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New Year Assessment

The New Year’s is a time for resolutions and making good on the promises you’ve made to better yourself. Unfortunately, some senior citizens lack the physical and mental strength to make that happen. That’s why this New Year’s, it’s a good idea to do an assessment to make sure they’re living a healthy and happy life. Use this holiday time to gauge how well your senior loved ones are doing!

Look around their home. Is it clean? Does it have clutters of mess all around the different living areas? Has it been cleaned recently? If not, then it might be best to address these issues. An unclean home can be a potentially dangerous home due to fire hazards as well as health hazards. If a senior is unable to tend to the care of their own home then it might be time to downsize. Talk to other family members about making the life easier of your elderly loved one.

We’ve talked, at large, recently about assessing your senior driver’s ability to operate a vehicle. It’s a very difficult talk to have, because driving grants a feeling of independence and freedom. However, if you are noticing things such as dents, scratches, and damages to the car or garage, it might be a good idea to assess your senior’s ability to drive. Let them take you out for a drive. If they’re driving too slow or having a hard time remembering where to go, it might be a good idea to have that difficult conversation about ceasing to drive. For more information about having that talk, visit this link here.

Healthy Aging
It’s always best to stay on top of your senior’s health. Know what kind of medications they’re taking. Did they get any new ones? Have they increased any dosage? Do their medications have any side effects. These are all important questions to ask. Yes, it may be annoying for both parties, but the more questions you ask, the more you truly care about your loved one. Their health is important. Let them know that by staying on top of their daily lives and medication schedule.

One of the most difficult conversations to have with a loved one is about finances. However, it’s a very critical one to have. A crisis or emergency can occur at any time, and it’s good to know where you can find records of their financial reports. It’s also a good idea to gain a grasp on their own financial security. Check their mail. Are there bills piling up or is everything paid off in time? Do they need any help? Older adults have a very tough time accepting help from other people. However, if you inquire about their financial status and there are certain bills that they can’t pay, offer to help. It’s a good way to give back for all the love and care they offered you while they were raising you.

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Senior Holiday Gift Ideas

It’s never easy finding the right gift for that elderly loved one in your family. I’ve witnessed plenty of gifts still in their packaging from years prior. I’ve asked my parents, “Why haven’t you used any of these new gifts I’ve gotten you.” They always respond the same way with, “There’s nothing wrong with what we have now,” even though some of my father’s winter clothes are literally ripping at the seams. It’s best to try and find something useful that they can utilize in everyday life. Here is a list of suggested ideas that would be perfect for your senior loved ones!

  • Natural Light Lamp – Most older adults love reading print. It might be outdated technology to some Millennials, but at one point books were printed on paper with ink. However, sometimes improper lighting can cause strain on the eyes which leads to headaches. With a natural light lamp, this strain is reduced and mimics real sunlight, reducing strain on the eyes and making reading more enjoyable!
  • Medication Reminder Clock – If your senior loved has had a stroke or heart attack, you’ll know what a saving grace this clock can be. Most seniors take multiple types of pills throughout the day and it’s difficult to keep track of them all. This clock is designed specifically for seniors to stay on top of their medication schedule. It has a loud and extra loud setting for the alarm, just in case your senior is hard at hearing. This is a great gift for anyone who worries whether or not their senior is taking their medication at the right time!
  • Record Player – Yes, we’re talking about another piece of outdated technology, but they’re making a comeback! There’s a higher demand for them now that people crave that nostalgic feeling of placing a needle on a black vinyl record. Does your mother, father, grandpa, or grandmother still have their old records? Get them a record player! Music soothes the soul and is a great brain stimulator.
  • Memory Book – It’s always fun to make something creative for a loved one! This holiday season, do some scrapbooking! Pictures are a great way to bring back great family members. It shows how much you care about them and how all those memories are not lost.

The holiday season is a time for love and joy to be shared with family and friends. However, holiday shopping can get hectic. Hopefully these gift suggestions will come in handy but make sure to give the best gift of all: your attention. Some seniors lack the mobility or even the energy to get out and interact with people. The holidays are a perfect opportunity to spend some time with them. They might not utilize your “perfect” gift, but they will appreciate your love and affection!

