Five Health and Safety Mistakes Seniors Commonly Make

Written by Nurse Susan

As you age, it becomes more important than ever before to take responsibility for your overall well-being.

Unfortunately, many seniors don’t prioritize things like health and safety — some willfully and some because they don’t know any better — and put themselves at risk for serious illnesses and injuries.

In order to maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible, make sure you’re not making any of these five common health and safety mistakes.

  1. Not Being Honest with Your Doctor

Many seniors are reluctant to discuss intimate health problems, such as urinary or sexual difficulties, with their doctor. They may also avoid bringing up problems that they deem trivial, such as stomach pain, jaw pain, or constipation.

By refusing to bring up concerns, or by waiting until they become unbearable, you’re setting yourself up for a more difficult healthcare journey. The longer you wait, the longer and more intense your treatment will need to be.

In addition to not addressing concerns, some seniors are hesitant to ask for clarification when their doctor gives them instructions. Often, it’s because they’re embarrassed to admit that they didn’t hear or understand the first time.

Don’t let embarrassment stop you from getting the clarity you need, though. When your health is on the line, a few minutes of awkwardness are absolutely worth it.

  1. Neglecting Health Aids

Whether it’s out of pride or due to forgetfulness, many seniors are guilty of neglecting health aids like walkers, canes, hearing aids, glasses, and medical alert devices.

These tools aren’t always fun to use, and nobody likes to be reminded that they’re getting older. But, these health aids can bring you and your loved ones safety and peace of mind.

If you find them uncomfortable or awkward, remember that it takes time to get used to using a new device. Use them regularly for a couple of weeks. If the discomfort continues, talk to your doctor to get an adjustment or replacement.

  1. Not Managing Medications

It’s important to take the time to put a system in place to manage your medications properly.

It’s very common for seniors to miss doses or accidentally overdose. Things get even more confusing when they’re working with more than one doctor. To avoid confusion and accidental noncompliance, seniors should make sure they have one primary care physician who oversees their whole medical plan.

When they have one person handling all their medications, they’re less likely to accidentally take two or more prescriptions that interact negatively with each other. They should also figure out a system that helps them keep track of their prescriptions. Daily alarms or pill boxes are all good options to avoid accidentally missing or doubling up on doses.

  1. Not Taking Advantage of Preventive Care

Many seniors forget to take advantage of the preventive care options available to them. Most insurance plans will offer free or low-cost health screenings that can help seniors learn about and avoid a number of common illnesses and conditions.

It can be tempting to skip these screenings, especially if you’re feeling fine when they’re scheduled. Remember, though, that you could have a condition but not be showing any symptoms. The earlier you catch something, the easier it is to treat.

  1. Disregarding Limitations

Many seniors are hesitant to acknowledge their limitations. Like it or not, though, you’re getting older and some things that used to be easy for you might be a little more challenging.

For example, you might need to start moving a little slower to avoid falls. Plan ahead and give yourself time to prepare for appointments so you don’t feel rushed. You also need to evaluate your ability to drive safely. It can be hard to give up driving and the independence that comes with it. But, you need to think about the safety of others and be willing to admit you need help getting around.

Are you guilty of any of these common mistakes? If so, it’s time to make some changes.

Small adjustments can make a big difference. Start by committing to just one change, and you’ll be living a safer, healthier lifestyle before you know it!

How to Deal With 5 Common Skin Conditions Affecting Seniors

Written by Nurse Susan

Aging causes a number of changes throughout the body, and the skin is no exception. When you get older, the skin tends to become thinner and more sensitive.

Keep reading to learn more about some of the most common skin conditions that affect seniors — and what you can do to prevent and treat them.

  1. Wrinkles and Movement Lines

Wrinkles are the most obvious sign of aging skin. The skin loses its flexibility after years of sun exposure. You may also notice movement lines — also known as laugh or worry lines — around the eyes and mouth.

You can’t remove wrinkles completely (at least without cosmetic surgery). But, you can reduce their appearance with products that contain tretinoin.

You can also try dry brushing, which helps smooth the skin and minimize wrinkles by exfoliating and improving blood flow.

  1. Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are the result of improperly functioning veins. When the valves of the veins don’t close all the way, blood pools and causes them to swell and twist. Varicose veins are typically not dangerous, but they can be painful.

Varicose veins are not entirely preventable — some people are genetically predisposed — but maintaining an active lifestyle and avoiding sitting with the legs crossed for long periods of time may keep them at bay.

If you’re already suffering from varicose veins, it helps to wear compression stockings to improve circulation and reduce their appearance. Dermatologists can also perform a variety of treatments for varicose veins, including sclerotherapy, endovenous thermal ablutions, and vein stripping.

  1. Dry Skin

Dry skin is another relatively harmless but still irritating condition that affects approximately 75 percent of seniors. Aging results in the loss of oil glands, which means that the skin is more likely to become dry, itchy, and cracked.

The dryness that comes with aging can’t be prevented, but there are many ways it can be treated. Some simple solutions include:

  • Using soap that is specially formulated for dry skin
  • Regularly using a high-quality body lotion
  • Avoiding high water temperatures, which dry the skin out
  • Increase water consumption
  • Avoiding caffeine (it can cause itching)
  • Using humidifiers and vaporizers for extra moisture
  1. Pressure Ulcers

For elderly people who spend many hours confined to a chair or bed, pressure ulcers — also known as bedsores — are a common, unpleasant occurrence.

