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Happy Senior Man And His Dog

There has been a great deal of research on the way in which pets, particularly dogs can impact the lives of seniors today. Pets can help prevent loneliness, encourage seniors to get exercise and even help seniors fight off depression. However, there is one very specific way in which dogs are helping seniors who battle dementia and mores specifically Sundowners Syndrome.

When seniors have a canine companion in their lives they are able to have constant love, support and companionship from their pets. This can really go a long way in helping seniors feel loved and appreciated as they deal with the devastating effects of dementia. Since dogs need to be on a specific schedule with eating, exercising and going to the bathroom, many seniors with dementia also find that the constant mental stimulation that pets provide can really go a long way in improving their dementia symptoms.

Many studies have found that routines and responsibilities can keep the mind sharp and keep dementia patients focused. It can also help them remember more of their own daily routine, when they have the constant reminder of an animal to keep their day structured. This type of structure and the need for care can also provide seniors with the mental stimulation that they need in order to keep their brains sharp and functioning. While stimulation such as this won’t cure dementia or prevent it from worsening, it can slow down the progression of the disease significantly.

The non-verbal communication that dogs provide can also really help those that experience Sundowners Syndrome. Sundowning occurs when seniors with dementia get confused or agitated at night, so much so that they can enter a state of complete confusion and even do harm to themselves. These episodes can also make it very difficult for seniors with dementia to sleep. The structured schedule that dogs provide can help many dementia patients with Sundowners Syndrome, as can the tactile stimulation of interacting with pets.

Many times, the non-verbal communication and acceptance that dogs offer can soothe those with Sundowners Syndrome, especially when they are struggling to communicate verbally about their own agitations. One of the biggest challenges that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients tend to have has to do with acceptance and understanding. The presence of non-judgmental support systems such as dogs can provide dementia patients with that support that they seek. Some individuals are simply comforted by the presence of an animal when they become agitated, while others find the art of petting an animal or walking a calm dog can provide them with a soothing activity that can calm their nerves and help them refocus their energy in a more positive way.

Pet therapy has long been a common practice for seniors as well as children, the seriously ill, mentally disabled and physically challenged individuals. However, for those seniors who are particularly struggling with dementia and Sundowners, the presence of a furry friend may help them have the support and the structure they need to get through these difficult spells.

In Love Senior Couple

One of the most challenging situations that seniors today face is when their spouse needs care, but they do not. Many married senior couples are faced with this difficult situation when they realize that their husband or wife needs to move to an assisted living facility. Many times the first question out of their mouth is “can I move with them?”

When senior spouses need different levels of care, it is important that all parties involved are prepared for the options that lie ahead. The good news is, there are some assisted living facilities that allow spouses to move in with their significant other who needs care. However, most assisted living facilities have rooms designed for single individuals, so finding the right space or apartment may be a challenge.

The other thing to remember is that there needs to be a balance so that both spouses are getting what they need. While the main focus may be on the spouse that needs care and on finding him or her an assisted living center that provides them with the care that they need, the other spouse should not be neglected in the process. Both parties need to be considered.

As you search for assisted living facilities, make sure that they also have activities and access to things like public transportation, available for the spouse as well. The spouse needs to still be able to live their life. They need to be able to have social activities, enjoy outings and maintain some of their own independence. Just because their spouse needs care, it doesn’t mean they have to live with the same limitations as their significant other.

While some couples may find a place that works for both parties, others may ultimately consider at home care, if they can’t find the right assisted living complex. There are other spouses who may ultimately have to split up and live in separate places, whether it is permanently or short-term until they find a better solution. With such a complex situation, it should come as no surprise that there is rarely an easy fix waiting right around the corner.

With this in mind, one of the best things that couples can do when they start to reach senior age, is to start looking for possible assisted living centers that will meet their needs. There are many facilities that offer progressing levels of care and that are ideal for individuals who may need more care over time and for couples with differing needs. The more prepared a couple is, the easier their transition will be when the time comes. Many of these facilities do have a waiting list, so couples are often encouraged to make the move earlier rather than later, that way they aren’t in a panic should an emergency occurs that prompts the immediate need for assisted living.

It is important to remember that this can be a very trying and emotional situation for any couple, as most couples will want to stay together no matter what. However, the more proactive seniors can be about finding a possible solution for this dilemma, the easier it will be to transition to this next phase of life.

Senior Adult On The Passenger Seat Getting Ready For Trip

The truth about transportation is less than kind for those over the age of 65. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 586 seniors suffer automotive injuries each day. This translates to more than 214,000 total yearly collisions (and more than 5,000 total fatalities).

