Helpful Tips on Cooking for Seniors

helpful-tips-on-cooking-for-seniors

Nutrition is such a critical part of senior health. Eating the right foods and staying hydrated decrease the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimers, keeps seniors strong so they are less prone to falls and helps elderly adults remain active.

Cooking healthy meals for seniors is a single step that leads to multiple, long-term benefits.

Things to Consider When Cooking for Seniors

Even so, there are things you need to take into consideration when you prepare meals for seniors. Their dietary restrictions may prevent common ingredients like butter and high-fat meats. They may have a sensitivity to acid as the result of medications they are taking, and so on. First, be aware of any dietary restrictions by speaking with the senior’s doctor.

Then, use the following tips to create delicious, healthy meals:

  1. Skip the salt. Most seniors are on some type of salt restriction so paying attention to sodium content is key. Use low-sodium products whenever possible and then beef up the flavor by adding white wine, lemon juice, vinegar and other acids that can replace the need for salt.
  2. Make it easy to chew. Even if seniors have their own teeth, it chewing and swallowing is more difficult once we’re older. Swap out some of the traditional “meat and potatoes” meals for stews, soups or braised versions, which are softer in texture and easier to chew and digest. Using fresh, moist ingredients also keeps food from being tough. Invest in a slow cooker cookbook, or check out slow-cooking websites for great recipe ideas. Dishes made in the slow cooker typically cut down on kitchen labor and you can make freezable leftovers to boot – so it’s a win-win.
  3. Look into a cooking class. There are cooking classes and other programs geared to senior health. Check with your local senior center to see if they know of anything in your area. They may also have cooking classes or short tutorials aimed directly at seniors, focusing on low-maintenance meals they can put together without a whole lot of standing or food prep.
  4. Learn about smart substitutions. There are some pretty smart substitutions you can make in order to cut down on fat and cholesterol. Once example is to use a can of white beans or boiled, diced potato that can be pureed and used as a substitute for cream in soups. Adding canned beans – like white beans or pinto beans – to soups is also great, zero-fat, zero-cholesterol way to boost protein content. Try swapping equal parts applesauce for oil in any baking recipe.
  5. Let them choose. Do you remember going to the cafeteria at your high school or university? The good news was that you didn’t have to cook; the bad news was that you didn’t have a choice in the food selection. Give seniors some autonomy by letting them choose recipes from a favorite cookbook or cooking-oriented magazine. Then make sure you incorporate the recipes they choose in with your weekly menu plans.
  6. Use whole-wheat whenever possible. The benefits of whole-wheat are incontrovertible. They are higher in protein and fiber, both of which are better for seniors. They are also lower in carbs, which makes them better for seniors who are pre-diabetic or who have diabetes. Look for whole-wheat pastas, tortillas and breads and get rid of the white stuff.
  7. Ask them about their favorite childhood food memories. So many dishes from the past have been sort of lost along the way. Sometimes, this is for health reasons. Other times it’s simply the result of a shift in food trends. Ask your senior clients or loved ones what their favorite foods were as a child and then try to prepare them. Make healthy substitutions wherever you can, but remember that once in a while, it’s okay to splurge.

Are you concerned your senior loved ones aren’t eating nutritious meals? Does your busy lifestyle make it difficult to keep track of what is being eaten and what isn’t?

That’s what HomeAide Home Care is here for. We have an entire team devoted to providing compassionate senior care, right in the comfort of their home. This includes meal planning and preparation. Contact Us to learn more.

Helping Elderly Relatives Stay Independent

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While our culture celebrates the wisdom of our elders, their wisdom is often negated when they wind up feeling more like a child as the result of physical deficiencies or the loss of their independence. This loss of mobility, ability, friends and loved ones and a sense of autonomy often leads to depression, loneliness and anxiety. And, who wants their loved ones to feel that?

Independent Elders Are Happier Elders

So, the trick becomes coming up with health and safety-oriented changes that continue to foster a sense of autonomy and empowerment.

Here are five ways to help your senior loved ones remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible.

