Anxiety in Older Adults: Managing Isolation During Quarantine

In the quest to get the best medical care, well-meaning family members and friends sometimes overlook the importance of seniors’ mental health. Lots of things can trigger anxiety during the course of an average day. When anxiety in elderly people is happening on a regular basis or they’re overly emotional for many days in a row, something more serious could be going on.

The risks associated with COVID-19 have increased anxiety the world over. These are particularly stressful times for seniors who are already experiencing isolation and loneliness. With stronger restrictions in place on visiting, many older adults need help discovering ways to cope with anxiety.

Causes of Increased Anxiety in Elderly Populations

Anxiety is a normal response to stress, and it can be triggered by a variety of issues.

Let’s look at some reasons why anxiety in seniors often goes undetected:

  •   Seniors don’t recognize the symptoms.
  •   Seniors don’t want to burden anyone.
  •   May be masked by other issues like physical or emotional pain.
  •   May be viewed as a side effect of medications.

Seniors that haven’t dealt with the diagnosis of anxiety in the past may encounter new stressors they haven’t had in the past. They need help to learn how to deal with anxiety.

Here’s a list of some of the things that create anxiety in older adults:

  •   Feelings of isolation
  •   Greater health risks
  •   Lack of access to medical care
  •   Reports of increased deaths due to COVID-19
  •   Guilt due to their lack of independence

While anxiety is a normal emotion, it’s important to address it and learn how to help people with anxiety.

How to Learn if Seniors Need Support

Over the course of their lifetimes, older adults have lived through many traumatic experiences—wars, depressions, and other trying times. In the past, societal norms encouraged people to be tough and hold things in. In today’s society, it’s more acceptable to communicate your feelings with people you trust. In general, this is a new concept for seniors. They may need a little encouragement and coaxing to open up about their struggles with anxiety.

While seniors may not be forthcoming with how they’re feeling, you can find out more about their anxiety levels by asking them questions about their daily functioning like these:

  •   Have you been sleeping well?
  •   Have you been eating all your meals?
  •   Are you happy most days?
  •   Is anything unusual causing you stress?
  •   Did you worry about anything in particular today?

Be sure to take a compassionate approach and offer lots of emotional support.

How to Help Seniors Cope Social Isolation with Stress

If you suspect that a senior is coping with stress, anxiety, and isolation, there are specific ways that you can help them learn how to reduce anxiety.

Here’s a list of things you can do to help seniors reduce stress and anxiety that’s due to the pandemic or other reasons:

  •   Be an active listener. Actively listen to their concerns and take them seriously. Let them know that you’re open to hearing about stress and anxiety, and you’re committed to helping them learn how to reduce anxiety.
  •   Help them maintain a routine. Work with them to help them set up a daily routine. When they know what to expect every day, it can be a significant stress reliever.  
  •   Be accepting of their feelings and fears. Take their mental and emotional health seriously. Help them to communicate their fears and give them lots of reassurance that these feelings are normal and you’re willing to help them in any way you can. Do your best to help them recognize that being willing to receive help is a sign of strength.
  •   Assist them in calming activities like meditation, deep breathing, or journaling. Encourage them to incorporate calming activities into their daily routine and help them find the resources to support them to follow through.
  •   Find ways to keep them healthy and active. Help them find a way to get some regular physical exercise. There are lots of options for exercise including taking fitness classes at a senior center, going on walks, or taking a chair yoga or senior aerobics class onsite or online.
  •   Share factual information with them from reliable sources. Direct them toward reliable news sources and discourage them from visiting websites with non-factual or misguided information about the pandemic and other senior health issues.

If your loved one is dealing with excessive worry or fear, isn’t sleeping well, and is further isolating themselves because of it, help is available. Anxiety is treatable. Work with your loved one’s physician to share information about the symptoms of anxiety and what treatment options are available.

One of the many services that At Home Care Services offers is companionship care. Getting some extra help could be the key to getting your loved one’s anxiety under control. Call us today for a quote.

