As people begin to age, they begin to require additional assistance. As the child of aging parents, watching this process can be surreal and painful. The people who provided you with all your needs for so long, the seemingly invincible adults whose strength and vigor taught you what means to live with energy, slowly begin to weaken. They slow down. They don’t think as well. They age.
Aging parents can often use a helping hand. Food, laundry, cleaning, and many other common tasks begin to get overwhelming and even dangerous. You need to step in and help out. And yet, your parents aren’t helpless. They’re proud people. They’re still the same strong adults who grew you from a seed into the full fledged adult you are now. You don’t want to be rash. Don’t banish your beloved parents to a nursing home. Nursing homes are the source of thousands of abuse complaints every year, according to Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard.
Luckily, many businesses offer top notch services that will help keep your parents independent. Consider these and others like them.
Cooking is hard. Even experienced professionals make dangerous mistakes. And certain techniques, like deep frying, can make any kitchen a flammable hazard. Moreover, easy meals may not be ideal for an aging person’s health. Enormous numbers of aging adults today are suffering from diabetes or prediabetes, conditions that are tricky to care for. Here are some good services to keep your folks well-fed and satisfied.
- Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is a classic service that helps elderly people—and others—to get nutritious food with minimal effort. Good variety, solid service, and a long history of success make this service a comfortable one.
- Mom’s Meals. Like Meals on Wheels, Mom’s Meals provides a wide variety of nutritious frozen foods to seniors and other people with special needs. And many insurance and social services programs cover the cost.
Home Health Aides
Home health aides aren’t quite nurses, aren’t quite cooks, aren’t quite cleaning professionals. They combine elements of all three and more. A home health aide is a professional jack-of-all-trades, someone able to adapt to whichever needs your parents have. Flexible, generous, and multi-skilled, home health are a great tool to keep your parents out of the nursing home. They’ll help cook, clean, check meds, and take care of the miscellaneous needs that arise regularly for aging people.
An app a day may keep the nursing home away. Technology can provide all kinds of solutions for an aging parent. Don’t stereotype your elders; older people often take to cutting edge tech with the enthusiasm of a geeky teen. Health apps, communication gadgets, self-driving cars, etc. The modern world is overflowing with convenient sleek wonders that can provide your aging parents with access to all the world’s joys. And technology can keep your folks independent. Some pieces of tech may allow your parent to communicate directly with healthcare professionals without having to make direct contact; no need to have a nurse stop by twice a day—record blood sugars and upload the data from home.
The winter months can be a welcome sight for many people who love the snowy landscapes of frosty trees and winter activities, but winter can also make life limiting and dangerous for older individuals. With winter comes slippery ice, drifting snow, and cold temperatures, which can keep some seniors housebound and feeling isolated. Staying safe and healthy during the winter months is crucial and can contribute to an elder’s wellbeing the rest of the year.
Get a Flu Shot
The flu is notorious for arriving in the winter time. While flu shots are encouraged for anyone of any age, seniors over the age of 65 should always opt for a flu vaccine as it can be a lifesaver. Older individuals, who contract the flu, are more likely to have complications that can have life threatening results. One of the best ways to stay safe during the winter time is by staying healthy.
Winterize Your Home
Keeping your home warm in the winter can be a challenge, but some simple winterizing steps can cut down on heating bills and the risk of having complications related to the cold, such as hypothermia. Elderly individuals are more susceptible to hypothermia because they aren’t able to produce the same amount of body heat as younger individuals. The best way to prevent life threatening hypothermic conditions is to keep the indoor temperature at least 65 degrees (F).
Setting your thermostat high can be expensive, particularly if your house is old and drafty. If your income is limited, see if you qualify for financial energy assistance; these programs can help you winterize your home by putting up weatherstripping and insulation. When trying to keep your home warm, never use your oven to heat your home. It’s also important that you have working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in your home.
Have a Plan B
Many elders live independently without any problems, however, winter weather can make it hard to get out of the house or around for basic errands such as a trip to the pharmacy or groceries. If the weather gets too cold or treacherous, it’s important for many seniors to have a backup plan. If you are an independent elder, know your limits when it comes to cold weather. If your house becomes too cold, make arrangements to stay with friends or family. When the road conditions become too dangerous for you to travel comfortably, make arrangements to have someone deliver groceries and other basic needs (many places offer delivery services). Additionally, make plans with a friend or loved one to check in daily, either by phone or in person. A simple slip and fall or another household accident can put your health in danger.
