Elder Abuse

Did you know, in the U.S. alone, it is estimated more than half a million reports of abuse against elderly Americans reach authorities every year, and millions more cases go unreported?  The National Council on Aging reports approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.

Elder Abuse is any behavior or action within a relationship of trust that harms an older person. It includes financial, psychological, physical, sexual, social abuse and neglect. In some states, self-neglect is also considered elder abuse. The most common form of abuse is financial exploitation, with physical abuse, neglect, and emotional abuse following.

Abusers are both women and men. In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Two thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.  Incidents of abuse can also take place with non-family caregivers in both home and care facility environments.

It can be difficult to take care of a senior who has many different needs, and it’s difficult to be elderly when aging can bring with it physical or mental weakness and dependence. Both the demands of caregiving and the needs of the elder can create situations in which abuse is more likely to occur.

Social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease) are two factors. Recent studies show that nearly half of those with dementia experienced abuse or neglect. Interpersonal violence also occurs at disproportionately higher rates among adults with disabilities.

Elder abuse is an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.

If you are an elder who is being abused, neglected, or exploited, tell at least one person. Tell your doctor, a friend, or a family member whom you trust. Or call one of the helpline listed below.

If you see an older adult being abused or neglected, don’t hesitate to report the situation. Don’t assume that someone else will take care of it or that the person being abused can get help if he or she really needs it.

If an older adult is in immediate, life-threatening danger, call 911.

In the U.S., the first agency to respond to a report of elderly abuse is usually Adult Protective Services (APS). Its role is to investigate abuse cases, intervene, and offer services and advice, although the power and scope of APS varies from state to state.

Elder abuse helplines and hotlines/US: 1-800-677-1116 (Eldercare Locator)

Preventing elder abuse means doing three things:

  1. Listening to seniors and their caregivers
  2. Intervening when you suspect elder abuse
  3. Educating others about how to recognize and report elder abuse

Let us be the eyes and ears for our elders.  Protection begins with awareness.

Ramona Hunt, M.S.   Touching Hearts, Inc.

Stroke Prevention

Another wonderful person just became a stroke victim.  It always takes me by surprise when this happens.  Did you know that up to 80% of strokes can be prevented?

Strokes can happen to anyone regardless of age, and it can happen at any time.  A stroke is a brain attack.  What happens is that an area of the brain is cut off from blood flow.  What happens after the stroke, and how the individual is affected depends on how much of the brain was damaged and where in the brain the stroke occurred.

Often we associate strokes with aging as they are more likely to happen after the age of fifty-five, but as noted above, up to 80% of strokes can be prevented.  Right now, to help prevent a stroke later in life, there are three things any of us can do to actively lessen our risk for having a stroke.

First, consider your weight.  Shedding some pounds is one of the most important ways to reduce stroke risk.  Being overweight affects many parts of your body.  Not only joint pain increases with weight gain, but it can cause high blood pressure and attributes to the risk of diabetes.  Both high blood pressure and diabetes are risk factors for a stroke.  Losing weight should be a priority.

Second, if you enjoy alcohol, consider drinking red wine.  Because it contains resveratrol, studies show it can help protect both the brain and heart.  Keep in mind that one-drink a day is the measure for lowering your risk for developing other conditions.

Third, stop smoking.  Smoking is a major stroke risk factor.  Smoking doubles the chance of a person having a stroke compared to a non-smoker.  Smoking leads to plaque buildup in your arteries and clot formation.

If you do have a stroke, know that an average of one-third of stroke victims recover completely.  For the remaining stroke victims, they may have to deal with some sort of disability for the rest of their life.

One of the ideal ways for a person who has survived a stroke is to recover with in home care.  Home care professionals can assist with the activities of daily living and make what feels impossible, possible.

Learn more about strokes at:

http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/preventing-stroke/lifestyle-risk-factors

Ramona Hunt, M.S.

Sun safety

Summer is in full force which means warm weather and sunshine is the norm for most of us living in America.  For those of us caring for older adults or people with medical conditions or disabilities, it’s important to consider protection from harmful UV rays for those we care for, as well as ourselves.

