Flu Advice for Seniors

 Seniors among Groups Hardest Hit by Flu

          For most people, getting the flu means feeling achy and feverish for a week or so, but for people 65 years and older, the flu can be much more serious. People in this age group are at high risk for severe flu illness and complications. In fact, an estimated 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations in the United States occur in this age group each year. Last season flu illness was particularly severe for people 65 and older, prompting CDC to report the highest flu-related hospitalization rates in this age group since it began tracking this information during the 2005-2006 flu season.

          Unfortunately, the burden of flu illness in people 65 and older was accompanied by reports that the flu vaccine did not work as well as expected to protect people in this age group against one particular flu virus last season. If that news left you asking yourself whether getting a flu vaccine this season is still worthwhile for people 65 and older, the answer is absolutely and unquestionably, “Yes!”

There are plenty of reasons for people 65 and older to get a flu vaccination this year, and vaccination remains the first, best and most important step in protecting against flu illness and its complications.

While the benefits of flu vaccination can vary – and this is particularly true in people 65 and older – studies show that vaccination can provide a range of benefits, including reducing flu illness, antibiotic use, doctor’s visits, lost work, and even helping to prevent hospitalizations and deaths.

In fact, a recent study by CDC and Vanderbilt University experts found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-related hospitalization by nearly 77 percent in study participants 50 years of age and older during the 2011-2012 flu season.*

Other studies have found that flu vaccination reduces the risk of death in older adults. For people with certain underlying heart conditions, several studies indicate that flu vaccination can reduce the risk of a heart attack. Overall, there is significant evidence to support the benefits of vaccination in people 65 and older.

If you are in this age group, there are two flu vaccine options available to choose from this season: the standard flu shot and a high-dose flu shot made and approved specifically for people 65 years of age and older.

The high-dose vaccine contains more antigen (the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses) than the regular flu shot, and this extra antigen is intended to produce a stronger immune response in seniors. CDC does not have a preference for which vaccine seniors should get this season. “Either the regular flu shot or the high-dose vaccine are perfectly acceptable options for people 65 and older this season,” said Dr. Alicia Fry with CDC’s Influenza Division. “The important thing is to get vaccinated because it’s still the best protection currently available against the flu.”

Flu vaccine is offered in many locations. Use the vaccine finder at http://vaccine.healthmap.org/ to find a flu vaccination clinic near you. Medicare covers both flu and pneumonia vaccines with no co-pay or deductible. As part of the Affordable Care Act, all plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace and other plans will provide many free preventive services, including flu vaccinations. For information about the Health Insurance Marketplace, visit www.HealthCare.gov. Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment starts October 1, 2013, and ends March 31, 2014. Coverage can begin as soon as January 1, 2014. For more information about influenza or vaccination, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

* Talbot HK, Zhu Y, Chen Q, et al. Effectiveness of influenza vaccine for preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalizations in adults, 2011-2012 influenza season. Clin Infect Dis. 2013; doi: 10.1093/cid/cit124.

Senior Health Information for Caregivers

A person may find themselves in the position of being a caregiver when they least expect it.
A spouse or the children of an older adult may become their caregiver in an instant if their parent or loved one falls or has a medical-related incident. The person in their new caregiver role may have a brand-new set of responsibilities and be faced with issues they never heard of or were not prepared for.

Being a caregiver may not be the issue as much as knowing how to be a caregiver.

Taking care of another person may be intimidating for someone who had no idea they’d ever be in that position. Older adults may develop illnesses, physical limitations, medical conditions or even suffer side effects from dangerous medications or medical devices that the caregiver had no prior knowledge of.

Two common conditions that caregivers of seniors may face are Alzheimer’s disease and incontinence.

 

Alzheimer’s Drugs Require Close MonitoringSenior Health

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and often occurs in seniors.

