Living with cirrhosis: risk factors, life expectancy and tips for caregivers.
Cirrhosis is a serious chronic progressive disease that affects the liver.
The on-going disease destroys the liver cells called hepatocytes.
As the disease progresses, the liver becomes scarred. And this scarring ultimately leads to liver dysfunction.
Although cirrhosis can be managed and slowed down, it is a serious illness that can lead to death.
Most people associate cirrhosis with alcoholism.
And while this is a major risk factor for the disease, it’s not the only reason a person might have cirrhosis.
Other causes of cirrhosis include:
Thus if you have a loved one who has heart disease or has had hepatitis in the past, these could serve as risk factors for cirrhosis too.
Surviving cirrhosis depends on multiple factors including age, the overall health of the person and the cause of cirrhosis.
Thus how long a person can live with cirrhosis will differ from one person to the next.
There are four stages of cirrhosis.
At stages 1 and 2 of cirrhosis, we can still do a lot to slow down the disease.
You can help your loved one make lifestyle changes like:
During stages 3 and 4, cirrhosis is not reversible.
At this point, you can mainly provide supportive care to your loved one as they wait to get a liver transplant.
During these stages, it might be time to consider working with professional caregivers so that your loved living with cirrhosis can get the proper care they need.
What is a durable power of attorney and why do you need one?
We’re living through a pandemic.
It is more important than ever for seniors to think about what kinds of medical decisions you want to be made for you in case you cannot make them yourself.
A medical durable power of attorney is document that gives someone else the power to make decisions on your behalf. Of course, this would be in a scenario where you cannot make those decisions yourself.
Although COVID-19 can affect people of all ages and different demographics have recovered from the illness, it is important for older adults to clearly state in writing, who can make decisions for them in case they’re unable to do so.
Even in the absence of COVID-19, accidents, illness and age-related dementia call for older adults to prepare a durable power of attorney.
Nobody can dictate who you choose as your durable power of attorney.
However, we recommend that you choose someone you trust and who is reliable.
It is best if you can work with a lawyer to draft the legal document when you’re appointing the power of attorney.
If you live in the United States, you can name more than one person as your durable power of attorney.
However, it is important to specify exactly what each of their roles in decision-making will be.
And whether or not one decision supersedes another should they have conflicting ideas on a medical decision.
We highly recommend that you have a conversation with your lawyer so you can understand the pros and cons of choosing one or multiple powers of attorney.
You will work with your lawyer to draft the legal document.
Once it is finished and all the needed signatures are on your document, you can save the document in different places.
Having a durable power of attorney long before you need it, can prevent family misunderstandings.
And it will prevent a court of law (instead of your loved ones) from making crucial medical decisions for you.
Also note that, a POA may be called a “healthcare proxy”, “agent” or “healthcare surrogate” depending on where you live.
Read this post where we talk more extensively about estate planning for older adults.
Your elderly loved one is bleeding from the nose and you are worried.
What could be the issue? Why are they experiencing nosebleeds so much?
Nosebleeds in the elderly can happen for the following reasons.
Most of these are not a cause for alarm. And usually, you can resolve a nosebleed by getting rid of the precipitating event.
For most older adults, an occasional nosebleed may be nothing to worry about.
But regular nosebleeds for an older loved one could point to more serious issues like a severely injured nose (due to a fall or another type of accident), coagulation disorders, heart problems, arterial hypertension and some types of cancers.
To stop a nosebleed:
If a nosebleed lasts for longer than 20 minutes, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Like I mentioned before, you can treat occasional nosebleeds by treating what caused it. Here are steps caregivers can take to treat nosebleeds.
Beyond these, it is always to watch out for other changes that have accompanied the nosebleeds.
This will give you clues as to the actions you should take and when it is time to see a medical professional.
The advantages of companions for the elderly.
As loved ones age, you may notice that they increasingly need someone with stay with them.
Because of reduced mobility and health issues, your elderly loved one may have difficulty moving around and performing normal activities like going to the grocery store.
As more and more people age in place – this means more people are opting to live in their homes rather than a nursing home or assisted living community – the need for a sitter or companion may increase.
And this is especially true when you have to go to work and cannot afford to stay home with your loved one to meet their needs.
Having a sitter or companion in this instance is a great idea.
If you’ve noticed that your loved one has reached a point where they could benefit from a sitter/companion, here is what you can expect.
Hiring a companion means you don’t have to worry while you’re at work (or if you live apart from them) that your loved one is being helped.
Here are all the ways a companion can help your loved one.
Does your loved one need to get to a doctor’s appointment? A companion can help them get to the appointment. Do they need to get groceries? A companion can help with that too.
