Category Archives: Health

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.

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 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!

Aging Does Have Its Benefits, Part 1

Baby boomers are learning that growing older is far better than we expected. We are not aging the same way our parents and grandparents did and our quality of life is in many ways the best ever. Always resistive, always resistant, and always resilient, we are thriving on many levels. Turns out, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.Aging Benefits

There is lots of credit we could give for the fact that we are (for the most part) living better lives “at this age” then our parents did. First of all, healthcare has been finding new solutions to old problems every day and we have that huge advantage. Far more focus has been placed on preventive medicine and so we are monitoring our health more closely with great benefits. Finding and diagnosing problems early makes them far more manageable. That is true for our aging bodies.

We will discuss some more factual stuff in part two … but for now let’s laugh and think about stuff. Most of us are not sure how we got to be this old so quickly but we did. Our viewpoint of aging has changed significantly and we are not aging the same way our parents and grandparents did. We are doing it with fervor and some defiance … a good quality that has always defined us.

Getting older has caused us to come to understand that we have some options we never had before. We don’t have to get up and go to work. We don’t really have to do much that we don’t want to and with no cynicism, that is freedom. Our intentional focus on fitness and health has kept many of us healthy and active well into our senior years. We earned this.

One of the benefits of healthy aging is the understanding that we have far more control than generations before us. Though sometimes life gives us unexpected things, we have a great deal of control. We can control our diet. We control our exercise. We control our choices and all those stupid choices we made earlier in our life are over. We control our forgiveness for those mistakes. And we can decide how we play out life.

All in all, life is great and we can embrace that. For the moment, we ARE getting older and there are benefits to that. Big benefits. Part 2 is just around the corner.

Improve Your Focus And Memory As You Age

Do your parents seem to forget things you’d talked with them about only a day, or even an hour, ago? Do you have trouble focusing on the task at hand? I’m sure you’ve experienced that feeling when you walk into a room and can’t for the life of you remember why you were there? Been there, done that. Right?

Becoming forgetful is a fact of life and of aging. As a caregiver you want to do what you can to help your parents or aging loved ones improve their memory and their focus. Here are four steps you can take, for your aging parents, and in your own daily life to make forgetfulness not as much a part of aging:

  • Pay attention when someone is talking to you. If someone is talking and you’re involved in other activities you will lose the message they’re trying to convey. Stop what you’re doing and give them your full attention. If they’re talking and you missed something, ask for clarification.
  • Stating the conversation back for clarification is also another way to enhance your memory. “So, Mom what you said was you wanted me to pick up tomatoes from the farmer’s market on Thursday, right?” This lets the person know you were listening and also helps reinforce the conversation.
  • Are you distracted during conversations because it is too loud or an otherwise distracting environment? If you’re having an in talk, move into a quiet room or a quiet corner of the house. If you’re in a restaurant, move closer so that you can hear what’s being said.
  • Pick up a crossword puzzle or another type of word or number game to keep your mind agile.
  • Learn something new. Whether you take a class online or in person, life long learning is ideal for individuals who want to “age well.”

In addition to paying attention to what’s being said, you can also enhance your brain function Mental Sharpnessby being physically active. Not only does physical activity enhance your overall life and health it can also help stave off some of the effects of aging. You don’t have to run a marathon, but if you’re typically sedentary, get up and take a walk around the house, march in place when you’re on the phone, take the dog for a longer walk than you usually do (both you and your dog will benefit from this!).

Simply staying connected to others will help with mental acuity and even physical health. Get up. Get out. Get involved in social situations. Volunteer or even pick up a part time job in a field that’s always interested you. A busy mind is a healthy mind!

 

 

 

Essential Oils

TdoTerra essential oilshe buzzword lately seems to be “essential oils” and the physical and mental healing properties they appear to offer to users. While this article is not a definitive guide to these oils, nor their healing properties, we did want to pass along essential oil information because many caregivers find that using oils like lavender can actually help calm and soothe them and even help them get a better night’s sleep!

When used correctly and in moderation, many individuals find that there are more benefits to essential oils than there are drawbacks. As with any natural supplement you need to be a label reader to assure that you’re getting “pure” oils and not oils with potentially harmful additives.

If you’re considering exploring the use of essential oils, here are a few safety guidelines:

  • Make sure the bottles are kept tightly closed and out of direct sunlight
  • Look for pure essential oils
  • Keep out of the reach of your pets and your children or grandchildren
  • The oils should never be used in your nose, eyes or ears

These oils can be used topically either by rubbing a drop on your skin or using them in essential oil diffusers so you can reap the aromatic benefits. There are some oils that can be taken internally and do have healing properties, but again if you’re not certain about the uses of these oils, you need to check with a medical professional or expert in essential oil use.