It affects memory, language and the part of the brain that controls thought. It’s estimated that more than 5 million Americans suffer from the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 5 percent of Americans ages 65 to 74 have Alzheimer’s. The population with Alzheimer’s could reach 16 million by 2050.

Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s can be emotionally taxing, require a lot of patience, and be expensive. There are medications available for Alzheimer’s patients, but the jury is out on their effectiveness.

Unfortunately, the drugs also have side effects that may include dizziness, drowsiness and fainting – conditions that may increase the risk of falls. If more than one of these drugs is prescribed, side effects could be worse.

Caregivers should closely monitor people with Alzheimer’s disease and report symptoms or side effects to doctors.

 

Incontinence Issues May Catch Caregivers Off Guard

Aging adults may also suffer from incontinence, which is the involuntary loss of urine. Incontinence can occur in seniors who suffered a stroke, developed dementia or experienced other changes associated with aging.

Women experience urinary incontinence twice as often as men, due to the effects of pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.

Urinary incontinence can be a minor annoyance (losing small amounts of urine while sneezing, laughing or coughing) or become debilitating if people stay inside to avoid embarrassment.

It is important for caregivers to know that many types of incontinence are treatable. Also, there are ways to ease the stress of the condition:

  •  Don’t embarrass or criticize a person who has an accident.
  • Be supportive, patient and put yourself in the shoes of the person suffering from it.
  • Help the person manage their consumption of liquids.
  • Remind and encourage them to use the bathroom regularly.

Incontinence can be treated in a variety of ways. It may start with behavior modification. Women can do exercises to strengthen bladder muscles. Medical options are available too.
There are also medications for overactive bladders, medical devices and surgical procedures that may be good options. People faced with incontinence issues should discuss their options with a doctor.

Caregivers should be aware, however, that some treatments can lead to additional complications.

 

Mesh Treatments for Incontinence Linked to Injuries, Subject of Lawsuits

A common solution for female patients with incontinence is a bladder sling. During this surgery, a narrow strip of synthetic mesh is inserted to relieve pressure on the bladder. Unfortunately, when the mesh is implanted through the vagina, there can be serious complications.

Before choosing procedures involving vaginal mesh, patients and caregivers should be aware of the dangers associated with using the device.

Complications can include tissue erosion, nerve damage, infection and internal organ damage. These injuries often require revision surgeries.

More than 30,000 women in the United States filed lawsuits after being injured by transvaginal mesh devices, including bladder slings.

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Knowing about medical issues that occur to seniors can help a caregiver do a few things: understand and manage the issue, figure out treatment options and identify possible complications and side effects that come as a result.

Caregiving comes with challenges and times of stress, but knowing what to do when situations occur may ease the intimidation that may come with the newfound set of responsibilities.

 

Julian Hills is a staff writer for Drugwatch.com. He has a background in newspaper and television journalism. He studied Communication and English at Florida State University.

 

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease. [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.) Caregiving for Alzheimer’s Disease or other Dementia. [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/index.htm

National Institute on Aging. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease Medications Fact Sheet [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Urinary Incontinence in Women. [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/uiwomen/

U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Urinary Incontinence In Women [Abstract]. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1273322/

Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). Incontinence. Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-incontinence.asp

Independent Living vs. Assisted Living.
Which is right for my loved one?

As our parents or elderly loved ones age, they have numerous options when looking for the perfect place to spend their golden years. Of course, many remain in their homes. Some are looking for an easier way of life, free from the daily chores that homeownership requires, while others seek out the company of people their own age, with opportunities for socializing and daily activities. Still others require assistance with daily living, such as managing medications, dressing and bathing.

If your loved one can still do everything for themselves and would like to live among peers and enjoy scheduled activities, independent living communities – also called retirement living – are an excellent option. They offer a safe, secure and social environment for active, independent seniors.

Seniors in independent housing may live in an apartment, a small home, or a cottage. These communities usually have on-site staff members that provide a small amount of supervision and offer a “maintenance-free” living option, often providing housekeeping, laundry and dining services.

