Posts Tagged ‘Home Health’

Alzheimer’s Disease

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Having a clear understanding of what Alzheimer’s disease is and how it affects your loved ones is the first step in learning to cope with the diagnosis.

Alzheimer’s disease often begins with a progressive memory loss, followed by an increase in disorganized thought and speech patterns. There is a continual deterioration in the brain and this enables the disease to progress to a point in which the person becomes helpless and is no longer able to care for themselves. The disease eventually results in death. The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown, though there are known genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease affects about four million people in the United States.

It is important to get medical attention for this disease AS SOON AS POSSIBLE; this helps prolong the quantity and quality of life. Finding a doctor who is familiar with Alzheimer’s disease is important although, you might want to consider a doctor who is specifically trained for treatment in the diseases of the elderly. Other doctors that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease include neurologists and psychologists. Be aware though that there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease; however there are medications available that can help treat and slow down the progression of the disease. It is also helpful to have a good support system. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is at times overwhelming as well as devastating. Your local Alzheimer’s Association is a good starting point. They are extremely helpful and can offer a lot of advice on caring for your loved one as well as personal coping strategies. They can also direct you to local support groups and organizations. You might want to also locate extra help with the care of your loved one if things become too consuming.

Often, it becomes too much to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.  As the disease progresses, your loved one needs more care and it can become difficult to consistently be there to care for your loved one alone. If this should happen, be sure to find an appropriate facility that is skilled at caring for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Research your options before it becomes necessary to that you are prepared to make an informed decision.

It’s important to remember that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is an emotionally stressful experience; you need to remember to take care of yourself as well. Take time out for a break and to meet your needs as well so that you can be at your best to deal with your loved one. There are many options such as day facilities that can care for your loved one when you need a respite. Also, educate yourself about the disease; there is a lot of information available on the internet and in libraries on Alzheimer’s disease; education will help you be better prepared of what is to come. Being prepared will help reduce the stress involved if you are better prepared.

More on Arthritis

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Testing, or diagnosis, of arthritis might include:

  • Obtaining a detailed history to conclude if arthritis or another musculoskeletal problem is the cause of the symptoms.
  • Thorough physical exam to see if fluid is collecting in the joint (effusion); the joint might be tender when it is gently pressed and may be warm and red. It may also be painful or difficult to rotate the joints in some directions. This is known as limited range of motion (ROM).
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • Extraction of fluid from the joint for further exam

Testing, however, will depend on the individual circumstances.

Medications without a prescription can include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) as a pain reliever; this is usually the first course of treatment that is used instead of a prescription.
  • Aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen are used as an over the counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). This will help reduce swelling and inflammation.

Prescription medications may include:

  • Biologics~most recent breakthrough for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Such medications include etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade) and adalimumab (Humira) and they are administered by injection and can improve quality of life.
  • Corticosteroids (steroids) ~these are medications that suppress the immune system and inflammation. This is another injection and it is injected into the affected joint.
  • Cycloonygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors~these drugs block and inflammation-promoting enzyme called COX-2. This class of drugs was initially thought to work as well as traditional NSAIDs, but with fewer stomach problems. There have been numerous reports of heart attacks and stroke and this has prompted the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) to re-evaluate the benefits. Celecoxib (Celebrex) is still available but labeled with strong precautions.
  • Immunosuppressants~these drugs like azathioprine or cyclophosphamide are used for serious cases of rheumatoid arthritis when other medications have failed.

It is important to remember to take all medications as directed; if any difficulty is experienced, it is important to talk with the doctor. Do not stop taking medications unless directed to do so by a physician.

Check back on Thursday, October 28, 2010 for more information on Arthritis

Shingles

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Elderly citizens age 60 and over should receive a vaccine to protect them against shingles, or herpes zoster.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta recommends a single dose of the zoster vaccine, Zostavax, for adults age 60 and over. This is even if they have had a previous outbreak of shingles.

A new recommendation that was published in the CDC’s Mortality and Morbidity recently replaced a former provisional recommendation made in 2006. This provisional recommendation was made after the vaccine was licensed by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

In those ages 60 and over that received the vaccine, the occurrence of shingles was reduced greatly. Particularly with those ages 60-69, it reduced the occurrence rate by 64 percent.

Side effects of the vaccine from those that had it seem to be redness, pain and tenderness, swelling at the injection site, itching and headache.

It is reported that half of the people living to age 85 have had or will get shingles.

Shingles is characterized by clusters of painful blisters which develop on one side of the body in a band-like pattern and can cause severe pain that may last for weeks, months or years. Shingles is caused by the childhood disease chickenpox that becomes dormant within the nerves and reactivates later in life. It is said that over 95 percent of people are infected with the varicella zoster (chickenpox) during their lifetime. About one in three persons will develop shingles during their lifetime, resulting in about one million cases of shingles per year.

Chickenpox is usually mild, but it can be serious, especially in young infants and adults. The risk of contracting shingles increases with age starting at around 50 and is highest in the elderly.

