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.
Nobody enjoys catching a cold or coming down with the flu. The symptoms are miserable and an illness usually means that the patient has to miss work or school as a result. But there are steps that you can take to protect yourself naturally from cold and flu germs throughout the year so you can stay healthy and on top of your game.
Eat a healthy diet all year long and if you really want to boost your immune system and stave off those nasty germs, increase your intake of green tea. Green tea contains an antioxidant which reduces the risk of illnesses. Add some fresh garlic to your diet as the sulfur compounds will kill virus germs. Ginger contains antiviral compounds so steep it in tea to help keep flu and cold germs away.
Wash your hands frequently, especially if you are around people who are sniffling and sneezing. Your hands are usually your first point of contact with viruses so make sure you wash them with soap and water foregoing antibacterial washes. They do little to kill virus germs on your hands.
Try to keep your hands away from your face especially your eyes, nose and mouth. If you have germs on your hands and touch these parts of your face, the germs will have a quick entry point. If you are sharing a phone with others, wipe it down frequently. Do not share cups or utensils.
Use a humidifier in your home to keep your nasal passages from drying out. Change the water daily.
Get plenty of exercise throughout the year to boost your immune system which will fight germs naturally. If you feel a cold or flu symptoms creeping up on you, pop some zinc lozenges or use some zinc nasal gel as both have been known to reduce the length of cold and flu.
Doing these things doesn’t guarantee you will miss cold and flu season but they are certain steps to help fight off germs.
Doctors have found that dehydration is one of the most common fluid and electrolyte disturbances among the elderly. Water is crucial to all bodily processes from carrying hormones, disease fighting cells, nutrients and antibodies throughout the body as well as flushing toxins and waste products from the body, ingesting enough is critical to good health. Individuals over age 65, however, find that their thirst diminishes and because of that they don’t drink enough. Not drinking enough water can lead to diseases and disorders including kidney stones, hypertension, circulation disorders and common indigestion problems and, as a caregiver, you can see how important it is that your aging relatives are getting enough water in their diets.
If your parents live in an arid part of the country or are living in a warmer climate, drinking water helps address the fluids that may be lost due to sweating. Dehydration can lead to lightheadedness and that could precipitate a trip or fall accident.
Here are five reasons why caregivers need to make certain their aging relatives are getting enough water:
- Drinking water can help control caloric intake and may lead to either weight loss or maintaining current weight levels. Dieters know that drinking water takes the edge off of hunger and makes them eat less.
- Because your body is made up of 60% water, its functions are enhanced by drinking enough water. Water also helps keep your skin firm and looking better. If you’re dehydrated your skin looks dry and more wrinkled.
- Your muscles get fatigued if there is a lack of water in your body. If there is not enough fluid and the electrolytes are out of line, muscles suffer as a result.
- Your kidneys need adequate water to perform their function of transporting waste out of your cells. Blood urea nitrogen is a toxin within the body and this is a water soluble toxin that can be flushed out of your body by drinking water. You can tell if you’re not drinking enough water by the color of your urine – if it is light colored you are drinking enough, if is dark and/or has an odor you need to increase your water intake.
- As we age and sometimes move around less, we tend to eat a diet that may not be as high in fiber as it once was and this, coupled with a lack of water can lead to constipation. Staying hydrated can address this.
How can you get enough water in your diet?
If you don’t see yourself, or see your aging relatives drinking water throughout the day, here are tips to get more water in their diet without having to necessarily always rely on a glass of water:
- Eat fruits and vegetables that are high in water content. Watermelon is one of those fruits. Eating fruits and vegetables will also lead to a better overall diet and health profile.
- Make certain you drink a glass of water with every meal. Avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks as they are dehydrating. Drink water or low sugar juices.
- If you keep a glass of water or a water bottle close at hand then you will always have a readily available source of water to keep yourself hydrated.
As a caregiver, it is important to make certain that your parents or aging loved ones are ingesting enough fluids. Encourage that when you visit and when you check in on them.
