Senior Living Resources
Looking for information on senior health issues or senior living options? Check out our most recent articles and stories on these topics and more.
When you have elderly parents or relatives, it can be difficult to decide when it is appropriate to suggest a move to a senior care facility. It is never easy to make a move, but the transition to senior living is generally less stressful when your loved one has an active part in helping to make the decision.
There are many senior living options. Choosing the right one depends on each senior’s needs and personal preferences. Here is a short summary of options generally available.
Independent Living (IL)
An independent living community is usually a multi-unit housing development that provides apartment style living. IL communities may also offer services such as meals, housekeeping, social activities, and transportation. Seniors often choose to live there for the companionship of friends nearby, as well as the amenities offered. There are also IL facilities that are constructed for seniors on fixed incomes. These buildings offer safe community living at rents based on income level. Lutheran Social Services (LSS) operates three such buildings locally, Applewood Place I and II in Mansfield and The Good Shepherd Villa in Ashland.
Assisted Living (AL)
Assisted living facilities are for seniors needing assistance with daily living but also want to live as independently as possible. AL facilities offer help with activities such as bathing, dressing, housekeeping, and assistance with medications. Many facilities offer multiple tiers of care so that seniors only pay for the care that they need and can add services as they age. In Ashland, LSS Lutheran Village’s (LVA) continuum of care model embraces all lifestyles and levels of care, allowing residents to enjoy maximum autonomy and independence in the most home-like setting possible.
Nursing and Rehabilitative Care
A nursing home is a long-term care facility licensed by the state that offers a full range of health care services, including basic and skilled nursing care and rehabilitation therapies. This could include occupational and physical therapy, disease management, IV therapy, wound management and more. LSS The Good Shepherd in Ashland (TGS) provides award winning skilled nursing and support services to meet many complex and diverse diagnoses with 24-hour registered and professional nurse coverage. Amenities are still important in these facilities and should include meals, housekeeping, laundry, transportation and more.
Home Health Care
Of course, many seniors choose to stay at home as long as possible. This time can be extended with home health care or home care. These terms can be used interchangeably but there is an important distinction. While both types of care are provided at home, home care generally means household services such as laundry, cooking, cleaning and running errands. Home health care refers to the skilled level of care that requires medical training. This can include procedures such as IV insertion and management, occupational and physical therapy and pain management. LSS Home Health Care is a leading provider of skilled home health care and believes in integrating each patient’s strengths and support from family with the skills of a multidisciplinary medical team to maximize independence.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)
CCRCs provide care from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing. They are designed to enable seniors with progressively declining health to remain in one location or to give healthy seniors the peace of mind that all their future needs are covered. While Lutheran Social Services does not operate a CCRC in a single location in Ashland or Richland County, there are plenty of opportunities within the LSS facilities in both communities for seniors to enjoy a healthy and full life with little upheaval or confusion as they age.
If you’d like more information on any of the senior services offered by LSS, please contact Lorie White at 419-632-5453 or email@example.com
Dorlene didn’t engage in many activities at LSS Lutheran Village or go on scheduled outings. But then therapy dog Alina, a yellow lab, visited, and those visits started to make a difference for Dorlene. She opened up and began participating in other activities.
“I wonder what Alina will be wearing when she comes in. She likes to play dress up sometimes,” Dorlene said. “I enjoy looking at Alina and talking to her before she plops down on my feet.”
Maggie, a Jack Russell terrier, also visits Lutheran Village residents. They describe her as a little princess with big brown eyes. She often comes to the facility wearing a coat and shoes.
Alina and Maggie both visit Lutheran Village twice each month. Aussiedoodle Sherman visits every other Friday. The dogs spend time with anyone who is in a common area and they also have a list of specific residents to visit in their rooms.
“I love it when the dogs come,” said Lutheran Village resident Pearl. From Janet: “She (Alina) is so soft.”
Emmett, a large mixed-breed dog, visits LSS The Good Shepherd Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation residents on Sundays and stays as long needed. Emmett can sense when a resident is having a bad day and will calmly lay on a resident’s bed simply to be petted and provide comfort.
“When the dogs come in it makes me really feel better,” said The Good Shepherd resident Chuck. “They make me smile and when you live in a nursing home that’s important.”
Staff members at The Good Shepherd are also working to arrange visits from a therapy horse.
“The animals calm the residents very quickly,” explained Terry McQuillen, director of life enrichment & volunteer coordinator at The Good Shepherd.
“We sometimes have some grumpy residents, and the animals can improve their moods and behaviors.”
Individual visits may be as short as 15 minutes or as long as an hour, depending on the resident’s needs that day. The dogs typically stay a total of about three hours. But they’ll stay longer if needed.
