When I administer eye drops, I first explain what I am going to do to relax the person. Positioning is also important so that I apply drops successfully and do not waste expensive eye medications. I recommend that the caregiver have the senior sit in a chair that permits them to comfortably lean their head back. This allows you to be well balanced above the eye and see what you are doing, and lets gravity do most of the work.
One of life’s many pleasures is enjoying a delicious meal, then savoring feelings of contentment. As a senior care home, senior nutrition is important to us, and we are fortunate to see our residents partaking in nutritious and flavorful meals. On a daily basis, 15 million Americans do not get to enjoy the contentment part of this equation. Their pleasure is negated by heartburn, also known as acid indigestion and acid reflux. Why do seniors get heartburn? Let’s take a look.
Most common in older adults, heartburn often begins with a burning sensation in the lower chest, just below the sternum. From there, the pain or discomfort can radiate upward to the neck. Other symptoms may include hoarseness, sore throat, a chronic cough, the feeling of a lump in the throat, and/or the sensation of food coming back into the mouth along with a bitter taste.
Occasional heartburn is often a part of life. However, if it becomes chronic, it can lead to serious complications, as well as hinder eating, daily activity and a good night’s sleep.
Chronic Heartburn Is Common
Heartburn occurs when the “door” to the stomach opens to let food in from the esophagus, but does not close quickly enough or completely. The door is actually the lower esophageal sphincter muscle and, when working properly, it prevents food and stomach acids from flowing back (reflux) into the esophagus.
Some of the main reasons for why heartburn occurs for seniors is after overeating, when bending over, or when lying down. When it occurs on a frequent basis, the esophagus lining can become inflamed (esophagitis).
In addition, if heartburn becomes chronic, it can be a symptom of another ailment.
- Acid reflux disease.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). When you have GERD (chronic acid reflux) your stomach acid persistently flows back up into your mouth through your esophagus. You may experience heartburn, acid indigestion, trouble swallowing, feeling of food caught in your throat and other problems.
- An inflamed stomach lining (gastritis).
- Hiatal hernia.
- Peptic ulcer.
Culprits Behind Why Seniors Experience Heartburn Occasionally
Here are some of the reasons why seniors get heartburn and the foods to avoid in order to lessen the symptoms.
- Coffee (even decaf) and caffeine drinks.
- Carbonated drinks.
- Citrus fruits and juices.
- Tomatoes and tomato products.
- Garlic and onions.
- Cigarette smoking.
- Aspirin, ibuprofen and certain medications.
- Mints and peppermints.
- Fatty and spicy foods.
- Carrying excess weight and overeating.
- Mustard and vinegar.
Understanding why seniors get heartburn is one of the many facets of nutrition that it becomes important to understand as we age. For all of us it takes some monitoring to understand how nutrition is affecting how we feel and what our body needs. If you know of a senior who experiences challenges with proper eating and nutrition, it may be worth considering a senior care home where eating is closely monitored and proper nutrition is encouraged.
(Sources: FamilyDoctor.org, HealthInAging.org, gi,org, gastro.org, Nat. Inst. Of Diabetes and Digestive & Kidney Diseases)
Many people including caregiver feel that the decline of senior mental health is a natural part of aging. While it is true that seniors are at a greater risk for mental illnesses, that doesn’t mean it has to happen. In fact, many of the diseases that are considered to be inevitable are actually preventable, or at least treatable.
Good senior mental health habits and early diagnosis are the keys. Seniors should join their own mental “health club.” It’s common in our society to focus on being physically fit. We exercise, eat better, talk to our doctor, get more sleep, etc. We should have the same type of regimen for mental fitness. Exercise and stimulate the brain daily. Do things you enjoy, reduce stress and focus on the positive. Also, do what many seniors don’t do – talk to your doctor about cognitive and emotional issues. Consider her/him your own personal (mental fitness) trainer.
Statistics and Findings About Senior Mental Health
- It is estimated that 15% of those 60 years of age and older suffer from symptoms of mental illness.
- Depression is the most prevalent mental health problem among older adults
- 80% recovered from depression after receiving proper treatment.
- Medicare, which tends to set the standard for insurance benefits, covers only 50% of the costs of mental health services.
- It is estimated that up to 63% of older adults with a mental disorder do not receive the services they need.
- Changes that come with aging can all impact a senior’s mental health.
- Changes in body and chemistry.
- Changes in family and friendships.
- Changes in living situations.
Sharpen The Mind
Seniors can practice good mental health habits. There are challenges and adaptations for mental health treatment for the elderly. Here are some simple guidelines that can even be adapted to the abilities of the frail and the cognitively impaired.
- Make decisions. The process of working through information and situations, then reaching a conclusion, sharpens the mind and adds to one’s independence.
- Get going. Movement and exercise help to keep the mind fit, as well as the body.
- Communicate and socialize. Interact with other people – talk, sign or write. Inquire, exchange ideas and express feelings. If you are alone, join in the activities of local senior centers, community clubs or church groups to improve mental health.
- Keep learning. You’re never too old to try a new recipe, start a new hobby or listen to an interesting speaker. Stimulating the mind increases self-esteem, decreases boredom, adds excitement and builds confidence.
Sometimes when the senior mental health challenges increase it may come time to evaluate options for senior care.
(Sources: American Assn. of Geriatric Psychology, American Psychiatric Assn., CDC)
Always Walking A Tightrope — Maintaining Our Balance Seems A Lot Easier Than It Is. Looking at the human body, have you ever wondered how we even manage to stand up and walk without falling over? Most people don’t think about it, but there are common balance problems seniors experience. There is no need to. Our system of balance may be complex, but it is designed to work automatically and does not require our attention…unless.
