Allergies 101

As the weather begins to transition into the warmer spring weather (thanks goodness!), there are also negative factors that come with the sunshine. There is also another yellow pest: pollen. This can stir up allergies in people, and other seasonal allergies that someone may suffer from. Senior citizens are also included in this category. In a series of blog posts, we are highlighting the issue of allergies, the types of allergies there are, the way to test for allergies, solutions for sufferers and more. The health of our seniors is a top priority, no matter the season.

Allergies 101

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the US. There are as many as 50 million Americans that suffer from allergies each year. This also includes millions of our senior citizens.

What exactly is an “allergy”? The CDC defines allergies as “an overreaction of the immune system to substances that generally do not affect other individuals.” The people who do suffer from allergies may experience symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, or itching. Most allergy systems are not life-threatening; however, they can lead to or affect other more serious illnesses such as asthma.

Allergies are not preventable, but allergic reactions or the severity of the symptoms can be. When a person is properly diagnosed about which type of allergies they suffer from, they can work to prevent getting in contact with these allergens. A senior citizen (or caretaker of the senior citizen), can consult with a doctor about strategies that can help minimize symptoms or take initiatives such as being immunized with allergy injection therapy.

How This Applies to Seniors

How do allergies affect senior citizens? How can suffering of symptoms be minimized for senior citizens? In an article published on “AgingCare.com”, editor-in-chief Anne-Marie Botek talks with Christopher Randolph, M.D. who is a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s Asthma and Allergic Diseases in the Elderly Committee. He lays out a few guidelines of how caregivers can help make allergy season bearable for senior citizens they may be caring for:

1. Look for signs: There are tale-tale signs such as sneezing, runny nose, or itchy eyes that a caregiver should be on the lookout for.

2. Make sure their doctor knows: If the caregiver sees these signs in their elderly patient or loved one, consult the senior citizen’s regular doctor. Many senior citizens also suffer from one or more chronic health issues; which makes it more difficult to separate a potential allergy from other ongoing diseases.

3. Be aggressive: If you suspect your senior citizens is suffering from allergies, get them diagnosed and treated properly. This keeps larger issues or reactions from occurring later on. It also helps increases the quality of life for the senior citizen to enjoy day to day activities such as a walk through the local park.

The full article can be read here: (http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/help-elders-survive-allergy-season-150138.htm).

If you know the signs and ways to prevent suffering, allergies can be coped with. Next week we will discuss ways to properly test for allergies in senior citizens.

[This article was also written with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Gateway to Health Communication article.]

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Take Care of Your Kidneys

In a recent article in the Huffington Post Post 50 recurring column, Savvy Senior, a questioned was posed by a reader about kidney disease. Adults who are 60 or older are especially vulnerable to contract this disease; a disease whose symptoms can go virtually undetected. Here are some questions about what exactly kidney disease is, the different types, the symptoms, and what it may mean if you are diagnosed with it.

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What is kidney disease?

According to medical-dictionary.com, kidney disease is defined as any damage that reduces the functioning of the kidney. It can also be referred to as renal disease. There are currently 26 million Americans suffering from chronic kidney disease, and many millions at risk of developing it. Why? Well, there are several causes of kidney disease. However, the leading cause of kidney disease are the following: diabetes, high blood pressure, inherited diseases, and infection. The beginning symptoms can be mild such as a lack of urination or increased fluid build up in the body. These symptoms usually develop over a period of time (even several years) without being detected. If left untreated, this can develop into chronic kidney disease, which can be more serious. As a result, an individual can spend time hooked up to a dialysis machine or waiting on a kidney transplant. This is a widespread problem among Americans, and is affecting a higher number of people due to obesity, type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure; all of which put a strain on the kidneys.

How can you help reduce your risk of kidney disease?

Get tested. The National Kidney Foundation has an online test you can take to start with (kidney.com). Then, go to your doctor because kidney disease can be detected from a simple blood and urine test. If you suffer from any of the above listed diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, or have a family history of kidney disease OR are 60 years or older), you need to get tested.

If you’re diagnosed with kidney disease?

  • Control your blood pressure.
  • Control your diabetes.
  • Change your diet.
  • Watch your meals.
  • Exercise (perhaps lose excessive weight).
  • Quit smoking if you have the habit.

If you are diagnosed with kidney disease, it may not be fatal. Especially in cases of acute kidney disease. There is a high survival rate for 5 years or so after a kidney transplant and 15,000 transplants are done each year. The greatest tool for prevention or treatment is early detection. Go to your doctor and have yourself or an elderly loved one tested.

(*This article was written with the help of http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-t-miller/how-to-take-care-of-your_b_6562658.html; http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/kidney+infection*)

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Preparing for A Weather Emergency

As we brace cold, wet, and potentially dangerous winter weather, here are some safety tips for preparing ahead of time for these types of hazardous conditions. Our biggest concern is a fear of being unprepared. Will I run out of food? What do I do if my power goes out? How can I get in contact with my family if we are separated when an emergency breaks out, such as severe weather?