Caretaker for Elderly Gets Four Years for Theft

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Justice is served in Redwood City, CA. A caretaker of an elderly woman was convicted of stealing more than $138,000.00. She was sentenced to four years in prison. She will serve her time in Chowchilla, which is the Valley State Prison.

The caretaker was ordered to pay $145, 00.00 in restitution to the elderly woman she had been hired to take care of. Niumai Adele Lawanivalu was hired to look after the elderly woman who suffers from dementia. She immediately started writing herself checks from the elderly woman’s account. She was charged with three counts each of commercial burglary and elder financial abuse, which are all felonies.

The police began investigating Lawanivalu not long after a worker at one of the elderly lady’s banks became suspicious over a large amount of account activity and contacted them.

An investigation traced the activity back to Lawanivalu. She begged the family not to turn her in to the police. This phone call was recorded by law enforcement.

She was later arrested as she was returning from a Las Vegas trip with the Fijian rugby team. She was initially hired through a local referral agency, From the Heart Homecare; however, two weeks later, she offered to work directly for the family at a cheaper price and they accepted her offer.

Please visit here for more information.

Incontinence

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Incontinence simply means loss of bladder control and it is a common condition that many who care for the elderly must deal with. It is more of a symptom and not a disease and is caused by a wide range of conditions and disorders including pelvic surgery, injuries, certain medications, and just basic degenerative changes that occur with aging.

Elderly with incontinence can experience both physical and emotional uneasiness. These are many things that can be done to treat and manage the condition. The first step in treatment is to see your doctor to find the cause and establish a treatment plan.

The following are some additional tips to help you, the caregiver, deal with some of the challenges associated with incontinence:

  • Make the bathroom easy to find by using night lights in the bedrooms and hallways.
  • Many elderly have accidents because they are unable to make to the bathroom in time; consider purchasing a bedside commode. This can be used in the bathroom over the regular toilet or it can be used bedside at night.
  • Keep pathways through the home safe and clear; rearrange furniture and remove clutter; make sure throw rugs have a non-slip backing on them.
  • Encourage the use of a walker or can to increase mobility.
  • Get a waterproof bed sheet to help protect your mattress from night time accidents.
  • Provide chairs with sturdy arms so that it reduces the strain of getting up; straining to get in or out of a chair can put pressure on the bladder.
  • Make sure the elder is allowed enough time in the bathroom to completely empty the bladder.
  • Remove wet clothing immediately after an accident and rinse out to cut down on odor; if the wet item cannot be rinsed right away, store in an airtight container or plastic bag.
  • Have a schedule for toileting needs; start with every 2 hours and progress from there.
  • Consider a raised toilet seat and handrails beside the toilet to make toileting more comfortable. A raised seat helps an elder get up and the handrails help to steady.

It only takes time and a little patience to work through the symptoms of incontinence.

Flu in the Elderly

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

The flu puts the elderly and those with chronic diseases at risk for problems associated.  Those 84 and older are at the greatest risk, age 74 and older, the second highest, and children age 4 and under is the third highest risk.

The flu symptoms in the elderly may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (can last 2-3 weeks)
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • General aches and pains
  • Chest discomfort, cough (can become severe)
  • Sore throat (not always)
  • Runny or stuffy nose (not always)

Although more common in children, the elderly can also suffer from symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea with the flu; however, these symptoms tend to be more common with the swine flu.

Complications of flu in the elderly may include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Dehydration
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and heart disease (Congestive Heart Failure)

It’s important to see your doctor immediate if you have any of these flu complications. The sooner you start medical treatment, the faster it can work to treat the more serious symptoms.

The best way to prevent the season flu is to get a flu vaccine annually. Getting a season flu shot helps reduce the risk of being hospitalized due to serious complications, however, the season flu viruses change each year, so the elderly need to get a new flu shot each fall. Flu shots can be obtained at your doctor’s office, drug stores, and various other locations.

The American Lung Association offers an online flu shot. Please visit here and enter your zip code and a date and you will receive information about flu shot clinics in your area.

Preventing Abuse

Friday, October 8th, 2010

The incidence of elder abuse can be reduced, but it will take more time and effort that we are making right now. Preventing elder abuse means doing three things:

  • Listening
  • Intervening
  • Educating

If you are a caregiver and overwhelmed by the demands of caring for the elderly there are a few things you can do as well to prevent an abuse of elder incidence:

  • Request help when you need it so you can take a break
  • Find an adult day care program
  • Stay healthy
  • Seek out therapy for depression
  • Find an elder caregiver support group
  • Seek help for drug and alcohol abuse

Remember, elder abuse hotlines offer help for caregivers as well. Call a help line if you think that there is a possibility that you could cross that line and commit elder abuse.

As a concerned family member or friend, you can also help by:

  • Watching for warning signs and if you suspect abuse report it
  • Keep watch on the elder’s medications; does the amount in the container match up with the date of the prescription?
  • Watch for possible financial abuse; ask if you could scan the bank accounts and credit card statements for possible unauthorized transactions
  • Call and visit as often as you can
  • Offer to stay with the elder so that the caregiver can take a break

If you are an elder, there are ways you can protect yourself against elder abuse. Here are some ideas:

  • Make sure your financial and legal affairs are in order. If they aren’t, seek professional help to get them in order, with a trusted friend or relative if necessary.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends and avoid isolation.

