Dealing with Fear

Fear. That’s probably something that a lot of us are feeling right now. We are living in a world full of unknowns since the recent outbreak of the COVID-19/Coronavirus. While there is reason to be concerned, we should not let fear overtake and overwhelm us. There are many ways to be prepared and to help prevent the spread of this virus. For the elderly, it is a very good idea to be extra cautious. Elderly are reported to be more at risk to complications from this virus then those who are younger than them.

 

 

Take the steps that the CDC has put into the place to keep yourself safe. Some of these steps are:

While it is good to follow the steps above, we need to make sure that we do not go into panic mode. That panic mode comes from a place of fear. It has been proven that living in fear can have significant impacts on your mental and physical health. Some ways that it can affect you are:

-changes in eating or sleeping patterns

-difficulty sleeping or concentrating

-worsening of chronic conditions or diseases

-increased use of drugs, tobacco or alcohol

 

There are many more ways that fear can affect your body. But I think one of the main things we need to focus on are ways to work through that fear and not to dwell on it. If you are living in an assisted living home, you are probably already being quarantined for your safety. Here are some ideas of how to not focus on the fear and to help with any boredom that you might be experiencing:

  1. Shut off the news, media or even Facebook for periods of time throughout the day. Constantly having your mind bombarded with all the chaos can really cause anxiety.
  2. Take care of yourself. Relax, remember to eat healthy, stretch, take a nap, meditate, pray or read your bible. Whatever it is for you that helps you feel peaceful.
  3. Don’t be afraid to talk to people about your feelings of anxiety. Verbally processing things can help sort out all the chaos going on in your brain. If you already struggle with issues of mental health, this is all the more important!
  4. Try to find activities that you enjoy to take your mind off of the current situation. Reading, doing puzzles, making crafts, sewing, playing games, etc.
  5. If you are living in an assisted living home or nursing home and are experiencing a time where you aren’t allowed visitors for quarantine reasons, this is a great opportunity to call people on the phone or even write them letters the old-fashioned way!
  6. Try to find things that you are thankful for in this season. Even if it’s small, try to find one thing per day. This really helps in changing our mindsets from negative to positive!

Above all else, try to reflect on this acronym for the word F.E.A.R. False Evidence Appearing Real. So many times, when we are afraid, it’s because we are constantly going over the what if’s in our minds. Try not to write the script before it happens. Most of the time, the what if’s that we spend so much time worrying about never happen anyway.

 

7 Simple Ways to Help Your Aging Loved One with Diabetes

Let’s talk diabetes. For many, that is a big scary word that most people never want to hear from their doctor. Usually when a diagnosis like this comes, it means that there has to be some dramatic changes in our lives. Most people do not like change, especially people who have gone through many seasons of life. If you have an aging loved one who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, you might be feeling overwhelmed about how to best care for them. Especially if they are living alone or in an assisted living home. How can you help them when you aren’t constantly there to check up on them? Here are 7 ways that you can:

 

 

  1. Open up communication with the staff of the assisted living home and your loved one’s doctor. When you keep communication lines open, it will make you feel reassured that your loved one is getting well looked after, even when you aren’t there.
  2. Go along to their appointments and take notes about anything that the doctor says. Research the disease beforehand, that way you know which questions to ask. If you can’t make it to an appointment find someone that they can trust to take them instead.
  3. Make sure to talk to the nurses at the assisted living home about your loved one’s medication regimen, any diet changes that are needed, and about the level of exercise that the doctor says your loved one should be getting.
  4. Encourage your aging family member in any changes that need to be made to help improve their overall health. This could be as simple as learning how to use a daily glucose test and showing them how to do it. Or helping them understand which medications they need to take and when.
  5. Ask their doctor about which exercise regimen is good for them and either drive them to their exercise classes or PARTICIPATE in it with them. Exercise will help lower stress levels and in turn bring down blood sugar levels.
  6. Another way to help is to get creative with them in the kitchen. With diabetes, doctors usually recommend that they have a good diet full of a variety of vegetables and proteins. Sugary foods and lots of carbohydrates can really hurt a diabetic. This can be a hard one to change, especially if your loved one has spent most of their lives eating processed food. Share the journey of getting healthier with them so they don’t feel like they are all alone in it. Make new recipes together or help them modify some of their old favorites to make them healthier. Another way to help with food is to help stock their kitchen with good healthy snack choices for them to eat throughout the day.
  7. For diabetics having wounds or blisters can really be a cause for concern, especially on the feet. Because their nerve endings are damaged it could be hard for them notice if there is any damage to their feet. If it goes on for a while without treatment, this could lead to serious problems like infection, gangrene or amputations. So please teach your loved one how to regularly check their feet. Also encourage them to wear shoes or slippers that will prevent them from stubbing their toes or falling.

