© Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime.com
As people age, one of their biggest fears is the loss of independence—the inability to do what they want, where they want, when they want and how they want, on their own and without help from their children, spouse or friends. For many seniors, driving represents freedom, and the threat of taking away that privilege feels like the beginning of the end.
The truth is, as we age we do experience physical and mental changes that can impair our ability to drive. Our hearing and vision may not be as acute and some of our reflexes aren’t quite as fast as they used to be. But most seniors in general good health should be able to drive safely and confidently without putting themselves or others at risk.
Awareness is a big part of being a good driver, and AARP, the national organization that addresses the needs and concerns of the 50+ population, launched the new and improved AARP Smart Driver™ Course in January 2014 to help keep older drivers independent, safe and confident on the road.
The AARP website notes that there have been many changes to roads, cars and technology since they developed their first driver safety course, “55 Alive,” in 1979, and warns that if seniors don’t keep up with the changes they put themselves and others at risk.
Things that can negatively affect driving
Medications are of concern at any age, but it takes longer for their effects to wear off as we age. They can cause blurred vision, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness or weakness. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to find out if any of your medications, including over-the-counter and herbal supplements, could affect your driving ability.
Remember that alcohol stays longer in an older person’s body. Alcohol is absorbed directly through an empty stomach and can reach and affect the brain within 60 seconds. Mixing alcohol with medications may be even more dangerous and have unexpected effects on your driving.
- Loss of hearing
Hearing may diminish with age, causing us to miss cues that alert us to situations around our vehicles, such as honking horns, engine sounds and emergency vehicles. Talk to your physician if you think you may have a problem with your hearing.
- Problems with vision
Reduced ability to see moving objects clearly, color blindness, cataracts, reduced ability to process visual information quickly, reduced depth perception and reduced peripheral vision can all affect our ability to drive safely. Separate glasses for day and night driving; anti-reflective coatings on eyeglasses; and reducing driving at night or when visibility is limited can help. You should have regular eye examinations by a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist.
How do you know if you are still safe behind the wheel? Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) offers comprehensive clinical driving assessments that include:
- Vision: acuity, visual motor skills, peripheral vision, sign recognition, color recognition/perception, visual processing speed, phoria and fusion
- Cognition: memory, attention and problem solving
- Sensory-motor function: strength, coordination, reaction time
The in-clinic assessment can help identify deficits and sometimes correct them through occupational therapy services. For more information, call 443-718-3000.
Check out the AARP Driving Resource Center for more tips on safe driving for seniors. Sign up for the AARP Driver Safety class offered in the HCGH Wellness Center, or call 410-740-7601.
Monday, Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.
Monday, Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. Superfoods at Miller. Some foods promote health and longevity better than others. Licensed nutritionist Karen Basinger names these powerhouses and how to best use them. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 9 to 11:30 a.m. Diabetes Screening & BMI. Free. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Meet with an RN for a glucose blood test, BMI measurement and weight management information. Immediate results. Fasting eight hours prior recommended.
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Choose Your Pediatrician and Promote Your Newborn’s Health. Free. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Learn factors to consider and questions to ask when choosing your pediatrician and ways you can promote your newborn’s health. Presented by Dana Wollney, M.D.
Thursday, Oct. 23, 7 to 9 p.m. Get Moving Again: Total Joint Replacement. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Free. Learn about total hip and knee surgery from health care professionals, past patients of our Joint Academy and Richard Kinnard, M.D.
Monday, Oct. 27, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Adult, Child and Infant CPR/AED in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Cost is $55. This course will teach the skills needed to clear an airway obstruction, perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).
Properly dispose of unwanted or unneeded medications at Drug Take Back Day on Sept. 27 in Howard County
Have you ever opened your medicine cabinet and wondered, “What are all of these medications?” Some you may not have used for years and can’t remember why you had them in the first place, but you keep them because you just don’t know what to do with them.
What is the best way to handle unneeded and expired drugs? Your Howard County General Hospital pharmacists recommend participating in the Drug Take Back Day on Sept. 27, 2014 in nine locations throughout Howard County.
Our pharmacists give tips on why it is vital to safely dispose of unneeded medications and other ways you can delete them from your cabinet in the below slideshow.
Drug Take Back Day is sponsored by the Howard County Police and HC Drug-Free. The program offers a way for everyone to properly dispose of expired or unwanted medications.
You know how hamsters spend countless hours on that little wheel in their cage? Ever feel like this on the treadmill or elliptical, getting nowhere, minute after boring minute? If you find yourself stuck focusing on training in that “fat burn” zone, seeing very little progress, welcome to the club. To top it off, you spend all this time and see little progress.
Let’s examine the animal kingdom for a minute or so. Think about the body of an elephant vs. the body of a cheetah. Pretty sure the body fat of an elephant far outweighs the body fat of a cheetah. Why and how do these two animals move differently? Well, elephants walk and wander, cheetah’s sprint and pant. That walk and wander resembles those hours on the cardio machine while the sprint and pant resembles interval training at its best.
For years, we conditioned women to believe doing cardio for endless minutes in that enjoyable fat burn heart rate zone resulted in success. Instilling the fear of “getting big and bulky like a man” if we lifted weights. How about a show of hands on who enjoys those countless, boring minutes? Well, consider this your permission to get off the treadmill for hours on end and shorten your workouts with interval training. Keep in mind, this does not mean using the “fat burn” or “cardio” workout options on that same treadmill or elliptical. This may require a little pushing of buttons and paying attention on your part! It’s okay, keep reading, I provided you with some guidelines.