At Green Tree Home Care for instance, our companions will drive your loved one to the places they need to go.
To ensure the safety of your loved one, make sure the company you are hiring companions from is licensed and therefore has insurance that covers driving services.
If your loved one needs help with their laundry, companions can help with that. If they need help with keeping their house clean, companions can help as well.
As the years progress the technology to communicate with friends and family also progresses. It can be frustrating for an older person who is not conversant with these technologies to communicate with family when they need to.
A companion can assist your loved one with communication technologies so that they can stay in touch.
This is perhaps the aspect that companions and clients alike love the most – the companionship that develops.
As social beings, we crave relationships and the benefits that come with those relationships.
Companions can accompany your loved one to movies, social events, while they are traveling, to exercise and so much more. These meaningful relationships can help the elderly live longer because it gives them a sense of purpose.
Aging in place is possible. And if you find that your loved one needs more help, they want to remain at home and there are few age-related health issues, you should consider a companion for them.
When is constipation an emergency?
Constipation happens when you have difficulty passing stool or when you haven’t had a bowel movement in three days.
Everyone has been constipated at one point. Usually the problem is short-lived.
The causes for constipation include:
Normally, constipation is a short-term problem and can be alleviated by lifestyle changes.
For instance, identifying the problem food and eliminating it from your diet can stop constipation.
Adding more fiber into your diet and exercising for at least 30 minutes per day 5 days per week can also help.
Eating fruits like prunes, apples, pears and kiwis prove are effective in getting rid of constipation. If you want to have regular bowel movements, these fruits are helpful as well.
Constipation that is accompanied by intense abdominal pain, vomiting, blood in the stool or severe bloating suggests a serious underlying health condition and you should see a doctor immediately.
Regular constipation may be come with some pain.
However when constipation comes with intense abdominal pain, it could indicate:
If you or a loved one are experiencing constipation with intense pain, it is important to go to the emergency room immediately.
With these types of emergencies, symptoms progress very quickly and can cause death.
Thus, the sooner you see a doctor the better.
Fecal impaction happens when your stool is so hard, there is no way it can be passed. In these instance, it also obstructs normal intestinal movement.
This is the cause for vomiting in constipation and it requires immediate medical attention.
If your stomach bloating is painful and you are constipated, this is reason to see a doctor immediately.
Passing hard stool can come with some blood in the stool as the hard stool passes through the anus.
This may be minimal and may not be a cause for alarm.
However, if you notice obvious blood, large blood clots or darker colored stools when you are constipated, a more severe problem could be at hand.
A major symptom of colon and rectal cancers is blood in the stool.
This would also be a reason to see a doctor immediately.
Low potassium in the elderly.
Potassium is an important electrolyte that is important for nerve and muscle function in the body.
It helps your heartbeat to stay regular.
Potassium is also important for proper cell function.
Cells in our bodies are constantly moving substances in and out of them – waste products are taken out and important nutrients are brought in for instance.
Potassium is crucial for these functions. Thus, without it, different muscle groups and cell function is impaired.
Diuretics are commonly-prescribed high blood pressure medication. People who take diuretics have increased urine production. And with increased urination comes the loss of electrolytes like potassium.
While the occasional use of a laxative is helpful in getting rid of constipation, it is important not to overuse it.
In fact, overusing a laxative causes diarrhea which results in a large loss of water and electrolytes like potassium.
If you or your elderly loved one is experiencing chronic constipation, it’s important to see a doctor about it.
Malnutrition is a very common cause of low potassium in the elderly.
This can be the cause of low potassium as well.
Chronic kidney disease will also contribute to a low blood potassium level.
When potassium levels fall below a certain level, the individual may experience:
If you notice that these symptoms persist, it’s important to see a doctor immediately.
Food is the best source of potassium for anyone at any age. And since prevention is always better than treatment, preventing low potassium starts with eating potassium-rich foods.
Here are twenty foods that are rich in potassium.
If a doctor notes through testing that blood potassium levels are very low, they might administer IV potassium to your loved one at the hospital.
Also, they might treat any underlying disease contributing to this low potassium.
What does a second wave of COVID-19 restrictions mean for you as a caregiver?
News reports over the last week have focused on a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
States like Florida, Texas and Arizona have stopped reopening their states so that they can slow the virus spread.
Los Angeles county which had opened up beaches announced a few days ago, that they would close down the beaches to keep more people from getting infected.
At this point, if you’re exhausted at the thought of this second wave, you’re not the only one.
So what can you do as a caregiver during this time?
In today’s post, I will provide some pointers on how to cope as a caregiver during this second wave of COVID-19 restrictions.
