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How to Manage Polypharmacy in the Elderly

Polypharmacy is a significant issue for the elderly population, affecting as many as four in ten members of this age group.

What is Polypharmacy?

Polypharmacy is the simultaneous use of multiple medications (typically 5+), usually to treat a single issue. It is especially common in areas like pain management, where several different kinds of medication, including antidepressants, muscle relaxants, opioids, and antiepileptics are often used to create an effect greater than their parts.

The polypharmacy definition does not include the sequential use of different medications at different stages of treatment. Sequential use is a normal form of medication management and not a cause for concern.

There are times in which polypharmacy is the appropriate treatment, but doctors try to avoid it because of the consequences associated with it (see below).

Types of Polypharmacy

There are two types of polypharmacy – therapeutic and contratherapeutic polypharmacy.

Therapeutic Polypharmacy occurs as a result of direction and monitoring by one or more clinicians. It is almost always used for a specific therapeutic goal, and both the drugs and their relative amounts are usually set beforehand to ensure there are as few complications as possible.

Contratherapeutic Polypharmacy usually occurs when an individual is not being monitored properly. This can happen because a patient is taking medication without a doctor's direction, fails to disclose all of the medications they are taking, or continues to take a drug past the time they should have stopped. Some cases of contratherapeutic polypharmacy are deliberate, but others occur entirely on accident.

What Causes Polypharmacy?

There are many different causes of polypharmacy. The most direct cause is that the polypharmacy is intentional – and when it is the goal, it's usually less of a problem than the issue it's trying to solve.

Other potential causes of polypharmacy include:

  • Taking The Wrong Pills: Patients may have old medication lying around the house and begin taking them on accident. This can lead to accidental polypharmacy when their doctor believes they're taking a different drug and accounts for that instead.
  • Deliberate Consumption: Some people take medicine they don't need. This is particularly common with addictive substances like opioids, where patients may be hesitant to reveal their use of a drug.
  • Too Many Medical Issues: Patients who are suffering from multiple problems may be prescribed medication for each of them, which can lead to unintended drug interactions.
  • Taking Pills At Home: Polypharmacy isn't limited to pills prescribed by a doctor. Over-the-counter medications that people take at home, like aspirin, can contribute to polypharmacy. So taking this sort of drug when you're on something else can trigger the problems described below.
  • Managing Side Effects: At times, drugs are given to help manage the side effects of other medications. If too many side effects need management, polypharmacy can set in. Since most side effects don't affect everyone who takes a given pill, it can be difficult for doctors to know ahead of time whether or not a specific medication will trigger issues that require polypharmacy to manage.
  • Lingering Medication: Some medication is processed quickly, while other drugs can stay in the body for an extended period. Lingering medicines can cause polypharmacy even if you're no longer taking the drug, which is why you should tell your doctor about any medications you stopped taking in the last three months.

While taking too many pills usually doesn't cause much damage in the short-term (1-3 days), long-term medicine errors polypharmacy can be dangerous.

Well-known interactions are listed on a given drug's instructions, usually after some variation of “do not take this drug if you are taking any of the following.” It is vital that you read this section of your medication's instructions before taking it, even if your doctor wrote you a prescription. Pharmacies sometimes change the prescription if they don't have a given drug on hand, and they may not know what other drugs you're taking.

Consequences of Polypharmacy

There are several significant consequences of polypharmacy.

Financial Costs

Taking too many drugs can be incredibly draining on one's wallet, especially for seniors living on limited incomes. This usually isn't a problem if the medicines involved are cheap, over-the-counter products, but drugs that run $100 or more per-bottle can add up quickly.

Physical Costs

One of the most significant concerns of polypharmacy is its adverse effects on health. Each new drug can bring new side-effects, increase the risk of unwanted medicine interactions, and take a toll on a given senior's body.

Polypharmacy is associated with an increased risk of falls, and some of those falls will inevitably be fatal. This consequence, in particular, is why doctors try to avoid polypharmacy whenever they can.

Emotional Costs

Aside from the physical and financial burden, taking too many pills can be taxing on someone's emotional state. Many pills are consumed more than once a day, and people suffering from polypharmacy may feel like their entire life revolves around taking pills.

Ways to Reduce Polypharmacy

There are several different ways to reduce polypharmacy.

The first – and most important – step is to determine which medications are necessary at any given time. For example, someone suffering from both the flu and a broken bone may want decongestants, antiviral drugs, and painkillers. However, while decongestants may make life more pleasant, they may not be worth the medical risk of mixing them with painkillers.

The next step is determining how much of any given medication is necessary. Some drugs can have their dosage reduced without adverse effects, and lower doses are less of a problem for polypharmacy.

Finally, live a healthy lifestyle to reduce the number of conditions you suffer from. It's much easier to avoid polypharmacy when you don't need drugs in the first place.

Preventing Polypharmacy

One of the best ways of preventing polypharmacy is using medication reconciliation and seeing how many drugs are necessary for treatment. Some patients may be able to take one drug for multiple issues, while others look to avoid medication errors by searching for non-pharmaceutical therapies.

Otherwise, it's best to keep your primary doctor informed of all medications you're taking. They can help you determine whether or not you're experiencing polypharmacy – and if you are, they can tell you what to do about it.

Types of Compression Socks and Why The Elderly Need Them

Caring for the elderly can be a very difficult task. When people reach their golden years, they often require special care routines and considerations since they can experience a decline in physiological functions such as blood flow and reduced muscle capacity.

Aging is also associated with a variety of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Because of this, it is important to find ways to help the elderly improve their quality of life and overall health and wellness.

There are several things your can do for you elderly love ones at home that can improve their quality of life. Compression socks are garments that are specially designed to prove comfort and support to your lower legs. There are several health benefits to wearing compression socks. Here are some ways they can greatly benefit the elderly and why you should encourage your elderly loved ones to use them.

