How COPD Affects Aging And What Caregivers Can Do

how copd affects aging and what caregivers can do

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects roughly 11 million people in the United States and is now the third-leading cause of death by disease in this country. In a recent AJMC post (March, 2019), researchers stated, “It could be strongly argued that, due to the production of constant stresses that induce cell damage and eventual senescence, COPD might be directly responsible for accelerating aging, with all in untoward effects, rather than being a consequence of aging.”

This is important information for both patients with COPD and their caregivers to know, allowing care for those with COPD to follow a trajectory that is more closely in alignment with someone older than themselves, in order to provide the best quality of healthcare – and improved quality of life.

In addition to following medical recommendations for respiratory therapy, medication support, routine checkups, and various treatments, attention to diet, exercise, sleep habits, and social-emotional wellbeing can help combat the accelerated aging process associated with COPD.

A Shift From Hospital Care to Homecare Seems Inevitable for Those with COPD

In another study, targeting how to support home care for those with COPD, authors write:

Healthcare systems should support patients with COPD in achieving an optimal quality of life while limiting the costs of care. As a consequence, a shift from hospital care to home care seems inevitable. Therefore, patients will have to rely to a greater extent on informal caregivers. Patients with COPD as well as their informal caregivers are confronted with multiple limitations in activities of daily living. The presence of an informal caregiver is important to provide practical help and emotional support. However, caregivers can be overprotective, which can make patients more dependent. Informal caregiving may lead to symptoms of anxiety, depression, social isolation and a changed relationship with the patient. The caregivers’ subjective burden is a major determinant of the impact of caregiving. Therefore, the caregiver’s perception of the patient’s health is an important factor.

In most cases, informal caregivers (spouse, partner, child, grandchild) are the primary supports for those with COPD, and this dynamic relationship requires a thoughtful and diligent long-term health plan to optimize health and quality of life for the patient, while simultaneously supporting and facilitating strong, healthy relationships between patient and caregiver(s).

Improving Quality of Life and Health

Of course, the primary tenet in caring for someone with COPD is to ensure s/he observes:

  • Routine doctors’ appointments
  • Occupational or physical therapy appointments (including respiratory clinics and exercise classes offered by your local healthcare agencies to support respiratory health)
  • Taking prescription medications as prescribed

However, there are plenty of things you can do at home to promote better physiologic wellbeing, which directly translates to better mental and emotional wellbeing

Focus on an anti-inflammatory diet

Systemic inflammation is a byproduct of COPD, the result of respiratory tract agitation as well as declined respiratory function. Susceptibility to respiratory illnesses takes its toll on the immune system, which can further activate chronic inflammation.

Multiple studies have shown a correlation between specific diets and improved lung function in those with COPD. Diets that seem to have the best impact on preventing COPD, or improving lung/respiratory after a COPD diagnosis are those that emphasize:

  • Lean proteins
  • Lots of fruit and vegetables
  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Potassium-rich foods
  • Healthy fats
  • Minimal intake or elimination of processed foods and sugars

Researchers found anti-inflammatory diet models have multi-fold benefits for those with COPD and their caregivers.

Prevent dehydration (and focus on water)

Dehydration thickens mucus, which taxes the respiratory system. The Lung Institute states, “…drinking enough water can thin mucus and make mucus easier to clear out from the lungs.”By making water the hydration beverage of choice, those with COPD help to wash excess or thickened mucous through the system, rather than having to cough it up and get it out. And, it thins the mucus produced in the lungs and sinuses, making it easier to drain.

Read, Encourage Fluids to Keep Hydrated, for more information.

Keep moving – even if you’re house- or chair-bound

It’s hard to be motivated to exercise when shortness of breath or coughing are attached to physical exertion. Homebound patients with COPD can find ways to keep moving, even when more standard modes of exercise are no longer possible. Visit, Exercises For Homebound Seniors, for ideas on how less mobile seniors can safely exercise.

Provide independent access to activities, outings and social engagement

If COPD forces your spouse, parent or family member into early retirement, or requires a retirement from formerly-favorite activities, do all you can to support independence on your end. From creating more accessible living spaces that optimize safe mobility to setting up driving services or transportation options so your loved one can get around – the more engaged and active the person is in their own right, the better mental and emotional outlook they’ll have.

Respite Care is Key For Spouse and Family Caregivers

Finally, it’s essential that you create a respite care plan so your relationship as a caregiver doesn’t negatively impact your personal relationship. Get friends and family involved as much as possible. Don’t forget that respite care is also available from professional home care agencies, allowing you a day or two off per week – or a few hours off each day – so everyone gets the much-needed breaks they deserve.

HomeAide Home Care, Inc. is a licensed and experienced home care provider here in Alameda and the greater Bay Area. We have decades of experience supporting a positive and sustainable homecare plan for clients with COPD and their families. Contact Us to learn more.

Reducing Anger In Those With Dementia

reducing anger in those with dementia

Reducing anger can quickly become the number one issue for caregivers because while some individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia remain content and amiable for the rest of their lives, others can seem as if they’ve experienced a personality transplant. After short-term memory loss, excessive anger, frustration, and even violence may be some of the most notable signs or symptoms of dementia. And, emotional outbursts may exacerbate over time. This is heartbreaking for spouses, family members and loved ones, as well as their immediate caregivers.

