Although gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is common among older adults, the true prevalence is not known. Many patients with GERD-related symptoms never discuss their problems with their primary care provider. GERD is thought to occur in 5–7% of the world’s population, with 21 million Americans affected (International Foundations for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, 2008). It is found in both men and women.
Signs and symptoms
Pathophysiological changes that occur in the esophagus, hiatal hernia, and certain medications and foods increase the risk for GERD. Obesity (Corely , Kubo, Levin et al., 2007) and activities that increase intra-abdominal pressure such as wearing tight clothes, bending over, or heavy lifting have also been linked to GERD (MedlinePlus, 2005a). The cardinal symptom of GERD is heartburn; however, older adults may not report this, but rather complain of other symptoms such as pulmonary conditions (bronchial asthma, chronic cough, or chronic bronchitis), a hoarse voice, pain when swallowing foods, chronic laryngitis, or non-cardiac chest pain (Pilotto & Franceschi, 2009). The chronic backflow of acid into the esophagus can lead to abnormal cell development (Barrett esophagus) that increases the risk for esophageal cancer.
Older adults often have atypical symptoms, making the diagnosis of GERD very challenging. As people age, the severity of heartburn can diminish, while the complications, such as erosive esophagitis, become more frequent. Therefore, endoscopy should be considered as one of the initial diagnostic tests in older adults who are suspected of having GERD (Pilotto & Franceschi, 2009). Examination of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum through a fiber-optic scope (endoscopy) while the person receives conscious sedation, allows the gastroenterologist to visualize the entire area, identify suspicious areas, and obtain biopsies as needed. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a chronic bacterial infection in humans, is a common cause of GERD, affecting about 30% to 40% of the U.S. population. Testing for H. pylori can be done during the endoscopy or by other tests (Ferri, 2011).
The objectives of treatment for GERD include: (1) relief of symptoms, (2) healing of esophagitis, (3) prevention of further occurrences, and (4) prevention of complications (Pilotto & Francheschi, 2009). Lifestyle and dietary modifications are important aspects of care. It is widely recommended that persons with GERD should stop smoking, limit or avoid alcohol, and limit chocolate, coffee, and fatty or citrus foods. Medications should be reviewed and offending medications modified, since certain medications decrease the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) tone, allowing acid to backflow into the esophagus. These include anticholinergic drugs, some hormones, calcium channel blockers, and theophylline. Avoidance of food or beverages 3–-4 hours prior to bedtime, weight loss, and elevation of the head of the bed on 6-to-8 inch blocks are some other interventions that may help alleviate symptoms. Pharmacological treatments with antacids in conjunction with histamine 2 (H2) -blockers (Tagmet, Zantac, Axid, and Pepcid) are used for mild GERD. If these are ineffective in controlling symptoms, then the proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are the next drugs of choice. These include medications like Nexium and Dexilant. With lifestyle modifications and appropriate medications, older adults can manage their GERD symptoms so that quality of life is maintained.
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. Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Used with permission.
As you age, so do your eyes. It is a simple fact of life, however, age related vision problems don’t need to be a lifestyle changer. Knowing what’s to come and how you can maintain your vision for the long haul is an essential first step, according to the American Optometric Association.
As you approach 60 years young, it is vital to pay more attention to the warning signs of age-related vision issues. Vision problems as you get older can be acute or chronic, but knowing how to steer clear of them is probably at the top of your list.
Making significant lifestyle choices and getting regular eye exams will help keep you focused on your eye health. Let’s face it, visiting your optometrist is more fun than seeing your dentist or primary physician. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can keep your vision strong, no matter your age.
- Visit Your Eye Doctor Regularly for Optimal Eye Health
There are some pretty unfavorable eye diseases you may be at risk for, especially if you skip your eye exams. In order to keep your vision as keen as a 20 year olds, visiting your optometrist regularly is vital.
In fact, an article published in academic journal, American Family Physician (1999) found several common causes of vision loss in the elderly. The vision debilitating eye diseases you may be at risk for include Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, Cataracts, and Diabetic Retinopathy, among others. Seeing your eye doctor will help you avoid these chronic vision loss conditions.
- Eat Right to See Right
What you eat directly affects your health. And the same applies for your eye health. Eating the healthy nutritious meals at least three times per day is one exceptional way to keep your focus on great vision.
Food loaded with nutrient rich vitamins and minerals, such as omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamin C, and vitamin E may help keep your eyes in superb shape. Those greens, eggs, nuts, and salmon are a great place to begin. You may even see a few pounds shrink away from your waist.
- Focus on Eye Health and Quit Smoking
Saving your lungs from smoking is also saving your vision from acute and chronic vision issues in the future. In fact, smoking increases your risk for cataracts, optic nerve damage, and macular degeneration.
If quitting your attempt to quit smoking continues to happen, don’t give up. Your vision as you age may depend on it. And if you quit smoking, you will most likely live longer, making it even more imperative to have great vision to see your grandchildren blossom.
