Tag Archives: Maryland

There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

There’s a good reason so many holiday-themed films and songs mention going home for the Home for the holidaysholidays: home is a symbol for all of the most pleasant experiences in life. If we are fortunate, we can’t even step foot inside our childhood homes without it conjuring up heartwarming memories of our favorite foods, traditions, and sentiments.

Of course, as the years go by, our homes naturally evolve. Children grow-up to be adults; they get married; and they start families of their own. Mom and dad become grandma and grandpa; they retire from their jobs; and they deservedly gain back some of their freedom. Foods, traditions, and sentiments change over time. Some changes are easier to accept than others, however.

If you will be seeing older parents, relatives, and friends for the first time in several months or longer, you are likely to notice certain behavioral variations. Realize that this experience can bring up feelings of distress and grief. Complex emotions can be difficult to deal with, especially during this busy time of year. Here are some suggestions:

  • Be prepared. Prepare yourself and your family as best you can. Discuss with your spouse and children ahead of time what to expect when visiting older relatives. Practice what to say and what not to say. You may need to prepare yourself to take on a new role, as more of a caretaker, with regard to your aging parents. Consider reading a book about dealing with the challenges of watching loved ones age. There are some good suggestions here.
  • Be empathetic. Gently help older adults feel comfortable with the adjustments that need to be made. As striking as these behavioral changes seem to you because you vividly remember how different mom or dad was acting last time you were in town, notice that he or she is experiencing these changes more gradually. Have you ever noticed how there is a huge difference between how old you feel and how old you are? Well, the same is true of older adults. Remember that mom and dad may not realize or may be in denial about the fact that their lifestyles need to change.
  • Be grateful. Acknowledge the help that other family members, friends, and neighbors have provided. If you have relatives who live closer to an aging relative than you do, recognize that they may have a different perspective than you do. Point out what they are doing right and consult with them when it comes to making necessary changes. If everyone can work together to make choices that are in the best interest of older adults, the results will be much better all around.
  • Be respectful. When in doubt, approach everyone involved with respect.

Dealing with the challenges our loved ones face as they age and the challenges we ourselves face as we hold their hands through the process, takes a great deal of courage. It can be tempting, especially during the holiday festivities, to simply ignore the issues we notice. But if we strategize when we are feeling our most calm, cool, and collected, then we can reserve the times at home for creating more happy memories.

For the holidays, you can’t beat home sweet home.

Stay Safe and Warm this Winter

Although the snow and ice hasn’t started sticking around in most parts of the US just yet, that Cold Weather and Elderlyfamiliar chill is in the air warning us that Old Man Winter will be camping out on our lawns soon enough. It’s time to think about how to protect our loved ones from the dangers of colder weather.

Extreme cold temperatures can pose serious risks to our health, especially as we get older. Our metabolism slows and our bodies produce less heat than when we were young and spry, according to the American Geriatrics Society’s Foundation for Health in Aging. As a result, older adults are more susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. Older people are also more likely to be injured in slip-and-fall accidents.

This winter, as the thermometer dips, let’s take the following steps to prevent cold weather health threats.

Stay warm and cozy

As we get older, our sense of touch deteriorates. In addition, health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, poor circulation, paralysis brought on by a suffering stroke, etc. can cause a lack of feeling, especially in the extremities. This puts seniors at high risk for hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature), symptoms of which include slurred speech, sluggishness, confusion, dizziness, shallow breathing, and slow, irregular heartbeat. Get emergency help if you see any of these warning signs.

To prevent hypothermia:

  • Keep your home’s thermostat set at 68° F or above and reduce heating costs by making your home more energy efficient.
  • Dress in layers of loose-fitting clothing for warmth.
  • Prepare for weather emergencies by stocking up on food and fresh water. Keep extra batteries, candles, flashlights, and extra blankets on hand at all times.
  • When going outside, make sure to keep your head covered and wear mittens or gloves.

Shield your skin from the elements

Aging skin becomes drier and thinner making it more likely to tear and chap. It is also more prone to frostbite. Symptoms of frostbite include gray, white, or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, and a waxy feeling to the skin. If you suspect frostbite has occurred, get immediate medical attention and facilitate warming up the body without rubbing delicate skin.

To protect your skin:

  • When going outside, make sure to wear proper gear to protect skin from wind and cold.
  • While inside, keep air warm and moist. Use a humidifier or put a pan of water near a heat source, such as a radiator. Change the water on a daily basis.
  • Moisturize your skin with lotion and use petroleum jelly on chapped lips or especially dry patches of skin.

Look out for ice

Removing snow and ice from all walkways is essential for preventing falls. If you cannot shovel the areas around your home yourself, consider hiring someone to help. Older adults should consult with their doctors before attempting to shovel or do any hard labor outside in cold weather.