The need to protect your skin from the sun has become very clear over the years, supported by several studies linking overexposure to the sun with skin cancer. The harmful ultraviolet rays from both the sun and indoor tanning “sunlamps” can cause many other complications besides skin cancer – such as eye problems, a weakened immune system, age spots, wrinkles, and leathery skin.

How to protect your skin

There are simple, everyday steps you can take to safeguard your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation from the sun.

Wear proper clothing: Wearing clothing that will protect your skin from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is very important. Protective clothing are long-sleeved shirts and pants are good examples. Also, remember to protect your head and eyes with a hat and UV-resistant sunglasses. You can fall victim to sun damage on a cloudy day as well as in the winter, so dress accordingly all year round.

Avoid the burn: Sunburns significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. It is especially important that children be kept from sunburns as well.

Go for the shade: Stay out of the sun, if possible, between the peak burning hours, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can head for the shade, or make your own shade with protective clothing – including a broad-brimmed hat, for example.

Use extra caution when near reflective surfaces, like water, snow, and sand Water, snow, sand, even the windows of a building can reflect the damaging rays of the sun. That can increase your chance of sunburn, even if you’re in what you consider a shady spot.

Use extra caution when at higher altitudes You can experience more UV exposure at higher altitudes, because there is less atmosphere to absorb UV radiation.

Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen Generously apply broad-spectrum sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. The “broad spectrum” variety protects against overexposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The FDA recommends using sunscreens that are not only broad spectrum, but that also have a sun protection factor (SPF) value of at least 15 for protection against sun-induced skin problems.

Re-apply broad-spectrum sunscreen throughout the day Even if a sunscreen is labeled as “water-resistant,” it must be reapplied throughout the day, especially after sweating or swimming. To be safe, apply sunscreen at a rate of one ounce every two hours. Depending on how much of the body needs coverage, a full-day (six-hour) outing could require one whole tube of sunscreen.

When to protect your skin

UV rays are their strongest from 10 am to 4 pm Seek shade during those times to ensure the least amount of harmful UV radiation exposure. When applying sunscreen be sure to reapply to all exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

Protecting your eyes

UV rays can also penetrate the structures of your eyes and cause cell damage. According to the CDC, some of the more common sun-related vision problems include cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium (non-cancerous growth of the conjunctiva that can obstruct vision).

Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your vision, wear a wide-brimmed hat that keeps your face and eyes shaded from the sun at most angles.

Wear wrap-around style sunglass with 99 or higher UV block Effective sunglasses should block glare, block 99 to 100% of UV rays, and have a wraparound shape to protect eyes from most angles.

Using the UV index

When planning your outdoor activities, you can decide how much sun protection you need by checking the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) UV index. This index measures the daily intensity of UV rays from the sun on a scale of 1 to 11. A low UV index requires minimal protection, whereas a high UV index requires maximum protection.

Heat Stress

Alicia Keys is not singing about Heat Stress when she breaks into “This Girl is on Fire”…but we are!

  • High temperature and humidity
  • Direct sun or heat
  • Limited air movement
  • Physical exertion
  • Poor physical condition
  • Some medications
  • A lack of tolerance for hot workplace or areas

All the above are common factors that can contribute to heat stress.  When the body is not able to cool off by sweating, heat-induced illnesses, such as heat rash, cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke can occur.  Theses illnesses can lead to serious illness, sometimes even resulting in death.

Staying hydrated is more important during hot weather for this simple reason:  Dehydration diminishes your ability to regulate temperature, and thus, your risk of developing a heat illness increases dramatically.

As we age, our bodies become less efficient at regulating temperature due to the following:

People over 65 — Seniors — don’t sweat as much as younger adults.  Sweating is one of the body’s most important heat-regulators.  In addition, as we age our bodies store fat differently, which complicates heat-regulation in the body.

