‘Aging in Place’ Posts

Aging Women: From Crone to Mentor

March 12th, 2017 by Doris Bersing

After fighting for equal rights and against negative stereotypes, baby-boomer women find themselves in a society that obsessively worships youth and relegates its seniors to second-class status. Baby boomer women grew up around the fighting of the feminist movement in the sixties and seventies; many were feisty revolutionaries.

In the eighties, the message to them was to embrace the inner Goddess within. Now in their golden years, they imagine a new role as sage, which will help them obtain the freedom they have been chasing since their youth. But what is this new role?  What if wisdom is lacking? Where then do they find meaning in their lives?

We question how the women’s movement has affected women of age. The women who took what they learned as activists in the civil-rights movement and applied it to the rampant sexism of the civil-rights and black-power movements – who participated in the first sweeping consciousness-raising process that Bettina Aptheker called “learning to name our oppression” – these women are still too young to have been included in Coming of Age.

But that phase of the women’s movement spawned two generations of equal rights, abortion rights, lesbian and gay rights, anti-ageism, and AIDS activists; a devoted, beleaguered army of caretakers of abused women and children in the shelter movement; and labor groups such as the CLUW and Women in the Trades, to name only a few “special-interest” groups. Many old women, some place along the line, have been affected by those struggles, as I was, and by the huge body of songs, poems, essays, and visual art that celebrates them, as I was.

Elderly woman today face personal challenges, triggering some profound questions–among them: What is their role as they age? Reproduction is no longer a goal; nor is raising children. If they had a career, it is in the past, or nearly so. Traditional roles for midlife or older women, such as caring for grandchildren or caregiving for a husband or other family member–are still common for women. These limited identities may be difficult to bear for those who spent a lifetime trying to make a difference.

To those old ones who still do battle with dragons [1]

The “aging” woman, with her dry skin and wrinkled body does not represent the pretty, sexy, vital or accomplished; she is considered to be in her dimmed time. Jungian psychotherapist and author Jean Shinoda Bolen has said, “In a youth-oriented patriarchy, especially, to become an older woman is to become invisible: a nonentity.” Or, as historian Bettina Aptheker[2] recently said of older people, especially women, “We’re either invisible, or we’re in the way.” What’s the future for this woman? What role should aging women play in our society?

Food for thought!

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[1] Studs Terkel. In Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It. St. Martin’s Press; 1st St. Martin’s Griffin Ed edition (September 1996)

[2] May 8, 2008: Bettina Aptheker on Feminism and Ageism. A public lecture at Pacific Institute. San Francisco.

Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms and getting the right treatment underway

November 29th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Dementia CareParkinson’s is a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system. In the beginning, the patient experiences mild tremors and rigidity in their limbs. As the disease progresses, the physical problems intensify.  Automatic movements like blinking, gesturing and even smiling are no longer controlled. Apart from stiffness in walking, patients begin to move slower and they must drag their feet to take a step. Speech patterns slow down as well, and in time the patient will become unable to communicate.

Unfortunately, Parkinson’s disease doesn’t have a cure. However, patients can delay the onset of the disease with the right medication. People who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s don’t have enough dopamine in the brain, which means medication to substitute or increase dopamine levels are required to delay the materialization of the disease. In some cases, medication doesn’t work. The solution can be surgery to boost symptoms through regulating specific regions inside the brain.

Getting the right treatment

Parkinson’s disease manifests differently from patient to patient. Mild symptoms are not treated, and a specialist may just recommend monitoring the process of the disease. Drugs may be recommended when the patient start shaking; your physician may also recommend physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy. As far as medicine is concerned, the most common type is Levodopa.

Levodopa has been used for several years, and in nearly all patients with PD the drug has rendered results. When taking this medicine, the body transforms it into dopamine. At first, the patient is given a small dose and as the disease progresses, the amount is increased. In most cases, Levodopa is combined with another drug called carbidopa (or benserazide). These are meant to prevent levodopa from converting into dopamine the moment is reaches the bloodstream. The goal is to reduce side-effects and boost the amount that the brain need to function properly.

