BALANCING FEAR WITH KINDNESS

BALANCING FEAR WITH KINDNESSThere are many things to fear in our world today, the most recent being the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus around the world.  But, recent events in my neighborhood completely unrelated to coronavirus reminded me how just easily our fears and biases can cause us to overlook concern for the welfare of others.

I live in a community that is known for kindness and a history of taking care on one another.  Unfortunately, a few criminal events rooted in domestic violence over the span of several months had our very close-knit neighborhood on edge (and the neighborhood Facebook page on fire).  Every “stranger” in the environment became a suspect with unusual sightings reported (and commented on) in great detail.

With this as background, it is no surprise that when doorbells rang unexpectedly at 1:30 in the morning, people responded with fear.  Most people admitted to not opening the door to a stranger in the middle of the night.  The few people who did open the door reported that a menacing-looking middle-aged man dressed all in black said he had lost his phone and asked to come in to use a phone.   He was turned away from multiple houses who reported a fear for the safety of their family.

As it turns out, the man ringing the doorbell was the mentally challenged father of a family who had just moved into the neighborhood.  He had left the house without his cell phone, had gotten lost, and he was himself panicked and afraid.  Gratefully, his daughter found him and was able to return him safely home – but not with the help of our usually kind and generous neighborhood.  Part of the reason people responded as they did was because this man did not “look like” the typical person in need.

I like to believe that had he been a young child or an obviously senile older adult that we would have been more responsive as a community. But, it WAS the middle of the night, and I have still instructed my teenage daughter to NEVER open the door in the middle of the night to a stranger no matter what the circumstance.  So, as a family, we have also discussed that we should have called the non-emergency number for our local sheriff’s department to request a welfare check on the stranger.

We immediately jumped to the fear-based conclusion that the stranger was up to no good when, actually, he was a fellow human in need.  We overlooked the fact that there are options available to safely balance the concern for our own welfare with the responsibility to extend kindness to a stranger.  It never occurred to us to request a welfare check in this kind of a situation, but I have been assured by several local law enforcement agencies that they would have viewed this as an appropriate use of services and would have been happy to come out to ensure the well-being of everyone in our neighborhood as well as the stranger in our midst.

So, whatever your position on the necessity to stock up on toilet paper and bottled water in the face of the current coronavirus pandemic, I hope we all remember to stock up on an extra supply of human kindness.  I have no idea what unexpected needs might present themselves in the coming days, but I plan to do what I can to help my friends, my neighbors and strangers as we navigate this uncharted territory together.  After all, I didn’t stock up on extra toilet paper, and now the store shelves are empty.  So, I hope that one of my neighbors will come to my rescue if we have a toilet paper emergency at my house.  Be safe and be kind!

Written by: Darra Wray

Darra Wray is a Care Consultant and Certified Senior Advisor with My Care Companions in Boise, Idaho, a company she founded to streamline and simplify the administrative side of care.  You can learn more about My Care Companions and the My Data Diary+ family information management software tool at www.mycarecompanions.com.

 

5 COMMON CAUSES OF BRAIN FOG

5 COMMON CAUSES OF BRAIN FOGYou need to stop by the grocery on the way home from work for two gotta-have items. One of the items is coffee, but you can’t think of the other one to save your life.

Every time you sit down to do that report for work, you can’t seem to focus and make any real progress.

Better wait to walk to the end of the driveway to get the mail because your neighbor, that you’ve only lived beside for five years, is in his yard, and you don’t remember his name.  You know you know it, but your brain can’t seem to reach it.

Sound familiar?
Even though you may feel like you’re losing your mind, it could just be a bit of brain fog. Thankfully, you can take steps to clear up the haze after you figure out what’s causing it.

What Is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is not a medically recognized term or diagnosable condition. It’s a common phrase used for a myriad of symptoms affecting your ability to think. Brain fog can include things like memory problems, lack of mental clarity, and an inability to focus, and put thoughts into words. Some people describe it as mental fatigue.

You know – the kind of mental exhaustion where you tell yourself if you can just make it to the weekend, you’ll get some rest. That should help. Next week will be easier. The problem is that when the weekend rolls around, there are a gazillion more things to do and stress about. So, you end up not getting the much-needed rest. Or if you do, it doesn’t seem to help the problem in the slightest.

