Video Chat and Other Ways to Watch Out for a Loved One from a Distance

Image by Pixabay

You can’t always be there when you’re needed, but you can help your senior loved one from anywhere. Whether they choose to live independently or you can’t uproot your family, the following tips can give you some eyes on the ground and ensure you are always in the loop regarding your elderly parents’ care.

Get to Know Their Healthcare Plan

The right healthcare plan can mean the difference between health and hardships. There’s a good chance your elderly loved one is already on Medicare. Even if this is the case, it still pays to review their coverage every year. It’s best to be prepared when you contact a Medicare agent. Have your loved one’s Medicare card and any Medicare Advantage plan identifier or prescription drug coverage plan handy, if applicable. Also, make a complete list of their medications, including any over-the-counter medicines they take.

Schedule Regular In-Person Visits

Depending on how far away you live, it may be difficult to break away for in-person visits. However, it’s necessary at least a few times each year — more when their health begins to deteriorate. If you’re driving, make sure to sleep well in the two or three nights prior to your road trip. Plan plenty of stops and bring along books, games, and puzzles for your youngest passengers. Nationwide offers more tips on planning a successful road trip.

If you plan to fly, book these trips well and in advance and, if possible, stick with the same airline so that you can enjoy reward perks. You can double your benefits by choosing a credit card that also allows you to collect points and cash back on travel and other expenses.

 Screen Potential Helpers Before the Need Arises

If your loved one plans to live alone for as long as possible, they’ll need help at some point. A medical or non-medical caregiver is an asset to your family and to the well-being of your senior in need. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know exactly who to trust, and elder abuse is a problem that runs rampant throughout the United States. Your best bet is to create a list of potential caregivers and then perform a background check on each. Caregiverlist explains this cost between $8 and $18 each, which is a small price to pay for peace of mind. Another important service for your elderly loved one is transportation. After55 notes that Uber and Lyft now provide transportation services for seniors. Know what’s available in their area so you aren’t scrambling to find them a ride to the doctor’s office when they are unable to get themselves there.

 Add modifications that enhance their safety

Perform a room-by-room assessment of your loved one’s home. This will give you an opportunity to identify and secure potential home modifications, such as wider doorways or enhanced lighting, that can help your family member stay safe. Other additions that can contribute to their well-being include senior-friendly video calling devices, a remote-access home security system, and a wearable medical alert station, which connects with their home telephone and allows them to receive help with the push of a button. Many also provide fall detection and medication reminders.

Build a Network

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, establish a network of people who can be your eyes, ears, and hands when you can’t. Spend a day at your parent’s home following them as they go about their daily routine. This gives you a chance to see who they regularly interact with. You can contact these people and ask if they would be willing to contact you if anything seems off.

When you want to be there but you physically can’t make that happen every day, minor home modifications, other friends and family, and technology can help you stay in control of your loved one’s health and well-being.

Post contributed by Claire Wentz at CaringFromAfar.com

Elder Fraud: How to Keep Your Family Safe

By: Dr. Stacey Wood, Ph.D.

Financial elder abuse is an epidemic in America, and today’s technology makes it easy for fraudsters to take their schemes global. Scammers can call or email from anywhere in the world, making it more difficult to trace the funds after a con artist disappears. According to reports, fraudsters take $37-billion every year from older adults in the United States.

Many scammers play on people’s drive for human connection. Whether the scams begin on social media, through telephone calls, from an email, or even in person, senior citizens are often in a position to be more vulnerable to fraudsters.

Elders don’t need to have experienced cognitive decline to be targeted. A recent loss, like a death in the family or a divorce, can make them more vulnerable. Odds of being scammed more than double during difficult life circumstances and those who are lonely or isolated may be more likely to fall for a romance scam or similar confidence trick.

People who are in a troubling financial situation, who are eager for a bargain, or enthusiastic about risk-taking can also be targeted for get-rich-quick schemes.

There are a number of different types of scams that target senior citizens. Health scams seek out seniors’ private Medicare information to submit false billing for reimbursement. Other medical scammers sell fake prescription drugs at cheap prices. This is a scam that can put seniors’ health and lives at immediate risk.

People who have lost a loved one are also targeted for funeral scams. Fraudsters call grieving people and claim that their loved one had a debt that must be paid. A variety of phone scams involve financial offers, investment opportunities, or claims of overdue taxes.

