Items filtered by date: August 2021

Friday, 20 August 2021 09:49

Beat the Heat

June has arrived; and though summer officially begins in about three weeks, the time for outdoor activities and vacations is here. Here in the Midwest, extreme heat could arrive any day, bringing with it danger for aging individuals. According to the CDC, persons older than 65 years of age are more prone to heat stress. This is because they do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature. Additionally, they are more likely to have medical conditions or take medications that change the body’s ability to respond to heat.

When the temperature rises, it is wise to check in on older relatives and neighbors. Be aware of any conditions or medications that place them at greater risks. Also be aware of factors that may be a barrier to them taking care of themselves during warmer weather. For example, some may be concerned about their energy bills when they use the air conditioner. Other factors may be fluid restrictions due to medication or impaired reasoning skills.

Individuals and caregivers should take the following steps to protect from heat-related health issues.

  • If possible, remain indoors during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Use air conditioning; go to the library, mall or other public space if needed.
  • Avoid strenuous activity.
  • Wear lightweight clothing.
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.

Even when precautions are taken, elderly persons should be monitored for signs of heat-related illness. Signs of heat exhaustion require immediate action: faintness or dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea or vomiting, rapid and weak pulse, and muscle cramps. If these symptoms occur, get to a cooler place, drink water and take a cool shower or use cool compresses.

Heat stroke is even more serious and requires emergency medical care. It can have lasting effects. The following symptoms require an immediate call to 911: throbbing headache, inability to sweat, body temperature above 103, nausea or vomiting, rapid and strong pulse, and loss of consciousness.

Our Accucare caregivers are available to help with a variety of in-home health care services. We can assist your loved one with the daily activities that will keep them well throughout the hot summer months. We provide on-site first aid services to large venues in the St. Louis area, where we are sometimes called upon to identify the symptoms of heat related illnesses. Our professional medical staff is on call to assist our caregivers with meeting the needs of our clients. If you need help with keeping your loved one safe throughout the summer, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

In recent blogs, we have been exploring nutrition in aging individuals. So far, we’ve discussed several challenges to eating well and how to overcome those challenges. We have also explored several very unique situations that may present additional challenges, as well as how to cope with those situations. Even though challenges are present, eating well is worth it. Aging individuals who eat a nutritional diet are more able to resist illness and disease, and they tend to feel better.

Since older adults require fewer calories, it is important to make every bite count as much as possible. Here are 6 of the top nutritional needs to ensure that your aging loved one’s diet covers.

  • Dehydration is a serious threat to the health of anyone, but especially to older adults. Remember that some health conditions and/or medications can prevent a person from recognizing thirst. Older adults should consume at least 8 cups of fluid per day, which should include water, but can also include fruit juice, milk, soups, or decaffeinated coffee or tea. Avoid soda and drinks with added sugar, which contribute to caloric intake but not nutritional. As well, remember that some health conditions require monitoring natural sugar intake. Encourage fluid intake every two or three hours, and with meals and snacks. Buy small bottles of water to keep in the refrigerator, which can be less overwhelming and easier to handle.
  • Aging persons benefit from fiber greatly, as it keeps the digestive system regular and reduces the risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. Avoiding overly processed food will increase fiber intake.
  • Adequate calcium intake is vital for strong bones. Still, people tend to consume less calcium as they age. Dairy products, if tolerated, are a good source of calcium, as are leafy greens like spinach and kale. Smoothies with these healthy ingredients are often loved by older individuals, who may have difficulty chewing.
  • Vitamin D. This important nutrient helps the body absorb Calcium and protects against many health problems. Look for foods fortified with Vitamin D, or choose leafy greens, soft-boned fish and eggs, which are natural sources.
  • Vitamin B12. This vitamin helps with healthy nerve function and creation of red blood cells. The best source is lean meat.
  • Potassium is vital for cell function, bone health, and protects against high blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are the best source, so aim to eat these at every meal.

It can be difficult to ensure that your loved one is getting adequate nutrition, especially when disease or medications complicate needs and absorption. Supplements can often help, but could interfere with medications or health issues. Maintaining an open dialogue with healthcare professionals is vital, so be certain to discuss how to meet your loved ones needs with a physician and seek help with daily caregiving when needed.

