Aging in place – the top 5 benefits of seniors staying in their homes

Life can be tough, and growing old is no exception. As we age, lots of seniors prefer to stay right where they are — in their homes. Certainly the aging process is complex, and there’s no one size fits all option when it comes to what’s best. Still if you ask us, as long as a senior is competent to care for themselves or living with a competent spouse they should have full control over their living situation. And for many, that means staying in their home. Because of advances in medicine, technology, and professional caregivers, this may be a safer option than ever before. Here are our top 5 benefits of again in place.

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Get Ready for Your New Medicare Card

Medicare is removing social security numbers from Medicare cards. The change is to help protect your personal identity. Your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same and continue without interruption.

Medicare will mail you a new Medicare card with a special Medicare number that’s unique to you. Your social security number will no longer appear on your Medicare card. People enrolling in Medicare for the first time will get the new card from the start.

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November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness National Diabetes Month

Assured Healthcare recognizes client and veteran, Fergal Patrick Gallagher, as we celebrate Veteran’s Day on November 11th.

 Fergal at the Washington Monument

Fergal at the Washington Monument


Ask the Nurse - 'Holiday reality check' gives aging parents a safety net

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Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, it is smart to be aware of changing roles with aging parents.

You have the full turkey dinner at your mom and dad's house. You do the cooking as you have for the last few years because mom is not quite up to pulling off such an event by herself as she did when she was your age.

So you get to do the honors. It it exhausting but satisfying. All your kids will be there. Aunts, uncles and cousins, too.

Mom and dad are getting older now, and you're always concerned about them because they are living on their own. In recent days, you have become very sensitive to the changes that age can impose. It's the price of being a caring adult child. But this was the first year you started to pay special attention to them this way.

These had been those years when your roles had shifted subtly, and you took pride by helping them in ways they used to help you.

One of these days you'll be the one who makes “the decision”. When will it be time for residential assisted living or in-home help to keep them safe? Or perhaps it's a more systematic method to organize their outings or regularly monitor their domestic needs.

You know it's no longer merely a question of chronological age to think of these issues. But life conditions change. Health changes. Fitness changes.

But how do you know when to pay special attention and what you should be looking for?

As it turns out, there are good tools to help you. Those of us who train in-home nurses use a checklist of symptoms and clues. Over the next few weeks as you ratchet up to the whirlwind of Christmas or Hanukah, I'll offer the “holiday reality check.”
 
If you are worrying about missing some basic signs, here are five categories from the “reality check.”

  1. Is your parent starting to have difficulty with basic tasks? Is walking and talking becoming a stressful chore? And does getting dressed every day seem difficult?
  2. If there are stairs in their home, do they have a problem getting up and down easily? Even on the main floor, do they find it more difficult every day to move from room to room? Is it harder for them to organize how they cook and eat?
  3. Is their personal hygiene becoming more unpredictable? Do they bathe as often as they once did or do they seem sloppy when they once were fastidious about personal appearance and dental hygiene? Perhaps they're not worrying about their hair being combed and washed.
  4. Check around the house to see if they are tending to basic household chores. If they have piles of unopened mail and unpaid bills, it's a sign. If they have regular medications, maybe they are managing it less effectively. Check for low food supplies; dents and scratches on their car. One telltale sign is a growing number of cigarette burns on furniture or carpets.
  5. Then there are significant changes in basic good health. Do you see weight loss, difficulty sleeping, hearing loss, bed-wetting, and bruises from falls, or skin burns from cooking accidents? Do they spill more items during cooking than seems explainable? (Some of us have always been clumsy.)

None of these signs by themselves mean your parent needs nursing help. Everyone has accidents and trends in their behaviors.

But it's equally important to know how to read signs that someone you love needs support and help.

If you are beginning to wonder if some level of private duty nursing help would make their lives better, be sure to review our Top 7 things to consider when choosing a Qualified Home Care Provider.


November is American Diabetes Month and National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month

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Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. It can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems if it’s not controlled. One in 11 Americans have diabetes – that’s more than 29 million people. And another 86 million adults in the United States are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

To learn more, visit the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org

November is also National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. To Learn more about the disease and how to support patients and their caregivers visit Dementia Day by Day at www.dementia-by-day.com and The Alzheimers Reading Room websites at www.alzheimersreadingroom.com.