Independent living is perfect for people who:
• Want to maintain their independence.
• Want to rid themselves of the burden of cooking, cleaning and maintaining a home.
• Want more social interaction than living at home.
• Like the security of being around other people and getting some supervision from the staff.

If your loved one is still able to move about freely and is seeking a certain amount of independence, but needs help with some daily activities such as bathing, preparing meals, taking medication, or dressing themselves, an assisted living community may make sense. Residents of an assisted living community live in their own apartment and are able to come and go as they please, while receiving assistance as needed. They can dine with others in a dining room or make their own meals. Quality senior care living communities offer a variety of daily activities to choose from. At an assisted living community, your loved one will still have independence while getting the care and services they need to lead a fulfilling life.

An assisted living facility may also be able to help if your loved one still has certain cognitive abilities, but is beginning to show signs of dementia that could result in isolation, frustration, or forgetting critical tasks such as taking medication. Communities that have “memory care neighborhoods” have caregivers who receive specialized training in memory care along with added security measures to manage residents’ safety. Memory care programs can also include brain fitness exercises, memory-building practices, and specialized therapy for residents living with dementia. If a resident begins to show signs of greater physical needs, the staff will begin to talk to the family about making the transition to a skilled nursing community.

In general, assisted living communities:
• Can provide direct assistance with everyday tasks, like bathing, dressing and meals.
• Have trained staff available and monitoring 24 hours a day.
• Help residents maintain their dignity while aging.
• May have specialized units for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
• Can help with transportation to doctor appointments.
• Often have busy activity calendars to keep residents engaged with other residents.

If you want to ensure your loved one can stay in the same community as their needs change, look into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). CCRCs allow people to remain in the same familiar and comforting environment even if their care needs change. If you’re looking for one community that you can call home even as your health changes, consider a CCRC.

About the Author:
David has over 20 years’ experience as a writer and editor. Senior issues have long been his passion, and in addition to past experience writing about maintaining a healthy outlook throughout every phase of life, he has volunteered his time and skills to such organizations as Senior Services of King County in Seattle. He is one of the many expert authors who is currently writing on behalf of Emeritus assisted living communities.

Safety Products for Home Care to Prevent Injuries

I have been deeply involved with the elder care market in the past few years. After my grandmother fell down and broke her hip, we began looking at some very helpful products and ways to prevent these serious falls. During this time, I also began helping out at the local Family Bridges home care office in Cincinnati, Ohio so this made me become aware of the issues that our senior citizens have. Below are some of the much needed products that I think elders should have when living at home.

Roll Around Walker– There are many different types of walkers, but if your elder has a lot of trouble moving around the house, these make things much easier because they have 4 wheels. Plus it has a basket which my grandmother regularly uses to store items such as her purse and cordless phone in case she need to contact someone conveniently.
Uplifting Seats– This is something that we haven’t needed yet for our elder, but every few months she seems to be having a little more trouble than before. Currently we are looking at giving her either a chair or seat type lift. They can be helpful to prevent falls from the struggle they have with getting of the couch.
Cushioned Bath Mats– We have been recommending non-slip type bath mats for a while, but these really caught my eye. Not only do these prevent slip & falls from happening, they also are padded so that if an elder does fall, the mat will absorb most of the impact.
• Rails & Gripping Handles- Elder Depot carries a few types of safety handles such as this handhold suction grip. These are great anywhere. A quick tip: be sure to observe where in the house the elder is showing any sign of struggle. Places to look for are areas with steps, bathrooms, and doorways.

Those are just some of the items that I think will be helpful to prevent serious accidents. Investing in a few of these items is worth preventing injuries that I have seen cost family 10’s of thousands of dollars. Plus you have the pain associated with that.

There are many other helpful items and it depends on the person’s needs so feel free leave a comment below to recommend a suggestion that you think should be added.