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ELDER ABUSE

ELDER ABUSE – A SERIOUS PROBLEM Each year as many as one in ten older persons are abused, neglected, and/or exploited. Many victims are people who are frail, vulnerable and depend on others to meet their basic needs. Abusers of older adults may be family members, staff at nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and even strangers.  The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 90% of elder abuse cases involve family members. Elder abuse can occur anywhere. It affects seniors across all income levels, cultures, and races. Women and “older” elders are more likely to be victimized. Dementia is a significant risk factor, as is isolation. In general, elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or other trusted individual that lead to harm of a vulnerable elder. This can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. • Physical abuse means inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult. • Sexual abuse means touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced. • Emotional abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, humiliation or intimidation. • Neglect is a failure by those responsible to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care or basic protection. • Financial exploitation means the misuse, concealment or withholding of an older adult’s assets for someone else’s benefit. • Abandonment is desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of...

SAFE LIFTING FOR CAREGIVERS

It’s important to use good technique to perform safe lifting and avoid injury. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, lower back injuries are the most common work-related injury. Many caregivers acquire a back injury when trying to lift or move a client.   Safe lifting helps to protect the back while keeping the client and caregiver free of injury. There are important lifting techniques that take strain off the lower back. Safe Lifting Basics • Look over the situation carefully. Decide if you are able to handle the lift or transfer on your own, or if you need assistance. Trying to move someone who is too heavy for you to handle can result in injury to both parties. • Tell the client what you plan to do and how he/she may assist you. • Clear away any potential obstacles that may be in your path. • Moving, or supporting someone will change your balance. Keep the client close to your body and your normal center of gravity. Reaching out too far puts greater strain on the back and may cause you to tip over. • Use good foot position. Your feet should be shoulder width apart, with one foot slightly in front of the other. This allows full use of the powerful leg muscles, taking strain off the back. Make sure one foot is pointed in the direction of the move. • Bend your knees. Bending over at the waist puts strain on the back, neck & shoulder muscles. • Keep your arms and elbows as close to your body as possible while lifting. • Use your...

STROKE PREVENTION

The incidence of stroke increases with age, but up to 80% of strokes are preventable! While about one-third of stroke victims recover completely, the rest may have to deal with some long-term disability. There is no cure for stroke, but there are steps you can take to help prevent having one, or at least minimize the damage. A stroke occurs when there is a blockage in or a rupture of a blood vessel that cuts off blood flow to the brain. Stroke can happen to anyone, at any age, and at any time. What happens after a stroke depends on how much of the brain was damaged and where in the brain the stroke occurred.   Strokes can be treated with clot-busting drugs and medical devices, but seconds count! The faster the treatment, the more likely one is to recover without permanent damage. Learn the signs of stroke to help you act FAST. The signs are Face drooping, Arm weakness, & Speech difficulty. If these signs are present, it’s Time to call 911! While some risk factors for stroke are beyond your control (age, race & heredity), there are things you can do to reduce your risk. At the top of the list are maintaining a healthy weight, keeping alcohol use moderate and not smoking.   Being overweight can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of diabetes. Both high blood pressure and diabetes are risk factors for stroke.   If you enjoy having a drink in the evening, consider drinking red wine. The resveratrol in red wine has been shown to help protect both the brain and...