Avoid the Hazards of Dehydration

It's been a long, hot day.  First a morning of yard work, then three hours helping coach the kids' baseball and soccer games, followed by the weekly shopping.  Now you're finally heading home with a week's worth of groceries to unload and put away.  You're tired and thirsty, cranky with your family, and wincing at the throbbing in your temples. You could also be experiencing the first symptoms of dehydration, which is far more common than most people realize.

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When Clutter Becomes Hoarding

The Mayo Clinic defines hoarding as "... the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them" and states that "compulsive hoarding and compulsive hoarding syndrome, may be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)." We are not talking everyday household mess and clutter here, or collections of specific objects that may, in the opinion of other family members, be taking up too much space in the house.  True hoarding can be a sign of mental and/or physical illness that manifests itself in the obsessive accumulation of things—items that can range from mounds of clothing, unopened shopping bags, stacks of newspapers, magazines and mail, to piles of trash and rotting garbage that are dangerous to the health of an individual or a family.

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Post-holiday concerns about an aging loved one? Senior Care Reality Checklist can help.

Holidays bring families together to celebrate the season and enjoy sharing time together.  They also offer opportunities for us to spend lengthier periods of time with aging parents and loved ones — sometimes long enough to observe changes in habits or lifestyle that give rise to concerns about their health or well-being, especially when they live on their own. The changes can seem slight or innocuous:  a forgotten face, a mismatched outfit, a wrong turn on the way to the grocery store.  Or, they can be more alarming: 

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Home Safety Modifications for Seniors

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Home modification is a fairly new concept that has come along with the incarnation of seniors choosing to stay living in their homes in place of moving to assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Due to limitations that naturally occur as we age changes need to be made in order for needs to be met and safety kept at a premium. Home modifications can range from replacing the knobs on cabinets to bathroom remodels that include barrier free entry tubs. Seniors need home modifications in order to age in place. They promote keeping independence in senior citizens' lives while keeping them safe. It is important to recognize that eighty-five percent of elderly people wish to stay in their homes and are doing so. Out of those eighty-five percent only a small percentage are equipped with accommodations that will allow them maximum safety.

Homes without age in place modifications become harder to maintain and live in for seniors. It is proven that a home that is perfectly safe and allows for independent living at sixty-five does not necessarily accommodate the needs of a seventy year old. It has been proven that simple modifications done to the home can eliminate up to fifty percent of the accidents that occur to seniors aging in place.

The most common accident to occur within the home to seniors is a fall. There are many home modifications that can be done to prevent accidental falls. Many age in place specialists will come into the home and do a free home analysis of problem areas. With this information homeowners can budget to make arrangements to accommodate their needs as they begin the aging process. If their goal is to age in their homes and wish to live as independently as possible starting out early in making simple changes will ease both the financial and emotional burdens that can occur.

Below is an example of an inspection of the kitchen and bathroom space within a home. With this general look it is easy to see how home modifications are necessary to safely age in place.

  • It is important to make cabinet knobs easy to pull open. As people age they often begin to lose the strength and ability to work door knobs that have to be turned or that are hard to pull open.
  • Stove controls must all be marked with bold lettering and easy to use. It is important that there are lights that are on the stove that signal when it is on and the stove top is hot. This is important to prevent the stove from being left on or a hand placed on the stove while it is still on.
  • Faucets should be levered instead of turn knobs. This will ease turning them on and off.
  • Grab bars should be put in place in spaces such as tub and toilet areas. It is also important to evaluate the area around the toilet and the toilet itself. Seniors begin to have a harder time lowering and raising themselves. This issue can be resolved with grab bars and high rise toilet aids.
  • Ovens are also another area of concern. They are often heavy and hard to open. This is something to look into. A convection oven can be purchased to help with this issue.
  • A place to sit while working in the kitchen becomes necessary. The aging process has a strange effect on joints and the ability to stand for long periods of time. Cutting celery and dicing carrots is made simpler with a seated work area. The risk of falling or slipping while using a knife decreases significantly.
  • The tub and shower is a large area of concern. A barrier free shower entrance is an incredibly nice feature to have installed. Bathroom remodels are a common renovation for homeowners. A bit of forwarding thinking can save a lot of money later on.
  • Water temperatures should be regulated to prevent burning. This is something that is simple and does not require any renovations.
  • Items that are used on a regular basis such as shampoo and dish soap should be within reaching distance. Over reaching can lead to falls. It is important that everyday use items are well within reach.

