‘Aging’ Posts

Reasons why older people are skipping their vaccinations

December 13th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

old man bow one's head on his wife shoulderOver 65% of thepeople living in US get their annual flu shot. However, the percentage has recently dropped to 63. Every year, the estimated number of people getting hospitalized with the flu is somewhere at 220,000 according to the CDC. Between 50 and 70% of these people are seniors with ages over 65. Older adults cannot afford to get sick, and common health concerns such as the flu can greatly affect their overall wellbeing.

In 2014, nearly 61% of older people have got pneumococcal vaccines. These are meant to protect the body from infections that might cause meningitis and pneumonia. Basically, there’s no improvement; thus, meaning that millions of seniors out there are still vulnerable. Why aren’t people getting vaccinated? What are the main reasons for them to skip on such important health measures?

Increased health coverage for senior adults, yet no reaction

 Nearly 58% of seniors have gotten a tetanus shot over the past 10 years. However, only 14% has got the advised dose of the well-known Tdap vaccine; which protects against whooping cough and diphtheria as well. Grandparents need to take better care of themselves because they’re the ones that spend more time with grandkids that are too young to get any type of vaccine.

Why aren’t seniors getting vaccinated? One of the main causes is because they don’t have coverage. Even though the FDA has approved many of the above over 10 years ago, people are still ignorant. Some seniors don’t even know that they can get affordable healthcare. In 2014, only 31% of people over 65 had health insurance. The numbers have increased dramatically, although if people they don’t get informed, they can’t know how much these shots cost, or if they cost at all.

Missed opportunities

 Medical experts claim that vaccines are not part of the medical routine of older people. That may be one of the main reasons people don’t get vaccinated. However, when kids come in for a checkup, the first thing that the pediatrician recommends is a vaccine. Seniors often have more severe medical issues. Most specialists focus on other health concerns in the oncology or cardiology sector; almost no physician cares about common conditions, such as the flu.

It is important for older people and their caregivers to discuss more about the importance of vaccination. There are useful guidelines and even a quiz on the CDC website that provides lots of useful advice. For shingles, the most recent vaccine called Zostavax may reduce the risk of contracting a disease in seniors by nearly 50%. The problem is that the vaccine is short on supply, and things haven’t changed since 2012. Also, the increased price may also be an impediment, as not many seniors can afford it.

In a recent study, performed in the summer of this year, the statistics show that almost 40% of older people who asked for it couldn’t pay for it with their own money. Zostavax is covered by the Affordable Care Act only if the patient also has private health insurance. Many seniors don’t have that sort of coverage.

Effectiveness of vaccines on older people

As opposite to Zostavax, many specialists agree that Shingrix – a newcomer, is a lot better. Apparently, it can reduce the incidence of contracting shingles to 90%. But, the efficiency doesn’t seem to be lower in seniors like Zostavax. Shingrix comes with its fair share of side-effects. It demands a second dose after a few months from getting the first. Many people will forget about that aspect. Also, the manufacturing company hasn’t settled on a final price. However, if the vaccine gets approved by the FDA and the CDC recommends it, Shingrix may become extremely useful. But that will only happen if the people remember that they need a second shot.

Public health leaders are not very eager to find out what the FDA has planned. In 2017, an estimated number of 1 million people will get shingles in the US. The CDC doesn’t want to wait, and compels older adults to get vaccinated as soon as possible and avoid hospitalization. Some nursing homes, like Forest HC in England help with short-term recovery, but the bottom line is seniors need to take better care of them to avoid any unnecessary post-operative following their lack of immunity. They must become more aware that their bodies are vulnerable, and many are willing to do that if they can get more affordable health insurance.

Ways for Seniors to Improve Mental and Physical Health

December 8th, 2016 by Doris Bersing
Living Well, Be active as you grow olderEasy Ways for Seniors to Stay Healthy

In a time where daily stress is almost a given, it’s important for us to take care of ourselves.

