Home Health & Hospice

Infections in the Elderly

Did you know that almost a third of all senior deaths are caused by an infectious disease? This is often due to the difficulty in discovering and diagnosing these illnesses, as the standard warning signs of infection materialize differently in a senior’s body. Furthermore, new strains of bacteria are continuously developing a stronger resistance to antibiotics, which doesn’t help the already aging immune system of your loved ones.

Because of these concerns, it is imperative for all caregivers to familiarize themselves with these common infections in the elderly and their warning signs, as well as what treatments are available. Here is a list of the most common infections you need to be aware of.

Urinary Tract Infections

A UTI is the most common form of infection found in seniors. Usually, this term is used to refer to a bladder or urethra contamination, but this bacteria can also spread to the kidneys which becomes a much more dangerous problem.

Senior’s who suffer from diabetes or use a catheter are at a higher risk, but other causes (such as an enlarged prostate, an increase in vaginal pH, or not emptying the bladder properly) are also widely reported.

The standard symptoms of urinary tract infections (such as pain, discomfort, fever, and persistent desire to urinate) are not always immediately evident in seniors. Rather look out for confusion or increased dementia symptoms, and if any vomiting occurs, seek immediate help.

The correct treatment depends on the infection itself, which is why a proper diagnosis is essential while ensuring the patient is properly hydrated.

Skin Infections

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(DarkoStojanovic)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(DarkoStojanovic)

This is an umbrella term for a myriad of ailments such as shingles, pressure ulcers, fungal foot infections, or the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Seniors are less able to fight off these infections as their aging skin does not heal as quickly as it used to. Diabetes also plays a negative role.

These skin conditions can come from an array of sources, including a weakened immune system, lack of mobility, moisture, or human contact (which includes communal showers).

Look out for any pain, itching, unfamiliar marks, or rashes. Mild fevers have also been reported. As always, the prevention of superficial infection is your best approach. Good hygiene is a must especially in a communal environment, so encourage hand washing and regular bathing schedules.

Vaccines and the proper disposal of all bodily secretions are also important considerations. If someone is already infected, isolate them from any other human contact and treat their contamination with antiviral agents.

Influenza and Pneumonia

An unattended respiratory infection (influenza) may develop into a severe lung inflammation (pneumonia) where the air sacs fill up with fluid and harden. This is the fifth leading cause of death for seniors due to diminished lung capacity, exhausted immune systems, or pre-existing conditions (such as cardiopulmonary disease or diabetes).

These germs are usually spread from person to person, transmitted via a cough or a sneeze, and then inhaled into the lungs. Community settings and closed environments are a definite reason for increased concern.

Be on the lookout for any obvious signs (such as the chills, coughs, sore throats, and fevers) but be aware that these symptoms are often less clear in seniors. Sudden headaches and a weakened demeanor are early red flags, while subtle changes in their behavior (including confusion and delirium) should also be watched carefully.

Routine checkups, pneumococcal vaccines, and a strict no-smoking policy are some of the best methods of prevention, while antibiotics from a doctor should be used to treat an existing condition. And remember that the sooner someone gets diagnosed, the better their chance of a swift recovery.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(geralt)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(geralt)

Gastrointestinal Infections

There are various types of bacterial infections which affect the stomach and/or the small intestine, but Helicobacter pylori and Clostridium difficile are the most common.

These outbreaks can be passed on from individual to individual or introduced to the system via means of undercooked food/contaminated water. The risk of infection is increased when traveling to foreign regions which contain viruses that their body is not accustomed to.

The standard symptoms of gastrointestinal infections can be expected here, and include abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This rapid loss of liquid means that you need to continuously hydrate the patient while making a quick diagnosis. If other people feel unwell who also consumed the same meals, then it is safe to assume that this is a food-related outbreak and you can take it from there.

Stomach troubles such as these usually clear up on their own within a few days. However, always speak to a medical professional just to be safe, and use this threat as a good incentive to thoroughly clean your hands before eating anything.

Contributed by Vive Health Writers

How to prevent pressure sores in seniors

A better understanding of what causes pressure sores helps caregivers take better care of their elderly loved ones. A pressure sore (also known as pressure ulcer and bedsore) is a result of tissue getting compressed between bone and an external surface. Pressure sores affect seniors who are unable to move and change position regularly. Prolonged pressure on the compressed areas leads to reduced blood supply (and eventual death) to the skin and underlying muscle tissues. Skin becomes dry and flaky and can break open which allows bacteria to enter the wound. 

Pressure sores/ulcers are located in areas such as the head and ears, elbows, shoulders, heels, and the sacral region and are graded or staged to classify the degree of tissue damage.

A body indicating the areas of the body where pressure sores may occur

Pressure sores are characterized by four stages dependent on the severity and depth of the lesion

Stage 1:    Pressure sores involve the superficial skin layer. The area has prolonged redness or “non-blanchable redness” (the area is red and does not go back to normal color when the senior is moved). The area can also turn pale or shiny and white.

Stage 2: Pressure sores involve superficial lesions to the top layer of skin. This results in a shallow depression or abrasion causing skin breakdown, blisters, shallow craters, edema, drainage, and possibly infection.

Stage 3: Pressure sores have full skin loss and extension into the subcutaneous tissue causing necrosis, drainage, and localized infection.

Stage 4: Pressure sores have damaged the muscle, fascia, and bone with deep infections, drainage, and death of the tissue (necrosis). Consequently, when a senior enters this stage they will always have a stage 4 ulcer. Although pressure sores may heal on the surface, the sores are deep and usually slow to heal. Due to this, pressure sores re-open easily.

