Aging is the single biggest risk factor for developing cancer. However, it also increases the risk of other diseases and injury and can affect a person’s well-being, independence, and feelings of self-worth. These are all issues that need to be considered when cancer treatment decisions are being made, as well as during treatment.
Disease and disability, which may interfere with cancer treatment and recovery, are more likely to occur in older adults. For example, age is associated with a gradual inability to accomplish daily activities, such as the use of transportation and the ability to go shopping without assistance or provide adequate nutrition for oneself. Older adults who need help in these areas have a lower tolerance of stress, including the stress of cancer treatment. By understanding what tasks an older adult can and cannot perform, it is easier to identify which form of treatment poses the least risk with the most benefit and how much supportive care a person will need.
Older people with cancer often have a different set of concerns younger people don’t face. Those concerns include:
Maintaining independence. For many older adults with cancer, the biggest concerns are being able to take care of themselves and feeling like they are still in control of their health and decisions. Cancer treatment may interfere with the ability to cook and eat independently, wash or bathe independently, walk, drive, or access transportation. Having to rely on others to care for them may not only be overwhelming but may not even be possible, especially if there are no family members or friends around to act as caregivers.
Feelings of social isolation. Older people with cancer are less likely to have a support system in place, often because they have relocated to a new home or apartment, do not live close to family, or have experienced the loss of a spouse, family members, or friends. Sometimes being isolated brings up feelings of depression and anxiety, which may interfere with treatment. Older adults may also have difficulty coping with problems associated with cancer treatment.
Financial concerns. For older adults, how to pay for the treatment and all the little things associated with it can drain financial resources quickly. It is important to discuss financial issues with family members, and check the internet as there are many resources available that can help.
Physical limitations. Older adults with cancer may have medical problems that limit their physical abilities and mobility. Creating a safe physical environment at home often helps. Simple measures, such as improving lighting, clearing clutter from the home, or installing safety railings in bathrooms, may help reduce the chance of accidents or falls.
Transportation. Access to treatment depends on reliable transportation. Older adults undergoing cancer therapy may have a difficult time getting to doctor appointments, especially if the person no longer drives and is dependent on other methods of transportation.
All these factor into the decision about proper care for your loved one who is dealing with cancer. Sometimes the best decision is to hire a caregiver to help with these.
When a senior has painful arthritis, family members often worry that their loved one is not safe living at home. They wonder, “is Mom taking her medications correctly, and following other treatment instructions? Is she getting as much exercise as the doctor recommends? Is she getting out less because of her reduced mobility?” Family may also be juggling job tasks and other family responsibilities, spending more and more time taking their loved one to doctor’s appointments and helping with the housework and personal care.
Home care services can help your loved one manage arthritis in several important ways:
- Assistance with the activities of daily living. Mobility limitations and painful joints make it hard to do some of the daily tasks most of us take for granted. An in-home caregiver can assist with housekeeping, transportation, laundry, personal care, and meal preparation, including special diets.
- Encouragement and confidence to support activity. Exercise is a vital ingredient for managing arthritis. With home care, your loved one will feel more secure engaging in the activity program the healthcare provider has recommended. Whether it is a walk around the block, chair exercises or gardening, senior home care services provides an extra measure of confidence.
- Transportation to healthcare appointments and prescribed activities.Physician appointments, water aerobics classes, physical therapy…your loved one’s arthritis care schedule all seems to take place during the hours when most family members are at work. A trained in-home caregiver can ensure that your loved one gets to scheduled appointments on time.
- Medication management. It is very important that your loved one takes medications at the right time, and in the correct way. An in-home aide can provide medication reminders, take your loved one to the pharmacy or pick up prescriptions, help organize medications, and report any side effects.
- Fall protection. Arthritis is a top risk factor for senior falls. Removing clutter from pathways, mopping up spills promptly, performing potentially hazardous household tasks, “spotting” the person as he or she walks down the front stairs—in these and more ways, having an in-home caregiver close by can help prevent falls.
- Care after joint replacement recovery. An in-home aide can also be of great help in caring for a loved one who is recovering from hip or knee replacement surgery. Complying with post-surgical instructions is one of the top predictors of success in these surgeries. In-home care helps the patient avoid dangerous motions that could compromise healing.
A trained, professional caregiver can help your loved one manage their arthritis, thereby maintaining the highest degree possible of independence and well-being. This provides welcome peace of mind for the arthritis patient and family alike!
For More Information
The Arthritis Foundation offers support, resources and information about more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions.
See the website of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases for information and the latest updates.
Planning and Preparing for the Road Ahead
Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can be a challenging journey, not only for the person diagnosed but also for their family members and loved ones. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can seem overwhelming at times, but the more information and support you have, the better you can navigate the demanding road ahead and determine the long-term care options that are best suited to you and your loved one.