Using essential oils topically will usually involve your diluting them to avoid any skin sensitivity or irritation issues. The additives you will use to dilute your essential oils could include coconut oil, almond or olive oils. If you’re going to use an essential oil on your skin, you should “patch test” to assure you won’t have any adverse reaction to it.

Essential oils can be used in cooking, in some instances, in place of food flavorings such as lemon or orange. You can also use a few drops of lavender oil to add a flavorful touch to fresh squeezed lemonade.

Whether you purchase your oils on line or from a local supplier, make certain you’re asking for specific instructions on how to use them and that you follow the guidelines provided.   You should also search online for websites and blogs dedicated to the use of essential oils. Website such as doTerra and Young Living sell and educate consumers on these oils.

 

 

 

 

Lessons In Meditation

In a recent article we shared with you the benefits of meditation for caregivers. In this piece we offer you tips on how to begin a meditation practice in your own home.

Meditation is becoming more mainstream as our lives seem to be more hectic with each passing day. How can we take a step back from what stresses us and find a way to relax and unwind? Meditation might just be the answer. Why? You don’t need any special equipment and if you can find a quiet spot in your house, out of doors or even in your car you can take time for yourself.

Here are some tips to help you “learn” how to meditate:

  • Set aside at least 15 minutes and find a quiet space. If it’s a darkened area that might be best, but quiet and without distractions will do just fine.
  • You can either sit cross legged on the floor or sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor. Sit up straight and hold your shoulders back. If your body is well-balanced (good posture) it will help you get in balance with your body and your mind.
  • Find a focal point in the room and gaze at it. You may have a special photo or a mandala or even an indoor water fountain that you find relaxing. If you’re outside, focus on a tree, or a stream in front of you or even the side of a building. Some people do close their eyes, but others find with their eyes closed, their mind drifts and they don’t fully get into meditation mode.
  • Concentrate on your breathing and use it as your focal point. It will give your mind something to focus on rather than letting your mind wander or to allow it to bring in the stressors of your day. Focusing on your breathing will help anchor you to the moment. If you need something to focus on, count your breaths – don’t allow your thoughts to wander to daily routines.
  • Silence is deemed best for meditation but if silence isn’t for you, choose some white noise or calming music.
  • Look at your meditation time as a time of enjoyment and self-care. Don’t add it to your “to-do” list and think of it as a chore. It is a treat you’re giving yourself for your health.
  • If you feel you would benefit from a meditation class, contact a local yoga studio and see if they offer classes for meditation.

While the complete science between the connection of mind and body health have not been fully explored, it has been shown that a healthy body benefits your mind and vice versa. And as caregivers, it is crucial that you take time to care for yourself.

 

The Signs And Symptoms Of Restless Leg Syndrome

If you have restless leg syndrome (RLS) you know it. If you’re having a hard time falling asleep because of an odd tingly feeling in your legs and a feeling that you simply can’t lie still, chances are you may be dealing with RLS.

What is restless leg syndrome and who gets it?

It is a condition, that unfortunately, isn’t always easy for your doctor to diagnosis and that’s because the symptoms manifest when you’re in bed at night and are hard to replicate in the doctor’s office. Many people who deal with RLS find that it’s worse if they’re pregnant, have arthritis, diabetes or anemia. The condition can effect individuals without these health issues as well and the causes of RLS are unknown.

Those who suffer this condition describe the feeling as:

  • Itching
  • Pulling
  • Crawling
  • Gnawing
  • Tugging

Regardless of the label you put on it, it is more than annoying and can also negatively impact your sleep. The symptoms of RLS make it difficult or impossible to not only fall asleep, but to stay asleep. Those who have RLS may also have periodic limb movements (PLM) and that can occur every 30 seconds or more and can also lead to sleep disruption.

One of the ways that sufferers get relief is to move or shake their legs, but again, when you’re doing this, you’re not getting a good night’s sleep. Even the act of moving your legs will only alleviate the issue for a brief time.

How to treat RLS

While there is no cure for restless leg syndrome there are medications that may treat the symptoms and you may be able to get a better night’s sleep. You may also find relief if you:

  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Stop smoking
  • Lose weight
  • Walk every day
  • Drink beverages that have quinine (tonic water has quinine)
  • Take iron supplements if you are anemic

If you feel you’re suffering with RLS, talk with your doctor and also make note of when the symptoms are at their worst and what, if anything, you have done to alleviate the symptoms.