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December is Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month

The entire month of December is dedicated to raising awareness for Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. In the winter solstice, the days are shorter, we receive less light, the temperature drops, and our overall moods may be affected. There are all sorts of side effects that include daytime lethargy, irritability, weight gain, and withdraw from people. If you notice your senior loved one is experiencing some of these side effects he or she might be suffering from SAD. Luckily there are ways to fight it!

Preventing SAD
The best way to prevent SAD is to exercise. When you get the blood flowing and the heart pumping, your brain automatically releases serotonin, a chemical that helps regulate your mood. When you remain inactive for too long, the rest of your body tends to get lazy. Even your brain refuses to do all the important things it needs to do such as releasing important chemicals to balance your mood. There are a lot of good exercises you can do the help fight off SAD. However, it’s always best to consult with your doctor to make sure what exercises are right for you. Here are a few good examples:

  • Walking
  • Distance Running
  • Yoga
  • Cycling

To make your exercise even more effective, try doing it outside. It’ll add some much needed sunlight to your daily routine. This extra sunlight also elevates the serotonin levels in your body.

See Your Doctor
Unfortunately, exercise is not a total brick wall when it comes to SAD. It’s still possible to feel its effects even after you exercise. If that’s the case, make sure you schedule an appointment with your primary physician. He or she will be able to map out the steps or discuss your treatment options with you in order to feel happy and enjoy life once again.

Outside factors can affect your mood, and no one should have to battle seasonal depression alone. Make sure you celebrate SAD Awareness Month properly. If you or your senior loved are feeling the “winter blues,” don’t ignore the symptoms. Start exercising, start getting some sun, and be proactive in the fight against SAD!

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National Flu Vaccination Week

December 7th to the 13th is National Flu Vaccination Week, which is particularly important for people above the age of 65. According to the CDC, 90 percent of all flu-related deaths occur in people over the age of 65 and between 50 and 60 percent of all flu-related hospitalizations occur in adults over the age of 65. This is due to the fact that the immune system weakens as you age, causing older adults to be more susceptible to the various influenza viruses. Symptoms of the flu can range anywhere from a high fever to aches and pains and even nausea and vomiting. Luckily, a flu vaccine will make you more resistant – read below to learn more about how to prevent the flu!

A vaccine is essentially a weaker form of the virus that you are trying to prevent, and is often created by a weakened or dead version of it. This allows the body to prepare antibodies, which are a part of your immune system designed to fight off diseases. These prepared antibodies allow your immune system to become more familiar with the disease it is encountering, which ultimately makes it easier to defeat!

Types of Vaccines
Flu vaccines are a great way to prepare your body for the upcoming flu season, which can start as early as October and last as late as May. There are multiple version of the flu vaccine, but the two most common are trivalent shots and quadrivalent shots. The trivalent shots ward off three different types of the influenza virus, while the quadrivalent shot is potent enough to halt four versions of the influenza virus.

If your senior loved one is curious about the multiple types of shots given, they can see them all here. Often times, seniors receive a higher dose of the trivalent shot due to the fact that old age weakens the immune systems. However, the CDC doesn’t declare that one type of shot is better than the other. They believe that any flu shot is better than no flu shot. Nonetheless, if you or your senior loved one still have questions regarding flu vaccines, it’s best to consult your primary physician.

Flu season is here, and it’s unfortunate that it coincides with the holiday season. It’s best to get your vaccinations early so your body can build up it’s immunity quicker. You don’t want a nasty flu bug ruining your holiday plans. Go out and celebrate National Flu Vaccination Week by heading to your doctor’s office or local pharmacy to get yours!

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Avoiding Senior Seasonal Depression

The holidays are not always filled with joy and cheer. It can be a very stressful time for anyone, especially the elderly. The loss of loved ones or isolation from their family can contribute to senior depression during the holidays. It’s very common for this time of year. High expectations are always set for the holidays. Everything has to be so perfect such as finding the right gift, making it to family functions on time, and matching the holiday cheer of the peers around you. It can be difficult, especially when you’re aging and lack the mobility and energy you once had. If you do notice that your senior loved one is sad, tired, never hungry, or socially withdrawn this holiday season, he or she might be experiencing depression.

