As we age, our body’s ability to regulate internal body temperature and sense fluctuations in temperature can decrease. This is a particularly important function for seniors, as it gets into the colder months because of possible health risks, such as hypothermia. The Asheville area is going to get a winter storm this weekend, so let's be prepared. One of the misconceptions about hypothermia is that it only occurs in extremely cold environments, but in actuality, people may begin experiencing symptoms at just 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Follow these tips to help avoid it in the upcoming weather.
Snow Shoveling Tips
Shoveling the snow can pose risks for seniors. Not only are they at risk for heart-related problems but they could also strain a muscle or fall. Here are a few tips to clear away the snow with fewer risks:
Bundle up— You don’t want to be exposed to extreme temperatures. Layering is more important than thick, bulky items because you’ll be able to move around easier. Don’t lift snow with your back — When you shovel, push the snow forward and then using your legs, scoop the snow out. Take breaks — Don’t try to do the entire driveway and sidewalks all at once. Do a small section at a time, then rest and do some more.Keep hydrated. Use a lightweight shovel so you don’t strain your muscles.
Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter
Part of ensuring you will be safe driving in the winter is to get your vehicle prepared for the blast of nasty weather. These tips should help:
Have your tires checked before the weather getsCheck your windshield wiper blades and replace them if they look worn or ragged.Make sure you are familiar with how the defrosters work; this window fog and reduced visibility. Keep a small shovel in your trunk in case you get stuck. Keep a jumper cable in your vehicle in case you have a bad battery (although if you have roadside assistance, they will come out for that but be forewarned, they sometimes take a long time).
Winter Driving Safety Tips
Driving can be a challenge in the winter months, especially if the roads become slick. Whenever you have to take a drive in the winter, be sure to make the necessary preparations. Here are a few things you can do to prepare:
Make sure you have a cell phone with you in case of an accident.Wear appropriate outerwear in case you get stuck in snow or break down. Check with your insurance to make sure you have roadside assistance. When driving in inclement weather, use your headlights for better visibility.
Preparing for Power Outages
The winter is known for its strong winds, blinding blizzards, and damaging ice. When winter storms hit, power may go out, leaving seniors vulnerable if they’re not prepared. Use the tips below to handle a power outage with ease:
Keep candles, flashlights, and lighters on hand for emergencies.If you have a mobile phone, keep it charged up if you notice a storm is approaching. If you can, invest in a small generator so you can have heat in the event of a power outage. Keep a large stock of blankets. Have plenty of bottled water on hand.If possible, stay with a friend or loved one during a storm.If you have a pet, cuddle with it to keep warm.
Helping seniors retain their independence is important to Mountain Home Care!
For many caregivers, the holidays can be stressful and a reminder of what Alzheimer’s has stolen.
Here are some ideas that can help:
- Celebrate small moments of success. Maybe this is the year your Christmas cards don’t go out to 100 people, but instead, they go to your 10 closest friends. Maybe this is the year for one tree, instead of three. Finding important traditions that you can keep while toning down extravagance can help save money and time while reducing stress.
- Create a safe environment in your home. Keep decorations simple and avoid using candles. Make sure there is plenty of space in your home for someone to assist your loved one, if needed. Keep aisles and walking spaces clear and plan where your loved one will sit at dinner to best engage in conversation and make an easy exit.
- Have a quiet room. Make one place in your home a quiet room specifically for your loved one to escape to if things get too loud. This can give them a place of security in chaos and also give them confidence in social events, knowing they have a quiet room waiting, if needed.
- Include your loved one in holiday preparations and celebrations. It’s the holidays for your loved one too, and including them by inviting them to decorate cookies or wrap gifts are great ways to involve them in the season. In later stages of the disease, a gentle touch or kind word is a great way to let them know they are acknowledged and involved.
- Join a support group. Being around people who know what you are going through is crucial to relieving caregiver stress and preventing burnout.
- Know who to call for help. Aside for family and friends, caregivers can call the Alzheimer’s Association at: 727-578-2558 or the 24 hour helpline at: 1-800-772-8673 for assistance, to answer questions and help people with dementia and their caregivers. The hotline is open year-round, including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
- Maintain a normal routine and schedule as much as possible. The holidays bring a number of additional commitments and parties, all of which are fun and a great way to partake in the season. However, keeping your routine and schedule can help bring your loved one peace and security in a busy and often stressful time.
- Prepare out of town guests and be forgiving when mistakes happen. Try to let visitors know what your loved one is going through and any known behavior issues before they arrive. If guests do or say something hurtful, give grace and try to let it go at least for now.
- Realize that you don’t need to attend every party you are invited to. Giving yourself permission to say no to social obligations can free up your time and your mind to say yes to relaxing, holiday preparations or spending time with loved ones.
- Tweak and adapt existing family traditions, if necessary. If your family has consistently done a late Christmas Eve dinner but you know your loved one has trouble sleeping at night, consider changing your family tradition to a Christmas Day brunch. In the same way, do what you can to tweak existing conditions in a way that will better involve your loved one. For example, if your family gathers around the piano to sing holiday classics, pick a few your loved one will remember. Or, spend some time going through old photo albums, remembering past family holidays.
Although Alzheimer’s affects approximately 1 in every 2 families in the U.S., and has been extensively covered in the media, there’s still quite a bit of information about Alzheimer’s that you might not be aware of.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease (also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s).
Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.
Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing.
Mountain Home Care right here in Asheville, Western North Carolina, is dedicated to helping you through the hardships of dealing with dementia and Alzheimer's disease with our in-home nursing services and resources. Just call us at 828-684-6444 to see how we can be your local support system. From medication administration and foot care to education and seminars, you can lean on us when caring for a loved one.
What to do if a loved one resists help?
Unfortunately, using logic doesn’t work in most cases. Sometimes family must stress that the help is for them and their peace of mind, giving them the assurance that the loved one is eating, staying clean, getting exercise and interacting with others. In reality, it’s another set of eyes and ears on the situation to help guide the decision maker about the tough decisions. Sometimes it becomes necessary to bargain/negotiate, “you want to stay at home for as long as possible, right?”
“Well, the only way that can happen is for you to agree to have some help.” Don’t say it, if you don’t mean it, and be willing to follow through on whatever transpires.
In order to find just the right fit, a family may need to try different approaches to service, i.e. short/long days/hrs./male/female caregivers. Also, engage the loved one in designing the scope of service, as well as the Plan of Care (what exactly needs to be done). The Nurse Assessor will compare/contrast the Plan of Care and Service Plan to the Loved One’s ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) and abilities. All of these together should help to determine a positive experience and outcome.
How do you know when it’s time to transition from Home Care to full time skilled nursing care?
Some families make this decision based on their ability to manage the needs of their loved one in the following three areas:
Safety – considering wandering, fall risk, leaving items on the stove (fire hazard), leaving water running (creating flooding), inability to consistently use assistive devices (cane, walker, wheel chair) without supervision
Incontinence – family isn’t willing/able to keep the loved one clean/dry due to urine/bowel incontinence and results in rapid skin breakdown/bed sores/wounds
Disease Symptom Management – Family is often unable to keep loved ones’ symptoms controlled outside of a controlled environment with a strict regimen of medication administration and care management, thus the need for placement.