Aging Answers

Aging Answers

Aging Answers November 2015

Don’t Let the Fall Season Trip Up Your Loved Ones

As fall foliage in Ohio comes into full color, STEADY U Ohio, the state’s comprehensive older adult falls prevention initiative, reminds all Ohioans that, while leaves are supposed to fall, people aren’t. Falls are not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented by knowing the risk factors and making simple changes to your home, health and habits to reduce or eliminate them.

Here are some tips to prevent falls:

✱ Leaves, branches and other debris from trees can make walkways slippery or hide tripping hazards like uneven surfaces, edges and steps. Keep walkways clean, and if the surface isn’t clear and flat, pick another path.

✱ If winterizing a home means cleaning gutters, changing light bulbs or other tasks that require your loved ones to get up high, ensure they are using a step ladder or a step stool with a handle, and maintain three points of contact (two feet and a hand, or two hands and a foot) at all times. They shouldn’t climb on chairs or other furniture that was not designed for that purpose.

✱ Shorter days mean less direct sunlight and less sunlight overall, thus, there may be a need for more light to get around a home safely. Have your loved ones invest in extra lamps, nightlights and exterior pathway lights to ensure they can always see where they are walking, especially around doorways and stairs. Use the highest-wattage bulbs that are recommended for fixtures.

✱ Don’t let cooler weather and shorter days limit their activity. Exercise that builds and maintains strength and balance is important to prevent falls year-round. Have your loved ones ask their doctor or physical therapist about indoor exercises that can help them maintain strength and balance when they can’t venture out.

✱ Remind them to keep shoes and walking aids (canes, walkers) free of dirt and mud by drying them off immediately upon coming in from wet conditions.

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Aging Answers February 2016

The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

For many years, researchers have been studying the link between people aging with and without hearing loss and people aging with dementia. Although there is still no clear cause between the two, the research findings indicate there is a definite connection between those with untreated hearing loss and those with dementia.

While more research is needed to determine why this connection continues to develop, the findings show that the greater the hearing loss, the higher the risk of developing dementia. “Because hearing loss tends to creep up on you slowly over time, many people ignore hearing issues or (realize) the condition has become so severe that they can no longer ignore it,” says Dr. Karen Kantzes, senior audiologist at Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center. “By having your hearing evaluated periodically as you age, your audiologist can watch for signs of hearing loss. Those who address their hearing loss at an earlier stage are more likely to embrace treatment options and thus are more likely to ward off dementia.”

Otologists and geriatricians agree that one possible cause for the link between hearing loss and dementia may be the brain itself, says Kantzes.

“It is already well-known that we ‘hear’ with our brain,” she adds. “The ear collects and transmits sound up the auditory nerve to the brain. However, the brain is responsible for interpreting the sound as a ringing phone, a car horn or our grandchild’s voice, thus giving the sound meaning. If, over time, the brain no longer receives sound because of untreated hearing loss, it may be that the brain loses the ability to identify the meaning of sounds al-
together.”

Another potential cause may be the person’s change in lifestyle. Kantzes clarifies, “As hearing loss increases, people tend to withdraw from social interaction. They disconnect from friends, family and activities where they may feel frustrated by their inability to hear and understand what is being said.” This social isolation has been shown to be a factor in developing dementia and other cognitive disorders.

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Aging Answers February 2016

Pets, Wildlife and Camp

While winter finally arrived, you may be planning ahead to find the perfect camp, man of which have wonderful outdoor activeties. This means you need to be mindful of the risks that are associated with the great outdoors. Knowing your risks and how to reduce them are your best bet for a safe summer.

Many times, you’ll want to take the family dog along with you to the camp during drop off and pick up time. Are you aware that pets are in contact with wildlife every time they step outdoors? For those of you who let your pets outside without a leash, they are in even closer contact with wildlife. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen many photos and videos of pets interacting with wildlife. While it may seem endearing (we should all get a healthy dose of the outdoors), it can pose a health risk for your pet and even your family members.

