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Pill-Swallowing Methods for Simplifying Medication Administration

About 40 percent of American adults have trouble swallowing pills, according to a Harris Interactive poll. Commonly cited issues include gagging, a lingering aftertaste from an incomplete swallow, and having a pill become lodged in the throat. These problems can be even more prevalent in seniors with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and stroke, all of which can affect the ability to swallow.

A group of researchers from the University of Heidelberg has unlocked the secret to taking oral medications, even for those with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Scientists tested two techniques for taking pills on more than 150 men and women. Some of the participants had preexisting problems with swallowing and some did not.

“Both techniques were remarkably effective in participants with and without reported difficulties swallowing pills and should be recommended regularly,” study authors say.

Tips for Swallowing Pills

According to the researchers, different techniques work best for different pills.

The Pop-Bottle Method for Tablets

  1. Take a plastic water bottle that is flexible enough to squeeze in when you drink from it and fill it with water.
  2. Place the tablet on your tongue and close your lips tightly around the mouth of the bottle.
  3. Drink from the bottle by pursing your lips and sucking in water. Keep the mouth of the bottle entirely covered by your lips and refrain from allowing air to get into it. You should see the bottle begin to bend inward as you drink.
  4. Immediately swallow the pill along with the water.

Why it works: Sucking on a water bottle helps engage your swallowing reflex, enabling you to overcome the gag reflex that kicks in when trying to down a large tablet.

The Lean-Forward Method for Capsules

  1. Fill a glass, cup or bottle with water.
  2. Place the capsule on your tongue.
  3. Take a medium drink of water, but refrain from swallowing.
  4. Close your mouth and tilt your chin down towards your chest.
  5. Keeping your chin and head down, swallow both the water and the capsule.

Why it works: Most capsules float on water, making them difficult to swallow in the traditional way with your head in a neutral position or leaned backwards. Tilting your head forward while you have water in your mouth just before you swallow helps position the floating capsule at the back of your mouth so it slides more easily down your throat.

Still Have Trouble Swallowing Pills?

Nearly 97 percent of people who tried the lean-forward technique for capsules said the strategy was helpful, while 88 percent of people who used the pop-bottle technique with tablets said the same. These two methods were highly effective for many people, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to making medications easier to take, especially for older adults with swallowing issues.

Some pills can be cut into smaller, more manageable pieces or crushed and added to food or drinks. Others can even be prescribed in a liquid form that eliminates the problem altogether. Doctors and pharmacists are key sources of information about medications. Always consult one of these professionals before trying anything new with a prescription or over-the-counter medicine.

Source: AgingCare.com

Abuse and Neglect

Abuse and neglect of a senior or vulnerable adult happens much more often than most of us have any idea.  Approximately 9.5% of the US population over the age of 65 experiences some type of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation. We like to think that it won’t happen in our families.  Unfortunately, it can and very well may.Abuse and Neglect Women

Females are abused more frequently than males, and the older the individual is, the more likely they are to be abused.   The vast majority of abusers are family members (approximately 90%); most abusers are adult children, spouses, or partners. Family members who abuse drugs or alcohol, who have a mental/emotional illness, and those who feel burdened by their caregiving responsibilities abuse at higher rates than those who do not.

Abuse comes in many forms, neglect being the most frequent, followed by physical abuse, financial exploitation, and emotional abuse.  Neglect is the refusal to provide an elderly person with life necessities such as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, and personal safety.  Physical abuse is a physical force that causes or is likely to cause injury, pain or impairment to an elder. Financial abuse or exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets.

The elder is often reluctant to acknowledge or report abuse themselves because of fear of retaliation, fear of abandonment, lack of physical and/or cognitive ability to report, or because they don’t want to get the abuser, often a family member, in trouble.

We must be willing to stand up to protect our elders.  If you have concerns, or suspect abuse, do your part – talk to someone, call Adult Protective Services (APS).  APS provides services in each state to insure the safety and well-being of elders and adults with disabilities who are in danger of being mistreated or neglected, are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm, and have no one to assist them. A staff member will make contact with the elder to assess their current risk factors.  With the help of the elder, the APS worker will develop a plan to assist them. Those who have the capability to understand their circumstances have the right to refuse services, regardless of the level of risk. If you suspect abuse, call 208-334-3833.

