A report from the American College of Emergency Physicians calls for increased training in geriatrics for emergency room personnel, as well as ER features that support the needs of older patients. Researchers examined data from around the world and found that many senior patients experienced functional and cognitive problems after a trip to the hospital after a fall or other health event.
Said study author Dr. Leonard Gray of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, “These patients have complex profiles before they come to the ER, and even more complicated needs once they get there. Dependence on others and geriatric illnesses, such as cognitive impairment and mobility problems, affect the majority of older emergency patients across a wide range of nations with different health systems and cultural contexts. They require specialized care to avoid missed diagnoses, pressure ulcers and a range of other potential problems associated with this particular population.”
With the growing senior population, more hospitals in the U.S. have established specialized ER facilities for older adults. Said Dr. Gray, “Frailty, confusion and dependence on others make these our most fragile emergency patients. Specialized training in geriatric care and even specialized layout and procedures can help us provide the best assessment and care.”
The study appeared in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
It’s a prediction often met with worry: in fewer than 20 years, there will be more Americans over 60 than under 15. Some fear this will mean an aging society with an increasing number of impaired people and fewer youngsters to care for them while also keeping the country’s productivity going.
The concerns are valid, but a study from Stanford University shows there’s a silver lining to the graying of our nation. As we grow older, we tend to become more emotionally stable. And that translates into longer, more productive lives that offer more benefits than problems, according to Laura Carstensen, the study’s lead author.
“As people age, they’re more emotionally balanced and better able to solve highly emotional problems,” said Carstensen, a psychology professor and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. “We may be seeing a larger group of people who can get along with a greater number of people. They care more and are more compassionate about problems, and that may lead to a more stable world.”
Over the course of twelve years, Carstensen and her colleagues tracked about 180 Americans between the ages of 18 and 94. For one week every five years, the study participants carried pagers and were required to immediately respond to a series of questions whenever the devices buzzed. The periodic quizzes were intended to chart how happy, satisfied and comfortable they were at any given time.
Carstensen’s study, which was published in the journal Psychology and Aging, was an effort to answer questions asked over and over again by social scientists: are seniors today who say they’re happy simply part of a socioeconomic era that predisposed them to good cheer? Or do most people—whether born and reared in boom times or busts—have it within themselves to reach their golden years with a smile? The answer has important implications for future aging societies. “Our findings suggest that it doesn’t matter when you were born,” Carstensen said. “In general, people get happier as they get older.”
Over the years, the older subjects reported having fewer negative emotions and more positive ones compared with their younger days. But even with the good outweighing the bad, older people were inclined to report a mix of positive and negative emotions more often than younger test subjects.
“As people get older, they’re more aware of mortality,” Carstensen said. “So when they see or experience moments of wonderful things, that often comes with the realization that life is fragile and will come to an end. But that’s a good thing. It’s a signal of strong emotional health and balance.”
Carstensen attributes the change in older people to her theory of “socio-emotional selectivity,” which is a scientific way of saying that people invest in what’s most important to them when time is limited. While teenagers and young adults experience more frustration, anxiety and disappointment over things like test scores, career goals and finding a soul mate, older people typically have made their peace with life’s accomplishments and failures. In other words, they have less ambiguity to stress about.
“This all suggests that as our society is aging, we will have a greater resource,” Carstensen said. “If people become more even-keeled as they age, older societies could be wiser and kinder societies.”
So what, then, do we make of the “grumpy old man” stereotype? “Most of the grumpy old men out there are grumpy young men who grew old,” Carstensen said. “Aging isn’t going to turn someone grumpy into someone who’s happy-go-lucky. But most people will gradually feel better as they grow older.”
Source: Stanford Center on Longevity. The Center’s website offers news and updates about research pertaining to aging and quality of life.
Most of us want to stay in our own homes as we grow older, but our homes don’t always fit our needs if we experience mobility or other health challenges common to seniors. Whether you live in a house, apartment, senior living community or with family, you can take steps to adapt your home to your needs. Give your brain a workout with this month’s wordfind, which contains 18 words having to do with making our homes safer and more functional.
