Press

Epilepsy and Seizures in Older Adults

Did you know that seizures are more likely to develop in older adults? Learn to recognize the signs of seizures and how you can help.

Epilepsy is a broad term used for a brain disorder that causes seizures. In the United States, 2.4 million adults aged 18 years or older have active epilepsy.  About 1% of adults 65 years of age and older have active epilepsy, which is about 447,000 people. That’s about the size of Corpus Christi, TX. With the aging of the population, we can expect to see greater numbers of people with epilepsy.

Epilepsy is more likely to develop in older adults rather than younger adults because as people age, the risk of seizures and epilepsy rises.3,4 Some older adults may have lived with epilepsy throughout their lives, but others might develop epilepsy later in life. It isn’t always easy to tell when you, a friend or family member, or someone you care for develops epilepsy later in life.

That’s because seizures are harder to recognize in older adults, and many go unnoticed. For example, memory problems, confusion, falls, dizziness, or sensory changes like numbness are often blamed on “getting older.”3,4 However, these can actually be signs of seizures.

There are many different signs of seizures because there are many types of seizures. When most people think of a seizure, they think of a generalized seizure. In this type of seizure, the person may cry out, fall, shake or jerk, and become unaware of what’s going on around them. However, complex partial seizures are the most common type of seizure, including in older adults. This type of seizure can make a person appear confused or dazed.

It is important to recognize and report these signs and symptoms to a health care provider so they can determine the cause and recommend the right treatment.

Challenges in Older Adults

Older adults with epilepsy may face greater challenges than other age groups. Balancing epilepsy treatment when taking medicines for other health problems can be difficult. Older adults also have a high risk of falls, which can lead to serious injury. Additionally, some epilepsy medicines can cause bone loss which can increase risk of falls and injury.

Epilepsy can limit daily activities such as driving a car. People who do not have control of their seizures are restricted from driving for different time periods, determined by the state you live in. After a lifetime of independence, losing the ability to drive can be especially difficult for older adults.

Most adults with epilepsy have good seizure control with medicines.  Like other age groups, older adults with epilepsy can live a healthy, independent, and active lifestyle. Epilepsy specialists can help older adults to find the right treatment. Learn how to find an epilepsy specialist at the Epilepsy Foundation website.

New Epilepsy and Seizures in Older Adults

About half of older adults who are told they have epilepsy do not know the cause of their condition.

Some Known causes include:

  • Stroke
  • Head injury
  • Neurodegenerative disorders (such as Alzheimer’s Disease)
  • Alcoholism and other substance abuse
  • Brain tumor

Prevent Stroke

Stroke is a common cause of new epilepsy in older adults. A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die.

You may lower your chances of stroke by making healthy lifestyle choices such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Getting enough exercise.
  • Not smoking.
  • Limiting alcohol use.

And controlling medical conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Diabetes.

10 Halloween Activities for Seniors

Halloween Crafts for Seniors

Halloween crafts can be completed early in October so you can use them as decorations throughout the rest of the month. The seniors can put their mark on their home or building’s look for a little while and you’ll set the Halloween atmosphere for the weeks to come.

  1. Decorate pumpkins. One of the best traditional crafts for Halloween time is making jack-o-lanterns. You can have a pumpkin painting day or give them sharpies to draw designs on the pumpkins.
  2. Make spiderwebs. You can get together to make simple and cheap spiderwebs to hang around the house or community out of coffee filters or paper plates. Throw in a little yarn and the patient will also have the option of creating larger cobweb decorations for the space.
  3. Make paper ghosts. Some white paper, a black sharpie, and scissors are all your group needs to make these ghosts. You can hang them around the home or facility.  You can do the cutting is scissors pose an issue.
  4. Decorative Halloween garlands. For one more addition to your homemade decorations, you can task any interested seniors with making decorative Halloween garlands for your hallways. Here are some ideas of bat and ghost garlands and glow-in-the-dark ones.
  5. Halloween charades Think of as many different Halloween-related themes and ideas you can think of to act out. You should all have fun watching people mime Dracula or try to figure out how to act like a spider. 
  6. Mummy Mason Jars Take a mason jar and wrap it with some gauze bandage tape.   hot glue (or glue-stick) on a couple of googly eyes … add in a little flame-less tea light.
  7. Share scary stories Your residents probably know some good ones, but you can come equipped with a book or some stories from the internet just in case. If enough of your residents express an interest in sharing their own scary stories, you could make it into a contest.
  8. Homemade costume contest Encourage your seniors to come up with homemade mask and costumes ideas. If you can make some materials available for them to work with, that may spark inspiration in a few of them. On Halloween, have everyone vote on which costume came out the best.
  9. Assisted living trick-or-treat Most seniors probably feel too old or silly to trick-or-treat, but trick-or-treating within the assisted living facility. Let any seniors that want to participate get dressed up and hit up trick-or-treating stations you set up.
  10. Classic horror movie marathon Your seniors probably have some favorite old classic horror movies. Poll them to pick out a few of the most popular and give them the opportunity to  watch them on Halloween or in the days leading up to it.

