Help loved ones overcome senior isolation with these tips.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been paramount to seniors’ physical health to stay isolated; yet we know that senior isolation carries with it a number of serious health concerns as well. The challenge has been balancing both the physical and emotional needs of older adults, and for many, the answer has been found in technology, allowing for social interactions during a time of quarantine.
Yet technology brings with it a challenge in and of itself. As many as one in three seniors have never used and do not have access to the internet at home; and for those who do, half need assistance with setting up and utilizing a new app or device.
Our aging care professionals offer the following tech tips to help the seniors you love stay connected in order to prevent senior isolation:
Ensure seniors are equipped with the tools they need. Many older desktop computers lack cameras, speakers, and necessary software to access programs like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime. Decide if your loved one would be most comfortable with a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, and find a version without all the bells and whistles, making it more user-friendly.
Download apps according to interests. The sheer number of options available in the great worldwide web can be overwhelming. It’s helpful to select a handful of apps or sites that the senior will especially enjoy to play games, stream movies and music, learn a new skill or hobby, and to contact family and friends.
Instruct the senior and maintain a patient attitude. Remember how it felt when you first learned to drive, or speak another language, or solve an algebraic equation? Keep those feelings in mind as you teach an older loved one how to get around on a new digital device. It will be especially challenging trying to remotely provide instruction over the phone, so stay calm and patient and allow as much time as needed for the senior to grow comfortable with his or her new technology.
Explain the risk of scams. Senior scams are rampant, and scammers are extremely savvy in what they do, making it difficult for many to detect until it’s too late. Talk with your loved one about setting boundaries, such as never giving out credit card or other personal information over the internet (unless it’s through a known and trusted site).
Partner with Nightingale Homecare! Our team of senior care experts are always available to help the older adults we serve learn new technology, connect virtually with loved ones, and recommend appropriate and engaging activities seniors can do online.
Nightingale Homecare, the leaders in home care assistance in Peoria and the surrounding areas in Arizona, helps prevent senior isolation for older adults in our community each and every day. We offer friendly companionship to engage in a variety of activities at home, such as conversations, games and cards, exercise programs, arts and crafts, and so much more, according to each person’s interests and always in adherence to safety guidelines. We also provide a full range of home health care services to meet the medical and non-medical needs of seniors, right at home.
Find help for dealing with chronic stress in seniors related to COVID-19.
The arrival of COVID-19 has forced our country to face a major crisis.
Although Americans of all ages are experiencing the stress associated with the outbreak, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) estimates that nearly 28 percent, or 14 million older Americans, live alone and are especially vulnerable to stress. NIA studies have shown that isolation and loneliness can increase existing physical and mental conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline. During the pandemic, the effects of those conditions increase for seniors due to even higher levels of isolation and loneliness, as well as the fear of severe illness if they do contract the virus.
Unlike a stressful event that has an identifiable beginning and end, the COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing and often changing event that has the potential to cause chronic stress in an individual. Chronic stress related to the pandemic can disturb all the major systems in the body. The body reacts to chronic stress differently, with the individual maintaining a constant state of alertness, despite there being no imminent danger.
Caregivers and family members can help support elder loved ones by understanding chronic stress and its effects on seniors, and then help loved ones engage in self-care activities that promote a sense of safety and security.
Things to Watch For
Monitoring for signs of chronic stress is critical in ensuring that you or your loved one gets help when needed. According to the CDC, stress during an outbreak such as COVID-19 can result in:
Fear and worry about a person’s own health and/or the health of loved ones
Reassure yourself and/or your loved one that although we cannot control the virus, we can take steps necessary to control our emotional and physical reaction to it. Below are some tips for you and/or your loved one if experiencing the stress of social isolation and fear related to the pandemic.
Take Up A New Hobby or Re-Activate an Old One: This helps to create a sense of purpose. It can be something like growing a garden, cooking, sewing, reading, scrapbooking, completing puzzles, or other activities.
Stay Active: The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity per week for seniors. Getting outdoors and walking or participating in an age-appropriate workout are examples of moderate activities. Due to the sometimes extreme temperatures experienced in Arizona, be sure and plan outdoor activities for the coolest parts of the day. Wear a cloth face mask and practice social distancing while outdoors, and be sure and check with a health care provider before starting any exercise program. Physical activity will help physical and mental well-being.
Take Breaks from the Media: Reading, watching and listening to news about the pandemic can increase anxiety. It is important to stay informed, but limit the amount of time spent watching the news and stick to credible news sources.
Eat Well: Plan meals to ensure the proper number of calories and nutrients. The USDA website is a great source of information for planning healthy meals. Click on this link to explore recommendations.
