An ounce of prevention is worth…

The Center on Disease Control in partnership with HHS’ Administration on Aging, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a disturbing report highlighting that many older adults are not receiving critical preventive care that could help them stay healthy. Entitled Closing the Gap: Enhancing Use of Clinical Preventive Services Among Older Adults (pdf), the report outlines and encourages the use of preventive services that might even save a Senior’s life and raises awareness of services that are currently underused by the 65+ population.

In order of importance, the report advises that Caregivers and Seniors immediately begin making use of the following services in order to promote healthier living and longer life expectancy.

Flu vaccinations, Pneumonia vaccinations, Breast cancer screenings, Colorectal cancer screenings, Diabetes screening, Lipid disorder screening, Osteoporosis screening, Smoking cessation counseling, Alcohol misuse screenings and counseling, Aspirin use, Blood pressure screenings, Cervical cancer screenings, Depression screenings and counseling, Obesity screenings and counseling, and Shingles vaccinations.

You can ALSO download the report here (PDF).

The Power of a Valentine

Research conducted over the course of two decades by the Swedish Karolinska Institute found that married aging adults were half as likely to develop dementia as their single counterparts. The scientists behind the research believe that the intense social interaction of living with another person may be the reason behind this resistance. The research was based on a study of almost 1,500 people over the course of 21 years.

The Super Little Grandmom ~ Fighting Senior Boredom

This morning as I was driving to work I heard an interesting interview on the radio about ‘Super Mamika’. No, Super Mamika isn’t a copycat of Super Mario, it’s a series of themed photographs by Sacha Goldberger featuring his Hungarian grandmother in the role of a superhero. Mamika means ‘Little Grandmother’ in Hungarian, so the literal translation is Super Little Grandmom.

The story behind ‘Super Mamika’ is that Goldberger noticed that his grandmother, after a long active life, was becoming bored and depressed in her later years. Like many concerned family members he brainstormed ways to engage her, though the solution he came up with does stand out as being more than a little unique.

The ‘Super Mamika’ series of photographs were only the beginning for Frederika Goldberger. She has continued modeling for photographs as can be seen on her MySpace page.

www.myspace.com/frederikagoldberger

Fortunately you don’t have to be a professional photographer or even an artist to engage your elderly loved ones. It’s not only good for Seniors socially and emotionally but some studies have shown that mental stimulation “may” help slow the spread and lessen the symptoms of cognitive decline, as we’ve mentioned before. Of course, the more personal the better…apparently Frederika loves the humor of her Superhero counterpart…but here are a few general suggestions to get you going. Nothing quite as unique as Super Mamika.

  • Pictures: Looking at old family pictures together is one of the classic ways to engage Seniors. However, an often overlooked activity is showing Seniors unfamiliar pictures as well as familiar ones. Books of amazing photography  and picture heavy magazines like National Geographic can be very stimulating.
  • Card Games: Games like Bridge, Pokeno, and Pinochle are old favorites of many Seniors. Large print playing cards, card holders, and automatic card shufflers can enable individuals with dexterity or vision impairment to continue to play their favorite games.
  • Puzzles: Puzzles can captivate Seniors for hours, keeping their mental juices flowing and focusing their attention on putting together a stimulating image. For Seniors with dexterity or vision difficulties, it’s recommended to look for puzzles with Large Pieces. Large Print Crossword Puzzles can also be a great help.
  • Book Clubs: Getting a Senior involved in a slower paced book club can do wonders for them both mentally and socially. If the book club is inter-generational, all the better…as long as they’re reading books that have large print editions available.

What activities have you used to fight Senior Boredom and Depression? Share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

Crossword Puzzles still a good mental workout.

On December 21st, 1913 the New York World published Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross”, the first Crossword puzzle. 97 years later, the Crossword has become an established part of many people’s mental workout and is one of the most popular kinds of puzzle in the world.

More and more research is showing what many Seniors have known for years, that challenging mental activities like the daily Crossword can help slow cognitive decline due to the aging and “may” even improve the brain function of dementia sufferers.

“Crossword puzzles are a perfect way to stay mentally fit. They come in every ability level and are fun, engaging and intellectually stimulating.” ~Stanley Newman

Free Monthly Large Print Crossword for Download or Printing

Free Daily Online Crossword Puzzle from Plus50LifeStyles

Keeping Seniors Safe and Warm this Winter

Well, the calendar on my wall claims that winter won’t start until next week but you could have fooled me. It’s freezing out there. Back in July we shared 10 Ways for Seniors to Keep Cool, given the frigid weather outside now seems like a good time to follow up with some advice on keeping Seniors warm and safe this winter.