Go Outside with Caution
During the winter months, everyone gets a bit of cabin fever and it’s always a good idea to step outside and get some fresh air. If you feel as if you are mobile enough to go outside, make sure that your clothing is warm enough and you are wearing boots with good tread. If you notice ice dams or excess snow on your roof, do not attempt to remove them yourself. Additionally, consider hiring someone to shovel and de-ice your sidewalks. Listen to the news, if the weather reporter says to stay indoors, stay indoors.
Seniors face many daily challenges. Hygiene can be one of those challenges. A senior with whose cognitive abilities or physical range of motion have recently declined may be in danger of things they’ve never never imagined. Through most of your life, you’re capable of sticking to basic sanitary needs. If you become forgetful with age, or you lose the ability to move in the way you once did, you’ll have issues.
Some seniors may not be willing or capable of communicating new hygiene needs. This is a sensitive issue. If you are a caregiver, you need to ensure that your patient (or family member, or client, etc) has a safe space in which to discuss problems like this. No one wants to ask for help going to the bathroom or showering. Nonetheless, these things happen and it’s crucial that seniors communicate these needs. As a caregiver, it’s your job to make it comfortable and face-saving as possible for people to come to you with hygiene issues.
With age, the simple shower can become a dangerous trap. Range of motion decreases and smaller accidents become more serious. For the elderly, a fall in the shower could cause a whole host of big problems. According to the National Institutes on Health (NIH), falling down is a “common reason for trips to the emergency room and for hospital stays among older adults. For a senior, one broken bone could be the difference between independence in a lifelong home and being stuck permanently in a long-term care facility like a nursing home.
Showering is an absolute hygiene must. If someone your provide care for is at risk of a shower fall, you need to be careful. Discuss safety. Keep tripping hazards off of the bathroom floor. A shower chair can work wonders for a senior in the shower, keeping her or him safe, while helping maintain independence and privacy.
Handwashing prevents people of all ages from getting sick. This is nothing new to seniors. But for many seniors, hand washing has always been an important but relatively small matter; getting sickness was a minor hassle. Older adults have weakened immune systems. This means two things: 1) they get ill more easily 2) illness is much more serious. For the elderly, a simple flu can be life-threatening. According to flu.gov, “Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.”
As a caregiver, it’s crucial that you remind senior of the importance of good hand hygiene. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells us to use soap and water, and to scrub for at least 20 seconds.
Seniors are also at increased risk for dental health problems. The average person over the age of 65 has “lost an average of 13 teeth,” according to the NIDCR. Make sure any senior in your care brushes for at least two minutes at a time, 2 or 3 times daily. Modern gadgets like electric toothbrushes and water flossers may make this process easier.
As you grow older, your driving patterns will change and a time will come when you might have to give up your keys. According to Mushkatel, Robbins, & Becker, “Barely half of Americans 65 and older held a driver’s license in the early 1970s. Today, 84% of seniors have a license”. It is important to recognize when that is the case. This does not mean the end of your independence, as there are a number of ways you can get around without hassle. This might mean making a switch to what can be a safer and healthier lifestyle for you in your senior years. Your body will give you signs to let you know that your driving patterns have become harmful, and it is necessary to pay attention to those signs. Here’s how to recognize these warning signs.
Health Related Complications
Some of the early warning signs that your age might be interfering with your driving are usually health related. One of the most common complications are health issues that affect your eyesight. If you have an eye condition that affects your vision that is a very clear indication that you should give up your keys. While such a condition might not directly affect your ability to see, it might compromise your night vision, making it difficult for you to drive in the dark. This could also be sensitivity to light or blurred vision.
Loss of Hearing
Loss of hearing could also be a very important sign, since your hearing is vital to your continued safety on the road. If you find that you are increasingly unaware of people honking around you or other safety cues necessary for the road, then you might need to reconsider your decision to keep driving.