Click here to download the puzzle.
Need a little help? Click here for the solution to the puzzle.
Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2014
According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, 90 percent of Americans age 50 and older intend to stay in their own homes. There are many good things to be said for “aging in place”! For many Americans, staying in our own homes means staying where our roots are. We cherish our familiar surroundings. We know the services and businesses in our neighborhood. We rely on an informal support system of family, friends and neighbors.
But many of us may find that our homes haven’t kept up with our needs as we deal with the common physical changes of aging. For example, home hazards can lead to dangerous falls for people with mobility and sensory challenges. Falls are a serious problem for seniors! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of older adults die from fall injuries every year and millions more are treated for nonfatal injuries. Falls are the top reason seniors go to the emergency room. And over half of these falls take place right in the person’s own home.
Fires are another concern. Older adults are at greater risk of being injured in a home fire. They may be physically less able to take quick action after a fire. Cognitive impairment or the side-effects of medication may affect their ability to make decisions. They may forget to turn off the stove, or fall asleep while smoking. Seniors are also at greater risk of criminal activity in the home. Unfortunately, many burglars and con artists target frail, vulnerable elders.
Whether you live in a house, an apartment, or a condo, this might be a good time to take stock of your home. What changes can make your home as safe and secure as possible? And if you are one of the growing number of family caregivers whose older loved one now lives with you, have you considered ways your home can adapt to your loved one’s needs?
Senior-friendly modifications can provide greater peace of mind for everyone in the family. Some modifications, such as adding a roll-in shower or lowering kitchen cabinets, are fairly major remodeling projects. Other improvements are easier and can be done for a smaller cost. Here are three steps to take as you evaluate your home:
Remove Hazards and Add Safety Accessories. To help prevent accidents, perform a room-by-room safety inspection of the home. Make repairs and remove clutter throughout the home and outside. Inspect smoke alarms. Make safety improvements and additions, such as non-slip, non-glare flooring, low-pile carpeting and grab bars in the bathroom and night lights. Improve lighting in all rooms. Remove or secure area rugs. (The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers a free, online “Safety for Older Consumers Home Safety Checklist” that you can use as you conduct your inspection.)
Add Adapted Features for Accessibility and Independence. Enhance accessibility and improve independence with adaptive features such as easy-grip knobs and pulls in kitchen, wheelchair or walker access, and touch light switches. If necessary, re-arrange the house for one-story living. Consider a security and personal alarm system.
Make Home Repairs for Comfort and Convenience. Make sure roof, gutters, stairs and railings are in good repair. Inspect and upgrade plumbing, electrical, heat and air conditioning systems if necessary. Install energy efficient features such as weather stripping and insulation.
You can fix some things by yourself or with the help of handy friends, but doing it yourself is not always the best way to go. Poorly planned and built features can prove useless, or even dangerous. For example, a ramp that is too steep and lacks safety features is worse than no ramp at all. Grab bars that are not solidly anchored can cause rather than prevent falls. If you are hiring a handyman or contractor to do some of the work for you, be certain the person or company you select is reliable and trustworthy.
Important note: Older adults are often targeted by unscrupulous contractors and service providers. Be wary of door-to-door repair sales. A common scam is for a salesperson to come to your door, claiming that his company is working on a job in your neighborhood and offering to do work on your house for a low rate. He might claim to have spotted dangerous conditions that should be taken care of “right away.” But when the work is completed (if it ever is completed), the services and materials usually turn out to be shoddy and not to code. Never agree to any services until you have checked out the company.
Geriatric care managers can help! These specialized professionals can perform an assessment of a senior’s home, locate and oversee the installation of safety features, recommend reliable senior home modification professionals, and help families access available community assistance programs that assist older persons with home maintenance, seasonal weatherization and needed repairs.
