Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Coping with Joint Problems in Seniors

Aging can come with aches and pains, especially if your older loved one has arthritis or other joint conditions. But there are many ways you can help them maintain their independence and live more comfortably. By putting emphasis on senior health care, you can assist your older parent, family member, or friend in managing their joint pain and continuing to enjoy the activities they love. Consider these key tips in assisting your loved one in maintaining a more comfortable, enjoyable lifestyle.
Medications. If your relative or friend is prescribed medications, specifically for a joint condition, take special care to ensure they are following the prescription instructions. Taking medications as prescribed can help reduce the pain. If your loved one only takes their medication when they are in pain, they may not be receiving the full effects of the prescription. Rather than taking on an as-needed basis, consider talking to them about taking the medication as directed. Some medicines need to be taken regularly to reduce the burden of pain and avoid exposing your loved one to more discomfort than necessary. 
Heat or cold packs. Depending on your loved one’s individual condition, a heat or cold pack may be able to provide a certain level of relief from joint pain. Talk with your loved one and his or her doctor about alternating between heat and cold applications. In many cases, this routine offers more relief and can be better tailored to individual needs.
Modifying activities. When joint pain strikes, your loved one may not be able to do the activities that they want or need to do. You can help provide senior care by assisting them in these activities or by finding ways to modify them. For example, if going up or down stairs has become too difficult, consider looking into stair lift rentals to make moving around the house easier. In other cases, arthritic hands might make it difficult to open door knobs or turn on light switches. There are many great aging-in-place alternatives like lever doorknobs and rocking light switches that can make it simpler to get around the house without overexerting joints. 
Diet. For some people, their weight might be worsening their joint conditions. Putting too much pressure on joints makes the body work harder to do simple activities, as extra weight can strain the joints. Consider if your loved one might benefit from a modified diet. Talk with them and their doctor about possible dietary changes your loved one can make to help relieve pressure on their joints and alleviate pain. 
Exercise. Like diet, changing an exercise routine should always be done under the care of a physician. In some cases, a physical activity routine might be able to help relieve pain. By building up muscle strength, your loved one may be able to reduce the pressure that is put on their joints. Stronger muscles can better support the body, meaning joints can work more efficiently and with much less stress.
Having joint pain doesn’t mean your older loved one has to stop doing the things they love. While some activities may need to be reduced or modified, there are many ways you can help a family member or friend continue to do their favorite hobbies, maintain their independence, and enjoy a more fulfilling lifestyle. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Addressing Muscle Atrophy in Seniors

An important part of healthful aging and continued independence for seniors is managing bone and muscle health. Sarcopenia, or the gradual loss of muscle mass, is common among older adults. This condition is potentially caused by many complex factors, often accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle. As your loved one ages, his or her:
-Hormone levels could change. Some hormones, such as testosterone, growth hormone, and others may lose concentration in the body.
-Motor neurons can lose functionality. There is often an age-related reduction in the nerve cells that are responsible for communicating between the brain and muscles to stimulate body movement.
-Protein requirements may change. As your loved one ages, his or her body may be less able to synthesize proteins.
-Eating habits may not be sufficient. If a person does not eat enough calories or protein to maintain their muscle mass, they may end up losing strength. 
In combination, these factors are presumed to lead to sarcopenia. To help your older loved one maintain a high quality of life, you can help them stave off muscle loss, as well as falling, associated with the condition. When an older adult looses muscle strength, they are more inclined to fall and endure injuries, fractures, or long-term disability. But with proper senior care, you can help your elderly loved one stay safe and cope with aging-related muscle loss. 
Preventing and Managing Age-Related Muscle Loss
There are many things your family member or friend can do to stay healthy and prevent falls caused by muscle loss. One of the most important ways to do so is through physical activity and exercise. Before starting any regimen, you can work with your loved one and his or her doctor to find the right program for their individual needs and abilities. Target exercises can help your loved one maintain, and even improve their muscle and bone strength. 
Not only will resistance training help improve strength, but it is also suggested to positively influence hormone concentrations in the body, the neuromuscular system, and the rate of protein synthesis. Other research has revealed that a continually increasing resistance training program could improve protein synthesis rates in a mere two weeks. 
To help your loved one achieve the benefits of exercise with reduced risk of injury, you, your family member or friend, and his or her doctor should work together to define the best type of, frequency, and intensity for their exercise program. 