To avoid falls:

  • Carefully shovel all steps, driveways, and walkways to your home.
  • Sprinkle ice-melting salt, which can be purchased at local home improvement stores, on especially slippery spots.
  • Avoid walking on icy or snowing sidewalks whenever possible.
  • Whenever walking outside, wear boots with non-skid soles.
  • If you use a cane, replace the tip before it gets worn smooth or replace the rubber tip with a sharp icepick-like attachment, which can be purchased at medical supply stores

As always, if you have elderly neighbors and loved ones, check on them regularly. Don’t let an emergency situation be the motivation you need to develop a solid communication plan. For additional peace of mind this season, contact Push Button Emergency Help to provide the right device for quickly and easily connecting your loved ones to emergency personnel.

Don’t let anyone be left out in the cold this winter.

Keep your loved ones from being spooked this Halloween

Halloween can be a really fun holiday. It is such a joy to see the kids dressed up in their cute costumes trick-or-treating around the neighborhood and on their way to school parties or trunk-or-treat events. But Halloween can also be a confusing or even scary time for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and Dementia. With the festivities also comes unfamiliar noises, constant doorbell ringing, loud knocks at the door, strangers wearing masks, teenagers pulling pranks, etc. all of which can be unsettling for anyone, but especially for Alzheimer’s patihalloween Dementia Patientsents.

Fear not! None of this means you can’t celebrate. A few simple adjustments will help to ensure the whole family enjoys All Hallows’ Eve:

  1. Discuss your Halloween plans with the older adults in your life: Describe ahead of time how the day or evening will go. Talk about trick-or-treating and engage with older adults as they recount fond memories of past holidays. Involve children in the discussion by encouraging them to show off their costumes before getting dressed for school or parties. Show your loved ones any decorations before putting them out and ask, “Do you like this?” If he or she says, “That scares me,” then respect this perspective. If you are feeling extra creative, make some decorations together.
  2. Avoid leaving Alzheimer sufferers alone on Halloween: If you are heading out to a party or to take the kids around the neighborhood, make sure to ask someone you trust to stay with your loved ones. Having someone there to answer the door and reassure an Alzheimer’s patient when he or she hears strange noises will put everyone’s minds at ease.
  3. Have the grandkids take off the masks when visiting grandma: Kids love to strut their stuff on Halloween, but make sure they understand that some parts of their costumes might not be appropriate for all audiences. Even a simple, cute mask can appear frightening or confusing through the eyes of someone with Dementia (and many masks are downright ghoulish). Elaborate make-up can also be confusing; if it belongs on the set of a movie, have the kids wait to put it on until after visiting grandma. Plastic swords and guns should also stay in the car. No one wants to risk a silly toy causing a serious incident.
  4. Be aware of your loved ones’ dietary restrictions: If you keep loose candy in a bowl, it can be so easy to mindlessly eat too much (and really, who can resist candy corn?). Those with Diabetes must be particularly careful to monitor their sugar intake. So make sure to pay close attention to how many times hands are dipping into the bowl. Or even better, replace sugary treats with healthier options such as apple slices with cinnamon, celery sticks with peanut butter, or yogurt with berries.

Besides confusing and scary rituals, there is another serious concern facing Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. Amidst the Halloween hubbub, they are more prone to wander out of the house. If this should happen to your loved ones, wouldn’t you feel better knowing they have an easy way to get back home quickly and safely? PBE’s Safe Anywhere service uses the same geo-location technology 911 uses. With this service, emergency help is available 24 hours a day at the touch of a button from any location.

PBE wants you to remember that Halloween is not just for kids! Let’s keep everyone safe during the spookiest season.

September is National Falls Prevention Month

Everyone is aware of the health risks associated with heart disease, stroke, and cancer. But often overlooked is another type of serious health risk especially affecting older adults—the risk of injury due to falling.

Learn about the risks

Falls PreventionFalls can lead to injuries, such as bruising, bone fractures, and concussions. Any one of these injuries could require hospitalization, in-home nursing care, or other assisted living arrangements.

To raise awareness about the dangers of falling, the National Council on Aging declared September 23rd, the first day of fall, National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Locally, the Grass Roots Organization for the Well-being of Seniors (GROWS) will host several events this month, in and near Montgomery County, as part of their falls-prevention initiative. I will be participating by giving a series of talks entitled “Who will catch you…when you fall?”

I hope to see you there!

Take action

Educating yourself about the risks is only the first step in preventing your loved ones from taking a life-changing stumble. The next step is to take necessary action to reduce the risks, while being well prepared in the event of a fall.

Many falls can be avoided. When we are out in public, we instinctively keep watch for uneven or slick surfaces that could catch our loved ones off guard. But the risk of falling can be even higher at home because it is easier to take for granted more familiar spaces. This means it is especially important to make our homes as safe as possible. The good news is that a little bit of effort can make your home A LOT safer.

