Letter From the Editor
For the past two months, we’ve enjoyed nothing but sunshine and warm weather, but here it is, already August and the summer is drawing to a close. Now is the time to make the last of your trips to the beach or pool and enjoy a few more barbeques before the days get shorter and the crisp fall air is upon us!
Speaking of trips to the pool, did you know that swimming is one of the best types of exercise for seniors? In this month’s newsletter, I’ll be discussing the safest and most effective exercise equipment for seniors to stay healthy and injury free so that they can continue to be active and enjoy a high quality of life. Make sure you remember to drink plenty of water! As I’ll explain later, it’s extremely important for seniors to stay hydrated. You will find out why those age 65 years and older are at the highest risk of dehydration and how to avoid this pitfall.
In this month’s newsletter, I’ll also discuss the startling findings in a recent report done by the AARP on the financial, physical and emotional toll that caring for a family member takes. The analysis revealed that as a whole, family caregivers are exhausted, overworked and suffering from increasing health complications and financial losses. To help solve these problems, I have several tips to share with you on how caregivers can deal with the stresses of caring for a loved one. Enjoy!
Why Staying Hydrated Becomes Even More Important with Age
Everyone knows that it’s important to stay hydrated, but it is especially important for seniors. Research shows that seniors are far more likely to experience adverse health effects from insufficient levels of fluid than younger adults. Unfortunately, seniors are also more susceptible to dehydration. Age related changes make it difficult for individuals over 65 to retain water. On average, seniors have 10% less fluid in their bodies compared to younger adults.
Here are 5 reasons why it’s especially important to make sure seniors stay hydrated:
1. Illnesses and medical conditions — Older people are more likely to have certain medical conditions and illnesses that can contribute to poor water retention and dehydration such as influenza, high blood sugar and digestive problems.
2. Medications – Many medications taken by seniors are diuretics and cause increased fluid loss. These include medications for high blood pressure, kidney, liver and heart disease.
3. Decreased renal function – As we age, our kidneys begin to decline and become less sensitive to anti-diuretic hormone – a hormone that plays a key role in controlling the body’s water balance.
4. Increased inconvenience of urinating — Seniors suffering from urinary incontinence, weak bladders and frequent urination are more reluctant to drink large amounts of fluid. In addition, as seniors lose mobility and it becomes more difficult for them to get up and go to the bathroom, they are less inclined to drink high volumes of fluids.
5. Our bodies’ thirst-response mechanisms decline as we grow older – Studies show that the mid-cingulate cortex, the region of the brain that is responsible for detecting dehydration and controlling thirst levels, becomes less active with age. As a result, seniors are more likely to underestimate their level of dehydration.
Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization among people over 65. Sixty-seven percent of people that are hospitalized for dehydration are over 75. Caregivers can help prevent their aging loved ones from becoming a victim of dehydration by encouraging them to drink plenty of water and frequently checking for symptoms.
$450 Billion, the Cost of Family Caregivers
According to a report done by the AARP Public Policy Institute, family caregivers provided care worth $450 billion in 2009. These numbers are on the rise. Caregivers are one of the largest pillars of the healthcare system, and yet, they are often overlooked.
By assigning a dollar value to every task performed by family caregivers, the report found that their services equated to nearly four times what Medicaid paid for in long-term care services.
The report also found that on average, caretakers provided care 20 hours per week, used their personal savings to cover the costs, and are leaving the workforce early, thus loosing out on salary and retirement benefits. Apart from the financial costs, the report revealed that between 40 and 70 percent of caregivers display symptoms of clinical depression and that the physical strain has lead to negative health results among caregivers such as lack of sleep and a rise in dementia. These statistics show how truly overwhelmed family caregivers are.
With few governmental programs currently in place to help, the only solution seems to be for caregivers to seek help in other areas. Seeking proper training and participating in support groups are a good place to start, but respite care may be a crucial part of the solution. With the help of part time professional caregivers, family caretakers can be relieved of some of their stress. But unless we make a change, caregivers will continue to face high stress and costs.
The Best Exercise Equipment for Seniors
It’s very important to continue exercising as we age. Exercise plays a crucial role in combating diseases and medical conditions that become more common with age such as heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, and even depression. When executed correctly, exercise helps seniors maintain their stability and balance while reducing the risk of falling and becoming injured. But as we grow older, some of the ways we used to stay active are no longer appropriate for our aging bodies. We lose muscle mass, our bones become weaker, our range of motion decreases and our joints become more prone to injury from working out. Certain exercises and equipment can put too much strain on seniors’ joints and muscles and lead to injury.
Here are five types of exercise equipment that are recommended for safe senior exercise:
1. Hydraulic Systems—Exercise machines with hydraulic systems are popular among seniors because they are engineered to have little to no impact on seniors’ legs and arms. Therefore they are easier on your joints. Many systems that are geared toward seniors also have lower seats and step-ups.
2. Air Machines—Air machines function like an exercise machine with a hydraulic system. These low-impact machines absorb shock so that they reduce the amount of stress put on joints.
3. Cushioned Step Machines—These are like normal step machines, but their steps have been cushioned to reduce the amount of pressure put on seniors’ legs. These machines are popular because they allow exercisers to watch TV or read during their workouts.
4. Trampolines—Trampolines provide fun aerobic exercise while absorbing the bone jarring impact that jumping movements normally put on bones and joints.
5. Aquatic Fitness Equipment—For seniors who have access to a pool, swimming is an excellent option for someone concerned with damaging or over-working their joints and muscles. Incorporate a variety of accessories into your aquatic fitness routine such as foam weights and pool noodles to help you strengthen a variety of muscles.
Talk with your physician to find out what exercise routine is most appropriate for you. With the right knowledge and tools at your disposal, you’ll be able to avoid the risk of workout-related injuries while staying active and living a balanced life!
Caregiver of the Month Spotlight: Nana Afua Owusu-Afriyie
This month’s Caregiver Spotlight features Nana Afua Owusu-Afriyie of Home Care Assistance of Richmond, Virginia. Nana has worked with Home Care Assistance since May 1, 2010. She is originally from Ghana and resides with her extended family in Richmond. Nana started as a caregiver in 1999 when she was taking care of her grandfather. She has two sons who are eight and six years old and currently live with her parents in Ghana. She hopes to attend an LPN program and be employed as a nurse before bringing her two sons to the United States to live with her.
Nana has recently been working on a case as a live-in caregiver. She truly excelled in her ability to provide thoughtful and compassionate service to a client who passed away last week. When Nana found out that her client was admitted to Hospice care a few months ago, she elected to cancel her vacation in order to be by her client’s side during her last days. She is a dedicated and selfless caregiver who illustrates what it means to give each and every day. One of her fondest memories with this client, is taking her to the local Goodwill to assist with buying angel statues. Her client collected angels of all kinds, so this was a very special outing for her. In fact, at a luncheon held in her client’s honor the day of funeral her funeral, everyone was asked to take one of the client’s angels in her memory.
Some may say it’s fate, but the night before Nana’s client passed, she made her favorite dinner. The client continued to thank her and was so grateful for the care that Nana provided. These sentiments were voiced many times on the day before she passed.
Nana stated, “I receive many blessings from being able to do the small, caring things for my client, it makes me feel so proud on the inside.”
Thank you, Nana, for all of your hard work and compassionate care! Your dedication and acts of selflessness are what continue to make Home Care Assistance the premier provider of senior care throughout North America.