If you are unhappy with the care you’re receiving, whether it’s in your own home or in a care facility, speak up. Tell someone you know and trust and ask that person to report the abuse, neglect or substandard care to your state’s APS (Adult Protective Services) office, or make the call yourself.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800 799-7233

Risk Factors

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

It is difficult to take care of a senior citizen when he or she has many different needs and on the other hand, it is difficult to be an elder person when age brings with it a lot of dependence on another person. But the demands of the caregiver and the one needing care can create situations in which abuse is more likely to occur. Stress can get great for both at this time.

Many of those who are nonprofessionals such as spouses and adult children, find taking care of the elderly, satisfying; however the responsibilities that can come with deteriorating health can be stressful. That stress that results from being burned out for example can lead to mental and physical abuse.

Among caregivers, risk factors for elder abuse are inability to cope with the stress, depression, lack of support from other caregivers, the ideation that taking care of the elderly carries heavy burden, and substance abuse.

Even those that give care in institutional settings can experience this kind of stress levels that lead to abuse. Even nursing home staff may be prone to elder abuse if they do not have the proper training, have many responsibilities, are not suited to care giving, or work under poor conditions.

Several factors concerning the elderly, while they do not excuse the abuse, might have influence over whether they are at greater risk for abuse. These factors include the degree of an elder’s illness or dementia, social isolation (the caregiver and the elder are alone together a lot), whether the elder had been an abusive parent previously, a history of domestic violence in the home, and the elder’s own tendency toward verbal or physical aggression.

In many cases, elder abuse is not intentional. Caregivers are often pushed beyond their capabilities or psychological means and may not intend to yell at, strike out, or ignore the needs of the elderly in their care.

If you suspect elder abuse, do not hesitate to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800 799-7233

Check back on Thursday, October 7, 2010 for the 4th installment in the series on elder abuse

Erectile Dysfunction

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Many men experience erectile dysfunction at some point in their life. A large percentage of these men are age 55 and over. Sadly, only a small percentage talks with their doctor about this problem.

Impotence can happen at any age, however, most men feel that it is an age-related problem and that it is normal to have an simply do not talk to their physician. And let’s face it, it’s a personal matter and embarrassing to some, so men just avoid the subject all together for the most part. In a survey of men age 60 or over, 61% reported being sexually active, and nearly half derived as much if not more benefit from their sex lives as they did in their 40s (About.com: Health Topics A-Z, 2010).

Erectile dysfunction in elderly men is more of a side effect with disease than age. Older men are more likely to have conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure than younger men. Sometimes, these conditions and/or some of their treatments (medications, etc) are in fact to blame for impotence.

There are in fact, many physical and psychological reasons that can cause brief periods of impotence; this should be considered as normal as getting a cold. To be honest, getting a cold could be a common reason that could cause temporary impotence. Most men do experience this from time to time in their life. Persistent problems should be discussed with a physician, particularly since it is treatable. It may also be a symptom of another type of problem. When in doubt, speak with your doctor (About.com: Health Topics A-Z, 2010).

Works Cited

(2010). Retrieved October 3, 2010, from About.com: Health Topics A-Z: http://adam.about.com/reports/000015_1.htm

Ways To Improve Heart Function

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

As people get older, body systems do not seem to work as well as they did at a younger age. This makes it important to take care of ourselves the best we can; diet, exercise, and rest will all help to keep our bodies working well. Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how well we take care of ourselves, illness and disease can take hold of us. In the elderly, it seems that heart problems are prevalent.

Here are a few tips to help keep your heart in tip-top shape:

  • Loose weight~Your heart will not have to work as hard to send blood to all parts of a slimmer body.
  • Avoid hard exercise~This puts a sudden pumping demand on your heart.
  • Engage in mild exercise~Walking or joining a doctor approved cardiac rehab program could help strengthen your heart.
  • Wear loose clothing~Wear clothing that encourages good blood flow in the legs; tight socks or hose with tight tops could slow blood flow to your legs thus causing clots.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures~The body works harder to keep the body temperature normal when you are too hot or too cold.
  • Avoid colds/flus~Try to stay away from those who are sick; also ask your doctor about yearly flu shots and the pneumonia shot.
  • Limit alcohol~Talk with your doctor about how much alcohol is safe for you (though it should be avoided altogether) as alcohol weakens the heart; heart failure could improve if alcohol is eliminated.
  • Get plenty of rest~Your body needs 8 hours of sleep a day.
  • Drink plenty of water~8 (8oz) glasses per day is recommended.
  • Keep legs elevated when sitting~This will help to increase circulation. Having your legs hanging down for extended periods of time can cause the blood to pool in your lower extremities thus putting you at risk for blood clots.
  • Most importantly, LISTEN to your body and on days you feel well, do more and on days you feel sick, do less.