Seniors, especially, need to find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety as well as ways to actively improve physical and mental well-being. Fortunately, there are many ways to do that, and most of them are more simple than you might think. Here are a few of the best.

Engage in daily exercise

Exercise is important for everyone, but for individuals over the age of 50, it’s imperative. Getting in at least thirty minutes of workout time every day will help improve your mood and overall health, and it might be a good way to socialize, as well. Start a walking group with friends or neighbors, or invite your spouse or coworker to a swim aerobics class. Having someone to talk to will make you look forward to working out rather than dreading it.

Consider a pet

If you don’t already have a pet, consider getting a dog or cat. Animals can help reduce anxiety and even lower blood pressure, and they are wonderful companions. Dogs are also great motivators on days when you don’t feel like exercising, because they’ll always be up for a walk!

Stay in touch

When life gets hectic, we sometimes forget to stay in touch with loved ones. Make it a point to sit down and write a letter to someone you care about, or give them a call. Set aside time on a specific day every week to do it so you’ll have no trouble remembering.

Eat well

Your diet can have a very specific impact on your health and how you feel, so make sure you’re not overloading on refined sugars and carbs, which can make you feel sluggish. Lots of leafy greens, fish, nuts, and fresh fruit will go a long way toward helping you feel better in every way.

Get some rest

You might think you’re getting enough sleep, but if you feel tired all day it’s possible you need to take another look at your habits. Are you lying awake for a long time at night? Taking long naps during the day? Try staying away from the television, computer, or smartphone for an hour or two before bedtime. Instead, read a book or take a long hot shower. Get yourself relaxed before bed to ensure you’ll sleep and feel rested when you get up.

Get creative

For retirees, especially, the days can seem long and uninspired. If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled, try a new hobby. Get creative and take up a painting class, or try gardening or woodworking. Allowing yourself to create things and try something new will open up a whole new world, and you may just find happiness there.

Staying active and keeping your mind healthy and alert will ensure you’ll be feeling good and ready to tackle anything, no matter what your age is.

Parkinson’s Disease Support Group: December 6, 2016

December 4th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

December 6, 4:30pm: Upcoming Treatments: lecture by Dr. Rima Ash

Kaiser Permanente, 4141 Geary Boulevard Room F2 (between 5th and 6th Avenue), San Francisco, CA 94118

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.

Caregiver’s Self Care: Taking Care of Yourself While Caring for Another

November 9th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

reginato kiraCaregiver’s self care when caring for a loved one is a growing problem many of us face, these days and is going unattended.  We hear this often:, “My mother is the person with Dementia, but  I am the one going crazy!”. Many people want to age in place and sometimes that comes with a high price for family members and friends who need to support the loved ones to fulfill this goal and meet their needs.

Researchers know a lot about the effects of caregiving on health and well being of family members and friends acting as caregivers, as much as that one of professional caregivers.

For example, if you are a caregiving spouse between the ages of 66 and 96 and are experiencing mental or emotional strain, you have a risk of dying that is 63 percent higher than for those who are not caregivers.

Caregivers who feel burned-out report:

  • sleep deprivation
  • poor eating habits
  • failure to exercise
  • failure to stay in bed when ill
  • postponement of or failure to make medical appointments for themselves.

Taking your Care in Your Hands

Kira Reginato says: Do you tend to put yourself last as a caregiver? Not sure how to go about changing that? As a gerontologist and elder care consultant, Kira wants to help you.  She draws from her three decades of expertise helping older adults and their families as well as from caring for her aging father for two years.  She knows the weight gain, the interrupted sleep, the worry, the resentment, along with the funny and tender moments. Join her presentation! Learn why elder care is so much harder nowadays than ever before. Decrease your guilt.