However, a senior’s emotional state is not the only thing affected by holiday-related depression. In fact, the most common symptoms of depression amongst the elderly are physical ailments, however it often goes undiagnosed because people don’t often think that arthritis pain can be a side effect of depression. Other physical ailments from depression include:

  • Unexplained aches
  • Slowed movement
  • Headaches
  • Memory problems

The most important thing to understand is that depression is not a natural part of aging. It’s common, but should be dealt with quickly. What could start as “winter blues” could turn to a senior loved one being clinically depressed. If that’s the case, their normal life may be affected severely. Instead of feeling upset about being away from their family, their thoughts can turn to a feeling of worthlessness, a thought no one should ever think. They begin to question the value of life and an excessive feeling of guilt may take over them. This is when the lethargy begins to set in. An older adult who’s clinically depressed may remain in bed for days at a time, neglecting to take care of themselves.

It may be difficult identifying an older adult who has seasonal depression or clinically depressed. If they do have some form of depression, very rarely will they ask for help. It’s up to you to not allow this to happen. Involve your older relatives as much as you can during the holidays. Have the family functions at their house. If they’re in an assisted living facility, visit them. If there are older adults living in your community whose family is unable to visit them, invite them over to spend the holidays with you. This is a time to spend with your family and friends. Do your part to make sure no one goes unnoticed.

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Senior Driving Safety Tips:

How to Support and Cope with Elders’ Driving Cessation

Driving provides all individuals a certain sense of independence. One of the proudest moments people remember is when they receive their driver’s licenses for the very first time. As individuals age their reactions, senses, and cognitive abilities often decline. They eventually must relinquish their driver’s licenses and stop driving for safety reasons. This is extremely difficult to accept and can cause severe emotional disturbance such as hostility and depression.

It is important to understand exactly how much fear and sadness this evokes from seniors. They may feel as if they are giving up their entire world and independence. When elders cease driving they may begin to experience feelings of isolation and imprisonment.

Driving Cessation discussions with Elders
Hopefully discussions of driving cessation begin long before any accidents, damages, or injuries take place. Look for signs that elder driving abilities are declining such as slight damage to vehicles or parking areas. Many states have local programs that can help assess elder’s abilities to determine if there are any issues. In some cases, these can be resolved by obtaining new prescription glasses, enrolling in refresher courses, or simply altering transportation schedules.

It is important to speak with elders about driving cessation and essential that they be heard. Use some of the warning signs as discussion initiators. For example, present the fact that seniors seem stressed out and overly tired from or when driving.

Be prepared with alternatives for transportation before beginning a discussion of cessation. Ensure that these ideas and suggestions do not compromise elder dignity. The internet offers a simple method of investigating these alternatives. Many local community centers and church organizations have programs in place to help with senior mobility.

One effective solution may be to simply change senior driving habits. Perhaps they could run errands when traffic is at its slowest. Set driving schedules for daylight hours and good weather days. Help elders create an effective driving schedule and suggest they only complete a certain amount of tasks during each trip.

Ask the whole family to be involved in driving cessation discussions. Speak with them about the importance of showing support in the decision. Also make sure they understand how important it is to preserve elder dignity. Family members may be able to present new transport alternatives or contribute their own time to this endeavor. It is essential that elders receive encouragement and support. Do not ridicule, belittle, or berate them during this process.

Last Resorts
There are a few measures that it is sometimes necessary to take to ensure that elders do not get out on the road. Remember this is for senior and other driver safety. These measures should be viewed as last resorts.

Disable vehicles so that they cannot be driven or completely remove them from the premises. This is likely to upset seniors greatly; however, if they will not listen, it may be the only method of protecting them. Hiding keys or altering the teeth by filing them is another option to prevent them from driving. While this is controversial, it does effectively protect seniors from being on the road. Keep in mind that some elders, such as those suffering from dementia, may forget that they are incapable of driving safely.

One other last alternative is to consult with senior physicians. If they are no longer safe driving and this is exhibited by medical evidence, doctors can have their licenses revoked completely by state medical measures. This too can upset elders and is often difficult for the physicians.

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This is Not What Advanced Dementia Looks Like

All too often public media shows someone with advanced dementia sitting slumped over in a wheelchair. That is not what advanced dementia looks like; it is what poor care looks like. The woman is slumped over because she has nothing to do or is tired and no one helped her lay down.

As a dementia care professional working in the field for over three decades, this is something that makes me really sad. How did our country get to a place where the sight of someone slumped over in a wheelchair – regardless of their age and health condition – would be considered OK?