“The visits are very one-on-one. Some residents get down on the floor with the dogs. Some take the dogs for walks.” said Lindsey Salyers, life enrichment coordinator at Lutheran Village.
One thing that’s very common: the residents like to give bones, treats, even cookies, to the animals.
The dogs may trigger fond pet memories for some residents. “She (Alina) reminds me of a dog I used to have,” Lutheran Village resident Forrest said.
Alina’s owner Trudy said, “Residents light up when the dogs visit. The bond between them and the dogs is a great thing to see. Their inner child comes out and they just seem to go to a happy time in their lives.”
Residents of both communities have additional opportunities to interact with animals. Sometimes visitors will bring their pets with them.
For example, the husband of one Lutheran Village resident still lives in their home. He often brings their dog – who has become a therapy animal, though not part of the facility’s program – to visit.
Such visits can be especially valuable if the resident had a relationship with the pet.
The communities also have resident pets. Currently The Good Shepherd has three parakeets and a tank of about a half dozen tropical fish. Previous community pets have included a dog (at Lutheran Village), cockatiels, love birds and a shark.
McQuillen selects the most brightly colored fish she can find so that the residents can see them easily. And about the birds she commented, “Residents will say, ‘The birds are talking,’ when they hear them chirping.” These pets aren’t therapy animals, but they do help residents pass time and provide some distraction from what may be weighing on a resident any given day.
“The animals definitely brighten our residents’ days,” McQuillen said.
For more information about LSS Lutheran Village Assisted Living, please call ShaNa Benner at 419-281-8403 or visit www.lssnetworkofhope.org/lutheranvillage. For information about LSS The Good Shepherd Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, call Lorie White at 419-289-3523 or visit www.lssnetworkofhope.org/goodshepherd.
For each of us, there is music that, after just a few notes, triggers a memory and stirs emotions associated with that memory. Maybe it was a dance at a wedding, a song that was part of a school program, a hymn at a funeral, or simply a commercial jingle for a coveted toy.
Music can transport us both through time and across miles.
Music continues to have this effect for memory care patients. For these individuals who are experiencing dementia or other memory issues, the memories and emotions tied to the music remain, though they may be deeply buried and difficult to retrieve.
“Memory care residents may not remember yesterday, but they remember music,” explained Terry McQuillen, director of life enrichment & volunteer coordinator at LSS The Good Shepherd (TGS).
TGS’ Music & Memory program uses individualized playlists to help residents reconnect with their long-term memories. It connects past and present. The familiar music also calms and soothes residents if they become agitated.
“Just think about what music does for you,” said McQuillen. “Different songs mean different things to different people.” TGS is a certified Music & Memory program provider. The program provides individualized playlists of music meaningful for a specific resident recorded on digital players. Residents can play their music any time or, when needed, staff members can help them with the equipment. These personal playlists also support the facility’s goal of providing care that is tailored to individual needs.
TGS introduced Music & Memory about seven years ago. Staff members prepared a playlist for an individual resident who had difficulty settling down. Listening to this music calmed the resident, and his overall behavior improved. Given those results, they expanded the program.
TGS residents have varying physical and cognitive abilities and needs. Staff has found that music speaks to each person individually. Whatever the musical selection, whatever the memory or emotion, the immediate effect is common. “They put on their headphones and as soon as the music starts, you see their feet start moving and heads start to bob. Everyone responds in some way,” McQuillen said.
TGS currently has about 25 iPods, MP3 players and CD players available for residents’ use. The residents listen via ear buds, headphones or pillow speakers, whichever they prefer. Each iPod is programmed with music that suits the individuals’ tastes and preferences. For memory care residents, family members suggest specific songs or music genres that may be meaningful. One resident’s playlist is all country. Another’s is gospel. Some prefer music of a specific era. Still others like a mix of music. No two playlists are the same. And residents can always ask to have new tunes added.
Music & Memory is particularly helpful with ‘sundowning.’ The transition from day to night – the period between dinner and bedtime – is particularly difficult for many people with memory issues. Providing personalized, meaningful music during this period helps calm residents and eases the transition. This improved calm in the unit also allows staff to focus on providing the level of individualized care residents require at this time of day.
McQuillen noted that listening to music also helps residents screen out noise and other distractions they may find stressful. One resident uses it during dialysis. He hates the process. So, he dons his headphones. His personal classic rock playlist helps him feel comfortable so that he can better tolerate the treatment.
The Music & Memory program complements TGS’ music therapy program. While Music & Memory is individualized, both in musical selection and listening time, the music therapy program is group-oriented and more structured with a music therapist.
According to the Music & Memory certifying organization (www.musicandmemory.org), personalized music provides numerous benefits. The organization holds that “our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory.”
