Posts Tagged ‘Senior Health’

Communication with an Alzheimer’s Patient

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

It is a common symptom for an Alzheimer’s patient to get confused or forget words as the disease progresses. They may also speak less clearly in general. Understanding the needs of these patients can become challenging for caregivers as well as loved ones. The patient may also have difficulty interpreting the communication style of others. It is important to practice verbal and nonverbal techniques which take into consideration a patient’s unique circumstances; this can help break the communication barrier.

At the start of the conversation, identify yourself by name AND the loved one as well. This sort of to-the-point clarity can be soothing to Alzheimer’s patients as many experiences difficulty in identification of people as the disease progresses.

Always use a quiet and relaxing tone of voice when speaking to your loved one. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. When asking a question, asking ONE question at a time, insuring to use the same wording if the patient asks you to repeat. Avoid references that may be confusing to the patient such as pronouns; avoid metaphors as well since the patient might interpret as literal.

It is important to approach an Alzheimer’s patient in a way that is non-threatening. This is a basic way to improve communication between you and the patient. Simply approaching the patient from the front rather than from behind removes uncertainty the patient may have regarding you and the general environment. Try to maintain calm and peaceful surroundings with a minimal amount of background distractions; this is to help avoid disorder or chaos. When speaking to your loved one, demonstrate sincerity by talking face to face, maintaining eye contact and using facial expressions to reflect the sentiment behind your conversation. Smiling, hugging or touching is EXCELLENT non-verbal communication that is gentle and should be well-received by the patient.

While visiting with the patient, be careful not to startle him or her; move about slowly and clearly explain what you are doing. Try to be sympathetic to what your loved one is trying to say to you through words and expressions.

Caregivers and loved ones of Alzheimer’s patients sometimes feel weighed down by the extreme personality and mood changes that are affecting the patient. Effectively dealing with these changes involves being instinctive and adjusting your own communication style to accommodate the changing needs of your loved ones.

Always remember that when speaking to an Alzheimer’s patient to speak clearly and concisely and be calm.

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.

Living with Arthritis

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

This is the third and final part to series on arthritis. Besides medications, diet and exercise, there are other approaches for arthritis.

In some cases, surgery to rebuild the joint (arthroplasty) or to replace the joint such as a total knee joint replacement may help to maintain a more normal lifestyle. The decision to perform joint replacement surgery is normally made when other alternatives, such as lifestyle changes and medications, are no longer effective.

Normal joints contain a lubricant called synovial fluid. In joints with arthritis, this fluid is not produced in adequate amounts. In some cases, a doctor may inject the arthritic joint with a man-made version of joint fluid. The synthetic fluid may postpone the need for surgery at least temporarily and improve the quality of life for persons with arthritis.

A few arthritis-related disorders can be completely cured with treatment while most other arthritic disorders are chronic (long-term) conditions; however, the goal of treatment is to control the pain and minimize the joint damage. Chronic arthritis frequently goes in and out of remission.

Complications resulting from arthritis are chronic pain and lifestyle restrictions or disability.

Call a doctor if:

  • Your joint pain persists beyond 3 days
  • You have severe unexplained joint pain
  • The affected joint is significantly swollen
  • You have a hard time moving the joint
  • Your skin around the joint is red or hot to the touch
  • You have a fever or have lost weight unintentionally

If arthritis is diagnosed and treated early, joint damage can be prevented. It’s important to find out if you have a family history of arthritis; share this information with your doctor, even if you have no symptoms. Osteoarthritis may be more likely to develop if you abuse your joints (injure them many times or over-use while injured). Be careful not to overwork a damaged or sore joint and avoid excessive repetitive motions as well. Excess weight could also increase the risk for developing osteoarthritis in the knees and possibly in the hips. Know your body mass index to learn if your weight is healthy.

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

What is Arthritis?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Twinges in the knee, sharp shooting pain from shoulder to elbow, joints making crackling or popping…not a big deal. Or is it?

It is a big deal and all too often people assume that this twinge or cracking is a normal part of everyday life and that they just must deal with it. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a serious problem because the pain caused by it can affect every portion of a person’s life including interactions with others, how daily life is handled, and one’s livelihood.

