Helping older adults manage dangerous summer temperatures
With 100-plus degree temperatures setting records and two-thirds of the state recently subject to heat advisories, hot weather is making its sometimes-deadly impact in Minnesota.
Older adults are especially vulnerable to hot weather, as aging bodies lose the ability to quickly and easily adapt to high heat. Often compounding the problem are prescription drugs that can also reduce the body’s ability to adjust to temperature changes.
During hot weather, make sure your older adult…
- Drinks more fluids. It’s very important to keep hydrated, and to drink before thirst sets in. Warning: If your physician limits the amount of fluid your loved one can drink or has them on water pills, consult the doctor first about increasing water consumption. Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, which actually cause body fluid loss.
- Stays inside, ideally in an air-conditioned room. If your home does not have air conditioning, visit a shopping mall, public library, or book store. Perhaps use the hot weather as a reason to go out to dinner at a cool restaurant. Your local health department can also provide information on any heat-relief shelters.
- Uses cool showers/baths. Though turning on a few electric fans may offer some relief, a more effective alternative is to take a cool shower or bath.
- Wears clothing that is lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting.
- Gets visitors. Visit at-risk adults twice a day or more, and carefully watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, as follows…
Symptoms of heat stroke:
- An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
- Red, hot, and dry skin but without sweating
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 or summon medical personnel immediately.
Older drivers face a dilemma — article from the Star Tribune
According to a recent article in the Star Tribune, drivers over 70 will triple in the next 20 years, forcing families to talk to older adults about taking the keys. A lot of people equate their self-worth with being able to drive.
Read the complete article here.
Seasonal allergies in older adults
Spring’s bounty brings lovely flowering trees and blissful sunshine. Lurking in the warm air for many people, though, are pollens and other allergens that can cause great discomfort.
If your senior is suffering from sneezing, a runny nose, and watery, itchy eyes, and it’s clearly seasonal allergies, she’ll probably want relief with an antihistamine. Note, however, that side effects from over-the-counter allergy medications can be very uncomfortable for older adults, who may already be suffering from some of the same effects through prescription medications or simple aging. Be wary of the constipation, dry mouth and eyes, drowsiness, dizziness, and urinary retention that can come with earlier-generation antihistamines like Chlor-Trimeton® and Benadryl®.
The newer antihistamines can be a better choice for older people because the side effects are typically fewer or milder. Zyrtec®, Claritin®, and Allegra® can bring welcome relief when taken short term. It’s wise to consult a pharmacist specializing in senior health.
Allergy symptoms can include a cough and dry throat. Have your senior drink lots of water, fruit juice, or hot tea to help clear mucus. Encourage your senior to keep beverages handy and take small sips as soon as a coughing fit erupts. Humidifiers can offer relief by alleviating dry indoor air. To help with nighttime coughing, have your older adult use extra pillows and sleep with his head elevated.
What Medicare Covers And What It Doesn’t: The Basics
What exactly does Medicare cover, and what must enrollees pay for out of pocket? This is a common question — rest assured you’re not alone trying to figure it all out.
When an enrollee is covered by “traditional” or “original” Medicare, certain kinds of care are not covered at all: routine dental care, hearing aids and glasses, long-term care, and alternative therapies like acupuncture.
Some good news about traditional Medicare, however, is that more than ever, it’s focused on covering preventive care services — thanks in part to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Most preventive services are covered by original Medicare with no copays or deductibles:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm screenings
- Alcohol misuse counseling
- Bone mass measurements
- Cardiovascular screenings
- Colon cancer screenings (colorectal)
- Depression screenings
- Diabetes screenings
- Diabetes self-management training
- EKG screenings
- Flu shots
- Glaucoma tests
- Hepatitis B shots
- HIV screenings
- Medical nutrition therapy services
- Pap tests and pelvic exams
- Preventive Visits (two types — one when you’re new to Medicare and one each year after that)
- Pneumococcal shots
- Prostate cancer screenings
- Smoking cessation
Here’s what original Medicare won’t cover, or strictly limits:
- Routine dental care. There’s no coverage for basic dental health care such as checkups, cleanings, or fillings, and there is no coverage for dentures. Even if Medicare has paid for you to have a tooth pulled in preparation for a medical procedure, you will be responsible for the cost of your dentures should you need them.
- Complementary and alternative therapies. These kinds of treatments include homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, holistic therapies, midwifery, and herbal medicine. Most chiropractic care is not covered.
- Most care received outside of the U.S.