If you are on constant medication, you should confirm with your healthcare provider if it is okay for you to keep driving, This is because the side effects of certain medication includes an inability to drive. The same goes should you discover that your reflexes seem to have slowed down and you are finding it increasingly difficult to react as swiftly as you should when you are driving.
Another key health related complication stems from memory loss. Getting lost or missing your way once in a while can happen to anyone. However, if this happens regularly, then you should seek professional help and suspend driving until you hear from your doctor.
Difficulty with Normal Driving Routine
When driving gradually becomes more stressful and you find yourself having difficulty with normal driving routine such as forgetting to turn on your lights, making sudden turns without using your signal or even breaking for no reason, then your driving has probably turned harmful. Also, if you find that you are increasingly having close calls such as near crashes and dents on your car, then that is a warning sign as well.
Benefits of Not Driving
Giving up driving does have several benefits. Not driving may not be easy for you at first, particularly if you have been driving your entire life and it is something you enjoy doing. Nevertheless, deciding not to drive can save your life and the lives of others sharing the road with you. Some benefits include:
Expand Your Network – This is a good way to meet people and expand your social network. If you are reluctant to ask a friend or neighbor for a ride, you can trade something in exchange.
Save on Gasoline and other costs – Owning and keeping a car can be a drain on the resources. Giving up your car means that you save on gasoline and other related costs.
Reduce health risks – In seeking alternative ways of transportation, you might decide to walk or maybe cycle to nearby destinations. These are great ways of incorporating exercise into your lifestyle, thereby reducing health risks.
Increase safety on the roads – Another benefit of not driving is ensuring increased safety on the roads. You greatly reduce the chances of a crash and keep the road safe for you and for other users.
Are you ready to give up your keys? How did you make the transition?
The internet has opened up huge avenues for information and commerce. The online world has endless marketplaces, databases, and communication possibilities. That openness has been, in many ways, a precious gift for aging populations, enabling senior citizens to do research, keep up with the news, and stay connected with friends and family in remote places.
Unfortunately, the same freedom that allows for an older adult to speak with his old baseball buddy overseas with the push of button also allows him to get preyed upon by eastern European cybercriminals. One click gets you the answers to the Sunday crossword puzzle, another click transfers the contents of your life savings to a teenager in St. Petersburg. Here are a few common tricks used by by internet charlatans trying to bilk senior citizens out of their hard-earned dough.
Scammers frequently fleece the elderly by claiming to be someone other than who they are via email. Common tricks include claiming to be a medicare agent, the IRS, or a falsely imprisoned member of Nigerian royalty. This scam is so effective because it elicits the happy cooperation of the victim. Instead of mugging you at knifepoint, the scammer talks you into simply handing it over. By the time you realize you’ve been duped, it’s way too late; someone somewhere’s got your money, and only thing you know about them is that they sent you an email claiming to want to help you out.
It’s not just new technologies such as email that enable frauds to slip their paws into your pocketbook. Good old telephones still serve as a useful tool for these morally moribund thieves. The technology may be different, but the scam is much the same. Scammers make false claims, get seniors to hand over their personal information, and voila! The thieves hold the keys to the city.
Some telemarketers pose special problems to seniors due to their similarity to legitimate salesmen. Many may actually be actual business owners who realize they’ve got an easy sell and step up their pushiness. But most cases of fraud by telemarketers involved actual criminals who set out specifically to prey on vulnerable populations. According to fraud.org, people 60 years and older make up nearly a full third of all telemarketing scam victims.
Seniors often have a complex med regimen. Scammers know this. They also know that seniors frequently have lots of money, may be in the process of cognitive decline, and were likely raised to be trusting, faithful citizens. They sell fake or stolen meds to elderly adults. Easy money. This fraud can take place by any of the previously mentioned methods: mail, email, telephone. It makes no difference. This trick can come at you from any direction.
What You Can Do
Keep in mind, if something seems too outlandish, or too good, to be true, it probably is. Very few people win the lottery. Sensitive medicaid issues will not be dealt with via email. Pharmacists will be upfront about costs and med updates.
Be vigilant. Keep these scams in mind. If something seems suspicious, speak with someone. You could help take down a predator.