This is serious!  As the outside temperature increases, so too does your internal body temperature. When you are exposed directly to the sun or extremely hot environments, an older person is more likely to suffer from heat stroke more often than younger people during the warmest months of the year.   In 1999-2009, roughly 40 percent of all heat-related deaths in the U.S. — nearly 3,000 — were adults over 65 years old.*

Ways to prevent Heat Stress:

  • Drink water and high -electrolyte fluids regularly, and at every meal.
  • Block or avoid direct sunlight to include heat sources
  • Use air conditioning and cooling fans
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Take regular breaks in shaded areas.
  • Avoid Alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and heavy meals.
  • KNOW THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEAT-RELATED ILLNESSES

Early warning signs of heat exhaustion, which may precede a heat stroke, include excessive sweating, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache and muscle cramps.  As exhaustion progresses, symptoms may move to nausea, vomiting and fainting.

Heat stroke, is more serious and can happen within 10-15 minutes.  Heat stroke happens when internal body temperature rises faster than it is lowered naturally.  If the symptoms of heat stroke are present, call 911.  Symptoms also include a high body temperature, the absence of sweating, confusion, seizure and coma.

For those suffering from these symptoms:

  • Have the person lie down in a cool place.
  • If possible put a fan directly on the person.
  • Take steps to lower body temperature by offering cool fluids.
  • Air-conditioning and access to a cool bath will also help.
  • Hydrate with an electrolyte drink can help to re-hydrate more quickly and retain more fluids.

 

Ramona Hunt, M.S.

Touching Hearts, Inc.

 

*Referenced from Drip Drop Hydration, Inc. DripDrop works with leaders across many industries to reduce dehydration’s impact on health, performance, and safety.

 

Quality of Life

Analysis of the meaning of quality of life encompasses a multitude of considerations that attempt to measure life satisfaction, which is difficult because it’s subjective and often fluctuates.  So instead of being philosophical and analytical, for this blog, let’s stay practical.  This is one of those function over form moments when tools rule.

There are four tools for older adults that provide a higher quality of life.  Having the right tools will make any job easier.  When you are working to maintain independence, the right tool can be life changing.

Take the Smartphone as tool number one.  Pew Research has found that only 27% of seniors aged 65 and older have a smartphone and a vast majority of them describe their smartphone as “freeing.”  A smartphone is all you need to read email, do research, have face time/calls, to connect with friends and family on social media.

For older adults a smartphone can make up for common deficits, like memory issues.  With the right app, you can monitor medication use, keep track of physical activity, watch blood pressure levels, and even play brain games to exercise your mind.  For people who are not so technology savvy, Great Call is one company that designs some of the best senior-friendly smartphones on the market, made to be intuitive enough for anyone to use.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/29/seniors-smartphones/

Tool two: a Fitness Tracker.  While smartphones can help monitor your health in many ways, they are not a fitness tracker.  The right tracker can give you detailed feedback about your physical activity, as well as your sleeping patterns.  You can track calories burned, distances traveled, and even the quality of your sleep.  When we know more, we make better decisions.  A Fitness tracker can provide you with data that allows for healthy choices.

Tool three: Dressing Aids.  The value of a dressing aid can only be appreciated by trying one.  In addition to shoe horns that many of us have experienced, there are many other assists that can help you get dressed.  For people who suffer from arthritis, or similar health conditions that impact mobility, there are dressing aids that help you zip, button, fasten, and pull.  Dressing aids extend your flexibility and range of motion without unnecessary pain.

Tool Four:  Gardening Kneeling Pads!  Anything that can keep a garden love active in the garden is quality of life giving.  Being sedentary is unhealthy at any age but, particularly dangerous for older adults.  Obesity and hypertension are only two examples of why we must keep moving.  Boredom can be just as dangerous as it may lead to depression, issolation, or an unhealthy loss of weight which can all be precursors for more serious health issues.

Gardening is one of the best choices to break free from a sedentary lifestyle.  It combines fresh air, a productive activity, and a pleasurable way to pass the time.  Gardening kneeling pads help distribute body weight and reduce or prevent joint pain when on your knees in the garden.  The kneeling pad allows you to distribute weight evenly across the pad reducing stress on the joints.

http://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-14-333

Subjectivity appears to be fundamental to our understanding of “quality of life.”  The debate goes on related to physical health, mental, spiritual and social health.  Without a doubt it will continue to be evaluated based on cultural perspectives, values, personal expectations and goals of what we want from life.  That being duly noted, for a higher quality of life today, with no need for debate, incorporate the above four tools into any older adults life and be assured quality of life will improve!

