Staying Cool and Hydrated

staying-cool-and-hydrated

Everyone knows staying hydrated is important. What many don’t realize is that dehydration can happen very quickly and seniors are especially susceptible to the condition. Not only that, seniors have side-effects that are more dramatic than those in a younger person, including behaviors that mimic dementia. Keeping the elderly population hydrated is one of the simplest things you can do when it comes to supporting their health.

Dehydration Is a Serious Problem For Seniors

There are several reasons why dehydration occurs more quickly in seniors. For one thing, “thirst receptors” become less acute, which means a senior won’t feel thirsty the same way a younger person would. The older we get, the less our bodies are able to retain water or to regulate body temperature. Plus, many of seniors are on medications that have a diuretic effect, which causes their body’s to lose even more water. Thus, maintaining regular water and fluid intake is very important – especially when the weather warms up.

A dehydrated senior is more prone to slips and falls due to dizziness and lack of balance and can also begin to display memory lapses or confusion. This mental confusion can seem like the signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s but is, in fact, simply a lack of water. By knowing the signs and symptoms of dehydration, you can help senior loved ones get the necessary amount of fluids he or she needs to remain balanced, healthy and cool.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

The first signs of dehydration include:

As dehydration becomes more severe, the symptoms will progress to:

  • Extremely dry mouth, mucous membranes and skin (if you gently pinch skin on the top of the hands, it will remain slightly folded rather than immediately returning to normal)
  • Brown urine or no urine
  • Sunken eyes
  • Rapid breathing or heartbeat
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Delirium or loss of consciousness

At the first signs of dehydration, simply administering water or other low-sugar fluids should be enough to reverse the condition. If the symptoms have already moved into the severe category, begin administering fluids and call a healthcare professional to see if more direct medical attention is required.

Tips for Keeping Seniors Hydrated

There are things you can do to keep seniors hydrated around the clock. This is especially important during the summer months. In addition to being hotter, air conditioning creates a dryer environment and dehydration will compound the difficulties an elderly body has regulating its core temperature.

Add a straw. Simply adding a straw to glasses of water, juice or iced tea will encourage a senior to drink more, especially bed-bound seniors who may have a harder time sipping from the edge of a cup when their body is at an elevated angle.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Plants contain lots of water so eating fruits and vegetables will also increase a senior’s overall water intake. Plus, they contribute to a healthy senior diet.

Minimize caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic, which causes the body to evacuate more water. For this reason, try to make the switch to decaffeinated coffee and tea if possible, or at least minimize the amount of total caffeine that is consumed.

Keep beverages handy. Keep water bottles or favorite beverages by the bed, on side tables, on the kitchen counter and other places where seniors will remember to take a sip or two, even if they aren’t feeling thirsty.

As with many health-related tenets, prevention is the key. Keeping hydrated is always easier than treating dehydration.

How a Private Caregiver Can Assist in a Facility

Is your loved one moving into an assisted care community or nursing home? Don’t rule out the idea of hiring a private caregiver to help him or her get the personalized care and extra special attention. Private caregivers are not exclusive to those who age in place. There are a myriad of roles a caregiver can play once your senior loved one is living in a residential facility.

Roles a Professional Caregiver Plays in Assisted Living and Retirement Facilities

The following are some of the ways hiring a private caregiver can enhance the quality of care elders receive, even after they move to an assisted living community or retirement home.

Companionship. Moving to a new home can be intimidating, especially for seniors who have dementia or Alzheimer’s. Hiring a caregiver can ensure they have regular companionship as they acclimate to their new environment. Studies show that seniors who live alone, or who withdraw from social activities, are more prone to depression. By hiring a caregiver to play the role of companion, your loved one will not feel so alone. The caregiver will ensure the senior is visited on a regularly scheduled basis. She can provide transportation to and from favorite events or social outings. The companionship of a caregiver can have a tremendous impact on a senior’s ability to settle in, feel safe and have a more positive overall outlook in his or her environment.

Liaison for family. Do you live too far away to check in on your senior loved on on a regular basis? Hiring a caregiver can ensure you have a liaison of sorts for the family. In addition to providing companionship and assistance to your loved one, the caregiver can also provide regular reports on how the senior is doing. Caregivers can accompany seniors on their doctors visits  to serve as a representative for the family, as well as another set of eyes and ears for their senior client. This can help families stay more in touch with a senior’s medical status and overall well-being.

