Loneliness: More than an Emotional Condition

Loneliness is considered by many to be a new-coming epidemic in the United States.

There is no subset of the population more impacted by this than our senior citizens.

This is because of both the rate of seniors impacted by loneliness (25% of people aged 70+) and the drastic physical impacts loneliness can have on the aged.

Many studies show that loneliness has a strong correlation with heart conditions, diabetes, mental illness and more.

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This is because the human body responds to loneliness in the same way it responds to chronic stress.

Hormones that inhibit the body’s immune responses are released and trigger physical reactions like inflammation.

In fact, it’s been proven that regarding mortality, loneliness has a negative effect greater than the smoking of 15 cigarettes a day.

What Causes Loneliness?

It’s difficult to conclude in each specific example what the absolute cause of loneliness can be.

For most of our loved ones, it is a culmination of circumstances. Major life events have been shown to increase the vulnerability a senior may have towards loneliness.

The death of a friend or spouse, moving to a new home, or a family member moving away are all major shakeups that can trigger loneliness.

The situation often worsens as seniors go through sensory or mobility impairments these issues can create feelings of desolation and solitude.

Even typical caregivers can often be faced with these realities and unable to properly assist in helping their loved ones escape this mental condition.

Often caregivers are worn out from assisting with 100 other responsibilities, and simply don’t have the fuel left to fully engage with their loved ones beyond surface-level conversations that don’t leave anyone fulfilled.

This is where Papa can offer a chance for a brighter tomorrow.

Alleviating Loneliness with Papa

Papa Pals can bring a fresh face and a renewed sense of energy and purpose into the caregiving role.

They can be the additional hands on deck, and the loving friend that everyone wants for their aging loved ones.

Specific strategies that Papa Pals can enact to help your loved ones are:

A deep conversation with an emphasis on listening

Papa Pals don’t have a laundry list of jobs or tasks demanding their attention.

When they are called on, they are 100% committed to the task of providing love and assistance to your loved one.

Be the student

Studies show that seniors respond well when their knowledge and wisdom is passed down.

This can be as simple as a Papa Pal asking a loved one to teach them how to knit or asking about what he or she did in their career.

Encouragement

Encouragement can be an incredible tool in alleviating loneliness for seniors.

It can help move them gently towards a new social activity with others, or into a place of expressing themselves that allows them to feel fulfilled and authentic.

Papa wants to do everything to help bring your loved ones a brighter tomorrow. Call us at 1-800-348-7951 to schedule a trusted companion to hang out and get out of that lonely shell.


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Tips for Older Adults During Flu Season

What can seniors do to protect themselves from seasonal ailments, like the flu, while maintaining an enjoyable lifestyle?

The airwaves are bombarded with what feels like almost too much information.

Staying up with current information is helpful for sure, yet it's the tried and true habits which may make the most difference in maintaining health for seniors during this flu season.

There is no doubt that seniors are possibly more at risk. Yet it is vital to remember to stay calm and enjoy life – this approach will strengthen the immune system as well as life in general.

Hygiene Habits to Avoid Spreading the Flu

These hygiene practices help slow down a flu outbreak or any kind of contagion:

Disinfect surfaces

Disinfect cabinets and countertops with chlorine cleaners or disinfectant cleaners, as well as sanitizing phones, controls, and door handles.

Enhance laundry habits

Clean hands after touching dirty clothes and before handling clean clothes.

Handle trash carefully

Avoid touching trash, especially tissues, and wash afterward anyway.

Cover nose and mouth 

Cover nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing with tissue or elbow. Wash up thoroughly when using your hands. Politely walk away from others coughing.

Wash hands better than usual

Update your hand cleaning skills by doing the "Birthday Wash" where you sing or hum the happy birthday song once or twice while washing.

You may have another song you enjoy; use this time to slow down, sing, scrub, sing, smile.

CDC says 80% of infections are transmitted by hands! Use hand sanitizer when washing isn't possible, but don't give up hand washing in favor of sanitizers.