Pressure ulcers occur when a limited amount of blood is sent to a particular area. This leads to cell death, then skin breakdown, and, eventually, the painful open wound that is recognized as a pressure ulcer.

Pressure ulcers are most often located on the tailbone, hips, shoulder blades, elbows, and heels.

To prevent pressure ulcers, those who care for bed or chair-limited seniors should turn them over every few hours and use barrier creams to prevent skin breakdown. They should also make sure that their mattress is not too firm. Gel and alternating air pressure mattresses help reduce the risk of pressure ulcers.

Proper wound care from a nurse or other wound specialist can help heal existing pressure ulcers, and massage may also be beneficial for improving circulation. This can help treat existing sores and prevent new ones.

  1. Skin Cancer

Finally, skin cancer is probably the most serious skin ailment that seniors face. While skin cancer can affect people of any age, seniors are particularly susceptible, in part because aging diminishes the skin’s ability to heal and protect itself.

To prevent skin cancer, seniors should take care to wear sunscreen before spending prolonged periods of time outdoors. They should also avoid going outside between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M., as this is considered the most UV-intense time of day.

Seniors should also be sure to check moles twice a year for the following signs:

  • Changes in size, shape, and color
  • Moles with irregular borders
  • Moles with multiple colors
  • Asymmetrical moles
  • Moles that bleed, itch, or ooze

If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with a dermatologist to rule out cancer. Many skin cancers are highly treatable, but they need to be caught early.

From wrinkles to pressure ulcers, age-related skin changes aren’t fun to deal with. However, many conditions are easy to prevent and treat. Keep these tips in mind so that your skin can stay happy and healthy.

Four Common Health Concerns and How Seniors Can Avoid Them

Written by Nurse Susan

Aging comes with a number of new health challenges, many of which can be frustrating. However, people are now living longer than ever.

This means that, if you take steps early to prevent common conditions, you can still live a long, productive life and enjoy your golden years.

Listed below are four common health issues for which seniors are at risk. Read on to learn how you can prevent them or stop them from getting worse.

  1. Arthritis

Of all the conditions that seniors face, arthritis is typically considered the most common. It affects almost 50 percent of people over the age of 65, and many find that it significantly diminishes their quality of life.

Arthritis can’t always be prevented, as factors like gender and family history play a part in causing it. However, these tips can still help you minimize your risk of developing arthritis:

  • Eat plenty of fish, specifically salmon, mackerel, trout, and sardines. They are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation throughout the body.
  • Exercise regularly to strengthen the muscles and bones and maintain a good range of motion in your joints
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Use proper technique to protect your joints while exercising

If you already suffer from arthritis but want to minimize its effects, you can still apply these tips.

  1. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones to weaken and become more likely to fracture.

Approximately 54 million Americans over the age of fifty suffer from osteoporosis or low bone mass, and that number is expected to increase to 64.4. million by 2020.

Osteoporosis can seriously limit your mobility and increases your risk for injuries that can reduce your quality of life. Luckily, these tips can help you prevent it:

  • Consume a balanced diet rich in Vitamin D and calcium
  • Exercise regularly to strengthen the bones and muscles — a mix of weight-bearing exercise (hiking, walking, dancing) and resistance exercise (weight lifting) is best.
  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption to 2-3 drinks each day
  • Get regular screenings to catch signs early

Osteoporosis is much easier to prevent than it is to treat. However, these tips will help those already suffering from it slow its progression and prevent injuries and fractures.

  1. Diabetes

Diabetes affects about 25 percent of people over the age of 65, making it a significant health risk for seniors.

Type 1 diabetes is not preventable and typically occurs in younger individuals. However, there are many steps seniors can take to prevent Type 2 diabetes, including the following:

  • Limit your consumption of simple carbohydrates and sugar
  • Increase your fiber intake (fiber can help lower blood sugar and insulin production)
  • Pay attention to portion sizes
  • Exercise regularly to help manage your weight
  • Drink more water and avoid sugary soda and juice
  • Quit smoking (it can increase your risk of developing diabetes by 44 percent!)
  • Get regular checkups so your doctor can spot signs early

A healthy diet, quitting smoking, and exercise regularly can also help you manage your diabetes better if you already have it.

If you suffer from neuropathy, you can also prevent additional damage and improve circulation to your feet by wearing compression socks or pain management socks for plantar fasciitis.

  1. Falls

Millions of seniors are treated each year for falls. Falls are also the leading cause of fatal injury among seniors.

Your likelihood of sustaining a serious injury from a fall increases when you suffer from many of the conditions mentioned above, particularly arthritis and osteoporosis. Taking steps to prevent these conditions can also help minimize your risk of falling.

Some other steps you can take to avoid falls include:

  • Attaching grab bars in the bathroom
  • Removing tripping hazards like area rugs
  • Beware of medications that can cause dizziness
  • Get your eyes checked regularly
  • Exercise regularly to improve your balance and reflexes

You may also want to wear a medical alert bracelet so that, if you do fall, you can call for help immediately after.

Prevention is almost always easier than treatment. To avoid the conditions mentioned above and the complications that can accompany them, be sure to keep these tips in mind.

Nurse Susan has  always been passionate about helping people heal. After she retired from a lifelong career as a nurse, that passion didn’t go away. She loves to use her expertise to write about the best ways to keep you and your family healthy, active, and happy.