Home Safety Checklist for Seniors

For most families, there comes a time when they must decide whether their aging parents are capable of living alone or if they should be moved into an assisted living facility. First and foremost, the health and functional capabilities of your elder play a large role in this decision. If they are healthy enough to live unassisted, then making sure their house is in top safety conditions is the next step. Here are some things you should check out when it comes to the safety of seniors in their home:

  • Is there enough lighting?
    Each room should be well lit so your elder can easily navigate through the house in the dark. We all know that our night vision gets weaker as we age, so adequate lighting throughout the entire household is a must. Adding nightlights to hallways or frequently visited rooms at night, like the bathroom, is also a good idea.
  • Are there smoke detectors?
    Make sure there are working smoke detectors in the house and follow the recommendation of changing the batteries yearly. You should also make sure there is a carbon monoxide detector as well.
  • Are there handrails along the staircases?
    Wherever there are steps, there should be sturdy railings. Senior citizens often struggle with maintaining their balance, and handrails help to make getting around easier. Make sure they are properly mounted and if it is applicable to have one on both sides of the stairwell, install them both. If necessary, having a stair lift installed is a great safety feature for senior citizens.
  • Is there a bathmat/handrail in the shower?
    Staircases aren’t the only place that require handrails. The shower should have one too. This will help your parent keep their balance while bathing and give them something to hold onto while they enter and exit the bathtub. There should also be a bathmat in the tub to help prevent slips and falls.
  • How are the floors/carpets holding up?
    If there are hardwood floors, are there loose boards? If there are carpets, are there rips and  tears? The floors should be an even, clean surface. You don’t want anyone to trip or stumble over any loose boards or lifted parts of the carpet. This also means that there should not be clutter, cords and other random objects on the floor that can get in someone’s path. Even throw rugs are a potential hazard due to their likelihood to move around. If there are throw rugs, secure them to the floor with double-sided tape.
  • Where are items that need to be reached daily located?
    If you are in the kitchen, how high are the cabinets? Where is the medicine kept? If anything is too high up for them to reach without assistance, this could cause problems. Is a stepstool needed? If so, make sure it does not wobble at all because you do not want someone to fall off of it. Try and put items that are frequently used in places that are easy to get to and do not require additional equipment to access.
  • Is there a fire extinguisher in the house?
    Hopefully they will never need to use a fire extinguisher, but accidents happen and there should be one somewhere in the house. Forgetting to blow out a candle or a mishap in the kitchen could cause a small fire and your parent should be prepared to put one out if this is the case. Also, make sure they are aware of how to use the fire extinguisher just in case one of these scenarios arises.
  • Is there a phone or emergency alert system accessible?
    Phones are absolutely necessary when someone is living alone because if there is an accident, they will need to call for help. Getting your parent a cell phone would also be beneficial, if they keep it on them, in case something happens when they are out of reach of the landline. If they are completely phoneless, they need an emergency alert system, no questions asked. An emergency alert system can be the only life saver in a situation where there is no phone available or they cannot get up to even get to the phone.

If your senior citizen has the physical strength and ability to maintain their memory and care for themselves on a daily basis, living alone is a possibility. Take the right steps to avoid even the most minor accident, as it can become more damaging if they are not properly prepared. Use this home safety checklist to make sure your loved one’s home is safe from top to bottom.

About the Author

Ruth Folger Weiss loves writing for Willow Spring Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a sub-acute rehabilitation center in Center Brick, NJ.

Dealing With Elderly Depression

When a person is suffering with depression, it is tough to sit idly by and watch. This is even tougher to do when it is one of your parents. Watching the people who have guided you throughout life suffer in any way can be difficult to deal with, especially when you know how happy and lively they were prior to this onset. You may wonder where their depression and/or lack of self-esteem stems from, but there are many things that can cause it when a person is aging.

Here are some of the common signs to look out for if you think someone you love is suffering from depression:

Mood swings.  If your loved one is happy and energetic one minute, but somber and sad the next, there could be an underlying issue, especially if you feel like the change in mood wasn’t really brought on by anything specific.

