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By Schuylkill Home Care, Feb 13 2018 05:39PM

Protect Senior Heart Health during American Heart Month

Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States especially among seniors, it is important for caregivers to know the facts.

• 17.3 million deaths each year are caused by heart disease. Seniors are especially prone to cardiovascular complications.

• In 1964, more than half of American deaths were the result of cardiovascular disease. Although this percentage has decreased, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States.

• Every February is designated as American Heart Month by the federal government to encourage individuals to learn about, prevent and address heart problems.

(The American Heart Association)


Types of Heart Health Problems

There are a wide variety of heart health problems. Cardiovascular disease is a term used to broadly describe the plethora of problems that can impair the cardiovascular system.

Specific cardiac issues include, but are not limited to:

• Diabetes

• Hypertension

• High cholesterol

• Cardiomyopathy

• Arrhythmia

• Valve problems

• Pericarditis

• Stroke

• Heart attack

• Heart failure

While some of these conditions are manageable, others can be fatal if they are not handled properly. It is vital for seniors and caregivers to learn the signs of heart problems. (The American Heart Association)


Signs of Cardiovascular Issues:

1. Symptoms that Need Immediate Medical Attention

a. Chest pain or tightness

b. Upper body pain in the jaw, neck, back of arms

c. Difficulty breathing

d. Sweating

e. Vomiting and/or nausea

f. Dizziness or lightheadedness

g. Facial drooping

h. Slurred speech

i. Unconsciousness/fainting

j. Anxiety

k. Heart palpitations

l. Fatigue

m. Numbness

n. Impaired vision

2. Signs it is Time to Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment

a. Many heart conditions can be managed with regular treatment or lifestyle changes. These conditions often present with mild symptoms.

i. Fluttering in the chest

ii. Fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat

iii. High or low blood pressure

iv. Lightheadedness

v. Ongoing fatigue

vi. Dizziness, fainting or near fainting

vii. Difficulty breathing after exercise

viii. Lower body swelling

(Mayo Clinic)


Tips for Heart Healthy Caregiving

• Reducing sources of stress

• Providing a heart-healthy diet

• Encouraging rest and taking physical activity slowly

• Creating low level exercise regimens

• Offering medication reminders

• Watching for signs of change in heart and health

(WebMd)


Top Tips for Preventing Heart Disease

• Quit smoking

• Eat a balanced diet

• Maintain healthy weight

• Reduce stress

• Exercise regularly


Heart Facts for Seniors

• 42.2 million people over 60 have a cardiovascular disease

• 51% of cardiovascular procedures were for people over 65 in 2010

• Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States among seniors

Men

• 70% of men between 60-79 years old have a heart disease

• Black men are at higher risk of heart problems

• The average age of 1st attack is 64.7 years

Women

• Women between 65 and 84 are more likely to have a stroke

• Cardiovascular events tend to occur later in life for women than men

• High blood pressure is more common in women, averaging 80% for those over 75

(The American Heart Association)


Home Care Tip

For some seniors, heart disease can create fear and stress. Caregivers can offer support by remaining positive and offering solutions to reduce stress levels. Heart disease is not an immediate death sentence. A long life can be achieved through lifestyle changes in many cases.



By Schuylkill Home Care, Jan 27 2018 03:18PM

Beat Senior Seasonal Depression with Engaging Indoor Winter Activities

Seasonal depression affects many seniors. Engaging indoor activities can make the winter more enjoyable and healthy.


Depression can increase during the winter months, affecting senior health and quality of life. Indoor activities for seniors can relieve depression.


About 6 million American seniors are affected by depression. For many, depression occurs or increases during the winter months. Depression can increase health risks, including the risk of death. Many indoor activities can improve senior’s outlook and ease the effects of depression.

(WebMD)


Symptoms of Depression

• Sluggishness

• Lack of Interest

• Over or under sleeping

• Combativeness

• Moodiness

• Withdrawal

• Rejection of routine

• Low Appetite

• Neglecting self-care

(Seniors Guide)


Indoor Activities Seniors Can Enjoy in the Winter


Social Activities

• Visiting with friends regularly

• Communicating online via video chat

• Letter writing or scheduled phone calls

• Joining a senior hobby club

• Getting involved in a religious group

• Volunteering if able


Creative Hobbies

• Scrapbooking

• Completing puzzles

• Knitting or crocheting

• Making models and crafts

• Painting or other arts

• Playing board games


Adult Education

• Local book clubs at the library

• Community education classes

• Lectures at museums

• Classes for specific skills

• Interest-based discussion groups

• Opportunities to learn online

(NCOA)


Ways to Stay Active Indoors


Exercise is proven to relieve depression. That makes staying fit even more important for senior health. Of course, many seniors are limited in the types of exercise they can perform. Use these ideas to keep seniors moving indoors safely:

• Visit malls or community centers to take walks

• Find appropriate gym equipment for the home

• Encourage daily stretching sessions

• Sign up for senior yoga, Zumba or aerobics

• Locate an indoor swimming pool

• Seek personal training at a gym or at home

• Get into a strengthening program via physical therapy

(NCBI)


Did you know?