Elderly Fall Prevention

Here are PBE’s suggestions for fall-proofing your home:

  1. Remove tripping hazards: Make all floor surfaces as even as possible: cover wooden door thresholds with aluminum; use a hammer to pound flat any metal that is sticking up. Make sure to remove toys, clothes, and other clutter from the floors, especially before going to bed. Outside, patch or re-pour any cracked cement surfaces and don’t forget to put away the garden hose after watering the plants.
  2. Increase lighting: Recessed lighting and track lighting are easy to install and fairly inexpensive. Nightlights in hallways and bathrooms are an even cheaper alternative to installing permanent lighting. Motion sensors are a great option if you’re worried about keeping energy costs down.
  3. Make stairs safe: If possible, make sure each step in your home is a uniform height. Check for any loose boards or missing screws and replace them as needed. Install lighting and slip-resistant tread, especially on outside steps. Never place objects like shoes or toys on stairs.
  4. Install grab bars in key areas: When it comes to falling risks, one of the most hazardous areas in the home is the bathroom. Along with making sure any spills are mopped up ASAP, it is smart to install grab bars in strategic areas, for example, in the shower or tub and near the toilet.

In addition to making structural improvements around the home, regular physical activity and exercise combining weight training, muscle strengthening, and balance improvement will help reduce the risk of falls for older adults.

Despite our best efforts at prevention though, some falls simply can’t be avoided. If the worst should happen, PBE offers easy-to-use products from emergency response monitors and medical alert buttons, to fall detectors to ensure your loved ones will be well taken care of. Whether out at the grocery store or at home in the shower, you and the older adults in your life can rest assured that help is on the way at the push of a button.

Be pro-active this fall and take the right steps to prevent falls in and around the home. Your loved ones are counting on you.

Tips for Beating the Summer Heat

We’ve officially reached the Dog Days of summer. It’s the hottest time of the year, when we’re longing for those cool, crisp fall evenings. But have you ever wondered where the phrase “Dog Days” comes from?

Dog Days of SummerNo, it doesn’t refer to a furry Golden Retriever lying on the dry, dusty ground panting with his tongue in the dirt. Actually, the phrase originated in Greek and Roman literature in reference to Sirius, the dog star, which rises with the sun this time of year (or, more accurately, appeared to rise with the sun if you happened to live in the Mediterranean around 1200 BC). The Greeks associated the rise of Sirius with an increase in wars, catastrophes, and fevers.

Although modern science tells us the stars don’t shift in relation to our calendar seasons (let alone, cause nations to go to war) there are heat-related dangers we should be aware of and important steps we can take to beat the heat this time of year.

1. Dehydration is an imbalance of the body that occurs when the amount of fluid leaving the body (e.g., through sweating) is greater than the amount of fluid being taken in (e.g., through drinking).

Signs to look for:

  • Dry mouth and swollen tongue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Decreased urine output

What to do:

  • Sip small amounts of water
  • Drink electrolyte-rich beverages, such as sports drinks
  • Suck on ice chips
  • Remove excess clothing
  • Spray skin with lukewarm water to cool the body

2. Heat Exhaustion is a mild heat-related illness that can develop after days of being exposed to high temperatures and not drinking enough water.

Signs to look for:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fainting
  • Elevated pulse
  • Shallow breathing

What to do:

  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages
  • Rest
  • Take a cool shower or bath
  • If possible, find an air-conditioned environment

3. Heat Stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to regulate its temperature. Body temperature rises quickly and remains high. Heat stroke can lead to death or disability if left untreated.

Signs to look for: 

  • Extreme fever (above 103˚F) 
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

What to do:

  • Get the person to a shady area
  • Cool the person using whatever methods are available (e.g., put the person in a tub of cool water, spray him or her with cool water and fan him or her)
  • Seek medical assistance as soon as possible

Of course, our best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. To stay safe and healthy: avoid going outside during the hottest time of the day (10am-2pm), stay cool, drink plenty of fluids (Warning: some medications require limited fluids. Make sure to check with your doctor if you are unsure how much you should drink.), decrease physical activity, and wear light-colored clothing during hot weather.

Luckily, fall is just around the corner and we won’t be dealing with the extreme heat much longer. With the start of fall, comes National Falls Prevention Month. I will be participating this September by giving a talk entitled “Who will catch you…when you fall?” Be sure to checkout next month’s blog post for a complete schedule of events, as well as my best tips for preventing falls in and around the home.

September Speaking Engagements

Save the DateFall is just around the corner. With the start of fall, comes National Falls Prevention Month. I will be participating this September by giving a series of talks entitled “Who will catch you…when you fall?”

Here is my talk schedule:

  • September 16, 2015, 2-3pm at Holly Hall, 10110 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring, MD
  • September 22, 2015, 2-3pm at Forest Oak Towers, 101 Odendhal Ave, Gaithersburg, MD

This talk series is in conjunction with the annual falls-prevention initiative of the Grass Roots Organization for the Well-being of Seniors (GROWS).

Also, be sure to checkout next month’s blog post when I’ll be discussing how to prevent falls in and around the home.