This Year’s Flu Season for Seniors: Your Guide for What to Know

senior-woman-showing-bandage-on-armWhile COVID-19 still dominates our overall health concerns, it is important to bear in mind that other illnesses can be just as dangerous, particularly for older adults. Flu season for seniors is upon us, and it is time to ensure that the older adults you love are protected.

There are a number of different flu vaccines available, some that are better suited for older adults. These include:

  • High-dose vaccines
  • Adjuvanted vaccines
  • Intradermal vaccines
  • Nasal spray vaccines

Typically, adults over the age of 65 are encouraged to receive either a high-dose or adjuvanted shot, but seek advice from the physician for his or her recommendation.

If a senior loved one is reluctant to receive a flu shot, here are a few fundamental reasons to educate them on why it is so important:

  • The immune system weakens as we grow older, making it more challenging to recover from infections.
  • Serious complications due to the flu tend to be more frequent in seniors.
  • 85% of flu-related deaths and up to 70% of flu-related hospitalizations occur in those over the age of 65.
  • Secondary infections, for example, ear and sinus infections, bronchitis, and even pneumonia, can develop from contracting influenza.

In addition to receiving a flu shot, seniors can boost their immunity through:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet that contains foods rich in vitamin C, D, and zinc, as well as lean proteins and complex carbs.
  • Staying physically active with regular exercise each day. 30 minutes per day is ideal, and can be broken down into smaller portions throughout the day.
  • Keeping the environment clean and sanitized. A HEPA filter will also help with improving indoor air quality.
  • Improving sleep habits, aiming for eight hours of sleep every night. Implementing a routine at bedtime that includes calming activities, limiting technology and TV, and keeping the bedroom dark and cool are all methods to help.

Keep in mind that following COVID-19 safety recommendations can help with preventing other illnesses as well. Wash hands frequently, practice physical distancing, wear a face covering, and avoid large crowds.

Generations at Home’s caregivers are here to help! Let us provide transportation and accompaniment to doctors’ appointments and to receive a seasonal flu vaccine, in combination with our full range of in-home care services. We are available to also prepare healthy and balanced meals, motivate seniors to engage in regular exercise, and much more. Take the first step towards improving health and wellbeing for a cherished older adult by calling us at 727-940-3414 to request a free in-home consultation for in-home care in Clearwater & throughout Pinellas County.

Is Your Loved One Taking a Medication That Mimics Dementia-Like Symptoms?

senior-couple-reviewing-medicationsConfusion. Disorientation. Memory loss. While these are definitely hallmark warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, they may also arise from taking specific medications. Rather than immediately assuming an inevitable diagnosis of dementia, review the following list of prescription medications that mimic dementia-like symptoms.

Pain Medications

Opioids in particular are reported to affect short-term memory. The good news is that the problem is typically remedied once pain medications are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

Prescribed to treat IBS, insomnia, bladder control problems, depression, heart problems, vertigo, Parkinson’s, along with other conditions, drugs with anticholinergic effects that block acetylcholine’s effects in the brain can cause memory disturbance, agitation, confusion, and delirium, among other significant health problems. An example is tolteridine.

Benzodiazepines

These prescription medications help treat both insomnia and anxiety, with sedative qualities that may also cause cognitive problems. Long-term usage of benzodiazepines may also be a risk factor for developing dementia. Examples include lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam (Restoril).

Corticosteroids

Mood and cognitive changes, delirium, and psychotic symptoms are just some of the complications associated with corticosteroid use. One of the most common examples is prednisone.

Chemo Medications

Known as “chemo brain,” chemotherapy drugs impact some individuals in the areas of memory, focus and attention, and executive functioning. These changes might persist, even after ending chemo treatment.

Statins

Prescribed to reduce cholesterol, statins have a suspected link to memory and mental slowing and decline. While there are conflicting results from a variety of scientific studies, it is important to be aware of the possibility for cognitive complications.

It’s also essential to keep in mind that many prescription medications impact seniors differently than those who are younger. This is due to some extent to the decreased efficiency in an older person’s kidneys and liver, in addition to interactions with other medications being taken and a decreased cognitive reserve in the brain. Alcohol use can further exacerbate complications.

Be sure to speak with the physician before starting, stopping, or changing any medication, and about whether any cognitive complications you’re seeing in a senior could be the reaction to a medicine.

