young nurse caregiving an old lady lying in bed

Seniors and Doctors: How Many is Too Many?

Declining health is a fact of life for many seniors. Many common medical diseases become more prevalent with increasing age such as arthritis, heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, and neurological decline. Most of these conditions can be treated with medication but our medical system can get quite complicated.

In times past, we went to one family physician who treated most of our health conditions. Today, our medical system has become decentralized with one patient who may see multiple doctors for multiple diseases. It’s not uncommon for a senior to have three or more doctors such as a cardiologist for heart and blood pressure concerns, a neurologist or psychiatrist for mental health concerns, and endocrinologist for diabetes, a pulmonologist for COPD, emphysema or other breathing issues, and a rheumatologist for arthritis and osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, for many seniors, there is no one physician who is overseeing all of the medical treatments. This creates a situation where each physician may not know what the other doctors are doing. While the t may do his best to treat a patient’s COPD, he may be inadvertently interfering with treatments the cardiologist recommends for high blood pressure.

Research has shown that the more physicians a patient sees, the chance of medication interactions goes up. In fact, one study has shown that with just two doctors, the average senior gets 27 prescriptions and is exposed to up to 10 drug interactions each year.

To protect from this type of occurrence, there are several things that seniors or their caregivers should do:

  • Inform physicians about other medical conditions that are being treated
  • Inform physicians about all medications that are prescribed
  • Sign consent form so that each physician may receive medical information from the other physicians
  • Ask that your laboratory results be forwarded to other physicians
  • Find one doctor, usually an internist or family practitioner to act as a medical “overseer.” He or she should be aware of all medical treatments and should be mainly concerned with the “overall” picture.
  • Be sure to use only one pharmacy for all prescriptions. The pharmacist will be able to quickly identify any drug interactions and discuss them with the physician(s).
  • If there is confusion about anything, ask for an explanation. If necessary, ask for it to be explained again until the senior understands it or have the doctor explain the issue to a caregiver.

  • Making sure to provide all of the medical information to each health professional can help to avoid conflicting treatments and drug interactions which can be dangerous.

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    Mature couple Nordic walking at park

    National Senior Health Fitness Day: Outdoor Exercise

    A recent study shows that middle and older-aged people can reduce their chance of premature death by 13 percent if they perform high intensity exercise on a regular basis. Many older people live mainly sedentary lives and may not feel like they should or can exercise but even for those who are “out of shape,” exercise provides several health benefits.

    High intensity exercise makes a person sweat and feel winded. For a person who hasn’t exercised in a while, it may not take much movement to get to this point. There is no need to start out with a marathon and many health care professionals would advise that exercise be increased slowly. “Start low and go slow.”

    With Spring and early Summer bringing warmer weather now is a good time to get out and start exercising. Performing outdoor exercise can bring more health benefits as exposure to sunlight provides extra Vitamin D and being outside often increases the “good” mood hormones in the body. As a bonus, physical activity can also help with weight loss.

    A senior considering outdoor exercise might start with these activities and the caretaker may benefit as well:

  • Brisk Walks – Walking can provide great benefits for the cardiovascular system. You should be walking fast enough and breathing hard enough that it’s difficult to hold a conversation. You should also take a buddy for safety. Each week, you can increase the distance you walk or you can increase the speed. The main goal is to keep that intensity up.

  • Body Weight – Aside from the benefits you get from high intensity exercise, any weight bearing exercise can help to maintain your muscle strength and may help to combat osteoporosis by keeping your bones strong. You can do squats or deep knee bends, lunges, pushups, and sit-ups. Again, you may have to start with only a few repetitions and work up to where you can do 10 or more in “sets” with brief rest periods of only one to two minutes between “sets.”

  • Outdoor Equipment – Most parks and outside gathering areas have benches, rocks, or playground equipment that can be used to increase the difficulty of your body weight exercises. You can do pushups off of the back of a park bench or picnic table, tricep pushups, leg lifts, or bent knee push offs using the same benches or try climbing up steps or even a hill. This helps keep that heart rate up. The more you work out, the more you will be able to do which gives you more energy even when not exercising.

  • Any exercise program should be started only after talking to your doctor. He may have certain guidelines for you to follow based on your medical condition but most health care professionals would advise that exercise is a good thing.

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    A Guide to Finding Romance in Old Age

    Most people who think about online dating, automatically assume that it is for a younger crowd. Not so says recent research.

