Mature couple in warrior yoga position. Side view. Horizontal.
Most people take good balance for granted and don’t even think twice about activities such as walking from a sidewalk onto the grass, leaning over to tie their shoes, or getting out of bed in the middle of the night.
However, for people who have poor balance, normal activities can be extremely challenging and often dangerous. Symptoms that accompany impaired balance can include dizziness, vertigo, visual problems, hearing problems, nausea, fatigue, and difficulty with concentration and memory. And balance problems often become prevalent in older adults, for a variety of reasons – medication side effects, chronic health conditions, ambulation problems, and more.
Balance is the ability to maintain your body’s center of mass over its base of support. A properly functioning balance system allows us to see clearly while moving, determine direction and speed of movement, and make necessary adjustments to maintain stability and posture during different conditions and activities without conscious thought.
Balance relies on a complex set of body’s systems, including the following sensory input:
Our eyes help us adjust our body’s position and movement, so we can move around obstacles in our path.
Nerve receptors in the inner ear are sensitive to movements and help control motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation.
Proprioception or touch
Receptors called “proprioceptors” in the skin, joints, ligaments, and muscles receive signals indicating the position and movement of your body.
All three of these information sources send signals to the brain. The signals sent to the brain are then sorted and integrated with learned motions. For example, we know how to navigate an icy sidewalk and adjust our movements due to our learned memory.
You need sensory input, integration of that input, motor control, and muscle strength to maintain stability, during both purposeful movements, such as lifting yourself out of a chair, and reflexive ones, such as recovery from a trip over a curb. Injury, disease, neurological disorders, certain medications, and advancing age can affect all the systems involved in balance.
Nightingale’s Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is designed to help patients with imbalance, vertigo, dizziness, or movement sensitivity related to many different conditions. The inner ear, or vestibular system, plays an integral role in the control of posture and balance. Deficits in the vestibular system may result in decreased independence, loss of balance, the inability to perform activities of daily living, in addition to increasing the patient’s fall risk.
If your doctor has warned you that your cholesterol is creeping upward, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help improve it before trying cholesterol-lowering medication. And if you already take medication, the tips below can actually improve the cholesterol-lowering qualities of your medication.
It’s helpful to understand what cholesterol is, and how it can affect your health. Cholesterol is manufactured in your liver and has several important functions. It helps to keep the walls of your cells flexible and is necessary in the production of several hormones. But, like anything else…too much of it can create problems.
Cholesterol is transported in the body by molecules called “lipoproteins” which carry cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins in the blood. Lipoproteins levels in the blood are used to determine cholesterol levels. You may have heard that low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are bad. This type of lipoprotein carries cholesterol to deposit it on blood vessel walls, leading to clogged arteries, hypertension, stroke, kidney failure and heart attack. So, it is important to lower this level. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are the good lipoproteins, helping to carry cholesterol away from vessel walls and preventing artery-clogging disease. So, it is important to raise this level.
