The Senior View of Men Giving Birth

The pain of giving birth is legendary. For men, it is a mystery, something that can’t be understood or shared…until recently. Men often feel the need to put on bravado against pain – don’t cry or show discomfort – but how would they handle the so-called worst pain in the world? Modern technology has given them the chance. Two gentlemen were hooked up to a machine that uses electric shocks to simulate contractions for two hours. It’s interesting to see how a generation of men who weren’t even allowed in the birthing room reacts to the results, along with the women who’ve waited 50 years for a man to experience their pain.

 

Read More

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Bed bugs. Just the thought sends a shiver down the spine of many, especially those who have suffered an infestation. The little bloodsuckers feed on us when we sleep and leave itchy red welts wherever they bite. Even though they do not spread disease, the welts are uncomfortable and can lead to other problems if they get infected. Getting rid of the bugs once they rear their ugly little heads is quite a challenge. They are tiny and like to hide in hard to find places like mattress seams and bed frame crevices. Miss one and more will be back. They can even survive a whole year without a fresh meal, so just getting rid of the critters you can find is not enough.

Bed bugs are very good at spreading to new beds, as well. Get them in one room in a place like a hotel or senior living facility, and it’s highly likely they will spread, if left unchecked. They hitch a ride with visitors or new residents and soon they have made themselves comfortable in a new home. It’s important to catch them early, but senior living facilities and nursing homes run into trouble here. Residents are often plagued with other ailments and an extra bite mark can easily be chalked up to some other issue. Aging immune systems are less likely to show the red welts that are a sure sign of bed bug bites; add that to skin with more age and beauty marks, and a bed bug problem becomes tough to spot. Once the bugs spread out, they become very difficult (and expensive) to eradicate. With so many people living in close quarters, the bugs have an easy time finding new people to feed on with new beds to settle into.

Communities have been shut down by the health department for bed bug infestations. Even those that take responsible action to remove them may have to relocate residents for a time. This is stressful for residents and even harmful in cases like dementia and illness where people rely on consistent care and routines to maintain their health. Even after the all clear has been given to return, many people suffer from sleeping trouble and anxiety, constantly on edge against another outbreak. Being preyed upon in one’s sleep has a way of making restful nights more difficult to come by. Say the word “lice” and my head starts itching. Say “bed bugs” and every stray tickle or puff of air at night becomes a wakeful bug crawling up my leg.

The key to stopping bed bugs in their tracks is awareness. Check around the bed, in the creases of the mattress, and in the frame of the bed itself. Look for skin husks, eggs, the bugs themselves, or black specks (yeah, it’s bug poop). If you notice you are getting bites on a regular basis, see a doctor to find out if it’s bed bugs. If family members are unable or unlikely to check for themselves, check for them. It isn’t about how clean a person or the house is, so don’t assume a clean house is less likely to have an infestation. Bed bugs don’t care about dirt or germs – they want your blood.

Read More

Loneliness Is Seriously Harmful to Your Health

Loneliness is about as dangerous as smoking, and twice as deadly as obesity. As shocking as it might seem, chronic feelings of loneliness are really quite hazardous to your health. This is not to say going through a period of isolation, like when grieving a loss or moving to a new town, is harmful. It’s long term segregation that has a terrible impact on health.

For animals that live in social groups, being on the outside is dangerous. The loners are more susceptible to predators and they don’t always get their share of needs met by the group. Chemically, stress hormones rise and dopamine levels (the happy, relaxing hormones) drop. The animals spend their lives on high alert, ready to react to danger and prepared for the worst at all times. Humans are social beings, too; we need to know that someone has our back in order to feel safe. And if we don’t feel safe, or connected to a group, stress and anxiety levels go up, causing physical damage in the long run. We don’t sleep as well (whether we consciously notice it or not), we don’t relax fully enough, and we actually lose some of our impulse control, meaning we engage in riskier behaviors. In the long run, this adds up to a serious impact on our health.

Elevated stress increases blood pressure. This means the heart is working harder, leading to a weaker circulatory system and damaged blood vessels. These stress hormones also change which genes are turned “on” or “off,” affecting how we behave and sending other bodily systems out of healthy, functioning order. Lonely people are more like to get certain diseases, like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Tumors actually metastasize faster in those who are lonely. Surprisingly, doctors in one study revealed that they find themselves giving better medical care to patients who are connected to a social group.