5 Tips For Reducing Anger & Aggression In Those With Dementia

Reducing anger and aggressive episode in those with dementia improves quality of life for the patient, as well as those who love them and are involved in their care plan. In cases where anger results in more serious aggression or violence, it is essential for the safety and wellbeing of all involved that you find a way to provide safe, 24-hour care.

Try to identify the root cause

Sometimes, it’s not dementia that causes the anger, but the inability to verbalize other triggers or factors. Knowing some of the most common triggers can help identify them – or avoid them –reducing anger as well as the frequency and intensity of angry episodes.

Some of the most common triggers leading to an angry outburst include:

Identifying and addressing these issues can go a long way towards soothing your loved one.

Remain as calm and compassionate as possible

Not easy to do, this tip is one of the most important. Your calm, slow and reassuring voice, gestures and actions (moving them to a quieter space, turning down loud volume controls, dimming the lights, etc.) de-escalate the situation. If you are unable to do this, take some deep slow breaths, or a time out (assuming the patient is safe/secure where s/she’s at), and see if someone else can relieve you for a bit.

Re-think your relationship

Often, caregivers do a great job of soothing – or not triggering – their clients. This is because they meet the individual where they are, and form a relationship accordingly. This is quite different from the experience of a spouse, child, grandchild, etc. In your case, you knew your loved one as they were, and the person you knew may no longer be actively present as often (or ever).

One of the best things you can do for yourself and a loved one with your loved one is to meet him/her where s/he’s at at the moment. This frees them from the stress of “do you remember…” or your own hurt/anger if you aren’t recognized – even as that may vacillate from one day to the next.

Read our post, Connecting With and Caring For a Loved One With Dementia for heartfelt recommendations on how to create new pathways of acceptance and connection.

Seek support when reducing anger is a necessity

For some, this may involve the help of a professional therapist who can listen to you vent in a neutral space, and who can provide tailored recommendations to “arm your toolkit,” as you learn how to manage both the one who is venting their anger, along with your own complex web of emotions – including stress, frustration, anger, and even grief.

We also recommend joining an Alzheimer’s/dementia support group. In addition to commiserating (as well as laughing, crying and celebrating) with those who can personally identify with your experience, these groups offer invaluable advice and recommendations.

Prioritize Safety

It’s easy to prioritize your loved one’s wellbeing and ability to remain at home at the expense of everyone’s safety. However, this doesn’t do anyone any favors. Safety for the one you love or care for – as well as your own safety – must always come first.

Have a list at the ready of “first-responders,” who are willing to come at a moment’s notice if needed. If physical safety is at risk, call 9-1-1, and let the dispatcher(s) know that the individual has dementia and is acting aggressively. They will alert the professional first-responders, who are trained in how to de-escalate these situations with the least amount of threat or harm.

We Can Help You With Reducing Anger

Are you having a hard time managing the care required for your loved one with dementia as a result of his/her anger, aggression or violence? Contact us here at HomeAide Home Care online, or give us a call at 510-247-1200. We have decades of experience providing compassionate care for memory care patients.

Reminiscence Therapy And Dementia

reminiscence therapy and dementia

There are no words to describe the grief, the worry, the frustration and – yes – even anger as loved ones seem to fade away into the land of dementia. The increasing success of reminiscence therapy, however, may help to ease the way as you navigate smoother ground for more connected relationships with your spouse, parents, grandparents and other senior loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Finding them good care to ensure their day-to-day needs are taken care of helps to alleviate much of the worry, but it’s nearly impossible for loved ones to avoid feelings of loss and sadness as dementia takes a stronger hold. Fortunately, reminiscence therapy introduces a way to keep their personal spark alive.

We also recommend reading, Connecting With and Caring For Those With Dementia, for more tips on how to emotionally connect with individuals in the mid- to later stages of the disease.

Keeping the past alive helps loved ones in the present

It becomes clear very quickly that as dementia and dementia-related diseases (Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body dementia, advanced Parkinson’s, a stroke or repeat TIAs, etc.) that the present and recent past fade away – while past memories and recollections can remain quite strongly anchored in the mind.

This is the foundation that reminiscence therapy is built upon; encouraging seniors to look at photographs, tells stories, listen to music, watch movies from their past and spark recollections from their history supports cognitive and emotional well-being in the present.

What is Reminiscence Therapy (RT)

Reminiscence therapy (RT) is often used in memory care centers or in group home settings specializing in memory care. In a therapy setting, this type of work usually takes place in chronological order, helping a senior with dementia piece together their life from the start to the present – using sensory stimulating cues. Activities, such as special movie nights or dances with period music may be utilized. Often, visual and/or textile arts and crafts, recorded narratives or voice-to-text apps can be implemented to document a senior’s history and create some type of “Life Book” or a memoir of sorts.

However, varying versions of RT can also take place right at home, used individually with the ones you love, or in family settings. In fact, family settings are some of the best mediums for this type of activity because it helps those with dementia remain part of the event in a more positive and connected way – making them feel important, needed and loved.