Dopamine agonists

With a similar role as dopamine, dopamine agonists act on the brain receptors. Basically, the medicine is a dopamine substitute. But unlike levodopa, they don’t have to go through a conversion process as soon as they reach the body. Several of the most common types are rotigotine, ropinirole, and pramipexole. Less used alternatives are bromocriptine, pergolide, and cabergoline; these are alternative because they may have some side-effects (even though it doesn’t happen often), such as heart valve thickening and lung tissue scarring.

Caring for a patient with Parkinson’s disease

 People who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease depend on professional caregivers for many different activities – from helping them move around the house and get dressed, to taking them to the doctor, cooking, and eating. The disease is a progressive one, and in time the need for a caregiver becomes substantial. Caregivers have the expertise to help a patient accept and understand the disease. If you have a parent of loved one diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the best thing that you can do is become their caregiver, or hire someone to assist you. The job is a challenging one, so whatever you choose to do just remember that the experience will be emotionally and physically demanding.

Get involved

Physicians advise caregivers to attend regular appointments. It is the best way for a doctor to understand the needs of your patient, as well as monitor the onset of the disease and recommend treatment. Keep in mind that Parkinson’s may trigger dementia. The patient may experience memory loss and difficulty understanding what happens around them.

  • Reach out for help and connect with family and friends face to face
  • Stay active and find the strength to be there for your loved one
  • Get informed and know as much as possible about the materialization of the disease
  • Compel your loved one to rest and include more foods based onomega-3 fats (these have a key role in brain health)
  • Consider putting your parent in a adequate nursing home. This is always a difficult task, shopping around for the best place. In UK care homes London are very well sought after, and they provide excellent services. In USA, you can check Caregiving.com to find facilities and their qualifications depending in your geographic area.

Parkinson’s is a nerve-racking progressive disease. Both sufferers and caregivers must learn to accept it. Rather than think about the worst-case scenario, it’s best to stay positive. Consider proper treatment and have a conversation with your parent about professional help, either at home or in an assisted care facility.

Alone at Home: Aging in Place

November 5th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Aging in Place

The senior age comes with its own challenges and concerns. Being alone and aging in place at this stage is difficult especially when you have no one from the family there to offer you at least emotional if not physical support. However, we must always see the good side of every living experience and find the way in which to ensure a joyful road through life. Being self-aware of your current conditions and always keen on ensuring proper health for yourself is the best thing that you can do when you are alone at home and may not receive any help. Knowledge is power and the more you know about your challenges and assets, the more planning you can do and hope for safety and wellness in your golden years. Knowledge is power and hope is everything.

Also, turning to professionals to offer you advice and proper care in your own home is another solution that you can consider when the situation requires it. Older people should never be ashamed or scared to ask for professional support from those who can help them do what they cannot do anymore or simply help them keep their health and overall lifestyle in good conditions.

Living Alone at Home: Receiving Support from Specialists or Friends

Certain seniors decide on their own to live alone at home whereas others do not have the possibly to receive care in specialized centers. However, they also have the possibility to receive support in the comfort of their own home when the situation requires it. They may have someone visiting them every day to check their health status and offer support and advice for a healthy life.

Also, they can also have someone check on them less often when their conditions do not require daily support to ensure a proper life. It is all according to their needs and requirements. However, constant support is usually recommended for seniors living alone in their home. Sometimes, even a good word can mean a lot for them.

When specialized help is not possible, such support can also be offered by senior friends. They have the same age, a similar perspective on life and they can offer each other what they need in terms of emotional and physical support. It is always better to share life with someone else than to be always alone. Intimacy and privacy are also important in their life because they still want to be independent and feel free every day.

However, as much as we all need friends and support from time to time, seniors should also rely on their friends and spend time together as often as they can so that they might not feel the lack of human contact and emotions in their life.

Survival at the Senior Age: Relying on Yourself and Others

The elderly stage of life does not necessarily have to mean lack of independence or the inability of taking care of yourself. If you have adopted a healthy lifestyle up until now you are probably more than capable of taking care of yourself. However, certain health issues or concerns are inevitable at every age. It is then that you must go to specialists and make sure you follow their recommendations in terms of medical treatments and general activities that might keep you in shape.