What happens to babies that are not stimulated, cuddled, and emotionally cared for is well documented. While research is slow to emerge about what happens to people living with dementia who are not stimulated, cuddled, and emotionally cared for, there is abundant anecdotal evidence from dementia experts across the country. Their sense of purpose, meaning, and self-worth erodes affecting their emotional well-being.

People who are living with dementia lose the ability to self-initiate activities and find interesting things to do. If others don’t help them engage in meaningful and interesting activities, they spend long days inactive, unoccupied, bored, and lonely. Is it any wonder that the prevalence of depression is so high for people living with dementia?

When individuals no longer can do for themselves, they need others to assist them. For people who have dementia this means they need to be emotionally cared for as much as physically cared for. They need assistance to feel purpose and meaning, have fun, and do interesting things in daily life – these are basic components of being emotionally cared for.

One important way you can assist someone living with dementia is to continue to engage them in family and community gatherings. For many people being part of a community and an integral part of a family unit gives them a valuable sense of purpose and place. Once someone is living with dementia it’s not always easy to understand their needs and help them to actually enjoy being part of gatherings – so we created a resource to help you. Mark your calendar, It will be available by Nov 17th, just in time to help you prepare for Thanksgiving.

Dementia diminishes many abilities. It never diminishes a person’s humanity. It’s our job as family, friends and professionals to continually ignite their spirits and engage them as vital parts of our communities.

Karen Love is a former speech therapist and long-term care administrator with more than 30 years of experience advancing person-centered practices in long-term service and support settings. She has been a co-investigator of numerous research projects funded by the National Institute on Aging and the U.S. Administration on Aging. She is the Co-Founder of FIT Interactive, which researched and developed FIT Kits. FIT Kits are engagement kits that help family and care partners improve the quality of life of people living with dementia. For more information please go to their website – See more of her work here.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International of People with Disabilities Day, which is held December 3, is not a regional event. The day is sanctioned by the United Nations and its goal is to promote support for individuals coping with disabilities through understanding, education, and awareness. It is estimated that about 20% of the world’s current population living and struggles with some type of disability. Statistics reveal that more than one third of disabled persons are 65 years or older. While there are many different disabilities these generally fall into mental and physical.

Basic Tips to Help the Elderly with Disabilities
  • Ensure that elders take their medications in the proper doses, at the scheduled times, and on a daily basis. Discuss the medications and the administering times with them. Never force seniors to take their medicine or talk down to them.
  • Get to know seniors focusing on their personalities and not their disabilities. It is extremely helpful to know their schedules which will also ease them into accepting help. Never assume that individuals require constant assistance simply because they are disabled.
  • Try to connect with elders and express empathy, not pity, for the obstacles and hurdles which they are confronted with each day.
  • Ask, if there is some confusion about the type of assistance that seniors require. They will often be happy to relate that which they need help with. Treat them with the exact same respect all individuals should be treated with. Never patronize elders as this can be hurtful to the point of leaving scars upon their character.
  • Respect individuals’ right to decline help even if it appears that they truly need it. Never make them feel as if they are not in control of their own lives.
  • Be sure to ask physicians about required accessibility aids such as bedside commodes, shower chairs, and wheel chairs or walkers. Ensure that this equipment is sturdy, functional, and available to seniors. These aids will help assure elder safety and allow them as much freedom as possible. As a side note, never make a big deal of emptying bedchamber pots even in a joking manner. Elders can sometimes be ridiculed by this.
  • Be compassionate, if seniors attempt to perform tasks and are unable to complete them. For example, when individuals have bed accidents, do not make a big deal of it and clean it up immediately.
  • Place elders grooming necessities within reach to allow them to perform simply hygiene practices themselves. Provide items such as hand held mirrors, brushes, and combs within reach. Repeat this in the bathroom for towels; wash clothes; deodorant; and mouth care.

As mentioned above, this can be an extremely difficult transition for seniors. It is not easier to relinquish control over their lives. The tips above will help them retain as much independence as possible. The ability to care for themselves will increase their overall self-confidence. It is also important to note that many of these measure protect seniors. For example, they may struggle to retrieve a hair brush that is out of reach and fall before actually asking someone for help. Placing everyday use items prevent this entirely.

