Category Archives: Elderly health

Four Tips To Beat The Heat For Seniors

beat_the_heatThough fall is nearly upon us, there are still plenty of days where we can expect very hot weather!  Some of the ways we think to beat the heat are kids jumping in and out of swimming pools, families at the beach, or perhaps sitting indoors enjoying a book in an air-conditioned room.  However, it’s also important that we remember the importance of making sure our senior loved ones beat the heat as well.

From ultraviolet (UV) rays to skin dehydration, there are many potential dangers that too much sun and heat can cause.  Excessive heat exposure can cause dehydration, which in turn can cause conditions like heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

As a caregiver, it’s important to know how to keep your loved one from getting over heated. Here are four tips for you:

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The Benefits Of Being Outside

With the weather steadily improving as we move further and further away from the cold winter, a “breath of fresh air” and stroll outside are surely in the cards for both you and your loved ones. While a “breath of fresh air” might just be an expression, the benefits of being outside are, in fact, very real.

One of the best advantages of heading outdoors, even for a short amount of time, is the benefit of soaking up some sunshine.  Sun exposure generates vitamin D, which is necessary for a healthy brain, bones and muscles, according to Dr. Michael Raab a geriatrician in Fort Myers, Florida.  Actually, some doctors prescribe sunlight as a source of vitamin D, instead of taking a supplement.  Research has shown vitamin D improves cognitive function and mood.

Somewhat similar to improved health due to increased levels of Vitamin D, spending time in the outdoors has also been directly linked to an improved immune system. According to a study at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School, women who spent six hours in the woods over a time span of two days showed an increase in virus- and tumor- fighting white blood cells subsequently. This boost even lasted for a minimum of seven days. Hence, seniors should try to spend more time outdoors in order to reap these fantastic health benefits.

Additionally, being outside provides mental and emotional benefits.  Heading to the great outdoors, the mental and emotional benefits are great.  It gives your loved one the ability to socialize with new people, also many outdoor activities allows them to interact with children and animals. Such activities can give people an extra spring in their step, and rejuvenate their emotions, according to Christina Chartrand, vice president of training and staff development for Senior Helpers, a nationwide in-home care company.

“Nature is fuel for the soul. Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.” Richard Ryan, lead author and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

As the weather gets warmer and brighter, you and your loved one should of course use your best judgement when it comes to being outdoors, always taking into consideration their mobility and other health concerns.  While the benefits and positive effects being outside will have on your loved one, you will also enjoy the benefits as well.

Exercise Your Brain

Exercise Your BrainDid you know that your brain needs exercise?  While our brains are not muscles, we still need to keep them active. The fact is, as we get older, the birth of new brain cells slows, and our brain tissue actually shrinks. This can make it harder to perform mental tasks. However, the fact is, just as our muscles need regular exercise to keep in shape, it’s important to ‘work out’ the brain also.

There are many ways to keep your brain healthy.  One of the most important steps is eating a healthy diet.  Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits helps to reduce the likelihood of the loss of cognitive skills and onset of dementia.

Exercise is another great way to keep your brain sharp.  Getting a daily dose of physical exercise increases the blood flow to the brain, therefore enriching it with much needed oxygen.  The brain soaks up 20% of the oxygen in your body.

Exercise also fights anxiety and depression. Depression slows the brains ability to process information, making it more difficult to process information, and causes real memory problems.

Regular physical exercise also helps to reduce the impact of insulin on the brain. When brain cells are flooded by glucose, it can adversely affect memory and thinking.

Perhaps you can’t exercise physically, but you still want your brain to be sharp. One way to do that is to learn a new skill.  Maybe take up a painting class, or join a reading club.  A reading club will teach you to process what you are reading in a different way since you’ll be interacting with others about what you’ve read.

Simple ways to keep your brain ‘moving’ would also be with puzzle books.  Crossword books, number-oriented games, and other sources are great tools to keep your brain moving. There is also a number of on-line resources for games and cognitive skill building, and keeping exercises.

Keeping our brains sharp is not a one-time thing.  Just like our physical bodies, it’s a habit you do every day, and it’s important to do it simply for yourself.

Everyday Household Health Dangers

Not to be alarmist, but there are dangers that lurk in your household that you aren’t even likely aware of – we weren’t! Consider this: you watch what you eat, you drink filtered water, you are diligent in the use of your seatbelt and you exercise daily.

