and it can also be provided by a trained bystander if necessary. Regardless of who performs the CPR, the goal of CPR remains the same — to save a life.
The meaning of resuscitate can vary depending on where one's heart stops beating. Resuscitation can involve chest compression and breathing into one's mouth, electric shocks to restart the heart, breathing tubes, and medicines. Hospitals with trained personnel and specialized medical equipment will obviously be more likely to provide effective CPR.
It's unfortunate that most cardiac arrests happen at home, where only about 12% of victims survive if nobody administers CPR. CPR performed by bystanders or medical staff increases this survival rate.
We know that CPR can save lives. However, what if you or someone you know does not wish to be resuscitated in the event of an emergency?
You alone hold the power to choose to be revived or not. This decision is not an easy one, and there are a variety of things to consider before making the decision.
This decision affects not only the individual in question but also those around them. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) means that you will not be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops.
Some people with debilitating illnesses choose not to be resuscitated if they experience cardiac arrest. A DNR order, they figure, can save money for themselves and their loved ones. End-of-life care is not cheap, which partly drives many to consider no resuscitation.
Others choose to create a DNR order because they have a condition that makes resuscitation likely to fail. In this case, a DNR order can prevent additional pain before the end of one's life. CPR is not a gentle procedure and can cause injuries of its own.
These are just a few reasons for signing a DNR form. As always, consult your local healthcare practitioner for help and advice, or if you have any questions.
If you have considered the above and wish to proceed, all you have to do is fill out a Do Not Resuscitate form.
If you do want to be resuscitated in the event of an emergency, you do not have to do anything. Resuscitation is the default decision in an emergency.
You can complete a DNR form with your local doctor. Your doctor will fill out the form with you and answer any questions you may have.
Your doctor can also help you order a Do Not Resuscitate bracelet or necklace. This bracelet is a simple and effective way to display your DNR decision and prevent unwanted resuscitation.
If, at any time, you change your mind, consult your doctor immediately and have them make the change for you. Notify your family and caregivers of your decision as well.
The paperwork and process can vary from state to state, but your local physician will always know how to create a DNR order for you.
Be sure to include your DNR decision in your living will or tell your POA.
A DNR order does not prevent all forms of treatment — it only prevents resuscitation via CPR or a ventilator. There are additional options that one should be aware of when choosing whether to be resuscitated or not.
In addition to creating a DNR order, you can also opt in or out of other forms of treatment, depending on which state you live in:
“Comfort care,” sometimes designated AND (Allow Natural Death), can be specified. In this case, everything will be done to keep a patient comfortable and without pain during their final moments. An AND order can prevent additional pain for those with terminal illnesses. The term “AND” is relatively new and may not be in use in all hospitals. Your physician will be able to understand and assist you in choosing end-of-life comfort care if it is something you want.
If you have questions not addressed below, please consult your local physician.
Both of these signify the event in which one's heart or breath stop, or both.
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) refers to the procedure take to restore someone's heartbeat or breathing. CPR often involves mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compression. More advanced methods of CPR include inserting a tube into a patient to restore breathing, injecting medicines, or shocking the patient with electricity to start their heart beating again.
CPR can be performed by a hospital's staff, or by bystanders. Individuals who are not practicing physicians can take classes and learn CPR so that they can save someone's life in an emergency.
Anyone 18 years of age or older may request a DNR order. If younger than 18, one can request a DNR order if they have graduated from high school and have been married or emancipated.
Sometimes. If someone is able to request a DNR order for himself or herself, then they are the only person who can do so. The only exception to this is if they have given explicit permission for someone else to request a DNR order on their behalf. A living will may include permission for another person to ask for a DNR. If someone is not able to request a DNR for himself or herself, then another person may sometimes decide for them.
Yes, if there is reasonable evidence that a DNR order has been canceled. EMS can also ignore a DNR order if a conscious patient requests to be resuscitated. Family members can sometimes override DNR orders if a patient is unconscious or otherwise unable to voice their desire to EMS. Physicians can also order that a DNR order be ignored.
An “end-stage medical condition” or “terminal condition” is an incurable and irreversible condition in an advanced stage, that will — according to the attending physician — result in death, even if treated.
“Permanently unconsciousness” means that, according to current medical standards, a patient will never regain consciousness. A permanently unconscious patient has entered a coma they will never recover from.
Pneumonia is a well-known word with many unknowns about it. Does having a cough mean pneumonia? Why are elders more susceptible to it than younger adults? Is pneumonia contagious, especially in the elderly? Discovering the answers to your questions about pneumonia can help you prevent this illness, and you’ll be better equipped to handle pneumonia for yourself and for elderly loved ones.
Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. More than a single, simple illness, though, pneumonia is actually a term used to describe a category of lung infections caused by different organisms. When someone has pneumonia, there is a problem somewhere in one or both lungs that causes symptoms of feeling tired, weak, and sometimes very ill.
We need oxygen, nitrogen, and other gasses to live, and it’s the lungs that take these in. If the lungs aren’t operating at peak performance, we suffer. In extreme cases, and especially in high-risk populations like the elderly, it can be fatal.
You can die from pneumonia; however, fatalities from these lung infections are relatively rare. Every year, between two- and three million people develop pneumonia, and approximately 60,000 (or two- three percent) die. Among the elderly, though, the mortality rate is higher. For those over age 65, the death rates from pneumonia can range from 10 to 30 percent, according to a National Institute of Health article.
