HERE COMES FLU SEASON

Flu season is here.  In addition to the elderly, young children (six months to two years); pregnant women; and those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung and heart disease are most at risk.

Common symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an annual flu vaccination is the most effective protection against catching the flu.  As it’s a serious contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death, those at high risk need to get an annual vaccination.

In addition, the CDC offers the following tips in coping with the flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue away after you use it.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and, when not available, an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to stop the spread of germs.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • If you have flu–like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities.

 

Antiviral drugs – as opposed to antibiotics – are used to treat high risk patients who come down with the flu. These are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) that are not available over-the-counter and should be used in the first two days of symptoms.

 

MAKING THE HOME SAFE FOR PATIENTS WITH DEMENTIA

The good news is that people are living longer today.  The bad news is that more and more people who live longer suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.  Estimates are that as many as 50% of those over 85 suffer from some form of dementia.

These individuals are often affected in terms of judgment (forgetting, for example, how to use certain household appliances); sense of time and place (becoming easily lost amid once familiar surroundings; behavior (becoming easily confused, suspicious and/or fearful); physical abilities (perhaps experiencing difficulties with balance); and senses (they may experience changes with their sensitivity to temperature or depth perception).  These changes may happen over a long period of time, or seemingly overnight.

To help loved ones cope with this condition, caregivers should take the following steps:

 

  • Conduct a home assessment. Look around the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, garage and basement for possible danger zones and make necessary accommodations.  This may range from hiding tools or sharp objects to removing any potentially dangerous medications from medicine cabinets.

 

  • Adapt to their needs. Rather than trying to re-teach an elderly loved one about safety, take the necessary action.  For example, instead of reminding them not to drive the car, take the keys away.

 

  • Simplify activities.  Most accidents occur when the elder is rushed.  To alleviate this problem, break activities into simple, step-by-step tasks, allowing the individual sufficient time to complete them.  For example, if the person is having a problem brushing his or her teeth, model the action first or prepare the toothbrush with water and toothpaste.

 

  • Support the individual’s needs. Make sure the home encourages independence, social interaction and meaningful activities.  This may include putting grab bars in the entries of the home as well as the bathroom; engaging them to limit boredom, agitation and depression; and communicating effectively.

 

Caregivers need to protect themselves against burnout.  This means recognizing the symptoms and getting help sooner rather than later.  This may mean bringing in another family member or a certified home health aide to watch the patient for several hours every week or over a weekend.

Dealing with dementia is a challenge. Yet, when handled successfully, individuals can maintain some sense of independence and remain at home years longer – which is often the preferred option – while reducing the level of stress on the caregiver.

 

NOTE ON NUTRITION

Nutrition is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, particularly for older people.  The website Helpguide.org offers the following tips on eating healthy:

  • Reduce sodium (salt) intake. This will help prevent water retention and high blood pressure.  At the supermarket, look for the “low sodium” label.  Season meals with a few grains of course sea salt instead of cooking with salt.

 

  • Eat good fats. This includes such foods as olive oil, avocados, salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, and other monounsaturated fats. Fat from these sources protects against heart disease by controlling “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and raising “good” HDL cholesterol levels.

 

  • Consume plenty of fiber. Lower the risk of chronic diseases, avoid constipation and feel fuller longer by increasing your intake of fiber.  This includes raw fruits and veggies, whole-grains, and beans.

 

  • Stay away form the “bad” carbs. This includes foods containing white flour and refined sugar. These carbs digest quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar levels and short-lived energy. Replace them with whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

  • Look out for hidden sugar. Sugar can be hidden in such foods as bread, canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, fast food, and ketchup. Opt instead for corn syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, cane juice, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, or maltose. This may mean buying fresh or frozen vegetables rather than canned goods, and low-carb or sugar-free versions of breads, pasta, and ice cream.

 

  • Cook healthy. Prepare veggies by steaming or sautéing in olive oil, which preserves its nutrients, rather than boiling, which drains nutrients.

