Health And Nutrition Tips For Seniors And Caregivers

There is so much information on the Internet, in magazines and given to you by your friends and family about ways to stay healthy. How do you know what to believe or which advice to follow? The first thing is, before you start any fitness regime or change your diet, it’s always best to discuss it with your doctor to make sure you are either healthy enough to do so or that any nutritional changes you may be considering won’t impact any medications you’re taking.

Nutrition for SeniorsHere are seven health and nutrition tips for seniors, and everyone for that matter, that you can take to the bank, though!

1. Don’t drink sugary beverages. Steer away from soda or from any sugar-laden beverage. Drink water, lots of it. Drink water before and with meals. Add lemon if you want to amp up the flavor and the health benefits.

2. Make a move toward fresher ingredients and away from fast foods or processed foods. Become a label reader as a way to understand what your food is being made from and, ultimately, what you’re putting in your body. Make sure you add fish to your diet. Fatty fish like salmon has omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients that may help you stave off diseases such as dementia or depression. Fill your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal.

3. Barring any allergies, you should be eating nuts. These may be high in fat but they are nutritious, full of protein and healthy for you. They have fiber, magnesium and vitamin E, among others. If you have high blood pressure you should choose unsalted or lower-salted nuts.

4. Enjoy your morning cup of joe. Coffee sometimes get a bad rap but it is actually healthy. It’s full of antioxidants and some studies show that those who drink coffee live longer, have a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes. Don’t load your healthy coffee up with sugars and creams though as that may negate some of the healthful benefits.

5. Sleep is important. The need for quality sleep cannot be over stated. A good night’s sleep could be as important to your overall health and well being as your diet and exercise. If you’re not sleeping, talk with your doctor to see if there is an underlying health reason. Make your bedroom conducive to sleep by lowering the temperature and turning off all electronic devices.

6. Get up and move! Dance. Take a walk. Clean the house! Any kind of aerobic or cardio is the best thing you can do for both your physical and your mental health. Moving will also help you keep your balance as you age and that is important to prevent any slip or fall accidents. If you want to amp up your walking routine, use walking poles because these engage the upper body and give you a full body workout.

7. Avoid cigarettes and alcohol. If you’re a smoker, ask your doctor for advice on quitting. Even if you’ve been a lifelong smoker, stopping now can help enhance the rest of your life. Alcohol can be consumed in moderation – a glass of wine with dinner, an occasional beer with friends. Keep in mind though that even though alcohol is a depressant it will negatively impact your sleep if you drink before bedtime.

Talk with your family and find ways to be healthier. With summer on the horizon, it is the perfect time to get fit and get healthy for life!

Fitness Tips For Caregivers And Their Family

Caregiving, while fulfilling for the most part, is a tiring task. Many caregivers today are in the “sandwich generation” where they are raising their own families, holding down jobs and caring for aging, elderly loved ones. It is time consuming and may lead to the caregiver making poor nutritional decisions and to not being as active as they should.

When you consider that, according to reports, by 2050 more than 20% of the population in America will be age 65 or older and you can see the need for these tips for caregivers and their family to be as healthy as possible.

Here are some tips that will help enhance not only the life of the caregiver, but of their aging loved ones:

•    Fight the “afternoon slump” that seems to strike many people around 3 pm. It’s a common affliction among older adults and the working population. One way to combat it is to drink a glass of water and have a high-antioxidant food to help revitalize you and help you face the rest of the day. Have cut up fruits and vegetables or high protein snacks available and within easy reach for when the slump strikes. Avoid caffeine as that will only give you a slight spike in energy followed by another slump later.
•    Keep your mind active by doing cross word puzzles or playing “memory” games. Doing this may help stave off memory loss.
•    Take a walk. If you are visiting your parents as part of your caregiving routine, urge them to get out of the house and take a short walk with you. If they have stability issues, offer them walking poles. These poles provide more stability and also help engage the upper body and provide a higher level of a “workout.” Make certain you’re wearing good, supportive shoes that have good padding and support and non-slip soles.
•    Don’t eat alone. Solitary meals often lead to poor nutritional choices and, frankly, loneliness. If possible, eat dinner with those in your care or urge them to attend community events at which meals are served. Check with your local community center, church or Office for the Aging to see if there are community meal areas. Eat well-balanced meals that are low in fat and high in fiber. Try to reduce the amount of processed foods you eat.
•    Get out of your rut. Whether you’re in a routine of eating the same foods or taking the same route while you walk or even doing the laundry on a specific day, make a change. Eat something new.  Walk a new area of your neighborhood. Change the laundry day. Having something new or different to look forward to can enhance your outlook on the entire day.
•    Encourage your loved ones to listen to music and to perhaps even dance! Listening to the music they enjoyed in their youth helps keep the memory engaged. Even better though is getting up and dancing or at least moving and swaying to the music as a way to remain active.

