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The Grey Light: Seniors and Driving (How to Ensure You’re Driving Safely)

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Today, people are living longer, which means there are more seniors on the road than ever before. That is why it is important to know that as we age, so do our bodies. Your physical abilities can change, as well as decline, making it harder to operate a vehicle. It is important to assess these changes and understand how they can affect your driving. Here are some tips you can take to improve your driving to insure you stay safe on the road.

Get an Annual Eye Check: Having good vision is extremely important when it comes to driving and operating a motor vehicle. As we get older our eye sight can deteriorate and weaken. This can affect the way we drive. There are several steps you can take to ensure you are able to see well enough to drive, but most importantly, drive safely. Make sure you get your eye sight checked one to two times a month. Your eye doctor can help with treatment if you are having any vision problems. Check with them to see if you need a new contact or glasses prescription. It is important that you always wear corrective lenses while operating a vehicle. If you have night blindness or difficulty driving in the dark, try to limit your driving hours to daytime. Be sure to keep mirrors, headlights, and windshields clean. Another important factor, make sure you can see at least 10 feet above your car. If you can’t, you need to adjust your seat.

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What Medications Are You Taking?: It is important you know what medications you are taking and what side effects they may cause. Some medications can make you feel light-headed or sleepy. If you ever feel this way, do not drive. Read your medicine labels to see if any of them interfere with your driving or say, “Do not use while operating heavy machinery,” If this important warning is on one of your medications, do not drive. If you are unsure about a certain prescription or the side-effects, consult your doctor or the pharmacist.

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Check Your Hearing: What was that? It is important to be able to hear clearly while driving. You want to make sure you are able to hear if another passenger is honking their horn to prevent an accident or if an ambulance is coming up behind you, or a train is blowing it’s horn alerting drivers of its oncoming approach. Did you know at age 65, one out of three people has hearing loss? That is why it’s important to have your hearing checked every three years. It might be necessary for you to get hearing aids and wear them while you’re driving. If the radio or in car conversations impair your hearing, try to limit them as much as possible while driving. It’s important to also be careful of cracking windows while operating a vehicle because the wind can decline the efficiency of a hearing aid.

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Get Some Sleep: Sleep is essential for everyone, but it is a key factor to driving well. Make sure you are getting eight hours of sleep a night. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police reported crashes, each year, are caused primarily by drowsy driving and this results in more than 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. It is critical you consult your doctor about the effects your medications can have on sleep and driving. Bottom line, you are the one who needs to be aware of your own abilities. If you find yourself having trouble focusing while driving, or keeping your head up, constant yawning or rubbing your eyes, you must take the necessary cautions and not drive.

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Senior Couple Lying Asleep In Bed Together

Check Your Reaction Time: As we age our coordination, flexibility, and reaction declines. This can affect the way you drive, and not in a positive way. By having a slower reaction time, it can be more dangerous for driver’s when someone suddenly pulls out in front of them. However, there are a few steps you can take to increase reaction time and keep you safe while on the road. Make sure you leave enough space between you and the next car. It’s a good idea to stay the length of two car spaces between you and the person ahead of you. Try to avoid rush hour if possible. Find alternative routes with less traffic. If you do find yourself driving on the interstate or highway, stay in the right lane, as it is meant for slower traffic, but remember to watch for oncoming traffic.

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Driving is a pleasure everyone can understand and appreciate. It affords us freedom and mobility to go see our families and our friends. No one wants to be in an accident or cause one.  We all have loved ones on the road, so help keep them safe by being responsible and attentive to your own abilities of driving and help keep everyone safe on the road.

How Technology Has and Will Continue to Improve Seniors’ Lives

In the 40’s a phone was positioned on your kitchen wall, and your phone number was a few digits. You had ‘party lines’ meaning you could pick up the headpiece and hear that Susie Thompson down the road was talking to her best friend, Tilly. You would have to politely ask Susie if she could end her call so you could make a call. In the 60’s and 70’s the phone became a fashion piece in the home. Robin egg blue and harvest gold phones were situated in living rooms and dens all across the nation, and instead of rotary dials, there were push buttons that you pressed to make your call. No longer were you on a party line, but you had your phone line to yourself and could call anyone at any time without having to wait for your neighbor to get off the phone. Today our phones not only call someone, we now have the universe at our fingertips with the internet and web. At first, this was shocking, hard to understand, foreign and even those who were tech savvy were unsure what data was or even roaming charges. That has all changed!

Today 80% of seniors, 65 and older, own a phone. More than 60 percent own a computer or laptop.

Today, technology is benefiting and helping seniors by allowing them to be in touch with not only family and friends but also allowing them to engage in activities that are in the reach of their own hand. With iPhones and Androids, there are hundreds of helpful apps for everyday use, including topics on safety, learning, and so much more. The list below is just a sampling of some that help improve senior lives.

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Helpful Apps:

  1. EyeReader: An app that acts as a magnifying glass for reading, allowing you to see small fonts.

 

  1. Park ‘n’ Forget: Parking lots can be confusing and all of us know that feeling “where did I park?” Trying to locate your car out of a hundred others is no longer a problem with the Park ‘n’ Forget app. All you have to do is put in what floor, aisle, or section you’re on, and it creates a simple map that will easily lead you back. The app also monitors the amount of time you have spent in metered parking spots.