- Long-term care. Medicare does not cover indefinite, long-term care, nor assisted living nor adult daycare. It covers short-term recovery from an illness or injury, including care in a nursing facility. Medicare does pay for recovery in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) after a three-day hospital stay and will also cover home health care (note: this is not round-the-clock care). Hospice care is also covered.
- Hearing aids or the exams for prescribing/fitting hearing aids.
- Personal care or custodial care: such as help with bathing, toileting and dressing (unless homebound and receiving skilled care) and nursing home care (except in a skilled nursing facility if eligible).
- Housekeeping services to help you stay in your home, such as shopping, meal preparation, and cleaning (unless you are receiving hospice care).
- Most non-emergency transportation.
- Routine foot care: A foot exam is covered every six months only for people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN).
- Most vision care. This includes eyeglasses (except when following cataract surgery) and examinations for prescribing or fitting eyeglasses.
Pinnacle gives back to community
Several Pinnacle Services employees assisted the Salvation Army in Northeast Minneapolis on December 20 to organize toys, stock shelves and assist shoppers preparing for the holiday season.
Volunteers included Amanda Halvorson, Desiree Gnerre, Kim Cole, Jamie Plude, Lacey Reierson, Melissa Trebesch, Ashley Stoffer, Kari Griffin, Amber Statz, Jill Cihlar, Debbie Anderson, Mary Johnson, Desire Gnerre, Ebony Gums and Brianna Kruchowski.
On February 18, fourteen staff, consumers and kids created 13 Shoulder Shawls. Staff cut the fringe off blankets and the consumers tied the double knots that created decorative fringe. We then drove to Benedictine Health Center of Minneapolis where Abby Messer, director of social services at Benedictine, introduced us to individuals whom she felt were in the most need of a shoulder shawl.
In March, our event was “A Little Skating for the Little Kitchen,” hosted at the Depot Skating Rink in downtown Minneapolis. A monetary donation was given to the Little Kitchen Food Shelf in NE Minneapolis. It was a great way to have some fun and give back to a good cause that is located right in Pinnacle’s neighborhood.
A big Thank you to everyone who participated in these events.
Pinnacle Services hosts third annual Pinnacle Pub Crawl at MSSA
This year’s Minnesota Social Service Association (MSSA) Training Conference & Expo was held March 13-16 at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. At Pinnacle’s informational booth, staff members answered questions and handed out brochures, travel mugs, gift bags and desk accessories.
Pinnacle case managers attended a variety of workshops on such topics as poverty, hunger and housing; children, youth and families; elders; leadership; mental health; workforce development and many more. Brenda Elsagher, comedian, author and national speaker, provided the keynote presentation.
Pinnacle also sponsored its third annual MSSA Pub Crawl on Wednesday evening. Approximately 75 conference-goers joined in the fun, with stops at The Shout House, Hell’s Kitchen, Rock Bottom Brewery, Rosa Mexicano and Thom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen.
Please look for our booth at the Northwest District and Metro District conferences in October 2012.
Managing Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is one of the most unfortunate of health concerns and indignities that affects the aging human body. But, since it’s one of the most common — affecting about a fifth of people over age 85 — a variety of coping approaches and products are readily available to help loved ones and their caregivers.
It’s important for caregivers to understand that the incontinence is more than just inconvenient. Associated health problems can occur and potentially turn serious, such as skin rashes and urinary tract infections. And incontinence is even known to increase the chances of falls and injuries. Further, the need for long-term care often arises; one study found that urinary incontinence is second only to dementia among reasons for admission to long-term care.
Here are several ways to help those suffering urinary incontinence:
- Establish a restroom routine and be diligent and patient. Try to get the person to go to the bathroom every two hours during waking hours. This can lead to a degree of bladder “retraining.”
- Consult a health care professional with experience training the patient in pelvic-floor strengthening exercises (such as Kegel exercises).
- Consult a doctor, who may determine if prescribing a medication called an antimuscarinic is appropriate. These can help with the different types of urinary incontinence: overactive bladder and urge incontinence.
- Ensure the person avoids stimulants in the evening, such as caffeine, as well as liquids before bedtime.
- Simplify the person’s wardrobe — pants with elastic waistbands offer great convenience.
- Keep a close eye on nonverbal signals that the patient needs to use the restroom. These include facial expressions, distraction, and pulling at clothes.
