FEED YOUR BRAIN: TIPS FOR BETTER BRAIN HEALTH

FEED YOUR BRAIN: TIPS FOR BETTER BRAIN HEALTH

Spend some time with the 50-plus age group and it becomes clear that memory and brain function are hot topics.

With many baby boomers encountering changes in their brain function—causing concern, and, let’s face it, amusement, at times— it is not surprising that boomers are looking for ways to hold on to their memory and increase cognitive ability.

Being vital until the end of life is something that everyone wishes for but not all of us are lucky enough to experience. According to the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org), 44 percent of Americans between the ages of 75 and 84 have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and by age 85 that number goes up to 50 percent. Those numbers are driving a whole new market of brain-enhancing health products, from supplements to video games, all aiming to increase cognitive ability. But will this do us any good? Are there proactive steps we can take to stop the deterioration of the brain as we age?

According to mounting evidence in the field of neuroscience, the answer appears to be yes. Research is revealing that the aging brain actually has more capacity to change and adapt than was previously thought. According to Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, founder and chief director at the Center for Brain Health in Dallas, Texas, it appears that the brain continues to develop neural pathways to adapt to new experiences, learn new information, and create new memories.(1) In fact, studies show that the brain can actually get smarter as we age: the more new learning experiences we have, the more neural pathways we create, which means we can actually stockpile a larger network of neurons that can markedly slow down the process of cognitive decline. The more we develop in the brain now, the fewer years of decline we experience down the road.

Research conducted by the Center for Brain Health shows that older brains can be more receptive to pattern recognition, judgment, and accumulation of knowledge and experience, giving those over 50 an advantage over younger brains if—and that is a big if—the physical structure of the brain is not in decline.(2) Physical decline of the brain, meaning the actual shrinkage and deterioration that begins in our forties, corresponds with cognitive decline. All of this is to say that brain health needs to be a priority for those heading into their forties and fifties to reap the most significant rewards.

The goal is to decrease stress on the brain, which breaks down brain function, and to build new neural pathways through mental stimulation. The good news is that building better brain health in your everyday life is easier than you might think.

  • Reduce multitasking to help preserve brain function. Practice focusing on the most important thing at the moment instead of trying to cover everything all at once. This higher level of thinking actually means less dementia as we age.
  • The brain does not like routine so avoid robotic, automated behavior and take initiative to learn new behaviors. Simple things like changing your morning routine or learning to eat with your left hand will stimulate the brain.
  • Repetitive mental stimulation such as learning a new language or a new word every day, can improve performance of other tasks. Just think: improving your bridge game may actually improve your ability to drive a car.
  • While “brain games,” video games, and subscription websites are flooding the market, there is no evidence that these things are more effective than learning new skills on your own. The key concept is new: branch out into new languages, sports, and other novel skills to stimulate to the brain.

All the information we are learning about how significant a role basic life functions—the way you eat, sleep, and move—play in maintaining brain health and preventing chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease emphasizes the value of living a healthy lifestyle.

6 Tips for Brain Health
Here are six lifestyle factors that can have an impact on brain health.

  1. Diet. Many foods have been linked to brain health, and new information about the role of diet continues to emerge. Some of what research is revealing includes the benefit of the anti-inflammatory properties of a plant-based Mediterranean diet, which includes healthy fats such as olive oil and high-fiber grains, in preventing cognitive decline;(3) the impact of vitamin E, found in nuts and seeds, on the development of dementia; and the importance of decreasing the consumption of refined sugar and eating a limited amount of high fiber carbohydrates because research shows that dementia and Alzheimer’s may be due to “diabetes of the brain,” meaning insulin resistance in the brain that may cause loss of brain cells.(4,5,6)
  2. Weight control. An increasing body of evidence shows that being overweight in midlife increases risk factors for lower and faster decline in cognitive ability.(7) Weight control aids in blood pressure control, which affects brain function. Slow, steady weight loss that is sustainable has great benefit to brain health.
  3. Sleep. The brain actually does a lot of smart things while you sleep, so getting adequate sleep (seven to nine hours for the majority of us) can boost learning, attention, and memory. While sleeping, your brain practices new skills, sorts out memories for the future, and problem-solves, which is one of the reasons why “sleeping on it” often brings answers to problems.
  4. Exercise. Cardiovascular exercise is vital to brain health; it increases blood flow, delivering more nutrients to the brain. Most important, it increases brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a protein that aids in the survival of brain cells. Any exercise helps, but the real benefit shows up when one is active at least three hours per week.
  5. Stress management. Stress and anxiety are associated with memory disorders. Stress can interfere with the function of neurotransmitters in the brain and create toxins that cause cell damage and shrinkage of the brain. Meditation, prayer, and other relaxation techniques along with more-intense therapies may be necessary to control stress. Downtime and relaxation improve higher level thinking and brain health.
  6. Supplements. Dietary supplements that have flooded the market have not been proven effective in slowing cognitive decline. It is not about one nutrient but the diet as a whole. An aspirin per day and however, has been shown to be effective due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Statin medication that is prescribed to prevent heart disease has been shown to provide the same benefit, and there is increasing evidence that a multivitamin a day keeps the brain in tip-top shape.(8,9,10)

That’s right—supplementing with a daily multivitamin can improve cognitive function, according to a series of studies published by researchers from the United Kingdom.

Several teams of British neuroscientists studied the effects of multivitamin supplementation on mood and cognitive functioning among adults and children. In each study, healthy men, women, and children took the daily supplements for four to twelve weeks and then were tested for attention span, memory, accuracy, multi-tasking and other cognitive functions. The researchers also assessed participants’ mood and stress levels.