The risk of death from pneumonia is something to be aware of. Because of their heightened risk of developing pneumonia as well as complications, some people over the age of 65 consider naming someone as their durable power of attorney (What is a durable power of attorney?).
People aged 65 and older contract pneumonia at a higher rate than those under the age of 65. According to a study published in Aging Health and the National Institute of Health, “The actual incidence of pneumonia in the elderly is four-times that of younger populations.”
Why are elders named more susceptible to get pneumonia? According to the same NIH study, there are multiple factors that cause pneumonia risk to increase with age:
As we age, we become increasingly susceptible to developing pneumonia when we’re exposed to viral or bacterial infections. The symptoms of pneumonia that we experience can make us feel miserable.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the infamous pneumonia cough. A seemingly constant, rattling cough that produces phlegm is one of the hallmarks of pneumonia. Pneumonia is, after all, a lung infection, and we cough when our lungs are irritated and unwell.
A cough by itself typically doesn’t mean pneumonia. So how do you know when you have pneumonia? There are distinct symptoms you might experience if you have pneumonia. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, pneumonia symptoms for adults include:
Less common symptoms can include:
Elder adults might actually experience fewer symptoms than their younger counterparts. For adults over the age of 65, symptoms can also be different. In addition to watching for the above symptoms, be on alert for
Complicating matters even more, the elderly may experience milder symptoms than younger adults. The risk with milder symptoms is that an elderly person with pneumonia may not initially appear ill which means that treatment could be delayed and become more difficult.
As mentioned, pneumonia is actually a category of lung infections. There are various types of pneumonia.
Pneumonia can be categorized by its cause. It can arise from a fungal infection or from a parasite. More commonly, though pneumonia is caused by bacteria or viruses.
There are other types of pneumonia, too. These can have any of the above causes.
Regardless of the specific type, pneumonia can be miserable and, for certain people such as the elderly, risky. It makes sense to want to avoid it. To know how to avoid it, it’s helpful to know how you get it.
Wondering whether it is contagious is an important question that will help keep your lungs healthy. The answer depends on who you ask or on the websites you search. Some claim that it’s not contagious while others state emphatically that yes, pneumonia is very contagious. Which is it?
How would you respond if someone asked you if a cold were contagious? Chances are, you’d answer yes. Now imagine a different twist on colds being contagious. You are told that no, colds aren’t contagious. It’s the viruses that cause them that are contagious.
This reasoning is behind the varying answers to whether or not pneumonia is contagious. Viruses and bacteria can spread from one person to another. Sometimes if a virus or bacteria enters into the lungs, it can cause pneumonia. These germs can be spread from person to person, and they can lead to the development of pneumonia.
So how do you get pneumonia? Pneumonia-causing viruses and bacteria can spread in various ways:
Pneumonia typically begins when someone inhales airborne viruses or bacteria. The germs settle directly into the lungs and take hold to cause infection. As the above list indicates, sometimes viruses and bacteria aren’t airborne but instead work their way to the lungs from somewhere else in the body through the bloodstream.
Whether you say that pneumonia is contagious or that the germs that cause pneumonia are contagious, the infection spreads from person to person. Someone can transmit active germs until she’s been fever-free for several days. What about the elderly who might not develop a fever? They’re still contagious, but it’s possible that no one knows it.
Pneumonia is nothing to mess with, especially if you’re in a high-risk population like the elderly. It can be serious, but it’s also treatable.
Treatment varies with the cause. Bacterial pneumonia requires antibiotics, whereas viral pneumonia is mainly treated with lots of rest and fluids. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are often suggested by doctors in order to reduce symptoms and ease discomfort. In severe cases, hospitalization may be needed for more intense delivery of fluids, pneumonia antibiotics, and oxygen.
Just how long does pneumonia last? Duration varies and depends on multiple factors:
It’s important to begin treatment as soon as possible. Symptoms of pneumonia can show up as early as the next day after exposure to as long as 10 days following exposure. In adults under the age of 65 who are otherwise healthy, pneumonia can disappear in two- to three weeks. In high-risk groups such as the elderly, it can last for six- to eight weeks or longer.
Regardless of your age, what can you do to prevent getting pneumonia? Follow these prevention guidelines to give your lungs the best chance at avoiding infection:
Pneumonia is a lung infection to be taken seriously. High-risk populations like elder adults are especially vulnerable. With proper treatment and prevention, pneumonia’s symptoms can be lessened and the body can heal.
If you were caught in a medical emergency and couldn’t speak for yourself, what procedures would you want to be performed? Who do you trust to make those decisions? We rarely consider these questions until tragedy strikes. However, creating a power of attorney allows you to name a friend or loved one to represent you, and ensure that your wishes are carried out.
A power of attorney is defined as a type of legal agreement between two parties. One party, referred to as the “grantor” or “principal,” authorizes another party, referred to as the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact,” to make legal decisions on their behalf. The grantor either names a single person to be their agent or creates a dual power of attorney, in which multiple agents are empowered.
A power of attorney allows the attorney-in-fact to represent the grantor in legal matters. Depending on the terms of the agreement, agents take a variety of actions on behalf of their principal. They represent the grantor in business transactions or even make decisions about medical care for the grantor.
In a conventional power of attorney, the agreement is nullified if the grantor is incapacitated or otherwise mentally incapable of making decisions. So, what is a durable power of attorney? A durable power of attorney stays in place at all times, even if the grantor is incapacitated.