Protection from elder abuse. Unfortunately, elder abuse is all too common of a reality. Often, the perpetrators of these crimes are very savvy. In many cases, an abuser will observe potential victims for a while, knowing that those who have involved family or a caregiver make much more “risky” victims than those who don’t. Thus, a caregiver who is visiting on a regular basis can keep a closer eye on the senior’s physical and emotional well-being. Caregivers are trained to notice any signs of elder abuse from facility staff so the family can be alerted and action can be taken.

The little extras. Even the most caring and attentive assisted living and nursing home staff do not have the time to do all the little extras. Was your mother always impeccably dressed and accessorized? Was your grandfather’s hair meticulously coifed? Maybe your senior loved one always had fresh flowers in the home or enjoyed a particular type of music. A caregiver can help to provide those special touches that help to maintain and respect the individual traits that make seniors who they are. This goes a long way towards preserving your loved one’s dignity.

Are you interested in learning more about hiring a private caregiver to provide extra special assistance for an aging family member? HomeAide Home Care, Inc. is a licensed nurse-owned home care agency, located in the Bay Area. Contact us to learn more about how caregiving services can help senior’s adjust and thrive in group residential settings. We will provide a free initial consultation.

Communicating with Your Elderly Parents Doctor

communicating-with-your-elderly-parents-doctor

Many children of aging parents find that the roles of “parent and child” can seem to flip-flop overnight. One day your parents seem perfectly capable of handling routine business on their own, the next slip-and-fall accident, sudden illness or the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s can toss life as you know it upside down.

One of the first and most noticeable changes may be in one or both of your parent’s need for assistance when visiting the doctor – or in translating the medical jargon as diagnoses and/or prescriptions for medications become more complex.

Tips For Communication With Your Elderly Parents’ Doctor

The following tips can ease the transition as you begin to take a more active role in your parents’ medical appointments and doctor visits.

  1. Complete Medical Directives. Do your parents have a completed medical directive? Also called Advance Directives, medical directives provide specific information and instructions about what an adult does and doesn’t want when it comes to resuscitation, the types of life support that can be used, organ/tissue donation, and other important medical decisions. People often put these off until it’s too late, which makes things very stressful – and potentially confrontational – when families struggle to make these decisions for a loved one. Read our blog, What You Need to Know About Advance Directives to learn more.
  2. Get a Power of Attorney. If you are even beginning to think of communicating with your parents’ doctor, it is a sign a Power of Attorney should be set in place. Medical records are confidential and there is a fine line about what doctors can tell you without the permission of your parent, which can be especially tricky if dementia or Alzheimer’s is at work. Getting a Power of Attorney while your parents are still fully competent is the simplest way to prepare for the paperwork, decisions and signatures that may be required in the future when it comes to requesting medical information and records.
  3. Choose one medical liaison. To keep things streamlined, efficient and easy for doctors, it’s recommended that your family choose one medical liaison who will communicate directly with the doctor and then transmit the information to the family at large. If nobody lives in the area, hire a companion, caregiver or professional medical advocate to fill this role instead.
  4. Visit the doctors with your parents. It’s no surprise that establishing relationships with your parents’ healthcare professionals facilitates communication down the road. Schedule appointments with each of their general practitioners and regular specialists for a meet-and-greet and to learn more about where your parents are at today, as well as what the doctor recommends to keep them well and healthy into the future.
  5. Get a list of current medications. Assemble a list of all the medications and supplements your parents are currently prescribed and/or taking. Keep it updated regularly. This will come in handy if a doctor changes or your parent begins displaying the symptoms of a potential medication side effect.
  6. Learn to be an advocate. Many lay-people assume that doctors communicate with one another about their patients. This is rarely the case. It requires an advocate and a good communicator to keep each of the doctors abreast of what is said, experienced, diagnosed or prescribed by other doctors, especially if they aren’t in the same office. It’s also a good idea to keep your own copies of important medical records.
  7. Consider changing doctors if necessary. If you don’t feel your parent is getting adequate care, or a particular doctor is difficult to communicate with, take action and switch to one that better meets your parents’ needs.

