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Hormonal Changes in The Elderly

Organs and tissues that produce hormones are governed by the endocrine system. Your hormones are best described as naturally occurring chemicals produced in certain locations around the body, which are eventually let loose in the bloodstream. They then work to influence certain other organs and systems.

Although some hormones seem to specifically aim particular organs, some organs in fact produce their own controlling mechanisms instead of relying on these hormones.

With age, all of the naturally occurring systems begin to change, and a common problem is that they seem to become desensitized to a certain degree. Not only this, the actual production of hormones can also dramatically differ.

As a result, the levels of blood in certain hormones can either increase or decrease, whilst others remain the same. The hormones’ metabolization can similarly slow down.

As stated earlier, some organs that create hormones can be controlled by other hormones. As you age, you will begin to notice many changes including a slowing down of the metabolism, a gradual onset of body fat and diminished muscle mass.

Changes Brought about by Age

Nearly all your hormones are created by the hypothalamus which is located inside the brain. From there, it controls the structure of your endocrine. Although the quantities of these hormones can stay the same, the response given by organs is what changes.

By the time you reach middle age, your pituitary gland reaches its peak before splitting in two parts. These are normally referred to as posterior and anterior.

The posterior stores hormones that are created by the hypothalamus, and is located in the rear.

The anterior is responsible for producing hormones that dictate overall growth, breast development, dropping of testes, ovaries, cortex, adrenaline, and the thyroid gland.

The thyroid gland can be found in the neck. This gland is responsible for managing the metabolic system. As you age, your thyroid’s texture changes, it becomes lumpier. As we all know, the metabolism slows down with age. With some people, the thyroid hormones and their production and breaking down remains pretty much the same, but with others, hormone levels can rise to such an extent that it can increase the risk of death resulting from cardiovascular complications.

The thyroid gland is surrounded by four tiny glands known as the parathyroid glands. The parathyroid hormones influence phosphate levels, as well as calcium. Parathyroid hormones are known to drastically increase with age and this is a common cause of the onset of osteoporosis.

The pancreas produces insulin which assists sugar to get into cells were it can be utilized as an energy source.

Glucose levels tend to rise 8- 14 mg/dL every 10 years after the age of 50 because the cells become desensitized to the presence of insulin.

Moving on, the adrenaline glands can be found somewhere over the kidneys. The surface layer of the adrenaline glands is known as the adrenaline cortex and is responsible for producing a number of key hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone.

Cortisol is known as a stress hormone and it influences the breakdown of proteins, glucose, fat, and plays an essential anti-inflammatory role.

Aldosterone helps to regulate the fine balance between electrolytes and fluid. This also diminishes with age and is a major contributor to symptoms of lightheadedness and sudden drops in blood pressure. Similarly, cortisol also diminishes with age, although the blood levels remain pretty much the same.

The testes and the ovaries perform two specific functions. Firstly, they are responsible for creating reproductive cells in the form of sperm and ova. Secondly, they produce the required sex hormones responsible for developing facial hair in men, and breasts in women.

How These Changes Affect People

With age, some hormones deplete, whilst others remain pretty much the same. Surprisingly, some hormones actually increase with age. The main hormones that are known to increase with age include renin, growth hormone, calcitonin, and aldosterone.

Unfortunately for women, prolactin and estrogen levels are major casualties of aging.

The male hormones that pretty much seem unaffected by the ageing process include insulin, epinephrine, cortisol, and thyroid hormones.

Unfortunately for men, testosterone becomes a major casualty as a man ages. On the flipside, the hormones that remain pretty stable include luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulator hormone, parathyroid hormone, and norepinephrine. Low testosterone is fast gaining recognition as a potentially hazardeous condition that can sometimes lead to more serious ailments. The medical profession’s response to this rising problem is the growing push towards HRT (hormone replacement therapy) treatments.

Unfortunately for the HRT companies, they have been repeatedly litigated against by a growing number of disgruntled HRT patients due to their side effects. In a desparate bid to fill in the growing void, natural testosterone supplements have suddenly become the “rage”, and are potrayed as the safer alternatives to HRT.

 

Recognizing Pains

Arthritis pain can stop a lot of people from performing tasks that they would otherwise be doing with relative ease.

LiveFull brings you a comprehensive “pain identifier” guide to help you gain a better understanding of just what you might be experiencing.

Let’s Begin With Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis causes the bone surface in the joints to become thin and worn out and this leads to a number of symptoms including deformity, aches and pains and stiffness in the joints.

Occasionally people notice swelling and massive spikes in pain levels. It’s quite common for this condition to affect the hands, and the pain can become overwhelming, but this normally subsides after a couple of weeks.

Unfortunately any deformity and stiffness can remain for the long haul.

Osteoarthritis also attacks the spine, knees and hips, bringing with it pain that can be long-lasting and that can hinder day to day activities.

Pain Relief for Osteoarthritis

There are a number of options available to individuals suffering from osteoarthritis and these include, surgery, physiotherapy + regular exercise + weight loss, steroidal injections directly administered into the affected joints, and pain killers in the form of drugs and gels.