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The key here: be prepared. If you have a plan that you know you as a family or as an individual can implement when needed, it can ease the fear or even a later burden. RetireEASE Senior Services, has two top weather preparation tips you can follow to keep your elderly family member, neighbor, or yourself safe.

Pack An Emergency Kit

The first step to being prepared for a weather emergency is to have all proper supplies packed. Your first supplies you want to have handy is a first aid kit. If an injury was to occur because of severe weather or you have access to medical care temporality cut off, a first aid kit will be a first go-to. You can buy a prepackaged first aid kit or assemble one together yourself. Make sure you place this first aid kit in an accessible , safe location of your house.

Pack Canned Good or Non-Perishable Items that Would Last You a Few Days:

When the weather is good, make a list of non-perishable food items. Then take a trip to your local grocery store and buy these items in bulk that would last you a few days. Then, store these food items with your first aid kit. This way, your emergency items are all in one location. If you or your family or your elderly loved one should be stuck at home due to severe weather it can be vital to have accessible items until help can be reached.

Keeping these types of items in stock and having a tentative plan, can literally be a life saver later during a severe weather emergency.

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Ideas for retirees on fixed incomes or anyone on a budget

Taken from USA TODAY MONEY BY NANCI HELLMICH:

In the wake of the madness of Black Friday, many Americans are looking into the holiday season of Christmas thinking about what gifts to buy their family, friends, or loved ones. For many there is already a hint of worry or concern about crossing everyone off of the gift list. Do you get those socks for that distant third cousin twice removed?

This may be extra challenging for the millions of senior citizens who are retired and living on a fix income. There is also a challenge for many of these elderly Americans in having the health or means to get out and shop for these gifts. Added on to these impending problems may also be the added mentality of sentimental gifts. Most senior citizens want to buy gifts that have a personal touch for the individual who they are purchasing the present for. images

What is are some solutions or fixes for these issues? Columnist Nanci Hellmich wrote an article with a few tips for the retirees or simply any Americans on a budget that fall into this category.

  •  Cut down your holiday list. Look at the list of people you give presents to, and see if it’s time to take some of them off the list.

Author of the book “Decoding the New Consumer Mind” told Hellmich “It’s painful to do because if someone has made it to the list, obviously you care about them. But I think many people will be flat-out relieved to be off the list, because if you give them a gift then they think they have to give you one in return.”

It might be almost a sense of relief for both yourself or others if you can give gifts out want not just obligation.

  • Consider giving away family heirlooms or sentimental keepsakes. What are the family heirlooms that you may no longer use and are simply gathering dust in the attic or closet? Who is the daughter, son, or granddaughter that has been asking for that particular set of your mother’s silver, for years? You can use the Christmas season as an opportunity to pass down that silver set. Not only does it help you save money, but there is a deeper meaning than money or materialism behind the gift.
  • Give to charity instead of buying gifts. This Christmas season could also be an opportunity to start a new family tradition. You can begin teaching the younger family members about the meaning of giving rather than receiving. Instead of drawing names for gift giving, get every family member to choose the charity or organization of their choice to donate the amount of money you would spend on the gift to the chosen charity or organization.
  • Write down peals of wisdom. Brain Kelly, founder of Brain Brands in Chicago suggested to Helmich that American senior citizens could write down pithy quotes, witty insights or common phrases used by your family and giving those as a thoughtful gift.
  • Share your time and talent. What is your unique talent or special gift? Are you really good at sewing or crocheting or cooking? Then use this as an opportunity to share your gift as a gift with someone you have on that gift list.

Yes, the holiday season can be a stressful time. There are list that must be crossed off. Gifts must be bought. The Christmas dinner must be cooked. However, there are changes that you can make or adjustments in carrying out your holiday planning that can be both economically smart or spiritually uplifting.

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Senior-giving before Thanksgiving.

As November moves closer to the holiday season, the Christmas decorations and “SALE” signs are already being displayed in stores. Kids are starting to make their list to Santa and families are planning which side dish to bring to the family Thanksgiving dinner. The end of November is ready to take off at full speed. However, before everyone gets caught up in the hectic part of the holiday season, take a chance to slow down and have a “Senior-giving day” before Thanksgiving.

America is a blessed nation of prosperity and abundance found in many factors: health, freedom, personal and financial security, family and friends. Why not reach out to the senior members of your family or in your community at places such as the local nursing home.