- Realize the person may have been hiding their incontinence and suffering longer than you’re aware of. This can result in a longer time period required for managing the incontinence, and if the patient has become more socially isolated and less likely to leave home, the incontinence may have been the primary reason.
- Know that surgery may be an option for patients who do not respond to conservative methods as described above.
Make the Holidays More Joyful for Elderly Family Members
The holidays bring families together, and the season should be as merry as possible for everyone. But, we all know holiday stress is a fact of life — and it can be especially tough on older adults.
Here are ways to help ensure your elderly loved ones have smooth, enjoyable holiday season:
- If their home will be used for gatherings, look for ways to manage the heightened activity. Kids and dogs running about can be over-stimulating and stressful, so make sure parents supervise them.
- Respectfully honor that Grandma might be particular about which casserole dishes can be used, or help Grandpa put fragile treasures out of reach of young children.
- Is your elderly loved one quiet and withdrawn? If hearing loss is a factor, check hearing-aid adjustments in support of increased opportunities for conversation.
- Draw older adults into activities by assigning simple tasks. If dementia is causing your seniors to be withdrawn, get family members to involve them in “memory lane” conversations that take advantage of long-term memory. What was Grandma and Grandpa’s first Christmas or Hanukah together like? Are there cherished ornaments or holiday vacations to reminisce about? Did they weather any scary snowstorms?
- Be on the look out for holiday criminals who may call, email, or come to the door of your elderly loved one who they expect to be an easy victim. If Grandpa talks about a recent purchase that doesn’t quite make sense, stop, listen, and ask probing questions.
- Relatives and friends who don’t see older relatives regularly might observe something new. Look for opportunities to have conversations that might start with, “How do you think Grandpa is doing these days?” You might find that an elderly relative will reveal things suddenly to someone they don’t see much. When dementia is present, out-of-town friends and family may need to be warned to help avoid embarrassing moments.
- Check in with your loved ones to find out how they’re doing in the face of such a flurry of activity. You might be able to set up a room for resting so Grandma can nap or otherwise get quiet time. Don’t be afraid to put a sign on the door that lets others know a room is off-limits for a time.
Caregiver Training: What Pinnacle Requires
What kinds of training does a caregiver get before taking care of seniors?
Not all agencies require the extensive training that Pinnacle does.
According to Karin Malkowski Stende, trainer/human resources associate, Pinnacle requires “very intensive, 30-plus hours of classroom and on-site training that new staff are expected to complete during their initial two weeks of employment.”
“The state requires 30 hours of training within the first 60 days of employment,” says Stende. “We believe that our two-week training model exceeds that requirement and allows us to better equip our new staff with the knowledge and expertise they will need in order to be of maximum service to the consumer.”
The Pinnacle curriculum includes training on:
- The Vulnerable Adult/Maltreatment of Minors Act (which mandates reporting of actual or suspected abuse/maltreatment of vulnerable adults and/or minors)
- Rule 40 (which regulates the use of controlled procedures)
- Medication administration
- Home health aide competency
- Basic dementia training (which includes communication skills and working with challenging behaviors)
- CPR and first aid from American Red Cross-certified instructors
- Vehicle safety
- Funding and waivers
- Alternative intervention, and
- Pinnacle Services company history, mission, and core values.
New staff also gets intensive on-site orientation that includes medical equipment training, as well as completing risk management post-tests.
“All of our trainings are designed to give our new staff the confidence and competence they need so they can provide consumers with services of the highest quality — one of our company’s core values,” says Stende.
The Stress of Hot Weather on Seniors
The recent stretch of hot weather in Minnesota had everyone looking for relief. And aging adults are more likely to experience the effects of hot weather than younger adults. Physically, older adults cannot adjust to significant changes in temperature the way younger adults can.
What’s more, prescription drugs can also reduce the body’s ability to adjust to temperature changes.
The effects of too much heat
Watch for these symptoms of heat stroke:
- An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 or summon medical personnel immediately.
Tips for preventing heat-related illnesses
Here are tips to safeguard your health during the hot weather:
- Drink more fluids. It’s very important to keep hydrated. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your physician limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, check with him on how much you should drink while the weather is hot.Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar. These types of liquids make you lose more body fluid.
- Stay indoors and, if possible, stay in an air-conditioned room. If your home does not have air conditioning, visit a shopping mall or public library. You can also contact your local health department to find out if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
- Electric fans may offer some comfort. However, when the temperature reaches the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or spending time in an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
- Wear clothing that is lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting.
- Visit adults at risk twice a day or more. Watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.