Here are a few items that you probably have in your house that you may want to rethink:

  1. A pizza box. Because many of these boxes are greaseproof, they may contain PFCs. pizza boxPerfluorinated compounds have been associated with adverse health impacts such as thyroid, obesity, cancer and high cholesterol. PFCs are also found in carpet cleaning compounds, many take-out boxes and furniture. Toss that pizza box into the outside trash.
  2. Scented candles will help you unwind and de-stress, but some of those candles contain unhealthy chemical compounds. If you find your eyes and throat are irritated it could be because of the compounds in the candles. The mere fact of burning a candle can also lead to particle pollution in your home.
  3. Many items from the “dollar stores” come in packaging that has questionable chemicals including phthalates, lead or polyvinyl chloride plastics. If you purchase items from there, remove the packaging, toss it out into an outside garbage container and thoroughly wash your hands. Children are most at risk from illness from these chemicals.
  4. Antibacterial soaps sound like a good idea. The risks associated with using these soaps too frequently means that your body will have a harder time fighting off bacteria because your body may develop an increased antimicrobial resistance. Additionally, if the antibacterial soap contains triclocarban it can lead to unwanted hormonal implications as they can impact your thyroid.

Being aware of what is in your home can help you lead a healthier, happier life! If you care for an elderly person, it may be wise to look through their cupboards and junk drawers to be sure they aren’t saving things that could be causing them health issues!

The Benefits Of Pets For Seniors

It’s no secret that pets can enhance our lives. Yes, they do require work and care and veterinarian visits, but the benefits they provide, including companionship, are beyond measure. For as much as we love our pets, did you know they can be helpful for people as they age? Your aging loved ones may benefit from pet ownership, as long as you’re aware of the care they will need – both your parents and the pets.Benefits of pets for seniors

When seniors adopt pets, measures must be put into place for the care of the pets when your aging loved ones can no longer properly take care of them. That is a conversation that needs to be held up front, before the pet comes into the home. You also need to determine what type of pet is best for your parents. Cats require less care than a dog, but a dog will help assure your parents are up and mobile. Taking the dog for a walk is an ideal way to stay agile and even involved in the community and that can stave off loneliness.

What are some other ways in which the seniors in your life can benefit from animal companionship? Here are a few:

  • Physical activity. As mentioned, owning a pet means they will be involved in regular physical activity. Dogs need to be walked. Cats need to be played with. Even fish and reptiles will require some level of interaction and activity.
  • Companionship benefits. Having a pet in the house will mean your loved one will never be alone. If you don’t live close by, it is important that they have a companion as depression can set in when loneliness sets in. The loss of a spouse and a dwindling circle of friends can lead to isolation and that can, in turn, lead to a whole host of health issues.
  • Physical health benefits. It’s been shown that the mere act of petting an animal can help lower blood pressure. It’s also been shown that caring for a pet can not only lower your blood pressure, but improve cholesterol levels and provide better heart health.
  • Weight loss. While having a pet may not lead to weight loss, it may help with weight control, especially if they have a dog. Dogs require physical activity and regular walks and that means your loved one will be physically active as well.
  • Physical connection. If your loved ones live alone they may be bereft of the physical connection of a hug or other human touch. Being able to wrap their arms around their pet can help alleviate that physical craving for human touch.

The positive impact that pets have on our lives cannot be denied, but they do need to be adopted with care with provisions made for their care when your aging loved ones can no longer take on the responsibility.

The Link Between Loneliness And Heart Disease

Loneliness is something that many seniors in our society face. The loss of a spouse, immediate family moving away and loss of friends leads to loneliness and isolation. Loneliness can also lead to depression, but did you know it can also lead to heart disease? As caregivers it’s Loneliness & Heart Diseaseimportant that we talk with our aging loved ones and find ways for them to remain engaged and involved as a way to stave off loneliness.

Social isolation impacts your health – whether young or old – and can cause to high blood pressure, weight gain, cognitive decline, and in some cases, heart disease or stroke. University of York researchers discovered that those who are isolated and who feel lonely have close to a 30 percent higher risk of heart disease and more than 30 percent higher risk of having a stroke. Close to 200,000 adults were surveyed and followed for the study.

