July in Central Illinois has always been a time for people to get out-of-doors to enjoy the summer weather. Activities with family and friends, gardening, picnics, swimming, or just enjoying a summer sunset make summer a special outdoor time. After the dark days of winter, just enjoying the summer sunshine is a special treat.
This month—observed as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month—gives us an opportunity to take a look at Alzheimer’s disease, to explore some things we can do to cope when it occurs and perhaps to decrease the chance of it developing.
Coping with Caregiver Stress
Life as the caregiver of an older adult can be richly rewarding. There are moments of warmth, joy and the good feeling that comes from supporting an elderly family member—in many cases someone who is suffering from a physical or cognitive disability—in their later years. But life as a caregiver also can be lonely, stressful and exhausting; it can be the most difficult job you will ever have. Assistance promised by family members may disappear over time or may never materialize, leaving you alone with a full-time or nearly full-time responsibility. When the care recipient has dementia, difficult behaviors compound the stress and may accelerate burnout.
Your Heart—Your Health
February is a month focused on the heart—Valentine’s Day and National Heart Month. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease was the leading cause of death in both men and women 65 years or older and caused about 66 percent of deaths in people age 75 and older. While heart disease risk factors increase with age, there are still several things you can do to manage the risk.
It’s that time of year again. “What?” you say, “The Christmas Holidays already??” Well, yes – and it’s also flu season again. In fact, flu season officially started two months ago, in October and it will run until May. Every year thousands of people in the United States die from seasonal flu, and many more are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While older adults and people with chronic diseases are more likely to experience problems and complications from the flu, with the right precautions it is possible to stay healthy during the flu season.
Loneliness can cause premature death. So can social isolation and living alone. These are the findings of a study published early this year by a group of psychologists at Brigham Young University. The study, which evaluated prior studies of more than three million individuals, concludes that people who feel lonely, or are socially isolated or live alone have a higher probability of premature mortality. The increased likelihood of death was 26% for reported loneliness, 29% for social isolation and 32% for living alone.
A healthy diet is an important ingredient of a longer and stronger life. Nutritious food, properly prepared, is not just a necessity for physical wellness; it also contributes to a feeling of emotional well-being. Who doesn’t enjoy a well-prepared, nutritious meal? Unfortunately, good food handling and preparation habits can become challenging for older adults, resulting in food that may be unsafe to eat, even potentially fatal. For example, a 16-year study published by the National Institutes of Health found that the highest frequency of deaths caused by Salmonella poisoning occurred among adults age 75-84, with males being 84% more likely to be the victim.
Be Safe at Home in August
August 23 through 29 is National Safe at Home Week, sponsored by the National Safety Council. The number of things to be concerned about when it comes to keeping our homes safe can seem overwhelming. Fire safety (smoke alarms, having an exit plan), physical security (locks, landscaping), disaster readiness (floods and tornadoes) and poison control (safe storage of medicines and toxic cleaning products) are only a few of the areas that need attention. Another one, which especially concerns older adults, is the ability to move safely around our homes: trip and fall prevention.
Keep Your Cool in the Heat
The month of July usually means high temperatures in Central Illinois. The normal high temperature in the Greater Peoria area in July is 85.6 degrees with seven days normally above 90 degrees. This makes July the hottest month of the year, according to the University of Illinois Prairie Research Institute.
It’s a smart idea for older adults to have a plan to deal with hot weather - before it occurs. They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes the body’s normal response to heat, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are also more likely to take prescription medications that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.
Medication Management Can Be Challenging
June is National Safety Month and gives us a chance to take a fresh look at how we handle prescription medications. This is an area where safety is critical and there are often areas where a better approach can pay dividends.
Essential Medication Safety
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips to prevent injuries resulting from improper use of medications:
All too often we read about or hear of an older friend or relative who has been the victim of an identity theft or scam. Scammers are smart and very creative and always thinking of new ways to take advantage of older adults. This article describes what, unfortunately, are some of the most common scams being seen this year.
Just exactly what is mobility? Most of us think of it as the ability to move within our surroundings without difficulty. Medical professionals talk about it in terms of its loss, with immobility being the lack of ability to take part in the activities of daily living because of a medical issue or disability.
Nearly 40 percent of people age 65 and older had at least one disability, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released in December. Of those 15.7 million people, two-thirds of them say they had difficulty in walking or climbing. Difficulty doing errands, such as shopping or visiting a doctor’s office was the second-most cited difficulty. Decreased mobility can also limit access to community services. This means that preserving mobility, as well as coping with the consequences of its loss, is most important to maintaining the ability to live as independently as possible.