The results of the studies indicated that multivitamins improved cognitive function—even after only a few weeks of supplementation. In fact, men who took high doses of vitamin B-complex supplements showed improvements of cognitive function and also reported less mental fatigue and higher energy levels. Women also benefited from the daily supplements, as evidenced by an improvement in the ability to multi-task. Children between the ages of 8 and 14 performed well on attention-based tasks.

A multivitamin isn’t a magic bullet and certainly cannot serve as a substitute for a healthy diet—but it can be one component of a healthy lifestyle. It’s one of those things that falls into the category of “can’t hurt, might help.” So, if you needed another reason to add a multivitamin to your daily health regimen, add cognitive function to the list. If you want to give your brain a boost, start by swallowing your vitamins.

Source: Age Gracefully America  Charles H. Weaver, MD

5 Ways to Be a Healthy Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Caregiving is a labor of love, and love is about selflessness and sacrifice. Spouses give up so much for each other, parents constantly put their children’s needs before their own, and when those 5 Ways to Be a Healthy Alzheimer’s Caregiverchildren become grown adults with aging parents, they want to return the love and care they received.

If you find yourself consistently making sacrifices to care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, your heart is certainly in the right place. But such devotion can also take its toll on your health and well-being.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to report higher levels of burden and stress than other caregivers due to the cognitive and physical limitations experienced by the care recipients. And, a word of caution: a study from the National Alliance for Caregiving (PDF 2.6 MB) found that as care recipients’ dementias get worse, the health of their caregivers tended to diminish significantly as well.

Consciously taking steps to care for yourself is important both for your sake and your loved one’s. Feeling physically, emotionally and mentally refreshed will help you be the best caregiver you can be.

    1. Say Yes to Help
      It might require swallowing some guilt or pride, but if you feel overwhelmed, stressed to the max and exhausted, it’s time to ask for help. Talk to your other family members and come up with a solution together. Maybe the others can pitch in more regularly to give you a respite. Or maybe you’ll decide to hire outside help. Non-medical in-home senior care agencies like Home Instead Senior Care specialize in finding just the right caregiver to match your loved one’s needs, interests and personality. They can provide care for just a few hours per week or as much as 24/7 care. You’ll find peace of mind when you can take a break from caregiving and attend to your own needs knowing your loved one is with a well-trained, trusted caregiver.
    2. Stay Informed
      Knowledge is power when it comes to caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Arming yourself with information will reduce worry and stress while boosting your confidence and ability to take control of your situation.

    3. Find Support
      This could mean joining a caregiver support group in your community, taking part in an online community for Alzheimer’s caregivers, or just finding a good friend willing to listen and lend a shoulder to cry on. You need a safe space to vent your frustrations (without taking it out on your family) and a source of encouragement. Caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is one of the hardest jobs out there, so it may help to hear other caregivers’ stories and take the journey together.
    4. Take Care of YourselfMuch easier said than done, of course, but taking time to take care of your own needs is absolutely essential.
      • Avoid skipping or putting off your own doctor appointments
      • Take time to yourself everyday to do something you want to do
      • Listen to your body and give it what it needs—rest, exercise, a chance to cry, a nice massage, healthier food, a doctor’s check-up, etc.

While you will inevitably still make some personal sacrifices, limit them to the ones you feel are most important. Keep your stress levels in check by taking the Caregiver StressMeter assessment and learn what you need to do to maintain your own health and spirits.

  1. Focus On the Positive
    Make a point each day to note the things that went well, focus on what your loved one can do rather than dwelling on the difficulties, and don’t hesitate to break out your sense of humor! Never underestimate the power of a good, hearty laugh to ease tension and melt away stress. Negativity, on the other hand, will just drag you down, so strive to maintain good moods and attitudes to remain at the top of your game.

Even if it seems like caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s demands all your time and energy, know that you’re entitled to take personal time for yourself. It’s not only allowed, it’s necessary. Start right now—choose one thing you can do to feel better today and you’ll be on your way toward a more rewarding caregiving experience.

Source CaregiverStress.com

When to See a Doctor for Sleep Problems

When to See a Doctor for Sleep ProblemsIf you consistently have trouble sleeping at night, you may be one of millions of Americans who suffers from a sleep disorder. Almost everyone has had trouble sleeping at one point or another, but a sleep disorder occurs on an ongoing basis. Because there are more than 100 types of sleep disorders, it can be difficult to figure out what is causing your sleepless nights.

Here are the most common sleep disorders:

  • Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. It is the most common sleep disorder in the United States. About 15% of U.S. adults report having chronic insomnia.
  • Narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness with sudden muscle weakness. Sleep attacks is another name for this condition.
  • Parasomnias are emotions, behaviors and activities that take place while a person is sleeping. Sleepwalking, sleep talking, sleep aggression, sleep eating, teeth grinding, and nightmares are parasomnias.
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is the overwhelming urge to move your legs at night. This is usually in response to unpleasant sensations, such as creeping, crawling, tingling, burning, achy or itchy feelings. Moving the legs often relieves these sensations.
  • Sleep apnea is breathing pauses during sleep that last at least 10 seconds. Loud snoring, gasping, and choking noises are also typical symptoms. The most common form is obstructive sleep apnea.

Common Causes of Sleep Disorders

For most people, sleep debt is due to busy lives, shift work or “night owl” syndrome—staying up too late. Poor sleep may also stem from napping too much, depressionanxiety, caffeine or other stimulants, or simply getting older. However, sleep disorders can occur on their own. This is true for narcolepsy, RLS, sleep apnea, and even insomnia in some cases. Sleep scientists know that sleep is controlled by our genes, and many sleep disorders run in families.