Written by: Dee Childers, Life Changes Elder Care Consulting, LLC

Grandchild-Proof Your Home

Grandchildren are a great bonus of growing older. You may have heard the old joke: “If I knew grandchildren were going to be this fun, I would have had them first.” Grandparents and grandchildren alike benefit by this special connection. For example, a study presented last month by the American Sociological Association showed that grandparents and grandchildren who have a close relationship lower the risk of depression for both of them.

Today’s grandparents are serving an ever more important role in the lives of their grandchildren. According to a recent MetLife study, there are more grandparents than ever in the U.S.—and despite the stereotype of Granny sitting on the porch in her rocking chair, today’s grandparents are more actively involved than ever with their grandkids.

Maybe your grandchildren live nearby, and you often fill in as a babysitter. Perhaps they live at a distance, and visits are an eagerly awaited special event. You might even be one of the growing number of seniors who are raising their grandchildren when the children’s parents cannot. No matter what your situation, when grandchildren are in your home, you want them to be safe…and you want to be able to enjoy their visits without worry.

Your concern is justified. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, each year 2.5 million children are seriously injured—some fatally—by hazards in the home. Most of these accidents were preventable! Read on for a quick refresher course in childproofing your home, including some information that may be new to you if it’s been a while since you scrutinized your home for things curious little hands could get into.

A few things to remember:

Child safety precautions may seem more stringent. Health and safety experts continue to refine ideas about keeping children safe. For example, toy safety regulations are much more strict than they used to be, and many experts and young parents are more cautious about the materials from which toys are manufactured. Read labels to be sure toys are safe for the age of the child. And if you’ve saved treasured playthings from when your children were young, or picked up fun-looking items at a garage sale, inspect them carefully to be sure they contain no small parts that could cause choking (smaller than two inches in diameter), sharp edges, or materials that could break into pieces. Some heirloom toys are best kept on display—out of reach.

Outdated safety equipment may be UNsafe. Child safety devices have come a long way. For example, the evolution of the child car seat alone would make quite a story! Remember the pre-seatbelt days when kids crawled all over the back seat during family trips? And those unanchored car seats with a toy steering wheel? Since then, child car seats have been continually improved, so that even a decade-old car seat is probably not consdiered state-of-the art. The same goes for home safety equipment. For example, the common flat plastic outlet protector could fit in a small child’s mouth—a choking hazard. A child’s neck could get caught in the old scissor-style safety gate. Hand-me-down or garage sale equipment may not provide an acceptable degree of protection.

Our homes have changed over the past few decades. The homes of today are likely to have exercise equipment, hot tubs, home offices with computers, and other relatively recent features requiring a new set of precautions. Computers, for example, are often placed on the floor within reach, and monitors and laptops can be pulled down by the cord.

Some grandparents recommend having a designated “kid friendly” section of the house, keeping more dangerous areas locked off (for example, the home gym and garage). Be creative! If the living room has the fewest hazards, make it the playroom while you have visiting little ones.

Be open to suggestions! Don’t get your feelings hurt if your kids correct you. They’re Mom and Dad now, and they’ve probably done plenty of homework about childproofing. Be proud of them.

For More Information

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ consumer site, Healthy Children  http://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx, features home safety tips http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/default.aspx, including “A Message for Grandparents: Keeping Your Grandchild Safe in Your Home” http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/pages/A-Message-for-Grandparents-Keeping-Your-Grandchild-Safe-in-Your-Home.aspx.

Copyright © AgeWise, 2013

 

Safety First When Turning Up the Heat

As temperatures drop, more people will turn on heaters to stay warm. The nation’s emergency physicians warn about the potential risks involved with heating your homes and bodies.

“Every year, tragically, people are burned, start fires, get an electric shock and even die from carbon monoxide poisoning, because they weren’t taking proper precautions,” said Dr. Alex Rosenau, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “I don’t want anyone in my emergency department suffering from an injury that could have been easily prevented.”

Each year more than 2,500 people died in house fires in the United States, according to FEMA and another 12,600 are injured.

Another big concern each fall and winter is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and even death. People can be poisoned by breathing it.

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. High levels can cause loss of consciousness. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector, and if you have any of these symptoms, you should seek emergency care.

