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Information & Caregiver Resource Corner

Safe driving resources for folks who are getting older

Although getting older doesn’t mean your driving ability will get worse, it’s important to be aware of how age-related factors and health conditions may affect your driving skills.

Q: How might my age affect my ability to drive?

A: According to AAA, the automotive motor club association things that might affect your driving safety as you age include:
  • Physical changes: such as mobility, alertness, coordination, and response times.
  • Vision changes: such as the way your eyes focus, can have an impact on driving safety.
  • Hearing changes: Inability to hear ambulance or police sirens, car horns, motorists, or pedestrians could have an impact on driving safety.
  • Cognitive problems: According to AAA, our ability to process information tends to slow down as we get older. People with certain conditions like dementia might not be able to react appropriately to traffic situations and might not react properly to traffic signs and pavement markings.
  • Medications: Some prescription drugs may have side effects, such as drowsiness, that make driving dangerous. Read the labels carefully.
Be proactive:

Schedule regular appointments with your physician to monitor pain or stiffness in your joints, any chronic conditions, fatigue, and stress. In addition to visiting your physician for general health checkups, vision and hearing screenings also need to be performed regularly.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are out on the road:
  • August 2018 ICRC Driving photo WEBThough safe driving may become more challenging with age, there are many adjustments you can make to better ensure the safety of your vehicle and those around you.If you wear glasses or contact lenses, ALWAYS have them while driving.
  • Be aware of conditions that might be affecting your vision, such as:
    • Cataracts
    • Glaucoma
    • Macular degeneration
  • If you feel like your vision is worsening, consult with your optometrist.
  • Recognize signs of trouble seeing at night.
  • If you have problems hearing other vehicles or emergency sirens when you drive, consult an audiologist.
  • Keep the noise inside the vehicle to a minimum.
It's important to be aware of any limitations that you find yourself up against, so that you can make necessary adjustments to ensure safety for yourself and those around you.

Some of these adjustments can include the following:

  • Increase your following distance.
  • Use the brakes early.
  • Avoid busy areas.
  • Try to anticipate rather than react.
  • Keep the steering wheel at a comfortable distance from your chest.
  • Raise the height of the seat so that your eyes are above the steering wheel.
  • Move your side mirrors to avoid blind spots.
  • Raise or lower the headrest so that it is directly behind your head.

There are certain times when senior drivers will be more at risk. For this reason, try to avoid driving in inclement weather, at night, or during rush hour when possible.

Brushing up on your driving skills is one way to help you stay safe while driving.

Consider taking a mature driver safety course. AAA’s “Roadwise Driver” is a course to help you with:

  • Extending your safe driving career
  • Distractions, drowsiness, aggressive driving & road rage
  • Managing visibility, time & space
  • Alcohol & medications
  • Comfort & safety tips
Finally, be prepared for the unexpected.

If you have the right items in your emergency roadside kit, such as reflective triangles, you can safely deal with any problems that arise. A basic roadside emergency kit should include some of the following items:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flares or triangle reflectors
  • A quart or more of motor oil
  • A gallon of coolant
  • First-aid kit
  • Blanket or space blanket
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, pocket knife
  • A can of tire inflator and sealant
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Paper towels
  • Spray bottle with washer fluid
  • Ice scraper
  • Pen and paper
  • Granola or energy bars
  • Bottled water

Learn more safe driving tips online at SeniorDriving.AAA.com.

Stay safe during days of extreme heat this summer

It’s summertime, and with that comes heat-related illnesses and heat emergencies.  

Extreme-heat emergencies are caused by exposure to extreme heat and sun. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Despite this fact, more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year.”

Q: What can you do to avoid extreme heat emergencies?

A: First, it is important to know that there are some people who are more at risk of developing a heat-related illness than others.
  • Older adults (age 65+)
  • People with chronic medical conditions
  • Outdoor workers
  • Infants and children
  • Low-income households
  • Athletes

Don’t forget pets are also at risk.