Stay Connected to Your Community: Religious organizations, libraries, senior groups and families are finding creative ways that people can stay connected. Look into Skype, Zoom, and virtual services online and make some calls to find out about what is going on.
Get Rest: There are loads of recommendations for getting the sleep you need, but you need to put those tips into practice…and that takes practice! Check out the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s recommendations by clicking on this link.
Maintain a Routine: Routines help improve sleeping, eating and emotional and physical health.
Manage Medications and Self-Monitor: It is important that medications and chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are well managed during isolation, especially during the pandemic. Health care providers should be consulted for any challenges with managing medications or illnesses. Many doctors can now conduct telehealth visits, allowing seniors to get care without ever leaving home.
Meditate: Deep breathing, stretching and meditating can help calm the spirit. Mindful Magazine offers an excellent online guide to meditation. Click on this link to explore. Another exceptional provider of meditation and mindfulness is HeadSpace. Check them out by clicking this link.
Managing Your Mental Health
If you and/or your loved one already have mental health or substance abuse issues, you may find it more difficult to cope with those struggles during the pandemic. Don’t be surprised if you experience some depression during this time. It’s important to recognize that this isn’t a sign of weakness, and there is success in treatment. Look for these signs that you may be experiencing depression:
Sadness or feelings of despair
Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains
Loss of interest in socializing or hobbies
Weight loss or loss of appetite
Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
Lack of motivation and energy
Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
Fixation on death; thoughts of suicide
Slowed movement or speech
Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
Loss of self-worth
Worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing
Neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting meds, neglecting personal hygiene)
Worsening pain, such as arthritis, headaches
Many support groups are holding online meetings to help provide support. Check out these online support groups:
If you notice your own or your loved one’s stress reactions are interfering with life for longer than a week, call your health care provider. If you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, or feel like you could harm yourself or others, call 911.
Follow these recommendations to help maintain good senior nutrition.
Eating right is probably the single most important thing you can do for your health. Making certain you choose the proper nutrients and proportions can help you maintain a healthy weight, give you energy to remain independent and can also help you manage chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
You might remember the “food pyramid” you or your children were given to promote good nutrition decades ago. A lot has changed since then! Senior nutritional needs have also changed, as our metabolism slows as we age and we don’t need as many calories, but we do have more need for certain nutrients.
The US Department of Agriculture and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has put out some excellent, interactive tools on maintaining a healthy diet.
These six points from NCOA are important to keep in mind as you begin to delve into a better way to eat as you age.
Know what a healthy plate looks like. There are five main food groups, outlined below. Learn how these five food groups should stack up on your plate by using the tools located here.FRUITS: Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed.
VEGETABLES: Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as part of the vegetable group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated, and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed.
GRAINS: Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products. Grains are divided into two subgroups: whole grains and refined grains.
DAIRY: All fluid milk products and foods made from milk that contain their calcium content are considered part of this food group. Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not. Calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage) is also part of the Dairy Group.
PROTEIN: All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the protein food group.
Look for important nutrients. Even though you may be getting enough calories, you may not be choosing the nutrient-rich foods that are important to keeping you healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have minerals, protein and whole grains. Remember to choose foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium or salt. Also, look for vitamin D, an important mineral as you age. If you’re eating right, your plate should be full of lots of different colors!
Lean protein (lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans)
Fruits and vegetables (think orange, red, green, and purple)
Whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta)
Low-fat dairy (milk and its alternatives)
Read nutrition labels. For the most part, you will find the healthiest food around the perimeter of the grocery store, so stick to the circle around the store if you can. If you do choose packaged foods, be a smart shopper and read the labels! Many older adults already look for foods lower in fat, added sugars and sodium. To ensure you are making healthy food choices, it’s important to learn to read labels effectively. The FDA has a great site to learn about how to read food labels.Limit Salt and Sodium:Remember, processed foods contain high amounts of sodium. Choose fresh vegetables, meats, poultry, and seafood when possible. Using spices or herbs, such as dill, chili powder, paprika, or cumin, and lemon or lime juice, can add flavor without adding salt.
Cut Down on Saturated Fats:Keep foods lean and flavorful. Instead of frying, try grilling, broiling, roasting, or baking—they don’t add extra fat. Choose simple substitutions; for example, using nonfat yogurt when you make tuna or chicken salad.
Skip the Added Sugars:Take a half a portion, or just a few bites of a sweet treat, to satisfy the craving, without over-indulging.
Cut calories and sugar by drinking water or unsweetened beverages. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are a major source of added sugars.
