Senior Health-Emotional, Physical and Mental Health

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As our parents age, we become more and more concerned with their health.  Sometimes their physical health is declining and that is a concern.  Other times, a spouse has died and they are now living alone and their emotional health is suffering.  No matter what the issues are, the truth is that our parents will experience health concerns as they age and it often falls to us to make sure they are being taken care of as well as possible.  Whether they are staying in their home or making the transition to a retirement community, our experts have plenty of advice on how make the best of the situation and help your loved one stay healthy.

Living Environment

Staying in the Home

Many seniors prefer to stay in their home and this is where they thrive.  “Surveys show that 86% of seniors prefer to remain in the privacy and comfort of their own home,” says Rick Magill with Comfort Keepers.  “Seniors who stay in their own home often have better attitudes, healthier living and a higher quality of life.”

Teresa Million of Freedom In Home Services concurs, “Seniors are no different than the rest of us when it comes to staying at home.  Everyone is more comfortable in their own home environment no matter whether they are healthy or sick and when you are sick you want to be some place you are comfortable being.  Most seniors want to be as independent as possible and not be a burden on their families and staying in their own home often allows them that independence.”

Of course, there are some obstacles that seniors can face when they remain in their homes.  “Safety can be an issue when no one else is in the home,” explains Rick with Comfort Keepers.  “We offer a Personal Response System that a client can use to get immediate help if they have fallen or if they just aren’t feeling good enough to get out of bed.  There are also some home modifications that can be done to make the home safer and easier to live in.  Many feel that this may cost too much, but in many cases it can be done for less than moving to a retirement home.”

“Sometimes a senior just needs a small amount of assistance to remain in their home,” adds Teresa with Freedom In Home Services.  “This can range from just a companion to check on them, go shopping or run errands for them, take them to appointments, cook some meals, do some light housekeeping or they may need more assistance such as with bathing, grooming, medication assistance or nursing assessments.”

Agencies like Comfort Keepers have caregivers who go into the home to do some of the light housekeeping, meal preparation and laundry as well as assistance with walking, bathing and incontinence care.  Freedom In Home Services can also provide these as well as medical care that requires a physician’s order.

Even if your loved one is experiencing a health issue that you think will require them to be moved to a hospital or care facility, you should do your research to make sure they cannot remain in the home while receiving the care they need.  Jamie Hamm with Vascular Access Plus says, “Keeping them at home exposes them to fewer viruses and bacteria than they may be exposed to in the hospital and they have less confusion and disorientation by keeping them in their own surroundings.  There are amazing home health care agencies that can provide emotional and physical support and family and friends just need the education or a resource to find out what their options are.  My company specializes in vascular access insertions and care and maintenance of the device to provide the infusion therapy.  We serve as a 24/7 resource to home health care agencies, physicians and hospitals to trouble shoot the vascular access device to find the most cost effective way to treat the patient while trying to keep them in the home or at the most, avoid a readmission to the acute care setting.

I want to let the children of seniors all know that phone calls are free!  My nurses and I can provide you with resources and answers to questions you may have about vascular access and the options to keep your loved one in the home.  If we can’t keep the senior in the home, then let’s look at care in an ambulatory clinic.  Ask questions, ask what your options are when it comes to vascular access and what device to utilize.  We place PICC lines with ultrasound guidance to eliminate a delay in therapy and prevent your loved one from being poked several times just to get a peripheral IV.  There are other options!”

Mick Hall with Midwest Respiratory and Rehab also has some suggestions for helping seniors with health issues stay in the home.  “We offer quite a few products helpful to seniors ranging from simple things such as walkers and canes to more complex mobility items such as wheelchairs, lift chairs and scooters.  We also provide for respiratory needs with home oxygen, CPAP/BIPAP, and even ventilators.  We are also starting up a home modification division with wheelchair ramps and stair lifts to help make lives easier.

The advice I would give the children helping their senior parents would be to make sure they are having their parents assessed correctly when getting all their medical and equipment needs figured out.  Technology and equipment has changed so much for the better that it is making it easier and easier for people to live and thrive in their own home settings even if they are having medical issues.  Not all the items are covered by insurance though so make sure to ask up front questions so there are no surprises.”

“Get to know and be active in the decisions made with your medical equipment providers as well as your doctors,” concludes Mick.  “Whether you are the patient, caregiver, or family member, do not be afraid to ask questions or even let them know what other problems you are having.  The equipment providers generally have very knowledgeable staff that not only can help you with the specific issues at hand, but also other issues you may not have thought of even bringing up.”

There is a lot help available if you want to help your loved one remain at home.  Make sure you involve your parents in the decision and let them have as much input as possible as this will also help them maintain their independence.

Transitioning to a Retirement Community

“A senior’s living conditions are one of the key components in their overall health,” explains Lisa Arp with SilverRidge.  “Social interaction, physical interaction and spiritual interaction are important to anyone’s health, but it isn’t as easy for the elderly and often times, they are unable to get out of their home and have no interaction at all.  This can cause depression, changes in behavior, poor eating habits, not attending regular doctor visits and may affect them taking their medication correctly.  If this happens, it could lead to falls, malnutrition and many other factors that lead to the need for more care.”

