Health Signals

Learn about normal signs of aging and when there may be cause for concern.

Volunteering: Benefits for Seniors

Posted by on Feb 24, 2011 in Health Signals | 0 comments

Why do Canadian seniors volunteer? A survey of senior volunteers in Canada finds that 95% volunteer for a cause they believe in.  Seventy percent said they volunteered for a cause that had personally affected them. Some volunteered as a way to use their skill base and years of experience (81%). Others were looking for a way to explore their own strengths (57%).  What else motivates seniors to volunteer? Developing new skills and staying connected to their own passions inspires many seniors to volunteer.  Volunteering leads to meeting new people, staying active in the community, and serving others. It can help keep cultural or religious traditions alive.  Some older persons also find the chance to fulfill lifelong dreams and create new ambitions through volunteering. Seniors who volunteer report feeling very satisfied with their lives…AND they report that sentiment at a higher rate than seniors who do not volunteer. What can volunteering do for YOU? Volunteering can improve your health.  It can enhance self-esteem, coping abilities, and feelings of social usefulness.  Volunteering increases social activity. Research into health benefits of volunteering suggests that forming these social relationships acts as a buffer against stress and illness. Some experts even conclude that social relationships may be as important to overall health as avoiding risks such as smoking and high blood pressure. How can you find the right organization? The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) suggests asking the following questions to help define the best volunteering opportunity for you: Why do I want to become a volunteer? What are the benefits I am looking for from volunteering? What skills and abilities can I offer? What do I enjoy doing? What do I dislike doing? What issues are important to me? How much time can I give? What times are most suitable for me? Reasons for volunteering may be as profound as feeling an ethical pull to help change Canadian society – or as lighthearted as wanting to get to know people in the community. But getting involved, on any level, not only benefits society. It also benefits the volunteer. Everyone wins. Vol.2, No.12; © ElderWise Inc. 2006 You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO articles, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc., Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning.  Visit us at...

Read More

Dementia, Depression or Delirium?

Posted by on Jan 18, 2011 in Health Signals | 0 comments

Three of the most common mental health problems experienced by the elderly start with the letter D: dementia, depression, and delirium. Their symptoms may, at times, appear similar. Comparing the conditions and highlighting the differences can alert you to when medical help may be needed. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer Disease. Incidence increases with advancing age. It is not curable.  Depression affects about 10% of the general population, can occur at any age, and affects both men and women. Incidence is higher when other medical conditions are present. Delirium is often unrecognized and therefore not treated. To read the complete article in PDF format, open the attachment below. Dementia Depression Delirium...

Read More

Drinking Problems of the Elderly

Posted by on Sep 16, 2010 in Health Signals | 0 comments

Alcohol misuse or abuse can be dangerous for the elderly and heartbreaking for their families. Is there a senior in your life who:  Drinks and drives?  Drinks too much and falls?  Drinks at a family or public event and causes embarrassment?  Drinks while taking medications?  Drinks and forgets – to turn off the stove or put out the cigarette?  Drinks too much and is told to move out of the seniors’ housing facility? When we first notice a potential drinking problem, it’s tempting to ignore it, minimize it, or find “reasons” to accept it. But once the problem veers toward crisis, the responses available can become more complex and costly. Being proactive is always best. What is the problem? As many as 250,000 Canadian seniors have problems with alcohol use. Like other mental health problems, misuse and abuse of alcohol are often under-diagnosed. Both the drinker and the family may deny that a problem exists. Some family members might not raise the topic because of their own drinking habits. Others feel hopeless because it’s a long-standing problem and the senior has refused previous suggestions to seek help. According to Eliopoulos, some key points in understanding alcohol abuse are:  It affects an estimated 15% of the older population.  It often goes unnoticed or unreported.  It may cause changes in behaviour, mood, or physical signs.  It may be a chronic, life-long problem or may develop in later life, linked to factors such as loneliness, depression, or chronic pain. Long-term alcohol abuse increases the risk of physical health problems, including depression, cognitive impairment, and falls. Can you help? Talking about alcohol or drug use problems is hard. That’s why many families avoid the subject, or hope that the family doctor will address it. It may be easier to face the problem if you know that treatment can be effective. Many older adults are successful in overcoming alcohol problems. If you and your family are stymied about what to do about a parent, grandparent, spouse, or good friend, your first steps include: Recognizing and acknowledging the problem Considering ways to approach the subject Searching for treatment programs in your area Being proactive about alcohol problems can improve quality of life for seniors and their loved ones. For added insight and resources about this issue, read more about our Just-In-Time e-guide, Seniors With Alcohol Problems. Vol. 6, No. 9 © ElderWise Inc., 2010 You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com and subscribe to our FREE...