That’s because to resolve brain fog, you have to figure out and address what’s causing it. 

On a cellular level, brain fog is believed to be associated with high levels inflammation and changes to three primary hormones: dopamine, serotonin, and cortisol. One theory behind the underlying reason for brain fog symptoms is that higher levels of inflammatory molecules, including adipocytokines and histamines, stimulate microglia activation.

Five Common Causes of Brain Fog
According to one study, the most commonly reported brain fog triggers were fatigue, lack of sleep, prolonged periods of standing, dehydration and feeling faint. Sometimes, a trigger can’t be avoided. However, if brain fog is an ongoing issue for you, taking a look at and adjusting your lifestyle habits might be warranted.  Let’s look at some common causes:

1. Stress
In the short-term, stress can make you irritable, anxious,  distracted and forgetful. Over time, elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, can chip away at your physical, mental and emotional healthChronic stress actually damages your brain.  Stress shrinks dendrites, kills neurons, and prevents new cell growth in the hippocampus – essential to memory. While it’s doing all that, it causes your amygdala, the fear and emotional center of the brain, to increase size and activity. This makes it harder for your brain to learn new information and remember it.

2. Lack of sleep
Sleep deprivation can have serious short-term and long-term consequences for your overall and brain health. After just one night of skimping on sleep, the results can be seen in delayed reaction times, glucose levels, mood, headache, impaired memory, and hormone balances. Recent research shows that not getting enough sleep may even shrink your brain. You’ll want to aim for eight to nine hours of sleep per night. But don’t forget, quality matters too.

3. Diet
Diet can also play a role in brain fog. When it comes to your brain, you literally are what you eat. What goes into your mouth has everything to do with what goes on in your head. You have a “second brain,” the enteric nervous system, in your gut which communicates with the brain in your head.

To get the most brainpower out of your diet, you will want to include fatty fishes, foods with probiotics, whole grains, leafy greens and lots of lean protein. If you’re missing essential vitamins and minerals, your brain function will reflect it. For example, a vitamin B-12 deficiency can bring about brain fog.

Also, food allergies and sensitivities can make your thinking fuzzy. The most common culprits are:

  • Processed meat (sodium nitrates)
  • Dairy
  • MSG
  • Alcohol
  • Artificial sweeteners

Dehydration can also contribute to sluggish thinking.

4. Hormonal Changes
Hormonal changes can also trigger brain fog. The brain and entire body rely on a complex symphony of hormones that work to keep one another in check. So, when levels of one hormone fall too low or climb too high, your whole system, including brain function, can be thrown off.

For example, levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen increase drastically during pregnancy. This change can affect memory and cause short-term cognitive impairment. Similarly, a drop in estrogen level during menopause can cause forgetfulness, poor concentration, and cloudy thinking.

5. Medications and Medical Conditions
Brain fog is a common side effect of many drugs. If you notice symptoms upon taking a medication, talk with your doctor. Lowering your dosage or switching to another drug may alleviate the problem. Brain fog is a well-known side effect of chemo and is referred to as chemo brain.

Medical conditions associated with inflammation, fatigue, or changes in blood glucose level can also be the cause of mental fatigue. For example, brain fog is a symptom of:

  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • fibromyalgia
  • anemia
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • hypothyroidism
  • autoimmune diseases such as lupus, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis

Diagnosis and Treatment of Brain Fog
No matter what you think is causing your brain fog, it’d be a good idea to get checked out by your doctor. However, there isn’t one test specifically for the condition. When you get to your doctor’s appointment, you can expect to have a regular physical examination with some follow-up questions.

Your doctor may feel additional blood work is necessary to rule out the brain fog being a symptom of a more serious issue. Blood work can identify the basic health markers, glucose levels, nutritional deficiencies, organ function, hydration, and more.

Your doctor can then suggest possible solutions to implement based on the exam, questions, and tests. Treatments are different depending on the determined cause. Your physician may advise you to get more sleep, switch medications, start taking nutritional supplements, or something else. You may need to try out different treatments before you find one that works for you.

Conclusion
Brain fog is an annoying symptom that can arise for a wide variety of reasons. It may feel like you’re going to be stuck in that sleepy mindset forever, but there are plenty of ways to wake your brain up. Try out different treatments until you find one that works. Then, make adjustments as necessary to prevent the condition from returning. One day, you’ll clear away the fog, and the sun will shine again!