Many fraudsters take advantage of seniors who are less technically savvy or aware of social media norms. Internet schemes include romance scams over social media, fake anti-virus software used to extort money, or phishing schemes to gather online banking information.

Mortgage and investment schemes seek to divert seniors’ wealth to a con artist, while sweepstakes scams inform seniors that they have “won” prizes, but they must pay to receive their winnings. There is a multitude of schemes that target older Americans, and being aware of the wide range can help people avoid financial catastrophe.

As a caregiver, you may notice signs that something is wrong with your loved one’s finances. One common sign that a person has become a fraud victim is a sudden change in financial habits.

A frugal person may suddenly withdraw large sums of money but have little to show for it. An older adult with a healthy bank account may suddenly be running up debts or receiving collection calls. Others may suddenly discuss a new friend in their lives, often overseas and connected via social media.

Unfortunately, many victims experience fear and shame. They don’t want to admit to being victims, as they fear it will make them look incompetent. However, those understandable emotions can be a barrier to taking action to prosecute those responsible and potentially recover lost funds.

You can help the elders in your life avoid fraud. Open conversations about new friends or love interests can help shed light on potential scammers. Discuss social media use, as well as its pros and cons. In addition, advise loved ones to get a copy of their credit report each year to ensure accuracy.

Seniors can protect themselves by visiting financial advisors, lawyers, and their bank branch. Bank fraud personnel are trained to spot scams, so developing a trusting relationship with the local bank helps seniors protect themselves. Advise loved one to always request financial offers in writing and take time to consider before sending money, especially via untraceable methods like wire transfers or Western Union.

If you suspect that an elder in your life is a fraud victim, you can help by reaching out. A compassionate, non-judgmental approach can help to break the silence imposed by fear and shame. Loved ones can work together to support their family member and unravel the truth about a fraudster.

You can also take action by reporting the scheme to their bank; fraud departments are motivated to stop these schemes that cost banks millions. The authorities can also help. Adult Protective Services in your area is charged with protecting vulnerable adults. The local police also have a responsibility to investigate fraud, which is a serious criminal offense.

As a caregiver, your participation matters. In fact, your active involvement in a senior’s life helps fight fraud, because he/she will be less vulnerable to the emotional manipulation used in scams.


Dr. Stacey Wood, Ph.D., is a forensic neuropsychologist and one of the nation’s leading Dr. Stacey Woodexperts on financial elder abuse and fraud. She is the Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology at Scripps College and a licensed clinical psychologist in California. As one of the nation’s leading experts in the areas of forensic neuropsychology and geropsychology, Dr. Wood has vast experience as an expert witness in California and nationwide.

5 Ways You Can Plan for Long-Term Care Costs and Needs

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Photo: Courtesy of Unsplash

As we grow older, our health care costs tend to get a bit higher. When you or a loved one needs help from a nursing home or assisted living facility, the costs can be overwhelming. Here are a few ways you can offset those expenses and plan for long-term care before you even need it.

 Figure Out Whether Care Will Be Needed

When you are planning ahead for your health care, it helps to know whether long-term care may be needed. Statistics show the majority of seniors will need some sort of extended care at some point in their lives. Family history can have a lot to do with your need for care, especially if there is a history of Alzheimer’s disease on your mother’s side of the family. Falls can also cause seniors to need long-term assistance, so try to take steps to help yourself or loved ones age in place safely and avoid fall-related injuries. Finally, take care of your health by eating a clean diet and exercising on a regular basis.

 Use Medicare to Your Advantage

Medicare is a wonderful tool for seniors to rely on when it comes to their medical needs. But if you or a family member ends up needing long-term care, basic Medicare may not yet help you when it comes to covering the costs. The good news is, however, that there are several supplemental Medicare Advantage plans that can offer more help with prescriptions, vision care, and dental care, and by saving on these expenses, you can tuck more funds away to provide long-term care. if you are currently eligible for Medicare or are nearing the age of eligibility, it’s important to get a better understanding of how to navigate some of the vital Medicare open enrollment dates, so read up on those first and plan ahead of time.

Understand Long-Term Care Insurance

If you are only planning for long-term care needs, then you may want to look into information about long-term care insurance. Getting this sort of supplemental coverage can be a bit expensive, but it can give you peace of mind if you are worried about you or a loved one needing care. Long-term care insurance typically costs less if you are younger and in good health, so start planning for this coverage option early to get the best deal. Otherwise, your rates will go up as you get older, particularly if your health begins to decline.

