Preventing Malnutrition in Seniors

Senior Couple Enjoying Meal Together

When most people hear about malnutrition, they think of poor or impoverished individuals. However, malnutrition is actually most common among seniors and could potentially impact your elderly loved ones. Simply put, malnutrition occurs when your body isn’t getting enough nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates and fats, in order to work as it should be.

Proper nutrition is extremely important among elderly adults and it can make all of the difference in any senior’s overall quality of life, especially in those who have been diagnosed with dementia or other illnesses. When seniors are malnourished, they are much more likely to suffer from some of these serious health problems:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Unhealthy or low weight
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Memory issues
  • Weakened immune systems
  • Anemia

Seniors who are malnourished are also more likely to suffer from falls—which are the number one reason elderly adults end up in the hospital. With these serious health risks in mind, it is important that as a senior caregiver you are making an extra effort to keep your loved one as healthy as possible while preventing issues with malnourishment.

  • Make sure you are helping your loved one eat. One of the best ways to make sure a senior is eating is to monitor their meals and watch them do it.
  • Encourage your loved one to make better food choices. Many times, malnutrition isn’t just from seniors not eating, it is from them eating the wrong Try to encourage a diet filled with healthy fruits, veggies and lean proteins and one void of sugars, fried foods and salts.
  • Don’t forget about snacks. These are a great way to help seniors who may be at risk for malnutrition to get some extra, healthy nutrients into their everyday diet. This is especially helpful for those who can’t eat a great deal in a single sitting.
  • Encourage seniors to start working out more. A little exercise can go a long way in improving a senior’s appetite and it is good for seniors.
  • Consider supplements. If your loved one isn’t getting the nourishment they need from the foods they are eating, try to add those nutrients to their diet anyway with supplements. While getting vitamins and minerals directly from food is always the best, supplements can really help fill in the holes.
  • Take your loved one to their doctor. Many times, medical professionals will be able to help determine what the cause of your loved one’s issues with nutrition are, if you cannot get them to maintain a healthier diet on their own.

It is important to note that sometimes malnutrition in seniors happens on accident. In certain cases, seniors may forget to eat, lose their appetite or not have enough money in order to eat healthy. However, in other situations, issues with dementia, health problems or medication side effects can all ultimately increase a senior’s chances of suffering from malnutrition.

Keep these easy tips in mind if you suspect your loved one may not have the healthy diet that they need, it may make all of the difference in their overall health and well-being moving forward.

Understanding the Different Stages of Dementia

Wife Comforting Senior Husband Suffering With Dementia

When you hear that a senior loved one has dementia, nothing can be more devastating for you and your family. Every person’s experience with dementia is likely going to be slightly different as dementia is an extremely complicated condition. However, there are several main stages of dementia that most people go through and the more that you know about these stages, the better prepared you will be to help your loved one during this difficult time.

Stage 1: No dementia diagnosis. No cognitive decline.

This is the stage where seniors continue to function normally, it is a type of base level. In this stage, seniors are mentally healthy and have no memory loss.

Stage 2: No dementia diagnosis. Very mild cognitive decline.

Even in stage 2, seniors don’t technically have dementia. This is stage where normal forgetfulness may occur. This is also the stage where many people assume that their memory issues are related to aging, and many times they are. This is still relatively normal but may be an indicator of dementia in the future. Typically, symptoms are not that noticeable and may be something as simple as forgetting where they left their keys.

Stage 3: No diagnosis. Mild cognitive decline.

The third stage of dementia is typically when people start noticing issues with their senior loved one. While there typically still isn’t a “dementia diagnosis” in seniors who are in stage 3, this stage is important and can be quite overwhelming. Many seniors are in this stage for as long as seven years before they are really diagnosed with dementia.

Stage 4: Early stage dementia diagnosis. Moderate cognitive decline.

