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Posts Tagged covid-19

Avoiding Pneumonia This Winter: How to Stay Safe and Healthy

Monday , November 23 , 2020

Avoiding Pneumonia This Winter: How to Stay Safe and Healthy

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be serious in older adults. According to the CDC, hundreds of thousands of seniors are hospitalized with the disease and about 50,000 die every year.

While a person may become infected with pneumonia at any time of the year, instances are more prevalent during the winter months. And this year, with Covid-19 added to the mix, the risk for developing serious infection or a co-infection is even greater.

Keep reading for measures you can take to stay as healthy as possible during the winter months ahead.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a respiratory infection that causes inflammation in the air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli. The sacs may fill with fluid or pus, making breathing difficult, and the disease can affect one or both lungs. Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain when breathing
  • Cough (usually a wet one that produces phlegm)
  • Fatigue

It is important to note that seniors may develop different symptoms such as confusion and changes in mental awareness.

Pneumonia in Older Adults

According to the NCBI, the death rate among older adults with severe pneumonia can be as high as 20%. While experts aren’t sure why pneumonia is more aggressive in seniors, there are likely a variety of contributing factors:

  • As people age, their immune systems weaken, leaving them less able to fend off infection
  • The normal aging process weakens lung function
  • Chronic health conditions such as COPD and heart disease can exacerbate the effects of pneumonia

Additionally, older adults are at increased risk of complications of pneumonia, including bacteremia, pleurisy, lung abscess, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

What Causes Pneumonia?

Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other organisms. It can occur on its own or after someone has been infected with a cold or flu, and it is sometimes a severe side effect of Covid-19.

Pneumonia caused by viruses such as flu or Covid can be especially severe and even deadly, especially in older adults. Those with a weakened immune system, recovering from a recent surgery or illness, or who suffer from chronic health conditions are at particular risk.

Preventing Pneumonia in Older Adults

Older adults – especially those with pre-existing conditions – are encouraged to receive the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine and the flu vaccine every year.

Other ways of preventing pneumonia, and staying generally healthy during winter months, include:

  • Wash hands thoroughly and often. The CDC recommends washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to clean hands BEFORE and AFTER:
    • Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
    • Touching your mask
    • Entering and leaving a public place
    • Touching an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens
  • Practice good health habits such as staying physically active and eating a diet high in produce and whole grains.
  • Manage chronic conditions such as COPD, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Don’t smoke. If you’re a smoker, talk to your doctor about help quitting.

Final Thoughts

Because pneumonia and its complications can be difficult to diagnose and treat in seniors, it is vital to take preventative measures now. Talk to your doctor about how you can help keep yourself safe from pneumonia this winter – and all year long.

Posted in: Health

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Combating Senior Loneliness During the Holidays

Monday , November 16 , 2020

Combating Senior Loneliness During the Holidays

The holidays are going to look different this year. 

For you or me, that might mean eating Christmas dinner with just our immediate family rather than having a large gathering. 

It might mean losing their one opportunity to see family for the entire year for a senior citizen who lives alone. 

With Covid-19 on the rise once again, older adults are increasingly being forced to spend time alone. Understandably, families are concerned about their older loved ones’ mental and emotional health. 

If you find yourself in this boat, keep reading for a few ways you can help your elderly family and friends feel your love from afar.

Tips for Helping a Senior Deal with Holiday Loneliness 

Growing older can mean children are growing up and moving away, losing friends, chronic illness, hearing loss, and more. 

Because of this, seniors often experience loneliness regularly. This year, the holiday season, in particular, will be much more difficult for many people. 

Here are a few things you can do to help brighten their days: 