The organization explains further, “Favorite music or songs associated with important personal events can trigger memory of lyrics and the experience connected to the music. Beloved music often calms chaotic brain activity and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain a connection to others.”
TGS staff and family members certainly have seen the calming effects of personalized playlists on residents as well as benefits for regaining focus and reconnecting with others.
If you would like more information on TGS’ memory care program, call Lorie White at 419-289-3523.
It takes courage for a soldier to risk his or her life for our country and it takes stamina to age well in the United States. Health care costs have skyrocketed as we live longer. Medicare or insurance plans are not always adequate to cover the care that aging Veterans need. However, there are options available.
The Veterans Administration (VA) offers a program called Aid and Attendance. This is part of an Improved Pension Benefit that is largely unknown. This benefit allows for veterans and surviving spouses who require regular assistance in eating, bathing, dressing, medication dosing, or other daily needs to receive additional monetary benefits. This also includes individuals who need assisted care in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.
Aid and Attendance (A&A) is a pension benefit and is not dependent upon service-related injuries or ailments for compensation. A veteran could be eligible for up to $1,788 per month and a surviving spouse could be eligible for up to $1,149 per month.
Many veteran families overlook this benefit because it is considered to be the third tier of the VA’s Improved Pension. The other two tiers are known as Basic and Housebound. Each tier has its own level of benefits and qualifications.
Under A&A, there are three scenarios in which the VA may pay for room and care at a VA contracted facility for skilled care: 1) if the veteran is 70% or greater service-connected, 2) for respite stays (30 days per calendar year), and 3) if the veteran qualifies for hospice (regardless of their level of service-connection). Veterans can apply for A&A once their monetary resources are below $80,000, excluding an unsold home or car.
Eligibility must be proven by filing the proper veterans application for pension or compensation. This application will require a copy of DD-214 or separation papers, medical evaluation from a physician, current medical issues, net worth limitations, and net income, along with out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Only facilities licensed for skilled nursing Veteran’s care can take A&A. Here in Ashland, The Good Shepherd Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation (TGS) works with the local Veteran’s Service Office to assist patients applying for Aid and Attendance. This facility is among the very few licensed to do so in Ashland County. Not only will the staff treat each veteran with compassion and respect, they offer excellent health care, addressing all of your loved one’s medical, psychological and physical needs.
Kirby, a World War II veteran, had led an active lifestyle until a series of health setbacks brought him to TGS. He was weeding when he stepped in a hole, rolled down an embankment and hurt his back. He endured surgery, then shingles and then a second fall. This time the hospital sent him to TGS.
Remarking on the excellent care he has received at TGS, Kirby says, “I want to stay here. They give you good care, and they look out after you.”
“I enjoy each day,” Kirby says. “If you worry you get old.”
In honor of Independence Day, we’d like to take a moment to thank every Ashland area veteran, especially those we are honored to serve in an LSS facility. Your selfless service is very much appreciated.
If you’d like more information on any of the senior services offered by LSS, please contact Lorie White at 419-632-5453 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Brent and Vickie’s Story
Patients experiencing respiratory conditions and diseases need specialized care, often supplemented oxygen. Patients who are experiencing respiratory failure and require ventilator care are faced with even greater difficulties. Ventilator patients are not physiologically able to maintain spontaneous breathing. This is often seen in patients with neuromuscular and central nervous system diseases, spinal cord injuries or conditions such as myocardial infarction and multiple sclerosis. These patients are at greater risk of developing infections because their respiratory systems are already compromised.
Ventilator care is not always easy to undertake safely at home. Nor is it always necessary for patients to be in a hospital. This type of care may be a short term treatment while a patient gains strength and heals and will require eventual ventilator weaning. On the other hand, ventilator care could also mean long-term care placement.
LSS The Good Shepherd Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation (TGS) operates a 12-bed ventilator rehabilitation unit. The clinically-specialized unit is a first in Ashland, Richland and other surrounding counties and offers the latest in ventilator technology and respiratory and tracheotomy care to meet the complex medical needs of respiratory patients.
The unit includes an advanced clinical care team including specialty physicians and around the clock on-site respiratory therapists. These specialized services are provided to patients needing long-term ventilator care as well as those who may be weaned off mechanical ventilation. In most cases, a patient’s resilience and strength will determine how their treatment progresses. Take for example, Brent from Killbruck, Ohio.
Brent, 65, was about to be discharged from the hospital after his heart bypass surgery when his heart went out of rhythm and started a series of medical events that led to respiratory failure and a stroke. He was placed on a ventilator and transferred to a larger hospital for care. Eventually, he was ready to be released to a skilled care facility. However, he was still on a ventilator and the number of places that could handle this level of care, and were near his home in Holmes County, were limited.