Cataracts and the Elderly

cataracts-and-the-elderly

Even with the best physical and memory care, seniors can feel like they are disappearing into themselves, leaving all of their favorite pleasures behind. This is no wonder; mobility begins to decline, hearing is often impaired and then there are the annoying vision problems that can make it difficult to read, watch television, participate in favorite hobbies or even recognize the ones you love. Even basic adult freedoms such as driving are eliminated from your repertoire.

Seniors and Cataracts: What You Need to Know to Keep Eyes Wide Open

While nobody can turn back the hands of time, there are things that caregivers and loved ones can do to keep seniors as connected as possible. Keeping up on their visual health is one of these. Cataracts, a clouding in the lens of the eye that negatively affects vision, are very common in the elderly. In fact, by age 80 more than 50% of Americans will either have cataracts or will have undergone a cataract surgery.

Maintaining good eye health, visiting the optometrist at least once a year and looking for signs and symptoms of cataracts are all steps that will work to preserve a senior’s vision for as long as possible, which also helps to preserve their ability to connect and engage with the world around them. Plus, good vision will also help to prevent elderly falls, which can lead to more serious physical injuries.

The longer a person has cataracts, the more difficult it becomes to repair the damage, which can lead to permanent blindness. This is why it’s so important to recognize the signs and symptoms of cataracts as early detection is the surest way to preserve eye sight for as long as possible.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

First, a little about cataracts. The lens is located inside the eye, directly behind the pupil and iris. It works to direct light to the retina, which allows us to focus on what we are seeing. The pupil is filled with water and proteins that are arranged specifically to provide a clear view. As we age, these proteins begin to clump together, rearranging themselves such that they cloud the interior of the lens. As this clouding gets worse, so does vision.

The typical signs and symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Reduced night vision, halos may begin to appear around lights
  • Colors will seem faded or more muted than they used to
  • Vision may be doubled or multiple images may appear for one eye
  • Prescriptions for contacts or glasses become more frequent
  • A cloudy or milky appearance in the pupil – visible to others

The problem is that vision is a tricky thing. Cataracts don’t form overnight. So, in many cases, the changes may not be as noticeable to the senior because they are happening slowly and over a period of time. It’s not until vision loss becomes more dramatic that a senior may say something about it. Thus, it’s important that caregivers pay close attention.

What causes cataracts?

While age is certainly a major factor, other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can speed cataract development. Diabetes, certain medications (including some diuretics), smoking and heavy drinking are all contributors of cataracts.

What is the treatment for senior cataracts?

Early detection is the best means of keeping cataracts at bay. Changes in the senior’s glasses/contacts prescription may help. If cataracts are more developed, outpatient surgery may be required. Cataract surgery has a high success rate – upwards of 90% of those who have cataract surgery report improved vision.

Not able to keep an close eye on your aging loved ones? Contact HomeAide Home Care, Inc. and learn more about how companion and home care giving services can enhance the health and well-being of your senior loved ones.

Adjusting to Life Without Driving

adjusting-to-life-without-driving

Imagine the thrill of the open road, a clear schedule and the freedom of driving anywhere you choose, whenever you choose. Even the opportunity to drive short distances here and there, running errands, visiting friends, attending social functions, etc., all of these are signs of autonomy and independence. When age-related side effects force seniors to hand over their keys, this sense of autonomy and independence simply disappears.

The loss of driving privileges can be one of the most devastating experiences for seniors. Never mind the health problems that have plagued them along the way. Forget about minor losses in mobility or memory; those are often taken in stride or with only minor complaint. However, the loss of a driver’s license and the right to drive a car strikes at the heart of a senior’s sense of identity, and this can have serious consequences.