 

  1. Pillboxie: An app that easily helps you to remember your meds. The nice thing about the app is that it “visually” helps you remember. You can customize your pills by color and dragging and dropping them into the virtual pillbox. This will help you remember to take your medication at the scheduled time you set and also help you remember if you have taken that pill.

 

  1. Lumosity: Aging often affects our memory. This can frustrate many seniors who wish to stay mentally active. The app Lumosity is an easy way to keep your mind sharp which contains hundreds of puzzles and games. It was designed by neurologists and is proven to help memory recall and information retention.

 

  1. Facebook: Seniors can now stay in contact with their grandchildren, children, and friends. They can post what they are doing as well and have a sense of being in contact with loved ones by posting and messaging.

 

  1. Yesterday USA – Old Time Radio: Such a fun app if you are a fan of old time radio. This FREE app offers up radio shows from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

 

Here is a sampling of technological advances that are focused on aging Americans needs.

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  1. Edema socks: based on a Danish company called Ohmatex, these socks can detect and notify the person wearing them of swollen feet and edema. Most of the time this is a sign of illness or other health problems.

 

  1. Shoes that prevent falls: researchers have concluded that vibrating the insoles in your shoes can improve balance and stability, making a fall 70 percent less likely. Although the study concluded these findings as useful, we will have to wait because no company is manufacturing them quite yet.

 

  1. Shirts that conduct CPR: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is currently conducting a shirt that would be able to sense a heart attack and then administer CPR. It is estimated that this shirt won’t be completely ready for about 15 years, but shirts with sensors are already on the market.

 

  1. Self-driving cars: Most seniors fear the day when they won’t be able to drive anymore, losing a sense of their independence. However, Google is already testing self-driving cars, which use sensors to assess the environment around them and software to do the actual driving. The cars are still in the experimental stage, but it is predicted they will be available within a decade or so.

 

Sources:

http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/retirement/articles/2015/12/09/7-tech-advances-that-will-change-seniors-lives

 

Preparing for Your Immunizations

By Stephanie Thompson RN, Eberhardt Village Community Nurse

Stephanie ThompsonRN_EV

August is national immunization awareness month. There has been a lot of talk in the media about children not getting immunizations, but the need for immunizations does not end with childhood. Each year, thousands of adults in the United States suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized or even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. Some of these include whooping cough, influenza, certain bacterial infections, hepatitis A & B, shingles and even some cancers.

For instance, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that though the shingles vaccine is recommended for all adults over age 60, only an estimated 15.8% of that population received it. Furthermore, less than 1/3 of females 19-26 years have received the HPV vaccine which prevents infection with the human papillomavirus, the virus that can lead to cervical cancer.

There are many factors why so few adults are receiving the immunizations thy need to maintain good health. One of the simplest reasons is that many people don’t realize the need for adults to receive vaccines. It has been reported that 40% of adults believe they do not need vaccines because they were vaccinated as a child.

ImmunizationProtection from some childhood immunizations wears off over time, leaving you vulnerable to disease. There has been a rise in the adult cases of whooping cough for example. Adults are now recommended to get one booster of Tdap whooping cough vaccine.

Some other reasons for adults not being immunized are gaps in insurance coverage, inability to pay for vaccines if not covered by insurance and limitations to access to care.

Many adults may be recommended for certain vaccines due to age, illnesses, hobbies or jobs. Some adults might be at higher risk of serious complications from vaccine preventable diseases.

Adult immunization does not only protect the person receiving but loved ones and those in the community as well. Vaccines can be obtained at your healthcare provider, pharmacies, work places, and health departments.

 

 

Understanding and Preventing Falls

By Stephanie Thompson, R.N.

June is National safety awareness month. The safety topic we are going to discuss is falls.

Falls are common and oftenFall1a devastating problem among older people, causing morbidity, mortality and can cause premature nursing home admissions. Some of the identifiable risks that are associated with falls are weakness, unsteady gait, confusion, and certain medications. Unintentional injuries are the fifth leading cause of death in older adults.   Identifying at-risk patients is the most important part of management.

To understand falls, one must understand the prerequisites for a normal gait. Among these are neural networks in the brain stem, musculoskeletal structures with regulated muscle tone, and proper processing of sensory information. Effective coordination of all of these components, along with adequate cognition and concentration is needed to prevent fall and maintain gait.

It is not surprising that many of these functions show at least some decline with aging and increase the risk of falls. Many changes occur with aging , such as decrease in step length and decrease in lower limb strength. Accumulating medical problems and side effects of medications to treat those problems also put one at a higher fall risk.

Medications are a well established risk factor for falls. It is important to consider the reason for taking a medication before deciding to stop it for the purpose of fall prevention because the condition the drug is used to treat might itself be a risk factor for falling. Each medication should be examined individually.

Some medication classes that have been associated with an increase risk of falls include:

  • Antihypertensive agents
  • Sedatives and hypnotics
  • Neuroleptics and antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Various interventions have been shown to decrease the risk and rate of falls. Some of these are:

  • Vitamin D- this supplement has been shown if given in doses of 800IU or more to decrease falls
  • Exercise-programs focusing especially on balance exercises have been shown to decrease falls
  • Medications-gradual reduction of psychotropic medication reduces the rate of falls. This should be done carefully and your physician should be consulted.
  • Vision-Visual impairment is one important risk factor. Annual eye exams and cataract removal have reduced falls
  • Environment- avoiding clutter, wearing foot wear that fits correctly, using assistive devices as needed, uneven surfaces are also good interventions for reducing falls