In addition to physical activity, nutrition plays a key role in staving off sarcopenia. A review paper by the International Osteoporosis Foundation revealed the importance of nutrition, and identified which types of factors can contribute to lost muscle mass. They also identified ways that nutrients can improve or maintain muscle mass, as well. 
Protein. Protein is a highly important part of muscle health. The review showed that consuming between one and 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight each day is ideal for supporting bone and skeletal muscle health in the majority of older adults.
Vitamin D. You can help your older loved one increase their vitamin D levels by enjoying the outdoors together. Safe exposure to sunlight or proper supplementation can help support musculoskeletal health, as well.
Fruits and vegetables. It is no secret that natural, whole foods are the key to great nutrition. However, the study revealed that eating too many acid-producing foods, like cereal grains or meat, in conjunction with not eating enough alkalizing fruits and vegetables could be detrimental to musculoskeletal health. Under a doctor’s guidance, you can help your older loved one add more fruits and vegetables to their diet to find a good balance that supports bone and muscle health.
Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid. Other research has suggested that folic acid and/or vitamin B12 could play a key role in enhancing muscle strength and function, too. 
Providing care for seniors is a highly individualized process. When helping your older loved ones to fight off the loss of muscle mass and maintain their strength, there are many things you can do. Work with your family member or friend, as well as their doctor here in Durham, to learn more about the best ways to stave off sarcopenia and help them stay healthy and happy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Latest Breakthrough in Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care

While there is more work to be done in developing a medication for Alzheimer’s patients, scientists are now saying that a new medicine could be used to treat this condition, along with Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and many more. Alzheimer’s currently affects more than five million Americans, and British scientists might be developing new hope for them in the laboratory. 
In their tests on mice, the Medical Research Council discovered that all cell death within the brain caused by prion disease (neurodegenerative disorders) could actually be prevented. This discovery is hailed as a turning point in the search for controlling and even preventing Alzheimer’s. While this discovery is not poised to change the world of medicine immediately, it appears to be a hopeful benchmark.
The Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit team, based out of the University of Leicester, honed in on brain cells’ natural defense mechanisms. When a virus affects the brain, it causes an accumulation of viral proteins. Cells respond to this build-up by stopping virtually all production of protein in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. 
However, a large number of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, involve the production of abnormal proteins. These can set off the same defenses, but often with more dangerous consequences. These proteins tend to stay put, and the brain cells stop production of protein for so long that the cells essentially starve to death. This process, which tends to repeat throughout the entire brain, can break down a person’s ability to move properly or recall memories, or lead to fatality. 
This whole process is suspected to happen in many different forms of neurodegeneration. In theory, safely disrupting the process could essentially treat countless neurodegenerative diseases with a single medication. The researchers who made the astounding discovery used a formula that prevented such defense mechanisms from starting. In turn, the compound stopped neurodegeneration altogether.
The study was published in Science Translational Medicine, and revealed that mice who had prion disease experienced severe movement and memory problems. They tended to die within just 12 weeks. But those who were treated with the compound showed no signs of withered brain tissue at all. 
The fact that this compound entirely prevented the breakdown of tissue is a first in the field. While this formula is not ready for human treatment, the results showed that stopping neurodegeneration is even a possibility. 
In addition, the compound did come with side effects for mice. The pancreas was affected, resulting in the development of mild diabetes and weight loss. Any drug used on humans would be required to only act on the brain, but this news gives scientists a strong starting point from which to work. 
The Alzheimer’s Research UK charity reports that targeting a single mechanism, related to many neurodegenerative diseases, could lead to the creation of just one drug that has wide-reaching benefits. However, this particular compound is still in its very early stages.
Despite this discovery, much more research needs to be done to see how these findings would directly apply to diseases. With continued studies and testing, these compounds may have the unmatched potential of improving dementia care and Alzheimer’s care for patients, or preventing the disease altogether.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Senior-Friendly Travel Destinations

A travel spot that accommodates your older loved one’s interests, physical abilities, and budget doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, there are many fantastic senior-friendly travel spots that the whole family can enjoy. 
Unlike younger travelers, seniors are not as inclined to be satisfied with a buffet and basic lodging. Rather, they may have developed a taste for the finer things, and appreciate more elegant foods, drinks, and sights. Some senior-friendly destinations might offer foods from famous restaurants, vineyard tours, or exceptional attractions. In many cases, a senior-friendly spot might offer a rich cultural heritage and history that makes visiting worthwhile. 
In addition to having different tastes than younger travelers, your loved one may also have special needs that should be addressed before picking a destination. If that is the case, your travel spot should provide lots of mobile accessibility, accessibility to medical care, accessibility to new and old interests, and a positive sensory environment. 
