National Health Awareness Months 2018

Have you ever heard of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October)? How about National Autism Awareness Month (April)?

Chances are you’re familiar with at least one well-known health awareness observances. But did you know the calendar is full of special months, weeks, and days that raise awareness for a variety of important health issues and conditions? There are two dozen different awareness campaigns for cancer alone!

Awareness observances are important because they focus attention on specific health conditions. This allows individuals and their loved ones, advocacy organizations, and support groups to join together in educational, support, and fundraising events at a designated time.  

Each month, Home Helpers & Direct Link brings attention to a different health and wellness campaign. These campaigns focus on issues and illnesses that affect seniors every day. By learning about one health-related topic each month, seniors and their loved ones and caregivers can get ideas, information, and resources on a variety of health matters throughout the year.

Browse the tabs below for information on each Health Awareness campaign we’re bringing into focus in 2018!

National Health Awareness Months 2018

The Silent Thief of Senior Eyesight

In addition to their obvious practical use, the eyes have been a source of inspiration for poets and dreamers practically since people have had the time to invest in such pursuits. Among friends and loved ones, a simple look or even a glance can communicate how someone feels or what we are thinking.

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month; as good a time as any to remind ourselves of how much we rely on our sight for even the simplest of pleasures and tasks, and of how fragile this gift can be. Next to diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. The risks are greater once we reach age 50, and the symptoms often are so subtle that they may not even be noticed until the condition is fairly advanced.

Early symptoms can be limited to a very gradual loss of peripheral vision, but may also include red eyes or seeing halos around bright lights or brightly lit objects.  There’s no cure, but treatment can preserve the patient’s vision and can be as non-intrusive as prescription eye drops.

The most important treatment, of course, is early diagnosis. Eye examinations are covered by some health insurance plans, but not all, including Medicare Part B. If you or other members of your family don’t have vision coverage, talk to your primary care physician about your individual risk and screening options.

The Glaucoma Research Foundation offers a free booklet about the disease, which you can request here. There’s also an option to download a PDF version if you prefer not to share your mailing address.

Despite the best of intentions, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be difficult at any age! In today’s fast-paced society, it can seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with eating right and exercising.

But living healthy doesn’t have to be such a challenge! A little planning and prep can go a long way to helping you feel more energized and focused throughout the day as you keep your heart healthy and strong.

In honor of American Heart Month, we’re offering the following tips and tricks to help you on your way to a healthier heart, one small change at a time:

1. Keep moving: According to the American Heart Association, inactivity can double your risk for heart disease! Just 30 minutes of walking a day can help reduce your risk. Pressed for time? Try parking further away from your destination, taking the stairs and walking during your lunch break. You’ll be surprised how quickly your steps add up!

2. Eat fresh: The closer a food is to its natural state, the better it is for you. Shop for your groceries in the perimeter of store – that’s where you’ll find fresh produce, low-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat. Try to avoid processed or refined foods and foods that are high in sodium or sugar. When you get home, cut up fruit and veggies so they’re easy to snack on throughout the week. Toss ingredients into the slow-cooker the night before and turn it on in the morning so dinner is ready when you get home. Check out the following websites for more tips:

 - Visit the American Heart Association's Nutrition webpage for dietary recommendations that support good nutrition and promote heart health.

 - Check out SparkPeople.com’s slideshow 12 Foods to Eat for a Healthy Ticker. (Need an incentive? Chocolate made the cut!)

 - Visit Eating Well for quick, delicious (and healthy) recipes.

3. Maintain a healthy weight: Physical activity and nutrition go hand-in-hand when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, but where do you start? It can be helpful to calculate your body mass index or BMI to determine how many calories you need a day to either maintain or lose weight. To calculate your BMI, plug your height and weight into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Adult BMI Calculator. The CDC also offers helpful tools to determine your individual needs and track your progress.

4. Quit smoking: Studies show smoking can lead to a host of chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Need help snuffing your urge to smoke? The American Cancer Society offers a Guide to Quitting Smoking that will help you kick the habit.

5. Manage blood pressure: Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is the single most significant risk factor for heart disease. Sometimes called “the silent killer,” one in three adults has high blood pressure, but 21% don’t know it. The best approach is to schedule a screening with your physician to check your baseline blood pressure. Depending on the results, your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage blood pressure. It can also be helpful to manage stress, limit alcohol and adhere to the tips and tricks listed above.

What Happens When Seniors Won't Eat?

National Nutrition Month is a good time to take a look at other factors that might be interfering with your efforts to make sure your loved one is eating healthy.