Types of Compression Socks

Compression socks are often prescribed by medical professionals for patients that are experiencing poor circulation and blood flow. Many of these people also experience increase in swelling due to venous disorders or hypertension.

These socks come in various materials that can provide a range of pressure but work through similar mechanisms. Socks can cause a uniform pressure on the leg, or they can apply pressure through a gradient.

The pressure provided by compression socks that forms a gradient for your leg works because it combats the effects due to gravity, which can hinder the blood in your legs from returning to your heart.

By applying this gradient, the veins in the leg are constricted which encourages the blood to return to the heart. As a result, blood circulation in the body is improved. This also prevents swelling, as fluid that has accumulated is also cleared by the improvement in overall circulation.

Compression socks reduce swelling because in addition to improving blood flow, they reduce muscle vibrations reducing muscle fatigue since the muscle in your legs become more stable.

The added blood flow also clears lactic acid, the metabolite responsible for making your legs feel tired and sore. Uniform compression also has benefits, but it is important to find the proper fit.

Finding the Right Compression Socks

In order to maximize the benefits of compression socks, it is important to find the socks that will provide the proper amount of pressure and support without constricting blood flow.

Compression socks, when used correctly, should be firm but not constricting or too difficult to remove. Using socks that are too loose will not provide the benefits of using compression socks. Wearing socks that are too tight could actually restrict blood flow leading to more serious health concerns.

Most compression socks come in several different sizes, length and materials. They can cover your calves or go all the way up to your knees. You should work with your elderly loved ones to determine what type of socks are best suited for them.

Compression socks should not be difficult to put on. Although some elderly may require assistance putting on their socks, if they do not go on easily, it is a good indicator that they are not the right size. They should never cause any discomfort or be hard to put on or take off.

Get Clearance from Medical Professionals

Like any type of medical therapy, you should check with medical professionals before using compression socks with elderly loved ones and patients. There are certain medical conditions that you should not use compression socks with, such as severe arterial disease in the legs, congestive heart failure, skin infections or immobility.

This could raise even more concerns and could potentially lead to leg amputation or even death. It is also best to use compression socks during the day before any swelling may occur. You should also monitor the use to ensure that they are not causing constriction and are still comfortable.

Other ways to encourage blood flow and circulation

There are also several other ways you can encourage blood flow and improve circulation in the elderly. Taking a light walk or engaging in other activities are a great way to improve circulation. It might be a great way for your loved one to get some exercise and maybe get some fresh air and take in some scenery.

You can also try giving them a massage such as a Swedish or deep tissue. A Swedish massage tends to focus on the entire body whereas a deep tissue focuses on specific parts of the body.

A massage can improve blood flow and circulation and also has many benefits for overall health and wellness. Not only will it allow your elderly loved one to feel more relaxed, studies have shown there are several touch benefits that come from interactions like massages and hugs.

Overall, compression garments for the elderly can be used therapeutically or as a preventative measure for those at risk or for those who need help improving circulation related issues. You should always check with a medical professional to see if it is safe for your elderly loved ones to use compression socks.

You should always use socks that are the proper size so that they are comfortable and do not cause blood constriction. Using compression therapy at home is one way you can keep your elderly loved ones healthier and happier.

AUTHOR BIO: Sarah writes for compressioninfo.com. Her goal is to educate her readers about the importance of taking care of one’s self with the help of compression gear.

8 Best Nutrition Drinks and Shakes For Seniors

Nutrition drinks are an excellent way of adding vitamins, minerals, and other healthy substances to your body. However, just drinking one a day won't necessarily provide the nutrition your body needs. Believe it or not there are certain do's and don'ts when it comes to using nutrition drinks.

How To Correctly Use Nutrition Drinks

Nutrition drinks can provide significant benefits, but only when you use them correctly. The first thing you should do is look at the label to determine the proper use of a given drink. Some drinks are meal replacements and are meant to provide total nutrition for one meal. Other drinks are supplements and are intended to be taken alongside other foods.

Never consume more than one nutrition drink per-day unless directed to by a doctor. Or unless the drink is meant to be the only thing you consume each day.

Kinds Of Nutrition Drinks

There are several common types of nutrition and meal replacement shakes, including:

  • Protein: Protein shakes are designed to provide nutrients and are especially helpful if you live an active lifestyle and want to build or maintain muscle
  • Energy: Energy drinks are meant to help you feel awake and energetic throughout the day. Remember to pace yourself – even if you feel great, you shouldn't try to act beyond your abilities.
  • Diabetic: Diabetic drinks focus on helping you regulate diabetes. They can't cure it, but they can lessen its effects.
  • Weight Loss: As the name suggests, these drinks are focused around helping you lose weight. Few drinks can accomplish this all by themselves – instead, they're meant to be used as part of a balanced diet and exercise plan.

Elderly Nutrition Requirements

Seniors often have special nutrition requirements. Aside from needing fewer calories than younger people, you may have medical conditions that impact your diet and the overall functioning of your body.

Most nutrition drinks provide a dense source of multiple nutrients, making them an ideal way to get the nutrients your body needs in as few calories as possible.

How Nutrition Drinks Help

Nutrition drinks help by providing an easy way to get the nutrition that might otherwise be spread out in many different foods. Also, the liquid form of the drinks is often easier for seniors to consume than solid foods.

These drinks can either be taken as a side with a meal or as a replacement for the meal itself – and when they do replace meals, they can reduce the burden of needing to prepare food.

8 Nutrition Drinks And Shakes

The following are eight of the best drinks and shakes currently on the market. Most of these come in several flavors, with chocolate and vanilla being the most popular.

boost-drink

#1: Boost Drink

Boost Drink is a series of nutrition drinks, with options covering protein, complete nutrition, and weight loss needs.

It comes in chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavors.

#2: Ensure

Ensure's shakes are a gluten-free, lactose intolerance-friendly series of complete meal replacement shakes.

