The Top Three Reasons For Falls and How to Prevent Them

Falls are very dangerous for seniors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that most fractures among older adults are caused by falls and that they are the leading cause of hospitalizations. Preventing falls is one of the most important steps that can be taken to protect the health of seniors. Here are the top three reasons why seniors fall and how to implement the best fall prevention strategies. 

1. Medication side effects: Seventy-two percent of people over the age of 55 take at least one prescription medication. More than 20% are taking four or more drugs and many of them create a fall hazard. Researchers have now created a category called “fall-risk-increasing drugs” in order to study the problem and find solutions. There are nine types of drugs that pose the greatest risk for falls:

  • Anti-hypertensive drugs that treat blood pressure.
  • Diuretics that treat water retention.
  • Sedatives used to improve sleep.
  • Neuroleptics and antipsychotics to reduce confusion and hallucinations.
  • Antidepressants used to treat depression and anxiety.
  • Benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety and psychiatric disorders.
  • Narcotics like opioids used to treat pain.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used to fight swelling.

All of these drugs may have the following side effects:

  • They round the bottoms of the feet causing imbalance.
  • They blur vision.
  • They cause dizziness and lightheadedness.

Review all the drugs your loved one takes with his or her physician. Ask if any of them have side effects that could lead to a fall. If they do, ask the physician to change the medicine or if it can be taken at night rather than in the morning.

2. Vision problems: Poor vision can easily cause seniors to fall. It creates an imbalance and makes it difficult to judge changes in walking surfaces. It may also impair depth perception. Multifocal glasses contribute to this problem because if not worn properly they can make it difficult to see contrasts between colors, textures and surfaces and they may impair depth perception. It’s important to have your loved one’s eyes checked. If possible, avoid multi-focal glasses. It is better to buy two pair than have a senior try to navigate different vision levels within one lens.

When you discuss your loved one’s medications with his or her physician, ask if any of the medications could impair vision. If so, request a change in the medication.

3. Fall hazards in the home: The home can contain many fall hazards, ranging from rugs to poorly lit doorways and stairways. You can conduct an inventory of the home to remove those fall hazards and help to prevent falls. Here are some of the things that need to be removed to prevent falls:

  • Throw rugs.
  • Piles of clutter on the floor, stairways, beside the bed and on countertops. If your loved one begins to fall and grabs a counter piled with papers, the papers will slip and so will your loved one.
  • Water and food bowls for pets should be under a table or hutch or in a corner where they cannot be tripped over.
  • Electrical cords should not trail across traffic patterns or be in a place where they can easily be tripped over.

Other ways to prevent falls include:

    • Walkways into the house should have even surfaces and be well treated in winter months.
    • Lighting should be bright and well placed throughout the house. Make sure that stairways are well lit. Check lamps beside chairs and the bed. Make sure that they are within easy reach of your loved one and that bulbs are bright.

Fall prevention in senior steps can help curb some of the regular dangers your loved one may face in their home. Falls pose a significant hazard to your senior loved one. You can help to prevent the falls that may lead to broken bones and hospitalization by making sure these top three reasons for falls are addressed.

How to Remodel Your Home for Longevity & Design

Design a beautiful home and set yourself up for successful aging

Most people prefer to age in place.  If you have a beautiful home that you love, why leave it? Yet common features in many homes – steep stairs, “classic” plumbing fixtures, even hardwood floors – can actually make life less comfortable, or sometimes even dangerous, as we get older.

Fortunately, we now have many attractive home decor options that are also age-friendly. If you’re remodeling a home, incorporate one of these options to avoid any hassle, additional spending or accidents!

Age-Friendly Bathrooms

The combination of water and tile makes a bathroom an inherently hazardous place, even more so for someone with weakened balance, vision, or flexibility. Yet the sleek, modern aesthetic that is so popular now with polished and lacquered mink floors and minimalist surfaces can be extremely age-friendly. Sink fixtures with a single lever to control both temperature and flow are much easier to use for someone with arthritis than a traditional faucet with two knobs, one for hot and one for cold. Shower enclosures separate from the bathtub not only look more elegant, but also eliminate the need to step over a barrier to enter or exit. And modern toilets not only stand higher off the floor, but also use less water per flush.