During your Thanksgiving break, have a “senior day” with your family by volunteering. Use the volunteer day as a chance to teach your children about giving to others before they get for themselves in days of shopping with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

Do not know where to begin? There are numerous ways to interact with the seniors you volunteer for. Some examples are:

  • Take the senior to a movie or to dinner. They might have limited opportunity to get out of the house if they have health issues or disabilities.
  • Try being a “chauffer” for the senior to take them out if they need to run errands or want to do activities such as shopping around town.
  • Taking a simple walk with the senior may make a world of a difference. It may be beneficial both physically and mentally and emotionally both because of exercise and company.
  • If moving outside of the house is not an option, bring your family to their home. Have the children make crafts with the senior or bring handmade gifts to the senior.

Simple decisions like this can make all the difference in the world in the life of the senior you’re helping, even if it does not seem like that big of a deal to you. AARP has resources that can help too:

Livable Communities program: http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/

Caregiving Resource Center: http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving-new/

Get connected–Build community–Be Involved.

[Written with the help of this article written in the Huffington Post Post 50: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jo-ann-jenkins/senior-sunday_b_6079540.html%5D

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Identity Theft Protection For Seniors

At the top of the consumer complaints list to the Federal Trade Commission for the past three years is identity theft. This can be an even bigger issue or just simply a fear, for senior citizens who are not as familiar with the Internet as younger adults or even teenagers.

Where the people in their 20+ use to top the list of these complaints to the FTC-the shift has now turned to 50+ adults. Identity thefts target those they see as the most vulnerable. A main target is the 50+ audience because they tend to be too trusting of strangers.

This vulnerability opens the door for crooks to take advantage of the 50+ peoples’ available assets and income. There has been in fact, a progressive rise in senior identity thefts from 2011-2013. In 2011 senior citizens 30% of all the identity thefts reported to the FTC. This rose up to 37% by 2013.

Identity Theft

Luckily, South Carolina does not rank in the list of “Top Ten Identity Theft States”, but it is still wise to know a few tips on how to protect yourself (or how to advise a senior citizen in your life) from being a victim of identity theft.

Here is a list of 7 tips provided by Next Advisor on how to protect seniors:

1. Shred any documents containing personal information, such as social security number, birth date, your home address, etc.

2. Be wary of any “free” medical or legal services that require personal information.

3. Only disclose medical information to verified physicians.

4. Never provide personal information to anyone who calls you.

5. Never give personal information via email or from a link in an email. Instead, go directly to the website of the trusted company you already have a relationship with.

6. Check all credit reports at least once per week.

7. Talk openly about the dangers of revealing personal information with family members and friends.

Report all identity theft incidents, and keep yourself informed.

**(This article was written with the aid of http://www.nextadvisor.com/blog/2014/05/27/senior-identity-theft-rise)**

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Low-Cost and Free Cell Phones for Seniors

In our previous newsletter, we shared an article about the relationship between seniors and technology. Not all seniors prefer to interact too much with technology. Whether this technology is Facebook, smartphones or simply the internet itself, all seniors most likely need to have access to a cellphone. 

In today’s world, it is almost a necessity for all seniors to have a cellphone. If there is an emergency or a family member needs to be contacted, a cellphone is handy. Most adults have a cellphone and therefore is the most direct way for any senior family member or friend to get in contact with them. 

Now, just because it is now common for everyone to carry a cellphone, this does not mean that a senior has to go out and buy the latest iPhone 5c. There are a multitude of basic cellphone options for seniors to choose from. These cellphones also come with reasonable data plans and can have the most basic function of performing a phone call or sending a text message. 

Photo credit: seniortechdaily.com

Photo credit: seniortechdaily.com

There are No-Contract Phones available. 

This basically means buying a prepaid cellphone (also known as a “pay as you” cellphone). With these prepaid plans, there is no contract. This means that you purchase a certain amount of prepaid minutes with the cellphone, and use it as needed. You can add minutes to this prepaid bill at any time and avoid monthly fixed bills, credit check, or other hidden issues that can be associated with signing a cellphone contract. 

There are a number of major carriers that offer prepaid plans, such as AT&T and Verizon; but, other services such as Net10, Cricket and others offer affordable plans too. One popular service is TracFone. TracFone offers phones that start as low as $10 and call plans that are only $7 a month.

Simple and affordable. 

Free Cell Phones are also an option. 

If your income is low enough, there is a government-sponsored program that subsidizes wireless (and landline) companies who then provide free cellphones and around 250 minutes of free minutes and texts. 

Millions of Americans are currently signed up for this government program. However, millions of others are also eligible for this service. You will need to show that you’re receiving certain types of government benefits (such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, SSI, home energy assistance or public housing assistance) to qualify. However, do not let the fear of not being able to afford a cellphone keep you from researching to see if you have the option of receiving a cellphone free from the government. 

When you have an emergency, it is a comfort for both yourself and your loved ones if you know you have readily available a way to reach out for help. A fear of uncertainty with technology or that you cannot afford a cellphone/cellphone bill should not hold you back. There are lots of options and help out there. 

**This article was written with the assistance of the following article from the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-t-miller/low-cost-and-free-cell-ph_b_5575971.html** 

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