There’s no question that selecting fresh, healthy ingredients is fundamental to senior nutrition. As Caregivers, we’re often called on to plan meals, prepare food, shop for groceries and sometimes serve meals to our senior loved ones. Besides making sure food and snacks are on hand and properly stored, we also may need to ensure items that become spoiled, stale or otherwise past their prime are promptly discarded.

But what if you’ve done everything the experts recommend and Mom or Dad just will not eat?

If you’ve already ruled out medical conditions or side effects from a prescribed medication, you might consider adjusting other parts of the food routine to see if it changes your results.

Start with timing. We all know that people are supposed to eat three meals each day at standardized times during the day. But an older person in your care – and particularly his or her metabolism – may not have received that message. It can be useful to serve the meals they want when your loved one is actually hungry for them. Even if vegetables aren’t your particular idea of a well-balanced breakfast, if that’s when your senior wants them, who are we to judge?

Adapt serving styles to their preferences. As we get older, our abilities for different tasks change in ways that are unique to each individual. If you suspect your elder may be uncomfortable with certain utensils, find a work-around. Serving soup in a coffee cup, for example, or cutting roast chicken into finger-friendly strips may be a solution.

Don’t be afraid to spice things up. Nobody likes to eat food that tastes like nothing. As we age, our sense of taste can change or diminish. Some families we serve have found success with adding extra herbs and spices to an older adult’s food, even if they previously didn’t care for stronger flavors. Just be conscious of salt intake and any other dietary restrictions.

It’s shameful how many senior citizens suffer from poor nutrition. Even more disturbing is that so many of our parents and grandparents are invisible to hunger statistics because they have access to appropriate amounts of food, but for one reason or another, aren’t consuming it. At Home Helpers, we all take proper nutrition seriously and are always looking for ways to make healthy eating more enjoyable for those in our care. 

The Key to Living with Parkinson's is Family Communication

APRIL 3, 2018 BY EMMA DICKISON

We greet Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April with mixed emotions.

Advancements in the fight against Parkinson's disease are made possible by the tireless work of many people including:

 - Parkinson’s Disease Foundation

 - Michael J. Fox

 - Brian Grant 

..and many others fighting to #EndParkinsons. While we applaud these efforts, our thoughts remain with the many families who still deal with the disease every day.

Parkinson's Affects the Entire Family

When you think about it, PD is not something that happens to an individual, but to an entire family and support system.

Parkinson’s care is challenging for family caregivers in ways that few diagnoses are. For one, while chronic and progressive, the disease is at best unpredictable. There is no template for how quickly it will progress. It’s also variable: there will be good days and bad days. Days when more support is needed and days when less. 

These circumstances wear on loved ones, too. PD changes the lives of those around the one with the disease almost as much as the loved one with the diagnosis.Adequate communication is essential to managing the stress of these changes. All stakeholders—family members, close friends, faith communities among others—need an understanding of the issues faced by everybody in the relationship. Particularly in the case of two people in a committed relationship, it has to be clear from the beginning of this journey that each partner still needs the support of the other. 

Parkinson's disease is variable. There will be days when more support is needed.

Find the Help You Deserve

Our caregivers counsel open discussion in these family and relationship dynamics. Understand that the need for a respite from one or another person is not a break in the relationship, but an expression of commitment to refreshing and maintaining it. While this road may seem isolating, there are friends, family and organizations like Home Helpers & Direct Link of Amsterdam ready to support you.

The NPF resource center is a good place to start. Your objective should be the well-being of all members of your family: caregiver and loved one, alike. Working together and trusting the resources available can give comfort on this journey.

Until once and for all we #EndParkinsons.

Is it a Stroke? Better Act F.A.S.T.

Gerry, a 50-ish professional with an active lifestyle, was chatting with a co-worker in the parking lot outside his office when his companion suddenly began leading him to his own car. Several times, Gerry protested that he had somewhere to go, but his colleague persisted.

Gerry was fortunate that day because his friend had the training and awareness to recognize the signs of a stroke. While Gerry thought he was having a normal conversation, his friend noticed the suddenly slurred speech and inability to properly express complete thoughts that are symptoms of stroke and should never be taken lightly.

Ischemic strokes, when a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked, account for almost nine in 10 strokes in the United States according to American Stroke Association. Hemorrhagic stroke, the breaking of a weakened blood vessel, is less common but also a tremendous risk to the patient.

Strokes can happen at any age and to people in any physical condition, but the risk does increase the older we get. That’s why, in addition to preventative steps like maintaining healthy diet and exercise and monitoring blood pressure, it’s important to know the signs of a stroke and what to do when we recognize them.