    The average age of the on-line dater is 44 years of age, which may not seem like much help for the senior but there is another statistic that does. People over the age of 60 are the fastest-growing group of online daters.

    With so many seniors divorced or widowed, it’s no wonder that loneliness becomes an issue and online dating may solve some of those problems.

    Dating again may seem like a huge task but online services can make it easy and safe for seniors to meet someone compatible. Here are some tips to help seniors look for love in a safe environment:

  • Sites like ourtime.com and AARP’s howaboutwe.com cater to the over-50 set. Both sites can be checked out for free but to use the site, a monthly fee of less than $15 is required. The AARP site encourages face-to-face meetings so for someone looking to get to know a person online first, it may not be the best option!

  • Mainstream sites like e-harmony.com and match.com have reputations for the “young” dater but they are very senior friendly. Both sites have more users in the “senior” age category than senior specific sites and their matching algorithms will make sure a “match” is age appropriate. They both give plenty of opportunity for online communication and the progress of the relationship is at the senior’s pace. They are both slightly more expensive at $20-25 per month.

  • Automatic billing is one of the biggest complaints about dating sites so make sure that the senior understands the billing arrangements. Several of the sites require a six-month commitment, possibly billing all at once, so be sure to avoid automatic re-enrolling once the initial period has ended if he or she isn’t happy with the service!

  • Be honest on the profile but don’t give out personal information until ready. The sites offer a private messaging service and won’t require a user to see a real email address and certainly not a phone number. Later, if the senior feels confident, more information can be shared.

  • If a new online relationship seems too good to be true – it might be. Unfortunately, there are scammers and seniors are a frequent target. There are often clues to a scam but these can often be overlooked by someone who is lonely. If any contact asks for money, cut it off and report the contact.

  • If a face-to-face meeting is desired, it should be arranged in a public place such as a coffee shop. Safety should never take a backseat to fun.

    It’s always a good idea to have another eye to screen potential contacts. You don’t want to intrude on the senior’s privacy but it may be helpful to have someone who is more knowledgeable about the online world looking in.

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    Honoring our Veterans on Memorial Day

    For many of us, Memorial Day brings barbecue, trips to the lake, and family gatherings. For seniors, Memorial Day may have a different meaning: remembrance of lost loved ones.

    Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day, which was started as a day to commemorate Union soldiers lost in the Civil War. It was inspired by the way people in the Southern states celebrated those who passed. After World War I, it was extended to honor men and women who died during any military action, and after World War II, it became known as Memorial Day. For many seniors, the holiday still holds the true meaning. It is a day to remember loved ones who have died in the service of our country and for seniors who have so many to remember, the day can be one of melancholy or even overwhelming.

    Our senior loved ones may often try to put on a pleasant face. They may even be the host of the family gathering but it is important for them to feel as if they have someone to lean on. You can help your senior through Memorial Day by offering support.

    Some activities you can do with your senior loved one on Memorial Day may include:

  • Encourage stories of lost heroes
  • Watch the local parade
  • Visit the cemetery
  • Fly the flag at half-staff until noon
  • Hold a moment of silence at 3 p.m.
  • Decorate your picnic or barbeque with flags or red, white and blue

  • If you’re going to do outdoor activities, remember that it may be warm and sunny outside. Sunscreen may be advised and your senior should be encouraged to wear loose, protective clothing. You should also make sure that he or she drinks plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Even though it isn’t quite summer yet, heat can still be a problem.

    Helping a loved one through a difficult time often requires only a little time and attention. The senior simply needs to feel support and concern.

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    Elderly woman drinking water

    Preventing Dehydration in Seniors in the Summertime

    Summer is almost here and that means hot weather. Even if you stay indoors, it’s hotter than normal and dehydration is a risk. This is especially important for the elderly who may not be able to do enough to take care of themselves.

    Seniors may become dehydrated more easily than other adults because they may be unable to care for themselves. They may also have trouble recognizing that they are dehydrated, particularly in cases of dementia. In addition, seniors with diabetes or who are taking diuretics for high blood pressure may more easily become dehydrated.

    Dehydration can produce symptoms that are similar to other diseases like dementia so it is important for caregivers to help the senior avoid dehydration.