Generations at Home is also readily available to assist older adults in a variety of ways – medication reminders to make sure meds are taken just as prescribed, picking up prescriptions, transportation to doctors’ appointments, and keeping an eye out for any changes in condition and reporting them immediately, just to name a few. Contact us at 727-940-3414 for help and support any time throughout Pinellas County.

Caregiver Anger: The Emotion You May Not Have Expected

If you were to list the top five emotions you experience in meeting the care needs of your aging parents, what would they be? Maybe you would first think of emotions like compassion, love, and sometimes, even frustration or stress. Would anger make the list? In many cases, though family care providers would not wish to disclose it, the answer is a resounding YES. Caregiver anger is common for many family caregivers.

The truth is that a large number of adult children grapple with the fact that their parents are growing older. Growing up, our parents might have exuded strength, health, and control, giving us an underlying impression that they would always be there for us. Watching a decline in their health shatters that idea, which may leave us feeling disillusioned, let down, fearful, anxious, and yes – angry.

As the tables turn and aging parents become the ones in need of care, family dynamics can become complicated. And the negative stereotype within our culture towards aging informs us that growing older is something we need to resist or deny – something that can have an effect on how both aging adults and their adult children handle age-related decline.

Add to that the compounded stress experienced by people who are part of the sandwich generation – taking care of children at home and aging parents simultaneously. Nearly one in three adults with senior parents believe their parents require some amount of care along with emotional support.

So, how might you shift to a more positive mindset?

The most crucial step is coming to a place of acceptance. Laura Cartensen, Stanford University psychology professor and director of the Center on Longevity, explains, “The issue is less about avoiding the inevitable and more about living satisfying lives with limitations. Accepting aging and mortality can be liberating.”

Honest, open communication is also important. Family caretakers and their parents should express their thoughts about what is working well in the relationship, and what needs to be altered. Sometimes just learning the other person’s perspective makes all the difference. For instance, a senior parent may exhibit irritation with being reminded to put on his/her glasses. An appropriate response might be to clarify the reason for the reminders – because of a concern that the parent may fall, for example. A compromise can then be reached.

Focusing on the quality time your caregiving role gives you with your senior parents, while balancing your parents’ needs with your own, is key. Among the best ways to achieve this is by selecting a dependable care partner to help. Connect with Generations at Home at 727-940-3414 to learn more.

The Post-Pandemic Importance of Strength Training for Older Adults

older disabled adult strength trainigAs we’re finally easing our way out of this pandemic, we’re finding out more information on how it has impacted the elderly – both physically and emotionally. We know older adults have been at a greater threat of serious side effects and death from the COVID-19 virus; however, the impact of 15 months of physical distancing and social isolation is likewise worrisome.

Dr. Jonathan Bean of the New England Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center in the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System has observed a “significant decline in functioning” in both his senior patients and his own mother. While she had been able to walk using the assistance of a walker, be involved in conversations, and take part in other activities of daily life independently pre-pandemic, her self-care and cognitive abilities have diminished dramatically.

Physical therapy Linda Teodosio confirms, explaining, “Immobility and debility are outcomes to this horrific pandemic that people aren’t even talking about yet.” She is observing a substantial increase in both chronic disease exacerbation and falls – very likely because of poor lifestyle choices brought on by the pandemic, such as unhealthy food choices and less exercise.

As a result, increasingly more older adults are in need of physical therapy and other rehabilitative services. Several health plans are attending to the matter by following up with seniors to check on their wellbeing and also to help connect them to the services they require to regain their strength. Surprisingly, up to 20% of an older adult’s muscle tissue could be lost simply by not walking for as few as five days, according to physical therapist Sabaa Mundia.

Before leaping into a different exercise regimen, however, it is vital that seniors first schedule a consultation with the physician for a complete exam and recommendations on safe, ability-appropriate physical activity. Then make a plan to assist the seniors in your life to follow a healthier lifestyle which includes plenty of exercise.

Let Generations at Home assist the seniors that you know stay as physically active and engaged as possible to stay strong post-pandemic. Our professional caregivers are always readily available to provide the encouragement and motivation to help seniors make physical exercise a routine element of each day. We can also provide transportation and accompaniment to exercise classes, the gym, the pool – wherever and whenever an older adult wants to go. Sometimes, just adding in a daily walk with one of our friendly care providers can make a world of difference in how older adults feel!

Call us at 727-940-3414 for a complimentary in-home consultation to learn more about how we can help.

