Monday, December 9, 2013

What do shingles look like?

This is a photo of Mom last year when she got shingles on her face and head. This is after 2 days of what the nursing home called a "rash" and it got much worse.  The nursing home sent her to the doctor thinking she needed antibiotics but he immediately noticed that there were specific linear boundaries to it and diagnosed shingles.  When someone has shingles on the head, s/he may get pus-filled blisters that ooze, like canker sores on ones lip but they are in a broader area within a specific boundary.  Don't touch the ooze!! It's grose but it's full of the shingles virus and you could contract or spread it.

In mom's case it's like someone drew a perfectly level line starting just under her nose and around to her left ear then on to the back of her head. From that point the line went over the very middle of her head and down her nose.  Think of a ball and the same lines; it's like 1/4 of the ball was covered in sores.  

She had shingles years ago and they were in a very specific strip from the middle of her back around her waist to the left and across the front of her body.  Shingles infects the nerve endings in the skin and the patterns are very specific and linear - it's very geometric.  In men shingles often forms on the left chest, back and shoulder.  The pain is quite severe and often the initial fear is a heart attack but it's on the surface not a deep pain so that's how you can tell the difference.

I would also note Mom's eye and the eyebrow. This area was swollen and painful overall.  Her eyes are blue and usually clear but the infected eye turned right turquoise and the white part got yellowish.   She had many sores in her eye brow and into her hair line.

A year later, I notice that her forehead is still red and blotchy and the hair in the infected area is thinner.  She's 93 so part of it could be her age but I can't help wonder if the sores helped increase the thinning.

Shingles on my head, shingles on the head, shingles on the face, how can i tell if i have shingles? How can i tell if mom has shingles? how can i tell if dad has shingles?

Monday, November 4, 2013

So it's time to take away the car but should grandpa keep his guns too?

Caring for elderly parents often means worrying about the right time for them to stop driving but because I live in the US of A and we have the right to bare arms - it's irresponsible NOT to consider if and when to remove guns from an elderly family member.  It is especially important if he or she is suffering from dementia, becoming paranoid or has violent potential.

Keeping a parent from driving seems minor compared to the possible firestorm that might result from telling grandpa that he can't be trusted with his hunting rifle any longer.   I realized this today after reading about an 88 year old man who shot a police officer in the head after the officer responded to a fire at the elderly man's home.  News reports indicate a history of threats to shoot neighbors and a short-lived restraining order filed by a girl friend.  This makes me wonder if he had dementia which caused his outbursts to become worse over time.

Last year  I read about another instance where an elderly man shot two of his children at his home.  One died and the other was seriously injured.  The man was later diagnosed with dementia and news reports indicated that police had been at the home before.   I wonder why his children did not remove guns from the home if he was showing signs of dementia and growing paranoid.  It seems like the first thing we should do but, like the car, the situation poses all kinds of emotional questions about their judgement, independence and rights.

We want to show our parents respect and empathy but something has to change.  It's MORE important to remove firearms than a vehicle, though either might be used to cause harm.  I would hope that police and families could work together to act when an elder demonstrates that he or she may no longer be trusted with guns.  Families need to watch for the first sign that something is wrong and then take action.  Unfortunately, given our right to own guns, I suspect there is no one to call for help unless the elderly person actually does something to actually harm somebody.  It's a shame there is not more that police can do to remove fire arms from someone with alzheimers or any other type of dementia.  I am all for forced removal of guns and ammunition as well as a federal blacklist of individual that are diagnosed with dementia, paranoia due to age related decline or anything other condition that could result in violent behavior.  Though I have great compassion for these folks, at some point in the progression of their disease there is no reasoning with some violent elders. Thus, there is no reason they should retain their right to own guns - their right to bare arms must be removed for the safely of those around them. The right to a safe environment by the many far out weights the right of one who's judgement and comprehension are gone. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Best powder for old feet

I stopped using foot powder with talc on my mom's feet; it seems to leave mom's feet looking worse!  The best stuff is GoldBond medicated baby powder; iIt contains corn starch, kaolin clay and zinc oxide.  It seems much finer than powders with talc and I believe the bits of talc have sharp edges that cause greater irritation.  The clay in the baby powder may also be more absorbent.   SO - to prevent sores and keep feet dry - powder WITHOUT talc.

For more advise on the best care for elderly feet see my other posts:

What is the best powder to keep feet dry?  Old feet have special needs.  How do I keep mom's feet dry?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Clothing options for dowagers hump

The past year or two finding tops to fit over my mom's severe dowagers hump is impossible so I alter off-the-rack tops to fit her.   I use an old method that my grandma taught me when she made or altered clothes. She used patterns that she knew were too big to make the garment then she'd have the "wearer" put it on inside out and pinch darts or seams where needed to get a better fit specific to "that" body. 

So - now I buy tops for Mom that are too large, put them on her inside out and just start pinching fabric to make darts around the neck and upper body until the garment appears to fit better.  Then I take it off and stitch up the darts.    Often the altered top ends up being much shorter in back and longer in front so start with long garments to end up with something that has enough fabric to cover the back and still be long enough to come down beyond the waist.

Here are some tips that help ensure each is a success:
  1. practice with really cheap or used clothes, just TRY IT and you'll get the hang of it.
  2. try knit fabrics first, zig-zag the end of fabric before hemming, 
  3. when hemming, it's likely you'll have to sew across the bias (across the weave) since the fabric will fall at an angle from the back due to the rounded hump.  This takes some practice so give yourself a couple of inches of fabric BELOW where the hem will be to help with "smoothing" the hemline. 
  4. try some additional seems along the sides  - think princess seams - to help remove extra "bulk" around the middle.  don't be afraid to stitch it up and cut off the fabric after a few fittings to ensure it's a good fit. , if you get something large enough to fit over the back area, it's likely to be too big around the middle which will cause extra folds and unwanted bulk, the seams will help remove the bulk.
  5. don't use tops with "shirt-type" collars, they are too hard to alter. 
  6. be prepared to re-hem the garment and cut off a lot in the front. 
  7. be sure to measure and pin the hem when the top is ON your elder, this ensures it's long enough and even.  
  8. use safety pins to keep the darts instead of straight pins; this prevents getting poked.
Good luck!

Here are links to other sources for information on sewing or fashions for clothing with dowagers hump:
Louisiana arthritis clinic
Rusty Bobbin blog
Threads magazine article on dowagers hump  (one of my fave magazines by the way)
Silverts for special needs or "adaptive" clothing

clothing for dowagers hum, clothes to  cover dowagers hump