Fall is a time of beautiful colors and crisp, fresh air, especially in places like the Western slope in Colorado. There are many simple family activities you can do with children and grandchildren to take advantage of this time of year, from Halloween tricks and treats to Thanksgiving traditions. Here are some that our family enjoys.
There’s nothing like picking apples straight off the tree. Besides the amazement that a good fruit-bearing tree could actually feed a family all year with delicious fruit (provided you do the work of canning and freezing), you have the satisfaction of knowing right where the apples came from. No processing or waiting to see them in the grocery store. That is as healthy and fresh as it can get! Have the kids and grandkids help. Use laundry baskets to collect the apples, then take them home and wash thoroughly to remove any dirt or pesticides. Shine them up with a clean kitchen towel and store in the refrigerator to make them last longer. If you live in a cooperative climate, think about planting your own fruit trees. This year, one of our apple trees bore more than a thousand apples, and we picked them by hand, put them in cute bowls with scary spider rings and ribbons, then gave them to family members and friends. We had still plenty to eat, make pies and applesauce with, and experienced the joy of sharing with others.
Organize a costume exchange
A lovely tradition at some churches is the annual costume exchange. Throughout October, the church gathers donations of gently used costumes from willing donors. Flyers are distributed in the community to advertise free costumes on a Saturday at the church for any who needs one. The women of the church bake cookies and have special treats available for that day. People from the town who might not be able to afford costumes for their kids visit as a family and get costumes free of charge while enjoying a time of neighborly fellowship.
Whether you have small children, teens, or grandkids, visiting the pumpkin patch is a treat. Some local farms will offer hay rides out to the field for everyone to find their perfect pumpkin. Have apple cider and donuts afterwards. For older kids, try a challenging corn maze at night with flashlights and glow rings. At home, decorate pumpkins by carving (but be careful to supervise – those carving knives are sharp), coloring, painting, gluing with felt designs, or other age-appropriate items. Display your creations in the window or on the porch for others to enjoy.
Share homemade baked goods
Around Thanksgiving time, many communities offer a complete turkey dinner for the homeless or those in need. Other towns provide a lunch for anyone who wishes to come and be part of a larger feast on Thanksgiving day. In some cases, cookies are taken to those who are in prison to brighten their day. To make such ventures a success, the sponsors often ask community members to bake pies or other baked goods. This is an excellent opportunity for children to learn to give to others who may be less fortunate. The entire family can be involved in baking and sharing with others in the spirit of being thankful.
Visit a special place to look at the changing colors
Chances are, there is a special place near you that has especially vibrant Fall colors. Certain parts of Colorado attract people from miles around for picture-taking of our aspen and other trees at the peak of the season. A drive through the mountains or hills can be quality family time. Stop and take early senior-pictures of your graduates or a family portrait for a Thanksgiving or Christmas card. Post your pics on FaceBook for friends and family to enjoy or make a Fall scrapbook to preserve the memories.
There are many ways to celebrate our gratefulness for all that God has given us. No matter how you participate in the wonder of the Fall season, be sure to stop and take time to breathe in the beauty of our great country.
Pets Provide Significant Health Benefits By Rachel Blankmeyer, DVM
Some of our closest companions, especially as we age, are our four-legged friends. The human-animal bond provides many benefits to people who may otherwise be isolated due to emotional, behavioral, or physical problems. Research shows several health benefits of pet ownership for older adults, including lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels. A study by Friedmann & Thomas in 1995 showed that pet ownership actually resulted in increased survival rates after a heart attack. Other studies have shown that pets may provide social support similar to that of a family member for older adults. Consider additional general health benefits such as weight control and stress reduction, and pet ownership seems like a win-win situation!
You may have heard of the Alzheimer’s patient study performed by Edwards & Beck in 2002, where persons with Alzheimer’s disease observed a facility fish tank and demonstrated improved relaxation, alertness, and eating habits. This is a huge deal for patients dealing with dementia because at least 50% experience weight loss, increasing the mortality rate and progression of disease. Stroke survivors may also specifically benefit from animal companionship through improved communication, dexterity, mobility and balance. As a veterinarian, I may be biased, but the facts don’t lie: animals help all of us have a more active daily life, and can enrich our lives emotionally! So, consider the cost-benefit ratio:
Reviews.com recently spent over 100 hours researching the medical alert system industry to help you choose the right product for you or your loved one. Bay Alarm may be the best choice when considering a home emergency alerting system, yet other systems also won praise for the services they provide.
Officially known as a personal emergency response system (PERS), an alerting device enables the elderly and those with physical disabilities to live independently and still be capable of seeking emergency assistance when needed. Such systems are invaluable when considering that one in three Americans aged 65 or older will experience at least one fall every year. In the event of a disabling injury, a PERS can turn a potentially fatal accident or illness into an event that is survivable.
Reviews.com medical alert systems study evaluates consumer products to determine the best in terms of both efficiency and cost. In this particular inquiry, Reviews.com examined 69 alerting devices. Ratings were based on a number of factors, including the services provided by the parent company. Reviews.com noted that PERS equipment is usually rented rather than purchased from the provider.
