Prevention and Wellness

Senior Health

Premier Health doctors answer frequently asked questions about geriatric health.

Answers to Common Geriatric Health Questions

What are healthy nutrition guidelines for seniors? How do they differ from nutrition guidelines in younger years?

Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Elaine Scott discusses geriatric health concerns. Click play to watch the video or read the video transcript.

 

 

As you age, nutrition makes an important difference in your health and how you feel.

Everyone – young or old – should eat to energize their bodies to function well throughout each day. But for seniors, it’s especially important to concentrate on eating nutrient-dense, colorful fruits and vegetables and low-fat, high-protein foods. This will help you get essential vitamins and nutrients without adding extra weight.

Nutrition Guidelines for Seniors

Here are some important nutrition tips to keep in mind as you age:

  • Eat nutrient-dense foods
  • Eat a variety of dairy products
  • Eat some protein foods daily
  • Vary protein choices among not only meats, but also beans and tofu
  • Eat healthful fats (for example canola oil, olive oil, avocado)
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water

Caloric Recommendations

Caloric intake recommendations change as people age, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Here are recommendations for adults older than 50 who are moderately active:

Women Age 50+ (moderately active)
1,800 calories/day

Men Age 50+ (moderately active)
2,200 to 2,400 calories a day

Sodium

Older adults should limit sodium intake to about two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt a day.

This helps keep your blood pressure under control. Healthy blood pressure lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.

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How can older adults determine what type of exercise is best for their health?

Physical activity is an important part of staying healthy. It can help combat conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as improving sleep. Exercise may even lead to a longer life, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

Almost anyone can do some kind of exercise safely, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Talking with your doctor about your health status is a great way to make sure you’re doing exercises that are best for you.

Four Types of Exercise

There are four basic types of exercise, according to the NIH. It is good to interchange them to help reduce boredom and get the most out of your exercise routine.

The four types of exercise are as follows:

  • Endurance (aerobic) exercise – Increases your breathing and heart rate. Examples include brisk walking or jogging, vigorous yard work, dancing, swimming, biking, climbing stairs, tennis and basketball
  • Strength exercise – Makes your muscles stronger. Examples include lifting weights and using a resistance band. Can also include everyday activities, such as carrying groceries
  • Balance exercise – Helps prevent falls. Examples include standing on one foot and tai chi
  • Flexibility exercise – Stretches your muscles to keep your body limber. Examples include yoga, shoulder and upper arm stretches and calf stretches

If you’re not active at all, it’s a good idea to start slowly and build from there.

For more information about what exercises would be good for you to start with, talk to your physician.

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Why is exercise so important for older adults?

Exercise is important for everyone, especially older adults.

It helps maintain mobility and stamina while reducing the incidence of disease, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Exercising regularly has been shown to prevent or delay diabetes and heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Other Benefits

Other benefits of older adults choosing to exercise, according to the NIH and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), include the following:

  • Reducing arthritis pain
  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Helping people stay independent
  • Maintaining healthy blood vessels
  • Helping to manage weight
  • Helping to cope with stress
  • Reducing stroke risk
  • Reducing colon and breast cancers
  • Reducing the number of falls

For more information about why exercise is important to older adults, talk to your physician.

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What are some of the major difficulties of transitioning into the role of a family caregiver for an older adult?

Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Elaine Scott discusses geriatric health concerns. Click play to watch the video or read the video transcript.

 

 

More than 44 million people in the U.S. are caregivers for their spouses, parents, relatives and friends, according to the Administration on Aging (AoA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Caregiving Challenges

Taking on the role of caregiver for an older adult comes with some major difficulties. These challenges include the following:

  • Stress
  • Feelings of anger, guilt, impatience, resentment and loneliness
  • Fear of the future
  • Feeling overwhelmed

In addition, it can be hard to take on the role of a caregiver for someone who is used to being independent and making his or her own decisions.

There can be days when the stress of providing care in addition to personal, family and work responsibilities can seem overwhelming.

Coping Strategies

Because of this added stress, it is common for caregivers to feel resentful, burnt out and even numb to their loved one’s needs and emotions.

