by francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
Dear Francy; My Dad is 78 with no major health challenge and yet he was in the ER three times in the last two months. Should I be worried?
YES – ER rooms and hospitals in general are ripe with bacteria and all other infections like staph and MRSA…everyone is exposed. If you walk in the door with a low immune system, infections out of range or exhaustion, you are open to all the bugs that float around the high care area. The goal of a care giver is to lessen the reason to go to the ER or hospital. If your dad is living alone, it’s time to go over to his place and have a talk with him about his health and his home. If he’s with you or in a care center then prevention is the key. You do not want to turn small symptoms into large problems. You have to learn how to put on your care giver antenna and be on a constant look out for small early clues to health problems.
One of our dear, male friends, in his mid fifties – ignored a skin condition and tried to self treat it without a doctor’s visit. It got infected, he then had to go to the ER and was exposed to MRSA. This is what we all have to avoid.
My mother was home from a four day stay in the hospital over a blocked bowel and I was worried about her home care. I asked the doctor for an in-home nurse to help me. You’re allowed the service from Medicare plans. The nurse that came to help us was simply the best. She had been an in-home nurse for years caring for seniors and knew all the tricks of her trade. The amazing thing was she was open to sharing information on care with me. Her twice weekly visits during that month, helped me in giving care to mother for years.
Her secret ? Stay away from the ER at all costs. Yes, major health issues have to be addressed and the ER is there for emergency. But it is not there for back up to ignoring symptoms and not visiting doctors. What she wanted was for me to keep mother on a calm line of care and not experience her health as up and downs – just center line calm.
Some ideas to toss around in your care of anyone, including yourself;
- Nasty as it seems to many new caregivers – older folks have problems with their bowels. So, instead of fighting those problems you learn to deal with them instead. Many side effects of medications like antibiotics can cause constipation or diarrhea. The tip is to discuss a stool softener with your senior’s doctor. This is taken each day to simply soften the stool to make it pass easier. The doctor will suggest the proper amount to be given and this is an over the counter pill that is inexpensive but very helpful. On the other side; the slightest sign of loose stool should be combated with Imodium (Loperamide) pills, designed to stop diarrhea. This has to be done soon so the senior does not get worn down and sick over the condition.
- The best thing to do is what I did – just talk it out. I sat down with mother and said; “Mom I know that your bowels are your business, but I have to know how you feel each day in order to help you keep on a even keel. So, everyday I’m going to ask you if you had a movement and if it was unusual in any way.” We just talked over how important keeping this function was to keeping her out of the hospital and she was willing to work with me. I always moved the conversation with her health into a team concept. Together we can figure this out and fix it. Both of us talked about this team issue and it worked for us.
- Many remember care of young children that repeatedly had ear infections or asthma attacks in the middle of the night. A frightening thing for any parent. Learning from those long nights of waiting in the ER parents soon found ways to avoid it. They would adjust their child’s food intake, add good rest time, immune system boosts and general preventative care . Soon, with those combinations and the doctor’s care ideas the ER room visits went down to a minimum or stopped. Senior care is very similar.
- Boost the immune system. Add a nutritional drink each day for anyone with a high stress situation or advanced years and health issues that might bring down the ability to fight small infections off.
- NOTE: Let the family know that visiting grand parents means everyone is feeling well and not bring germs into their home or room area. I put up a reminder sign on mother’s door, ” If you feel like you have a cold coming on – do not enter!”
- Do online research for extra Vitamin C – E and supplements like the wonderful Emergen-C drinks. Remember to give it to them in the morning so they do not disrupt their night-time sleep.
- Add 100% real- squeezed fruit drinks (individual size) that you can find in the refrigerator section of the market or health food store. Orange juice with pulp (not from concentrate) squeezed fresh – apple juice, carrot juice with celery and some of the anti oxidant drinks like blueberry etc. Buy them and serve them every other day to help build up the senior’s system so they’re able to fight off the bugs.
- Rest is not just naps while watching TV. I had mother start to take formal naps in the afternoon. After about a year of her telling me she never took naps – and yet each time I went into her room she was asleep in her chair. I put my foot down and told her a one hour nap in bed where she could really rest her body – was on the list. She adjusted so well to this she looked forward to her afternoon nap. She was then able to enjoy the rest of her evening and still get a good night’s sleep.
- Consistent food. If your dad is living on his own…is he really eating? They say they are, but are they? Does he still cook, if so what does he cook? Check out his refrigerator for left overs. Do you need to have a meals on wheels type of program in place? If he’s with you or in a care center, is he eating protein or just toast and desserts? Find out and adjust his intake of food to good food that keeps him strong. High in protein and veggies and low in fat and sugar.
- Is he keeping clean? Have you cleaned his home and gotten those germs off the counters and faucet in the kitchen and the bathroom? Is his area around his favorite TV chair clean and not harboring old food stuffs? Get it vacuumed & change the vacuum bag so you are dealing with clean all the way around. Use those pop-up bleach clothes to go over the surfaces that he touches each day.
- Give him hand sanitizer for his chair side table and remind him to use it. Yes, he will hate your pushy behavior…get over it. You’re a team and often one team member has to push the other to make the right actions to keep them well.
- If his resistance to casual flu and colds is really down – ask about how to boost his immune system on his next doctor’s visit. If you do not normally go with him to the doctor, now is the time to start. Tell the doctor you’re concerned and you would appreciate knowing more about flu shots, shingle and pneumonia preventative shots. Take the doctor’s input and then read about it on the net and then you can make an informed decision on which way to go with this. He may have other health issues that are causing the sag in his immune system and the doctor can do tests to make sure the senior’s system is not fighting against him.
- Shingles is a nasty way to find out you are under too much stress and your immune system is out of whack. The age for this condition is getting younger and younger…and no one wants the pain of shingles. Look it up on the net and find out what to look for in symptoms. That way if your father says he has a rash, you need to get on it right away and get him into the doctor. Let your dad know what to look for, so he can be prepared if anything appears different on his body.
- The in-home nurse shared with me weakness in seniors means they develop bad bathroom habits and that can lead to urinary infections. I know, this is another unpleasant thought – but this is reality for all of us as we age. So, remember, if the senior starts to display strange behavior or says things that seem out of character for the senior – take note. This infection often comes on without pain and is not noticed until the infection fills the system and the senior has to be hospitalized. Read about it on the net and understand what to look for so a doctor’s visit can be scheduled instead of a trip to the ER.
I know, there is so much to go over. I have written a good Care-Giving Workbook 101 to address lots of other care issues. You can find it on the Products page of my website. It’s available in spiral workbook style to mail to you or E-book PDF format emailed to you so you can read and print it on your own. I know you’ll find lots of tips in the material I’ve gathered. Please visit my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.com and click on Products.
Thanks for all you are doing for your dad- francy