Safety Upgrades For Seniors' Homes
Many seniors want to spend as long as possible residing in the comforts of their own homes. According to AARP's 2021 "Home and Community Preferences Survey," more than three-quarters of U.S. adults age 50 and older prefer living at home. But getting older often comes with certain deficits that may not make current living situations the safest for seniors.
Retirement Living reports that an older person is treated in an emergency room for a fall-related injury nearly once every 10 seconds. Falls cause millions of injuries and 32,000 deaths a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seniors may be affected by low vision, mobility limitations, cognitive decline, balance issues, and loss of muscle strength. Certain adaptations may be necessary if seniors want to stay in their homes, particularly in older homes that have not recently been renovated.
Change knobs to levers
This is an easy modification. Levers are much easier for individuals with arthritis or persons who lack dexterity in their hands. Everything from doorknobs to faucet knobs can be replaced with levers.
Create zero-threshold entryways
Zero-threshold entryways, also known as flush entries, do not require crossing a lip or any raised barrier. They can appear on doorways and showers and make it easy for people who have mobility issues, as well as those using scooters, walkers and wheelchairs, to move about unencumbered.
Clear clutter/move obstructions
One inexpensive modification is to remove extraneous furniture and accessories. Such a change widens walking spaces in a room and accommodates walkers and wheelchairs. In addition, furniture can be pushed to the room's perimeter to make moving around easier. It's also important to remove area rugs, as they're often tripping hazards.
Install grab rails and supports
Minimizing falls could come down to providing support in key rooms of a home. Adding grab rails in the bathroom near the toilet and in the shower can help a person use those facilities without assistance. Install a grab rail close to seating in the kitchen to add support.
Consider smart lighting
Motion-activated or darkness-activated lighting switches and fixtures can automatically turn on lights, thereby improving visibility. Also, rocker light switches are easier to maneuver than standard toggles.
Invest in a stairlift
Single-story homes are preferable for growing older gracefully, but many seniors live in multi-story homes. A stairlift makes a multi-floor home more accessible, according to Elder, an eldercare service provider. Stairlifts make it easier to traverse staircases and reduce the risk for falls.
These suggestions are just a few of the many home modifications that can help seniors safely age in place.
Upgrade Bathroom Safety Features
Bathrooms can benefit from updates that improve their form and function. While styles and color patterns may inspire bathroom renovations, improvements to safety also should be considered.
Bathrooms can be one of the most dangerous rooms in a house. Bath and shower areas account for about two-thirds of accidental injuries in these spaces. Many other injuries involve the toilet. In 2008, a thorough investigation of bathroom dangers conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that mishaps near the bathtub, shower, toilet, and sink caused an estimated 234,094 nonfatal injuries in the United States among people aged 15 years and older.
Seniors are particularly vulnerable in the bathroom due to reduced mobility and flexibility, visual impairment and other factors. However, some key modifications can make bathrooms much safer for aging populations.
· Raised toilet seat: Install an ADA-compliant raised toilet seat. Standard toilet seats are roughly 15 inches high, but elevated seats can raise the bowl an additional two to four inches. Another option is to invest in risers that can be attached to an existing toilet.
· Grab bars: Seniors may use towel holders as grab bars, which don't have stability and can dislodge from the wall. Install secured side grip bars by the toilet and inside the shower to make maneuvering easier.
· Water temperature: Seniors may be vulnerable to hot water temperatures. Lower the water temperature setting on the hot water heater.
StaySafe.org recommends 120 F.
· Faucets: Change faucet handles to paddle-style handles rather than knobs. Knobs can be challenging to grip for those with arthritis in their hands. Also, handles that are easier for seniors to use can reduce the risk of the elderly losing their balance as they attempt to gain leverage to turn the water on and off.
· Nonslip mats: Nonslip mats or tape strips can be used in showers and tub bottoms, as well as outside of the shower to reduce the risk of slips and falls. Rugs should have rubberized, slip-resistant backing.
· Rounded corners: Choose counters and fixtures with rounded corners. Should a senior fall against something, the rounded corner may prevent serious injury.