Contributing Author: Kayla Matthews writes about wellness, productivity and stress in the modern world for websites like Make Use Of, BioMed Central, and The Huffington Post. To read more posts from Kayla, subscribe to her blog, Productivity Theory.

Source: The Best Brain Possible with Debbie Hampton, Author | Writer | Online Marketer, at: CLICK HERE.

Debbie Hampton recovered from a suicide attempt and resulting brain injury to become an inspirational and educational writer. She is the author of Beat Depression And Anxiety By Changing Your Brain and a memoir, Sex, Suicide, and Serotonin, being re-released next month. Debbie writes for The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, and more. On her website, The Best Brain Possible, she shares information and inspiration on how to better your brain and life.

 

Create Your All-Star Care Team in 5 Steps

In this country, there is a growing problem regarding a lack of supportive resources for family caregivers. There are government programs, charities and nonprofits that might be able to help intermittently, but what caregivers often need most is sound advice, regular respite and an extra set of hands.

Friends may scatter when one begins caring for a spouse or parent, and not everyone has siblings or other family members they can depend on to share the load. It is crucial for each caregiver to take inventory of their personal supports in order to utilize their help as efficiently as possible. A carefully selected care team is a necessary complement to a loved one’s plan of care. Use these five steps to build your team.

Step 1: Draft a List of Prospective Team Members

Write down the name of each family member, friend or neighbor that you interact with on a regular basis. Forego any initial judgements or doubts about their usefulness in your care plan. You want to avoid limiting any potential sources of assistance from the very beginning, so just let the ideas flow.

Step 2: Assess Each Individual’s Strengths

Now is the time to assess the strong suit of each person on your list. Is your best friend financially savvy? Can your cousin listen to you vent without interrupting or casting judgement? Does your neighbor offer to keep an eye on Mom when she’s tinkering outside in the garden? Each of these people has specific talents or capabilities that can help you execute your care plan, and most have something to contribute, whether big or small. However, be sure to factor in each person’s attitude before asking them to join your team. Your sister may have plenty of free time to drive Dad to and from doctor’s appointments, but if she brings negativity or criticism to your regular routine, then the drawbacks may outweigh the benefits of her involvement.

Step 3: Create Your All-Star Care Team

Revise your remaining list to create a foolproof roster of people who will assist you with hands-on care and day-to-day tasks. Do not include anyone who may make your duties more difficult. This is your go-to tool for getting outside help, whether it is planned well in advance or needed at the last minute. Include each person’s contact information and, if possible, an outline of their weekly schedule. This will help you quickly reference when a team member is available to pitch in.

Step 4: Assign Roles for Each Member

Once you have narrowed down your list to reliable, positive individuals, identify specific tasks in your care plan that would be a good fit for each one. Friends and family often wish they could help, but they are usually unsure of what would be useful to contribute. Individuals who have never walked in a caregiver’s shoes tend to have a difficult time understanding all of the responsibilities that are involved.

It is best for caregivers to be very specific about the kinds of assistance they would appreciate. For example, if your son lives nearby, ask if he can tend to yardwork or any home maintenance projects once or twice a month. If you struggle to prepare dinner on Wednesdays (your busiest day of the week), see if Mom’s friend from church can pick her up for a weekly dinner date. The goal of creating this team is to be able to meet your loved one’s needs (as well as your own) without every single responsibility falling solely on your shoulders. A care plan that lacks meaningful support and respite time is not viable over the long term.

Step 5: Add Some Pros to Your Team

Relatives and friends aren’t the only ones to recruit for your care team. You may feel most comfortable with these people helping out because you know them personally, but remember that not everyone has the personality, time or resources to be even a part-time caregiver. Fortunately, there are a number of professionals who can facilitate the technical aspects of providing care. A financial planner can assist with complicated fiscal decisions, an elder law attorney can ensure that you and your loved one are legally prepared for the future, and a geriatric care manager can coordinate the care your loved one deserves. A social worker or advisor at your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) can help you find and apply for federal, state and local resources that can assist you in your caregiving duties.

