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CAREGIVERS: CHOOSE WISELY

CAREGIVERS NEED TO CHOOSE WISELY Caregivers have options for giving care.   It is important to choose wisely to insure the best and safest way to deliver that care. You, as the caregiver, may be a neighbor, friend, or family member who is able to provide some caregiving for free.  Or maybe you receive a stipend or some form of hourly compensation.  While this arrangement may work for a while, it may not be a good long-term solution. GETTING PAID Choose wisely:  While you didn’t mind helping out a bit for free, the need for your help may have increased.  Now you may be sacrificing other income to provide care and need to ask for payment to cover your own expenses.   Payment arrangements between family and friends can be tricky.  So in order to have a clear understanding of expectations and compensation, it is best to put everything in writing.   A professional caregiving agency will have a signed agreement for services to make sure everyone is on the same page. TRAINING Choose wisely: Perhaps your friend or family member needed only occasional assistance with cleaning, a meal or companionship.  Now that need may have grown to include help with walking, dressing and bathing.  At this point, you may be feeling out of your element and concerned about the safety of your loved one and yourself.   Therefore, a wise choice may be to work with an agency that can provide training in best practices. BENEFITS Choose wisely:  Working for yourself sounds attractive, but it can have its drawbacks.  If you get hurt at work, who will pay for your medical expenses? ...

Loneliness

Winter in the northern states can be isolating, increasing loneliness and depression.  The holiday season often highlights feelings of loneliness.  Today, 17% of Americans over 65 live alone, and an estimated 8.8% of seniors are chronically lonely.   The sad fact is that loneliness can cause health problems and affect quality of life. Health Factors of Loneliness According to an article in Forbes, persistent loneliness may be a bigger health risk than smoking, obesity, exercise or nutrition.   A few years ago, researchers at Brigham Young University found that social isolation increases your risk of death by 30%.  There are 3 main factors contributing to this outcome. Psychologically, loneliness and social isolation are often associated with depression, anxiety, dementia, substance abuse, and an increased risk of suicide. Practically, human beings have a better chance of surviving in social and family groups than in isolation. If you have an accident or a sudden health event, there may not be anyone around to help. You could be showing signs of decline or disease that no one is round to notice.  Self-maintenance and healthy hygiene habits are something lonely people are less likely to engage in without some sort of encouragement from others.  Lonely people tend to eat worse, get less exercise, and not sleep as well. Physically, loneliness itself appears to be something that negatively impacts the body, from hardening your arteries to depressing your immune system to deterioration of your brain. Loneliness can raise blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  This makes your heart muscle work harder and causes damage to blood vessels.  Obesity and low levels of immunity...

SENSORY LOSS

Sensory Loss   Sensory loss impacts millions of older folks in one or more of their primary senses.  Loss of even one sense can cause major changes in how you experience your life.  And sensory loss can lead to other health problems such as poor balance, poor nutrition, depression or even dementia.   Sensory Loss: Hearing A lifetime of noise can lead to hearing deterioration.  The tiny hair cells in your ears that send signals to your brain don’t regenerate.  And while the brain naturally shrinks as we age, hearing loss can accelerate the shrinking, which in turn increases the risk of dementia. Often the ability to hear high-frequency sounds goes first. You may have trouble telling the difference between similar sounds.  And when you can’t hear wellenough to get in on the conversation, loneliness and depression can become factors.   Hearing loss can mess with your balance, increasing the risk of falling.  You may have problems maintaining your balance as you sit, stand, or walk. Things you can do: Wear ears plugs or head phones to protect your ears from loud sounds. Watch your weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels to help keep the tiny arteries that feed the hair cells in your ears healthy. Use hearing aids or TV & phone amplification devices. Hearing aid users score better than nonusers on cognitive and memory tests. Have your ears checked for wax build-up – a common age-related cause of hearing issues. Sensory Loss: Sight Focusing up close becomes more difficult as you age and you may need more light to see.  Your eyes produce fewer tears, and may...