Copyright © AgeWise, 2014
Our nation’s growing senior population means that an increasing number of older adults will need help managing their household wealth, retirement accounts and other assets. In response, more financial advisors are claiming to be experts on the financial needs of older adults. But according to a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the confusion arising from the many types of financial advisors who put the term “senior” in their title puts older consumers at risk of fraud. The report found that many such advisors lack expertise in senior financial issues, and some may in reality be little more than high-pressure salesmen.
The report, “Senior Designations for Financial Advisors: Reducing Consumer Confusion and Risks,” revealed that:
- The variety of titles and acronyms of senior designations confuse seniors.
- There is a wide variation in the training and qualification process and regulation associated with different titles.
- There is a need for a single authority to ensure that those using the “senior” designation do not mislead or harm consumers, selling them inappropriate investment and financial products or otherwise defrauding them.
According to CFPB director Richard Cordray, the report “underscores the need for consistent high-level standards of training and conduct for those advisors who want to acquire a bona fide senior designation.”
What can seniors and families do now to protect elder assets? Visit the CFPB’s Financial Protection for Older Americans web page to learn more about selecting a financial advisor and to find information on other senior financial issues.
Copyright © AgeWise, reporting on information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2014
The scorching summer heat and the discomfort that comes with it affects everyone, but for people with heart conditions, it could be a matter of life and death.
Experts at the University of Cincinnati urged people with cardiovascular disease to take extra precautions during the summer months to avoid major health problems.
“It doesn’t take a lot of exertion for those with heart conditions to become ill during hot weather spells,” said Neal Weintraub, MD, director of the university’s division of cardiovascular diseases. “Strenuous activities in this weather can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke in healthy individuals. Those who have heart problems have a two-fold chance of being affected by heat, and can even die from extreme heat stress.”
Our bodies typically maintain a temperature of about 98.6 degrees, and the body instantly tries to cool itself down by sweating and dilating blood vessels if its temperature rises even slightly.
The evaporating sweat cools the body, and as a result of the larger blood vessel size, the heart beats faster and blood pressure decreases. Weintraub said that increased heart rate and lower blood pressure can cause problems for those with heart disease. “It can be very stressful on the cardiovascular system,” he said. “People with weaker hearts may not be able to pump blood efficiently enough to keep the body cool and the blood pressure at a high enough level. As a result, body temperatures may rise to dangerous levels.”
He added that some medications taken by heart patients could also cause problems in extreme heat. “Beta-blockers, which are commonly prescribed to people with heart conditions, can prevent the heart from beating as rapidly as it needs to during hot weather, thereby limiting the body’s ability to cool down,” he said.
In order to stay healthy in hot weather, people with heart disease should:
- Stay inside during the hottest part of the day
- Try to stay in an air conditioned environment
- Limit strenuous outdoor activities
- Wear loose-fitting, light clothing
- Stay hydrated and avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Carry a cell phone and call for help immediately if stranded in the heat.
Weintraub said that when friends, coworkers or loved ones have a serious heart condition, it is a good idea to check on them regularly.
“Taking the proper precautions can significantly reduce chances of suffering from heat-related illness,” he said. “It’s important to know your risks and to pay attention to your body’s warning signs while still enjoying your summer.”
Source: University of Cincinnati
The American Medical Association has announced that the organization has designated
obesity as a disease requiring treatment and prevention efforts.
The American Heart Association believes the additional focus is needed on this important risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The organization works with individuals, industry, healthcare professionals and national, state and local governments to recognize the severity of the issue and the need for more coordinated and comprehensive solutions.
Obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher. Over one-third (33.7%) of U.S. adults are obese (nearly 75 million adults) and about 12 million (16.9%) of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 are obese and nearly one in three (31.7%) U.S. children (23,500,000) ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese.
“Obesity is mainly caused by taking in more calories than are used up in physical activity and daily life, but other factors may also contribute to obesity including genetics, limited access to healthy foods or unsafe environment for physical activity,” says Donna Arnett, Ph.D., president of the American Heart Association. “When people eat too many calories, or too much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, their blood cholesterol levels often rise. But even taking off a few pounds can provide you with cardiovascular benefits, so every step in the right direction is a step toward healthier living.”