Changes in appearance. Sudden messy hair, no makeup, dirty clothes and the overall lack of care about one’s physical appearance can be a tell-tale sign of depression.

Antisocial behavior. Was your loved one the life of the family parties before and now you can barely even get them to attend? Staying indoors all day and not wanting company to come over can be another sign of depression in aging seniors.

Aging in general. Doctors appointments, sore muscles and joints, and memory loss can all play a toll on a person. Thinking about all the things they could do in their youth that they can’t do now, or just dealing with everyday aches and pains in general is another thing that can wear a person down.

Loss of a loved one. This is hard on anyone at any age, but can be especially difficult for the elderly, especially if it’s the loss of a spouse or child. When your children are finally grown and out of the house, it’s just you and your spouse. When they pass away, loneliness and depression is not uncommon. The loss of a child is not expected by any parent, so this is usually the toughest loss to cope with.

If you think one of your elderly relatives is suffering from depression, here are some of the ways you can help:

Create a support system. Make sure they know you are there for them. Stop by for dinners, play card games, watch television or just chat with them. If they are constantly being reminded of much they are loved and cared for, this may help pull them out of their slump.

Seek medication. Although they may put up a fight and it can seem like this is just another pill for them to add to their daily regimen, mental medication can be very beneficial. As long as their dosages are administered properly, medication can boost their moods and help them manage their depression.

Encourage their attendance at therapy. Venting to a professional can lift the weight off of a person’s shoulders. If your loved one doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you about their problems or thinks that they would be too much of a burden, seeking the help of a professional is a great idea. It allows them time to air their grievances and also gets them out of their home or living facility.

Avoid smothering them. It’s one thing to be there for your loved ones when they want to talk, but it’s another thing when you start taking over their daily tasks. Many older people like to continue to do their own chores and take care of their responsibilities. Offer to help them out, but don’t take over and do everything for them.

Set goals. Sit down with your loved one and create a list of small goals that they can achieve to help overcome their depression. Work together to create the list and these goals will give them something to look forward to.

In general, you do not want to let your loved one suffer or think that they are suffering alone. If you see any signs or symptoms of depression, do not ignore them. Do what you think is most appropriate for your loved one and definitely get them help. While some may be able to snap out of it on their own, this is not always the case and it’s better to be proactive.

About the Author

Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for Blueberry Hill Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Beverly, MA.

Maintaining Healthy Cholesterol in Seniors

As seniors age, so do the risks of heart attack and other hereditary health issues. Many of these problems can be related to cholesterol levels, which are usually curbed by medication during middle age. However, medication alone may not be enough to help seniors overcome unhealthy levels of cholesterol, which can lead to greater health problems. Maintaining an active lifestyle and eating properly greatly affect the overall health of a senior and maintain healthy cholesterol.

  • Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Seniors should try to be as active as possible within their physical limitations. Simple activities such as walking, climbing stairs, and gardening are effective exercises for helping reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly known as “bad” cholesterol. For seniors who are able to do more strenuous activities such as hiking and even weight lifting, the benefits increase further. Not only do they greatly reduce the risk of bad cholesterol, but also reduce the risk of heart attack and osteoporosis.  Physical activity also reduces hyper tension and depression, which is just as crippling for a senior’s mental health as it is physical.  Any activity to increase cardiovascular health will be a benefit to a senior.
  • Eat less processed foods. Processed foods that are calorically dense fail to provide seniors with the nutrition they need to stave off bad levels of cholesterol. Fruits and vegetables are excellent foods for maintaining good cholesterol. Several helpings of green, leafy vegetables provide the most benefit to seniors. While eating lots of vegetables will reduce bad cholesterol, seniors should also be aware that as they age, they may have more problems maintaining a healthy weight. Overweight seniors should be aware of portion control and avoid processed foods as much as possible. Underweight seniors should eat healthy fats found in nuts and avocados and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Gaining weight on processed foods will only increase the risk of bad cholesterol, so stick to nutritional foods.
  • Laugh, and then laugh some more.  Recent research has shown that depression may be directly linked to low levels of cholesterol, which is unhealthy in seniors. As people age, cholesterol levels rise, particularly during middle age, and then plateau in most women but decreasing to a degree in men. Higher levels of cholesterol, especially “good” cholesterol, or high-density lipoproteins (HDL), are actually favorable for optimal health in seniors. Paying attention to a senior’s mental health may be an indicator that he or she has lowered or unhealthy levels of cholesterol. Depressed seniors will shy away from eating the foods they need because they prefer “comfort” foods, which more often than not come in the form of processed foods that hold little nutritional value.  Physical activity greatly reduces when seniors are not feeling good and social interaction also decreases. All of these factors play into the general health of a senior and by extension can become the cause of greater health issues, including cholesterol.  Because mental health has been shown to directly affect physical health, mental health is just as important as physical health and the two should be treated with equal importance.

