Vision, hearing, and health
Vision and hearing loss affect our brains. When these changes go untreated, it becomes harder for us to comprehend what our eyes are seeing and our ears are hearing. This impact takes an unfortunate toll on cognitive function and our emotional and physical well-being. The loss does not have to be profound to make a significant impact.
The additional work the brain has to do to process information in a new way is taking a real toll:
Conversely, correcting or supporting vision and hearing loss is good for our brains and by extension our long term well-being. Moderators are new cues that we can use in our daily environment to improve how we live our lives and better manage with our changing eyes and ears. Steps you can take include simple solutions, such as:
Think bigger as well – when someone falls due to poor vision and has a major health impact, the medical and social costs to that individual and their family far outstrip the effort needed to make smaller accommodations before an accident occurs.
Our website provides a wide variety of resources on aging, active engagement, provider and caregiver education, and information about ASI programs in Archuleta County, as well as contact information for making reservations at The Community Café for take-out and for Meals on Wheels.
For those seeking to gain financial literacy – especially those trying to manage a low income household – free, accessible resources are key. Accessible might mean the library computer terminal and their wi-fi hook up, but the results are worth it. Budgeting when debt looms, when funds for medical/dental expenses are needed but not available, and when savings seems out of the question are all parts of gaining financial literacy. Financial literacy is not intuitive – it’s not something we should just “know” without guidance. It is an area of study now being taught in most middle and high schools around the world. However, this is a new phenomenon which means that many older adults have not had the benefit of this type of education and may be struggling harder than they need to just to get by week to week and day to day.
According to the Center for Retirement Research in Boston, over half of Americans do not have adequate savings to maintain their lifestyle after age 65. More worrying, 39% of Americans currently report that they cannot cover a $1,000 emergency cost with existing cash reserves. For all of us, no matter where we sit on the socio-economic spectrum, we can gain from seeking out financial management resources so we can better understand our position in this changing world. Here are a few free resources from three leading non-profits for both individuals and financial literacy educators:
Note: Explore our website for other resources on aging, active engagement, provider education, caregiver resources, and information about ASI programs in Archuleta County, as well as contact information for making reservations at The Community Café for take-out and for Meals on Wheels.
The Very Real Value of Listening
Asking whether a friend, family member, or patient has someone they can count on to listen when they need to talk can be a telling proposition. Social supports come in all sizes and flavors – including the friendly neighbor who waves hello and the one willing to walk your dog so that you can have a furry companion in your home as you age. It turns out that having someone who genuinely listens to us measurably improves our cognitive resilience.
With an estimated 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and many more living with slow progressive loss of intellectual abilities for other reasons, it is important that we understand the value that simply listening brings and the positive impacts this exerts on each individual’s ability to maintain their intellectual stamina over time. The impacts start earlier in life than you may expect. For example, those in their 40’s and 50’s who have little access to someone who they can count on to listen when they need to talk have a cognitive age four years older than their peers who do have someone who listens.
Being a listener is a social support unto itself. The listener hears what concerns, interests, or confuses the speaker and this interaction protects brain health in ways that we may not properly value. Providing a sounding board for a loved one or an acquaintance is a simple action that increases their odds of long-term brain health and improved quality of life. Whether cultivating a new social relationship or taking the time to sustain an old one, it is worth the investment required to sustain those bonds.
Explore our website for more caregiver resources and information about ASI programs in Archuleta County, as well as contact information for making reservations at The Community Café for take-out and for Meals on Wheels.
Covid Can Look Different In Older Adults
A range of symptoms that is often quite subtle in older adults can indicate a covid infection. Just being aware of that can help you decide what’s best for your family and loved ones.
Since the pandemic started, there’s a trend towards not being able to be “just” sick with upper respiratory symptoms like we could have before this event catapulted onto the scene. Having a sore throat or allergies can suddenly send us to the moon with worry. Conversely, subtle things like sleeping a lot, lack of energy, or having a bout of stomach ailments may be seen as not being potentially serious since we associate covid more with upper respiratory symptoms.