We have exciting news! Recently, one of our very own team members received a prestigious and well-deserved award. Last week, our team traveled to Tan-Tar-A Resort in the Ozarks for the Missouri Alliance for Home Care (MAHC) Annual Conference. There, Deanna Rice received the MAHC Paraprofessional Caregiver of the Year Award. We simply couldn’t be happier for her.

The Missouri Alliance for Home Care is Missouri’s largest trade association representing the interests and concerns of home health agencies, home care companies, hospices and private duty companies. Each year, they honor a paraprofessional caregiver who has gone above and beyond the call of duty by providing care to patients and clients.

Deanna Rice came to AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis three years ago, during which time we have seen her mature and develop into a first-rate professional caregiver who sets the standards for how all caregivers should be. Deanna brings experience, energy and empathy to her role. Though she came to AccuCare having worked in other occupational fields, her caregiving experience began ten years prior when she became a caregiver out of a personal family need to help care for her grandfather after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. To her, she was simply caring for a family member whom she loved greatly, but her family and friends saw how she interacted with him and how patient she was. Deanna’s mother, an AccuCare caregiver at the time and still a team member, influenced her decision to accept a caregiver position with AccuCare.

Deanna shares that her greatest fulfillment has been working with the elderly and giving back each day. She leaves a lasting impression on clients’ lives, and often makes a difference through the “little things,” such as giving an impromptu pedicure, noticing and cleaning a smudge on a client’s glasses, or even giving water to a client’s pet. What’s obvious to her is often missed by other caregivers. She is a special person who puts her energy, heart and soul into everything she does. She is always ready for the next challenge and has kind words for every person she meets.

When Deanna isn’t working, she enjoys traveling with her husband and soul mate Willie. They enjoy spending a great deal of time with their large family, which includes Deanna’s three younger siblings and 21 nieces and nephews. They also love spoiling their “fur babies,” Diva and Lilly, whom she describes as being “treated better than most two-legged children.” Deanna enjoys time outdoors, decorating cakes, and working with dog rescues.

Deanna has a big heart and is highly regarded by all of us at AccuCare. She is an incredible role model for our team of caregivers. Thank you, Deanna, for all that you do for our team and for those in our care. Congratulations!

In recent blogs, we have discussed the special challenges to meeting the nutritional needs of aging individuals, as well as suggestions for overcoming those challenges. Unfortunately, in some situations, the elderly and those caring for the elderly will face even more challenges than previously discussed.

  • Side effects of medication. Many aging persons must take a number of medications in order to survive or to increase functionality and comfort. The side effects can include loss of appetite, sedation, changes in taste, and nausea, constipation, or other gastrointestinal issues. It is vital to discuss any side effects with a medical professional, especially when they interfere with meeting nutritional needs.
  • Pain. Many people with pain, whether chronic or acute, can lose their appetite or interest in food. This can be especially bothersome for individuals with chronic pain, causing lasting nutritional deficits, and even contributing to the pain. Discuss pain management needs thoroughly with the doctor involved. Look for ways to improve comfort and decrease pain in the short and long term, including physical therapy, massage, ice or heat, and medication. Watch for signs that the loss of interest in food could be related to depression, which sometimes goes hand-in-hand with chronic pain issues.
  • Tooth loss. With the decline of overall health comes tooth loss and pain in the mouth. Many individuals are embarrassed to be losing teeth, which can delay treatment. Those close to aging persons need to be aware of the possibility.
  • Poorly fitting dentures. When a denture wearer loses weight or experiences bone loss, the jaw will often deteriorate. This results in dentures that fit poorly, and ultimately can lead to an avoidance of eating. When a denture wearer complains of pain when chewing or of dentures coming out unexpectedly, it’s time to consider refitting their prosthetic teeth.
  • Decreases in senses of smell, sight, and taste. Our senses make eating a more enjoyable experience. Some elderly persons will have a reduction in senses, sometimes due to medication, but sometimes not. This is not the time to make food blander, though salt restrictions must be taken into consideration. Experiment with herbs and spices.

Being aware of these possibilities is the first step to ensuring adequate nutritional intake. As always, look at the whole picture rather than a day or two, and consult a doctor as needed

Recently, we explored several challenges to eating well that are specific to the aging population. These include, but are not limited to, isolation, loss of ability, loss of memory, lack of knowledge, and apathy. There are also challenges unique to different physical conditions and illnesses, many of which we will address more thoroughly in future blogs. While the challenges to eating well are significant, we know that it is not a hopeless situation. These tips can help with overcoming the difficulties we discussed.