Care for the Caregiver

Caregivers need to schedule regular care for the caregiver. Providing care for a loved one with a long-term illness or disability can be both fulfilling and challenging. Over time, the daily stresses can wear heavily on the caregiver. That’s why it’s so important for caregivers to take care of themselves. Staying hopeful, energetic and optimistic is vital to providing the best care possible. However, maintaining a positive outlook and a high level of energy will be difficult if the caregiver doesn’t take care of his/her own needs. Finding the time to care for the caregiver with proper nutrition, exercise and sleep will help relieve stress and prevent burnout.   It’s also important to ask for help when needed. Many of the things a caregiver needs to stay rested, healthy and optimistic can’t happen without the support of family and friends, or paid caregivers. Signs you may need to do more care for the caregiver include: • Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or angry • Making mistakes while giving care • Feeling alone, isolated or deserted • Not getting enough sleep • Gaining or losing weight without trying • Frequently feeling worn out • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy • Becoming easily irritated • Being constantly worried or sad • Having frequent headaches or body aches Physical ways to care for the caregiver may include: • Getting regular exercise • Eating a balanced diet • Pampering yourself (hot bath, massage) • Meditating • Getting regular sleep • Staying on top of your own health and physical check-ups. Mental/emotional ways to care for the caregiver may include: • Talking with...

TEN TIPS FOR LIVING LONGER

Following these Ten Tips for Living Longer is likely to improve the quality of your current state of being as well as giving you a fighting chance at a longer, healthier life. 1. Get regular sleep for the right amount of time. a. Seven to eight hours of sleep each night can help maintain cognitive function. b. Studies indicate sleeping less than six hours per night nearly doubles your risk of heart attack and stroke, and can contribute to depression and dementia. c. Avoid naps late in the day. Limit naps to 30 minutes in the early afternoon. d. Try a warm bath, wearing socks to bed, room temp below 67°, and a pitch-black room to improve sleep.   2. Cut back on pain pills. a. Regular use of over-the-counter pain killers may raise your risk of heart attack or stroke by 10%; prescription-strength pain killers by 20-50%. b. Try massage, mild exercise, aromatherapy, or muscle rubs first. c. Save the pain pills for more severe pain, using the smallest possible dose for the shortest possible time. 3. Drink plenty of the right kinds of fluid. a. Coffee can be good for you! Studies note daily coffee drinking may reduce risk of stroke, diabetes and some cancers. b. Anti-oxidants in green tea also combat diabetes and heart disease, increasing longevity. c. Drink whole milk! Research indicates those who consume the most dairy fat have a lower risk of developing diabetes. d. Fill up with water. Not only can sipping water help you lose weight, staying well-hydrated can reduce the risk of bladder infection and colon cancer. 4. Choose healthy fuel for...

Vision Loss among Seniors

Vision loss among seniors is a major health issue.  About one in three people over 65 will experience some form of vision-reducing eye problem. Since many eye problems develop slowly and painlessly, it is important to get regular eye exams. You may not notice the changes in your vision, but an eye exam could detect a potentially serious eye disease. Early treatment might save your eyesight. Since your 40s, you may have noticed that your vision is changing. Perhaps you need glasses to see up close. Maybe you have more trouble adjusting to glare or distinguishing some colors. These changes are a normal part of aging and don’t need to stop you from enjoying an active lifestyle or maintaining your independence. But as you age, you are at higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions. These include: age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma and dry eye. Early detection and treatment is critical to avoid vision loss. Eye exams may also uncover other health issues such as artery blockages, hypertension or diabetes. Common Age-related Eye Diseases and Conditions: Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) AMD is the leading cause of loss of vision in people over 65. AMD is a disease that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. Risk factors for AMD include age, family history, hypertension and smoking. Cataract Cataract is a common cause of senior vision impairment and a leading cause of blindness worldwide. In the US, cataract-related blindness is reduced due to surgery that is readily available, safe...

HOME BASED CARE FOR VETERANS

Home and Community Based Services.    The Veterans Administration provides a variety of home based care for Veterans to help chronically ill or disabled Veterans of any age remain in their own homes.  The Home and Community Based programs range from Adult Day Health Care and Respite to Home-based Primary and Palliative Care; from Homemaker/Home Health Aides and Skilled Home Health to Hospice services. A Homemaker or Home Health Aide is a trained person who can come to a Veteran’s home and help the Veteran take care of him/herself and his/her daily activities. Homemaker/Home Health Aides work for an organization that has a contract with the VA.  Advocates In-Home Care is contracted with the Veterans Administration to provide Respite as well as Homemaker and Home Health Aid care. A Homemaker or Home Health Aide can be used as part of an alternative to nursing home care, and to get Respite Care at home for Veterans and their family caregiver.   Respite Care allows a primary caregiver to attend to his/her own needs without having to worry about the person in need of care.  Primary caregivers need to take care of themselves if they are going to be able to continue to provide good care for their loved one.   The Respite Care program recognizes that need and provides care coverage for time away – or time for a nap! Homemaker Home Health Aide services are part of a service within the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package.  Home based care for veterans is available to all enrolled Veterans if they meet the clinical need for the service.  It will be necessary to be evaluated by a...