It may seem odd, but despite the relatively recent social media explosion, loneliness is on the rise – by a lot. In two recent surveys, 40 percent of the American population reported feeling lonely, up from just 20% thirty years ago. How can this be when our world is more connected than ever? People have thousands of “followers” and “friends” so why are they lonely? It is a question of quality, not quantity. One study of Facebook users found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the unhappier they felt. Social media offers surface level connections with many, many people, but it is not a good source for the deep personal connections we need. Ever been to a party where you didn’t fit in? There are people everywhere, but you feel lonely. A few strong personal connections are all we need to feel secure and supported, and stave off loneliness. Unfortunately, loneliness is also a self-perpetuating problem. A lonely person reacts to life as if they are under threat; they are less likely to trust people enough to open up and make a friend.

Loneliness is particularly problematic for the elderly. It is much more common for families to be spread out across the country, so close relationships are hard to maintain and not as satisfying. Spouses and friends pass away, and it can be more challenging to meet new people when social groups shift. For students and working adults, there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people with similar interests. For the retired senior, it requires a more proactive pursuit – taking a risk in finding and approaching someone new. Seniors are more likely to be set in their ways, firmly entrenched in their comfort zone, than their younger counterparts. Neighborhoods and associated social groups, like churches and clubs, are not as strong as they once were. Finding a new social group is hard, but once loneliness has set in (as well as the physiological effects that accompany it), it may seem like an insurmountable obstacle for many.

Helping a lonely person is not easy. But if you know a senior who leads a very solitary lifestyle, they may need help to make social connections. If you have an aging parent or grandparent who has lost friends or a spouse, consider pushing them a little harder to make new connections. Keep in mind that not everyone needs a lot of friends to feel secure – alone is not the same as lonely – but for the sake of good health and a happy lifestyle, everyone needs to fit in somewhere.

Read More

Sexy at 80 – These 8 Celebs Have Still Got It

Making it past 80 is a big deal. To still have the extra something that made you fabulous in your youth is another story altogether. These eight celebs have managed the feat. They are as sexy now as ever, and some might argue more so today than in their younger years.

Cloris Leachman, 89

 

Christopher Plummer, 85

 

Gene Hackman, 85

 

Sean Connery, 84

 

Clint Eastwood, 84

 

Carmen Dell’Orefice, 83

 

Rita Moreno, 83

 

Sophia Loren, 80

Read More

Is Sex a Choice for Dementia Patients?

 

Dementia steals away much of what makes a person who they are. Does it also take away the right to sex? It’s a topic many people would rather not talk about – it makes us squeamish to think about the elderly between the sheets. But we know it happens, and there is no question that adults have the right to an intimate physical relationship if they want it. The difficult question is: how can we tell if a dementia patient really wants it? The issue is complicated, mired in emotion and personal ethics. It is also a question that got one husband arrested for having sex with his wife.

Typically, dementia patients lose interest in sex as their disease progresses. But not always, and not immediately. Studies have found that loving physical intimacy is helpful to patients; it is a form of communication and a needed personal connection that dementia tends to steal away. How can communities allow for sexual expression in an environment where all the patients suffer from varying degrees of dementia? Patients give up a lot of privacy when they live in an assisted living facility, but do they give up their right to sex? Facilities are obligated to protect patients from unwanted advances, but they do not have the right to prevent welcome physical contact. After all, residents are still human beings with basic rights.

The difficulty comes in deciding when consent is no longer possible. Many patients have varying degrees of clarity throughout each day. There are times that are more lucid and clear, and times when they confuse the person they are speaking to. If a person agrees to sex, mistaking the partner for their spouse, that’s not necessarily consent. If two dementia patients in a home develop a sexual relationship is that OK? What if they are married to other people? There is no barometer for acceptable sexual behavior for dementia patients because there is no such standard for healthy individuals. The choice of sexual partners has always been an intensely personal one, and trying to set a standard for one particular set of people is a minefield of personal morality.