There are many reasons that individuals feel lonely and may even isolate themselves. There are also many reasons why that isolation can lead to poor health and even poor diets, poor sleep habits and lack of exercise. It was even found that those who were lonely are less likely to see a doctor when they don’t feel well and are also less likely to take their medications as prescribed.

Being alone can also lead to more alone time because it can sometimes feed upon itself. If your aging loved ones begin cancelling appointments or afternoons out with friends or if they are no longer involved in activities they once loved you may want to intervene. Talk with them to uncover the reasons why they are no longer involved and what you can do to help. Being widowed can lead to individuals shutting themselves away because they don’t want to feel like a “third wheel.” Help your loved one find places to make new friends, consider church groups, senior centers or other local resources that may be available.

Caregivers who don’t live locally may want to invest in a simple to use computer for their parents to help them keep in contact. Gift them with an easy to use computer and show them how to log in and accept video calls from you. Being able to talk via video allows them interaction with friends and family that live far away and it also allows the caregiver a way to see whether Mom and Dad are looking healthy. A video chat is also a great way for grandparents to stay in touch with grandchildren.

What can you do to help assure your aging loved ones are healthy, involved and not isolated? Talk with friends and family and put together a plan today!

Living to 100

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 50,000 people in the United States were 100 years or age or older! It is further expected that the number of people over 100 years old will reach 110,000 by 2037 and those over 80 will reach six million by that same year.

So what is the secret?

Centenarians (folks who reach 100 or older) say that exercise, healthy eating and a good night’s sleep help!  Here are a few other suggestions that may help you live a longer, fuller life.

  • Eat, Pray and Exercise!   More than 80% of centenarians say they eat nutritiously balanced meals almost daily compared to 68% of boomers. Furthermore, these folks said that they pray, meditate or have some sort of “spiritual” activity and more than half of each group claims to exercise almost every day!  Your chances of reaching the age of 100 increases if you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, regular  exercise (5 days a week) and reducing stress, according to a Danish study.  The healthier you are, the better you feel. The better you feel, the longer you live.
  • Laugh.  Centenarians laugh or giggle nearly every day! Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster to bring your mind and body back into balance.
  • Socialize.  The majority of baby boomers and centenarians say that they talk to or communicate with friends and family nearly every day. Additionally, reading, crossword puzzles, games keep your brain challenged and more healthy.
  • Sleep. A good solid night of sleep helps to repair many cells in the body, and potentially add two years to your lifespan.
  • Relax.  Centenarians work at a job or hobby far less than boomers but the key is to relax and enjoy “down-time”.
  • Groom yourself. Centenarians maintain good oral health as well as continuing the habit of daily bathing or showering. Aging or less activity outside the home should not be good reasons for poor grooming habits.

Take good care of yourself and live a good long life!

 

 

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It’s Allergy Season

Spring has sprung and that means so has allergy season.  About 35 million Americans experience the ill effects of occasional allergies; pollen is the greatest spring allergy trigger in most people.

Pollen is made up of small grains that are discharged into the air by trees, grasses, and weeds, with a specific end goal to pollinate different plants. At the point when pollen gets into the nose of somebody with allergies, it triggers their symptoms. The pollen grains appear as though they are intruders to the body, which discharges antibodies to assault them. Once the antibodies are fighting back against the allergens, histamines are discharged into the blood and this triggers regular side effects. Nothing has been discovered that will eliminate pollen from getting into the body, however, luckily, there are approaches that may help once side effects are felt.

 

Therapeutic Treatment: A specialist can propose both prescription and over-the-counter medicine. For some individuals, over-the-counter cures work fine and dandy. Antihistamines can help bring down the levels of histamine in the body to lessen wheezing, sneezing, and tingling. Decongestants can clear out the nasal paths and decrease swelling. For some individuals, nasal sprays work speedier than decongestants to clear nasal entries. There is even a nasal spray that can help block the arrival of new histamines into the body. Also, the utilization of eye drops during symptoms helps to calm bothersome, watery eyes. In the event that over-the-counter prescription isn’t living up to expectations, a specialist can help with next steps; for example, prescribe prescription drug or anaphylaxis shots.

