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.

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.

How to Improve Self Care for Seniors Through Gardening

senior lady gardeningThe cool dampness of rich soil. The warmth of the sun’s rays. The joyful music of songbirds. Gardening has the capacity to engage each of our senses, and provides a wealth of benefits to seniors. No matter what the ability level or any space restrictions, there’s always a way to help older adults experience the joys of planting indoors or outdoors, watching new growth emerge, and harvesting.

Spark interest (or renew interest) in the world of gardening for a senior you love, and discover:

  • A sunnier outlook on life. Research has shown that when compared to other hobbies, gardening is typically the winner in fighting stress levels and improving mood. Participants in the study worked on a stress-inducing task, and were then instructed to either spend 30 minutes gardening outside, or reading inside. Blood tests clearly revealed a lowered level of cortisol – a stress hormone – in the gardening group.
  • Increased flexibility, strength, and stamina. Gardening can actually provide a cardio workout in some instances, but even sitting in place while carrying out gardening tasks will help strengthen and build muscles. The basic acts of bending, reaching, twisting, and pulling also increase stamina and flexibility.
  • Reduced dementia risk. An interesting and extensive study of nearly 3,000 participants has revealed that dementia risk is decreased by up to 36% in adults over age 60 who take part in gardening and similar physical activities.
  • The opportunity to make friends. Community gardens bring neighbors together for a common purpose, providing opportunities to establish friendships. The American Community Gardening Association offers its members a chance to find a community garden in their area – or, to start a brand new one.

An indoor garden is perfect for those who cannot get outside or in the event the weather is not cooperating. Decorate small clay pots with markers or paint, and fill with potting soil and herb seeds. Or create a terrarium with a glass bowl, small shells/stones/etc., potting soil as well as some small succulents.

Need some additional indoor gardening activity ideas? Find ten simple ideas here, and contact Generations at Home for a caregiver to help! Our compassionate home care team is always here to help seniors live life to the fullest through engaging activities such as gardening, as well as:

  • Conversations and reminiscing
  • Mind-stimulating games and puzzles
  • Pleasurable outings
  • Favorite (or new) hobbies: knitting, crocheting, mastering a musical instrument or language – the sky is the limit!

Call us at 727-940-3414 any time for a free in-home consultation to get started on an even more enriching life for an older adult you love!

Fun Activities for Seniors with Dementia and Low Vision

two ladies dancingFinding activities which can be engaging and fun for a family member with dementia tends to be a challenge. Add in vision impairment, and it might seem extremely daunting. Yet it is very important to ensure every day holds opportunities for joy, purpose, and meaning – minimizing the level of frustration, agitation, and other difficult emotions and behaviors in dementia.

The first step is to think through the senior’s current and past hobbies, interests and lifestyle. Then brainstorm approaches to tap into those preferences. We’ve collected a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Put together a playlist of the older adult’s favorite songs or genre of music, and then sing along, dance, keep the beat with a tambourine or a sealed container of uncooked rice or dried beans. Reminisce about memories the music raises.
  • Read aloud, choosing stories or articles that are simple to follow and on topics that are interesting for the older adult. For example, a sports fan may enjoy hearing an update on his/her favorite teams and players, and then talking about highlights from the past as well.
  • Get up and moving for increased muscle tone and circulation, as well as to help encourage daytime wakefulness and better nighttime sleeping. If weather permits, exercising outdoors is an excellent option to add in fresh air and vitamin D. Try walks in nature, pointing out the specific trees, birds, flowers, etc. that you pass on the way.
  • Try out a variety of tactile art mediums that can be manipulated without the use of vision, such as sculpting sand or clay. Or try creating a 3-D work of art by gluing shells, buttons, dried pasta, etc. into a shape or pattern.
  • Include the senior in ability-appropriate tasks around the home. Food preparation offers many different options, such as washing and tearing lettuce for a salad, peeling and breaking apart bananas or oranges, and mixing ingredients for a dessert. Or ask the senior to help with folding laundry or sorting nuts and bolts in a toolbox.
  • Try pet therapy. Specially trained pet therapists can provide a safe, trusted cat or dog for the senior to hold or pet. Even though this might seem simplistic, the joy and relaxing effects of spending time with an animal can be significant.

Our care professionals are skilled in creative tips to engage seniors of any ability level to help make daily life more fulfilling. Call us at 727-940-3414 for a trusted care partner today!