Sleep Disorder Treatment at Home

Treatment and prevention strategies depend on the exact sleep disorder, but in general, making a sleep a priority and good sleep habits are essential. This includes having routine sleep times, keeping your room cool and dark, and limiting caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Doctors also recommend limiting daytime naps, getting regular exercise, and not eating close to bedtime. Your doctor may have more suggestions based on your specific habits.

When to See a Doctor for Sleep Disorders

Talk with your primary care doctor or provider if any of these situations applies:

  • You have trouble sleeping at night for 30 days or more.
  • You find yourself drowsy or dozing off during the day, with impaired memory, alertness or concentration.
  • You have tried good sleep habits (good sleep hygiene) and sleep problems persist.

Who to See for Sleep Disorders

It is important to explore the possible causes of your sleeplessness and try to find a solution. Your primary care doctor will be able to talk about solutions, but may also recommend seeing a sleep medicine specialist for a full evaluation and diagnosis. A sleep specialist is also the best choice for advanced care and treatment if you have a clinical sleep disorder.

Source: Healthgrades. by Kate Kling

Take Time for You!

WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE TIME TO FOCUS ON YOUR HEALTHTake Time for You!

The United States spends more money by a wide margin than any other country on health care.  Our health care system is set up to keep us from dying, not thriving.  Our average life span barely makes it in the top 30 when compared to other nations.  As it stands now, the American health care system is poorly equipped to help us maximize our health span.  Health span is defined as a period of time in which a person is generally healthy and free from serious disease.

Health care costs in America continue to increase without actual positive change in our health status as consumers.  It is imperative that we take a leadership role in our own health care by continuing to be proactive.  Part of being proactive is learning how to care for and manage common non-life threatening injuries and illnesses.  The medical system is not designed to help you to maximize your health and well-being.  It is designed to prevent you from dying and to maximize profits for the corporatocracy that controls our health care system.  It is imperative that we manage our health by learning how to self-treat non-life threatening and non-emergent injuries and illnesses.

6 Reasons Why You Should Take Time to Focus on Your Health:

  1. Money – Health care is expensive. Many of the most common treatments and fancy diagnostic methods are not necessary.  Costs are only going to rise more in the future.  As this occurs, it will be even more important to be able to take care of the simple common place injuries and illnesses.  It will save you a lot of time and money!
  2. Empowerment – There is nothing more important than your health. You have control of most of the aspects in your life that affect your health status.  Taking care of yourself and your health needs leads to a sense of empowerment.
  3. Improved Care – If you understand how to be healthy and take care of yourself, you will be able to assist your medical practitioner in making the best decision on how to manage your care. Remember, it is your body and your health.  Being your own advocate will insure that you receive quality care.
  4. Quicker Recovery Time – Often by taking out the middle man, you can help to increase the speed of recovery. You can address the condition and help your body to initiate the healing response to insure a faster recovery.
  5. Emergency Situations – You never know when an emergency, such as a motor vehicle accident or inclement weather, may occur. You may experience an injury or illness during a camping trip when resources are a far distance away.  In the event of an emergency situation, you will be knowledgeable and equipped to take care of yourself and your loved ones.  (If necessary, please seek appropriate medical assistance as soon as possible.)
  6. Healthy Living – Take the time to focus on your health. Often, small changes in your diet, activity level, and relationships can make a big difference.  You can take control of your health and your life!

There is nothing more important than your health.  You have control over most of the aspects in your life that affect your health and well-being.  Take charge, and empower yourself.  Youmust be your greatest advocate.  Western medicine is designed to keep you alive, not to help you thrive.  Taking a passive role in your health is not a wise choice in America’s current health care environment.  Only you are responsible for your health.  Decisions now will determine how successful you age in the future.

Source: Age Gracefully America, By Ben Shatto

Person-Centered Care at the Heart of Aging Life Care Managers® Work with Aging Adults

 Person-centered care is the idea that a person’s perspective, goals, and values should be at the forefront of their medical care. This method focuses on providing “thoughtful, systematic, and incremental” approaches to a patient’s health plan. It is now being recognized that placing the patient at the center is one of the more effective ways to promote positive health outcomes, as highlighted in two new articles published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS).

Aging Life Care Managers® have promoted person-centered care in their own field for decades, working with families to create care plans that have the client’s goals at heart. These professionals, also known as geriatric care managers, help older adults and those with disabilities to coordinate the resources and funding needed to support their desired care plan. This can mean bringing in caregivers so that the client can continue to live at home, or finding the right assisted living facility to meet their needs. Aging Life Care Managers can help families who need a variety of services, including:

  • Health and Disability – From physical problems to mental health and dementia-related problems, Aging Life Care Managers interact with the health care system effectively and frequently. Aging Life Care Professionals attend doctor appointments and facilitate communication between doctor, client, and family.
  • Financial – Services may include reviewing or overseeing bill paying or consulting with a client’s accountant or Power of Attorney. Aging Life Care Managers provide information on Federal and state entitlements, connecting families to local programs when appropriate. They also help clients and families with insurance concerns, claims, and applications.
  • Housing – Aging Life Care Managers help families and clients evaluate and select appropriate level of housing or residential options.
  • Families – Aging Life Care Managers help families adjust, cope and problem-solve around long-distance and in-home caregiving, addressing care concerns, internal conflicts and differences of opinion about long-term care planning.
  • Local Resources – Aging Life Care Managers know the local resources in their communities and can help connect clients with the appropriate services.
  • Advocacy – Aging Life Care Managers are strong and effective advocates for clients and their families, promoting the client’s wishes with health care and other providers, ensuring that client’s needs are being adequately addressed.
  • Legal – Aging Life Care Managers refer to legal experts, like elder law attorneys, estate planners, and Powers of Attorney. Some provide expert opinion for courts in determining level of care and establishing client needs.
  • Crisis Intervention – Aging Life Care Managers offer crisis intervention when it is needed, helping clients navigate through emergency departments and hospitalizations, rehabilitation stays, and ensuring that adequate care is available to the client. For families that live at a distance, this can be a much-needed 24/7 emergency contact.