Any remaining gaps in your care plan can be filled by paid caregivers and other services. For example, in-home care and adult day care services can provide supervision and stimulation for your loved one when you need to run errands, attend your own doctor’s appointments, enjoy some respite time or go to work. If housekeeping rarely fits into your daily or weekly routine, then hire a cleaning service or arrange to have these tasks added to your home care professional’s responsibilities. Healthy meal delivery, pre-sorted prescription medications, and transportation services are some other options that can simplify your schedule and reduce your workload.

A comprehensive team assists with daily duties and can provide valuable back-up care in instances when the primary caregiver cannot see to their responsibilities. The more support a caregiver has, the less likely they are to experience burnout and the more sustainable the care plan will be.

Who Should Join Your Care Team?

  • Family and Friends
    • Siblings
    • Significant Other
    • Adult Children
    • Close Friends
    • Neighbors
    • Members of Local Community or Religious Groups
    • Grandchildren
  • Professionals
    • Physicians (Primary Care and Specialists)
    • Elder Law Attorneys
    • Geriatric Care Managers
    • Social Workers
    • Financial Advisors
    • Pharmacists
    • Home Care Agencies and Professional Caregivers
    • Adult Day Care Centers
    • Charities, Organizations and Support Programs
    • VA, Medicare and/or Medicaid Advisor(s)

See also: Care Plan 101: Set Yourself Up for Success As a Caregiver

Source: AgingCare by Ashley Huntsberry-Lett

Forming Your “Circle of Help”

Forming Your “Circle of Help”

Never go it alone. The best way to stand up to Alzheimer’s is to gang up on it.

The best way to defeat Alzheimer’s is to come together and gang up on the disease. If you or your spouse have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, please know that you are not alone. Right now, thousands of Alzheimer’s researchers, doctors, nurses, caregivers, support groups, and long-term care facilities are fighting for you on many fronts.

One of the most important fronts, of course, is the home front. My new book, Mike & Me, is one of several new books to chronicle the changing face of home care among Alzheimer’s couples and caregivers. Together, we are learning how the astonishing power of love, patience, compassion, and stay-at-home care can be mobilized by virtually every couple to help Alzheimer’s patients defy the old statistics and live a longer, fuller life.

My Husband and I Made A Deal

Early in my husband Mike’s 10-year journey with Alzheimer’s, we made a mutual commitment: As long as it was safe for him and me, Mike and I would live together in our home and make the Alzheimer’s journey together. Our goal was to keep Mike’s life as normal as possible for as long as possible, and that would entail staying in our home and community. It turned out that keeping that commitment to Mike was only possible because of a circle of friends and family who gradually formed around us and helped us every step of the way.

Looking back, I now realize that one of the most important things Alzheimer’s couples must learn in the early going is to simply reach out for help from friends and family. That probably sounds too obvious to mention, but you would be surprised to learn how many Alzheimer’s couples try, initially, to go it alone in their care. My husband Mike and I were one of those couples in the beginning. You see, we weren’t accustomed to asking people for help or bothering others with our difficulties. In the past, whenever a problem arose, Mike and I had always turned to each other for help, and, at first, that’s how we tried to deal with Alzheimer’s too.

Forming Your Circle of Help 

So why do I tell you these things? I tell you because I want you to believe that your “circle of help” – your friends, family, neighbors, and community – is waiting for you, too, if you will only let yourself reach out.

Perhaps like you, my challenge in the beginning was to simply open up to the idea of accepting help from others. But once I opened up, I quickly learned two things.

First, I was surprised at how many people were more than willing to help Mike and me. And second, I didn’t have to accept everyone’s help; I could still be selective about who I would let into our circle.

As time went on, I eventually built a small team of people – kindred spirits – who were helping me care for Mike. I like to think of them not just as a team, but as a “circle” of thoughtful people who surrounded us and helped care for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It felt like such a natural process. One by one, along came certain friends and neighbors who thoughtfully recognized that we had a need of one kind or another and offered to help, each in his or her own way.

You may not know it yet, but you, too, have a circle of support quietly waiting for you. Watch for it, welcome it, be thankful for it. Yes, it’s a little scary at first to allow people in when you feel most vulnerable. But if you do plan to stay in your home together, rather than go to a care facility, then you too will have to turn to a circle of caring people who can help you.

Source: UsAgainstAlzheimer’s by Rosalys Peel

Should You Quit Your Job to Care for Your Elderly Parent?

