Senior Winter Safety Tips

senior snow safetySenior safety is serious stuff!

By following these simple suggestions, you can prevent serious injury from occurring when seniors venture outdoors for necessary appointments.

FOOTWEAR:

Correct footwear includes those shoes and boots that provide good traction on the heels and soles. Some shoes are made exclusively for seniors, i.e. SASS, ECCO include special anti-skid materials to prevent slips and falls.

CLEAR PATHWAYS INSIDE & OUT:

Inside make sure winter shoes and boots are not in the walkway, if those tempting throw rugs are present, at the very least, make sure they have rubber backing, AND consider using a bench or chair close to the door to sit while taking shoes on/off. Keep the sidewalks and driveways clear of ice. Shovel or blow the snow away as needed, apply de-icing material such as salt to reduce the ice buildup on walkways.

ENTRANCE/EXITS TO HOME:

Ensure steps leading to house are solid and in good repair. Consider installation of sturdy exterior hand railings, many need to add  these later in the life. It is worth the expense to have such railings installed by a professional. Take care to eliminate ice, snow, water build-up on steps. Is there one entrance that works best for your senior? Allocate that entrance and be diligent about keeping it clear and using it each time.

USE CAUTION! MOVE SLOWLY & PURPOSELY:

It is best if your senior can take your arm when traversing outside. Take time when moving one place to another- especially in unfamiliar territory like a physician office building, restaurant, or another person’s home. Step carefully and purposefully, use  walking devices like canes and walkers as ordered.

MAINTAIN AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE:

Research clearly identifies that an active lifestyle is one way to increase safety and quality of life. By using muscles regularly, movement remains easier and balance is enhanced- especially when going outside in winter conditions. Senior exercise classes, DVDs/Videos/Senior Center exercise programs are a good place to start once physician permission is obtained.

PROVIDE ASSISTANCE BEFORE YOUR SENIOR HAS TO ASK:

As we age, most people have a difficult time asking for assistance. Be pro-active and offer assistance to your senior. Whether it a ride, clearing snow from the home paths and driveways, or offering to pick up groceries, or providing a ride to church. Simple. Be sure your senior knows he/she can ask for help if needed.

SAFETY PLAN WITH INCLEMENT WEATHER:

Consider planned check-in times in case power goes out, make up a small emergency bag with water, list of important phone numbers, medication list, canned food, flashlight/batteries, radio, etc.

Prevention takes planning and purposeful intention. Ensure the safety of your loved one by considering the steps we have outlined above.

What else do you do to ensure your senior is safe during the cold winter months?

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.

Holidays & Your Senior

Portrait-of-happy-family-sittiing holidayRegardless of all the little things that add up to major stress for the holidays, remember that time spent with aging loved ones is precious and sometimes limited. Take time to recognize that the moments spent with them are a gift and in this fast-paced world it’s a blessing to be able to gather family and friends around for even a day or two. After all, that’s what the holidays are all about, right?

The holidays provide consistent and recurrent opportunities for time spent with loved ones and cherished friends. Those traditions we may have enjoyed for years are bound to change as the Greatest Generation and even older Baby Boomers age. Take time to not only experience special moments but to assess how your role as a potential caregiver is developing.  When your family gathers, it is the perfect time to start conversations about Elder home safety, transportation, ability to cook and eat properly as well provide self- care. Now I am not suggesting a full interrogation of your elders, but rather guided questions.

Think About:

  • How does your elder look when they walk? Using a new cane or walker? Need one? Note their posture. Has your Elder admitted to any falls? Falling is A SERIOUS WARNING SIGN that deserves a Physician appointment and assessment asap!
  • Did your Elder drive to the event or need a ride? This can indicate change.
  • How is their vehicle? Regular safety and maintenance being completed? Any dents scratches?
  • Did your Elder bring their usual plum pudding or are they not able to cook complex dishes anymore?
  • Did your Elder eat his/her usual amount of their meal?
  • Notice any changes in weight? Especially, weight loss or swelling of lower extremities that could indicate disease process’
  • Did your Elder need a nap?
  • Notice if your Elder is wearing their traditional holiday clothing? Is it clean and does it fit properly?
  • Does your Elder appear well? Is their skin color pink, are they at ease, talkative, and interested in family/group dynamics?

Remember, that even though you have not been in the position of providing care or support, take time to look at the seniors in your life through a different lens. Our Elders are our blessing and our teachers, honor them with a guiding hand and open hearts during the holidays and all year round.

Seniors & Medication Safety – What you don’t know may hurt you!

Medication-For-SeniorsMedication safety is a topic that deserves frequent discussion and attention. Medication has gotten very complicated with the growing number of prescriptions and types available for all kinds of health related issues.  I encounter patients and families that are faced with complex medication schedules.

