Guest Post: 10 Tips to Cope with Deprived Sleep for Seniors 

Seniors Wake UpSleep is an essential part of our day. This doesn’t change as we age, despite it sometimes getting more elusive. Rejuvenating sleep really comes down to total sleep time and total deep-sleep stages – both of which can be difficult to obtain for many seniors. For those who have medical disorders, the chances of sleep deprivation increase dramatically. The National Sleep Foundation reported that 24 percent of seniors age 65-84 have at least four medical conditions they are currently being treated for. Of that group of seniors, a whopping 80 percent have reported sleep problems. The unfortunate effect of sleep deprivation with a chronic illness is one can lead to and even exacerbate the other.

Sleep deprivation is also common among seniors who aren’t suffering from other medical ailments. Instead, they can be having a hard time dealing with the effects of aging. Chronic anxiety is not uncommon for the elderly, and I’m sure we’ve all had a few sleepless nights lying awake because of it.

When we are sleep deprived, it has some profound effects both mentally and physically. Mentally, it can cause confusion, distortion of memory, depression, and decreased mental capacity. It also messes with a person’s ability to handle stress in appropriate ways, which can lead to mental disorders as we age. Studies report that people with sleep deprivation or insomnia are 3 times more likely to have a mental disorder. In the elderly, this can impact the severity of dementia and paranoia.

Physically, lack of sleep can also take its toll on a person. Things such as diminished muscle strength and endurance, increased wear and tear on vital organs, heightened sensitivity to pain, disruption of insulin production and sugar metabolism, and even a weakened immune system.

So what can be done for seniors dealing with the effects of sleep deprivation? Most importantly, if you or an aging loved one is suffering from sleep deprivation, contact your doctor or sleep diagnosis professional to get a proper diagnostic done. They will tailor your tips and medical advice directly to your individual needs. In the meantime, we have some sleep tips to help put you on the path to a healthy night’s sleep.

1. Have a regular sleep/wake schedule. Just like when we were young children, getting our body accustomed to when to be awake and when to go asleep can be essential. Find a routine you enjoy and stick with it – even on the weekends.
2. Keep your bedroom sacred. You know the old adage, bedrooms should only be used for the two S’s (sleep and sex). Many people muddy up their function by adding TVs, laptops, cellphones, and other items into the mix. Not only does electronic stimulation take a while to discharge from the brain, but this type of atmosphere makes it hard to sleep. Get rid of anything that is not tailored to the two S’s and start making your bedroom a sanctuary for sleeping.
3. Turn down the thermostat. Many people, especially as we age, have a harder time staying warm. This in turn, means the thermostat goes up. However, when it comes to sleep, keeping cool is ideal and offers the best benefits to healthy, comfortable sleep. Try turning your thermostat down a few degrees at night. If you can stand it, a temperature set between 60-68 degrees is ideal.
4. Eat healthy. Choosing your foods wisely throughout the day is a good way to promote healthy sleep habits, too. Limit your sugar and salt intake, and eat foods high in protein, fiber, and vitamins.
5. No bedtime meals. Make sure you finish any large meals a minimum of 2-3 hours before you go to sleep. Not only will it reduce your chances of uncomfortable things like heartburn, but it will also help ease you into a restful night sleep.
6. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime. None of these items are beneficial to rest and in fact, can have the opposite effect. Limit your consumption and avoid them altogether if you can.
7. Soak your way to rest. Remember the routine for babies and kids to ready them for bed? Well, it works for everyone! Taking a relaxing, hot bath or shower is a good way to sooth your soul and prepare you for sleep.

Lack of Physical Activity is Number One Reason For Falls & Injuries

Fall prevention tips for SeniorFalls are the number one reason that seniors end up in the hospital. Failure to exercise regularly results in poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility. All contribute to falls and the severity of injury due to falls.

Prevention Tips

  • Engage regularly (e.g., every other day for about 15 minutes daily) in exercise designed to increase muscle and bone strength, and to improve balance and flexibility. Many people enjoy walking and swimming.
  • Undertake daily activities in a safe manner, such as reaching and bending properly, taking time to recover balance when rising from a chair or bed, learning the proper way to fall, and learning how to recover after a fall.
  • Wear proper fitting, supportive shoes with low heels or rubber soles.

A few easy changes to your loved one’s daily life can make a big difference.

Guest Post: Information About Age Related Hearing Loss

According to The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), estimates put the US population of hard of hearing people at close to 48 million. Within this group, the biggest are comprise are those over 65, where the likely cause of hearing loss is directly linked to changes due to aging in the body. For this reason, it is described as ‘age related hearing loss’. In this article we will describe how age related hearing loss occurs, its typical symptoms and ways to manage it.