Your hereditary influence is something you won’t be able to change, but how you manage other high-risk influences can make a difference. Listed below are lifestyle changes that can help you lower your cholesterol while improving health and quality of life, courtesy of the Phoenix senior care experts at Nightingale Homecare:
WATCH YOUR FATS
Focus on Monounsaturated Fats
Your doctor may recommend a low-fat diet for weight loss, but often a diet low in fats can reduce not only your harmful LDLs, but may also reduce the beneficial HDLs. In contrast, a diet high in monounsaturated fats will reduce harmful LDLs but also protect higher levels of healthy HDLs. A few good sources of monounsaturated fats:
Olive oil and olives
Nuts: almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews
Use Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fats
Studies show that polyunsaturated fats reduce LDL cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Some good sources are:
Fish oil supplements
Seafood with high fatty content: salmon, mackerel, herring, bluefin and albacore tuna
Seeds and tree nuts (not peanuts)
Eliminate Trans Fats
Trans fats are handled differently by the body than other fats. They can increase total cholesterol and LDLs, and also decrease the beneficial HDLs. Use of trans fats leads to heart attack and stroke. In the US, food companies are required to list trans fats on nutrition labels. However, they are allowed to round down when the amount of trans fat per serving is less than 0.5 grams. This means some foods contain trans fats even though their label says “0 grams.” Read further on the nutrition label. If a product contains “partially hydrogenated” oil, avoid it, as it contains trans fat! Foods that contain trans fat include:
Store-bought cookies and crackers
Fried fast food
INCREASE SOLUABLE FIBER
Soluble fiber actually reduces the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream by increasing probiotics or “good bacteria” in your intestine. These bacteria will reduce harmful lipoproteins and LDLs. The best sources for soluble fiber include:
Peas and lentils
Fruit: apples and pears
Oats and whole grains: not the quick-cooking oats, which have the fiber processed out
Fiber supplements like psyllium
ADD WHEY PROTEIN
Whey protein found in dairy products can help lower both LDL and total cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure. Foods containing whey protein include:
Whey protein powder
If you see sugar, corn syrup or any word containing “ose” at the top of the ingredient list, avoid it.
Moderate exercise every day can not only combat obesity, it can also help raise good cholesterol levels. Be sure and check with your doctor before you start any exercise program. Try to work up to at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least 5 times a week. Some exercises to consider:
Riding a bike
An exercise class
Playing a favorite sport
Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by changing the way cholesterol is handled in the body and results in the faster development of clogged arteries. Quitting smoking helps improve your HDL cholesterol levels. This will lower your blood pressure, improve your liver function, and reduce your risk of heart and lung disease.
Carrying a few extra pounds contributes to high blood cholesterol. Weight loss will reduce your total cholesterol by decreasing the creation of new cholesterol in the liver.
As mentioned, sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower cholesterol to optimal levels. If your doctor orders medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed along with continuing your lifestyle changes.
Call on the Phoenix senior care team at Nightingale Homecare for more healthy living tips, and for the professional in-home care assistance that ensures older adults are living life to the fullest! Contact us any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more.
Discover how urinary tract infections can display differently in older adults.
Chances are, your elderly parent or grandparent has experienced a urinary tract infection, or “UTI,” at some point during his or her life. In a healthy adult, a UTI can be an annoyance, but is generally pretty straightforward in symptoms and in treatment. The hallmark signs of a UTI are burning pain with urination, frequency of urination, back pain, fever, and cloudy, foul-smelling urine. When UTIs are diagnosed early, antibiotics and fluids are prescribed and recovery lasts just a few days. Yet, the presence of a UTI in an elderly, frail person can be deceptive, and left undetected, can potentially lead to hospitalization and even death.
A UTI generally refers to a bacterial infection in any of the four parts of the urinary tract system: urethra, bladder, ureters or kidneys. An un-checked UTI can eventually migrate into the circulatory system, resulting in sepsis. This is why early detection is so critical.
In the elderly population, UTI’s are the most common, yet often most hidden infection they can suffer from. Because elders often lack the normal symptoms of a UTI, the infection may become septic before an infection is even suspected or diagnosed. This is why a UTI in an elder requires immediate attention and treatment. So, if you are caring for an elder loved one, it will be important to differentiate a UTI from other illness and get your loved one immediate medical attention in order to eliminate the infection.
Causes and Risk Factors
Most often, about 85% of the time, a UTI is caused by Escherichia coli, or E. coli bacteria. This bacteria is naturally found in the GI tract, but especially for women, E. coli can easily sneak into the urinary tract. Although women have a higher risk for developing UTIs and generally acquire them much more frequently, men are much more likely to develop severe UTIs, requiring hospitalization. It is important to note the common causes and risks associated for developing a UTI:
Poor hygiene habits
Wiping back-to-front after a bowel movement
Wearing soiled underwear
Wearing incontinent briefs
Not urinating frequently enough
Not relaxing and emptying the bladder with urination
Post-menopausal thinning and weakening of the urinary tract (in women)
Enlarged prostate, leading to retention of urine in the bladder (in men)
Seniors in general are more susceptible to UTIs due to the above mentioned factors; however, the biggest culprit to developing UTIs is a weakened immune system. Your loved one may also have a diminished ability to take care of herself/himself for physical and cognitive reasons. These factors lead to decreased attention to hygiene overall. Seniors also tend to limit their fluid intake in an effort to avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience caused by bladder control issues. As urine pools in the bladder longer, it leads to urinary retention and a greater incidence of infection.