Typically, individuals in stage 4 have difficulty concentrating, they struggle with everyday tasks such as traveling to a new place or managing their finances. Seniors may have issues remembering recent events and may start to isolate themselves from friends and family. On average, seniors are in this state of dementia for about two years.

Stage 5: Mid-stage dementia diagnosis. Moderately severe cognitive decline.

Seniors who are in stage 5 of dementia typically start to have major memory deficiencies and typically need some assistance in completing their day-to-day activities such as bathing, preparing meals and dressing. Memory loss is typically more prominent in these seniors and can include forgetting the time or day or forgetting where they are or how they got there. This is typically where wandering starts.

Stage 6: Mid-stage dementia diagnosis. Severe cognitive decline.

In this stage of dementia, seniors need extensive assistance in carrying out their day-to-day activities. IN this stage seniors may struggle to do something as simple as counting, they start to experience changes in personality and may forget names and faces of those closest to them. On average seniors can stay in this stage for around 22 ½ years.

Stage 7: Late-stage dementia diagnosis. Very severe cognitive decline.

When seniors reach this state of dementia, they are typically unable to communicate or speak at all and lose many of their motor skills. They typically need help with virtually every part of their day from using the restroom to eating.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia, so most seniors simply have to go through these stages These are the main seven stages of dementia. While no one ever wants their loved one to have to suffer through these stages, the more you know about dementia in elderly adults, the better prepared you will be during every stage of this difficult illness.

 

How to Help Seniors Avoid Heat Stroke This Summer

age, leisure, travel, tourism and people concept - close up of h

Now that the spring and summer temperatures are heating up, it is time for senior caregivers to be aware of some of the issues typically associated with heat stroke. If you are not familiar with heat stroke, then it is time to get a better understanding of this condition and just how serious it is. Hot weather is dangerous as is, and seniors are even more prone to the dangers that these temperatures can bring.

Heat stroke and related side effects are some of the most common reasons seniors end up in the hospital during the summer. This is why caregivers need to be aware of heat stroke and heat exhaustion and know how to help their loved ones avoid these issues all together. Here are some of the best ways.

  1. Keep Seniors Hydrated

Many times, heat stroke happens in seniors because of dehydration. Most seniors are already at risk for issues with dehydration due to their current medications, and hot weather only makes it worst. In fact, most issues related to heat stroke have to do with dehydration. Make sure that seniors are drinking plenty of water every day, and monitor their liquid intake. It is also important to limit alcohol and caffeine. Remember, the hotter it gets, the more likely seniors will suffer from dehydration.

  1. Dress Seniors Appropriately

When seniors leave the home during hot weather, they need to have the right type of clothing on. This means comfortable, loose fitting clothing that is lightweight and in light colors. You would be surprised by home much of a difference an outfit can make when it comes to seniors and heat stroke.

  1. Plan Activities According to the Time of Day

Most seniors can’t just stay inside all day when it is hot out, so if your loved one wants to leave the home and get outdoors, make sure that you plan accordingly. It is the hottest during the mid-day, so if your loved one wants to sit outside or run errands plan their outings for early in the morning or later in the evening. Remember, when your loved one is inside, it is best to stay in the air conditioning.

  1. Check the Heat Index

When your loved one is getting ready to head out for the day, chances are they are going to check the temperatures on the weather. However, in addition to the actual temperature, make sure that you watch the heat index. When it is humid, it is more difficult for the body to cool itself, so you need to be even more careful.

  1. Know When Your Loved One is in Trouble

If your loved one suffers from heat stroke, heat-related exhaustion or another type of heat illness, the faster you are able to act, the better. Know the warning signs so you can get your loved one help right away. This includes nausea, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, fainting, chest pain and trouble breathing.

Keep these tips in mind this summer if you are looking after a senior loved one, they may just help save their life.

Sleep Tips for Seniors With Sundowners Syndrome

Senior Man Sleeps On Couch

If you are looking after a senior loved one who struggles with sundowners as part of their current battle with dementia, then getting these seniors to sleep each and every night is paramount. While there is currently no cure for sundowning, there have been numerous studies that have found that regular, quality sleep can actually help curb some of the side effects associated with this condition as well as the intensity of different sundowning episodes.