If you have too much fat — especially around your waist — you’re at higher risk for health problems. Obesity…
- raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is linked with lower heart disease and stroke risk, so reducing it tends to raise the risk.
- raises blood pressure levels.
- can induce diabetes. In some people, diabetes makes these other risk factors much worse. The danger of heart attack is especially high for these people.
When your weight is in a healthy range your body more effectively circulates blood, your fluid levels are more easily managed, and you are less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and sleep apnea. The American Heart Association can help you get there. To determine your risk for heart disease and stroke, visit www.mylifecheck.org and learn how you can lower your risk.
Source: American Heart Association
Moving to a long term care facility is often difficult for an older adult. But there are many things family members and friends can do to reduce the physical and emotional stresses involved. They can help plan the move, participate on the day of the move, and provide love and support after the move.
Moving to a nursing home is an important long term care option for many older or disabled adults. Sometimes, a person moves to a nursing facility because the care they need just isn’t available or practical at home. Or, they may have special rehabilitative care needs after leaving the hospital, but before they return home.
Whatever the circumstances, there are a few simple steps you and other family members and friends can take to help the person you care for make a smooth, hassle-free transition to new surroundings.
Before the Move
Moving to a long-term care facility usually means making do with less space than the person is used to. Long-term care residents have the right to keep and use items of personal property, to the extent space permits. But space is almost always in short supply. So choices may have to be made about what to take along…and what to leave behind. Friends and family can help by:
- Learning from the facility exactly what space limitations apply
- Helping prepare for the move, including arranging for storage or other disposition of items left behind
- Discussing the facility’s policies for safeguarding resident property; for example, you may be advised to mark all clothing and personal belongings with the person’s name, and to make (or helping the resident or facility make) a list of the resident’s things
- Anticipating and responding to special concerns, such as care for a pet.
On the Day of the Move
Moving to a new home is always stressful. You can help minimize feelings of disorientation and dislocation by:
- Helping your loved one unpack…and making sure that pictures, personal mementos and other similar items are placed where they will create a feeling of home
- Sharing a meal at the new facility
- Getting to know staff members and learning about all the various programs, services, and activities the facility has to offer
- Spending some quiet time after everything is unpacked to make sure your family member or friend is as comfortable, relaxed, and reassured as possible.
After the Move
When people move to a care facility, they often fear that the move will come between them and people and activities they love. They may worry about being alone and out of touch. It may take some time and effort to get over these concerns, to be reassured by the support of loved ones, to make new friends, and to settle into new and interesting patterns of living. You can help by:
- Staying in touch right from the beginning…communicating frequently and positively
- Working closely with your loved one and staff to make sure any difficulties are ironed out
- Establishing regular visiting times so your loved one can plan ahead for them
- Making a few surprise visits as well
- Visiting individually or as a family group for special occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries
- Attending care conferences and family support groups
- Working with your loved one and staff to make the new living situation a happy, successful one.
15 Great Ways to Help Your Loved One Feel Connected
- Send flowers or balloons on a special day.
- Write frequent cards, notes or e-mail.
- Give a prepaid, senior-friendly cell phone or calling card.
- Set up Skype chats with your loved one
- Visit as often as you can.
- Send pictures or videos of family events, grandchildren, or friends.
- Bring a card or small gift when you visit.
- Get to know the resident’s new friends and care providers, and greet them during your visits.
- Check to see what types of food items would be appropriate as a gift, and include them occasionally when you visit.
- Remember to acknowledge and thank members of staff whenever appropriate.
- Offer to take along other long-time friends, so they can visit also.
- Go for a stroll outside if weather permits.
- Take the resident on a day trip, or come along on a resident outing.
- Inform friends, family and your loved one’s faith community of their new contact information.
- Become a volunteer in your loved one’s new home.