A friend told Brent’s wife, Vickie, about TGS. Wanting to make the right move, she checked out several facilities with her sister. After visiting and learning that TGS had excellent ratings, Vickie said, “There was no doubt about it. We were going to TGS.”
Vickie explained, “When we came to TGS, he wasn’t walking or speaking and was dependent on a feeding tube. He couldn’t get off the ventilator. I was nervous about coming from the hospital where we had constant attention, and we were scared that was going to change. We needed a lot of reassurances.”
Brent had a nurse and respiratory therapist assigned to him 24 hours a day, seven days a week as well as access to other specialists. Slowly but surely, Brent was weaned off the ventilator. Once he overcame the first hurdle, he progressed quickly. A speech therapist helped him learn to speak and swallow again, so he can now eat almost anything. He also worked with occupational and physical therapists, and his goal now is to walk without the aid of a walker.
Finally, six months after his bypass, Brent was ready to go home. TGS staff helped Vickie prepare for her husband’s return by teaching her how to care for him at home.
Vickie was caught off guard when it was time to leave. “Everybody on the staff treated us like family,” she said. “We had a hard time saying goodbye.” Life at home is good. Brent and Vickie are enjoying every minute together.
Brent’s story is an inspiration to anyone suffering from a debilitating medical condition. With the right treatment, progress is possible. TGS’ multilevel team approach is uniquely designed to help respiratory patients improve their health and well-being, within the ventilator unit and beyond to home.
Keeping Your Loved One Safe This Summer
As this brutally hot summer continues, so does the increased risk of heat-related illness for seniors in Ashland and throughout the country. Approximately 371 deaths occur in the United States every year due to heat stroke and many other deaths occur from other causes as a result of high temperatures. Nearly half of all victims are 65 years and older.
There are several reasons for heat vulnerability in the older population. The ability to recognize changes in body temperature decreases with age. Prolonged heat exposure takes a toll on the body, compromising the ability for it to cool itself. Older adults are most susceptible to this because an older body is less efficient in reacting to the heat. As we age, we gradually lose the ability to perspire and regulate our body temperature. This is why older people tend to overdress—they don’t feel heat the same way anymore.
However, age isn’t the only factor that increases the risk for heat-related illnesses. Seniors may have underlying health conditions that make them less able to adapt to heat or their medications may contribute to dehydration. Other factors such as isolation or social circumstances, heart, lung or kidney disease, medication, high blood pressure or diabetes, and high-level apartment living can all attribute to an increased risk of a heat-related illness.
The warning signs of heat-related illness are easy to spot. They include dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting and breathing problems. If you or someone you love experiences these symptoms, seek help immediately.
All heat-related illnesses and fatalities are preventable and it’s important to understand the most effective ways to avoid an injury to you or a loved one.
A simple fan was once thought to be a quick solution to those suffering the extreme heat on a fixed income. However, fans are not protective against heat-related illness when conditions reach 90 degrees or above, and unfortunately due to budget constraints and efforts to cut utility costs, many seniors in Ashland are less likely to use air conditioners, thus increasing the risk for heatstroke.
But here’s what else you can do. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following steps can be taken to ensure that you or your loved one remains safe when the temperatures rise:
- Limit exposure to outdoor and indoor heat
- Spend time in air-conditioned buildings such as shopping malls, senior centers, public libraries or movie theaters
- Take a cool shower or bath
- Do not use appliances such as the oven or dryer during the hottest parts of the day unless absolutely necessary
- Turn off lights, they emit heat!
- Keep curtains, shades and blinds drawn during the daytime
- Wear loose and lightweight clothes
- Do not over-exert yourself with strenuous activity
- Know the warning signs of heat-related illness
- Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated
The last step seems the easiest, but unfortunately many seniors today are unable or just plain forget to drink enough water. This one simple resource is so valuable in fighting heat-related illnesses. Please check on your loved ones or neighbors to make sure they have the hydration they need to stay healthy.
For those neighbors who are already experiencing health problems, The Rehabilitation Center at The Good Shepherd specializes in short-term rehabilitation for patients who have undergone surgeries or other in-hospital disease treatments. The Patient Navigation Team, led by a respected attending physician and comprised of a registered nurse, a physical therapist and a case manager, will be at your side during the entire rehabilitation process. Your personalized care plan will ensure a successful recovery and return to home. The Rehabilitation Center also offers outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy to patients who are already home but still on the mend.
Everyone is familiar with the term coronary heart disease. As Fred Sanford used to say, “It’s the Big One!” It is the clogging of your heart’s arteries that leads to a heart attack. But do you know what coronary artery disease is?
According to the American Heart Association, health care professionals frequently use the two terms interchangeably. In reality, coronary heart disease (CHD) is actually a result of coronary artery disease (CAD). In other words, you can’t have the Big One without the artery disease.
