General Aches and Pains: What Seniors Should Know About Over The Counter Pain Relievers

You can be any age and experience the muscle soreness of overexertion, or even just a common headache. Older adults have more to think about before they reach for that bottle of over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. Some can be dangerous to their health.

Seniors often have to deal with the aches and pains that come with chronic health conditions, and pain management may be a daily need. They’ve likely been advised by a physician about which OTC medications are best for them. It’s a different story for the occasional headache, though. Here are some tips on what to keep in mind before reaching for that bottle in the medicine cabinets.

Generally the Safest

Geriatricians agree that acetaminophen is the safest OTC pain reliever for older adults. The non-generic name for this pain reliever is Tylenol. There’s a strong warning, though, about the amount a senior should take. It’s recommended that older adults take no more than 3,000 milligrams of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period.

This is because high doses of this OTC pain reliever are known to cause serious liver damage. Adults of any age with a history of chronic liver disease or alcohol abuse should restrict their use of acetaminophen. Many other medications – both prescribed and OTC – also contain acetaminophen, so it’s important to consider whether taking additional doses will push over the 3,000-milligram limit.

This OTC pain reliever has few side-effects for older adults, as long as you stay within the limitations.

Avoid NSAIDs

There’s a reason people use the acronym of NSAID. It’s much easier than saying “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.” NSAIDs are the most common OTC alternative to acetaminophen. (They are sold under the brand names of Advil or Aleve).

Seniors should be extremely careful when taking NSAIDS. These OTC pain relievers are known to cause harmful side-effects for older adults. These include:

  • Stomach, small bowel, or colon bleeding. Older adults already taking daily aspirin or a blood-thinner should avoid NSAIDs.
  • Stomach lining problems.
  • Interference with high blood pressure medications.
  • Fluid retention and decreased kidney function.

The National Institutes of Health reports that more than 41,000 seniors are hospitalized each year because of complications caused by taking NSAID pain relievers. Even more alarming, the organization says it’s the cause of death for more than 3,000 older adults annually.

A physician may still prescribe NSAIDs for seniors because the anti-inflammatory effects are an effective way to treat the pain caused by arthritis.

Avoid Aspirin Too

It might be the oldest and most trusted OTC pain reliever, but aspirin has many of the same negative side-effects as NSAIDS – especially in older adults.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take an OTC pain reliever to get rid of a pesky headache. For seniors and their caregivers, the safest choice is acetaminophen. Always consult a physician if more pain relief is needed.

Why Seniors Struggle With Athlete’s Foot

What’s up with that? Many seniors are still active, but it seems as if they struggle with athlete’s foot more often than those who should be more prone to getting it.

Athlete’s foot is actually common in older adults – and it has little to do with how often they’re in a gym locker room. Seniors are more susceptible to fungal problems because they’re often less capable at keeping their feet clean and dry.

4 Ways to Kick Back at Athlete’s Foot

It doesn’t matter what age we are. Nobody wants to put up with persistent pain and itch. Here are four ways to help seniors deal with athlete’s foot.

  1. It starts with thorough cleaning. They may need help. There are medicated soaps you can purchase that help. You can also purchase liquid soap with tea tree oil. It’s tingly and soothing, and the tea tree oil is a natural substance with antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  2. Help them keep their feet dry. The fungus and bacteria that contribute to athlete’s foot prefers a moist environment – especially between the toes.
  3. There are both medicated creams and aerosol sprays that are highly effective in curing athlete’s foot. These can be purchased over the counter. Apply all over the foot – not just on the soles. Make sure to get between the toes.
  4. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s a good idea to apply a moisturizer after the medicated cream or spray has been absorbed. This helps promote healing.

More Tips

Socks and shoes can trap moisture, which creates the optimal environment for athlete’s foot. It might be a good idea to switch to wearing open-toe slippers. Look for slippers that have closed backs, so they won’t slip off while walking. Toes and feet get to breathe and stay dry.

Socks might need more than standard wash. Keep athlete’s foot from returning by soaking socks with an anti-fungal disinfectant soap like Pine Sol. The soaking will kill any remaining fungus that’s in the sock fibers. Then, wash as usual. Dry with a high temperature.

All it takes is a small amount of lingering fungus to bring on another round of athlete’s foot. Often, the cause is our shoes. If the fungus can live on a gym shower floor, it’s right at home on the sole of a favorite pair of loafers. The easiest way to clean shoes is to regularly spray the insides with Lysol.

