Caregiving- A Family Affair

 This article is from the National Institute on Aging. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Caring for an older family member often requires teamwork. While one sibling might be local and take on most of the everyday caregiving responsibilities, a long-distance caregiver can also have an important role. As a long-distance caregiver, you can provide important respite to the primary caregiver and support to the aging family member.

Talk about caregiving responsibilities

First, try to define the caregiving responsibilities. You could start by setting up a family meeting and, if it makes sense, include the care recipient in the discussion. This is best done when there is not an emergency. A calm conversation about what kind of care is wanted and needed now, and what might be needed in the future, can help avoid a lot of confusion.

Decide who will be responsible for which tasks. Many families find the best first step is to name a primary caregiver, even if one is not needed immediately. That way the primary caregiver can step in if there is a crisis.

Agree in advance how each of your efforts can complement one another so that you can be an effective team. Ideally, each of you will be able to take on tasks best suited to your skills or interests.

Splitting caregiving responsibilities—consider your strengths

When thinking about who should be responsible for what, start with your strengths. Consider what you are particularly good at and how those skills might help in the current situation:

  • Are you good at finding information, keeping people up-to-date on changing conditions, and offering cheer, whether on the phone or with a computer?
  • Are you good at supervising and leading others?
  • Are you comfortable speaking with medical staff and interpreting what they say to others?
  • Is your strongest suit doing the numbers—paying bills, keeping track of bank statements, and reviewing insurance policies and reimbursement reports?
  • Are you the one in the family who can fix anything, while no one else knows the difference between pliers and a wrench?

Splitting caregiving responsibilities—consider your limits

Two female caregivers listing out limits and strengths when splitting caregiving responsibilities
When splitting caregiving responsibilities, consider each person’s skills and strengths, as well as any limitations.

When thinking about who should be responsible for what, consider your limits. Ask yourself the following:

  • How often, both mentally and financially, can you afford to travel?
  • Are you emotionally prepared to take on what may feel like a reversal of roles between you and your parent—taking care of your parent instead of your parent taking care of you? Can you continue to respect your parent’s independence?
  • Can you be both calm and assertive when communicating from a distance?
  • How will your decision to take on caregiving responsibilities affect your work and home life?

Be realistic about how much you can do and what you are willing to do. Think about your schedule and how it might be adapted to give respite to a primary caregiver. For example, you might try to coordinate holiday and vacation times. Remember that over time, responsibilities may need to be revised to reflect changes in the situation, your care recipient’s needs, and each family member’s abilities and limitations.

Supporting a local caregiver from far away

A spouse or the sibling who lives closest to an aging parent often becomes the primary caregiver. Long-distance caregivers can help by providing emotional support and occasional respite to the primary caregiver. Ask the primary caregiver what you can do to help. Staying in contact with your parents by phone or email might also take some pressure off your parent or sibling. Just listening may not sound like much help, but often it is.

Long-distance caregivers can also play a part in arranging for professional caregivers, hiring home health and nursing aides, or locating care in an assisted living facility or nursing home (also known as a skilled nursing facility).

Long-distance caregivers may find they can be helpful by handling things online—for example, researching health problems or medicines, paying bills, or keeping family and friends updated. Some long-distance caregivers help a parent pay for care; others step in to manage finances.

 

Resources to learn more

Would you like to learn more about long-distance caregiving? The National Institute on Aging’s (NIA) booklets So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers About Long-Distance Caregiving and Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease can help.

Beware of Health Scams

 This article is from the National Institute on Aging. It is reprinted here with their permission.

You see ads for miracle drugs everywhere these days—supplements that claim to stop or reverse aging, or make aches and pains disappear like magic! You might even see statements like, “This treatment cured my cancer in 1 week.” They appear to offer hope, but they aren’t true.

Today, there are more ways than ever to sell untested products—online, TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers are just a few examples. Actors portray doctors and patients on infomercials. You might even get an email urging you to try a product. It can be hard to tell what’s an ad.