· Shower benches and transfer seats: Benches and transfer seats make it easier getting in and out of the shower. Also, sitting while showering reduces the risk of becoming light-headed or losing balance.
· Walk-in tubs/showers: Minimizing the threshold to the shower or bathtub is an important safety feature. Some manufacturers make walk-in tubs with doors that secure and make watertight seals. Showers that don't have a lip or tub to scale also are better for seniors.
· Lighting: Eyesight weakens over time, so improve lighting with combinations of overhead lighting and softer side lighting. Night lights or soft-glowing toilet lights can make it easier to get around the bathroom in the middle of the night.
These are just some improvements that can create safer bathroom environments for seniors.
How Does Voting-by-mail Work?
Each Election Day, Americans vote and thus take part in a fundamental principle of democracy. Elections take place on various levels, from local governments to presidential elections.
Until recently, in order to cast a ballot for a particular election, most voters had to physically appear at their respective polling locations and submit their votes in person. Mail-in voting, also known as absentee voting, was frowned upon and not widely available. It first arose during the Civil War, when soldiers were given the opportunity to cast ballots from the battlefield. Absentee voting later became an issue during World War II, when Congress passed laws in 1942 and 1944 enabling soldiers stationed overseas to participate in elections. More recently, during the 1980s, more states made absentee voting available, and it is no longer uncommon for voters to be mailed ballots and submit them before Election Day. According to MIT, the movement to vote-by-mail reached new levels with the 2020 elections, which occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some attest that mail-in-voting enables many individuals who would not normally be able to physically make it to the polls on Election Day to cast votes. Mail-in balloting works in different ways. The United States has universal vote-by-mail and absentee balloting. With the former, ballots are mailed to all voters. In the latter, voters must request an absentee ballot.
In terms of a requested absentee ballot, a voter must write, call or request a ballot online. Upon receipt, the voter will make his or her choice, and then place the sealed ballot in a security envelope provided with the ballot. The voter signs the outside of the second envelope to certify that he or she is a registered voter. When the election authority receives the ballot, it certifies the registration of the voter and that the address matches the one on record with the election authority. On Election Day, the mail ballots are added into the results of the votes with those from people who visited the polls in person.
According to the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that works to improve policy and governance at local, national and global levels, there is no partisan advantage to either party related to voting by mail. Also, absentee ballots benefit senior citizens as well as low-income people and those without access to transportation.
Despite some news stories in recent years that may lead people to believe mail-in votes come with risk, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University says there is no evidence that mail balloting increases electoral fraud, as there are several anti-fraud protections built into the process.
Mail-in voting is an option for many people across the U.S. It is secure and convenient for many voters.
Can Couples Move into Assisted Living Facilities Together?
The decision to move into an assisted living facility requires careful consideration, and that decision may necessitate even greater deliberation for couples. The organization SeniorLiving.org, which is devoted to empowering older adults to age with ease, notes that many assisted living facilities offer living arrangements for spouses who do not necessarily require the same level of care and attention as their partners. Though each facility is different, and some may not allow couples to live together when one person requires significant help with day-to-day living, many provide apartment-style living in which housing units are equipped with safety features, such as handrails and wheelchair accessibility, that can make daily living safer for aging individuals with physical challenges without making life difficult for their partners with no such issues. In addition, SeniorLiving.org notes that, at most assisted living facilities, residents will only pay for the services required, meaning couples will not have to pay for services such as medication management and activities of daily living assistance for the spouse who does not require such help. Such flexibility can make life easier and more affordable for couples who choose to move into assisted living facilities together.
What to Know About the Stages of Alzheimer's Disease
Dementia is a broad term for memory loss and other cognitive issues, such as language and problem-solving problems, that can interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease is one type of dementia. More than 6.2 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's disease, indicates the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. The Alzheimer's Association says more than 747,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia, and worldwide 44 million people are living with dementia.
