Tag Archives: Health For Seniors

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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Caring for a Loved One with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia

While most individuals with Parkinson’s Disease are diagnosed over the age of 60, a growing class of younger individuals (beginning at age 30) are finding themselves living with the disease. The causes of Parkinson’s are currently unknown, but what we do know about PD is that it is a progressive movement disorder that affects the central nervous system. As of yet, there is no cure.

The onset of PD oftentimes leads to dementia. Hallucinations and severe uncontrollable muscle difficulties make patients more susceptible to cognitive impairments. Dementia only worsens over time. With each passing year, decline gets faster. While dementia is typically associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, there are numerous types of dementia.

It is estimated that 20-30 percent of those with PD will develop dementia, typically after the age of 70. Caregivers looking after someone with PD should be aware of onset signs including:

  • Impaired and slow thinking
  • Decreased memory recall and processing
  • Distraction
  • Confusion and disorientation

If someone with Parkinson’s Disease is going to develop dementia, there is typically a lag time of at least 10 to 15 years after the onset of PD. Knowing the signs of dementia will make it easier to diagnose and treat. If your loved one is experiencing anxiety, restlessness or delusions, it is likely that their dementia is not caused by Parkinson’s Disease.

Changing Daily Living Habits

Caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s Disease is difficult enough and adjusting to dementia presents its own set of stress. Caregivers need to assess the way their loved one is cared for along with how the added stress of the disease is playing into their own life. Both the caregiver and the care recipient need to make changes to their daily routine to manage the disease.

  • Instead of asking your loved one what they would like to eat, offer them specific choices. Your loved one may be unable to name a specific food they want, and as a result may feel frustrated. By offering them specific choices they are able to pick an option without having to process too many choices.
  • Establish schedules and stick to them. It may be helpful to create a list that is located next to  your loved one’s bed that provides a detailed list of everyday activities, including waking up, putting on slippers, getting dressed etc. When their daily routine is broken down, patients with PD are better able to avoid frustration since they know what to expect and the order in which they should complete certain activities.
  • Medications may need to be locked away as your loved one’s dementia worsens. If they are unable to remember which medications to take and when, locking away their medication will make their environment a little more safe.
  • Keep your loved one’s living environment clutter-free. By ridding their living situation of extraneous objects their decision-making processes will be a lot smoother.
  • Remove any objects that may cause harm to your loved one. Keeping sharp objects like knives out of sight and out of reach will make your loved one’s living environment less dangerous. Small appliances, ladders and stepping stools should also only be used when under supervision.
  • Utilize card games, puzzles, music and journals to exercise their memory.
  • When it comes to their wardrobe, the less hassle, the better. Clothes with snaps and buttons can present a challenge, whereas slip-on clothing and velcro offer a more user-friendly alternative.
  • Provide your loved one with a medical alert system like LifeFone to ensure help is always available to them at the touch of a button. All of their medical history, preferred doctors, and loved ones to contact in case of emergency will be on hand if they are equipped with a LifeFone pendant or bracelet.

Assessing Finances

Before your loved one’s dementia worsens it is best to develop a plan for finances and assess how their assets will be used. Consider preparing a financial and living will. Consult a financial planner to determine how their assets should be used, dissolved and distributed. You should also look into long-term care options and decide how bills should be paid on an ongoing basis. Assessing their finances in advance will deter added stress in the future.

While many people who have Parkinson’s never develop dementia, it is important to make adjustments and know your medical options for the 20-30 percent of patients who do. You will find that some adjustments can be made gradually as the dementia worsens, while other changes will need to be made right away. Communication with your loved one’s doctor is key in managing the disease as effectively as possible.

Five Ways To Maximize Your Memory

How many times have you walked into a room only to have forgotten why you were there? Do you misplace your keys frequently? It happens to all of us, and while we may have to accept that as we age our minds may not be as sharp as they once were, there are things you can do to boost your brain power and maximize your memory.

Here are five tips for sharpening your memory:

  1. Sit down with your children or grandchildren and play a video game! You’re never too old to learn to play and they just might be good for your brain power. Playing multi-player video games or online role playing games have been proven to boost cognitive function according to a study from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Because video games involve the use of several different mental abilities including hand-eye coordination, problem solving, reaction time and simply paying attention, your brain gets a workout while you play.
  2. Spend time in mindful meditation. Researchers from UCLA discovered that individuals who meditated had more (physical gray matter) brain power than those who didn’t.  The reason for this could be that even though our brains shrink as we age, meditation may slow the shrinking process. Take time, several times a day to quietly contemplate and relax.
  3. Get up and move and even lift some weights! While you don’t want to start an exercise routine without first clearing it with your physician, it’s been shown in Alzheimer’s studies that individuals who lifted weights and increased their muscle strength were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Also, the simple act of being active stimulates your synapses and keeps you more alert. Being physically active can also help prevent the risk of trip and fall accidents as your joints, muscles and bones are strengthened through use and activity.
  4. Lose weight and pick up healthy habits. Everyone knows the risks of smoking and health but it’s also been found that heavy smokers were at a higher risk (70%) of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. Eating healthy and exercising as a way to ward off obesity may also prevent the onset of heart disease, diabetes or myriad other weight-related issues. Ask your doctor for advice on healthy meal planning as well as how best to get started on exercising. Start off slow with a walk around the neighborhood and work your way up to more strenuous activity. Don’t forget that yardwork and gardening are also great ways to be active!
  5. Don’t stress the “small stuff.” As we age, it takes us longer to complete tasks than it used to, but that is no reason to stress. It’s a proven fact that as we age we have slower response times and it may take us longer to make decisions; it doesn’t necessarily mean we have slower mental processes, it may simply mean we are taking longer to make a conscious choice. Trust your instincts.

