Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Tips for Avoiding Elderly Heat Stroke & Exhaustion

Posted on: July 5th, 2017 by Jamie

I think it’s safe to say that summer has finally arrived here in Vermont and New Hampshire. Hot weather is dangerous, and seniors are particularly prone to its threat. Elderly heat stroke and heat exhaustion are a real problem. Please check on your older family, friends, and neighbors, especially if they do not have access to air conditioning. summer fan

There are several reasons for elderly heat vulnerability. People’s ability to notice changes in their body temperature decreases with age. Many seniors also have underlying health conditions that make them less able to adapt to heat. Furthermore, many medicines that seniors take can contribute to dehydration. Simple precautions are all that’s needed to keep safe. Here are some guidelines for keeping safe in hot weather:

  1. Drink Plenty of Liquids: Dehydration is the root of many heat related health problems. Drink plenty of water or juice, even if you’re not thirsty. But remember to avoid alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, as they can actually contribute to dehydration.
  2. Wear Appropriate Clothes: When it’s hot out, wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes and a wide-brimmed hat.
  3. Stay Indoors During Midday Hours: During periods of extreme heat, the best time to run errands or be outdoors is before 10 am or after 6 pm, when the temperature tends to be cooler.
  4. Take it Easy: Avoid exercise and strenuous activity, particularly outdoors, when it’s very hot out.
  5. Watch the Heat Index: When there’s a lot of moisture in their air (high humidity), the body’s ability to cool itself through sweating is impaired. The heat index factors humidity and temperature to approximate how the how the weather really feels. The current heat index can be found on all popular weather websites, and is also usually announced on local TV and radio weather reports during periods of warm weather.
  6. Seek Air-conditioned Environments: Seniors whose houses aren’t air-conditioned should consider finding an air-conditioned place to spend time during extreme heat. The mall, library or movie theater are all popular options. During heat waves, many cities also set up “cooling centers,” air-conditioned public places, for seniors and other vulnerable populations. Seniors without convenient access to any air-conditioned place might consider a cool bath or shower.
  7. Know the Warning Signs of Heat-related Illness: Dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting and breathing problems are all warning signs that help should be sought immediately.
  8. In addition to heat stroke, heat can kill by worsening existing chronic health conditions. For example, for the many Vermonters over the age of 65 who have a chronic condition—such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes—temperatures over 87°F can put them at a higher risk of life-threatening illness. People who feel unwell or faint in hot weather are also vulnerable to serious or deadly falls. People with chronic conditions may not show typical signs of heat illness, but rather worsened symptoms of their condition. If you or someone you know has a potentially dangerous chronic condition and begins to feel sick during a hot day, pay very close attention. If you have concerns about a person’s condition, dial 9-1-1 or get immediate medical attention.

Good Read for the Sandwich Generation

Posted on: May 5th, 2017 by Jamie

Good ReadAttention Sandwich Generation Members: If you need something to read while relaxing on this upcoming soggy spring Saturday and Sunday, I highly recommend Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?  by Roz Chast It’s not new, it came out in 2014 and won lots of awards, but I finally got around to reading it. This memoir details the author’s journey with her parents aging, decline, moving and ultimately their passing.

The graphic novel style makes it an easy read. It is heartbreaking, funny, unflinchingly authentic, and relatable – if you are going or have gone through this with your own parents.

If you haven’t had conversations with your parents about the future, make it happen as real life won’t wait for you to do so. Planning is power – Good luck!

Good Read

November is National Family Caregivers Month

Posted on: November 8th, 2016 by Jamie

November is National Family Caregivers Month

 
Family CaregiversBeing a Family Caregiver is hard work. I know this from experience. Family Caregiving is both deeply satisfying and stressful. It can be physically demanding and emotionally draining. You are with a loved one but often feel alone. Then there is the financial piece: this is not a paid position and there are no sick days or health insurance. When providing this unpaid care, your own financial future is at risk since zero contributions are going into social security or a retirement fund. Family Caregiving is a full-time invisible job, and for many, it may be in addition to working another full-time job.

