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ElderCare Solutions of MI

Tag: Prevent

 

The older we get, the more doctor appointments we seem to need.  It is not uncommon for the average baby boomer or older adult to see a cardiologist, a neurologist, perhaps even a rheumatologist, pulmonologist or gynecologist!  But amidst these many appointments there is one that often gets forgotten…an annual physical with a primary care physician.

Why is it important to keep up with your primary care doctor if you’re seeing all these specialists?  That’s a frequently asked question among our clients.  And the answer is a timeless metaphor…to be sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing, and vice versa! Most specialists will only diagnose, treat, and prescribe medications for illnesses that fall under their own area of specialization.  So problems that come up may not be addressed outside of a primary care physician’s office.  For example, you’ll routinely have your blood pressure checked as part of an office visit with a pulmonologist, rheumatologist, or gynecologist, but it will not likely be addressed or treated, even if it is elevated. That’s also true if your labs show elevated cholesterol levels.  Instead you’ll be referred to primary care.  Also, routine general preventive care and screening will not be done by specialists, who need to use the appointment time to focus in-depth on the condition they are treating.

So, as much as you would love to eliminate another appointment, call your primary care doc, and schedule your annual appointment.

Getting out my calendar,

Lynn

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The theme for this week is Falls Prevention.  Over the last 2 weeks I fell tripping over power cords, a colleague of mine slipped in her home, and we received several calls from new clients who were asking for help because they are recovering from…you guessed it, falls!

I think most of us think about falls prevention reactively, meaning it becomes really important to prevent another fall, after we’ve fallen at least once.  Prior to that we feel pretty much invincible.   But the truth is, it takes a long time to recover from that first fall if it was a bad one, so the time to think about falls prevention is now!

There are several different reasons people fall.  The most common causes are poor balance, clutter on the floor, inadequate lighting, wet/slippery floors, and neurological causes.  Luckily, the following preventive suggestions are helpful in most cases:  

  • Install grab bars in bathrooms
  • Pick up or tape down all throw rugs
  • Remove clutter from the floor
  • Install additional lighting if necessary
  • Be conscious of where you step on slippery surfaces
  • Work with a physical therapist to improve balance

Whether you put all of these steps in place, or only the one or two critical for you, protecting your quality of life is well worth the investment.

Measuring my bathroom for grab bars,

Lynn

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Most of us accumulate a lot of stuff throughout our lifetimes.  Even though I diligently clean out clothes closets each year, and have my kids pare down their collection of books and games, I know I’ll have to do it all again next year.   But for some people, this process of weeding out what to keep from what to throw out, sell or give away is more than just a chore; it’s an emotionally threatening task.  Those people are called hoarders.

Hoarding is not just a label made popular by the television show, neither is it just a sign of laziness.  Psychologists describe it as a condition that results from deep rooted trauma or loneliness.  Living in a home environment with stacks of belongings covering most of the floor, with only a winding trail to walk through is dangerous for anyone, including paramedics and fire fighters who need swift access in order to be able to help in an emergency.  But older adults, who may already have precarious balance, are particularly at risk. 

Often isolated and without frequent visitors, older adults may be hoarders and no one knows until that person has a crisis, usually a fall where they are unable to get up.  If you suddenly become aware that someone you care about is a hoarder, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Resist the impulse to help by cleaning everything out for them while they are in the hospital or away.  Experts believe that the accumulated belongings offer a sense of security and protection, and that an abrupt clean out will likely be traumatic.
  • Contact a therapist who specializes in hoarding issues.
  • Involve the hoarder in the clean out process, empowering them to make some of the decisions about what to get rid of in order to make their home safe, while you’re there to help.

Getting ready to tackle the basement,

Lynn

 

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Almost everyone knows someone who is living with Alzheimer’s.  I will never forget the day when my great-aunt, my oldest living relative, looked me square in the face, and called me by my mother’s name. It was heartbreaking that she didn’t know who I was, and although I wanted to tell her it was me, I knew that even if I corrected her, it would do no good. 