6 Tips to Help Seniors Adjust to Life Without Driving

  1. Start the conversation early. The sooner you begin having conversations with your loved ones about driving and the aging process, the better. The important thing to stress is that safety is the top priority; the safety of the senior you love as well as the safety of other drivers and pedestrians on the road. Spend time reviewing the Senior Driving Website. It’s a wonderful resource and conversation starter for senior drivers and their families.
  2. Register for a senior driving assessment. Don’t make yourself the bad guy. Put it in objective hands. Contact the DMV or the AAA club in your area and ask about senior driver’s assessments. These assessments are designed to evaluate a senior’s driving skills, response times, vision, etc., to determine whether or not they are safe to drive. Sometimes, the senior is given the green light, sometimes they are given tips and recommendations and/or are referred to a refresher course, and other times it is determined the senior should no longer sit behind the wheel. A professional driving assessment puts the onus of judgement in professional hands, which can take the pressure off you.
  3. Let them remain in control of the situation. If it’s decided that a senior is better off being a passenger, he/she should still have control of the situation. Ask what your senior prefers: to keep the car and hire a driver, sell the car and pay for a driver who has his/her own car, rely on public transportation, or any combination of the options. The point is that losing the keys to the car feels like a loss of control and independence, so allowing the senior to have control over the solution is important.
  4. Research public transportation options. Do a thorough study of public transportation options in your area. Sometimes, the idea of taking a bus or a van is preferable to having a driver because the senior can maintain a sense of autonomy and privacy that is sacrificed when a driver knows everywhere you go and everything you do.
  5. Maintain their regular schedule. Another way to foster a sense of independence and autonomy is to ensure that seniors are able to maintain their regular schedule. Taking away their keys should not mean they are homebound and no longer able to participate in the activities they love. Find a way to accommodate their exercise classes, religious observations, clubs, meetings, etc. This includes an emphasis on their social outings and events. Keeping active will make the loss of the driver’s seat much less painful.

HomeAide Home Care is happy to assist you in finding a driver with a clean driving record and background check. Contact us to get started.

Preventing Bedsores

preventing-bedsores

Whether your senior loved one has recently experienced a trip and fall injury, is recovering from a lingering illness or has become more sedentary, it’s important to keep on the lookout for bedsores.

When seniors live on their own, without access to a caregiver or home healthcare provider, they are more at risk of developing bedsores that go unnoticed. Once established, these seemingly harmless sores can become quite serious and can lead to death.

Understanding what bedsores are and learning now to prevent and treat them is one of the best things you can do to keep your senior healthy and comfortable.

Bedsores: Know What to Look For and How to Prevent and Treat Them

Many people are under the false assumption that bed sores, also called pressure ulcers or pressure sores, are only a threat for those who are bedridden. This is not the case. Anyone spending the majority of their time in a seated, reclined or prone position is at risk for developing bedsores.

Lack of mobility, depression, malnourishment, dehydration – all are common side effects of growing old, and all can lead to the sedentary lifestyle that eventually causes bedsores.

These pressure sores are caused when hidden pressure points – the base of the tailbone, spinal column, “sitting bones”, hips, ankles and shoulders – make contact with a chair or bed. A caregiver can be oblivious to these ulcerations, even when they visit everyday, because bedsores are often covered by clothing, robes or dressing gowns.

Here are some facts you may not know about bedsores:

  • They are not a side effect of a hospital or nursing home stay. Bedsores can happen just as easily at home.
  • You don’t have to be completely bed- or chair-ridden to develop bedsores. Occasional mobility, even multiple trips to go to the bathroom or shower, is not enough to prevent their development.
  • Bedsores develop quickly. Regular checks are imperative to catch potential offenders as soon as possible.
  • In most cases, bedsores are NOT an indicator of negligent or abusive caregiving. If you notice bedsores on your watch, it’s a sign that you are doing your job.

A complaint about physical discomfort is often the first sign of bedsores. However, once bedsores are established, they damage nerve tissue and will no longer be felt.

To prevent the development of bedsores make sure:

  • Seating and resting areas are well-padded.
  • If a senior is bedridden, use pressure relief mattresses or pads that protect pressure points from the continuous pressure that leads to bedsores.
  • Seniors change position on a regular basis and assist them if necessary.
  • Reduce the friction created during position changes.
  • They are wearing soft clothing and soft bedding
  • Seniors are eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water

There are four stages to bedsore development:

Stage 1. The area will feel sore and may appear pink or red. When you press the area, it will not lighten or blanch. Skin is still intact. At this stage, it’s important to relieve pressure entirely and keep a close watch. If it doesn’t improve in 24 to 48 hours, call a doctor.