Maintaining mental and physical health, coupled with a nutritious diet ensures happy and healthy lifestyle for seniors. Seniors should not rely on medication alone to help them maintain healthy levels of cholesterol. However, if that medication is necessary, eating a proper diet, exercising daily, and keeping the mind stimulated to reduce the risk of depression will help maintain overall health for seniors. Maintaining a healthy level of cholesterol doesn’t have to be difficult. Talk with your doctor or caregiver about the ways that you can get your cholesterol to a healthy level, or maintain your current cholesterol if it’s already stable.

About the Author

Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for Brentwood Rehab, a Danvers, MA nursing home.

Immunizations For Senior Citizens

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month, which means there is no better time to get your immunizations than now. Getting the proper vaccinations is important and is not something that is limited to young children and adolescents. In fact, as a senior citizen, now is the time to make sure you are protected against disease. Learn more about the types of immunizations you should be getting to protect yourself!

  • Chicken Pox & Shingles:  If you have never had the chicken pox vaccination, now is the time to get vaccinated! This also holds true if you were only given the first dose of the vaccine as a child. Proactively protect yourself because this disease can lead to serious complications. Seniors must get a specific vaccine that specifically targets shingles and chicken pox because shingles commonly occurs in people who are over 50 years of age. Many people believe that the chicken pox vaccine protects against shingles because both come from the same bacteria, but this is not the case. Talk with your doctor to ensure you’re getting the protect you need.
  • Diphtheria & Tetanus: TDAP is the name for the vaccine that protects against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis in adults. It is suggested that seniors receive each vaccination every ten years to ensure protection against these diseases. This vaccine also helps to protect against Pertussis, which is more commonly known as whooping cough. Although whooping cough doesn’t pose a serious threat to adults, it can be extremely harmful to infants. Receiving this vaccination helps protect you and your family from getting extremely ill, particularly if you have grandchildren who are very young.
  • Influenza:  The flu is responsible for many hospitalizations for people of all ages and is not a pleasant illness to deal with, as recovery time can be slow. For seniors, the flu can be especially harmful and even result in death. As you age, your body weakens and lacks the proper ability to fight illnesses as well as it once could. Getting your flu shot each year is important in order to prevent catching the disease. Seniors living in nursing homes should  receive their flu shots annually to prevent the spread of the flu within the facility. A higher dose of the vaccine is sometimes available to those who are older to help them prevent the disease even further. Your doctor can help you decide which version of the vaccination is right for you.
  • Pneumococcal:  Similar to the flu, Pneumonia is responsible for many deaths among the elderly. If you had a  pneumonia vaccination as a child, you are still eligible for another one time shot. Those who smoke or have issues with their lungs can see major complications from the pneumonia, making prevention key.
  • Other Vaccinations:  Some seniors who are older and suffering with other medical conditions may be more susceptible to other illnesses such as Meningitis, Hepatitis A and B, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. Talk to your doctor to find out if any or all of these vaccinations are right for you.

These are just some of the vaccines that will protect you against illnesses and the complications that come along with them, especially if you are considering assisted living. Talk with your doctor or visiting doctor to learn more about protecting your body from severe illness and the vaccinations you may need.