The problem is serious. Untested remedies may be harmful. They may get in the way of medicines prescribed by your doctor. They may be expensive and a waste of money. And, sometimes, using these products keeps people from getting the medical treatment they need.

False Hopes

Why do people fall for these sales pitches? Unproven remedies promise false hope. Ads where people say they have been cured do not prove that a product works. They offer solutions that appear to be quick and painless. At best, these treatments are worthless. At worst, they are dangerous.

Health scams set their sights on people who are scared or in pain. It’s easy to see why a person might be tempted to believe in the promise of a miracle remedy. Living with a chronic health problem is hard.

Health scams usually target diseases that may have treatments for symptoms but currently have no cures. You may see ads for:

  • Anti-aging therapies. Our culture places great value on staying young, but aging is normal. Pills or other treatments for endless youth have not been scientifically proven to slow or reverse the aging process. Eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and getting regular exercise or staying physically active are ways to really help prevent some of the diseases that occur with age. In other words, making healthy choices offers you the best chance for aging well.
  • Arthritis remedies. You may see claims that treatments with magnets, copper bracelets, chemicals, special diets, radiation, and other products can cure arthritis. This is highly unlikely. Unproven arthritis remedies can be easy to believe because symptoms of arthritis tend to come and go. There is no cure for most forms of arthritis. Rest, exercise, heat, and some drugs help many people control their symptoms. If you are thinking about any new treatment, such as a diet, a device, or another arthritis product, talk with your doctor first.
  • Cancer cures. Scam artists prey on a fear of cancer. They promote treatments with no proven value. There is no one treatment that cures all types of cancer. By using unproven methods, people with cancer may lose valuable time and the chance to benefit from a proven, effective treatment. This delay may lessen the chance of controlling or curing the disease.
  • Memory aids. Many people worry about losing their memory as they age. So-called smart pills, removal of amalgam dental fillings, and some brain training programs are examples of untested approaches that falsely promise to keep or improve memory.
  • Dietary supplements. Americans spend billions of dollars each year on dietary supplements. They are sold over-the-counter, without a prescription, and include vitamins and minerals, amino acids, herbs, and enzymes. The Federal Government does not consider dietary supplements to be medicines and does not monitor them in the same way it does prescription medicines. Most dietary supplements are not fully tested to make sure they are safe and do what they promise. While some vitamins may be helpful, supplements may be bad for people taking certain medicines or with some medical conditions. Be wary of claims that a supplement can shrink tumors, solve impotence, or cure Alzheimer’s disease. Talk to your doctor before starting any supplement.
  • Health insurance. Some companies offer health insurance coverage that promises more than it intends to deliver. When you think about buying health insurance, remember to find out if the company and agent are licensed in your State. The website www.healthcare.gov can help.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Health Scams?

Be skeptical. Question what you see or hear in ads or online. Newspapers, magazines, movies, and radio and TV stations do not always check to make sure the claims in their ads are true or say if a celebrity is being paid to endorse a product. Ask your doctor, nurse, other healthcare provider, or pharmacist about a product before you buy it. Don’t let a salesperson talk you into making a snap decision. Look for red flags in ads or promotional material that:

  • Promise a quick or painless cure
  • Claim the product is made from a special, secret, or ancient formula F Offer products and services only by mail or from one company
  • Use statements or unproven case histories from so-called satisfied patients
  • Claim to be a cure for a wide range of ailments
  • Claim to cure a disease (such as arthritis or Alzheimer’s disease) that hasn’t been cured by medical science
  • Promise a no-risk, money-back guarantee
  • Offer an additional free gift or a larger amount of the product as a special promotion
  • Require advance payment and claim there is a limited supply of the product

Two Federal Government agencies work to protect you from health scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can help you spot fraud and misleading ads. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protects the public by assuring the safety of prescription drugs, biological products, medical devices, food, cosmetics, and radiation-emitting products. If you have questions about a product, talk to your doctor. Getting the facts about healthcare products can help protect you from health scams.

Protect Yourself from Seasonal Flu

 

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   Am I at high risk for complications from the flu?