If your loved one wears incontinent briefs, there’s a very high probability of developing a UTI. No matter how often briefs are changed, fecal matter can enter the urinary tract very easily, even with minimal contact.
Signs and Symptoms
Detecting the symptoms of a UTI in an elder can be tricky. Your loved one may show all of the classic signs, yet often, because the immune system is not functioning optimally, the normal symptoms we have all come to know are not exhibited. Along with the more typical signs, be alert for these signs and symptoms:
Poor motor skills
Shortness of breath
Blood in urine
Fever and chills
Nausea and vomiting
Confusion and UTIs
The symptom of confusion deserves special mention, as this is a frequent sign in an elder suffering from a UTI. Confusion will usually come on abruptly with a UTI, or for those already experiencing memory challenges, will increase dramatically. An infection will weigh down the immune system and lead to an increase in temperature and brain inflammation, which then leads to dehydration. The combination of these factors leads to mental changes in an elder with a UTI. The most important take-away from this: if your elder loved one show signs of a sudden increase in confusion, seek urgent medical attention to rule out a possible UTI or another cause.
UTIs and Dementia
As noted, with the onset of a UTI, confusion can increase rapidly in your loved one living with dementia. It can also worsen other behaviors such as agitation, hallucinations, insomnia and aggression. You may also notice sundowning symptoms becoming worse. It may be even more difficult to narrow down the cause when your loved one has difficulty communicating other symptoms. If you notice your loved one’s symptoms suddenly accelerating, it is better to be safe than sorry, and seek immediate medical attention.
Treatment and Prevention
The good news is, once diagnosed by a simple urine test, treatment of a UTI in an elder is relatively straightforward. The majority of UTIs are treated with fluids and antibiotics. Once the infection is cured, prevention should be the primary focus. Here are some simple tips to encourage urinary tract health:
Stay hydrated: water is best, but any fluids your loved one enjoys should be offered
Bladder training: encourage toileting to empty the bladder every two hours
Offer a bedside commode or bedpan, if the person is worried about incontinence
Practice good perineal hygiene: wipe from front to back, clean the perineal area with soap and water and pat dry
If incontinence briefs are used, change frequently and clean the perineum between each change
If a catheter is necessary, clean around the insertion site twice daily, and after each bowel movement, with soap and water and pat dry
Wear and change loose, breathable cotton underwear daily and when soiled
Provide clean linens and towels; even a drop of urine or stool on linens should be changed
Avoid perfumed soaps, deodorants, toilet papers and douches
Provide wet wipes to make clean-up easier after toileting
The Scottsdale senior home care professionals at Nightingale Homecare are always on hand to provide education, helpful resources, and hands-on assistance in the comfort of home to help older adults remain healthy, comfortable, safe, and thriving. Call us any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!
For many seniors, this time of year can bring about a roller coaster of emotions. In tandem with experiencing the joy of family, friends, and holiday activities, feelings of loss, depression, and exhaustion can result in an overload of stress. To help balance out the season for the seniors you love, try some of these tips, courtesy of AARP:
Don’t try to do it all. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we need to embrace every opportunity the holiday season offers, but the reality is, seniors need plenty of downtime in the midst of the festivities. Try to match your pace to that of your senior loved ones, and treasure the times of relaxation together as much as the bustle of shopping and parties.