  • Practice active listening. Try to fully listen when your loved one wants to talk, even if the topic is negative. An honest conversation may help seniors work through whatever is bothering them and will likely reveal other ways in which you can help. 
  • Send a card. There’s something to be said for a handwritten card or note. Ask family members and friends to send your older loved one a holiday greeting (bonus points for a family photograph or child’s drawing!).
  •  Plan safe activities. If your senior lives in a long-term care facility, check with the activities director to see what they have planned for the residents. Sign your loved one up for any classes or events they may enjoy and encourage them to get to know others in their community.
  • Tap into local resources. Check with your loved one’s religious organization to see if they can offer social or spiritual support. Many organizations provide one-on-one counseling to those who are having difficulties in life, and you may be able to arrange for an online or telephone visit.
  • Help them decorate. Many seniors enjoy reflecting on past holidays as they unpack and arrange seasonal decorations. Help them add festive touches to their home or room with small adornments such as garland, wreaths, or battery-operated candles. Be sure to ask them about the history behind unique pieces and listen to the stories!
  • Make traditional baked goods. Is there a special holiday recipe that’s been passed down in your family from generation to generation? Whip up a batch of those cookies or that bread and hand-deliver it to your older loved one to enjoy on their own.
  • Try new hobbies. Try learning about what your older loved one likes to do to relax or as a hobby. If they don’t already have a hobby, ask if there’s one they’d like to try. Even seemingly solitary hobbies, like knitting or crossword puzzles, often lead to social conversations and increased interaction with others.

Final Thoughts

Remember that many families face tough times this year, and holiday celebrations are likely to look very different. Do what you can to help your older loved one feel involved without stressing yourself. If you put too much on your plate, neither you nor your loved one will likely enjoy the season. 

If you’ve taken steps to address loneliness but feel that your older loved one still needs companionship, consider a home health aide. Our aides can help out by planning and scheduling activities, reading aloud, renting and watching movies, or simply sitting down for a chat. Reach out today to learn more: (908) 927-0500.

Posted in: Aging

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Gathering Safely for the Holidays

Monday , November 2 , 2020

Gathering Safely for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us! With Thanksgiving and a slew of other holidays right around the corner, you may be wondering, “How can I safely visit my family and friends?”

Experts say think small. During the worst pandemic in a century, things will look a bit different this year.

So how do you plan a special celebration during such a challenging time? Keep reading to learn more:

Plan for smaller holiday gatherings 

The best advice experts can offer at this time is stay at home whenever possible. Plan for a family Zoom call, an online game night, or even a holiday drive-by in your car.

But if you absolutely must see your loved ones in person, keep it small.

The CDC tips for a safe holiday gathering include:

  • Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least 6 feet apart at all times. Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household.
  • Avoid holding gatherings in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with persons who are not in your household.
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather, or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.
  • Require guests to wear masks. At gatherings that include persons of different households, everyone should always wear a mask that covers both the mouth and nose, except when eating or drinking.
  • Plan ahead and ask guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.

Large gatherings make it too difficult to enforce rules and maintain social distancing. Unless you want your holiday party to become the next super spreader event, keep it to a minimum!

Opt Outside

Even better? If you want to meet up with a group of people who don’t live in your household, gather outside!

It may be cold out in the coming weeks, but that’s nothing that can’t be overcome. Dress in layers, add a hat and gloves, and bring a blanket to cover your lap. You can even gather around an outdoor fireplace or patio heater, as long as you maintain social distancing and wear masks.

If weather forces you into a tent or pop-up shelter, consider keeping one side open for ventilation.

To keep food as safe as possible, encourage guests to “B.Y.O.M” (bring your own meat) and cook it over the grill or fire.

Protect Yourself and Others

No matter how you gather, remember: Safety first. The holidays are not the time to start ignoring the safety protocol you’ve observed for the rest of the year.

Remind guests to:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Wear a mask and maintain a six-foot distance from people outside your household
  • Avoid handshakes, hugs, and even elbow bumps
  • Stay home if you are sick

Keep in mind that you are not obligated to gather with anyone. If you receive any invitations that make you even the tiniest bit uncomfortable, exercise your right to say “no.”

Who Should Avoid Gatherings? 

According to the CDC, the following people should avoid all gatherings this holiday season. Anyone who:

  • Has or was exposed to Covid-19
  • Has been diagnosed with Covid-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others
  • Has symptoms associated with Covid-19
  • Is waiting for Covid-19 test results
  • Is at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19

Final Thoughts 

If you are an older adult or person whose medical conditions leave you at greater risk of severe infection, you should avoid ALL in-person gatherings.

If you are celebrating with friends and loved ones, help drive infection rates down! Wear a mask, wash hands, practice social distancing, and avoid large groups.

Have a safe and healthy holiday season!

Posted in: Health

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