Slipping Through The Cracks: How Seniors Need Help

senior man health issuesMeet Arnie

Dumbfounded by his fierce independence… His story includes the social isolation is not uncommon in today’s families who are geographically separated. His adult children lived out of town.  ‘Arnie’ was 83 years old and lived in an apartment adjacent to a major divided highway.  I climbed six cement stairs and then another step to get to the doorway of his apartment. This was not easily accessible for an 83 year old senior person with impaired vision.

Home Safety

Arnie looked right past me when we met because of his macular degeneration; he also had high blood pressure and several other illnesses requiring multiple prescription medications. These diagnoses dictated a complex medication schedule. What struck me was that he had such complete and utter denial that his living situation was significantly unsafe. At times, Arnie was unable to use either of his phones safely because of his vision deficit, he confessed to having eaten rotten food because he could not see it, who knows how frequently he took his prescription medications incorrectly.

So Many Falls

Don’t forget the falls, ’every once in a while’ in his apartment that were, ‘no big deal.’  The most significant issue was that he actually walked in the divided highway –in the snow– because there was not a sidewalk that was cleared.  Arnie needed groceries and cat food. Not to mention he navigates those cement snow & ice covered cement steps to leave his apartment.  At one point in the recent past he actually lost his balance and fell in the street requiring treatment from emergency response personnel; he sustained lacerations and a knee injury and was released to his apartment.

ALL BY HIMSELF.

No way to get pain medicine or home health care orders to observe his wounds and ensure healing.

Who addressed why he was walking in the street in the winter… when he could not see?

As my interview progressed he casually mentioned his children lived out of state. “They call me all the time though.”

How a Senior Care Director Can Help

  • I engaged a family member (with his permission)
  • I requested a skilled home care Nurse/Physical Therapist/Occupational Therapist regarding falling, medication teaching, and vision impairment
  • I contacted the local Area Agency on aging for community resources
  • I contacted a private duty home care agency for assistance with home upkeep/shopping/cooking
  • I discussed long-term planning and a move to a senior living community

FREE Resource

Arnie is just one example of senior family members who get lost in aging. Does your senior need help? Click here to get my free report on the 12 Warning Signs Your Elder Needs Assistance.

National Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.

Glaucoma âge elderlyAccording to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, almost 3 million people in the US over the age of 40 have glaucoma. Half of those affected do not even know they have it. The National Eye Institute projects a 58% increase by 2030 to total of more than  4 million people affected. This disease is sneaky, since there are not symptoms. Once vision is lost, it is permanent. It has been called “the sneak thief of sight.” It’s hard to believe that one can lose as much as 40% of their vision without noticing.

Our goal for this post is to raise awareness and educate readers about this sight-stealing disease.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that lead to damage to the optic nerve: often without symptoms. The optic nerve is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. In most cases, damage to the optic nerve is due to increased pressure in the eye, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). Most common forms primarily affect middle-agers and seniors, but glaucoma can be present in all ages.

Is there a cure for Glaucoma?

Presently there is no cure for glaucoma. EARLY DETECTION IS KEY! Medication and surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. Treatment is determined by the type of glaucoma and other health factors.

There are two main types of glaucoma:

  • Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma(POAG) and Angle-Closure Glaucoma(IOP). Both of these types are distinguished by an increased intraocular (inner eye) pressure. Normal Tension Glaucoma is marked by optic nerve damage even with normal inner eye pressure.
  • Secondary Glaucoma is optic nerve damage caused by another disease or factors that contribute to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and loss of vision. There are other types of glaucoma as well.

How to prevent Glaucoma?

To best protect sight from glaucoma, get regular and comprehensive eye examinations. Again, early detection is most important. Those at highest risk are African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. Siblings of those affected with glaucoma are also at significant risk for developing it. Others at rsik are people over age 60, family members of those diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely near-sighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at risk and may prevent unnecessary loss of vision.