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Senior Driver Safety Tips – Identifying Changes That Can Affect Driving

The first week of each December is dedicated to Older Driver Safety Awareness. It is extremely important that seniors are able to continue to play an active role within their local communities. The ability to provide their own transportation increases their self-confidence as well as physical health. In some cases this may not mean driving and finding suitable as well as dignified options of transport. It may simply mean a refresher course, rehabilitation, or simply a new pair of glasses. It is important not to degrade elders by focusing on issues. It is better to instead concentrate on resolutions which build their confidence and dignity. The AOTA provides many levels of assistance to seniors such as personalized evaluation and driver’s rehabilitation.

As most individuals grow older they began to experience deterioration of their cognitive and sensory abilities as well as their bodies. Medical science is enabling individuals to live longer and technology is allowing in home aging. Growing older does often mean at least some loss of vision and hearing: however, it does not necessarily mean loss of driving privileges. There are signs to watch for as well as preventive measures which should be considered.

Signs of Potential Driving Issues
  • Unexplained dents and paint scrapes on vehicles or garages are signs of decreased driving abilities which may be due to vision loss.
  • Elders that seem to be overly anxious or even grouchy before and while driving may be experiencing problems while driving.
  • Some seniors may suddenly want to only drive alone which may indicate they fear making a mistake in another’s presence.
  • Elders may begin to take calmer, alternate routes to avoid busy highways or only make stops on their side of the road. While this may be safer in some instances, if it is uncharacteristic, it could be a warning signal.
  • Seniors may fail to halt at stop signs and traffic lights.
  • Some elders may begin to accelerate above or decelerate below the posted speed limits.

Preventive Measures
There are several preventive measures that not should be taken. Some of these assurances will assist elders in retaining the ability to drive. All of them will ensure their safety as well as others on the road.

  • There are three main eye diseases that dramatically impact senior driving abilities. Be sure that they receive regular eye exams and that the doctor specifically looks for indications of Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, and Cataracts.
  • Ensure that elders receive regular hearing exams and, if they present with auditory issues it may be necessary to take them to an Otologist.
  • One of the causes of driver disability is prescription medications. Confer with both physicians and pharmacists regularly about all medications that seniors are taking as well as their associated side effects.
  • It may be prudent to allow drivers to take routes which are not busy and on clear weather days. Another safety measure is to ride with them even if it requires an excuse of picking something up from town. Never be overly instructive, critical, or scold elders for their mistakes this may exacerbate anxieties and belittle them.

Compassionate Note: The process of aging itself is difficult. Adding the loss of physical and cognitive abilities increases these difficulties. It is extremely important to speak with elders about driving issues with compassion, whether a simple trip to a physician or driving cessation is in order. Try to be understanding and never compromise elders’ dignity.

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Healthy Activities to Lose that Holiday Weight

No one is excluded from the holiday weight gain battle. Medical professionals estimate that between the ages of about 25 and 75, the percentage of individuals’ body fat doubles. Two of the most loved aspects of the holidays are family gathering and delicious food. January usually leaves everyone searching for methods of losing holiday weight. There are a number of healthy activities to help them lose that holiday weight!

Setting Appropriate Goals
Setting goals for seniors to lose holiday weight should be viable and safe, and always include their input. It is important to listen to elders’ opinions and preferences: discuss their options and their views on the matter. Appropriately setting realistic goals will evoke much more enthusiasm and therefore produce better results!

There are many benefits to engaging in physical activity. It’s been medically proven that those who are not sedentary fall asleep easier, sleep longer, and rest better. Exercise and appropriate rest improve self-confidence and mental health. It also improves cognitive abilities which is essential to aging persons, especially those who may suffer from dementia disorders or Alzheimer’s disease.

Physical Activity
Medical professionals strongly recommend that older individuals get 2 to 2 ½ hours of moderate physical activity each week, depending upon their current health condition. They should also engage in some sort of low impact activity on a daily basis, however it is very important to consult with medical professionals first.

  • Walking is one of the best low impact activities for most all individuals. Schedule a few days each week to take a leisurely stroll on the local property or at the park.
  • Dancing is not only a wonderful exercise, but an exciting activity. Perhaps a weekly dance session or lessons can be organized. This not only gets everyone moving, but provides an excellent method of socialization.
  • Caring for pets can be extremely beneficial in several ways. A dog must be walked and played with on a daily basis for positive health. For pets, play is much the same as exercise. Caring for animals has been proven to promote many health benefits, physically as well as psychologically.
  • Yoga is a wonderful activity that boosts brain activity and mood. Yoga does not simply encompass stretching. It teaches breathing for health and meditation.

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