Study Reveals a Distinctive Progression of Dementia in Latinos

senior with dementia hugging caregiverA new study sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association is revealing some surprising results in the progression of dementia in Hispanic people. While further exploration is needed to fully understand whether these differences are the consequence of social/cultural nuances or the dementia itself, it’s worthwhile information for Latino families to know.

Daily Activities

One highlight of the study was the significantly faster decline in the ability to perform everyday activities, such as getting dressed, walking, and taking a shower, in comparison to other ethnicities. Andrea Ochoa Lopez, the University of Houston doctoral student who carried out the research, explained that the cultural dedication to caring for elderly loved ones could be a contributing factor.

“Some families want to start doing everything for their older members to try and remove some of the burdens and make their lives easier,” she mentioned. “But there is research showing that when cognition is declining, older people actually do better when they stay active. And there is also still stigma. They may not want their elder family member to be seen as ill or mentally unstable.”

Anxiety and Depression

While we realize that anxiety and depression are risk factors for dementia, a separate research study of 5,000 individuals showed a noticeably higher percentage of Hispanic people reporting these concerns: more than 25%, when compared with almost 16% and 11% in black and non-Hispanic white participants, respectively. Concentrating on the mental health of those with dementia is essential. Clinical psychologist Michael Cuccaro explains, “We have lots of great evidence that medications and talk therapy help, but minorities have the lowest rate of getting this help.”

Although more extensive research is required to better comprehend these ethnic differences in dementia, finding minorities to take part in studies has been an issue. Latinos currently make up less than 8% of present dementia scientific research studies – in spite of the reality that the prevalence of dementia in Latinos is as much as 50% higher than it is in non-Hispanic whites.

Families who want to learn about current Latino dementia research opportunities can go to the Alzheimer’s Association’s TrialMatch page to find out more.

At Generations at Home, our professional caregivers are extensively trained and experienced in helping seniors with whatever their particular challenges are, making life the best it can be. We achieve this by meeting with each older adult in his or her home before the beginning of services, enabling us to generate a customized care plan. We then diligently monitor the care plan ongoing to ensure that needs are always met thoroughly, both now and as needs change with time.

Whether the need is for a little help with meals and housework, transportation and companionship, or if more specialized dementia care assistance is necessary, Generations at Home has got the perfect solution. Call us at 727-940-3414 to arrange your free in-home consultation to find out more.

The One Phrase to Avoid When Caring for Elderly Parents

daughter talking to elderly parentAs our parents age, it’s not necessarily simple to know exactly what our role as adult children must be. We’d like what is best for them, but if we’re not cautious, we’ll overstep our boundaries and find ourselves attempting to parent our parents.

This is also true when safety is a concern. There’s a thin line to walk between ensuring senior parents are safe, and supporting the independence they want and deserve. All things considered, it was not all that long ago when our parents were meeting not merely all their own needs, but ours as well. The change from care provider to care recipient can be frustrating and painful for seniors.

With this thought, there are a number of elements of independent life that a senior may now be lacking. And if we aren’t careful in how we approach these losses, it may lead to arguments, hurt feelings, and fractured relationships.

For example, one part of senior independence that’s often jeopardized is in others stepping in to take over tasks that could now be a little more challenging and take a bit longer for an aging adult to perform. Even though intentions are certainly good, it is actually bad for a senior’s self-worth and self-esteem. A much better approach would be to allow extra time, and to only offer assistance when truly necessary.

Yet one of the greatest indicators of freedom is the ability to drive, to go wherever and whenever we please. When driving is no longer safe for an older adult, it’s essential to approach the topic with tact and empathy. Neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez explains that too often, adult children lose patience with their older parents, resulting in hurtful comments that may be truly traumatic.

He recommends avoiding phrases such as, “You’re not allowed to drive anymore!” It is much kinder and more effective to give elderly advice with choices, and to engage them in brainstorming a potential alternative. An example of this could be, “I’m sure it’s getting much harder to be able to see clearly now, which must make it challenging to drive. Let’s talk about some options that will allow you to go wherever you want safely.”

Together, then you can come up with an idea that’s agreeable to everyone. When it comes to choices, take into account that Generations at Home’s caregivers are available any time, day or night, to provide safe transportation and accompaniment for seniors. Our services are available in accordance with each senior’s wishes and timeframe, whether that involves a weekly lunch date with a friend, medical or salon appointments, attending religious services, or simply a Sunday afternoon drive to get out of the house and relish the scenery. Call us at 727-940-3414 for details.