Overall, just try to be there for your loved one. They might not show you that they appreciate it, in fact they might show you the opposite. But try to keep encouraging them that you are only trying to help them keep their independence longer so that they can live the rest of their lives to the fullest.

Water! Why It’s So Important

Our bodies are made of approximately 50% water. It is a well-known fact that in order to keep our bodies functioning properly, we need to constantly be replenishing that supply. On average, we lose about 2-3 quarts of water a day. This can vary depending on the time of the year, your activity level, and if you’re on medications. For seniors, it is especially important to be maintaining good hydration. As we grow older, it becomes easier to forget to drink water, one of the reasons is because our sense of thirst diminishes. Dehydration is actually one of the top reasons that the elderly end up going to the hospital. That’s why it is extremely important for the elderly to drink, drink, drink! Let’s look at more reasons on why drinking water can better your health.

 

  1. Prevent Sickness and Disease

Being dehydrated can actually be a major contributing factor to a lot of the diseases that those in their later years suffer from. Kidney problems, heart problems, diabetes, arthritis, joint pain, headaches, and asthma can all stem from not drinking enough water. Water lubricates the body, which would help your joints. And it also keeps your digestive and urinary systems running smoothly so you won’t suffer from things like constipation, UTI’s, and kidney stones. Water helps your body flush out the nasty toxins that create the health issues listed above.

 

  1. Gives Your Brain and Emotions A Boost

One of the things that happens when our bodies are dehydrated, is that our cells shrink. When this occurs in your brain, it can cause you to have a foggy mind, memory problems, and not be able to make decisions easily. So, drinking plenty of water can help keep your brain sharp! It will help you feel better mentally and emotionally. Studies show that those who drink more water are often in a way better mood!

 

What if you don’t like drinking water? What are ways to keep your body hydrated? I think we have all been there, where we are just sick of drinking plain water. I totally get it! Here are some tips to stay hydrated in other ways!

 

When living in an assisted living or nursing home, it can actually be harder sometimes to stay hydrated. Different things can contribute to this. If the facility is short staffed, it could be harder for the workers to meet everyone’s drinking needs. Or if the resident has any physical impairments that could cause them to need help to eat or drink, it could be harder for them to get enough fluid intake throughout the day. If you do have a loved one in an assisted living or nursing home, please keep checking up on them to make sure they are staying hydrated. Ask the nurse about how they are doing when it comes to their urine output. And about how much they are eating and drinking each day. The nurse should have it all in their charts. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions and stay proactive in your loved one’s life.

 

 

 

Five Superfoods for the Elderly

Our entire lives we hear about how important it is to eat healthy. For most of us, it’s something we hear and always wish we could improve on, but struggle to have the motivation to do so. Instead of thinking of how hard a lifestyle change can be, start thinking of how much better you will feel when you eat food that will actually fuel your body. This is especially true for the elderly. The common mindset among the elderly is that as you get older, you get weaker. While this is true to an extent, it also has to do a lot with the foods that we are putting in our bodies. It is possible for those who are aging to have strong, energetic bodies. I have a great aunt who lives in the Colorado Rockies, she is 86 years old and still hikes them frequently. I can guarantee you that she did not remain fit by frequently indulging in the processed foods that we commonly eat today. Here is a list of five superfoods that can help you maintain a healthy physique as you age:

 

  1. Avocados

Avocados are probably one of the best superfoods on the market. For the elderly they can help with digestion, as they are full of fiber. Avocados are known to be a heart healthy food that contains potassium which can reduce the risk of heart problems, stroke, kidney failure, and can even help lower blood pressure. They are fat soluble, which means that they help your body absorb the nutrients in other healthy foods that you eat with them. There have also been studies that show that the nutrients in avocados can help prevent cancer, relieve arthritis pain, and promote eye, skin, and hair health. You can eat these plain or in soups, salads, and smoothies.