As parents age and need more assistance, most adult children do what they can to help. For many, the first step is a weekly stop by Mom and Dad’s home to assess the situation and perhaps help with some chores and errands. Often, these check-ins increase in frequency until it becomes a routine part of each day.

Family caregivers typically look into community services and in-home care for assistance. They research adult day care centers and assisted living communities. However, most seniors are adamant about wanting to remain in their own homes and receive assistance from their own children. They don’t want “strangers” in their house or driving them to engagements.

Sick days and paid time off begin to dwindle. Performance suffers and unpaid leave becomes the only option for taking time away from work to handle emergencies and doctor’s appointments. Eventually, like so many other family caregivers, you consider quitting your job, putting your career on hold. While it won’t be easy, it’ll just be a temporary solution, ideally with minimal impact. Right?

The Benefits of Leaving Work to Care for a Family Member

You already know what may be gained by giving up your job and becoming the primary full-time caregiver for your parents. You would benefit from knowing firsthand how they are faring day and night. You could save them from paying for in-home care or adult day care. You wouldn’t have to worry about the quality of care they are receiving from outside sources. You could likely delay, if not eliminate, their need for nursing home care. You may be able to deepen your relationship with your parents and grow closer to them.

Keep in mind that every family is unique. For some, these benefits are realistic yet short-lived. For others, these benefits are simply unattainable ideals. Caregiver burnout, financial strain and changes in health and relationships can severely undermine even the best laid care plans.

The Costs of Quitting a Job for Caregiving

While the benefits seem straightforward enough, the true costs of deciding to quit your job to care for Mom or Dad are much more complex.

A deficit in or loss of monthly income is likely the biggest factor in this decision, and that change can usually be tolerated on a temporary basis. However, caregiving can drag on for months and even years. Many caregivers do not think about the long-term effects of this choice, but it’s crucial not to forget about or ignore your own financial future.

Yes, stepping in to help your aging parents may feel good and help them save money. If they have significant assets and don’t outlive their savings, you may even recoup some of the financial resources you gave up by inheriting part of their estate when they die. But, my best advice to family caregivers is never to rely on that outcome.

It is highly likely that your parents will still need care in a senior living facility at some point, regardless of whether you embrace unemployment to personally spearhead their care. When the time comes for placement in long-term care, their financial resources will dwindle quickly unless they are fortunate to have a very good long-term care insurance policy or abundant savings. Therefore, assuming that you will financially recover after “it’s all over” is very risky. Even if a personal care agreement is put in place very early on to compensate you for your services, there is still no guarantee that your parents’ funds will see them through.

Obviously, this decision involves giving up a paycheck for a certain amount of time, but that’s not the only thing that’s on the line. Consider the following implications that may not initially occur to family caregivers who are contemplating quitting their jobs.

  1. Social Security Benefits: Even though family caregivers work very long, hard hours, these work hours do not show up on one’s Social Security record. Depending on the number of years you spend officially unemployed, you not only lose your take-home wages, but you also lose the opportunity to work toward earning hundreds of dollars a month in Social Security retirement benefits.
  2. Retirement Savings Plans: Without a job, you’ll miss out on the ability to participate in an employer’s retirement plan or 401(k) match. Unless you had a healthy retirement plan before you quit your job, your financial future is likely to be bleak. In fact, most family caregivers who give up their jobs end up withdrawing funds from their savings and retirement accounts prematurely to offset their lost income and cover monthly expenses.
  3. Job skills: As other colleagues in your field move up and gain experience, your skills are likely to wane during your unemployment. Countless people have left the workforce and been unpleasantly surprised to find that new educational requirements, technological expertise and training are now required for jobs similar to the ones they held before.
  4. Re-entering the Workforce: It’s easier to get a new job when you already have one, compared to job hunting while unemployed. In today’s tight job market, re-entering the workforce may not be easy, especially with a significant gap in employment on your resume.
  5. Ageism: As your parents age and you care for them, you, too, are growing older. Age discrimination is illegal, but when you’re finally able to work again, potential employers can find other ostensible reasons for not hiring you, such as out-of-date skills.
  6. Caregiver Isolation: Not everyone is cut out to be a full-time caregiver. You may find that, while you are glad not to be juggling a job and caregiving responsibilities, you miss the work atmosphere, your paycheck and the social interaction you had as an employed person. Caregiving can be a profoundly lonely job.