About the Author

Ruth Folger Weiss is a writer for the Mont Marie Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a post acute rehabilitation center in Holyoke, MA.

Outdoor Activities for Senior Citizens

Get Up and Get Out: Ways senior citizens can take advantage of the warm weather

The end of summer is drawing near, so now is the time to get outside and soak up every last ray of sunshine. Who wants to sit cooped up inside all day when the weather outside is gorgeous? Take advantage of the warm temperatures now by getting outside and participating in a fun outdoor activity or by bringing one of your favorite indoor activities out into the fresh air. Here are some outdoor activities for the elderly who are still young at heart!

Enjoy classic games. Find a table or grab a blanket and play cards, checkers or a board game with friends or family. Bring out your competitive side and round up a friendly game of shuffleboard. Pick a partner to play with or cheer on your friends. Make a tournament out of it to really up the ante and become the shuffleboard champion. Gather your friends or family members and create a scavenger hunt for everyone. Come up with a fun theme, split into teams and keep it around the property or make it throughout your senior living facility.

Get out and garden. Put your green thumb to use and do some gardening. Whether your planting your favorite flowers or vegetables, it’s a great activity to get you moving and with a beautiful or tasteful result.

Stretch it out. Grab a yoga mat and get some exercise with outdoor yoga.  There are special programs designed specifically for senior citizens and it is a great way to relax, stretch and meditate. Yoga is a simple way to get moving and give your body and mind some extra love.

Take a walk around the block. A nice stroll can lift moods and reenergize spirits. Take in the scenery and travel down a path you haven’t been down before. Maybe you’ll discover something new while getting your heart rate pumping.

Soak up the sun. Find different ways to spend more time outside. Listen to live music if there is a band playing nearby. Some parks feature outdoor concert series in the summertime so be sure to check if there any happening locally. Lay out a blanket in an open area, pack a few sandwiches and snacks and have a picnic. Enjoy an al fresco dining experience with friends or family in a nostalgic way.

Get inspired by nature. Bring out your inner artist and paint a canvas outdoors. Paint the scenery or see if a class is offered where you could follow a template or copy an image. Crafting is also another option for the outdoors. Paint a beautiful scenery or draw your own creation. Use of color has been linked to improving those who suffer from dementia, so don’t hold back on the bright paints and markers!

As long as the sun is shining, the opportunities for outdoor activities are endless. The activity may need to be determined by your health or mobility, but there are surely plenty of options for everyone. Not only are there physical benefits of being outside but there are mental ones as well. Remember to always stay hydrated while participating in any outdoor activity and if the temperatures are too hot, it may be best to stay inside. While the weather’s still nice, get up, get out and get moving!

About the Author

Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for Oakland Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Oakland, NJ.

Summer Skin Care Tips for Seniors

Protecting your skin is important at all stages of life. However as a person ages, their skin becomes more delicate and therefore needs more protection and care. During the harsh, summer months, senior citizens are more susceptible to having skin problems, but that doesn’t mean that they should have to forgo outdoor activities because of sensitive skin. With a health conscious mind and these skin care tips, you can spend less time worrying about your skin this summer and more time enjoying the activities you love!