Henry Rayhons found himself in the middle of that minefield when his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and eventually moved into a home. He continued to have a sexual relationship with her, even after the nursing home staff told him she was no longer capable of consenting. After she passed away, charges were pressed and he was brought to trial for rape. It all boils down to two questions: Do we have the right to deny sex to someone who wants it? And, how do we decide when a person does not have the mental capacity to consent to sex? We have a legal minimum for the age of consent, but we do not know enough about the thought processes of dementia patients to set upper limits, yet. Henry Rayhons was found not guilty, but the questions still linger. Does society have the right to take away a person’s sex life?

Read More

The Handling of Medication: Doctors, Pharmacists and…Med Techs? Oh My!

Long term care facilities are a place for people to go when they can no longer attend to their own needs, one of which being the accurate administration of medications. Most places charge hefty fees specifically to manage this need, and residents who need the service must pass tests to prove whether they can handle their own over the counter medicines without assistance. The idea is that medication administration needs to be highly accurate and consistent in order to be effective. Mixing the wrong meds, doses, or delivery methods can be harmful and even fatal. So why is this job botched repeatedly by the people we pay to do it right? And why aren’t there consequences for those entrusted with the health of our elder citizens?

It is estimated that in the US 800,000 preventable medication related errors occur on a yearly basis. Since this data relies on communities and staff to report their own errors, it seems likely this is a low estimate (how often do you report your mistakes to your boss?). One study in Illinois reported that  there were 85,000 people in nursing homes statewide taking, on average, ten pills per day. With a 9% citation rate for medication errors, that works out to over 75,000 medications given incorrectly. That’s a significant number that lands people in the hospital or, worse yet, the morgue.

A North Carolina study had similarly horrific results. They looked at self-reported errors in 23 nursing homes in the state over the course of a year. There were about 2700 errors reported, nearly half of which were simple human error. Eight percent of the errors were deemed to have significant impact on the patient, requiring medical intervention. These are mistakes like missing a dose, over/underdosing, and giving a medication to the wrong patient. Another study found that over a third of errors were repeated multiple times, putting patients at even greater risk of harm or death.

How can this happen? Shouldn’t facilities be unbelievably careful with the care of our loved ones, if for no other reason than that is specifically what we give them tens of thousands of dollars every year to do? As it turns out, not enough care is taken at all. One study found that more than half of those who administer medications to residents are not licensed (they aren’t required to be) and nearly 30% of facilities do not have a policy regarding monitoring or review of medication administration. Why not??!!

This is life and death. A doctor is required to prescribe medicines and a pharmacist must measure them out, but anyone can administer them. This is not just handing out pills, either, but also giving injections, measuring liquid doses, and administering things like eye drops precisely. And too often the person doing it has too many patients, too many other responsibilities, and not enough training or support to do a good job.

While some solutions are forthcoming – like more staff with better training and certification, software to catch and warn of errors before they happen, and electronic barcode dosing –  they are not yet prevalent enough to make a dent in the numbers. In fact, with squeezed budgets and high staff turnover, the number of errors is on the rise. As always, it is up to families to be vigilant. If something seems wrong, ask about it. If something seems off, follow up. Involve the doctor and the facility staff if you suspect a problem. They are all there to help, and in all likelihood want to improve the quality of life for the patient. While we all try to pick the best community and look for reliable staff, it is still vital to check in and make sure loved ones are healthy and cared for.

Read More

10 Tats That Still Have Shock Value

Tattoos used to be edgy and rebellious. Now they are so commonplace as to be trite. Sported by half of reality TV “stars,” house moms, and over fifteen percent of American adults, there’s nothing badass or shocking about ink anymore. Yet there are a set of Americans whose tats still speak of edge and rebellion: the senior citizen crowd; folks whose upbringing made body art taboo. Now they are showing off their inner – and outer – badass.


Read More

4 Compelling Reasons Seniors Should Consider the Measles Vaccine

 

According to the CDC, 95-98% of those born in the US before 1957 are immune to the measles. This is due to the number of outbreaks they have lived through, meaning the disease was likely contracted and antibodies formed, giving lifelong protection. However, anyone with any doubt about having contracted the disease should consider these 4 reasons to have a serious discussion with a doctor about a booster shot.

You were vaccinated as a child. Today’s recommendation is for two doses of the revised vaccine. Seniors who only had one dose as a child may have been protected from contracting the disease when they were young, but protection can wear off, leaving them vulnerable now. Additionally, the older version of the vaccine is less effective than today’s, leaving recipients without a booster at risk.