If you or your loved one needs care management services, visit the Aging Life Care Association® at http://www.aginglifecare.org to find an expert near you.

ABOUT the Aging Life Care Association ® (ALCA): ALCA (formerly known as the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers) was formed in 1985 to advance dignified care for older adults and their families in the United States. Aging Life Care Professionals® have extensive training and experience working with older adults, people with disabilities, and families who need assistance with caregiving issues. They assist families in the search for a suitable nursing home placement or extended care if the need occurs. The practice of Aging Life Care™ and the role of care providers have captured a national spotlight, as generations of Baby Boomers age in the United States and abroad. For more information or to access a nationwide directory of Aging Life Care Professionals, please visit http://www.aginglifecare.org.

Source: Aging Life Care Association 

BALANCING YOUR PRIORITIES IN LIFE

BALANCING YOUR PRIORITIES IN LIFELiving a productive and meaningful life is a balancing act. With the pressures of today’s demanding and high paced world, most people struggle to find a reasonable balance. We can easily be drawn away from our priorities when one aspect of our life consumes the bulk of our time. To a large extent, it is much like walking a tightrope. When we drift too much in one direction or the other, we become unbalanced.  To sustain what we value most in our lives, we must constantly maintain our equilibrium as we move forward to achieve our purpose and goals.

Are you dedicating enough time and energy to the most important aspects of your life? Or do you find yourself focusing on one major area at the expense of the others?

Commit to finding your balance in life.
Take a good look at your life. Do you feel consistently stressed, physically exhausted, mentally drained or emotionally devoid of happiness? Are you dropping the ball with key responsibilities in your personal and professional lives?  Do you neglect your own well-being for the sake of others? If your answer is “yes” to any of these considerations, you may be out of balance. To find your balance, make a commitment to work through these next steps.

Here are some useful techniques on how to balance your priorities in life: 

1. Determine your priorities.
Set aside time to define what you would consider to be the most significant aspects of your life. Do they include such priorities as family, friends, work, community, and self? How do your priorities factor into your life? Which of them consume the most time, energy, and financial resources? Which ones are the most rewarding to you? Overall, how do they add and subtract value to your spiritual, mental, and physical well-being? Focus on creating priorities that are achievable and make the most sense to you.

2. Establish and execute an implementation plan for each priority.
You have a finite amount of time and energy in any one given day.  In response, how do you plan to implement your priorities? To develop your plan, establish specific strategies for each priority and tie them to your overall plan to maintain balance.  If one priority is to care for your father with Alzheimer’s, how can you accomplish this goal when you are working full-time with two teenagers? What specific steps will you take to manage your efforts? As you execute your implementation plan, align your actions to your words. Your priorities will be revealed to others by how you live.

3. Evaluate your progress.
Take time to periodically assess how well you are carrying out your priorities. Acknowledge your accomplishments and areas in need of improvement. If you continue to feel unbalanced, be willing to adjust your priorities or implementation strategies to bring you back into alignment. As your priorities change, alter your implementation plan to sustain your balance. This will be an ongoing process if you wish to keep moving forward.

4. Stand your ground.
You own your priorities and how they balance your life. No one else can determine what is best for you even when they may try. Be prepared to walk away from difficult situations and to say no to unreasonable requests that ultimately compromise your balance. Consider it a personal victory when you have the strength and courage to protect what is important to you. Don’t relinquish your power to the unreasonable demands of others.

5. Allow yourself time each day to center yourself.
An essential part of balancing your life is to take time for yourself. Make it a daily habit to spend some quiet time during your day to relax and let go. Turn off your cell and other distractions and just check out for even a short period of time.

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities– Stephen Covey

Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living

Source: AgeGracefullyAmerica.com

Baby Boomers Expected to Change Retirement Landscape

Is Bingo a Thing of the Past?Is Bingo a Thing of the Past?

The generation that brought you Woodstock is about to dramatically change the way we think of retirement living. Being raised in a time where raising your consciousness meant protesting civil and constitutional rights, burning your bra and resisting the draft, baby boomers are bound not to take retirement lying down.

With nearly 78 million people born between 1946 and 1964, boomers are quickly taking their place among retirees. And, as they do, they will be changing expectations as to what flies when it comes to activities. Move over Bingo. The Boomers are here!

More “Active” Activities

Boomers today are looking forward to an active retirement, provided their health and resources hold out. Exercise and sports, such as aerobics, weight-bearing workouts, tennis and golf are just a few of the activities they plan to do as they age. Not only are these activities good for their health, they help them to feel younger and more vital as well.

In addition to regular exercise, the boomer generation will likely also be more adventurous in their twilight years. Don’t be surprised to see them white water rafting, sky diving, skiing and paragliding, if they are able. Once their kids are on their own, boomers will have the time to experience some of the things they may have missed out on in their youth.

A Second Career

Many boomers also see their retirement years as an opportunity to explore their passions. One way in which to do that is to explore a second career. Entrepreneurship is one way. Other ways may include translating their experience into teaching or consulting. In this way, they can use their life experience to help others and feel like they are making a contribution to the society they will be leaving behind.