Caring for Seniors: Difference Between Flu and COVID-19

Caring for seniors is especially complicated when symptoms appear that are in common with different illnesses. For example, do you know the difference between flu and COVID-19 symptoms? Many of the symptoms are the same. Both of these illnesses attack the respiratory system, which can be very dangerous for older adults. Elderly people are more likely to have weakened immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to the risks of colds, flu, and COVID-19.

 With a pandemic in full force, caregivers need to continually get education about the difference between the flu and COVID-19 so that seniors get the best possible care.

 What Is the Difference Between Coronavirus vs Flu

 COVID-19 and the flu share a lot of similarities. Both illnesses share a lot of the same symptoms, are highly contagious, and they’re both caused by viruses. Even with the proper treatment, either illness can lead to death.

 Influenza virus A or B causes the flu. By contrast, COVID-19 is an illness caused by a virus in the coronavirus family. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 based only on their symptoms. If either one is a concern, it’s best to get a proper diagnosis by getting seniors tested. Vaccines may or may not be effective in treating the flu because there are many different strains of flu.

 COVID-19 is a new illness, and the general public hasn’t had the chance to build up immunities to fight against it. New vaccines for COVID-19 are now being released with the hope of ending the pandemic. In the meantime, it’s best to understand the difference between flu and coronavirus and get the right treatment for the condition.

 Recognizing Flu Symptoms in the Battle Between Coronavirus and Influenza

 The flu is a common illness that’s familiar to us. The symptoms can come on quickly and they can be incredibly uncomfortable. In most cases, people with the flu recover within a week or so.

 See a list of common flu symptoms below:

    Vomiting

  •   Body aches and pains
  •   Headaches
  •   Fatigue
  •   Cough
  •   Sore throat
  •   Congestion
  •   Fever and chills

 Because older adults have weakened immune systems, they are more vulnerable to having complications connected with the flu.

 What Is the Difference in COVID-19 Symptoms?

 Unlike flu symptoms which emerge soon after the virus attacks, COVID-19 symptoms may not appear for a few days or as long as a couple of weeks. Coronavirus affects people differently. Some people only have mild symptoms, and others have very serious symptoms.

 COVID-19 symptoms may include:

    Fever and chills

  •   Cough and congestion
  •   Fatigue
  •   Body aches and pains
  •   Headaches
  •   Sore throat
  •   Nausea
  •   Shortness of breath
  •   Loss of taste or smell

 The only way to get a clear diagnosis is to get tested and it’s important to do it as soon as possible.

 How Is Coronavirus Different from Flu?

 To put things in a better perspective, Let’s run through some more specific differences between COVID-19 and the flu.

    A flu cough is mild and dry. COVID-19 coughs are more severe and can cause shortness of breath.

  •   Most people won’t have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing when they have the flu, but people with COVID-19 often do.
  •   People with COVID-19 may experience repeated shaking with chills.
  • With COVID-19, it’s common for people to have a new and sudden loss of taste or smell.
  • People with COVID-19 typically have at least two symptoms, whereas people with the flu may only have one symptom.

 How to Protect Yourself from Flu and COVID-19

 There are several things you can do to encourage seniors to do to protect themselves from the flu, COVID-19, and other illnesses:

    Since COVID-19 is a new illness, there is still much that medical professionals don’t know about it. The best way to prevent the flu and COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to it.

  •   Until the pandemic is under control, it’s best to follow the CDC’s guidelines.
  •   For older adults, it’s best not to go out unless they have to.
  •   If they do need to go out, they should wear a mask and keep a social distance of at least six feet between them and other people.
  •   Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds throughout the day.
  •   Get a flu shot for the protection of many strains of the flu.

 Making decisions about health is important to the quality of life. Professional caregivers are trained to understand the differences in symptoms between the flu and COVID-19. They’ll know when the symptoms are of a serious nature where someone can just ride them out and when they need serious medical attention. Our caregivers from at Home Care Services are trained to watch for the symptoms of flu, COVID-19, and other illnesses. Give us a call for a quote on non-medical services today.