Clean and dry. That’s the approach to athlete’s foot and seniors. If the problem is persistent or extremely painful, it’s time for a visit to a healthcare professional.

Technology Upgrades Residential Senior Care

It’s estimated that one in five adults in the United States now have access to a smart speaker. There are nearly 50 million of these voice-powered devices now in use. Alexa could very well be the most spoken name in the world.

These devices can offer more than quick ways to find out the temperature outside or order something from Amazon. They’re helping seniors and their care providers. Providers like Libertana Home Health and Bayada Home Health Care are using Amazon’s Echo technology to deepen access to medical assistance and use Alexa’s artificial intelligence to be a digital and entertaining friend that can reduce feelings of loneliness.

The pace is accelerating

We’ll see technology continue to interact with seniors and caregivers as manufacturers find more ways to inject artificial intelligence into the home setting. For older adults, this means an increasing ability to maintain independence because of the digital assistants like Alexa and even Apple’s Siri.

We’re already familiar with the term “smart home.” Now we’ll see this technology migrate to help older adults living residential care facilities. There are already shining examples of technology-enabled homes that are focused on helping seniors popping up across the nation. This model home in San Diego is outfitted with an impressive array of technology that encourage greater independence for seniors, as well as helping caregivers with their responsibilities.

It’s a shared goal, and entire innovation centers are opening around the country that are showcasing technology-powered support for older adults. The Thrive Center is a public-private partnership between the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Louisville Metro, as well as companies such as CDW Healthcare, Samsung, Intel, Ergotron, Lenovo and HP/Aruba. Senior health care providers, including Kindred Healthcare and major skilled nursing provider Signature HealthCare are also involved.

Connecting seniors with healthcare professionals

Our desire for digital assistants in the home is extended to the healthcare industry, too. Congress and federal regulatory agencies are working with startups and well-established companies to make telehealth more accessible to seniors. The foundation was put in place to make this happen several years ago with governmental actions such as the 21st Century Cures Act. This legislation calls for ways to help seniors make better use of telehealth opportunities.

We’ve heard about IoT – the Internet of Things – and smart speakers are ushering this digital assistance into residential care homes for seniors to create opportunities for older adults to have richer and more independent lives, while still being connected to safety and instant assistance.

Why Do Older Adults Lose Their Appetites?

“I’m not hungry.” It can be a common response caregivers hear at mealtime. Nobody wants to be forced to eat, but there’s also a concern about nutrition.

Many things can cause us to lose our appetite – and it can happen at any age – but it is a common occurrence in older adults. The biggest concern – whether it happens to us or to someone we care for – is getting to the underlying cause.

Start with Ruling Out Health Issues

Serious health conditions or side effects from common prescription medications often turn out to be the cause of loss or lack of appetite in older adults. It’s important for a medical professional to rule this out first. There are certain age-related health issues that can cause changes in appetite, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diseases. Thyroid disorders, gum disease and even cancer may be the cause.

It’s also possible that a side effect from a prescribed medication is the reason for lack or loss of appetite. Some medications can cause dry mouth, or they can give food and drinks an unpleasant metallic taste.

Other Reasons for Appetite Loss

Once a medical condition or medication side effect is ruled out, it might be time to be a bit of a detective and try to solve the mystery.

  • Older adults tend to be more sedentary. Appetite loss might be cause by lack of exercise. It might be time for some additional activity.
  • We might not associate the two, but dehydration can cause appetite loss. Older adults are at risk of dehydration because of medications they take or age-related conditions.
  • As we age, we unfortunately lose our ability to detect flavors. Nobody wants to eat bland food. Depending on dietary restrictions, it might be time to kick up the seasoning a notch!
  • Likewise, as we age we may develop sensitivities to certain smells and aromas. The sense of smell is intricately associated with our sense of taste.
  • Dental problems or even difficulty using eating utensils can make mealtimes a dreaded occasion. An older adult may not want to eat because it’s become a difficult or unpleasant activity.
  • Loss of appetite is a common sign of depression or loneliness. It’s important to understand that disinterest in eating is different than the inability to eat.
  • Imagine that you once took great pleasure preparing meals for others and for yourself. How would you feel if that was taken away from you, and maybe because it’s just something you can no longer accomplish? Often, it’s a feeling of loss of control that contributes to loss of appetite.

It’s not always a medical condition that’s at the cause of appetite loss. The signs are easy to understand. The reason may take a bit of investigative work. Start with the easiest approach. Ask why.