As complete nutrition drinks, Ensure is suitable for most seniors. It comes in 6 different flavors including: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan, coffee latte and dark chocolate.

 

 

#3: Glucerna

Glucerna is focused around helping people with Type-2 Diabetes, providing a low-sugar and high-protein option.

Glucerna is also available in bars.

Glucerna comes in vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and butter pecan

 

#4: Nutrisystem Shakes

Nutrisystem's line of protein shakes are focused on helping with weight loss and feeling full for a more extended period.

 

It helps to cut down on hunger pangs and lets you focus on the rest of your life.

Nutrisystem shakes come in vanilla, chocolate, mocha caramel and even on-the-go bars.

 

#5: Medifast

Medifast is part of a medically-supervised weight loss program. Most people who use these shakes are morbidly obese and need to lose a significant amount of weight.

So you may find the next option to be a better choice if you don't fall into that category.

Medifast shakes come in strawberry, mocha, french vanilla, orange cream and dutch chocolate.

 

 

#6: Ideal Shape

Ideal Shape is another set of weight loss shakes.

While it's more affordable than Medifast, it's also meant for people who are closer to a healthy weight to begin with.

Ideal Shape Protein shakes come in a variety of 18 flavors including: key lime, vanilla, cookies and cream, and many more!

 

#7: Huel

Unlike the other options on this list, Huel is a nutritionally complete shake.

This means that a day's supply has all of the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats you need, as well as at least 100% of all essential vitamins and minerals.

(Note that this does not mean it's nutritionally complete for seniors with special dietary needs – but most will find it more than suitable.)

#8: Shred

Shred caffeinated protein drinks are especially high in protein, offering 42 grams of it in each 16 ounce shake.

Aside from helping with muscle mass, that's more than enough protein to ensure you'll feel full for quite some time.

These Myoplex Shred drinks come in mocha, chocolate and cinnamon flavors.

Other Meal Replacement Alternatives

Nutrition drinks are one of the easiest ways to get the nutrients you need, but they're certainly not the only way. Other options include meal replacement powder (which is usually mixed with a liquid like water or milk) and meal replacement bars (a solid variant, and somewhat dense to fit in everything you need).

As always, it's best to follow your doctor's recommendations if you have any medical condition that impacts your dietary needs.

COPD Stages – Tips For Treatment and Management

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is one of the leading causes of death in America. With that being said, it affects millions of people worldwide and there are certain things you should know about it.

What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

COPD, also known as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is a progressive disease that causes difficulty breathing. Common symptoms include tightness in the chest, wheezing, shortness of breath, and excessive production of mucus while coughing.

Approximately 75% of cases of COPD develop as a result of smoking. The other cases tend to develop by long-term exposure to irritants like fumes and air pollution. These irritants can damage the lungs in ways similar to smoking. COPD can also develp by a genetic issue known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AAT).

As a progressive disease, COPD gets worse over time and has a 40%-70% mortality rate over five years. The mortality rate depends mainly on the severity of the illness and any positive or negative lifestyle factors. There is no known cure, but there are steps that can be taken to minimize the effects. These are discussed in more detail below.

Most cases are diagnosed in middle age or older individuals. COPD is not contagious, so there is no risk of spreading it to others.

What Determines the Stage of COPD?

Doctors measure COPD in two ways. First, the GOLD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) standard measures progress based on forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1)  – essentially, this measures how much you can exhale to determine lung strength.

The other measure is the BODE Index (Body Mass, Obstruction of Airflow, Dyspnea, and Exercise Capacity) Index, which primarily focuses on its effect on quality-of-life and severity of symptoms.

Mild Stage COPD

In the first stage, people have 80% or more of their normal lung strength. Many people in this stage don't even realize they have COPD, although they may have slight coughing and feel like they're not as strong as they used to be.

Medical treatments tend to be the most effective when they start early, which is why it's important to see your doctor and have a physical on a regular basis.

Moderate Stage COPD

The second stage of COPD includes somewhere between 50% and 80% of normal lung capacity. This is the point when most people notice they have a problem, and in many cases will seek medical care for their trouble breathing.

COPD does not have a cure, but doctors often recommend pulmonary rehabilitation to patients who have this stage of COPD. This rehabilitation is a combination of education, support, and exercise, with the express goal of helping patients learn how to breathe better.

Severe Stage COPD

Severe COPD is characterized by lung strength between 30% and 50% of normal. People at this stage tend to experience a significant drop in their quality of life, most often experiencing fatigue and difficulty exercising.

Medication is significantly more common at this stage, with prescriptions including steroids and combination inhalers to help reduce inflammation and allow the body to function as smoothly as possible.

Very Severe Stage COPD

End-stage COPD is characterized by lung strength of less than 30%. Even relatively minor breathing issues can be potentially fatal, and the general lack of oxygen can lead directly to other medical problems. To combat this, doctors may suggest oxygen therapy.

What Affects COPD Life Expectancy?

Merely having COPD reduces life expectancy, from about 0.3 years in stage 1 to 5.8 years in stage 3 or 4. Smokers and former smokers have the most significant loss in life expectancy, while people who have never smoked have the least loss.

Once COPD is diagnosed, the main thing affecting life expectancy is a patient's overall lifestyle. Patients who continue to be exposed to lung-damaging situations (such as smoking, breathing in other fumes, or even having a chest injury) may see their prognosis worsen, while those who exercise and avoid toxins may almost completely stop the progression of the disease.

COPD Treatment

COPD is treated in several different ways. In the earliest stages, doctors usually focus on lifestyle changes. This means breathing clean air, exercising regularly, and living a healthy life.

Around the time someone progresses to Stage 2, patients are given more education and often provided with a COPD inhalers to be used once or twice a day. The primary goal here is to slow the progression of COPD as much as possible – and while life may not be entirely comfortable at this stage, people are still capable of independent activity.