You spend time around children. This one is important for the protection of unvaccinated children as well as seniors themselves. According to the CDC schedule, children should get the measles vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age. If you are visiting your new grandbaby, you want to be very sure you are not carrying the disease when you pick up that vulnerable little bundle of joy (remember, it is highly contagious, and a sick person is most contagious before symptoms begin to show). Also, given the current movement to refuse vaccinations, combined with the weakness of senior immune systems, those over 65 are more vulnerable to catching the disease and suffering dangerous complications.

You have friends who are not immune. If you have friends over 65 who have never had measles, they could be putting you at risk. The exact same reasons listed above apply. Measles is highly contagious; spending time with someone in a high risk group increases your risk, too. Likewise, if your friends cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons (or have chosen not to) they are at risk of catching it from you.

Measles is life threatening for seniors. It is a sad fact of aging that the immune system becomes weaker. Children and seniors are more vulnerable than others should they catch the measles. Pneumonia and encephalitis are the most common complications, both of which are life threatening for seniors.

Not everyone needs the vaccine, but if you have reason to be concerned about your immunity, a discussion with your doctor is warranted. There are also blood tests that can be done to test your immunity, for your own peace of mind. Your friends’ and family’s health is worth at least that much.

Read More

What Seniors Think of Minaj’s Anaconda

Remember a time when Tonight Show host Jack Paar was censored, and subsequently walked off the show, for telling a joke about a bathroom? It wasn’t all that long ago – just 55 years. If the censors of the 1960s were brought here today, what on Earth would they say about the content airing on television now? Take, for example, the music video for Anaconda, Nicki Minaj’s latest hit. It is overtly sexual and explicit, though to be honest I didn’t catch any toilet references.

 

Jack Paar himself said he was “…opposed to purposely plotted risqué material,” which is a pretty accurate description of Minaj’s video. How would your grandparents react? Can you imagine sitting down with them to watch it? The seniors of YouTube’s React channel did, and here’s what they thought:

 

You know we’re not referring to a snake!

I don’t know how they get away with this stuff nowadays.

It’s a porn video!

This kind of stuff…you went to Tijuana to find.

We’re becoming much more relaxed about what we tolerate.

People were hysterical when Marilyn Monroe’s skirt went up!

 

You can watch their reactions here, but one participant has the solution all figured out already. How do we fix this situation?

Give them a pair of trousers!

Read More

Shameful Medical Practice Keeps Patients from Needed Care Options

Doctors are not legally required to tell patients what their diagnosis is. A recent study reported that 55% of people who have a medical diagnosis for Alzheimer’s don’t even know it. Since this relied largely on patient reported data, and dementia patients might not be the most reliable source, caregivers were surveyed as well. The number improved somewhat, but 47% were still unaware of the diagnosis. This is unconscionable, but entirely allowable under the current law. If you really want to know what your doctor thinks, check the insurance claims and look up the codes they use. While they can mislead the patient, it would be fraud if they didn’t disclose everything to the insurance company.

By withholding a diagnosis, doctors are cheating patients of early care that could help their disease. While there is nothing yet fully approved to treat or even slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s, clinical trials are often running and typically look for early onset patients. There are also treatments that could temporarily ease symptoms, if the patient is made aware of them. Aside from medical interventions, patients need to plan for their long term care before they become too incapacitated to make such decisions for themselves. These doctors are cheating people of their ability to cope with a devastating illness, and for what reason?

Well, according to the doctors…it’s hard. They cite reasons like lack of time during an office visit, lack of treatment options, and fear of an emotional reaction. All of that comes down to a person avoiding a difficult conversation. While it may be understandable that they would want to avoid such a conversation, it is unethical to do so. Fifty years ago, it was cancer – a scary diagnosis with little hope for recovery. Doctors then didn’t tell patients when they had it, either. In both cases, patients get sent away with no way to plan for the difficult road ahead and no chance to find help. Not to mention, a patient who presented with symptoms that were concerning enough to seek help, now has no answer for the problems that plague them.

Being a doctor means doing the hard and uncomfortable things to give patients options for a healthy life. Sometimes that means planning for the worst outcome, and having the difficult conversations that will improve the quality of life for a dying patient. Prostate exams are uncomfortable, too. Maybe we should stop expecting doctors to do them so they will feel a little better about their jobs.

Read More