ACEP recommends the following:

  • Check all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Make certain they are working properly. If they are battery operated, change the batteries. There should be one of each detector on every floor of your house.
  • Have a professional inspect your gas furnace at least once a year. One with leaks or cracks can be dangerous for your home, leaking carbon monoxide or possibly causing a fire.
  • If you use a fireplace, have a professional inspect and clean it every year to avoid fires. Also make sure any flammable materials are away from the open flame area. Never burn trash, cardboard boxes or items that may contain chemicals that can poison your home.
  • If you use a wood burning stove, have a professional inspect and clean the chimney each year. Make sure you have a safe perimeter around it, because it can radiate excessive heat. Place on a flame-resistant carpet, and use a screen to prevent sparks and hot coals from coming out of the stove. Use safe woods, such as oak, hickory and ash — avoid pine and cedar.
  • Never use a range (electric or gas) or oven as a heating source. It’s not only a dangerous fire hazard; it can also release dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide.
  • If you use an electric space heater, keep a safe perimeter around it. Make sure it is away from water or anything flammable like curtains, paper, blankets, or furniture.

Check for any faulty wiring that can cause electric shock or fire. Supervise children and pets around space heaters, and turn them off before leaving the room or going to sleep.

For more on this and other health related topics, go to www.emergencycareforyou.org.

Source: The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Visit the ACEP website for more information (www.acep.org)

 

“Nightcap” Before Bedtime? Not a Good Idea!

Do you have a “nightcap” to help yourself relax before bedtime? This might not be such a good idea, according to sleep researchers. Experts have long known that consuming beer, wine or spirits right before bedtime can cause us to wake up after only a few hours and then feel tired during the day. A recent study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine helps explain why.

Mahesh Thakkar, Ph.D., and his team report that alcohol is a powerful sleep inducer, and almost one in five Americans drinks alcohol to help fall asleep. But, says Prof. Thakkar, alcohol interferes with the body’s natural mechanism that regulates sleepiness and wakefulness. This mechanism, called sleep homeostasis, makes us want to sleep if we haven’t slept in a while, and wakes us up if we’ve slept too long.

The researchers found that drinking alcohol interferes with the sleep homeostatic mechanism, putting pressure on us to go to sleep right away. When this happens, the sleep period is shifted. In addition, as the alcohol wears off, we may wake up. Said study co-author Dr. Pradeep Sahota, “Based on our results, it’s clear that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid. Alcohol disrupts sleep and the quality of sleep is diminished.” He added, “Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases your need to go the bathroom and causes you to wake up earlier in the morning.”

These findings are important for seniors, who are at higher risk of sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night and waking up too early. Poor quality sleep worsens many health conditions and can lead to depression and falls. Instead of having a drink, seniors are advised to read a book or listen to soothing music before bedtime, and to improve the sleep environment. Adding exercise during the day—but not right before sleep—also helps.

Dr. Thakkar said, “Sleep is an immense area of study. Approximately one-third of our life is spent sleeping. Coupled with statistics that show 20 percent of people drink alcohol to sleep, it’s vital that we understand how the two interact. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, don’t use alcohol. Talk to your doctor or a sleep medicine physician to determine what factors are keeping you from sleeping. These factors can then be addressed with individualized treatments.”

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, reporting on a study http://www.alcoholjournal.org/article/S0741-8329(14)20115-7/abstract from the University of Missouri Health System

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

Do Working Caregivers Provide Less Care for Loved Ones?

There’s a common assumption that when a loved one needs care, family members who do not work outside the home will be first to step up and provide support. Of course, in reality this is not the case. Many other factors come into play as a family’s caregiving arrangement takes shape.

In a series of studies over the past year, the United Hospital Fund and the AARP have been looking at the facts about family caregiving in the U.S. One thing they’ve discovered is that family caregivers today are performing more and more medical and nursing tasks for their elderly relatives. Family members are providing medication management, performing wound care, monitoring their loved ones’ health conditions and operating specialized medical equipment. The researchers also looked at the level of care and number of care hours provided by family members who were also employed outside the home, compared with those who were not. Said Susan Reinhard of the AARP Public Policy Institute, “We expected that caregivers who didn’t have to manage the demands of a job would have more time to take on these challenging tasks—tasks that would make a nursing student tremble—but our data shows that there’s little difference between the two groups.”