 

  1. Blueberries

Blueberries are another great superfood! They are full of Vitamins C, A and K. They are another heart healthy food that can help in lowering cholesterol. Blueberries also contain flavonoids which can help your night vision and keep your brain sharp! They are yummy to just snack on, put in oatmeal/yogurt, or to use in smoothies!

 

  1. Quinoa

This is one of those superfoods that is lesser known. Quinoa is a grain and is a good source of iron, calcium, fiber, magnesium and protein. These nutrients can help relieve constipation, build strong muscles, relax the muscles, increase blood flow, and is good to help your body eliminate disease causing toxins. Quinoa can be used as a side dish, in salads, as a breakfast cereal, in soups, or in baked goods.

 

  1. Pink Salmon

Pink salmon contains lots of Vitamin D, which is good for bone health. And is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids which can lower the risk of heart attacks, irregular heartbeats, and lower blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Make sure you get salmon that is wild caught. It is way healthier and doesn’t contain lots of the toxins that farm manufactured fish do. Salmon can be baked in the oven with olive oil and whatever seasonings you prefer.

 

  1. Broccoli

Broccoli is good for us for many reasons and it’s simple to make, which is a win! Broccoli is full of fiber, helps with metabolism and lowering blood sugar. It can also lower the risk of high cholesterol, osteoporosis, certain cancers and heart disease. It is stocked full of vitamins A, C, B9, and K; all of which will boost your immune system and bones. When you cook broccoli, it is best to steam it so that you don’t lose the nutrients in the boiling water.

 

Whether you are living independently, in an assisted living home or nursing care facility. It is up to you to set the standard for your health. Just making simple changes in what you eat can really help you maintain a more enjoyable lifestyle. If you are a family member reading this with a loved one in an assisted living or a nursing care facility, try to encourage your family member by helping them buy healthy foods and coming up with creative ways to eat them.

Let’s Talk About…Incontinence

This is a subject which many people shy away from because of embarrassment.  Bladder leakage or uncontrolled bladders is not exactly a topic for great dinnertime conversation, but it is a topic that ought to be talked about in a less hushed way.  It is a common problem, especially in the elderly population.  It’s a topic that many people know about, but don’t know seem to know how to solve it.

Incontinence occurs, in most cases, when the bladder muscles do not tighten as they should to move the urine or when the muscles around the urethra relax unexpectedly and cause the urine to leak out.  It is a muscular issue, and since we lose muscle tone as we age, it can be a very regular & disconcerting occurrence.

Anyone who has visited a nursing care & assisted living facility or an elderly ward knows that incontinence is an issue & the accompanying smells associated with these places can turn away even the most stalwart of volunteers.  No one wants to have those types of smells associated with them!  But how do you keep that from happening?  Especially if you’re senior citizen on a very limited and fixed income?  Many people in this situation cannot afford to buy disposable diapers and many more prefer not to fill up landfills with diapers that take decades to decompose.

I’ve heard of people who are just discovering this as an issue to roll toilet paper to help absorb leakage.  This may work for a small amount of leakage, but will do nothing to stave off the smell or hide the issue if a larger leakage occurs.  Some people go so far as to not drink when they go out because they do not want it to be an issue when they’re away from home!  If you’re an elderly person, this can cause a whole host of much worse health problems than the leakage!  Dehydration in elderly is common enough without intentionally withholding the fluids that your body needs for proper functioning!  Please do not do this!  If you know someone who does, please warn them of the dire consequences of intentionally dehydrating themselves!

In recent years, many companies have been developing products that can be used repeatedly for absorption of urine because of incontinence and then washed again and again.  This seems to be the best option for all involved.  Those who use them can then have freedom from embarrassment from leaks & also from having to buy the diapers in the store.  They’re also more economical in the long run than buying diapers every time they run to the market.  In addition, they’re a better option than disposables when it comes to landfills.  They still involve manufacturing, but because they’re re-useable, they have a smaller environmental footprint than the disposables.

Look online for things called “re-useable incontinence pads”, “re-useable pantyliners” or “period underwear”. There are lines of products that sell pads of chairs, men’s incontinence briefs, and even swimwear options. While this may be incredibly difficult for an elderly person to face and talk about, you’ll notice a greater confidence and more willingness to be out and about once this issue is dealt with.  Most of these products can be used with a wet bag  that is waterproof and tightly sealed if traveling so that the washing only needs to be done every few days.  It is impossible for them to feel confident or even comfortable if they have bladder leakage problems always on their minds.    Give them the gift of freedom and security from embarrassment!    Then take them somewhere they’ve been longing to go!

