Elder infantilization, or treating seniors as children rather than as fully functioning adults, is a common issue in health care settings and communities across the country. Though in many cases the behavior is unconscious, it’s none the less a form of psychological mistreatment. Here’s what you should know.
Types of infantilizing behaviors
A common form of infantilization is what’s called “elderspeak.” It consists of speaking slowly, loudly and with aa simplified vocabulary. Using diminutives and first-person plural pronouns are other forms of this behavior. In addition to making seniors feel resentful, elderspeak can seriously affect their sense of self-worth and decrease their confidence.
Another common way people infantilize seniors is by ignoring their preferences and making decisions for them. In particular, needlessly opting for medications in the form of syrups and suppositories can be degrading.
In a health care setting, the use of toys, child-like decor and reprimands are all signs of infantilization. A loss of privacy, choice and adult status are also indicators.
What you should do instead
Seniors don’t regress. Overall, they retain the vocabulary and intelligence they’ve developed over the course of their lifetime and can even expand upon it. In most cases, it’s unnecessary to adapt the way you communicate with the seniors in your life.
However, if you’re talking to someone with hearing issues, it’s important to ensure they can see your lips clearly. You can also speak louder if necessary but be sure not to yell.
In the case of seniors with cognitive issues, it may be appropriate to use gestures to clarify your meaning. However, this should be done respectfully.
Most importantly, when relating to the seniors in your life, remember to treat them as autonomous beings who have intelligence, dignity and value.
If you or someone close to you is being infantilized, speak up. Confide in someone you trust.
Vaccine technologies: Why a COVID vaccine will take months, not centuries
The smallpox virus raged among humans for 10,000 years before a leap of insight led to the vaccine that killed it forever. The insight took about 300 years to develop.
Today, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, drug companies throughout the world are experimenting with vaccines. One company, Moderna, took 42 days to create an experimental vaccine.
Why so fast?
The most obvious reason is the research infrastructure: Laboratories, drug companies, medical systems — systems we take for granted — have never before been available on such a wide scale. Humans are in the era of science and technology.
Still, of the seven known coronaviruses, there are no known human vaccines.
According to Johns Hopkins Senior Scholar Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, the key to the newly rapid development of vaccines is new vaccine platform technologies. Writing in leapsmag.com, Adalja says these platforms use the same building blocks to make more than one vaccine. Using the basic platform, researchers are able to, in effect, switch out one targeted virus (or bacteria or other organisms) like a person switches out a video game cartridge. One example of that is the Ebola vaccine, which uses another virus as a platform with the Ebola protein inserted.
A variety of different approaches are being used to create a COVID vaccine. Moderna is using an RNA approach. Inovio is using a DNA model in which genetic material is injected into the platform and human cells translate it into a viral protein. At that point the immune system makes antibodies.
Other approaches include nanoparticles (by Novavax), while other companies try to adapt an avian coronavirus vaccine.
According to Adalja, a coronavirus vaccine could possibly confer protection against other human coronaviruses, eliminating their use as a biological threat in the future.
And, even curing a common cold.
Be careful out there this summer
Beautiful grass and long stretches of parkland offer an open invitation for summer activity. But it can be an invitation for aches and pains if your body isn’t prepared for vigorous exercise.
The long quarantine period means that people might not be as ready for summer exercise as they have been.
Orthopedists at Northwestern Memorial Caremark Physical Therapy Center in Chicago say these are the most common summer sports injuries and how to prevent and treat them.
Running: Knee cap pain. To prevent it, build up miles gradually. Warm-up slowly. Stretch before running. Treatment includes rest, strengthening thigh muscles.
Tennis: Tennis elbow (tendinitis). Improve your technique. Gradually build up time of play, which should be no more than two hours a day. Rackets should have properly fitted grip and string tension. Treatment includes rest, strengthening the forearm with exercises.
Golf: Low back pain. Practice proper swing mechanics. Condition for strength and flexibility. Do stretching exercises before playing. Treatment includes rest, stretching, strengthening exercises, adjusting your swing.
Cycling: Neck and backache. To prevent aches, raise the handlebars and change positions often. Treatment includes rest, strengthening.
Volleyball: Condition for strength during the season. Stretch and warm up gradually. Treatment includes rest, stretching, strengthening the rotator cuff with exercise.