Though working caregivers were only one percentage point less likely to be providing this kind of care (45 percent of them, versus 46 percent of non-working caregivers), the percentages diverged dramatically in another category. Said Carol Levine of the United Hospital Fund, “Where we did find a difference was in the stress associated with juggling the demands of caregiving with other responsibilities.” Levine reports that while 49 percent of family caregivers who are not employed report feeling stressed, fully 61 percent of the working caregivers reported such stress.

This study is yet another reminder of how important it is for our nation to support family caregivers, whose unpaid work is worth billions of dollars each year, and many of whom are also productive members of the workforce.

Read the entire study [link to: http://www.uhfnyc.org/assets/1157] on the United Hospital Fund website.

Source: AgeWise reporting on research from the United Hospital Fund and AARP.

 

Home Care Supports Seniors Who Want to Age in Place

The U.S. Census Bureau reported last year that the percentage of seniors who are living in a nursing home dropped by 20 percent over the last decade. Are seniors just healthier today? The truth is, older adults today need as much care as did previous generations, but more of them are receiving it in assisted living communities, adult day centers and, in growing numbers, in their own homes.
This information comes as little surprise to the 65 million Americans who are already serving as family caregivers for older loved ones who need help managing health conditions and the activities of daily living. Many of these caregivers are members of the baby boom generation, who are reaching the age when they themselves might be expected to need care! From the local to the federal level, government agencies, too, are taking notice of the financial impact resulting from this population shift. The discussion about how to best and most cost-effectively care for our seniors is taking center stage.
The Census study showed that 90 percent of seniors would wish to receive care in their own homes. Is this realistic? Can they be safe and well-cared for even if they are living with age-related illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or memory loss? Several demographic changes in our society make this more of a challenge than it was in the past:
• A University of Michigan study showed that almost 40 percent of chronically ill older adults in the U.S. live alone, and the majority of those who are married have spouses who are themselves facing health challenges.
• Our lower birthrate equals fewer adult children to help out as parents’ care needs increase.
• Adult children are more likely to live at a distance, having moved to find employment.
• A higher divorce rate means more seniors live alone, and family caregivers’ financial and time resources are stretched when parents live in different households, or even in different parts of the country.
The cost of institutional care continues to grow. For some seniors with medically complex health challenges, nursing homes and other residential health facilities are the best choice. But for many other seniors, home care is a desirable and cost-effective arrangement.
Dr. Soeren Mattke of the RAND Corporation noted, “The aging of the world’s population and the fact that more diseases are treatable will create serious financial and manpower challenges for the world’s healthcare systems.” He added, “Moving more healthcare into the home setting where patients or family members can manage care could be one important solution to these challenges.”
A wide variety of care services can be provided right in a patient’s home:
Skilled healthcare services can be provided at home and are cost-effective. Visiting nurses and rehabilitation professionals provide skilled medical services in the home. Registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) perform hands-on procedures such as wound care and IV therapy. Rehabilitation professionals include physical, occupational and speech/language therapists.
Nonmedical home care provides companionship and homemaking services that support the senior’s independence, at a much lower cost than nursing care. Caregivers provide supervision, assistance with dressing grooming and other personal care, laundry and housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation, socialization, and respite for family caregivers.
Dementia support is also available. Even when adult children live close to home, dementia complicates the caregiving dynamic. Trained in-home caregivers who understand the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and similar conditions can help patients remain home longer, even as the need for assistance and supervision grows.
Many experts believe that bringing more care into seniors’ own homes will allow them to take better charge of their own care—and will save seniors and the healthcare system money.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

Healthy Lifestyle Choices to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

Most of us know that we can take “heart smart” steps to promote cardiac wellness. But sometimes, even the researchers are amazed at what a difference these lifestyle choices can make.

The American College of Cardiology recently reported on a new study, this one on a group of over 20,000 healthy Swedish men aged 45–79. The researchers from Karolinska Instituet in Stockholm, Sweden studied the men for 11 years, questioning them regularly about their diet, exercise and other wellness factors.

Said study author Agneta Akesson, Ph.D., “It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks. What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors.”

The researchers found that each healthy lifestyle factor decreased the risk of coronary heart disease. The healthy choices include:

  • A healthy diet including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains and fish
  • Not smoking
  • Walking or cycling at least 40 minutes per day
  • Amount of belly fat under 95 centimeters (37.5 inches)
  • Moderating alcohol consumption

According to the study authors, these preventive choices also help patients avoid the potential side effects of heart medications and, as a side benefit, save patients and the healthcare system money.