Getting a flu shot may not be a high priority when it comes to the tasks on a To-Do list for many individuals. Those aged 65 or older, though should make it a top priority annually. The number of influenza-related hospitalizations and deaths soars in seniors aged 65 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason for this is that our immune systems weaken as we age and this makes seniors more susceptible to the ravages of the flu.
It’s wise to get the flu shot early as many areas of the country can actually run short of the vaccine later in the season. Many people are afraid to get the flu vaccine but here are a few tips that help dispel the myths that surround the reasons some seniors refuse to get a flu shot:
- I’ve already missed the window for getting the shot, or catching the flu. This is untrue because as the CDC explains that it takes about two weeks following the vaccination to develop immunity so even if it gets a little later in the season.
- If I get the flu shot I’ll get the flu. Many people believe that getting a flu shot gives them the flu. The reality is that the virus in the flu shot are “dead” viruses and therefore cannot “give” you the flu. Some individuals do experience redness or swelling where the shot was given and may even experience a low grade fever or slight aches; while this is not typical, it does happen.
- I’ve already had the flu, I can’t get it again. This is not true because the flu that shows up every season is of a different strain. Having the flu doesn’t provide you immunity from catching it again.
- If I get the flu I’ll just get my doctor to prescribe antibiotics. This won’t work because antibiotics target bacteria-driven illnesses but the flu is a viral infection. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections.
- If I avoid the public, I’ll be safe. Many people think that the flu is spread through contact with coughing, sneezing people. This is true, but it’s also true that the virus can survive on surfaces for hours, sometimes days, and the most common way the virus is spread is through surface contact. Frequent hand washing is crucial to protecting yourself from catching the flu.
The flu shot is especially crucial for those seniors that are aging in place. A bout of the flu can mean you’re too ill to drive yourself to a doctor’s visit or stock up on groceries. Side effects from the flu are dehydration and that can lead to dizziness and slips or falls. Talk with your family or caregivers if you start to feel ill and if possible, have your home equipped with a medical alert device as these devices could literally be a lifesaver if you fall ill.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As we age, our immune systems become taxed much more quickly than when we were young. Also, as we age, we are often surrounded by grandchildren and as any parent can tell you, children bring with them germs and illnesses that they may be able to easily fight off, but may prove to be problematic for an aging loved one.
If you’ve made the decision to move your aging parents into the family home, be aware that they will be exposed to many more germs and viruses than they would if they were aging in place. Also, if your children are school age, they will also bring home more germs than if they were younger than school age. What can you do to make certain your elderly relatives don’t get ill? There are several steps that can be taken and it doesn’t mean you will have to separate everyone until an illness passes.
Here are some steps to take to keep your aging relatives healthy while dealing with sick children:
- The importance of hand washing cannot be minimized, especially when there are elderly in the house. The flu, fevers, sore throats, coughs and colds are germ-borne but can be minimized by washing the germs away. Make certain your elderly parents wash their hands after they’re in contact with your children and make certain your children wash their hands before they give Grandma a hug.
- Creating a barrier between a sick child and an elderly relative can be as simple as slipping on a bathrobe or sweater. If your relatives will be caring for your child, have them get in the habit of donning an additional layer of clothing and then taking it off when they’re done.
- Having tissues on hand is critical. If your child is sick and you have elderly parents in the home, consider having separate boxes of tissues for each. Also, if your child is old enough, have him wipe his own nose as a way to limit your relatives’ exposure to germs.
- Depending on the type of illness your children have, your relatives may want to wear a mask if they’re going to be in the same room. The level of your parent’s health and their ability to fight off an illness is a major consideration if you feel you need to take this step. Disposable masks are available at all pharmacies and can greatly limit the risk of exposure to germs and viruses. Be aware, though that the masks may be frightening to your younger children.
- Limited exposure to germs may help to build up an immunity, but as a caregiver, you need to keep everyone as healthy as possible especially because your senior relative will have a harder time fighting off a “bug.”
It is easy to co-exist with both your growing family and your aging relatives, even in the face of seasonal illnesses, you just need to have a plan in place.