SAFE TRAVEL with SENIORS

Travel with older adults can be a safe & pleasurable experience if you plan ahead to avoid the typical headaches that can spoil a trip. Many seniors are expert travelers with thousands of miles under their shoes. Below are some things to consider when planning your trip. 1. Talk to the Doctor a. Make a list of all prescriptions & over-the-counter medications. Having a list of meds & medical problems will make it easier to get through customs if flying or get replacement meds if lost. b. Be sure to include both trade and generic names of the drugs as well as dosage and frequency. 2. Request & Reserve Special Services a. Travelers with disabilities may request designated seats. b. When flying you can request free wheelchair service between departing, connecting & arriving locations within the airport terminal. This will make it easier to make a connecting flight with a short layover and long distance between gates. c. No matter how you are traveling, be sure to check ahead for meal alternatives if your senior traveler has dietary restrictions. d. Be sure to make & confirm all special arrangements when you book your reservations. Travel companies have no obligation to meet your needs if they were not told about them up front. 3. Dealing with Medication a. Keeping medication in the original containers will make it easier to take them through customs. b. Put medications in the senior traveler’s carry on c. Pack extra medication in case something happens on the trip and you are delayed in returning 4. Understand that Seniors may be more Sensitive to New Environments...

Arthritis Pain Relief

Arthritis cannot be cured but that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate the severe pain & diminished quality of life it can cause. Movement was once thought to be bad for arthritic joints, but just the opposite is true. Exercise helps ease pain & stiffness. In fact, exercise can be crucial for increasing strength and flexibility,  reducing joint pain, and helping combat fatigue Here are a few tips to help relieve arthritis pain when it flares up in different areas of the body. Always check with your physician for the best treatment for your individual condition. Wrists & Hands Each hand contains 27 bones and each wrist 8 bones. Over time, arthritis causes people to lose cartilage – the connective tissue between joints. When the buffer between the bones is gone, the bones rub against each other, causing simple, everyday tasks to become painful. Wearing a wrist splint at night can help support joints while you sleep. Range of motion exercises can be done a few times each day to enhance strength & mobility. Clasp and unclasp your fingers, rotate your wrists, & touch the tips of each finger to your thumb. Google “hand arthritis exercises” for a wealth of examples. Feet According to the Arthritis Foundation, close to half of the people in their sixties and seventies suffer from arthritis foot pain. Our feet take a lot of abuse. The base of the big toe is a common site for arthritis pain. Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Low heels and good arch support will help ease pain. Stretch your Achilles tendon (the cord at the back of your heel) as...

Caregiving: Long Distance

Caregiving is often triggered by crisis.  It usually starts with a call or a visit. Phone conversations become repetitive and confusing. Mom calls to note that Dad has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. A sibling calls to note that Mom is not very steady on her feet. You arrive for your twice a year visit to find the house is not being kept up, bills are not getting paid and food is spoiling in the fridge. It is not uncommon for children to live far away from their parents. Suddenly an adult child is forced to handle a new role as a long-distance caregiver. Caregivers can take steps to help ease the stress of the task. Collecting valuable information on a loved one, assembling a support team, and staying in touch with the people involved are a few ways to take charge of the situation. Do your homework. Find out who you can count on to take care of mom on a regular basis, and who you can turn to for questions, support and help in an emergency. Start a file and try to keep all of the information in one place. Making regular visits is probably the best way to assess your parent’s condition, but you can ask other family members, friends, or paid caregivers to provide feedback for you. Research the services available in your area. Possibilities include: meal delivery, transportation, in-home care for personal needs, help with household chores, and medication monitoring. Assemble your care team. Think of all the people who may be able to help you monitor the situation or provide direct support. Those...

3 Tips for Better Eye Health

Older adults are more sensitive to eye problems as they age.  Following the three simple tips below can help seniors improve eye health & protect themselves from vision loss. Since we rely on our vision for even the most basic tasks, losing the ability to see the world around us can be frightening. As we age, it’s easy to believe deteriorating health is just part of life. But often we can slow down or even stop that process if we work to prevent common health problems. Here are three tips to fight poor vision and maintain healthy eyes no matter what your age! Tip # 1: Add fruits, nuts, and vegetables to main dishes. Vegetables to add: Bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and all dark green, leafy vegetables. Fruits to add: Grapefruit, strawberries, oranges, lemons, berries, cantaloupe Nuts/seeds to add: Sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts. Why these items? The foods listed above offer valuable nutrients that contribute to eye health. While most vegetables are high in vitamin A, citrus fruits contain a good amount of vitamin C.  Nuts contribute essential fatty acids, which are also important for eye health. These foods can easily be incorporated into any diet. Cut up bell peppers, carrots, and brussel sprouts to add to a salad with dark green romaine. Grab a handful of nuts or seeds for a snack. Add some of these food items to your weekly grocery list to always have fresh food on hand. Tip #2: Choose the right vitamins & supplements No one wants to swallow dozens of pills every morning. However, vitamins and...