In developing CAD, plaque builds up within the walls of your coronary arteries until the blood flow to your heart is limited. It could happen over time, slowly limiting the blood supply to your heart. Or it can be sudden, in the form of a rupture or blood clot. Whatever the timeline may be, the result is heart disease.
Typical warning signs for CAD are chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations and even fatigue. If you feel any of these symptoms, it’s imperative that you call 911 immediately. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms go away or to make a doctor’s appointment. Immediate treatment is vital.
CAD is preventable in most people. Individuals with certain conditions such as high LDL or low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes may be prone to CAD. Men have a greater risk of heart disease than women. A family history of heart disease also puts you at greater risk. But specialists emphasize that by following a set of very simple guidelines, your risk can be mitigated.
In fact, preventive measures instituted early in life are thought to have increased lifetime benefits. Living a lifestyle that incorporates healthy eating and exercise can play a major role in avoiding or at least delaying CAD. Basically, you need to do everything you can to avoid damaging your arteries. And you need to start now.
Here are some ways to do that:
Do not smoke — The risk of developing CAD is much higher when you smoke. Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a buildup of the fatty material that narrows the artery.
Regulate your cholesterol — As your blood cholesterol changes, so does your risk of CAD. When other risk factors (such as high blood pressure and smoking) are present, this risk increases even more. A low LDL cholesterol level is considered good for your heart health. With HDL cholesterol, higher levels are better. A low HDL cholesterol level puts you at even more risk for heart disease.
Keep your blood pressure low — High blood pressure makes your heart work harder, which causes the heart muscle to thicken and become stiffer. This stiffening of the heart muscle is not normal and causes your heart not to work properly.
Keep active — A sedentary lifestyle is a huge risk factor for CHD. Even as we age, regular physical activity is crucial to reducing the risk of heart and artery disease. Even moderate-intensity activities will help if you do them regularly.
Maintain your weight — If you have excess body fat — especially around your midsection — you are more likely to develop CAD and CHD even if you have no other risk factors. Even a loss of just 3 to 5% of your body weight may lead to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Avoid stress — It’s easier said than done, but be aware that your response to stress may be a contributing factor in developing CAD and CHD. There is a strong relationship between CAD risk and the amount of stress in your life, as well as your health behaviors. Stress affects other risk factors as well. Many of us overeat, start smoking or exercise less when we are stressed.
February is Heart Health Month. This is important to today’s seniors because heart disease is a major health threat. In fact, 84 percent of people age 65 years and older die from heart disease. As we age, our risk for heart disease increases because blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart-related numbers tend to rise.
Given that staggering statistic, today’s seniors need to be proactive about their heart health. As many as 2.7 million Americans are living with a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation is an uneven and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of blot clots, stroke, heart failure or other heart-related complications.
During atrial fibrillation, the heart’s two upper chambers beat quickly and irregularly, which make them out of coordination with the two lower chambers of the heart. Symptoms often include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness. Patients have described the sensation as feeling like the heart is doing flip flops or skipping beats. Sometimes there are no discernible symptoms at all or the symptoms come and go.
The causes of atrial fibrillation can be high blood pressure, overactive thyroid, viral infection, stress, sleep apnea, exposure to stimulants like coffee and medications or heart defects. Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn’t life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition. At the first sign of any symptom, it is important to see a doctor.
Those who are most at risk to experience atrial fibrillation are older, have high blood pressure, already have heart disease or other chronic conditions such as diabetes or lung disease, are obese or have a family history. Seniors at risk should see a doctor regularly to check their heart.
However, it’s important for all seniors to reduce the risk of any heart disease, including atrial fibrillation, by eating right, staying active, avoiding smoking and seeing a doctor regularly.
You may have seen the many commercials on television for drugs related to COPD. But do you really know that COPD is? According to the COPD Foundation in Washington DC, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the general term used to describe advanced lung diseases, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, non-reversible asthma and some forms of bronchiectasis, which is a condition in which your bronchial tubes are damaged.
An estimated 30 million people in the U.S. have COPD. More than half have had symptoms of COPD and do not know it. The main symptom is increasing breathlessness.
Many seniors mistake breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of aging or may attribute it to being “out of shape.” You may not think there is anything wrong. COPD can take years to develop before there is noticeable shortness of breath. Other symptoms include frequent coughing, wheezing and tightness in your chest. It’s important to not ignore chronic symptoms like these and to see a doctor. Early screening can identify COPD before major loss of lung function occurs.
To avoid chronic lung disease, one must avoid inhaling pollutants. That includes fumes, chemicals and dust as well as both first-hand and second-hand smoke from cigarettes, pipes and cigars. Only about 10-20% of COPD patients are non-smokers. However, genetics can also play a role in the development of the disease, even if you’ve never smoked or been exposed to strong lung irritants. It’s also important to note that more women are affected than men.