Basketball: Ankle sprain. Condition and stretch. Tape ankles before playing if you are prone to sprains. Treatment includes Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE).
Trigger finger: causes and treatments
If your fingers are frequently stiff and un¬comfortable, especially in the morning, you may be developing stenosing tenosynovitis, better known as trigger finger. This common condition causes discomfort when flexing or extending the affected finger, which is often the thumb or ring finger. Bending or straitening it may result in a palpable snap. In severe cases, the finger may get stuck in a bent position.
Trigger finger is the result of inflammation in the flexor tendon sheath (the protective covering that surrounds the tendons in your fingers). This causes the affected finger to become partially or fully immobilized. Prolonged inflammation may result in nodules forming in the tendon, thereby restricting the finger’s movements even further.
If you think you may be suffering from trigger finger, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor.
Farm safety: how to protect outdoor workers from heat stress
Heat-related ailments are common among agricultural workers. Here’s how they can stay safe outdoors this summer.
1. Drink plenty of water. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much salt and water due to excess sweating. For this reason, it’s important for outdoor workers to remain hydrated.
2. Take breaks in the shade. Heatstroke, which is a serious condition, occurs after prolonged exposure to extreme heat. Therefore, outdoor workers need cool, shady places where they can rest and should take five- to 15-minute breaks every hour. This is especially important during periods of intense heat and for those who wear protective gear.
3. Don’t rush through tasks. Outdoor agricultural workers should build up their heat tolerance gradually. Initially, they’ll need to move slowly and take frequent breaks, but this is more efficient than dealing with a heat-related illness.
4. Know the signs. All outdoor farmworkers should know the signs and symptoms of heat-related ailments and feel comfortable reporting them. Supervisors should also be able to spot them.
Heat-related ailments can be dangerous and lead to serious complications, especially when treatment is delayed. Make sure you have a plan to handle heat-related health emergencies and that workers and supervisors know about it.
Know the signs
These symptoms of heat stress should never be ignored:
• Muscle cramps
• Shallow breathing
• Rapid pulse or heartbeat
• Red, hot skin
• Lack of sweating
Osteoporosis: who’s at risk?
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissues in the body. It occurs when the creation of new bone tissue can’t keep up with the natural breakdown of existing tissue, causing bones to become brittle. This disease commonly leads to fractures in the wrists, shoulders, vertebrae, and hips.
Though the cause of osteoporosis remains unknown, the risk factors are well understood. It’s more common in women, particularly following menopause. In men, the risk goes up after age 50. Other risk factors include low calcium intake, genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and alcohol use.
There’s no cure for osteoporosis, but there are ways to prevent and delay its onset and progression. Depending on the case, certain medications may be prescribed. However, all patients benefit from taking calcium to help maintain bone mass. Additionally, vitamin D supplements allow the body to absorb calcium better. Regular physical activity will also reduce the risk of fractures and slow the rate of bone degradation.
At-risk individuals, especially women who underwent early menopause and those whose parents had hip fractures, should discuss osteoporosis with their doctor at their next appointment.
The risk of dehydration among seniors
Did you know that seniors are more susceptible to dehydration? This is because aging causes the body’s thirst signals to weaken, thereby increasing the risk of not drinking enough.
In addition, the kidneys become less effective at conserving water when eliminating waste. Plus, mobility and memory problems can make it harder for older adults to drink fluids regularly.
Dehydration is also a side effect of medications used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease.
More severe dehydration can result in an inability to urinate, low blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, and convulsions. Weakness, irritability, dizziness, and confusion are also symptoms.
The most effective way to prevent dehydration is to consume enough fluids, and seniors shouldn’t wait until they feel thirsty to drink. It’s a good idea for them to always have water within easy reach, drink gradually throughout the day, and include a beverage with every meal.
There are also a variety of foods that can help with hydration, including most fruits and vegetables. A bowl of low-sodium broth is a good source of electrolytes and a soothing alternative to water on a chilly afternoon. In the summer, consuming ice pops and smoothies may help counteract excessive perspiration.
It can also be beneficial for seniors to keep fruit juice or a sports drink on hand to quickly replenish fluid levels if they experience mild dehydration. Moderate to severe dehydration, however, is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate hospitalization.