When planning for care of a loved one who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s consider these:
- Who will make the decisions when that person is no longer able to do so themselves. This can be a difficult topic to talk about with your loved one, but it is also a very important one. Get their wishes down on paper. This will settle any family disputes that may arise on care or finances. Not everyone thinks the same way and what you think is best for your loved one may not be what they want.
- How will care needs be met? Sometimes family members live too far away to care for their loved ones, or sometimes they are just too busy. Caregiving of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia will turn into a round the clock job as their condition worsens. Communication is important to make sure the caregiver knows exactly what your loved one needs or wants.
- Where will your loved one live? Are they going to stay at their home with a caregiver coming over to help them, or are they going to move into an assisted living facility? If they stay at their own home, how safe is it? How close is the medical center if a problem does arise? In some cases, it may be necessary to relocate the loved one to a facility.
Having a daily routine can really help your loved one and caregiver make sure things run smoothly. Try to keep consistent daily times for activities such as waking up, mealtimes, bathing, dressing, receiving visitors, and bedtime. Keeping these things at the same time and place can help orient your loved one. This makes things easier for both your loved one and the caregiver.
Also, letting your loved one know what to expect helps ease their mind even if they don’t fully understand. This reduces anxiety and helps them settle into that routine. Opening the curtains every morning lets them know that it’s morning while playing soft music in the evening can let them know it’s close to bed time.
Get your loved one involved in what is going on as much as possible. They may not be able to tie their own shoes, but they can put their shoes on. Encourage them to help themselves as much as possible.
If the best choice is to move your loved one to a facility, it doesn’t mean you will no longer be involved in their care. You can still visit regularly and ensure your loved one gets the care he or she needs. Even if you are not yet ready to make that step, doing some initial legwork might save a lot of heartache in the case of a crisis where you have to move quickly. It’s always best to have a plan of action in place for when that time does come.
Sundown syndrome, also called sundowning or sunsetting, is a behavior common in people with Alzheimer’s disease. As the day progresses, he/she may begin to become more anxious, confused, agitated or disoriented. This distressing behavior can last a few hours or throughout the night, making life very difficult for the caregiver and the patient.
Following are some ways you can help to reduce these frustrating episodes of agitation.
- Schedule the day so that the more difficult tasks are done early in the day, when the person is less likely to become agitated.
- Watch the person’s diet and eating habits. Restrict sweets and drinks with caffeine to the morning hours. Try serving the person a late afternoon snack or an early dinner.
- To help the person relax, try decaffeinated herbal tea or warm milk.
- Keep the house or room well lit. Close the drapes before the sun goes down, so the person doesn’t watch it become dark outside.
- Try distracting the person with activities he or she enjoys. Soothing music or a favorite video may help, as well.
- Discourage afternoon napping and plan activities, such as taking a walk, throughout the day. A person who rests most of the day is likely to be awake at night.
This post is not just for those with diabetes, however, more than 25% of adults age 65 years and older deal with diabetes. Individuals with type 1 diabetes control their blood sugar with insulin, while many of those with type 2 are able to manage through diet and exercise alone.
Even those who do not have diabetes benefit from regular eating to maintain alertness, energy and blood sugar levels. If a senior ever loses their appetite for an unexplained reason, alert their physician. “It’s important to alert doctors to medical conditions that have prevented eating for a day or more (such as illness)…the elderly, even without diabetes, are most vulnerable to developing hypoglycemia and other imbalances.”Cases of type 2 has shown a recent increase in nursing homes from 16 to 23% as “more people live longer and grow
If you have ever been around toddlers, most are continually hungry. Their little bodies cannot hold much food at any one sitting and therefore, they need snacks. As adults, we hopefully try to curb eating for the purpose of health and weight regulation. But if you care for an elderly person, we suggest you bring back snacking.
An important idea to encourage someone, especially a senior, to eat is:
Eyes, Hands, Mouth
Eyes: Make it pleasing to look at and not in large, intimidating portions.
Hands: It doesn’t have to be finger food, but this implies convenience.
Mouth: Easy to eat. Chewing and/or swallowing may be difficult and tiring. If that is so, look for soft, satisfying foods such as a wedge of cheese.
Diabetics.org offers snacks organized by grams of carbohydrates. But I thought I’d compile links for the top healthiest snacks recommended for:
Seniors.LoveToKnow.com also has a great list of snacks specifically for the elderly. Click the link for on the go suggestions as well.
- Pre-cut Veggies. A mixed bag of broccoli, carrots and cauliflower are a colorful treat, packed with essential vitamins. Make a tasty dip to dollop on, or eat them as is.
- Fresh Fruit. Apple wedges, orange slices and banana halves make a sweet snack in summer or winter. If you are making a platter, toss cut fruit in a bowl with a few tablespoons of lemon juice to preserve the color (brown bananas and auburn apples are not appealing!).
- Nuts. Nuts are a crunchy alternative to chips. They are a rich source of antioxidants, healthy fats and calories.
- Cheese. Sticks, slices or wedges. Cheese makes a satisfying snack.
- Popcorn. Make your own in an air popper or on the stove. Season lightly with salt or cinnamon.