Know How to Use Benefits and Other Insurance

For adults who have served in the military, long-term care costs may be covered by the benefits provided by the VA. Eligible veterans and spouses can cover their care costs through pensions and possibly by adding the Aid and Attendance benefit. You may also be able to use life insurance policies to cover care costs as well. Many policies allow you to cash out or sell your life insurance to get the cash you need. This option can come in handy when the need for care comes up suddenly.

 Look Into Home Equity Options

Another way to pay for unexpected expenses associated with long-term care is to use the equity built into a home. If you or your loved one will make a permanent move, the most beneficial option may be to sell it and use profits to pay for care. For individuals who need to remain in their homes, there are still viable options to get the extra funds they need. You can take out a home equity loan or look into a reverse mortgage. Reverse mortgages come with the added benefit of not having to make monthly payments, but the house will be turned over to the lender when the owner passes away.

If you or a family member is in need of long-term care, the last thing you want to think about is how to pay for it. Finding quality care should be your top priority. By planning for costs now, you can focus on getting the care you need without worrying about how to pay for it.

Post contributed by Dana Brown at HealthConditions.Info
Connecting You to the Health Information You Need Most 

Wellness For Older Adults: Tips to Help Boost Your Health

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Image Via Pixabay

Retirement has finally come and now you have the time to enjoy your family, travel or to simply sleep in every morning. But the fact that you are no longer obligated to punch a clock does not mean that it’s time to let yourself go. If you want to age well, you have to pay attention to your physical and mental health. Here’s how:

See your doctor regularly

When you reach 65, your relationship with your primary health care provider is more important than ever. Before now, you’ve been able to get away with a physical every two or three years. But now, you should plan on seeing your doctor at least once every 12 months. According to Comprehensive Primary Care, men and women have different health care needs. Women, for instance, are advised to get a mammogram yearly and Pap smear every five years after their 50th birthday. Likewise, men should receive a prostate cancer screening and bone density test after the big 5-0.

If paying for this extra health care is a little intimidating, you should consider learning more about Medicare Advantage Plans — also known as Medicare Part C. Medicare Part C plans provide all the benefits as Part A and Part B, but may also offer coverage for other important aspects of your health such as prescription drugs, vision and dental care. Keep in mind, however, the open enrollment is limited to October 15 to December 7 each year.

Exercise

Age is no excuse for letting your muscles, bones and joints go to waste. Even if you suffer with issues such as arthritis, there’s still plenty of ways to stay active. Aquatic exercises for seniors utilize the buoyancy of water to ease pressure on the joint. Water aerobics is low impact and reduces the risk of falls. If you’d rather get outdoors and enjoy nature, the benefits of walking cannot be underscored enough. Not only will walking increase your aerobic capacity, walking a few days out of week can actually give you a more positive outlook on life and improve your physical health.

Stay social

One of the biggest downfalls of leaving the workforce is that you no longer have access to other adults on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this social isolation leads to stagnant lifestyles with approximately 70 percent of seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 reporting long periods of inactivity. Turn your downtime into social time by attending church, volunteering, or joining a club that caters to your interests. Whether you like to travel, read, work puzzles or even collect stamps — there’s a group for that.

Don’t destroy your diet

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the occasional overindulgence, your body will thank you if you fuel it properly. Start with a good breakfast each day – preferably something full of fiber, such as oatmeal. If you haven’t already, take some time and research foods that can combat issues that go along with age. For instance, Senior Lifestyle points out that salmon, which is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, can help slow mental degeneration. Likewise, snack foods such as dark chocolate and walnuts contain compounds that can improve circulation, reduce blood pressure and boost a host of cognitive functions.

With age comes a level of freedom like you’ve never known before. But in order to enjoy your sovereign ways, you have to pay attention to – and prioritize – your health. So exercise, eat right and keep an open line of communication with your doctor and your social network. Doing so will help you enjoy all the benefits of age.

Post courtesy of Karen Weeks at Elderwellness.net

Assessing and Planning for Long-Term Care Needs: Knowing Your Options

Assessing and Planning for Long Term Care

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The high cost of long-term care represents a serious threat to individuals as they grow older. It’s a problem that’s staring many baby boomers right in the face. The generation born between 1946 and 1964 is rapidly aging and many will need assisted living, nursing home and other forms of care.

Considering the costs involved, it’s vital you determine how likely it is that you or a loved one will require long-term care based on factors which can impact your health. It’s even more important to begin planning how you’ll fund the expense of long-term care. Taking action sooner rather than later can make a big difference in your health, lifestyle and financial situation.