Typically, RT starts with a physical, visual or sensory-specific stimulus, such as photographs (pull out those old albums!), a verbal prompt (What’s one of your favorite stories from your childhood?) or even a piece of music (invest in CDs or MP3 files of their favorite music). Perhaps it involves a stroll through your own garden, or a local botanical garden, smelling the roses and enjoying the scenery – seeing if it sparks memories of past events or situations.

Ultimately, the idea is to use small prompts that engage the historical memory archives of the mind, helping the individual with dementia feel more confident and secure. However, there are multiple benefits to making RT a part of your life with your loved one.

There Are Numerous Benefits of RT

In addition to feeling more confident in themselves, and connected to the ones they love, RT can also:

  • Improve their ability to communicate
  • Help to slow down or improve signs of aphasia, giving seniors their voice back
  • Stimulate brain pathways, stirring up more memories that may not have been shared otherwise
  • Give seniors the time and space to talk about things that are meaningful to them
  • Alleviate symptoms of depression, loneliness and/or social withdrawal
  • Make spending time with loved ones more comfortable and pleasurable for everyone present
  • Preserve priceless and unique stories and memories for future generations

While reminiscence therapy may be designed largely for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, you can feel how beneficial these same strategies are for cultivating deeper and more satisfying connections with any of the seniors in your life.

Simple Prompts to Begin Using Reminiscence Therapy at Home

Here are ideas for using simple prompts or sensory stimulation to use elements of RT at home or when you visit your loved one in an assisted living or memory care center.

BONUS TIP: Be aware of your own discomfort with silence. Do you tend to feel anxious or nervous and rush your loved one along? Instead, take deep breaths and give him/her time to recollect, put their thoughts together and then give words to those thoughts. Patience is, truly, a virtue when connecting with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.

  • Get out the photo albums or boxes of old photos and start looking through them together
  • Ask about a favorite movie and then stream/watch them together and then discuss them
  • Talk about the cost of items now compared to “then,” “I bought a gallon of mild today for $X.00. How much was milk when you were growing up…?” and you’ll be delighted to hear stories of fresh cold milk from the milkman…and other surprising tidbits.
  • Find a knick-knack or two from the shelves and ask about it (the longer you’ve seen it around their home, the more likely they are to remember where it came from)
  • Ask, “Where were you when….” (Neil Armstrong landed on the moon? When Kennedy gave his Cuban Missile Crisis speech? When you got your first TV? When Kennedy was assassinated? When you learned to drive a car? When you had your first kiss?)
  • Ask about past travels or places s/he wishes s/he’d traveled

Verbal memory prompts can also be helpful when you live far away from your senior loved one and can only connect via phone or Skype. In these cases, licensed home care aides help you by providing knick-knacks or images to support your long-distance connection.

Ready to enlist the support of experienced, licensed and compassionate caregivers who believe firmly in utilizing the latest dementia research to enhance their clients’ quality of life? Schedule a consultation with HomeAide Home Care, or give us a call at 510-247-1200.

Guns And Dementia: Keeping Seniors Safe

guns and dementia keeping seniors safe

Typically, senior safety concerns around dementia include things like taking away the keys, making a home safer and more accessible and ensuring qualified adults are keeping a caring watch 24/7.

However, a recent NPR feature reminds us there’s another safety issue to consider – guns and dementia.

Does your senior loved one own a gun?

According to NPR, researchers estimate that more than half of seniors 65-years and older either own a gun, or live in a home with a gun. Over the next 20 years, the Alzheimer’s Association expects about 14 million of those seniors to have a dementia diagnosis.

Those with dementia are more prone to firing a gun because:

  • They become angry, violent or more agitated quickly
  • They can mistake loved ones as strangers and “defend” the house
  • They may not really be aware of what they’re doing an accidentally fire a gun they’re cleaning, holding or trying to handle responsibly
  • They may use a gun as a toy and accidentally fire it

Guns and dementia safety tips

It’s critical that families and caregivers prioritize gun safety and the safety of everyone involved.

Consider removing guns completely

The best and most guaranteed method for preventing gun violence is to remove the guns from the home completely. Have a conversation with the family first. If it feels like your senior loved one will notice the absence of the gun/s and be upset, then you’ll need to have a conversation with him/her as well.

If the family supports removing the gun, or a trusted authority feels clear it’s a safety issue, but your loved one is completely opposed, you may need to remove the firearms against his/her will. Experts recommend this is done when s/he is out of the home to make it as easy and safe as possible.

Understand that locking or disabling a gun(s) may not work

According to the Alzheimer’s Association:

“People living with dementia sometimes misperceive danger and may do whatever seems necessary to protect themselves, even if no threat exists. These actions can include breaking into gun cabinets, finding ammunition and loading guns. Preventing a gun from firing may not prevent the person living with the disease or others from being harmed.”

You must take notable safety measures if you choose to live in a home where there are guns and dementia, Alzheimer’s or other conditions causing cognitive decline.

