alzheimer's care

Tag Archive for aging in place

The #1 Cause of Disability in America

May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, a time when we recognize aArthritis condition that is the #1 cause of disability in America and affects more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children.

Rather than a single disease, arthritis is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go, and be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years, but may progress or get worse over time.

Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on an X-ray. Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints.

Common types of arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, where the cartilage – the slick, cushioning surface on the ends of bones – wears away and bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include excess weight, family history, age and previous injury (an anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tear, for example). Maintain a healthy weight to help prevent Osteoarthritis.
  • Inflammatory arthritis, where the immune system can go awry, mistakenly attacking the joints with uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing joint erosion and possibly damaging internal organs, eyes and other parts of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are examples of inflammatory arthritis. Smoking is an example of an environmental risk factor that can trigger rheumatoid arthritis in people with certain genes. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is critical. Tip: Do not smoke.
  • Infectious Arthritis, whereby a bacterium, virus or fungus enter the joint and trigger inflammation. This includes salmonella and shigella (food poisoning or contamination), chlamydia and gonorrhea (sexually transmitted diseases) and hepatitis C (a blood-to-blood infection, often through shared needles or transfusions). In many cases, timely treatment with antibiotics may clear the joint infection, but sometimes the arthritis becomes chronic.
  • Metabolic Arthritis, where uric acid forms as the body breaks down purines, a substance found in human cells and in many foods. Some people have high levels of uric acid because they naturally produce more than is needed or the body can’t get rid of the uric acid quickly enough. In some people the uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint, resulting in sudden spikes of extreme joint pain, or a gout attack. Gout can come and go in episodes or, if uric acid levels aren’t reduced, can become chronic, causing ongoing pain and disability. Eating a healthful diet, low in sugar, alcohol and purines, will help prevent Metabolic Arthritis.

Treatment for arthritis can include medication (prescription, over-the-counter and natural therapies), diet, exercise and joint surgery.

Pet Therapy for the Elderly

Happy Senior Man With His Dog

A therapy pet can be a powerful member of the caregiver team. It has been well established that pets can lower the risk of heart attack and increase survival rates in those who have suffered heart attack, but research shows there are many more additional benefits.

When humans interact with animals, there is a resulting increase in the production of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin – the “good” hormones responsible for improving mood. Further, levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are decreased.

These hormonal changes result in a sense of well-being which helps improve depression, agitation, social interaction, engagement, and even nutritional intake.

Taking walks with a dog tends to motivate seniors to walk farther, thereby increasing their level of physical activity. In situations where mobility is reduced, talking to or petting an animal can still lower heart rate, improve vital signs, and has been shown to reduce the need for medication.

If you are considering pet therapy for yourself or an elderly loved one, here are some tips that may help:

Make the decision together. Situations vary and people age differently. Full pet ownership may not be suitable for every situation, and the right pet should be paired with the right person. A decision to get a pet should not be forced on the elderly person. For some, pet ownership may not be the answer. The services of a professional therapy pet may be a better choice.

Does the person have disabilities? In some cases, dogs may not be a good fit for someone with major physical limitations. Indoor pets that need less care, such as cats or birds may be a better fit. In cases of significant impairments, your loved one may be a candidate for a service animal to aid in functioning.

Age, Size, and Temperament. When matching a pet to an elderly person, it is important to consider the animal’s unique temperament, care and grooming needs, training, physical size, and remaining life expectancy. A young puppy or kitten may require too much training and lack the maturity to be a suitable companion. While much older pets may have more health problems that could result in expensive veterinary bills and medications. A plan should be in place to determine who will care for the animal if it outlives its owner.

Financial Considerations. Some pets are more expensive than others to maintain. Consider the costs involved for each type of pet, not just for initial cost, but also ongoing care and maintenance. Adopting a pet from your local shelter may be a more affordable choice. Shelter workers or foster owners often become very familiar with each animal’s personality and may be able to assist in making a good match. Additionally, some shelters offer discounts to seniors. For instance, Idaho Humane Society offers a discount to people over the age of 60.