 

  • Go for five colors on your plate. This may include fruits and veggies rich in color and nutrients like blackberries, melons, pineapple, yams, tomato, onions, eggplant and zucchini.

DON’T IGNORE BAD HEARING

 

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one third of those over 60 and half of those over 85 have hearing loss.  While a hearing loss is considered a normal part of aging, it can make life increasingly difficult for those affected.   It can cause isolation, make it difficult to follow a doctor’s advice, and respond appropriately to safety warnings (such as alarms and doorbells).

Signs of hearing loss include:

 

  • Trouble hearing during phone conversations
  • Problems in following conversations in person
  • A need to turn up the TV volume
  • An inability to hear because of background noise
  • A feeling that others are mumbling

 

If you have presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, you may have a difficult time hearing what others are saying or may be unable to stand loud sounds.  The loss of this kind of hearing is usually progressive.

Hearing loss may also be the result of exposure to loud noises over a long time, viral or bacterial infections, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, a punctured ear drum, wax buildup, reaction to medication, or heredity.

Hearing problems that are ignored or untreated can grow worse.  That’s why it is strongly recommended that older people experiencing hearing loss see a physician.  A doctor may suggest that you also see an audiologist, who are professionals trained to measure hearing.  An audiologist will use an audiometer to test your ability to hear sounds of different pitch and loudness.  It’s a painless test that can determine the benefits of a hearing aid, and if so which kind will work best.

Hearing aids today come in sizes that are virtually undetectable.  They work by making sounds louder – although they sometimes will also increase the sound of background noises (e.g. traffic, other people talking).  Before buying one, it important to find out if insurance will cover it.  In many cases, an audiologist will not only make the recommendation but will allow the individual to try the hearing aid out before buying it.

Assistive/adaptive devices are those products that help people learn to live with hearing loss.  They may include a telephone amplifying system, TV listening system, and alerts such as doorbells, smoke detectors and alarm clocks that use a vibration or flashing light to signal the individual.  Many public places – theatres, museums, houses of worship – offer assistive devices for those with hearing problems.

A personal listening system is composed of a directional microphone connected to earphones to help you hear a specific set of sounds while eliminating or lowering other noises.  Some are designed for crowded rooms while others are intended for one-to-one conversation.

Don’t wait until your hearing prevents you from enjoying life.  Often, there are things you can do to reduce or eliminate the problem.

 

 

DEPRESSED?  TRY SOME FLOWERS

Researchers at Rutgers University found that flowers ease depression, inspire social networking and enhance memory as we age.

More than 100 seniors participated in the study, in which some received flowers and others did not. The results showed that:

  • Flowers Decrease Depression. Study participants showed a significant increase in happiness and positive moods when flowers were present.

 

  • Flowers Refresh Recent Memory. Seniors performed higher on everyday memory tasks and experienced enriched personal memories in the presence of flowers.

 

  • Flowers Encourage Companionship. Seniors who received flowers re-engaged with members of their communities and increased their social contacts to include more neighbors, religious support and even medical personnel.

 

Specifically, 81 percent of seniors who participated in the study reported a reduction in depression following the receipt of flowers. Forty percent of seniors reported broadening their social contacts beyond their normal social circle of family and close friends. And 72 percent who received flowers scored very high on memory tests in comparison with seniors who did not receive flowers.

 

PRESIDENTIAL QUIZ: WHO SAID WHAT???

 

Match the President with their famous quote.

 

  1. John F. Kennedy
  2. Theodore Roosevelt
  3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  4. Richard Nixon
  5. Ronald Reagan
  6. Abraham Lincoln

 

1. People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook.

 

2. The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’

 

3. Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal.

 

4. My fellow Americans; ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

 

5. I’ve always been fond of the West African proverb – speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.’

 

6. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

 

Answer Key:

1-d; 2-e, 3-f; 4-a; 5-b; 6-c

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 25, 2013 in Senior Care

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