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Senior Citizens Face Isolation and Loneliness During Quarantine

Monday , April 13 , 2020

Senior Citizens Face Isolation and Loneliness During Quarantine

Throughout the country, people have been instructed to limit face-to-face interactions with individuals outside of their immediate household. These measures help stop the spread of novel coronavirus.

Many family members have had to end visits to parents and grandparents or have had to stop seeing older loved ones in nursing homes and assisted care facilities.

The implementation of physical distancing is essential in keeping the community healthy – especially those aged 60 and older who are more likely to get admitted to the hospital and to die from the disease.

Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, told ABC News, “The frail elderly are particularly at risk because of limited (or impaired) physical mobility, less autonomy, increased vulnerability to infections and immunological depletion, cognitive decline, chronic health conditions, lower injury thresholds and higher recovery times.”

Unfortunately, the efforts come at a hidden cost: Physical distancing may be causing social isolation and loneliness in many of the nation’s older adults.

Social Isolation and Loneliness 

Social isolation (the state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society) and loneliness (a sense of suffering from being disconnected from other people) are not the same thing.

For many people, however, especially older adults, social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness.

Those aged 60 plus often live alone, and when faced with a situation where they’re not supposed to leave the house, they are less likely than younger adults to maintain connections with other people.

While isolation and loneliness can have negative effects on people of all ages, it is especially damaging for seniors. Persistent feelings of loneliness have been linked to higher risk of certain mental and physical health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease – and even death.

Chronic isolation and loneliness may also manifest as changes in routine and self-care, where older adults suddenly stop bathing or eating meals on a regular schedule.

Helping Older Adults Combat Loneliness 

Experts say there are ways to help older loved ones combat the sense of loneliness, even when you can’t be there with them. Here are some ideas, from WebMD:

Send a Care Package

Due to physical limitations or lack of transportation, it may be harder for older loved ones to get to the store. And even if they can venture out on their own, they shouldn’t.

To help your older loved one stay safely in place, consider putting together a package of things you know they’ll need, such as non-perishable foods, over-the-counter medicines, and supplies such as tissues and toilet paper.

Drop off these items at your loved one’s front door or order them and have them delivered.

Schedule a Weekly Video Call

Schedule a time each week to call and check in with each other. For older adults that aren’t comfortable with technology, a regular old phone call will do – but research finds that interacting through technology improves feelings of loneliness and depression in older adults. Now may be the time to teach grandma how to use Zoom or WhatsApp (from a safe distance, of course)!

Watch a Movie Together

You may not be able to get together in person, but technology today makes it easy to have a virtual movie night. Streaming services like Netflix Party and Metastream will let you chat with each other while you watch your favorite films or television shows. Now someone just has to come up with a way to virtually share popcorn…

Host a Book Club

If your older loved one isn’t keen on the idea of technology, maybe they’d prefer a virtual book club.  Now is the ideal time to catch up on that pile of books you’ve had in your “read next” pile for the last several years!

Have one person choose a book for everyone in the family to read each week and at the end of the week, have a group phone call to discuss. If your senior parent or grandparent doesn’t own the required novel, you can easily ship it to them via Amazon or send it to them digitally via Amazon Kindle or another reading app of their choice. 

Write Letters

Letter writing is a neglected art these days – and perhaps one that your older loved ones miss. Take this opportunity to tell your friends and family what they mean to you on paper. It is likely something they will cherish for years to come, even after quarantine is over.

Try AARP Community Connections

AARP’s new online platform, Community Connections, helps users find and organize local volunteer groups to provide financial, emotional and other support to those most affected by the coronavirus outbreak. If you’re unable to communicate with your older loved ones as often as you’d like, this service may be able to connect them with others who can provide the necessary assistance.

Final Thoughts

Quarantine can be frightening, disheartening, and lonely – but it also presents a great opportunity to find new ways to create connection. Use this time to grow more united and build stronger relationships between parents, grandparents, kids, and other friends and family. Right now, it’s more important than ever before to connect and unite!

Posted in: Aging

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The Best Television Shows to Binge During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Monday , March 30 , 2020

The Best Television Shows to Binge During the Coronavirus Outbreak

If the COVID-19 quarantine has taught us anything, it’s this: Being alone for days on end is BORING.

To alleviate the tedium, many people are turning to that old, faithful companion of days gone by – the television.

With streaming services galore and constant new releases, there is no end to potential entertainment. Still, many people find themselves asking, “What should I watch?”

Here are our suggestions, from game shows and sitcoms to soap operas and telenovelas.

Old-Fashioned Entertainment 

“The Andy Griffith Show” 

The Andy Griffith show follows widower Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son Opie as they bumble through life in quiet Mayberry, North Carolina. With virtually no crimes to solve, Andy spends most of his time calming down his excitable cousin, Deputy Barney Fife. The series originally ran from 1960 – 1968 and is now available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

“I Love Lucy”

I Love Lucy is an American comedy that ran from 1951 from 1957, for a total of six seasons. Audiences loved watching fiery redhead Lucy Ricardo drive her Cuban bandleader husband crazy with her whacky antics. Today, you can catch Lucy and Ricky on Hulu, Amazon Prime, and CBS.

