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Checking in on aging relatives over the holidays

Coping with your aging family members.

Coping with your aging family members.

Holidays mean spending time with family, and if you’re going “over the river and through the woods” to elderly relatives’ homes, it’s an ideal time to check in on their living situation. Discussing aging individuals’ abilities to care for themselves isn’t an easy topic. Loss of independence is a prominent fear for many elderly people, but it needs to be balanced by the risks of living independently with cognitive or physical limitations.

If you haven’t seen your loved one or been in their home lately, consider the following physical, mental and environmental factors that can indicate it’s time to discuss a different living situation or in-home help or care.
Physical

  • How does your loved one look? Be on the lookout for significant weight loss or gain, which could be indicators of injury, illness or a big change in diet caused by difficulty shopping or cooking as usual.
  • Not keeping up with personal hygiene is another indicator that your loved one might need help. Memory trouble or injuries could result in a disheveled appearance or body odor.
  • Also be aware of your loved one’s stature. A stooped posture, shuffling walk or exhibiting trouble doing regular activities likely indicates physical frailty and loss of strength.
  • If you’re having trouble bringing these physical changes up, remember that, left unchecked, they could result in greater injuries down the road.

Mental

  • How does your loved one seem to be functioning around the house? Be on the lookout for unusual clutter such as unopened letters or bills, which could be signs of memory issues or trouble dealing with finances. Ask to go through that mail with your loved one to check if there are references to past due payments, overdrafts or other financial concerns.
  • Mental decline can also be seen in driving habits. Check your loved one’s vehicle for signs of inattentive driving (dents, lack of upkeep, lack of fluids or services) and suggest going for a drive to see if they are remembering their seatbelt, able to focus on driving, or exhibiting anxiety driving at night or on highways.
  • Aging individuals are also at risk for depression. Take a look at your loved one’s calendar or ask them about hobbies, activities and clubs to see if they have cut back on activities they once enjoyed.

Environmental

  • Things around the house that seem small—like spills or a few cobwebs—can actually be a sign of dementia or general decline because they signal a lack of follow-through or physical limitations.
  • Check the kitchen for foods past their expiration dates or duplicates of the same item. Duplicates could simply mean your loved one is buying in bulk, but it could also be a sign of memory trouble. Along those same lines, make sure there is adequate food available in the home.
  • Accidents are more common for elderly individuals, so be on the lookout for signs of fire—charred items, burned edges, disassembled smoke detectors—or broken appliances.
  • Individuals who can’t adequately care for themselves often also have trouble caring for plants, animals and property. Look for dead or dying plants, pets with grooming, hygiene or food issues, and red flags like clogged gutters, broken windows or other maintenance problems.

If it seems that your loved one needs help, make sure that it is a collaborative discussion and solution. The prospect of losing their independence may cause your loved on to feel anxious, resentful, frightened or angry, so have a one-on-one conversation bringing up your concerns with specific examples. Be sure to avoid accusations or becoming frustrated, and encourage them to consider their safety and if they would want people they care about living in similar conditions. Remind them that you both have the same goal—for your loved one to be safe, happy and healthy during the holiday and all year long!

Author: Ann Patek

Ann Patek, RN, MSN, is the Service Line Director for Palliative Care at Ministry Health Care. In this role Ann serves as a member of the dyad providing leadership to the palliative care service line (her partner is Olumuyiwa Adeboye, MD). Ann’s interest in palliative care stems from her experiences working with patient’s in many settings along with witnessing friends and family coping with serious illness.

Ann received her Bachelor’s degree from Marquette University and earned her Master’s degree from University of Wisconsin – Madison.

What you need to know about warts

WhatYouNeedToKnowAboutWarts

There is a small scratch on the top layer of your skin, maybe from a simple paper cut, and a virus invades your skin through that tiny scratch. The virus causes rapid growth of cells on the outer layer of skin, creating what we know to be warts.

Common skin warts derive from the human papillomavirus (HPV), which often appears on hands, feet and other areas of your skin. Warts are rarely a cause for concern and most types are relatively harmless.

Contracting warts happens via skin-to-skin contact with someone who already has warts, for example shaking hands or typing on the same keyboard. Small nicks in the skin provide a pathway for the infection. Stronger immune systems are able to fight off the virus even after coming into contact with it, which is why children are more likely than adults to contract the skin infection. Prevention of warts can be done in the following ways:

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly
  • Keep your skin healthy and avoid having open cuts
  • Avoid biting your fingernails
  • Avoid direct contact with warts

Continue Reading »

Healthy Weight Kids = Happy and Healthy Kids

Healthy-WeightThe increasing number of children who are overweight or obese is a growing concern for parents and caretakers. While healthy eating and exercise has become a national topic of conversation, it’s important that the potential social and medical problems many of these children face be a part of that discussion as well.

More than “baby fat”
It’s a common assumption that heavier children might lose some of their roundness as they grow up, but many children do not outgrow their tendency to be overweight. Heavy kids generally grow up to be heavy adults and, more importantly, overweight children have many of the same health risks involved with extra weight that adults do, including:

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which puts them at risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Higher risk for diabetes, liver disease, gallstones and esophageal reflux
  • Pain and other joint problems
  • Decreased coordination/dexterity
  • Higher risk for social and psychological problems due to bullying

A pediatrician can help determine a healthy weight for your child and advise you how to help your child meet that goal weight. Other goals may include increased strength, decreased percentage of body fat, reduced anxiety, and improved aerobic fitness and physical activity level. A physical therapist may be able to help with some of these goals as well. Continue Reading »

Do you have a cold or the flu?

Cough, congestion, aches, chills. Cold and flu season is upon us. But what do you have? This infographic can help.

cold_vs_flu_1-01

Fun and fitness for Halloween

Children In Fancy Costume Dress Going Trick Or Treating

October 31, or All Hallow’s Eve, is a yearly celebration that begins a three-day Christian observance dedicated to remembering and honoring the dead, including saints and martyrs. While this day is celebrated differently in many countries (attending church, lighting candles on graves of the dead), in the United States we tend to celebrate it with festivities such as costume parties, pumpkin-carving contests, decorating our homes with orange and black and, of course, trick-or-treating.

To balance the increased intake of sugar and calories from all of those treats, think of different ways to incorporate fun and fitness into trick-or-treating. Here are a few suggestions that will provide an opportunity to be active this Halloween: Continue Reading »

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

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