By AmeriCare, July 13, 2012
Nothing reminds us more of our childhood than playing outdoors during the long, lazy days of summer. It’s a timeless joy that never grows old. But as we get into our golden years, spending time outside can seem arduous, especially as temperatures spike to record highs. When done safely, however, it’s great for one’s health, mental attitude, and spirit.
So, let’s take a look at some fun ways for seniors to enjoy the outdoors this summer. Just make sure to take precautions to ensure their safety. Such precautions include avoiding the hottest part of the day, staying hydrated, wearing protective clothing, and applying plenty of sunscreen.
Simple Outdoor Activities
Start simple. Take a walk. Go to the local park and have a picnic. Play bocce ball, shuffle board, or visit a miniature golf course. Take a dip in a local pool, especially those with senior water aerobics, which can be a great low-impact activity for the elderly.
Encourage a senior to do some simple gardening: raised planters and beds can help make this easier on the elderly. Or find a local fishing hole for senior anglers. Bird watching is another enjoyable outdoor activity, even if it’s with simple feeders stationed around the house.
Trips And Outings
Catch a baseball game or an outdoor movie. Just be sure to plan ahead to ensure convenient parking and appropriate seating. Many stadiums have a handicapped section that can accommodate wheelchairs to prevent excessive walking.
Take a trip to a local farm or zoo, as watching and/or feeding animals is fun at any age. Visit a berry patch or orchard: even if the senior can’t pick the fruit themselves, most places offer fresh fruit for sale.
Fun Group Activities for Seniors
Loneliness is one of the leading causes of depression, so help seniors maintain an active social life this summer. Think about planning a group event, like a summer fair where there are crafts, cakes, and games that seniors can prepare for in advance. Or just plan an outdoor barbeque and invite friends and family over for a fun and memorable afternoon or evening.
Other fun senior group activities could include an ice cream social or summer book club. And if reading is a challenge for your group, there are several sites that offer audio books for everyone to listen to together then discuss in a sitting area outside.
If allowed, many seniors will spend each day alone, indoors, with the shades drawn. This is no way to spend a summer, and can ultimately lead to depression and decreased energy. At AmeriCare, our caregivers are experts in senior care, and some of our most useful in-home care services involve finding fun ways for seniors to enjoy the sunny outdoors.
By AmeriCare, June 15, 2012
They say there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. Well, unfortunately that old axiom doesn’t apply to the sun. While moderate sun exposure is beneficial to our health, too much sun can cause dangerous conditions such as dehydration, heat stroke, and skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the health risks associated with over exposure to the sun, and may require special care to avoid its harmful effects.
Many seniors enjoy outdoor activities, such as walking, gardening, golfing, and fishing. And they should be encouraged to pursue these activities. But it’s important that they take precautions in order to stay safe. According to the American Cancer Society, one risk factor for skin cancer – actinic keratoses (AKs) – occurs most often in those who are middle-aged or older with light skin and have been exposed to too much sun. Small, scaly patches on the face, ears, backs of the hands and arms characterize AKs.
That’s why sunscreen is so important. A study in the Archives of Dermatology found that survey participants who used sunscreen daily – even when they weren’t planning to be outside for extended periods – developed 24 percent fewer AKs than those who used sunscreen at their own discretion. Seniors should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher on exposed areas and re-apply sunscreen every two hours, especially after swimming or perspiring.
In addition, seniors can do the following to help protect him or herself from the dangers of sun and heat:
Having companionship is another great way for a senior to enjoy the outdoors. A friend or relative can make sure that proper protection is applied when out in the summer sun. Or you may choose to hire a caregiver to accompany your loved one on their outings.
As a home care provider, our caregivers are all trained to provide exceptional senior care. And we’re committed to helping our senior clients enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle. So, whether it’s with a caregiver, or out on their own, practicing these safety precautions will help bring a bit more sunshine into your senior’s life.
By AmeriCare, May 4, 2012
Family caregivers are some of the most patient, compassionate people in the world. Even still, they are among the most prone to burnout and depression given the immense stress associated with caring for an elder parent or infirmed family member. Thus, it is critical for caregivers to look out for their own well-being, not only to protect their own quality of life, but for the benefit of the person whom they’re caring for as well.