Kira Reginato, speaker, author, and elder care consultant has served thousands of older adults and their families in many settings:  hospitals, residential care homes, skilled nursing facilities, hospices, Alzheimer’s adult day health programs and Meals on Wheels. She also hosted the long-running radio shows “Call Kira About Aging!” and “The Elder Care Show.” In her new book—Tips for Helping Your Aging Parents (without losing your mind), she shares best practices from 30 years of experience. Kira speaks to civic and corporate groups to help people maintain their own lives while “not losing their minds” in a caretaking role.

Learn how to reverse caregiver burn out. Learn to give yourself permission to limit what you do. Find out about gadgets you can use to make life easier.

Learn More

 

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.

 

Social connection is key for senior well-being

August 24th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Visiting your eldersWhen talking healthy aging, we need to stress the fact that social connection is key for senior’s well-being. Loneliness and isolation can have serious consequences for seniors’ physical and mental health.

Social isolation and loneliness go hand in hand with poor health outcomes. Numerous side effects have been connected to social isolation in the elderly, including dementia, loneliness, and severe depression. Aging parents want to feel included in the lives on their loved ones; sadly, very few have the time to come visit. To make sure our beloved mothers and fathers stay happy and help preserve their general health, it is important to include them in our lives. Edward Francis from Forest, an eldercare village, gives us some tips on how to reduce elders’  loneliness and some ways to help them reconnect with family and friends.

Make transportation accessible

The main cause of social isolation in aging parents is lack of transportation. Most seniors are not in the capacity to drive, so it is important to help them get around in order to socialize and make independent choices. If your parents leave someplace where public transportation is not available, it might be a good idea to call them and ask if they need a lift. Do this twice a week. If you can’t, ask a friend or send them a taxi. Some seniors don’t even know they have public transportation in the area; make time to visit and teach them how to use the bus or the train. It will make them feel more independent, and even prevent a sense of loneliness.

Give aging parents a sense of purpose

Seniors who have hobbies or a sense of purpose are less likely to become isolated. Apart from making seniors find meaning in life, interests and hobbies are social activities by nature. Playing bridge or chess, cooking classes, exercising are all excellent activities aging parents should do to stay entertained. Local senior centers have all sorts of events planned out for seniors; checking those out might also be a great way to meet new people and interact. Doing some volunteering work is an excellent way of expressing and preserving a sense of purpose as well. Encouraging aging parents to stay active and engaged keeps them away from becoming lonely and isolated from the rest of the world.

Encourage your parents to get a pet

Research has demonstrated over and over again that the mere act of caring and nurturing relieves feelings of depression and social isolation. Getting a pet for example, is a great way of staying engaged, feeling more secure and having motivation to use time in a constructive way. Animal companionship fosters relationships with neighborhoods. It is a social stimulant, an icebreaker that gives seniors a serious reason to wake up in the morning and do fun things. Prior to recommending your parent to get a pet, you need to make sure that they can take care of it.

Boosting self-esteem

Many seniors don’t want to socialize because they have a poor image of themselves, particularly of their bodies. Those who lack confidence are prone to being lonelier than those that do choose to interact and have a social life. For instance, overweight seniors feel embarrassed and ashamed; they don’t like to engage because they fear that people will judge their physical appearance. Positive comments and compliments can go a very long way; they help boost self-esteem and prevent seniors from freaking out over their weight and physical appearance. It might be a good idea to encourage your aging parent to adhere to a healthier lifestyle; not just to lose weight, but also to feel better and more self-assured in their own skin.

Recommend vision and hearing tests

Seniors suffering from untreated or undiagnosed hearing or vision issues may want to stay isolated because of their inability to communicate properly. In this case, it might be a good idea to take your parents to the doctor; have them checked out and treated so that they can be back on their feet. A hearing aid can help them overcome their fears of social interaction. Vision tests are equally important because they will allow older people to see better and thus pay more attention to the things happening around them.

Senior parents who refuse to socialize usually have a very good reason for their behavior. It’s up to you to find the root cause of their depression; then you can work together on a solution. In most cases, it’s all about boosting their self-esteem and convincing them that they can have friends and be happy even if they’re in their 70s or 80s.