Moreover, sharing your current living conditions and experiences with other people going through the same stage is essential. You may be able to help your friends with something they cannot do and they might offer you support in what you need as well. Sharing is caring at every age. Just because you are older now and may not have family members there for you should never mean that you must be alone. Reach to those who understand you as well as to professionals who work with passion in the senior care industry to get what you need in life at this stage.

The Joy of Living Decently when You Are Older

Joy should never be left out of the equation of life no matter what age we are. The same way we enjoy life when we are young when pure joy and happiness are all we know, we can also include this feeling in our senior stage of life. Our colleague Francis Edward from Forest Health Care, recommends: “…Make the best of what you have available now and make sure you live a decent life no matter what the numbers show in terms of age…”  and we add to that, do not hesitate to ask help from experts in your area as needed.

 

Health And Safety Tips For Seniors Living With Dementia

October 24th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Managing DementiaDementia can affect a person in any number of ways, so it’s important to take care of the mind, body, and spirit in equal measure after a diagnosis of the disease. Although it is associated most closely with memory loss, there are physical and emotional tolls as well. It is most commonly caused by changes in the brain brought on by Alzheimer’s disease or more than one stroke and can bring on violent behavior, problems with language skills, and trouble with day-to-day activities.

For individuals who have not been placed in assisted living but need help in their day-to-day, there are many things for loved ones to think about concerning their safety and wellbeing. It’s helpful to go around their living space and assess any possible dangers or hazards; upgrades may need to be made in order to keep them comfortable, happy, and safe. Jim Vogel, offers here few of the best tips on how to do just that.

Encourage cognition: It’s important for sufferers of dementia to keep their minds active, so encourage them to play word games or simply tell stories about their life. Remembrance is a good thing, even when it involves a sad memory, because it keeps the individual in the present and helps them focus.

Keep them social: Loneliness can quickly lead to depression, so it’s important to make sure your loved one stays active and social. Help them find a group activity or club to join, such as a book group that meets once a week. Finding something they love and can stay active in will help immensely with mood and cognition, and it will give them a goal as well as something to look forward to.

Daily exercise is a must: Daily exercise is great for the body, but it’s good for the mind and mood, too. Activity can boost brain function and help stimulate positive feelings, so help your loved one get out and get moving. Daily walks in sturdy shoes are perfect, as is swimming, golfing, gardening, and anything else they might enjoy that won’t put a strain on them physically.

Safety measures: It’s important to know what your loved one’s specific needs are before assessing their living space. If dementia has progressed to a certain point, you might consider implementing safety measures such as door alarms and personal emergency alarms. Look around every room and check for properly installed smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, adequate lighting, and trip hazards such as slippery rugs, clutter, or furniture. Bathrooms will need to be checked for safety hazards as well; non-slip rubber mats should be placed on the floor and in the tub, and handrails or shower seats are always advisable. And if you’re loved one takes any medication, take control of their daily doses. Doing so will help them avoid becoming addicted to medications, such as opioids, and dangerous side effects from incorrect dosage.

If the dementia diagnosis is linked to Alzheimer’s, it’s important to understand the side effects of both, as they may differ from person to person. Alzheimer’s can cause physical issues such as vision loss and balance problems, so it’s imperative to make sure your loved one’s home can accommodate them safely. Stairs may be a problem to navigate; make sure the handrails are in good shape and the stairwell is well lit.

Lastly, keep up good communication with your loved one and make sure they know you’re there for them. Help them keep in touch with other family members and friends and offer to assist them with doctor appointments; every little thing helps.

 

Elders’ Driving: Rights and Concerns

July 4th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

senior driving driving a car slowly on highwayElders’ driving is one common concern adult children have regarding their senior parents’ safety . Home Care providers and geriatricians specialized in elder care, often hear the following questions from concerned children: How do I tell Mom or Dad, they cannot drive anymore. Is it safe for them to be driving at their old age? How to stop my parents from driving? and the problem seems to become bigger.

According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next eighteen years. By 2030, almost one in five drivers will be over the age of 65, and they’ll outnumber teenage drivers more than three to one. Some experts are calling this the silver tsunami—and it’s not a movement that’s coming peacefully.