Group and Solitary Activities

Joining book clubs and taking college courses are another way to stay active and mentally engaged. As with other activities, retirement years offer opportunities to do some of the things they missed out on, such as completing a degree or traveling with friends and family.

Volunteering

Staying involved in their communities is also paramount for giving purpose to their retirement years. Like teaching or consulting, it is a way seniors can give back to their communities now that they have time. There are so many ways to volunteer! Whether it is walking dogs at the local shelter, tutoring local school children, or helping out at the local art museum, there is something out there for anyone looking for a way to be involved.

What Does This Mean for The Future of Assisted Living Facilities?

As the population of those living in Assisted Living facilities changes, so, too will the facilities have to adapt to their changing needs.

In order to attract the aging Baby Boomers, facilities will need to introduce those types of activities that are of interest to this population. These may include:

• On-site college level courses and educational programs: With a more educated and experienced clientele, facilities will need to offer a higher level of learning activities to keep their residents satisfied. College courses or elder hostel programs that offer a shorter series of lectures may be offered. In addition, these programs frequently offer day or weekend field trips that can keep elders engaged and active.

• Weight-training and exercise programs: While chair exercises still have their place, adding weight training and other group exercise opportunities can provide additional incentives for boomers considering assisting living options. These options do not necessarily mean investing in fancy gym equipment or a barrage of bar bells. However, bringing in a personal trainer who specializes in the needs of older adults may provide an opportunity for residents to learn a new activity while also improving their balance and strength. In addition, exercise classes that may include aerobics or Tai Chi are an additional appeal.

• Clubs for a variety of activities: An easy opportunity is to add clubs for residents with specific interests. There are book clubs, investment clubs, bridge clubs, bunco clubs, and even travel clubs, which provide a range of social activities for seniors.

• Expanded Entertainment and Dining Options: Baby Boomers have become accustomed to having lots of choices when it comes to entertainment and dining. Offering more options for eating will go a long way to attract residents from this age category. One consideration might be multiple food stations where diners can select from various culinary options, such as Asian foods, salad bars, seafood options or a grill.

Bingo

While many new options are available, that doesn’t mean facilities should throw out the bingo cards. There is still a place for Bingo and board games. It just isn’t the same place that it used to be.

3 Breathing Exercises to Fight Stress and Raise Oxygen Levels

3 Breathing Exercises to Fight Stress and Raise Oxygen LevelsBreathing is something we do without thinking, so it’s easy to take it for granted. But as people age, they’re more likely to develop respiratory complications and experience breathing difficulties. Along with this inability to breathe freely and sustain healthy oxygen levels comes a host of other ailments, including elevated anxiety and emotional stress, reduced energy levels, and compromised immune function.

Caregivers can help their aging loved ones alleviate some of these symptoms through focused breathing techniques that increase the body’s oxygen levels and ease physical and mental stress. These exercises can alleviate some of the symptoms associated with asthma attacks, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sleep apnea. Furthermore, even healthy individuals can benefit from the calming and rejuvenating effects of controlled breathing.

Seniors and their caregivers can practice these techniques together to reap the benefits. Try the three exercises below to find one that is most useful for each of you.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Believe it or not, there is a right way to breathe, but most people don’t practice it. Patients with limited lung capacity often fall into the habit of taking short, shallow breaths into their chest. If a person’s chest rises as they take a breath, it is a likely indicator of improper breathing. A proper breath will draw air into the lungs, pushing the diaphragm down and visibly expanding the belly. Follow these steps to engage in deep, diaphragmatic breathing:

  1. Sit up straight, with one hand on the stomach and the other on the chest.
  2. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nostrils, feeling the stomach expand with each full, diaphragmatic breath.
  3. Exhale slowly out of the mouth.
  4. Repeat six or more times each minute for up to 15 minutes.

The 4-7-8 Technique

The popular 4-7-8 breathing method has been touted as one of the most effective (and speedy) ways to fall asleep. Some studies suggest that a person can drift off in less than a minute using this approach. Part of the 4-7-8 technique’s success lies in its ability to ease tension and promote relaxation. Practicing the following focused breathing exercise twice a day will help minimize food cravings, reduce anxiety and provide relief from insomnia.

  1. Breathe out fully through the mouth, creating a wind-like “whoosh” noise.
  2. Keeping the mouth closed, inhale through the nose and silently count to four.
  3. Hold this breath while counting to seven.
  4. Exhale through the mouth for a count of eight, repeating the “whoosh” sound.
  5. Repeat steps two through four five times.

Buteyko Nose Breathing

Buteyko breathing was invented by a Russian scientist in the 1950s to curb asthma attacks and treat other respiratory problems. Unfortunately, the medical field resisted a breathing technique that could ease symptoms without the help of medication. Since then, people around the world have embraced Buteyko breathing specifically because it is natural and very effective.

Thousands have reported relief from asthma, sleep apnea and hypertension by integrating this proven method, which balances the body’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, into their daily routine. As a note, it is best to have senior patients initially perform this exercise under supervision to avoid improper technique that can result in hyperventilation.

  1. In a quiet, comfortable place, sit up straight and focus on breathing.
  2. Keeping the mouth closed, inhale slowly through the nostrils to fill the lungs.
  3. Exhale through the nostrils, slowly expelling air from the lungs,until you feel compelled to inhale.
  4. Repeat steps two and three five times.

Keep it Consistent

When patients begin using daily breathing techniques and notice positive results, they often stick with the program. Missing a day or two is acceptable, unless it affects a person’s whole routine and causes them to slip back into old, shallow breathing habits. Tracking progress with a diary can help you stick to your routine, recognize improvements and note any significant changes in your health.