Binge watching TV, a common activity of seniors in the winter, is actually linked to loneliness and depression. Encourage seniors to spend less than 2 hours at a time watching TV.


Try not to suggest TV-watching when seniors are bored or depressed. Recommend activities that stimulate the brain, like reading or playing a game.

(CBS News)


Home Care Tip:

Seasonal depression can also be linked to mental health and memory disorders. If a senior’s mood does not improve despite increased activity, socializing, or exercise, encourage them to visit their doctor.


By Schuylkill Home Care, Jan 19 2018 03:24PM

The Basics: Understanding Thyroid Health


What is the Thyroid?

An endocrine gland at the base of the neck, the thyroid is small but powerful. A thyroid affects many essential body functions, contributing to tasks like regulating body temperature and metabolism. Digestion, cognitive ability, and other functions are also affected by the thyroid,


What Kinds of Thyroid Diseases Are There?

The most well-known thyroid condition is hypothyroidism, which causes too much hormone production. Other conditions include cancer, Graves’ disease, goiter, and Hashimotos disease.


How are Thyroid Problems Diagnosed?

A combination of simple tests can be used to diagnose thyroid problems. A doctor can measure reflexes, metabolic rates, and perform a clinical evaluation to check for a thyroid issue. These tests are typically performed along with blood tests that check T4, T3, TSH, antibodies, or other blood levels.


How are Thyroid Conditions Treated?

Treatment for thyroid dysfunction is specific to each disease and patient. Typically doctors prescribe medications to either decrease thyroid production or to replace the function of the thyroid. Treatments with iodine or therapy may be used in some situations. Surgery for the thyroid is rarely performed on older patients.

(National Academy of Hypothyroidism)


Recognizing Symptoms of Thyroid Issues

There are over 300 symptoms of thyroid problems, many of which are common to other diseases as well. Younger patients often exhibit many symptoms, whereas seniors often experience only a few. Seniors with thyroid problems often go undiagnosed because so many symptoms of thyroid dysfunction are common to other age-related health issues.


The most commonly occurring symptoms of thyroid dysfunction include:

• Cold extemities

• Dry skin

• Unexplained weight loss or gain

• Digestive issues

• Vision problems

• Difficulty swallowing

• Fatigue or tiredness


Seniors are at greater risk of having thyroid problems if:

• A family member has thyroid disease

• A family member has an autoimmune disorder

• Swelling occurs around the thyroid

• They are a female over age 50


Since so many seniors are at risk of developing a thyroid condition and the symptoms are so diverse, it is recommended that seniors ask their healthcare provider for thyroid monitoring during regular appointments.


Home Care Tips:

Symptoms of thyroid disorders are similar to common signs of aging. As a result, many seniors suffering from thyroid disease live undiagnosed.

If you suspect a senior may have some type of thyroid dysfunction, encourage them to see their doctor. Besides the basic bloodwork, evaluating this disease is painless. Preventing the risks of thyroid disease is work the simple testing.


By Schuylkill Home Care, Jan 19 2018 03:17PM

Caregiving for a senior with cancer comes with many challenges. Seniors with cancer often experience longer recoveries. Here’s what caregivers need to know to help.


• It’s estimated that 39% of people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

• Many individual’s living with cancer are over the age of 65. (cancer.gov)


Many seniors face challenges as they age, particularly health problems. For some, cancer further complicates their care. Caregivers offering support to seniors with cancer must be aware of the unique challenges their seniors face.


The National Center for Biotechnical Information (NCBI) finds that 67% of family caregivers of seniors with cancer experience depression. Caregiver burnout, sleep trouble, and other unhealthy issues tend to affect those who take care of elderly cancer patients.


Take care of yourself by:

• Sharing your struggles with loved ones

• Receiving counseling

• Participating in a support group

• Sharing the burden of care with others

• Taking time away to rest

• Attending your own medical appointments

• Enjoying activities that bring you joy

• Eating healthily and exercising


Cancer Recovery Challenges for the Elderly

• Treating cancer poses a medical dilemma. For cancer cells to be eliminated, the body is exposed to toxins in chemotherapy or damage by radiation.

• Cancer treatment is a delicate balance between under and over treating. For frail seniors, treatment can be more harmful than cancer itself.

• Cancer patients’ bodies have to recover not only from the effects of cancer but also from the side effects of treatment.

• Elderly cancer patients may naturally have weakened immune systems that make recovery more difficult.