 
I want you to know that you are not alone. There are resources for you, ways to connect with others, and advocacy happening on your behalf. I am hopeful that things will get better, and as a nation we will come to embrace the hard work of Caregiving. I hope that you can take care of you. One simple thing that was helpful to me was to take a walk, every day if possible and sometimes with a friend. Here are three resources, in their own words, you need to know about. Please carve out the time to explore them.
Caregiver Action Network is the nation’s leading family caregiver organization working to improve the quality of life for the more than 90 million Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age.

 

Caregiver Action Network is the organization that chooses the theme for National Family Caregivers Month annually and spearheads celebration of NFC Month nationally.

Celebrating Family Caregivers during NFC month enables all of us to:

• Raise awareness of family caregiver issues

• Celebrate the efforts of family caregivers

• Educate family caregivers about self-identification

• Increase support for family caregivers

The theme for National Family Caregivers Month November 2016 is “Take Care to Give Care”.

 

Next is The National Alliance for Caregiving is a non-profit coalition of national organizations focusing on advancing family caregiving through research, innovation, and advocacy. The Alliance conducts research, does policy analysis, develops national best-practice programs, and works to increase public awareness of family caregiving issues. Their mission: Recognizing that family caregivers provide important societal and financial contributions toward maintaining the well-being of those they care for, the Alliance is dedicated to improving quality of life for families and their care recipients through research, innovation, and advocacy.

 
And last but not least is the Family Caregiver Alliance. Founded in the late 1970s, Family Caregiver Alliance was the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care for loved ones at home. It began as a small task force of families and community leaders in San Francisco who came together to create support services for those struggling to provide long term care for a loved one who did not “fit” into traditional health systems: adults suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury and other debilitating disorders. The diagnoses were different, but the families shared common challenges: isolation, lack of information, few community resources, and drastic changes in family roles.

 
The services, education programs, and resources FCA provides are designed with caregivers’ needs in mind and offer support, tailored information, and tools to manage the complex demands of caregiving. FCA, as a public voice for caregivers, shines light on the challenges caregivers face daily and champions their cause through education, services, and advocacy.

The Cycles of Life Part 7

Posted on: September 13th, 2016 by Jamie

the Cycles of LifeThroughout these Cycles of Life posts, I have mentioned “list” several times. In this age of technology, I must admit that I am a fan of good old-fashioned paper. Don’t get me wrong, I love my smart phone and use it all the time but I also have a binder and a notebook for each of my parents. I find the binder is very helpful at doctor appointments and especially during a hospital visit or stay. The binder allows me to add, maintain and find their health care information easily plus I don’t need wi-fi or a data plan to use it.

 

 

Each binder includes: name, address, and phone number(s), complete emergency contact information, copies of health insurance information, complete list of all health care providers and their contact information, list of current medication(s) including what the medicine is for and list of medical issues/concerns. I also keep copies of the advance directive and the DNR/COLST in each binder. I divide my binder into sections: by each health care provider, medication and pharmacy information and hospital visits. For regular doctor appointments, the after-visit summary is printed and placed into the binder along with any other information/notes from the visit. This is what works for me. If you help with your loved one’s with their finances, the binder also becomes a valuable tool for cross-referencing medical bills and insurance statements with doctor visits, etc.

 

binder
For hospital visits and stays, I cannot stress this enough: write everything down. Begin the minute you walk in the door. Use whatever method works for you, paper or electronic, but do it. If you have entered via the ER and your loved one uses Medicare as their primary insurance, make sure you are aware of their hospital status: “inpatient” or “outpatient”. Even if they stay in the hospital overnight, they may still be considered an “outpatient” if they have not been admitted. This distinction is important to know so you need to ask. Here is a Medicare publication that helps define these terms and explain how this relates to coverage.