If you are a caregiver, it is important to develop coping strategies and seek help to learn the best ways to support the person you’re caring for.

Try to create a team between you and the person you’re caring for. Give the older adult as much input as possible in decisions about their health care. This team attitude can help make the transition less stressful.

Talk with your loved one’s physician for more information about how to build a healthy caregiver relationship.

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What can a caregiver do to avoid or lessen the stress that caregiving causes?

Caring for an older adult can be a big job. Though taking care of a sick family member has rewards and advantages, it also can be physically and emotionally draining, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

Ways to Cope with Caregiving Stress

Some ways the AARP and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommend for caregivers to minimize stress include:

  • Find caregiving resources in your community
  • Take a caregiver class to learn how to best deal with the disease your loved one is facing
  • Ask for help
  • Be willing to accept help when it is offered
  • Say “no” to requests that would be overwhelming if added to your caregiver role
  • Focus on doing the best you can rather than trying to be the perfect caregiver
  • Set realistic goals
  • Stay organized by making lists and following a daily routine
  • Talk to family and friends when you need someone to listen
  • Make time every week to do something you want to do, such as go to a movie or go out for a meal
  • Find time to be physically active
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • See your doctor regularly
  • Try to have a good sense of humor
  • Keep other loved ones involved as much as possible

Every caregiver – no matter how dedicated – needs and deserves a break. Take time for yourself – whether it’s running some errands alone or taking a week-long vacation.

Finding a balance between caring for your loved one and caring for yourself is critical.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how you can find ways to minimize and avoid the stresses of being a caregiver.

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What is MyChart, and how does it benefit older adults?

MyChart is a free service offered to patients of Premier Health that provides secure online access to portions of their medical records.

From the comfort of your own home, MyChart allows patients to do the following:

  • Schedule medical appointments
  • View a health summary
  • View test results
  • Renew prescriptions
  • Access trusted health information resources
  • Communicate electronically with your medical team

MyChart benefits older adults because of its easy access and up-to-date information available at your fingertips.

For patients with disabilities or special needs, proxy access to MyChart will be granted to a proven guardian.

For more information about MyChart and how it can help you, talk to your physician.

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What do we need to know about senior medication safety?

Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Elaine Scott discusses geriatric health concerns. Click play to watch the video or read the video transcript.

 

 

There are many simple steps seniors can take to make sure they are safely managing the medications they take.

Medication Safety Tips

Here are a few medication safety tips:

  • Keep a list of your medication names, dosages and why you’re taking them. Keep a copy at home and another copy in your wallet so you will have it if you go to the hospital or the doctor’s office. This will help you avoid possible bad drug interactions or overdoses.
  • Bring all your bottles of medications to your doctor’s visit so your doctor can see exactly what you are taking and reevaluate where needed. This is especially important if you have a variety of medications prescribed by more than one doctor.
  • Know the possible risk factors and side effects of over-the-counter pain medication. These risk factors include kidney problems, blood pressure problems and stomach bleeding.
  • Keep track of which medications to take and when. Don’t be embarrassed if you need to short your medications by day or time of day, or if it helps to set a timer on your phone to make sure you are taking all the right medicines at the right times. Better to be prepared than to take too much or too little of a medication you need.

For more information about medication safety for seniors, talk with your physician at your next appointment.

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What is an adverse drug event (ADE)?

An adverse drug event (ADE) is when someone has a bad reaction to a medication, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

ADEs cause more than 700,000 emergency department visits in the U.S. each year. Nearly 120,000 patients have to be hospitalized annually because of the ADEs.

Adults age 65 and older are twice as likely as other people to visit emergency departments because of ADEs.

Symptoms

Symptoms of an ADE include the following:

  • Swelling of the lips, tongue and face
  • Breathing problems
  • Itching
  • Flushing
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Stomach ache or diarrhea
  • Coughing

Talk to your physician for more information about adverse drug events.

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What are some tips for older adults trying to manage multiple medications in a safe manner?

Dr. Block discusses tips for older adults trying to manage multiple medications safely. Click play to watch the video or read the video transcript.