So, how do you know if you’re at risk of burning out? Here are some common warning signs to watch out for:
Once burnout occurs, continuing to act as the primary caregiver for a loved one is no longer a healthy option for either of you. Even though it may seem difficult, if not impossible, it’s essential that you find time to nurture yourself in order to live happily and provide the kind and patient care that your loved one deserves.
Here are some tips to help avoid burning out:
Most of all, don’t feel the need to shoulder the home care responsibilities all by yourself. Seek support from family and friends, neighbors and community members. Most people will be happy to help run errands, bring meals, or relieve you for a while if asked.
At AmeriCare, we are committed to providing compassionate home care services for the elderly and infirmed so that family members can retain their independence and their more familiar familial roles. Feel free to contact us to learn how we can help care for your loved one, from the comfort of his or her own home.
By AmeriCare, April 26, 2012
It seems that the sun has received a bad rap lately. That’s too bad, really, because the fact is that sensible sun exposure actually delivers several health benefits, including increased energy, a more positive mood, better sleep, and, according to a recent study, a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes among mature adults.
Sun exposure helps the skin make vitamin D – a vitamin older people lack due to their lifestyles and ageing processes.
A team at Warwick University has shown a deficiency in vitamin D increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, the researchers found that a full 94 percent of test subjects, between the ages of 50 and 70, had insufficient blood levels of the vitamin.
According to lead researcher Dr Oscar Franco, “Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a condition that is causing a large burden of disease across the globe with particular deleterious impact among the elderly.”
Forty-two percent of participants tested also had metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“We found that low vitamin D levels were associated with an increased risk of having metabolic syndrome, and was also significantly associated with increased insulin resistance.”
Dr Franco said there were several factors which could explain why older people had less vitamin D in their blood, including changes in lifestyle factors such as clothing and outdoor activity.
“As we get older our skin is less efficient at forming vitamin D and our diet may also become less varied, with a lower natural vitamin D content.
“When we are older we may need to spend more time outdoors to stimulate the same levels of vitamin D we had when we were younger.”
Lorna Layward from Age Concern and Help The Aged said: “We have always advocated that older people get out into the sunshine for a bit each day if they can. A bit of sun is good for you.
“We hear a lot about sun exposure and the risk of cancer, but older people tend to be at the other end of the spectrum. They do not get enough sun and tend to cover up and wear more clothing.”
Ed Yong of Cancer Research UK said: “The amount of sunlight it takes to make enough vitamin D is always less than the amounts that cause reddening or burning, so it should be possible to get the benefits of this vitamin without increasing the risk of skin cancer.
“Elderly people can also boost their vitamin D levels by eating foods like oily fish, or by using vitamin D supplements on the advice of their GP.”
At AmeriCare, we are committed to the health of our home care clients, and work to help ensure our seniors get the right amount of natural, and supplemental vitamins, as part of our senior care. So, remember, nothing can brighten your day more than a little sunshine.
By AmeriCare, April 18, 2012
It’s natural to get excited when we learn about a new breakthrough in our understanding of Alzheimer’s, as with the FDA’s recent approval of a new medical procedure that allows for early detection of the disease.
But how helpful is it to learn that your future will be afflicted with this debilitating disease if there isn’t currently a cure? Given the heightened attention around Alzheimer’s detection, we thought it would be an appropriate time to focus on methods of prevention.
Following are 10 proven tips, as offered by renowned Alzheimer’s author, Jean Carper, that can help maintain cognitive integrity and keep Alzheimer’s at bay.
1. Take a hike: Nothing beats walking for boosting memory and flooding your brain with chemicals that create bigger neurons. Take a brisk 30-minute walk, or three 10-minute sessions on a treadmill. A “nature” walk through a park also improves memory.
2. Eat an apple or two: Apples stimulate production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is what the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept also does, say University of Massachusetts researchers. You get the same benefits from two eight-ounce glasses of apple juice.
3. Drink a few cups of coffee: “I try to drink five cups of coffee a day,” says Gary Arendash at the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. He says the caffeine blocks build up of Alzheimer’s brain toxins. In one study, drinking three to five cups of coffee a day cut Alzheimer’s risk by 65 percent.