There are so many steps that we can take from an early age to help extend our lives and to simply make our Golden Years more enjoyable because we could be enjoying them with better health. Aging in place, and aging gracefully includes making good choices in our earlier years that should continue as we grow older.
Here are some steps you can take today to help extend your life and good health:
- Check your cholesterol. When you go to your doctor for an annual physical and he checks your heart and blood pressure, ask him to test your cholesterol. In order to know whether you’re eating healthfully or whether you’re on the road to a potential heart issue, knowing your cholesterol and keeping it in check is crucial.
- Your doctor should also be monitoring your blood levels and checking for diabetes. It’s estimated that Type 2 diabetes will increase from 30 million to close to 50 million by 2030 – this means that one of every four Baby Boomers could be dealing with diabetes.
- Eat a healthy diet. It’s sometimes easy to rely on processed food or drive-thru foods but eating a healthful diet full of fruits, vegetables, low fat foods and limiting your intake of red meats lead to a healthier life. Look at the Mediterranean diet as a healthful way of eating; it is full of grains, vegetables, chicken, fish, fruits and limits red meat intake.
- Don’t mix alcohol with prescription drugs. Always follow the labels on the medications that you take and limit alcohol intake as it could interfere with the medicine’s effectiveness.
- Pay attention to the warning signs of a heart attack. Chest pains aren’t the only red flag warning sign of a heart attack. In women, a heart attack can feel like indigestion, pain between the shoulder blades or extreme fatigue. Diabetics sometime note they have lower back pain when they’re suffering a heart attack.
- Watch your weight. Obesity leads to myriad other health issues and when you consider that as we age, our metabolism slows down as does our activity which means we need fewer calories. Staying active as we age is beneficial to also helping keep our balance and preventing slip and fall accidents.
- Don’t lose sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Boomers rarely get enough sleep (eight hours is ideal). Your body needs sleep to heal itself from the rigors of the day. If you’re not sleeping well, talk with your doctor to uncover the root cause.
- Stay active. You may not be able to get up and jog five miles a day, but you can certainly get some muscle strengthening activities by simply taking a daily walk or a gentle yoga class. Consider too that walking three times a week can increase your brain activity and may ward off dementia. It also keeps your heart healthy, can lead to weight loss and will also decrease your blood pressure.
- Talk to someone if you’re dealing with a lot of stress. Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders can lead to depression which in turn leads to a whole host of other potential illnesses. Ask for help. Talk to a doctor or a family member. Stress can impact caregivers and if you’re in a care giving situation you may need to take a step back and ask for help from others.
- Stop smoking and drinking to excess. The risks of smoking are well noted as are the risks of drinking too much alcohol. Stopping smoking is a great decision to make at any age. Drinking in moderation – as long as it doesn’t impact any of the medications you’re taking – may not be bad for your health but you should ask your doctor if you’re not certain.
These may all be common sense steps to take, but as we age and if we want to continue aging in place and being independent, we need to take care of ourselves now so that we can age gracefully and live independently.
As we age, we will likely spend more time in the doctor’s office. It’s been shown that doctors are moving patients in and out of the exam rooms at an increasingly fast rate so when you or your aging relatives visit the doctor you need to be prepared and get the most out of the visit. What can you do? Plan for the visit. Consider a visit to the doctor the same type of appointment as if you’re going to your tax preparer, lawyer or other professional; you know what you want from them and the visit before you walk in the door and you should put the same forethought into your next doctor’s visit.
Here are some tips whether you’re a caregiver or a Baby Boomer for getting the most out of your visit:
- Know what your “chief complaint” is and tell that to the doctor up front. Chances are you made an appointment because you were dealing with a particular ache or pain or cough. Perhaps there is no specific ailment but you’re merely worried about yourself or your caregiver is worried about the fact that you “sometimes can’t remember where you left things,” or “you left the stove on again,” or “it hurts when I lift my arm this way, but not that,” etc… Know when the pain started and if anything precipitated it, if there is anything that makes it worse, or better. What have you tried to address it? Offering the doctor a chief complaint will give him something to focus on rather than a vague “I’m just not feeling well,” although prolonged feelings of malaise could be a symptom of depression. If, as a caregiver, you know that once your relative walks into the doctor’s office he won’t articulate his complaints, take time before you go to “interview” him so that you can share the information with the physician.