As we age and the people in our lives begin to move away or pass, the loss of companionship and interaction with others can be a very real problem. Situations and friendships dissolving over time is a natural cycle of life, as nothing is permanent and change is ever-present. The loss of loved ones due to illness or geographical distance can cause a sense of loneliness and depression for us as we get older. It has always been said that a dog is a man’s best friend, and truer words have not be spoken when we age and have dog as a companion. Of course, it is not only dogs that can provide such companionship, cats, birds and a host of other animals can also serve as great companions.
Research studies tend to suggest that pets can benefit our health
Many research studies have been done regarding how pet ownership or living with a pet can benefit our health. Measuring the impact of human and animal interaction is difficult and problematic for researchers, so there are very few definitive conclusions that have been reached through these studies. The results of many studies do tend to suggest that having a pet can help with heart health and reducing depression or loneliness. One study suggested that pet ownership is an important source of much needed social support. This social support enhances a person’s well-being and alleviates loneliness. Another study found that those who have a pet had fewer doctor visits.
A growing trend in physical and mental therapy is the use of therapy dogs to help those patients suffering from depression, high blood pressure, and other conditions. Research suggests that animals have a healing effect on certain mental conditions in patients, such as decreasing stress and anxiety in post-traumatic stress disorder patients, decreasing loneliness and feelings of isolation in elderly patients and increasing self-esteem and spirit. The increase in self-esteem enables patients in physical therapy to be more involved in group activities.
The benefits of pet interaction also manifest in lowered blood pressure, a decrease in heart rates, an increase in endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, hormones which are associated with good health and a feeling of well-being. Hospitals and nursing homes have begun to use therapy animals much more in the past few years, and report a very positive impact on their patients’ quality of life.
Aging affects all parts of the body, including internal organs and the brain. It is important for seniors to understand the difference between “cognitive aging” a natural aging process, and the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. We gain the wisdom that can comes from living life experiences, while experiencing some level of decline in memory, attention and the ability to quickly process incoming stimuli.
Seniors or even a middle-aged people begin to worry when it becomes more difficult to remember a word, a name or other piece of data that would have come immediately to mind during our earlier years. This is not necessarily a sign that you are in the beginning stages of a serious condition such as Alzheimer’s, but only that you are experiencing part of the natural aging process.
Alzheimer’s disease has distinct symptoms that are similar to those experienced in normal cognitive aging. The National Institute of Health lists common symptoms of the onset of the disease, which include memory loss and confusion, a lost ability to recognize friends and relatives, problems in everyday tasks that involve several steps, and the loss of the ability to learn new things. As the disease progresses, it can bring paranoia, delusions or even hallucinations. These symptoms are far more extreme than simply forgetting minor things. Alzheimer’s disease includes personality changes, which is not a symptom of cognitive aging.
Americans 60 years or older want more than anything to “stay sharp” to the end of their years – even more than their concerns about cardiovascular health or other physical conditions or illnesses. We define ourselves by our ability to communicate and interact with others more than any other aspect of our personalities.
What can you do to slow the process of cognitive aging? As we get older, it becomes far more important to take care of ourselves by eating right, getting enough rest, and exercising. Staying healthy mentally involves taking on tasks that engage your mind, and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, such as watching TV for a large portion of the day. Join groups of like-minded individuals. Keep a journal. Do puzzles if you enjoy that type of activity. Keeping your mind active can help to stave off the natural process of cognitive aging, and keep you sharp.
Diet is a real issue for seniors. Eating out can be an unhealthy choice, as foods in restaurants may taste good, but is often loaded with sodium and fats that are unhealthy to consume on a regular basis. Make your diet a priority, and if you aren’t a cook, find a meal service that offers healthy options rather than those tasty, fat-laden meals that are so attractive. Focus on consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and good proteins, and avoid fast food and sugar. You may find you experience a resurgence of energy, and an overall feeling of health and wellbeing by taking this one step to better health.
Too many medications can leave an older person feeling groggy. Some medications are prescribed to address a physical situation that could be resolved by lifestyle changes. Rather than relying on medications, if diet and exercise can resolve a condition, move in that direction and get off as many medications as you can. These drugs hard on the body and have many side effects.
Enjoy your later years by focusing on taking care of yourself, and making the most of the opportunities that this phase of life brings.