Dancing and Exercises
Talk with your loved ones – both your parents and the rest of your family – and make a conscious effort to eat healthy and to get up and move!

Improve Your Health

Caregivers may groan when they read this because they are so busy caring for their families, working a full time or a part time job and helping to take care of mom and dad. The idea of thinking about getting healthy might seem a bit daunting. Another way to think about a healthy lifestyle is that the state of being healthy will help you face the day and your tasks with a much lighter step and will help you feel even more effective and happier!

Getting in, and staying in, shape doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. Your health and a healthy lifestyle requires thought, work and making healthier choices. What does a healthy diet look like?

  • Fewer processed foods
  • More fruits and vegetables
  • Foods low in saturated fatsHealthy Eating Habits
  • Cutting back on sweets and refined sugars in snacks and beverages
  • Foods that are high in fiber

If you’re a fast food junkie it may take some planning to overcome the urge – and frankly the ease – of going through a drive-through for dinner. Believe us, we know how hard it is at the end of the day to go home and put together a healthy meal that everyone will love.

Pre-planning is essential. Talk with your family and make a weekly menu so that you know in advance what you’re having and you can have other members of your family help with the meal prep. If you’re the primary caregiver for aging loved ones it’s up to you to reach out to other family members – especially those that live in your house – to help share the load. When you’re in the midst of cooking and your belly is growling, make sure you have quick and easy access to cut up chunks of fruits and veggies that you can nibble on while you cook.

In addition to eating healthier you need to be active. You may be thinking, “I’m working. I’m taking care of my family AND I’m taking care of mom and dad… I am active.” You may be active when you’re doing all of this, but chances are you’re not taking time to be active for yourself. This means carving out time during your day to take a walk or to go to the gym or even take an aerobics class. Take time during the day to get up and move every hour – walk in place 500 steps an hour; you will be surprised how much it will add up! Take a dance class with your significant other or go on a bike ride with the family. It may seem as though you simply don’t have the time to add one more task to your day, but taking care of yourself and being active will benefit both you and your family in the long run.

Remember change takes time and you want to implement these lifestyle changes a little at a time in order to make them a part of your everyday living.


Spring Clean Your Life!

In our final piece on spring cleaning, we tackle your life! Just as you cleaned your closets and Spring Cleaningyour yard, take a few days to consider changes you could make to your life that could make it a happier, brighter spring!

Cleaning your home is likely to give you a great outlook on the upcoming summer months and once the home looks bright and fresh, it will trickle down to other areas of your life. Just as you throw off the winter curtains from the windows you can throw off the winter doldrums from your life! Additionally, you may find that once the house has been cleaned and de-cluttered your stress levels will decrease.

If you spend a lot of time on social media you may find there are people with whom you’re connected who truly have negative attitudes. Do a “detox” of those friends whose pessimism make you cringe and bring you more frustration than joy. While you’re doing this, reach out to those friends who lift you up and make you smile and give them a thank you or a hug!

Spring days typically lead to more hours spent outside of the home than inside the home. Get moving! Take a bike ride. Go for a long walk with your pet. If you don’t have a pet, “borrow” a neighbor’s. Swim if you have access to a pool. Start slow, but do start moving your body! Getting in shape is a perfect way to spring clean yourself!

Try something new. With spring and summer comes fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market – or in your own backyard garden. Shake things up and try a new fruit or veggie that you have never eaten before. Plant fruits or vegetables that your family eats regularly so you have access to plants you’ve cultivated. Take a day a week and eat only fresh – not processed – foods.

Throw open the windows in your home and embrace the long, sunny days ahead!