There are several kinds of risks, including, but not limited to:

• Diseases that can be transmitted from wildlife to your pets (and to you!)

• Injuries from bites, kicks, scratches and more

Luckily, there are some simple precautions you and your family can take to reduce your risks. To prevent injuries, keep a safe distance from wildlife (for both you and your pets). At One Health Organization, we remember these disease prevention measures by the 3UP© method:

VET UP: Take your pet to the veterinarian to make sure they are current on all of their vaccinations and on monthly parasite control. (Did you know that mosquitos can be found any month of the year?) This time of year can be slower for veterinary clinics, so now may be the ideal time to take your pet to the veterinarian.

PICK UP: Pick up your pet’s waste promptly to reduce the spread of intestinal parasites.

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Aging Answers February 2016

How to Pay for Long-Term Care

Long-term care will be needed for many aging loved ones. While nursing homes, assisted living centers and other care options are available, they are an expense and could drain your assets unless good planning is undertaken. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor views long-term care expenses as the greatest uninsured risk Americans face today. There are viable alternatives that help ensure assets are preserved for a loved one in need of such care. Here are some examples:

Long Term Care Insurance: Did you know that your private health insurance or Medicare will not help pay for nursing home care? You may want to consider buying a long-term care insurance (LTCI) policy. A LTCI policy can significantly reduce the burden on paying for long-term care, as it pays a daily amount to you to help defray the out-of-pocket cost.

A new type of plan is a LTCI Partnership between insurance and Medicaid. For example, let’s say you are single and you go to a nursing home. You can’t get Medicaid normally until you’ve “spent down” assets to $1,500. With a LTCI Partnership policy, if your long-term care policy provides $300,000 in benefits, this amount is protected from Medicaid spend down — meaning you can keep that amount. That’s a great relief, especially in the case of couples who have a spouse still at home.

Reverse Mortgages: A reverse mortgage is a government insured home loan for ages 62 or older that lets you tap the equity in your home in order to pay for long-term care costs you may incur, especially if you want to remain in your home.

You still own your home; you are only drawing out your equity. You can take a lump sum — a line of credit that you can draw upon as needed — or monthly income payments.

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Aging Answers February 2016

Improve your Mental Sharpness. Bridge and other activities help to boost brainpower

Exercising the brain can have some important health and disease-prevention benefits.

In fact, a 2014 study conducted by the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center found that participants who reported playing memory games at least every other day performed better on standard memory tests compared to those who played less frequently. The study assessed 329 older adults who were free of dementia, but at increased risk of Alzheimer’s based on family history.

TRUMPING ALZHEIMER’S

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of people with the disease may nearly triple to 16 million by 2050, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease. For older individuals, getting involved in social and cognitively stimulating activities, such as the game of bridge, is more important than ever.

“In our study, we found that individuals who participated more frequently in activities such as card games, checkers and crossword puzzles have increased brain volume in areas that stimulate memory and affect the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

BRIDGE

The card game of bridge is one of the most popular games of skill and memory, involving math and social skills as the players deal the cards, auction, play the hand and score the results.

According to the American Contract Bridge League, Bridge is played with four people sitting at a card table using a standard deck of 52 cards (no jokers). The players across from each other form partnerships. Each deal consists of three parts—the auction, where the four players bid in a clockwise rotation describing their hands, the play, where the side that wins the bidding auction tries to take the tricks necessary to fulfill their contract, and scoring.

The aim is for each partnership to win (or take) as many tricks as possible.

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Aging Answers April 2016

Take a Trip with Your Loved One Safely

If you are planning a trip with an older loved one this summer, you’re probably building a checklist to make sure everything goes smoothly. While transportation, accommodations and what to do once you get there are probably at the top of your mind, don’t over-look the details that can make travel difficult for seniors — especially those with mobility issues or chronic conditions.

PLAN AHEAD

If you and your older loved one are traveling abroad, don’t forget to make sure your passports are in order.