A new large-scale study in the respected Journals of Gerontology provides unfamiliar advice: “Covid can look different in older patients.” A third of the older adults hospitalized exhibited symptoms that did not mirror the more familiar “fever, cough, and shortness of breath” picture. Out of the ordinary symptoms those sick individuals experienced included things we might simply associate with reduced function in later years – easy to overlook, but potentially deadly if not heeded. About half of those with atypical symptoms also had at least one of the more familiar fever, trouble breathing, or coughing.
Allison Marziliano, lead author of the study, noted that the rate of atypical symptoms rose significantly with age. Some of the atypical symptoms seen among those hospitalized for covid were:
Dr. Marziliano reports that among these individuals “Their mortality rate was as high. So this shouldn’t be dismissed… Clinicians should know, older adults should know, their caregivers should know: If you see certain atypical symptoms, it could be Covid.”
Explore our website for caregiver resources and information about ASI programs in Archuleta County, as well as contact information for making reservations at The Community Café for take-out and for Meals on Wheels.
There is a beautiful story related through an elder in the Mi’kmaq Indigenous community, Danny Paul, who said “We’re kind of like trees. On the surface, every tree looks like it stands alone. Beneath the surface all the trees in a forest are connected.”
Loneliness and social isolation are now considered diseases, and rightfully so. They are key factors in aging and related illness. Kaiser states individuals who report social isolation and loneliness are more than 9 times more likely to experience poor health; nearly 20 times more likely to have a poor quality of life; 22 times more likely to have mental health issues (expressly depression and anxiety); and 5.7 times more likely to have insufficient funds to buy food.
Yet, during this pandemic, research reveals that adults 60 and better are experiencing less pandemic-related depression and lower levels of loneliness than younger adults. According to a recent study, some seniors have been able to broaden their social support networks.
If you or someone you love is not finding the connections that boost their resilience, remember that seemingly small things make a big difference. Identify a trusted neighbor or friend who can visit regularly and can serve as an emergency contact. Try reviving an old hobby or learn something new – there are easy options for participating in learning opportunities on our website. Just getting into the out of doors can make a big difference for those with mobility issues – scheduling time to get a friend out on their porch or volunteering to help someone who cannot get out are both useful solutions. And homebound consumers who have home-delivered Meals on Wheels report significantly less loneliness.
You can find more tips on staying connected at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/loneliness-and-social-isolation-tips-staying-connected. And our website provides caregiver resources and information about ASI programs in Archuleta County, as well as contact information for making reservations at The Community Café for take-out and for Meals on Wheels.
For August, we’ve selected some programs that might pique your interest. There are dozens more to choose from. You can find the topics list for August and link to Mather.
No need to register in advance. You join by calling a toll-free phone number, or by logging into a Zoom meeting at the program start time. All offerings are FREE! You can see on their site when you go to get link-in information whether the program is live Zoom or a live call.
In addition to linking to the Mather sessions, our website provides caregiver resources and information about ASI programs in Archuleta County, as well as contact information for making reservations at The Community Café for take-out and for Meals on Wheels.
Personal motivators help us to set our own priorities around our health and to maintain those behaviors that improve our health in the long term. The Mather Institute examined motivations that affect our health and how self-determined motivation drives our decision making around health (things like working toward goals and maintaining healthy, supportive relationships).
Supporting ourselves more fully. Self-determined motivators are not thrust upon us by social norms, rather they are centered around our personal interests and what we believe is aligned with our own values and our personal goals. And when our health choices are made using self-motivating factors that push us toward healthy attitudes and actions, those behaviors are more self-sustaining than when motivators are pushed on us from others (Deci & Ryan, 2008).
Developing new skills. Motivation is higher when we have a skill set that supports the activities we want to do. See if you have a gap you can fill for relationships, learning, and new experiences and challenges. Increase your motivation by doing things that you feel good about doing. Chose activities that you find fun as well as beneficial to your health. Focus on your reasons for taking up an activity – gear towards what you want to do rather than what you “should” do. Start small if that helps you get out of the starting gate on a new project or activity. And talk to your health care provider or other health professionals about any concerns, so you can set realistic goals.