Commonly used drugs include anti-inflammatories, and widely available gels include NSAID gels.

Next Up: Rheumatoid Arthritis

This type of arthritis attacks the joints and causes inflammation which can cause pain, discomfort, swelling and warm sensations.

Some lucky individuals will find that this condition can almost completely cease to exist after a period of time, but for others, it can be life-long.

Pain Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can be alleviated (to a certain extent) undergoing physiotherapy, the use of painkillers, plenty of rest, and anti-rheumatic drugs.

Sciatica Pain

Chronic back pain, especially in the lower back that travels down both legs is usually triggered by the onset of sciatica. This type of pain is commonly treated by different types of injections such as nerve root blocks and epidurals.

Whiplash!

Whiplash injuries commonly affect the neck and upper back. Thankfully pain caused by a whiplash injury can subside after a period of time.

CPS (Chronic Pain Syndrome)

Many seniors can suffer from frequent headaches, limb pain and discomfort and symptoms are sometimes telltale signs of the onset of chronic pain syndrome (or CPS).

It’s very difficult to find the precise cause of this condition even though the symptoms can be very apparent such as difficulties in walking or even standing.

People suffering from CPS can find contradictory opinions on the root cause.

Despite this, and thankfully, there are a number of treatments currently available for CPS. Treatments include rehab, physiotherapy, and psychotherapy.

CRPS (Complex Pain Syndrome)

Complex pain syndrome or CRPS can affect a certain part of the body and cause a burning sensation to it.

CRPS can sometimes result following a stroke, or even a superficial injury, or in some mystery cases, the cause has never been determined!

The commonly held belief is the communication channels linking the brain and the concerned area become disturbed, which causes longer lasting pain.

Common treatments available to people suffering from CRPS include normal painkillers, rehab, which includes physiotherapy, and injections.

Long Term Care Insurance

Buying insurance under normal circumstances is a tricky business. You dont know how much coverage you need. Plus, you dont know if and when you will need that coverage. Thats how the insurance game works. You pay a certain amount for protection when you do go through medical injury or surgery and need care. The insurance companies make their money from your premiums and pay out claims as required by the policy when medical injury or surgery needs approved coverage.

Is there such a thing as insurance for long term care? How does insurance work for long-term care? These are great questions. Yes, there is such a thing as purchasing insurance for long-term custodial care. This type of insurance covers the costs accrued by caring for chronic illnesses or various disabilities. The claims pay for everything from home health care to skilled nursing care for months or even years.

This sort of insurance works like regular insuranceyou pay a premium and claim the insurance when you or your loved one is diagnosed with the chronic malady or disabilityto cover out-of-pocket expenses such as home health care or skilled nursing facilities. There is usually a waiting period of 90 to 120 days that is used like a deductible, where you have to wait to receive the out-of-pocket benefits.

According to the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance, the average couple, age 60, should expect to pay an average of $3,335 per year to pay out on a plan that gives $150 of coverage per day over a three-year period. Prices and pay outs go up as the recipients get older. A 65 year old couple would expect to pay an average $4,433 for the same coverage.

This insurance does show some benefits, particularly to individuals who have no children, are 60 or older, and have little or no retirement savingsas long as any chronic illness can be treated within the time frame allotted by the insurance company.

Why is it so expensive? Insurers dont know how much a claim is going to behow much time and care is needed for a long-term care patient. Generally, these plans pay out only over a three-year period for that reason.You should also consider that many of these plans dont have surrender clauses, where you would get money back if you never need a claim during the period of insurance. You might pay and pay, only to see no return if you dont qualify for care.

There is also the issue of rate hikes that some people who have the insurance, cannot continue paying. Should they continue to scrape to pay for the potential benefits, or get rid of the insurance and have no benefit at all?

If you are looking for such an option, consider carefully whether you should invest in retirement accounts, like a 401K, reverse mortgages, or a long-term care plan.

Dealing With Your Loved Ones Precious Items

Many memories can be found in objects of sentimental value. A special photo of your parents on their wedding day. A set of china that was a gift from your father to your mother.

When your parent or parents die, or transition into assisted living, these items can take on even more value—as you will most likely become their recipient.

Taking ownership of these items is a difficult process. Either transition is a drastic change to your family. Then, you receive all of these items, and it becomes overwhelming. What are you to do with this part of your parents lives?

First, you should take a deep breath. This will be a long process, but sorting through these items and figuring out what you need to keep will be cathartic for you. This is going to take more than an hour or a day. Do your work in stages. Carve out time an hour here or an hour there to look through your parents items. This is not a cold process; this will be time for you to get some closure. Of course, this will be an easier process if your parents are still alive as they can decide on items that they want to keep prior to their move. You can help them with transitioning of assets, heirlooms and other items.

Open the boxes and begin sorting. Make sure you have someone with you who can help you stay on task, but wont get in the way of your process. Think about what your parents held dear and would want preserved in your family. Put those things aside. Next sort items into categories, like china/silverware, photographs and albums (you will probably hold on to these), clothing, books and papers/documents.