Use a high-quality combination lock on cabinet or safe

If getting rid of the guns isn’t an option, use a gun cabinet or safe that requires a combination lock. If one is already in use, change the combination and only give it to those who understand the risk, are familiar with guns and gun safety and who promise they will not ever allow the individual with dementia to access the cabinet or the guns.

Speak about who inherits what now – and pass them on

If the guns weren’t included specifically in a will or trust, this can be a good opportunity to determine who will inherit what from the gun/firearms collection and pass them on now. If your loved one is still doing well, this can be a very special way to honor the collection and those who receive it, and it can make the transition easier on your loved one.

Enlist the help of law enforcement

If your loved one was the gun expert, and nobody else is familiar with guns and gun safety, enlist the help of local safety officers to unload the cabinet, ensure the guns aren’t loaded, to lock/disarm them, dispose of ammunition, etc., so nobody is harmed in the process.

Familiarize yourself with local/state gun laws

If nobody wants the guns, enlist help from a hunting friend or someone knowledgeable about guns and firearms before selling or giving them away to ensure you do so in compliance with the law.

Honor their feelings about having to say goodbye

For someone who values their guns and the role they’ve played in the person’s life, getting rid of them is another major loss of self and independence. These are valid feelings and they deserve to be honored and spoken to. It’s important to address this understandable anger or grief, and then work to re-direct the feelings in a positive and productive way because ultimately guns and dementia don’t mix.

HomeAide Home Care has provided licensed and expert care for seniors since 1998. In the past two decades, we have provided compassionate assistance to individuals, couples and families around the Bay Area. Our companion and in-home services can help keep your senior loved one safe and sound in the comfort of his/her home. Contact us to learn more.

Pets For Seniors: How About A Low-Maintenance Fish?

pets for seniors how about a low maintenance fish

Multiple studies show that seniors benefit from pet ownership. However, owning a pet isn’t always that easy – and it can even be dangerous.

The most common pets for seniors – dogs and cats – require daily brushing and feeding, not to mention regular exercise, and senior pet owners may not be able to accommodate those needs. Plus, dogs and cats also pose trip and fall hazards for their senior owners, meaning the pet winds up doing more home than good.

The solution? Consider getting a pet fish!

Fish that can live in a bowl or very small tank

There are a range of fish that do quite well living in a fish bowl or very small tank. These include:

  • Bettas. Bettas (also called Japanese fighting fish) are beautiful, small and have flowing tails. They’re available in variety of colors but remember to keep them solo as they will fight their bowl companion to the death. Bettas are very clean so water changes and bowl cleaning is required less often.
  • Goldfish. These are America’s most common pet fish – and fancy tailed goldfish are the most attractive variety. They can live in groups but you want to make sure the bowl is large enough for the number of fish you’ve purchased. Be aware that goldfish are messy eaters and their water gets cloudy quickly so these aren’t a great option unless the senior, a family member or a caregiver clean the bowl regularly.
  • Guppies. Wild-type guppies are about as hearty as it gets – being known to thrive in minimal amounts of water (although a full bowl is optimal). They come in diverse color varieties – including metallic colors – and are happiest with company. Just make sure you purchase the same sex or else you’ll have guppy babies before too long.

Other fish that do well in bowls or small aquariums include:

  • Regal white cloud minnows
  • Blind cave tetras
  • Salt and Pepper Corydoras
  • Zebra danios

Taking your senior loved one to the pet store is a fun outing, and you’ll enjoy looking at the array of freshwater fish available – as well as the store employees’ professional opinions and input.

Fish are low-maintenance pets for seniors

Often overlooked, and undervalued, fish make wonderful pets. The average, bowl- or tank-housed fish never needs to be exercised and only requires feeding once a day (in most cases). They often come right up to the bowl or tank sides when an owner approaches or talks to them (more on that later) and fish are less likely to argue or disobey their owners than most furry critters.

Here are some of the reason why low-maintenance fish make great pets for seniors:

They’re affordable pets for seniors

The total set-up costs for a bowl or very small tank, some rocks, the food and a fish or two is less than $50. A single container of fish food lasts for months, and the rocks and bowl never need to be replaced. Thus, fish are the cheapest pets around, making them affordable for seniors no matter how small their fixed income may be.

Fish don’t trip you or cause you to fall

Fall-related accidents are devastating for seniors – often leading to broken bones, hip replacements, costly hospital stays and traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately, dogs and cats (particularly small dogs) pose a significant tripping risks because they can get underfoot and cause seniors to lose their balance.

If you’re concerned about fall hazards and are working to create a senior-friendly home, pet fish are the perfect pets for seniors and will fit right into your plan.

Feeding requirements are basic (even for those with dementia)

Even seniors with memory issues can enjoy the company of a fish because most pet stores have “vacation feeding” options available. If the senior isn’t able to feed the fish once a day on their own – and there’s no in-home care provider available – vacation feeding tablets can be placed in the tank once a week, bi-monthly or once per month.

Fish are smarter than they get credit for

Odds are your senior loved one will be surprised how much pleasure s/he derives from the new pet fish. Fish are smarter than humans give them credit for. As this article on PetMD points out, “…fish actually have very good memories. Even the most basic fish tank inhabitants will start to show anticipation of meals on a regular basis.” Studies also show that pet fish can learn to complete mazes for food and can be trained to respond to a bell or a signal.