Specific requirements for a power of attorney will vary from one jurisdiction to another. Be sure to check your local laws before entering into such an agreement. However, there are a few broad requirements that are common no matter where you live.
Like with most legal agreements, both parties must be mentally sound to enter into a power of attorney. For this reason, it is crucial to put an agreement in place before an emergency happens. If you are injured or suffer a severe mental illness, you won’t be able to grant power of attorney.
Some jurisdictions allow for oral powers of attorney. However, most institutions, such as banks, hospitals, and the IRS will require a written agreement. A written agreement must be signed by both parties. In some states, the agreement may also need to be witnessed or signed by a notary public. Even if not required, these extra steps can ensure that your power of attorney is stronger and less susceptible to legal challenges.
Even though we only think of a power of attorney when dealing with medical emergencies, there are a wide variety of types, for different purposes. These include:
A durable power of attorney, sometimes called a “DPOA,” is a special type of arrangement. Unlike a standard power of attorney, a durable power of attorney is not cancelled if the grantor is mentally incapacitated. This allows the attorney-in-fact to make important legal decisions on the grantor’s behalf, especially when the grantor is incapable of doing so themselves.
Most commonly, grantors use a durable power of attorney for health care to allow for medical decisions to be made if the grantor can’t. If you suffer a major injury or illness and fall into a coma, your attorney-in-fact can decide how doctors proceed with treatment, according to your wishes.
Depending on the specific details of the power of attorney agreement, an attorney-in-fact can have a variety of responsibilities. A health care power of attorney usually steps in when their grantor is incapacitated by illness or injury. They specify what medical procedures the grantor wants or does not want to be performed, or what sort of end of life care they want.
A financial power of attorney grants access to financial accounts and gives instructions for managing a grantor’s business dealings. In such a case, the attorney-in-fact might manage business transactions or even make stock trades for the grantor.
Since an attorney-in-fact is considered a fiduciary of the grantor, he or she is legally obligated to be honest with the grantor and follow their instructions as directly as possible. The attorney-in-fact must act in accordance with the grantor’s instructions, rather than under their own judgement. Breaking the rules of the power of attorney could be grounds for a lawsuit against the attorney-in-fact.
Despite the many benefits of a power of attorney, there are also disadvantages to be considered. First and foremost, the wording of the agreement must be carefully considered. Careless wording could lead to giving out legal powers that you never intended. Work closely with your lawyer to decide exactly what powers and responsibilities you want for your attorney-in-fact.
The second biggest concern when creating a power of attorney is determining who to name as your attorney-in-fact. While we all believe the best of our family members, they may not have our best interests at heart or the capabilities to handle such a position. Untrustworthy agents have taken advantage of grantors many times in the past, often when dealing with elderly grantors. Misusing a power of attorney is a common form of elder abuse.
The only person qualified to give real legal advice is a licensed attorney. Always consult your lawyer before entering into a legal agreement to protect your interests.
If someone doesn’t have a durable power of attorney in place when an emergency occurs, their personal affairs can be thrown into chaos. Bank accounts and medical care providers have layers of security to protect their clients, but this security can backfire. Without prior legal authorization, family members often are left powerless to help their relative.
In such a case, often the only option available is to go before a court. A judge can then appoint a conservator or a legal guardian to handle the incapacitated person’s affairs. However, this process is expensive, time-consuming, and prone to fighting between family members.
Setting out a plan in advance by creating a durable power of attorney prevents a great deal heartache for your family during an already stressful time. Relatives won’t have to make painful decisions during a time of crisis.
Even though they both take effect in similar situations, a living will is very different from a power of attorney. Each has their own purposes and restrictions. It may even be in your best interest to make use of both in order to properly prepare for emergency situations.
Unlike a power of attorney, a living will doesn’t empower anyone on your behalf. Instead, it provides instructions for friends and relatives on how to carry out your wishes in case of a medical emergency. Note that a living will only covers your choices regarding medical care. If you want to leave your family members instructions for your finances or any other non-medical concerns, a power of attorney is required.
Most often, a living will describes procedures to be taken in case of an illness or injury which you won’t recover from, such as a coma or other incapacitating medical condition. Many may specify that an individual does not want to be kept on life support indefinitely, or that they do not want to be resuscitated in case of cardiac or respiratory failure.
This clause is often referred to as a Do Not Resuscitate order, or DNR. This is one of the most common applications of the living will among terminal patients and the elderly. Measures taken by the living will can range from consent surgical procedures to palliative, or comfort care. Living wills can also specify whether you want to donate your organs, or if you want your body to be donated to an institution for scientific study. Above all, a living will eliminates guesswork regarding the tough questions your family members may have to face in the event of an emergency.
However, a living will does not give any specific individual the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. It only lays out what actions you want to be taken. This authority must be designated to a medical proxy, often given through durable power of attorney. For this reason, a durable power of attorney is crucial. Once signed, your attorney-in-fact can use your living will as guidance on what to do during an emergency.
It is imperative to set up these important measures sooner rather than later to put your mind and the minds of your loved ones at ease. Don’t wait. Talk to your lawyer about your power of attorney and living will today.
According to the American Psychological Association, 80 percent of Americans die in hospitals or other institutional settings. However, physicians often have a much different view of end-of-life care than family members or the patients themselves.
Doctors don’t always have expertise in emotional support or symptom management. Talking about dying is taboo even for professionals. The conversation changes when loved ones are involved. These caregivers share stories about what they learned from giving end-of-life care.