  • Bug Bites:  Getting bitten by insects during the summer is never pleasurable for anyone at any age. Between the itching and possible transmission of diseases, getting bitten by a mosquito or other summer insect is something that should be avoided all together.  To avoid getting bitten by bugs, make sure to apply bug spray, following the directions on the bottle. Wearing long sleeved clothing during dusk and evening hours can also serve as an extra precautionary measure as it will make it harder for pesky insects to reach your skin. If you do happen to get bitten, treating the afflicted areas with a solution specifically made to relieve itching will help prevent scratching, which can lead to open bites and scars on the skin.
  • Sun Protection:  Protecting your skin from the sun seems like a no-brainer, however, it is even more important to do so when you’re older. If you live in a senior living community and are unable to apply sunscreen to all areas of your body, a caregiver will be there to assist you. Applying sunscreen is vital because sunburn becomes harder to heal as certain cells in the body have a harder time repairing the damage, which can ultimately lead to infection.  Applying sunscreen liberally and wearing clothes that cover your skin as much as possible, while still being breathable will help block harmful rays. Don’t forget to protect your eyes and head with sunglasses and a hat!
  • Dry Skin: With the heat, you’ll most likely have the air conditioner running at various points throughout the summer. While it provides a nice chill, it can also cause dry skin. Dry skin is irritating and painful, especially with the constant need to scratch it. To prevent your skin from becoming dry, make applying a moisturizer that is gentle on skin and free from harsh chemicals a part of your daily routine.
  • Shade: Protecting your skin from the sun doesn’t just stop at sunscreen and protective clothing. The sun can still sneak up on you and cause unknown skin damage if exposed for too long. To prevent this from happening, it is always a good idea to spend most of your time outside in a shady spot that blocks you from a direct hit from the sun. Staying in the shade will not only help your skin, but it will also keep your body temperature down, reducing the risk of heat stroke.
  • Chlorine: Taking a leisurely swim is relaxing and a great summer activity. The only down side to this great form of exercise is the effect chlorine can have on your skin.  Chlorine is known to cause pre-mature aging of the skin for younger people and can lead to lasting damage for senior citizens with already-aged skin. Chlorine can also cause skin irritation, which can be a pain. To prevent this irritation, it is best to limit your time in a chlorine treated pool and to always rinse off after a swim.

Don’t let your skin concerns affect how you spend your time during the summer. The tips above will ensure that your skin is protected while you enjoy outdoor activities!

About The Author

Ruthie Folger Weiss loves writing for Heritage Center, a rehabilitation and senior care center in Minster, OH.

Senior Living Spring Activities

When the winter weather finally breaks and those first signs of spring begin to show, everybody wants to be outside.  Many senior citizens are confined to staying indoors during the harsh winter months due to the potential dangers posed by the extreme weather conditions, and once the sun starts shining, some fresh air is exactly what they need. Below are a list of some fun activities seniors can take part in this spring!

  • Take a walk. Stroll around the block and take in the scenery. Studies have shown that even ten minutes of walking a day can help senior citizens maintain their strength and agility. Walking, along with various other types of physical activity, gets the blood pumping through the body and helps oxygen flow to the brain. Take a stroll this spring, and don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers along the way!
  • Go to a sporting event. Whether it’s catching a Major League Baseball game or a grandchild’s soccer match, a sporting event can energize anyone. Attending a game also means time to socialize, which is great for senior citizens who have been stuck inside most of the winter.
  • Have a picnic. Enjoying a meal outdoors is a nice change of scene when the weather’s appropriate. Make a plan with the family and have lunch outdoors. Enjoy watching the grandkids play and catching up with your children. If hosting a picnic seems like too much, plan a day out with your closest friends to a restaurant with outdoor seating. You’ll still be enjoying the outdoors but without all the work!
  • Start a garden. The responsibility of maintaining the plants will keep you outside all season long! Plant some colorful flowers and watch them bloom, or try your hand at growing some vegetables. Once they’ve matured, you can use them in your cooking and share them with friends and loved ones.
  • Do some exercise. Many people think that senior citizens should avoid physical activity to help prevent injury. There are a lot of misconceptions revolving around this issue, but the fact of the matter is that senior citizens need exercise just as much as anyone else! When the weather’s nice enough, go for a swim or participate in an outdoor fitness class, like yoga for seniors. It’s especially important to stay physically active in your later years so that your body will remain functioning. As the old adage goes, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!
  • Play a game. Bring a board game or a deck of cards outside and challenge a friend or family member. Engaging your brain will help keep you sharp. If board games aren’t in your wheelhouse, try participating in some friendly shuffleboard or tennis. Playing a sport can even double as your physical activity for the day.
  • Take a field trip. Whether you head out to a local tourist spot or to your favorite diner for a bite to eat, the spring weather is perfect to travel in. Visit a local park to take in the scenery and get your legs moving. Visit a museum to experience the arts,  or attend an outdoor concert with your family. The caregivers at senior homes across the country recommend checking with your local visiting center or the activities board at your senior care facility to see what’s currently happening in your town.