Pet Sharing. If acquiring a full time pet for your loved one is too impractical, consider “borrowing” someone else’s pet. Do you or a close friend have a dog or other pet that is well socialized and up for a house call? Consider bringing the pet for regular visits with your elderly loved one. Recent studies have even shown that watching cat videos online can boost energy and reduce sadness and anxiety.

Click here to download the PDF, Tips for Caregivers: Deciding if Pet Therapy is Right for Your Loved One. For more information, including research about pets and seniors, visit Pets for the Elderly

Personal grooming and housekeeping changes — a warning sign that care may be needed series

A messy house is not necessarily a cause for concern. First, take into consideration underlying reasons. Person Washing Hands with Soap in WashbasinIf the elder is recovering from illness or injury, they may not have the ability to keep up their normal routine due to pain. If it has been awhile since you’ve seen the elder—maybe they don’t keep their house the same as they did when you were younger. You need to assess if this is by choice or lack of ability. Drastic changes, especially, are the concern. For both of those issues housekeeping services will help. If the holidays are near there can be other factors such as depression of the loss of loved ones or the family’s inability to come together. Still, you can be sensitive to recognize warning signs during occasional visits. See other warning signs that care may be needed. Download our printable checklist to see if care might be needed.

Increased injury and safety concerns — a warning sign that care may be needed series

Fall-related injuries are the leading cause of accidental death in adults age 65 and older. After a fall, the fear of falling can become as life changing and routine-inhibiting as the pain and recovery. One of my senior loved ones fell recently. She was so badly injured, she ended up in the hospital for almost a week. Afterwards, she needed physical therapy to improve her balance and coordination. medical

There are several easy steps you can take to prevent falls and reduce the fear of falling in older adults. For example, remove throw rugs and incorporate confidence-building exercise. Here is a great resource: Preventing falls in older adults. Read More

Hoarding — a warning sign that care may be needed series

More than collecting, hoarding hampers everyday life by the excessive collection of unnecessary items. When hoarding becomes an issue, items which are not only unnecessary—but often unusable—are carefully guarded.

Many times, the hoarder is unaware how bad their situation has grown. Remember, it often takes time to amass the items.  They have become used to the living situation gradually.

Hoarding is linked to some of the other signs that care is needed, such as mobility, safety concerns and housekeeping changes. Read More

Right Sizing and Universal Design

A popular retirement plan used to be: invest in a home, wait until the kids move out, sell it and downsize. Some goals included a purchasing a single level home, little to no yard, or paying cash for the new home. Our current economy has proved it isn’t a fail-safe plan.

RightsizingLow angle view of a brown house against cloudy background

Even though a large home can become a chore to maintain, down-sizing isn’t the best option for all seniors. Here is a story about a couple who doubled the size of their home, and one of the greatest perks they found was they now have room for the grand-kids. Read More

When is it time to make decisions for your parents?

Watching someone who took care of you decline in health and ability can be a difficult process. During the period you first see signs of mental or physical degeneration you may be tempted to start making or suggesting arrangements for your loved one.

Before you even mention the need for care, assess their situation. Expressing your suspicion can lead to adamant denial or arguments and if your concern is unwarranted, it will hinder future conversation.

E-How has a list of warning signs that elderly parents may need care, here it is: Read More

Preventing Falls in Older Adults

Prevent Falls in SeniorsIt is estimated that one in three adults age 65 and older fall each year. Older adults are hospitalized five times more frequently for falling related injuries than any other cause. Accidental falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths and non-fatal falls shown in one study estimated the average cost of falling to be $19,440 per person.

In addition to the injuries, many older adults develop a fear of falling and limit their activity. This actually decreases their mobility and increases their chance of falling. Read More

Aging in Place and Quality of Life

I am often asked why I began working in the senior care industry. It all began about 30 years ago while attending Bible school. I worked in a nursing home to help pay the bills. It was there that I discovered how much I enjoyed seniors. I was drawn to their wisdom, their stories, and their sense of humor, their dignity, and often their quiet suffering. It was the suffering that really affected me, and that was something I tried to alleviate when I could. Read More