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Health and First Aid Advice for Seniors

  • Preparedness for Older Americans

    May is National Older Americans Month. It’s a great opportunity for families to discuss the needs of their parents, grandparents, and other older adult members of the family.

    Preparedness is the same no matter your age, but older Americans may want to consider adapting their personal preparedness plans because of access or functional needs, such as medication needs, hearing or vision loss, cognitive or mobility disability.

    For example, an older American may take the same actions to prepare for emergencies, including:

    Disaster-Survival-First-Aid-MartAccess alerts and warnings; While younger Americans are more likely to receive via mobile device, seniors are more likely to see on TV.
    • Assemble or update medications, batteries for hearing aids and other assistive technology needs if used on a daily basis;
    • Keep a list of all medical providers and medical information in a safe place that is easy to access if needed;
    • Document and insure property; and
    Safeguard all documents.

    Additionally, if you, someone you care for, or an older neighbor receives regular treatments from a clinic, hospital, or a home healthcare service, be sure to talk with the service provider to determine back-up plans in the event of an emergency.

    You can find more information on how older Americans prepare for emergencies online:

    Download "Information for Seniors" (PDF) or the Printer Friendly version in English and Spanish.

    Read: Seniors and Scalding Burn InjuriesSeniors and Falls, Fire Safety for Older AdultsSeniors Staying Alone: A Few Tips to Make Things Easier

    Resources from AARP: Create the Good

    Senior-Preparedness

  • Getting Enough Sleep? Part of this may be WHERE you live!

    35% of U.S. adults do not get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep continues to be a problem in the U.S. What is fascinating is that this varies by State and Region in the US!

    Are you one of those sleep-deprived adults? 

    Here's some great information from the CDC:

    How much sleep do we need and what can happen when we're not getting enough?

    Sleep is an important part of good health.1 Sleeping less than 7 hours per night is linked to increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and poor mental health, as well as early death.2-4 Not getting the recommended amount of sleep can affect your ability to make good decisions and increases the chances of motor vehicle crashes.1

    According to professional sleep societies, adults aged 18 to 60 years should sleep at least 7 hours each night for the best health and wellness.5

    How much sleep are we getting?

    About 1 in 3 (an estimated 83 million) U.S. adults reported usually sleeping less than 7 hours in a 24-hour period, based on data from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey that was done in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Not getting enough sleep is a problem that affects a large number of Americans. If you are not getting enough sleep, you should make sleep a priority and practice good sleep habits. You should also talk to your healthcare provider about how much sleep you get and any other sleep problems you might have.

    Does your part of the country get enough sleep?

    In the darker blue states (mostly Great Plains states), a greater percentage of adults are getting the recommended amount of sleep.

    In the lighter blue states (mostly southeastern U.S. and along the Appalachian Mountains), a lower percentage of adults are getting the recommended amount of sleep.

    Map: Age-adjusted percentage of adults who reported 7 or more hours of sleep per 24-hour period, by state - Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2014

    Age-adjusted percentage of adults who reported 7 or more hours of sleep per 24-hour period, by state - Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2014

    • 56.1-62.1: Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Indiana, South Carolina, New York, West Virginia, Ohio
    • 62.2-64.0: Delaware, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, New Jersey, Tennessee, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Nevada, Virginia
    • 64.1-67.0: Florida, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Alaska, Massachusetts, Illinois, Missouri, California, Arizona, Texas
    • 67.1-68.7: Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, District of Columbia, Wisconsin, New Mexico, North Dakota, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming
    • 68.8-71.6: Iowa, Vermont, Kansas, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, Minnesota, Colorado, South Dakota

    Infographic: Did you get enough sleep last night 35% of adults are not getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep each night. Click to read what you can do to get more sleep.

    Who is at higher risk for not getting enough sleep?

    Everyone is at risk of not getting enough sleep, but the risk is higher for shift workers. Shift work— any shift outside normal daylight hours, such as night shift, evening shift, or rotating shift — is more common for some occupations:

    • Medical professionals (doctors and nurses)
    • Emergency response workers
    • Transportation industry workers (truck drivers)
    • Workers in the manufacturing, hospitality, or retail industries

    How can you get healthy sleep?

    Some habits that can improve your sleep health:

    • Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends
    • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
    • Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom
    • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime
    • Avoid tobacco/nicotine
    • Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
    Man writing in journalKeep a journal of your sleep patterns to discuss with your doctor.

    If you still have trouble sleeping, discuss your sleep with your doctor. Before your appointment, keep a 10-day sleep journal or diary to share with your doctor that includes when you:

    1. Go to bed
    2. Fall asleep
    3. Wake up
    4. Get out of bed
    5. Take naps
    6. Exercise
    7. Drink alcohol
    8. Consume caffeine-containing beverages

    If you have symptoms of a sleep disorder, such as snoring or being very sleepy during the day after a full night's sleep, make sure to tell your doctor.