Donna M. Nickitas, a nurse and university professor, was comfortable talking about the factors associated with dying and hospice services. However, when it was time to address the situation with Grace, her older sister, who was dying from cancer, Nickitas felt lost.
In New Conversations About End-Of-Life Care, Nickitas explains the difference between providing professional care and supporting a family member in need. What she learned was that physicians tend to do everything in their power to prolong life. Family members fear setting up palliative care because they fear that it will signal a loss of hope.
However, early planning for palliative services can help someone live with a serious illness instead of suffering until the very end. Treatment for medical conditions is important, but so is daily quality of life. Having conversations about palliative care early on can create a smooth transition that isn’t put on the back burner because of heartache and acute emotion. Having clarity about end-of-life care can help caregivers support their family members instead of battling the unknown.
When Beverly shared her story about caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s disease on the Alzheimer’s Association website, she stressed that loss can be a learning experience for a caregiver. What Beverly learned from her mother is that the loss of memories does not diminish your value as a person. Instead, you internalize every experience as you live your life.
As you get older, every emotion that you’ve had, every challenge that you’ve overcome and every ounce of grief that you’ve suffered helps you to get through the present moments. Beverly drew from her life experience to find the fleeting instants of joy that came with providing care for her elderly mother.
One story, recounted at CaregiverStress.com, explains how sharing reality with a dying loved one can help everyone feel supported at the end of life. The author resisted being honest about death and walked on eggshells when the subject would come up. However, blocking out what’s really going on can prevent your loved one from expressing his or her emotions.
Instead of hiding your feelings, let them out. You’ll reassure your dying loved one that you understand the situation. You may even help your friend or family member feel relieved that he or she doesn’t have to pretend that everything is ok. Admitting that death is around the corner isn’t a sign that you’ve given up; it’s simply an indication that you understand the situation. You don’t have to sweep what’s happening under the rug. It’s okay to express fear, sadness and uncertainty.
Opening up can help you create meaningful memories at the end of someone’s life. A dying individual may find closure in recalling joyful times. They may feel the need to seek forgiveness and gratitude within themselves. Allow them to express their wishes, and be there for them even if it’s uncomfortable for you.
It’s easy to focus on everything that seems to be going wrong when you’re a caregiver. At Reading Eagle, Harry Dietz recounts the privilege of caring for Mary Ellen, his ailing wife, even when things were intensely difficult.
Dietz first sensed that something was different about his wife when he saw her walking stiffly. He thought that she may have suffered a stroke. She was actually in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Mary Ellen was also diagnosed with several other serious medical conditions in rapid succession.
Although Dietz was her primary caregiver, he had help and support from family members. However, he was grateful that he could be there for her through this overwhelming time. He kept a journal, in which he shared the thoughts that he couldn’t express to his wife.
He wondered what would happen if he wasn’t around to care for Mary Ellen. He worried that he might only remember the bad memories after she was gone.
However, he received help to take care of her, and he ended up remembering mostly the good times. Dietz is grateful for every conversation that he had with his wife toward the end of her life, no matter how jumbled and confused it may have been. Although the emptiness that he feels now is unfathomable, Dietz says that he learned so much from his wife in her final years.
The main thread in all of these stories is that caring for a dying loved one can be heartbreaking. However, within the despair comes forgiveness, gratitude and unconditional love. Being honest and mindful about those emotions can help everyone get through the torment that comes with end-of-life care.
According to WebMD, most people experience a peak in muscle mass in their 30s, and it’s all downhill from there. If you don’t get enough of the right exercise, you may lose up to 5 percent of your muscle mass every year as you age. It’s a vicious cycle. As you lose muscle, you lose strength, making it more challenging to exercise.
Your metabolism also slows down, and it’s easy to pack on the pounds. Maintaining muscle mass is one of the keys to keeping excess weight off if you’re over 60. Here are some other tips for losing weight as you age.
Although health conditions and pain may prevent you from moving around as frequently as you used to, exercise is important for wellness and weight loss. Keep moving as much as you can in your 60s.
You may not be able to jog 3 miles, but you can take a leisurely walk. Move your arms and legs. Do as much strength training and stretching as you can. The more you work your muscles and soft tissue, the less likely you’ll be to lose mobility and transition into a sedentary lifestyle.
Plus, if you never stop exercising, you’ll never feel like you have to start a new exercise plan as you age. Instead, you’ll transition your workout routine as your body changes.
According to Prevention, the area of your brain that controls thirst becomes less sensitive as you get older. You may not feel thirsty even when you’re slightly dehydrated. Make it a point to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Setting reminders on your phone can help.
Water is vital to metabolism and digestion. You may also mistake thirst for hunger and take in more calories than necessary. Drinking enough water can help everything in your body run smoothly and keep you feeling satisfied.
Resistance exercise is important for your bones as well as your muscles. However, keeping your muscles strong will keep your metabolism resilient. When you have more muscle, you burn more calories even while you’re sitting or sleeping. You may want to consult with a professional trainer who has experience working with seniors so that you avoid injury.
Protein consumption supports lean muscle development. This Today’s Dietician article explains that seniors should consume about 1 gram to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
An easy way to get protein is to consume eggs, protein powder, fish and meat. According to the Mayo Clinic, leucine, an amino acid found in many animal products, is especially helpful for preserving muscle.