If you have ever experienced a senior who has sundowner’s syndrome, you might be apprehensive about starting a sleep schedule, let alone maintaining a sleep schedule. However, it is often much easier than it seems if you keep a few tips in mind.

  • Adjust your loved one’s sleep schedule so they go to bed earlier in the day. Since sundowning is most common later in the evening, adjusting your loved one’s sleep schedule so they go to bed early and wake up early can help keep their sundowning symptoms under control.
  • Create a pre-bed routine so it is easier for your loved one to get to sleep quickly and stay asleep longer. This routine should be relaxing and include something like reading, taking a bath or other activities that can help your loved one’s brain get in the mood for sleep.
  • Make sure your loved one has a quiet, cool, dark place to sleep in to avoid middle-of-the-night interruptions.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine in the afternoon as this can make it very difficult for seniors to fall asleep.
  • Schedule your loved one’s meals for the same time everyday to help them get in a routine.
  • Make sure to leave time for a nap in your loved one’s schedule so they aren’t so tired at the end of the day. Both physical and mental end-of-day exhaustion are linked to making sundowning worse. Don’t make the nap too long though. If your loved one spends most of the day sleeping, it may cause them to spend most of the evening on alert.
  • Keep the home well lit in the evening before your loved one goes to sleep. When it is dark in the home at night time, it can make your loved one’s living space seem confusing or unfamiliar and start to trigger some of these sundowning symptoms.
  • Try to limit television at night right before your loved one goes to sleep. Watching television is a stimulant and it can also cause confusion in seniors who may not be able to distinguish reality from what they see on the string.

Creating and maintaining a sleep schedule can be extremely beneficial to any senior battling this condition. It will help prevent any surprises that can ultimately cause confusions or outbursts and help seniors stay healthy and well rested. While sundowning can be difficult, it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways that you can help improve the overall quality of life for your loved one while they deal with this condition.

Why Is My Senior Loved One Bruising?

bruise

When it comes to providing quality care for any senior adult, being on the lookout for different health issues and concerns is always of the utmost importance. When it comes to elderly adults, these concerns of course include bruising. Most seniors start to bruise easily as they age, and start to develop bigger and darker bruises as they continue to grow older.

Seeing bruises of this magnitude can be devastating to any senior caregiver, as it can be difficult to tell which bruises are normal and which are a sign of something more serious. The good news is, most senior bruises are relatively harmless and chances are they will go away on their own without treatments. However, the question for many caregivers is simply “why does this occur?”

In humans, bruises typically form when small blood vessels, also known as capillaries, that are near the surface of the skin break under the impact of an injury. Bruises can happen virtually anywhere, but they are most common in seniors on the arms and legs. When this type of impact happens and the capillaries break, blood leaks out of them and they leave behind those signature black and blue marks. As the body begins to heal and eventually reabsorbs all of the blood, these marks will disappear.

In general, there are certain people, in most cases women, who just tend to be more prone to bruising than others. As for seniors, the most common reason they tend to bruise more easily is because their skin because thinner as they age. When seniors grow older, they also lose some of the protective fatty layer around the skin that also protects these blood vessels from getting injured. In short—the blood vessels are more susceptible to injury and since the skin is so much thinner, it is easier to see these pools of blood develop when capillaries are broken.

However, these aren’t the only reasons that seniors seem to deal with bruises more often than in younger adults. There are also situational reasons that seniors tend to deal with bruises more often. Seniors, in general are more prone to bruises because they are more prone to bumping into items they can’t see and they are more prone to falling. These things can cause bruises to happen more often in seniors.