You’ll also want to make sure both of you are up-to-date on your vaccinations. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (cdc.gov/travel) for alerts, advisories and recommendations for vaccinations based on your destination. Note that some shots need to be taken well in advance of your journey, so plan ahead.

While your loved one is at the doctor’s office for vaccinations, ask if there are any other precautions you should take when traveling with the older adult in your care. If you’re crossing time zones, the doctor may recommend that your loved one change the time he or she takes medications. Depending where in the world you are going, the doctor may have recommendations for foods to avoid because of potential negative interaction with medications.

While you’re away, you’ll also want to be prepared for emergencies. Pack any first aid items or medical devices you’ll need. Also make sure you have a list of all your loved one’s medical conditions and how they are treated. If your loved one has heart issues, bring a copy of the cardiogram to avoid having a potentially life-threatening situation treated as travel fatigue.

Bring along the names of any prescribed medications, including the dosage. It’s best to bring a complete supply of necessary medications so you don’t have to fill any prescriptions while on the road.

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Aging Answers April 2016

Hearing Your Heart. Breaking The Silence And Get Connected With Family

When a spouse, parent or grandparent refuses to wear a hearing aid or assistive de-
vice, it can be a problem for the whole family.

Hearing aids and effective listening strategies help family and friends communicate with the person who has hearing loss. Dr. Laura L. Brady, an audiologist at Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center, the following tips to keep the conversation going:

• Get the person’s attention before you start speaking, which includes stating their name, touching their arm and having them look at you.

• Slow down when speaking.

• Pause as if there is a comma between phrases, helping to group ideas together and improving comprehension.

• Don’t compete with other sound; make sure there is no background noise.

Family members often are concerned about the safety of a loved one with hearing loss. Drivers with hearing loss are advised to be extra diligent about traffic, road conditions and emergency vehicle lights.

At home, family can help a loved one with hearing loss by testing smoke detector sirens. Brady says it is advisable to deliberately sound off a siren while the family member with hearing loss is asleep — because hearing aids are not typically worn while sleeping — to determine their response. If there is no reaction, the smoke detector can be moved closer to their room, or a fire department can be contacted to see if they suggest or provide a smoke detector with flashing lights.

Also, having a spare key for other family members is important, so they can access the home of someone who is hearing impaired in case of emergency.

KIND CONVERSATION

The dynamics of a relationship also are affected by hearing loss. When a loved one does not wear a hearing device, it can be frustrating for everyone, Brady says. It is important to remember that the family member experiencing hearing loss has a difficult time enjoying life the way they used to.

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Aging Answers April 2016

5 Spring Tips for People with Puppies and Kittens

Spring often makes us think of welcoming new lives into our world. You may be expecting a new child, grandchild, or pet. While pets and babies are wonderful household additions, they may be more responsibility than you were expecting. There are lots of books on what to expect before you welcome a baby into your home. Do you have one on how to welcome a new puppy or kitten?

If you’re new to getting a puppy or kitten (or it’s been a while since you had one in your home), here are five tips to keep everyone happy and healthy before bringing a new one into your home.

1. Get a pet health insurance plan while your pet is still young. This is especially recommended if you have concerns about paying for unexpected veterinary bills. Otherwise, budget around $250-$500 for annual care needs, and up to $5,000 (or more) for unexpected veterinary care for chronic, urgent, or emergency medical care needs. There are nearly 15 pet health insurance companies in the U.S. A list of them can be found through the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. If you like supporting local businesses, consider purchasing your plan from Embrace Pet Insurance.

2. Understand what veterinary care your new puppy or kitten had before you got them. If there’s no health history available, your first job is to find a veterinary clinic that provides general health care services for dogs or cats and get a health plan in place. If you do choose to get a pet health insurance plan, make sure your veterinary clinic accepts payments from your pet insurance company.

3. Your new pet will need all those vaccinations and booster shots your veterinarian recommends. Just like babies, young pets need them, too. You may need more veterinary visits than you thought you would, so make sure you understand how many visits you will need the first year, and about how much each visit will cost.

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