- Do you have more than one complaint or ailment? If so, try to prioritize them from the most troubling to the least. Remember, you may only have 10 or 15 minutes with the doctor and you don’t want him to simply hand you prescriptions to address myriad ailments because you couldn’t pinpoint anything specific.
- Take your current medication list and dosages with you to the doctor, especially if you’re seeing more than one provider. Also, make note of any hospitalizations or infections or other events that have transpired since your last visit. Chances are, your doctor may not have access to all of your medical treatments outside of his realm of specialty.
- Make sure you understand the action plan or follow up regimen before you leave. Write them down so you don’t forget once you get home. Do you need to get blood tests? X-rays? Change your medications? If you have to go for tests, ask when you should expect the results and whether you should be calling the office or if they will be calling you.
- Ask questions. If there is anything your doctor recommends or refers to that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand a treatment or are unclear on how or when to take a medication, it could lead to long-term complications. Simply say to your doctor, “Could you repeat that, I’m not sure I understood you fully.” If your doctor refuses to accommodate your request for more information or clarification, it may be time to switch physicians – your health is too important to leave to chance.
If you’re a caregiver or have recently taken over the role of caregiver, it might be wise to have a healthcare proxy and other vital paperwork filled out so that you are allowed to work with the physician, ask questions and even make difficult medical choices.
As we age, the amount of medication and the frequency with which we must take them increases. This can become an issue if your parents are becoming forgetful or if they’re simply overwhelmed with the amount of medications they must take. Determining a schedule for taking the medication – whether it needs to be taken in the morning or evening, with or without food – can become daunting and in some cases rather than figure it out, your parents may simply stop taking them or take them incorrectly. Taking the medications incorrectly or “doubling them up” rather than taking one pill every twelve hours, for example, could lead to dangerous drug interactions or simply cause the medication to not perform the task for which it was prescribed.
Today’s advances in medication means that we can live longer lives and in better health than in decades past. When you consider that today’s medications can not only treat but cure diseases that were unable to be treated in the past and you can see the myriad benefits that prescriptions provide. For your aging parents though, the prescriptions that are being given to help cure or treat an illness can also lead to confusion.
As a caregiver, it may become your task to make certain the medications are being taken at the appropriate times and in the appropriate manner to help prevent any medication related issues. It’s been shown that close to one quarter of nursing home admissions are due in part to the elderly adult’s inability to take his or her medication correctly.
Caregivers that are dealing with parents with Alzheimer’s disease are heavily involved in parceling out medications, but it may be a good idea for caregivers of all elderly parents to take control of the medication and its schedule. Using pill reminder boxes is a great way to help make it easier for your parents to take the medications at the correct times throughout the day.
To truly get a handle on the medications that your parent is taking it might be best to go with them to a doctor’s visit and find out for certain what the current list of medications are. The next stop should be to the pharmacist and, armed with the medication list, you can ask him or her the best way to take the medications, after that you can devise a plan for the medication for your aging relatives. Using one pharmacy for all prescriptions is the best way to avoid any potentially harmful interactions.
Some of the issues that may prevent your aging relatives from taking medications properly include:
- Dexterity issues. If there are no children or grandchildren in the home, consider using non childproof bottles.
- They simply may not remember to take the medications. This could be a matter of setting a timer, putting the pill bottles by the dinner table, any methods you can device that can help them remember to take the medicine.
- If they have vision problems, reading the labels on the bottles can lead to confusion and their not taking the medicine. Invest in a magnifying glass or use pill reminder containers.
- If your parent is having a hard time hearing the doctor or pharmacist, designate a family member to go to appointments with them and keep track of doctor’s orders.
- Do an annual review of the medications your parents are taking and determine whether they are still necessary (ask the doctor before stopping any medications) Also, if your parent has lost or gained a significant amount of weight the dosages may need to be adjusted, ask about this during the annual medicine review.
