Archive for the ‘Elderly Safety’ Category

Hearing loss

Are you having difficulty understanding words in a conversation, or turning up the volume on your TV, or asking people to repeat themselves when speaking to you, or even avoiding conversations and social gatherings?

If so, you are likely suffering from hearing loss. Up to one third of those between the ages of 65 to 75 and one half of those over 75, have some degree of hearing loss.

Hearing loss can occur for a number of reasons:

– Prolonged exposure to loud noise which damages the very sensitive inner ear nerves.

– Earwax which can build up in the ear canal and form a physical barrier blocking sound waves from the inner ear.

– Ruptured eardrum from exposure to an explosive noise, from infection, or from damage such as sticking something in your ear, most commonly a Q-tip.

There are various risk factors leading to hearing loss including:

– Occupational or recreational noise.

– Advancing age.

– Heredity.

– Side effects of some medications.

– Result of infection such as meningitis or measles.

Treatments for hearing loss include:

– Removing earwax when indicated.

– Hearing aids.

– Cochlear implants for more severe hearing loss which involves a surgical procedure.

If you are suffering from hearing loss, I strongly urge you to consider a hearing aid. Many people are reluctant to use hearing aids. This may be due to a perceived negative stigma attached to hearing loss, or to expense, since hearing aids can be expensive and not covered by Medicare or most private insurances. Contrary to these fears, the use of hearing aids can significantly enhance social situations and provide a more enjoyable lifestyle. It may even delay early dementia.

Hearing aid technology has expanded by leaps and bounds over the past decade and there should be a hearing aid that is best suited to your particular hearing loss.

If you are having problems with your hearing make an appointment with a qualified audiologist and have a routine hearing test. From there you may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor for treatment of a specific problem or the audiologist may be able to provide you with an appropriate hearing aid. Don’t put off what may be a life enhancing experience for you.

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None of us would ever want to be incapacitated to the extent that we could not make decisions affecting our well-being. Unfortunately, for some of us, that day may come.

For most individuals, that time comes later in life, but for others it happens much too early.

What sort of medical situations could cause such a scenario? You could be incapacitated by accident or illness, such a serious head injury, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, meningitis or many other illnesses, diseases, and injuries.

To help in these situations, California has established an Advance Health Care Directive — sometimes referred to as a “living will” — that instructs physicians as to your wishes for medical treatment if you were to be incapacitated and unable to make decisions on your own.

Under California law, this form allows you to name an agent, granting that person power of attorney, to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.

Your agent should be a trusted person, either a family member or a friend, who has your best interests at heart, understands your wishes and will act accordingly. Two alternates may also be named.

The directive must be dated and executed in the presence of, and then signed by, two witnesses or a notary. A witness cannot be your physician, any of his or her employees or any employee of a care facility. At least one of the witnesses cannot be related to you by blood, marriage or adoption and must not be entitled to any part of your estate upon your death.

The most important function of the directive is to permit health care providers to either prolong or not prolong your life and to keep you pain free according to your wishes. You may also state your desire for organ donation, if you so choose.

It is important to make such decisions when you are of healthy mind and body. Don’t put your loved ones in the difficult position of guessing what type of care you would want in an end-of-life event.

All adults need advance directives. Talk to your physician if you have any questions.

You can download a directive form at http://www.sutterhealth.org/health/advance-directive-english.pdf.


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Falls In The Elderly

Falls are the leading cause of injury related emergency room visits in persons over 65 years of age.  The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than men. Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among the elderly.  Almost 10,000 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls every year. The most significant consequence of falling is the loss of independence. After a serious fall, an elderly person often suffers a decline in normal activities of daily living and is often permanently placed in an assisted living facility or in a nursing home.

Hip fractures are a frequent consequence of falls and occur to more than 250,000 elderly people at a health care cost of approximately10 billion dollars each year. Twenty five percent of those who sustain a hip fracture require life-long nursing home care. Other injuries from a fall include head injuries, lacerations, severe bruising and fractures of arms or legs.

Risk factors of falls and preventative measures are as follows:

Impaired vision:

  • Have regular vision checkups.
  • Add contrasting colored strips on the edges of first and last steps to identify change of level.

Lack of physical activity:

  • Exercise regularly to maintain muscle tone and strength.


  • Work with your doctor to diagnosis and treat osteoporosis (thinning of the bones).


  • Prescription pain medicine, sedatives, and anti depressant drugs are the biggest medication culprits in causing falls.
  • Beware of alcohol interacting with drugs.
  • Know the common side effects of your medications.

Home hazards:

  • Avoid throw rugs.
  • Reduce clutter.
  • Maintain adequate lighting.
  • Install grab bars around tub and toilet.
  • Keep commonly used items in easy reach.
  • Avoid using floor polish or wax to prevent slipping.
  • Remove caster wheels from furniture.
  • Use night lights.
  • Avoid steps stools and ladders.

I would love to start a campaign to have our society remove all concrete parking bumpers in parking lots.  They are accidents waiting to happen. The elderly tend to fall face first onto the pavement as I have witnessed all too many times in my practice. Please be extremely careful when walking to and from your car to avoid tripping over these bumper hazards.

As we age, we all need to move around more carefully and slow things down a bit to prevent falls and to help us enjoy a longer, healthier, and independent life.

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