    References

    1. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research; Colten HR, Altevogt BM, editors. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006.
    2. Grandner MA, Chakravorty S, Perlis ML, Oliver L, Gurubhagavatula I. Habitual sleep duration associated with self-reported and objectively determined cardiometabolic risk factors. Sleep Med 2014;15:42–50.
    3. Liu Y, Wheaton AG, Chapman DP, Croft JB. Sleep duration and chronic diseases among US adults age 45 years and older: evidence from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Sleep 2013;36:1421–1427.
    4. Gallicchio L, Kalesan B. Sleep duration and mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sleep Res 2009;18:148–158.
    5. Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, Bliwise DL, Buxton OM, Buysse D, et al. Joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society on the recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adults: methodology and discussion. Sleep 2015; 38(8):1161–1183.
  • Fire Safety for Older Adults

    Fires are a serious risk in colder seasons - and even more so for older adults and children - We have talked about many safety concerns for seniors, including Seniors and Scalding Burn InjuriesHelping to prevent falling at homeSeniors Staying Alone and special Winter Dangers for Seniors.

    Seniors-FireNow let's take a look at how home firs risks may be a little different for the elderly:

    According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), older adults – ages 65 and older – are more likely to be injured during a fire.

    It is important that older adults and their caregivers take steps to protect themselves from a fire in their home.

    USFA has safety recommendations for older adults and their caregivers, which may include:

    • Have a smoke alarm that works for you and the functional needs that you have.  For example, many smoke alarms have lower decibel ranges for those who are hard of hearing. Others may have smoke alarms with strobes or separate bed shaker. There are also smoke alarms with long-lasting batteries for someone with a mobility disability or vision loss.
    • Have conversations with household members, caregivers and friends about your fire safety plan.  Develop and test an escape plan that works for you and your household if you live in a single family home.  If you live in multi-level housing such as an apartment or high-rise building, know your evacuation plan.
    • Take in consideration any additional items you may need to take with you quickly. For example, keep any devices such as wheelchairs, canes, eyeglasses and hearing aids in a consistent place so you can get out quickly;

    For more information about how to protect older adults in your family or community, visit the USFA website.

    Fire emergencies and the need to evacuate go hand in hand. Being able to safely and efficiently vacate the premises is imperative to your health and survival. Our fire evacuation supplies offer the tools needed to cautiously and successfully leave the vicinity and should be readily available in every home as well as private and public business buildings.
  • Zika Scare

    There's a lot of hype around the Zika Virus, and just like when everyone was panicking over Ebola last year, there'a a lot of media exaggeration, social rumor, and misinformation out there.

    What is Zika? Zika virus disease exhibits symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

    Is it dangerous? Yes. Primarily in that it causes serious risk to unborn children, including Guillain-Barré syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.

    How do you avoid Zika Virus? Both the CDC and WHO recommend EPA approved insect repellents to repel mosquitoes as they are the main carrier of the disease.

    Other point for Zika prevention from the CDC:

    • No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease (Zika).
    • Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites (see below).
    • Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime.
    • Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

    When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:

    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
    • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
    • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
    • insectrepellents-animatedUse Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
      • Always follow the product label instructions
      • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
      • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
      • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
    • If you have a baby or child:
      • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
      • Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or
      • Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
      • Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
      • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
    • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
      • Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
      • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
      • Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.

     Interesting related readingWhat is DEET? Is it Safe?World Mosquito DayThe Best Way to Stop Bug Bites according to Consumer ReportsChoose Your Cover,

  • Cooking Safety for Older Adults

    After Children, Seniors are the group that suffer the most scald injuries and Emergency Room visits resultant thereof. For Burn Awareness Week, we'd like to share some Kitchen Tips for avoiding these painful and dangerous burns:Cooking

    DO:

    • Use oven mitts, not towels, to handle hot pots and pans
    • Use caution when cooking with grease – keep burner on a low to medium setting and keep a pan lid in reach
    • Make sure smoke alarms are in place on each level of your home and replace batteries every 6 months
    • Have an escape plan if fire breaks out in the home – “two ways out” should always be available
    • Have Burn First Aid Supplies, or a Burn First Aid Kit in the Kitchen

     

    DON'T:

    • Wear clothing with loose or large sleeves while cooking
    • Leave food cooking on the stove unattended
    • Pour water on a grease fire – use a lid to smother the flames
    • Cook when you are sleepy or have taken medications that make you drowsy
    • Ever heat your home using the warmth from a kitchen oven or stove

    The fact is that Older Adults are at higher risk of suffering an injury from burns. Adults ages 65+ are twice as likely to die in home fires, and Adults 85+ years are four times more likely to die from a burn injury.