Other animals that can live in a small bowl or tank include certain species of freshwater snails, shrimp and African dwarf frogs.

Does your senior loved one need assistance with pet care or basic daily activities? Contact HomeAide Home Care and schedule a free, in-home assessment. We’ve provided high-quality, part- and full-time senior care services for hundreds of families around the Bay Area.

Medication Reminders Are Lifesavers For Seniors With Dementia

medication reminders are lifesavers for seniors with dementia

Worrying about a loved one with dementia often revolves around some of the bigger picture items; are they safe to live at home alone? Should they be driving? Are they eating, bathing and sleeping well? However, medications are one of the first things to fall by the wayside when seniors begin experiencing memory loss.

Even very competent seniors struggle to remember what to take when/if there are more than two or three medications needed per day, so you can imagine what it’s like for a senior required to take all that or more in the wake of a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Medication Reminders For Seniors With Dementia

Here are some creative ways to ensure seniors take their medications as prescribed each and every day.

Set up clear lines of communication with their doctor

Unless you live close by, it isn’t easy to assess how well your loved ones are managing daily life or how much help they may actually need (Read, 7 Signs Your Loved One Requires Additional Help). That’s why it’s so important to develop a rapport with their primary caregiver and specialists (if possible) before their memory loss progresses. Online healthcare portals and messaging make this easy – even from a distance.

Being in touch with the doctor will give you a better idea of which level of medication reminder is required from one month to the next.

Provide visual cues and reminders

In the beginning, seniors with dementia may be highly-functional with a little extra support. Organize pills in trays, cups, mediset or whatever makes sense and then leave notes in obvious places or set alarms on their smartphone or gadgets.

This method isn’t permanent, but it will work in the beginning stages of memory loss as you and other family members work with them to provide a long-term care plan. You’ll also need to enlist someone else to check in regularly and make sure the system is working – whether that be a trusted neighbor, friend or weekly home care aide.

Set up a phone tree (Skype and Facetime are helpful too)

When you’re afraid that visual cues and reminders may not be enough, set up a phone tree. Each day, a different member of the family can check in and chat on the phone while the senior takes his/her meds. Spread out over the web of caring family and friends – people may find they’re only “on call” a few days each month. Using Skype, Facetime or other video call software can be better than the phone since you can see that they’re taking their right meds. Plus, they make for more personal connections and allow you to gain more visual cues about how the senior is going in terms of physical and mental well-being.

Eliminate unnecessary medications and/or supplements

This is a good time to schedule an appointment with your loved one’s primary physician and review all the meds and supplements taken each day. With progressive memory loss on the horizon, the doctor may feel comfortable eliminating some or decreasing doses for others to make it easier for the senior to take fewer pills, only once or twice a day.

Meal services or homecare-based meal preparation, focusing on nutritious ingredients, diminishes the need for nutritional supplements.

Use a physical wall calendar

Short-term memory is tricky so seniors may have a hard time remembering if they took their pills in the morning or only in the evening. Create a calendar system located right where the medications are stored/sorted and have seniors check off the calendar with a pen as they take their meds (divide days in half if there are two separate doses). This makes it easier for seniors to keep track of whether they took a particular dose or not.

Enlist the help of a home care provider

Homecare providers specialize in medication reminders. Having a licensed caregiver check in each day yields multiple benefits. While medication reminders may be the initial need, establishing a caring and trusting relationship between two or three aides means it’s easier to augment your loved one’s memory care as needed down the road when housekeeping, driving, and errand running, meal preparation, basic grooming, and hygiene needs, need to be addressed.

Are you worried your loved one isn’t taking his or her medications as needed? Schedule a free, in-home assessment with the experienced homecare team at HomeAide Home Care. We have decades of experience taking care of senior loved ones in and around the Bay Area. In addition to providing medication reminders and regular wellness checks, we can also help you establish a long-term care plan.

Preventing UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) In Seniors

preventing utis urinary tract infections in seniors

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are painful and can morph into more serious kidney infections if they aren’t caught and treated in time. However, in the senior population, UTIs are even more serious because they can be atypical in how they show up and can even cause dementia-like symptoms that lead to false diagnosis and unnecessary treatment plans.

Preventing UTIs through hydration, proper diet and close attention to how symptoms differ for older adults can make a big difference in the life of both seniors and their caregivers and families.

Preventing UTIs With Hydration, Hygiene And Easy Bathroom Access

Preventing a UTI is quite simple in most cases and requires just three simple steps:

Keep seniors hydrated with plenty of water and other fluids

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the presence of bacteria in the urine doesn’t necessarily indicate a severe UTI or the use of antibiotics. In fact, the presence of elevated bacteria levels, “…occurs in about 6 to 16 percent of women over age 65, 20 percent of women over age 80, and 25 to 50 percent of women living in nursing facilities.”

This last statistic is an important one. If your loved one lives in an assisted living facility, it’s easier for subtle UTI symptoms to be missed. Providing them with a companion or caregiver from a home care agency means they receive more personalized and attentive care.

