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Understanding A DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Order

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.

What is Resuscitation?

nurse showing DNR orderThe 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?

Making the Decision

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.

Creating a DNR Order

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

DNR Order Options

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:

  • whether or not to receive antibiotics
  • whether or not to be transferred to a hospital in an emergency
  • whether or not to receive nutrition via tubes

“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.

FAQ

If you have questions not addressed below, please consult your local physician.

What do “cardiac arrest” and “respiratory arrest” mean?

Both of these signify the event in which one's heart or breath stop, or both.

What is CPR?

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.

Who can request a DNR order for themselves?

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.

Can somebody request a DNR order for someone else?

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.

Can an EMS provider ignore a DNR order?

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.

What is an “end-stage medical condition” or a “terminal condition”?

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.

What does “permanently unconscious” mean?

“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.

Is Pneumonia Contagious in Elderly? – Why Seniors Are Most Likely to Get It

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.

What is Pneumonia?

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?).

Why are Elders at High Risk for Pneumonia?

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:

  • Health in general declines with age. The elderly are likely to have multiple ailments or chronic diseases at once. This weakens the immune system, making someone more vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections, including pneumonia.
  • Systems in the body undergo physiological changes. The lungs lose elasticity, and overall respiratory muscle strength declines. Air increasingly becomes trapped in the lungs.
  • The cough reflex lessens with age, and the mucociliary clearance function decreases as well. Both coughing and the workings of the mucous and fine hairs (cilia) within the bronchial tubes help viruses and bacteria leave the lungs. When these work less efficiently, germs remain trapped, increasing the risk of pneumonia.
  • Many people aged 65 and over are smokers. Smoking is implicated as a culprit in nearly 33 percent of community-acquired (as opposed to hospital-acquired) pneumonia cases in the elderly.

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.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

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:

  • Suddenly feeling worse after a cold or flu
  • Cough with phlegm
  • Shortness of breath with normal activity
  • Chest pain with breathing and/or coughing
  • Chills and shaking
  • High fever (approximately 102 degrees Fahrenheit)

Less common symptoms can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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

  • A body temperature that is lower than normal
  • A sudden change in mental state/awareness

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.

Types of Pneumonia

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.

  • Bacterial pneumonia is caused by bacteria. There are numerous types of bacteria that can cause pneumonia.
  • Viral pneumonia can be caused by viruses that are specific to the respiratory system. Alternately, pneumonia can be caused by viruses such as the ones that cause colds and flus.

There are other types of pneumonia, too. These can have any of the above causes.

  • Bronchial pneumonia, also known as bronchopneumonia or lobular pneumonia, involves inflammation in the bronchi, the tubes that feed air into the lungs.
  • Lobar pneumonia is an infection of one or more of the lobes of the lungs. The right lung has three lobes and the left has two, leaving us with five lobes that could be infected with pneumonia.
  • Double pneumonia refers to any type of pneumonia infection that occurs in both lungs at once.

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.

Is Pneumonia Contagious?

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:

  • An uncovered cough or sneeze
  • Shared cups, silverware, and other things that touch the mouth
  • Touching a contaminated object and then your mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Insufficient handwashing

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.

Treatments for Pneumonia

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:

  • Cause. Viral pneumonia tends to be less severe than bacterial.
  • Age. Pneumonia lasts longer in the elderly than it does in younger adults.
  • Overall health. In people with other health conditions, pneumonia is harder to shake.
  • When treatment starts. The sooner treatment starts, the sooner pneumonia ends.

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.

Preventing Pneumonia

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:

  • Vaccinate. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone under the age of two and over the age of 65 be vaccinated. There are pneumonia vaccines, and there are influenza vaccines. Pneumonia vaccines help defend against specific pneumonia-causing bacteria. Influenza vaccines protect people from strains of influenza and the complications that include pneumonia.
  • Wash hands well and often.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including diet, exercise, and stress relief.
  • Quit smoking, or don’t start smoking.

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.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney and Why is it Important to Elders?

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.

What is a Power of Attorney?

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.

Requirements for a Power of Attorney

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.

Types of Power of Attorney

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:

  • Financial Power of Attorney – a power of attorney agreement that focuses on a grantor’s financial dealings, such as money transfers or stock trades.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney – a power of attorney agreement that focuses on a grantor’s health care concerns, especially when the grantor is unable to decide for themselves.
  • Durable and Non-Durable Powers of Attorney – “durable” refers to whether the power of attorney agreement stays in effect if the grantor becomes incapacitated. We’ll discuss durable powers of attorney later in this article.
  • Springing Power of Attorney – a power of attorney agreement that only takes effect when a specific circumstance occurs, usually when the grantor is incapacitated.
  • Special Power of Attorney – a power of attorney agreement with specific instructions for the attorney-in-fact. These agreements can sometimes cover several of the categories listed above.

The Durable Power of Attorney

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.

A Power of Attorney’s Duties and Responsibilities

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.

Disadvantages of a Power of Attorney

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.

What Could Happen Without a Power of Attorney

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.