They also found wide gaps in the services that are available. In some cases, medical alert systems must be attached to a regular home security system. Some systems received low ratings due to their lack of mobility, while higher ratings were given to those that are easier to install and use or have certain features, including their ability to function even when submerged in water. Other options that were considered important included automatic fall detection and blood-pressure monitoring capability.
Bay Alarm Medical was given high marks for both its capabilities and the personalized service from the provider. Reviews.com concluded in its evaluation that Bay Alarm would be the most efficient in dealing with a medical emergency. Also receiving praise from Reviews.com was Medical Guardian alerting system and MobileHelp.
The Reviews.com evaluation noted the importance of PERS facilities, especially when considering the aging of the American population and the fact that many of these men and women prefer to continue living in their own homes, possibly alone.
You can see the full resource and find the right medical alert system for you or your loved one here: http://www.reviews.com/medical-alert-systems/
Iranian Rehabilitation Journal, Vol. 12, No. 22, December 2014
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Hearing loss can have a profound effect on a person and their quality of life. Hearing loss can lead to a withdrawal from social situations, signs of depression and other effects on the health of an individual. Therefore, it is imperative that any loss in hearing be treated as soon as possible. In order for hearing loss to be treated, an individual must recognize that a loss of hearing has occurred. Some hearing loss can have a gradual onset, so the person with the hearing loss may not be fully aware that treatment is needed.
According to the National Academy on an Aging Society, millions of Americans suffer from hearing loss. Those suffering from hearing loss range in symptoms from very mild to severe or near total hearing loss. Of these, 43 percent are those individuals aged 65 and older. However, hearing loss can affect all ages with some 5 percent of children having some form of hearing loss. The causes of specific hearing loss are varied, with some created due to occupational stress, or life choices, or those brought about because of aging.
Audiologists and hearing aid specialists at Hearinglife.com lists the types of hearing loss as:
- Conductive Hearing Loss
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss
- Mixed Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is a result of some form of obstruction in the ear. This type can be temporary and usually corrected via medical procedure and occasionally the application of a mechanical aid.
Sensorineural hearing loss is damage or some other issue affecting the auditory nerve or inner ear. This category encompasses hearing loss due to aging or disease. Correction usually involves the application of assisted hearing devices as this loss is usually permanent.
Mixed hearing loss is attributed to directed sound at excessive volume, such as that found in headphones and in occupational settings. Corrective measures also require the use of a mechanical or assisted hearing device. Based on statistics performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mixed hearing loss is a widespread concern affecting over 22 million Americans each year. As suggested by the professionals for Kaiser Permanente Health System, they symptoms of hearing loss appear as:
- Muffled Hearing
- Requiring Higher Than Normal Volumes
- Frequently Misunderstanding Spoken Words
- Ringing or Pain in the Ear or Fluid Leakage
- Off Balance or Feeling of Spinning
Any of these, and potentially other symptoms, can occur with hearing loss. Even before hearing loss is suspected, it is generally accepted that hearing should be tested regularly in order to quickly diagnose and treat any hearing loss before it becomes significant to the detriment of the individual and their quality of life.
Hypothyroidism results from lack of sufficient thyroid hormone being produced by the thyroid gland. Older adults may have subclinical hypothyroidism, in which the TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) is elevated and the T4 (thyroxine or thyroid hormone) is normal; 4.3–9.5% of the general population has this problem (Woolever & Beutler, 2007). In this condition, the body is trying to stimulate production of more thyroid hormone. Some older adults with this condition will progress to have primary or overt hypothyroidism. This is when the TSH is elevated and T4 is decreased. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause and represents 90% of all patients with hypothyroidism (American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists [AACE], 2005; Woolever & Beutler, 2007), though certain pituitary disorders, medications, and other hormonal imbalances may be causal factors.
Older adults may present an atypical picture, but the most common presenting complaints are fatigue and weakness.
Diagnosis should include a thorough history and physical. Bradycardia and heart failure are often associated factors. Lab tests should include thyroid and thyroid antibody levels (common to Hashimoto’s), and lipids, because hyperlipidemia is also associated with this disorder.
Treatment centers on returning the thyroid ¬hormone level to normal. This is done through oral thyroid replacement medication, usually L-thyroxine. In older adults with coexisting cardiovascular disease, starting with the usual doses may exacerbate angina and worsen the underlying heart disease, so it is important to start low and go slow. Titration should be done cautiously, with close monitoring of the older adult’s response to the medication. The does should be adjusted on 6- week intervals until normal levels of thyroid hormone are achieved. Once the TSH is within normal limits, then checking the TSH should be done every 6 to 12 months to monitor effectiveness and blood levels, because hyperthyroidism is a side effect of this therapy and can have serious implications on the older person’s health.
Patients need to learn the importance of taking thyroid medication at the same time each day without missing doses. Sometimes older adults have other problems associated with hypothyroidism, such as bowel dysfunction and depression. Any signs of complicating factors should be reported to the physician, and doctors’ appointments for monitoring should be religiously kept. Strategies for managing fatigue and weakness should also be addressed, because some lifestyle modifications may need to be made as treatment is initiated.
Adapted from Mauk, K. L., Hanson, P., & Hain, D. (2014). Review of the management of common illnesses, diseases, or health conditions. In K. L.
Mauk’s (Ed.) Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Used with permission.