Should a loved one test positive for elevated bacteria levels, without additional signs of a UTI (fever of 100.5 or more, worsening urinary frequency or urgency, pain with urination, tenderness in the lower abdomen above the pubic bone), speak to the doctor about increasing hydration for a bit and then retesting. When seniors are dehydrated, their bladder and urinary tract can’t flush bacteria out of the system. Drinking more water and fluids consistently for a few days – and developing healthy hydration habits – will help to support a healthy urinary tract.

Maintain healthy hygiene habits, particularly with toileting

Hygiene is so important for human health, yet it’s one of the first things to “slip” as we age, particularly if mobility and/or cognitive decline is an issue. If bodies aren’t regularly cleaned, clothes and bedding aren’t routinely laundered and changed, the urinary tract is inundated with higher levels of bacteria. Combined with a weakened immune system, dehydration and/or malnourishment and you have a recipe for a urinary tract infection.

If seniors are incontinent and relying on adult underwear and/or others to change and cleanse them, they have an even higher risk of developing a UTI. Proper toileting care is critical, particularly around the rectal area and urethra in women since improper wiping or cleansing will introduce bacteria from fecal matter into the urethra.

Proper toileting care for preventing UTIs includes:

  • Wiping from front to back, beginning at the urethra and moving back towards the anus.
  • Properly cleansing the perennial area with a mild solution designed specifically for that purpose.
  • Using a clean section of cloth (by folding it over in sections) for each wipe.
  • Checking adult diapers or briefs at least every 2-hours and never sitting for longer than necessary in soiled or dirty adult diapers for any length of time.
  • Wearing a fresh pair of underwear each day, or a fresh adult diaper at all times.

For many seniors, particularly those with cognitive or mobility issues, or for whom it’s difficult to get to the store for fresh adult diapers, assistance is a must when it comes to safe toileting and maintaining healthy hygiene habits on a daily basis.

Never make a senior wait if s/he has to go to the bathroom

The urge to go to the bathroom should be greeted with immediate and easy action to a bathroom facility or bedpan whenever possible. The longer senior women have to wait to go to the bathroom, the more likely they are to develop a UTI. Not only does it give bacteria more chance to increase in population, but it also creates bladder and urethral irritation that weakens the urinary tract. Having to wait to use a restroom also puts seniors at higher risk for sitting in soiled clothing or underwear, elevating their risk of infection.

Taking these basic precautions can go a long way towards preventing UTIs (urinary tract infections) in seniors, particularly senior women, and improving their health and well-being.

Let Us Help

Have a senior loved one who’s struggling to take care of him/herself, doing the laundry or getting to the store on a regular basis? Schedule a free, in-home consultation with HomeAide Home Care. We’ve provided a range of senior-friendly services and in-home caregiving for more than a decade.

TIA And What It Means For Seniors

tia and what it means for seniors

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is the medical term for what non-medical personnel refer to as “mini-strokes.” They are dubbed “mini” because the symptoms – and often the outcomes – are not nearly as debilitating as those of a full-blown stroke, but don’t let that fool you. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), TIAs are often precursors to more TIAs (which can have increasingly debilitating effects) and full strokes, so they require full medical attention, treatment, and follow-up.

Furthermore, the correlation between TIAs and dementia, as well as heart disease are worth noting so seniors and their loved ones can make diet and lifestyle changes that positively impact the patient’s life.

Symptoms of a TIA

Just like a stroke, TIAs occur when blood flow is restricted to the brain, the result of a blood clot or blockage. Unlike a full stroke, however, a single TIA rarely results in permanent damage or disability. The symptoms or notable effects of the TIA depend on its severity and where in the brain it takes place.

Roughly one-third of patients who experience TIA had noticeable symptoms, other find out they had TIAs without realizing it when medical testing is required to address resulting health issues.

The most common symptoms of a transient ischemic attack last anywhere from one to five minutes and include:

  • Difficulty speaking (aphasia)
  • Inability to remember words or how to articulate sentences
  • Balance issues
  • Vision changes
  • Severe headache
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • An abnormal sense of taste and/or smell
  • Numbness or weakness on the right OR left side of the face (depending on which side of the brain the blockage occurs)

As we mentioned above, TIA symptoms often last only one to five minutes, however, they can also last as long as 24-hours. Experiencing any of the above symptoms should prompt an immediate call to 9-1-1. DO NOT transport yourself to the doctor or hospital as another TIA or stroke could render you incapable of driving while you’re behind the wheel. That’s not safe for you, and it’s not safe for others on the road.

Risk factors for TIAs

Due to the similarity between TIAs and strokes, the risk factors for TIAs are almost identical to those associated with strokes. These include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries in or around the brain as the result of plaque)
  • Carotid artery disease (blockage in the main artery leading to the brain via the neck)
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking

The simple act of eating a heart-healthy diet and getting regular exercise, in addition to getting regular check-ups, are all powerful preventative measures in avoiding both TIAs and strokes.