Planning

The choices you make today can have a tremendous impact on your life 20 or 30 years from now. If your doctor has advised you to get more exercise and watch what you eat, following her advice can markedly improve your health and reduce the likelihood you’ll need long-term care. If your job is highly stressful, taking steps to deal with it, perhaps through exercise, yoga and meditation, may represent an important and positive lifestyle change. Anything that reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and other serious health care risks will likely help you avoid needing long-term care in the coming years.

If Alzheimer’s disease is common in your family or if there’s a history of heart disease or cancer in your genetic background, it’s probably in your best interest to begin planning ahead for long-term care. There are more options available these days, such as assisted living, home health services, adult day care, independent living and hospice care, and many ways you can prepare for assuming those care costs.

Paying

There are several factors to consider when it comes to paying for long-term care. If you’re in your 50s, consider taking out a long-term care policy (some financial planners advise doing this earlier). Or, if your employer has a health savings account (HSA) option, you can make contributions that are fully tax-deductible and use the earnings later to help fund long-term care. An HSA, unlike a flexible spending account, rolls over from year to year and its growth is tax-deferred. It is a savings account specifically designed to help you pay for medical expenses.

Many people use a reverse mortgage to free up money for long-term care. A reverse mortgage allows you to borrow against the value you’ve accumulated in your home, and your lender makes payments to you computed based on a percentage on your home equity. Credit requirements are modest, and you can remain in the home even if your debt exceeds the value of your home. Be aware of the pros and cons of reverse mortgages. For example, your debt will increase while your equity goes down. The equity that would become part of your estate will decrease as you receive payments, and you are not the owner of your home.

A life insurance policy that generates cash value can also provide you with a funding source. You can sell a policy to generate revenue for medical expenses, “surrender” it to your insurer for a cash settlement, or make advance use of your death benefit (any amount used will count against your beneficiaries after your death).

Learning your care and payment options early and preparing for long-term care is highly recommended by financial advisers. That means it’s important to assess your needs, financial situation and consider how you might fund long-term care.

Author

June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.

Is That Mole Benign Or Cancerous? Skin Cancer Investigated

Doctor checking for skin cancerThis July is National UV Safety Month, so with that in mind it’s a good time to educate ourselves on how to properly identify signs of skin cancer on the body. There are many free health resources online where you can gather information on this topic. Of course it’s always best to see a doctor if you’re concerned about a lesion, but knowing how to perform a proper self-check can help you make that initial decision to see a doctor for further investigation. One of the most important factors impacting your ability to catch skin cancer early is whether one can identify the signs and symptoms. These three pieces of advice can help:

Survey Your Skin Every Day

Before going into the shower or bath, look over all of your skin in the mirror. It only takes about two minutes, but many people don’t bother to do so. By checking for abnormal growths, you’re helping yourself catch cancer early. And since all cancers are significantly more treatable when diagnosed early-stage, this could end up saving your life.  Often skin cancers in odd areas (armpit, groin, etc) aren’t caught until too late, because people aren’t used to checking their skin in these areas. You should also make sure to schedule an annual dermatologist check-up, to make sure there isn’t anything you miss. This is covered by insurance, and only takes 5-10 minutes.

Follow the ABCDE Rule

The “ABCDE rule” is an acronym describing five common traits of a cancerous lesion:

A) Asymmetry
B) Border
C) Color
D) Diameter
E) Evolving

A benign skin lesion is unlikely to have these traits, so if you’re tracking a mole on your body and any of these surface, it’s important to see a dermatologist. The ABCDE traits are more commonly found in melanomas than in less harmful types of skin cancer like basal cell carcinoma.

Get a Second Opinion When Diagnosed

If you do get diagnosed with any form of skin cancer by a licensed medical professional, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion from another doctor in the same field. Skin cancer is especially likely to be misdiagnosed, given that different lesions often resemble one another. Even biopsies can yield a flawed result if the wrong part of the lesion is removed.

Since misdiagnosis are often incredibly costly and inconvenient , it’s worth the extra co-pay to have someone else check your skin out. There’s an upwards of 40% chance that the initial diagnosis was wrong for skin cancer.

Clearly the foundation for good skin health is regular self-checkups. But after that point you’ll have to trust professionals to do their job and give you an accurate diagnosis. Do your best to avoid skin cancer entirely by liberally using sunscreen and protective clothing, but if you do end up going to the doctor make sure to be ready to see another one to confirm the findings.