Medication Facts

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 2012, 82% of American adults take at least one medication and 29% take five or more. For the senior and elderly population, the numbers increase and it is fair to say that my current patients and clients usually take 10 or more medications. Yes…10 or more! Adverse medication reactions (ADE) are responsible for 700,000 emergency department visits and 120,000 hospitalizations. Mistakes can and do happen and they may have very serious consequences.

Americans spend $3.5 billion on extra medical costs of ADEs annually. At least 40% of costs of ambulatory (non-hospital settings) ADEs are estimated to be preventable. There are solutions to avoid being part of those alarming statistics.

Six Rights of Medicine:

Professionals who are responsible for ordering, dispensing, and administering medicine focus on these key areas.

  • Right Person: verses the spouse and/or other family members living in the home
  • Right Medication: medications can look very similar-double check every time
  • Right Dose: # of pills, teaspoons, or drops can vary depending on time of day
  • Right Time: with, before, during, after meals, full or empty stomach, bedtime etc.
  • Right Route (method): oral pill or under the tongue, topical , patch, inhaled etc
  • Right Record-keeping: charts in notebooks, dry erase boards, electronic records

As patient advocates, families are responsible for these six rights too. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount of medicine that has to be given. More families care for elders in the community with increasingly complicated health challenges and medication needs and are not sure where to start helping with medication safety.

Medication Systems & Tools

There are several types available for ensuring medication is taken properly including keeping an accurate running medication list, medication boxes with four compartments per day, running notebooks with check-off charts,  and electronic reminder systems. Keep in mind that the user must be comfortable with the system.

For example, a Boomer may really like to keep an electronic log on their laptop, but a senior spouse may be better-served by using a dry-erase board or running notebook with a grid and check-off system. Using schedules that are tied in with mealtimes and sleeping/wake times are helpful too.

There are many ways to ensure that medication errors are nearly eliminated, just make sure the physician orders are followed exactly as written.

What Is The Beer’s Criteria For Seniors

What is the Beer’s Criteria?

Dozens of Prescription  Pill Bottles

The Beer’s Criteria is a well-known list of medications that are potentially inappropriate for individuals over the age of 65: it was first developed to define inappropriate medication use in nursing homes. Compiled in 1993 by Dr. Beers, this list has been referenced and updated intermittently over the last several decades.

One in three adults 65 or older has one or more adverse (harmful) reactions to a medication or medications every year. 

Why Older People Have Issues With Some Medications

Aging brings physiological changes that can increase the chances of medication side effects, so naturally older people usually have more health problems and take more medications than younger people. Because of this, they are also more likely to experience dangerous drug-drug interactions. It continues to be crucial for researchers to identify and help reduce use of drugs that are associated with more risks than benefits in older people. This list is an impetus to consider  safer or more effective medications and/or even non-drug remedies (nutrition and lifestyle changes for example).  Healthcare providers should consider avoiding drugs on this list if there is a suitable substitute that can achieve the positive clinical results toward health and wellness.

Who Creates The Beers Criteria?

The Beers Criteria was last updated in 2012 by the American Geriatric Society using a panel of healthcare and pharmacy experts. Regular  updates are indicated because new drugs continue to be marketed, and studies continue to provide information on the safety of existing medications. The criteria are also used in research, training, determining healthcare policy, developing insurance company policies regarding medication coverage, efforts to improve the quality of prescribing for older people, and the development of quality standards for drug therapy.

Who Uses The Beers Criteria?

Healthcare providers refer to the AGS Beers Criteria when deciding whether and what to prescribe for older adults.  Providers should not make these decisions based only on the criteria, though.  Among other reasons, they shouldn’t do this because the criteria don’t apply to all situations that older patients face. The criteria, for example, simply cannot take into account all of the unique circumstances of older people getting palliative or hospice care.

The Side Effects of Beers Criteria Drugs

Medications that are potentially inappropriate and should be used only with caution in older adults. Drugs on this list may cause medication-related problems and may not be completely effective. Because the criteria shouldn’t dictate what healthcare providers prescribe, healthcare providers should not be penalized for prescribing a medication for an older person simply because it is on one of the criteria lists. Older adults respond differently to the same medication. For some patients, drugs listed in the criteria will be the best choice. Those writing the prescriptions  need to carefully monitor how these drugs are working and keep an eye out for side effects.  The updated 2012 AGS Beers Criteria is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It is available online at www.americangeriatrics.org. The  Society (AGS) continues to update the criteria on a regular basis.

Caregivers & Beers Criteria

Elder advocates and care givers need to also understand the purpose, dose, side effect(s) , and how the total medication regimen is affected. Keep a list of all of the medications taken—both non-prescription and prescription. This includes any supplements such as vitamins or herbs. A written list should be presented whenever seen by healthcare professional. This way, he or she will know what drugs and supplements you are taking and can check whether these might be causing side effects, or could cause side effects, if taken along with new medications. Caregivers and older adults who may take some of these medications, need to let their healthcare professionals know if these drugs don’t seem to be working, or appear to be causing side effects