There is a big connection between transient ischemic attacks and dementia

Recent research indicates a strong correlation between TIAs and vascular dementia. According to Healthline:

In a 2012 study, one researcher reviewed nine studies on dementia in people who’ve had a stroke. In total, the study looked at 5,514 people with pre- or post-stroke dementia. The study found that rates of post-stroke dementia were between 9.6 and 14.4 percent in people who’ve had one stroke. This rate increased to 29.6 to 53.1 percent in people with recurrent stroke.

Interestingly, seniors over the age of 65 who have a high risk of stroke (typically the result of the risk factors listed above) also have a high risk of developing dementia. Ultimately, the brain requires healthy circulation and oxygen flow to perform well, particularly as it ages.

Is there a cure or treatment for TIAs?

While a TIA can’t be reversed, once diagnosed the treatment relies on lifestyle changes and medications that help with optimizing blood flow to the brain. Some of the most common medications include:

  • Antiplatelet drugs (blood thinners) ranging from over-the-counter aspirin to prescription meds
  • Anticoagulants, like Coumadin, Xarelto or Eliquis

Medical procedures

In more severe cases, doctors may recommend a medical procedure such as a minimally carotid intervention that opens up blocked/constricted arteries, or a more invasive surgery called a carotid endarterectomy. For that procedure, the doctor removes fatty deposits and fats from the arterial walls.

Lifestyle changes

In addition to diet and exercise, additional lifestyle changes can help to prevent first-time or repeat TIAs. For example:

  • Quit smoking
  • Have your doctor review all medications to improve control over other existing health issues
  • Get better sleep
  • Improve your stress management skills

Have TIAs made it more difficult for you or a loved one to live independently or enjoy a high-quality life? Schedule a consultation with HomeAide Home Care and learn more about your options. We provide a range of senior supports, from meal preparation and companion services to driving support, errand running and even full-time home care assistance.

Seniors Should Have Fun In The Sun…Safely

seniors should have fun in the sun safely

As seniors age, lifestyles can become more sedentary and this isn’t good for the body or the brain. Getting outside and having fun in the sun is a healthy way for seniors to be active, enjoy natural daylighting to keep their circadian rhythm in sync, and to get a natural dose of vitamin D.

5 Safety Tips To Enjoy Outdoor Life With Senior Loved Ones

That being said, a few safety tips are worth noting to prevent heat stress, sunburn, dehydration and other scenarios that take the fun right out of the sun if you’re not careful.

Keep indoors during peak sun time

The UV rays are strongest between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. In general, it’s best to be outdoors before or after those hours to minimize the risk of sunburn or heat-related illness. If your area tends to be hotter in the later afternoon, it’s worth it to stay indoors until things cool off a bit.

If it’s too difficult to get outside during heatwaves, open the blinds and shades a bit to fill living spaces with natural light (important for keeping circadian rhythms in sync and to improve nighttime sleep habits) and create an indoor exercise routine that recreates the same level of physical activity would have experienced if you were outdoors.

Use sun protection

When you do spend time outside, try to avoid direct sunlight as much as possible. It only takes about 10 minutes or so of direct natural sunlight to catalyze Vitamin D synthesis. This is easy to achieve – even in dappled shade. So, as much as possible – use sun protection in the form of:

  • Avoiding peak sun hours
  • Hats
  • Full-coverage sunglasses to protect the eyes
  • Loose, light-colored, light-material long-sleeve shirts and pants
  • Sunscreen (being careful to avoid allergic reactions on seniors’ sensitive skin)
  • Keeping mostly to covered and shaded area

Sun protection minimizes the chances of heatstroke and also reduces the risk of dehydration so you are able to have fun in the sun.

Bring plenty of water or other chilled beverages

Seniors are particularly prone to dehydration for multiple reasons, including medication side effects as well as decreased thirst signaling from the brain. Bring plenty of cool water (including a slice of lemon, cucumber and/or mint makes it more appealing) or another favorite, chilled beverage to have on hand. Encourage occasional sips to prevent the risk of dehydration. Read our post, Encouraging Fluids… for tips on that topic.

Keep a first-aid kit handy

Our skin becomes thin once we’re older, and certain prescription medications and health conditions also contribute to thinning or more sensitive skin. As a result, seniors are particularly prone to cuts, scrapes, and bruises from direct contact objects that wouldn’t have any negative effect on you or a younger caregiver or companion.

Even a small first-aid kit will ensure you have what you need if an arm scrapes against the side of a fence, or the back of a hand is cut while smelling the neighbor’s roses. Keep a few Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, and a small packet of anti-bacterial ointment in your backpack or small purse. You can purchase small-ready made first-aid kits at most drugstores or online.

Know the signs of heat illness

Seniors are less likely to show signs of heat illness until it’s too late because they are more immune to the symptoms of overheating or may not sweat as profusely. Any sign of heat illness means you should get the senior indoors, in a cool space and assess the situation. If you aren’t sure how severe it is, call 9-1-1 or drive him/her immediately to urgent care for professional medical evaluation.

Signs of heat illness include:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Tiredness or lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps

More severe heat illness leads to:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Lack of sweat
  • Chills

Fun In The Sun Is Possible

Again, avoiding the hottest times of the day, using adequate sun protection and keeping seniors hydrated is the best way to eliminate the risk of heat illness.

