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Telemedicine: A Safer Option for Seniors

Monday , July 27 , 2020

Telemedicine: A Safer Option for Seniors

Providing care for your older loved one can be complex and challenging during the best of times. Supporting those same loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic requires extra precautions to keep them safe.

Research shows that adults aged 60 and older, especially those with preexisting conditions, such as heart or lung disease, are more likely to have a severe coronavirus infection than other groups.

Because of this, many older adults choose to forgo routine doctor appointments. For example, someone with diabetes may opt to postpone a routine follow-up visit to avoid potential exposure to the coronavirus. But while COVID-19 is dangerous, so is ignoring everyday medical needs.

What’s the solution? Telemedicine.

Telemedicine has become the norm for many people, young and old, in the last few months. It’s a cost-effective healthcare solution that allows for independence in the aging population while still keeping them safe.

Keep reading for more information:

What is Telehealth?

A telehealth appointment is simply a routine doctor’s visit done over the phone or on a computer. The doctor’s office will provide your older loved one with a special phone number or link that they can use to connect with their physician privately in a safe and secure environment.

Their doctor can address concerns, make suggestions, and even prescribe medication over the call.

The benefits are many. Besides the convenience of “seeing” a doctor from the comfort of their own home, telemedicine appointments don’t require any transportation, and they reduce exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses.

Types of Telehealth 

There are three main types of telemedicine available for seniors. These are the options:

  • Synchronous telehealth involves real-time communication. A phone call or two-way video conferencing is used to communicate from afar.
  • Asynchronous telehealth is a store-and-forward process, similar to email. Using a secure platform, patients can share medical data with their doctor, who will review it and respond later.
  • Remote patient monitoring allows for tracking vital signs using sensors, cameras, and other devices.

 Making the Most of a Visit

Just like in-person doctor visits, your older loved one should go to their telemedicine appointment prepared. Here are a few tips:

  • List the issues they want to address, so nothing gets missed. This is especially important during telehealth visits, where people are likelier to lose their train of thought.
  • Keep track of symptoms and when they started/if they’ve changed. A brief record can help the doctor figure out what is causing symptoms.
  • Have any medical equipment that the doctor has prescribed on hand.
  • Take and share photos of obvious symptoms, such as bites, moles, or rashes.
  • Call from a quiet place so the doctor is able to hear and understand.
  • Don’t forget to address routine medical issues, like medication refills or paperwork required by the insurer.

Sometimes Face-to-Face is Best

Despite the ongoing pandemic, sometimes an office visit is the best option. For urgent or complex issues, such as dehydration from vomiting, the doctor’s office is still open for business.

Remember, an emergency is still an emergency: Sometimes, the doctor needs to examine a patient and check vital signs to make an accurate diagnosis. Likewise, telemedicine doesn’t work for preventative procedures such as colonoscopies or mammograms.

Bottom line? In most instances, telemedicine offers a convenient and safe way to receive healthcare. When so much of life has been upended, it’s a great, stress-free way to connect with medical professionals.

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Sun Safety for Older Adults   

Monday , July 20 , 2020

Sun Safety for Older Adults  

Summer is here! For many, the warm weather and longer days mean more time spent outdoors – even in the wake of coronavirus.

But while we all enjoy sitting on the porch with a glass of iced tea or taking a trip to the shore, too much time in the sun can be harmful. Especially for seniors.

According to the CDC, less than half of older adults protect their skin from the sun when outside for an hour or more on a warm, sunny day. And this may raise their risk of getting skin cancer.

If you’re aged 65 or older and plan on spending some time outdoors this summer, it’s vital that you take care to protect your skin.

We’ve put together a handy guide on defending yourself from the sun’s harmful rays to help keep you safe. Keep reading to learn more.

Skin Cancer Risk in Older Adults

Melanoma is often referred to as “the silent killer.” You can feel fine while you have it. You may not see any visible skin lesions or abnormalities, even as it continues to spread, invading lymph nodes and other body systems. By time you find out what’s happening, it could be too late.

That’s why it’s vital to take precautions to protect yourself from the sun. This is true for everyone, but especially older adults.

Why? Because most cases of skin cancer are found in people aged 65 and older. And as healthy adults in the United States continue to live longer and longer lives, it is essential that skin health in the aging population takes a front seat.