The Hearing

inner-earThe cochlea, one of the main structures of the human inner ear, contains small structures called hair cells. (They have nothing to do with hair, but are so called as they have hair like structures protruding from their tops when viewed under a microscope). Hair cells are found in great numbers within the cochlea; and they are help to transfer information contained within incoming sound to the brain for interpretation. As the body ages, as early as ones forties, the structure and functioning of hair cells can deteriorate. As more and more hair cells are affected, the effects on hearing are more and more noticeable. Hair cells can also be damaged due to prolonged exposure to harmful noise levels; which is a type of hearing loss called ‘noise induced hearing loss’. The body is unable to regrow or repair the hair cells, meaning in that any resultant hearing loss is permanent in there is currently no medical cure.

The Symptoms

Because the rate of hair cell deterioration varies across individuals, not everyone experiences all the common symptoms. Generally speaking, individuals first start to notice that they find it difficult to understand people when they’re in a noisy place. Other symptoms include:

  • Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
  • Feeling that people often mumble
  • Certain sounds seeming overly loud
  • Problems telling apart certain sounds such as “s” or “th”
  • More difficulty understanding people with higher-pitched voices
  • Ringing in the ears

The Risk

It is important to treat hearing loss, beyond the obvious effects it has on quality of life. In recent years several studies have linked the risk of unmanaged hearing loss to the progression of dementia. The studies all discuss the negative impact that social isolation has on an individual’s cognitive ability. This social isolation is very commonly experienced by older people with hearing loss. Additionally, they point out the additional stress that the brain is under when hearing loss is left unmanaged.

Management Options

hearing-test-resultAny management plan for hearing loss should begin by having a hearing test. These are available and in many cases for free, on the high street at any reputable hearing center. An individual’s hearing levels are measured and compared against normal hearing. If hearing loss is present, the audiologist will further investigate the cause(s). Management of hearing loss aims to reduce the impact on day-to-day activity. It will include the following:

Self-Help – Tell people you have hearing loss so they are more aware of why you may ask for repetition. You may also find it useful to sit closer to the speaker or sound source.

Hearing Aids – These devices provide additional amplification to the ear. They aim to compensate for the lost functioning of the hair cells and make the most of residual hearing ability. These days, hearing aids use mostly digital sound processing and are fitted either behind the ear or inside the ear canal. You may also come across amplified phones, mobiles, alarms, and many more useful devices that aim to amplify one specific sound source.

If you or someone you care for experience signs of hearing loss, you should discuss it with your doctor or book a hearing test.

Article by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology. Joan works for Hampshire based Joan is HCPC Registered (Health Care Professions Council in the UK).

Lighting Safety Tips For Seniors

senior lighting issuesAs the nights get darker faster and the mornings stay dark longer, lighting is key for your senior’s safety. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

 Check light levels for daytime and nighttime vision to be sure they are more than adequate in work areas, hallways, frequently used rooms, and pathways outside the home.

 Illuminate edges of stairs.

 Install night lights throughout the home to light the way.

 Install senior light switches. These detect movement and will turn on the lights automatically when you enter a room. The lights also turn off automatically when there is no one in the room.

 Install a remote. This is a device held in your hand that controls a light that is plugged into a receiver that is plugged into a standard outlet.

 Install outdoor security sensor lights for added security.

 Even levels of light throughout the house make it easier for eyes to adapt moving from one area to another. Illuminating the ceiling and the tops of the walls helps the light reflect around the room without glare.

 Use task lights to see more clearly while reading, writing, cooking, and personal care.

Caregiver Tips:

 Seniors can tend to accept a lower level of lighting because they assume that poor eyesight is part of aging. They don’t realize that it is very likely just a lighting issue.

Experiment with your seniors lighting to see if they have improved vision and safety.

Seniors, Dementia & Research Trends

dementia & Nursing Home CareAlzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death and accounts for up to 80 percent of all dementia cases: killing more than 83,000 people annually.

Other types of dementia include:

  • vascular dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease

Those afflicted with these illnesses are most often in need of an adult child or guardian to advocate for them. Needs arise for home health care, frequent doctor visits, home modification, and 24-hour care to provide safety, managing finances, and the list goes on. Other issues arise when a long-time home and possessions have to be sold and a loved one must move to a sheltered environment like a senior community with memory care.

Possible Early Detection:

It is an understatement to say these are very significant numbers. But researchers are looking for the answers to whether using a yearly screening tool during a Medicare yearly well-visit is useful. Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to an annual wellness visit under the Affordable Care Act: there is no out-of-pocket charge. In addition to routine check-up items like measuring weight blood pressure, and evaluating medication effectiveness, the visit covers an evaluation for cognitive impairment. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that seniors undergo cognitive impairment screening and evaluation with a trained medical professional to establish a baseline for comparison, and then have regular follow-up assessments in subsequent years.

More Research Needs To Be Done!

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an independent panel of medical experts who have come to the conclusion there is NOT sufficient evidence to screen yearly for dementia. The conclusion is the same from a study performed more than a decade ago, when it last evaluated dementia screening. Experts say the evidence is crystal clear in one respect: More research needs to be done. Those who treat older adults have been tasked to, “use their best judgment.” That can be tough when dementia causes so many emotions.

What is your opinion on this topic?