Statistically speaking, elderly drivers are involved in more car accidents and highway fatalities than any age group but teenagers. Elderly drivers often have trouble keeping up with traffic on the road, but unfortunately, there’s no easy way to prevent unsafe drivers from getting behind the wheel while still allowing experienced and competent senior drivers to keep driving. Several procedures have been discussed, from mandating vision tests (which isn’t always effective in identifying drivers whose visual impairments raise their accident risk) to issuing restricted licenses that only allow for daytime driving (which might not impact elderly drivers significantly, since they already tend to remain at home). Implementing an age cap on licensing, on the other hand, raises constitutional due process and equal protection concerns, as federally imposed restrictions must not be at odds with the Fourteenth Amendment. Clearly, balancing senior driving rights and safety precautions is a serious concern with few obvious answers. Speeding violations lawyer Zev Goldstein cites a recent study by Katherine Mikel of University of Miami School of Law which sheds light on the subject.

State Testing Initiatives

State governments, rather than federal governments, control driver’s licensing across the United States. States vary widely in how they treat elderly drivers. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have imposed additional requirements for older drivers, ranging from improved vision testing to more frequent license renewal for elderly drivers.

License Renewal Restrictions

No states will revoke a driver’s license based on their age alone. Some states, however, have put additional restrictions on license renewals for elderly drivers.  Some states, however, don’t differentiate based on age: they have few or no requirements at all for older drivers. In Tennessee and North Carolina, however, elderly drivers are given more leniency than their younger counterparts: drivers over the age of 65 don’t have to renew their license in Tennessee, while North Carolina drivers over the age of 60 don’t have to parallel park to pass a road test.

License Renewals

States vary on their requirements for older drivers when it comes to renewing their license. Many states institute shorter renewal periods for people over a certain age. These periods, however, can vary widely. In Colorado, individuals over the age of 61 have to renew their license every five years, while those under 61 may renew theirs every ten years. In Illinois, on the other hand, the average driver must renew their license every four years. Between the ages of 81 and 86, this shortens to every 2 years. From the age of 87, drivers must renew their license every year.

Testing

Several states have instituted increased testing requirements for elderly drivers. Many of them require a vision test in order to renew a driver’s license. In Illinois, a driver who is 75 years old or older must take a road test. Some states, however, are more lenient than others. In Florida, elderly drivers are able to renew their licenses by mail for up to 12 years before experiencing testing requirements. If they are over the age of 79, Florida drivers must pass a vision test; however, they can submit results from an approved test by an eye doctor or physician by mail. Most states don’t require a road test to renew a license at any age.

Unsafe Driver Referrals

All states may not have restrictions on license renewals, but there are systems in place to help keep unsafe drivers off of the road. In every state, the Departments of Motor Vehicles, Highway Safety, or Transportation have offices where family members or doctors can make referrals concerning unsafe drivers. The state office will investigate the claim, which may lead to the driver needing to take a road test. Doctors don’t have to report unsafe patients. The state of California, however, mandates reporting of patients with dementia; other states require doctors to report patients with epilepsy.

Age Caps on Licensing: Constitutional Concerns

As was previously mentioned, age caps must adhere to the Fourteenth Amendment. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment states that no citizen can be deprived of constitutional rights—including the right to “liberty”—without due process. The Equal Protection Clause protects everyone within the state and insists that no one should be arbitrarily denied any right granted to others. These clauses protect drivers from age discrimination, which means that no arbitrary cap on age can be assigned in order for a person to hold a driver’s license in any state.

Simply put, these amendments protect United States citizens from having their driving privileges arbitrarily revoked. In other words, there can be no “mandatory expiration” of driving privileges after a certain age. States also can not restrict the use of their highways. Like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, these regulations prevent drivers from experiencing discrimination on the basis of age alone. Because of this, the responsibility falls on each individual senior and/or their adult children to keep an eye out for any changes in driving ability. When they reach an age where it is no longer safe for them to be behind the wheel, it is up to individual families to note the continuing signs of age and prevent their loved ones from endangering themselves and others.