We breathe more than 25,000 times each day, so it’s easy to get lazy when it comes to this largely involuntary process. Using these breathing exercises, seniors and caregivers alike can shake old habits and develop new ones that lead to improved physical health and a renewed sense of mental alertness and clarity in only a few weeks.

Without safety net of kids or spouse, ‘elder orphans’ need a fallback plan

Without safety net of kids or spouse, 'elder orphans' need a fallback plan

It was a memorable place to have an “aha” moment about aging.

Peter Sperry had taken his 82-year-old father, who’d had a stroke and used a wheelchair, to Disney World. Just after they’d made their way through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, nature called. Sperry took his father to the bathroom where, with difficulty, he changed the older man’s diaper.

“It came to me then: There isn’t going to be anyone to do this for me when I’m his age, and I needed to plan ahead,” said Sperry, now 61, recalling the experience several years ago.

Sperry never married, has no children and lives alone.

About 22 percent of older adults in the U.S. fall into this category or are at risk of doing so in the future, according to a 2016 study.

“This is an often overlooked, poorly understood group that needs more attention from the medical community,” said Dr. Maria Carney, the study’s lead author and chief of the division of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Northwell Health in N.Y. It’s also an especially vulnerable group, according to a recently released survey of 500 people who belong to the Elder Orphan Facebook Group, with 8,500 members.

Notably, 70 percent of survey respondents said they hadn’t identified a caregiver who would help if they became ill or disabled, while 35 percent said they didn’t have “friends or family to help them cope with life’s challenges.”

“What strikes me is how many of these elder orphans are woefully unprepared for aging,” said Carney, who reviewed the survey at my request.

Financial insecurity and health concerns are common among the survey respondents: a non-random sample consisting mostly of women in their 60s and 70s, most of them divorced or widowed and college-educated.

One-quarter of the group said they feared losing their housing; 23 percent reported not having enough money to meet basic needs at least once over the past year; 31 percent said they weren’t secure about their financial future.

In the survey, 40 percent of people admitted to depression; 37 percent, to anxiety. More than half (52 percent) confessed to being lonely.

Carol Marak, 67, who runs the Facebook group, understands members’ insecurities better than ever since suffering an accident several weeks ago. She cut her finger badly on a meat grinder while making chicken salad for dinner guests. Divorced and childless, Marak lives alone in an apartment tower in Dallas. She walked down the hall and asked neighbors a married couple to take her to the emergency room.

“I freaked out and this wasn’t even that big of a deal,” Marak said. “Imagine people like me who break a hip and have a long period of disability and recovery,” she said. “What are they supposed to do?”

Sperry has thought a lot about who could be his caregiver down that road in a circumstance like that. No one fits the bill.

“It’s not like I don’t have family or friends: It’s just that the people who you can count on have to be specific types of family and friends,” he said. “Your sister or brother, they may be willing to help but not able to if they’re old themselves. Your nieces and nephews, they may be able, but they probably are not going to be willing.”

The solution Sperry thinks might work: moving to a continuing care retirement community with different levels of care when he begins to become less independent. That’s an expensive proposition entry fees range from about $100,000 to $400,000 and monthly fees from about $2,000 to $4,000.

Sperry, a longtime government employee, can afford it, but many people aging alone can’t.

Sperry also has a short-term plan: He wants to retire next year and relocate from Woodbridge, Va., to Greenville, S.C. a popular retirement haven in a home with design features to help him age in place. Those plans could be upended, however, if his widowed mother in Pennsylvania requires extra care.

In the meantime, Sperry is resolved to be pragmatic. “Do I look at my situation and say ‘Gee, there’s not going to be anyone there for me’ and start feeling sorry for myself? Or do I say ‘Gee, I’d better figure out how I’m going to take care of myself?’ I’m not going with pity I don’t think that would be very pleasant,” he said.

Planning for challenges that can arise with advancing age is essential for people who go it alone, advised Sara Zeff Geber, a retirement coach and author of “Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A Retirement and Aging Roadmap for Single and Childless Adults.” A good way to start is to think about things that adult children do for older parents and consider how you’re going to do all of that yourself or with outside assistance, she said. In her book, Geber lists the responsibilities that adult children frequently take on: They serve as caregivers, help older parents figure out where to live, provide emotional and practical support, assist with financial issues such as managing money, and agree to serve as health care or legal decision-makers when a parent becomes incapacitated. Also, older parents often rely on adult children for regular social contact and a sense of connectedness.

In New York, Wendl Kornfeld, 69, began running year-long workshops for small groups of solo agers four years ago. Though married, she and her 80-year-old husband consider themselves future solo agers living together. “We figured out a long time ago one of us was going to survive the other,” she said.

At those gatherings, Kornfeld asked people to jettison denial about aging and imagine the absolute worst things that might happen to them, physically and socially. Then, people talked about how they might prepare for those eventualities.

“The whole purpose of these get-togethers was to be fearless, face issues head-on and not keep our heads in the sand,” Kornfeld said. “Then, we can plan for what might happen, stop worrying and start enjoying the best years of our lives.”

Kornfeld took her program to New York City’s Temple Emanu-El three years ago and is working with several synagogues and churches interested in launching similar initiatives. Meanwhile, elder orphans have begun meeting in-person in other cities, including Chicago; Dallas; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; and Seattle, after getting to know each other virtually on the Elder Orphan Facebook Group.

Kornfeld applauds that development. “So many solo agers identify as being introverted or shy or impatient with other people. They have a million reasons why they don’t go out,” she said. “I tell people, this may be hard for you, but you’ve got to leave the house because that’s where the world is.”