AD is caused by damage to nerve cells in the brain, known as neurons, that are essential to thinking, walking, talking, and all human activity. Researchers say that the first noticeable symptoms tend to be memory, language and thinking problems. However, the brain changes that cause the symptoms are believed to begin 20 years or more before the appearance of symptoms.
Once AD sets in, it is a progressive disorder. There is no cure and cognitive issues will only continue to get worse as time goes on. At some point, around-the-clock care may be required, and patients with AD may need to enter a memory care facility because their needs may exceed the abilities of caregivers.
The AFA notes there are three stages of AD, mild, moderate and late, and each stage produces unique symptoms.
· Forget words or misplace objects
· Forget something they just read
· Ask the same question over and over
· Have increasing trouble making plans or organizing
· Fail to remember names when meeting new people
· Increased memory loss and confusion
· Problems recognizing family and friends
· Continuously repeating stories
· Decreased ability to perform complex tasks or handle personal finances
· Lack of concern for hygiene and appearance
· Requiring assistance in choosing proper clothing to wear for day, season or occasion
· Recognize faces but forget names
· Mistake a person for someone else
· Delusions may set in
· Strong need for holding something close for tactile simulation or companionship
· Basic abilities fade during this period. Individuals will need help with all basic activities of daily living.
People may wonder why AD is eventually fatal when it seemingly only affects cognition. Although cognitive issues that result in memory impairment are not necessarily life-threatening, the disease also can affect the body physically. The most common cause of death among Alzheimer's patients is aspiration pneumonia. That happens when, due to difficulty in swallowing, an individual inhales food particles, liquid or even gastric fluids inadvertently, says UCLA Health.
Alzheimer's disease is a serious condition that affects millions of people. It's important to discuss warning signs with doctors and get the facts about this form of dementia as early as possible.
How Caregivers Can Alleviate Stress
Serving as a caregiver for a friend or loved one can be both rewarding and taxing at the same time. The senior housing authority A Place for Mom indicates that 41 million Americans offer unpaid caregiving services, and that number is expected to increase as the aging population grows in the coming decades. Formal caregivers are paid care providers in a home or care setting. However, an informal caregiver is an unpaid individual that assists others with activities of daily living as well as medical tasks.
Whether one is a formal or informal caregiver, researchers have long known that caregiving can adversely affect a caregiver's mental and physical health. The AARP Public Policy Institute says 17 percent of caregivers feel their health in general has gotten worse due to caregiving responsibilities. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP also indicate older caregivers caring for persons age 65 and older report a higher degree of physical strain.
The fatigue that arises from caring for another individual is often referred to as caregiver burnout. Since caregiving takes place over several years, the impact can escalate over time. Caregiver stress is directly related to burnout. One of the first steps to take is recognizing the signs of caregiver burnout so that action can be taken to improve the situation.
The Mayo Clinic says signs of caregiver stress include:
· worrying all the time
· feeling tired often
· changes in sleep
· gaining or losing weight
· becoming easily irked or angry
· losing interest in activities once enjoyed
· feeling sad or depressed
· experiencing frequent headaches, pains or other health problems
· misusing drugs or alcohol, including prescriptions
· missing your own medical appointments or other appointments
Caregivers need to put themselves first at times in order to help avoid health complications that can come from the stress and demand of caregiving. Make use of these caregiver stress management tips, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic and Penn Medicine.
· Ask for help. Figure out ways that others can help out and then be sure to let them know and accept anything that is provided.
· Do the best you can. Every caregiver feels they are not doing enough at some point in time. Do whatever you can manage and know that it is adequate.
· Set small goals. Categorize responsibilities into smaller, more manageable tasks. Make lists of what is most important and tackle those goals, moving on as needed.
· Reach out to a support group. There are support groups for many different types of needs, including caregiver support. People who are experiencing the same highs and lows as you can offer advice or just be there to listen.
· Find ways to rest and sleep. Many caregivers are sleep deprived. If sleeping has become an issue, discuss potential remedies with your own doctor.
· Look into respite care help. Taking a break from caregiving can do wonders. Certain adult care centers and skilled nursing homes offer temporary respite care services for informal caregivers. A loved one can be dropped off for a night or two, giving you a rest. This also is an option if you want to go on vacation.
