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Simple Ways to Find Purpose as you Age

Having a purpose in life impacts its quality regardless of our age. A recently published study on Purpose of Life (PIL) in older adults found that people with purpose experienced fewer disability problems and chronic conditions. PIL is defined as a life with goals, direction, and meaning. People with a high PIL were found to be resilient, healthy and with social support, faith, and good knowledge of health-related matters. Here are some simple ways of keeping these factors in your life as you age.

1. Join an Age-Friendly Gym
Find a gym that has programs for elders. If you don’t know many fitness centers that offer such programs, use an online tool like this facility locator on the International Council of Active Aging website. The map shows the available options in a city by name, number, address, and allowed gender. Next to the name of the center, there are icons to show what type of services they offer. Besides fitness centers, you can use the tool to find other services as well, including recreation centers, retirement living facilities, YMCA, community services, etc. Here are 5 places you can visit to stay in shape and find new friends.

2. Become a Volunteer
Consider becoming one of the many elderly who volunteer. Some popular forms of volunteering include fundraising, teaching, mentoring, and preparing/distributing food. Retired individuals are a good fit for volunteering programs because they come from a variety of businesses and sectors. For instance, your input can be valuable for a fundraiser if you have spent your career in marketing and have a strong connection in the community that takes years to develop. Sites like Volunteer Match list opportunities in a variety of areas and for people of different age groups.

You can also offer your services as a mentor to young people in general or in your field of expertise. For food related jobs, check at your local food banks and at any local food service companies. Volunteering can offer both physical and mental benefits. When choosing a form of volunteering, make sure that it engages you, so you don’t find the work to be tedious and boring.

3. Visit Your Favorite Places
Start signing off the places you have on your travel bucket list. Hit the road, take the plane, rail, or ship. Don’t allow a limited budget to come in your way – look for discounts. A variety of discounts are available, including airfare, dining, clothing, grocery, and entertainment discounts. Here is a list of some of these discounts. Go through them to plan your trip for less. If your travel appliance have gone out of shape, use a home warranty to fix or replace them for free.

4. Learn Something New
Join a class at your library or senior center to stay mentally agile and find people who share the same interests. Check courses at your community college as well. Take a driving course if you feel like your driving skills need a little sharpening. Continue the process of learning.

By |2020-01-26T09:04:48-05:00January 26th, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Simple Ways to Find Purpose as you Age

Guest Blog: 5 Signs of Mental Health Issues for Seniors


When you’ve started to notice changes in an elderly relative, you may wonder if a mental health issue is the cause. While it is important a mental health professional diagnoses these issues, some signs exist indicating that the time has come to make an appointment.

Depression
Depression can occur for a host of reasons. Elderly individuals may be suffering from the loss of a loved one, or they may feel alienated, isolated or otherwise separated from their friends or from their interests outside of the house. Individuals who seem filled with sadness and negative emotions or who are hinting about emotional turmoil may need outpatient or inpatient treatment for depression.

Anxiety Issues/Bipolar Disorder
You may also notice that your loved ones are having heightened periods of elevation followed by periods of deep sadness. They could be suffering from bipolar disorder. Serious anxieties could begin to manifest at this age too. For example, you may notice that your elderly relatives always seem to be thinking about their own death or about expected loss of other loved ones.

Memory Loss
As people age, you may think that it is a normal occurrence for them to forget information that they would have once remembered. However, these early slips could be signs of a more serious problem that is coming into fruition. Your loved ones might now be forgetting about certain dates or social events, but these struggles could turn into failures to take medication or complete other necessary medical tasks.

Personal Care
If you notice that your loved ones are not taking care of themselves as they used to, this situation could also be a sign of mental health issues. For example, you may have noticed that your relatives are no longer brushing their teeth or bathing on a regular basis. Seeking professional help can uncover the root of the issue so that a plan of treatment can be devised.

Social Withdrawal
Your loved ones might also seem to not want to participate in social activities anymore. Whether they are constantly declining invites to attend family functions or they do not want to participate in community activities any longer, these decisions could be signs that a mental health issue is present.

As your loved ones age, you may be the lookout for physical health issues. While addressing these problems is imperative, so is watching for signs of mental health struggles. May is mental health awareness month, get involved to help bring awareness to this important cause!

By |2020-01-20T09:49:14-05:00January 25th, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Guest Blog: 5 Signs of Mental Health Issues for Seniors

Guest Blog: Managing Family Dynamics with Geriatric Patients: A Guide for Nurse Practitioners

 

Gerontology nurse practitioners face a unique set of challenges within their field. It comes with the territory of caring for older adults that issues such as death, dying, terminal illness, and chronic illness are commonly addressed.

Common Challenges

There are many challenges families face when caring for an older relative. For example, the loss of independence a geriatric patient may have. Families may need to step in and care for the aging patient, which, unfortunately, can add stress to their daily lives. This buildup of stress can lead to caregiver burnout, depression, anxiety, tension within the family, and even anger or resentment.

Another possible challenge is the imbalance of perceived “power” within the family. A scenario for this would be if an elderly patient moves in with their adult child and their family. For many years, the patient was the head of household; the one who made decisions and ran the home. Now, the adult child is the head of household, while the aging parent/ family member is an occupant. The family may experience a “power struggle” which can lead to conflict and strife within the home.

Dealing with chronic illness is another prominent challenge – possibly one of the most significant. Dementia, for example, is a condition which does not improve over time. Dementia affects almost half of adults over age 85. The early stages are the most difficult, as patients experience forgetfulness which could lead to safety concerns (i.e., wandering away from home, leaving the stove on, etc.). Family members may become frustrated easy, but as the disease progresses, they may experience a prolonged “mourning” of the patient.