This pain can be caused by arthritis. Arthritis is defined by Google as an inflammation in one or more joints which results in pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited movement; there are over 100 different kinds of arthritis.

Arthritis may cause:

  • Joint pain/swelling
  • Reduced mobility of affected joint
  • Redness of skin around joint/warm to the touch
  • Stiffness, especially upon rising in the morning

Treatment of arthritis depends mainly on the kind of arthritis one has, which joints are affected, the severity, and how the condition affects daily life. An individual’s age and occupation will also be considered in the treatment plan. The main goal of the treatment is to reduce the pain and prevent further disability. It is possible to improve symptoms by simple lifestyle changes instead of medications such as exercise; exercise helps maintain the healthy joints, relieve stiffness, reduce pain and exhaustion, and improve muscle and bone strength. A doctor will work to tailor an exercise plan for each individual’s needs.

Check back tomorrow for more information on Arthritis

Osteoporosis

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Osteoporosis is a bone disease where an individual has a below normal bone mass combined with a gradual deterioration of the bone structure. This leads to a weakness in the skeletal system of the individual; most often it is in the hips, spine, and wrists. Osteoporosis is the worst in the hips and spine, where fractures of the bone are more serious. A hip fracture of the hip bone requires immediate hospitalization as it can paralyze the individual as well as cause internal organ damage. A spine fracture can be even more serious as it can lead to nerve damage or it could be fatal.

Osteoporosis affects over half of all Americans over the age of 50; however, women seem to be its main target. It is possible for it to affect people of any age.

This is very difficult to detect on its own, as bones slowly lose their mineral content and become brittle and weak. The bones can become so weak that even a gentle bump could cause a bone to break and unfortunately, until then, there is no way to detect it properly. In the case of a weakened spinal vertebra, osteoporosis can be felt as back pain, lessened height, or changes in the curvature of the spine. The only way to properly diagnose osteoporosis is through a bone density test.

It is not enough to consume more calcium in order to prevent osteoporosis from occurring; it also requires other nutrients that help the body utilize and integrate calcium into the bone structure along with the activity to induce the body into using that calcium. To stop osteoporosis from ever developing, plenty of calcium and Vitamin D should be consumed, have a generally healthy lifestyle with no smoking and little to no alcohol consumption and also make sure to have weight-bearing exercises as part of your exercise routine. More information about weight-bearing exercise is here.

In many ways, treatment for individuals that already have osteoporosis is very similar to preventative medicine. The focus is on helping the bone create new bone and fill in the holes left by the deterioration. There are also some medications also focus on slowing the absorption of bone so that the creation of new bone has a chance to overtake it; however he best action that can be taken is to maintain a healthy life-style with proper diet and exercise.

Stasis Ulcers

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

A stasis ulcer is a skin ulcer that develops in an area where the blood circulation is slow-moving and the return of the venous blood toward the heart is poor. A common location for stasis ulcers is on the ankle.

Stasis refers to a stoppage or slowdown in the flow of blood or other bodily fluids such as lymph. ‘Stasis’ is a Greek word meaning, “the posture for standing” and is derived from the Greek “histemi” meaning, “to make stand still.”

Those that suffer from stasis ulcers tend to have medical conditions such as varicose veins or blood clotting. A leg injury can also add to the development of a stasis ulcer, even if it a minor injury. Those who are overweight are more likely to develop these kinds of ulcers and women are more affected than men. Lying or sitting in one spot for long periods of time can also be a contributing factor.

Typically, a stasis ulcer looks like an open sore, and it’s often red or brown in color with irregularly-shaped borders. The area around it may be swollen or discolored and it might be itchy or flaky before the ulcer actually forms. The ulcer may be covered with clear, green, or yellow discharge. If the ulcer gets infected, it can produce a greater amount of discharge. In some cases, hard and sensitive lumps can form under the skin surrounding the ulcer.