Stage 2. The area may look blistered or skin may be missing or broken. Seek medical attention immediately.

Stage 3: By now, an ulcer has formed. It may look like a crater. You may notice yellow skin at the bottom and fatty tissue may be exposed. Seek medical attention immediately!

Stage 4. Dark tissue may be visible and sometimes bone and connective tissues are exposed. Seek medical attention immediately!

The cure for uninfected bedsores is as simple as position changes every 15-minutes while they heal. In more serious cases, you may need to clean them, provide fresh dressings and administer antibiotics. Of course, your senior loved one’s comfort and well-being is the top priority. If you are able to keep bedsores under control, you may want to work with a home healthcare provider and their doctor for further pain prevention and tips for keeping your loved one comfortable.

Dental Care for the Elderly

dental-care-for-the-elderlyWhat does your smile and mouth health say about your physical well-being? You’d be surprised. Periodontal disease is a precursor for some pretty serious medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The healthier senior citizens’ mouths are, the healthier their bodies will be.

Dental Care For the Elderly: Make Sure Your Scheduling Six-Month Checkups

The aging process begins to affect oral health and puts seniors at higher risk for several common oral health problems such as:

  • Dry Mouth. Dry mouth is a condition where the mouth stops making necessary amounts of saliva. It’s a common side effect of many medications, cancer treatments and dehydration. More than being a nuisance, decreased saliva production puts seniors at higher risk for developing gingivitis, tooth decay and mouth infections such as thrush. The dentist may recommend specialized mouthwashes or the implementation of a humidifier to help keep the mouth moist.
  • Root Decay. Typically, gums begin to recede with age and as a result of gum disease. This will eventually leave the higher parts of the tooth, which are the lower portions of the roots, exposed and vulnerable to acids and other substances that lead to their decay. If dental roots are damaged beyond repair, it leads to dental extractions.
  • Gum Disease. Also called periodontal disease or gingivitis, gum disease is most commonly caused by an accumulation of plaque on the teeth and along the gum lines. This hard substance allows bacteria to grow, causing inflammation (gingivitis) that leads to gum disease – the leading cause of tooth loss. Other common causes include smoking or the use of tobacco products, dentures, poor diet and certain diseases.
  • Tooth Loss. As mentioned above, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. Losing your natural teeth is a serious business. While dentures may seem synonymous with old age, they are also synonymous with poor diet and a deterioration of the gum tissue and jaw bone. Dentures are typically uncomfortable and make it difficult for seniors to eat well, which leads to malnourishment, a compromised immune system and susceptibility to other medical conditions. The longer you can keep your own healthy teeth, the better!
  • Uneven jawbone. Your teeth, gums and jaw have a very close relationship. When the teeth go missing or are extracted, the gums and jawbone begin to diminish, which can lead to misshapen jaws. If a senior does break or lose a tooth, get to the dentist immediately to determine the best solution. Implants or well-fitting bridges and dentures will help to slow down receding gums and jaws.
  • Denture-induced stomatitis. Dentures must be cleaned, maintained and fitted on a regular basis or they can contribute to disease of the mouth. Denture-induced stomatitis occurs when poorly fitting dentures, poor oral hygiene or an accumulation of a fungus called Candida albicans, which causes the gums to become inflamed and potentially infected.
  • Thrush. This is the same condition that can affect babies and young children. It is a symptom of a compromised immune system and is the result of a build-up of the aforementioned fungus Candida albicans.

Seniors are the most likely to stop seeing the dentist, especially in cases where dental insurance is no longer covered by a retirement health plan. The good news is that most dentists offer special rates for seniors and those who do not have dental insurance. They are often willing to work with you on payment plans. Seniors can also apply for CareCredit, which can be used like a credit card for dental and other health services and provides 0% financing for a set term limit.

Schedule your next dental checkup today!

Everything You Need to Know About Parkinson’s Disease

everything-you-need-to-know-about-parkinsons-diseaseWhile the human body goes about it’s day-to-day business, there are countless chemical reactions taking place each second that facilitate all of the body’s activities – both the conscious and the unconscious. If the production of one of these chemicals subsides or ceases altogether, there are often dramatic effects. Parkinson’s Disease occurs when the brain reduces its productions of an important neurotransmitter called dopamine.