As the disease progresses, other symptoms become prevalent including loss of appetite and weight, inability to keep up with daily tasks, and fatigue. Patients are also extremely susceptible to common illnesses such as influenza and bronchitis.
A simple breathing test called spirometry is the most common assessment used by doctors to diagnose COPD. The National Lung Health Education Program recommends anyone older than 44 years of age who is a current or was a former smoker should have this test done. If you have a chronic cough, excess mucus production, shortness of breath on routine activity, or wheezing, you should also get tested.
COPD is a partially reversible disease, meaning you can lessen symptoms and slow progression with treatment and a healthy lifestyle. To be clear, there is no cure, but patients can live with COPD for years or even decades with proper disease management.
For seniors with COPD, self-care is critical. Good habits include proper hygiene such as frequent hand washing, getting scheduled flu shots, healthy eating and regular exercise. Support groups and an active social life are also important. And, of course, seeing a doctor regularly is vital.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, stress is the result of the brain and body responding to a demand. Every type of demand or stressor, such as exercise, work, major life changes or a traumatic event, can be stressful. Everyone feels stress at one time or another.
Seniors can feel stress when they experience scary health issues or when taking care of an ailing spouse. They may be worried about paying their bills. They may be living alone and feel isolated. For seniors, stress has the potential to be especially overwhelming. The effects of stress can sometimes exacerbate the typical health conditions from which some seniors suffer, causing additional stress.
Chronic stress is widely believed to accelerate and/or reduce immunity to common illnesses like the flu in the elderly. Caring for a spouse or loved one with dementia has also been shown to delay healing and can shorten life expectancy. In one study outlined on www.stress.org, senior citizens who felt stress from taking care of their disabled spouses were 63% more likely to die within four years than caregivers not reporting stress. Caregivers were also two times more likely to experience severe depression.
It is important to keep stress in check at any age but especially in seniors. First, you must be able to recognize the signs in yourself or your loved ones. According to www.stress.org, some of the early warning signs of excess stress are:
- feeling overwhelmed, lonely, guilty, sad or constantly worried
- feeling fatigued most of the time
- lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed, especially social activities
- significant change in sleep habits
- changes in eating habits or in weight
- frequent headaches, neck or low back pain
Once these warning signs are recognized, seniors and their families should be diligent in taking steps to address the underlying causes of stress. As you do that, here are some easy steps to take to combat the effects of stress.
- Make a list of top priorities and establish a daily routine that ensures they are accomplished
- Set realistic goals by breaking large tasks into smaller ones
- Find a local agency to help with tasks that cause stress
- Take part in a favorite activity such as knitting, baking or reading
- Do something active
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Join a social club or volunteer
- Make regular appointments with your doctor to monitor your overall health
Stress is absolutely a part of life, but it is not something that seniors should just accept. It is too dangerous to their health. By taking some proactive steps, you or the senior in your life can combat undue stress and its negative effects. By doing so, your quality of life and your overall health will improve.
Strokes can happen to anyone, at any age and at any time. In the U.S., stroke as a disease is the fifth leading cause of death, killing nearly 130,000 people each year. Nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. will have a stroke this year. But the fact remains that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by managing risk factors.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month. LSS The Good Shepherd Center for Rehabilitative Care and the National Stroke Association want you to know what risk factors are associated with stroke and how to prevent a stroke from happening to you or your loved ones.
Taking control is the first step to managing your risk.
- Get moving. If you are healthy, participate in aerobic exercise at least 40 minutes per day, at least three times per week.
- Watch your diet. Reduce your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day and eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Know your numbers. Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels in check.
- Know your family medical history. If high blood pressure and diabetes are common conditions in your family tree, it’s important to ask doctor what you can do to prevent them.
- Drink moderately. Studies show a strong connection between alcohol and stroke. Make sure to moderate your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.
- Stop Smoking. Smoking decreases your health in general, but smokers also have 2 to 4 times the risk for stroke compared to nonsmokers.
Stroke is a medical emergency. It’s important to learn all of the warning signs and how to respond to them. Time is a critical factor in determining treatment options for stroke.
Use FAST to remember the signs of stroke:
- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
- Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Visit www.stroke.org for more information
Heart disease is a major threat to our health, especially seniors. In fact, 84 percent of people age 65 years and older die from heart disease.  As we age, our risk for heart disease increases because blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart-related numbers tend to rise.
According to Ralph Sacco, M.D., chief of neurology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami and past president of the American Heart Association, “New studies have shown that the risk factors that can lead to heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure, physical inactivity and obesity, also contribute to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and cognitive dysfunction.” 