Second, know the different types of heat related illnesses and learn the symptoms and what to do if you show signs of having a heat-related illness.  

man 1464787If you go outside in extreme heat, pacing yourself, staying hydrated, and wearing light, protective clothing and sunscreen can help you to stay safe.Here are two heat related illnesses, their symptoms and what to do:

Heat stroke

Symptoms:

  • Hot red, dry or damp skin
  • Fast strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Passing out

What to do:

  • Call 911
  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Apply cool cloths
  • Do not give the person anything to drink
Heat exhaustion

Symptoms:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Passing out

What to do:

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen your clothes
  • Put on cool, wet clothes
  • Sip water

Other heat related illnesses include heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash.

Third, here are some tips for preventing a heat related illness.  
  • Keep cool
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Pace yourself
  • Stay cool indoors
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully

Don’t forget to check on those at risk.

To learn more about LifePath and the programs available, contact us, and remember: a resource consultant at LifePath can provide resource information on this and many other topics.  

The best defense against extreme heat is to be prepared.

June is National Safety Month

June 2018 ICRC National Safety Month graphic

Observed annually in June, National Safety Month focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work and in our homes and communities. According to the National Safety Council, injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 40. The good news? Everyone can get involved to help prevent injuries.

No one gets hurt

Q: What can I do to prevent injuries?

A: You can join the National Safety Council and thousands of organizations nationwide as they work to ensure No One Gets Hurt.

During National Safety Month, LifePath is working on spreading the word to help reduce the risk of injuries. This June, we encourage you to learn more about important safety issues like preparing for the unexpected, preventing slips, trips, and falls, and prioritizing your wellness.

First for general safety preparedness:

Emergency situations can happen at any time; it is important that you are prepared for the unexpected long before it happens. Here are some ways to help reduce the risk of many safety issues.

  • Research and prepare for natural disasters common to your area, such as severe thunderstorms or tornadoes.
  • Have an emergency kit for both your home and car.
  • Have a home emergency plan with your family.
  • Know your employer’s emergency plans and what is expected of you.
  • Participate in emergency drills at work and pay attention to lessons learned.
  • Store important papers and personal information in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box.
  • Check your smoke alarms monthly, change the batteries yearly and replace the alarm every ten years.

Emergency kits can help you prepare for the worst, but only if they are properly stocked and regularly refreshed. Learn about emergency preparedness and emergency kits and what they should contain.

At home, remember to change the batteries in your smoke alarms at least once a year. According to the National Fire Protection Association, three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (38%) or no working smoke alarms (21%). Smoke alarms save lives. Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out. 

Second for slips, trips and falls:

One in four older adults falls each year. Many falls lead to broken bones or a head injury. Falls are the number one cause of death for those 65 and older, according to the National Safety Council.

Be proactive! Remove clutter or other tripping hazards from walkways, stairs and doorways. Use nightlights in the bathroom and other areas to prevent tripping and falls at night. For older adults, install grab bars in the bathroom to help prevent falls when showering. Also older adults can take balance classes, get their vision and hearing checked each year and talk with their doctors and pharmacists about fall risks from medications.

LifePath’s Healthy Living Program offers a workshop to help older adults reduce their risk of falls. “Matter of Balance” has been shown to significantly reduce the fear of falling in those who take the workshop, as well as to increase their sense of control over potential falls.

Third for prioritizing your wellness:

We ask a lot of ourselves, and over time this can put a strain on our wellness. Prioritize your wellness. Get regular medical checkups, such as an annual physical with age-appropriate tests, exercise, and eat healthy. Get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue. Fatigue is more than just being tired. If you are missing out on the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each day, you could become sleep deprived and be at higher risk for the negative effects of fatigue such as depression and other serious health issues. According to the National Institutes of Health, 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders.

The Healthy Living Program at LifePath can also help you manage chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes as well as learn ways to eat healthier, exercise more, manage pain, and develop healthy habits. For more information, click here or call Healthy Living Program Manager Andi Waisman at 413-773-5555 x2297 or 978-544-2259 x2297.