Medications and supplements such as aspirin, antibiotics and anticoagulant medications can all cause a senior to bruise more easily. Vitamins including ginkgo, anti-platelet agents and medications used to treat allergies, asthma and eczema may also increase a senior’s chances of bruising. In general, you should always ask your loved one’s doctor about the side effects of any medications they may be taking or talk to them about medication side effects if you are concerned that their prescriptions may be causing bruising.

In some rare cases, where seniors all of a sudden start bruising and bleeding easily, or when they start bruising on the trunk, back or face for no known reason, there may be a more serious problem to blame, and seniors will want to make sure that they are visiting their doctor for further diagnosis.

Hip Fractures 101: What to Know About Hip Fractures in Seniors

Hip Replacement Xray Orthopedic Medical Scan

As elderly adults age, they are often at risk for a number of different potential injuries that can make caring for these individuals a challenge. One of the most common injuries to impact seniors today are hip fractures, in fact these are the most common injuries to result in hospitalization among seniors.

So, what is it that cause these hip fractures?

There are a number of risk factors that make elderly adults more prone to suffering from hip fractures. This of course includes the sheer number of falls that tend to happen among senior citizens, which is the number one cause of hip injuries. However, as a senior care provider you should also be aware of some of the other risk factors that may make seniors at risk for hip fractures. This includes:

  • Gender: Women are more likely to suffer from a hip fracture than men. This is because women tend to lose bone density more quickly than men.
  • Medications: Seniors who are taking four or more medications at once are often more likely to fall and suffer from a hip fracture.
  • Nutrition: Diet plays an important role in bone development. Seniors who had poor nutrition in childhood are actually more likely to have a hip fracture later on in life.
  • Osteoporosis: This common condition impacts more than 10 million seniors in the United States and since it causes bones to become weak and brittle, it greatly increases the chances of a senior having a hip fracture.

Many times, there is nothing you can do to prevent a hip fracture from happening. You can, however, make sure your loved one is being extra cautious when moving about and that you are always on the lookout for potential hazards that may cause your loved one to fall and hurt themselves. Many times, being cautious is the only way to prevent a hip fracture from happening in the first place.

If your loved one does fall or complain of pain in the hip or groin area, it is important that they go to the hospital right away. They can get an x-ray right away to determine whether or not a fracture is at the root of their pain.

There are three main types of hip fractures:

  1. Asubtrochanteric Frature- This fracture occurs in the femur and is actually the most rare type of hip fracture in seniors.
  2. Femoral Neck Fracture- This fracture occurs right below the ball of the socket hip joint and can actually stop the flow of blood to the broken bone. Typically, when this type of break occurs, seniors need a partial hip replacement in the ball and socket area.
  3. Intertrochanteric Region Fracture- This type of fracture occurs in the bone where the thigh bone extends away from the hip. When this type of fracture happens, seniors often need a plate and screw to compress the bones together and help them heal.

Many times, doctors will recommend immediate surgery within the first 24 hours to ensure the best possible recovery for your loved one.

How to Help Seniors During Allergy Season

Mature man with allergy at home

It seems as though spring weather is finally upon us, which not only means warmer, longer and sunnier days, but also the start of allergy season. While spring can be a great time to enjoy the outdoors, it can also make many people quite miserable, especially seniors. If your elderly loved one is impacted by seasonal allergies, then nothing can be as difficult as this time of year.

For some younger adults, allergy season may just mean itchy eyes and a running nose, but for seniors who have a compromised immune system, are taking certain medications or who are dealing with chronic disease, allergy side effects can be even worse. The good news is, as a caregiver, there are things that you can do to help make allergy season better and more comfortably for your senior loved ones.

Here are a few tips to help you get you and your loved one through this sniffly, itchy, sneezing time of year.

Start By Knowing What You’re Dealing With

The first step to helping any senior through allergy season is to spot their allergy issues. First, look for the common signs, which can include the sudden onset of sneezing, running nose and itchy eyes, typically starting right around this time of year when flowers start to bloom.

You should also take note of when they start to have these symptoms so you can be sure it is seasonal allergies not some other irritant.