Seniors appreciate having a wide range of Medicare private plan choices available to them but often feel unqualified to choose among them, a new Kaiser Family Foundation report concludes. Based on discussions with seniors in four cities around the country, the report captures seniors’ experiences and frustrations in making decisions about their Medicare plans.
Seniors cite many factors as influencing their initial choice of a Part D or Medicare Advantage plan, including premiums, benefits, out-of-pocket costs, brand recognition (i.e., AARP) and adequate coverage for their health care needs, including coverage for their specific medications and, for Medicare Advantage plans, access to desired physicians and hospitals.
However, many seniors say the initial process of comparing and choosing plans was not easy due to the large volume of information they receive and their inability to compare plan features to determine which option is best for them. Few used the government’s online comparison tool, and those that did cite several shortcomings. Many relied on advice from sources they trust, including insurance agents, plan representatives, friends, family members, medical professionals and pharmacists.
After they enroll in a plan, many seniors are reluctant to revisit their initial decision and switch plans, even when premiums go up, because of frustration and confusion during their initial selection process and because of fears about disrupting their care or increasing out-of-pocket costs. They lack confidence in their ability to choose a plan that would be appreciatively better for them.
“How are Seniors Choosing and Changing Health Insurance Plans?” was based on focus-group discussions with seniors in Baltimore, Md.; Seattle, Wash.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Tampa, Fla.; and is authored by researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and PerryUndem Research and Communication.
Source: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.
August is Cataract Awareness Month, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology is urging seniors and caregivers to be aware of the dangers of ignoring the symptoms of cataracts, a leading cause of visual impairment that will affect more than half of all Americans by the time they are 80 years old. Delaying diagnosis and treatment of age-related cataracts can increase a senior’s risk of permanent blindness, and can lead to both physical and psychological damage.
What are cataracts?
Cataracts are caused by the clouding of the lens of the eye and are most common among older adults, as the condition develops as the eye ages. Many seniors cope with cataracts, accepting vision loss as an inevitable part of the aging process rather than seeking medical attention. Due to the incapacitation caused by blurred vision, leaving cataracts undiagnosed and untreated can lead to physical danger, such as injuries from falls or running into unseen objects, as well as psychological harm like depression and social isolation. In addition, the longer advanced forms of cataracts are left untreated, the more difficult it can be to successfully repair the damage caused to the eye.
Risk factors and symptoms of cataracts
Adults age 65 and older should have regular eye exams to monitor for the development of cataracts, in addition to other common eye conditions and diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma. People with diabetes, a family history of cataracts, and those who smoke tobacco are at an increased risk of developing cataracts. Common symptoms such as dull, blurry vision, colors appearing less vibrant, and halos around lights, may begin to be noticeable as cataracts develop. This cataract simulator demonstrates how vision is affected by cataracts.
Treatment of cataracts
Cataracts are nearly always treatable with surgery, but it may not be necessary until performing daily activities becomes difficult. If daily life isn’t disturbed, a change in a person’s eyeglass prescription may be all that is necessary until visual impairment becomes more severe. If completing everyday tasks is challenging, cataract surgery should be discussed with an ophthalmologist — a medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions.
“Seniors who find themselves giving up normal tasks like reading, exercising or driving due to cataract symptoms should know that they do no not need to suffer in silence,” said Rebecca Taylor, M.D., spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Cataract surgery can help these individuals regain their sight and their independence. It is one of the most common and safest procedures performed in medicine, so seniors should not resist seeking help. Getting treatment can vastly improve your quality of life.”
For people without regular access to eye care or for whom cost is a concern, EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, offers eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost to qualifying seniors age 65 and older through its corps of nearly 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists across the U.S. To learn more about EyeCare America or to find out if you or a loved one qualifies for the program, visit www.eyecareamerica.org. EyeCare America is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc., with additional support from Alcon and Genentech.
Source: The American Academy of Ophthalmology the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. The Academy’s EyeSmart program offers trusted, medically accurate information about eye injuries, diseases and conditions, including cataracts .