Home modifications can improve the lives of those aging in place. Safety is of course the main concern; however, a skilled age in place contractor can blend safety and aesthetics while putting in place home modifications.

If you have enjoyed this article on home safety modifications from Kevin Germain at CPS visit our website http://www.glenmillerthehomedoctor.com/about.php today where you will find useful information on installing home safety modifications. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Kevin_Germain

Sunburn and Heatstroke - Dangers to Avoid

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It's a beautiful summer morning and you head to the beach. By mid-afternoon you're on your way to the ER. What went wrong?

Odds are, you thought the sun was your friend. But too much of a good thing can make you sick.

The most common sun-related problem is sunburn. Fortunately the risk of sunburn often chases us inside before we suffer an even worse fate. Sunburn is indeed a burn, caused by the ultraviolet rays of the sun, both UVB and UVA. The superficial layers of your skin are actually cooked and start leaking fluid, like a sizzling steak. Once the damage is done there is no medical cure except to allow your body to heal itself. Pain medications and cool compresses may relieve the discomfort, but do not speed healing. Do yourself a favor and leave your sunburn alone. You don't want scarring from peeling a deep sunburn, or infection from opening the blisters.

Certainly prevention is the best answer. Avoid direct exposure to the sun between 10 and 4 p.m. Always use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, and apply it to all sun-exposed areas a good half hour before exposure. Even sunscreens that claim to be water resistant should be reapplied every few hours after sweating or swimming.

When the core of your body becomes overheated, not just the skin, the danger becomes much greater. The body core can become overheated due to direct sun exposure on a hot day, or other high temperature environments, especially when physical activity is involved. Below 80 degrees Fahrenheit this rarely happens. Above 130 degrees F the danger is extreme. Between 80 and 130 degrees the danger rises dramatically.

The body becomes overheated from a combination of internal heat production (as in fever) and external heat. In order to maintain a normal body temperature the body must be able to get rid of excess body heat. Think of your car engine, for example. If the fan goes bad or the water leaks out, it will overheat. Similarly, if the body cannot be cooled through a combination of evaporation (sweating), convection (a cool breeze), conduction (cold packs or cool water, or radiation, it, too, will become overheated.

A car that overheats will start sputtering and steaming, and eventually quits working. So will your body. The first symptom you are likely to experience is heat cramps, which generally occur in the calf muscles or abdominal muscles. Stretching your muscles before exercise and keeping yourself hydrated with a sports drink such as Gatorade can help prevent heat cramps. If they do occur, stop exercise, cool your body, and if you haven't done so already, drink some Gatorade.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much water and/or sodium. Core body temperature is usually between 100.4 and 104 degrees F. Again, an adequate intake of sports drinks can help prevent heat exhaustion. In addition to heat cramps, you may experience light-headedness, confusion, headache, nausea, vomiting, and lack of urination. For milder symptoms, immediate cooling with fans or water is helpful. However for severe symptoms, especially disorientation, other mental symptoms, or a rapid heart rate, you should seek immediate medical attention, where a doctor can check your electrolytes and provide the proper balance of replacement fluids through an I.V.

The worst case scenario is heat stroke (sun stroke, if due to the sun). Heat stroke can be deadly, especially if treatment is delayed. At an internal temperature of 104 or above the internal organs stop functioning properly. Therefore, heat stroke is a medical emergency - call 911 immediately.

Symptoms of heat stroke can occur even when a person is not sweating. Confusion is common, which may delay recognition of the problem, especially in the elderly. Persons suffering from heat stroke should be moved to a shady area and excess clothing should be removed. A heat stroke victim should be doused with water and/or fanned, and ice packs should be applied to the armpits, groin, and neck until professional help arrives.

In summary, avoiding hot environments and keeping well-hydrated are the answer to preventing most heat and sun related problems. Don't plan to run a marathon on a hot summer day, especially if you are not conditioned to the heat. Keep an eye on granny, in particular if her home is not air-conditioned. Don't leave your children or pets in the car where the sun can bake them. Preventing the problem in the first place is the key to avoiding life-threatening illness.