At Stage 3, doctors usually start providing COPD medication to help chemically control the progression of the disease and mitigate the worst symptoms. This continues into Stage 4, but treatments will become more invasive over time.

At any stage, doctors may suggest an experimental breathing treatment. Whether you decide to accept is up to you, but they may show better results than standard treatments. Alternatively, they may not suggest experimental treatments. Tests don't progress to using human subjects unless researchers have good reason to believe they're effective, but they are experimental for a reason and success cannot be guaranteed.

COPD Breathing Tips

If you've been diagnosed with COPD, there are several things you can do to help breathe better.

First, and most importantly, you should try to breathe air that's as clean as possible. This may involve setting up an additional filtration system in your home, wearing a particle mask in public, or even wearing some form of breathing mask during the later stages.

COPD's progress is often accelerated when additional damage to the lungs occurs, so preventing this is vital.

Next, your doctor may recommend breathing exercises for COPD to help you control your flow of oxygen. Most people don't learn these strategies right away. It takes time and practice to learn them, but once you have, it's easier to maximize the value of each breath you take.

Finally, you'll need to learn to manage situations where heavy breathing is required. Getting adequate exercise is an important part of maintaining your body's strength, but breathing too hard while you're not getting enough oxygen isn't going to help. You may want to follow these tips for exercising with breathing problems.

5 Tips For Helping An Elder Through Hip Replacement Recovery

Facts About Hip Replacements

Hip replacement surgery is an option for people with arthritis where a doctor removes part of or all of a painful hip joint and replaces it with an artificial implant.  Around 2.5 million people in the U.S. have had a hip replacement and go through hip replacement recovery to help them manage their arthritis pain.

While it can be an effective treatment option, the surgery is considered an option only when all other treatment plans have failed. In a total hip replacement, the entire hip is swapped for an artificial joint made of metal or plastic.

There are also procedures that treat specific issues and only replace part of the hip, such as a partial hip replacement or anterior hip replacement. The type of surgery your doctor recommends will be based on the cause of your pain and the best remedy to treat it.

Someone who is a candidate for a hip replacement will experience discomfort doing things like walking or going upstairs. They also will have moderate to severe pain when they’re resting, and might not be able to sleep as a result. The range of motion in the joint will be limited, and it could manifest in a limp or uneven gait.

Types of Hip Surgery

There are many different types of surgical options available on your joints, but when you’ve reached the point of considering a hip replacement, there are three main options.

  • Total Hip Replacement is when both the ball and socket of your hip are removed and replaced with a metal or plastic implant. This is the right choice if you have arthritis that is affecting the joint as a whole.
  • Partial Hip Replacement is a procedure that only replaces the ball, or the femoral head, of the damaged hip joint. This option is traditionally used when you’ve had an injury, such as a fall that’s broken your hip. This results in a fracture or break to the femoral head, which is repaired with an implant.
  • Anterior Hip Replacement is a less invasive approach to hip replacement surgery. While it is a new technology that’s still being perfected, it’s growing in popularity due to a shorter hip replacement recovery timeline.

What is Recovery Time For A Hip Replacement?

The surgery is an intense procedure, and hip replacement recovery time for elderly people varies. Generally, you'll stay in the hospital for between four and six days following the surgery and will begin physical therapy within 24-hours to get your body moving again. Most patients can walk with a cane, walker, or crutches before they are discharged from the hospital.

Physical therapy will be ongoing, and depending on your progress you will do those sessions for several weeks to months following the procedure.

For six to twelve months following your hip surgery, you’ll need to be careful of pivoting, twisting, crossing your legs, or bending the joint past 90 degrees.

There are a few ways to speed along your hip surgery recovery, including things you can do at home to make the process as smooth as possible.

Tips to Help With Recovery

Prepare Your Home Ahead of Time

Once you’re discharged from the hospital, you’ll head home. It’s important to prepare your home prior to your procedure to clear potential hazards from your walking path. Move cords or other things that may cause you to trip out of the way, and arrange furniture so that you can maneuver around it with your walker, crutches, and cane. Place items you use or will frequently need, like your medications, remote, or phone in an easy to reach area to limit the need to get up and sit back down during the first several days.

Get Moving

Once it’s approved by your doctor and physical therapist, begin adding in your activities of daily life. Make sure not to become sedentary just because the action is uncomfortable.  Moving will not only promote joint mobility, but it will increase blood flow which will speed the healing process.

Do Physical Therapy

Following a regular physical therapy routine is a crucial step to getting back to 100%. Your therapist will give you daily exercises to do on your own and monitor your progress along the way. They will let you know when it’s safe to increase your activity and will work with you until your strength and mobility are fully restored.

Focus on Nutrition and Weight

Eating healthy and keeping your weight down is crucial to the healing process. Give your body the nutrients and energy it needs through a healthy diet full of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and healthy carbohydrates. Take care not to gain weight as this can put additional stress on your new joint and make it more difficult to regain typical movement patterns.

Keep Swelling Down

Follow your doctor’s advice to minimize swelling following your procedure. This may include taking over the counter medications, elevating, icing, or wearing compression socks to assist with the process.

Hip Replacement Restrictions Post-Op

Your doctor and physical therapist will give you a list of things not to do following your surgery. Some of these may be temporary, while others will be indefinite to maintain the health of your new artificial joint.

Everyone will need to take care to not bend their hip at more than a 90-degree angle when sitting or standing after their replacement. Things like sitting on a low stool, sofa, or chair will be impossible.

Crossing your legs is another restriction. Not only could this cut off blood flow, but it could also twist the joint in an uncomfortable position.

Also, any sort of twisting while standing on the surgical leg is to be avoided. Take care to keep your feet positioned with your toes pointing straight forward at all times.