Whether your loved one is a solo vacationer or you want to plan a trip you can take together, consider these fantastic destinations that are popular choices among older travelers of all styles and abilities.
Live Shows and Entertainment
Las Vegas. “Sin City” is not just for those seeking adventure or gambling. Rather, there are many amazing live shows, lots of shopping, endless dining, and incredible sights to see—and many expenses like lodging, eating, and entertainment are surprisingly budget friendly. 
Branson, Missouri. This hot spot is popular all year round, especially for senior vacationers. There are so many things to do and see, and they are all located fairly close together. You can play golf, explore museums, see the city’s famous shows, go shopping, and more. The music theaters and other popular attraction venues were originally built as an alternative to Las Vegas by providing affordable, wholesome entertainment options for the whole family. Plus, there are lots of things for kids to do if the whole family is traveling together. 
Thanks to specialized beach wheelchairs, boardwalks that go to the water’s edge, and beach mats, beaches are more wheelchair-friendly than ever before.
Hanauma Bay. In Honolulu, Hawaii, this beach loans beach wheelchairs at no charge for any visitors with mobility challenges. 
Ludington State Park. This beach in Ludington, Michigan, offers beach wheelchairs at Hamlin Lake, as well as at Lake Michigan beach houses. There is also a wheelchair accessible boardwalk. 
Theme Parks
If your elderly loved one would enjoy a destination that offers lots of positive sensory input, a theme park can provide just that. With lots of sights to see, fun rides to take, and endless paths to explore, these are ideal spots for many older travelers.
Disney World and Disney Land. Travelers of any age are likely to enjoy these world-class theme parks. Famous faces, rides that are known around the globe, and more, Disney World and Disney Land are a shoo-in for your next senior-friendly vacation.
Holiday World. This theme park, located in rural Indiana, is known as the most family-friendly theme park in the nation. Even more, it costs far less than other better-known parks, making it a great choice for those traveling on a budget.
When providing elder care to your loved one, make sure to work with them to find the best vacation for their needs and their style. Discuss their preferences and capabilities, and explore your options to learn which vacation will bring them the most enjoyment and make the greatest memories as you spend some quality time outside of Durham!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Important Fitness Tips for Seniors

An important part of senior care is helping your elderly loved one stay active as they age. Exercise and physical activity are a key component to a healthy lifestyle, and many studies have shown that exercise offers an array of health benefits that seniors can enjoy, simply by incorporating moderate physical activity into their daily life. It can prevent or help loved ones recover from falls, keep bones strong, and stave off weakness or strength loss that often accompanies aging. 
Exercise can also help your loved one stay fit and strong enough to continue doing the activities or hobbies they enjoy. But before starting a physical activity routine, it is important that your older relative or friend speak with their health care provider. A Durham physician can advise on which types of exercises are beneficial and which could do more harm than good. Your loved one should always get the approval of a doctor before starting a routine. 
A physical activity regimen for an older adult will likely look different than one for a younger person. But by modifying exercise, seniors can find activities that work for their bodies and discover new activities that suit their personalities. There are many exercises that can be done virtually anywhere, even in the home, which is essential for providing great home care for your loved one. A good routine should include endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility exercises. Consider these tips when working with your older loved one in choosing a physical activity program that suits their needs.
Strength. Lifting weights or using body weight is an important part of exercise. It helps to build muscle strength and keep your loved one better able to hold their balance and continue enjoying the activities they do daily. Improving strength will help them to move around the house, get out of bed, do grocery shopping, and complete many other everyday chores or activities they want or need to do.
Endurance. Cardiovascular endurance exercises refer to anything that will increase your loved one’s heart rate. Many older adults go for walks, take a bike ride, or go swimming to get their heart rate up. Some seniors may not be able to do cardiovascular exercise for more than a few minutes at a time. But with practice, they can build up their endurance and go for much longer. This is important, as many household activities require endurance. For example, gardening or going up and down stairs require cardiovascular strength, and a workout routine that focuses on endurance can make many of these daily activities easier and more enjoyable.
Balance. Focusing on balance is highly important for older adults. Such exercises can increase muscle strength in the core and legs. By improving balance, your loved one can better prevent falls, which could lead to major injury or even death. 
Stretching. Your older relative or friend can improve their flexibility by stretching regularly. It will increase their range of movement and reduce their risk of injury if they do fall. Even more, it will make daily activities easier because it will help your loved one move more freely and with less pain.