Image showing the 4 stages of pressure sores

In most cases, seniors have special skin care needs because their skin becomes dry and thin as they age. If it becomes too dry, skin is prone to cracking and dermatitis. In addition, this allows for the growth of bacteria which can result in infection. Prevention of and assessment for pressure sores/ulcers and skin tears will avoid discomfort and decreased quality of life for seniors.

Prevent pressure ulcers and skin tears:

  • Relieve pressure by off-loading weight  
  • Prevent shearing and friction with careful transfers
  • Provide good personal care
  • Adequate nutrition and hydration
  • Loose, non-binding clothing

What can you do as a caregiver?

  • Reposition often: seniors need to be turned frequently to avoid pressure-sensitive ulcers.  
  • Check skin and all pressure points frequently
  • Give good skin care: powder which keeps areas clean and dry, lotion which keeps skin hydrated and elastic
  • Give good perineal care—toilet often and clean area well
  • Help the client exercise regularly – whatever the client is capable of doing
  • Make sure bed linens are clean, dry and wrinkle free
  • Give gentle massages to increase blood flow
  • Encourage fluids and good nutrition
  • Use pressure reducing devices: pillows, coccyx cushion, air mattress, barrier cream

What should you report to the doctor, Home Health nurse, or other healthcare providers?

  • Redness that won’t go away
  • Pale, white, shiny area over a bony prominence
  • Red, hot, tender to touch
  • Pressure ulcer that has increased in size or depth
  • Senior reports pain
Aspen Senior Care team photo

Aspen Senior Care has won Provider of Choice for 8 years in a row!

Aspen Senior Care trains our caregivers to follow these guidelines to ensure we provide our clients with the best possible care. We know how important it is to have caregivers our clients can trust. Because of this, we provide monthly in-service training to cover important educational topics. This improves the quality of life for both the caregiver and the senior receiving care.  Click here to learn more about our professional caregivers.


 

Information presented by Amanda Hensler

First Choice Home Health & Hospice

Whether it’s short-term medical care after a hospital stay or a chronic illness needing on-going medical care, home health agencies are dedicated to providing quality medical care in the comfort and convenience of a patient’s home.

Most home health agencies offer a variety of services such as

  • Skilled nursing
    • Wound care
    • Infusion therapy
    • Catheters
    • Pain management
    • Injections, immunizations
  • Rehabilitation therapies: physical, occupational & speech-language
  • Medical social services and counseling
  • Case management
  • Home health aid services (bathing, personal care)Medicare will pay for these services only while a patient is receiving medical treatment in the home and as often as the doctor determines, usually 2 to 3 times a week.  Visit Medicare.gov  to find out what services are covered.

Medicare doesn’t pay for long-term care. It’s all about helping seniors heal and improve their health and strength.  Seniors must be making improvement to qualify or re-certify for home health services.

Aspen works with some of the best home health agencies in Utah. They take care of the medical side of things and we take care of everything else.

Questions to ask before you begin receiving home health care.

There’s a lot to consider when looking for a home health agency. Below are some questions to ask:

  • Does the agency have national accreditation?
  • Is the agency Medicare approved and what will Medicare cover?
  • Will the agency take other insurance and what will insurance cover?
  • What kinds of ongoing training do your professional caregivers receive?
  • What are their educational backgrounds?
  • Is a nurse is available 24/7?
  • Will there be someone to cover if the nurse or aid is ill?
  • Are you flexible with visits? Can the nurse and/or aid come when it’s convenient for me?cmh_health_services_logo_no_lettering

The home health agency you are considering should tell you how much Medicare will pay and services they won’t pay for that will be your responsibility. They should explain this both by talking with you and in writing.

It’s perfectly fine to ask for references and ask people you know who may have used home health before. Ask how their experience was with the agency they used.

Home health is a great service for providing medical care in the home. It is usually less expensive than hospital care and seniors heal better in their own homes.

Aspen Senior Care fills in the gaps

When home health isn’t enough, Aspen Senior Care can step in and provide quality personal care and homemaker services.

Our services include:

• Shower assistance
• Hygiene care
• Medication reminders
• Homemaking
• Meal planning and preparation
• Light housekeeping
• Errands and transportation
• Alzheimer’s and dementia care
• Respite and Hospice care
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We are dedicated to providing the best care possible in the home. Please visit our website at aspenseniorcare.com or call us at 801-224-5910 for more information. We’re here to help!

Last year Aspen Senior Care launched a program called Home Care Heroes.  We are fortune to work with amazing home health and hospice agencies whose professionals are on the front line of caring for seniors in their homes: CNAs, RN, Social Workers, Physical Therapists and Chaplains.  Aspen works hand-in-hand with these agencies, and we wanted to acknowledge how much we appreciate them and their dedication to seniors.SL Home Care Hero. Janet.Olschewski

Beginning in July we drew several names each month in Utah and Salt Lake Counties and honored these individuals (usually surprised them!) in front of their co-workers for the great job they do. Kylee Farnsworth.Horizon HospcieThey are surprised to be recognized because they are “just doing their job” but as we work with them we see the compassion and dedication they have to each patient they serve, even if no one else notices. We want them to know we do!

As 2015 draws to a close we think of all the wonderful people we have worked together with to improve the lives of seniors. We are looking forward to a great 2016 and the opportunity to honor new Home Care Heroes.

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