 

 

As people get older, they often need to take multiple medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With multiple medications – each with its own dosage instructions – it can become difficult to make sure you are taking the right amount of each medicine at the right time for the right number of times each day.

Safety Tips for Managing Multiple Medications

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the CDC recommend trying these steps to manage multiple medications safely:

  • Keep a list of your medicines
  • Carefully follow the directions on each medication
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist questions
  • Don’t take more or less than the amount prescribed
  • Check expiration dates
  • Try to follow a medicine-taking routine
  • Take all your medicines with you to your appointment with your primary care doctor so he or she can keep track of what you have been prescribed by all any other specialists

For more information about how to manage taking multiple medications safely, talk with your doctor.

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What is dementia?

Dr. Block discusses dementia. Click play to watch the video or read the video transcript.

 

 

Dementia is a term used for cognitive symptoms that are caused by a brain disorder, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Symptoms of Dementia

Symptoms of dementia include the following:

  • Loss of ability to problem solve
  • Inability to control emotions
  • Change in personality
  • Agitation
  • Seeing things that aren’t there
  • Memory loss
  • Struggles with language
  • Confusion about time and place

Talk to your doctor for more information about dementia and its symptoms.

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What are the early warning signs of dementia?

Dr. Block discusses early warning signs of dementia. Click play to watch the video or read the video transcript.

 

 

The early warning signs of dementia can help caregivers of older adults know when to address problems with the physician, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Early Signs of Dementia

Early warning signs of dementia include the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty planning or problem solving
  • Problems completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion about time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • Problems with language, words and speaking
  • Misplacing things and being unable to backtrack to find them
  • Poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work and social activities
  • Mood and personality changes

For more details about warning signs of dementia, talk to your physician.

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What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

Alzheimer’s and dementia are not synonymous. Dementia is an overarching term that describes a range of symptoms. Alzheimer’s is a specific disease that encompasses some of those symptoms, according to the Alzheimer’s Association (AA).

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 percent to 80 percent of cases. It causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. The symptoms typically get worse over time.

Talk to your doctor for more information about the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia.

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There is no cure for dementia, but are there ways to treat it or slow the progression

Dr. Block discusses possible ways to treat or slow dementia. Click play to watch the video or read the video transcript.

 

 

Whether or not dementia can be treated depends on the type of dementia and how it was caused, according to the Alzheimer’s Association (AA).

For people affected by Alzheimer’s, there is no cure and no treatment that slows or stops its progression. There are some medications that can help temporarily improve the symptoms.

Studies show that getting regular exercise and keeping strong social connections might be effective ways of decreasing the risk of getting dementia, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

Treating Dementia

Some ways to treat or slow the progression of dementia early on, according to the Mayo Clinic, are as follows:

  • Modify the environment – Minimize clutter and distracting noise to help the person with dementia focus, thus reducing confusion and frustration.
  • Modify caregiver responses – Try to avoid correcting and quizzing a person with dementia. Instead, reassure the person.
  • Modify tasks – Break down tasks to easier steps to put focus on small successes. Having a structured daily routine can help reduce confusion for the person with dementia.

Talk to your doctor for more information about ways to treat or slow the progression of dementia.

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What is shingles, and how is it treated?

Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Elaine Scott discusses geriatric health concerns.  Click play to watch the video or read the video transcript.

 

 

Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. It can also cause severe pain that can last for months or years, even after the rash goes away.

After having chickenpox, the virus stays on your nerve cells. Years later it can become active again and travel to your skin.

Most people only have shingles once, but it is possible to get it repeatedly.

Risk Factors for Shingles

Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles, but some people are at greater risk. The following increase your risk of getting shingles:

  • Age - Being 50 or older
  • Weakened immune system - From an illness like HIV/AIDS
  • Cancer - Especially Hodgkin disease or lymphoma
  • Certain medications – Particularly those that suppress the immune system

Shingles Treatment

It is important to see your doctor right away if you think you have shingles.

If shingles is caught early, it can be treated with an anti-viral medication, which your doctor may prescribe. Medication can relieve pain, speed healing and lower the risk of complications.