For practical advice on affordable health care visit: http://101waystosavemoneyonhealthcare.blogspot.com/ Cynthia J. Koelker MD is a family physician of over twenty years, and holds degrees from MIT, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the University of Akron. She is the author of "101 Ways to Save Money on Healthcare."  Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/4566613

How to Manage Prescription Programs Skillfully

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Prescription programs are necessary for anyone who's taking medication. While medicated products and treatments are certainly one of the best ways to stay healthy, improper use can certainly produce the opposite results. If you care about your loved one then you should take every precaution necessary and that includes managing his medication schedule with the appropriate discretion. Consult the patient's doctor. If you have been tasked or you've taken it upon yourself to manage your loved one's medication then the first thing you should do is to consult the patient's physician. If he has more than one physician then you must speak with the physician who has prescribed the medications he is currently taking.

What your loved one has informed you regarding his medication may be detailed, but you can never be too sure, can you? This is your loved one's health at stake, after all. It's best to go directly to the source and consult the doctor about the medications he's prescribed.

Find out what he's taking and why. The first thing you should clarify is the generic and brand names of the medications he's taking. You've no doubt seen a prescription filled out by the doctor. Physicians are certainly one of the smartest people in the world, but their handwriting - if you can call it that - leaves a lot to be desired, doesn't it? And it's because of their chicken scrawl that some people end up buying the wrong brand. That's a mistake - in the worst case scenario - which could cost you your loved one's life.

It's critical that you understand why they've been prescribed as well. That way, you'll know what would happen if you do miss a dosage or what you should do if you're unable to access such medication for any reason.

Also, double-check the required dosages. People can easily overdose on prescribed drugs because they think that the more they drink, the quicker they'll be on their way to recovery. Sadly, it could be the reverse as well.

Be meticulous in your records. On the first page of your notebook, indicate the disease or condition of your loved one, the medications and dosages he's required to take as well as contact details of his physician and any other person that may be contacted in case of emergency.

On the succeeding pages, write down the date and time and place as well as the dosage of the medication you've administered. It may seem overly detailed, but that's better than lacking sufficient data when things suddenly go downhill. If there is more than one person who's assigned to keep track of your loved one's prescription programs, be sure that he is sufficiently trained for proper record keeping.

Keep track of appointments with doctors and other necessary schedules. Doctor's appointments, check-ups, lab tests, and schedules for any other procedure that would improve your loved one's condition should also be kept track of and is an integral part to his medical program. If you feel that you need to make an additional appointment with the doctor, go ahead and do so. It's better to be safe than sorry!

Edward Koop has written extensively on proper management of prescription programs as well as other essential subjects in quality healthcare.

Identifying Dementia Symptoms in an Aging Parent

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Dealing with dementia symptoms in your own parent can stretch the limits of your sanity. Sometimes you may not even notice the first symptoms of dementia -- the slow decline of your aging parent's memory. The symptoms of dementia may continue until your aging parent starts exhibiting signs of other mental disorders, such as paranoia or delusions, which frequently piggyback on the effects of senile dementia. These symptoms may keep reappearing, until you can't ignore them and you're forced to take action like I was. Hopefully, this article will help you identify dementia and other mental problems in your aging parents and help you deal with the problem by getting their condition assessed by a professional. My own mom taught school most of her life. She was highly organized and extremely independent. She read constantly and became quite adept at oil painting. At the age of 76 she moved closer to my sister and I, but her canvases and brushes never seemed to make it out of the moving boxes. I bought her a VCR for Christmas, hoping that renting movies could help her shake her newly-found disinterest in life. But the new VCR was never turned on unless I happened to visit with a movie in hand. It became, like the microwave I had gotten her a year earlier, another piece of unused technology. It never dawned on me at the time that my mom had stopped wanting to learn new things, or that this could mean that her aging mind was showing early symptoms of dementia.

Believing that Mom's depression was a result of her unhappiness with her living situation, my sister and I began a search to find her senior housing. We placed our hopes on a retirement community that offered a full-time social director to rescue her from the depressed mood we were fighting. The retirement home helped her find new friends and subdued the paranoia, but only temporarily. Soon she insisted we change her banking accounts. She accused the banks of stealing money from her safety deposit box. She also became absurdly paranoid about my brother-in-law, who she suspected, had a master key to her apartment. All missing items were blamed on this poor fellow. We never suspected that paranoia could be a symptom of dementia.

The amazing part of all this is that my sister and I continued right on with our lives, denying Mom's odd behavior while helping her change bank accounts and get new locks for her apartment. We just figured it was normal for our aging parent to become strange when she turned 80 years old. We never suspected dementia was taking her away from us.