    If a burn injury does happen...

    1. Cool the burn with COOL (not cold, and never ice) water to stop the burning process
    2. Remove all clothing and jewelry from the injured area
    3. Apply an FDA approved burn remedy if available, but never a greasy or oily ointment, nor any "home remedies" like butter which can seal in the heat, and create more damage
    4. Cover the area with clean dry sheet or bandages
    5. Seek medical attention
  • Seniors and Scalding Burn Injuries

    Aside from perception and mobility hazards, older adults can be at greater risk of scald burn injuries, as poor microcirculation can also cause deeper and more serious burns.

    For Burn Awareness Week, we would like to share some precautions to take to help reduce burn and scald injuries in Seniors:

    Senior~ Older adults may have conditions that make them more prone to falls in the bathtub, shower, or while carrying hot liquids. Provide a bell or whistle for people who may need assistance to call for help while bathing and install grab bars and non-slip mats. Older adults (and people with certain medical conditions) may not be able to escape scalding water on their own. Provide a way for them to call for help, especially in the bathroom

    ~ Mobility impairments, slow or awkward movements, muscle weakness, fatigue, or slower reflexes increase the risk of spills and burns.

    ~ Moving hot liquids can be extremely difficult for someone who uses a cane or walker.

    ~ Certain medications can decrease a person’s ability to feel heat and they may burn themselves without knowing. Sensory impairments, changes in a person’s perception, memory, judgment, or awareness may hinder their ability to recognize burn dangers.

    ~ Tablecloths can also become tangled in crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs. Use non-slip placemats instead of tablecloths.

    ~ Burns on the lap are common when a person attempts to carry hot liquids while seated in a wheelchair. Use a large sturdy serving tray with raised edges to transfer food from the stove to the table if you or someone have mobility impairments or are unsteady or shaky.

  • Frostbite

    People who aren't dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures or who have reduced blood circulation are especially at risk for frostbite. Sound like common sense? It is, but people often overlook the simplest ways to stay safe and healthy... Avoid Cold Stress and Cold Related Injuries - Learn how to recognize frostbite and what to do about it:

    • Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing.
    • Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes.
    • Seek medical care if you think you have frostbite.

    Ice-FloodFrostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

    Recognizing Frostbite

    At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:

    • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
    • skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
    • numbness

    A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.

    What to Do

    If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. Because frostbite and hypothermia both result from exposure, first determine whether the victim also shows signs of hypothermia, as described previously. Hypothermia is a more serious medical condition and requires emergency medical assistance.

    If (1) there is frostbite but no sign of hypothermia and (2) immediate medical care is not available, proceed as follows:

    • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
    • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes—this increases the damage.
    • Immerse the affected area in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
    • Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
    • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
    • Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

    These procedures are not substitutes for proper medical care. Hypothermia is a medical emergency and frostbite should be evaluated by a health care provider. It is a good idea to take a first aid and emergency resuscitation (CPR) course to prepare for cold-weather health problems. Knowing what to do is an important part of protecting your health and the health of others.

    Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions. By preparing your home and car in advance for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems. Read about Hypothermia.

  • Cold Enough to Catch a Cold

    cough-coldHere we are, deep into Cold & Flu Season, and thus far everyone has seemed to do a pretty good job of avoiding any serious ailments. Now BAM! The temperatures drop and it's wet outside.

    Are you ready to stay well?

    Here are some great articles about avoiding, treating, and minimizing the spread of Wintertime Colds, Coughs, and Flu:

    ... Cough? Cold? Flu? Infection? Pandemic?

    ... Cough, Cold, Runny Nose

    ... Flu Time

    ... Flu Fighters

    ... Spotting the Cold or Flu

    ... Foods that help Fight the Flu

    ... The Flu and YOU!

  • Make 2016 Your Year to Quit

    Every January, people all over the world make New Year's resolutions. If you're one of the nearly 7 in 10 U.S. smokers who want to quit, why not make a resolution to get started?.

    Quit-SmokingIt is no surprise to most people that smoking is bad for your health. Most people are aware of lung cancer and emphysema, but are you aware that smoking is one of the leading causes of heart attacks as well?

    Cigarette smoke contains chemicals which, when ignited and inhaled, affect the body’s lungs, circulatory system, and ultimately the heart itself. One of these chemicals is nicotine.  Nicotine is highly addictive; it’s the stuff that keeps you coming back for more.  But it’s also a vasoconstrictor, which means it tightens the walls of the blood vessels.  In the case of smaller blood vessels, nicotine may constrict them to the point of complete occlusion, and the largest collection of these small blood vessels in your body is the neural network of your brain. Upon inhalation, nicotine enters the bloodstream and begins constricting blood vessels. This may even create the temporary light-headed sensation associated with asphyxiation.