Caregiving Changes are in the Air!

The face of caregiving in NE Wisconsin is undergoing some big changes this summer.   The implementation of Family Care is moving case management and funding from the counties to Managed Care Organizations (MCO).  This move has created a flurry of activity as adults currently being served through county waiver programs are interviewed through the Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC), select a MCO, and get re-assessed for specific services.  Others are choosing IRIS – a self-directed program that essentially allows an individual to be his or her own case manager and care-worker employer. County Case Managers are finding new positions within the MCOs, ADRCs and IRIS.  (How’s that for a little alphabet soup?)  All the new acronyms are confusing enough, but the choices for the person needing care can seem somewhat overwhelming.  It’s good to see so many of the county Case Managers landing jobs in the new system.  Familiar faces will help to ease the transition for concerned clients. The first task of the counties, MCOs and IRIS is to transition existing clients to Family Care/IRIS.  October 1, 2015 is the target date for having everyone interviewed, re-assessed and authorized for services.  At that time, the county ADRCs will begin addressing the list of those waiting to receive services.   The goal is to eliminate the waiting lists and get services to those in need in a more timely manner. Hopefully, the transition will go smoothly and clients will see little, if any, disruption to their services.  While some people may see an increase in services provided and others a decrease, there will be an effort to be sure...

Preventing Falls

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, each year over two million older adults are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries; one in every three individuals age 65 or older falls. Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults, resulting in everything from bruises, cuts & sprains to head injuries and even death. Most fractures are the result of a fall. Even if the fall does not result in physical injury, it may leave the individual with a fear of falling, which may cause him or her to restrict activity level. Less activity means a gradual weakening of muscle and bone, creating a loss of physical fitness, which is more likely to result in falling and injury. The good news is that there are several things you can do to prevent falls and limit the likelihood of injury in case you do fall. 1. The number one item is exercise. Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. And with stronger bone & muscle, a potential fall is likely to cause less damage. With your doctor’s OK, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi — a gentle exercise that involves slow, graceful movements. These activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility 2. Wear sensible shoes with non-skid soles and avoid walking around in your stocking feet. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. 3. Some medications—or combinations of medicines—can have side effects that cause dizziness or drowsiness which may make falling more likely. Be sure...

The Need for Respite

The kids see the need; friends and neighbors see the need, but dad isn’t seeing it at all.   Mom has Alzheimer’s disease and Dad is running himself ragged to care for her. The out-of-town family members urge him to get help, but he refuses assistance, wanting to honor his vow to be with her “in sickness and health”. Dad’s health is rapidly declining and Mom is struggling to do all the household chores while meeting his increased needs. The daughters see the strain on Mom, and Mom is receptive to help. But even though Mom’s health is starting to suffer, Dad remains oblivious. He believes that because his wife has always coped, she always will. A son moves back home to care for an aging parent and tries to provide 24/7 care on his own, because “Mom did that for me when I was a child.” His friends have fallen away leaving him isolated, lonely & depressed. Sleep deprivation, irregular eating habits, lack of regular exercise, loss of social contacts and constant worry all take their toll. Statistics show that around 30% of caregivers will die before the person for whom they are caring. Caregivers exhaust themselves, neglecting their own health and well-being. While easier said than done, those witnessing the caregiver burn out need to make a case for respite care.   The caregiver needs an advocate to step in and support giving the caregiver a break. That break can come from other family members or friends, or from a hired caregiver.   Respite can quite literally be a life saver. Having personal time every day would be ideal, but...