Read More

Norwalk Virus Hits Seniors Hard

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Health Emergencies, Health Signals | 0 comments

Each year, many seniors are infected by a Norwalk-type virus. It’s usually not serious enough to cause hospitalization or serious long-term effects, but Norwalk can cause distress and can be spread to other family members. This illness is more common in the winter and affects all age groups. What is a “Norwalk” infection? Norwalk is a viral infection in the intestine – named after it was first identified in a 1972 outbreak in Norwalk, Ohio. Today, we use the term “norovirus” to refer to the group of viruses. Noroviruses are found worldwide and affect only humans. Anyone can be infected but it tends to be more common in children and in older adults. An outbreak of Norwalk infection usually occurs in schools, care homes, other institutions or within families. How is the virus spread? Noroviruses are very contagious. They can survive on almost any surface including door handles, counters, sinks, and dishes. People become infected by swallowing food or water that has been contaminated from an infected person or by touching an infected surface. People are contagious from the first sign of symptoms and for at least 3 days after they recover. What are the symptoms of Norwalk infection? How is it treated? Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. They appear within 1 – 2 days after ingesting the contaminated food and can occur quite suddenly. Most people recover in 2 to 3 days. There is no treatment for the infection itself. Any treatment given is aimed at reducing the symptoms. What can you do to prevent Norwalk virus infection? Focus on personal hygiene and proper food preparation. If you or someone in your home has a Norwalk-type infection, all of you should: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after toilet visits and before preparing or eating food. Wash raw vegetables before eating. Dispose of sewage in a sanitary manner. Wear household gloves to clean contaminated surfaces with a mild bleach solution.  Clean the bathroom frequently. Wash dishes in hot soapy water or, ideally, the dishwasher. Wash soiled linens in hot soapy water; wear gloves to handle the linens. Individuals with symptoms of Norwalk-like illness should not prepare or touch food. Restrict visitors to the home. What can you do if a family member has Norwalk virus? If your family member lives in a long-term care centre, visiting will be limited during an outbreak. If they are at home, you can provide support and ensure good personal hygiene to prevent the spread to other family members. Norwalk virus infections are unpleasant to say the least, but a little knowledge and attention can go a long way towards curbing their effects. Vol. 6, No. 2, © ElderWise Publishing 2010. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Publishing, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com/ and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter....

Read More

Older Caregivers Face Extra Risk

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Caregiving, Health Signals | 0 comments

Expecting to “take it easy” in your senior years? According to 2007 figures from Statistics Canada, at least 675,000 Canadian seniors have had to curtail travel, leisure and personal interests – and have put themselves at risk for physical and emotional problems – because they are providing care to another elderly person. They could be looking after close friends (30%), spouses (23%), neighbours (15%) – even parents (9%).  One third of these seniors are over the age of 75. Fewer than one in five older caregivers gets a break from these responsibilities. Without help from family, community or private services, caregiver burnout – physical and emotional exhaustion due to prolonged high levels of stress – is almost inevitable. Not only can physical health problems multiply, but mental health issues, such as feeling powerless, resentful, and isolated, can compromise a caregiver’s well-being. Most of these seniors may not think of themselves as caregivers, but that’s exactly what they become when they take responsibility to help others with their daily needs. Caregivers are from all walks of life and income levels. They are predominantly female but increasing numbers of men are taking on the role. But what they often share in common is stepping unaware and unprepared into a demanding role.  Caregiving responsibilities can occur suddenly, but they typically become long term (chronic), and they don’t always have a happy outcome. Responsibilities can continue even when the person receiving the care moves from a private home to an institution. Older caregivers are up against more challenges than their younger counterparts. They are unlikely to have the strength and energy of a younger person. Older caregivers may have to manage their own chronic health problems (e.g., high blood pressure, diabetes or arthritis) while caring for another. Doing yard work, shoveling snow, or going up and down the stairs with the laundry basket may be more than they can handle. Other caregiver duties can be mentally demanding. Managing finances, scheduling appointments, and other household decisions take more time and energy as you age. Conflicting emotions can drain energy as well, particularly when the personal relationships between caregiver and care recipient are strained.  Caregiving for a spouse can be especially demanding. The marital relationship is more intense, private and personal than many. A spouse’s illness results in greater stress, yet spouses are less likely to ask for help from others. Often, there’s a belief that what is happening should be kept private. Without greater awareness, understanding and action, more seniors will run the risk of burnout, which can lead to physical and mental collapse. Older caregivers face extra risk, and that has significant implications for families, communities and our health care system. For more insight on this topic, purchase our downloadable e-publication: Caregiver Burnout – How To Spot It, How To Stop It Vol. 5, No. 6 © ElderWise Publishing 2009. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com/ and subscribe to our FREE...

Read More

Be “Stroke-Wise!”

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Health Emergencies, Health Signals | 0 comments

Every 10 minutes, a Canadian will suffer a stroke, meaning strokes affect more than 50,000 Canadians every year. The good news is that recognizing early warning signs and getting prompt treatment has improved the chance of surviving a stroke. A stroke is a medical emergency caused by decreased blood flow to the brain. Blood flow is interrupted by a blood clot (blockage) or rupture of a blood vessel.  Without oxygen, brain cells die. Depending on the size and location of the stroke, the individual loses some function. You can reduce your risk for stroke by making these choices in your daily life Treat high blood pressure Stop smoking Reduce salt and sodium in your diet Have an active lifestyle To find out your unique risks, take the assessment offered by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. http://heartandstroke.ca/hs_risk.asp?media=risk Those who survive a stroke may experience a range of physical and emotional problems. These include: Physical impairments Personality and behaviour changes Communication problems Cognitive changes  Knowing the risks, making wise lifestyle choices, and recognizing the early signs can dramatically reduce your chances of being a victim of stroke. Vol. 4, No. 4 © ElderWise Publishing 2008. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at www.elderwise.ca and subscribe to our FREE...

Read More