The Stroke Association and the medical community teach the F.A.S.T. response system. This acronym serves not only as a way to remember the signs of a stroke, but a reminder of the urgency in getting medical attention right away.

F – Face: Is one side of the face drooping more than the other? Does it move in the same way as the opposite side? Ask the person to smile and notice if their expression is even.

A – Arms: Is one arm suddenly weaker than the other? Is it numb for no apparent reason? As the person raises their arms holding a small weight, or even empty-handed, if one arm starts to drop before the other, this may be a sign of weakness.

S – Speech: Is the person’s speech slurred? Can they complete ideas and repeat simple phrases? Ask the person a simple but very specific question like, “Can you tell me what color your shirt is?”

T – Time: If any of these symptoms are present, it’s time to act now. In most situations, your best option is to call 911. Explain that you have a person suffering an apparent stroke, share your address and answer the dispatcher’s questions as calmly and clearly as you can. Also note as closely as possible when you first noticed the symptoms. This timing can be very important in the treatment the medical professionals administer.

Gerry’s condition turned out to be a TIA, or transient ischemic attack. It’s a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain or to some part of it. Usually, the clot dissolves or breaks loose before any permanent damage is done, and this was his case. But among the various names they’re called, the most important one to remember is “Warning Stroke.” He’s following a regular schedule of diet and exercise now, and he’s checking his blood pressure regularly.

He’s also learned, as we all should remember, the potentially lifesaving value of knowing the signs and how to react ...

 before it happens to someone you love.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Join the conversation and share your story on Facebook.

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JUNE IS PTSD (POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER) AWARENESS MONTH

Those with PTSD don’t want sympathy, they want understanding. Awareness can create understanding and remove stigma. 

Faces of PTSD is just one resource that explains what PTSD is and how it’s a treatable disorder with a root cause. Seeking assistance isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength.

If you think you or someone you care about has PTSD, getting help is crucial.

Those with PTSD are more likely to isolate themselves, and anyone who has suffered a triggering event such as physical or sexual assault, a serious accident, torture or some other life-threatening trauma, is susceptible to PTSD.

If you or someone you know thinks you might have PTSD, please don't suffer in silence!

Find out more about PTSD at sites such as PTSD Alliance. PTSD Alliance recommends the following if you're in need of assistance: 

Contact mental health or medical professionals in your area, such as:

  • Your family doctor
  • Your OB/GYN
  • Social workers
  • Mental health counselors
  • Community mental health clinics
  • Support groups
  • Private clinics
  • Psychiatric services at local universities, schools, or hospitals

Veterans may contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1.800.273.8255 for assistance locating a mental health facility nearby.

Home Helpers 2018 Exceptional Caregiver of the Year, Craig Burt, earned this distinction primarily through his work with a veteran afflicted with PTSD. Learn more about Craig and the veteran he helps care for in the video below.

How Can You Support Your Senior Loved Ones' Independence?

What if when you wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly, you cannot carry your laundry down the stairs or step safely into the shower? You know you have a long list of stuff you want to do this week, but for some reason, you can only remember half of it. Out of nowhere, you’re having a very hard time walking outside to get your mail. This would certainly be a daunting experience for any normal, healthy person. But for many elderly people, these circumstances are realities and are just a few of the many daily tasks that are difficult to do. Although some activities of daily living might become burdensome or unsafe for a senior, it does not necessarily mean that it’s time to start researching alternative living facilities. By taking proper precautions and providing the best support, we can help our aging loved ones remain independent, aging in place where they feel comfortable and familiar--at home.

A recent AARP study found that 85% of all Americans over the age of 65 state that they would like to stay at home, aging independently. Being able to age at home though is just one of the factors that keep seniors independent. As we age, we do not lose our interests or our feelings of self-worth. We want to stay connected to our friends and family, enjoy our hobbies and passions, maintain normal physical activity and stay healthy. It is essential to have something to look forward to and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. By providing the means for seniors to keep their sense of self and independence intact, we are helping them to live longer and happier lives.

How can I help facilitate aging independently?

Some ways that you can help foster senior independence are:

1) Perform a home safety check

Perform a home safety check to ensure that the major causes of falls and fires in the home are eliminated.

2) Go on a weekend outing

Take your elderly family member to a museum, play, concert or sporting event. If that’s too much for them, watch one on TV with them.

3) Visit everyday

Visit daily, or have others make a trip to see your loved one. A neighbor, church member, grandchild, or family friend can quickly perk up their day.

4) Go grocery shopping together

Have your loved one write out a list and pick out the items. You can bag and unload them.

