Senior Safety in the Home and During the Winter Months

Minnesota winters can be long, especially for our senior loved ones or those who live with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia. Whether living independently in their own home or in a local senior living community, it’s important to make sure our loved ones are safe. HealthStar Home Health is dedicated to make strong communities and families by enabling individuals of all ages to live more independent and fulfilling lives. Ensuring the home is a safe place is just one step toward that.

Although an individual may be living with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, it does not mean that person is not able to live on their own. In fact, many people experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s still live in the comfort of their own home. However, as the symptoms progress it is necessary to check in more often and make some safety changes and updates to their home. Giving the home a complete safety inspection, including equipment such as the furnace and water heater, is a good place to begin. Look for possible risks such as:

  • Door locks – check all locks to make sure they are in working order and install locks on doors to prevent access to certain rooms or near a stairway. Make it difficult for the person to find these locks by installing them at the top of the door.
  • Safety devices –routinely inspect all fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition and have new batteries installed. Keep an easy to read list of emergency phone numbers, such as police, fire, hospital, and family members, visible at all times.
  • Lighting – make sure the home is well lit, especially walkways often used, to reduce the chance of falling or becoming disoriented.
  • Sidewalks and stairways – ensure the stairway area is clear of loose rugs, has a sturdy hand rail and the sidewalks are shoveled routinely and free of ice.

There are other things to keep a watch for that we may not always think of:

  • Proper prescription management with seniors is becoming more and more challenging. Juggling the daily dosing schedule is confusing and difficult for many, which eventually leads to adverse drug mishaps including hospitalizations and unintentional overdoses. HealthStar Home Health recognizes this growing issue and provides assistance with medication through our Home Health Care services.
  • Performing a quick check-up on the senior loved one’s mobility equipment will ensure proper working order, encourage correct use of equipment, as well as prevent falls or tripping when in use. Make sure the brakes on the walker are in tip-top shape and if not, the fix is quick and easy. Will an ice cane tip help maneuver the icy Minnesota sidewalks this winter? If so, this is a simple attachment that is quick to install.
  • Making sure your senior loved one is eating healthy, exercising and has a sound mind is very important. There are typical age-related changes we all experience as we age, but the changes experienced by a person with Alzheimer’s is much more extreme, advanced and happen more often than a typical “forgetful moment”. Early detection is key, so if you or a loved one are noticing changes and symptoms, don’t ignore them! Depression, anxiety and even sundowning are all common symptoms to be aware of and watch for, especially at this time of year. There may be treatment available for all these symptoms as well as clinical studies, so make an appointment with your primary physician right away to discuss the health options of your senior loved ones.

HealthStar Home Health understands how overwhelming and difficult it can be to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia and offers a comprehensive and effective Alzheimer’s and dementia home care program in our Alzheimer’s Whisperer program. This care program is a unique and effective approach to support those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and their family. For additional information on the amazing home caregiving services we offer or the service areas you can find us, visit our website at www.healthstarhomehealth.net.

The Benefits of Senior Exercise

We all know the importance and the benefits of routine exercise and healthy eating habits, but for some of our aging loved ones, that part of their daily routine tends to slip. The benefits of a healthier heart, stronger bones, improved flexibility, sharper mind and overall feeling definitely outweigh not exercising, but it is still easy to develop poor habits as we age. Here in Minnesota our winters can get long and this can lead to being lackadaisical with our exercise routine, but with some health reminders and a little encouragement we can get our senior loved ones sweatin’ to the oldies once again.

John Medina, an affiliate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and author of Brain Rules says that aerobic exercise “keeps cognitive abilities sharp and slashes your lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s in half”. That is an incredible statistic and something we all could benefit from, no matter what the age. Alzheimer’s is not just a disease that affects older people. Early-onset Alzheimer’s can affect people who are younger than 65 years of age and close to 5% of the more than 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease have younger-onset.

Scientists strongly believe that regular exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, which in turn releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein some scientists have dubbed as Miracle-Gro for the brain. BDNF stimulates the formation of new neurons in an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which involves memory, learning, and the ability to plan and make decisions.

SeniorExercise

Seniors benefit greatly from routine exercise. This topic seems to be one thing that all health professionals unequivocally agree on – hands down, exercise is the single best thing you can do for the body and brain. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that seniors have even more to gain in becoming active than younger people since the older a person is the higher the risk of health problems physical activity can reduce or even prevent. Some of the benefits of senior exercise include:

  • Immune System: a strong healthy body can fight off infections and diseases more quickly
  • Healthy Brain: studies have shown that exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
  • Heart Health: exercise lowers the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Sleep Better: you’ll fall asleep quicker and sleep better throughout the night
  • Bone Density: exercise helps prevent bone loss, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis and accidental falls
  • Digestion: exercise aids in waste elimination and the functioning of your gastro-intestinal tract

According to AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), 40 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are considered sedentary. For those over 64 years of age, that number jumps to 60 percent. These are troubling numbers, but can easily be reversed. Begin by making a new year’s resolution to have a weekly exercise date with a senior loved one. Set a day and time each week to go for a walk in the neighborhood, walk laps in a local shopping mall or walk around a favorite Minneapolis or St. Paul lake – there are over 10,000 to choose from! Even register together for an exercise class through the community. Many communities have various classes that are geared toward seniors, such as aerobic, yoga, meditation, dance and others. It’s never too late to start exercising your brain and body!

At HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals and health care professionals in a number of cities in Minnesota, including the Duluth area, as well as New Mexico. Our home health professionals provide unparalleled public healthcare services through stewardship, honor-driven values, and a genuine desire to serve our communities. Our clients benefit from the range of healthcare services that we provide, from Alzheimer’s and dementia care, to behavioral nursinghome health care nursing, respite care and more. Call HealthStar Home Health today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation. Or visit our website www.healthstarhomehealth.net to complete the online contact form.

Psychiatric Home Care: A bridge to the community and an anchor to remain there

Written by Dr. Verna Benner Carson, PMH/CNS

Over the last few weeks there has been significant information in the news about Alzheimer’s disease. On March 5th, 2014 in USA Today and many other Psychiatric home care is focused on “making better” the patient who has been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.

The most common diagnosis is depression but it is not the only diagnosis that can benefit from in-home psychiatric care. Patients who have been recently discharged from an inpatient facility but who are still profoundly depressed benefit from home health nursing visits not only to ensure medication and follow up adherence, but to put in place other resources such as Social Work services and Occupational Therapy. These home care visits ensure that whatever improvements have resulted from the hospitalization will be reinforced and extended. Likewise patients with psychiatric diagnoses who reside in the community, but who are beginning to exacerbate, perhaps because of medication noncompliance, can benefit from psychiatric home care to get them back on the “treatment track” thus preventing another expensive hospitalization. This service is fully funded by Medicare in the same way all home health services are funded. Medicare elucidates specific criteria for psychiatric home care. This specialty is holistic in its approach, assessing for and addressing the total needs of the patient – physical and emotional. Not only does the patient benefit, the family also benefits by learning new skills to help their loved one remain stable. The health care system benefits by maintaining the patient who struggles with persistent psychiatric issues in the least restrictive (and least expensive) setting, the home. Psychiatric issues may include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

HealthStar Home Health offers Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) for adults 18 years and older who have a qualifying mental illness and are eligible for medical assistance that want to improve their life. ARMHS is not case management or traditional therapy, but instead is mental health services aimed at teaching you skills for managing your mental health symptoms. HealthStar also offers support for those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia through our Alzheimer’s Whisperer program.

For more information, contact HealthStar Home Heatlth directly by calling 651-633-7300.