If you’re not exercising and watching what you eat, you might actually gain weight consistently as you get older. Therefore, don’t be discouraged if you have trouble losing it. Sometimes, it’s necessary to figure out what you need to do to maintain your weight before you can take steps to lose it. If the scale has slowly crept up over the years, keeping it stable is a realistic goal.
Your body takes longer to respond to changes when you’re older. You might not be able to push yourself as hard as you could when you were younger. Be gentle with yourself. Understand that sticking with a healthy eating and exercise routine will help your weight take care of itself.
Although studies show that moderate alcohol consumption can be perfectly fine, seniors may not want to overindulge. Your liver plays a key role in digestion. As you age, your digestion slows down. If you harm your liver further by drinking too much alcohol, your ability to lose weight will be impaired.
Sticking to a workout or diet regimen can be hard if you don't have support. Enlist your friends to help you stay steady. Cooking or exercising together can give you the social motivation to remain on track. Being social can also boost your mood, encouraging you to maintain healthy habits.
Medical problems and other factors can lead to malnutrition in seniors. Make every bite count if you’re trying to lose weight. Choose colorful, fresh foods, and stay away from bland, highly processed foods. An omelet with kale and red peppers is more nutritious than a bagel.
The variation provided in a healthy diet will also prevent you from feeling deprived. Focus on all of the clean meats, fruits and vegetables that you can eat instead of the packaged snacks and sweets that you’re trying to avoid.
It can be easy to lose motivation when you’re dealing with new challenges, such as health problems and pain. Try not to view these as barriers to weight loss. Instead, go with the flow. You’ve gotten this far in life. Use your experience to develop solutions to work around obstacles instead of letting them get you down. If you view life as a constant transition, you’ll be more flexible when you hit a stumbling block.
According to The Alliance For Aging Research, approximately 3.7 million American seniors are malnourished. You would think that seniors receiving care in hospitals and long-term residential facilities would have their basic nutritional needs met. However, these older adults are more likely to suffer from poor nutrition. Malnutrition is not just a problem for people in other countries who don’t have access to healthy food. It’s a surprising epidemic that affects elderly individuals in the U.S.
The body needs the right nutrients to remain healthy. As people age, their dietary needs change. They may lose their sense of smell and taste. Their digestive systems slow down.
Health problems that plague the elderly can affect their ability and desire to eat. In some cases, chewing and swallowing is difficult. The body’s ability to absorb nutrients decreases. Diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression and Parkinson’s can increase the risk of malnutrition in this age group.
Seniors need to focus on nutrition. The National Council on Aging reports that about 92 percent of all seniors have at least one chronic disease. Although medical conditions can decrease the desire to eat, individuals need optimal nutrition to promote healing.
Also, seniors require fewer calories as they age. That means that they need to pack every bite with vitamins and minerals to provide the sustenance that their bodies require. The World Health Organization explains that micronutrient deficiencies are common in seniors. Older adults should strive to take in the following six nutrients to help ensure their health as they age.
Your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 declines with every birthday. Gastrointestinal disorders or surgeries can exacerbate this issue. Severe deficiency can cause pernicious anemia, spinal cord deterioration, weakness, numbness, mood changes, confusion or dementia.
Vitamin B12 is plentiful in many animal-based foods, such as fish, meat, chicken, eggs and milk. Seniors who don’t eat meat are at a greater risk of developing a deficiency. Supplementing with an oral vitamin or a regular injection may increase the chance of properly absorbing this nutrient.
Folate, or folic acid, is another B vitamin that’s vital for your health. Seniors who don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables may not get enough folate. However, other factors may come into play.
Drinking too much alcohol can inhibit your intestines’ ability to absorb folic acid. Some drugs can also interfere with folate assimilation. If you don’t get enough of this vitamin, you may experience fatigue and diarrhea. You may also increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disorders and cancer, according to U.S. Pharmacist.
Chronic, severe vitamin C deficiency results in scurvy. Although this condition is no longer a prevalent problem in the U.S., seniors may still suffer from mild deficiency. According to a research article published in Sage Journals, 40 percent of seniors in a geriatric ward may not get enough of the vitamin.
We associate vitamin C with immune function. Many people think vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, can help ward off the common cold. However, research hasn’t proven that vitamin C can cure the sniffles.
What it can do is improve the connective tissue in the body. Collagen is necessary for skin growth and restoration. Without enough vitamin C, collagen production is diminished. This leaves people more susceptible to bed sores. Wounds may also take longer to heal.
Smoking and hemodialysis can interfere with vitamin C metabolism. Seniors should make sure that they’re eating enough vitamin-C-rich foods or take a supplement. However, overdoing the vitamin C can cause gastrointestinal issues and excess iron absorption.
Many seniors, especially those who live in an extended care facility, don’t go outside enough. Lack of sun exposure can cause vitamin D deficiency.
Although many people associate calcium with healthy bones, vitamin D shouldn’t be neglected. People who don’t get enough vitamin D may be more likely to have osteoporosis, muscle weakness, bone fractures and hip problems. Low vitamin D is also associated with diabetes, cancer, heart disease and arthritis.
Most foods don’t naturally contain vitamin D. The best way to get this vitamin is to expose the skin to sunlight. However, seniors may have a harder time synthesizing vitamin D from sunlight than they did when they were younger. People with darker skin don’t produce as much vitamin D in this manner as people with light skin. Seniors should talk to their doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement.
Magnesium helps regulate glucose and blood pressure. It’s also involved in more than 300 of the body’s processes. Magnesium deficiency has been linked with neural disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, heart problems and hormonal imbalance.