Post contributed by Cal Cook at ConsumerSafety.org

How to Transition From Part-Time Caregiver to Full-Time Caregiver

Article Courtesy of Kristen HellerThe Transitioning Caregiver

Taking care of a loved one is a job that is not to be taken lightly. For some, caring for their aging parents is an honor; while others may see the responsibility as a burden on their adult lives. This responsibility can come on quickly due to an accident or injury; but in many cases, caregiving can come on gradually as parents become less mobile and dependent on other people. If you find yourself spending more and more time caring for your aging parents and believe that full-time care is just around the corner, here are some ways to help you transition from part-time to full-time caregiver so that you can make the most of your time with your parents.

Review Your Routine

While your current caregiving situation might mean that you “pop in” to see mom or dad on the weekends, clean the house, and prepare some meals for the week, you might want to start adding additional time here and there. Rather than thrust yourself into a full-time caregiver, allow yourself some time to acclimatize to the changes that are coming and start slow. Start dropping in to see your parents a few times a week, spread out throughout the week. Change it up a bit with drop-ins at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, weekdays and weekends. This way, you’ll start creating space in your schedule for a new routine down the road.

Put Some Money Away

Taking care of a loved one is time consuming – it is time away from your job and perhaps even your own family. Because caring for a parent can quickly become a full-time job even before you intended it to be that way, it’s a good idea to start putting some money away now to help you cover your cost of living when you transition from part-time caregiver to a full-time caregiver. This is especially important if you parents don’t have savings or if they have no real means of paying for care to see them into their late years. However, if you do your homework before taking on the role of caregiver, you’ll find many programs, such as CDPAP, which are designed to help cover the cost of caregiving for seniors. You can get paid as a full-time caregiver with programs like this, so it’s best to research them early on in preparation for full-time care.

Keep Something for Yourself

If you find yourself having to give up your part-time or full-time job to start caring for your aging parents or family members, it is important to ensure that you continue to maintain some form of self-care so that you can stay healthy. After all, you cannot care for someone if you are sick. It’s important to remember to take time for your life. Make time to have coffee with friends, even if it’s just once a week. This way you’ll have a routine of your own and will be able to step outside the house to get breaks when you need them. Create a morning and bedtime routine for yourself that allows you some time to focus on your needs so that you can provide full-time care for your family when the time comes.
Plan for Backup

Despite your best intentions to provide full-time care for your aging parents, you will need some backup from time to time. For instance, you need to buy groceries, run errands, get a haircut, visit friends, go to your own doctor’s appointments, and so on. So it will be a good idea to speak to other family members, or maybe even neighbors to ensure that when you can’t be there, or you need a much-needed break. Speak with them about routines, schedules, and times when you might need a day off. You may need to offer payment to some people when they fill in for you so be sure to plan for that as well.

Start Slowly

When it comes time to make the move from part-time to full-time caregiver, gradually increase the number of days you spend a week looking after your loved one. Give yourself plenty of lead time to be able to take on the full-time responsibility. As for your existing job, you may be able to take leave in order to care for your parents, so be sure to discuss it with your employer and give plenty of notice to cover for your position while you are away.

Kristen Heller is a passionate writer, teacher, and mother to a wonderful son. When free time presents itself, you can find her tackling her lifelong goal of learning the piano.

Flu Advice for Seniors

 Seniors among Groups Hardest Hit by Flu

          For most people, getting the flu means feeling achy and feverish for a week or so, but for people 65 years and older, the flu can be much more serious. People in this age group are at high risk for severe flu illness and complications. In fact, an estimated 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations in the United States occur in this age group each year. Last season flu illness was particularly severe for people 65 and older, prompting CDC to report the highest flu-related hospitalization rates in this age group since it began tracking this information during the 2005-2006 flu season.

          Unfortunately, the burden of flu illness in people 65 and older was accompanied by reports that the flu vaccine did not work as well as expected to protect people in this age group against one particular flu virus last season. If that news left you asking yourself whether getting a flu vaccine this season is still worthwhile for people 65 and older, the answer is absolutely and unquestionably, “Yes!”

There are plenty of reasons for people 65 and older to get a flu vaccination this year, and vaccination remains the first, best and most important step in protecting against flu illness and its complications.