Malnutrition in the Elderly

 

Have you ever noticed how little some elderly people eat?  Even if you meet those who are elderly that have great attitudes, often their food intake is very little.  A small amount of one kind of food and they seem satisfied and move on with their day.  Is it really that older people need fewer calories or are there other issues that cause decreased appetite?  How does that suppressed appetite affect them over time?

There are many contributing factors to a shallow appetite in older adults.  There can be psychological factors, physical & even financial factors affect how much elderly people eat.  You’ll first need to determine what may be causing them not to eat before even being able to offer the help that they need.

Psychological factors might include anxiety, depression, or even something as fixable as not being in social situations very often.  People who are accustomed to being with others often but end up in a new situation where they have less contact socially can enter a slump that is hard to climb out of.  Setting a date for lunch once or twice a week can be a great help.  If they have issues with anxiety, check to make sure that their nervousness is occurring because of their diet.  Often people feel extreme nervousness or anxiety if they are lacking the correct balance of protein & carbohydrates in the diet.  Their blood sugar spikes or crashes & this can make them feel anxious.  If you can increase social contact & ensure that they have balanced meals, you may find their anxiety waning.  Social get togethers need not be always surrounding food.  You can arrange card games or other board games evenings.  You could also arrange for crafting/hobby times that would be enjoyable for several people to attend.  Pay attention to the things that they talk about, especially if they are feeling lonely.  Some people do not know how to cook for themselves & need to attend a cooking class.  Some people have cooked for others for so long that they see it as silly to cook for only one person.

Physical factors could include lack of absorption because of digestive issues.  If a doctor can diagnose what is going on, it is best.  If they have a problem with alcohol, it will interfere with their absorbsion of nutrients, so getting them help for the alcohol would be the logical first step.  Ask about their teeth and whether they are bothering them when they eat.  A trip to the dentist could be all that is holding them back from eating a healthy diet.  Ask if they’re trying to follow a certain diet that the doctor recommended.  Sometimes something as simple as a doctor asking them to cut out salt is enough for them to change their diets drastically and end up not eating enough because they don’t know how to cook or eat in this new way by adding in other herbs to make their food more appealing.  If they have many dietary restrictions, ask at the hospital or at a nursing home to see if they have a nutritionist you could consult with to help them come up with meal ideas and plans.

Financial factors often occur for elderly adults.  Assisted Living on social security alone is very difficult, but it is a reality for many senior citizens.  If they are struggling to buy healthy foods on their budget, try to help them figure it out.  There are many state & county programs available to help seniors with meals.  Meals on Wheels is a reputable one, but there are others.  Also, any time that there is a function that offers a low cost or free meal for the community, make sure that you invite them and find a ride or bring them.  It can be encouraging for them to be out and about and part of things in the community, and it can also provide their meal for the night.

All of this may seem a bit daunting at first when you’re delving into it but rest assured that once you start tackling the problem, they will most likely become more enjoyable people to be around.  Malnutrition can affect people in different ways and is almost always accompanied by health problems.  Iron deficiency can be caused by malnutrition.  Fatigue, dizziness and weakness can also be caused by it, even in early stages.  Once it is more advanced, there are a plethora of ailments that can come of it.  Do your friend or loved one a favor and get them help with the specific area that they need help so that they can go on to live a full and happy life!

Beginnings

It is a new year.  With all things new, we tend to have our hopes set very high.  It is common, especially when the year is at it’s start to have high hopes for the things that will change in the coming year.  The bad habits that we’ve formed over the past years, we hope to discontinue.  We also hope to somehow work our way toward a healthier & happier life in the year ahead by forging new habits with some sort of immense willpower which has, until January the first, alluded us.  Our expectations may be unrealistic & our efforts laughable, at times. After having no exercise routine for years we suddenly hope to run 5 miles a day, 6 days out of the week.  After drinking soda daily since we were teens, we hope to drink only water, herbal tea and probiotic rich drinks.  But, just because we sometimes set unrealistic goals for ourselves does not mean that new habits are futile to try to attain.  On the contrary, new  & wholesome habits are important and worthy goals set.  There are better ways to go about it, however, than strictly by grunt-force willpower.