Across the United States, people in every age group tend to view driving as a necessity rather than a privilege. However, there is a significant conflict of interest on the issue of elderly driving. Elderly drivers want to retain personal autonomy—and as seniors lose some of their mobility, it becomes even more imperative for them to retain their independence and ability to get around—but states and other drivers wish to increase safety on the road. As the rise in senior drivers continues, state and federal governments must continue to seek solutions in order to provide the best outcome for everyone.

Health care tools and technology- Helping seniors continue to live at home

May 5th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

BrCX0s0CEAEDAyaAfter talking for years about the need of a new paradigm helping seniors to age in place and the important role of healthcare tools and technology to help them continue to live at home, i welcomed with contentment the recommendations of our friend Edward Francis at Foresthc.com.

We have often stressed aging in place as the natural way of aging. Living in your own home for as long as possible is important to many people, especially to seniors. It is full of memories and is comfortable and familiar. This makes it very difficult to leave and, providing your health is adequate there is no reason to move. There are a variety of new tools available which will help any older person keep living comfortably in their home:

Medical alarms

A personal alarm is not a new idea! They have been fitted to homes or carried on your person for many years. If something happens you simply need to press the button for assistance. However, if you are unable to reach the button for any reason then the alarm is useless. Modern technology has now devised fall detection and incorporated it into these alarms.  Should you fall then the alarm will automatically summon assistance. It even has a GOS tracker built in to help the emergency services locate you.

Monitoring your meds

It can sometimes be difficult to remember to take your medication and this can often be the only reason that someone needs to move to a nursing home or an assisted living home. However, there is now a pill dispenser which sounds several alarms and even calls your cell phone to remind you to take your medication. Alongside this you can have sensors fitted to your botles which confirm when the pills were taken and how many. If you miss a dose then a message is sent out to your caregiver for them to follow up.

GPS shoes

Many older people love to walk and enjoy the fresh air. Unfortunately, the city you live in could be rapidly changing and, combined with an impaired cognitive function, you may find yourse
lf lost. A GPS tracker in your shoes will help other to know where you are and locate you, if necessary. This system works best if you set geographical boundaries and even time limits.

Home monitoring systems

Sensors placed around your home will allow your caregiver to build up a picture of your normal movements and any routines you have. The system can then be programmed with this information and any deviation to your usual activity will flag an alert with your caregiver and encourage them to investigate and confirm your health and safety. These sensors can also be used to detect if you have a fall or potentially an unknown illness as your patterns will change. They will even show if someone is in your home that is not you.

Apps

There are now apps available which will allow you to communicate with your caregiver, friends or family with just a few clicks. This can be a pre-set message which simply tells people that you are fine, or you can use a panic button which alerts everyone in a predetermined list that you need assistance. Other apps will also remind you to take your medication or can even direct you back to your home if you have lost your way. Among some of the most efficient, we must mention:

  • BloodPressue iBP
  • Pill Reminder Pro
  • Geriatric Depression Scale
  • Dragon Dictation

Remote monitoring

It is possible to get a wrist band which can track your vitals and connect to a smart phone. The information concerning your vitals can then be relayed to a doctor or caregiver. This will ensure you receive prompt help if needed and that you do not waste the doctor’s time or raise your stress levels by needing to visit a doctor. There is a wide range of items which can be monitored including, heart rate, blood glucose, steps taken, diet, and even time spent sleeping!

Many people are already active on at least one social media site and this can be an excellent way for them to stay in touch with another senior relative. Messages can be kept simple but will provide valuable reassurance, especially if you live a distance away from your family. Seniors can easily live comfortably in their own homes. However, because accidents might happen, it’s certainly a good idea for caregivers to keep an eye on their behavior even from a distance. Apps and monitoring devices are excellent tools. Most of them are quite affordable (some are even free), so it’s definitely a good thing that technology is finally starting to care for the elderly as well but always the high touch is needed to supplement the high tech to effectively help seniors age in place.

Aging in Place: Safety Tips for Your Kitchen

March 3rd, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Aging in Place: Safety TipsBecause 90% of us do not want to leave our homes but to age in place, we need to pay attention to places like the kitchen that can be unsafe for us as we grow older. The kitchen is the heart of your home—and it’s also one of the most important spaces to remodel when it comes to aging in place. You’ll need to be able to make regular use of your kitchen, and the harder it is to access important appliances, locate your cookware, or even walk across the floor, the more dangerous it can be. Your kitchen can remain inviting and stylish while being loaded with accessibility features and convenience that will make it ideal for your senior years.