    CiggiesWorse than nicotine, however, is a chemical asphyxiant known as Carbon Monoxide (CO). CO is the same poison that comes out of the tailpipe of a car, and it is an extremely dangerous chemical.  CO attacks the red blood cells of your body, robbing them of the oxygen you have already breathed in.  Every cell in your body needs oxygen in order to survive.  Red Blood Cells (RBC) are like a bus that delivers the oxygen.  There are receptor sites on the RBC called hemoglobin, which are like seats on the bus.  When the RBC’s arrive at the lungs, they are surrounded by oxygen, and if an oxygen molecule bumps up against the hemoglobin, it will become attached.  Ultimately, a healthy RBC will have all of its “seats” filled with oxygen.  Unfortunately, hemoglobin also likes to attach to CO.  In fact, it has a 250 times greater affinity for CO than for oxygen, and CO will push the oxygen out of its way to take its spot on the RBC.  This means that moments after cigarette smoke enters the lungs, millions of RBC’s are becoming depleted of the very oxygen than they’re designed to carry.  When these RBC’s circulate through the body, they begin to run out of oxygen prematurely.  Cold fingers and toes are just some of the symptoms of a condition known as “Peripheral Vascular Disease.”  These areas become cold because the circulatory system has begun to shut down as the cells begin to die.

    Another hazard of smoking (and chewing tobacco) is the creation of blood clots.  With the introduction of these various chemicals into the bloodstream, the RBCs begin to clump together forming what’s known as a thrombus.  If this thrombus begins moving through the bloodstream, it is called an embolus. An embolus that becomes lodged in a smaller blood vessel, blocking the blood flow to an area of the body is called an embolism, and is just about the most dangerous thing you can have in your body.  These blood clots can escape the scrutiny of an x-ray, and you may never even know they exist until one becomes lodged in an artery leading to the heart (causing heart attack) or the brain (causing a stroke). They can happen at any time, with no warning, and at any age.

    Learn more about quitting smoking at the CDC.

  • Senior Safety: Helping to prevent falling at home

    We talk about workplace Fall Safety often, but what about at home? It’s not a secret, the cost of senior living continues to rise. For this reason, more people are wanting to revamp their homes for aging in place. In some cases, seniors are selling their homes to buy a new home that has either already been modified or will cost less to modify, compared with their current situation.

    One of the biggest issues with seniors staying home as they continue to age, is that of safety within the home. A big problem is the common occurrences of seniors falling. Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. Most of these falls happen at home because home is where we feel the most comfortable and let our guard down.

    Here are a few of the major causes of seniors falling:

    Lower body strength: As we age, our bodies start to lose strength, making simple tasks, such as walking up stairs, more difficult.

    Use of medications: Sedatives and antidepressants can cause dizziness and a loss of balance.

    Loss of vision: If you can’t see what is around you, you’re more likely to fall. It’s important to keep a spare pair of glasses by your bed.

    Home hazards: Smaller tables and furniture, throw rugs and clutter that can be tripped over.

    Now that we know some of the reasons why seniors fall, we ask ourselves how can we help to fix it? Let’s go over ways to help seniors understand when they might fall and how to help keep it from happening.

    Have you fallen before?

    This is an extremely important question to ask that most people don’t think about asking. Documentation always helps people to answer three questions; how, when, and why. Writing it down gives a person something to refer to and hopefully not make the same mistake.

    Continue to be active and get exercise

    While it can be difficult for a senior to go on a long run or even to the gym, there are many other fun activities to help seniors stay active. Playing golf is a great source of exercise and a great game to play at the same time. If the weather doesn’t allow you to golf, an exercise bike is a great source of exercise and doesn’t put much stress on your joints.

    Purchase supportive shoes

    We all have shoes that don’t have much support. As we age and start to lose muscle and our bodies weaken, the importance of wearing supportive shoes becomes even more relevant. Stick with shoes that are comfortable and support your ankles. Think about the last time you wore high top shoes and how it had the same sensation as if your ankle were taped. Had lots of support right?

    Light up your living space

    How many times, not at any given age, have you ran into something in your house because it was too dark, even when you know it’s there? Lighting up your living space always allows you to see what is going on around you and what is out of place.

    It’s a good recommendation to use adjustable lighting. This allows you to have as much as needed for every occasion.

    Remove all home hazards

    Do a massive overhaul of the home and get rid of any hazards that you may find. Here is a great home safety checklist for older consumers.

    Falling will continue to be an issue for seniors, but the more we do to educate ourselves on how to be proactive, the better we will be at helping ourselves and our loved ones to not fall and severely injure themselves.Seniors

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