  1. Let them stay at home. Unless the senior is voluntarily moving to a retirement or assisted living facility, trying to force their hand is a dangerous game. Take into consideration that the National Institute on Aging states, There is No Place Like Home – For Growing Old. Facilitating a safe way for seniors to age in place is one of the most cost-effective and emotionally rewarding things you can do for parents, grandparents and other seniors. According to Financial Advisor Magazine home-based care is more affordable than both nursing home and assisted living facility options.
  2. Create a safe living environment. Fall prevention is essential for a healthy senior life. Diminished vision, brittle bones and lack of balance are a recipe for trip-and-fall disasters, many of which lead to expensive and debilitating surgeries. If seniors live in a multi-story home, move their bedroom to the first floor so their life revolves around a safe, single level.
  3. Keep them mobile. As we age, balance becomes more of an issue. Eyesight and hearing start to diminish diminish along with muscle mass and bone density. Regular exercise is instrumental for keeping seniors fit, active and as physically strong as possible. Studies also show that it is good for overall mental and emotional well-being. Senior centers, yoga studios and local gyms offer fitness programs and classes tailored to seniors. Visit these places with your loved one to find the right fit. Also, research and invest in the right mobility aid(s) before they are absolutely essential. The more familiar and comfortable a senior is with a cane, walker or other form of aid, the easier it will be to implement it into their life when needed.
  4. Invest in pre-made meals. Preparing and cooking food is no easy feat and the lack of good meals takes a disastrous toll on a senior’s physical and cognitive health. There are several options for seniors who no longer want to cook. Meal delivery services, like Schwans, offer door to door service, providing a wide range of tasty foods, meals and desserts that are flash frozen and easily prepared. You can order food online to be delivered anywhere in the county. Meals on Wheels is another option, which delivers prepared foods once a day to the senior’s door. In-home care providers often offer meal preparation as a part of their service menu and this is a good way to have a homecare provider get their foot in the door – providing meals, light cleaning, transportation and so on, setting the stage for when more regular care and assistance might be required.
  5. Provide transportation. One of the greatest losses of independence occurs when a senior can no longer drive. For many, this is the beginning of a home-bound life that shouldn’t be! From transportation offered by local senior centers to public buses and dial-a-ride services, there are plenty of options. Again, many in-home care providers offer transportation as a service and a friendly caregiver can be scheduled as many times a week as senior clients like, ensuring they don’t miss out on favorite games, hobbies, movies, church services, restaurants and other social events.

Is it time to make a few changes that will establish a greater sense of independence in your elderly loved one’s life? Schedule a FREE in-home assessment with HomeAide Home Care. We’ve provided all manner of in-home caregiving services for Bay Area senior clients for almost two decades.

Minimizing Loneliness During the Holidays

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The holidays can bring a mixed-bag of emotions for any of us, but they can be especially bitter-sweet for the elderly. Memories of times-gone-by are often layered with sadness and loneliness because so many of the individuals present in those memories are no longer alive or live far away.

Tips For Preventing Seniors Holiday Season Loneliness

One of the greatest gifts you can give your senior loved-ones this time of year is the gift of attention. There are all kinds of ways – both big and small – that you can make a difference and minimize elderly loneliness during the holidays.

  1. Help to plan their social calendar. There are myriad of free and very low-cost events taking place around the holiday season – yet many seniors are cut off from them because they no longer drive, or perhaps they don’t like to drive at night, when many of these activities take place. Look online and search for holiday events where your loved one lives. If you can’t take them yourself, consider enlisting the help of other friends or relatives who can volunteer a few hours to help. Many local senior centers and communities offer low-cost shuttling services. You can also use a companion service, hiring professional caregivers to transport them to and from the event, keep them company while they’re attending and ensure they’re comfortable.
  2. Make contact more often. Since this time of year is known to exacerbate senior stress, loneliness and depression, this is a good time to add another day of the week to visit or call. If you typically stop by on Sundays, maybe you could add a Wednesday dinner or special dessert to the mix. Or, if you call every Saturday morning, try calling again on Monday or Tuesday to check in. The added attention and connection can do wonders.
  3. Be present to their grief. Your grandmother isn’t the only one mourning the loss of your grandfather. Odds are you, your mother or father and the children miss him too. Sometimes, seniors feel guilty sharing their grief or sadness – especially if the loss is many years ago, because they want this to be a happy time of year for you. However, if you open the topic up for conversation, saying something like, “You know, this time of year is so special – but it also brings up so many memories of grandpa (or dad, or Uncle Bill) that I feel sad, too. I really miss him.” This can open doors of communication, allowing the senior to express her feelings of grief and loneliness. It’s a special opportunity for you both.
  4. Fly them to see you. Does your elderly loved one live far away? Perhaps you can look online and fly them out for a visit – if not on the actual holiday, maybe for a long weekend before or after. The whole family may be willing to go in on the cost. If traveling is difficult, hiring a temporary caregiver from a licensed home healthcare agency can ensure your loved one travels safely and comfortably on both legs of the journey.
  5. Surprise them with packages. A gift basket is nice, but what if you sent them little cards or packages for the 12 Days of Christmas, or honoring the 8 days of Hanukkah. Receiving one small gift or a card in the mail each day gives your loved one something to look forward to – not to mention the love and appreciation of receiving such a fun and heartfelt surprise.
  6. Reach out to local music groups. Is there a local music group in your area that carols or volunteers to sing at senior centers? They or a small group of them may be more than willing to reach out to your loved one’s senior community – or maybe even make a special visit to their home – to play and sing favorite holiday tunes.
  7. Send them their favorite meals. Can’t visit and can’t fly them out? Make sure they eat some of their favorite foods and treats over the holiday season. Companies like magickitchen.com offer delicious, home-cooked meals that are flash frozen and delivered to the senior’s doorstep. They include desserts and when all’s said and done, each meal is less than $20. They also cater to special dietary needs.