Beating the Winter Blues – 10 Tips

10 Tips for Beating the Winter Blues For those of us who live in northern climates, winter can be long and dreary.   To avoid feeling depressed, try some of the following ideas for beating the winter blues. Exercise! Yes, it’s often listed as a cure for whatever ails you.  And with good reason.  Along with many physical benefits, exercise can improve mood and mental health.  A brisk walk or some simple stretches may bring a boost to your outlook. Get outside as much as possible. Sure, it’s cold, but with proper outdoor gear, greeting the fresh air will improve sleep and mood.  Just a few minutes a day outside can help to alleviate “cabin fever”. Get some Vitamin D. It’s especially good to get outside when (if!!) the sun is shining to soak up some Vitamin D.  Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to depression.  Taking a Vitamin D supplement during winter may help to improve mood.  If you can swing it, head south for a few days to a place where the sun is shining Light up your life! Our short, gloomy days deprive us of light, causing some people to develop seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Even those who don’t have SAD may still feel down after a stretch of cloudy, gray days.  So, open your shades, turn on your lights, and consider buying a full-spectrum light.  Be sure to get a light box specifically made to combat SAD. Start a project. Clean a closet, sort & shred old papers, refinish a coffee table, or write down memories for your kids and grandkids.  Having something purposeful...

Keys for Aging Slowly

Aging Slowly Key One: The best thing you can do to slow down aging is to move every day. Yes, every day! The old use it or lose it mantra is absolutely on target. Our bodies are made for activity. Exercise does not need to be strenuous to be beneficial. Moderate activity such as walking and swimming have low likelihood of injury. This means your body is getting an anti-aging boost doing something you are more likely to turn into a healthy habit. Aerobic exercise can change your blood chemistry to make it more anti-inflammatory. This is good news for those with pain from arthritis. Regular exercise can actually reduce that pain. Strength training helps to keep the muscles and bones strong. As we age, muscle and bone loss accelerate with every decade unless we intervene. You don’t need to join a gym or purchase fancy equipment. Free weights, elastic bands and even your own body can be used to improve strength, stability and balance. Aging Slowly Key Two: The next most important key for aging slowly is to eat well. That means focus on vegetables and fruit for half of your daily intake. Whole grains and meat/fish/poultry each get a quarter of the plate. Avoid highly processed pre-packaged foods and make as many home-cooked meals as you can. Replace sugary drinks with water and a slice of fruit. Avoid solid fats and fast food places. Trade out white rice & bread for brown rice and whole grains. Stop eating before you feel “full”. Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks per day. Lose the excess weight. Not only does carrying around...

ELDER ABUSE PROTECTION

Sadly, too many of our elders find themselves victims of some form of elder abuse. Whether the abuse is physical, emotional or financial, some elder abuse protection is possible with a few simple steps. Stay connected! Keep in touch regularly with others; isolation can make you vulnerable to abuse. Build a network of family, friends, neighbors, and groups to interact with. Creating a buddy system with other elders who call or visit each other daily will provide additional eyes and ears to keep you safe. Keep active, stay busy. Get involved with your senior center or other groups. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging office to identify programs and support, such as Meals on Wheels. These programs help elders to maintain health, well-being, and independence — a good defense against abuse. Be cautious! Some scams target seniors and will take advantage of them. To protect yourself, learn about the types of elder abuse and neglect and their warning signs (see our previous blog or go to the National Center on Elder Abuse website to learn more. Get on the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce telemarketing calls. Visit www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 to register your phone number. A prize, loan or investment that sounds too good to be true, probably is too good to be true. Ask someone you trust before making a large purchase or investment. Don’t be pressured into making immediate decisions. Don’t sign anything you don’t completely understand without first consulting an attorney or trusted family member. Do not provide personal information such as a social security or credit card number over the phone...