Take Them to the Doctor

While allergies may not seem like something that requires a trip to the doctor, for seniors this is actually a very important step. This is a great way to make sure your diagnosis of seasonal allergies is accurate and to make certain that you can get a professional’s insight on over-the-counter medications.

While there are plenty seemingly harmless over-the-counter meds available for allergy sufferers, you want to make sure that medications like this won’t interfere with your loved one’s other prescriptions or treatments. Doctors may also have prescription treatments such as nasal steroids or

Try A More Natural Approach

Look into more natural treatments for seniors, instead of going straight to antihistamines, which are some of the most popular treatments for allergies. Antihistamines, especially powerful ones can come with some serious side effects for seniors and increase their changes of falling or getting hurt.

Antihistamines can sometimes cause confusion, dizziness, drowsiness or even changes in mood or behavior. This can be very risky for seniors. There are other, more natural forms of treating allergy symptoms that don’t come with these side effects. Vitamins, light pain medications to treat discomfort, eye drops, non-medicated sprays, homeopathics and even consuming honey from local bees have all been shown to help those who suffer from seasonal allergies. Plus, these treatments all come with little to no side effects.

Allergy season can be rough for anyone who typically has a reaction to springtime pollen, but especially detrimental for seniors. Take the time to consider these additional tips when helping your loved one through allergy season to keep them healthy, comfortable and pain-free all spring long.

Home Safety Tips for Seniors With Dementia

Cleaning products on shelf

If you are living with a senior loved one who also suffers from dementia, then caring for these individuals can sometimes seem like a full-time job. As a dementia caregiver, the more that you do in order to keep your loved one safe, the better off they will be. In addition to looking after these seniors, this also requires making sure their environment is as safe as possible. The safer, the home is, the safer your loved one will be.

This is why going through and making some important safety changes to your home is so important. Here are some of the best things you can do to keep your home as safe as possible for someone living with dementia.

  • Hide and lock away any poisonous liquids or materials in case they are accidentally ingested.
  • Pay special attention to basements, sheds, garages and work spaces that may have sharp objects or tools in them that can cause injuries or accidents.
  • Keep the kitchen as safe as possible. This is one of the most common areas of the home where accidents take place. Stoves, ovens and knives all provide major risks for seniors with dementia.
  • Don’t leave sugar, salt or butter out in the open and remove any decorative fruits from the home.
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers in an easy-to-access area of the home.
  • Consider child-locks for doors or areas of the home where you wouldn’t want your loved one to go unsupervised.
  • If you have a pool consider a guard or additional safety features that can prevent seniors from wandering in and drowning.
  • In the evenings make sure that you are locking doors and windows or consider adding an alarm system that will alert you if your loved one gets up and wanders and tries to leave the home.
  • Remove clutter from the home that may act as a fall hazard and make sure that your loved one has a clear and safe path to walk through.
  • Add ample lighting to hallways and community spaces in the home so that seniors don’t run into things in the middle of the night.
  • Add hand railings and non-slip mats in the bathrooms, as these are common areas for falls to happen.
  • Label everything that your loved one may need to use on a regular basis, especially if they tend to forget how to use or where to find everyday items.

Little things like these can really go a long way for you and your senior loved one with dementia. While some of these tips may not seem necessary, it is important to remember that seniors with dementia can have periods of confusion where something like a bottle of bleach may look like a gallon of milk to them. The more that you can do to prevent issues from happening just in case, the better of your loved one will be as they continue to age in place in a comfortable, safe and encouraging environment.

 

How to Handle Incontinence in Seniors

incontinence

As a senior caregiver or loved one, there may be a number of issues that you need to help your family member with as they continue to age. Some of these issues may be more delicate than others, which is typically the case with problems related to incontinence.

Incontinence can be an embarrassing condition, but it is one that is unfortunately quite common among seniors. There are many issues that may result in incontinence, ranging from medication side effects, to physical conditions or even dementia. It is important to note that while incontinence is common, it is not “normal” so any new issues with incontinence should be addressed by a doctor immediately.