This past spring, the Obama administration took a giant step toward progress by  developing  a National Alzheimer’s Plan, with the hope to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.   The crux of the plan begins with an investment of $156 million dollars to increase Alzheimer’s disease research,  and support people currently living with Alzheimer’s.

The details of the plan are many, and its mission and goals are specific.  But what it represents to so many of us can be conveyed in one simple word…Hope.

For more information on the details of the plan, visit http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/napa/NatlPlan.shtml#intro

Remembering,

Lynn

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When an older adult is discharged from the hospital, they are often sent home with a recommendation for homecare.  There’s some confusion over what this means, and therefore people don’t always follow through with the recommendation.  Hopefully this will clear up some of that confusion!

There are 2 different types of assistance that are both referred to as “homecare”.  Private Duty homecare, refers to an aide that you pay for out of pocket that can provide companionship, help with showering, dressing, meal preparation as well as light housekeeping and help running personal errands.  Because traditional insurance doesn’t cover this type of care, no prescription is needed.  The average cost in theDetroit area is $20/hour.

Skilled homecare, is something very different.  That is the phrase used to describe agencies that provide nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists.  They also have aids that can come once or twice a week for one hour to provide shower assistance.  Their services are covered by Medicare as long as you have a prescription from a doctor. 

Both types of homecare play a critical role for older adults and their families, particularly when first coming home from the hospital or rehabilitation center.  An older adult who lives alone might need the help that private duty can offer in order to avoid overdoing it those first few days at home.  And skilled care can make the difference in terms of helping someone stay out of the hospital. 

Some skilled homecare companies offer a service called Tele Health or Tele Buddies, which automatically sends someone’s blood pressure, weight, pulse and other information to a monitoring station.  If the data is outside of that person’s target range specified by their doctor, a nurse calls them to adjust their medication for the day.  This kind of fine tuning helps people stay at home safely.

Whether you need skilled or private duty, one thing to keep in mind is that all homecare companies are not the same… be sure you use a company that comes highly recommended!

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This week has been all about crisis management!  As Geriatric Care Managers we see our clients at least once a month to keep current and look for changes that we can’t pick up on over the phone.  We often look for whether or not they gained or lost weight, if their dementia has worsened, or if it is time to switch from a cane to a walker, to give a few examples. We know how important these monthly visits are, but sometimes a client or family member may question their value when all is stable.  And that value was made clear to families several times this week.

Things can change quickly for all of us, most especially for older adults because their conditions tend to worsen over time.  When a crisis happens, it is much easier to begin to pick up the pieces when someone who knows the client, is familiar with their history, current medications, recent medical procedures, layout of their home, and their support system is there to provide expertise, help and guidance.

So instead of waiting until poor balance gives way to a fall that requires hospitalization, surgery and then rehab, or when progressing dementia gets to the point where someone can’t be alone, start working with a Geriatric Care Manager proactively, so they’ll be there ready to help when you need them. Let us help smooth the way for you the way we did for several of our families this week. 

Waiting for your call,

Lynn

 

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There was an email circulating last week that talked about a speaker holding a glass of water in her outstretched arm as she addressed an audience.  She asked them one question…Is this glass heavy to hold?  Without repeating the whole story, the answer depends on how long you need to hold it.  It’s not heavy at all to hold for a minute or two, really heavy to hold for an hour, and almost impossible to carry for 24 hours straight, without setting it down.

The analogy is so relevant to caregivers, and the stress they carry 24/7.  Even small tasks become burdensome when you can’t put them down and take a break.  So many family members carry their worry and stress about an older adult around with them all the time.  It’s on their minds at work and often in their dreams at night. I was speaking with someone I really respect on Friday, and after talking to him about his mother, advised him casually to not think about it for a few days.  “Like that’s going to happen” he responded.

This is exactly why Caregiver Stress is such a common problem in our society.  In addition to seeing to all the details in our own lives, family caregivers are also trying to figure out how best to help their parents, aunts, uncles etc., without consciously taking time to set their burdens down.