We hope your friends and families enjoy these Halloween activities for seniors.

Flu Season is here, Your Best Shot is the Flu Shot

With fall approaching, it is a sure bet that cold and flu season will soon follow bringing the risk of flu illness. Some people will only be mildly sick or miserable for a few days, but for some, flu can be very serious and may even result in hospitalization or death.  Flu shots are highly recommended for Seniors 65 and older.

Flu viruses infect the nose, throat, and lungs and can cause a wide range of complications. Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from flu. Pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from either flu virus infection alone or from co-infection of flu virus and bacteria. Other possible serious complications triggered by flu can include inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis), and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure). Flu virus infection can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Over the past six flu seasons, the U.S. has experienced several flu seasons with high rates of hospitalization and severe disease.

Flu vaccination can help keep you from getting sick from flu. Protecting yourself from flu also protects the people around you who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness. People at increased risk of flu complications include older adults, people with chronic medical conditions, and children younger than 6 months old.

CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. While the flu vaccine can vary in how well it works, it is the best tool modern medicine currently has to prevent infection with influenza viruses. CDC estimates that for the 2015-2016 influenza season only about 45% of the population were vaccinated. Still, influenza vaccination prevented approximately 5.1 million influenza illnesses, 2.5 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 71,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations. CDC experts calculated that a 5 percentage point increase in vaccination rates could have prevented another 500,000 influenza illnesses, 230,000 influenza-associated medical visits, and 6,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations across the entire population.

We have stated above that flu illness can be serious and that flu vaccine can prevent illness. There are other misconceptions that discourage people from getting vaccinated. To clear those up:

  1. A flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The most common side effects from a flu shot are soreness, redness and/or swelling where the shot was given, fever, and/or muscle aches. These side effects are NOT flu. If you do experience side effects, they are usually mild and short-lived, especially when compared to symptoms from a bad case of flu.
  2. Flu vaccines are among the safest medical products in use. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years. There has been extensive research supporting the safety of flu vaccines. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor the safety of vaccines approved for use in the United States.

What vaccine to get this season:

CDC recommends use of injectable influenza vaccines (including inactivated influenza vaccines and recombinant influenza vaccines) during 2017-2018. Similar to last season, the nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) is not recommended for the 2017-2018 flu season. Both trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) flu vaccines will be available. There is no preferential recommendation for any of the licensed and recommended vaccines this season.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop protection against flu. Take your best shot in the fight against flu! Protect yourself and your loved ones, and get a flu shot by the end of October, if possible.

If you have questions, talk to your doctor or other health care professional about the benefits of flu vaccination. Along with CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases, and many other professional medical groups recommend an annual influenza vaccine. While there are many people who skip getting a flu vaccine, thinking that they do not work, or that the flu shot will give them the flu, there is a lot of research that disproves these misconceptions.

Source CDC

Five Minutes for Women’s Health

In Five Minutes or Less, You Can

  1. Learn about the number one killer of women.
    Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Learn the symptoms of a heart attack and stroke. You can save a life by knowing the signs and symptoms!
  2. Schedule a doctor check-up.
    Regular check-ups are important. Schedule an appointment with your health care provider to discuss what screenings and exams you need and when you need them.
  3. Protect your skin and eyes from the sun.
    Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in the United States. In just minutes you can protect your skin and put on broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days.  Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and cover up with a hat and long sleeves.
  4. Find an HIV, STD, and Hepatitis testing site near you.
    Untreated sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can have long-term consequences for women, such as infertility. Find testing near you to know your status.
  5. Take folic acid before and during pregnancy.
    The B vitamin folic acid can help prevent certain birth defects. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, her baby may be less likely to be born with certain birth defects of the brain or spine. All women who could possibly get pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day in a vitamin or in foods that have been enriched with it.
    These tips are just a few of the many things you can do in five minutes or less. Learn more small steps you can take to improve your health.

Source: CDC

Storm Preparation for Seniors with Mobility Disability

Planning for a hurricane or major storm is critical for those with a mobility disability. Seniors and disabled people in South Florida are just entering into Hurricane season which runs 6/1/17-11/30/17. Palm Beach and Broward County offer several resources for those with people disabilities.  You should maintain a list of all emergency services and medications you may need.

Here are 5 Tips to prepare if you do have a mobility disability

  • If you use a power wheelchair, if possible, have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported. Your home health aid may assist with finding the specs of your wheelchair.
  • Purchase an extra battery for a power wheelchair or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. If you are unable to purchase an extra battery, find out what agencies, organizations, or local charitable groups can help you with the purchase. Keep extra batteries on a trickle charger at all times.
  • Consider keeping a patch kit or can of sealant for flat tires and/or extra inner tube if wheelchair or scooter is not puncture proof. (from Nusura/CalEMA)
  • Keep an extra mobility device such as a cane or walker, if you use one.
  • If you use a seat cushion to protect your skin or maintain your balance, and you must evacuate without your wheelchair, take your cushion with you. Your companion care assistant will help with these details.