Along with situational components, there are other factors that contribute to a family’s dynamic. Socioeconomic level, education level, cultural differences, and even something as basic as personalities all contribute to how a family interacts with each other and deals with stress.

Tips for Geriatric Nurse Practitioners

When dealing with geriatric patients and their families, it’s important to first acknowledge that each family unit has unique dynamics. From there, utilizing the nursing process is a great way to address the individual needs of the patient and family. Below are some tips, using the nursing process, that can help geriatric NPs manage the sometimes-complicated dynamics within families.

Assess

The first thing geriatric NPs should do is assess the family’s interactions and communication skills. Ideally, meeting with both the family and patient is ideal. Assessing communication skills such as active listening, non-confrontational statements, and body language will help the NP determine how effective communication is within the family, and what needs to be improved. Geriatric NPs can also assess the patient and family’s knowledge base, readiness to learn, and if anyone is experiencing any of the stages of grief.

Diagnosis

After assessing the family dynamics and interactions, geriatric NPs can create a “diagnosis” of what they may need. For example, if the daughter of an elderly patient with dementia can no longer care for the patient, the NP will need to take action in terms of finding a suitable living arrangement. Another example is if the son of an elderly patient with a chronic disease becomes easily frustrated and angry with them. The NP would have to develop a plan to address the issue.

Planning

After assessing the family and patient’s needs and determining what is needed, the geriatric NP must create a plan to meet their individual needs. Because the needs of the patient and family are unique, breaking apart the needs of each family member will help tailor a plan to help create a healthy family dynamic. For example, using the first scenario above, the NP can create a plan to help the family find a care home for the patient, while assisting to help them manage the emotions involved with possible feelings of loss of control and fear. In the other example, the NP can consider arranging appointments for the son to see a counselor to deal with his feelings regarding his parent’s chronic illness, and how to communicate in a positive manner.

Implementation

The implementation phase of the nursing process is putting the plans into process. For the geriatric NP, this means arranging appointments, providing resources, and collaborating with the rest of the care team. Using the examples above, that could mean providing a list of care homes, putting the family in touch with a social worker, and/or recommending a counselor for the significant life change of transitioning to a care home. In the second example, the NP can recommend family counseling as well, and possibly provide tips for stress management for caregivers.

Evaluation

Evaluating a patient and family’s response to the recommended plan is one of the most essential pieces of dealing with altered family dynamics. This phase is a delicate process, as the NP needs to ensure the family has not only followed through with the treatment plan, but that it was effective as well. If not, the planning and implementation phase would need to be re-structured. In the examples used above, that would mean making follow-up calls to see how the elderly patient is doing in the care home, how the family and patient are doing with the transition, and if there are any other needs. In the second example, the NP can follow up with the elderly patient’s son to see how he is dealing with his parent’s chronic illness. It may also mean working to help manage the chronic illness as well.

Conclusion

Working with families is not unique to nurses and nurse practitioners. However, working with aging patients and their families presents a different set of challenges. While it’s impossible to provide tips on every potential challenge geriatric NPs may face, going back to basics using the nursing process will help identify each individual need so that a plan can be developed to address them. One of the most important things to remember is to include the family whenever possible in the decision-making process, and to maintain as much dignity and independence as possible for the geriatric patient.

By |2020-01-21T12:34:00-05:00January 21st, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Guest Blog: Managing Family Dynamics with Geriatric Patients: A Guide for Nurse Practitioners

Guest Blog: Multigenerational Living

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Ever heard of multigenerational living? It’s a hot topic these days because many seniors are looking for ways to remain independent longer. As more people enter their advanced years, they and their families are faced with difficult decisions of how to provide the best care possible. For seniors hoping to keep their independence, living with family is the next best option to aging at home. Even if your house isn’t big enough to handle more people living in it, there are companies who remodel homes specifically for seniors moving in.

 As noted in NYU Professor Eric Klinenberg’s “Aging alone in America,” 33% of American seniors make the decision to remain out of care facilities. With medical progress and healthier living, remaining out of a care home has become more practical than it once was.  Among the rest of the world’s population, living with the elderly is more common, but as Americans, we tend to stay separated from our parents once we move out. With the economic downturn of 2008, however, young adults are staying in their parents’ homes longer and older people are moving back in with their children. Seems like we’re becoming more European every day!

Since elder care facilities commonly drain assets, there are obvious cost benefits to bringing your parents to you. Even more importantly than saving money, living at home helps seniors stay healthy by maintaining a routine. Things we take for granted like housekeeping, cooking, or yard work are types of physical and mental exercise that people do not receive in assisted living centers. After years of retirement it’s easy to lose one’s routine. If someone completely loses their routine they can develop what is called aging atrophy, which means increased dependence on those around them. Doing small chores helps combat aging atrophy. Plus, they can perform the cleaning duties or home upkeep you might not have time to do yourself.

Lastly, living in a multigenerational setting allows seniors to maintain control over their environment. At facilities, there is contact with nurses, other residents, and even other residents’ families that cause exposure to illness. Keeping a clean environment at home without strangers around can help ward off sickness. If your loved one begins to require too much care to remain healthy at home, however, you should look into home-health services or other living options. Aging is often associated with making major decisions, but keeping parents close can help reduce stress.

Jacob Edward is the manager of both Prime Medical Alert and Senior Planning in Phoenix, Arizona. Prime Medical Alert allows seniors to stay in their homes longer and sells equipment throughout the country. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys dining out and supporting his alma mater Arizona State’s Sun Devil sports teams. Jacob lives in Tempe, Arizona.

 

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By |2020-01-20T09:47:47-05:00January 20th, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Guest Blog: Multigenerational Living