As with all issues in caregiving, there is no black and white answer. For some, leaving work for caregiving is the only right thing to do. For others, it can lead to financial ruin and a lost sense of purpose and identity outside of providing care. As a nation, we need more affordable elder care resources and better support from employers so that gainful employment, financial security and dedication to family are attainable goals that can coexist. Until more options are made available to Americans, adult children who wish to care for their aging parents will continue facing heartbreakingly difficult decisions like this one.

Source: AgingCare Carol Bradley Bursack

CDC: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia cases to double by 2060

CDC: Alzheimer's disease, dementia cases to double by 2060The number of people projected to have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in the United States is expected to double by 2060, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

In 2014, there were 5 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The CDC estimates by 2060, that number will grow to 13.9 million.

“Early diagnosis is key to helping people and their families cope with loss of memory, navigate the health care system, and plan for their care in the future,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in a statement.

The study, which the CDC said is the first to forecast estimates of Alzheimer’s by race and ethnicity, found non-Hispanic whites will have the most total cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia. However, because of population growth, Hispanic Americans will see the largest projected increase in cases.

Among people who are 65 and older, African-Americans have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia at 13.8 percent, followed by Hispanics (12.2 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (10.3 percent).

By 2060, researchers project 3.2 million Hispanics and 2.2 million African-Americans will have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The CDC said as more people survive other diseases and grow older, the odds of being diagnosed with dementia go up.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Kevin Matthews, a health geographer and lead author of the study with the CDC’s Division of Population Health within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a statement early diagnosis is key not just for patients, but for caregivers who need support.

“It is important for people who think their daily lives are impacted by memory loss to discuss these concerns with a health care provider,” he said.

Source: USA Today by Brett Molina

WHAT IS A CARE PLAN CONFERENCE?

When you have a loved one with a disability or an older parent in a care community, you will be CARE PLAN CONFERENCEasked to participate in a Care Plan Conference. Care conferences are a routine event for all types of providers; from hospice, to home health, to assisted living (AL) and skilled nursing facilities (SNF). They provide family and staff with an opportunity to discuss how your loved ones needs are being managed and what new challenges they are experiencing.

Most care conferences will include the staff that attends to your loved one; from nurses and physical therapists to social workers and activity directors. Depending upon the care setting, their physician may also be present.  You may also request that a care manager attend with you or on your behalf to serve as an advocate.

The conference provides the care team an opportunity to share what they see with one another as well as the family and gives the family a chance to ask questions and talk more about their concerns. The team will discuss the best options to pursue to resolve concerns and set goals and deadlines for implementing these new tactics.

The conference is also your opportunity to provide the staff with important background information that will improve the quality of care that your loved one receives. SNFs are obligated to provide individualized care, and are therefore required to make reasonable adjustments to honor the resident’s needs and preferences. For example, if an individual always enjoyed their bath after dinner, as a means of relaxing to ensure a good night’s sleep, it is not unreasonable to expect the staff to adjust their bath schedules accordingly. When making specific requests, be prepared to explain how the change or adjustment will be of benefit to the resident and improve their quality of life. Laws are in place that protects residents’ rights to receive quality care. You and your family member should determine what “quality care” means to you, and clearly communicate your expectations to those providing that care.

Care conferences are a regulatory requirement for skilled nursing facilities and unless the resident is in crisis, most care conferences are held on a quarterly basis.  In some states, assisted living communities must also hold care conferences, but on a semi-annual basis. Families can request one at any time if they feel they need it.

Source: Dee Childers, Life Changes Elder Care Consulting, LLC

Could Having a Sense of Purpose Lengthen Our Lives?

Over the last few years, aging experts have been looking at the role played by a sense of purpose—the feeling that our lives have meaning, and that we have a place in the world, that we make a difference. A number of studies have found that having a sense of purpose motivates us to take care of ourselves, reduces stress, and lowers the risk of a host of ailments that become more common as we age.

In November 2014, an article appearing in The Lancet suggested that having a sense of purpose can even add years to our lives. As reported by University College London (UCL), seniors who experienced a certain type of well-being were 30 percent less likely to die over the course of a study that was conducted by researchers from UCL, Princeton University and Stony Brook University. The researchers explained that “eudemonic well-being” is the positive feeling we get when we feel that what we do is worthwhile and that we have a purpose in life.