Caregivers may feel burdened by stress. There are options available to manage it.
How to Get Ready For In-home Care Services
Ensuring that aging loved ones can be as independent as possible while also safe and secure may require the services of a caregiver.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, on average, caregivers spend 13 days each month on tasks like shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and administering medication. Many caregivers provide help with activities of daily living, whether they are informal caregivers (unpaid family) or formal caregivers (paid caregivers). Skilled nursing homes or assisted living facilities are options, and many families choose to rely on in-home care providers a few days a week or even for 24-hour-per-day care. Here's how to make the transition go more smoothly and prepare a home for the caregiver's arrival.
· Identify the main care space(s). Receiving care at home may necessitate moving the person to a different room or rooms. Ideally that space should be on the ground floor, easily accessible and close to a bathroom. If an in-home caregiver will be a live-in as well, he or she will need a room close to the individual's room.
· Gather important information that will be needed. Companions for Seniors suggests collecting important supplies, paperwork and information, such as contacts for doctors and other important people, and making them easily accessible. A caregiver may need access to healthcare directives and maybe even bills or other financial documents if the person will be helping with tasks of that sort.
· Label and organize the home. Consider labeling cupboards, drawers and storage containers so that caregivers can find things more easily. Also, this is a good time to clear out clutter and organize rooms even further.
· Stock the home. Purchase certain necessities, such as groceries, pet food and supplies, paper products, cleaning supplies, and whatever else is needed. Even if the caregiver agrees to do some shopping, supplementing can be a big help.
· Install safety gear in the home. Be sure that the home is safe to navigate for the senior as well as the caregiver. Remove tripping hazards like area rugs, and take out excess furniture that isn't serving an immediate purpose. Utilize mounted grab bars near the toilet and tub, lower the hot water heater temperature, purchase a shower chair, and ensure that walkers, scooters or canes are in good repair. Ask the caregiver if there is anything else that is needed in terms of home modifications.
· Consider a security system. Installation of cameras and alarms can make everyone in the home feel safer. Be sure the caregiver knows the placement of cameras and that they will be monitored for everyone's protection.
In-home care is a necessity for many aging adults. Certain steps are needed to prepare for the caregiver's arrival at home.
How to Build Friendships in Your Golden Years
Making friends as a child or even as a parent to school-aged children is relatively easy. Classrooms and school functions facilitate the building of friendships. Even as one gets older and enters the workforce, it's not uncommon for people to become friends with their coworkers.
As people near retirement age, their situations may have changed considerably. Children have moved out, careers are coming to an end and friendships may be hard to maintain due to people relocating or traveling. Older adults may aspire to make new friends, but they may not know how.
According to Irene S Levine, Ph.D., The Friendship Doctor and contributor to Psychology Today, it is not unique for seniors to want to make new friends. Age can be a barrier because there are stereotypes that pigeonhole people of certain ages. But Levine notes that state of mind and physical ability is not directly tied to chronological age. Making friends is possible at any age. These guidelines can help along the way.
· Explore online connections. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Gerontology found seniors (even those in their 80s) who stay connected with friends and family using social media report feeling less lonely and better overall. Connected seniors also demonstrated higher executive reasoning skills. There are plenty of ways to meet new people online by joining social media groups that cater to your interests. In person meetings in particular cities or regions of the country also can make for great ways to make new friends. Exercise caution when meeting people in person after contacting them online. Bring another person along, whether it's a spouse or an adult child, to ensure that you are safe.
· Volunteer your time. One way to meet new people is to get involved with causes or activities you love. This serves the double benefit of getting you outside and active and puts you in touch with people who share your passions and interests.
· Attend alumni events. If you have an interest getting in touch with someone from your past and reconnecting, make the time to attend school reunions and other alumni activities. It can be fun to reconnect with friends from high school or college.
· Join a gym. The local gym isn't just a great place to get physically fit. Group exercise classes also can be ideal places to meet other people who enjoy working out. Strike up a conversation with another class participant you see on a regular basis. Once you develop a rapport, schedule lunch dates so your friendship grows outside of the gym.