If eye drops have been ordered for treatment, these simple steps can help those who need them. Eye drops are most often prescribed for treating glaucoma; using them properly is really important. Use just as instructed by your eye care professional. Proper use of your glaucoma medication can improve the medicine’s effectiveness and reduce risk of side effects.

How to use Glaucoma Eye Drops:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Hold the bottle upside down.
  • Tilt your head back.
  • Hold the bottle in one hand and place it as close as possible to the eye.
  • With the other hand, pull down your lower eyelid. This forms a pocket.
  • Place the prescribed number of drops into the lower eyelid pocket. If you are using more than one eye drop, be sure to wait at least 5 minutes before applying the second eye drop.
  • Close your eye OR press the lower lid lightly with your finger for at least 1 minute. Either of these steps keeps the drops in the eye and helps prevent the drops from draining into the tear duct, which can increase your risk of side effects.

More information on Glaucoma:

There are many resources available for learning more about glaucoma visit:

www.glaucoma.org

http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/glaucoma/glaucoma_facts.asp

http://www.eyecareamerica.org/

Do you have or someone you love been diagnosed with Glaucoma? How have you or they been treated?

How Technology Can Help Seniors

technology and seniors‘Senior care’ and ‘technology-use’ have not been spoken in the same sentence until recent years. This month the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) revealed there are many opportunities to improve home safety, medication safety, aging in place, and the quality of life of older adults. Myriad devices reflect there is a changing dynamic in our society with older adults taking the lead in percentage of the population that is growing. Those with disabilities are demanding better options to improve the quality of their life too. The Wall Street Journal reports more than half of Americans are expected to have elder care responsibilities within 10 years, and many will likely want their homes to be senior-friendly. And many of these people want  appliances that help them cope with the aches, pains and other infirmities they confront as they grow older and act as primary care givers. “This population is far more demanding and will refocus designers” on individual consumers, says Joe Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, which studies design and engineering for an aging population.

Top Technology Help For Seniors:

  • iHealth has a digitally-connected glucose testing kit, and the company’s digital blood pressure cuff uses the iPhone for controlling the cuff and delivering data to the user.
  • ePill has multiple medication reminder products with voice, vibrating and personal device and monitored phone call options
  • Nest’s thermostat and smoke alarm and various  new smart light bulbs and other home devices with Internet connections give us a glimpse at a smart/connected home
  • Moen has new grab bars that can support a 350-pound person
  • Kohler is designing easier-to-handle faucet levers,
  • Truth Hardware makes remote-controlled window motors.
  • Whirlpool offers pedestals that raise the height of washing machines and clothes dryers for customers with back problems
  • Multiple options for specialized phones with tele-typewriting (TTY) or amplifiers for hearing impaired (telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), audio-to-text services include voice carry over (VCO), for people who can speak but need the responses from the other person typed, and hearing carry over (HCO) for those cannot speak, but who can hear the response. TTY phones are also available for those who are deaf and blind, but who can read Braille. TeleBraille phones, also called Braillephones, have Braille keys for typing and a refreshable Braille readout instead of a screen.

Consider your options as a caregiver and as a consumer. Technology is getting senior-friendly and improving quality of life for all. What technology item most interests you?

Be Resolute About Senior Care Giving

seniors new years resolutionsIt is the new year. 2014. Happy New Year.

Picking just three senior care resolutions was challenging. We wanted to make goals that are attainable and really make a difference in the life a senior AND a senior care giver.  All the resolutions seem to come back to safety. These resolutions can contribute to improved health and longevity for seniors. Please consider these resolutions and how they can pertain to you.

1.  Become Informed.

Read senior care resources. Like most expectant mothers or new parents get books, magazines, and pamphlets there is a ton of information out there for you to read.  Managing the health and care needs of an elderly person is a constantly changing equation; utilize web resources, books, community education, and local senior organizations. Hire a professional case manager or consultant for a care plan and advice specifically tailored for your situation. Caregiving is not easy; to be effective and honor the person for whom you are caring, having the correct information you need is empowering.