- Look Cool and Protect Your Eyes with UV Sunglasses
If keeping your eyes healthy aligns with your fashion, even better. Wearing UV sunglasses may help protect your eyes from the sun’s powerful rays. Research suggests that too much UV exposure will increase your risk for cataracts and macular degeneration.
Pick up some sunglasses with 99% to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Protecting your peripheral vision is also important, so wraparound shades may be even better. There are even contacts with UV protection these days. However, sunglasses with UV block are best.
- Limit Your Screen Time for Better Vision Later in Life
Limiting your screen time is nothing new. In fact, mothers have been saying television ruins eyes for decades. If you want to protect your eyes, taking a break from so much screen time is essential.
This also extends to tech devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The American Macular Degeneration Foundation suggests that the blue light emitted by these tech screens may trigger macular degeneration, among other health issues.
Protecting your eyes today may pay off big time as you begin reaching those golden years. And it is never too late to start living healthy to improve your vision. Most of the suggestions made by professionals can also make a big impact on your overall health. Stay focused when it comes to eye health, because seeing is an important sense to maintain forever.
Bone spurs, which are small projections that develop on the edges of bones, are a highly common ailment that affects about 2 percent of the U.S. population.
People of any age can develop bone spurs, but they’re especially common in senior citizens since they are often associated with osteoarthritis-related joint damage.
Bone spurs don’t always require medical treatment, but, depending on their location, they can contribute to joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness that limit mobility. Bone spurs along the spine are particularly problematic, as are ones that develop in the knee or ankle joints.
For seniors who are struggling with bone spurs, there are lots of different treatment options available, including the four listed below.
1. Weight Loss
Weight loss is one of the most effective treatments for managing bone spurs, especially spinal bone spurs.
Changing your diet will is, generally speaking, the most effective weight loss tool. Focus on limiting your caloric intake and cutting out greasy fast food and highly processed snacks. Replace them with high-quality protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like avocados and olive oil.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can also help lubricate the joints and relieve inflammation.
2. Lifestyle Aids
There are lots of tools out there as well that can help relieve pain caused by bone spurs. Some good options to invest in include:
Supportive shoes that cushion the feet and avoid putting extra strain on the joints
Orthotic inserts to provide extra support
A shoe horn to help you avoid bending over and aggravating your back while getting dressed
3. Regular Exercise
Exercise releases natural painkillers in the form of endorphins. It also strengthens the muscles to help support the joints and relieve pressure placed on them.
Resistance training, walking, and swimming are all good exercise options for people struggling with bone spurs. Work with a trainer or physical therapist to make sure you’re practicing proper form and not doing anything to aggravate your condition.
4. Minimally Invasive Surgery
Finally, some people require minimally invasive surgery to get rid of their bone spurs. When you undergo surgery, a doctor will use state-of-the-art equipment to identify the spur and extract it.
This is typically an outpatient procedure, and the recovery time only lasts a few hours — you’ll be up and walking shortly after and won’t have to deal with an extended hospital stay.
Advanced technologies in the healthcare niche such as GPS, motion-sensors and social networks that are senior focused might help seniors keep living comfortable in their homes. Medicaid and Medicare – two of the most powerful government agencies in the US – are aiming to develop cost efficient alternatives for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Many tech-savvy families wish for their loved ones to live nearby and thus be able to balance their personal lifestyles with caregiving. Fortunately, technology is here to help.
General costs for assisted living and nursing home care keep increasing. The rates are incredibly high, whereas the general cost of at-home senior care has boosted with less than 1% in the last 5 years. At a national scale, the median cost for nursing homes increased to roughly $85,000 in 2013 as opposed to $63,000 in 2012. Furthermore, nearly 90% of citizens in the US wish to live alone in their homes rather than be placed in an assisted living facility.
Advanced technology makes caregiving a lot easier
Even though IoT (the internet of things), mobile devices, analytics, big data and cloud-based services allow nearly every age category to make use of technology for improved health, it is it is quite obvious that seniors can also reap benefits. That’s certainly good news since people with ages above 65 (41 million in the US), will represent one fifth of US’s population by 2050. By then, the US will have 19 million people above 85. If the country chooses to start using advanced technology now, things will look pretty good in 35 years when the lifestyle of the average senior will be pretty comfortable and laid-back.
Seniors are concerned about their financial, emotional and physical safety
A lot of seniors today fear for their financial, physical and emotional safety. They’re often aware that if their loved ones live nearby, they’ll somehow be compelled to look after them. Fortunately, technology comes to the rescue and eases the job of an adult to take care of his/her aging parent. Family members will be relieved of the burden because savvy gadgets and remote devices allow them to keep a close eye on their loved ones without having to check on them every single day. Experts agree that if more seniors would be open to using advanced technology, they could enjoy a much comfortable lifestyle by themselves.
However, let’s not forget that today’s seniors didn’t grow up tech-savvy. This means that they might feel uncomfortable using technology; because of this developers must consider crafting gadgets that are efficient but also easy to use. Twenty years from now seniors will probably use gadgets just as well as youngsters; but before that happens, the following should be checked out.