Every year, more than one quarter of the seniors over the age of 65 fall at least one time. A good deal of these falls are do to poor balance or a balance disorder. These problems are not an inevitable consequence of aging, however they are pretty common among seniors. Does this mean that unsteady seniors need to accept their fate of falling? No. Fortunately, many balance issues can be lessened, or even alleviated, through an accurate diagnosis by a doctor, followed by the appropriate medical treatment and/or specific rehabilitation exercises.
Teamwork Is Necessary for Seniors to Avoid Balance Problems
Maintaining one’s balance can be a problem for seniors and takes a team effort. There are a variety of systems that work together to provide the brain with the information that is necessary to maintain equilibrium or stability.
- Central Nervous System – Coordinates, manages and responds to data fed to the brain from the rest of the body.
- Vestibular System – Part of the inner ear, also known as the labyrinth, that maintains stability during head and eye movements.
- Sensory Systems – Including sight and hearing, these systems feed the brain with critical data.
- Proprioceptors – System of nerve endings that provide the sensation of movement and position.
- Muscular System – Allows for quick response and provides the necessary strength to make corrections that maintain balance.
Keeping Your Balance
Balance issues and problems may come up for seniors at any time. Here are some suggestions that can help someone to cope with these challenges in daily life.
- When walking, set your focus on an object in the distance. Looking down at your feet can make things worse.
- When riding in a car, look at a fixed point in the distance. When going around a curve, that point needs to be beyond the curve. Also, sitting in the front seat can be helpful.
- Change position slowly. When standing, do not take a step for 5 seconds, or until you have your balance.
- Utilize your sensory systems to the max. If that means wearing prescribed eye glasses and hearing aids, then do so.
- Use a cane, walker or walking stick to provide support and extra tactile orientation.
(Sources: BalanceandMobility.com, Medicinenet.com, NIDCD.NIH.gov)
The human immune system is always being challenged on a number of fronts. From outside the body, its defenses must protect against harmful transmissions that approach through the air, water and liquids, foods, blood, insects (and their bites), sexual fluids, and direct skin contact. Within the body, the functioning and strength of the system is effected by health, genetics, diet, stress, sleep, and many other factors.
Add aging to this list. The ability of the constantly-on-duty immune system typically decreases in our elder years. Also known by the long, hard to pronounce term immunosenescence, this process results in an increased possibility of infectious diseases and pathological conditions that are related to inflammation and autoreactivity. It is also one of the reasons why illnesses such as Covid-19, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis are so prevalent within the senior generation.
There are a variety of diseases that can result from an impaired/weak immune system that is more susceptible to viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites. These can range from an annoying, but harmless common cold to life-threatening conditions.
The list of maladies include:
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, Crohn’s disease and juvenile diabetes.
- Immune complex diseases such as viral hepatitis and malaria.
- Immunodeficiency diseases such as allergies, other forms of hypersensitivity and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
- Cancer of the immune system.
Note: The healthy (or compromised) immune system also plays a vital role in organ and tissue transplants – acceptance and rejection.
Two Major Categories
We were born with much of the ability to fight off microscopic intruders. However, our immune system also learns from past experience.
- Natural Or Innate Immunity – The body has natural barriers ready to repel and fight infectious agents. The skin plays a big part in this process. Also, there are antibodies passed from mother to child. In addition, there are various protective substances in the mouth, on the surface of the eye, in the stomach and in the urinary tract.
- Acquired Immunity – The immune system remembers previous exposures to harmful organisms and toxins, along with adaptations it developed to fight them off. That’s why once a person is exposed to chickenpox, specific antibodies are recalled and produced to fight off a reoccurrence. (In this case, a vaccine can also be used to assist the body in building an acquired immunity.)
(Sources: medicalcenter.osu.edu, impactaging.com, immunityageing.com)
Taking it too easy can be risky. The U.S. Surgeon General’s office has reported that inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active. They also report that a lack of physical activity can lead to more doctor visits, more hospital stays and/or more use of medications.
In addition, a lack of activity can have a negative effect on a person’s personal freedom. Being sedentary can speed up the loss of the ability to do for oneself, and lead to person being more dependent on others.
On the other side of the coin, research has found that being physically active on a regular basis can help to prevent (or delay) many diseases and disabilities. These ailments include arthritis, high blood pressure and diabetes. At the same time, activity can improve a senior’s mood and attitude, and help them to decrease and manage their stress.
There is a wide variety of obstacles that can keep seniors from being more active. Here are some of the common impediments. In individual cases, these can be valid barriers, or used as excuses.
- Attitude to activity and belief in one’s ability.
- Illness and chronic conditions.
- Pain and discomfort.
- Fatigue and lack of endurance.
- Disability (physical and mental).
- Fear of injury
- Poor balance.
- Cognitive and decision-making issues.
- Financial limitations (real and perceived).
- Current habits, routine, comfort zone.
- What is considered “normal” by seniors, their family members and/or society.
Yes, being active can be challenging for seniors. It can be hard to motivate yourself when energy is low, you are worried about falling down, or your joints ache a bit. And yes, exercise can be boring. Plus, restrictions due to the Covid-19 crisis are making shared activities more difficult.
Here are some suggestions.
- Use safe exercise machines – treadmills with handrails, stationery bikes, ellipticals, etc.
- Exercise using resistance bands.
- Take a lesson or class online – exercise, stretching, yoga, dance.
- Gardening, indoor or outdoor.
- Household chores – vacuuming, dusting, laundry, cooking, etc.
- Any activity you enjoy doing that gets you moving and/or is mentally stimulating.
(Sources: NIHSeniorHealth.gov, AgingCare.com)
Healthy activity can take on different forms and lead to a variety of accomplishments.