4. Treat yourself to a little dark chocolate: It can boost blood circulation in your brain, lower blood pressure and inhibit stroke damage, all important in preventing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Be sure cocoa content is at least 70 percent. Even a half-ounce of rich dark chocolate a day may be enough.
5. Surf the internet for an hour: Yes, a good Google search can stimulate an older brain and possibly improve thinking and memory. So can playing video games, and doing certain online brain games.
6. Do something new: Your brain cells are stimulated when you think of or do anything new. People who do novel mental activities reduce their risk of cognitive decline. Important: you must make a mental effort; breezing through crossword puzzles doesn’t count.
7. Eat a cup of berries: If you want to make forgetful old lab animals “younger and smarter,” just feed them blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or cranberries, say Tufts University researchers. How much? At least a cup a day.
8. Take a multivitamin: It can slow brain aging, especially if it includes high antioxidants, such as C, E and alpha lipoic acid. Be sure to get 500 mcg B12, 800 mcg folic acid, 20 mg B6 a day–doses found to reduce brain shrinkage up to 50 percent in people with mild memory problems.
9. Have a Curry Meal: A constituent of curry spices known as curcumin blocks Alzheimer’s-like brain damage and boosts memory in animal and lab tests. India, where curry is a staple, has a very low rate of Alzheimer’s.
10. Get together with friends and family: Make it a point to yak it up today, the larger your circle of friends and family, the better. Extroverts with high “social engagement” have less cognitive failure as they age. Being married or having a significant other dramatically cuts your odds of developing Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease we know all too well. If someone in your family is suffering with Alzheimer’s, or other forms of dementia, feel free to contact us to discuss our premier home care services. Our goal is to help your loved one live as independently as possible, from the comfort of their own home.
By , January 31, 2010
As people age, the likelihood of taking medicines increases; studies show that the more medicines people take, the more likely they are to be taking a medicine they may not need. It is, therefore, important to take an active role in understanding what is being prescribed for you. In order to better manage chronic conditions, reduce the chance of harmful drug interactions and get the best value for your money, keep in mind that you are part of a team—along with your doctors and other health care professionals—working to make good health care decisions.
To start with, it is important that you keep good track of all the medicines you are taking; this will also help to reduce your risk of harmful drug interactions. Make your own list of medicines by keeping a medicine record. Update your medicine record whenever you start on a new medicine or when you are no longer taking a medicine.
Include the following in your medicine record:
• Name of medicine
• What it is for
• Name of doctor who prescribed it
• How and when to take
• How much to take (dosage)
• Color/shape of medicine
• Any side effects or warnings
You can also take advantage of medication tracker software on your personal computer.
See http://www.consumerreports.org/health/medication-tracker/index.htm for help organizing and tracking your medicines, as well as other information to share with your doctor.
Talking to Your Doctor
It is important to get into the habit of asking your doctor questions about your medicines each time you receive a new prescription. If you receive prescriptions from more than one doctor, always take your medicine record with you and let your doctor know which medicines you are currently taking.
Questions to Ask About Your Medicines:
• Why do I take this prescription? Is it for long- or short-term use?
• How do I take this medicine (how often, with/without food, etc.)?
• What are its side effects? What should I do if they occur?
• Can I substitute a non-drug alternative or a generic?
• Does it duplicate any of the other prescriptions I am taking?
• What should I do if I miss a dose?
• If I cut a pill in half, will it be ineffective?
• Does this drug interact with any of the other prescriptions I take?
• How important is this prescription given my finances and overall health?
• Does my health or age make this drug unsafe for me?
Don’t Forget to Mention. . .
• Any over-the-counter (OTC) medicines you are currently taking such as pain relievers, antacids and laxatives; be sure to include any herbal, vitamin or dietary supplements as well.
• Any research you have done.
Go to http://www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org to download simple reports featuring comparisons of drugs by medical condition or drug class.
Keeping Up with Your Medicines
• Keep medicines in plain sight in a cool, dry place like a kitchen counter or desktop.
• Do not keep your medicines in the refrigerator, unless told to do so by your doctor, pharmacist or the instructions on your medicine bottle.
• Do not keep your medicines in a bathroom where they can become damaged and less effective from shower steam or moisture.
• Set timers and reminders to take your medicines, if needed. Program clocks for when you are at home, and cell phones and watches when you are traveling.