By being prepared you can make a difference and ensure No One Gets Hurt.

May is National Older Americans Month

OAMLogoRGBEvery May, the Administration on Aging, part of the Administration for Community Living, leads our nation's observance of Older Americans Month. The 2018 theme, Engage at Every Age, emphasizes that you are never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It also recognizes the many ways older adults make a difference in our communities.

Q: How can I make a difference?

A: You can help by volunteering with programs that promote wellness, helping individuals to access public benefits, assisting  someone with bill paying, or by visiting residents in a local nursing facility. These are just a few ways to engage at LifePath.  

April 2018 Volunteers to be thanked in The Good Life photo WEBRides for Health Volunteer Steve McKnight, right, helps Martha Shibilo, left, get from her house and into his car before driving her to a medical appointment. You can read about Steve's experience and those of other LifePath volunteers here.LifePath is proud to offer many different opportunities where you can offer your wisdom and life experience. Programs like Healthy Living, Benefits Counseling, Money Management and Long-Term Care Ombudsman are powered by volunteers wanting to give back. More than 250 people each year volunteer for LifePath, 71% of whom are 60 or older, reports Lynne Feldman, Director of Community Services at LifePath. This means that every day, there is a small army of elders helping other elders live as independently as possible in our community. “I admire how engaged, compassionate, and knowledgeable these older Americans are,” says Lynne, “helping others while enriching their own lives, too.”

LifePath has many volunteer opportunities. To learn more about how you can volunteer, call us at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259 or click here.

Remember no matter your age, there is no better time than now to begin. Engage at Every Age!

A look at developmental disabilities and aging

Q: What are some challenges individuals with developmental disabilities face as they grow older?

A: March is National Developmental Disabilities month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language or behaviors.” Generally, developmental disabilities begin before a person is born but some can happen after birth due to injury, infection or other factors. A result, an individual’s day-to-day functioning may be affected, usually throughout the individual’s lifetime.

Adult Family Care at LifePath is one program that serves people with developmental disabilties from age 16 into their elder years, helping to match them with foster homes and supporting new and already existing caregiver relationships.Today, people with developmental disabilities are living longer, healthier, and more meaningful lives than ever, which means they are also facing new challenges related to aging. Challenges include improving the health and function of these adults and their families, enhancing consumer-directed and family-based care, and reducing barriers to health and community involvement.

According to Today’s Geriatric Medicine, “Advancements in medicine and public policy changes, along with a societal push for inclusion, have provided physicians with an opportunity to play a pivotal role in promoting, managing, and delivering care that supports a high quality of life for older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

It is important that individuals with developmental disabilities have regularly scheduled screening and assessment (yearly or every six months, if required) with a multidisciplinary approach to health maintenance. Most individuals are accompanied to medical appointments either by a professional caregiver or a family member. Although a caregiver’s input can be helpful, clinicians are encouraged to not only include a patient in all interactions but also to speak directly to the patient unless communication becomes a barrier.

Health goals for adults with developmental disabilities are similar to those that apply to the general population:

  • maintain or improve community participation
  • support a good quality of life (as defined by the individual and/or caregiver)
  • promote wellness
  • minimize acute care visits

“LifePath serves Department of Developmental Services (DDS)-affiliated individuals through our wide array of service delivery models, including: Shared Living, Adult Family Care, Personal Care Assistance, and Home Care. Individuals are able to maintain their independence in the community with the support of these services. LifePath’s staff collaborates with the DDS service coordinators to ensure individuals receive optimal care which fosters community integration and person centered interventions,” says Barbara Bodzin, director of client services at LifePath. Other agencies that address specific needs of individuals with developmental disabilities included but are not limited to: The Arc, Stavros, and MassMATCH – Assistive Technology.

LifePath has many services and programs that can offer support to individuals with disabilities and their families. For more information, contact us.