Giving An Elder A Sponge Bath With Dignity

Bathing regularly is an important piece of maintaining your health and hygiene. Unfortunately, some seniors aren’t able to get into the shower or tub themselves due to mobility or health issues. Here’s everything you need to know about when it’s appropriate to give a sponge bath to an elderly friend or family member for whom you provide home health care.

What Is A Sponge Bath?

A sponge bath is a technique to keep seniors clean, odor free, and healthy in between regular baths. When you do it, you’ll use a clean bath sponge or warm washcloths and a gentle cleanser to clean the armpits, genitals, groin, feet, and between any skin folds.

While a sponge bath isn’t meant to replace a once or twice weekly bath or shower, if it’s impossible for the elder to move then you may need to prepare to do a more thorough and vigorous job to ensure that their skin stays clean and bacteria-free.

Why Would A Sponge Bath Be Used?

Regular bathing is a common issue among seniors and their caregivers. There are several reasons why bathing daily isn’t an option for your loved one. If they have limited mobility, getting into and out of the shower or bathtub may be difficult. Even with architectural enhancements to their home, like accessible shower stalls, the process could be too much to manage more than once a week.

Loved ones who are in a wheelchair or a medical bed may not be able to get up at all without assistance. If you’re unable to transfer them on your own, a sponge bath may be a necessity to maintain their hygiene and avoid developing issues from not bathing like urinary tract infections.

You may also need to give a sponge bath to someone who has recently had surgery or who are going through physical rehabilitation and has limited movement abilities for a short period.

How to Properly Give A Sponge Bath

There are lots of tips on how to give a bed bath, and here we’ll share a few.

1. Only uncover the body part you’re washing.

Whether you’re bathing someone in a chair or bed, keeping their dignity intact can be an important step. It’s helpful to have several large towels to keep them covered up until you’re ready to start washing and wiping the area. This can also help prevent them from getting cold as in seniors that happens easily.

2.  Have plenty of towels and warm water ready to go.

The easiest way to give a sponge bath is with your loved one seated in the bathroom where you have access to a sink or tub to rinse out your sponge or towel as you go. If that’s not possible, ensure that you have all the supplies you’ll need near your location before you start so that you can make the experience as fast and efficient as possible.

3.  Start at the top and work down saving the dirtiest parts for last.

Start at the top of the body with washing and rinsing their hair and then work your way down. Ensure you rinse and clean your sponge or towel regularly so that you’re not spreading bacteria around, and save their private parts for last as they are the dirtiest and require the most care.

4.  Create a comfortable experience.

You can make the experience as pleasant as possible by playing soothing music, dimming the lights, warming the room, or giving back and leg massages to make it feel more like spa time and less like bath time. Other tips include using warm water, and throwing the towels you use for draping in the dryer beforehand to keep the senior as cozy as possible during the process.

Advantages of Sponge Baths

Sponge baths are advantageous in certain situations for several reasons. First, they’re a great way to stay clean, sanitized and hygienic between regular bathing. Also, they conserve water and are a popular option if you don’t have access to a full bath or shower set up. Finally, they are ideal if your loved one isn’t very mobile as you can do them right in their bed.

Disadvantages of Sponge Baths

Whenever possible, it’s essential that a sponge bath isn’t the only way you get a senior clean. Not only is it a somewhat lengthy and cumbersome process, but it can also be uncomfortable for the person on the receiving end of the bath.

In addition, a shower or bath in the tub will provide a much better cleaning than you can give in bed with a sponge. It is difficult to shampoo and wash hair property when giving a sponge bath, and it can also be tricky to ensure that all of the body parts are properly rinsed and dried in the process.  This can lead to rashes and other forms of skin irritation if you’re not careful.

How to Use Validation Therapy For Alzheimer’s

If a friend, family member, or someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you’ll want techniques that allow you to show them empathy and understanding. Validation therapy is one technique that can both comfort and reassure someone with dementia, helping them to resolve issues they may not recognize or understand that may drive their behaviors and emotions. Showing the right response to these actions and feelings can make all the difference in the world to your loved one in helping them cope with them.

What is Validation Therapy?

If you’re asking yourself “what is validation therapy,” know that it’s more complex than just validating someone’s feelings.  Although that is one component, the goal of the technique is to help your loved one work through the emotions that are causing them to act out. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease could display challenging behaviors for a variety of reasons and may be using them as a way to cope with their memory loss, disorientation, and day to day confusion.

Medical professionals widely accept the validation therapy defined as a communication technique used with patients where the caregiver makes statements to the patient that show respect for their feelings and beliefs to reduce the argumentative and agitated behavior.

How Does Validation Therapy Work?

Validation therapy is a multi-step process that works for several reasons. Developed by Naomi Feil as an alternative approach back in the 1980’s, it’s still successfully used today on people with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related memory loss.

The therapy works because it doesn’t focus on the bad behavior, which usually seems irrational or illogical when you're on the outside looking in. Rather, it brings attention to the here and now, without asking why. This can help draw conclusions and lead to healing while helping your loved ones remain their respect and dignity.

In Feil’s book, “The Validation Breakthrough,” she outlines 10 driving principles of validation therapy that help to better understand the condition, mental state, and feelings of your loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Once you have that understanding, you can follow her approach to help resolve the situation. Here are the steps to take to use validation therapy.

1. Calm and Center Yourself

If your loved one is having a tantrum, it might be tempting to rush in and offer assistance. It’s critical you take a moment to take a deep breath and calm yourself so that you are mentally and emotionally prepared to walk through the steps necessary to help them while still treating them with dignity and respect.

2.  Talk to Discover the Problem

Begin the conversation by asking what’s wrong and listen to the response without judgment. If for example, your 90-year-old parent is crying out for their mother it won’t be helpful to remind them that she has long since passed away.  Once you’ve identified what’s happening, reminisce and remember with your loved one. Talk about happy times, favorite memories, and allow them to express their emotions around whatever is upsetting them.