The Right Precautions to Prevent Pneumonia in Senior Citizens

Senior citizens are prone to a host of health conditions due to aging. Reports by the CDC tell us that pneumonia is one of the top five causes of death for people age 65 and older. That’s a strong reason to take the right precautions to prevent pneumonia in senior citizens. For the health and safety of your loved ones, read on to learn more about pneumonia, including the warning signs and how to prevent it.

Understanding Pneumonia in Elderly People

In simple terms, pneumonia is a condition of the lungs where the small air sacs in the lungs (called alveoli) become inflamed.

A variety of conditions can cause pneumonia. The following list shows the most common causes of pneumonia:

  •   Bacterial infection
  •   Viruses
  •   Autoimmune conditions
  •   Mycoplasmas
  •   Medications
  •   Chemical exposure  

In general, lung capacity decreases with age. That’s a primary reason why pneumonia affects people over the age of 65 so frequently. To complicate the issue even more, many seniors have other serious issues like heart disease or diabetes. Seniors that spend time with other ill seniors puts them at even greater risk of pneumonia.

Signs of Pneumonia in Elderly People Should be Taken Seriously

Pneumonia in elderly people is often treatable in the early stages. It’s important to recognize the early warning signs of pneumonia and get treatment before it becomes life-threatening.

In younger people, a heavy cough or alternating high temperature and chills can be indications of pneumonia. Seniors, on the other hand, don’t always have symptoms that are obvious.

The warning signs of pneumonia include:

  •   Difficulty breathing
  •   Chest pains
  •   Fever
  •   Cough

Less obvious signs of pneumonia include:

  •   Weakness
  •   Confusion
  •   Delirium
  •   Shortness of breath
  •   Dizziness
  •   Loss of appetite

If you notice that a senior is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

How to Prevent Pneumonia in Senior Citizens

It’s possible to take some preventative steps to decrease the potential for pneumonia in senior citizens.

Here are 5 things that you can do right now:

  1. Be diligent about hygiene. Colds, flu, and respiratory tract infections spread quickly, especially during the winter months. All of them increase the potential for pneumonia. Good hygiene like washing your hands, covering your face when coughing or sneezing, and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces greatly reduces the risks associated with pneumonia. Seniors should also practice good dental hygiene because tooth and mouth infections increase the risk of pneumonia. As an extra precaution for pneumonia prevention, it’s a good idea to restrict visits from ill family members.
  1. Stay up to date and immunizations. A one-time vaccine can protect seniors from pneumonia that’s caused by bacteria. Your medical provider can tell you how to get the vaccine. It’s also a good idea to get an annual flu vaccine to protect against the flu and prevent complications with pneumonia. Caregivers and family members that spend time with seniors should also be up-to-date on vaccinations to prevent getting sick and passing it along to elderly people.
  1. Help seniors to quit smoking. People that smoke tobacco have a reduced capacity to fight off infections. Smoking increases the risks associated with pneumonia in senior citizens. Impress on seniors the health risks associated with smoking. Work with the senior’s physician to find the best solution to break smoking habits.
  1. Help seniors eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. As you strive to learn how to avoid pneumonia in seniors, it’s important for them to watch their diet and have a way to get mild exercise every day. The more they exercise, the greater lung capacity they will have, and they will be less likely to contract pneumonia. Take care to see that seniors drink plenty of water and get good rest at night. Good nutrition and keeping the body moving will help to keep their immune systems stronger and improve their health overall.
  1. Follow up to ensure that seniors get regular medical checkups. Seniors that have chronic health conditions should have regular checkups with their physician at least annually. Seniors that live with issues like diabetes, heart problems, or lung disease should see a physician more often. Encourage seniors to take their medications. Get assistance for those who can’t manage it on their own.

Now that you are armed with more information about how to prevent pneumonia in elderly people, you should be able to notice the warning signs of pneumonia. A qualified senior caregiver may be your best resource for keeping elderly people healthy and well. If you have any questions about our services, contact At Home Care Service at (760) 634-8090. Contact us today for an in-home consultation and we’d be happy to explain the full array of non-medical home care services that we offer.