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Trips to the ER Often Signify a Tipping Point for Older Adults

Monday , January 13 , 2020

Trips to the ER Often Signify a Tipping Point for Older Adults

Children of aging parents often dread receiving the call that Mom or Dad has ended up in the hospital. Something as simple as a trip or fall, or even the flu, can turn into a full-blown crisis.

In today’s healthcare environment, patients aged 65 and older represent 40 percent of hospitalized adults, with approximately 20% of them readmitted within two weeks of discharge.

For many, a trip to the emergency room can signify a quality-of-life tipping point, as their ability to live independently lessens after a hospitalization.

The key to maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle lies in preparation. While accidents and infections can happen at any time and often catch families off-guard, having a plan in place can help those involved make rational choices.

Keep reading to learn how you can help your older loved one navigate decisions during a hospital stay and prepare for longer-term solutions once they head home:

A Downward Spiral

Research recently published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine shows that seniors are 14 percent more likely to have acquired a disability six months after visiting the ER than adults of the same age who didn’t end up in the ER.

What’s that mean?

After heading to the emergency room, these adults were much more likely than their peers to lose the ability to independently bathe, dress, climb down a set of stairs, prepare meals, exercise, and more.

Oddly, these seniors weren’t admitted to the hospital. They were seen, treated, and sent home – not something that would typically be considered a life-altering event.

Poorer Quality of Life

Research by Dr. Cynthia Brown, professor and division director of gerontology, geriatrics and palliative care at the University of Alabama, shows that many older adults experience a sharp decline in their ability to get up and move around for a full year after visiting the emergency room.

A decline of this sort can be associated with a lot of poor outcomes – poorer quality of life, placement in a nursing home, isolation and loneliness, and even sickness and death.

How Does a Trip to the Emergency Room Lead to Such Dire Circumstances?

For a younger adult, a trip to the ER is usually no big deal. When you get treated and sent home, it’s an indicator that you’re going to be ok.

Why is it so different for older adults?

Experts say that for seniors who are already struggling with day-to-day life, a trip to the emergency room might throw them over the edge. Emotionally, they may feel defeated and not want to try anymore. Physically, an injury or illness may put a strain on the already-limited resources they were working with.

Other possibilities may include seniors who become afraid of further illness or injury and limit their activities, or ER staff may miss underlying conditions which ultimately lead to bigger problems.

Family Members can Help Older Adults During and After a Visit to the ER

Older adults shouldn’t be left to navigate the often confusing and overwhelming Emergency Room environment alone.

If possible, a family member or loved one should stay by their side throughout the experience and help guide them through it.

Experts recommend the following:

  • Ask for a room: Sitting in the waiting room or in the hallway can be an overwhelming experience for older adults – especially those suffering from dementia or prone to delirium.
  • Supply a list of medications to staff: Make sure the hospital has an up-to-date list of ALL of the medications your loved one is currently taking to help avoid interactions and side effects.
  • Keep your loved one comfortable: Have a grab bag ready to go in case of an ER trip that includes everything they may need (eyeglasses, hearing aids, a comfy outfit, a favorite book or other activity)
  • Establish communication with hospital staff: Start by identifying your loved one’s primary ER doctor and the names of any specialists on their team. Request a meeting with the primary care, taking time to write down any questions and concerns beforehand. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your loved one if they are unable or uncomfortable speaking for themselves.
  • Learn about post-hospitalization care: Following a trip to the ER, your older loved one will need to have their health monitored by their primary care physician to avoid and further issues and rehospitalization. New prescription medications may be added to their daily routing with can interact with other meds, foods, or even alter their daily lifestyle. In addition, special medical equipment (like a walker or pressure mattress) may need to be purchased.
  • Determine where your loved one will live while they recover: Often, an older adult is able to go straight home and back to their normal routine after a trip to the Emergency Room. But on occasion, they may require a helping hand in the form of a hired caregiver or a loved one. Sometimes, the easiest solution is to move in with someone else (such as an adult child or other loved one) during the recovery process.