Spring Clean Your Closets

As we continue our Spring Cleaning Series, we move onto cleaning out the closets. This is an Spring Clean Your Closetarea of the home that is usually neglected other than the times when you change out the “summer clothes” for the “winter clothes” and vice versa.

To do a true spring cleaning, you need to plan on spending, perhaps an entire day, because you will want to start from ground zero and you will also want to try on clothes to help you determine if you will keep them or donate them.

Here are tips for caregivers and their loved ones once you decide to spring clean your closet:

  • Take everything out of the closet. This is a lot of work, but it is the only way to truly see what you have and to help you organize it when you put items back in.
  • Try everything on. Once you’ve taken it out of the closet, look at it with a critical eye and ask yourself: Does it still fit? When is the last time I wore it? When do I think I will wear it again? Is it still even in fashion? This may also be the year to get rid of the “just in case” clothes – you know, just in case you lose those extra pounds, or you find a belt that matches or it comes back in style.
  • Be ruthless. If you haven’t worn it in six months or a year, chances are you have moved on and “replaced” an item with another. It might be time to donate it. When you’re taking clothes out and putting them back in, look for items that work well together that offer mix-and-match potential as this will greatly expand your wardrobe and its options.
  • Use clear bins to store off-season items. Shoes, sweaters and other items that are seasonal should be put in the bins but you need to make certain you look there first when the season kicks off… before you go shopping!
  • Has your lifestyle changed? If you used to work in a corporate setting and now work from home, are retired, or are in a more casual workplace, you can probably get rid of clothes that don’t fit your current lifestyle.

After you have gotten your closet in shape you may want to institute a “one in, one out” policy. What does that mean? For every new piece of clothing you buy, you need to get rid of something that is hanging in your closet. This will keep your clothing inventory manageable and may also help you make better shopping choices. Taking the time to clean the closets of your aging loved ones will make it easier for them to get dressed in the morning and will also help prevent them rummaging around in a closet or climbing to get to shelves to find a lost item of clothing.






Spring Cleaning Series: Spring Clean Your Yard

Spring Clean Your YardSpring cleaning is a task that is not only for the inside of your home. When you’re done spring cleaning your home, it’s time to turn your attentions to the yard and the outside of the house. Chances are, winter has ravaged your yard and you may need to spend time picking up branches and other dirt and debris that has gathered. If you have pets, it may be time to clean the yard from their use of it during the winter!

A thorough spring cleaning of your yard will assure that your grass will grow green and strong, that your plants will flourish and that when it’s great weather you can pull up a chair, sit and relax and enjoy the beauty of your yard. Taking time to spring clean your yard when the plants are just waking up from their winter hibernation may help you avoid any issues with your foliage in the summer.

If you aren’t sure what should be done when and if you don’t trust your green thumb, here is a brief checklist of what should be addressed when spring cleaning the yard. This is a great list for both caregivers and their homes and for when they visit Mom and Dad and help them get their home summer-ready.

  • In early April it’s the best time to grab a rake and begin a thorough yard cleaning. The yard may still be damp so you may not want to run a lawn mower around so stick to handheld yard appliances.
  • Remove any coverings you put on your outdoor plants once the threat of overnight freezing has passed. If you staked up any trees so they would survive the winter, remove the stakes now.
  • Resist the urge to prune trees and shrubs in the early spring months. Wait until they have budded out. Also, if you don’t see buds you may be removing a viable limb. Summer and fall are the best times for pruning.
  • If you have perennial plants cut them back so they can grow back. If you have ornamental grass, cut them back so they flourish once summer is in full swing.
  • Once the ground is able to tolerate the weight of your lawn mower you may want to aerate it. This will help the yard be better able to absorb water and nutrients. It also stimulates grass growth and speeds the decomposition of any grass clippings.
  • Talk with a local gardening expert and ask the best time for planting your fruit and/or vegetable garden. You want to make sure they have a long enough growing season, but you don’t want the seeds to be planted in ground that is too cold to support them.

Sprucing up your yard may mean planting new grass in areas that were damaged by the winter. Seeing plants start to poke their “heads” up through the ground is a sure sign that spring is on the way and you want to do what you can to help with that growth!

The next in our Spring Cleaning Series focuses on Cleaning Out Your Closet

Spring Cleaning Leads To Summer Relaxation!