The Difference Between Durable Point of Attorney and a Living Will in Healthcare

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.

10 Weight Loss Tips For Senior Over 60

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.

1. Use It Or Lose It

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.

2. Hydrate

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.

3. Strength Train

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.

4. Eat Protein

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.

5. Strive For Maintenance

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.

6. Be Patient

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.

7. Limit Alcohol

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.

8. Get External Accountability

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.

9. Focus On Nutrients

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.

10. Stay Positive

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.

Senior Nutrition: Are You Getting Enough of These 6 Essential Nutrients?

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.

Fuel For Survival

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.

Vitamin B12

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

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.

Vitamin C

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.

Vitamin D

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

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.

Fiber

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.

Packing In The Nutrition

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.

Researchers Use Flashlight To Test New Alzheimer’s Therapy Method

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.

Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s

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.

Causes Of Alzheimer’s

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.

Brainwaves And Light Therapy

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.

How is Depression in the Elderly Different and How Can You Help?

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.

How Does Depression in the Elderly Differ from Depression in Younger Adults?

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.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in the Elderly

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:

  • Feelings of despair or sadness
  • Loss of interest in social activities’
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Chest Pain
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
  • Aching joints and muscles
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Irritability
  • Neglecting personal care

How is Insomnia Related to Depression in the Elderly?

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.

What Can Cause Depression in the Elderly?

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.

Some medical conditions that could cause depression:

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Thyroid disorders

Medications that have a side effect of depression:

  • Blood pressure medication
  • High-cholesterol drugs
  • Sleeping pills
  • Ulcer medications
  • Steroids or estrogens
  • Medication for Parkinson’s disease

What are the Risk Factors for Depression in the Elderly?

Depression is not a normal part of aging, but there are some risk factors that you should pay attention to.

Medical Conditions

Serious medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, chronic pain, stroke and heart failure are all associated with high risks of depression.

People requiring medical care

Seniors needing hospitalization or home health care are at a higher risk.

Smoking

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.

Being Divorced or Widowed

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.

What Treatments Are Available for Depression in the Elderly?

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 Socially Engaged

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 Yourself Healthy

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.

Maintain Quality Sleep

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.

Try Using Alternative Medicine

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.

Seek Therapy

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.

Use Antidepressants

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.

Exercise for Seniors Proved Highly Beneficial, Even in Small Amounts

As you can imagine, there are many benefits of physical activity for individuals of all ages. Not all people reap these benefits though because not everyone exercises. Don't let you tell yourself that you are too old, too sick or too out of shape to exercise. Specifically in seniors as aging kicks in, exercise is an important component in improving many areas of senior health.

Let's get real, everyone handles aging differently, so not all seniors experience the same issues. Aging may often take a toll on mobility, balance and healing processes in some elders. In order to keep independence and try to prevent certain health problems it is important to maintain consistent physical activity. There are tons of senior exercises that one could participate in.

Seniors who participate in regular physical activity are less likely to develop mobility problems and other health related issues.

Senior Exercise Improves Health

Getting older tends to come with a list of health problems for many seniors. With consistent exercise this list could get shorter. Many might think that the risks far outweigh the benefits when it comes to our elders exercising. This couldn't be more false. There are far more benefits to our elderly parents and grandparents taking part in exercise than there are risks. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, exercise for seniors could improve blood pressure, osteoarthritis, neurocognitive function and these other health areas:

Increase in Immune Function

With a strong and healthy body you are able to fight off illness and infection easily and quickly. As you age it is easy for your immune system to weaken due to several different factors. So you might be thinking “how do you get a strong healthy body”? Exercise is an important part to having a healthy body.

Lowers Risk of Heart Problems

Many times if a person has hypertension or high blood pressure a medical professional will recommend frequent physical activity. Exercise tends to help lower blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. Anything that raises your heart rate increases the flow of blood to your heart which helps ties into improved heart health.

Helps Bone Health

Those who exercise regularly help protect themselves against loss of bone mass. This in turn decreases the risk of developing osteoporosis. Walking and jogging are great examples of workouts that strengthen bones.

Boosts Metabolism

Continual exercise also helps to boost metabolism because activity aids in digestive health.

Decreases Risk of Disease and Other Conditions

Physical activity in elderly helps lessen the chance of getting many conditions like Alzheimer's, obesity, colon cancer, diabetes and heart disease just to name a few. Exercise can also assist in managing arthritis and high cholesterol.

Exercise for Seniors-Myths

A lot of older people think that as they get older they do not need to exercise. These myths partially tie into the reason why elders abandon their workout routines:

  • Seniors are too weak for exercise.
  • As you age, you don't need as much physical activity.
  • Only hardcore workouts are of any good to the body.
  • Elders shouldn't exercise because it's dangerous and they could hurt themselves.

Don't fall into the trap of believing these many myths like many others. Step ahead of them so that you can live a more healthy life.

Different Exercises for Seniors

There are so many different ways seniors can get their daily exercise. Whether it's with some exercise videos for seniors, light weight training or cardio workouts, there are a variety of options.