 

Natural Therapies: There are many natural cures that may help relieve symptoms. According to a Swiss study indicated that the herb butterbur, a European bush, is a common antihistamine. Quercetin, a flavonoid found in onions, pieces of fruit, and dark tea has incendiary properties and has likewise been indicated to block histamines. Needle therapy is an alternate non-medicinal treatment that gives individuals enduring help from allergen side effects. Remember, “natural” does not always mean safe so it’s always best to check with a specialist first.

 

Family Habits: There are likewise many safety measures that individuals can take in their every day lives to help them maintain distance from allergen triggers. Pollen can travel for miles and the higher the pollen release; the more a susceptible person may suffer. Check the day by day pollen numbers before going out by going to the Pollen & Mold Counts page on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s site.

 

Attempt to stay inside in the mornings, when pollen numbers frequently top out. Remember to keep entryways and windows shut as much as possible in the spring to keep the pollen out. If conditions become too severe in the home it may be worth the cost to install an air purifier. Keep all home air ducts clean, tidy all bookshelves, vents, and different spots where dust and pollen may gather. Finally, vacuum at least twice a week to gather any pollen trapped in the floor coverings. Keep mind that while vacuuming and cleaning, it is smart to wear a mask so none of the dust and pollen that gets kicked up will be breathed in.

 

Ultimately, avoiding pollen and dust completely is not realistic, especially during certain seasons of the year. Learning to avoid areas and days when the pollen is at it peak is the best route to stay clear and uncongested. Also, consulting your doctor on the best treatment when symptoms do occur will help you stay prepared and feeling your best.

 

Sources

 

Webmd: Allergies Health Center – http://www.webmd.com/

 

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAI) – http://www.aaaai.org/home.aspx

 

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Alzheimer’s Disease: Get A Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep is important for many aspects of our health and wellbeing. When we sleep our bodies and our minds are given the ability to slow down and repair itself. Eating healthy and exercising regularly help your brain function at its highest level and can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. A recent study at John Hopkins School of Public Health recently found that older adults (70-years-old or older) who slept short periods of time had higher levels of a brain plaque that has been linked to Alzheimer’s.

The study isn’t saying that if you don’t get good sleep that you’re going to develop Alzheimer’s, but it does appear to indicate a link between restless nights and its progression.

Adam Spira, PhD, a researcher in the study was quoted as saying, “These findings are important in part because sleep disturbances can be treated in older people. To the degree that poor sleep promotes the development of Alzheimer’s disease, treatments for poor sleep or efforts to maintain healthy sleep patterns may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer disease,”

While sleep may not stop Alzheimer’s, seeing the connection between “poor sleep and increased amyloid in the brain is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.” The study will move forward and try to determine whether addressing and correcting poor sleep habits may reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s.

What can you do to get a good night’s sleep? Here are some tips:
• Get some exercise every day. Taking a walk, working in the garden or even doing housework – anything that can get your heart rate elevated – is good for both body and mind. Exercise can also lead to a better night’s sleep.
• Keep caffeine and alcohol intake at a minimum. Caffeine, while a great pick-me-up in the morning will disrupt sleep if you drink it later in the day or in the evening. Alcohol may make you sleepy but will likely lead to wakeful periods in the middle of the night.
• Get into a bedtime routine that involves yawning, stretching and simple relaxation. Take about a half an hour to 45-minutes prior to bedtime and practice relaxation techniques. Did you know that yawning and stretching can also lead to a better night’s sleep? It can. Try this. Fake a yawn and while you’re doing that reach your arms above your head for a stretch. If you do this three more times, you will likely trigger a real yawn and a deep muscle stretch and this will help to relax you and lead to a better night’s rest.
• Make certain your bedroom is restful. Keep the room dark and cool. Keep electronics, televisions and radios out of the room or turned off when you’re falling asleep. If you feel you need noise to get a good night’s rest, try a sleep machine.
• Take a warm bath or a warm shower as part of your bedtime ritual. Once you’ve begun your bedtime ritual resist the urge to watch television, walk the dog, or raid the refrigerator. Get yourself into a mindset of “this ritual is leading toward a more relaxing sleep.”

Whether you can slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s with a good night’s slumber, getting a restful sleep will benefit your body in many ways; do what you can to make certain you’re making the most of the night time hours.