Being outside is a natural stress reliever and always brings an increased sense of vitality and energy for seniors. With the season’s shifting, longer periods of daylight, and warmer weather ahead, seniors and their families can enjoy the great outdoors these fun spring activities!

About The Author

Ruthie Folger Weiss loves writing for Signature Senior Living, an elder care community in Brooklyn, NYC.

Defying the Odds at 50+

Source: http://www.carehomestoday.co.uk/content21/assisted-living.html

Tips for Assisting an Elder with Dental Care

If you are looking after a loved one, helping to maintain their dental health can be a difficult subject to broach. Tooth loss and dental disease, along with decreased finger dexterity and general mobility which makes it difficult to properly clean teeth, can all take a toll on an elderly person’s dignity.

Whether you are a family caregiver or a professional carer, you may encounter a bit of resistance initially. However, ensuring oral health is an essential part of caring for an elder’s overall health. Poor oral health has been linked to higher incidence of lung infections and can aggravate existing conditions like diabetes and heart conditions.

Here are a few practical guidelines to help ensure the oral care and support you provide is both effective and kind.

1. Look out for any existing oral conditions

Mouth or tooth pain can leave anyone feeling poorly. In addition, a host of medications can dry out the mouth, adding to the overall discomfort. On the other hand, a healthy mouth means tastier food, better appetite and usually also improved communication.

As you provide support with tooth brushing and dental hygiene, keep an eye on any changes in gum and tooth health. Any bumps, swellings or lesions that do not heal in two weeks, or bleeding and loose teeth are cause for a trip to the dentist or at least a call to your dentists’ practice to seek advice. Regularly ask your loved one if their teeth are sensitive and note any difficulty they may experience when chewing or swallowing.

2. How to help with teeth brushing

Though the level of support you may need to provide when brushing teeth will vary, it is important to make the experience as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

Your loved one might be able to brush their teeth at the sink. In that case, ensure you have a chair positioned in front of the sink and a towel and cup handy. Brushing teeth can easily be done simply sitting up in bed too and rinsing into a cup.

Brush: Using a soft bristled brush, use small round motions to clean each tooth. Also gently clean the tongue. Consider an electric toothbrush as they can be a good option for providing thorough care.

Floss: Floss each tooth, implant and dental bridge. Normal dental floss should work fine but you could also try spongy floss or floss picks to see which works best.

Rinse: Use an antibacterial mouthwash to finish. If the elder you are caring for is unable to rinse with mouthwash, just ask them to spit out any toothpaste into a cup. Don’t worry about remaining residue. If it’s fluoride toothpaste this will actually benefit the teeth.

Dentures: Dentures should be removed at night and cleaned thoroughly daily.

3. Cleanliness after meals and throughout the day

Having frequent sips of water during the day is a great way of keeping the mouth feeling fresh and moist. After meals ensure all food is wiped away and ask your loved one to rinse into a cup to remove any remaining food from their mouth. You could also offer xylitol gum for chewing in between meals.

4. Don’t forget about the dentist

Most dentist recommend that seniors pay their dentist a visit every six months for a checkup and thorough clean. This is a good time to raise any general dental health questions you may have, but don’t wait for the bi-annual visit to address any serious dental health issues.

5. A few notes on diet

Often foods that are easy to prepare, eat and chew are also high in sugars and refined carbohydrates. These can not only increase the chance of cavities but will also aggravate other conditions like having a dry mouth. Thankfully there are quite a lot of teeth-friendly and generally more healthy foods options out there.

It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with elder nutrition guidelines and where relevant to work with the care facility.

About the Author

Emma Harris lives in Cuffley, Hertfordshire, where she writes for her local dentist, Cuffley Village Dental Practice who have extensive experience providing dental care to elderly patients.