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The Elderly Mental Health Concern We’d Rather Not Think About: Senior Suicide

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Learn the signs of senior suicide and how to help.

Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of gender, background or age.However, while the elderly account for just 13% of the population, they account for nearly 16% of all suicides. The statistics are shocking, especially knowing the elderly are the fastest growing segment of our population, making this elderly mental health concern – senior suicide – a public health priority.

Caucasian men aged 65 to 84 are at an even higher risk, accounting for 14.9 out of every 100,000 suicide deaths – and the number rises even higher in men over aged 85. It is estimated that suicide deaths in the elderly may be under-reported by over 40%.

These figures do not include the “silent suicides” – deaths from self-starvation, dehydration, accidents and overdoses. The elderly also have a higher than average rate of completing a suicide, as they are often deaths by firearms, hanging and drowning. And, there is a higher incidence of double suicide involving a spouse among the elderly population.

Senior suicide is often the result of an untreated elderly mental health condition. Although common, suicidal thoughts should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.Health care providers often report that the elderly have an exceedingly difficult time in talking with others, especially mental health professionals, about their feelings or challenges. This is largely due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues and makes missed detection the biggest contributor in the high suicide rates among the elderly.

Those at Risk

It is very difficult to identify individuals at risk for suicide, even for professionals. However, there are some risk factors to keep in mind:

  • Being a white male over the age of 65
  • Prolonged, chronic or terminal illness
  • Pain, especially if pain is severe, chronic
  • Depression
  • Alcohol abuse and/or dependence
  • Financial difficulties
  • Recent loss of a spouse, loved one, or pet
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Physical, social and emotional Isolation/loneliness
  • Loss of role or stature in family or community
  • Recent change in living situation or employment status or productive activities

Warning Signs

The following are common warning signs that an elderly person may be contemplating suicide:

  • Crying and sad mood; typical signs of depression
  • Weight loss and poor appetite
  • Feeling trapped in a situation and unable to see a way out
  • Statements about death and suicide
  • Statements about being a burden
  • Reading material about death and suicide
  • Statements of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness
  • Disruption of sleep patterns (insomnia or over-sleeping)
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Giving away possessions
  • Increased alcohol or prescription drug use
  • Failure to take care of self or follow medical orders
  • Stockpiling medications
  • Sudden interest in firearms
  • Withdrawal of social interactions or elaborate good-byes
  • Rush to complete or revise a will

How to Help

As many as 50% to 75% of elders considering suicide will give someone a warning sign. However, not everyone who is considering suicide will say something, and not everyone who threatens suicide will make an attempt, though every threat of suicide should be taken seriously. Remaining aware of the risk factors and warning signs and talking openly to your loved one about your concerns are critical in preventing elder suicide.

It is also important to identify the mental health professionals in the community who can provide assistance. Remember, you never have to be alone in seeking help for your loved one, and if you are unsure whether your loved one is immediately at risk for suicide, get help by taking the individual to the nearest emergency room for evaluation and treatment.

One great resource is the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour toll-free Friendship Line for elder adults in crisis: 800-971-0016. Their trained professionals are available to support seniors who are struggling with depression, loneliness and suicidal thoughts. The Veteran’s Crisis Line is also available toll-free 24 hours a day for senior veterans and their families to receive counselling and support: 800-273-8255.

At Nightingale Homecare, the top providers of senior home care Phoenix families trust, we offer a program devoted to elderly mental health and safety: Transitions. Our team of experts (nurses, social workers, and therapists) can provide an assessment to determine if depression, anxiety, coping skills and other emotional concerns are in place, and determine what resources would be most beneficial. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 any time to learn more.

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Supporting the Seven Dimensions of Wellness in Seniors

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Nightingale Homecare shares the seven dimensions of wellness in seniors.

So often in aging, we accept the mindset that frailty and chronic illness are simply to be expected and accepted, and that the best we can do is react to the effects of those conditions. Yet there are steps we can take proactively to improve overall wellness in seniors, leading to enhanced independence, health and wellbeing.

Known as the seven dimensions of wellness in seniors, we at Nightingale Homecare, the top providers of senior care Phoenix AZ families trust, implement the following proactive measures to ensure each of these wellness elements is considered in our home care services:

  1. Mental/Emotional: Emotional wellness can be maximized through the awareness and healthy expression of feelings, and by implementing techniques for stress management, sharing of personal stories, and of course the best medicine: laughter. Our dedicated caregivers strive to improve seniors’ mental and emotional wellness through compassionate companionship and encouraging engaging activities.
  2. Cognitive: Building cognitive wellness and taking steps to reduce intellectual decline can be accomplished in a variety of ways, such as memory games and puzzles, learning new skills, and engaging in the arts.
  3. Physical: Physical activity is crucial to all of us, regardless of age and ability. With physician approval, we help seniors engage in appropriate exercise programs to boost physical functioning, balance, strength and more. Nutrition is also a key part of physical wellness, and our professional caregivers can ensure the home is stocked with healthy food choices, as well as prepare nutritious meals in adherence to any dietary restrictions.
  4. Vocational: Retirement can lead to a sense of lost identity. It’s important for older adults to continue with meaningful tasks that contribute to the world around them, through volunteering, mentoring, or engaging in hobbies and interests that help them maintain their professional skills.
  5. Social: Socialization is a key component to our care services, as isolation in seniors can result in serious health concerns. We provide both one-on-one social engagement with seniors and transportation and accompaniment to activities and events in the community, family gatherings, visits with friends, and more.
  6. Spiritual: A person’s faith can provide an enormous sense of calm and meaning in life. Whatever a senior’s spiritual belief, we help foster his or her spirituality through encouraging and enabling participation in religious services and activities, mindfulness exercises, meditation, or enjoying nature.
  7. Environmental: A person’s environment should be a haven and a place of happiness and safety. Our caregivers can help create a safe, healthy home environment for senior clients, removing hazards in the home that may cause injury and reducing clutter. We also encourage seniors to participate in caring for our natural environment, which brings a sense of purpose in addition to the benefits provided to our world through activities such as gardening and involvement in recycling programs.

We’d love to partner with you in making life the best it can be for your senior loved one, through these measures and many others that can be included in an individualized plan of care. Simply contact Nightingale Homecare, providers of the best senior care Phoenix AZ has to offer, at (602) 504-1555 to schedule a free in-home consultation to learn more.

Ensure Senior Safety and Comfort at Home with These Tips

Phoenix live-in home health care When asked, most senior adults agree that they would prefer to age in their own homes and maintain as much independence as possible. And yet, most homes are not equipped to meet the needs of an older adult, leaving many unsafe. Unsafe homes lead to accidents or falls, resulting in over 2.3 million accidents involving seniors in their homes per year! Nearly one third of the senior population falls each year, with more than 70% of those occurring in their own home.

With Nightingale Homecare as your partner for Phoenix live-in home health care or other in-home care services, your home care nurse or therapist will help identify potential hazards and make recommendations to keep you safe in your home. Therapists will also provide treatments and exercises to reduce fall risk by focusing on strengthening, balance, ambulation training with or without an assistive device, and energy conservation. Training to help keep you safe while getting ready for the day by bathing and dressing is also a priority.

Here are some general home safety tips your therapist or nurse will review with you to help ensure safety:

  • Keep all your pathways clear of clutter and pets.
  • Install smoke detectors.
  • Keep emergency numbers within reach of your telephone.
  • Keep fire extinguishers serviced and throughout your home.
  • Use medications safety.
  • Make sure that loose cords, such as telephone wires, are tucked under furniture and out of the way.
  • Rearrange furniture to keep walkways clear.
  • Remove all throw rugs or secure tightly to the floor and ensure there are no edges that could be a tripping hazard.
  • Check all furniture for stability and ensure unsteady furniture is removed or repaired.
  • Don’t walk over or around cords or wires.
  • Avoid the use of extension cords and don’t place them over walkways.
  • Lift up feet when walking and walk with proper equipment as prescribed (cane, walker, crutches, gait belt).
  • Install automatic nightlights that turn on when the room is dark so that pathways are lit if you get up in the night.
  • Make sure to use chemicals according to the directions on the package, and make sure that the containers are properly sealed when not in use. Drain cleaners, bleaches and strong acids can be dangerous if mixed, causing explosions or dangerous gasses.

At Nightingale Homecare, it’s our goal to help seniors achieve their desire to remain in the comfort of home through a full range of Phoenix live-in home health care or hourly care services. We’re always happy to provide a home safety assessment to make recommendations on how to reduce the risk of falls and other accidents. Additionally, our Paces Fall Prevention Program incorporates the expertise of our professional therapists, dieticians, social workers, home health aides and others to provide a well-rounded fall prevention plan that can be implemented to enhance safety even further.

Make home the safe haven it’s intended to be with a little help from your care partners at Nightingale Homecare! Contact us any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!

The Completely Normal Side of Aging

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The Phoenix senior care team at Nightingale Homecare shares details on normal aging.

Change: it’s a part of life, regardless of age, but it seems to accelerate as we grow older, leading us to wonder which changes are cause for concern, and which are just a normal part of aging. While it’s always important to consult with the doctor regarding any physical or emotional changes to rule out health problems, our Phoenix senior care team at Nightingale Homecare has broken down some of the most common types of aging-related changes that are generally considered normal:

Skin Changes:

As we grow older, our skin produces less oil, and we begin to lose some of the fatty tissue beneath the skin’s surface, leading to a drier, thinner feeling. You can protect your skin by always wearing sunscreen when going outdoors, and by getting checked for any growths or other abnormal skin changes by the doctor on a regular basis.