Source: Chicago Tribune, By Judith Graham

Should They Stay or Should They Go: Home Modifications and Selling Your Home

Living with a disability, whether because of age or another lifestyle factor, makes life significantly more challenging. One place where all individuals should feel comfortable is at home. However, most homes are not designed with wheelchair, walker or other mobility assistance devices in mind.

If you or someone you love is dealing with limited mobility, or if you are caring for a senior in your life, you may need to make some modifications to allow them to live comfortably and independently at home. As you consider these modifications, you will also want to consider the impact they have on the resale value of your home, should you need to sell your home at a later date. Here’s what you need to know about home modifications and resale value.

Common Home Modifications for Those That Need More Assistance

Those who are older and those who have mobility or sensory disabilities sometimes need home modifications to help them navigate their homes independently. From assisting with navigating stairs to ensuring someone with visual concerns can safely move around a home, sometimes these modifications require an actual change to the house, its structure or its features.

Home Modifications for Seniors

These home modifications make life easier for senior citizens:

  • Installing grab bars in bathrooms
  • Installing walk-in or roll-in tubs/showers in bathrooms
  • Swapping out doorknobs with pull handles
  • Installing ramps for exterior access
  • Installing stair lifts for access to other stories
  • Eliminating stairs where possible
  • Additional handrails on stairs without stair lifts
  • Addition of first-floor laundry facilities
  • Adding a bath or shower to the first floor bedroom
  • Addition of portable shower seats
  • Levered faucets in sinks and showers
  • Adjusting windows so they are easy to open
  • Installing automatic openers on the garage
  • Adding peepholes or viewing panels to exterior doors
  • Strategic lighting to increase visibility
  • Installing non-slip tape on exterior steps and ledges
  • Installing an elevated dishwasher to limit bending

Home Modifications for Disabled Individuals

Disabled individuals of all ages may need home modifications to help them get around. Some of these may include:

  • Widening doorways for wheelchair or walker access – Aim for 36 inches wide
  • Lowering countertops to wheelchair height
  • Lowering light switch height
  • Roll-in showers
  • Grab bars in bathrooms
  • Wheelchair ramps for a home’s exterior
  • Lift for accessing other areas of the home
  • Lowering height of handles and locks
  • Limiting transitions between flooring types
  • Removing carpet in favor of hard flooring options
  • Elimination of chairs where possible

Here is additional information about home modifications:

How Do Home Modifications Affect Resale Value?

When it comes to home modifications, the only thing on the mind of most homeowners is making the home accessible for those they love. While that roll-in shower may have been beneficial and even critical to your loved one’s self-care, it may not be an asset to a potential buyer. There usually comes a point when moving is inevitable, and at that time you must consider the resale value of the home. Here’s how you can determine the effect on your home’s resale value of the various modifications you’re considering.

Factors that Impact Whether Modifications Are Beneficial to Resale Value, or Harmful

Will accessibility changes affect your home’s resale value? Here are some factors that will impact the answer to that question.

  • Your Location – If your home is located somewhere with a large number of disabled or senior individuals, such as near a good veteran’s hospital serving disabled veterans or in an area of the country where people want to retire, you may see more resale value from your modifications.
  • The Modification Type – Does the modification significantly change the function or flow of the house? If so, it may hurt resale value. If not, it may help.
  • Your Potential Future Buyer – Finally, the potential demographic of your future buyer may play a role. As Baby Boomers reach retirement, they are seeing an increased desire for accessible homes. Also, those between the ages of 35 and 55 have the greatest demand or desire for accessibility.

Places Where Accessibility Is Valued

Certain parts of the country place a higher value on accessibility, and as such tend to draw a large number of disabled or elderly individuals who capitalize on those accessible features. In these parts of the country, accessibility modifications are more likely to have a positive impact on the home’s value.

These areas include:

  • Denver, CO – Denver may not be the retirement place of choice for most retirees, but the city has a number of adaptability features throughout its public areas and public transportation.
  • Berkeley, CA – This city stands as a model for independent living.
  • Seattle, WA – Mild weather and a number of accessible features make Seattle a popular place among those who need disability assistance
  • Gainesville, FL – It’s no secret that seniors flock to Florida, and Gainesville has a low cost of living combined with a strict disability-friendly building code that can help make it popular among those needing accessibility.
  • AZ – Arizona is also a popular place to retire, and many 50-and-older communities cater to the specific needs of those who need additional disability assistance. The demand for accessible housing can be large in these areas.

 

So what impact do specific modifications have on resale value? Approximately 75% of people assume that home modifications hurt resale value of a home, but this is not always the case. The reality is that some modifications, especially if they are done tastefully and in line with the home’s architectural style, can have a positive impact.

It’s not possible to put a dollar value on specific modifications, because the impact varies depending on the style of home, its location and the target buyer demographic. However, one principle that can impact the overall impact is the principle of Universal Design.

Universal Design refers to a home design that is safe and usable for people of all ages and abilities, including those with disabilities. Universal Design is built into the home’s basic design, rather than added as an afterthought. This means that Universal Design elements work with the home’s architecture. Some features of a Univebrsal Design home include:

  • Safe and accessible bathrooms
  • Lever door and faucet handles
  • Non-slip surfaces in the bathroom
  • No steps at entrances
  • Maximum rise of 1/2 inches at thresholds
  • Minimum of 5 feet by 5 feet at entrance doors on both sides
  • Proper lighting for entry doors
  • Ground floor bedroom, bath and laundry
  • Room for installation of a platform lift near stairs
  • Contrasting colors between floor and trim or different floors that require different navigation
  • Avoidance of glossy surfaces

These types of changes do not change the look or architectural design of the home much, and as such do not hurt its resale value. In fact, studies have shown that Universal Design modifications can actually help your home’s resale value. Additions that change the look or architecture of a home and make it stand out as “accessible,” such as a large wheelchair ramp outside a home, can have a negative impact.