1. One at a time. Habits are formed through doing them, not by resolving to do them. For this reason it is best to choose one habit at a time to work on.  It takes a great deal of energy to make the decision to do something new each time you must do it. For instance, if you do not have the habit of walking each morning, it takes just as much effort to decide to put on your gear and get out the door as it does to actually do the walking.   Once the effort of decision is less, you can move on to more habits that you’d like to form, but not until then, lest you abandon the progress you’ve made on the first habit.

2. Specific, Measurable, attainable, reasonable, trackable. You’ve probably already heard of making goals that are “S.M.A.R.T”.  Remember to make your goals each of the things listed above.  It is better to say, “I’m going to eat at least 2 green vegetables a day,” than “I’m going to get healthier this year.”  If you can measure a goal, you’ll know whether you’ve reached it or not.  If you cannot measure a goal, you can easily fool your own mind into believing that you’ve attained it, even without evidence.

3. Once your goals or habits have become easier, move on to solidifying them in such a way as it will be difficult to break them in the future.  Try to be sure you do them 21 times in a row, without pause.  Notice how much easier it is each time.

4. Wagons & Trains. You’ve probably heard habits described as ruts in a road that makes it easier for a wagon to find its way with ease. They’ve also been described as putting down track for a train to later follow on easily.  Whichever way you look at it, habits are the pre-cursors that we follow on, often without thought.

5. Good or Bad. Because it would require too much effort to think through each action, habits are actually little blessings throughout our day. If you had to pay heed to things like tying your shoes each time that you did it and decide to do it a different way each time, your mind would be full of that action & unable to think ahead to some of the heavier decisions that had to be made throughout the day.  One thing is certain, we are forming habits all throughout the day, every day.  Not making your bed each morning is just as much habit as making your bed.  Eating sugary cereal and coffee is just as much habit as eating veggies and eggs.  You are laying down rails through habits.  Is the railway taking you where you want to go?

Aging Caregivers

I was recently speaking with a woman who told me of her own mother's life.  Her mother lived until age 96, and she was the primary caregiver to a loved one with special needs until she was aged 90!  I was so impressed by this that I decided to look into the average age of caregivers in the United States.  The average age is 63!

Since that is the average age, it stands to reason that many caregivers are quite a bit older than that, and while 90 might be on the extreme side of the care giving spectrum, many adults do offer care to those older and younger than themselves who are in poor health even after they themselves are in their 80s.

 

The question then becomes, how long is this safe?  Below I'll list some parameters that can be used for you to ask yourself in order to determine whether or not you should continue to give care to someone else as a primary caregiver.

First determine whether your own health/abilities permit sound care for the other individual.  What is your own health like?  Are you prone to falling or having severe blood sugar issues that could leave the person you're caring for without supervision unexpectedly?  Is your strength sufficient for the type of care that they need?  If they fall, are you able to pick them up?  If they need help bathing, are you able to do that in a safe way?  Run through scenarios in your mind in order to answer these questions.  If you are able to help in many scenarios, but find that bathing them on your own might be a challenge, consider getting help on certain days for that activity.  If your own health is fairly unstable, it might be time to consider getting help so that you do not become run down.  Many times other family is available, or there may even be help from the state or an in home health care program for the person that is now in your care.  If you are able to have periods of rest or help with some aspects of their lives, you may be able to continue care for longer.  If your health is in rough shape, it might be time to hand off care giving responsibilities to someone altogether.  You could still offer to give them periods of respite so that they have rest, but should not offer long term care.  The one to whom you are offering care might also benefit from an assisted living facility.  If this is the case, be sure that you continue to visit them on a regular basis so that they have some consistency in their schedule & care, as well as a buffer against loneliness and depression.

Second, if you are able to continue care, determine how much help you need.  As was stated earlier, you may very well be able to continue care into your later years, but only if you have help from others.  If you are feeling very run down, it may be time to consider asking for help occasionally from others.  See if someone would be willing to sit with the one whom you care for on certain days of the week so that you can plan an outing or shopping trip.  Find out if there is anyone willing to help with transporting when necessary, or with showering days, or even with cooking a meal occasionally.  This should offer you support and relieve the pressure that you feel on a regular basis, making it more likely that you can continue care for longer.