    Mild dehydration can be hard to detect but can rapidly progress to a more severe medical state. Symptoms of dehydration may include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth or swollen tongue
  • Weakness, dizziness or fainting
  • Heart palpitations, weak pulse or low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Flushing with dry skin
  • Inability to sweat
  • Dark urine
  • Decrease in urination
  • Skin “tenting” – skin does not return to normal position if mildly “pinched”

  • Any of these symptoms may indicate dehydration and may be cause for alarm. If possible, the elder should be encouraged to drink water and should be moved into a cool location. In some cases, a cool compress on the back of the neck may help. In severe cases, medical attention should be sought.

    The best way to avoid dehydration in seniors is to prevent it. Physical activity requiring exertion should be avoided during particularly hot periods and loose clothing should be encouraged. In addition, the senior should not be allowed to spend long periods of time in direct sun as sunburn may also increase the chance of dehydration in addition to other risks.

    He or she should be encouraged to drink several glasses of water each day, more if the environment is hot. Any liquid is better than none, though water is best and sugary drinks should be avoided, particularly if the senior has diabetes.

    If lack of air conditioning is an issue, community service organizations often provide fans or window air conditioning units to seniors in need at no charge. You may find these organizations by contacting a “Meals” organization or the local senior center.

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    5 Ways Volunteering can Benefit Seniors

    As we age, we may begin to feel less helpful or even “useless.” This is particularly true for the senior who begins to feel isolated and depressed. While most seniors don’t want to return to the workforce, volunteering is a good way for seniors to share their knowledge and experience, and to combat any sense of isolation and depression.

    Seniors who volunteer may reap unexpected benefits which can improve their outlook on life and their health. Here are five ways that volunteering may benefit older adults:

    Sharing Knowledge

    Seniors have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, our society does not always encourage interaction between seniors and the young. Volunteering is a good way to bridge the generation gap. Whether it is through a program such as Adopt a Grandparent where seniors can provide support and love to a child or teen or through community action that brings the senior into contact with young adults, both seniors and youngsters benefit from this relationship. The child, teen or young adult gets the benefit of the senior’s knowledge and life experience and the senior gets the satisfaction of validation. In addition, each may benefit from changing mindsets about the old and the young.

    Meeting New Friends

    Isolation is a major concern as we age. The senior may have lost loved ones and family members may no longer be as close as they once were. As the elder loses the contact with friends and family, volunteering may bring new friends into his or her life. Volunteering at community centers, libraries, animal shelters or other group activities and locations may provide the opportunity to make friends – both of the senior’s age and other age groups. New friends and social activities can help to combat feelings of isolation.

    Combating Depression

    Depression is also common amongst seniors who are facing physical and mental changes. Volunteering may bring the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people. It may give the senior something to look forward to and excitement helps to increase brain activity which can improve cognition and boost the mood state. The senior should be encouraged to find an activity which they enjoy and can anticipate with pleasure.

    Staying Physically Active

    Many seniors face physical decline and may feel that physical activity is no longer important or even possible. Volunteering can provide the senior with a reason to remain physically active and even get more exercise. Animal Shelters and libraries may give the elder a chance for modest walking-type activity but even from a wheelchair, there are volunteer opportunities for older persons. In fact, most volunteer positions will provide at least some activity.

    Improving Health

    Anything that alleviates depression, improves mental health and cognition, provides physical activity, and allows the senior to joyfully anticipate activity can help to improve the health. Excitement and physical activity will increase blood flow to the brain and feeling good about one’s self will produce “happy hormones” such as neurotransmitters like serotonin. This produces “positive feedback” encouraging the elder to do more, making volunteering produce benefits over and over again.

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    senior mother and adult daughter

    How to Have a Healthy Relationship with your Family’s Caregiver

    Bringing a caregiver into an existing home can be challenging. Developing a healthy relationship with your senior loved one’s caregiver can help prevent issues and ensure that everyone in the arrangement is happy. Planning ahead for effective communication and clear expectations can make your decision to employ assistance a rewarding and positive experience for you and your family.

    Communicating

    Poor communication may be at the root of many family-caregiver conflicts. There is a significant transition period and you need to prevent future problems by establishing a good communication system up-front.

    Your loved one’s caregiver may be the person with whom he or she has the most contact. The relationship between the caregiver and the senior will be critical and you don’t want any family conflicts to intrude. It is your job to oversee that your loved one’s needs are met and but it will be the caregiver’s job to actually meet those needs – that requires proper lines of communication.