While the benefits of flu vaccination can vary – and this is particularly true in people 65 and older – studies show that vaccination can provide a range of benefits, including reducing flu illness, antibiotic use, doctor’s visits, lost work, and even helping to prevent hospitalizations and deaths.

In fact, a recent study by CDC and Vanderbilt University experts found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-related hospitalization by nearly 77 percent in study participants 50 years of age and older during the 2011-2012 flu season.*

Other studies have found that flu vaccination reduces the risk of death in older adults. For people with certain underlying heart conditions, several studies indicate that flu vaccination can reduce the risk of a heart attack. Overall, there is significant evidence to support the benefits of vaccination in people 65 and older.

If you are in this age group, there are two flu vaccine options available to choose from this season: the standard flu shot and a high-dose flu shot made and approved specifically for people 65 years of age and older.

The high-dose vaccine contains more antigen (the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses) than the regular flu shot, and this extra antigen is intended to produce a stronger immune response in seniors. CDC does not have a preference for which vaccine seniors should get this season. “Either the regular flu shot or the high-dose vaccine are perfectly acceptable options for people 65 and older this season,” said Dr. Alicia Fry with CDC’s Influenza Division. “The important thing is to get vaccinated because it’s still the best protection currently available against the flu.”

Flu vaccine is offered in many locations. Use the vaccine finder at http://vaccine.healthmap.org/ to find a flu vaccination clinic near you. Medicare covers both flu and pneumonia vaccines with no co-pay or deductible. As part of the Affordable Care Act, all plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace and other plans will provide many free preventive services, including flu vaccinations. For information about the Health Insurance Marketplace, visit www.HealthCare.gov. Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment starts October 1, 2013, and ends March 31, 2014. Coverage can begin as soon as January 1, 2014. For more information about influenza or vaccination, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

* Talbot HK, Zhu Y, Chen Q, et al. Effectiveness of influenza vaccine for preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalizations in adults, 2011-2012 influenza season. Clin Infect Dis. 2013; doi: 10.1093/cid/cit124.

Senior Health Information for Caregivers

A person may find themselves in the position of being a caregiver when they least expect it.
A spouse or the children of an older adult may become their caregiver in an instant if their parent or loved one falls or has a medical-related incident. The person in their new caregiver role may have a brand-new set of responsibilities and be faced with issues they never heard of or were not prepared for.

Being a caregiver may not be the issue as much as knowing how to be a caregiver.

Taking care of another person may be intimidating for someone who had no idea they’d ever be in that position. Older adults may develop illnesses, physical limitations, medical conditions or even suffer side effects from dangerous medications or medical devices that the caregiver had no prior knowledge of.

Two common conditions that caregivers of seniors may face are Alzheimer’s disease and incontinence.

 

Alzheimer’s Drugs Require Close MonitoringSenior Health

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and often occurs in seniors.

It affects memory, language and the part of the brain that controls thought. It’s estimated that more than 5 million Americans suffer from the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 5 percent of Americans ages 65 to 74 have Alzheimer’s. The population with Alzheimer’s could reach 16 million by 2050.

Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s can be emotionally taxing, require a lot of patience, and be expensive. There are medications available for Alzheimer’s patients, but the jury is out on their effectiveness.

Unfortunately, the drugs also have side effects that may include dizziness, drowsiness and fainting – conditions that may increase the risk of falls. If more than one of these drugs is prescribed, side effects could be worse.

Caregivers should closely monitor people with Alzheimer’s disease and report symptoms or side effects to doctors.

 

Incontinence Issues May Catch Caregivers Off Guard

Aging adults may also suffer from incontinence, which is the involuntary loss of urine. Incontinence can occur in seniors who suffered a stroke, developed dementia or experienced other changes associated with aging.

Women experience urinary incontinence twice as often as men, due to the effects of pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.

Urinary incontinence can be a minor annoyance (losing small amounts of urine while sneezing, laughing or coughing) or become debilitating if people stay inside to avoid embarrassment.

It is important for caregivers to know that many types of incontinence are treatable. Also, there are ways to ease the stress of the condition:

  •  Don’t embarrass or criticize a person who has an accident.
  • Be supportive, patient and put yourself in the shoes of the person suffering from it.
  • Help the person manage their consumption of liquids.
  • Remind and encourage them to use the bathroom regularly.

Incontinence can be treated in a variety of ways. It may start with behavior modification. Women can do exercises to strengthen bladder muscles. Medical options are available too.
There are also medications for overactive bladders, medical devices and surgical procedures that may be good options. People faced with incontinence issues should discuss their options with a doctor.