 Between 5% and 20% of people in the U.S. get the flu each year. The flu can be serious or even deadly for elderly people, and people with certain chronic illnesses.

Symptoms of the flu come on suddenly and are worse than those of the common cold. They may include

  • Body or muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

Is it a cold or the flu? Colds rarely cause a fever or headaches. Flu almost never causes an upset stomach. And “stomach flu” isn’t really flu at all, but gastroententis.

If you spend time with someone at high risk from the flu, you can protect both of you by getting a flu shot.

Take Action!

Because your immune system weakens as you age, adults age 65 years and older are more susceptible to the flu. It is important all seniors get the flu vaccination

You have two options for vaccination: the regular dose flu shot and the high-dose shot that results in a stronger immune response. Talk to your health care provider to decide which one is right for you.

Flu shots are offered in many locations. You can get a flu vaccine at a doctor’s office, clinic, or from your local health department, pharmacy, or employer.

The seasonal flu vaccine is covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get the flu vaccine at no cost to you. If you have Medicare Part B, your flu shot is free.

Are there any side effects from the seasonal flu vaccine?

Most people don’t have any side effects after getting the flu vaccine. Some people may have mild side effects. These side effects begin soon after the vaccine is given and usually last 1 to 2 days. These side effects aren’t the flu.

Fight the flu.                                                        
Getting the flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting yourself from the flu. Here are some other things you can do to keep from getting and spreading the flu:

  • Stay away from people who are sick with the flu.
  • If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitizer).
  • Try not to touch your nose, mouth, or eyes.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

 

 

Eating Well As You Get Older

Eating Well As You Get Older

This article is from the National Library of Medicine, It is  reprinted here with their permission.    Sunset            

Benefits of Eating Well

Eating well is vital for everyone at all ages. Whatever your age, your daily food choices can make an important difference in your health and in how you look and feel.

 

Eating Well Promotes Health

Eating a well-planned, balanced mix of foods every day has many health benefits. For instance, eating well may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, some kinds of cancer, and anemia. If you already have one or more of these chronic diseases, eating well and being physically active may help you better manage them. Healthy eating may also help you reduce high blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, and manage diabetes.

Eating well gives you the nutrients needed to keep your muscles, bones, organs, and other parts of your body healthy throughout your life. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water.

Eating Well Promotes Energy

Eating well helps keep up your energy level, too. By consuming enough calories — a way to measure the energy you get from food –you give your body the fuel it needs throughout the day. The number of calories needed depends on how old you are, whether you’re a man or woman, your height and weight, and how active you are.

Food Choices Can Affect Weight

Consuming the right number of calories for your level of physical activity helps you control your weight, too. Extra weight is a concern for older adults because it can increase the risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease and can increase joint problems. Eating more calories than your body needs for your activity level will lead to extra pounds.

If you become less physically active as you age, you will probably need fewer calories to stay at the same weight. Choosing mostly nutrient-dense foods — foods which have a lot of nutrients but relatively few calories — can give you the nutrients you need while keeping down calorie intake.

Food Choices Affect Digestion            
Your food choices also affect your digestion. For instance, not getting enough fiber or fluids may cause constipation. Eating more whole-grain foods with fiber, fruits and vegetables or drinking more water may help with constipation.

Make One Change at a Time

Eating well isn’t just a “diet” or “program” that’s here today and gone tomorrow. It is part of a healthy lifestyle that you can adopt now and stay within the years to come.

To eat healthier, you can begin by taking small steps, making one change at a time. For instance, you might

  • Remove the salt shaker off your table. Decreasing your salt intake slowly will allow you to adjust.
  • Switch to whole-grain bread, seafood, or more vegetables and fruits when you shop.

These changes may be easier than you think. They’re possible even if you need help with shopping or cooking, or if you have a limited budget.

Checking With Your Doctor

If you have a specific medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor or registered dietitian about foods you should include or avoid.

You Can Start Today

Whatever your age, you can start making positive lifestyle changes today. Eating well can help you stay healthy and independent — and look and feel good — in the years to come