Ramona Hunt, M.S.                                                                                                                                         Touching Hearts, Inc.

Attitudes

What we think will happen, happens.  As we grow older, we become what we think we will become.

A lifespan difference of 7.5-years is the impact of how we think about how we age.  This is the research findings of Yale University Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Psychology Becca Levy based on her past 20 years of research.  Positivity versus negativity impacts how we live and our will to live.

The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests older adults who hold an optimistic attitude are 44 percent more likely to recover when dealing with a potentially chronic illness or condition.  It’s what happens with the energy that comes from a positive perspective.  It motivates us to make choices more likely to include exercise, eating and drinking for health, and more active socialization.  Positive self-awareness leads to choices that are more life sustaining.

One of the hopeful aspects of being human is our ability to think, and re-think.  We are resilient in ways that are astonishing.  This isn’t just for the young at heart, it is for anyone at any age who chooses to examine their beliefs about life and aging.  It is possible to revise ones thinking and improve one’s life.

It’s a misconception to think aging makes a person more set in their ways.  Now, more than ever, as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, we embrace a population of people who have been introduced to a lifetime of significant changes in how we think.  The average 65 year-old was born into a home or community where someone had a wireless radio.  From their early childhood through today this person has lived through the introduction of the TV, VCR, Internet, Email, MacBook, iPad, all the way to Androids.  “Set in their ways” does not seem logical when so many of today’s 65 year olds were in some way involved with work that supported developing this astounding and ongoing technology.

When the normal changes that come with aging happen, it is our attitude that will predict how we make the transition from younger to older.  Our life experiences, and how we choose to view the world we live in, will hold the greatest impact on how we age.

Ramona Hunt, MS                                                                                                                     Director of Leadership and Development                                                                                                                    Touching Hearts, Inc.

Social isolation and life expectancy

Life expectancy moved from under 50 years to over 70 years over the course of the 20th century.  Persons born between 1946 and 1964 add up to approximately 76.4 million people who are beginning to enter the 70-year mark.  This large group of people are balancing their own needs, as many are still working, along with those of living parents and for some grandparents.  In addition, this group of older adults, due to having fewer children than previous generations, along with a higher rate of divorce, are experiencing more social isolation.

Loneliness does not appear overnight.  Over years a person may become more isolated by small degrees.  Friends and relatives die or move away, mobility slowly starts to restrict activity and sometimes problems such as incontinence, deafness and fear of falling keep people more isolated.

Prolonged isolation can damage the immune system, leaving people more vulnerable to infections.  It can also affect the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of heart and circulatory problems.  Lack of social interaction has also been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The role of companion/homemaker care provides a level of social integration that is not always credited for its role in abating loneliness.  Social isolation has been described as the hidden killer, causing serious health problems which can have devastating consequences.  Social relationships can be more than family and friends; qualified non-medical home care service is one of the most overlooked opportunities to improve quality of life.  Studies by scholars such as Karl Pillemer and Elaine Wethington from the Department of Human Development & Sociology at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, are proving the importance of maintaining social connections and resources from middle age and beyond is essential as the foundation for successful aging.  

Written by:  Ramona K. Hunt M.S., Touching Hearts, Inc.

Music can transform communication

Music can transform communication. The World War I Christmas Truce referred to as All Is Calm recalls an astounding moment in history when Allied and German soldiers met in “No Man’s Land” and laid down their arms to celebrate the holiday together by trading carols. Music, an important part of life in the trenches, helped create a context that inspired the truce.
The Karolinska Institute, Huddinge, Sweden and Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden, are leaders in the study on music and the effect on people with dementia:
Caregiver singing and background music were incorporated into the interaction between caregiver and patient, the aim being to illuminate the meaning of verbal communication between persons with severe dementia and their caregivers. In the absence of music, patients communicated with cognitive and behavioral symptoms associated with dementia. In these situations, caregivers devoted their verbal communication to narrating and explaining their caring activities to the patient. The patient and caregiver, however, had difficulties understanding one another. In the presence of background music, caregivers decreased their verbal instructing and narrating while the patient communicated with an increased understanding of the situation, both verbally and behaviorally. During caregiver singing, a paradoxical effect was observed such that despite an evident reduction in the amount of verbal narration and description by the caregiver, the patient implicitly understood what was happening.