Tips to Help Manage Dysphagia in Elderly Parents

mature caregiver giving glass of water to senior womanThere’s nothing better than a tall, cold drink on a hot summer day, but for a person with dysphagia, this simple pleasure can be dangerous. Dysphagia – or difficulty with swallowing – impacts millions of seniors, because of weakened mouth and/or throat muscles. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS and stroke are typical causes as well.

Symptoms of dysphagia include:

  • Drooling
  • Coughing, choking or gagging when drinking, eating, or taking medication
  • A gurgling sound in the senior’s voice after eating/drinking

Additionally, if you suspect dysphagia in an older family member, ask him or her the following questions – and check with the medical practitioner right away for additional guidance:

  • Have you been coughing or choking when trying to eat or drink?
  • Are you experiencing regular issues with food “going down the wrong pipe?”
  • Is food getting caught in your throat?
  • Is it taking you longer to eat than it used to?
  • Are you losing weight?

If you’re taking care of a senior loved one with dysphagia, keep these strategies in mind:

  • Pay attention to posture. Ensure that the older adult is sitting fully upright, at a 90-degree angle, before trying to drink or eat.
  • Bypass the straw. Straws speed up the rate at which the liquid goes into the mouth, which can cause choking or aspiration.
  • Thicken liquids. Most pharmacies sell thickening gels or powders that should be added to all fluids for anyone with dysphagia. However, avoid serving ice cream and jello, which change from their thickened form to a liquid in the mouth.
  • Keep nutritional needs in mind. Good options for dysphagia-friendly foods include yogurt, pureed fruits, pureed veggies, pureed beans, and pureed lentils, avocado, soft cheese, and creamy nut butters. Discover some simple, dysphagia-friendly recipes.
  • Consider prescription drug administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid can be difficult. Speak with the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist to see if prescription drugs can be crushed and mixed with pudding or applesauce to help them go down easier.
  • Timing is everything. The tiredness that accompanies a chronic medical condition that creates dysphagia may make it tough to eat or drink for more than fifteen minutes at any given time. Try to plan meals around times when your loved one is least tired, and have thickened drinks available throughout the day to ensure hydration.

Generations at Home can help plan and prepare healthy meals and thickened beverages for a loved one with dysphagia, and we’ll even pick up all of the ingredients, too! Learn more about our home care services by contacting us for a free consultation at 727-940-3414.

Understanding the Different Stages of Dementia

Female home carer hugging senior male patient at care homeOne of the first questions in most people’s minds when a family member is diagnosed with dementia is precisely what can be expected in the weeks, months, and years to come. We realize that the hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the progressive decline in cognitive abilities and also the skills required to manage everyday life. Yet, every person advances through these changes in a different way. There are a number of factors that will impact the rate of decline, such as:

  • Prescriptions the individual is taking
  • Overall health and physical makeup
  • The system of support available
  • The person’s general emotional wellbeing and resilience

There are other determinants to factor in based on the specific type of dementia diagnosed. As an example:

  • MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment): Mild cognitive impairment affects up to 20% of seniors. More than the typical minor cognitive decline experienced in aging, MCI involves difficulties with language, judgment, thinking, and memory which are obvious to the senior individually and frequently to others as well. Researchers found that about 38% of seniors with MCI later developed dementia. The other 62% never progressed further than MCI – and in a number of cases, their condition actually improved, for unknown reasons. Indications of MCI include forgetfulness, impulsiveness, depression, apathy, anxiety, aggression and irritability, and others.
  • Vascular Dementia: Because vascular dementia is caused by a blockage in the flow of blood to the brain, the kind of blockage will affect the progression of the disease. For example, if small blood vessels are blocked, the decline is typically gradual. Major blood vessel blockage may cause a sudden onset of symptoms, accompanied by intense periods of change thereafter.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: Progression of Lewy body dementia can be gradual, but could also include widely differing degrees of alertness and attention during the early stages. One day could find the senior lucid, while the following day – or even several hours later – could bring hallucinations, confusion, and memory loss. In the later stages of the disease, restlessness, agitation, aggression, tremors, and stiffness become more prevalent.
  • Frontotemporal Dementia: Unlike other forms of dementia, short-term memory is usually not impacted in the early stages of frontotemporal dementia. Instead, early symptoms include behavioral changes, such as distraction, rudeness, apathy, and disregard for social norms. As the disease advances, difficulties with language become noticeable as well, in addition to memory loss, vision problems, and other typical symptoms observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Reach out to the dementia care team at Generations at Home for more informative resources to help you better understand and care for someone you love with Alzheimer’s. We are also always here to assist with creative, compassionate care in order to make life more fulfilling for a senior with dementia, and to help family members achieve an improved life balance. Call us at 727-940-3414 to learn more.