Grace Homes Hires Its Own Culinary Director To Make Mealtimes Great For Seniors

It can be a struggle to find ways to appeal to senior taste buds. Both age and medical conditions can impact their appetites. Many older adults also have special nutritional needs. Grace Homes has solved this challenge by hiring former Houlihan’s restaurant executive kitchen manager Lori Hossli to oversee the planning and preparation of meals at its Hopkins residential care homes.

Hossli is a native Minnesotan who holds a certificate in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu. She is well known in the Minneapolis area food world for her 15-year association with popular local eateries such as Kincaids and Houlihan’s.

Hossli’s new position is not the first time she’s worked closely with senior citizens. “After attending college at Winona State University, I joined AmeriCorps Southern Minnesota,” she said. “I had my first true experience working with the elderly affected by Alzheimer’s. I also joined the activity staff at St. Anne’s Hospice and had the opportunity to interact, sing, bake, do crafts, play games, and dance with residents.”

Stepping into the position as culinary director for the residents at Grace Homes makes excellent use of Hossli’s culinary skills and her desire to make a difference in the lives of the elderly. Her extensive experience in meal planning and training will help Grace Homes residents work through the challenges associated with age and eating healthy.

“Food often tastes different for seniors than it does for you and me,” Hossli explains. “Our sense of taste and smell can change with age, and the side effects from medications can alter our senses. There are plenty of ways to make food both healthy and delicious for seniors. That’s what’s on the menu for the residents at Grace Homes.”

Hossli will work out of the Oak Ridge location and will oversee meal planning and preparation for the Hopkins senior residential care locations. The Oak Ridge location is an eight-bedroom home located in a private residential neighborhood in Hopkins. Grace Homes also has a five-bedroom residential home located just next door. Grace Homes recently added a third location, which is the five-bedroom Walnut Lodge located in Burnsville.

About Grace Homes: Grace Homes currently owns and operates three senior residential care homes. Each is located in private neighborhood settings. Grace Homes’ elevated level of staffing allows for the accommodation of residents with Parkinson’s, COPD, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cognitive challenges or dementia, chronic healthcare challenges, and persons with disabilities including those who require a two-person transfer or mechanical lift. Grace Homes focuses on providing a safe, familiar, and stimulating family home environment for residents living with memory loss and cognitive decline.

FAST: The Acronym Every Senior and Everyone Who Is Around Seniors Should Know

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a stroke happens every 40 seconds. They take the lives of over 140,000 Americans every year—at the pace of 1 person every 4 minutes.

Seniors are more prone to strokes, and quick medical treatment is absolutely necessary to increase survival. What does FAST have to do with strokes? Here’s what you need to know.

Early Action

The chances that you will survive a stroke increase when you receive emergency treatment as soon as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that people who get treatment within 3 hours of the first symptoms of a stroke experience less disability than those who receive delayed care.

The CDC also reports that nearly 75% of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65, making it the 5th leading cause of death in our country. The American Heart Association reports that while the percentage of strokes has increased as a result of heart disease, the actual number of stroke deaths has declined. This is largely due to FAST.

What is a Stroke?

Strokes occur when the blood flow to a certain area of the brain gets cut off. The cells in this area of the brain begin to die because they are starved of oxygen. The resulting damage causes loss of muscle control or memory. Serious strokes are fatal.

Here’s the thing about a stroke: they may not be obvious. Television and movies may be entertaining, but they aren’t always realistic. Transient ischemic attacks—also known as mini strokes—have symptoms that are short-lived or may even spontaneously resolve.

FAST

There are 4 common signs of a stroke, and that’s where FAST comes in. These symptoms often appear suddenly, so if you see them in a senior—or someone of any age—it’s important to get immediate medical help.

  • Face: Ask them to smile. Does it appear uneven?
  • Arms: Ask them to raise both arms and hold them level to the floor. Does one arm drift downwards?
  • Speech: Ask them to repeat a simple phrase, like “Let’s have tacos for lunch today.” Do they slur their words, or maybe even miss a few?
  • Time: This isn’t a symptom—it’s a reminder of what to do. Fast medical treatment is crucial. It’s time to call for emergency medical help.

Make a note of the time if you should happen to notice any of the FAST symptoms. This piece of information is important to medical professionals. Clot-busting drugs called tissue plasminogen activators reduce long-term disability for certain kinds of strokes. This type of medication, however, is approved for stroke treatment only if given within 3 hours of the onset of symptoms.