Heart Changes:

With increased stiffness in the arteries and blood vessels, our hearts have to work harder as we grow older. It’s important to ensure the heart remains healthy by staying physically active (getting doctor’s approval before beginning any new exercise routines), eating plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and sleeping at least 7 – 8 hours each night.

Bone Changes:

Older adults often experience stiffness in the joints, the normal effect of the wearing away of cartilage, tissue and fluids. This can, however, lead to arthritis and other conditions for which treatment can be sought. Bones also become more brittle and less dense throughout aging, making seniors more susceptible to breaks. And we may actually lose an inch or two from our stature as the disks in the spine shrink, beginning as early as in our 40s. It’s crucial for older adults to maintain a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to maximize bone strength.

Vision and Hearing Changes:

Enhanced sensitivity to glare and bright light, as well as difficulty with reading or seeing objects clearly when close up, are common in aging, and can usually be overcome with annual eye exams, reading glasses, and the use of sunglasses when in bright light. Likewise, hearing often deteriorates slightly, particularly impacting sounds at high frequencies. Annual hearing exams and the use of earplugs when in especially loud environments are important.

Oral Changes:

Dry mouth and the appearance of gums pulling away from the teeth are two common occurrences in our later years. The dentist can help with determining what interventions may be needed, so regular cleanings and checkups are vital. And at any age, brushing and flossing regularly (twice daily for brushing, once daily for flossing) is the best way to prevent decay and infection to teeth and gums.

At Nightingale Homecare, our Phoenix senior care experts help keep older adults healthy and thriving throughout aging in a variety of ways! We provide a full range of in-home care services, from companionship and help around the house to highly skilled nursing care, and everything in between. We can ensure seniors are following a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise and rest, offer accompanied transportation to medical and dental checkups and exams, pick up prescriptions, and keep a professional eye out for any changes in a senior’s health that may be cause for concern, so that they can be addressed immediately.

To learn more about how we can help your senior loved one remain safe, healthy and happy at home, contact us any time at (602) 504-1555.

Are You at Risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Phoenix caregiversDeep vein thrombosis (DVT), the medical term for blood clots, occurs most often in adults over 60 years of age and affects up to 600,000 Americans every year. DVT occurs when a clot forms deep in the body, often in the lower leg, and is at risk for breaking off and traveling to the lungs, possibly causing death. It’s important to understand the risks and the signs so you can avoid a potentially deadly consequence.

Recognizing the symptoms of DVT can be tricky, as nearly half of all people with the condition don’t show any symptoms at all. Also, the symptoms can often be mistaken for something else. Our expert Phoenix caregivers have compiled the information you need to know to recognize and prevent DVT in yourself or your senior loved ones.

Signs of DVT

Check the lower leg for signs such as:

  • Swelling in the foot, ankle or calf (usually one-sided)
  • Cramping pain in the calf
  • Pain in the foot or ankle
  • Redness, paleness or bluish color in the affected area
  • Warmth in the area

DVT is often mistaken for an injury, and many people describe the pain in the leg to feel like that of a pulled muscle. It is important to note that often a pulled muscle feels better with elevation, inactivity and time, whereas a DVT will often feel worse over time.

Risk Factors of DVT

Besides being over 60 years old, there are other risk factors that would make you more prone to developing DVT. Certain conditions prevent the blood from moving effectively through your vessels and can increase the risk of developing DVT. These are:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Large bone fracture
  • Heavy smoking
  • Surgery
  • Prolonged bed rest due to illness or injury
  • IV therapy
  • Family history of DVT
  • Inflammatory bowel disorders
  • Clotting disorders
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Staying seated for four or more hours at a time, as in a car or airplane; especially when you have other risks

DVT is a serious threat to your health that will require immediate medical attention. Doctors can do many things to keep the clot from growing and reduce the size and risks, including the use of blood thinners and thromboembolytic medications.

One of the biggest risks of DVT is developing a condition called pulmonary emboli, which is when the blood clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, blocking a blood vessel. This can cause serious harm to your lungs and other areas of your body. Getting immediate medical care is imperative when you have symptoms of a pulmonary emboli, as this can be a life-threatening condition. Signs of pulmonary emboli include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain that worsens when you take a deep breath or when you cough
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or fainting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Coughing up blood

Preventing DVT

The biggest lifestyle changes you can make right now to lower your risk of DVT are to:

  • Manage your blood pressure
  • Lose weight (if you are overweight)
  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain an active lifestyle

Moving, and avoiding sitting for long periods of time, are especially helpful in the prevention of DVT. If you are traveling, it is recommended to walk the aisle or stand or move your legs. Alternately drawing your toes toward you and extending them away from you also helps the blood flow to pump in your lower legs.

If you are at risk, wear anti-embolitic compression stockings and talk to your doctor about using blood thinning medication, especially after surgery.

For more assistance in keeping your senior loved ones healthy, safe and well, contact the top rated Phoenix caregivers at Nightingale Homecare any time at (602) 504-1555 for professional, customized, in-home care solutions.