Spring CleaningOnce the snow has melted and the sun warms the air and the earth around you, your thoughts turn to summer. Before summer hits, many people get the urge to spring clean.

Giving your home a thorough spring cleaning leaves it, and you, feeling refreshed, revitalized and ready for summer. A spring cleaning can involve taking down the heavier winter curtains, cleaning the windows then hanging up the lighter, breezier summer window hangings. It also means you take off the winter quilts and replace them with summer weight blankets.

Take a look around your house and decide which room to tackle first. If you’re a caregiver you may be faced with spring cleaning both your home and your parent’s or loved ones home and this is a great way to spend quality time with them. A spring cleaning may also be a time to get the entire family together, spring clean Mom and Dad’s house, make a day of it and have a picnic dinner to celebrate a job well done. Look at the event not as a working weekend, but as a mini family reunion.

Use spring cleaning as a time to go through the cupboards and clear them out of expired foods. Get rid of, or donate, items that you have no use for any longer or that you know you will never use – there is someone who can benefit from your generosity.

Go through dressers and closets. Move spring and summer clothes to the front, clean and pack away the winter wear. Make sure the spring and summer clothes still fit. Pack away winter boots, keep out shoes fit for the muddy spring days, and get out summer footwear.

Give the kitchen a thorough cleaning from floors to ceiling and every appliance in between. Scrub the bathroom from top to bottom as well. When you’re in the bathroom, go through the medicine cabinets and check for expired medications. Also, check for medications that you no longer take; find a pharmacy that collects unused medicines for recycling – don’t flush them.

Shake out area rugs. Shampoo or steam clean carpets. Polish hardwood floors and scrub the linoleum. This is also an ideal time to clean all of the walls in all of the rooms to clear away any dust or grime that has built up during the winter months.

Once you’re done, the home will look, and smell, fresh and you can relax and enjoy the upcoming summer months.

The next in our series will be Spring Cleaning The Yard

Social Media & Caregiving

imagesWith social media a part of our everyday lives, it’s no surprise that it has created an impact on family members and the caregivers who are taking care of an elderly loved one. The ability to easily communicate with people from around the globe helps to keep everyone in touch and aware of their loved ones conditions, especially towards the end stages of life. Although this may seem to be a great thing, social media and the ability to stay connected can sometimes create animosity between families as well as stress due to the lack of privacy it has created.

Here are two things to keep in mind regarding social media and some tactics to help keep private family information off the Internet.

1. When a loved one passes away, there could be an immediate reaction online from family members and friends as they show their remorse for the loss. This sometimes creates issues, as many family members may prefer to not immediately share that information publicly. Remember when addressing this type of situation that you are not only speaking on your own behalf but on behalf of an entire family and the loved one that passed. In order to protect what is shared on your loved ones page, privacy settings may be used to control some of the unwanted overflow of emotion that may arise. Also, communicating to those around you the expectations and wishes of family member who passed can also help keep a check on how information is shared.

2. Remember to consider the reason you are sharing loved ones information before doing so. A psychologist from the London School of Business suggests that before sharing anything take these two factors into consideration. One, does sharing the information make you feel better or will it make others feel better for what you have said? Secondly, are you using the information to better yourself in some way? If either of those questions can be answered truthfully without feeling a sense of guilt, the information you may want to share should be okay.

Ultimately, finding the right balance between social media and privacy of a loved one can be a tricky dance. Remember to think before you share private family information as offending a family member during tough times can create animosity for months to come. As great as the Internet has become and the ability to connect and share information increases, privacy needs to be cherished and respected especially in times of grief and despair.

Caregivers: Don’t Be The Middleman

A day in the life of a caregiver can include feeding your family breakfast, getting the kids ready for school or daycare, going to work and then stopping by to see mom or dad before you head back home to your children.

What do you do though, when your siblings or other family members come to you and ask, “So, how are mom and dad doing?” “Are they well?” “What happened at their doctor’s appointment last week?” It may seem innocent enough, but these questions can become frustrating and sap your strength. Why? Because you are being put into the role of middleman and your siblings are stepping back by not taking responsibility and that adds an additional burden onto your shoulder.

If you take on the role of mom and dad’s “agent” this means you are taking on more work on the caregiver role and your siblings are relying on you to supply the answers they need and this can drain your energy. You can certainly update family members if there is a change in the health or well-being of an aging loved one, but if you find yourself in the role of being the only one who reaches out and stops by to check on your parents, you are unwittingly putting yourself in the spokesperson, aka agent, role.