“The Brady Bunch” 

The Brady Bunch revolves around a large blended family with six children: Architect widower Greg Brady has three sons and his new wife, widow Carol, has three daughters. Together with their maid Alice, the bunch gets into lots of silly (and often heartwarming) escapades. You can watch it on Hulu and CBS.

“The Honeymooners” 

Though it only ran from October 1955 to September 1956, The Honeymooners remains one of America’s most beloved sitcoms. Starring Jackie Gleason, the comedy show follows perpetually flustered NYC bus driver Ralph Kramden, his wife Alice, and friends Ed and Trixie, through their lives in a shared apartment building. Watch it on Amazon Prime.

Game Shows to Challenge Your Mind 

“Password Plus” 

Password originally ran from 1961 – 1975. During each half hour show, two teams consisting of a celebrity guest and a contestant guessed words from clues. You can’t watch the original today, but you can find the later revivals – Password Plus and Super Password – on Amazon Prime.

“Family Feud”

Family Feud, which originally aired in 1976 with star Richard Dawson, has gone through several different iterations and hosts. The show, in which a contestant tries to guess the most popular answer to a survey question, remains a family favorite to this day. You can watch current host Steve Harvey on ABC or catch older episodes on Amazon Prime.

“Jeopardy”

Jeopardy, everyone’s favorite television quiz show, has been on the air for an astounding five and a half decades. During each episode, three contestants (including the previous show’s champion) are given answers and they have to supply the questions. After three rounds, the person with the most money wins. You can watch Jeopardy on ABC, Hulu, and Netflix.

“Ellen’s Game of Games” 

This one is more “fun” than “brain power,” but we all need a little entertainment right now! On Ellen’s Game of Games, the mischievous host airs live versions of some of the most popular games from her daytime show. Even better? You can download the app and play on your own at home! Available on NBC, Hulu, and YouTube.

Shows for the Whole Family

“Bill Nye the Science Guy”

Bill Nye the Science Guy is a live-action science program that originally aired from 1993 to 1998. Host Bill Nye was known for his quirky sense of humor and rapid-fire pacing. Studies found that

Viewers were better able to generate explanations and extensions of scientific ideas than non-viewers. Today, you can catch Bill Nye on Amazon Prime, YouTube, or Vudu.

“The Voice”

The Voice is an American singing competition aimed at finding unsigned talent. The twist? Judges have their backs to the contestants so they can’t see what they look like – this competition is based on singing abilities alone! You can watch judges Nick Jonas, Blake Shelton, John Legend, and Kelly Clarkson scout the talent on NBC or YouTube.

“Full House”

Jump back into the 90s with everyone’s favorite sitcom family! Full House follows widower Danny Tanner and roommates Joey (a stand-up comic) and Jesse (a party boy) as they raise Danny’s three daughters together. You can watch Full House on Hulu, Amazon Prime, and YouTube.

“Planet Earth”

Planet Earth, a 2006 British television series, is known for being the most expensive nature documentary ever filmed, as well as the first to be filmed in high definition. State-of-the-art imagery takes you around the world to view everything from the oceans to the polar ice caps. You can find it on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Vudu.

Soap Operas and Telenovelas

“Days of Our Lives”

This long-running saga follows the lives of the prominent Horton, Brady, Kiriakis, Hernandez, and DiMera families in a fictional Midwestern town. Love stories, tragedies, and triumphs about. You can catch the drama on NBC and Hulu.

“The Young and the Restless”

The Young and the Restless (often called Y&R) is set in fictional Genoa City, Wisconsin. Each hour-long show follows upper class families the Newmans and Abbotts as they struggle for power, love, and (often) revenge. You can watch the long-running soap on CBS and YouTube.

“Yo soy Betty, la fea”

Yo soy Betty, la fea (which translates to “I am Betty, the Ugly one”) is a Colombian telenovela which ran from 1999 – 2001. The hugely popular series spawned a number of spinoffs, including American hit comedy “Ugly Betty.” Today, you can still catch the original on Netflix.

El Señor de los Cielos

El Señor de los Cielos (or “Lord of the skies”) is an American telenovela created for the broadcast channel Telemundo. The series, which first aired in 2013, is based on the life of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the former leader of the Juarez Cartel. You can watch El Senor de los Cielos on Netflix, Hulu, or Telemundo.

Cooking and Baking Shows 

“Ugly Delicious” 

Available on Netlix, this new program follows James Beard award-winning chef David Chang as he travels the world in search of unique regional cuisine. Guest stars include the likes of Nick Kroll, Ali Wong, and Jimmy Kimmel.

“Chopped”

Former Queer Eye for the Straight Guy host Ted Allen guides contestants as they turn a basket of mystery ingredients into a three-course meal. The twist? Ingredients are unexpected and often downright strange – including items like a leftover Jell-O mold and dried fermented scallops. See what they’re cooking up on The Food Network or Hulu.

“Good Eats”

Recently revived in 2019, Good Eats follows host Alton Brown as he explored the origins of ingredients and how they interact with each other as he whips up a tasty dish. Often called the “Mr. Wizard of cooking,” Alton has long been a Food Network favorite. You can catch the show on its home network as well as Hulu.

“The French Chef”

We can’t talk about cooking shows and not mention Julia Child! Julia gained notoriety as America’s favorite cooking show host way back in 1961. Audiences loved her iconic high-pitched voice almost as much as her love for all things French.

Posted in: Aging

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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?

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