A trip to the ER doesn’t have to be a life-altering event for your older loved one. Knowing what to expect in advance and being prepared can make a huge difference.

Tell us – have you had an elderly friend or family member head to the ER? What was your experience?

Posted in: Health

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New Year’s Resolutions for Older Adults

Monday , December 30 , 2020

New Year’s Resolutions for Older Adults

As we head into the new year, it’s an excellent time to reflect on your life. Are you happy with your health? Do you see your friends and family as often as you’d like? Do you have hobbies and activities you enjoy?

Setting new year’s resolutions may seem like a young man’s game but having goals can be especially beneficial for older adults.

In 2020, consider a resolution that focuses on eating better, improving your social life, or learning a new skill:  It will improve your wellbeing for the year to come and far beyond.

The following are our suggestions for new year’s resolutions that every senior citizen should consider:

Make Time for Daily Exercise

Studies have shown that staying physically active is the key to healthy aging. Although experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week, any amount is beneficial. If you’re just getting started, consider a quick walk around the block – or even around your backyard.

Take up a New Hobby

For many older adults, boredom and loneliness are a real threat. Taking up a new hobby or activity can help alleviate social isolation, as well as keeping the mind and the body active. There are plenty of activities for individuals of all capabilities – from art and crafts to exercise – so there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Explore Volunteer Opportunities

During your senior years, you may have more time to dedicate to charitable causes than you did in your younger years. Doing so can provide a great sense of fulfillment in your life. Volunteering provides a way to give back to the community and support causes that are personally meaningful to you. Bonus: It also connects you to like-minded individuals and introduces new opportunities for friendship and socialization!

Learn a New Technology

Learning a new technology isn’t just a great workout for your brain – it also helps build a connection to the younger generation. Today, everything is done on a computer or cell phone. Learning how to use social media or online chat can help bridge the gap between you and your grandkids or other young family members. In addition, many new technologies can help keep senior citizens safe and healthy (the Apple Watch can do everything from detecting a fall to monitoring heart rate!).


Do Some Traveling

Whether it’s a trip across the world or a trip across the city, travel can enhance the lives of seniors in many ways. Studies have found that just three days of vacation can lower stress levels, even after vacation ends – plus, travel keeps seniors moving and active, and introduces more opportunities for socialization. There are dozens of tour groups that cater specifically to older adults – and if you’re unsure about travelling alone, a professional caregiver can be utilized to provide companionship and safety.

Spend More Time with the Grandkids

Research shows that grandparents who babysit their grandchildren live longer than those who do not care for anyone. In fact, they have up to a 37% lower mortality rate than people of the same age who aren’t responsible for others. Even if you don’t care for a grandchild or other young person, simply spending time with them regularly can help. And can you really think of a better way to spend your retirement??

Final Thoughts

Lots of people make New Year’s resolutions every year and don’t stick with them. This year, vow to do something that’s good for you and make it happen! Resolutions can be fun. Find a class you want to take, plan a trip, or book a monthly lunch with a friend.

Tell us: What do you have planned for the New Year that will help improve your health and happiness?

Posted in: Aging

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Family Caregiver Burnout During the Holidays

Tuesday , December 24 , 2019

Family Caregiver Burnout During the Holidays

How does that old Christmas song go? It’s the most hectic time of the year?

No?

Well, we think that maybe that’s the way it should go!

The holidays can be stressful under the best of circumstances. There are gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, a tree to decorate. Most people feel frazzled this time of year.

For family caregivers, the stress can be overwhelming.

In addition to the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the regular day-to-day obligations of work and family, they also have the added pressure of tending to a loved one who can’t properly care for themselves.

According to a survey by AARP, 7 in 10 family caregivers say it is emotionally stressful to care for loved ones during the holiday season. Still, many of them feel positive about the holidays: It feels good to be useful and it’s rewarding to care for those you love.