5) Do a technology lesson

Teach your loved one new technology such as quiz apps on the iPad to keep them entertained and stimulated. Apps like Lumosity and Vismory, Jeopardy are popular choices among the senior demographic and will help to sharpen memory and increase attention skills.

These are just a few ideas that you can use facilitate aging independently for your loved one.

Happiness and meaning are linked to one another and although “meaning” is different for everyone, wanting a sense of purpose is universal. Try to do things with your elderly family member rather than for them. Things might be tougher to do as we age, but we still want to participate in the tasks we’re used to performing. It is discouraging to have someone barge in and take over something that we are used to doing ourselves, our way. We cannot stop the process of aging but we can make it more pleasant for our loved ones by helping them to maintain as much dignity and independence as possible.

 

August is Senior Eye Health Month

As we age, a lot of things happen to our bodies. Just like our cars might need a little more maintenance as they get more mileage on them, the same holds true for us. And like our vehicles, that doesn’t mean they don’t still do the job and get us where we’re going; they just need a little extra care.

Our vision is no exception. If you wear glasses or contacts, chances are you have developed the good habit of getting an annual eye exam. But if you aren’t in the habit of getting an annual exam, as you get to age 60 it’s important to make this a regular occurrence. Why?

There are a number of age-related eye health problems that could go so far as to cause vision loss. These conditions can develop painlessly and without warning. An annual eye exam is important in finding these types of conditions early, which is key to making sure your vision stays strong and healthy.

These are some of the conditions that can affect older adults, but are treatable if caught early:

  •  Dry eye is just what it says. The eyes do not produce sufficient or high-quality tears needed to nourish and lubricate.
  • Glaucoma involves increased pressure on the eyeball itself, which can damage the optic nerve and cause partial or even full vision loss if untreated. It’s particularly dangerous for individuals with a family history of the disease, older adults and African Americans.
  • Age-related macular degeneration affects the center of the retina at the back of the eye and can cause a lack of central vision while retaining peripheral vision.
  • Cataracts are a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye and affects vision as you might imagine what it’s like looking through a fogged up window. The good news is that they can be treated and new advancements are being explored every day.

An annual eye exam, in conjunction with regular physical exams, are both important to help make sure your senior years are as enjoyable as possible. Some health conditions, such as diabetes, can also affect eyesight. Any of these conditions caught early, though, make a full recovery much more likely. So this August, let’s use Senior Eye Health Month as a reminder to make an appointment to get those eyes checked!

Understanding Alzheimer’s

WHY EARLY DETECTION IS IMPORTANT

Home Helpers® Home Care is dedicated to providing the most effective method of home care services regardless of your family’s unique situation, including elder care services such as Alzheimer’s Disease. As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s currently does not have a cure. Perhaps you’ve seen the TV/print/online campaign, however, stating that the first survivor of Alzheimer’s is out there. Until then, however, it’s important to know the 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Early detection has many advantages, including having a better chance of benefiting from treatment, more time to make choices that maximize the quality of life, and an opportunity to make plans for the future. If you see any of the following signs in someone you care about, make a doctor’s appointment for them as quickly as possible.

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. Memory Loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images
  6. New problems with writing and speaking
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

The Alzheimer’s Association does a wonderful job of raising awareness and raising funds for research to find a cure for this horrible disease. Visit ALZ.org for more details, including a Doctor’s Appointment Checklist that you can complete ahead of time and take with you when you visit.

At Home Helpers of Amsterdam, we understand how to work with families as they face an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Those in the early stages might benefit from our line of Direct Link® personal emergency response systems and medical alert systems, which provide 24-hour monitoring and peace of mind for families. Further, we have Exceptional Caregivers who are experienced in providing compassionate dementia care. They understand it’s the disease, not the client, which can be difficult to treat as it progresses. We’ll work with the family to match you with the right Caregiver for your situation.

I invite you to call (518) 842-5626 to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can tailor an in-home care plan that meets the needs of your loved one and provides you the peace of mind you deserve. Our Vision is to be the extended family when the family can’t be there by delivering the same exceptional care we would want for our own loved one. We take this seriously and would love to work with you to design a plan that meets your needs and budget.

October is Talk About Your Medicine Month, an annual observance created by the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) to call attention to the need for communication about medications. Better medicine communication promotes better medicine use, leading to better health outcomes, so seniors can--with the help of their medication--live longer, healthier lives.  

So how can you improve communication about medications? 