• Recovery from cancer may be negatively impacted by other illnesses common among seniors, like diabetes or heart disease.

• Seniors with cancer can typically expect to have a longer recovery period with more risks, side effects, monitoring, and medications than younger patients.


Whether or not you are privy to the medical information of a senior with cancer, you can learn about their treatment plan. Find out how often treatments are scheduled and the common side effects of treatment. This will help you plan caregiving activities appropriately.


Cancer can result in symptoms such as hair loss, nausea, and memory problems. It is important for caregivers to know about common side effects of cancer and its treatment. When uncommon symptoms are noticed, a caregiver needs to know who to call and at what point emergency assistance should be sought.


Since there are so many common side effects of cancer treatment, caregivers can often anticipate resulting needs. For example, the fatigue typical of cancer patients will likely lower seniors’ energy level. Prepare to offer mobility assistance and limit planned activities to accommodate for the extra rest times you can expect.


Individuals respond to cancer diagnoses, prognoses, and treatments differently. While encouragement is beneficial, it’s often more valuable for caregivers to listen supportively. Compassionate care helps seniors to enjoy a high quality of life even with cancers effects.


Many seniors with cancer also face other medical challenges, like arthritis or heart disease. Pay attention to the needs other medical conditions create. Learn what you can about how other illnesses and cancer may influence each other and impact your senior.


Seniors with cancer often require 24-hour care and extensive assistance. Work together with family members and other caregivers to keep track of side effects, appointments, and medication administration.


Here are some websites that you can go to for more information: Cancer.gov, Cancer.org, Cancercare.org


By Schuylkill Home Care, Jan 7 2018 04:48PM

What Seniors and Caregivers Need to Know about Glaucoma

Even though it is the second leading cause of blindness, few people know about glaucoma. Seniors are especially at risk and need to know the facts.


More than 3 million people in the US have glaucoma. Many are seniors. Many don’t know they have the condition. However, this symptomless disease can be stopped before it does more damage. It is very important to learn about this “sneaky thief of sight.” (glaucoma.org)


What is Glaucoma?

The term “glaucoma” actually describes different kinds of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. Some examples of types of glaucoma include:

• Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma

• Angle-Closure Glaucoma

• Secondary Glaucoma

• Normal Tension Glaucoma


Each kind of glaucoma has its own unique features. All are related to pressure in the eye. Most progress gradually and subtly. As a result, many people experience no symptoms.


How Serious is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is considered a sneaky disease because it presents with so few symptoms. However, the disease is serious. If left untreated, glaucoma causes vision loss and eventually blindness.


Acute types of glaucoma are the exception and are also serious. They are accompanied by sudden, severe symptoms like redness, nausea, and severe pain with blurriness or visual disturbances. Emergency treatment is necessary to prevent blindness.


Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?

Individuals who meet the following criteria have an elevated risk of this disease:

• Age 60 or older

• African-American or Hispanic-American

• History of eye problems

• Family history of glaucoma

• High blood pressure

• Heart disease

• Regular use of corticosteroids


How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?

Since glaucoma often presents with no symptoms unless the disease is acute, doctors make their diagnosis based on several tests. Medical tests for glaucoma include:

• Tonometry (internal pressure)

• Pachymetry (corneal thickness)

• Perimetry (vision range and scope)

• Comparisons over time (photos of the optic nerve)


What are Treatment Options for Glaucoma?

Prescription eye drops are the main treatment for glaucoma. They must be administered correctly and regularly, according to a doctor’s direction. In severe cases, glaucoma can be treated with prescription medications or surgery. (Healthline)


Helping Seniors with Eye Health

Since glaucoma is a serious disease, it is important for seniors and their caregiver’s to take steps to monitor for and treat the conditions. Senior’s often need help in this process. Currently glaucoma is not classified as a fully preventable or curable disease. However, glaucoma can be treated to prevent the disease from doing more damage.


1. Encourage Regular Eye Checks

Seniors often experience some degree of vision loss as they age. Many are not alarmed or do not notice. As a result, many seniors do not see their eye doctors regularly.


In order to monitor for glaucoma and other eye problems, seniors should have an annual eye exam. Encourage seniors to attend their exams faithfully. It can be helpful to offer a ride since many seniors struggle with driving for a few hours after eye exams that require dilation.


2. Complete Treatment Properly

The main treatment for glaucoma is an eye drop prescription. Due to tremor’s, vision issues, and other health problems, seniors may have difficulty administering their drops themselves. Memory challenges can also cause seniors to forget this important part of their routine. Caregivers can help by offering reminders and even assisting in administering eye drops according to doctors’ directions (A Place for Mom)


Home Care Tip

For seniors with vision loss (including sight problems due to glaucoma) everyday tasks can be challenging. Sightconnection.com is a website that offers inventive and practical resources and tools to help with these issues. (Sight Connections)


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