Handwashing is the ultimate habit which will protect you.

Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth! 

Here's where old habits may defeat you. Concentrate on using a tissue when you must scratch your nose, etc. I always say, "Avoid the holes in your head."

Get your flu shots! 

Since flu usually reawakens in the fall, put it on the calendar now to get a flu shot as soon as it is available.

It is a fact that other flu types kill many seniors yearly, so stay on the ball with vaccinations, including discussing pneumonia shots with a doctor.

We all know vaccine doesn't protect against everything, but some protection is better than none!

Plan and prepare 

Plan and prepare as you might for hurricane season, keeping water, batteries, non-perishable food on hand as people always should anyway. Don't forget garbage bags and facial tissues.

Go about your normal life

Go about your normal life but be more mindful of above precautions.

Social Distance for Older Adults during Flu Season

Most older adults have social connections which are quite important to them.

This is a good time to explore ways to maintain social contacts by phone or online while keeping a little more social distance, especially from crowds.

Stay home when you have symptoms

Call the doctor with any questions. The doctor may advise a wait and see, or an appointment.

Patients may be asked to wear a mask. Be encouraging of friends about similar decisions.

Limit exposure to large group situations

Limit exposure to large group situations and observe the 6-foot rule, staying approximately six feet away from anyone with symptoms. (Some distance is advised in any case since infected people can be contagious a day before they exhibit symptoms.

Avoid close contact

Even when in the public remember to keep vigilant about social distance. Instead of a handshake, use a fist bump. Avoid hugs by a pat on the back.

Use your telephone more

This is a fine time to call and check on a friend, or just to visit.

Such contacts help compensate for the loneliness which accompanies choosing to temporarily be more isolated.

Buy gasoline with a card at the pump 

Avoid paying with cash.

Stay away from coughing people

Put several feet of distance between you and people who are coughing.

Seniors Can Improve General Health Habits

What a fine time to give thanks for all that is new and modern in medicine, including antiviral drugs.

Don't be afraid to try these if a doctor recommends, as well as the tried and tested habits above.

Some seniors who are at risk will be advised to take Tamiflu or Relenza.

These can help prevent flu, as well as keep any flu symptoms milder and hasten recovery time along with getting the flu shot. However, they will not substitute for handwashing and other general precautions listed herein.

It is asking a lot of older adults to change lifelong habits, yet this situation may require just that.

Do not steer into the myth that is often heard, "If it hasn't gotten me yet, it probably won't."

Seniors who are willing to consider themselves at risk are more inclined to embrace appropriate safety measures while continuing to enjoy life.

It helps to remember that this is temporary, yet the improvement of habits may be a really fine permanent change to an already healthy lifestyle.

There is much that seniors can do to protect themselves from the Influenza Type A (Swine Flu) or other contagious elements.

Temporary social distancing may be in order while health habits can be improved for the long term.

Most of all, be prepared yet continue to enjoy a calm and pleasant life.

Disclaimer

Everything herein is informational only, and not to be construed as medical advice or a substitute for consultation with a medical professional.

The Centers for Disease Control is providing regular updates. The CDC was a source for much of the above information.

Request a Papa Pal

There would be a great advantage to utilizing a Papa Pal to help secure adequate provisions in case you need a few days of relative inactivity for recuperation.

They can be found at Papa.com and may be used to help with shopping, transportation, or even companionship, which we all know boosts your immunity!

Might as well enjoy the tasks involved in warding off the flu while preparing for possible times of being under the weather.


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Helping Seniors Deal with Winter's Seasonal Depression

Seniors may find themselves noticing they can't seem to get into the holiday spirit. This may be a good time to adjust expectations and allow negative feelings to exist.

Older adults may not feel so excited about winter holidays as they used to. It can be caused by a number of things but can be dealt with as part of the range of normal feelings.

Progress can come from accepting the negative feelings as well as taking proactive steps to get through the season.

Possible Causes of Holiday Blues Among Older Adults

It can be as simple as financial and social pressures or as complex as a lingering loneliness or grief, which is intensified by all the talk about family closeness and love.