A second wave means it is important for us to continue to shelter in place and practice safety measures.
This means that if you care for an elderly loved one who has underlying health risks, it is important to be diligent about:
Other actions include making sure you and your loved one are consuming enough vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin C for instance is well-known to boost our immune systems.
So while we do our best to stay at home and practice safety measures, make sure you and your loved ones’ immune systems are supported by healthy foods.
For many caregivers – especially those who are taking care of children as well as elderly loved ones – this has been a challenging time.
Children are home from school and as a caregiver, you have to attend to them.
And with this second wave, it is likely schools will not reopen until 2021.
For a lot of caregivers, this means triple the amount of work as they juggle caring for children, caring for their elderly loved one and staying on top of their work-life.
If this is you, remember to:
Summer vacation travel plans cancelled? No worries.
There is still a lot you can do to bust through boredom from home. Here are some ideas for you and your household.
While these second wave of COVID-19-related restrictions due to rising cases, is NOT fun, we can beat it together.
Can a person die from dementia?
You’ve just found out your loved one has dementia and it’s devastating.
The same loved one who once was energetic and remembered details at the drop of a hat, is now losing these abilities.
And you’re wondering if a person can die from dementia.
The answer is nuanced.
While a person may not die directly from dementia, dementia predisposes them to conditions that can cause death.
That’s what we’ll cover in this post.
It is unlikely that a person will die from the early stages of dementia.
Symptoms of early-stage dementia include:
While these are all disturbing symptoms, with daily support, your loved one can continue to function successfully on a daily basis.
As dementia progresses however, you can expect to see your loved one deteriorate and that could then predispose them to other health conditions.
It is important to note that the rate at which dementia progresses is different for each individual.
During the later stages of dementia, most people lose the ability to move.
With this impaired ability to move, people in late-stage dementia have an increased risk of developing infections including in their urinary tract, pneumonia (an infection of the lungs), and decubitus ulcers (bedsores).
They may also experience a difficulty eating, swallowing or drinking.
This results in weight loss and malnutrition.
People who are immobile are also at an increased risk for blood clots in their arms and legs.
And all of these health issues could be the cause of death for a person with dementia.
While dementia is progressive and complications arising from it can cause death, it is important to note as a caregiver or loved one, you can do a lot to support and comfort your loved one through this time.
They can continue to play an important role in family life.
For more advice that walks you through taking care of a loved one with dementia, click here.
If you need expert caregivers for your loved one with dementia and you live in the Greater San Diego or Orange County area, Green Tree Home Care is more than happy to help you.
The lymphedema diet and what caregivers should know.
In this post last week, we talked about what lymphedema is and what caregivers can expect.
As we found out in that post, lypmhedema refers to swelling in the arms or feet due to a blocked lymphatic system.
In today’s post, we will explore what kind of diet is best for somebody with lymphedema.
If you want to help your loved one choose a diet that resolves lymphedema, pay attention to these.
Foods that are high in salt contain a lot of sodium. The United States Centers for Disease Control recommends that an adult consumes 2,300mg of sodium per day. The average American adult consumes around 3,400mg of sodium per day.
Sodium also increases how much fluid your body retains.
When the amount of fluid the body retains in high, this increases blood pressure. And it will certainly increase the swelling or prevent swellings from resolving in a person with lymphedema.
Here are 3 tips on avoiding extra sodium in your food.
This may sound counter-intuitive – however it is important in helping to resolve lymphedema.
When the body is dehydrated, the nervous system “informs” the body to retain more water.
This can lead to lymphedema not resolving or becoming worse.
Providing the body with sufficient water will also help the liver and kidneys detoxify the body better so that toxic material that build up and block the lymphatic system are flushed out.
Here are 3 tips on how to drink more water.
Your lymphatic system depends on proper blood circulation so that toxic material can be carried out of the body.
Just like your water pipes at home, if the lymphatic vessels that carry toxins out of your body are blocked, or constricted in any way, they won’t carry out their function.
Alcohol and caffeine are vasoconstrictors.
This means they constrict blood vessels. When the blood vessels constrict, it prevents the movement of blood into the lymphatic system. This results in the body retaining toxic materials.
Thus, it is important to reduce or completely avoid alcohol and caffeine intake to keep the body from continuing to retain fluids.
Exercise improves blood flow to different parts of the body.
It also has the added benefit of burning calories so you can stay healthy.
Including this alongside a diet low in sodium, alcohol and caffeine will help an affected individual reduce the risk of and resolve lymphedema.
A lymphedema diet that also takes into consideration fruits and vegetables that supply the body with immune-boosting minerals and vitamins is also helpful.