Symptoms of dementia are insidious, because they start so slowly. Often they are mixed with periods of what appears to be normal behavior. So just when we thought she was showing symptoms of dementia, she'd return with what appeared to be complete clarity, asking us about our spouses and giving the usual motherly advice we had grown up with and trusted. Looking back, I can clearly see the progression of the disorder. But at the time, senile dementia sneaked in and stole Mom from us without a clue. Because of our busy schedules, hectic lives, and maybe a little denial, we didn't see it until it was too late.

There was also a strong fear going on. I remember thinking that if my mother was showing symptoms of dementia, I must be showing symptoms of dementia too. She was so close to me that I had a lot of her same thinking patterns. She dictated reality to me when I was growing up. I worried about this a lot. I really wanted her to be "normal" so I could feel normal. I didn't want anyone to find out my mom was acting crazy. I could just imagine everyone at work hearing the news and moving their fingers in circles around their ear saying "Ah ha! That explains it!"

So we took Mom to doctor after doctor trying to find a cure for her symptoms. Was it low iron, low zinc, or low potassium? They drew countless pints of blood trying to rule out what could be causing her behavior. But eventually, most of the doctors proved worthless in offering real help. Not one seemed to be able to tell us what was wrong. None of her five doctors could give us any advice that would help her. They all seemed to deny there was any problem. Fortunately, we met a geriatric counselor who advised us to take her to a local hospital for a geriatric evaluation. I wish we had done this evaluation five years earlier.

If your parent is acting strange and you're not getting results or a concrete diagnoses from your doctor, consider a geriatric counselor. You can find them in the yellow pages or on the Web. The small amount of money you'll pay for their services will help you retain your sanity through the decisions you'll soon be facing. A geriatric counselor will also relieve you of a fair amount of guilt as you carry out the future decisions that become necessary when an aging parent develops dementia.

William J. Grote is the author of the book "Helping Your Aging Parent -- A Step-by-Step Guide". William cared for his aging mother and made plenty of discoveries along the way. Hopefully his book can help you down the road of care giving -- which for many of us who survived the 60's and 70's, may be a completely new experience.

You can download a free checklist "Warning Signs of Dementia and Mental Illness" to help you identify unusual behavior in aging parents at http://www.boomer-books.com

Home Care for the Elderly or Ailing - 7 Tips for Choosing a Qualified Provider

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As the nation's population ages, more Americans are being confronted with the need to seek assistance with in-home care of elderly or sick parents, or extended family. Couple that fact with the ever increasing trend toward same-day, out-patient surgical procedures, and assessing the qualifications of private duty home care for recovering patients of any age takes on an even greater urgency.  It's a difficult task for a lot of people. Because it is not pleasant to think about parents or family members becoming ill or needing medical help, many persons avoid planning in advance for those possibilities. When they suddenly have a need for home care, they don't know where to start in choosing a private duty provider. 

Given the rise in reports of elder abuse and the potential for unknowingly retaining illegal or unqualified workers, there is valid cause for concern. However, there are several key inquiries that can be made to help in selecting a qualified provider.  Be sure to ask the same questions of each prospective service. You can then compare responses "apples-to-apples", and that should help in making the right choice. The seven questions below address some of the most important areas of consideration:

  1. Experience of principals - Who owns the staffing service and what background does the owner or owners have in the healthcare or medical staffing field?
  2. Length of time in business - When was the service established?
  3. Licensing and professional associations or organizations - Is the service licensed in your state, and is it affiliated with any recognized healthcare, private duty or home care staffing organizations?
  4. Screening of employees - How are the service's employees screened for appropriate medical skills and certifications, and what type of background checks are conducted?
  5. Tenure of employees - On average, how long have its private duty workers been employed with the staffing service? Testimonials of private duty clients - Can the service provide testimonials or references attesting to the quality and level of service they have provided to other clients?
  6. Client intake process - How are the needs of the patient assessed and what type of care plan is prepared to record shift activities and make sure there is clear communication with patient and family throughout the term of care?

 These are important questions that any reputable service should be happy to answer - and during stressful times, it's important that you feel as comfortable as possible with the persons who are providing in-home care.

Copyright © Christine Hammerlund – 2008.  Christine Hammerlund is a registered nurse and the owner of Assured Healthcare, a healthcare staffing service headquartered in Gurnee, Illinois.