Self-neglect: a growing problem

Self-neglect: a growing problem

Imagine your longtime neighbor is an elderly gentleman who lives alone. He’s been in and out of the hospital over the last few months. He rarely sees his only child, a son who lives on the other side of the country.

You pay your neighbor a social call upon his recent return from a hospital stay.

When he doesn’t answer the door, you peer into the window and are alarmed to see he’s on the floor and not responding to you as you call his name. You call 911.

Paramedics arrive. You stay to answer any questions you can. As you stand by, you hear that your neighbor hasn’t let the home health agency personnel in for their nursing care visits to monitor his health. And he hasn’t eaten the Meals on Wheels food that had been delivered.

Life is never the same after suffering a stroke

Life is never the same after suffering a stroke

A widow with no children, Linda has volunteered for Senior Concerns’ Bargain Boutique and Thrift Shop for the past three years. On Jan. 17, her life changed dramatically.

Scheduled to work at the boutique that day, Linda did not show up for her shift. Concerned, Karina, the boutique manager, called Linda at home. There was no answer.

Karina began to worry. She discussed the situation with boutique volunteer and Senior Concerns’ staff member Denise. They knew Linda lived alone with her St. Bernard, Cooper. Both women called and called but got no response.

After almost two days of trying, they found one of Linda’s neighbors, who had a key to her house. The neighbor 

Living with Parkinson’s

Living with Parkinson’s

I distinctly remember the day I realized my father had something wrong with him.

It was 1992, and my husband and I had recently moved to California. My parents came for their first visit to see us from their home in Cape Cod.

One day on our way to lunch, my mother and I were walking behind my husband and my father, who were chatting about golf.

I noticed my father was holding his right hand in a fist and that he seemed, ever so slightly, to be walking with a different gait. I asked my mother if she had noticed this and she said yes.

We mentioned it to my father, who agreed to see a doctor upon his return home.

He did, and although his general physician did not make a formal diagnosis at the time, he suggested a number of things my father’s symptoms could mean. He recommended my father make an appointment with a neurologist.

My father told me later that as he and my mother entered the neurologist’s office the following week, the neurologist immediately said to my him, “I am pretty sure you have Parkinson’s disease.”

It was quite a shock for them to hear and, of course, it was a life-changing diagnosis.

Solutions to decline of senses continue to be developed

Solutions to decline of senses continue to be developed

We humans tend to take our senses for granted—until they stop working as well as they had in the past. It’s a well-known fact of life that our senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) all decline as we age.

Our vision, especially, tends to get worse with age. We may be less able to tolerate glare. Cataracts, which can make vision fuzzy, are relatively common and usually occur later in life.

Dry eyes are also a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.

Hearing loss in both ears increases with age, beginning between ages 40 and 50.

Our sense of taste becomes less sharp. The number of taste buds decreases, and each remaining taste bud begins to shrink. Reduced flow of saliva may also lead to diminished taste.

Medication taking made easier

Medication taking made easier

My friend Lloyd, who has a demanding full-time job, is helping to care for his in-laws, who’ve moved closer to him due to their declining health.

He shared with me that he’d been to the pharmacy eight times last month and was beginning to resent the amount of time he spent there.

“The prescriptions my in-laws take are all due at different times,” he lamented. “I feel like I am living at the pharmacy. Then I get all the bottles home and I have to sort them into their pillboxes. There has to be a better way.”

Complex medication regimens, transportation challenges, age-related physical and mental debilities and varying renewal dates can significantly affect medication adherence as well as the quality of life for seniors and their family caregivers.

Physicians and pharmacies recognize this issue, as hospitalizations due to taking medications improperly have increased.

Having a healthy fear of the flu

Having a healthy fear of the flu

It had been a long time since I’d been around someone with the actual flu, but over the New Year’s holiday two of my friends came down with the virus.

Now I can clearly see I hadn’t given the flu enough respect.