If you are a caregiver and you’d like to minimize holiday burnout (and maximize holiday joy!), we have a few suggestions that can help. Keep reading to learn how to relax more and stress less during this hectic season:

Go in (Mentally) Prepared

Now that you’re a family caregiver, don’t expect the holidays to be the same as they were in the past. As your older loved ones continue to age, traditions and celebrations will likely need to change.

This doesn’t have to be a disappointment.

It may be true that your mother can no longer cook the Christmas ham, or your dear uncle can no longer take part in the annual gift exchange – but accepting these changes is in the best interest of both you (the caregiver) and your loved one.

Fighting the inevitable and trying to force issues just for the sake of “tradition” can add more stress for everyone involved. Instead, why not create new rituals that work well for everyone involved?

Be Aware of Limitations

There can be a fine line between “fun” and “stressful” – and although caregiver burnout can occur at any time of year, it’s particularly common during the holidays.

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and other holidays are usually a time to celebrate with family, but for those caring for an older loved one, celebrations are often just one more responsibility on their already overflowing plate.

Unfortunately, a caregiver is a person who just never seems to get a break – and the holidays are no different. In fact, the added commitments of the holiday season can make those times even more stressful than normal (even though they’re supposed to be “happy” days).

The end result? Overwork, depression, and guilt can lead to a caregiver’s breakdown.

As a caregiver, it is important to remember to create small moments of “me time,” no matter how busy you become. While that may seem like an impossible task, there are ways to make yourself a priority (even if you only have minutes a day).

Know How to Identify Stressors

Fact: Not every person is stressed out by the same things. For some people, it might be crowds or loud noises. For others, it might be having too many things on their to-do list and not enough time.

Being aware of what makes you go over the proverbial edge can help you avoid those situations altogether.

Think about the things that you do during your day and how acting as a caregiver adds stress. What sets you off?

Is it:

  • Worrying that your older loved one’s needs aren’t being met?
  • Feeling concerned that you aren’t meeting the needs of your spouse and children?
  • Agonizing that you are neglecting your duties at your day job?
  • Feeling like you can’t get everything done?
  • Not having enough time to yourself?

Once you know what your triggers are, you can start looking for solutions.

Ask for Help

You took on the responsibility of caring for a loved one, but that doesn’t mean it has to be your responsibility alone.

As a primary caregiver, you may feel like you can’t ask others for help: Maybe you don’t want to be a burden yourself or you don’t want to appear irresponsible. But other family members and friends are often happy to help if given the opportunity.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to loved ones when you need a break – even those that live out-of-town.

During the holidays, it is likely that relatives will be in town to visit. These are people who likely haven’t seen their older family member in months (or more) and might be eager to have some alone time.

Use that as an opportunity to head out and spend some time on you, whether it’s just a quick trip to pick up some takeout or an appointment for a long-overdue haircut.

Adjust Holiday Celebrations

The best thing you can do to avoid holiday burnout? Know that you can’t do it all.

This may mean making changes to your normal holiday routine, but that’s ok. Here are some suggestions:

  • Tweak holiday meals: Cooking a holiday feast can be a time-consuming process. Don’t be afraid to buy pre-made meals from a local supermarket or restaurant. In the end, it’s not the food that matters – it’s spending time with family.
  • Don’t stress about decorations: Don’t have time to put up Christmas lights this year? Trust us: No one will even notice. Put out the decorations that are personally meaningful and leave the rest for another time.
  • Be flexible with shopping: Take advantage of Amazon and other online retailers to shop stress-free at your own convenience – there’s no need to find the time to actually browse the shelves at a crowded shopping mall.
  • Ask loved ones to come to you: The holidays are often filled with endless running around from one celebration to the next. This year, ask friends and loved ones to come to you to help limit your stress.
  • Take a break: It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday frenzy. Don’t forget to take some downtime when you need it and let people know if you’re not up to a visit or a party. They WILL understand.

Posted in: Caregivers

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