If you want to ward off Alzheimer’s, it turns out that visiting friends, picnicking with others, attending parties, and even going to church might be just as good for you as crossword puzzles.
Social Support and ageing …
As we age, we tend to lose important social connections such as family and friends. It’s a natural result that comes about by retirement, the loss of friends and spouses to death and illness, and through family and friendly neighbours moving out of the area.
The result tends to be a significant reduction in daily social contact and stimulation, and this in turn has a direct impact on an older person’s mental and physical health.
John has a social life again – what better Father’s day gift could we offer!
Platinum Healthcare started their relationship with John and Kathleen, providing in-home care when the busy lives of their son and daughters prevented them being there – “they were cared for with dignity in their own home, which is what they wanted”.
Now that Kathleen is no longer with us, John is in a Retirement home. “His girls” as he calls his carers, still visit him twice a week and take him out for a ride on the ferry, a coffee and cake in Kings Park or a drive to the beach for ice cream.
Last month we farewelled Leo Lin, who has been a community care worker for the past 3 years whilst he was studying to qualify for his Registered Nurse Graduate Program. In that time he provided in-home care (also known as community care) to many frail aged clients, disability clients and clients with a chronic illness.
Leo was an ICU nurse in his home country, but was required to do a conversion program in Australia prior to being eligible for a position as RN in Australia. Leo has been a valuable member of the Platinum team and has displayed exemplary behaviour throughout his time and is described as “bright and bubbly” with a very caring and nurturing personality. Many of Leo’s clients were high care patients including some with advanced multiple sclerosis or significant autism.
Inspired by a sermon the previous year about Mother’s Day, Sonora Smart Dodd, was successful in having several churches in and around the US town of Spokane, celebrate Father’s Day on 19 June 1910. Sonora’s father was a widower, his wife having died in childbirth, and he raised his six children alone.
Interestingly, whilst Mother’s Day quickly became established as a recognised, official holiday in a proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon signed the official proclamation to make Father’s Day a national holiday.
In the first article on this topic we pointed out that in our “ageing society” the incidence of falls among older people is rapidly becoming a global health issue.
In WA, the department of health has found that falls are the second most common cause of injury requiring hospitalisation (31%) and the fourth most common cause of death(11%)1.
Slips, trips and falls can happen to anyone, but they are more common and more significant as we get older, because we are more likely to injure ourselves.
As can be expected, with ageing there is a decline in components of our balance system. Nevertheless, this decline is relatively small on its own. In other words, it’s a combination of this decline plus other risk factors that result in an increased likelihood of a fall. Further, a person’s risk of falling increases as the number of risk factors accumulates.
“My grandpa fell at the ATM. He never recovered and died. Same with my other grandma, she fell in a parking lot, never recovered. Both died within a few months of their fall. A simple fall can spell the end even for a pretty fit person. Also REMEMBER if they fall once, their chances of falling again soon after go UP!” Robin M
“My father had Alzheimers but was still capable of living at home with my mom’s help. He fell and hit his head on a door frame. That was it. He rapidly declined, never walking again. He spent the last year of his life staring at a ceiling.” Trish C
These are just a couple of the myriad of true experiences of people with ageing family members.
- One in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year.
- Older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes.
- Of those who fall, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently, and increase their risk of early death.
- If an older person has had a fall this typically increases their risk of having another.
- A fall can lead to loss of confidence and reduction in activity which often leads to more falls.
- Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Given we have a rapidly expanding ageing population there is a growing incidence in the occurrence of falls among older adults. Not only is this resulting in significant direct physical, social and emotional trauma, both amongst the person and the broader family, but it comes at a significant economic cost to our nation as well.
I recently became aware of an interesting and eye opening article in the New York Times titled “Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation”. The writer, Katie Hafner from the New York Times, writes:
“As the population ages and people live longer in bad shape, the number of older Americans who fall and suffer serious, even fatal, injuries is soaring. So the retirement communities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes where millions of Americans live are trying to balance safety and their residents’ desire to live as they choose.” Read more
Falls can happen to anyone. The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to help prevent falls and minimise your injuries if you do fall. Knowing your risk factors and taking a few precautions is a good start.
In a future post we will look at what steps you can and should take to reduce the likelihood of a fall and its resulting injuries.