 

Time usually moves at the slowest pace you have ever experienced during a hospital stay. I keep track of the room number and name of the floor the room is on (patients are moved around), the name of the doctor overseeing the care, how often and when is that person around, will that person change (weekly or daily) and if so what is the name of the next person coming on. I always write down the name of anyone I speak with and what their position is. I ask what tests are being run, what the tests are for, when the test will be run, when the results will be ready, names of medications that have been given, what the medicine is for, what the diagnoses is, how certain they are, what other specialists are being called in on the case and why, and what happens next. Take as many notes as you can in the moment and copy them over as needed- did I mention that time moves very slowly at the hospital?

 
I also research what I can online and write down any questions that arise from my research. I am guessing doctors probably dislike Google however the internet can be a valuable tool if you are thorough and diligent with what you take away from it. When you get a chance to actually speak with the doctor, you want to be prepared as time is usually short and you need to maximize that time. I have to add that most health care providers chuckle when they see my binder BUT they take me quite seriously. In addition, you may have to advocate for your loved one. If you receive conflicting information, you can give specific examples and ask for clarification, over and over if need be. Lastly, things change, sometimes rapidly. There is a lot of information to manage and writing it down is a great way to keep up with it.

 
During a hospital stay the nursing staff is an exceptional resource for you; develop a positive and respectful relationship with the nurses and LNA’s as they do the majority of the actual care. Communicate information about your loved one to them, they can utilize it to provide better care and patient cooperation. If your loved one has any issues, you can help resolve them. As with all aspects of care, communication is key.

 
If you are not able to go to the hospital, write down everything you learn over the phone and be very assertive about being kept in the information loop. The doctor will call you when their schedule permits so if your information and questions are at your fingertips, it will be a more productive conversation. You may have to call many times each day, always try to speak to the nurse caring for your loved one as they know what is going on. Everything from above applies. Be patient, determined and kind-it will go a long way. Hospitalizations are just another part of the cycle, approach them with a strategy and it should help. Knowledge is power and allows for better planning and support.

 

 

The reality is that my binder system also allows me to have some control or at least to create the illusion of having some control over a situation where I have no control- my loved one aging and their health declining.

The Cycles of Life Part 3

Posted on: June 3rd, 2016 by Jamie

The Cycles of Life 3

Time to begin gathering resources to assist you in this new cycle. The word “care” may begin to creep into your consciousness.

Let’s begin with resources. One option is to hire an Aging Life Care Manager as they can handle everything from a needs assessment to a move. Here at Armistead Senior Care, our three Aging Life Care Managers act as a liaison between clients and families who do and do not live close by, overseeing care and quickly alerting families to problems. They offer guidance and support with arranging and monitoring in-home help and services, crises intervention, hospital or rehab discharges, referrals to specialists, and moves to or from a retirement residence, assisted living community, or nursing home.

Local Agencies on Aging are a terrific resource. Many states have them or something similar. Here is a quick link to all Vermont locations. These non-profit agencies respond to the needs of elders and their families by offering information and assistance in many areas affecting our aging populations such as health insurance counseling, transportation, senior nutrition programs including meals on wheels, adult day programs, home health services, housing alternatives, exercise and wellness programs. In Chittenden County, we have the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging; it was a huge help to me and my aging loved ones.

Your state.gov website is also helpful; you just have to know where to look-

For example: Vermont.gov > Agency of Health and Human Services > Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living. Programs, services and resources are listed under these headings.

In New Hampshire, it looks like this: NH.gov > Government > State Government > State Agencies > Health and Human Services Department > Divisions and Offices > Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services then onto ServiceLink Resource Centers. ServiceLink is designated as New Hampshire’s Aging and Disability Resource Center and NHCarePath administers programs and services.

Many states also have Senior HelpLines and other special phone numbers to call to help locate services and resources, for example, we have Vermont211.

As I mentioned earlier, there are many, many books devoted to the subject of eldercare. Books are always good resources. So are friends, co-workers, and extended family. You probably know a handful of people that are already assisting aging loved ones in some way or another. As a society, we choose not to discuss these matters but that needs to change. I have been able to be a resource for many of my friends. These are natural cycles; we should not feel alone in going through them.

 

 

 
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