• When flying, carry your medicines with you; do not pack them in your checked luggage. Check with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the most current information about traveling with medicines at http://www.tsa.gov or 1.866.289.9673.
• Avoid having to make last minute refills. Mark your calendar in advance or look into a mail-order pharmacy, which can be less expensive.
The best way to keep up with your medicines is to keep your medicine record and bottles within easy reach.
Overcoming Some Medicine Hurdles
Sometimes people avoid taking prescribed medicines. If you are one of these people, ask yourself if any of the following apply to you:
I have trouble affording it — If a medicine is expensive, you may decide not to get the prescription filled. Talk to your doctor about the cost of a drug to see if there are less expensive generic medicines.
I don’t feel any different when taking the drug, or, my symptoms have gone away — Sometimes it is hard to tell when a medicine is working; many medicines work as a “preventative” by preventing your symptoms or conditions from getting worse. Understanding which medicines work to prevent your symptoms from getting worse will help in following your drug routine.
My symptoms are worsening, or, I’m having side effects — Due to changes in your body as you age, prescriptions you have taken for years may begin to affect you differently; signs of memory loss, irritability or loss of coordination can be due to drug interactions rather than medical conditions. It is important to record any change in symptoms or side effects, and share this information in detail with your doctor immediately. This may result in taking a lower dose, changing when you take the prescription, or taking a different medicine altogether.
My medicines are complicated to take — Especially when managing several medicines, it becomes more difficult to observe all of the rules required for each medicine. Getting organized with your medicine record is the easiest way to get into the habit of taking your medicines successfully.
The most important aspect of your drug routine is that it is manageable.
Getting the Best Value for Your Medicines
Review your needs every year
Evaluate your prescription drug plan and compare it with your needs every year. There can be major changes in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries each year that will affect what benefits are being offered and what drugs are covered (and at what prices).
Look into your medicine choices
Doctors do not know what prescriptions are covered by your insurance company. Ask your insurance company for a copy of your drug plan “formulary” (which is a list of all medicines covered by your insurance company) and bring it to your doctors’ appointments. Together, you can evaluate the choice of medicines that will be most effective.
Consider a generic
“Generics” are copies of brand-name medicines whose patents have expired (expirations occur after the drug has been on the market many years). Because a drug has been on the market for so long, it is proven. Generics are less expensive because the research has already been done and the drug has already been tested by the original manufacturer. Makers of generic drugs are not allowed to copy the exact look of the original brand-name drug so a generic drug may look different than the original brand-name medicine, but all generic drugs must maintain the same chemical make-up as the original.
Consider all of your drug plan’s preferred pharmacies and compare prices. Ask about pharmacy discount cards and senior citizen discounts; ask your insurance company about online or mail-order pharmacies.
Help Paying for Your Medicines
After reviewing ways to save money on your medicines, you may find that you are still having trouble paying for them. Here are some websites that can provide additional assistance:
• Medicare Extra Help Program provides information about the Social Security assistance program and application process for the Medicare Part D Subsidy: www.ssa.gov/prescriptionhelp.
• State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (SPAP) provides information about any available state-funded assistance programs for prescription drug costs: www.medicare.gov/spap.asp.
• Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (PAP) provides information about pharmaceutical companies that offer assistance programs for the drugs they manufacture: www.medicare.gov/pap.
There are community experts who can help you evaluate your needs for the best prescription drug plan for you. To find a AAA or SHIP near you, call the Eldercare Locator at 1.800.677.1116 or visit the website at www.eldercare.gov.
AmeriCare home care services provide medication reminders and assistance with transportation to doctor’s visits. Keeping our seniors safe and healthy is our priority. Find an AmeriCare office near you by visiting http://americareinfo.com, or call 1-800-610-2029.
By , January 13, 2010
When an aging family member starts to have problems with their vision, many times that loss can be attributed to glaucoma. It’s important for seniors and their family members to understand the causes and treatments for glaucoma so that the affected senior can live independently for as long as possible.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes loss of sight by damaging a part of the eye called the optic nerve. This nerve sends information from your eyes to your brain. When glaucoma damages your optic nerve, you begin to lose patches of vision, usually side vision (peripheral vision). Over time, glaucoma may also damage straight ahead (central) vision. You may not notice a loss of side vision until you have lost a great deal of your sight. When checking for glaucoma, eye doctors usually look for damage to the optic nerve and any loss of side vision. They may also check your eye pressure.