The Floor 

When it comes to your kitchen floor, you have to start with the floor plan. Make sure that it’s wheelchair accessible, with plenty of room to maneuver. Place cabinets conveniently, so that they’re close to the counters and stoves where they’ll be needed, but keep them out of the pathway so that it’s easy to move around them. Next, look at your food preparation areas. You’ll want to be sure that countertops are at the right height for use from a wheelchair. Adjustable countertops can make it easier for you to keep using them as usual until you need a wheelchair and make it more comfortable for others who might share in food preparation responsibilities.

Next, look at your seating. While you don’t want to clutter up your kitchen or make it impossible to get around, you do need to have readily-accessible seating to make food preparation easier. Make sure that you have comfortable, sturdy seats: you don’t want to have to rely on a bar stool if your legs get shaky! Leave plenty of room around the table for a wheelchair, but don’t skimp on comfortable seating, either. You can always move a chair away to make it more easily accessible later.

Your kitchen flooring is almost as important as the floor plan. First, accept that the cute rugs that you enjoyed in your earlier years are a thing of the past: they can lead to trips, slips, and falls. Next, begin your search for a kitchen floor that will be durable and slip-resistant while still looking great. Cork, rubber, and linoleum are all excellent choices for seniors, as are smaller tile that have more grout lines—see here for some ideas.

Lighting

 While aging eyes can be exceptionally sensitive to bright lights, you still want to be sure that you can see clearly enough to accomplish all the necessary tasks in your kitchen. Make the most of natural light: big windows that are free of curtains and blinds are ideal for the brightest possible room. Next, install ambient lighting that will illuminate the room at a comfortable level. A dimmer switch can help make it easier to reduce lighting if your eyes are feeling sensitive. You should, however, make sure there’s plenty of task lighting over the stove and in food preparation areas so that it will be easier to focus on your current task.

It’s also important to ensure that you’ll have the light you need when you’re navigating the room at night. Make sure that light switches are available at every entrance to the room. Consider installing motion sensors on the lights so that it will kick on automatically if you walk into the room in the middle of the night. If this is impractical, you can also put in nightlights to help provide some light if you’re just taking a quick trip to the kitchen.

Appliances 

The appliances you choose for your kitchen should reflect your changing needs as you get older. Your microwave, for example, should be simple to operate, with big, visible buttons that are easy to press. An electric stove with large dials and simple operating instructions is best, but if you do have a gas range, make sure that it has a pilot light and auto-shutoff feature. Your dishwasher should be positioned conveniently next to the sink. Consider installing one that’s higher off the ground to make it easier to load and unload as your mobility decreases. Senior-friendly sinks are shallow and easy to reach from a wheelchair. Choose a refrigerator that reflects your needs: large enough to hold several days of pre-prepped meals if necessary. Think about the layout of your refrigerator and where the doors will open as well as the shelves that will be accessible from a wheelchair.

Cabinets

 Organize your cabinets carefully so that they will remain fully accessible. Place items that you use most frequently in cabinets that are easiest to reach. Consider drawer pull-outs in cabinets that may be difficult to access from a wheelchair or as your mobility decreases. You should also make sure that your cabinets are shallow enough that you can easily reach to the back.

Accessories

 Knobs, switches, and faucets can be some of the most frustrating items in your kitchen when your fingers aren’t as nimble as they once were. Look for knobs that are large and easy to hold, switches that can be operated simply, and faucets that use one lever to switch between hot and cold to make it easier to adjust the water to the right temperature. Make sure that any labels on levers and switches are in clear, large fonts that you’ll be able to read even after your eyesight begins to decrease.

Your kitchen is one of the most important rooms in your home. You need to be able to prepare food, eat, and host guests with ease. Luckily, there are plenty of products on the market that are designed with an aging population’s needs in mind. Take the time to think through your future needs now to ensure that when the day comes, you have a kitchen that will allow you to maintain your independence and age in place, at home where you want to be.