Finally, determine a plan of action for when you will not be able to maintain care. None of us likes to think about this eventual day, but it will likely come and it's better to be prepared so that the transition will go smoothly.  Inquire into group homes or assisted living facilities.  Inquire into rehabilitative centers or nursing home facilities.  Ask family members whether they'd be willing to consider care.  These plans do not need to be set in stone, but they should be written down & shared with someone else in case anything happens to you, the current primary caregiver.

 

Care giving can be a very fulfilling purpose for the later years of life, but should only be attempted with plenty of support from others.  Your health is just as important as the health of the one to whom you offer care.  Do not be afraid to let people know what you need and when it has become too much for you to handle.  Being realistic in your expectations of yourself will go a long way toward giving the best care to others.   Next week we'll look at some of the most common statistics with regards to caregivers and their struggles & offer some simple way to combat them.  Until then, keep your chin up!  Your service to those you offer care to is incredibly valuable!

7 Tangible Acts of Gratefulness 

 Gratitude That Changes Things

It’s that time of year again when people all over America are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with friends and family.  We’ve begun to see that days of gratitude posts on social media, we’ve seen “gobs” of turkeys in the store (see what I did there…gobs/gobble?), and in some parts of the country we’ve started to fear that all the fall décor outside will be covered in snow before the big day.

Gratitude is an amazing thing.   It is genuinely good for you.  Many say that it has health benefits for the thankful ones.  Even if it doesn’t do anything for your health, it is good for you as you seek to be a more compassionate & empathetic person.  But, are there other ways that this season of gratitude could benefit those around us in need?  Saying we’re thankful is necessary & wonderful.  Showing that we’re thankful by what we do each day is even better, especially if we’re feeling less than thankful because of present circumstances.

So here are 7 ideas to show that you’re thankful for the life you’ve been given, even when the going is tough.

#1. Food.  This is usually a safe place to start.  If you live in America, chances are that you have had or will have a meal today.  Now, maybe it isn’t exactly what you would prefer.  Maybe you haven’t been able to go out to eat in a year or two, but you’ve most likely had food recently.  When you find yourself thankful for food, there are a variety of ways to express that appreciation by giving to others who are struggling.  Give to a food shelf or pantry.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen or for meals on wheels (trust me, they’re always looking for volunteers).  At the very least make a bit of something and share it with a neighbor or a friend that could use a hand because they work long hours or have been in the hospital.  If those don’t suit you, consider giving to charities like Heifer International to give the gift of animals or seeds to people in developing countries so that the investment keeps growing.

#2. Warmth.  If you are feeling especially grateful for the heat that you get to experience, especially if you live in a northern climate, consider giving warm gear to your local clothing drive.  Coats, snow pants, hats, scarves, gloves, etc. are usually accepted at coat drives for those struggling to stay warm or to clothe their children for the winter months.

#3.  Shelter.  How often do you walk into your home with overwhelming gratefulness to be out of the elements outside (whether it’s too cold, hot, or pouring cats & dogs)?  If you are grateful for shelter, consider that others would be grateful for the chance at shelter.  Most cities & even some smaller towns now have shelter for those in need.  Give a gift of money or something else that they’ve stated that they need.

#4.  Healthy relationships.  Sometimes being around people that have unhealthy relationships is enough to spur our thankfulness for those with whom we share a good relationship.  When you find yourself thankful in this way, consider helping those who are struggling in this way.  There are multiple battered women’s shelters & homes that help children transitioning out of abusive situations.  If you are really struck by the need of the children in these situations, consider more than just giving monetarily.  The need for foster parents in good homes is huge in every state in our country.  You could have a direct impact in their lives.  If that seems too extreme, perhaps a big brother/big sister program might be a better fit.

#5.  Education.  It’s always an option to contribute to scholarship funds for others who attended your high school or other less fortunate areas of the country.  Help someone else out in the same way in which you were helped!

#6.  Extended family.  Donating time or items to nursing homes is a great way to show thankfulness for those in our extended family that are elderly.  They are often looking for volunteers to help with activities, reading aloud, giving small concerts for residents, etc.  It can be a great way to give back.

#7.  Health.  If you’re extremely grateful for your health, consider giving to hospitals that do not charge their patients, like certain children’s hospitals.  They’re always looking for donations.  If you’re unable to give monetarily, perhaps volunteering might be an option, or making needed items like chemo hats or lap blankets.  Be sure to call in advance to be sure you’d be filling a need & not creating extra hassle with items that you’d make.