Before jumping into a bathroom remodel, use these tips to enhance both aesthetic appeal and comfort:

  1. Select fixtures controlled with levers, not dials.
  2. Eliminate stairs or thresholds whenever possible, including shower enclosures (consider larger enclosures with entry at the side or the back to minimize splashing).
  3. Install a thermostatic fixture for your shower so that you can fix the water temperature at a comfortable level, rather than having to adjust hot and cold every time.
  4. Design a lovely bench for your shower enclosure that’s deep enough to sit on and install an extra hand-held showerhead with a long enough hose to reach your seat. It’s useful now as a place to store extra shampoo bottles, or as a seat if you tear your ACL on the ski slope, and will allow you to continue to shower comfortably even if you lose mobility later on.
  5. Use small tiles with wider grout lines for your bathroom floor, or consider slate flooring rather than smooth marble. A textured floor is less likely to be slippery – a plus for bathroom users of any age.
  6. Install a higher-than-average toilet for easy on and off now and in the future.

Age-Friendly Kitchens

After the bathroom, the kitchen is the room that requires the most modification to make it fully accessible. Lower-than-average countertops (to accommodate a wheelchair user) and an electric rather than gas cooktop (to avoid fire risk) may not be design decisions you want to make. Yet certain things that will keep your kitchen usable as you age also make it more convenient now, for instance:

  • Pull-out or swing-down shelves provide easy access to pots, dishes, or canned goods (they give children access, too!)
  • Side-by-side rather than over-under refrigerator/freezer units mean heavy items can be placed lower down to avoid having to reach up for access.
  • Countertops with open areas below allow people to sit rather than stand at them – including friends for a chat or kids doing homework, in addition to elders who find it physically challenging to stand unsupported.

 

Age-Friendly Lightings, Doorways and Security

One easy way to ensure a home is comfortable at any age is to make sure you have excellent lighting built in via wall sconces or ceiling fixtures. This helps with eyesight as you get older and minimizes the number of standing lamps, whose trailing power cords can create a fall risk. Don’t forget about lights in closets as well.

Consider designing 36-inch interior doorways rather than the standard 32-inch ones and make sure door hardware is levers rather than round knobs for ease of grip. If possible, eliminate thresholds. If you ever need a wheelchair or a walker, you’ll be able to move easily around your home.

If you have a multi-story home, do you have a place for an elevator? If you don’t need it now, you could make this space a coat closet on the lower floor and a storage closet on the upper floor, but have an easy modification should you need it later. You might also place your luxurious master suite on the ground floor of your new home, with children’s or guest rooms upstairs. Be sure that any stairs at your entryway or within the home have handrails to help those who are a little unsteady on their feet.

Home controls, intercom systems and built-in security systems hardwired to police or fire stations allow you access and control from anywhere in the home and keep you safe in an emergency. Today it’s a convenience to see who’s at your door from anywhere in the house; tomorrow it may be a necessity.

For ideas to inspire your accessible home design, check out Pinterest boards for Aging in Place.  Also, ask your contractor if he or she is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), a designation issued by the National Association of Home Builders.

6 Ways to Help Seniors Stay Physically Active as They Age

As we age, remaining physically active can become more difficult and exercise seems as though it takes a greater toll on our bodies. In fact, those are precisely the reasons as to why it’s so important for seniors to continue exercising. There are tons of benefits in staying physically active as you age 1, from reduced blood pressure to lower stress levels and diminished symptoms of anxiety and depression. The amount of benefits from exercise can go on and on.

Below are some great ways to promote healthy aging through physical activity.

Starting Out

Low-Level Physical Activity

It may not seem like much, but even walking around the house can make a huge difference in heart health among aging adults. According to a Surgeon General Report from the Center for Disease Control 1, seniors who log any level of physical activity whatsoever markedly decrease their chance of heart attack and stroke. Cleaning the house, taking a stroll to the mailbox, and even walking from room to room are all low-level activities that make a big contribution toward heart and brain health.

Studies also show many seniors have trouble with the word “exercise.” As physical abilities begin to decline in their later years, aging adults see the concept of exercise to be an overwhelmingly tall task. Therefore, it may help to avoid the word altogether and opt for phrases such as “physical activity” or “being active.”

Setting Goals

In a stage of life where one’s mental health is not where it used to be, confidence boosters are a must. These confidence boosters are even more productive if they’re accomplished through physical activities. Encouraging seniors to set challenging, yet easily attainable goals is highly recommended. Objectives such as “standing for 30 minutes a day” or “walking to the corner and back” can eventually evolve into more involved physical goals.

Healthy Aging With Other Seniors

Senior Centers

In addition to stimulating brain and mental health, senior centers are one of the best resources you can find when it comes to keeping aging adults physically active 2. No matter where you are, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll find a local senior center nearby. Nearly 10 million older adults utilize senior centers each year.