But besides staying in the house all the time, what can you do to protect yourself? These everyday habits can help keep your skin healthy, lower the risk of sunburn, and lower the overall risk of getting skin cancer:

How to Stay Safe

  1. Take Precautions (Even on Cloudy Days). It’s easy to have a false sense of security under a cloud-filled sky – but it is possible to get a sunburn, even on overcast days. In fact, up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate through clouds and damage your skin. Make sure you always use sunscreen and wear protective clothing (like sunglasses and a hat), even on the grayest of days!
  2. Remember That Darker Skin Won’t Protect You. One of the oldest summertime myths is that people with darker skin don’t have to worry about the sun. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. Although the melanin in darker skin does offer some natural protection against UV radiation, it only safeguards to a certain extent. People with darker skin can still get sunburned and develop skin cancer.
  3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings. Many people believe that the only time they need to worry about skin damage is when they’re outdoors, in direct sunlight. This is not the case. UV rays can reach you when you’re riding inside a car, lounging under a shady tree, or even sitting beside a window in your home. If you’re exposed to sunlight – even if it’s not direct – take precautions to protect your skin.
  4. Use the Appropriate SPF. According to experts, most people either don’t use enough sunscreen or don’t use a strong enough SPF. When choosing your sunscreen, remember that the rating indicates the proportion of UVB rays that are blocked – the higher the number, the more protection it offers. Apply a thick coating of lotion and reapply often for the best defense.
  5. Limit Your Time Outdoors. During the summer especially, the best thing you can do for your skin is to limit time outdoors. If possible, try to avoid going outside between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. If you do need to go outside for any reason, try to stay in the shade as much as possible.

In addition to the above tips, it’s important to examine your body for signs of sun damage or skin cancer on a regular basis. Most skin cancers, when caught early, can be easily cured. If you see a spot on the skin that is changing in size, shape, or color during a period of 1 month to 1 or 2 years, contact your healthcare provider immediately for further guidance!

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How Seniors can Socialize Safely in the Wake of COVID-19

Monday , July 13 , 2020

How Seniors can Socialize Safely in the Wake of COVID-19

Stay home as much as possible. That’s what we’ve been hearing for months in the wake of COVID-19.

And for good reason.

Experts believe that coronavirus is mainly spread from person to person – sometimes by people who aren’t even showing symptoms. So, it makes sense to avoid others if you want to avoid getting sick. This advice is especially important for older adults, as the risk for severe infection increases with age.

Unfortunately, avoiding others isn’t as easy as it seems. Staying home all the time and not seeing friends or family members can be emotionally difficult, even for the most introverted among us.

Loneliness and social isolation can have a significant effect on mood and can lead to depression and anxiety. When the condition is more long-term, as is happening now, isolation can lead to more severe health problems, such as memory issues and increased risk of heart attack.

Luckily, there are some fun and easy ways that seniors can help combat feelings of loneliness (while also staying healthy and safe). Here are a few suggestions:

Be Neighborly

Joining your neighbor for a cup of joe isn’t currently an option, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t check in on the people that live nearby. Consider swapping home cooked meals or treats and leaving them on each other’s doorsteps. Or try swapping books and movies in the same manner, and having a weekly phone call to share your thoughts.

Write a Note

Old-fashioned letter writing has fallen out of favor since email and texting have become mainstream. But there’s something to be said for snail mail. These days, when mailboxes are filled with bills and junk, it’s a rare treat to find a note from a friend. Letters don’t have to be lengthy, perhaps just a note to say “hi” or to give an update on your family.

Hit the Streets

Sick of sitting at home? Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t get out of the house, and parks and trails are open in most communities. As long as you maintain a distance of at least six feet and wear a mask, you can enjoy a walk or bicycle ride with a friend.

Pick up the Phone

Nothing can replace face-to-face socializing, but a phone or video call are still great options. Call a friend, family member, or someone you haven’t talked to in ages and catch up. Talk about how you’ve been coping with staying at home, what you’ve been cooking, or favorite television shows to help make it through quarantine. Trust us – everyone wants to hear a friendly voice these days!

Virtual Group Activities

Video chats aren’t JUST for chatting. Many activities can be adapted for the virtual realm, including parties, card games, or a simple meal together. Some groups are even offering larger group activities, such as exercise classes or bingo nights, online. Check out Senior Planet, and organization that offers courses, classes, and other programs for older adults online.

A Note on In-Person Visits

While it’s not advisable, many people are choosing to meet with family and friends in real life. If you find yourself in this boat, there are some steps you can take to remain as safe as possible:

  • Delay or cancel your visit if you or your loved one have had symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus within the last 14 days
  • Remember that the more people you interact with, the higher your risk of contracting the virus. Try to keep gatherings as mall as possible
  • Visit with friends outdoors as whenever possible, or sit in a very well-ventilated room
  • Arrange seating to allow for social distancing (at least six feet apart)
  • Don’t shake hands, kiss, or hug
  • Wear a face mask and ask those around you to do the same
  • Wash hands often and limit contact with frequently touched surfaces

Final Thoughts

Social isolation doesn’t have to end in loneliness. There are many fun and creative ways you can use to stay in touch with those you love. Tell us: How have you been maintaining relationships in the wake of COVID-19?

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