See our Senior Resources for important services in you live in Broward or Palm Beach County.

Preparing Makes Sense for Older Americans

The likelihood that you and your family will recover from an emergency tomorrow often depends on the planning and preparation done today. Living in Palm Beach and Broward County we are especially aware of this as we enter into hurricane season.  Seniors and families with special care and/or medical needs have to take into account possible long term power outages and limited ability to get access to medications after a storm. While each person’s abilities and needs are unique, every individual can take steps to prepare for all kinds of emergencies. By evaluating your own personal needs and making an emergency plan that fits those needs, you and your loved ones can be better prepared.

There are commonsense measures older Americans can take to start preparing for emergencies before they happen.  Create a network of neighbors, relatives, friends and co-workers to aid you in an emergency. Discuss your needs and make sure everyone knows how to operate necessary equipment. If appropriate, discuss your needs with your employer.

Seniors should keep specialized items ready, including extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, food for service animals and any other items you might need. Keep a list of the type and model numbers of the medical devices you require. Be sure to make provisions for medications that require refrigeration such as coolers and ice-packs. Make arrangements well ahead of time if you need any assistance to get to a shelter or special assistance.

For more information, read Ready.gov’s Preparing Makes Sense For Older Americans or visit the Red Cross website

 

New Film Series Emphasizes Vital Role of Good Nutrition for Healthy Aging

Washington, D.C., March 8, 2016 –Constant exposure to our environment, the things we eat, and stresses from both inside and outside our bodies all cause us to age over time. Although scientists have not yet found a way to delay the biological processes of aging, they are learning more about how healthy behavioral practices, such as maintaining a well-balanced diet, are critical to fostering good health throughout our lives.

While eating a nutritious diet overall is essential, the specific amounts and types of nutrients we need and the body’s ability to process them can change with age and with personal health status.

During National Nutrition Month, the Alliance for Aging Research, in partnership with the Mars Center for Cocoa Health Science, has released three animated “pocket films” that explain the role of nutrition in healthy aging and highlight some of the latest findings in nutrition research. These pocket films offer an easy-to-understand, concise introduction to nutrition that both consumers and health educators can take with them anywhere on their smart phone or tablet. The films are available for viewing here and for direct download here.

“We are pleased to release these films during National Nutrition Month as a way to educate seniors, and consumers of all ages, about how good nutrition can help them maintain and improve their health, add vitality to their years, and potentially reduce their risk of disease,” says Alliance Vice President of Health Programs Lindsay Clarke.

 

The films look at nutrition in three parts: nutrition and the process of aging, essential nutrients and safely turning to supplements, and improving cardiovascular health with nutrition.

The films cover a number of topics, including:

  • The biological processes of aging and the importance of nutrition in promoting healthy aging
  • An overview of essential and non-essential nutrients
  • What the latest research tells us about bioactive compounds such as carotenoids, phytosterols, and flavanols and how they may improve aspects of health
  • When and how to consider and choose dietary supplements
  • Advances in nutrition and cardiovascular health

“We are very excited by this collaboration with the Alliance for Aging Research and the launch of these educational films, “explains Daniella Foster, Director of Science Communications and Corporate Affairs, Mars Symbioscience. “We have spent more than two decades committed to pioneering innovative fundamental nutrition research to maintain and improve human health. And through our Mars Center for Cocoa Health Science, we are dedicated to sharing our research outcomes and advancing people’s understanding of the inherent link between nutrition and healthy aging. These films offer an engaging, consumer-friendly way to do just that.”

For a press kit about the films, please go here.

The Alliance offers a complete library of short, animated “pocket films” on a wide range of health conditions and topics from sepsis to atrial fibrillation to safe medication use, many with an emphasis on older adults.

For more information, please contact Noel Lloyd, communications manager, at 202.370.7852 or through email.

About the Alliance for Aging Research
The Alliance for Aging Research is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the pace of scientific discoveries and their application in order to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging and health. The Alliance was founded in 1986 in Washington, D.C., and has since become a valued advocacy organization and a respected influential voice with policymakers. Visit www.agingresearch.org for more information.

About Mars Center For Cocoa Health Science
For more than 20 years, and based on collaborating with a multidisciplinary group of international experts, Mars, Incorporated has been conducting comprehensive and innovative research with a network of scientific collaborators around the world to advance the understanding of cocoa flavanols and their health benefits for the purpose of improving human health. The Mars Center for Cocoa Health Science (MCCHS) was formally established in 2012 as a Center of Excellence to pioneer, capture and share the latest scientific research in the field. MCCHS provides access to more than 20 years of gold standard research, over 140 published peer-reviewed scientific papers, educational videos, slides and other information that Mars, Incorporated and its collaborators have developed to advance cocoa flavanol understanding. For more information, please visit http://www.marscocoascience.com.