For some caregivers, they also find themselves having to explain to mom and dad that yes, the siblings are reaching out to you to see how they are, but no, you don’t know why they aren’t coming to visit or picking up the telephone. This is not a good situation for you to be in and resentment can build. You simply cannot speak for the other members of your family as to why they aren’t making an appearance and it does put you in a difficult position.

What can you do? You need to take a step back, get as many of the family members into the same room as possible and lay down some ground rules. Even if you are the designated legal representative for your aging parents, that doesn’t remove your siblings from taking an interest in their health. You need to ask for help and also let the other family members know that you cannot take on the role of middleman. Urge them to get involved and pick up the phone or stop by and visit. If mom or dad asks why they haven’t heard from your brother you need to say, “I honestly don’t know. You should call him.”

Regardless of your family dynamic, if you’ve taken on the role of caregiver you cannot take on the role of relationship manager for everyone. When you find yourself in the middle, take a deep breath, take a step back and remind your siblings of their responsibility to reach out on their own.

Financial Tips And Steps For Caregivers

A survey was completed recently that showed that close to 50 percent of caregivers spend more than $5,000 annually on expenses related to caring for their aging loved ones. As many of those caregivers are caring for their own growing families as well as their aging loved ones this is putting a strain on their family finances.

Costs that are being borne by caregivers include:

  • Paying for medication
  • Paying for medical bills and co-pays
  • Paying for in-home care

Caregivers also spend up to 30 hours per week caring for their aging relatives beyond their financial resources. You can see that time and put a strain on both wallet and body.

Some of the mistakes that caregivers make when they fall into the role is that they don’t properly budget for time or money. In some cases when family members are put into the role of caregiver it comes at a time of crisis and this could lead to overspending or perhaps not knowing what, if, or how much a loved ones insurance policy may pay for in-home care or other medications and physicians’ visits. If a caregiver doesn’t have access to, or is not in charge of, the loved ones’ assets, he may pay for it all out of pocket and hope for reimbursement later – this is not ideal.

The best way to make sure a family is prepared for a health or care crisis is to begin the conversation today about powers of attorney, finances, life and health insurance and even final wishes. Having a family meeting sooner, rather than later, can provide information that all parties need to be aware of in order to make the role into caregiving as seamless as possible.

Here are some financial tips families can take to minimize the financial burdens or stresses that come from caregiving:

  1. Ask for help. If you or your aging loved ones have close ties in the community reach out to them for assistance. This may be ideal if only to make certain your family members have interaction with the “outside world.” You, as a caregiver, have to remember you simply cannot do it all –especially if you’re working full time and caring for your own family. You need to look at hiring caregivers for your parents, finding someone who can take them to and from doctor’s visits or grocery shopping treks and even cleaning the house and preparing meals. Freeing up time for the caregiver is as important as the money being spent on hiring for these roles. Also, if you worry about your loved ones being home alone and having no contact it may make sense to invest in a home medical alert system. These devices offer a way for your family members to have immediate access to medical attention should the need arise.
  2. Join a caregivers support group. Many of the feelings you experience – anger, frustration, exhaustion and more are shared by others in your role. It’s best to make connections with others who are in the same situation because they may be a great source for inspiration and tricks to make caregiving easier.
  3. Understand the type of insurance your parents have, what is covered and what is excluded before you make any investments in in-home assistance or spend money on prescription drugs. Also, check to see if they’re eligible for any Veterans or Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare benefits.
  4. Prior to the need arising, it’s best to investigate long term health care and living options. Making a decision on where to place mom or dad in the middle of a crisis is not healthy for anyone. When you’re researching locations for them to reside, you will also want to contact an elder law attorney so you can understand the options for payment of a stay.
  5. Gather all necessary paperwork – bank accounts, wills, power of attorney, insurance information, debts owed, information on utility payments, medications taken, physician information, etc. this way if your parents can no longer speak for themselves, the family knows where all of the “important papers” are kept.

The further ahead a family can plan the easier the transition to a caregiver/caregiving role will be. It is also a role that needs to be shared by all family members so that one sibling isn’t shouldering the entire load.