The open road serves as the ultimate symbol of independence, allowing seniors to maintain control and dictate their own schedules. The ability to drive, however, too often fades with age – with limited physical or cognitive functions interfering with basic acceleration, stoppage, and more. There comes a time when men and women must slip into the passenger seat.

When exactly is that time, though?

Understanding Personal Limitations

The purr of the engine may prove appealing – but it’s not always safe. Seniors must instead examine themselves carefully, identifying potential impairments.

Physical Impairments

According to the United States Census, approximately 40% of the senior population suffers from (at least) one form of physical disability – such as arthritis, ambulatory difficulties, and weakened muscles. These directly impact the ability to respond to changing traffic conditions. It’s crucial, therefore, to consult with a physician and understand the extent of each mobility issue. Note flexibility, strength, and reflexes.

Visual Impairments

The American Foundation for the Blind reports that those between the ages of 65 and 74 experience a 12.2% increase in vision loss (while those 75 and over experience a 15.2% increase). Impacted acuity – including weakened depth perception, glaucoma, and macular degeneration – drastically affects the ability to drive.

Seniors must undergo regular eye testing. While there is no national standard for visual performance, the AMA Journal of Ethnics notes that several states follow a 20/40 ratio per eye. Consult with the DMV to verify specific requirements.

Cognitive Impairments

The Alzheimer’s Association notes that mild cognitive impairments (MCIs) are common among seniors, with 10% to 20% of the total population affected. This leads to an inability to complete simple functions, an inability to recall information, and elevated mood swings (with depression and anger experienced more frequently). The mental and emotional health of each individual may be compromised – which greatly increases the chance for an automotive injury.

Seniors should consult with a physician to identify potential MCIs.

Medications

The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists reports that nearly 92% of the senior population has at least one chronic condition. Of these conditions, 40% will require long-term medication – and with every prescription comes a series of side-effects, each interrupting logic skills and slowing reaction times.

According to the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 18% of those involved in fatal automotive crashes test positive for the presence of drugs (whether OTC or prescribed). Seniors must recognize the dangers of driving while medicated and be aware of all possible side effects.

Driving is a thrill. It’s also, however, a potential danger – and seniors must understand the risks they take when sliding behind the wheel. Examine physical impairments, visual restrictions, cognitive impairments, and medications to determine whether alternative transportation is needed.

Be smart. Be safe.

 

High Cholesterol in Seniors

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Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance present in the blood that can contribute to a number of extremely serious health conditions, including stroke and heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 71 million Americans are currently suffering from high cholesterol, but only 1/3 of this group has their high cholesterol under control.

Part of the reason why so many people with high cholesterol do not have their condition under control is that high cholesterol is not symptomatic. In fact, the only way for individuals with high cholesterol to even know that they have this condition is through a blood test. Because of this, regular screenings are key to identifying high cholesterol and keeping it under control.

Unfortunately, high cholesterol is an especially common problem among seniors, as cholesterol levels can increase as a person ages. While most people can do with a cholesterol test once every 5 years, women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 45 may need to be screened more regularly.

Ways to Lower Cholesterol

In addition to prescription medications that can help individuals keep their cholesterol at safe levels, there are a number of lifestyle changes that individuals can make to help manage their cholesterol:

  • Quitting Smoking – Smoking can significantly increase an individual’s cholesterol, so quitting smoking can make a huge difference in your life if you’re trying to bring your cholesterol down to normal levels. Additionally, smoking is an independent risk factor for a number of health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Exercising –Working out regularly can help you to lower your cholesterol levels naturally. It’s recommended that people, seniors included, get two and a half hours of physical activity every week.
  • Eat Well – Certain foods and types of foods can contribute to high cholesterol, including trans fats, and saturated fats. However, other foods, like fiber and polyunsaturated fats, can help to lower your cholesterol. As such, make sure you’re paying attention to what you’re eating and make decisions that will benefit your health.
  • Keeping a Healthy Weight – Being overweight or obese can contribute to your cholesterol levels, so maintaining a healthy weight through healthy eating and exercise can help to lower your cholesterol.

Benefits of Lowering Your Cholesterol

There are a number of distinct benefits that accompany having your cholesterol in a safe range. In addition to lowering your chances of suffering a stroke, heart attack, or being diagnosed with other cardiac diseases, having appropriate levels of good cholesterol can also reduce a senior’s chances of experiencing dementia.

Additionally, making life changes that can lower your cholesterol, like exercising, eating well, and quitting smoking, will also have significant benefits in other areas of your life, as well. As such, making the decision to get healthy and lower your cholesterol can help improve your overall health, help you sleep better, and can have significant improvements on your overall mood.

There are a number of different health conditions that become more likely as we age, and the best way to protect your health as you move into your later years is to stay informed. Get regular health screenings and make sure that you stay proactive about your health and managing any conditions that you might have.