Winter is one of the most dangerous seasons for Seniors. The weather makes it difficult for them to get around, further isolating them from friends and help. They are more vulnerable to the extreme cold. It is the season of influenza, which each year kills tens of thousands of Seniors and hospitalizes hundreds of thousands more. The freezing weather drastically increases Senior’s risk of falls, putting them at additional risk of injury.

Keeping Seniors Safe in the Winter

  • Winter Footwear: When heading outside wear footwear with non-slip soles and thermal socks. This will help prevent falls and will keep feet nice and warm.
  • Slip Prevention: It’s important to keep steps, driveways, and walkways as free of ice as possible; sprinkle them with a mixture of salt and sand. Don’t hesitate to ask for or hire help. A well positioned grab rail on a flight of slick steps can literally be a lifesaver and a Ice Attachment for Canes can give Seniors some added traction when they’re out and about.

Keeping Seniors Healthy in the Winter

  • Eat Well: Seniors should eat hot nutritious meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Dale Carter has pointed out that special care should be taken to avoid dehydration, which can be hard to identify during the colder months.
  • Seasonal Vaccinations: Seniors should be annually vaccinated against the pneumonia and flu. The Center for Disease Control recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available because it takes the body about two weeks to build up an immunity. For more information visit Flu.gov.
  • Stockpile Medicines: Stock up on common medicines for sore throats, colds, and coughs. Order prescription drug refills in advance so that there’s no reason to go out in bad weather.
  • Keep Active: Moving around produces body heat and is good for general well-being. During the winter don’t sit still for more than an hour, get up, walk around, and make a warm drink. Spread activities throughout the day. Seniors who have difficulty walking can do chair-based exercises. Another major benefit of moving around is improved circulation, which helps prevent Perniosis and spread heat throughout the body. Diana Nyad, world champion swimmer of the 1970s and boomer champion of today, recommends some simple indoor exercises like desk push-ups for the winter.
  • Perniosis: When a person gets cold and warms their skin too quickly they can develop perniosis, also known as chilblains. These itchy, red swellings often occur on the feet, finders, nose, and ears. People with poor circulation are especially vulnerable. Perniosis is a common condition that can be easily treated by applying calamine or witch hazel to the swelling to reduce itching, it’s important not to scratch the swellings as this could break skin and result in an infection. To prevent Perniosis avoid rapid changes in temperature, wear warm footwear, gloves and socks,  avoid tight fitting clothing that impedes circulation, and do not drink alcohol before going out into the cold.

Keeping Warm in the Winter

  • Wear Layers: It is warmer to wear several thin layers of clothing than one thick layer. Wool and cotton fibers help to hold warmth in. Thermal underwear or tights make for a good under-layer.
  • Cover Head, Feet, and Hands: The U.S. army field manual for survival states that 40% to 45% of body heat is lost through the head, to prevent this heat loss in cold weather it is important to wear a warm hat. Warm gloves and footwear are equally important to keep hands and feet warm.
  • Dress for the Cold…even indoors: Wear warm clothing indoors, even overnight in bed. This can be more effective than cranking up the heat and will certainly be more efficient.

Our fellow Pennsylvanian Peter Leer shared the following Winter Caregiving Tips on Wheelchair Outings along with many more on his blog at CaregivinglyYours.com.

  • Body Heat: Don’t forget that a person riding in a wheelchair does not produce the same amount of body heat as a person walking.
  • Scarfs: In Peter’s own words, “While a hat and scarf are often recommended I have concerns about mixing scarves and wheelchairs, seems an accident waiting to happen.”
  • Outerwear: Again, in Peter’s own words, “For outerwear we usually rely upon a hooded wool zippered cape. Capes are easier for getting on and off when assisting someone in a wheelchair and a zippered cape simply increases options. Hoods are easy to flip up or down, cover everything except the face and are always attached. While wool is ‘old school’ it still has the unique ability to provide warmth even when it is wet.”
  • Don’t forget the lower body: A warm blanket or leg warmers help to keep in body heat and reduce wind chill. Leslie Cairns of British Columbia has made a business of Buggy Bags, a clever alternative.

Did we miss anything? Share your Winter Caregiving Tips in the comments.

Creamy Ensure® Eggnog Pudding

This delicious holiday treat is healthy too! Packed with nutritional value from Ensure® products, this take on traditional eggnog pudding not only tastes good, it’s good for you.

Creamy Ensure® Eggnog Pudding

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1-ounce package instant vanilla sugar-free, fat-free pudding mix (can be substituted with one 3.5-ounce package regular instant vanilla pudding mix, if desired)
  • 1-1/2 cups COLD Ensure® Homemade Vanilla Shake*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus a dash for the top
  • 1/2 teaspoon artificial rum flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup fat-free whipped topping, divided

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the pudding mix, Ensure Homemade Vanilla Shake, nutmeg, rum flavoring, and vanilla extract.
  2. Whisk vigorously for 2 minutes until thick.
  3. Fold in 1/2 cup whipped topping.
  4. Divide the pudding into 4 serving dishes.
  5. Chill for 1 hour.
  6. When ready to serve, top each with 1 tablespoon whipped topping and a dash of nutmeg.
  7. Serve chilled.