Use recommended servings. If you want to maintain your weight, you must eat the correct amount for your age and body. Getting used to your recommended daily serving for your age can be a challenge to master. But as the saying goes, practice makes perfect! Spoon University has an excellent site for calculating your appropriate serving size. The American Heart Association also has a great article on learning the recommended daily servings for adults aged 60+.
Stay hydrated. Water is one of the most important nutrients. Drink fluids consistently throughout the day to maintain hydration, especially in the summer months in Arizona! Tea, coffee, non-sugar drinks and water are your best choices. Unless your health provider recommends them, keep fluids that have added sugar and salt to a minimum, as these can dehydrate.
Stretch your food budget. You may already have habits to help you stretch your budget and help you to avoid wasting food. Finding good food storage products, preparing food in advance, and freezing and labeling your food can help stretch your budget and avoid waste. Check out the BenefitsCheckUp.org website if you need help paying for healthy food.
Oh, the long, hot days of summer! In Arizona, it starts early and goes late. Often, our elders remain indoors during most of the summer months, and more recently, with COVID-19 lurking, seniors with underlying conditions are stuck inside even more so than usual.
It may be a nice time to discover a new activity, or reacquaint with an old hobby! Here are some ideas to either do on your own, with a friend or neighbor, or to encourage an elder loved one to consider to allay boredom and the same old thing every day.
When you add an activity to your day or to the day of a senior you love, you might consider this approach:
Focus on enjoyment, not achievement.
Determine what time of day is best for the activity.
Be flexible and patient with yourself if it’s something new.
If you choose an outside activity, make sure it’s early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid extreme temperatures. Outdoor activities can be relaxing and fulfilling. It’s always great to get a change of scenery and enjoy fresh air.
The following are ideas for outside activities:
Plant some flowers or herbs in small pots.
Pull old plants and weeds from the garden.
Take a walk and identify the flowers and plants with a book on plants along the way.
Check on your garden daily for new sprouts or ripe vegetables. This can also lead to other activities such as picking and preparing what has grown in the garden.
Put a birdbath and feeders out in the yard, so you can watch the birds out the window.
Have your meal or snack outside.
Read a book or poetry in the shade outside.
Play a game of horseshoes.
Sit on the porch noticing all the activity, colors, and scents. Wave to the neighbors!
Sew something for a friend.
Take up embroidery or knitting.
Call an old friend who would be surprised to hear from you, and catch up.
Learn how to Zoom or FaceTime, and suggest a family “gathering.”
Read a new book indoors in a quiet spot, with a nice cup of tea.
Find a poem or prayer you’d like to memorize and spend several minutes a day reciting it.
Pull out old music and listen and reminisce.
Find a new radio program or podcast you’d like to listen to.
Pull out your old photo albums and just reminisce, or reorganize them.
Gather together some paints or colored pencils and create some artwork.
Write a letter to an old friend or family member.
Make a memory book or a personal scrapbook.
Organize drawers or cupboards.
Find a new recipe and make something special.
Get a handbook for dice games and play.
Pull out a once-loved board or card game and play…or learn a new one!
Watch an old musical.
Make apple pie or cobbler from scratch. See who can peel the longest unbroken peel!
Soak and massage your feet, or a friend’s. Paint your toenails if desired!
Plan a happy hour for yourself with music and salsa and chips and margarita mix.
Put up maps of the state, country and world and mark all the places you’ve been and where you’d like to go.
Write down your family timeline and history….births, deaths, moves, marriages,
Write down your favorite childhood memories, your memories as an adult and things you have learned about life.
Polish and shine your shoes.
Make birthday card collages for friends from old magazines and photos.
Put on some favorite, irresistible music and MOVE! (You don’t have to call it dancing!)
Sing favorite hymns and carols.
Blow up an inflatable punch ball and use it as indoor balloon volleyball.
Learn simple exercises you can do in a chair.
Experiment with aromatherapy and essential oils. Try new ones and notice what they do to your mood. Remember, don’t apply them directly to your skin. Always use in lotions or diluted in infusers, and don’t use for extended periods. Here are some ideas on essential oils to influence mood.Invigorating: Peppermint, rosemary, lemon
For more recommendations of fun activities for seniors, call on the aging care pros at Nightingale Homecare! We’d love to provide the friendly companionship for older adults, along with plenty of creative and engaging ideas that make each day the best it can be. Call us any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more about how our experts in home care in Glendale, AZ and the surrounding area can help a senior you love.
Get the facts on mesothelioma and asbestos from Nightingale Home Care.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few misconceptions regarding mesothelioma, the rare and aggressive disease caused by asbestos exposure. Some people ask, “Is mesothelioma contagious?” Others believe the disease is linked to smoking.