While Parkinson’s Disease is not considered a fatal disease, the side effects have serious implications for the quality of life for the patient. From a loss of sensory perception to Parkinson’s telltale tremors, there is hardly any part of a patient’s physical, mental and emotional well-being that is left untouched by the disease. As a result, modern medicine’s goal is to find ways to slow down its progression and alleviate the symptoms as much as possible to maintain and/or enhance the patient’s quality of life.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

The substantia nigra is located in the mid-brain and is responsible for the production of the aforementioned dopamine. This neurotransmitter (a chemical that helps to transmit messages from one neuron to another) is critical to some pretty important biological and physiological processes including:

  • Muscle movement
  • Emotional responses
  • Sensations of reward, desire or pleasure
  • Memory, problem solving and other cognitive skills

When the production of dopamine is reduced the side-effects are most typically noticed in these areas.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s?

Tremors are the most typically recognized side effect of Parkinson’s disease although the symptoms often begin to emerge years or even a decade before tremors or other significant motor skills are affected. Some of the earliest signs of the disease are a decrease in the sense of smell (hyposmia), constipation and sleep disorders. Doctors are being trained to pay attention to these subtle clues to facilitate treatment as soon as Parkinson’s can be diagnosed.

Additional Parkinson’s symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Speech difficulty, including softer vocalizations
  • Walking without swinging the arms
  • Rigid muscles
  • Less expressive facial expressions (called the Parkinson’s mask)
  • Stooped posture
  • Changes in writing, typically the writing becomes much smaller

If you notice any of these symptoms in a loved one, schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible so diagnostic testing can begin. There isn’t a specific blood test or brain scan that “guarantees” the diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Rather, your doctor will run a series of tests and the results of these will lead to a diagnostic conclusion.

What is the treatment for Parkinson’s Disease?

There is no cure for Parkinson’s treatment. Instead, doctors will use a combination of drugs, physical therapy and lifestyle recommendations to slow down its progress, alleviate as many of the side effects as possible and to help a Parkinson’s patient to become more comfortable.

Not surprisingly, a healthy diet is important since the body needs all the nutrients it can get to remain as strong, energized and alert as possible. Regular exercise is also important to keep the muscles and bones of the body strong and to maintain balance. As the disease progresses, an occupational therapist may be necessary to help the patient and/or caregivers learn how to make day-to-day tasks as easy as possible.

Parkinson’s patients are very susceptible to falling since their motor coordination and balance deteriorates overtime. Making appropriate changes in the home in regards to lighting, handrails, the elimination of trip hazards, ramps, etc. are advised sooner rather than later to avoid an unnecessary trip and fall accident.

Alternative medicines, including Coenzyme Q10, acupuncture, massage, music and art therapy have also shown beneficial for some Parkinson’s patients. You can read more at Parkinsons.org.

Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke

recognizing-the-signs-of-a-strokeStroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and almost 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year. In some cases, if the stroke is small, the effects can be minimal and may be able to be corrected with time and physical therapy. In others, the effects of a stroke are devastating, rendering adults incapable of speech, motility and motor coordination. Often, swift action on the part of caretakers or those who are near by can significantly minimize the effects of a stroke.

Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke Can Greatly Improve the Chances of Survival and Recovery

Recognizing the signs of a stroke – in yourself and/or others – can ensure you do what’s necessary and get immediate medical attention for the victim, thereby preventing worse-case-scenario brain damage.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs in one of two ways:

  • Ischemic stroke. This is the most common, comprising 87% of all strokes. It happens when a fatty deposit develops in a blood vessel in the brain or a blood clot becomes lodged in a blood vessel in the brain, stopping the blood supply. Risk factors for ischemic strokes include high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes are only responsible for 13% of strokes. They occur when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and allows blood to seep into surrounding brain tissue, slowly increasing the pressure on the brain.

What are the signs of a stroke?

Because early treatment is critical in stopping the detrimental effects of a stroke in their tracks, the CDC, the American Heart Association and the National Stroke Association are promoting the acronym, FAST, as an easy way to remember the signs and symptoms of a stroke:

F – Face. Strokes are often first noticed in the face. Brain impairment will occur on the opposite side of the brain (a stroke in the right side of the brain will cause the majority of the physical impairment in the left side of the body, and visa versa). Ask the person to smile and you will notice drooping or seeming paralysis on one side of their face.