Nutrition Facts (if prepared with Ensure®)
Serv. Size: 1/2 cup (106g)
Calories: 140
Calories From Fat: 40

Amount Per Serving % DV

Total Fat 4g 6%

Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Trans Fat 0g 0%

Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 160mg 7%
Potassium 155mg 7%
Total Carb. 20g 7%

Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sugars 12g

Protein 4g 8%

Vitamin A 10% Vitamin C 20% Calcium 15% Iron 10%

*This recipe can be prepared with Ensure® Nutrition Shake or Ensure Plus®. Nutrition information will vary with product used.
†Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 Calorie diet.

Is it time to “take the keys” to the liquor cabinet?

It’s a happy time. The whole family has come together for a holiday meal together and now, it’s time for a toast. On break from College, this is the first time that Junior is able to join in. It’s now that it occurs to you… Should Pop be drinking with all his medication? He’s already got a wine glass in hand and is having a laugh with Junior. You have to make a choice, do you cause a scene or do you risk his health by letting him drink?

Family toasting over holiday meal, should Seniors be included?It’s a question that often comes up at the last minute, when the bottle’s uncorked and you’re about to pour. Should you serve alcohol to a Senior? There isn’t one answer, but with the right information a Caregiver can make the right judgment call.

The importance of Drinking.

Drinking alcohol, like driving, is often seen as a rite of passage, something that separates children from adults. Caregivers should be aware that restricting a Senior’s use of alcohol may be received as attacking their adulthood.

Reasons to “Take the Keys” to the liquor cabinet.

Unlike driving, there are few guides that help Caregivers decide if a Senior should “turn in the keys” to the liquor cabinet. Here are some reasons to think about restricting a Senior’s access to alcohol.

  • Dangerous Alcohol and Medication Interactions: Many medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol that lead to increased risk of illness, injury, or even death. The elderly are especially at risk due to the large amounts of medication they often take.
  • Increased Effect of Alcohol: Several studies have shown that Alcohol has an increased effect on most Seniors, reducing their ability to function to a greater extent and for a longer period of time. This can be especially dangerous for Seniors suffering from cognitive impairment.
  • Worsen Medical Conditions: Alcohol can worsen certain medical conditions, such as High Blood Pressure and Ulcers.
  • Increased Risk of Injury: Drinking alcohol can greatly increase a Senior’s risk of injury from falls.
  • Late Onset Alcoholism: Depression, social isolation, and physical pain can lead to Seniors abusing Alcohol later in life. This is a growing problem in the United States and one that often goes overlooked.
  • Malnutrition: Drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis can flood a Senior’s system with empty calories, quenching appetite and causing malnutrition without weight loss.

The Checklist

If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the items on the following check list, it may be time to take control of your elderly loved one’s access to alcohol.

  1. Is there a risk of dangerous interaction between Alcohol and the Senior’s Medication? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this risk?
  2. Does the Senior have a medical condition that is exacerbated by alcohol consumption? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this condition?
  3. Does even a small amount of alcohol have an exaggerated effect on the Senior? Is the Senior no longer able to drink responsibly?
  4. Are there signs that the Senior is at higher risk of incidental injuries such as falls when they drink alcohol? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this danger?
  5. Is the Senior showing a signs of Alcohol abuse? Do those signs merit an intervention?

This guide is meant to educate and inform, it is not meant to be a substitute for a Medical Doctor’s advice. The best judge of whether a Senior should give up drinking is their Doctor and a Caregiver should always consult with a Doctor if they’re worried about a Senior drinking.

Preserving health, dignity, and relationship

Refusing to serve alcohol to an elderly loved one might leave them feeling embarrassed, excluded, and like you stripped them of their adulthood. It might result in a nasty scene and hurt feelings, ruining what had been a happy time together. With some forethought you can set up a compromise that preserves both a Senior’s dignity and their health.

  • Talk to the Senior’s Doctor about your concerns beforehand, don’t wait until the family toast to think about alcohol.
  • Talk to the Senior beforehand, tell them your concerns and ask them to compromise. Let them know that you want them to be part of the family traditions but that you’re worried about their health.
  • Serve Low-Alcohol Beverages like ‘Near Beer’ or a light ‘Mixed Drink’; lowering the alcohol content can go a long way, just be sure to always check with the Senior’s Doctor first.
  • Serve Non-Alcoholic Beer like O’Doul’s instead of alcoholic beer or Sparkling Grape Juice instead of Champagne.