Keeping track of your important indicators, like blood pressure, and getting treatment for health issues that occur — along with healthy eating and regular physical activity — can help you live longer and better. Though heart disease risks increase with age, it doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of getting older. The correct habits can help protect you.
It’s also important to know the warning signs of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiac event. These are life-and-death emergencies and every second counts. If you have any of the symptoms listed below, call 9-1-1 immediately. Get help as soon as you can. There are new medications and treatments available to patients these days that can stop some heart attacks in progress. But these drugs must be given relatively quickly after symptoms first appear. So don’t delay, call 9-1-1 as soon as possible.
Common warning signs of a heart attack include:
- Chest tightness or discomfort
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body including jaw, neck and arms
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
There is more helpful information available at the American Heart Association website, www.heart.org.
Seniors looking for a sense of purpose or an outlet for creativity have only to look to their neighbors in need to find it. Volunteering is an excellent way for any senior to not only give back to their community but also improve their health and overall well-being.
According to research from the Corporation for National and Community Service, between the years 2008 and 2010, 18.7 million older adults contributed more than three billion volunteer hours each year. Older volunteers can meet a wide range of local needs, including socializing with seniors living in assisted living and nursing facilities, tutoring and mentoring at-risk youth, providing financial education and job training to veterans and their families, and serving meals at soup kitchens and food pantries. In fact, an older adult who volunteers typically does so for more hours in a year than any other age group.
In addition to providing valuable services to people in need, volunteering also enables older volunteers to enjoy active lives. More and more research is showing a relationship between volunteering and physical and mental health benefits. Sandy Lindberg can attest to that. The Nankin resident recently retired from The Good Shepherd in Ashland after 42 years as a nurse. She said, “The day I retired, I went right over to the beauty salon in the building and offered to help. Now, I volunteer every Tuesday morning. I love it. This place is my second home. By volunteering, I get to see the residents and my co-workers every week. They are like family.”
Studies have shown that volunteers live longer. A recent study of Americans over the age of 60 found that those who volunteer reported less disability and higher levels of well-being relative to non-volunteers. The positive effects of volunteering were found to be greater than other lifestyle factors including income, education level or marriage. There is also growing evidence that the positive health benefits of volunteering can be due to the increased physical, social and mental activity needed to be a volunteer. Older volunteers report lower rates in mortality and depression as well as fewer physical limitations and an enhanced sense of well-being.
For seniors, volunteering can be part of a healthy lifestyle. A recent study found that over a 20 year period, volunteering during midlife led to significantly greater physical activity. Whether a senior is stocking shelves at a food pantry, repairing houses for a disaster relief service or walking around a medical facility as a book cart volunteer, volunteering is great to keep the body active. As we age, maintaining a healthy level of physical activity will help ward off disease, injury and even dementia.
Volunteering also has a positive effect on psychological wellness. Seniors who volunteer regularly experience greater life satisfaction, a sense of purpose and accomplishment, more stress resilience, and lower rates of depression. It also fosters positive social, family and community relationships and contributes to a positive image of seniors as a healthy and vital part of our society.
John Cadley of Ashland spends one or two days a week visiting veterans at Lutheran Village Assisted Living and other senior facilities in Ashland. As a Vietnam veteran and retired from the Ashland Health Department, he feels that these visits are his ministry. He says, “I was blessed to come home from Vietnam and I am thankful to all of the men and women who have served our country. They are my heroes. They make me a better man and I know they are appreciative of our conversations.”
Seniors and retirees in Ashland can make a world of difference at The Good Shepherd and Lutheran Village Assisted Living as they maintain their good health. Terry Brant, Director of Activities at The Good Shepherd, remarks, “Retired folks make the best volunteers because they enjoy chatting with people like themselves. I will find a volunteer who has the same background or interests as a resident and they visit one-on-one as often as they like. They can play cards, help on outings or parties, or just have a conversation. The positive results can be seen from both the volunteer and resident perspective.” For more information on volunteering at The Good Shepherd, call 419-289-3523 x5270 or at Lutheran Village, call 419-281-8403.
It’s a common story. The whole family is gathered for the holidays. You are staying with your aging parents for a few days and you start to see things that are a little off or out of place. Maybe most of the food in the refrigerator is expired or the laundry hasn’t been done in a while. Or you’ve noticed that Mom is having trouble getting up from a chair or Dad has lost his keys multiple times over the weekend. These incidents could be signs that it’s no longer safe for your loved one to be living alone. But how do you know for sure? There are a number of factors to consider.