Akesson and her team report that, at present, less than 2 percent of the American population follow all these recommendations.

February’s American Heart Month is a great time to make some heart-smart resolutions for ourselves, and to promote heart health for everyone. This is not just an issue for seniors. Says Akesson, “It is important to note that these lifestyle behaviors are modifiable, and changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviors can have great impact on cardiovascular health. However, the best thing one can do is to adapt healthy lifestyle choices early in life.”

Learn More

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers resources and information for American Heart Month.  http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on information from the American College of Cardiology. Read the entire study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology  http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleID=1909605

 

New Census Bureau Report Underscores the Need for Senior Care

The Baby Boom is now creating a Senior Boom. According to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of individuals age 65 and older is projected to reach nearly 84 million by 2050, almost double the size from 2012. Another factor contributing to the boom is the fact that people are living longer. Currently, the average American is living to be almost 79 years old, up from about 71 years in 1970.

 

This raises the question of how we, as a country, plan on taking care of our aging citizenry. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about one-third of people age 65 or older report functional limitations of one kind or another—limitations that require assistance in dressing, bathing, preparing meals, managing medications, etc. Among people age 85 or older, about two-thirds report functional limitations. And experts project that two-thirds of all seniors will need assistance to deal with a loss in functioning at some point during their remaining years of life.

“Changes in the age structure of the U.S. population will have implications for health care services and providers, national and local policymakers, and businesses seeking to anticipate the influence that this population may have on their services, family structure and the American landscape,” says Jennifer Ortman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Projections Branch.

The aging population presents numerous challenges and great opportunities for agencies and companies that provide senior care. Home care and home health care services, community care facilities for the older population, and continuing care retirement communities are all expanding. All showed an increase of 20 percent or more in their number of employees between 2007 and 2011. Additionally, age-restricted communities are becoming more and more popular. One such community, The Villages in Sumter County, Florida, was the nation’s fastest growing metro area from 2012 to 2013.

Fortunately, the Senior Boom wasn’t an unforeseen phenomenon. We’ve known for nearly 60 years that Baby Boomers would eventually grow old and need greater care. The associated industries caring for these individuals have, so far, been able to keep pace with demand, although occupancy at senior living communities is on the rise, reaching 89.9% in the second quarter of 2014. Fortunately, construction of new communities is also on the rise. It’s safe to say that senior care will be a growing industry for many years to come.

 

Source: IlluminAgeAgeWise

From Woodstock to the Audiologist: Mom Was Right About That Loud Rock Music

Boomers who grew up with lectures from Mom to “turn down that hi-fi!” may now be paying the price for their love of decibels.

According to hearing loss researcher Richard Salvi, Ph.D., “Baby boomers now have reached an age where hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ear) become major health problems. Many have already lost much of their hearing and developed tinnitus due to years of listening to loud rock music.”

Salvi explains, “Hearing aids, not yet considered a fashion statement, will become a necessary part of the boomers’ dress code as the prevalence of age-related hearing loss begins to accelerate beyond age 65. While hearing aid technology and miniaturization have steadily advanced, restoring the hearing of our youth remains a formidable challenge.”

Salvi, Professor of Communicative Disorders, Otolaryngology and Neurology, is Director of the Center for Hearing and Deafness at the University at Buffalo in New York. He says, “Hearing healthcare costs are skyrocketing due to noise exposure and aging.” Salvi has also studied hearing loss in combat veterans. He says, “The Veterans Administration ranks hearing loss as one of its top five major disabilities. In 2010, the VA paid out more than $1 billion for tinnitus disability claims alone.”

And this trend also appears in the general population, where, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 18 percent of baby boomers are already dealing with some degree of hearing loss from continued exposure to loud noise and age-related changes in the ear. The figure is expected to double during the next decade, though some experts point out that in certain ways, the boomer generation is better off than their elders when it comes to hearing, having benefited from tighter regulations on workplace noise and better treatment for childhood ear infections.

It’s important to seek treatment for hearing loss. “Severe to profound hearing loss and tinnitus associated with aging and noise exposure are not just hearing problems; they can lead to social isolation, anxiety and depression, contributing to an overall decline in one’s general health,” Salvi says.

Source: AgeWise reporting on research from the University at Buffalo Center for Hearing and Deafness