ParentCare » Vol.12

Caregiving Now

Research, Trends, and Products

By Erin Hansen

Senior Helpers ~ Especially for Dad

Senior Helpers connects professional caregivers with seniors who wish to live at home as opposed to a nursing home or assisted living facility. The company has 260 franchises in 37 states and offers a wide range of personal and companion care services to assist seniors living independently with a strong focus on quality of life for clients and peace of mind for their families. Senior Helpers strives to be the leading companion and personal care provider that offers dependable, consistent and affordable home care.

The new tie and golf balls are a nice gesture, but dad might need a gift society has conditioned him not to ask for: HELP! This could mean a helper to do simple tasks dad can no longer manage or a companion to help dad socialize and relieve depression and loneliness. Recent studies show men don’t seek psychological and physical help as easily as women because our culture preaches to boys early on that asking for help is not masculine but rather a sign of weakness.

“We see many elderly men needing the most help but they are the last to ask for it,” says Peter Ross, CEO and founder of Senior Helpers, the nation’s fastest growing provider of in-home senior care. “An elderly man could be suffering from deep depression or a physical ailment, but he’s too proud to seek assistance.”

Consider this:

A 2008 study from the University of Cincinnati and the Medical University of South Carolina finds in the U.S. boys learn early on that men should be strong, independent, tough and self- reliant. The study calls the contrast between men’s and women’s help- seeking behavior a “growing concern.”

In the U.S., men die, on average, close to seven years younger than women and have higher rates of the 15 leading causes of death. A study by Clark University and Boston College says, “Improving professional help seeking is one obvious way to better men’s lives.”

A new national poll conducted by Senior Helpers found 70% (7 out of 10) adult children would overwhelmingly choose their mom over their dad to move in with them if their elderly parents could not take care of themselves. Ross believes, ” children think of mom first because she’s more likely to ask for help while dad appears independent and in control.”


“The best way to get dad help is to offer it with an emphasis on problem solving rather than emotion,” adds Ross. “Since men are competitive and success oriented, the best way to approach Dad is to acknowledge the courage it takes to ask for and accept assistance and then point out why it is a good idea.”

Ross also advises basing your offer to help dad on these warning signs:

Difficulty getting around. Falls are the leading cause of death and injury for Americans over age 65.

Memory loss. It’s one thing to forget where the keys are. It’s another to forget if you took your medicine, left the stove on, if you forget the day or your location. Severe memory loss could be a sign of severe dementia.

Change in appearance or behavior. Weight loss could indicate a senior is not eating properly. A lack of hygiene or unkempt appearance may be a sign of depression or the inability to perform the basic activities of daily living.

Study Examines Boom Blox for Benefits to Elderly Cognition

The National Science Foundation has given two universities a million dollars to study whether video games can improve thinking skills in the elderly. They’re using Boom Blox, for the Wii game system, in the research.
The grant to the universities ~ N.C. State and Georgia Tech ~ is part of the federal stimulus package and will span four years of research. Phase one of this study will seek to identify the qualities a game must have to improve cognition – memory, problem-solving, critical thinking and the like.”
“We want to determine the components an effective game should have,” said Dr. Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at N.C. State, and the study’s principal investigator.

After determining which game qualities deliver the greatest improvement in cognitive function, Phase two will seek to develop guidelines for “a new class of video game for older adults,” and also develop a prototype game that follows those guidelines. State seems to be supplying the analysis, with Tech coming in to create the game. The study began in September of this year and will conclude in August 2013.

Study Links Elderly People’s Appetite to Mortality Rates

The study, published in the May issue of the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, demonstrated a link between the Daily Activity Energy Expenditure (DAEE ~ an accurate measurement of total physical activity), appetite and mortality among well functioning community-dwelling adults. Information on an elderly patient’s eating habits may be important for health providers regarding risk for patient deterioration and mortality.

“These findings are important because they show how subjective appetite measurement can predict death, even when adjusting for health and many other variables,” said Dr. Danit Shahar, a researcher with BGU’s S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition and Department of Epidemiology. “Past studies failed to show an association with survival. It was thought that decreased appetite may be an indicator or a result to other health problems, and that malnutrition, rather than low appetite was associated with mortality.”

“Dietary Factors in Relation to Daily Activity Energy Expenditure and Mortality among Older Adults” analyzes data from the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) study to demonstrate that higher DAEE is strongly associated with increased appetite, resulting in lower risk of mortality in healthy older adults. Using 298 older participants (ages 70-82 years) in the Health ABC study, researchers analyzed DAEE and dietary factors, including self-reported appetite, enjoyment of eating and intake assessed by the Block Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) and Healthy Eating Index (HEI).