Remember that before starting any exercise routine, your older loved one should receive their doctor’s clearance. But you can help care for elderly family or friends by working with them and their physician to find the best routines for their individual needs, capabilities, and styles. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Checklists for Evaluating Assisted Living Facilities

When researching options for assisted living, Durham families can reach out to the city for guidance. Durham helps place seniors with assisted living facilities. But before taking the first seemingly great option that comes along, consider the specific needs and preferences of your loved one. Elder care is a highly personal service, and it is important to choose a facility wisely. A great fit will greatly enhance your loved one’s quality of life. 
It is important to note that assisted living can refer to a wide variety of services and settings. Some are bare-bones, while others provide more comprehensive care. Services may include housekeeping, cooking meals, reminding residents about medications, on-site assistance by nurses, and help with everyday activities like dressing and bathing. 
Deciding on a facility for a loved one can be a difficult task, and choosing the right one will require some effort. But by taking your family member’s needs and personality into consideration, you can work with them to find their ideal fit. Here are some important points to consider when evaluating your assisted living facility options.
-What is the baseline fee and what services are included?
-Are there additional charges for products or services?
-What upfront payments are required and are any of them refundable?
-What fees will continue to apply if your loved one is away from the facility, such as spending time in the hospital or a nursing home?
-When, why, and how frequently could fees change?
-Is there any financial assistance available?
-Will you need to purchase renters insurance?
-Who is responsible for cleaning, repairing, or replacing items if an accident occurs?
Personal Care
Ask each facility to describe how it can meet the care needs of your loved one. Consider how they cope with mental health conditions, incontinence, dementia, or other concerns. Also, address the possibility of changing needs if your loved one plans on residing at this facility for the long term.
Individual Needs
-How does the facility determine if it can cater to your loved one’s needs and what type of assessment is required to make this determination?
-What happens if your loved one’s needs change while living there? 
-Does the facility tailor schedules for dressing or bathing to meet resident preferences?
-How does each facility help residents retain their independence in terms of using the restroom, eating, or dressing?
-If a resident becomes difficult to manage, how does the staff handle the situation?
-How often are rooms cleaned?
-Is there a schedule to check up on residents’ well-being and whereabouts?
-How many staff members are on duty at all times?
-What are staff responsible for and what are their certifications and level of training?
-Is staff specially trained to help residents with mental health issues?
Health Care
-Does each facility develop a written plan for how it will care for your loved one? If so, how often is this plan updated?
-How closely can you, your family, and your loved one be involved in the care process? 
-Can you take action if you do not agree with the facility’s care plan?
-How intensely will the facility monitor your loved one’s health?
-Is a nurse on the staff, and what are his or her hours and duties?
-How quickly will your loved one receive medical attention if they do not feel well and what medical services are provided?
-When would the facility alert the family or doctor about medical concerns?
-What precautions are taken to ensure that your loved one receives the appropriate medications and how are the medications filled? 
-What costs are involved in medication treatments?
-Who reviews medication procedures and how frequently are reviews conducted?
Other Important Considerations
In addition to physical care, it is also important to consider factors contributing to your loved one’s well-being. For example, learn about any transportation that is provided to help them get to the places they want or need to go. In addition, ask about community or social activities. It is important that your family member is able to engage with others when they feel so inclined. Consider events like bingo, card games, crafts, or spiritual and religious gatherings. In addition, you should also learn as much as possible about:
Meals: When are they served, how are they served, and what is served?
Safety and choice: How is independence emphasized while also providing adequate safety and care?
Accessibility: Can a loved one with mobility issues safely and easily move around the facility?
When looking for the ideal facility for your loved one, take these factors into consideration. Work hand-in-hand with your relative to learn more about their preferences and remember their special needs. Together, you can find the perfect facility that will greatly improve their everyday life.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Getting Your Senior Ready for Summer Heat Waves

For great summer home care, Durham families should start by helping their older family and friends get ready for rising temperatures. The season is filled with cookouts, afternoons outside, and warm, sunny days. But summer also poses dangers, especially for older adults. Hot and humid weather can cause heat illnesses, and seniors are especially vulnerable. They may not adjust as efficiently to changing temperatures as young people, and prescriptions or medical conditions may interfere with proper temperature regulation. But by taking a few precautions, you can help provide great senior care to your loved ones and help them stay safe and comfortable all summer long. 