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the ulcer. Milder ulcers which resemble small skin cuts or scrapes, can usually be treated at home. For these kinds of ulcers, the skin should first be cleaned with mild soap and water, then coated with petroleum jelly and loosely covered with gauze. Adhesive tape should not be put on the wound because of the possibility of irritation. If a mild ulcer does not heal after a few days of self-care, call your doctor. Painful, swollen, or deep ulcers should be examined by a doctor. A doctor may treat the ulcer with antibiotics to treat the infection and help the healing process. In cases where all other methods have been tried with no positive result, surgery may be required.

Diverticulitis

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Diverticulitis is a disorder that comes from diverticulosis, which is characterized by small, bulging pouches in the digestive tract.

These pouches are also called diverticula, and they are common in the United States. Over half of the population older than 60 years of age has them; however, it is not limited to just those over the age of 60 as those younger can get the disorder as well. The pouches don’t always cause problems and many times, people do not know that they are there; however, the pouches can become infected or inflamed (diverticulitis). This can cause severe pain in the abdomen, fever, nausea, and changes in bowel habits. Diverticulitis happens when the diverticula become infected. Cases can range from mild to severe; the milder cases can be treated with antibiotics for the infection as well as rest and diet changes. The more severe cases require hospitalization and in some cases, removal of the affected part of the colon (bowel resection).

There is good news-most people with diverticulosis do not develop diverticulitis. This condition can be prevented by eating a well-balanced diet with food rich in fiber.

Symptoms of diverticulitis include:

  • Pain in abdomen and lower left side
  • Tenderness
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea and constipation

Other signs considered less common are:

  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain while urinating
  • Tender abdomen

So what causes this in the first place? Diverticula are formed in weak places in the colon that give way under pressure. Then the pouches, which are about the size of a marble, protrude through the colon wall. The pressure in the colon can lead to infection of the diverticula. It was once thought that nuts, seeds, corn, and popcorn were to be avoided by those who had diverticulosis; however, recent research has shown that not to be the case and in fact, a higher intake of nuts and corn could possibly help to avoid diverticulitis in male adults.

Diagnosis is usually by CT scan and its 98% accurate in diagnosing diverticulitis. Other diagnostic studies include barium enema and colonoscopy; however, these are only done when the inflammation has subsided due to the possibility of perforation.

When to Consider a Nursing Home

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The decision to consider nursing home care for your loved one is tough and making the choice between in-home care and nursing home care can be frustrating. It’s one of the most important decisions that you can make for you loved one, so take your time to make sure you are making the best possible one.

A nursing home provides round-the-clock care for those whose conditions requires nursing care and do not require intensive care like is received in a hospital setting. The nursing home provides medical care as well as personal care such as dressing, bathing or eating.

Nursing homes are available for long-term and short-term care. For patients who are recovering from an illness or injury, a nursing home can provide care until the patient is recovered and ready to go home. Long-term care is for those individuals who have more serious medical conditions. Admission to a nursing home requires a doctor’s order.

Choosing a nursing home is not easy and you might be confused as to where you need to begin. Here are a few things to consider:

  • What are your loved one’s needs? Talk to their doctor about what kind of care is required and how long they might need to be there. Ask what the patient can do for himself or herself and how intense their medical needs might be. For example, caring for someone with diabetes is much different than one with Alzheimer’s.
  • What can you afford? A few weeks or months of short-term care can be covered by Medicare, but long-term care may not be covered. Medicaid and private insurance might pay for some of the costs; however, the majority of the financial burden could fall on the family.
  • Choose nursing homes to visit. Narrow down the nursing homes in your area and research them by reading inspection reports. Also if the patient is capable of helping to make the decision, discuss options with them so that they can feel a part of the plan.
  • Visit the nursing homes. Plan to see each one you have selected and speak with the administrators and staff and even say hello to the residents. Ask to see private as well as public areas. Have a list of questions and don’t accept any vague answers.
  • Compare notes on each facility before making a final decision. Make sure you have all the answers you need before making a decision.

The best nursing home will offer medical and custodial care. It can also offer you a peace of mind. Take your time in your research so that you can make the best decision possible for your loved one.

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.

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