Participants who reported improved appetite were at lower risk for mortality. Similarly, participants who reported good appetite at baseline had a low risk for mortality. The results remained significant taking into account health status, physical activity, demographic and nutritional indices. Follow up was nine years.

Reference:  Shahar, D.R., B. Yu, D.K. Houston, S.B. Kritchevsky, J.-S. Lee, S.M. Rubin, D.E. Sellmeyer, F.A. Tylavsky, and T.B. Harris. “Dietary Factors in Relation to Daily Activity Energy Expenditure and Mortality among Older Adults.” Journal of Nutrition Health & Aging, 2009; 13 (5): 414-20. Adapted from materials provided by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Foot Solutions

The trained professionals at Foot Solutions understand that the elderly have special needs when it comes to foot care. As we age, our feet widen and flatten and the fat padding on the sole of the feet wears down as well.
Foot pain, often a first sign of an illness ~ arthritis, diabetes, circulatory disease ~ can also be excruciating and thus affect balance and mobility in this age group.

Foot Solutions is extremely well equipped and experienced in recommending  appropriate foot products and delivering the proper fit and support required by an older clientele. Foot Solutions can help with balance, relief of foot pain, and resolutions of other foot conditions affecting many older people.

If an elder in your life is already struggling with foot troubles, or if you would like to find out more about preventing this kind of problem, please visit the Newton location at 244 Needham St. (

Seniors and Asthma ~ Getting the Medication and Dosage Right

As people age, there is often a significant increase in the number of medications they take for multiple medical problems. It is essential that older patients taking multiple medications have an awareness of what medications they are taking, how they are to take them, and what the potential side effects can be. This is especially true for the senior who has allergies or asthma.

Allergies in the form of allergic rhinitis (hayfever), allergic conjunctivitis, pruritus (itching) and urticaria (hives) are a common problem in the elderly population and often require the use of H1 antihistamines. Antihistamines were discovered approximately 50 years ago and are currently divided into two classes: first generation antihistamines and second generation antihistamines.

First generation antihistamines, while very effective at controlling symptoms, are often associated with symptoms in the elderly population such as anxiety, confusion, sedation, blurred vision, reduced mental alertness, urinary retention and constipation. Seniors medicated with this class of medications may have a heightened risk of experiencing these side effects, particularly if they are also being treated with certain antidepressant medications. The second generation antihistamines do not cross the blood-brain barrier as readily and, therefore, cause fewer side effects. As a result, every elderly patient with allergies that require an antihistamine should discuss the use of second generation antihistamines in place of a first generation antihistamine with their physician.

Seniors with asthma also have certain challenges when it comes to medication use. Many elderly patients have developed cardiac conditions and hypertension for which a beta-blocker may be prescribed. This medication may make the treatment of asthma very difficult and should be used in asthmatics with extreme caution.

For many years prior to the advent of inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting bronchodilators, a very useful and commonly used medication was theophylline. Those individuals who are still on this medication need careful monitoring. Not only are there many medications that have a clinically significant interaction with theophylline, but numerous medical conditions reduce theophylline clearance, hence increasing the side effect potential. Among the numerous side effects in the elderly population see with this drug, the most significant are tremors, disorientation, seizures, diarrhea and numerous cardiac problems.

Finally, asthma patients with concomitant arthritis are at a particular disadvantage since many of the asthma medication devices require a certain amount of coordination, manual dexterity and strength. As a result, those with arthritis and asthma may in fact not be receiving the proper dosage necessary to control their asthma. This may result in the treating doctor increasing asthma medication dosages inappropriately. A nebulizer, a device used to deliver aerosolized asthma medications, may alleviate this problem.

As can be seen by these few examples, seniors with allergies or asthma must work closely with their doctor to be sure they are getting the most from their medications without having unwanted side effects.

Resource:  John D. Pauls, PhD, MD, FAAAA.  Dr. Pauls is a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) and a practicing allergist/immunologist at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in San Diego, CA.


A couple who had cared for both their parents and had subsequently experienced their loss began EldercareABC as an idea based on empathy and community.  The memory of how challenging the time had been fueled their desire to encourage others to share what their own experiences had been; is their response to the many emotions and questions surrounding the caring for and loss of one’s parents and is chock full of valuable resources:

·    Insightful and informative blog posts
·    Library of articles and resources
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·    Interviews with experts / authors
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