2.  Increase Safety.

Utilize community Area Agency on Aging resources:  social workers are available to provide basic information over the phone. Consider home, medication, driving, caregiving, and safety as a start.  Hire a professional to provide a home safety assessment to eliminate environmental hazards that may contribute to falls. Many people want to age-in-place.  Solutions for barrier-free living and increased safety because of decreased mobility will be needed.  Consider hiring professionals to install safety bars, upgrade bathrooms for barrier-free use, and organize home living space for optimal safety and efficiency. Look for CEAC certification (Certified Environmental Access Consultant)  Prescription medications have to be taken properly and at the correct time to be effective. Taking or giving medication safely is crucial to senior well-being- understand the dose, time, purpose, and potential side-effects of all medications in the senior home. Seek a senior driving assessment if there are concerns about driving safety. (See AAA and Help Guide for more info) Providing actual caregiving or organizing it can be a daunting task. Seek help from professional organizations and paid agencies for best results.

3.  Accept and Request Assistance.

Avoid caregiver’s burnout.  Caregiving can be both physically and emotionally exhausting. Often others are interested in helping but are not sure exactly how they can help. Be specific about your needs with a request for help. This way others can give you the support you need.  Research opportunities for senior care respite like adult day care, church volunteers, family and friends, community programs, and paid caregivers through a certified home health care agency. Be careful-seek to avoid becoming so overwhelmed with senior care that you become incapable of helping yourself or your family.

I can help you get started on any of these resolutions and point you in the right direction to helping your senior.

When Should Do Not Resuscitate Orders Be Written?

The topic is more important than you may think. It’s not a pleasant one, but it is worth discussing as we live longer and more medically-complex lives. Medical technology can keep us and those we love, alive longer. But what does this life look like to you? How does it affect yours and your family’s lifestyle? Your spirituality?  Your finances and financial legacy? We actually have the potential to influence and choose how we want to live the last weeks or days of our lives!

Do Not Resuscitate Law

In Michigan, we have the Do-Not-Resuscitate Procedure Act. This act informs health care professionals NOT to revive individuals who have signed a do-not-resuscitate order document.  It is for those individuals who do not want any special efforts made to prolong their life if their breathing or heart stops.  The document can be customized to include or exclude certain measures like chest compressions, use of certain drugs to help re-start the heart etc. and whether to include the use of breathing devices.  A competent adult can obtain and complete this order after discussing with his or her physician. The physician must also sign the order. People whose religion opposes medical treatment do not need a doctor’s signature.

The Do Not Resuscitate Form

The form/order should be placed in a prominent and visible place where one resides. Have discussions with family, friends, and caregivers and inform them about the signed do-not-resuscitate order; tell them where to find it. All advocates should carry a signed copy with them. Bracelets indicating specific wishes are also suggested.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Where do I get the form? The forms are available at most hospices and online. Click here to see an example of one.

Can I be forced to sign a Do-Not-Resuscitate order? Absolutely not. No one may require it as a condition for care or treatment.

Can I change my mind after I sign it? Yes, it may be cancelled at any time by any means of communication possible.

Will my insurance coverage be affected if I  sign such an order? No, the law says that your insurance provider cannot change, stop, refuse to renew, or invoke a suicide exemption or exclusion.

Keep up to date!

Do-Not-Resuscitate orders have changed and may continue to change as our health care technology evolves. Such orders used to, or may still apply  in your state, only in health care facilities such as hospitals and rehabilitation/nursing homes. People were not covered outside of such facilities, such as those at home with terminal illness. Licensed health professionals were required to try and revive anyone who had no heart beat or sign of breathing. In our state, when an order is present or a bracelet is worn, emergency responders cannot start resuscitation.

Make your wishes known today. Have that challenging conversation with your loved ones. Live the way you want to live while you are here on earth. You and your Elder will have peace of mind that the last season of life will be as they wished.