One friend is a working mom with two children under the age of 8. The other is a working single 50-something woman with two pets. The working mom got the flu shot; the single gal did not.

Both of them were very sick, and even though they went to urgent care and were prescribed Tamiflu (or its generic version), both were down for the count for a good seven days and neither could complete a full day of work on their first day back.

It reminded me how glad I am that I get my flu shot each year and how lucky I was not to have caught the flu from them.

I accompanied one of my friends to her urgent care visit as she was unable to drive.

Doctor’s order is best gift of all

Doctor’s order is best gift of all

With a yearlong waiting list to enter a skilled-nursing facility for long-term care, my father was placed on palliative care at home recently. While it may not seem so, it was an early Christmas gift for our family.

The occupational therapist who had been helping teach my mother and sister how to safely transfer my father asked my father’s physician about a palliative-care consult, and the physician put in the order.

My father has advanced Parkinson’s, but he is not near the end of his life. He doesn’t have pain, but his breathing is labored, he has significant fatigue, he is depressed (who wouldn’t be?) and he has bowel and bladder issues. For all intents and purposes, he is homebound.

The local home health agency that was providing occupational therapy also has a palliative care and hospice division. So the same agency sent a new person to the home to evaluate my father.

Understanding new roles in healthcare

Understanding new roles in healthcare

Most of us know that hospital staffing is made up of doctors and nurses. But if you haven’t visited a hospital lately, you may not know about the evolving set of specialties found in today’s hospitals.

Where is my primary care doctor?

A relatively new trend in the care of hospitalized patients is the “hospitalist,” a doctor who specializes in the care of such patients. In most instances, it will be the hospitalist, not your primary care physician, who will be treating you during your stay.

Hospitalists are most often board-certified internal medicine doctors who have training and experience in caring for the complexities of the hospitalized. Because they do not have a community practice, they’re able to concentrate on patient care, testing and timely communication with everyone from the patient to their families, other physicians and the nursing staff.

A hospitalist’s “home base” is the hospital, so they are experts at navigating the policies and protocols within that setting. This is a great benefit to the patient. The downside is they may not be familiar with a patient’s medical history or their current medications.

Picking the right skilled-nursing facility

Picking the right skilled-nursing facility

An individual typically takes one of two paths to a skilled nursing facility: straight from the hospital or from home when they become too frail or sick to care for themselves.

In the first case, when the stay is for temporary doctor-ordered rehabilitation, the patient rarely has a say about which facility they’re transferred to. Instead, the decision is based upon bed availability, which facilities have connections to the hospital and the patient’s insurance plan.

In the second case, patients, most often seniors, do have a choice—if they do their planning and research.

Begin by figuring out which skilled-nursing facilities are covered by your Medicare plan. My parents, for example, have a Medicare HMO plan. With most HMO plans, you can go only to doctors, healthcare providers or hospitals on the plan’s list, except in an emergency.

Since my father will soon be living at a skilled-nursing facility and may need medical care there in the future, it’s important that he’s able to use his Medicare coverage plan to pay for treatment.

Dealing with the most difficult transition

Dealing with the most difficult transition

Next week we begin the heart-wrenching steps to place my father in a skilled-nursing facility in New Hampshire.

Parkinson’s disease has taken its toll on him and on my mother, his caregiver. I am thankful this day was so long in coming— over 20 years from the date of his diagnosis—but still too soon for all of us.

Over the past month my father has lost his ability to assist with his care, especially transfer r ing f rom bed to chair to commode and back. On a good day, or moment, my sister and mother can help him make the short trip. On a bad day, like a few weeks ago, my sister and my mother struggled for an hour to get my father—upon returning from getting his flu shot—out of the car and back into the house, even with the help of a third person.

In the best sense of the word, my mother is a martyr, having sacrificed her own pleasure and well-being for years to ensure my father lives with the greatest level of dignity and enjoyment.

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