When individuals have lost family members or friends the sadness is often intensified during this time of year.

There is also reason to believe the decreased exposure to light adds to the mix due to shorter days and the tendency to stay inside during the winter.

At times it is a combination of Christmas holiday stress and seasonal affective disorder commonly referred to as SAD, where less light and winter blues can coincide with the holiday season.

In addition, many seniors' diet often contains excessive sugar and carbs, thus contributing to holiday weight gain as well as holiday blues.

Although older women are more at risk, anyone can experience a light case of holiday blues or even full-blown depression.

Increased and unrealistic expectations, whether they are self-imposed or absorbed from the constant pressure from the media barrage, only add to the madness.

Strategies to Help Seniors Get Through the Season

We each have our own culture and religious traditions, but no matter what you celebrate, there will be more social events than usual.

Fortunately, there are practical methods to help older people face each day more positively during the holiday seasons.

One way to rewire a person's thinking is to remind herself that "It isn't about me." Look at each holiday stress and ask what it is about. Often this cognitive path helps a senior discover what is really important – whether it be a holiday gathering or a challenging day.

In addition, seniors can stop to remember that Christmas doesn't have to be about commercialism.

  • Keep a schedule. Write a routine down. Since there's so much emotion in the air, choose not to act on winter depression only, but rather go by a schedule. Make it loose enough for extra activities, yet structured enough to give the day some shape. For example, set a time for meals.
  • Do some physical activity in the morning. Read or watch a movie after lunch.
  • Email or call at least one person, or socialize on Facebook or similar social networking media. Sometimes just a short chat can provide holiday relief.
  • Consider walking outside, at a local mall, or another place with sights to see; enjoy nature or just go people watching.
  • Have a cup of tea or coffee at a certain time each day.
  • Take a shower and dress warmly.
  • Open the shades, blinds or curtains. Sunlight has often been shown to be helpful in relieving seasonal affective depression. Some people even use seasonal affective disorder light therapy.

Tips for Seniors Surviving Seasonal Depression

Try using some of the following tips to beat the blues:

  • Take a daily walk. This gives something to do that will get an older person up and going, and it's good for the body as well as for reducing seasonal depression.
  • Find TV programs or music to enjoy.
  • Tend a garden or even a plant.
  • Sit on the porch or in the yard, soaking up the daylight and fresh air.
  • Get to know neighbors. Talk briefly with them, but don't be offended when they have their own things to do. Short visits do both the senior and the neighbor good.
  • Go to a park and feed the duck or just enjoy nature there.
  • Smile even if no one is looking. In fact, force a smile upon awakening. It can become a habit.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a doctor or counselor.

Older Adults Can Have a Stress-Free Holiday

There are self-care methods for seniors to help themselves survive the depression and holiday stress. If a senior or boomer has no place to go, attend a church or community holiday meal.

Look in the paper for activities in the community. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. Go buy just part of the week's food to be sure and have additional personal interaction.

It is OK to get away from the frenzy of activity. Sometimes older adults have simply had enough of the holiday madness.

For whatever reason, be it finances, family or other stresses, it can be helpful to live like it's not holiday season for a day or so. Read a book. Listen to favorite non-holiday music. Watch a movie or two.

After a day or so of respite, there may be enjoyment, or at least more comfortable tolerance of much of the holiday's hustle and bustle.

A rest away from it can help seniors be empowered to design the holiday they desire.

And when you are ready, Papa can pitch in and help with errands, transportation, or companionship, which can mean so much this time of year.


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Be Proactive for Awareness of Alzheimer’s

Due to the amazing growth of Boomers and number of patients with Alzheimer’s (AD), it has become even more important for both the medical professionals and families to be aware of the need for screening for this debilitating disease.

Some barriers, which may cause a delay in addressing symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, include fear of getting involved, denial and avoidance of an unknown diagnosis, and simple lack of public awareness.