3.  Delve Deeper

During the conversation, your loved one may remember things, or they may need gentle reminders. Ask probing questions to explore their emotions fully.  If they’re missing their mother, for example, ask what they miss most and how often they miss her. This could help stimulate the emotional healing process.

4.  Empathize and Match Emotions

One powerful way to let your loved one know that you are there to help is to match and express their same emotions. Acknowledge what they’re feeling and attempt to match their tone, body posture, and expressions while you talk with them.

5.  Rephrase and Repeat

Feeling understood is a crucial step in the healing process. To assist with this, rephrase what your loved one has told you and repeat it back to them so that they know you fully comprehend what they’re trying to express.

6.  Jog Memories with Senses

Sometimes the process of delving deep is a difficult one, especially if their disease is more advanced. Ask questions that incorporate other senses, like touch, taste, and smell, to help them describe memories and experiences.

Why Is Validation Therapy Used For Dementia?

While scientific studies find mixed results on the effectiveness of validation therapy, anecdotally clinical professionals and caregivers find the method produces helpful results.

The Validation Training Institute documents a variety of behavior improvements thanks to the approach, including a decrease in challenging behaviors and emotional distress.

Who Uses Validation Therapy?

According to the Validation Training Institute, over 10,000 agencies across the world use the Validation Method, and it’s a common technique among caregivers and family members as well.

Physicians use the method in a clinical setting to build trust and security with their patient by empathizing. Rather than dispute a senior’s beliefs, particularly if they’re suffering hallucinations, Validation Therapy allows clinicians to enter the patient's reality and have a meaningful conversation. This can result in someone with Alzheimer's being less medicated thanks to a better understanding of their emotional state.

Caregivers and family members use the technique in everyday life to better communicate with their loved ones. For example, a typical belief among loved ones with dementia is that their valuable items are being stolen or thrown away.

Usually what’s happening is they are hiding them or moving them, and then forget about it. Rather than reacting to their statement, caregivers or family members could use the technique to say something like:

  • Your wedding ring is gone. You think I’ve taken it?
  • “It was a beautiful ring.”
  • “How did you meet Dad?”

In each of these examples, the prompt should start a conversation where you can listen, empathize, and get to the root of the problem.

Everything Seniors Should Know About the Shingles Vaccine

The Shingles virus is a common problem, especially for seniors 60 years and older. At any age this is not a virus you want to catch, so you must be aware of everything there is to know about it. It's better to be safe than sorry, right?

What Is The Shingles Virus?

The Shingles virus is one of the most common viral infections in the population – in fact, roughly half the population will show symptoms by the time they're 80.

Shingles comes from the varicella-zoster virus, the same disease strain that causes chickenpox, particularly in young children.

Unlike most viruses, however, it's not something you're going to catch from someone else – instead, shingles occurs when the virus reactivates within your body. This is most common when someone's immune system has weakened (mainly from age), which is why it's most common in seniors.

If you're asking “is Shingles contagious?”, the answer is no. You can't spread Shingles to others, regardless of how severe your case is. However, you can spread the varicella-zoster virus itself, and that can infect people and cause chickenpox in people who haven't already experienced it.

Most people will only get Shingles once, and direct symptoms usually vanish within one month. Unfortunately, lingering nerve pain from Shingles can last for weeks or months beyond the disease. Which is why it's best to get treatment, or try to avoid getting it in the first place.

Who Should Get The Shingles Vaccine?

Most people over the age of 60 should get the Shingles vaccine. The only currently-approved vaccine is Zostavax.

The vaccination lasts for about five years. The CDC does not currently recommend a schedule for the Shingles vaccination for anyone younger than 60, but every five years starting at age 50 is appropriate for most people.

Who Should Not Get The Shingles Vaccine?

Unfortunately, certain groups should not get the Shingles vaccine. These include:

  • Anyone who has significant allergic reactions to any of the components of the vaccine, notably including neomycin and gelatin
  • Anyone who has a weakened immune system (from drug therapy, cancer treatment, cancer affecting the immune system, or any disease like HIV/AIDS)
  • Women who are, or who may become, pregnant in the four weeks after getting the vaccine
  • Anyone who is currently ill

Do not get the Shingles vaccine if you fall into any of these categories. If you are still concerned about getting Shingles, talk to your doctor and ask if there is any point at which the Shingles vaccine will be appropriate for you.

If you have never been tested for allergies, it may be best to have that done starting around age 50. Doing this will help your doctors know if any vaccines are dangerous to you, and it's easier to check for a problem beforehand than it is to treat a major allergic reaction.

How Well Does The Shingles Vaccine Work?

The CDC reports that the Shingles vaccine has a 51% success rate for reducing the risk of developing this disease. Reports also note that the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia (pain in the place where shingles rashes were present) drops by 67%. The vaccine is less effective on people aged 70 and older, but still recommended.

Researchers are working to make the Shingles vaccine more effective. The goal is to create herd immunity, where about 95% of the population is immune to a given disease. This can prevent the spread of a disease and reduce the number of people who suffer from it.

What Are The Side Effects Of The Shingles Vaccine?

Like many vaccines, there are several side-effects that the Shingles vaccine can cause.

Approximately 1 in 3 people suffer mild irritation around the site of the injection. About 1 in 70 report a slight headache. There are no severe side effects associated with the vaccine.

Also, it is safe to be around other people once you've had the vaccine. There is currently no documentation of infecting other people with chickenpox after having had the vaccine – although, since 99+% of the population has already had chickenpox, it is difficult to test for this sort of thing. Nevertheless, this is one of the side effects of shingles vaccine not considered to be a problem.

Nevertheless, people who develop any rashes are encouraged to keep them covered.