Being physically fit and staying mentally active are worthy goals for anyone of any age, but these become even more important as we age. What steps are you taking toward better mental and physical health?


The Surprising Health Benefits Of Caffeine

For more than 125 million Americans, a cup of morning coffee helps them kick start the day and helps keep them going. Did you know though, that in addition to the boost caffeine provides, it can also boost your mood and even help fight off disease? There are some surprising health benefits to your morning cup of java that you may not have considered.

  1. Caffeine has been shown to help chase away the pain of a headache or toothache. The pain relieving effects of aspirin or ibuprofen are amped up when followed by a cup of coffee.
  2. Even though caffeine will cause your blood pressure an initial spike, the benefits of two cups per day may protect against heart failure. You should ask your doctor, though, whether it’s healthy for you to consume caffeine.
  3. Caffeine may make you more mentally alert. Caffeine can sharpen your memory, enhance your attention span and improve reaction time. Just as doing crossword puzzles or remaining physically active helps slow down the aging process, caffeine may also be a viable option.
  4. In addition to boosting energy and your mood, caffeine may also relieve certain arthritis conditions and may also lower the risk of suffering an attack of gout.
  5. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that “coffee drinkers live 10-15% longer than non-coffee drinkers and are less likely to die early from disease.

If a morning cup of coffee or an afternoon cup of tea has been part of your daily routine, it appears  that caffeine can remain an enjoyable way to start the day.   Be sure to check with your doctor, however, before assuming caffeine is good for you!

How a Heart Healthy Diet Impacts You and Your Loved One

Maintaining a healthy diet can significantly reduce you and your elderly loved one’s risk of heart disease. Poor nutrition and deficiencies in the diet are detrimental to heart health. Choosing a heart conscious diet should center around decreasing saturated fat intake, reducing sodium levels and maintaining a healthy weight.

If you or your loved are in the process of refocusing your dietary needs to sustain a healthier lifestyle, the following recommendations will help in reducing heart disease, heart attack, stroke, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Both are key to a heart healthy diet. Fruits and veggies are good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals and are low in fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol.The average individual should consume five servings daily and those with a heart condition are advised to increase their intake to 6-8 servings.
  • Grains: Low-fat breads, cereals, crackers, rice, pasta and starchy vegetables (i.e. peas, potatoes, corn, winter squash and lima beans) are high in B vitamins, iron and fiber. However, you should be careful to avoid eating too many grains as they can lead to weight gain.
  • Healthy Proteins: Meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, eggs and lentils are all good sources of protein. When it comes to eating meat avoid duck, goose, high-fat meats, prepared meats (i.e. sausage, hotdogs) and high-fat lunch meats. The size of your meat serving should be no larger than a deck of cards, and all visible fat should be trimmed before the meat is cooked. It is also recommended that individuals eat two servings of fish per week, and that you eat meatless meals a few times per week. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk are also good sources of protein, calcium, and vitamins A and D as long as they are low-fat or non-fat.
  • Fats, Oils and Cholesterol: Diets high in saturated fat cause cholesterol to build up in the arteries, putting you at risk for a heart attack or stroke. A healthy diet should be limited to a total fat intake of 25 – 35 % of your daily calories, while saturated fats should only comprise 10 % of your daily total. Foods with a lot of saturated fats include animal products like butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, sour cream and fatty meats like bacon. You should also avoid trans fatty acids, which are unhealthy fats that form when vegetable oil hardens in a process called hydrogenation. Foods with trans fatty acids include commercial baked goods (donuts, cookies, crackers), processed foods and hard margarines.

Other Tips to Keep Healthy:

  • Exercise daily, for at least 30 minutes.
  • Cut down on salt, and check nutrition labels for the sodium content per serving.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Women should not exceed one drink per day and men should not exceed two.
  • Cigarettes can cause poor blood pressure and should be avoided.
  • Colas, coffees and teas should be minimized to avoid the adverse stimulants caffeine places on the body.

Living a heart healthy lifestyle will help you avoid obesity, type two diabetes, osteoporosis and some forms of cancer. Your body and your loved one will thank you for the newly adjusted lifestyle.