Doing the Numbers on Alzheimer’s

Over ninety percent of identified Alzheimer’s Disease patients are age 65 and older with late-onset AD. From that age, the risk doubles every five years.

One in eight are diagnosed at age 65 and it progresses to 1 in 2 at age 85!

In addition, the 85+ age group is the fastest growing – making the need to be proactive quite evident.

The others are early-onset patients, often genetic (meaning that 50% of their offspring will get it).

Symptoms surfaced any time from the 40s to the 60s, although it was present before it was medically recognized.

Reasons Seniors See a Doctor for Screening or Diagnosis

  • To receive proper treatment and medications
  • Safety (medicines, driving, and diet) issues
  • Family member observing something different
  • Patient repeating the same story over and over
  • Less often, one spouse brings the other in (but often the spouse gets used to changes little by little, thus not realizing how much memory issues have worsened)
  • Sometimes patient comes on his or her own self-awareness of cognitive changes
  • In response to a crisis

Yearly screening from age 65 on can be helpful in detecting changes in functioning.

Sometimes a patient is asked to remember three words, draw a clock, etc. in screening.

Seeing a medical professional can get a patient on the way to defining and addressing the problems along with researching the reasons via a proper diagnosis.

Medical professionals can address concerns of safety, finances, therapy, treatment, medications, and caregivers.

Why Older Adults with Alzheimer’s May Need Treatment

As mentioned above, the main reason is safety, of themselves and others in society (accidentally starting fires, driving hazards, etc.)

Everyday life activities involving cooking, use of tools, problems with finances, getting lost are issues, which need attention.

Even delusions and hallucinations may occur later. Treatment offers an opportunity to save thousands by delaying nursing home placement.

Early diagnosis allows for more effective treatment in order to slow the progression, stay connected to the family longer, improve or stabilize behavior which is the main reason for referral to nursing homes, and give more relief to symptoms.

Such early diagnosis and treatment also provide time to plan for the future. The sooner problems are addressed, the better off the patient and the family will be.

Differences Between Alzheimer’s and Normal Aging

Normal seniors may have memory issues. For AD patients, their issues involve problem-solving, executive functioning, judgment, and words that just don’t come.

For normal older adults, a word may not come at first, but then it appears “from the tip of the tongue” whereas Alzheimer’s patients never find the proper word, especially names.

Another litmus test is that normal people may have a memory problem (due to normal aging, chemo, stroke, etc.), which stays static or shows some improvement, whereas Alzheimer’s patients become progressively worse.

Need for Research in Field of Memory and Alzheimer’s

There is a vital need for further research, both for treatment options and prevention.

As the at-risk population will rise sharply in the next few years, some are opting to participate in clinical research studies.

To do so, they must have a caregiver and informed permission from both patient and caregiver. Such research may be crucial to the increasing numbers of older adults.

Today is a good day to consider the Biblical wisdom to “Honor your mother and father” by acting on your own doubts and/or concerns out of your love for them.

Instead of a parent, it may be a spouse, friend, or neighbor who needs your input to help them seek regular screening or medical help for memory and other related issues.

Since we often spend time with family members more on the holidays, that’s a fine time to observe whether more attention may be needed.

During the testing phase and after, go to Papa and discover how much help a spare college student can be for companionship, errands, or tasks around the house.

It’s never too late to be proactive about cognitive loss such as Alzheimer’s.

The Papa Team Walking to fight Alzheimer's Disease


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Helping When a Friend is Diagnosed with a Chronic Disease

If an older friend or loved one is struggling with a serious illness, there are several fairly easy actions friends can take to provide caring and unforgettable support.

When a senior or boomer is diagnosed with cancer or another chronic disease, people wonder how to react. There are some reactions which are much more helpful than others.

When a friend has such an illness, the whole family is shaken. Any support given to anyone in the family helps the patient also.

What the Senior or Boomer Patient Has Just Gone Through

It all may start with a phone call from the doctor’s office saying more tests are needed. After that, the results are questionable requiring maybe one more test. Then there’s a conference where the patient is told to bring the spouse.