Whether it’s through meditation, exercise, retail therapy (my personal favorite) or getting help from a professional, we all need a stress free zone.

What is your stress free zone?

Lynn

 

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The winter months can be especially difficult for older adults.  I think most of us would agree with that statement, but usually think of outdoor hazards like snowy walkways and ice on the road.  But what we don’t often think about are indoor hazards that lead to falls.  According to The New York Times, falls are the most common cause of non-fatal injury for older adults, and they most often happen at home.

Several factors can contribute to an individual’s fall risk.  Health factors such as vision, balance, medication and cognitive condition play a role, as do environmental factors such as poorly lit walkways, throw rugs on the floor, electrical cords, slick tile or thick pile carpeting.

Here are a few quick ideas to make your home safer:

  • Pick up throw rugs.  While they look beautiful, they are a tripping hazard.
  • Purchase plug-in lighting for dark walkways.
  • Ask your physician for a prescription for balance training.  It is usually covered by  Medicare.
  • Install hand rails or grab bars in bathrooms, as well as front and rear entrances to your home.

While there are many steps we can take to minimize the risk of a fall, the real obstacle in many cases is the fact that we feel invincible.  “Sure, I can climb on that stepstool to clean the top of the cabinet.  That’s not a problem for me’… until suddenly it is. 

It’s time to put the old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”  into action. 

Take care,

Lynn

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Are you worried about your memory?  I’ve got both good and bad news to share today.  Apparently, memory issues are not only a concern for older adults!

According to Robin West, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Florida, our cognitive abilities peak around age 25!  From that point on we experience imperceptible slowing of our abilities.  This is usually not noticeable until we turn 50, when the cumulative effects start to become apparent. Literally speaking, our minds are made for forgetting.  With all the complex processes our brains perform everyday, there are many places for information to get lost. 

That’s the bad news.  The good news is that if you’ve been noticing slight cognitive changes, Dr. West offers reassurance that all of the following are normal and expected as we age:

  • Word retrieval difficulties
  • Slower thought processing
  • Scattered attention
  • Memory difficulties

Reassurance is important because worry impairs cognitive functioning.  In order to help memory at any age, wear glasses and hearing aids if you have them, because it is difficult to remember anything that you didn’t hear or see clearly.   Also, try using memory cues like creating mental pictures of what you need to remember.  But if you or someone you care about is experiencing more significant difficulties, check with your doctor for advice.

Trying not to forget,

Lynn

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Sometimes you just need to laugh.  With two adolescents in the house, I’ve learned that laughter is a sure fire way to diffuse tension with my brood, and have even been willing to go to great lengths to get that laugh!  On average, we laugh about 17 times a day.  However that number drops drastically for older adults, who may not even laugh once a day.  

We’ve all heard the words “laughter is the best medicine” but may not have realized just how true that is.  Physiologically speaking, laughter can:

  • Increase the oxygen level in our blood
  • Decrease muscle tension, and therefore decreases tension related aches and pains
  • Improve muscle tone (especially belly laughs…see, I’m working out right now!)
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Cause the release of endorphins, which are feel good chemicals in the brain that improve mood & decrease pain
  • Ease anxiety

Additionally, laughter is a natural shut-off valve that stops the production of stress hormones that are released during stressful situations and can weaken our immune system over time.  So when your choice is to burst into tears or let lose with a fit of the giggles, go for the belly laugh!  And the next time you’re with an older adult, look for the humor and find a way to make them laugh!

Busy telling bad jokes,

Lynn

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When to Call

  • Does an older adult's family live out of town?
  • Are local family members overwhelmed and need help?
  • Is an older adult about to be discharged from the hospital or rehabilitation center?
  • Do family members have differences of opinion regarding a senior's care?
  • Is a senior living in an environment that needs aging-in-place modifications?

If the answer to any of these is "yes," ElderCare Solutions of Michigan can help. Call us today.

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ElderCare Solutions of Michigan is a division of Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit, a non-sectarian not-for-profit organization that has served the metro Detroit area for more than 80 years.