  • Increased socialization. When mealtime always involves a “table for one,” it seems less important and less meaningful to have meals at all. Combat isolation by increasing socialization as much as possible. Community centers or religious organizations often have organized mealtimes. If possible, visit elderly family members at mealtime and dine together. Older grandchildren can make a visit on their own, bringing prepared or purchased food along.
  • Assist with mealtime tasks. As an aging person begins to struggle with cooking tasks, processed food will often take the place of healthier options. In a perfect world, family members would be able to go and help prepare each meal with them. Unfortunately, that is rarely possible. However, it might be realistic to assist with shopping for healthier items that are simple to prepare; or to cook and portion out meals ahead of time, with simple heating instructions. Seek out delivery services for times when that cannot be accomplished.
  • Remind and assist without nagging. If loss of memory is interfering with the ability to safely cook, it may be necessary to enlist more help or to install additional safety features in the home. An individual who forgets to eat likely needs help across many aspects of daily life. However, even then, “what’s on the menu today?” is a much kinder inquiry than “don’t forget to eat again.” Keeping the lines of communication open is important, as some people feel the need to hide their memory loss.
  • Seek information together. If an aging loved one has limited knowledge about nutritional needs, talk with an expert together. Take notes. Decide what healthy foods should be increased and what “treats” should be limited and ask how that goal can be accomplished. Try not to become the enforcer, but rather be a supporter.
  • Seek help when needed. We discussed apathy as a barrier to healthy eating. While it may be common and even normal in the short term, it can be a sign of depression. Talk openly about it. Don’t delay in seeking help.

Overcoming the challenges and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be difficult, but it is possible with effort and assistance. Often, family members are unable to be as involved in the situation as they would like to be. In that event, it is wise to consider obtaining in-home assistance for seniors. Having the right help can make the difference that keeps seniors living the fullest life possible in the place they wish to live.

The eating habits of Americans have changed drastically over the past 50 years. Increasingly busy lifestyles coupled with widespread availability of fast and processed food presents challenges for people of all ages. However, as individuals age, there are several new challenges to a nutritional diet.

  • Isolation. For many aging individuals, mealtime was once a meaningful social activity. Families gathered around the table to eat and enjoy time together; friends chatted over a sandwich at lunch, catching up on the neighborhood news. As peers pass away or move on to other living arrangements and as the younger generations become busier and more distant, the older generation may find themselves eating alone. They may feel mealtime has become pointless, and turn to unhealthy items to satisfy hunger rather than take the time to choose healthy selections.
  • Loss of ability. There are several factors of concern in this area. Aging hands often find it difficult to steadily handle a knife, therefore preparing fresh vegetables ceases to be an option. As dexterity loss makes preparing meals take longer, elderly persons often find it difficult to stand for the long periods of time required. Failing eyesight makes it more difficult to read labels, recipes or instructions. Safety may even become an issue. As a result, many opt for processed foods.
  • Loss of memory. Everyone has forgotten to take a dish out of the oven or has had to revisit a recipe a few times to look over instructions. However, memory loss can become dangerous when a person forgets to turn off appliances or leaves items on the stove. Memory loss can even extend to “forgetting to eat or drink,” which can have a devastating effect.
  • Lack of knowledge. Dietary guidelines have changed over the past few decades. For example, sugar is now a well-known culprit in many diseases and health issues, and is advised to be consumed in great moderation. Eggs, once placed on the list of dangerous foods, are now recognized as healthy in the right amounts. Seniors may not be aware of such changes, so it’s up to caregivers to provide appropriate scientific knowledge.
  • Mood. As individuals age, varying levels of depression can become an issue. Aging individuals may find themselves not caring about their diets or their health. They may feel they deserve to eat whatever they want or not care about the consequences. It can be helpful to educate them about the immediate benefits of eating well, such as increased energy levels or decreased pain. If the individual continues to make conscious poor choices because they’ve given up, it may be time to seek help. It is important to note that, while common, persistent symptoms of depression should be addressed by a medical professional.

While aging individuals face unique challenges to maintaining a healthy diet, it is possible to overcome these challenges. We look forward to providing solutions in future blogs.

Latest News


Tel: 314-692-0020

Fax: 314.692.0012