These incorrect assessments range from how people develop mesothelioma to where the disease forms within the body. Other mesothelioma myths include the demographics affected by mesothelioma, the amount of asbestos exposure needed to develop the sickness and the legality of using the substance in the United States.
Below are some common myths and misconceptions about mesothelioma and asbestos, as well as the realities of the disease:
Myth 1: Smoking Is Linked to Mesothelioma
Smoking is not linked to mesothelioma. The act does not cause or increase your risk of developing the disease. The disease forms along the mesothelium, which is a lining that covers three specific areas of your body: the lungs (pleura), abdominal cavity (peritoneum) and heart (pericardium). Inhaling harmful smoke causes lung cancer specifically. While mesothelioma can spread to and affect one or both of the lungs, it does not form in the lung.
Myth 2: Mesothelioma Is a Lung Cancer
Pleural mesothelioma shares the closest resemblance to lung cancer, but even this form of mesothelioma is not lung cancer. The disease forms in the pleura, which is a protective membrane that separates the lungs from your chest wall. Pleural mesothelioma can metastasize to the lungs but does not form there, which excludes it from being considered lung cancer.
Since mesothelioma and lung cancer share similar traits — and can appear in the same areas of the body — some doctors may misdiagnose mesothelioma as lung cancer.
Myth 3: Mesothelioma Only Affects the Lungs
Mesothelioma affects much more than just the lungs. Peritoneal mesothelioma forms in the lining around the abdominal cavity, which includes many organs. Your diaphragm, heart, appendix, intestines, colon, pancreas, gallbladder, liver and testicles may also be at risk when mesothelioma forms.
Myth 4: Mesothelioma Is Contagious
Mesothelioma is not contagious. It cannot spread from human contact or germs. The only scientifically proven cause of mesothelioma is exposure to the mineral known as asbestos. Therefore, if you are a mesothelioma patient, you do not need to worry about coughing and giving the disease to others.
Myth 5: Mesothelioma Only Affects the Elderly
Mesothelioma is not limited to a specific age — or any demographic. However, the disease does have higher incidence rates in older people. The latency period, which is the amount of time a disease takes to develop, is between 20 and 50 years for mesothelioma. Therefore, the disease doesn’t manifest until people get older.
Myth 6: You Must Work With Asbestos to Develop Mesothelioma
Occupational exposure to asbestos is the most likely way to develop mesothelioma. However, there are other avenues to ingesting or inhaling the mineral.
You could live near an asbestos mine or asbestos processing plant. These instances are known as environmental exposure.
You also could have consistent interaction with someone who worked with asbestos. Maybe you were the wife of an insulation worker and regularly washed his work clothes. Asbestos fibers can stick to shirts or pants, putting anyone who touches the clothes at risk. This is an example of secondhand exposure.
Another possibility is exposure due to using cosmetics or beauty products. Even household appliances such as hair dryers included asbestos for many years.
Myth 7: The Larger the Amount of Your Asbestos Exposure, the More Likely a Person Is to Get Mesothelioma
There is no proven correlation between the quantity of asbestos exposure and the risk of developing mesothelioma. A person who works one day in a construction or insulation job — both industries which relied on asbestos for much of the 20th century — could find out 30 or 40 years later they have the disease. The only variable is whether or not asbestos fibers entered your body, were not expelled, lodged into the mesothelium and caused cellular mutation.
Myth 8: Asbestos Is Banned in the United States
Asbestos is not banned in the United States. As of June 2019, only the state of New Jersey has banned the sale and use of asbestos in products — and the state’s government only recently passed the law. Politicians and activist groups have tried to get asbestos banned in the U.S., but the Environmental Protection Agency only has restrictions in place currently.
Myth No. 9: Mesothelioma Only Affects Men
Mesothelioma does affect men more than women, but that’s largely because men are more likely to work in jobs that include asbestos. Most people who have pleural mesothelioma are men, but the gender divide for peritoneal mesothelioma is close to a 50-50 split.
Myth 10: Mesothelioma Is Untreatable and Always Has a Poor Prognosis
Mesothelioma is treatable. The options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The recommended strategy involves a combination of two or all three, which is called a multimodal treatment approach. Surgery is the most effective treatment method as it removes most or all of the tumors from the body.
While mesothelioma is aggressive, the prognosis isn’t always discouraging. Depending on the type of the disease and stage, some patients live up to five years following their diagnosis. Early detection usually leads to a longer life expectancy — because the tumors are more likely to be removed when the cancer has yet to spread far from the point of origin.
In short, there is hope if you have mesothelioma. Treatment methods are improving, more specialists are emerging and additional information is made available with each year.