Because being outdoors is so enjoyable and great for a sense of well-being, you may not want to discourage your elderly loved one from avoiding it altogether. Rather, work with them to help them find ways to enjoy the season while reducing their risk of heat-related illnesses. 
If your older relative or friend lives on their own, make sure they are aware of the dangers this season. Talk to them about the warning signs that could signal they are experiencing heat-related illnesses and need medical attention immediately. 
Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is considered to be the most hazardous heat-related illness and can happen when the body is no longer able to regulate temperature. If heat stroke occurs, body temperature will rise quickly and the body will no longer be able to sweat and cool off. Body temperature can surpass 106 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes. It could lead to permanent disability or even death if medical attention is not provided. Common symptoms of heat stroke include:
-Unusually high body temperature
-Strong and rapid pulse
-Hot, dry, red skin without perspiration
Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is milder than heat stroke, but is still an incredibly dangerous form of heat-related illness. It can develop over time, if your loved one is chronically exposed to hot temperatures, or is not properly hydrated. Some traditional symptoms of heat exhaustion may include:
-Pale skin
-Profuse sweating
-Tiredness or weakness
-Vomiting or nausea
-Cool, moist skin
-Weak and rapid pulse
-Shallow and quick breathing
How You Can Help Keep Your Loved One Safe
To support senior health and help your loved one avoid these conditions, advise them on ways to stay safe this season. Some great ways to protect against heat-related illnesses are:
-Drinking cool, non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages.
-Getting plenty of rest.
-Taking a cool bath, shower, or sponge bath. Help your loved one stay safe by making sure their showers or tubs are lined with non-skid stickers to prevent falls while cooling off. 
-Installing air conditioning in the home or advising your loved one on the nearest places that provide air conditioning. Consider the local movie theater, shopping mall, senior center, or library.
-Wearing loose fitting, lightly colored clothing.
-Avoiding strenuous activity while temperatures are high. 
In addition to teaching your loved one about these risk-reducing tips, you should also try to check in with them at least twice daily. Ask them about any signs of heat stroke or exhaustion, and remind them to increase their fluid intake.
By taking these steps and working with your elderly family members and friends, you can reduce their risks of heat-related illnesses and help them stay safe and comfortable this summer.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Celebrating Independence Day with Senior Relatives

This Fourth of July, reach out to your elderly family members and friends in Durham and invite them to join in on the celebration. With a few slight modifications, you can tailor your party to let everyone on the guest list enjoy their time. An important part of senior care is looking out for their well-being, and making sure they always feel welcome is a key step in doing just that. Independence Day is a great excuse to spend time with your family and friends, and enjoy food, warm weather, and fireworks together. But it may not always be easy for older adults who have limited mobility, dietary restrictions, or special needs. Consider these ideas to help your loved ones celebrate the holiday and have fun doing it, too.
Modify the Menu
A traditional cookout usually means hot dogs and hamburgers, macaroni salad, and other fatty, salty, or hard-to-eat foods. While these treats might be fine for younger guests, they are not always the best choice for older loved ones with dietary restrictions. Some foods might cause interactions with their medications, others can increase the risk of developing medical conditions, and some foods might just be too difficult to eat. By slightly altering your holiday menu or making sure to offer foods everyone can enjoy, you will make the celebration more welcoming and inviting. Consider opting for a fruit salad, rather than a potato salad, or serving grilled chicken instead of greasy burgers.
Bring the Party to Them
Some of your elderly loved ones can join you at the local parade or to see the holiday fireworks. But others may not be able to leave their homes or assisted living communities. That doesn’t mean they cannot celebrate with you! Family should take special care to include elderly relatives in the celebration by bringing the party to their loved ones. There are lots of senior-friendly ways you can celebrate together. For example, your whole family could make red, white, and blue treats or have a patriotic movie night together.
Plan in Advance
If your loved one can make it to the family cookout, it is important that you plan in advance. Consider putting out seating with backs so your older friend or relative can sit comfortably and safely. Also, try to provide ample shade where your loved one can escape from the sun but still join in on the fun. If he or she has mobility concerns, plan out an easy-to-navigate route for them to get from the house to the picnic. If they are in a wheelchair, make sure they are able to move around the party freely and without obstructions. In addition, make sure your loved one is wearing lightly colored and loose fitting clothes, has enough sunscreen, and is wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to stay safe during warm, sunny days.
Making sure your older friends and family feel welcome is an important part of elder care. This Fourth of July, consider these senior-friendly tips and do a little advance planning. By doing so, you can make sure they celebrate Independence Day comfortably, safely, and easily.