Thursday, May 24, 2012

Older Adults Who Are Athletes

Diana Nyad. Photo by hammer_nutrition.
Last Update: December 9, 2015

Too often, the general population defines older adults by their limitations.  While it is true that as a group, older adults accrue more physical limitations as they age, it is still possible to maintain an active lifestyle.   Even though biology seems like destiny, people have a lot of control over their fitness through lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, smoking cessation and stress management.

Recently, the media has made much of Dara Torres, Olympic swimmer, who was born April 15, 1967 and Diana Nyad, endurance swimmer, who was born August 22, 1949.

Not all older athletes are professionals.  Many of the Baby Boomers are redefining late adulthood as an era of active aging. The IHRSA reports that the number of health club members 55+ grew by 343% between 1987 and 2003 compared to 180% for their middle aged peers. Publications such as Sports Geezer and online sources such as the sports section of The Senior Journal attest to an increase of amateur athletes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Missing Personal Items: Lost or Stolen?

Photo by Natalie Barletta
Over the last year, I have been making weekly visits to a skilled nursing center to check on one of my friends.  All too often, she tells me that she’s missing a personal item: lipstick, magazines, television remote, eye glasses, clothing, etc. 

Most upsetting was the loss of her new winter coat less than a week after she received it as a Christmas gift.  Most of these items were not marked with the owner's name. 

Because I am not there 24/7, I am not sure how these items go missing.  My friend has cognition problems, so I suspect that some of these items are merely misplaced.  Places I regularly check for items:
  • In the bedding
  • Under the bed, dresser, vanity or nightstand
  • In the pocket of a sweater or coat
  • In a purse that is seldom used
  • On the floor of the closet
  • Within the wheelchair in which she is sitting

Also, some of the other residents also have cognition problems, so they may pick them up innocently.   Also, some of the items never were marked with pen or engraved.  Staff members struggle to direct items to the correct resident if they are not marked.

Most unsettling is the possibility that items have been stolen—either by another resident who knowingly took them, by a visitor, by regular staff, or by one of the many visiting professionals.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Age-Related Risks for Dehydration

Photo by Bergius
People of any age can experience dehydration. 

Many of these situations actually transcend age. 

However, statistically, older adults as a group can become dehydrated without even knowing it. 

Briefly, older adults as a group have more physical, mental and mobility problems with keeping hydrated.  This can cause a series of negative outcomes ranging from mild discomfort (dry mouth) to serious (i.e., renal failure or heart failure) that can lead to death.  

Edited to add: During the 2018 heat wave in Europe, an estimated 14,000 older adults in France alone perished, in part because of age-related risks for dehydration. 

The US government strives to deliver customized information to various demographic groups. Visit this page by CDC, for their tips for helping those 65+ stay hydrated.  

One age-specific risk that I learned about while pursuing my degree in gerontology: 

Did you know that the perception of thirst diminishes with age? 

Nevertheless, readers of ALL AGES can benefit from this information. 

Read on. 

Now that the weather is turning warmer, it’s a good time to review the problem of dehydration. 

In order to prevent dehydration, people need to do the following:

* drink frequently
eat foods high in water content
* stay out of the sun and in a cool, indoor room
* adjust their water intake if their medications have a diuretic effect, and
* receive assistance if they have mobility problems that make fluid intake (and elimination) a challenge.

[Note: This information does not serve as medical advice. The intent is to merely raise awareness. If you have concerns about fluid intake and proper body function, including cognition, please see a licensed medical professional.]

Now let’s slow down and look at dehydration risk by risk.

Older adults can suffer dehydration for one or more of the following causes: physical changes, diet & medication changes, psychological changes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Modify Conversation with Older Adults As Needed

Photo by McBeth
How do you talk with older adults?

Communicating with older adults may not require any adjustments on the part of the speaker.

Often people 65 plus have no problems maintaining good communication.

Here is an overview of some communication challenges that might be at play.
  • Elderspeak on your part
  • Delirium from a treatable medical problem, such as an infection or dehydration
  • Dementia 
  • Hearing Problems
  • The Use of Touch to Communicate
  • Depression
  • Drug Interaction
  • Hospital-induced Delirium

See the list of links below for more detail about many of these challenges. 

Most older adults only have mild communication challenges if any, so don't let this list and the links let your imagination run wild.   But cautiously and calmly consider whether the communication problems you perceive need some kind of intervention, including changes in your own communication choices. 

If you interact regularly with the same person, you will soon see his or her typical needs for clear communication. If you work with the general population and only the occasional older adult, it make take you a while to hit the mark correctly. Again, you do not want to treat people as feeble minded or childlike, but you do want to accommodate their communication needs if possible.