“Often times we see seniors who move into a retirement community, whether it be Independent Living or Assisted Living, and we witness their health blossom as well as their overall wellbeing,” adds Kristina Krumme with Elk Ridge Senior Living.  “They received the consistency in nutritional meals and social stimulus, which are two big key factors! They also don’t have to worry about maintaining a home inside and out or cooking. We also see such a big burden lifted for their adult children or caregivers too. It is a win –win for all involved.

As previously mentioned the meals and activities are two very important health benefits. At Elk Ridge Village, we have a calendar for the month dedicated to health and wellness. So we offer a variety of different exercise classes, a walking club, Range of Motion Class and informational seminars. We also offer the regular activities calendar with a wide array of daily activities to simulate the mind and body as well!”

“Assisted living communities such as SilverRidge are for those folks who need assistance in completing their activities of daily living,” Lisa Arp says.

“Bathing, dressing, medication administration or just plain safety are what we can help with.  This helps them be able to still live a quality life and be as independent as possible.  SilverRidge Assisted Living in Gretna is a senior apartment complex with lots of perks and can help residents avoid a nursing home or skilled facility.”

How do you know if it’s time to help your parent(s) make the move out of the home?  Michaela Williams with Care Consultants has these suggestions:

“Typically, a change in one’s mobility or ability to take care of the basic activities of daily living determines when a senior has to move.  But there are other positive reasons for families to look at senior living options, such as social interaction.  Also, as we age, our mobility changes and many find themselves living in only a few rooms of their house anyway.  Once people get over the emotions of downsizing, they tend to become grateful that they moved and experience improved overall health.”

Tammy Weston with Nebraska Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation adds, “The physical signs are the easiest read and generally the simplest to correct with potential adaptive equipment that may be installed for assistance.  Changes in appetite or decline in personal hygiene and housekeeping habits are also strong early warning signs that additional assistance may be warranted.”

Kristina Krumme points out when visiting with the adult children of seniors, “It’s natural that seniors will have some hesitancy in leaving their home to move to a retirement community, but keep in mind that you are doing this because you love them and you care about them.  Present it to them as you are suggesting the move/help because it is the best way to keep them independent and healthy for as long as possible.  When making a move, they are not losing their independence, but gaining it back.”

When it comes time to make the decision, Lisa Arp advises not to wait.  “If any of their regular activities are being affected, look into assisted living for the near future.  Some things children can help with, but eventually it can get to the point where they need more help.  If you wait too long, they may need a nursing home or skilled care instead of a community where they could live safely, independently and happy.”

“Visit several retirement communities when you are ready to make a decision,” advises Joseph H. Schulte, New Cassel Retirement CEO.  “Make a list of your personal needs before going and check off those items on the list when the retirement community meets that need.  Most initial inquiries and tours we see coming in are from the children and they take the role very seriously, most often becoming the decision maker along the way.  Most children come with questions addressing how the retirement community will meet the current and future needs of their parent.”

A great resource for anyone trying to make this type of living decision is the ElderCare Resource Handbook that provides a comprehensive listing of senior services in the Omaha metro area.  It’s available in print and online at www.careconsultants.com.

Other Issues

Hearing Loss

“Hearing loss is a common health issue among seniors,” explains Ken Stallons with ENT Specialists, PC.  “Approximately one out of every ten people suffers from some degree of hearing loss.  This can be caused by a wide variety of things including aging, noise exposure, heredity and certain medical treatments.  Additionally, seniors often have symptoms of dizziness that are associated with the ear.

The impact of hearing loss goes far beyond that of basic communication.  Hearing loss can be detrimental to a person’s social, physical and emotional wellbeing. Oftentimes, seniors with hearing loss find it difficult to participate in conversation and feel isolated or seem withdrawn.  This can be very frustrating for a person with hearing loss and can cause strain in relationships with friends and family.  Furthermore, hearing loss can pose safety concerns when a person is not fully aware of his/her surroundings.

ENT Specialists offers hearing consultations to determine whether improved hearing will be best achieved through hearing aids, assisted listening devices or modifying listening situations.  Many seniors are apprehensive about hearing aids; however, the technology in hearing aids has improved to provide a small and comfortable device with a cleaner sound than hearing aids of the past.”

Insurance

Lisa Arp with SilverRidge Assisted Living has this advice for the children of seniors: “Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security may not be there for some of us. Long Term Care insurance is right now as important as Health Care Insurance. Talk to your insurance provider and see what policy would best suit you. I cannot stress enough the importance of this insurance.”  When you are going through eldercare  issues with your own parents, it’s easy to see how important financial considerations are and this is the ideal time to start making provisions for your own retirement and beyond.

It can be very difficult being the child of a parent or parents who are aging and in need of assistance or a change in living environment.  We are often already overwhelmed with our own lives and trying to take care of a career, our children and everything else we need to handle on a day-to-day basis.  It can be very easy to get overwhelmed, which is not helpful for us or for our loved ones.

However, with the help of the wonderful resources available in the Omaha area, you can ease the pressure from your shoulders and ensure you are making the best decisions.  Tammy Weston with Nebraska Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation sums it up with, “Above all, listen to your parent.  Respect their wishes and allow them to be part of the decision making.  Have patience and do not put yourself into the role as the caregiver prematurely.  Your parent will be much more accepting of help if they still have a role in the transition.”