- Boiled Eggs. A great source of protein.
- Finger sandwiches. Make your own tuna on rye, peanut butter, cucumber or cheese sandwiches. Cut them in small squares to make them more appealing to light eaters.
A messy house is not necessarily cause for concern. First, take into consideration underlying reasons. If the elder is recovering from illness or injury, they may not have the ability to keep up their normal routine due to pain. If it has been awhile since you’ve seen the elder—maybe they don’t keep their house the same as they did when you were younger. You need to assess if this is by choice or lack of ability. Drastic changes, especially, are the concern. For both of those issues housekeeping services will help. If the holidays are near there can be other factors such as depression of the loss of loved ones or the family’s inability to come together. Still, you can be sensitive to recognize warning signs during occasional visits. See other warning signs that care may be needed. Download our printable checklist to see if care might be needed.
People of all ages benefit from losing excess weight, reasons include reduced risk of cancer, less stress on joints and reduced depression. However, when an elder suddenly loses weight without apparent reason, it could be cause for concern.
If it is due to forgetfulness or inability to prepare meals—the weight loss may be an early sign that care is needed.
It could also be a sign of health risks or disease. At first sign of sudden weight loss, try talking to the elder to see if you can discover the reason. If financial ability is a concern and the elder lives in Ada County, consider Elks Meals on Wheels. Learn more about nutrition for seniors.
Another reason for weight loss may be seasonal depression (winter blues.)
If you cannot discover the reason, a doctor’s appointment may be necessary.
See other warning signs that care may be needed.
Download our printable checklist to see if care might be needed.
One person needs durable medical equipment–another has an unused item gathering dust in a garage. Filling the need, bridging the gap…
Many people, due to illness, accident or the aging process, find themselves in need of hospital beds, lift chairs, scooters or other durable medical equipment, but are without the means to purchase them. People in this situation face a greatly reduced quality of life and/or ability to rehabilitate. Other people face the situation of wondering what to do with good durable medical equipment (DME) that they no longer need. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to bridge the gap between these two common situations? There is a way, and Lifestyle Home Medical Supply provides it!
Lifestyle Home Medical Supply (LHMS) supports the Lifestyle Hospice Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization located in Ontario Oregon, and offers a variety of new and refurbished DME at discounted prices. The LHMS inventory includes mobility aids such as walkers, wheelchairs, power chairs and scooters; bathroom safety equipment such as safety rails, commodes and shower chairs; oxygen supplies such as concentrators and accompanying supplies and CPAP/BiPAP equipment; hospital beds both full or semi automatic; and patient lifts both manual and automatic. LHMS also offers orthopedic, diabetic, ostomy and incontinence supplies, Broda Chairs and EZ Access ramps. LHMS also leases and trades DME. For example, a refurbished scooter leases for about $79/month. LHMS is Joint Commission accredited and will soon accept most insurance.
The support of the Lifestyle Hospice Foundation (LHF) allows for a portion of the proceeds from the sale or lease of LHMS products to support quality end of life care. Our mission is to support “Life Affirming Hospice Care” and provide medical equipment and supplies to patients whose finances do not enable them to obtain this care and equipment on their own.” LHMS considers it an honor to support hospice care that assists individuals to face death free of pain and with dignity and peace.
Through 2013, LHMS has provided DME to over 800 grateful people. Our goal is to insure that no one has to go without assistive devices or end of life care. In order to continue in this important work, LHMS invites anyone in need of DME to come and see us in Ontario. LHMS accepts donations of DME, money and/or time. With community support, LHMS can continue to benefit patients and their families throughout Southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon.
For more information, you may contact:
1106 S.W. 4th Ave.
Ontario, OR 97914
Fall-related injuries are the leading cause of accidental death in adults age 65 and older. After a fall, the fear of falling can become as life changing and routine-inhibiting as the pain and recovery. One of my senior loved ones fell recently. She was so badly injured, she ended up in the hospital for almost a week. Afterwards, she needed physical therapy to improve her balance and coordination.
There are several easy steps you can take to prevent falls and reduce the fear of falling in older adults. For example, remove throw rugs and incorporate confidence-building exercise. Here is a great resource: Preventing falls in older adults.
If falling or fear of falling becomes a problem for an elder who wants to live at home, consider both occupational therapy and in-home care.
Another safety concern is in the kitchen. Both meal delivery programs and in-home caregiving services will help if your concern is the senior’s inability to prepare meals.
See other warning signs that care may be needed.
Download our printable checklist to see if care might be needed.
Dramatic mood changes can be a sign of mental decline. Sometimes depression can mask as dementia. Swinging from anger to tears is a possible sign of early Alzheimer’s. Other things to watch for are forgetfulness and withdrawal from friends. Loneliness can also be a factor in elder mood changes. If that is the reason, find activities to help ease the loneliness.
- Start a project such as creating an oral history
- Hire respite care
- Search out a senior center for activities. Boise Senior Center | Meridian Senior Center