Caregivers should be aware, however, that some treatments can lead to additional complications.

 

Mesh Treatments for Incontinence Linked to Injuries, Subject of Lawsuits

A common solution for female patients with incontinence is a bladder sling. During this surgery, a narrow strip of synthetic mesh is inserted to relieve pressure on the bladder. Unfortunately, when the mesh is implanted through the vagina, there can be serious complications.

Before choosing procedures involving vaginal mesh, patients and caregivers should be aware of the dangers associated with using the device.

Complications can include tissue erosion, nerve damage, infection and internal organ damage. These injuries often require revision surgeries.

More than 30,000 women in the United States filed lawsuits after being injured by transvaginal mesh devices, including bladder slings.

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Knowing about medical issues that occur to seniors can help a caregiver do a few things: understand and manage the issue, figure out treatment options and identify possible complications and side effects that come as a result.

Caregiving comes with challenges and times of stress, but knowing what to do when situations occur may ease the intimidation that may come with the newfound set of responsibilities.

 

Julian Hills is a staff writer for Drugwatch.com. He has a background in newspaper and television journalism. He studied Communication and English at Florida State University.

 

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease. [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.) Caregiving for Alzheimer’s Disease or other Dementia. [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/index.htm

National Institute on Aging. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease Medications Fact Sheet [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Urinary Incontinence in Women. [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/uiwomen/

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Independent Living vs. Assisted Living.
Which is right for my loved one?

As our parents or elderly loved ones age, they have numerous options when looking for the perfect place to spend their golden years. Of course, many remain in their homes. Some are looking for an easier way of life, free from the daily chores that homeownership requires, while others seek out the company of people their own age, with opportunities for socializing and daily activities. Still others require assistance with daily living, such as managing medications, dressing and bathing.

If your loved one can still do everything for themselves and would like to live among peers and enjoy scheduled activities, independent living communities – also called retirement living – are an excellent option. They offer a safe, secure and social environment for active, independent seniors.

Seniors in independent housing may live in an apartment, a small home, or a cottage. These communities usually have on-site staff members that provide a small amount of supervision and offer a “maintenance-free” living option, often providing housekeeping, laundry and dining services.

Independent living is perfect for people who:
• Want to maintain their independence.
• Want to rid themselves of the burden of cooking, cleaning and maintaining a home.
• Want more social interaction than living at home.
• Like the security of being around other people and getting some supervision from the staff.

If your loved one is still able to move about freely and is seeking a certain amount of independence, but needs help with some daily activities such as bathing, preparing meals, taking medication, or dressing themselves, an assisted living community may make sense. Residents of an assisted living community live in their own apartment and are able to come and go as they please, while receiving assistance as needed. They can dine with others in a dining room or make their own meals. Quality senior care living communities offer a variety of daily activities to choose from. At an assisted living community, your loved one will still have independence while getting the care and services they need to lead a fulfilling life.

An assisted living facility may also be able to help if your loved one still has certain cognitive abilities, but is beginning to show signs of dementia that could result in isolation, frustration, or forgetting critical tasks such as taking medication. Communities that have “memory care neighborhoods” have caregivers who receive specialized training in memory care along with added security measures to manage residents’ safety. Memory care programs can also include brain fitness exercises, memory-building practices, and specialized therapy for residents living with dementia. If a resident begins to show signs of greater physical needs, the staff will begin to talk to the family about making the transition to a skilled nursing community.

In general, assisted living communities:
• Can provide direct assistance with everyday tasks, like bathing, dressing and meals.
• Have trained staff available and monitoring 24 hours a day.
• Help residents maintain their dignity while aging.
• May have specialized units for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
• Can help with transportation to doctor appointments.
• Often have busy activity calendars to keep residents engaged with other residents.

If you want to ensure your loved one can stay in the same community as their needs change, look into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). CCRCs allow people to remain in the same familiar and comforting environment even if their care needs change. If you’re looking for one community that you can call home even as your health changes, consider a CCRC.

About the Author:
David has over 20 years’ experience as a writer and editor. Senior issues have long been his passion, and in addition to past experience writing about maintaining a healthy outlook throughout every phase of life, he has volunteered his time and skills to such organizations as Senior Services of King County in Seattle. He is one of the many expert authors who is currently writing on behalf of Emeritus assisted living communities.