First, let’s define interval training a little better. Interval training uses specific periods of higher intensity exercise mixed with lower intensity recovery time. You can use the very same machines or you can take it outside. Start with a defined time for each interval, even though it may feel easy in the beginning. Set your higher intensity interval at a level you can only maintain for a short period of time (to be defined later!). Your lower intensity allows you to recover your breathing and heart rate. You may need to play around with the exact level to find your right intensity. On a scale of 1 – 10, you want to feel like your intensity falls around 7-8 on the higher intervals and a 4 – 5 on the recovery.
Now, on to the nitty-gritty details. An interval workout last about 30 – 40 minutes… Yes, that’s all you need on the interval training days! Use your first 5 minutes to warm up at a level around 2 – 3 on the 1 – 10 scale. For the next 20 – 25 minutes, start with a 1 minute work and 90 second recovery. Maintain this for the entire 20 – 25 minute workout. Your increased intensity could be faster speed or higher incline/level depending on the type of exercise.
Editor’s Note: This post is for informational purposes only. Please consult your primary care physician before undertaking any exercise regime or diet program.
Use the correct medicine device for children, never a kitchen spoon
© Wanchai Yoosumran | Dreamstime.com
A “spoonful of medicine” has long been the prescription for making sick children well. But “spoonful” is a highly inaccurate description and can lead to dangerous dosing errors when parents administer medicine to their children.
According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, more than 40 percent of parents have made dosing errors and they are more than twice as likely to make mistakes when using teaspoon or tablespoon measures than when using millimeter measurements. The rate of potentially dangerous outpatient medication errors for children is three times that of adults due to the complexity of weight-based dosing, inaccurate measuring devices, incomplete instructions and inadequate education for care givers about the medication.
It’s difficult for parents when pharmacies put a teaspoon measurement on the package, but then supply an oral dosing syringe that’s marked in milliliters. Parents have to do a complicated math conversion that must also take their child’s weight into consideration. Because pharmaceutical companies base their dosing on weight (mg/kg), the dosage for each child will be different. The physician or pharmacist needs to calculate the correct dose and then educate parents or other care givers on how many milliliters to give to the patient.
It is also very important for parents to use the correct dosing device: an oral syringe, dropper or dosing spoon. Kitchen spoons come in many sizes and shapes and are not accurate for dosing medications. Their use should be discouraged by doctors and pharmacies.
In addition to correct dosing, there are a number of other things parents need to consider in order to safely administer their children’s medicines at home:
- What time should the medicine be given? How often and for how long?
- How should the medicine be administered: by mouth; inhaled; inserted into ears, eyes or rectum; or applied to the skin?
- Should the medicine be taken with or without food?
- How and at what temperature should the medicine be stored?
- What are common side effects or allergic reactions?
- Are there interactions with other medications your child may be taking?
- What happens if your child misses a dose?
- Do your doctor and pharmacist have your child’s correct current weight?
Remember that kids are not just miniature adults and are often more sensitive than adults to certain drugs. Getting the dose even slightly wrong can lead to serious problems. If unsure of dosing instructions, parents should always check with their pharmacist or their pediatrician!
Six clues to observe in your child if he takes in too much water
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. One second your toddler is happily swimming in the backyard or neighborhood swimming pool. You look away for a few seconds and, when you turn back to the pool, he is struggling under water and then gasping at the surface for air. You get him out of the water immediately and, after a few minutes, hours or even up to two days, he seems no worse for his frightening experience. But suddenly he starts to have strange symptoms that require an emergency hospital visit.
A swimmer may inhale a lot of water or take in a rush of water after jumping off a high surface or coming off a water slide. A toddler can slip into water that is over his head. It only takes a few seconds in the water – just enough time for the water to get past the vocal chords before the body can react.
The majority of children, or anyone for that matter, who suffer the effects of secondary drowning, will survive. But a small percentage could have permanent brain damage and others may even die.
It is a rare condition – the syndrome occurs in less than one to two percent of near-drowning victims–but its onset is usually rapid and is characterized by a period of one to 24 hours of respiratory well-being. The swimmer seems fine at first, but water left in the lungs begins to cause swelling and diminished oxygen exchange to and from the blood. As the blood oxygen level drops, oxygen flow to the brain and other vital organs is reduced. Inhaling pool water can cause an additional condition called chemical pneumonitis, inflammation of the lungs due to harmful chemicals. An interesting observation is that children who develop secondary drowning syndrome after immersion in fresh water have a higher rate of survival than those who take salt water into their lungs.
Common symptoms of secondary drowning are persistent cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, lethargy, fever and unusual mood change. These signs can be difficult to spot in young children who are normally tired and fussy after a day a long day in the water. If symptoms are diagnosed early on, a physician can administer oxygen and remove fluid from the lungs. If not treated, the syndrome can progress to pulmonary edema (swelling) with a frothy pink discharge from the nose and mouth; partial or complete lack of oxygen supply to the brain, which can cause serious cognitive, physical and psychological impairment; respiratory and cardiac arrest; and death.
It sounds very scary, but none of this means parents should needlessly worry or forego the joys of family summer vacations at the beach or long days at the swimming pool. Just remember that vigilant monitoring of children when near the water is extremely important and water safety is the best prevention. If your child does have a near drowning experience, you should observe him or her in the following days and know what to look for. If you see any signs of secondary drowning, immediately take your child to an emergency department. Time is a critical factor in treatment – it could save your child’s life.