Each of the other piles will need inspection. The papers and documents will need your attention as there could be bank statements and legal documents that held your parents assets and wishes for their children regarding those items and assets. These could include family history or deeds to houses and cars. Be sure to shred documents that need shredding.

As far as heirlooms go, value is in the eye of the beholder. Think about the china, or the Tiffany lamp, now in your possession. Do you like or need these things? Is there someone else in the family, perhaps a generation lower, who would use them more than you would? Its ok to share these things with family members!

If you have items of value that no one in the family wants, perhaps they can be sold. EBay and Craigslist are two places that could be beneficial in selling these items. Also, consignment houses can take on the clothing and jewelry that you have, too. Lets not forget that items can be donated to Goodwill, AmVets, or other charities.

Personal Caregiver Contracts With Family Members

Working as a caregiver for a parent or loved one takes more than just time and energy. Caregivers must balance work life at their day jobs along with taking care of their loved ones. In some cases, caregivers have to sacrifice time at workor working at allto help their loved ones. This sort of sacrifice hurts the caregivers as this results in lower wages and also lowers social security and pensions when they return to the workforce.

Serving as a caregiver is noble and rewarding work. However, this service is often without compensation or recourse of any kind. The sacrifices coupled with the financial strain for the caregiver can cause extreme tension in his or her relationship with the recipient parent or loved one, which could negatively affect the caregiving dynamic.

One way to alleviate this stress is to draw up a personal caregiving contract between the caregiver and the parent. Such a contract would spell out all of the duties and expectations of a caregiver and include language regarding compensation, which would pave the way for the caregiver to receive some fashion of compensation for his or her time. A contract would also spell things out for the rest of the familyspouses, siblings, childrenwho may feel slighted or misunderstand the arrangement between caregiver and loved one.

Some parents choose to reward their primary caregivers in their estate. However, this may cause tension between siblings or will contests. Another good reason to have a legal contract is to help the older adult qualify for Medicaid. If the older adult is planning to pay the caregiver, and there is no agreement in place, the payments to the caregiver will be looked upon as gifts. This will slow down the process of qualifying for Medicaid.

Making a contract might not be an easy thing. The child, or caregiver, might look at this as a labor of love and not think about accepting money, or the parent might believe it is the childs duty to serve as a caregiver. Frank conversations about caregiving may be difficult, but all involved may actually feel relieved once it is taken care of.

A contract contains time periods, terms of service and compensation for service. Caregivers should be explicit in the types of duties they will agree to perform, such as driving their loved ones to doctor visits, shopping, cooking, or bathing.

How much the caregiver will be compensated needs to be included. To decide the amount, the caregiver should call around the local caregiving agencies to see what the current rates are. If the older adult does not have enough money to pay his or her caregiver, there may be other sources of payment. A long-term care insurance policy may cover family caregivers, for example. Also, there may be state or federal government programs that compensate family caregivers. Check with your local Agency on Aging to get more information.

The Deaconess Associations Foundation Provides New Technology To Local Seniors

The Deaconess Associations Foundation (DAF) recently provided some new technology to local seniors living in Deaconess communities. Residents at the Scarlet Oaks Retirement Community and in Clifton and Cottingham Retirement Community in Sharonville are now enjoying new touch-screen “Wow” computers designed specifically with seniors in mind. The computers have a big bright screen with “Zoom” capability and a simplified interface to allow seniors to view photos, play games, send emails and surf the World Wide Web.

At Scarlet Oaks, residents recently celebrated the grand Re-Opening of the Bahmann Computer Lab, during which the new computers were unveiled. According to Rebecca Borello, Activities Director, the Bahmann Center was founded several years ago by the Bahmann Foundation. That organization was started by twins Emma and Laura Bahmann. The women were Cincinnatians born and raised in College Hill. As young women, they attended Sacred Heart Academy on Lafayette Ave in Clifton. It is perhaps the fond memories they had of their time there that they decided to move to Scarlet Oaks Retirement Community as they downsized their estate. They lived out the rest of their days here at Scarlet Oaks. Being philanthropic in nature, these women made the decision to form the Bahmann Foundation, whose primary mission is to reduce isolation among the disadvantaged elderly through technology. Their legacy of generosity continues to bless the residents of Scarlet Oaks and the greater Cincinnati community.

At Cottingham Retirement Community, residents are enjoying “one on one sessions” with volunteer Riley Whitehouse (pictured). Riley spent 30 minutes each with several residents to show them how to use the computer and help get them on to the “information superhighway”. Karen Corso, Activities Director at Cottingham says the sessions were very successful and the residents are really enjoying the “Wow” system.

Both Scarlet Oaks and Cottingham are grateful to Deaconess Associations Foundation for making these new resources available to seniors in their communities. Pat Ward (pictured), executive director at Deaconess Associations Foundation said “This is new technology that will help seniors remain independent in their homes, whether that home is in a neighborhood or retirement community. We are happy to help bring the technology to Scarlet Oaks and Cottingham for the benefit of the residents.”