Strength training in our elderly generation aids in preventing loss of bone mass and builds balance. Even something as simple as squeezing a tennis ball builds up strength.

Not only does working out help out in physical ways, it can also help your life emotionally. A good workout can encourage adequate sleep, trigger healthy eating, build confidence and help you feel good overall.

Most physicians prescribe a daily dose of 30 minutes of cardio workouts. Even if it's only for 10 minutes a day, get out there and exercise. It will surely make a difference!

 

4

10 Home Remedies To Help Fight Fatigue in the Elderly

Feeling fatigued is one of the most irritating things to have to deal with, especially as an elder. Many individuals in our older generation seem to overlook fatigue in the elderly. This is detrimental to senior health as it can cause a decline in normal everyday functioning. While it isn't the worst problem most people face, it can still be tiresome, literally.

A lot of the time, fatigue can be a symptom of an underlying problem such as poor diet or anemia. It may seem that there isn't a whole lot you can do to help alleviate fatigue, however, it's quite the opposite! In addition to seeing an experienced doctor, there are a multitude of different home remedies one can use or do to fight off fatigue. Below you can find a list of our top ten home remedies to fix fatigue for seniors.

Potato Water

Don't let the name shy you away from trying this awesome home remedy. It might not sound like the most satisfying thing to drink, but the health benefits are great. Potato water is simply water that potatoes have been boiled in. It is a drink rich in potassium that helps you feel less tired. It works to replenish potassium, which 98% of Americans have trouble receiving adequate amounts of.

Potassium is not produced by your body, which means you have to ingest it with the foods you eat. Due to poor diets in a lot of Americans, it comes as no surprise that we are lacking in the potassium department. Potassium isn’t the energy shot of minerals, but along with magnesium (as well as chloride and calcium) it is an electrolyte that is vital for the proper functioning of our cells and the release of energy and the conduction of electricity. By having enough of this essential mineral, it will allow you to get away from feeling fatigue.

Ginseng

Ginseng is fairly well known as a cure for all and is one of the most used herbs in Chinese herbal medicine.  It has a plethora of properties that make it amazing, including fatigue fighting properties!  What it does is reduce the amounts of Cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, which will allow you to have a better sleep!

Citrus Drinks

Lemon juice and orange juice tend to come in handy for many home remedies. This still holds true when it comes to finding a remedy for fatigue in elders. In the case of fatigue, start off your day with a glass of lemon water. The smell of a freshly sliced lemon alone will perk you up instantly and the hydration will also dramatically improve your health. Lemon water helps a number of conditions-such as preventing constipation-but there’s something about it that just revitalizes a tired body. If you find yourself dragging in the middle of the day, treat yourself to another glass!

Peppermint Oil

For a quick pick-me-up, put two drops of peppermint oil on a tissue or handkerchief, hold it to your nose, and breathe deeply. If you have more time, try adding two drops of the oil to bathwater along with four drops of rosemary oil for an invigorating soak. The strong scent will spur your brain to wake up due to the additional stimuli.

Eating Well

While everyone likes to go on and on about the benefits of dieting, knowing when to eat and how much to eat is just as important. Eating breakfast, along with several small meals and healthy snacks throughout the day is a surefire way to keep your blood sugar up, helping you stay energized. As I'm sure you've heard before, try to keep your food choices relatively healthy.

Eat Plenty Of Raisins

One of the most common reasons that exhaustion in elderly exists is because of anemia, an iron deficiency. A great way to boost your iron is by eating raisins, which are naturally rich in it!

Cordyceps

Cordyceps are used as a tonic and restorative herb. It’s a Chinese fungus that is known to get rid of general weakness and fatigue, increase physical stamina, mental energy, and longevity. Theres a multitude of ways to take it including making it into tea, buying it straight from a health store, or buying capsules to take in the morning.

Eleutherococcus Tinctures

Eleutherococcus Tinctures is a Siberian plant that can help address lethargy and fatigue. It's very important to keep your eye out for eleuthero products standardized to 0.08 percent of eleutherosides. These vary in concentration and potency, so read the label instructions carefully.

Yogurt

Another tasty one! The high amount of protein, carbohydrates and gut-healthy probiotics in yogurt can be a big help to fight symptoms of fatigue. In fact, the body processes yogurt more quickly than any solid food, so it works as a great source for a quick energy boost when needed.

Don't Sleep Too Much, Just Exercise!

Over-resting or sleeping has the exact opposite effect we want it to have, while exercise boosts our energy long-term. If you are feeling fatigued and not moving around much, you may just need a good regular dose of fresh air to rejuvenate your body and mind.

One awesome thing about exercising is when you do go to sleep, you'll have a much deeper and fulfilling sleep due to having expended energy during the day. On a side note, exercise obviously can make you tired in the moment, but in the long run it makes you feel significantly better.

Overall, there are a ton of things you can do to help you not feel fatigued, and most of them are either super cheap, or completely free. The most important thing is to not let your exhaustion get the better of you; stay motivated and kick it to the curb!