Many foods lose magnesium as they’re processed. Getting enough fresh, whole foods can help seniors consume enough of this nutrient.
The importance of fiber consumption in the elderly is cliché for a reason. Intestinal motility slows down as you get older, making it more important to eat enough fiber. Even though fiber is not absorbed, it helps clean out the intestines and keep everything moving. Seniors should also drink enough water to support optimal intestinal function.
Empty calories play a part in senior malnutrition. It can be easier to grab processed foods that contain few nutrients than to cook fresh foods from scratch. Seniors should work closely with a medical professional to ensure that they’re getting the right nutrition to help them live longer and avoid health problems.
The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is exploding, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The worldwide costs associated with caring for patients with the disease are estimated to total more than $600 billion. One in nine American seniors over age 65 have the disease, and 16 million more Americans will be diagnosed by 2050 if a cure isn’t found, says Alzheimers.net. No cure currently exists for this common disease that affects many elders. However, scientists are racing against time to come up with effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease.
A recent study led by Dr. Li-Huei Tsai at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has uncovered a promising technique for helping people with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers flashed a strobe light near rodents that had brain damage similar to that of Alzheimer’s patients. When the mice were exposed to the light for an hour, protective cells in their brains swallowed up toxic proteins that are correlated with the disease.
The disease is a type of dementia that’s characterized by forgetfulness and confusion. It progresses over the years, causing memory loss that can affect everyday function. People with Alzheimer’s may ask the same question over and over, forget where they placed objects, lose track of where they are and forget common words.
Although the disease itself is not fatal, the breakdown of brain functions can lead to serious complications. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble feeding themselves or moving around. This puts them at risk for falls, infection, dehydration, blood clots and pneumonia.
To understand how the treatment works, it’s important to comprehend what causes the disease. Doctors have noticed that people with Alzheimer’s have significant changes in their brains. One of these changes is the development of plaques. The sticky clumps of beta-amyloid proteins get in the way of neural communication.
Experts aren’t sure exactly how these plaques cause brain cells to die. They do know that they interfere with brain function and may eventually cause neurons to stop firing. When that happens, symptoms of Alzheimer’s begin to appear.
The processes that cause the devastating disease may be at work for 10 to 20 years before an individual experiences any symptoms. By the time symptoms show up, your brain cells may have been damaged by up to 50 percent. The amyloid plaques that wreak havoc in the brain are also found in the retina.
Neurologists are trying to determine whether it’s possible to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by detecting the protein in the eye, according to an analysis published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. There is no conclusive evidence for the practice, but it offers promising insight. Scientists are saying that if you can test for markers of the disease in your 50s, you might be able to use certain therapies to protect your brain cells as you age.
The brain is always vibrating at a particular frequency. Neural oscillation occurs in waves. The role of brainwaves is not completely understood. However, researchers have noticed that altering the rhythm of gamma waves in the brain can prevent plaques from forming.
Gamma wave activity may be impaired in brains that are predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to this MIT article. The strobe light used in the study regulated gamma waves at 40 hertz in certain areas of the brain. Other frequencies did not have the same effect.
Experts have tried to use medication to inhibit plaque buildup, but the results have been discouraging. The light therapy seems to work better, and it doesn’t come with side effects. Moreover, light therapy is not painful or invasive.
Dr. Tsai’s study involved using a light that flashes 40 times per second. That’s a faster flicker than a strobe light at a disco. It’s barely perceptible, yet it has dramatic effects. An hour of exposure resulted in a reduction in beta amyloid for up to 24 hours in the parts of the brain responsible for memory and vision. The outcome was more dramatic when the therapy was conducted every day for seven days.
The light works by stimulating an immune cell response, says BBC. Microglia are the primary immune defense cells in the central nervous system. They seek out and destroy plaques, damaged brain cells, and infectious agents. When gamma waves were stimulated in rodents, the microglia was activated and cleared out more beta amyloid proteins.
The gamma waves also reduced the levels of Tau protein, which twist into tangles within brain cells. These kinks obstruct neural communication and may be partially responsible for brain cell decline.
Tsai’s researchers are extending their research to investigate whether the light can affect other regions of the brain. However, the results have yet to be studied in humans. Also, some experts believe that targeting beta amyloid isn’t the right course of action for Alzheimer’s research, according to CNBC.
Still, there is a lot of excitement surrounding this work. If humans’ brains respond to the light the way mouse brains do, there is a great deal of promise in this gentle treatment.
Researchers have found that interaction with pets can lower blood pressure as much as some medications. Therapy animals have also been shown to reduce anxiety, improve cardiovascular health and reduce psychological stress.
Animals have worked alongside people for centuries whether or not they’ve been in the health care industry. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, some dolphins and sea lions work for the U.S. military. The African giant pouched rat works as a land mine detector. Miniature horses are gaining popularity as guide animals. Oreo, a previously stray cat, oversees residents at St. Augustine Health Ministries, a nursing home in Cleveland, Ohio.
Oreo had lived outside of the facility for years. Residents were familiar with her. Visitors recognized her. She was like that nosy neighbor who keeps coming around, except Oreo wasn’t meddlesome. She is as curious as any cat, and her peaceful demeanor helped her become part of the St. Augustine family.
This “oreo cat” cat isn’t pushy. She tends to stay in her own space. She doesn’t usually jump up on people’s laps. However, she welcomes head rubs and belly massages. If she’s curled up on a chair, she will purr and roll over contentedly when a visitor reaches out to her.