First, study your loved one’s physical condition. Recent drastic weight loss, unexplained bruises or a marked loss of balance or strength may indicate that Mom is having trouble taking care of herself. Also keep an eye out for decreased grooming or a lack of clean clothes. These signs may be subtle but they can illustrate early physical limitations that can be dangerous. Some specific signs to look for include:
- Body odor
- Disheveled appearance
- Wrinkled or dirty clothing
- Poor diet/no interest in cooking
- Difficulty negotiating stairs or steps
- Difficulty keeping balance
Other considerations are cognitive signs. Forgetfulness and confusion are red flags that should never be overlooked. These could be the first signs of dementia. Does Dad forget to take his medications? Has Mom gotten lost on her way to church? Never take these signs for granted. Some other signs could include:
- Missing important deadlines or appointments
- Doubt and confusion when doing familiar tasks
- Lack of interest in favorite activities
- Fluctuations in temperament or extreme mood swings
- Forgetting to take prescribed medications
- Signs of depression and feelings of isolation
Some signs are easiest to see in your loved one’s home. Look around for objects that are out of place or for signs of neglect. If there are new characteristics that are not as they have been in the past, this could signal that Mom or Dad need help with daily chores. Other signs could include:
- Spoiled or expired food in the refrigerator
- Strong smell in the house
- Dirt, extreme untidiness or excess laundry
- Overflowing unopened mail
- Calls from bill collectors or late payment notices
- Unexplained dents and scratches on the car or in the home
If you’ve experienced enough of these signs to decide that your loved one is no longer able to live alone, the resulting conversation will be difficult. However, it’s best to have it before anything dangerous happens. Making Mom or Dad part of the decision making process will make it easier for them to accept. There are plenty of options that you and your loved one can review.
If Mom just needs some help taking care of her home, you can hire a home care service to help with daily living needs like grocery shopping and cleaning. For medical services like medication management or wound care, you’ll need to hire a home health care service. LSS Home Health Care provides top-notch and dignified medical care by highly trained medical professionals. Other options may be to enroll your loved one in an adult day center or move your parent into your home. For those who need 24 hour help or are feeling isolated, an assisted living facility may be the best decision. The team at Lutheran Village Assisted Living in Ashland would be happy to show you the benefits of moving Mom into a place where she is safe, well-cared for and among friends. All of these options have pros and cons. Take the time to explore all the possibilities available. The Ashland Area Agency on Aging has many helpful resources to help you make the best decision for your family, visit www.aaa5ohio.org.
According to the Administration on Aging, the older population–people 65 years or older–numbered 39.6 million in 2009 (the latest year for which data is available). By 2030, it is estimated there will be about 72.1 million older people in the United States. As the population ages, our medical needs change and with it comes exciting innovations to address those needs.
Advances in technology can help older Americans stay healthier longer such as wearable technology that tracks fitness and diet goals. New technology can also innovate traditional medical treatments such as physical and occupational therapy. This is happening right here in Ashland County at The Good Shepherd Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation. With the help of partner Blue Sky Therapy, headquartered in Canfield, The Good Shepherd has introduced the Jintronix virtual rehab system to patients. This virtual rehab system is the first affordable system to be used directly in skilled nursing facilities to improve patient outcomes, help quantify progress and lead to higher overall quality of care.
The system uses a Kinect sensor similar to one attached to an Xbox system to help clinicians analyze patient movement and “gamify” exercises performed within the therapy session. This helps motivate patients to complete their therapy while providing objective targets every step of the way.
Designed by leading experts in physical and occupational therapy, each activity is optimized to target specific clinical outcomes. The therapist can customize each element of an activity to ensure it is fully suited to the needs of the patient. By simultaneously tracking 20 joints, the system captures key performance metrics including range of motion, speed, fluidity, precision of movement and compensation patterns. Not only the therapist but the patient as well can track progress with real-time performance feedback. This means patients improve quickly and are able to leave the rehab setting and return home faster, which is a win-win for everyone involved.
Elder care innovation can also be found in the form of new ways to communicate. As our loved ones age and decisions about their health care become more and more important, it is often difficult to keep family members informed, especially when some may live far away or are not available for family functions. Blue Sky Therapy in partnership with a California technology company called Spectra, has introduced an innovative HIPAA secure care communication technology at The Good Shepherd. This communication tool directly connects clinicians with therapy patients and their families. The objective is to improve patient transitions and outcomes with better communication. It’s been documented that patients fare better when a team care approach that involves clear and timely communication is implemented. All information is secure and can be referenced from one central spot so that decisions can be made and outcomes documented. It certainly is the wave of the future.
Cutting edge technology can be found right here in Ashland County, even in the traditional methods of elder health care and the art of aging gracefully. For more information or a demonstration on the services offered at LSS The Good Shepherd Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, call Lorie White at 419-289-3523.
Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio is a United Way agency, a member of Lutheran Services in America and a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
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