Sometimes, medical conditions such as prostate issues, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease or UTIs can be to blame for incontinence. In other situations, medications can actually cause the bladder muscles to relax causing issues with incontinence in seniors.

No matter what the cause is, as a caregiver, it is important that you are able to be supportive of any senior dealing with this condition. Here are a few tips on how to respond to these delicate issues to make sure that your loved one isn’t embarrassed by this problem.

  • Never scold a senior who has an accident, and do your best to preserve their dignity and to not make them feel embarrassed. Never scold a senior for having an accident.
  • Don’t try to withhold fluids to prevent accidents. This can actually cause serious issues with dehydration. You can limit things like caffeine or too many liquids before bed, but never withhold water to a thirsty senior.
  • Keep the lines of communication between you and your loved one open and let them know that you can help them if they need to use the restroom but feel as though they can’t go on their own.
  • Be aware of the warning signs that your loved one may be about to have an accident so you can step in and help if needed.
  • Make sure it is easy for your loved one to get to the bathroom and that they always know where the bathroom is if they have to get there in a hurry.
  • Feel free to remind your loved one to use the toilet if they have dementia or may forget to use the bathroom in the morning or at night. A regular schedule can be helpful.
  • Consider incontinence products like mattress covers, pads and adult briefs.
  • Make sure that your loved one is always wearing clothing that is easy to remove and even easier to clean.

No senior ever wants to deal with incontinence, but as a caregiver it is important that you know how to support and care for someone who is dealing with this problem. Make sure you rule out any serious medical problems, act supportive and do what you can to help your loved one adjust to life with incontinence so they can continue to have the best quality of life possible even with this issue.

How Caregivers Can Help With Senior Wandering

Elderly With Cane

Wandering is one of the most common and most difficult conditions that impacts seniors today, and if you are a caregiver looking to help your loved one with this issue, it can seem overwhelming to say the least. Wandering is most common in seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or signs of early dementia-related issues. It can be nearly impossible to predict and even harder to control.

Wandering can be scary for all parties involved. Many times seniors will end up in dangerous situations, outside without coats on or far away from home and not even remember how they got there. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t some things that senior caregivers can do to help their loved ones with wandering and to make sure they are staying as safe as possible, no matter how often they tend to wander.

Here are some tips on how any caregiver can help their loved one with wandering.

  • Make sure to lock all windows and doors in the home before you go to bed. Some seniors may even benefit from the added addition of bars on the windows.
  • Put a bell on the door of your home, if your senior is able to unlock the doors and leave when you aren’t paying attention. This can help alert you of your loved one’s attempt to wander far from home.
  • Put your loved one in brightly colored clothing so they stick out, especially if they tend to wander at night.
  • Be aware of the fact that seniors can wander during the day or at night or even when you may think someone is watching them. Just because you are trying to stay on top of seniors and wandering, it doesn’t mean that they won’t accidentally wander, so you should always play it safe when it comes to dressing your loved one, assuming that they may possibly wander off.
  • Alert your neighbors that you have a senior loved one who is prone to wandering. It can be very helpful to have an extra set of eyes on your loved one in case they wander.
  • Make sure your loved one always has an ID on them. This can be difficult for seniors so consider alternative forms of identification. Popular options include identification jewelry or even temporary tattoos that seniors can wear to alert people of their name, address and basic health information.
  • Increase your loved one’s physical activity. There are many seniors who wander only at night at they wander because they aren’t as tired from the day and aren’t falling asleep and staying asleep at night. Sometimes extra physical activity can help seniors with this.
  • Take your loved one to the doctor if you are worried that there is an underlying cause that may be at the root of their wandering.

These little tips can go a really long way in helping any senior who may be prone to wandering. However, one of the best things that a caregiver can do is to try to stay calm, stay vigilant and always be on the lookout for dangers in the home that could cause issues for seniors who tend to wander.