Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In Home Senior Care - Advice for Seniors: Get a Flu Shot

By Helen Antipov

At Comfort Keepers, when we provide in-home Senior Care, we want to be sure our seniors get the best care. As with any medical treatment and prevention, your doctor is the only one who should advise you or your loved one to obtain a flu shot. However, information from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicate the best way to prevent the flu and stop it from spreading is a flu shot, especially for senior adults. This is because the flu can be especially dangerous to seniors above the age of 65.

What is influenza and why is it more dangerous for seniors?
Influenza, also know as the flu, is caused by a virus, also commonly known as a germ. More specifically, influenza is a respiratory infection. While most people recover in 1-2 weeks from the flu, for others influenza develops into a more serious lung infection. This type of flu complication can land one in the hospital, and also lead to Pneumonia, Bronchitis and other serious infections. At worst, the flu can cause death, and is the fourth leading cause of death among seniors 65 and older.

The specific numbers are scary: More than 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older, the CDC reports on cdc.gov. About 90 percent of deaths that occur from influenza happen to seniors.

The flu is a greater concern for the elderly because, as we get older, our immune system becomes weaker. This makes it easier for seniors to not only get the flu, but to fight off complications that might develop from it.

What is a flu shot and when should I get it?
As with any vaccine, a flu shot contains a weakened or killed part of the germ that causes the illness. Because this germ is so weak, it helps your body develop antibodies, which are substances that boost your immune systems. According to the CDC, once you develop antibodies against the flu, cells that have 'learned' to fight the virus remain ready to combat it when you are exposed, or come down with the flu.
Because it takes a bit of time before your body is fully ready to fight off the flu virus, most medical experts recommend you get a flu shot in November. In general the 'flu season' begins in December and can last until the spring. If you wait until midst of flu season to get a shot, these antibodies won't have enough time to develop immunity from the flu.

Many pharmacies, such as CVS, are now offering the flu shot. Even though these flu shots must be administered by qualified professionals, talk to you doctor first to let them know you plan to get vaccination and where. According to the National Institution on Aging, Medicare will pay for a flu shot.

Are caregivers more susceptible to the flu?
Although younger adults are more likely to successfully fight off the flu, if you are caring for a loved one, you might be exposed to the flu before your loved one shows symptoms.

The flu virus is contagious and can spread to someone only six feet away. An article written by Anthony Cirillo for About.com's Assisted Living page states one can infect another person one day before symptoms begin, and up to five to seven days after. Some studies show children may pass the virus to others for a longer duration.
The flu typically spreads when someone sneezes, coughs or talks. It can also be spread when someone touches a surface, then their own mouth, nose or eyes.

Because the flu is so easily spread, caregivers should take extra precautions when near a loved one who has the flu. They should also take precautions to avoid getting the flu themselves because a senior in their care is more susceptible to the virus.

In addition to a vaccine, how do I prevent the flu?
Everyday precautions are you or your loved one's best defense against flu. Some basic ways to prevent the virus is to wash your hands carefully and often; avoid touching your eyes; and stay inside and away from others if you don't feel well.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-viral drugs for you or your loved that can be beneficial within 48 hours of the onset of the flu. However, some physicians and other medical professionals advise against the elderly using these prescriptions.

There is a fair amount of evidence that a healthy diet and some supplements can prevent the flu and lessen its severity. According to Simin N. Meydani, Ph.d, a researcher at Tufts University, studies conducted in nursing homes indicated that zinc plays a role in fighting the flu. In nearly 600 nursing facilities, the residents who had normal zinc concentration were less susceptible to the flu, and had a shorter duration of it than those with low zinc levels.
How do I know if I should call my doctor about the flu?

The common symptoms of the minor flu are: muscle aches, dry cough, sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose.

If you suspect your loved one's symptoms have grown worse over one or two days, always call the doctor. Here are some signs that indicate the flu has reached a severity that requires hospitalization or additional treatment:
shaking chills
pain in the chest or abdomen, or shortness of breath
confusion and abrupt dizziness
high-fever or sweating (how high of a temp here?)
coughing up phlegm that is yellow, green or white.

At Comfort Keepers of Durham and Chapel Hill, we understand the stress that caregivers go through. We are here to help you and give you the support you need when dealing with a loved one and in keeping your senior healthy that can make a difference in their daily life. Call us at 919-338-2044 or visit us at online.
We provide elder care, senior care, in home care, Alzheimer's care and dementia care in Chapel Hill and Durham.


The editors of the National Institute on Aging's website: nia.nih.gov
The editors of flu.gov
Consumer Reports News, 'Should I take Tamiflu to treat the flu? January, 2013
'Adequate Zinc Levels Help Quell Pneumonia in Elderly,' by Tufts University's Simin N. Meydani, Ph.D, via Med Page Today.
The editors of WebMD
'What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season if You are 65 Years and Older,' by the editors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) via www.cdc.gov 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Senior Care in Chapel Hill and Durham - Aging Gracefully: Muscles, Joints and Bones

By Helen Antipov

In providing senior care in Chapel Hill and Durham we understand that muscles, joints, and bones are vital to movement. They enable us to accomplish complex feats such as downhill skiing and simple tasks like writing with a pencil. Bones provide our basic body structure, joints allow flexibility of movement, and muscles hold them together to make it all possible. It is important to pay attention to these body parts all the time, not just when they hurt, and to care for them as we age. Proper care of muscles, joints, and bones now helps ensure strength and mobility as we age, and it may mean the difference in growing old gracefully, or not.
As we age, our bones lose density, muscles lose flexibility and joints become worn. This affects mobility and balance, making us more at risk for falling and fracturing bones. Seniors are especially prone both to falling and to diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis, which can impose limitations on the most basic activities of life.

Even if they are not afflicted with a disease, the older our joints, bones, and muscles become, the more important it is to know how to maintain these parts in order to preserve our basic mobility. Experts say healthy eating habits and moderate exercise can improve and maintain joint mobility, muscle mass, and bone strength.

What to Eat and Why
A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D helps maintain bone density. Vitamin D also acts as an anti-inflammatory in regards to joint pain, as do the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as tuna and salmon. Maintaining a healthy weight decreases the pressure on our joints and prevents inflammation of joint tissue as it degrades over time. Limiting fat intake from other sources will not only aid in maintaining a healthy weight, but it also keeps fatty tissues from developing in muscles, which weakens them.

Exercise and Why It Helps
Talking with a doctor about exercise, especially when engaging in a new activity, is the first step to improve bones, joints and muscles. He or she can recommend appropriate levels of exercise and may recommend strength training, which helps retain bone density and muscle mass. This improves flexibility, which has a direct effect on balance and posture. Strength training is shown to prevent osteoporosis and keeps the disease from getting worse if for those who already have it. Strength training consists of weight-bearing activities such as walking, jogging, lifting weights, using a stair climber or another activity that moves our bodies against gravity. Moderate aerobic exercise helps ease the pain of arthritis and includes bicycling at less than ten miles per hour, water aerobics, and brisk walking. Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi stretch our muscles and keep them flexible. 
Even your Comfort Keeper can provide structure in your home to help your senior get their exercise into their schedule.

No matter how old we are, changing our eating and exercise habits for the better will have a direct effect on the quality of life we lead as we age. As intimidating as it may seem at first, incorporating healthy food and exercise into our daily routines now will help our muscles, joints and bones continue to function and allow us to get the most out of life.

At Comfort Keepers of Durham and Chapel Hill, we understand the stress that caregivers go through. We are here to help you and give you the support you need when dealing with a loved one and in finding senior activities that can make a difference in their daily life. Call us at 919-338-2044 or visit us at online.