Oreo’s main job is to keep morale high. When employees are having a bad day, they immediately smile when they see the cat. The residents like to have her around.
Many of the residents had to say goodbye to their family pets when they entered the facility. Leaving four-legged companions behind can be one of the hardest challenges for seniors who move into a nursing home. By providing a home for the animal, the facility managers say that they’re also making the atmosphere more personal for the residents.
Oreo brings normalcy to an environment that can be distressing for some individuals, especially when they first move in. Because many of the patients wouldn’t be able to care for their own animal, they feel empowered by the fact that Oreo sticks around. Every resident has a hand in nurturing the cat. Experts also say that people tend to experience more health benefits from having a pet around when they aren’t burdened by pet care.
In accordance with typical feline behavior, Oreo has some quirky habits. One day, she’ll pop her head up from behind the reception desk. Another day, she’ll take over an empty wheelchair. She accompanies residents as they hang out around the facility. A favorite activity among residents and employees is snapping photos of the cat in peculiar positions.
One thing about cats is that they tend to show their authority. They take charge without asking for permission. Oreo is no different. She’s usually not mischievous, but she’s confident about where she goes and who she hangs out with. If she’s taking over the chair in the common room, she might not move unless you scratch between her ears.
St. Augustine is also home to Coco, a small dog who snuggles with residents. However, Coco hasn’t generated the same stir as Oreo. Maybe it’s the feline’s confidence that has made her famous. In addition to being known and loved by everyone who has met her in person, Oreo is also well-known across the internet. Her story has gone viral. The world can’t help but fall in love with her.
Dana Carns, the director of the advancement at the nursing home, says that St. Augustine needs Oreo just as much as Oreo needs the facility as a home. According to the National Service Animal Registry, therapy animals provide healing, relaxing and restorative benefits to people in nursing homes and hospitals. Many of the residents at St. Augustine have been separated from their families. Some of them have been through medical trauma, such as strokes or brain injuries.
Therapy animals are not the same as service animals. While service animals are protected under federal law, there are no official provisions for therapy animals. However, therapy animals may be registered under the National Service Animal Registry.
Some therapy animals are owned by individuals who donate their time to bring the pets to various facilities. Others live on site. Some are trained to assist patients who need help due to physical or mental impairment. These companions must have an even temperament and calm demeanor.
Cats and dogs aren’t the only creatures that make great therapy animals. According to Mercola Healthy Pets, llamas and alpacas are gaining a following in the field. They’re friendly and gentle, and many people fall in love with their sweet faces. VetStreet says that potbellied pigs make ideal therapy animals because they’re sociable and portable. They’re especially useful when working with children who have had scary experiences with dogs.
Although Oreo the cat is not officially a therapy cat, she serves the same purpose. She brings comfort, affection, and companionship to people in need.
Depression is a prevalent disease among all ages of people but is particularly common in older populations. Previously, depression in the elderly was confused with other illnesses and often overlooked compared to depression in younger populations.
Throughout your lifetime you go through many changes and significant life events. It’s okay to feel grief and sadness during those times. However, the clinical depression definition is when those feelings of emptiness and despair remain constant.
Fortunately, researchers have done more extensive studying on the effects of depression in older adults, and how to treat it effectively.
Overall, the key signs and symptoms of depression are similar between the elderly and younger adults, but researchers have found a couple of noticeable differences.
One interesting difference is that elderly adults with depression don’t usually claim to feel sad like younger people do. However, they do complain of other physical symptoms of depression.
A study was done by the NCBI on depression among young and elderly patients. They found that about two-thirds of elderly patients suffered from at least two or more physical disorders. On the other hand, the majority of young patients were physically healthier.
The study also showed that out of all the patients that received treatment for depression, the elderly patients had a much greater chance of recovering than the younger patients getting the same treatment.
It’s important to be aware of the different signs and symptoms of elderly depression because the best way to treat depression is by recognizing it. Some of the signs and symptoms are:
Since depression can cause difficulty sleeping, it may lead to insomnia or vice versa. Research from the American Psychological Association revealed that “Insomnia often begins with anxiety due to stressful life events whereas persistent insomnia may be a risk factor for the development of depression.”
The most common insomnia pattern that occurs in seniors is late, or advanced sleep phase. This is when you fall asleep easily and sleep without disturbance, but end up waking very early and find it hard to return to sleep.
Sleep deprivation gets written off as a typical sign of aging and gets ignored, but if depression goes untreated, it can lead to more chronic insomnia and a worse case of depression.
Doctors usually treat insomnia with natural sleep medicine. Although if that doesn’t work, they may prescribe other medications or psychotherapy.
A couple of different things can cause senior depression such as certain medical conditions, side effects of a medication, a family history of depression or a traumatic life event occurring.
Depression is not a normal part of aging, but there are some risk factors that you should pay attention to.
Serious medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, chronic pain, stroke and heart failure are all associated with high risks of depression.
Seniors needing hospitalization or home health care are at a higher risk.
An article by the NY Times explained that smoking and depression are closely associated. People who quit smoking face a 25% higher chance of becoming depressed and they are at an increased risk for at least six months.
Suicide is one of the third leading cause of death in the elderly, and single, divorced or widowed seniors account for most of these suicides.
The good news is that once depression is recognized, there are several different ways to treat it. There are things you can do at home for treatment as well as getting professional help.
