Many of us look forward to the summer months. After the long winter, we all look forward to spending more time with our families outdoors. This is really a great time of year, but as temperatures rise, the risk of dehydration rises with it for all of us, but especially among the elderly.
As we age, our bodies aren’t able to conserve water as well as those who are younger. This makes it difficult to adapt to fluctuating temperatures. Compounding the risk of dehydration is that our sense of thirst diminishes with age. This means that by the time an elderly person actually feels thirsty, their essential fluids may already be extremely low.
Another risk factor for dehydration is that certain medications and medical conditions can affect a senior’s ability to retain fluids. Diuretics, antihistamines, laxatives, antipsychotics and corticosteroids can cause frequent urination that depletes water and electrolytes. Individuals with memory impairment may forget to eat and drink, and some may even have difficulty swallowing. Some seniors who know they are incontinent may deliberately refuse or limit fluid intake to avoid accidents.
If you are a caregiver for an elderly person, look for the following symptoms of dehydration:
How to prevent dehydration:
For most of us, drinking plenty of fluids and eating foods with high water content is a great way to keep our bodies properly hydrated in warmer weather. Most adults need about 64 ounces of fluid every day, but that amount increases with heat and humidity and can change based on various medications and health conditions.
A good rule of thumb is to try balancing fluid intake with output. If a senior is sweating or urinating more frequently, then their fluid intake should become more frequent as well. If a loved one is suffering from an illness that causes fever, diarrhea or vomiting, carefully monitoring fluid intake is crucial.
We encourage you to spend time with your elderly loved ones this season, just remember: Hydration is key to a safe, enjoyable summer!
If you’ve recently had an elderly loved one sent to an in-patient rehabilitation facility, you may be wondering what their time there will entail. We’ve outlined a typical day in Geriatric Rehabilitation below:
Nurses make their rounds. They check in on residents to see to their needs. They will direct staff to help where necessary with daily personal grooming. Medication schedules are maintained to ensure that daily dosages are met properly at the prescribed times. Residents also receive their breakfast.
After breakfast, it’s time for various physical therapies depending on the person’s needs and abilities. Patients work on strength, balance and coordination and perform exercises that help minimize pain. The goal of these and all therapies is to return your loved one to health so that they are able to go home.
After lunch is served, your loved one’s day can vary. If further therapies are required, this is when they would take place. Some of these therapies may include Occupational Therapy to help with daily skills. They may need to meet with a Speech/Language Pathologist to work on speech or swallowing skills. If necessary, counseling is also scheduled in this time frame.
Once therapies are completed, socialization is promoted. Various activities happen throughout the afternoon so that residents can meet in a fun setting. Keeping your loved ones active and engaged helps promote healing and a sense of wellbeing.
After dinner is served, more activities are available for your loved ones to participate in freely. This is also a great time for family to visit. Residents love this time of day to spend time with the people they love.
Staff is always available to help with daily care tasks and ambulation. They do everything they can to provide personalized care for your loved one. The goal of the entire stay is to help residents return their strength and coordination so that they can safely reintegrate into their homes.
Geriatric physical therapy is used to help older people improve their balance and strength, build their confidence, and remain active adults regardless of their level of physical ability. Most people are familiar with the necessity of pursuing physical therapy after an accident or a stroke. However, they may not be aware that physical therapy is useful for many additional reasons, such as improving balance, strength, mobility, and overall fitness. All of these are beneficial factors for older adults, contributing to their physical abilities and helping to maintain their independence for longer periods of time. Physical therapy can also help older adults avoid falls, something that is crucial to this population.
Falling is one of the greatest risks older adults face because they often lead to serious injuries, the most common being hip fractures. Hip fractures often lead to a downward health spiral. In fact, falling is such an issue among older adults that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that one-third of all people over the age of sixty-five fall every year, making falls the leading cause of injury among people from this age group! Hundreds of thousands of older adults experience falls and resulting hip fractures every year, with resulting hospitalizations. Most of the people who experience a hip fracture stay in the hospital for a minimum of one week, with approximately twenty-percent dying within a year due to the injury. Unfortunately, a number of the remaining eighty-percent do not return to their previous level of functioning. Physical therapy can help older adults remain both strong and independent, as well as productive.
Forms of Geriatric Physical Therapy
Exercise: Exercise is defined as any form of physical activity that is beyond what the person does while performing their daily tasks. Exercise is something that is designed to both maintain and improve a person’s coordination, muscle strength, flexibility and physical endurance, as well as their balance. It is meant to increase their mobility and lessen their chance of injury through falling. Exercise in relation to geriatric therapy might include activities such as stretching, walking, weight lifting, and specific exercises that are geared towards a particular injury or limitation. A physical therapist works with the person, teaching them to exercise independently, so they may continue their exercise program on their own.
Manual Therapy: Manual therapy is applied with the goals of improving the person’s circulation and restoring mobility they may have lost due to an injury or lack of use. This form of therapy is also used to reduce pain. Manual therapy can include manipulation of the person’s joints and muscles, as well as massage.
Education: Education is important to the success and effectiveness of geriatric physical therapy. People are taught ways of performing daily tasks safely. Physical therapists also teach people how to use assistive devices, as well as how to protect themselves from further injury. Older adults can utilize physical therapy as a means for regaining their independence.
Geriatric Physical therapy can help seniors not only to feel better but it will also allow them to enjoy a higher quality of life.
It’s vital to stress the importance of Short Term Rehabilitation for your elderly loved one. Most times this isn’t easy. They’ve either already gone through the trauma of suffering an injury or they are recovering from an operation that they probably worried about in the weeks before the surgery. In their minds, they’ve moved on and they are anxious to go home. The last thing they want to hear is that they need to stay in a facility for Short Term Rehabilitation.
First, remember to validate their feelings. Their reluctance to go into rehabilitation may have more to do with emotional stress rather than the actual rehabilitation process. This is especially true if they don’t like change and prefer to stay in the environment that they are used to.
Reiterate the importance of receiving their prescribed Short Term Rehabilitation. Point out that it really is temporary. Explain that it is everyone’s goal to promote their healing, help them gain their strength, and ensure that they are in the best health possible. Everyone will be working toward this goal to be sure that when they return home they are in better health than they were pre-injury/pre-surgery.
Remind your loved one that they are in control. The more they put in to their rehabilitation, the better it will be for everyone. If they work hard, follow instructions and stay on course, they ultimately have the ability to take an active part in their ability to go home on or before the targeted date. It’s also just as important to point out that the opposite is true. If they refuse Short Term Rehabilitation, they will return home in a weakened state, possibly never return to full health and be prone to other injuries or infection. If they do opt for Short Term Rehabilitation and act as unwilling participants, this will prolong their treatment extend their stay.
These are some practical ways to make your aging loved one see that there are very real benefits to Short Term Rehabilitation. Perhaps more importantly, they will understand that they are still honored and dignified people who have a say in their care and take an active role in improving their health.