    Communication is a two-way street. You communicate with them, they communicate with you. Hopefully, both of you are listening to what the other says. You certainly have your concerns but they may have concerns as well and both of you need to be able to speak clearly and freely – and to listen.

    Only when both parties are open to constructive advice and even occasional criticism, can issues be resolved. You should also not forget to tell the caregiver when he or she is doing a good job. Remember that being a direct caregiver can be difficult and everyone appreciates positive feedback.

    Setting Expectations

    Expectations need to be clearly set in advance. Ideally, this should be clearly communicated and documented in writing to avoid any misunderstandings. You both have responsibilities in this relationship.

    Your loved one’s caregiver is expected to arrive on time, every time, or to let you know as far in advance as possible of any issues. Your caregiver should have a solid understanding of what duties are required. Whether this is simply “sitting” with your loved one, attending to personal care issues such as bathing, or providing light housekeeping duties, every activity should be defined beforehand. Even if no medical care is required, he or she should be given a clear explanation of any medical issues and appropriate contact information so that emergencies or events can be handled appropriately.

    The caregiver has expectations of you as well. You need to be able to provide a work schedule which does not vary unexpectedly. He or she needs to be able to rely on your payment. If you are contracting directly, the “payroll” depends on your organizational skills. Remember that this is the caregiver’s livelihood and predictable scheduling and consistent payment is required.

    Any discrepancies or conflicts should be addressed immediately and any disputes should not be allowed to color the patient-caregiver relationship. If a complaint is coming from either party, realize that you may see your loved one in a different light than the caregiver. If there seems to be a big discrepancy with what you know and are being told, observation of the interactions may be in order. Finding out who is “wrong” should not be the goal, your goal is to make sure your loved one gets the care he or she needs, even if personality or behavioral traits are challenging.

    Arranging Finances

    Financial matters are a huge concern and something you should keep careful track of. Certainly only a few caregivers have taken financial advantage of a senior, but it has happened. The caregiver should not have open access to financial accounts of your loved one, but he or she may need access to resources to conduct day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping.

    Your main goal is to see that your senior loved one is taken care of in a respectful and adequate manner. Establishing clear boundaries and ensuring an open communication line at the start can help you get off on the right foot, hopefully for a long and satisfying relationship.

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    Blood pressure measuring.

    Managing Blood Pressure in Seniors: National High Blood Pressure Education Month

    More than two-thirds of adults over the age of 65 have high blood pressure. Unfortunately, even though it can increase the risk of premature death, many seniors are unaware that they have the condition.

    High blood pressure or hypertension is defined as a blood pressure reading that is consistently greater than 140/90 mm Hg. High blood pressure may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and other organ damage. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because symptoms are not obvious. Some people with high blood pressure may experience headaches, “floaters” in the eye, facial flushing, or dizziness but some people do not have any symptoms at all and the disease must be identified by a doctor.

    Disorders such as obesity and diabetes make the development of high blood pressure more likely but some lifestyle or behaviors may also increase the risk such as:

  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • High sodium or low potassium diet


  • In many cases, high blood pressure is hereditary and most cases require the use of one or more medications. There are however, some lifestyle modifications that can help to keep the blood pressure down such as:

    Eating a Healthy Diet

    Eating a balanced diet with the right amount of nutrients including healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats along with fiber is important. Complex carbohydrates and fiber will help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels which may help to control diabetes as well.

    Adequate amounts of protein and limited amounts of healthy fats such as vegetable and fish oils will help give the metabolic support your elder needs to maintain activity levels. Limiting salt intake and ensuring that vegetables and fruits are a part of the diet will minimize water retention and provide vitamins essential for proper organ functioning.

    Exercise

    Exercise can help to reduce the effects of high blood pressure by increasing the efficiency of blood pumping done by the heart. Moderate exercise can also help with weight loss if your charge is overweight as obesity is a major contributor to high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

    Eliminate or Reduce Smoking and Alcohol Consumption

    If your senior drinks more than two alcoholic beverages a day, reducing alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Smoking should be discontinued if possible and a physician may provide assistance with smoking cessation.

    The danger in high blood pressure is that it is largely a “silent” disease. You don’t notice the symptoms but damage is still occurring. This is complicated by the fact that blood pressure can be made worse by diabetes and obesity – and high blood pressure makes those conditions more deadly – a circle of danger.