These are just a few ideas, but I’m fully confident that if you dwell on how thankful you are, you will probably come up with many more ideas that can show your thankfulness in tangible ways & help to make someone else’s life a bit more bearable.

The Benefit of a 3rd Party

A while back, I had an encounter with an elderly individual which reminded me that sometimes a 3rd party can be extremely beneficial.  She'd called me with concerns about how she was feeling.  Because of how she'd described her symptoms to me, I immediately thought of a blood sugar issue.  Later I heard that she may have been placed on an anti-anxiety med, but that she wasn't sure about that & didn't actually have a diagnosis for what was going on in her body.  It made me want to do further research to find out exactly what was going on.

At this time point in history, we have access to loads of information.  Those who have grown up using the internet may not even remember what it was like before this was so.  In years before I can remember, doctors visited patients, instead of the other way around.  Information about disease & diet was difficult to come by, & much of it was inaccurate.  People died at alarming rates, simply because they couldn't be treated quickly enough or because they were misdiagnosed.  Yet during those times, there was a great deal of respect for doctors because the doctors were educated & because they were genuinely trying to help the individual to become healthy again.

Fast forward to today.  If a doctor even hints at the idea of a certain disease, people tend to go to websites like Wikipedia or webmd to find out more about that particular disorder or disease.  Then they talk with 20 friends via social networking to find out if anyone knows of anyone else with that particular problem & how they treated it & what the results were.  They familiarize themselves with the different medications that might be prescribed & their side-effects.  They familiarize themselves with any natural treatments that might be helpful & possible interactions with prescribed medications.  At the end of a week, they probably have more information than is good for them!

With elderly friends it can sometimes be frustrating that they go to the doctor without asking many questions.  If the answers they receive are not to their satisfaction, they don't seek understanding, but rather decide that it must just be too complicated for them to understand.  They are used to not having all of the information.  They are also used to (sometimes blindly) taking whichever method of treatment is suggested, even if they knew what the medication or treatment was for, they might not go that route.  This is where a 3rd party can be of huge benefit, both to the doctor & to the patient.

If there is a person who is there who is even a little more familiar with medical terms & very familiar with the patient in question, that person can be a lifeline for both parties.  Doctors do have very pressing obligations.  There are many people who need their help & there are never enough hours in the day for them to spend as much time as they would like with a patient.  Especially in small towns where there is limited staff to begin with, the pressures may be such that they only have time for a quick visit.  If the patient is unable to articulate clearly what is going on, a doctor may be forced to make a suggestion without having all of the information.  A 3rd party could help the doctor by talking with the individual ahead of time about symptoms.  Sometimes things like that take extended time because it's difficult to remember everything.  They can write things down that may be related at the appointment so that nothing is missed.  In the example given above, they could narrow down the “nervous feelings” as whether they are worried about something or whether they drink a lot of coffee & caffeine might be affecting them or whether they're not getting enough protein in the diet & their blood sugar may be plummeting.  All of those things could then be mentioned to the doctor instead of the elderly individual simply saying “I'm feeling nervous all of the time.”  Nervousness in the elderly is a common complaint, & if you do not have all the information associated with it, could easily be misdiagnosed simply for lack of time to delve into the subject with them.

For the patient, a 3rd party can be beneficial for multiple reasons, as well.  Another set of ears in the room is never a bad thing when the doctor starts naming off several treatment options or names of medications.  Another person to talk with about what the doctor said afterwards is also beneficial.  The better that the patient understands what is going on, the better chance that things will be diagnosed & treated correctly.  If the 3rd party knows the individual well enough, they can often tell when they are not comfortable with something or if they are not understanding things that are told to them.  The individual will feel more comfortable admitting this to the 3rd party than to the doctor, in most cases, because they have grown up without exposure to medical jargon or the capabilities of multiple sources of alternate information.

The elderly among us are fully capable of knowing their mind about a certain ailment & what they would like to do about it, but they may need translation for specific terms & diagnoses.  They also may need to be encouraged to speak up about the things they're confused or concerned about.  Medicine has changed greatly in their lifetimes & so have doctors and the way that they diagnose.  We owe it to the generation that goes before us to help them navigate all of these changes to be able to find the help that they need with the things that ail them.  It will improve their lives if they are diagnosed correctly & we might just learn a lot from them along the way!

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