Are you afraid your senior loved one spends too much time indoors, and not enough time having fun in the sun? Contact us here at HomeAide Home Care and schedule a free consultation. Our companion and home care aides are happy to come by as little or as much as you like to accompany your loved one outdoors, on walks or to favorite outings – while ensuring they’re kept safe, hydrated and well-nourished.

Encouraging Fluids To Prevent Dehydration

encouraging fluids to prevent dehydration

Prevent dehydration by encouraging fluid intake and finding delicious water-only alternatives is a great way to give a little extra TLC to senior loved ones in your life. Senior dehydration is a common health issue, particularly during the summer months when hotter temperatures lead to more sweating and moisture loss. And heat-related illnesses and fatalities are most likely to occur for those 65-years and older.

Dehydration is also one of the top reasons seniors are admitted to the hospital each year and can contribute to urinary tract infections, which are often asymptomatic in the senior population and can show up with dementia-like symptoms that are worrisome for all involved.

Prevent Dehydration In Seniors

In addition to sedentary lifestyles or conditions like dementia, which trick the body’s natural “thirst” urges, many of the medications taken by seniors compound the issue.

Additional reasons seniors are more prone to dehydration include:

  • The older we get, the ability for our bodies to recognize heat changes diminishes
  • Certain health conditions, including the inability to communicate or incontinence, lead to more severe dehydration
  • Body water content decreases with age
  • Elderly individuals seem to experience diminished thirst, even though they may need even more water than when they were younger
  • Underlying health conditions can make seniors less heat tolerant

The more you can do to get seniors to intake fluids, the better off they will be.

Tips For Getting Seniors To Consume More Fluids

Loved ones and caregivers should use some of the following tips to increase fluid intake and prevent dehydration for their senior loved ones.

Address any existing incontinence issues

Seniors struggling to acknowledge incontinence issues may intentionally avoid drinking in order to avoid embarrassing accidents. Adult disposable underwear/briefs have come a long way in the past couple of decades and can’t be detected underneath clothing. Have a courageous conversation and purchase a few sample products to help your loved one find the adult disposable underwear that is the most comfortable for him/her. The ability to remain confident about toileting makes it possible to drink without fear or embarrassment.

Use a timer app on your smartphone or gadget

Use the timer app on a smartphone or gadget, set to go off at particular intervals during the day – perhaps every 30-minutes to an hour. When the timer goes off, it’s time to sip some water, drink a cup of tea or enjoy a smoothie or a glass of sparkling juice.

NOTE: Smoothies are easy to make (Ensures are good too) and, in addition to providing hydration, they also provide loads of healthy vitamins and minerals for seniors who don’t have an appetite or who eat on the lighter side.

Prevent dehydration with delicious drink options readily available

For some of us, water is manna from heaven when we’re thirsty – but that’s not the case for all. Keep plenty of drink options on hand so you can offer something appealing. And, don’t forget that a wedge of lemon or lime, a slice or two of cucumber, a small chunk of watermelon or a sprig of fresh mint can add a nice pop to a plain glass of ice water.

Other examples include:

  • Sparkling water (both plain and flavored)
  • Flavored Iced Teas (decaffeinated if caffeine is a no-no)
  • Chocolate milk (with fat content selected depending on the senior’s recommended diet)
  • Fresh fruit juice (add sparkling water to make a healthy version of a flavored soda)
  • Sports drinks (use in moderation to minimize sugar intake)

Read, Holiday Inspired Mocktails and Cocktails for more ideas to serve delicious, non-alcoholic drinks that are cool and refreshing.

Do you prefer sweet or savory?

Fluids come in all different forms, not just in a glass but also in fruits and vegetables. Fruit popsicles are so delicious and appealing in the summer months, especially for seniors who take medications known to cause dry mouth or persistent thirst. On the flip side, seniors who prefer savory to sweet may appreciate sipping a cup of broth – veggie, beef or chicken – which also offers protein and nutrients.

Have beverages at the ready

The to-go cup market has made it easier than ever for seniors and their caregivers to have insulated hot and/or cold beverages at the ready. Better yet, with the “sippy cup” and straw options most of these cups utilize, the cups also minimize spills and make it easier for seniors to sip.

Put them around the house – on the nightstand by the bed, on the side table next to a favorite chair or couch spot, on the kitchen table, loaded and ready to go in the fridge, etc. The more accessible the beverages are, the more likely seniors are to sip regularly, without the hassle of needing to get up or prepare anything.

Experiment with temperatures

Finally, sensitivity to cold and hot beverages changes with age. You may find iced beverages are too cold for comfort or that hot beverages need to cool for longer than they used to in order for your loved one to find drinks palatable. Room temperature beverages may now be a preference. Experiment with a variety of beverages at different temperatures (maybe even warming fruit juice a bit!) to see if that makes seniors more eager to drink.

Worried about a senior loved one who lives alone and may not be able to take of him/herself as well as s/he used to? Contact HomeAide Home Care to schedule a free consultation. Even something as simple as a regular check-in from one of our licensed home care aides can ensure your loved one has access to plenty of tasty fluids as well as nourishing foods on hand in order to prevent dehydration.