    In most cases, medication will be required but these modifications and any changes suggested by the elder’s physician should help to minimize damage.

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    old senior woman in wheelchair with careful son

    5 Traits of Successful Caregivers

    Being a caregiver to seniors is a rewarding but challenging occupation. LivHOME is always on the lookout for qualified caregivers who are experienced, but we require other traits as well! Here are five traits that will help make you a successful caregiver.

    Compassion

    Compassion is the most important trait that a caregiver can have. Compassion is the ability to empathize with others and have concern for their well-being. It means you can imagine yourself in the elder’s position and treat him the way that you would want to be treated with care and concern. It also means that you will consider the needs of the senior in your care to be your top priority.

    Enthusiasm

    A cheerful nature goes a long way in making a caregiver successful. Many times caring for a senior may be challenging but cheerfulness will help get the job done. Elders often face loneliness and depression and your positive attitude goes a long way in making the senior feel comfortable. You can help them adopt an “I can” attitude when you are enthusiastic about your job and their abilities.

    Patience

    At all times, a caregiver should be respectful and that often requires a good deal of patience. You must be able to remain calm even in the face of frustration. Seniors have often lost the physical or mental abilities that they once had and may become frustrated themselves. If you can remain calm, you will be able to care for them appropriately while allowing them to maintain some independence.

    Dealing with family members may also require patience but remember that they usually want the best for their loved one as well. The ability to remain calm and collected will help reassure the family that you have the interests of the senior at the top of your priority list.

    Commitment

    Caring for anyone is a commitment. Your employer must be able to trust that you will be there to do the job you agreed to. Your senior must be able to trust you as well. It has been difficult for the elder to lose his or her independence and they must be able to rely on you. As a professional caregiver, you must have as much concern and commitment to the care of your patient as if he or she were your own elder.

    Teachability

    You need to be willing to learn new things as a caregiver. Whether the new things are specifically about the care of the elder or whether you are learning something new from the elder himself, remaining “teachable” is essential. Everyone can learn, you just have to be willing.

    Successful caregivers are compassionate, patient, reliable and enthusiastic with a commitment to caring for others, remaining teachable so that they have more care to give.

    For more information about LivHOME or to apply today, visit LivHOME’s Career Page today!

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    Explaining Dementia to Children

    It can be hard for children to watch a loved one age, particularly when dementia is involved.

    Over 5 million Americans are currently living with dementia and that number is expected to increase as the population ages. Dementia impairs a person’s memory and cognition and can affect other senses such as sight, hearing, and balance.

    Nearly half of adults between the ages of 40 and 50 are doing double-time in the caregiver role. For those adults caring for children and an elderly loved one at the same time, moments can be challenging. The children of these caregivers may be involved in the care of the elder and may have many questions – particularly when behavior does not seem “normal” to the child.

    Explaining why a grandparent or even a parent with dementia is acting differently to a youngster can be challenging but the best and easiest way is to be clear and direct. Children are fearful when they do not know what to expect but you can help them build reasonable expectations which will ease their anxiety.

    The child needs to understand that dementia is a disease of a failing memory and thinking processes. You can explain that lack of memory causes the loved one to act child-like in some ways and that that lack of memory may cause behaviors such as:

  • Lack of Inhibition – Just in the same way that a small child is not embarrassed about body functions or lack of clothing, the elder with dementia may show the same symptoms. This may be due to failing memory, “forgetting” that certain behaviors are considered inappropriate.
  • Repetition – Asking the same questions over and over is a common symptom of dementia. The person may not actually remember the answer or he may be anxious or even bored.
  • Restlessness – Often a sign of physical discomfort but may also be caused by frustration or anger. Restlessness may include fidgeting, pacing, or even shouting.
  • Forgetfulness – A person with dementia will often lose things or forget where they were put. Some elders may begin to falsely believe that objects were stolen and accuse family members of stealing.
  • Suspiciousness – Because he or she has a failing memory, faces and objects may appear to be unfamiliar. This can create a tremendous sense of anxiety and fearfulness and he or she may become paranoid, convinced people are out to do harm.

  • The child you care for should be reassured that all of these behaviors are “normal” in someone with dementia. He or she needs to be told that no matter what the elder says, it is not the child’s fault. Helping a child understand dementia can go a long way towards making him comfortable and able to continue to love and support the grandparent as he can.

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