Living with a Family Member with Dementia
Dementia is debilitating and can bring with it frustration, anger and grief. We provide home care and aged care in Perth, and communicate regularly with patients who have dementia, and their families who are trying to deal with it the best they can. It is not easy to watch your loved one change, but there are ways in which you can make your life and the life of your loved one more enjoyable and manageable.
- Talk about dementia-Don’t be scared to talk about dementia both with your family and with the person who has it. Plan for the future and speak honestly with one another. This will save you a lot of pain and uncertainty later on.
- Communicating-Your loved one will sometimes feel confused and afraid. Communicate effectively with them to help ease that fear. When you’re asking questions, don’t ask too many at once as this will overwhelm them, and keep any questions simple and short. Engage in conversations regularly with your loved one to make sure they don’t feel lonely. Keep your tone soothing and relaxed and engage in physical contact such as hugs if your loved one permits this.
- Understanding and minimising the meltdowns-There will often be triggers which you will eventually start to notice, which lead to your loved one feeling very frustrated and scared. When you begin to see these signs, check the room around your loved one to make sure it is warm enough, they are seated comfortably, they have taken their medication, they’re not hungry or thirsty and so on. If everything seems fine, distract your loved one. Take them for a walk or use a favourite item or conversation topic. As you begin to understand dementia, you will get better at minimising these meltdowns.
- Medicine-Maintain medicine, medical appointments and care and ensure you see a doctor regularly with your loved one. Sometimes the symptoms of dementia can be exacerbated by other illnesses and it is important that these are dealt with immediately.
- Be informed and keep reading-Understand dementia. Read about it and regularly and communicate with your loved one’s doctor to understand the progression of their symptoms. Understanding the problem will help you deal with the effects.
- Look after yourself-Really assess your own feelings and mental state. Many people who are carers for loved ones with dementia will feel depressed and helpless. Make sure you communicate with your own doctor about your situation if you are feeling unwell or overwhelmed.
- Don’t take it personally-Is it the person or the symptoms that are speaking?
How to Make your Home Wheelchair Friendly.
As a health care provider in Perth, we understand the importance of designing the home with the needs of the elderly and disabled in mind. It is essential to take home accessibility issues into consideration when a loved one is wheelchair bound. It is important for anyone in a wheelchair to feel a sense of independence and control over their own lives. A way to do this is to ensure that the home is wheelchair friendly.
Home Entrance: This is the first modification which should be made. Build a wheelchair ramp at the house entrances, making sure that the pathway is wide enough. You can also consider adding handrails and a non-slip surface for extra stability and safety.
Hallways: Hallways, like doorways, should be wide enough for a wheelchair to comfortably pass through. Make sure the floors surface is non-slip. Stairs: Stairs are extremely difficult for anyone in a wheelchair to use. In order to make stairs wheelchair safe, you should install a stairway lift at every stairway in your home.
Floors: If possible, replace all carpets with hardwood or tiles. Rugs can be especially difficult to navigate because they are not secured to the floor. Installing ramps will make thresholds safer. Importantly, make sure that you secure any electrical cables which may be exposed.
Doorways & Doorknobs: Widen doorways in your home and ensure that doorknobs are placed low enough for someone is a wheelchair to access. Alternatively, doors can be made automatic, allowing them to be opened and closed at the press of a button.
Kitchen: Lower cupboard handles, bench tops and light switches, and install appliances which are easy to access. Install a sink which allows space for a wheelchair to roll under it.
Bathroom: To make your bathroom wheelchair accessible, create a shower with a lower threshold or install a walk-in bathtub. Lower light switches and counter tops.
These vulnerable members are the sick, injured, disabled and, of course, the growing number of frail, elderly citizens. This latter group, who have gone before us, have worked and used their talents to make society what it is today. They deserve our thanks and respect, as well as our time and our love.
It is also important for our children to learn to relate to different elements of society. Several decades ago there was a shift to integrated education where the disabled where brought into mainstream education as much as possible rather than shunted off to special schools. Educators are unequivocal about the positive impact this has had on our young people. In the same way it is good for our younger ones to learn from and to interact with the senior members of society. The benefits and rewards of such interaction are also well known and have stimulated a rise in volunteer programmes in aged care homes.
At Platinum Healthcare this respect for the elderly and a belief in their worth is foundational to everything we say and do. It is also incorporated in our corporate values.
I was reminded of this importance when reading a recent article in The Telegraph by Ed West. His article titled “Life is so much better with our elders around” is worth reading. Read, enjoy and share widely!