Read How to Help a Client or Loved One Avoid the Holiday Blues for additional tips on adding holiday cheer to those who need it.

Types of Canes and Walkers

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Mobility aids can completely transform a senior’s life. At the most basic level, canes and walkers provide the stability and balance necessary to prevent falls. In some cases, they make a chair-bound senior free again – able to take walks around the block, visit a corner grocery store or to bet able to get outside and garden again without fear.

The key is to choose the right cane or walker for the elderly person’s needs, and to make sure the equipment is a good fit for the person’s height and weight. Failure to select the right type of walker, or to ensure a good fit, can cause discomfort and will compromise their safety.

A Guide to Selecting a Cane or Walker For the Elderly

The first step is to make an appointment with a healthcare provider. Let the doctor know you’re interested in using a cane or walker and he can assist you in selecting the right one.

The following are basic guidelines for selecting the right type of mobility aids for your needs.

Determine the amount of support you need

Canes can support as much as 25% of your body weight, while certain walkers can support up to 50% of your body weight. You want to choose the type of aid that will provide the most support for where you are at today – taking into consideration that the need for more support will increase as you age.

Many seniors opt to get one of each and use them in different scenarios. Perhaps a cane will be used around the house, to putter in the yard, or to make short trips to doctors or friends’ homes. A walker may be used for longer jaunts or to take advantage of the basket option if you will be carrying or purchasing small items.

What is the main reason you’ll be using the device?

Typically, canes are used for:

  • Arthritis in the knees and hips.
  • Minor issues with balance, especially on stairs or uneven ground.
  • An injury to the foot, ankle or leg.

Walkers are recommended for:

  • Arthritis pain in the knees and hips is more severe.
  • Moderate to severe balance problems or more serious issues with gait.
  • More generalized weakness in the knees, hips or legs.

Things to Look For in a Cane

Canes are typically made from wood or metal, aluminum being the most common. They come with single, triple or quad-feet – the latter two providing the most stability. The bottom should always have a rubber non-skid tip to prevent slipping. Handle options are curved, rounded or gripped and it’s important to try out different types to see what feels the most comfortable.

Things to Look for in a Walker

Most walkers are made from aluminum to ensure they are light weight. There are generally three types of walkers:

  1. Standard, pick-up walkers.
  2. Walkers with wheels on the front and feet on the back (the feet should have rubber, non-slip tips).
  3. Rolling walkers, which have 4-wheels, hand-brakes and come with or without a seat/basket attachment.

Most seniors find that the rolling walkers with the seat/basket option make the most sense. Not only do they provide support, but the built-in seat provides a place to rest comfortably on a longer walk or while cooking or cleaning. The basket allows seniors to get the mail, carry a purse, or pick a few things up from a nearby store without having to carry the bags.

A proper fit is important for an elderly person’s ergonomic health, safety and comfort. Your healthcare provider can help you order the right size and ensure a proper fit.

 

What is Sitting Disease?

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Technological innovations have created a world where humans can sit much more than we stand, walk or move, leading to a new health condition called Sitting Disease.Headlines reading “Do You Have Sitting Disease?“, “Sitting Disease is Killing Us,” and “Sitting Disease: The New Health Epidemic” abound on websites and publications dedicated to health. The term “sitting disease” is actually coined by the scientific and health communities as a way of summing up the leading cause of other major health concerns in the late-20th and 21st centuries.

Sedentary lifestyles are responsible for a range of other diseases, including heart disease and high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even some hormonal imbalances.

Stand Up & Get Moving: Seniors Are Prone to Sitting Disease

According to Mayo Clinic, researchers analyzed data compiled by National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. This data was taken from more than 5000 individuals and the results revealed rather startling information:

  • The large majority of American adults (up to 70%) sit for more than six hours per day.
  • About 20% to 35% of people watch four or more hours per day.
  • Sitting is actually shortening American life expectancy.

That last fact is rather startling, isn’t it?

The researchers found that cutting one’s “sitting time” down to less than three hours a day increases life expectancy by as much as two years.