Any reactions beyond this – including fast heartbeat, dizziness, weakness, difficulty breathing, hives, or swelling – in the minutes to hours after the vaccination are a sign of a severe allergic reaction. If you see someone experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Paying For The Shingles Vaccine

As a senior if you have medicare or medicaid most likely you will not have to worry about the cost of the vaccine itself. Regardless, it's always nice to know how the expense will be taken care of.

Medicare Part D covers the Shingles vaccine cost, but usually does not pay it in full. Some plans require copays, while others will reimburse you at a later time. Medicare Part B does not cover this vaccine.

Medicaid sometimes covers this vaccine. Contact your insurer for more information.

Private Insurance usually covers the cost of Shingles vaccine, but much like Medicaid, it's possible your plan does not. Coverage is less common in private insurance for people 50-59 than it is for people 60 and older.

The out-of-pocket cost for Zostavax is usually between $200 and $300, depending on where you get it. Vaccination assistance programs may provide Zostavax to you at no charge if you have limited income and cannot afford it. Visit Merck's page on this program or talk to your local pharmacy for more information.

Danger Of The Shingles Virus In The Elderly

The main danger of Shingles isn't the disease itself – the effects are short-term, full recovery is common, and it's almost never as dangerous as the flu or other common infections.

However, seniors often experience persistent pain after having Shingles, and this can significantly reduce your quality of life for as long as the pain lasts, usually weeks to months. Aches and pains are common with age, so adding any more suffering on top of that can be distinctly unpleasant. Being vaccinated helps to reduce the number of seniors living with pain while simultaneously making the population as a whole healthier.

Caregiver Duties And 4 Things No One Tells You About Caregiving

There are lots of reasons why you might become a caregiver.  If you intend to help an elderly loved one who can’t live on their own any longer or someone you know who has had an accident and needs daily assistance, there are things you need to know before you get started.  Here, we’ll talk about some of the most common caregiver duties, as well as challenges and rewards of the job.

Caregiver Duties

Being a caregiver is a popular job. There are over 43 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S., which means there are a lot of family members who give their loved one's assistance on a daily basis. In addition to these family providers, there is clinical staff who provide care in a healthcare setting as either in-home care or assisted living or as part of a long-term care plan at a residential facility.

Regardless of who is assisting, there are four main areas that help is most often required.

Activities of Daily Life

Most often, loved ones who need additional care have mobility, memory, or other aging-related issues. This can make activities of daily life that we take for granted challenging. If you’re providing care to a parent or spouse, be prepared to help with things like bathing, grooming, and other personal care activities.

Things that seem as simple as getting out of bed, getting dressed, or using the restroom may require your assistance.

There are six defined activities of daily living, and if your loved one isn’t able to complete some of them, you may qualify for financial help from an insurance plan.

Housekeeping

Keeping a home neat and tidy might not seem like something a caregiver would be responsible for, but it’s a crucial step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for a senior. Light housekeeping like doing laundry, dishes, vacuuming floors, and disinfecting surfaces will not only keep the home free of clutter and make it easier to move around, but it will also eliminate germs and help prevent bacteria that cause sickness from entering the home.

Meal Preparation

Eating balanced, nutritious meals is one key component to aging well. Caregivers typically prepare meals to ensure that their loved one is eating a variety of foods throughout the day.  If you’re a full-time caregiver and live with your charge, try to include them in the daily meals with your family. If you’re at their home part-time, cook meals for the rest of the day so that they are ready to heat and eat and leave a reminder about what to do at mealtimes.

Companionship

There is a relationship between loneliness and health decline among seniors. That’s why having a caregiver who offers companionship is so important. By taking the time to have a conversation, read a book or help them write a letter, you’re providing loads of mental and psychological benefits to your companion.

Caregiver Challenges

Being a caregiver isn’t without challenges. Here are four things that you may not know you’ll need to be prepared to face.

Isolation

Even though there are millions of people who give care to their loved ones every day, it can still be a lonely job. It’s not easy to be responsible for both someone’s quantity and quality of life, and other friends and family members may not understand some of the challenges and frustrations you deal with on a daily basis.  Connecting with a group of like-minded people who can relate to your struggles can be a key component in maintaining your own health and happiness through the journey.

Making Hard Choices

If you are caring for a family member and have the power to make their medical and end of life decisions for them, you’ll be faced with some hard choices along the way. Deciding whether or not to allow treatments, procedures, and hospitalizations can be tricky, particularly if your loved one isn’t coherent enough to express their wishes.  If possible, talk with your loved one ahead of time so that you’re confident you know what they want if and when the time comes to help put your mind at ease.

Embarrassing Moments

When things, like assisting with bathing and using the toilet, are among your daily to-do items, there are bound to be some uncomfortable moments along the way. Many older adults struggle with their declining state, and may not be comfortable asking for help. This can lead to accidents that are embarrassing for both of you.  Sometimes, just knowing that these moments are inevitable and there is no need to feel guilty or ashamed is enough to allow you to smile, shake them off, and move forward.

Taking a Break

While being a caregiver means you get to contribute to the health and wellbeing of your loved one, it can take a toll on you. For that reason, it’s crucial to schedule regular breaks where you can rest, relax, and recuperate your physical and mental health. Consider hiring an outside professional for caregiver duties or using an adult day care service in your area to ensure your loved one is well cared for when you take some time away to recharge.

Caregiving Rewards

While the challenges above may have you intimidated, know that caregiving isn’t always challenging.  In fact, 83% of surveyed caregivers report that it is an overall rewarding experience.

Some of the things you have to look forward to are the pleasure of giving back to someone who catered for you, and the satisfaction of knowing that they are getting the highest level of care available. No one will look after your loved one the way you are able to.

Additionally, caregivers reported experiencing personal growth and developing a deeper purpose in their own lives as a result of their service.