These facilities not only offer volunteer programs and organize social outings, many offer exercise classes as well. It’s not uncommon for your local senior center to have trained staff on site available to teach aging adults yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, and general aerobics classes. Some centers have opportunities for seniors to learn how to line, ballroom, or even square dance, all of which are all great exercise options for seniors.

Senior-Friendly Sports

Sports that require manageable levels of physical exertion are perfect for aging adults. Golf is a great example of a fairly accessible sport that promotes healthy aging among seniors, especially if they’ve been playing that sport throughout their lives. Even if a senior decides to use a cart, the sport still requires a moderate level of walking on grass that’s perfect for seniors looking to get active. Bowling, a casual game of frisbee, or tossing a tennis ball around are smart options as well.

Safety

Fall Prevention

Every 11 seconds, a senior citizen is treated at the ER for a fall 3. Aging adults may be averse to the idea of physical activity because of a perceived likelihood of fall risk. In fact, physical activity and exercise can greatly prevent the risk of falls in seniors, as it heightens one’s agility and ability to react.

That being said, there are some precautions to take when choosing the best exercises for fall prevention. First of all, talk to a doctor. The doctor can help identity the certain health conditions that can increase the likelihood of falls, including eye and ear conditions 4. Medications and history of past falls can influence the probability of a future incident. In the event that a senior is more prone to falls, supervised water workouts are ideal.

Wearing the proper footwear is another safety tip for avoiding injury. Make sure the senior is wearing shoes that fit correctly and have proper tread. There are types of shoes that can decrease joint painas well, so consider shopping around for footwear that is both safe and practical for exercise.

Be Aware of the Senior’s Environment

Many hazards that affect exercises for seniors actually have nothing to do with the seniors themselves. When coming up with physical activities, be sure the aging adult’s surroundings are safe. If it’s an outdoor activity, watch out for holes or errant balls when near a sports field. Additionally, if the weather is excessively warm, consider taking the activity inside. It’s important to note, however, that there can be dangers indoors as well. Remove glass tables or surfaces like small rugs or objects floors that can easily be slipped and tripped upon.

Conclusion

Every bit of physical activity helps when it comes to healthy aging. Utilize local resources like senior centers, find an activity that piques the senior’s interest, and staying safe all contribute to a senior’s ability to enjoy life into their later years.

The Balanced Care Method™ seeks to help seniors start and maintain a healthy activity level. The Balanced Care Method™ is a holistic program that promotes healthy diet, physical exercise, mental stimulation, socialization and sense of purpose. The program was built on studies demonstrating that only one-third of our longevity is based on genetics and two-thirds on lifestyle factors within our control.

Home Care Assistance caregivers are trained in the Balanced Care Method, offering the first senior care solution with an emphasis on balance and longevity. By working with specific lifestyle behaviors, Home Care Assistance caregivers extend and enhance the lives of seniors, helping them live longer, happier, lives at home. Learn more about how the Balanced Care Method™ can help your aging loved one today.

 

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm
  2. http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/aging/senior-health-lifestyle/socially-engaged1.htm
  3. http://time.com/3713922/easy-physical-activity-helps-the-heart/
  4. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/fall-prevention/art-20047358
  5. https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/
  6. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/fall-prevention/art-20047358

Aging and Dying with Dignity

According to AARP, nearly 117 million people in the United States will require some form of assistance with daily activities in the next few years. At that time, there will only be roughly 50 million individuals available to help. These figures are higher for people suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia as sufferers of cognitive decline may require multiple caregivers.

Families should start setting up arrangements for care before it becomes an absolute necessity for their aging parents and loved ones. This will include an analysis of long-term care options, both home-based and residential community-based, in order to optimize the well-being of aging family members.

Planning end-of-life care is more in-depth than a medical directive. A medical directive lays out an older persons’ vision of the extent they want to be able to participate in and benefit from the medical advances and current developments to sustain life.  On the other hand, end-of-life encompasses long-term decisions to make effective adjustments in order to live, and die, at home, or the plan to relocate to an assisted living home when appropriate.

According to the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, only 21 percent of people have written instructions on their desires for end-of-life care. Doctors and medical providers may ask patients routinely whether a medical directive exists, but doctors never question the care for the end of the patient’s life.

Hospice, or palliative care, is the focused support for those who have a life-limiting illness or disease with a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice care allows individuals to focus on comfort and quality of life, a unique benefit that helps loved ones influence their remaining time. Hospice offers the dying person and their loved ones with necessities – either physical, emotional or spiritual – for the remaining time permitted. It covers care, cost and delivery of equipment to the home, medical supplies and more, and is generally covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance.