Honor old traditions while introducing the new. While it’s important to uphold certain traditions that are valued by your senior loved ones, realize that they may invoke some measure of sadness for times gone by. Try implementing some brand new traditions that the whole family can agree upon and enjoy together, such as watching a new holiday movie while stringing popcorn and cranberries, constructing a gingerbread house, or a game of holiday charades.
Keep an eye on health issues. The busyness of the holidays can mask the subtle signs of health concerns if we’re not careful to pay attention to the cues our senior loved ones are exhibiting. Keep a watchful eye out for signs such as changes in sleeping or eating habits, which could indicate physical or emotional issues that need to be addressed.
Think ahead before venturing out. When accompanying a senior to a holiday outing, a little advance planning can go a long way towards ensuring his or her comfort and safety. For example, before hitting the mall for a day of shopping, map out the locations of rest rooms, review meal options (taking into consideration any dietary restrictions), check on wheelchair accessibility or rental options, etc.
Allow time to just be together. The best gift you can give your senior loved ones is that of your unhurried time and undivided attention. Simply setting aside an afternoon to visit over a cup of tea, without any other obligations or distractions, shows you care in a way unlike any other.
A professional home care agency, such as Nightingale Homecare, can enhance the holidays for seniors and their families even further. We allow families the opportunity to spend quality time together with activities they can enjoy, while our experienced Phoenix senior caregivers assist with the more mundane aspects of care, such as light housekeeping, bathing and grooming, meal planning and preparation, and much more.
We also provide nursing, therapy, and other home health care services as needed, so seniors can remain safe, comfortable, and as independent as possible, right at home. Contact us to learn more about our Arizona in-home care services and how we can make life easier and more enjoyable for your senior loved one!
If you’re alive, breathing, and aging (and if you’re reading this – that means you!), chances are strong that at some point, you’ll need long-term care: nearly 70% of American seniors are currently receiving these services.
So what exactly is “long-term care,” who provides it, where is it provided, and who pays for it? Nightingale Homecare is pleased to answer your long-term care questions with facts and help dispel some of the more commonly believed myths.
What is long-term care?
First of all, the basics. Long-term care covers a broad range of supportive services that are typically non-medical, such as assistance with personal care (bathing, dressing, eating, etc.) and help with everyday tasks (housework, shopping and errands, finance management, caring for pets, etc.).
Who provides long-term care?
Long-term care can come from a variety of sources, often initially through the unpaid benevolence of family, friends, and neighbors. However, when care needs intensify and become overwhelming for those providing care, hiring professional long-term care services through an experienced home care agency, such as Nightingale Homecare, is an excellent alternative to ensure the senior’s care needs are best met and to prevent family caregiver burnout.
Where can long-term care be provided?
The short answer is…anywhere! Although long-term care is most often provided (and most preferred) at home, it’s also available through community support services such as adult day care centers, or facility-based in nursing homes, assisted living and retirement communities. Long-term care can also be provided in a family member’s home.
Who pays for long-term care?
The government will cover costs, of course; right? Unfortunately, Medicare’s coverage is quite limited, and only pays:
If skilled services or rehab care are required, up to a maximum of 100 days in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) but often much less (an average of 22 days).
Personal care only for a short duration, and only if skilled care is also required.
Medicare does NOT cover ongoing personal care services or everyday tasks which make up the majority of long-term care needs.
Although Medicaid does cover a portion of long-term care cost, there are income and state eligibility requirements that need to be met.
While there are some federal programs that cover long-term care expenses (such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Older Americans Act), they’re for specific populations and circumstances only.
The majority of long-term care is paid for privately, through a number of resources (personal savings, long-term care insurance, reverse mortgages, just to name a few).
The best time to plan for long-term care needs for yourself and your loved ones is today! Allow the professional Phoenix home care experts at Nightingale Homecare to share more about your long-term care options by contacting us at 602-504-1555. We’ve been providing Arizona home care since 1994 and would be glad to talk with you to explain your options and answer any long-term care questions you may have.
A Nightingale representative would be happy to answer your questions or help you arrange for home care that is custom-fit to your needs.