- Remember to tell their doctor about any over the counter medications your elderly relatives are taking.
It may seem, at times, that the medications your aging relatives take are a double-edged sword, but managed properly may allow them to live a longer, healthier, more vibrant life.
Now that summer is here, we will be spending more of our time out-of-doors and having our windows open to let the fresh air in. Of course, there are many who cannot take the heat or where it’s just so oppressive that keeping a window open is impossible and the air conditioner comes on.
Open Window Season (Photo credit: Chiot’s Run)
There are many steps that you can take to clear out potential toxins in your home and make it cleaner and healthier. Here are some of the steps we take in our living, eating and overall home environment to live healthier:
- Fresh fruit is the best for your health and well-being, but make certain you wash all fruits and vegetables before you eat them. When you consider the miles your produce may have traveled and the number of people who may have handled it before it reaches your table, it makes sense to wash it thoroughly before eating it.
- It’s healthier to use glass than plastic. Plastic is a convenience product, but the FDA completed a study that found plastic bottles contain small amounts of BPA – they are safe to use, but if you have glass, that is even safer. Be aware though that heating plastic can release the BPA and can lead to health concerns for some people. If you’re going to use plastic for food storage and heating, choose items labeled BPA-free
- Go green by making your own household cleansers. It’s easy to make all-natural cleaning products and it will also save you money. Baking soda, white vinegar and water can be easily mixed together and used to clean appliances, bath tubs and sinks and even be used as a cleanser for your tables.
- The best way to be healthy at home is by opening your windows and doors and letting the fresh air and sunshine inside! If your home has been closed up for the winter, now is the time to take advantage of the warmer weather and simply air it out.
- Run your appliances at night when the sun has gone down and the heat abates. Running your dishwasher or your washer and dryer after the sun has gone down will help keep your home cooler during the day and could even save you money by using appliances after peak energy hours.
Opening the windows and blinds in the morning is a great way to take advantage of the cooler air and closing them in the afternoon will help preserve the coolness you’ve drawn in. Enjoy the warm summer months ahead!
As we get older, many of us lose sight of the importance of mental health and maintaining a positive attitude on a day-to-day basis. As a result, the number of elderly individuals dealing with depression often increases. It is very important that these individuals have a support system in place to help them to deal with their depression and also ensure that they are able to take the proper steps to improve the environment around them. Often, exercise, time with friends and family and a good healthy diet can help reduce some of the depression related feelings.
Although depression is common in elderly individuals, they may be unable to recognize the signs or may be unwilling to admit that they are suffering from depression. There are many issues that could cause an individual to become depressed in their elderly years, but it is important to take note of the differences between having a down day, and going through ongoing depression, which could be a sign of other issues.
One of the more common reasons why elderly individuals experience depression can stem from loneliness. For individuals that become lonely, it is even more important for family members to stay in constant contact with them, not only to check on their well-being but to help to ease the feelings of loneliness. One way caregivers and family members can help is to make plans with individuals that are suffering from depression, helping to give them something to look forward to throughout the week.
In elderly individuals, depression can also stem from a loss of independence. Injuries, medical concerns, and a loss of strength can make it more difficult for them to continue to do the same tasks that they have done throughout their entire lives. It’s easy to see how these factors can lead to a sense of despair and frustration. Consulting a doctor is important to determine whether medication is needed or needs to be changed, and simply to ensure your loved one is in the best possible physical and emotional state.
Providing a support system to provide peace of mind and add a measure of safety can also alleviate some of the worries that lead to depression. One option to consider is a medical alert system. The person using the system wears a bracelet or pendant that includes an emergency help button. In the event of a fall or health issue, pushing the button will alert the emergency care center providing access to medical personnel or a call to a neighbor. This ensures that your loved one gets the help that they need, as quickly as possible. Not only does this serve as a huge benefit to them, but it also allows family members to have peace of mind, knowing that their loved ones will always be able to get to the phone and call for help during emergencies. Elderly individuals with depression are much more likely to suffer a fall, and the medical alert button is the perfect tool to help provide a safe environment.