Officials in Washington, D.C. are discussing the resources that should be available to people seeking end-of-life care at home. During the forumSeniors Decide 2016, which discusses issues that affect the elderly in America, overall home care was celebrated, and one representative even called it a “no brainer.” There was a deep sentiment conveyed that receiving superior care in the home is the most beneficial alternative to an assisted care facility. In addition, it was expressed that home care can be significantly less expensive than other options.

It was speculated that health resources for the costs of end-of-life care may be raised on the federal level in the near future, particularly noting the rise in aging Americans. Previous forums have also discussed support for caregivers providing necessary home and home health care services.

The Comprehensive Care Act, a bipartisan effort, has been presented to concentrate specifically on end-of-life care. A coordinated effort between both consumers and providers would provide instruction on hospice and palliative care. The result of this would provide a program of end-of-life care for patients and families to consider.

While society can begin to prepare for the changes accompanied with a population that is largely composed of aging adults, the need to begin laying the groundwork for future necessary in-home care is present within the individual family units. If you are interested in speaking with a local care manager on long-term care options or hospice and palliative care, call 720-443-3371

 

Sources:

http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/ageing/WPA2015_Report.pdf

Preventing Loneliness in Seniors

Currently, about seven percent of older adults over the age of 60 suffer from clinical depression, though the condition is often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Many older adults experience intense feelings of loneliness due to being socially isolated, even when they wish to socialize and be surrounded by others. Older adults often enjoy sharing stories and other life experiences with others, some of which may even be considered inspiring, so it is important to reach out to senior loved ones and make an effort to spend time with them.

Social isolation can stem from major events or changes in lifestyle. When older adults experience the loss of a spouse, they may withdraw and have decreased contact with others, perpetuating feelings of isolation and loneliness. Those who are experiencing the physical decline that comes with aging may feel limited and defeated as they grieve their loss of autonomy. Although this can compound a sense of loneliness, there are still ways to promote independence and prevent social isolation, such as scheduling regular social activities, visiting the local senior center or hiring a professional caregiver.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that feelings of loneliness can account for the start of a descent in both mentaland physical well-being for up to sixty percent of older adults who have described themselves as lonely. Much progress has been made in the identification of the needs of aging adults, and while technology has made tremendous advancements in the past two decades, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. A canine companion may make a significant difference but engagement with other people invigorates the human spirit and helps combat loneliness the most.

Adults who can no longer drive may feel as though they have lost their sense of freedom. However, companionship care can allow the caregiver to bridge a relationship with an older person and the outside world. By providing transportation for the client to routine doctors’ appointments, errands or fun days out, the caregiver grants the opportunity for the client to continue actively engaging with the world.

Companionship care may alleviate anxiety the client was previously experiencing by giving them the flexibility to control their own calendar. This benefit alone can help in the struggle against loneliness, as the person can choose which activities to participate in and when.

Caregivers can also reintroduce light physical activity, like walks or stretching, which helps keep muscles, bones and blood circulation functioning, as well make meals fun by encouraging conversation and engagement  to any and every nutritious, well-balanced meal.

Having a caregiver is not the end of independence but rather the start of taking advantage of an important service intended to extend and enhance one’s quality of life. For more tips on combatting loneliness, visit our blog “Staying Social in Your 60’s and Beyond”.

Sources

https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/06/12184/loneliness-linked-serious-health-problems-and-death-among-elderly

https://www.agingcare.com/Articles/loneliness-in-the-elderly-151549.htm

Hope that Alzheimer’s Memory Loss May Not Be Permanent

Currently 47.5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia worldwide. Although other cognitive deficits do develop, memory loss is one of the telltale signs of Alzheimer’s. Scientists have often wondered whether memory loss is a result of the person not being able to create and store new memories or simply having difficulty retrieving the memories.

In a recent study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), neuroscientists were able to retrieve memories that were “lost” due to Alzheimer’s disease in mice. This provides hope that memories lost to Alzheimer’s may one day be retrievable in humans.

The study compared a control group of normal mice with a group that was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Both groups were placed in a box where they received small electrical shocks. A few days later, they were placed back in the same box; the control group remembered the shocks and displayed fear, while the Alzheimer’s group did not recall the shocks or show signs of distress.

The scientists used a technique called optogenetics where they use a special blue light to stimulate genetically-modified memory cells in the brains of the mice. Upon doing so, the Alzheimer’s group showed signs of fear when placed back in the box–this time they recalled their experience with the shocks.

Optogenetics cannot be used in humans currently, but this study suggests that memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease may be reversible. To read the full article, visit the Cognitive Therapeutics Method blog at ”Newfound Hope that Alzheimer’s Memory Loss May Not Be Permanent”.