Glaucoma is often called “the sneak thief of sight.” That’s because people usually do not notice any signs of the disease until they have already lost significant vision. Once lost, vision can’t be restored.
More than 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older have open angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma. At least half don’t even know they have it.
What are the Different Types of Glaucoma?
There are many types of glaucoma. Often, the cause of high pressure in the eye can help tell the type of glaucoma and the best treatment for it. The most common types include:
Chronic (Open Angle) Glaucoma
This is the most common type. In open angle glaucoma, aqueous fluid drains too slowly and pressure inside the eye builds up. It usually results from aging of the drainage channel, which doesn’t work as well over time. However, younger people can also get this type of glaucoma.
Normal Tension Glaucoma
This is a form of open angle glaucoma not related to high pressure. People with normal tension glaucoma may be unusually sensitive to normal levels of pressure. Reduced blood supply to the optic nerve may also play a role in normal tension glaucoma.
Acute (Angle Closure) Glaucoma
Less than 10 percent of Caucasians or African-Americans have this form, but for those of Asian and Native American descent, the risks are as high as for open angle glaucoma. Hispanics are midway between these groups. It causes a sudden rise in pressure, requiring immediate, emergency medical care. The signs are usually serious and may include blurred vision, severe headaches, eye pain, nausea, vomiting or seeing rainbow-like halos around lights. Occasionally, the condition may be without symptoms; similar to open angle.
Another 10 percent of glaucoma cases come from certain diseases and conditions that damage the eye’s drainage system. These include diabetes, leukemia, sickle-cell anemia, some forms of arthritis, cataracts, eye injuries or inflammation of the eye, steroid drug use and growth of unhealthy blood vessels.
Some surgeries, such as retinal reattachments, increase the chance of getting glaucoma.
Getting more involved in your treatment
Even if surgery or drugs lower pressure in your eye, it’s still possible to lose vision. Therefore, you and your doctor must carefully monitor the disease.
Since you will be visiting your eye doctor regularly, take time and care in choosing a person who you are comfortable with. Your doctor should understand that your questions and concerns are important. A doctor who is willing to work with you, listen to your concerns and provide the best treatment, plays a large part in your success against glaucoma.
You have to help save your sight
You may need medicines every day for the rest of your life. Find support and encouragement from your family, friends and others. Sometimes it helps to talk to people who have experienced the same thing. It can help you to discuss side effects, share ways to remember your medicines and celebrate getting your glaucoma under control.
Unfortunately, there are a few people whose eyesight will continue to get worse, despite doing all the right things to control their glaucoma. Doctors aren’t sure why this happens, but research in this area continues.
The future holds great promise for treating glaucoma. New medicines are being developed. Other treatments may soon become available. In the meantime, take heart in knowing that you’re doing everything possible to treat your glaucoma successfully. The doctor/patient team approach, support from others and promising scientific discoveries will help you look forward to a bright future.
Questions for your eye doctor
You will have many questions as your doctor diagnoses and treats your glaucoma. It’s helpful to keep a list of these questions, especially if they come to mind in between your eye appointments. Write all your questions down and bring the list with you, then discuss them with your doctor. Here are some questions many people have:
• What do these medicines do?
• How much will they cost? Will my insurance help pay for them? (These may be questions for your insurance company, not your doctor.)
• What are the possible side effects of my medicines?
• Can I do anything to lower the chance of side effects or reduce the effects?
• What should I do if I miss a dose?
• Will I need surgery? What are the benefits and drawbacks of laser surgery? Of glaucoma surgery?
• What will my vision be like after surgery?
• How long will recovery take? How will I need to change my usual activities?
• Will I be able to drive? Go to work?
If you or an aging loved one is suffering from vision loss, get it checked out immediately. AmeriCare home care services can assist seniors with errands, grocery shopping, light housekeeping and more. Let an AmeriCare home care staff member keep you or your loved one safe while being treated for glaucoma or any other vision impairment. Find an AmeriCare office near you by visiting http://americareinfo.com, or call 1-800-610-2029.