- Sensors – advanced patient monitoring. These devices can easily be installed around the house. They send signals alerting caregivers of prospective falls, injuries or skipped meals
- GPS tracking technology – excellent for keeping track of a loved one’s whereabouts.
- Apps – there’s a range of apps you can use to keep an eye on an aging parent. Both communication and monitoring apps are tools caregivers can use to watch over their loved ones. Among some of the most well-known we should mention Philips Lifeline, TrackerAssist, Red Panic Button and 5Star Service.
- Remote monitoring tools – these are targeted at seniors needing regular monitoring. There are lot of devices nowadays that monitor blood glucose, heart rate and blood pressure.
- Telehealth – the ability of modern telehealth systems is to use standard video-conferencing and phone systems to connect senior patients with nurse practitioners, physicians and mental health specialists. Furthermore, recent research highlights some pretty advanced technologies; these are meant to change the way seniors get regular checkups.
Seniors have realistic chances of living comfortably in their homes in spite of their health issues. Advanced technology can help them. The tools currently available are quite useful and innovative; however, caregivers must teach them how to use them. Very few seniors find residential care homes and assisted living facilities a viable lifestyle alternative. They don’t want to leave the comfort of their homes, but they’re quite aware that they can’t do everything alone either.
Are you tending to your ever-growing spring cleaning checklist? If you don’t have “clean out the medicine cabinet” as one of your ToDos, add it today and don’t forget these important reminders:
Dispose of Old Medicine
Unused prescriptions, expired over-the-counter drugs, empty boxes, and bottles . . . it’s easy for a medicine cabinet to become cluttered over the year with superfluous items. Take some time this spring to clear it out and safely dispose of the medicine you no longer use.
- Check expiration dates and recycle old medicine boxes and bottles (remove prescription labels before you toss them or mark out private information)Follow instructions for disposing of medicine or check with your local pharmacy or law enforcement agency about upcoming drug take-back events
Simplify your daily medicine schedule by sorting pills into color-coded pill organizers with day of the week and time of day compartments
Upgrade Home Health Items
As you get older, is your doctor recommending you check health metrics at home more regularly like blood pressure, temperature, or blood sugar? Having handy, reliable home health tools to gather and record important health data could play a significant role in helping you manage a chronic illness, prevent infection, and be alerted when something seems off. Don’t forget to check that these tools are in working order:
- An accurate thermometer to check one’s temperature regularly
A reliable blood pressure monitor with memory for recording readings
A blood sugar monitor with strips (especially if you are one of the 25% of adults over 65 with diabetes)
A pulse oximeter (if you have frequent respiratory infections or heart disease)
Update Medical ID
Did you know that most smartphones offer you the ability to store important medical ID information in the event of an emergency? Simply find the Health app or Medical ID feature in the settings on your phone and input important information like birth date, known medical conditions, allergies, blood type, and emergency contact numbers.
If first responders are unable to get this information from you at the scene of an accident, they are now trained to check your smartphone. Medical ID information can be accessed from the lock screen of most smartphones without having to enter a passcode.
Don’t forget to check the stock on your first aid kit – refilling items like band-aids, wound solution, NSAIDs, cold compresses, antibiotic cream, sterile gauze, and elastic bandages could come in handy during your summer adventures.
Getting older doesn’t have to mean losing your independence. If you’re looking forward to spending your golden years at home, you can make the experience safer and more comfortable with these life hacks.
1. Try Meal Prep
It can become harder to lead an active lifestyle, and still, pay time and attention to cooking at eating healthy. You may choose to arrange help in the kitchen or check out some quick and easy recipes for seniors. Cooking groups are another great way to meal prep, and can also help you build a network.
2. Update Home Security
There are plenty of reasons to consider home security. In addition to a new system, get familiar with your community. Arrange for friends, family members, or neighbors to pick up any mail, or keep an eye on your home when you’re not there.
Motion activated lights can also discourage intruders. Connecting a smartphone to your home security can make life more accessible. Try wireless doorbells, which will allow you to see, hear and talk to whoever is at the door.
3. Keep Your Contacts List Updated
Any senior living alone should keep an up-to-date list of emergency contacts and medical needs. Keep it in one place and up-to-date. Set up your smartphone so it takes simple voice commands. This way you can contact someone quickly when you can’t reach your phone.
4. Keep Your Home In Good Shape
Scheduling regular maintenance means you’ll spot any tears in carpets, loose fixtures, or anything else that may cause accidents. Ensure that you have regular maintenance done on the home. Setting alerts can help you keep your home updates on a schedule.
5. Smart Apps & Wearable Technology
We’ve already mentioned setting alarms to keep your home in good shape. But what about you? There are simple assistant apps that can help you stay healthy. For instance, an app to remind you to take your medicine, to drink water, or work out.
Apart from apps you install on your phone or tablet, there are health trackers that will ensure your health stays, well, on track. Fitness trackers can measure your heart rate and activity level. Medical alert accessories contain your health information, which can be important in emergencies.
There are many changes that make living independently complicated for seniors. But complicated doesn’t have to mean difficult. Try these tips and make living alone easier on yourself.