These suggestions might not be enough to prevent hurt feelings or wounded pride, but in the end the important thing to remember is that you’re not stealing your loved one’s dignity – you’re trying to protect their health.

More Information

To help equip you to make an informed decision we’ve compiled some additional information that we hope proves helpful.

Some Medications that interact dangerously with Alcohol.

The following are some common medications that can interact dangerously with alcohol. This is by no means a definitive list and to be safe always check the medication warning labels and consult with the Senior’s Doctor.

  • Antibiotics are a common medication used to fight off infectious diseases.
  • Anticoagulants are prescribed to impede the blood’s ability to clot.
  • Antidepressants are an increasingly medication used to counter clinical depression.
  • Oral hypoglycemic drugs help lower blood sugar levels for some individuals suffering from diabetes.
  • Antihistamines are commonly taken to lessen allergic symptoms and to treat insomnia.
  • Antipsychotic drugs are prescribed to lessen psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
  • Antiseizure medications are primarily prescribed to treat epilepsy.
  • Cardiovascular medications are prescribed to treat heart and circulatory system ailments.
  • Narcotic pain relievers are prescribed to lessen moderate to severe pain.
  • Nonnarcotic pain relievers are the most common nonprescription pain relievers and are commonly used by the elderly.

Many other medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol so, again, to be safe always consult with the Senior’s Doctor. It’s a good idea to keep a list of all medications that the Senior is taking, including over the counter drugs and supplements, on hand to check with the Doctor.

Benefits of Drinking for Seniors?

Light to Moderate Drinking
No more than 14 drinks a week
No more than 2 drinks a day

Several studies have shown that Seniors who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol also have a lower risk of certain ailments. There are still a lot of unknowns in these studies but the message seems to be that ‘moderation may be best after all.‘ Let’s take a closer look at a handful of the studies.

The results of a study conducted by the David Geffen School of Medicine found that healthy Seniors who drank light or moderate amounts of alcohol were almost 25% less likely to suffer from incident disability or death as compared to non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

Three Seniors in living room drinking champagne and smiling

Researchers from the Tulane University studied 35 studies and discovered that individuals who drink one to two alcoholic drinks a day were almost 30% less likely to have a stroke than non-drinkers. The same study also found the disturbing correlation that heavy drinkers were almost 70% more likely to have a stroke.

Several studies have shown that individuals who drank light to moderate alcoholic drinks were less likely to suffer from heart disease. The same studies also showed that heavy drinkers were more likely to suffer from heart disease.

The material of this blog is provided for informational purposes only. Elder Depot does not intend to provide medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Please consult with a Medical Professional when deciding if a Senior should drink alcohol.

10 Ways for Seniors to Keep Cool

It is hot this summer. Heat Stroke and Dehydration are serious problems for everyone during this hot season, but Seniors are especially at risk. Here are some tips on how to help them stay cool.

  1. Seniors should eat light meals with water saturated foods in the summer. Over 20% of body fluid comes from food, so serve foods like Watermelon, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Berries, and Soups.
  2. Seniors should drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydrate and heat stroke this summer. Water is best but fruit juices and iced teas are also good.
  3. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, this means that they promote water loss in the body. If a Senior drinks a caffeinated or alcoholic drink in the summer they should also drink some other fluids as well to offset the loss.
  4. Perspiration is one of the best ways for the body to cool off. Forget deodorant and towels, let sweat air dry as nature intended and it will carry body heat away with it.
  5. Letting the body air dry after a shower or swim will carry off body heat in the same way as perspiration. Misting the arms lightly in water and letting them air dry will also do the same.
  6. Did you ever wonder why they like it spicy down in New Orleans? Hot spicy foods promote sweating which is, as listed above, one of the best ways to cool off.
  7. Seniors should dress for the heat by wearing light-colored loose-fitting clothing. This will protect from the sun while allowing sweat to air dry. Include a light wide-brimmed hat for added shade.
  8. Even in an air conditioned house fans circulate air and help to keep the room feeling cooler. Consider putting a bucket of ice cubes in front of box fan for an added kick of coolness.
  9. It’s easy to forget how many heat sources fill out modern lives. To keep cool, turn off the computer, monitor, lights, and use the microwave instead of the oven. If possible, switch incandescent light bulbs out for cooler and more energy efficient compact florescent bulbs.
  10. Mint tricks our nerves into feeling cooler. Help a Senior to feel less overheated with a nice mint skin lotion massage or a cool glass of mint ice tea.

Warning: It is possible for individuals with serious heart, liver, or kidney problems to over-hydrate. If an elderly loved one has serious health problems ask their Doctor how much fluid they should drink each day.