Reducing TV time to less than two hours per day increases life expectancy by about 1.4 years.

What Can Seniors Do if They Lead a Sedentary Lifestyle?

So, how can you actively reduce the amount of time you sit down each day? There are several, simple things you can do to get up, get your body moving and make changes to a sedentary lifestyle.

  1. Get a standing work station. If you still work at a desk job or spend a lot of time in front of the computer, purchase a work station with a standing option. Standing while working enhances posture at the same time that it increases blood flow, tones muscles, increases metabolism and burns extra calories.
  2. Make time to exercise. Exercising for 30-minutes a day, even something as simple as taking a walk to the mailboxes, working in the garden or riding an exercise bike makes a big difference. If you can, increase that time by an extra five or 10 minutes. Experts say that even 30-minutes of exercise may not be enough anymore to counteract the effects of sitting eight or more hours each day.
  3. Get a stationary bike. Stationary exercise bikes are sold left and right at garage sales and on websites like craigslist.com. Take advantage of these great deals and get yourself a low-profile stationary bike for your living room. Try riding it while you watch one of your favorite programs. Or, hop on the bike during commercials and for every hour you watch television you can enjoy approximately 15-20 minutes of exercise without leaving the room!
  4. Talk and walk. Do you have a regimen of friends and family you talk to on the phone? Try standing up and moving around while you talk. Use a cordless phone and do laps around your house while you catch up, or do some gentle stretching exercises.
  5. Sign up for an exercise class. The more active you are, the more likely you are to remain active. Sign up for a senior exercise class to ensure you move your body at least a few times a week. Yoga, water exercise, senior aerobics or Tai Chi are all great options.

Life is too precious to shorten it a single minute. Get up and get moving!

 

Gardening Safely with the Elderly

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Gardening is one of the healthiest and most gratifying activities seniors can participate in. With one simple activity, seniors can check off a whole list of “goals for health and well-being.” When seniors garden they:

  • Spend time outdoors, appreciating and working with nature.
  • Get a healthy dose of exercise.
  • Feel productive and are able to witness the fruits of their labors (literally!).
  • Can eat fresh fruits and vegetables year-round if the garden is designed appropriately.
  • Have the opportunity to be more social with other community gardeners.

Gardening is a favorite hobby for many. However, it can be especially important for those who may have lost their ability to participate in other hobbies, like sports, woodworking or playing an instrument – all of which can require a level of physical activity level or dexterity that is no longer possible.

A love of gardening can be cultivated by all, but the key is to provide a safe and comfortable garden that the elderly can navigate easily – and this can be done with just a few modifications.

Tips For Creating an Accessible Garden For Seniors

The following tips can help you design an accessible garden that makes it easy for seniors to get outside and work a little bit each day.

Raise the beds. One of the most prohibitive features of most gardens or landscapes is that they are located on the ground. The older we get, the more difficult it is to kneel, or get back up, from a seated or kneeling position. Bending over is also more difficult and can alter a senior’s sense of balance, making him or her more prone to falling. Raised garden beds are a simple solution.

Build garden beds that are comfortable to work in from a wheelchair or stool. The beds should also be narrow enough that adults can comfortably reach past the mid-point of the bed so they don’t have to strain to access plants (or weeds) growing in the middle.

Add vertical trellises. Build vertical trellises for climbing plants so seniors can work at seated or standing level to harvest things like beans, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, peas and other climbing vegetables.

Use accessible paths. In order to prevent falls, and to accommodate seniors who use mobility aids, pathways should be wide, flat and made from a hard, water-permeable surface. If you are designing raised beds in rows, the space between the beds should be wide enough for two seniors to pass by one another without complicated maneuvers.

Implement long handles and wands. Look for things like extended watering wands, tools with long and/or curved handles and comfortable-grip handles make it much easier for seniors to attend to their garden tasks.

Provide plenty of shade. Most vegetables love a hearty dose of sun, however seniors are particularly prone to sunburn, heat illness and dehydration. Make sure there are plenty of shaded areas where seniors can rest out of the sun, provide wide-brimmed hats and gardening gloves. During the hottest times of the year, advise seniors to wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothing and keep gardening hours to the earlier and later parts of the day when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong.

Ask for input on what to grow. Make sure your garden offers a wide array of colors, scents and flavors to keep things more interesting for the gardeners. Ask seniors for their input so they can grow fruits, vegetables and herbs they want to eat and that represent a variety of different food cultures.

For more information about starting a senior-friendly garden, read this PDF titled, Elder Accessible Gardening, published by the EPA.

Staying Cool and Hydrated

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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

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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

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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.