For more information on Universal Design, home modifications and resale value, visit:

Your Potential Buyer

With baby boomers rapidly retiring or reaching retirement age, there is a niche housing market emerging that you can likely tap into if you’re selling a modified home. Advertise modifications and be prepared to discuss the details of how they were installed, as well as what needs to be done to modify them further. You may also wish to consider renting your modified home as a means of income, and a way to leverage the modifications you made.

Hottest Home Modifications for Disabled Individuals

If you’re working to make a home more accessible for a disabled loved one, you may have to pick and choose the modifications you use based on budget or because of concerns about resale value. Here are some of the hottest home modifications to consider, which both help your loved one and potentially help your resale value.

Accessible Bathroom

An accessible bathroom is one with at least a five-foot diameter turning space, which allows someone in a wheelchair or with a walker navigate independently. Accessible bathrooms may have roll-in tubs or showers and adjustable seats, and they will have grab bars. To make the bathroom as resale friendly as possible, work with a pro to add these modifications in a way that works with the bathroom’s design and architecture.

First-Floor Bedroom and Laundry

People with mobility issues can’t go up and down the stairs every time they need to do laundry. Adding a first-floor laundry is essential, as is a first-floor bedroom. Sometimes you can add this by converting a den into a bedroom or a closet into a laundry area. Because this will require the addition of closet space for a bedroom or power and venting for a laundry room, this will require the help of a professional contractor.

Widening Doorways

A home can’t be accessible with doorways that an individual can’t navigate. Widening the doorways has little impact on resale value if done well, and can make a home much more navigable. Again, this requires a professional to do well.

Changing the Flooring

Hard floors are easier to navigate than soft floors, and the great thing about this change is that it’s a resale-friendly change. Most homebuyers want to see hard floors, which are easier to clean and care for, than old, tattered carpeting. Laminate and hardwood are better choices than tile, which is much harder and more slippery. By making this change, you can increase the resale value and make the home a bit safer. Some laminate can be done as a DIY project, while others are best left to the pros.

For more information about the best modifications to choose, visit:

 

What to Do About Modifications That Hurt Resale Value?

Sometimes you have to make a modification that has the potential to impact your home’s future resale value. If your choice is between having a home that your loved one can’t live in or hurting your home’s resale value, the answer is clear: your loved one always comes first. However, you will need to consider what to do about those modifications should you decide to sell the home.

Wheelchair Ramps

A wheelchair ramp is essential if your home’s entrance is not flush with the ground. An individual in a wheelchair can’t navigate steps. But a wheelchair ramp makes a home stand out in a negative way, so what can you do? Here are some ideas:

  • Work with a design professional to ensure the design works with your home’s architecture.
  • Add a ramp that does not remove the existing steps and can be removed for resale.
  • Invest in a ramp that is aesthetically pleasing.
  • Install a ramp on a back entrance to use when the home’s on the market, allowing for the removal of the front ramp.

Grab Bars and Rails

Grab bars are essential safety additions to a home, but sometimes they make the home look more functional than comfortable. Stark chrome grab bars in the bathroom can give it an institutional feel. Some solutions to this include:

  • Using grab bars that double as something else, like toilet paper holders that have a grab bar
  • Using grab bars that fit the decor
  • Removing the grab bars before listing the house

Walk-in Tubs

Safety tubs are a great innovation for the senior or disabled innovation, as they allow for bathroom independence. However, for those who don’t yet understand the need for this type of modification, they can seem unsightly and cumbersome. So what’s the solution? Consider these ideas:

  • Instead of a walk-in tub, opt for a roll-in shower which is a common design choice regardless of disability.
  • Cover the walk-in tub with an attractive shower curtain.
  • Ensure the color of the tub works with the bathroom’s overall design.

Lifts

Lifts to get a wheelchair upstairs are simply part of the puzzle when dealing with home modifications, but again these can be a bit cumbersome, and therefore negatively affect resale value. To get past this, consider removing the lift while the home is on the market. There is no good way to camouflage this particular modification, so consider putting the main features of the home on the main floor and just doing away with the lift while the home is on the market.

For more information on your home’s resale value, visit:

 

DIY Fixes to Maximize Home Resale Value and Accessibility

Sometimes budgets are tight, especially when you’re planning for the sale of a home. What can you do to get the most value out of your home’s sale if your budget is too tight to hire a pro? Are there modifications you can make that keep your home accessible without a pro? Are there ways you can reduce the impact of modifications on your own? Consider these DIY tasks that can make your home more valuable and more accessible.

  • Install Accessible Home Security – Home security is an asset to your home, and accessible home security helps keep your loved one safe. Installing a chain at a lower level or a home security system that your loved one can reach are all great options.
  • Reorganize for Accessibility – If your budget prevents a kitchen remodel, make the kitchen more accessible by reorganizing. Put everyday items in lower drawers and cabinets, and rarely-used items up high. Do the same in closets and other storage areas. Rearrange and reorganize furniture to maximize mobility through the home.
  • DIY Bathroom Modifications – A major bathroom remodel is costly, but you can tackle some jobs on your own. Add no-slip flooring to the shower or tub, consider investing in a shower seat and don’t forget to add grab bars near the toilet. Replace the existing vanity with a pedestal sink to provide maneuverability for wheelchairs or walkers.
  • Improve the Lighting – People with disabilities may need more lighting to ensure they can see well. You can improve the lighting in your home on your own. As an added bonus, a well-lit home shows better than a dim one, so this change has a positive impact on resale value!

Source: Better Homes