Getting Your Elderly Loved One to Eat

Despite conventional wisdom, weight loss is not a normal part of the aging process. We are not supposed to wither away in old age. Weight loss begins to occur in the elderly from a lack of vitamins and nutrients, which can be both upsetting and frustrating to witness as a caregiver. Older adults become more susceptible to weight loss with age because their stomachs do not digest as fast as they once did and the excitement of eating begins to diminish as sight, smell and taste wane.

Your loved one’s appetite may be suppressed for a number of reasons including cancer treatments, medications, depression or physical pain, to name a few. If your loved one is having trouble eating or has begun to experience weight loss, the following may help reignite their appetite:

  1. Serve smaller portions: Instead of feeding your loved one three large meals a day, which may seem overwhelming for some elderly, serve them six smaller meals throughout the day.
  2. Add calories: Combine protein powder mix with your loved one’s drinks to increase calories. Since many older adults are deficient in calcium and Vitamin D, adding a tablespoon or two of nonfat dry milk powder to yogurt, cottage cheese, soups or hot cereals will help them gain weight.
  3. Hydrate with water: Ensuring your loved one has enough water will allow them to avoid dehydration, which can lead to appetite suppression.
  4. Let your loved one choose the menu: When you give your loved one the power to choose what they want to eat, they will feel more in control and will be more likely to eat.
  5. Serve it soft: Soft foods are easier to eat and digest, try serving them pudding, ice cream or fruit smoothies.
  6. Add Seasoning: Bland food is not appetizing. If the food tastes better, your loved one will be more inclined to eat it.
  7. Set the mood: Make dinner a pleasant experience by playing soft music, discussing the day’s events, serving food on nice plates and topping off meals with a garnish.
  8. Keep a food journal: Track what your loved one is eating everyday as a reference of what they like to eat and what foods give them problems or complications. You can also go over the food journal with your loved one’s doctor or dietician to get some feedback on how their diet is serving their needs.

Your loved one should not view eating as a chore, making the experience a more pleasurable and rewarding one should help get their appetite back on track.

Medical Screening Handbook for Caregivers

It is often said that one of the most challenging aspects of being a caregiver is that the role does not come with a handbook. Caregivers are usually thrust into the position with little-to-no knowledge regarding what is expected of them or how they should go about tackling the role. First and foremost one of the most important aspects of caregiving is managing your loved one’s health, and when it comes to health there is an authority caregivers can consult.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force has put together a handbook of sorts outlining recommendations for screenings seniors should undergo. These simple medical tests can be requested when you take your loved one to the doctor:

  • Blood pressure: Your loved one’s blood pressure should be checked every year. Their heart, arteries, brain and kidney depend on it.
  • Weight gain: With age comes slower metabolism, not to mention that as we age muscle replaces fat. Weight is inextricably tied to health, so making sure your elderly loved one’s weight is in check is of utmost importance.
  • Rectal exam: The rectal exam and fecal occult blood test (FOBT) will tell your loved one if they have any masses or subtle bleeding. Rectal exams help detect treatable problems in the colon or the prostrate for men. Once reaching the age of 50 individuals should also under a colonoscopy every 10 years.
  • Eye exams: Macular degeneration and glaucoma are common with old age. Once reaching the age of 65 the elderly should have their eyes checked every year to preserve and maximize their vision.
  • Hearing test: It is estimated that at least 30% of people over the age of 60 have experienced some hearing loss, most of which can be treated. Your loved one should undergo a hearing test at least every three years.
  • Bone density test: Osteoporosis can severely hinder the state of anyone’s health. If your loved has osteoporosis and they suffer a fracture, their risk of permanent disability or death greatly increases. Ask your loved one’s doctor to refer them for a bone density test so they know where they stand.
  • Cholesterol Screening: Having high cholesterol can lead to a heart attack or stroke. If your loved one has high cholesterol, it can be treated with medications and altering their diet.
  • Vaccinations: After the age of 65 it is recommended that people get a pneumococcal vaccine to protect against pneumonia. The elderly should also get a yearly flu shoot and a tetanus booster every ten years.
  • For Women: As age increases, so does a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer. It is especially important that elderly women get annual mammograms. Women over the age of 65 should also routinely undergo pelvic exams and Pap smears. Older women can get cervical cancer and pelvic exams can help discover incontinence issues as well.

By scheduling yearly visits for your loved one to get his or her health checked out, you will have the ability to prevent a lot of heartache down the road. While there may not be many guidelines when it comes to caregiving, making sure the elderly are routinely screened is one area you can completely master.

* As with all medical suggestions and advice, you should be sure to consult your personal physician for recommendations as they pertain to your care and not rely on material provided herein.

Laughing Your Way to Better Health

When it comes to caregiving, laughter is the best medicine, literally. According to a study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, laughter may help prevent heart disease. Not only that, laughter may help people maintain their mental health especially those faced with difficult life situations i.e. being a caregiver for a chronically ill, elderly or disabled loved one.

Caregiving is an all-consuming occupation, there are few breaks and the stress that accompanies the position can be overwhelming. Seeing the humor in otherwise difficult situations lessens the tension and makes the job increasingly more rewarding and manageable. Continue reading