But if you have had blisters from shingles for more than three days, the medication might not work.

People with shingles can put a cool compress on their skin, soak in a cool bath or use calamine lotion to help relieve some of the pain and itch.

Preventing Shingles

Adults older than 50 should get a vaccine to protect themselves against shingles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Talk with your physician for more information about shingles and treatment options for it.

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How can caregivers and physicians partner together for more successful health care for an aging parent or loved one?

Caregivers and physicians are both vital parts of the health care team of aging parents and loved ones.

By working together, caregivers and physicians can make sure the senior is getting the best possible care.

Helpful Tips for the Physician-Caregiver Team

A few helpful tips to make this partnership between caregiver and physician successful include the following:

  • Come prepared for doctor’s visits - Make a list of the three or four most important things you want to talk about with the doctor.
  • Inform the office – Tell the physician’s office who will accompany the older adult to the visit.
  • Ask for a consultation - If more than two children of an older parent plan to accompany the patient to a visit to discuss the parent’s living situation and health options, let the office know you need a consultation. This will let the physician know you will need time to talk rather than simply reviewing the patient’s physical condition.
  • Keep records - Keep good records of current medications, surgeries and specialists they see. If possible, try to keep track of how often the older adult sees the specialist and what issues the specialist takes care of.

The caregiver is important to providing necessary information and filling in any missing pieces of the puzzle physicians need to take care of the older adult.

If you are a caregiver, talk with physicians on your care team about what you can do to help build a good partnership between yourself and them.

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What important information related to electronic medical records should seniors be aware of?

Electronic medical records are an asset to providing good continuity of care. At Premier Health, we offer patients a free electronic medical record account called MyChart.

Benefits of Electronic Medical Records

Having your health records saved electronically has many benefits, such as the following:

  • Allows the records to be available and organized
  • Allows easy, quick access to your medical history
  • Ensures your care as a patient is not overlooked or duplicated
  • Helps your physician develop a long-term care plan

With MyChart, you can elect to add a family member to your account to help you manage the information. That person can sign into your MyChart account on your behalf to help you keep track of medical appointments, prescription refills, lab test results and more.

Talk to your physician to get an access code to sign up for your own MyChart electronic medical record.

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What steps can people take to prevent shingles?

Shingles is a disease that causes a painful skin rash. It can also cause severe pain that can last for months or years, even after the rash goes away.

The only way to try to prevent shingles is to get vaccinated.

Adults 60 and older can get a single dose of the shingles vaccine.

Talk to your physician about the shingles vaccine and when would be a good time for you to get it.

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What are the symptoms of depression, and do they look different in older adults?

Dr. Block discusses symptoms of depression and how they manifest in older adults. Click play to watch the video or read the video transcript.

 

 

Everyone feels sad from time to time. But when those feelings continue for more than a few days, you may be suffering from depression, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Symptoms of Depression

Some signs and symptoms of depression include the following:

  • Difficulty focusing or remembering
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Eating significantly more or less than usual
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Feeling excessive guilt
  • Feeling like life is not worth living
  • Feeling nervous
  • Frequent crying
  • Frequent headaches, stomach aches or other chronic pain
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities
  • Problems getting to sleep or waking in the middle of the night
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeping too much
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is common among older adults, but it does not go hand-in-hand with aging.

The physical changes associated with aging can lead some people into depression. In addition, the deaths of family and friends, transitioning into retirement or dealing with illness can be factors that lead to depression.

Depression in older adults can often be missed because some people from older generations are less likely to talk about their feelings or outwardly show symptoms.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how to spot depression in older adults.

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Source: Geetha Ambalavanan, MD, Fairborn Medical Center; Suzanne Bell, MD, Vandalia Family Care; Dale Block, MD, CPE, Premier Family Care of Mason; Archie Enoch, MD, Fairfield Road Physician Offices; Anoopa Hodges, MD, Oakwood Primary Care; Berry McCorkle, MD, Premier Infectious Disease; Elaine Scott, CNP, Brookville Family Care; Pamela Werner, MD, Miami Valley Primary Care

Content Updated: March 16, 2017

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