It’s the C word – cancer, or some other serious illness. One only has to imagine the terror and roller coaster of emotions the family must feel.

Life is turned upside down with worries about money, isolation, life decisions, and caregiving.

All of these and more are on top of life-rending fatigue, grief, and pain. Helplessness and hopelessness are the worst issues to be dealt with upon receiving a troublesome diagnosis.

Good Things to Say to a Senior Diagnosed with a Serious Illness

It usually is not enough just to say “Call me if you need anything” since the patient is not in a condition to organize needs and make phone calls.

Engage the patient and/or family in short conversations. There will be tears; there must be hugs and lots of listening.

Effective conversation involves staying in the present since anticipating the future struggles may only bring more anxiety. Share a snack, or just a moment and be aware of being alive right now.

In talking with the patient or family members, accept the fact that they are going through the stages of grief. Don’t argue with their logic; just lend an accepting ear.

Keep in mind visits need to be fairly short. It’s better to make two or three short visits rather than one long one. (The patient often won’t admit how very tiresome visits may be, even though such short check-ins are vitally needed.)

Especially after a few weeks or months, many well-wishers have returned to their normal lives, but the patient is still languishing and lonesome.

Visits at that time are especially cherished. In addition, sending cards, emails, and notes will remind the patient that his or her friend cares and is sending good thoughts.

Good Things to Do for a Senior Who is Diagnosed with a Chronic Disease

When the patient is home, even more support is needed, but still remember to keep visits fairly short.

▪ Take over a meal, doing the dishes while there, or take the trash as you leave if the meal is disposable. (Don’t worry about it being your best cooking; they don’t have time or energy to cook, and will be grateful for whatever you bring.)

▪ Run an errand.

▪ Take the kids for a movie, an afternoon, the weekend.

▪ Mow the yard, once or regularly, or band together with several others to do this, or contract with someone to do it.

▪ Take someone to the doctor, chemo, radiation, or whatever is needed.

▪ Give the caregiver a respite (e.g. tickets to a movie or spa while you stay with the patient).

▪ Stop by and play a game of cards, a board game, a favorite video game, or watch a movie.

▪ Take cookies or another favorite food, even non-perishable snacks for the family since kitchen duties suffer in most homes when chronic disease is present.

▪ Buy groceries once or regularly, or organize a church, work or social group to do this. For those who have email, the patient or spouse can email a grocery list and the shopper can deliver the groceries on a predetermined day, (One group who helped me when my hubby was bed bound called themselves The Saturday Shoppers.) There may be other people who don’t have time to do the shopping but would contribute to the cost. Find what works.

▪ Take a portable DVD player with several movies to help pass the long hours in bed. Get one started before you leave in case the patient is gushy about technology. You can also play a movie for the patient while you visit with the caregiver.

Tips for Helping Seniors When Weight Loss is an Issue

Sometimes people fighting chronic illness have trouble maintaining a healthy weight. Some patients are in a weight loss mode.

One way to help is to ask the patient or spouse what favorite foods are, then gather a large supply of them.

Be aware of the need for protein, and stay within the prescribed guidelines. Make up a snack box to put by bed or chair so it’s easily reachable by the patient, yet sealed enough to not attract bugs, etc. Include some hand wipes, bottled water, and a trash container within easy reach.

This can go a long way toward empowering the patient to feel more self-sufficiency while it will give the caregiver a break.

Being diagnosed with a serious disease is quite a challenge for any senior or boomer. There are ways to help by visiting, listening, and providing moral support.

Be proactive by acting on the senior patient’s behalf to make life easier by bringing food, doing chores, and sending cards. The very long path toward healing can be made so much better by caring and participation of friends.

If you live farther away or have to be at work, you may wish someone could stand in your stead.

Papa can match you up with college caregivers who can help in many of the ways listed above. Just an hour or so a day or two a week can make such a difference in the life of both the patient and the caregiver.

Papa may be just the idea you need to give your family member or friend much-needed support on a regular basis.