Understanding how specific behaviors contribute to our overall health and well-being help improve our ability to maintain independence and may promote greater health in the long run. This was demonstrated in the report, where “On average, the ability to maintain one’s independence was the highest priority factor when making health and wellness decisions.”
Protecting our family members, animals, homes, and businesses is top of list for everyone in wildfire prone areas. This year, we have been experiencing some very poor air quality days due to fires that are far afield from us here in Southern Colorado. We can’t protect ourselves from all the effects of smoke, but we can learn more and take better care of ourselves.
People who are generally healthy may not feel much from smoke, but over a period of days the impact may range from sore throat to shortness of breath. Those who already have compromised lung capacity may experience impacts early on. Knowing what the conditions really are can help us be proactive about taking the precautions that will help us feel our best on any given day.
Understand your risk level. Monitoring the air quality is a good place to start. Knowing what constitutes a “dangerous” level can help you make better decisions. “Like air pollution, wildfire smoke — and particularly the concentration of PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns — can affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems,” said Colleen Reid, an environmental epidemiologist and health geographer at the University of Colorado Boulder.
A number of online resources provide real-time readings. Both sites below include local air quality data from the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) sensor located in Pagosa Springs with recommendations on what those levels may mean for your risk category.
Helping Others. You can take the precautions above to help yourself and still help others. If you are able to get out but know of a neighbor or a friend who has challenges when the air quality is poor, you can offer to run errands, walk their dog, or water their garden.
Our bodies are designed to work hard to maintain an even internal temperature. Heat stroke is serious business, so knowing how to prevent it, the warning signs of it occurring, and what to do about heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be lifesaving. The simple, common sense answer of course is “stay cool and hydrated.” Sounds easy enough – but it is more complicated than that.
Understand your risk level. Healthy people can be adversely affected by heatwaves, as can those who are very young and those 60 and better. Some medications and some long-term health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and dementia can lead to greater risk. As the body heats up, blood vessels close to the skin open to transfer heat back to the environment – this makes the heart work harder. Sweating takes place for the same reason. In our dry climate, many people do not realize they are becoming dehydrated because the sweat evaporates immediately. For those not acclimated to high altitude, symptoms from heat are exacerbated and may be hard to distinguish from altitude sickness. Residences may remain quite warm at night if they heat up during the day. When it fails to cool down sufficiently at night, this places greater stress on the body. Even during rest, at 85 degrees, the body can lose nearly a half-gallon of water overnight.
Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
What to do. If you, or someone you are with, is experiencing mild heat exhaustion symptoms, try to cool down. Basic first steps – Get into shade. Sit or lie down and raise feet. Take fluids. Place cool cloths or packs on armpits, wrists, ankles, the back of the neck. Heat exhaustion that cannot be alleviated may be a symptom of heat stroke that may require immediate medical intervention.
Celebrating & Supporting Caregivers
The caregivers in our community are important – and deserve to be celebrated by us all. They don’t stand up after every long day and say “ta-da” – but they certainly could. Caregivers provide an astonishing array of services across an almost unlimited range of needs. They help many individuals remain more independent by providing smaller degrees of assistance. At the other end of the spectrum, they bring a warm heart and critical skills into very difficult situations where all hope has been otherwise erased for individuals and families facing the crushing array of losses that life can bring to us.
A recent study examined supports that family caregivers deemed important for them to maintain their own wellbeing. It showed women are more often caregivers (60%) and that caregivers have more chronic health conditions than their non-caregiving peers. Caregiver supports that they deemed valuable include:
ASI’s website provides information on our support programs and a wide variety of resources for wellness and aging, including caregiver resource information. One aspect of ASI’s programs that support community caregivers is our Medical Alert Monitoring. This program provides essential material aid for monitor units and fees to consumers and their families for greater assurance of security in case of emergency. Our Meals on Wheels program also supports caregivers locally.
If you or someone you know needs a medical monitoring device or Meals on Wheels services, you can contact us at ASI to find out more. Our site also provides information about other ASI programs in Archuleta County and contact information for making reservations at The Community Café for take-out and for Meals on Wheels.