A – Arms. Ask the person to raise their arms above their head. A stroke victim may not be able to lift one arm, won’t be able to raise it as high or the arm may slowly drift back down.

S – Speech. Have the person repeat a simple phrase back to you. Their words may sound slurred, garbled, or completely unintelligible.

T – Time. Time is of the essence in stopping and treating the stroke, in order to minimize the damage. Call 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY so the stroke victim can receive medical attention as soon as possible. Stroke patients who make it to an emergency room within three hours or less of their stroke have lesser degrees of disability three months after their stroke than those who have to wait longer for help.

Other signs and symptoms of a stroke include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness in an arm, leg or the face.
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty understanding.
  • Sudden difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes.
  • Sudden or intense headache with no known cause.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or poor coordination.

Strokes can happen at any age, however, more than 60% of all strokes occur in adults 65 years old and older. The most common risk factors include ethnicity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, smoking and drinking.

Eating well, exercising and eliminating unhealthy lifestyle habits are the best things you can do to prevent the risk of a stroke.

10 Tips for Preventing Elderly Falls

10-tips-for-preventing-elderly-fallsElderly falls are a serious issue. Every year, more than 30% of adults over the age of 65 fall down. These falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for that age bracket and in 2010, direct medical costs as the result of an elderly fall totaled more than $30 billion dollars.

Of course, the “cost” of an elderly fall isn’t purely financial. Minor brain injuries can be more detrimental for adults diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s and increasing medical studies show the anesthesia associated with knee/hip replacement surgeries have more negative cognitive effects than we realized.

For these reasons, we highly recommend you adhere to these 10 tips to prevent elderly falls and increase your quality of life.

  1. Keep exercising. The more weak your muscles are, the more prone you are to falls. Exercise is good for the mind, body and spirit. Plus, it will strengthen muscles and help to maintain your sense of balance.
  2. Eat a well-balanced diet. If your body is malnourished or your blood sugar drops, you are likely to become shaky, dizzy and/or disoriented. All of these side-effects put you at risk for falls. Drink lots of water. Eat five small meals a day, concentrating on healthy proteins, whole-grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. Observe your annual physical. Things like low blood pressure can also contribute to falls. Make sure you observe your annual physical, even if you’re feeling “fit as a fiddle” so your doctor can catch and monitor things you might not be able to feel going on with your body.
  4. Visit the eye doctor. Eyesight is a funny thing; the brain is good at compensating even when vision has diminished considerably. Unfortunately, vision loss causes depth perception issues and makes it harder to see things in your peripheral. Have your eyes checked at least once a year after you turn 65.
  5. Schedule a consultation with your pharmacist. Doctors and pharmacists try their best to make sure your medicines work in harmony with one another. Even so, there can be occasional glitches. Schedule a consultation with your pharmacist and have him/her review your medications to make sure none of them cause dizziness or drowsiness that may make you more susceptible to a fall.
  6. Take your time. Try not to rush around. This is especially true after moving from a seated or prone position to standing. Sudden drops in blood pressure can make you dizzy, and it increases the chances of instability or even a small fainting spell that can cause you to fall.
  7. Install grab bars. Hire a handyman to come install grab bars near your toilet, shower, bath tub, etc. You might feel like you don’t need them but you’ll be surprised how often you use them once they’re in place.
  8. Remove trip hazards. This is a good time to evaluate your home and eliminate trip hazards, such as cords, area rugs, small tables, etc., that are easy to stumble over.
  9. Provide adequate lighting. Make sure your lighting is adequate. If you have macular degeneration, cataracts or other vision issues, increase your bulb wattage just a bit to compensate. Put exterior lights and strategically placed interior lights on motion sensitive and/or time-sensitive timers so you never have to navigate your home or exterior in the complete dark.
  10. Ask for help when you need it. Don’t hesitate to get professional help for tasks like cleaning, yard work, running errands, etc. You can pick your favorite tasks and let a professional home care provider help with the rest.

Schedule a free consultation with HomeAide Home Care, Inc. and we’ll assess your home for potential fall risks.