Shocking New Statistics for Medication-Related Senior Falls

woman speaking with a female medical professional via video chatWe’ve known for a long time that there are specific medications that increase the risk of senior falls. 20 years ago, only a little over 1/2 of older adults were impacted by that risk; yet now, that number has increased significantly – to a staggering 94% of seniors who are now in danger of falling as a result of medication side effects. In addition, deaths from such falls are taking place at more than twice the previous rate.

Researchers who identified this growing concern also found that between 1999 and 2017, senior prescriptions for medications that increase fall risk were filled more than 7.8 billion times. This consists of a spike from 12 million antidepressants in 1999 to greater than 52 million in 2017.

The analysis does not specifically identify these medications as the cause for fatality in the falls experienced, but indicates the requirement for additional exploration into the dosages being prescribed. Joshua Niznik in the geriatric medicine division at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine notes, “We’re starting to understand now that the dose of the medication that someone is on is really what we should be looking at probably with the greatest level of scrutiny, and that really has a strong correlation with falls.”

It is important for older adults and their doctors to work together to strike the ideal balance between managing the conditions that necessitate these medications and preventing additional complications from a fall.

Amy Shaver, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, and lead author of the research study, explains, “These drugs are all necessary medications, but there needs to be a conversation about risks and advantages, that pro-con conversation about: For this particular patient at this particular point in time, what can we do?”

Medications that are specifically connected with fall risk include those for depression, blood pressure management, seizures, psychosis, and pain, among others. Women are most often prescribed these types of medications, and those 85 and older are being affected by the highest spike in fall-related deaths.

One step seniors can take to help is to have the home assessed for fall risk, and to follow through with any recommended safety measures. Generations at Home is pleased to offer an assessment, scheduled at your convenience. We can also help with fall prevention through:

  • Making sure that prescription drugs are taken exactly as prescribed
  • Aiding in safe walking and transfers
  • Encouraging seniors to engage in physician-approved exercise programs to strengthen balance, flexibility, and strength
  • And much more

For additional information about our home care services and to schedule a complimentary assessment, reach out to us at 727-940-3414!

Tips to Help Overcome Family Caregiver Dread

caregiver in deep thoughtWhat are your first thoughts as soon as you wake up each morning? Are you looking forward to what the day holds, or would you like to crawl back underneath the covers and stay there? If you are feeling more dread than delight as you think through your family caregiver responsibilities for the day, you’re not the only one.

Distinctly different from anxiety, depression, or even burnout, caregiver dread is an exhausted, heavy feeling of obligation. It stems from feelings of overcommitment as well as the need to escape from obligations. While possible to push through and carry out necessary tasks in spite of these feelings, there are methods to conquer them instead – and regain the joy that comes from making life better for someone you love. For starters, try these techniques:

  • Release the guilt. Meeting the caregiving needs of someone can feel unimpactful, mundane, and simply downright tough. It takes selflessness, which can feel burdening. Yet dreading the daily tasks you’re requested to do by no means reflects the way you feel about your senior loved one. Acknowledge to yourself that your role is not easy, and it’s okay to wish you could be doing something different.
  • Intentionally search for joy. The tiny pleasures each day holds may be diminished by the difficulties. Make the effort every morning to identify five small things that make you smile. Keep a journal of each day’s finds and refer back to it at the end of each week. Engage all of your senses while you seek out the day’s joys: the smell of freshly baked cookies; the beauty of the sunset; the sound of your cat purring; the invigorating feeling of a hot shower.
  • Set boundaries. Designate time every day to spend on pursuits that you enjoy independent of the senior in your care. Plan and look forward to this time when your caregiving tasks start to weigh you down. A dependable care partner is vital to make sure nothing interferes with the important time of taking care of yourself.

Remind yourself that the work you’re doing in caring for your loved one is vitally important. Yet also keep in mind that nobody can do it all, and in order to provide the most effective care for the senior and for yourself, frequent breaks from care tasks are needed.

Connect with Generations at Home’s aging care experts at 727-940-3414 to arrange for regular Pinellas Park respite care services and release the burden of caregiving dread. We’re here for as much or as little assistance as you need to help you enjoy quality time along with an aging loved one and also to rediscover joy in your own life as well. Reach out to us today to find out if our expert respite care services are available in your community.