The prevalence of dementia is increasing as our population ages. Distressing behavioral problems associated with the illness are found to be better managed with evidence that calming music can produce desired cognitive effects. The effect of music may not be lasting, but there is evidence of benefit in studies.
For all of us there are memories associated with music. As we care for one another during the aging process, learning about what music has keenly influenced the lives of those we care for can allow for moments of calm and truce when words do not suffice.

One of the things I’ll be doing in the light of the full moon on Christmas night is singing to a 2000+ pound draft horse named Hans. He loves it. When he was a baby I would give his beautiful mother Nellie (of equal size) some respite and discovered that he absolutely loved music and to this day finds it calming.
May the power of music bring you, and those you care for, comfort and joy!
Ramona Hunt, M.S.
Touching Hearts Inc.

Move to Think and Think to Move

It is a common misconception that bears hibernate during the winter. While bears tend to slow down during the winter, they are not true hibernators.  It’s this “Grizzly Bear” behavior that some of us humans have in common; we slow down durning the winter months.  Where it might serve the Grizzly, it’s not something we humans can afford to emulate if we want to maintain good cognitive function.

Stanley Colcombe and Arthur F. Kramer, Beckman Institue and Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana, conducted a study to examine the hypothosis that arobic fitness training enhances the cognitive vitality of healthy but sedentary older adults.  The conclusion after eighteen intervention studies between 1966 and 2001 proved fitness training — exercise— was found to have great benefits for cognition.

The take away is this…we must keep moving.  We are witnessing more and more issues surrounding memory as seen in the raising numbers of dementia and Alzhiemer’s diagnosis.  Movement makes a difference.  This is not new news, however, there still remains a pull to hibernation that begins early in fall with the winter months approaching.  The older we get, the easier it is to want to slow down.  Resist the urge!  No matter what age or level of fitness we are living with, we can improve our quality of cognition by any sort of exercise practice.

While summer is transitioning into fall, today is a perfect time to begin the practice of an indoor fitness program that can take you through the winter with a spring in your step. Our minds need us to move to maintain good thinking for a lifetime.

My personal fitness pick is indoor rowing; it’s total-body exercise and easy on the joints!  Ageless exercise.

Ramona Hunt, M.S.                                                                                                                                           Director of Leadership and Development                                                                                           Touching Hearts, Inc.

Go Purple for Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month

If my grandmother Emma had been a flower, she would have been one of those magnificent dinner plate dahlias like she grew in her garden.  She would have been her favorite color purple.  She would have taken first in show, a blue ribbon winner, at the state fair.

I thought of her when the Alzheimer’s Take the Purple Pledge challenge was announced. The goal is to GO PURPLE in the month of June, to support those facing Alzheimer’s.  Did you know that worldwide, 47 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia?  Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks the brain. It is the most common form of dementia.  Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging.  If you have a brain you’re at risk.  It’s the only cause of death in the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed.  One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.  My Grandma Emma did not die from Alzheimer’s, she was one of every eight women who die from cancer.

For the one in three seniors who statistically will develop Alzheimer’s let’s pick up the pace and walk to #ENDALZ on June 21.  This day usually marks the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere and the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere,  the day of the year with the most hours of daylight in the northern hemisphere and the fewest hours of daylight in the southern hemisphere.   It’s been said that having some form of dementia is like having the lights fade from bright to dark…with no on switch to brighten the way.

To all the Touching Hearts at Home people…our color has always been purple…wear it proud for all we serve!

https://alz.org/abam/
Join the conversation #GOPURPLE #ENDALZ

Ramona Hunt, M.S.
Director of Leadership and Development
Touching Hearts, Inc.