Stay social and nurture your relationships with loved ones. This is a good opportunity to invite family over to dinner, go volunteer or meet new people at a community center.
Keep a healthy diet and make sure you're giving your body all the vitamins and minerals that it needs. In addition to a healthy diet, try to get regular physical activity and find new ways to keep yourself active.
Make an effort to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. To help you sleep better, avoid caffeine or alcohol before bedtime. Or, try using melatonin as a more natural way to help you fall asleep.
Sometimes the use natural supplements or herbs can treat mild symptoms of depression. It is best to consult a doctor before trying any natural remedy as they can interfere with some medications.
St. John’s Wort – This herbal supplement has been known to treat depression.
SAMe – This supplement has a synthetic chemical that is produced naturally in your body.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – These natural fats have shown to help people suffering from depression and bipolar disorder.
Saffron – This herbal supplement treats certain symptoms of depression.
There two types of therapy you can do such as group counseling or one on one therapy. Both of these ways are effective in treating the cause of depression.
Sometimes your brain has a hard time creating chemicals such as dopamine that make you happy. When that happens, your doctor may prescribe antidepressant medications to treat your depression.
As we get older, it becomes easier to allow the things that we once enjoyed to slip to the wayside. You might have an elderly parent or patient that was a tennis pro back in the day, but these days, they’re not up for more than an hour long movie on television or a walk around the block- and that’s okay.
However, if you’re hoping to encourage your loved one to try new things, you can use these tips as a guideline for helping them find activities that suit their physical and mental capabilities.
We are chameleons through all stages of life, and our needs and bodies can change wildly. However, you’ll always need to have fun regardless of how old you get. It’s important that our elderly loved ones never feel like fun is off of the table because of their age.
Here are a few ways to keep your elderly family members or patients connected with all the age appropriate activities that are available to them:
There’s plenty of crafts for seniors that will keep them stimulated for hours. If an illness like arthritis isn’t an issue for your elderly loved one, an afternoon at the craft store can be the first step in finding an activity that allows your senior to be creative while having fun.
Knitting is an activity that requires laser focus, but yields a result like a beautiful blanket, scarf, or hat.
If your loved one isn’t interested in traditional crafts, it’s a good idea to try an activity like baking a batch of sweets that both of you can share.
If you’d like to help your elderly relative or neighbor keep their mind sharp, activities like playing video games and gardening can help. The use of your short term memory, attention span, and reasoning skills are the ingredients to a fun afternoon of video games.
While experts in the gaming industry have yet to create a perfect set of games for seniors, it’s more than worth it to see if your senior is interested. Try playing a multiplayer RPG with your loved one, or introducing them to single player simulation games like The Sims. If video games don’t pique their interest, consider an activity that allows them to unplug. Gardening requires a great use of brain power and gives them a chance to be under the sun’s rays.
The sun will provide a much-needed boost in Vitamin D. A University of Manchester study conducted by a group of scientists proved that older individuals with low levels of vitamin D process information more slowly than those that did have normal or high levels of vitamin D, and this was especially true for men and women over the age of 69.
Can your gray haired mother still run circles around you on the court or the track? Was your father a tennis pro back in the day?
Fit seniors that prefer to get their blood pumping might enjoy a bi weekly game of badminton. While badminton still gets your blood pumping and gives you a chance to get oxygen flowing throughout your body, it’s still gentler than its high- intensity cousin, tennis.
Additionally, if your loved one doesn’t suffer from mobility limitations, then attending one hour of a Vinyasa Yoga class a few times a week is the perfect way to keep them active.
However, if your aging parent or patient can’t make it through more than one rotation of the Sun Salute without throwing in the towel, there are plenty of other physical activities for seniors that can help them stay fit. If the weather is nice, try encouraging them to take a walk around their block. They’ll be more comfortable since the route is in a familiar area, and significantly less intimidated by exercising if the key to staying fit is a scenic route around their neighborhood while sharing some of their favorite memories from the past.
If they’re more of a homebody or a long walk isn’t physically possible for them, you can always join them for an hour or two of one of their favorite classic film or television show.
If you’re considering moving your loved one to a nursing home, you’ll want to take a few extra steps to ensure that not only are they getting the physical care that they need, but that they’re going to be entertained and content in their new home.
To ensure that the transition has as few bumps as possible, you should schedule a meeting with the head director of the nursing home to find out if the facility offers programs such as dance classes, movie nights, and field trips to local museums.
It’s a great opportunity for your elderly family member or patient to have a face to face conversation with the head of the facility that will help them find out if they will be content living there for years to come.
If you or a relative has taken on the role of a caregiver for an elderly family member, it’s important that your loved one is immersed in low- stress activities that will help them feel more independent. You should consider purchasing a book on seniors’ activity ideas in order to stay up to date on the best methods on caring for a loved one.
If the senior that you’re working with doesn’t suffer from any issues with long or short term memory loss, try helping them learn how to use a laptop or tablet with a front facing camera. Having the internet readily available can provide hours of entertainment, and more importantly, can help eliminate the possibility of elderly isolation.
A study conducted at UCLA revealed that seniors that are lonely are more likely to suffer from depression and a higher mortality rate. In order to help your family member stay connected, introduce them to the video chat feature so that they can catch up with long distance children or grandchildren. However, accompanying them on an IRL outing to see their favorite musician play can ward off symptoms of feeling blue, and help them appreciate spending time with their loved ones and everything that life has to offer.