Pressure ulcers, more commonly called “bed sores”, represent a preventable and treatable issue for seniors, but caregivers must be vigilant to monitor for the potential of this malady. Further, these wounds can happen in places other than beds. They can appear and worsen very quickly so consistent and close inspections are important. Repositioning of those receiving care and consistent skin maintenance are critical.
Even as the vaccine is now available to an increasing number of seniors, logical protections are still in place that have kept seniors isolated over the past year. The psychological distress that has been a by-product of isolation due to necessary social distancing must be addressed proactively. This concern may have taken a backseat to the other, more obvious, threats that have been part of this crisis.
In a previous column we talked about the challenges of being a long-distance caregiver. The subject matter dealt with knowing as much as possible when the caregiver is not local.
One key component that should be added to the list of things a long-distance caregiver needs to have is a “Need to Know Kit”. This is a book that contains critical information about the cared-for individual which may be helpful in the case of an emergency. Caregivers can rely on a single source of information that the cared-for may not be able to produce or remember at a critical juncture.
Caregiving in-person can be physically exhausting. Caregiving long distance can be mentally tortuous.
When you are responsible for a loved one (or feel you should be) and you cannot see first-hand what the situation is, it can be very stressful. You may call and your Dad does not answer. You know he “should be there”, but he is not answering the phone. He could have fallen and injured himself – or he could be enjoying a cookout with the neighbors. Or he just forgot to plug in his cellphone. You can only allow yourself so many police wellness-checks before your welcome is worn out at the local constabulary.
When a family caregiver is called upon to help with an elderly loved one, occasionally he or she runs into an unexpected situation – hoarding. Hoarding is relatively common among the elderly and tends to get worse with advancing age. Clutter and unsanitary conditions can severely hamper the ability for a senior to live independently.
As a society, we quickly recognize overt prejudice. Disparaging comments about skin color, national origin and religion are patently unacceptable. Yet, seemingly innocuous comments to the elderly about their age do not raise much indignation.
Being referred to as an “Old Geezer”, for example — even with a wink, begets a stereotype that defines ageism. Such a prejudicial generalization assumes that older adults are inherently prone to being weak, forgetful or sickly. And, it is not just younger people who may carelessly express such disparaging remarks, but, sadly, people whose jobs it is to care for the elderly – including medical professionals.
Polypharmacy is defined as “taking multiple medications for a variety of conditions.” There are millions of seniors in this situation today.
Medication management is an important issue for seniors and their families. Failure to properly manage medications can threaten the lives of seniors. This situation suggests a heightened emphasis on ensuring that seniors take their medications in strict adherence to their physicians’ instructions. Harmful drug interactions are a result of confusion that can arise when seniors take multiple medications at the same time.
Everyone is familiar with arthritis. But few really understand it.
Arthritis is not a single disease. It is an informal way to refer to joint pain or joint disease. The term is so wide-ranging that the Arthritis Foundation says it actually refers to more than 100 types of conditions.
In these busy times, it is easy to get caught up in the routines and not remember the details. Medical information for an older person can be critical at certain times when it is least convenient to locate it. It is relatively easy to be prepared. When an urgency arises it will alleviate confusion and stress.
As people grow older, there are any number of things about which they grow wary. Sometimes that fear includes refusal to participate in regular health checkups – or even seek medical help when needs are more urgent. This allows the elder to avoid bad news about conditions that arise as we grow older. Annual physicals and diagnostic tests can be the source of bad news. Not participating avoids the issue.