10 Best Dogs For Seniors: Which Breed Should You Get?

Having a furry companion has many benefits.  Not only do they offer endless love and friendship, but dogs also are intuitive and can help keep seniors safe and healthy.  Whether you're living at home or in assisted living, there is a breed that is a good pick for you.  Here we’ll discuss what you need to know before you adopt a dog, the benefits of having one, and the best dogs for seniors that are easy to care for as an older adult.

What to Think About Before Getting A Dog

Adopting companion dogs means doing a little research ahead of time.  Here are some things you’ll want to consider when asking “what kind of dog should I get?”

Breed

Large or particularly active dogs that require a lot of exercise or care might not be the best choice, especially if you have physical limitations.  The best medium sized dogs and best lap dogs for seniors don’t require excessive care or grooming and are easy to train.  Additionally, some breeds are noisier or susceptible to health issues, so choosing one of the healthiest dog breeds should be part of your decision-making process.

Age 

Older dogs and older humans are sometimes the perfect fit.  Senior dogs usually are already trained and house broken and have fewer needs than a frisky puppy.  Smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger ones, which is valuable to know if you’re looking at adopting an older pet.

Personality

Different breeds have some common personality traits, but each dog will have a temperament that’s unique to them.  Take the time to interact with the pup before deciding if it’s the right match for you.

Your Medical Needs

The type of dog that’s the best match for you will have a lot to do with your own needs and limitations.  Consider any mobility issues you live with, as well as equipment or devices you have around the house that could be tempting for your new pet.

If you have things like oxygen tubing that you use daily, a new puppy might be tempted to chew on it while an older dog could know enough to leave it alone.

Ownership Resources

Before adopting, carefully consider your situation to ensure you can adequately care for your dog.  Do you have the financial ability to pay for it’s grooming, food, veterinary visits, additional supplies, and pet sitting if you travel?  Is there someone who could help you with your dog if you need assistance?

There are companies like Rover who offer dog walking services at affordable prices, and some assisted living communities have a Pet Care Coordinator on staff who are available to help should you need it.

Benefits of Having A Dog As An Elder

Believe it or not, there are scientific studies that link dog ownership with a whole host of health benefits.   Seniors who have a pet have better mental, physical and emotional health overall thanks to providing companionship, socialization, and an opportunity for exercise daily during walks.

In addition, owning a pup provides a boost in your quality of life.  Playing with your companion releases endorphins that help lower your stress, heart rate, and blood pressure.  Pet owners are proven to have lower instances of heart disease, stroke, and depression thanks to the uplifting effect of the animals.

Dog Ownership Tips For Seniors

If you’re a new pet owner, there are just a few things you’ll want to do to ensure you are good at your job.

  • Make your dog part of your family and show them love, affection, and companionship whenever you’re able.
  • Pet-proof your living area to ensure that it’s safe for your dog and they won’t get into any hazardous materials.
  • Care for your pet by giving it enough food, water, and exercise to stay healthy.
  • Visit your local vet to have your dog spayed or neutered and stay up to date on their shots and health needs.
  • Get an ID tag for your dog in case they ever get lost so that they will be safely returned to you.

Top 10 Dog Breeds For Elderly

Below, you’ll find a list of 10 perfect breeds for the elderly.

1.  Cocker Spaniel

An adorable medium sized breed that grows to be around 20 pounds at most, cocker spaniels are usually affectionate canines.  Used often as companions, they are loyal and charming but do have regular growing needs.

2. Pug

A breed who is eager to please, Pugs are playful and charming and don’t require a lot of exercises to stay healthy.  As a small dog, they can fit comfortably on your lap and are accepted in many assisted living communities.  Their only drawback is that they are a breed which sheds, especially if they live in a warm climate.

3.  Chihuahua

One of the smallest dog breeds out there, Chihuahuas are loyal and protective which make them a good fit for seniors.  Be warned, they can be temperamental and bark a lot, so they’ll need some training to create a happy home.

4.  Schnauzer

If you want a breed with a little variety in size, Schnauzers are a good choice.  They can range from miniature to medium and are energetic and playful.  An intelligent breed, they are easy to train and good with children.  They also have a strong instinct to protect their owners.

5.  Shih Tzu

Shih Tau dogs are an alert breed, and as a result, have a tendency to bark.  Despite that, they are small and friendly and well-suited to apartment living.  They require daily exercise, but are long-lived and generally don’t have many health issues.  You’ll need to have them groomed regularly to keep their coat silky, healthy, and very pet-able.

6.  Beagle

If you’re an active older adult, a Snoopy-inspired Beagle may be just the breed for you.  They have distinct personalities and are known for being humorous, loyal and friendly.  They need lots of exercise and can be a bit temperamental during training, but they are easy to care for and don’t require lots of expensive grooming.

7.  Boston Terrier

Boston Terriers are a senior-friendly breed because they’re compact, personable, and easy to care for.  An affectionate dog, they crave companionship and are often very in tune with the needs of their owners.  If you want a pet who enjoys snuggle time while watching TV, a Boston is a good fit.

8.  Pomeranian

Another tiny dog on our list, the Pomeranian is an intelligent breed who loves pleasing people and being the center of attention.  While they have a lot of energy, they don’t require excessive exercise besides being allowed to play indoors.  While they are cuddly, their coat needs regular brushing and grooming, and they are known for being barkers so they may not be the best fit for an apartment or senior living communities.

9.  Yorkshire Terrier

Also known as Yorkies, these petite dogs love interacting with people.  They are intelligent and loyal, but also have a bit of a bossy side so proper training is a must.

10.  Poodle

If you have pet allergies or want a dog who doesn’t shed, a hypoallergenic Poodle is a good choice.  They are bread ranging from tiny to large, so you can choose a size that best fits your needs and living situation.  Known for being particularly intelligent, Poodles are easy to train and are very adaptable.

Dogs are a great companion for everyone, and can really help the elderly become more active. Hopefully, you'll consider one of these top 10 best dogs for seniors to bring into your life no matter what your living situation is.

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