ASK if the person you're caring for needs help. Don't assume that medication management is under control. Older adults who need or could benefit from some help taking medicine safely and appropriately may not seek support for a variety of reasons: they might not recognize the need, they may find it uncomfortable to ask for help, or they may not realize how important it is to manage medications properly. Seniors take more medication that other age groups, so there is a greater potential for miscommunication about how they should be taken. 

Determine the Need for Support 

The following checklist can help you determine whether someone in your life could use assistance with managing medicines: 

  1. Is the individual over 75 years of age? 
  2. Does he or she have more than one medical condition? 
  3. Is he or she on more than one medication?
  4. Does he or she have any problems with sight, hearing, strength, or mobility? 
  5. Does he or she have memory problems? 
  6. Is this person unable to drive or otherwise safely reach the location where medicines must be picked up? 

If you answered "yes" to any of these 6 questions, some help with managing medications my be needed. The first step is talking about medicines to determine what type of support the person needs. 

How to Talk about Medications 

Ask the individual: 

  1. What medicine(s) do you take? Ask what condition each medication is taken for. 
  2. When do you take the medicine(time of day)? How often do you take it? How do you take it (with food or without, etc)? 
  3. Do you feel the medicine is helping? 
  4. Do you feel more groggy or sleepy since starting the medicine? Has it made you less hungry? Have you fallen more often? 
  5. Do you ever forget a dose? When do you take it if you do?
  6. Can you easily tell which medication it is? Can you easily open or access the medication (ie, packaging)?
  7. Do you have any annoying side-effects from taking the medicine?

These questions are a starting point--a way to get the conversation started, and to find out what (if any) problems an older adult may be experiencing in regards to medications, whether it's in taking them properly, managing side-effects, or minimizing the risk of drug interactions. Ultimately, talking about medicines should lead to the development of practical strategies for management, such as maintaining a medicine list at home, opting to use only one pharmacy, and changing any medication use pattern that isn’t accurate or safe.

Remember, too, that an individual's needs for support may change over time as their health condition and medications are adjusted. Pay attention to the person's medical appointment schedule, and follow up appointments with conversations. Were any changes to medications made? Do they have any new medications that have been prescribed, and do they know how to take them?

Take a Supportive Role 

Talking about medicines should be part of a supportive role that involves respect for the individual you're caring for or concerned about. An individual's use of medicines shouldn't be criticized; a supportive approach will always work best. "Talking" about medicines is just that--a conversation. Unless it is unsafe or risky for an individual to continue to manage their own medications, they should do so. Let seniors know that you are interested in their health and well-being, that you truly care, and that you are available for assistance. Plan ahead to have the conversation again soon, so talking about medicines becomes an ongoing, natural occurrence rather than a rare and uncomfortable event. 

Celebrating and Supporting Military Families

Military spouses have an unemployment rate four times the national average (Blue Star Families).While Veterans can be challenged finding appropriate care.

The employment challenges military families face:

  • Families of active service members often have difficulty finding long-term employment in their stationed communities
  • Pursuit of suitable employment can be complicated by frequent relocations as well as the extra demands that fall on the home front spouse during long deployments
  • 79% feel military spouse status has a negative impact on ability to pursue a career

Veterans and military families have the opportunity to support our communities through employment, business ownership, care recipients and advocates for Veteran’s Benefits. Our commitment to employment fulfills on the service-minded nature of military families. Home Helpers provides the ultimate employment opportunity for trailing family members, and our partnership with MSEP (Military Spouse Employment Partnership) helps qualifies military family members to find careers with local Home Helpers offices.

Veterans can be challenged finding appropriate care. In hopes of changing this, our partnerships with Patriot Angels and Veteran Care Coordination (VCC) provide help with advocacy information so veterans know their benefits and can more easily access care. Veterans can use these services to obtain the Pension with Aid & Attendance benefit.

To support these needs, our Exceptional Caregivers have been trained to aid families who experience a wide variety of care issues. We offer employment services, companion care, transportation services, and personal monitoring through our line of Direct Link® services–offering peace-of-mind knowing that help is a touch of a button away.

At Home Helpers & Direct Link of Amsterdam, we understand how to best prepare military families for these circumstances. We have many free guides available, such as “Veterans Care,” ways to live a purposeful life with “Purpose Doesn’t Retire,” and “Compare Cost of Care Options.” 

Call us at (518) 842-5626 and schedule your free in-home consultation to see how we can tailor a care plan that's right for you. We'll work together to develop a plan that meets the needs of your loved one and provides you with the peace-of-mind you deserve. Our vision is to be the extended family for our clients when their families can’t be there. We strive to deliver the same exceptional care we would want for our loved ones.