Making friends is not just for the young. Men and women over 50 also can find ways to build new friendships.
The Stages of Menopause
Menopause marks a moment in a woman's life when her reproductive years come to an end. It is a natural part of aging and represents when a person has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.
Although some may think that menopause lasts several years, it actually is a single moment in time when menstruation ceases. However, perimenopause is the period of years leading up to menopause, or when women or people assigned female at birth start to transition to menopause, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Perimenopause also is called "perimenopause transition." It usually starts in one's forties and lasts until menopause. Gradual changes occur during perimenopause, including skipped periods, longer or shorter periods, hot flashes, or changes in mood. Perimenopause tends to set in anywhere from five to 10 years before a final period.
A woman will not know she has reached menopause until it actually has happened and no subsequent periods occur. False alarms are not uncommon. During perimenopause, skipping periods is common, and menstrual cycles may shorten, causing cycles to come on more frequently and run into one another.
While menopause can occur at any time in one's forties or fifties, the average age of occurrence in the United States is 51. The Mayo Clinic says symptoms of menopause can start during perimenopause and persist a few years after a person's last menstrual cycle. These symptoms include chills, night sweats, hot flashes, sleeping disturbances, mood changes, weight gain and slowed metabolism, vaginal dryness, thinning hair and skin, and loss of breast fullness. Many women also notice changes in the shape or performance of their bodies, such as changes in the waist and joints and muscles being stiff and achy. There are treatments available that may help with menopausal issues that can be discussed with health providers.
Postmenopause is the name given to the time after menopause. During this stage, the severity of menopause symptoms may lessen. However, some women may experience symptoms for 10 years or more. Menopause puts people at risk for several health conditions due to reduced estrogen levels, including osteoporosis and heart disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
While menopause is a distinct moment in time when reproduction ceases, it is preceded and followed by other stages that affect women in various ways.
Simple Ways to Maintain Memory as You Age
Adults confront various age-related side effects as they transition from middle age to their golden years. Skin may begin to wrinkle and hair may turn gray, but those are just the visible side effects of aging. Many additional effects are unseen, but those changes can have a profound effect on adults' quality of life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, various parts of the body are affected by aging. For example, the cardiovascular system changes as people grow older. Blood vessels and arteries stiffen as adults age, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood through them.
Though many changes are linked to aging, other changes commonly associated with aging, such as a decline in memory, reasoning and other thinking skills, are not natural. The Alzheimer's Association® notes that dementia is not a normal part of aging. There are many different types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, and these are the result of damage to brain cells that affect a person's ability to communicate. That damage is not inevitable, even if it's commonly associated with aging.
The Harvard Medical School notes that fleeting memory problems experienced with aging often reflect normal changes in the structure and function of the brain. But it's important that those changes not be mistaken for dementia, and it's equally important that adults recognize there are many ways they can protect and sharpen their minds as they age.
· Continue learning. HMS notes that a higher level of education is associated with improved mental functioning in old age. The reasons for that are unknown, but experts theorize that advanced education compels people to remain mentally active, which in turn helps them maintain a strong memory. Even aging men and women who are still working in challenging fields can benefit from pursuing a new hobby or learning a new skill.
· Use the tools at your disposal. It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that organizational tools like planners, maps and lists can help people maintain their memories. However, HMS notes that expending mental energy on finding car keys or trying to remember what to buy at the store makes it harder to learn new and important things.
· Let all your senses play a role. HMS reports that the more senses a person uses to learn something, the more his or her brain is involved in retaining a memory. HMS cites one study in which adults were shown a series of emotionally neutral images that were each presented along with a smell. Participants were not asked to recall what they saw, but were later shown a set of images and asked to indicate which they had previously seen. The participants had excellent recall for the odor-paired images, and researchers believe that's because additional parts of the brain were activated when participants were asked to use more than one sense.
Memory loss is not an inevitable side effect of aging, especially for adults who take steps to maintain their memories as they age.