Long Distance Caregiving Tips: Assessing an Aging Parent’s Mental Health

Senior couple on a video calling using a digital tablet at homeThe isolation and fear caused by COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the wellbeing of older adults, with nearly half of seniors surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll stating that their amount of stress and worry was negatively impacting their health. And while it still may be unsafe to visit in person with older adults, it’s crucial to stay in regular and frequent contact, and to watch out for any changes or signs which might indicate a mental health concern.

As stated by psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, “If a senior usually really enjoys a call with a grandchild, for example, but that seems to have changed, maybe you need to ask more questions, such as, ‘How can we be of help?’”

Other symptoms and signs of depression to watch for include sleeping issues, reduced appetite, sluggishness, and complaints about pain, which interestingly, can often be one of the key symptoms of depression in older adults. Take note of anything that is out of normal for a senior’s personality and character.

It is crucial to understand that depression is not just an unavoidable element of growing older, and that it can be a serious – but treatable – condition.

Here are a few further guidelines to help thoroughly assess an older adult’s mental health:

  • Make sure the conversation is natural and organic, without coming across as interrogating. Statements such as, “Tell me what has been happening in your life this week,” will motivate a senior to open up a lot more than, “Tell me what your doctor mentioned at your last scheduled appointment.” The goal is to be caring however, not condescending, being careful never to try to parent your mother and father.
  • While talking with and seeing the grandchildren on Zoom is an easy way to boost a senior’s mood, make sure to plan for some one-on-one time to talk, sans children.
  • Take notice of what is going on in the background of your video chats for any additional clues, such as whether or not the home looks clean and well maintained, including personal hygiene – unkempt, disheveled hair, for example.
  • Take into consideration whether substance abuse might be a factor. An increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is happening in individuals of all ages, and can be very harmful if there are potential interactions with medications a senior loved one is taking.

If you suspect depression or any other mental health issues in your senior loved one, be sure to get in touch with the doctor right away. Because you are most familiar with the senior, you may be in a position to pick up on signs that the medical team misses during routine appointments, and it’s vital to help make your concerns known.

If you have any concerns, connect with the St. Petersburg home care experts, Generations at Home, for additional assistance. We’re able to serve as your eyes and ears when you are unable to be there in person, and offer a wide selection of customized services to boost socialization and quality of life at home. Reach out to us at 727-940-3414 to find out more.

Advice for Becoming a Caregiver for a Family Member

elderly lady having tea with her daughterIt may have come totally without warning: an unexpected fall that led to a fractured hip and the requirement for Dad to have assistance to stay at home. Or, it may have been building up over the years, such as through the slow and incremental progression of Alzheimer’s disease. No matter the circumstances, you have now found yourself becoming a caregiver for a family member, and maybe are wondering what exactly that means and how to navigate these uncharted waters.

First of all, take a deep breath, and a moment to appreciate the selflessness of your decision. Caregiving is an incredibly rewarding undertaking, yet not without its struggles. A bit of proactive planning will go a long way towards an easier transition to care, both for yourself and your loved one. A great starting point is to consider the way you would both like each day to look and to make a simple timeline to record the daily activities and tasks that will need your attention. For instance:

  • 7 a.m.: Help Dad get out of bed, showered, dressed, and ready for the day
  • 8 a.m.: Make breakfast and tidy up
  • 9 a.m.: Take Dad to exercise class and/or physical therapy
  • 11 a.m.: Run errands with (or for) Dad
  • 1 p.m.: Prepare lunch and clean up
  • 2 p.m.: Help Dad get settled set for afternoon activities: a film, reading, puzzles, nap, participating in a well-loved hobby or pastime, etc.
  • 6 p.m.: Make dinner and clean up
  • 8 p.m.: Help Dad with bedtime tasks – a bath, changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, etc.
  • 10 p.m.: Help Dad get into bed

Your list will be different for each day, of course, but this offers a helpful overview to let you know when you could have just a little downtime to yourself, and when you will need to provide hands-on help.

This is also an appropriate time to establish boundaries together – and also to pledge to adhere to them. Again, these will be different for each person as well as on different days, but decide what is essential to each of you: having a specified time every day for self-care and personal time, when family and friends may come to visit, whether or not you want to maintain a job outside of the home, etc.

Recognize that Generations at Home is always here to help while you adjust to your caregiving role with the respite care needed to make certain you are able to take care of yourself, as well – something which is extremely important to both you and the senior in your care. Reach out to us at 727-940-3414 for more information about our senior care in St. Petersburg and other nearby areas in Florida.