Blood Pressure for Seniors: Get an Accurate Read

Blood Pressure for Seniors: Get an Accurate Read

Tracking a senior’s blood pressure between medical appointments is a simple way to get an early read on issues that should not wait until your loved one can see a doctor again.  Getting an accurate read is key to knowing if you have a problem or an insignificant blip.  Having commonly available home blood pressure equipment allows for easy and frequent tracking.

And, taking blood pressure at home is often more accurate.  Seemingly minor issues can impact BP measurement resulting in an artificially inflated blood pressure reading by anywhere from two to 40 mmHg in a clinical environment.  It is called “white coat syndrome”.

There are other, seemingly innocuous, things than can impact a BP reading.  For Example, if the person whose blood pressure is being measured talks during the measurement or if his or her feet aren’t flat on the floor, there is a chance that blood pressure measurement will give a falsely high reading.  Measurements should be taken when a patient is relaxed and sitting upright with both feet flat on the floor.

When measuring blood pressure use these guidelines to help ensure your loved one receives accurate readings:

  • Allow the person being measured to sit and rest for 5 minutes before the test.
  • Drinking coffee or smoking should be avoided for 30 minutes before the reading is taken.
  • Avoid clothing being between the cuff and the arm.
  • Have the person being measured use the restroom beforehand.

As you undertake the responsibility of checking your loved one’s blood pressure at home, it is important that you work with his or her physician to select a quality device and learn how to use it properly. BP monitors can be bought at durable medical equipment stores and pharmacies, but they typically are not covered by Medicare.

In some cases, your loved one may qualify for Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring (ABPM).  As of July 2019 ABPM is a covered Medicare benefit.

ABPM is a non-invasive diagnostic test that uses a device to track blood pressure over 24-hour cycles, allowing a doctor to assess a patient’s blood pressure during routine daily living, instead of when they are sitting nervously on an examination table.  ABPM may measure blood pressure more accurately and lead to the diagnosis of high blood pressure in patients who would not otherwise have been identified as having the condition.

When Seniors Refuse Post-Hospitalization Help

When Seniors Refuse Post-Hospitalization Help

All too often, older patients get released from the hospital and are fully eligible for help at home but refuse it.  The reasons for this vary, but often it gets down to privacy or pride.  Seniors see their homes as sanctums.  They don’t want strangers invading their privacy. They think they’ve been getting along just fine and have unrealistic expectations of what recovering from a hospitalization will entail.

Occasionally, there are situations at home where the home is in disrepair or maybe a hoarding habit that the older adult does not want anyone to know about.  Sometimes the patient’s cognition is compromised, and he doesn’t understand his needs or limitations. Or cost might be a concern.

According to a report from the United Hospital Fund, as many as 28 percent of patients offered home health care after a hospital stay decline the offer of help.  There are a lot of misperceptions about what home health care is.

Many seniors and caregivers confuse home health care with “home care” delivered by aides who help people shower or get dressed or who cook, clean and serve as a companion. The two types of services are not the same: Home health care is delivered by medical professionals; home care is not. Nor is home care covered by Medicare, for the most part.

Typically, these services last four to six weeks after a hospitalization, with a nurse visiting several times a week. Some patients receive them for much longer.  Home health care services are available under Medicare to older adults who are homebound and need intermittent skilled care from a nurse, a physical therapist or a speech therapist, among other medical providers.

Refusing home health care after a hospitalization puts patients at risk of a difficult, incomplete or slower-than-anticipated recovery. Without these services, older adults’ odds of being readmitted to the hospital within 30- or 60-days double, according to The American Journal of Managed Care.

Alexa for Seniors

Alexa for Seniors

Given that 118,000,000 people in the US have a “smart speaker” the next part of this paragraph is probably be rendered unnecessary, but it is important to set up the conversation.  Amazon Echo is a voice-activated and controlled smart speaker that uses a virtual assistant called Alexa, to perform a variety of tasks. These tasks can be simple, such as playing music or making lists, or more advanced, such as controlling your smart home’s thermostat or turning off your lights.

The point of this article, however, is specifically about how the Alexa technology can be helpful to assisting Seniors in their daily lives.  We will get into specifics about how in a minute, but to start, lets talk about the “why”.  Certainly, people of any age can and do use Alexa, but older adults will find voice-activated management particularly useful.  Here are a few examples:

Hands-free Tasks.  Easily the best benefits of Amazon Echo for seniors is that it allows many actions to be initiated hands-free.  With over 50 million adults suffering from arthritis, making tasks from writing to dialing less painful.  A couple of examples include:

  • Playing music. A simple voice command can ask Alexa to play a type of music or a specific title or a specific artist.
  • Make phone calls. No need to even know where the cell phone is.  Alexa will dial by a simple voice command, “Alexa…Call Jane”, for example.  Or “Alexa…Call 888-123-4567.”

Tasks Requiring Vision.  Alexa can be a significant help with seniors with vision problems.  With Alexa they can listen to the news, hear weather forecasts – even hear their glucose readings without using a meter (with a CGM unit).

  • Read the news. Let Alexa pick your news source or designate it specifically yourself.
  • Hear the weather. From simple questions like the temperature to a seven-day forecast – locally or for any city in the world.
  • Tell the time. “Alexa, what time is it.”
  • Make lists. As things occur to you (grocery items, things to talk to the doctor about, to do list) Alexa will add them to lists that can be read from a cell phone at a later time and checked off as they are accomplished.

Basic Tasks.  Alexa can greatly assist seniors with mobility issues.  With Alexa they can run all sorts of systems with only their voice.

  • Adjust the thermostat.
  • Turn lights on or off, or to dim. Newer Alexa devices (Echo Flex) will turn on lights based on motion detection.  All Alexa devices can be set to turn lights on or off at specific times.
  • Lock doors. With “smart locks” all it takes is a voice command.
  • Medication reminders. Tell Alexa to remind you to take medicine at a specific time every day.  One instruction will repeat the reminder every day.
  • Tell Alexa when to take the bread out of the oven.  The instruction can be by time of day or number of minutes ahead.

Emergency Tasks.  An older person’s home is dramatically safer when they can summon help from anywhere in their home by simply using a voice command.  They can call 911 or pre-programmed family phone numbers.  And, because Alexa uses common language, the senior does not need to remember any difficult protocols to use the system.