Explained study leader Professor Andrew Steptoe, Director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology, “We cannot be sure that higher well-being necessarily causes lower risk of death, since the relationship may not be causal. But the findings raise the intriguing possibility that increasing well-being could help to improve physical health. There are several biological mechanisms that may link well-being to improved health, for example through hormonal changes or reduced blood pressure. Further research is now needed to see if such changes might contribute to the links between well-being and life expectancy in older people.”

The study appeared in the Nov. 6, 2014 issue of The Lancet. [optional link: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2961489-0/fulltext]

Source: AgeWise reporting on news release from University College London.

 

Retirement Communities Encouraged to Promote Muscle-Strengthening Activities

A University of Missouri expert encourages staff and administrators to include a well-rounded fitness program in order to keep residents healthier.

The majority of adults aged 65 and older remain inactive and fail to meet recommended physical activity guidelines, previous research has shown. However, these studies have not represented elders living in retirement communities who may have more access to recreational activities and exercise equipment. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that older adults in retirement communities who reported more exercise experienced less physical decline than their peers who reported less exercise, although many adults—even those who exercised—did not complete muscle-strengthening exercises, which are another defense against physical decline.

“Physical decline is natural in this age group, but we found that people who exercised more declined less,” said Lorraine Phillips, an associate professor in the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing. “The most popular physical activities the residents of the retirement community reported doing were light housework and walking, both of which are easily integrated into individuals’ daily lives, but these exercises are not the best choices for maintaining muscle strength.”

Phillips and her colleagues studied the physical activity of 38 residents at TigerPlace, an independent living community in Columbia, four times in one year. The researchers tested the residents’ walking speed, balance and their ability to stand up after sitting in a chair. Then, researchers compared the results of the tests to the residents’ self-reported participation in exercise. Phillips found that residents who reported doing more exercise had more success maintaining their physical abilities over time.

Phillips says the national recommendations for exercise include muscle strengthening exercises, such as knee extensions and bicep curls. Most of the study participants did not report completing these types of activities despite daily opportunities for recreational activities and access to exercise equipment. Phillips says muscle strength is important to individuals of this age group in order for them to maintain their ability to conduct everyday activities such as opening jars, standing up from chairs and supporting their own body weight.

“For older individuals, walking may represent the most familiar and comfortable type of physical activity,” Phillips said. “Muscle-strengthening exercises should be promoted more aggressively in retirement communities and made more appealing to residents.”

To combat the lack of physical activity among seniors, Phillips says health care providers should discuss exercise programs with their patients and share the possible risks associated with their lack of exercise, such as losing their ability to live independently. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals 65 years of age and older that have no limiting health conditions should do muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups at least two days a week.

Phillips’ research, “Retirement Community Residents’ Physical Activity, Depressive Symptoms, and Functional Limitations,” was published in Clinical Nursing Researchhttp://cnr.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/02/10/1054773813508133.abstract

Source: University of Missouri News Bureau.

 

What Does Successful Aging Really Mean?

When we talk about “successful aging,” many Americans think of models in senior product advertisements who—apart from their silver hair—seem to be untouched by age as they pose on the golf course, walk on the beach or dance the night away.

But few of us retain our physical and cognitive health indefinitely. Most of us will deal with increasing disability as the years advance, and while disease and disability aren’t “a normal part of aging,” they are challenges we are likely to face. According to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 40 percent of people older than 65 have at least one disability.

A researcher from University of Louisville recently urged that we reconsider our preconceptions of “successful aging.” Nursing professor Valerie Lander McCarthy, Ph.D., RN, collaborated with a visiting professor from China to develop a different definition of positive aging.

McCarthy says that it is unrealistic to measure “positive aging” solely on physical and mental capacity. She says that if they don’t fall into the 10 percent with exceptional physical and cognitive health, “older adults feel guilty when they get sick because they think they are not succeeding—and in the U.S., succeeding is important.”

McCarthy’s work with Shandong University’s Ji Hong appeared in the Journal of Transcultural Nursing. The team said, “Transcendence—a sense of meaning, well-being and life satisfaction—is the best predictor of positive aging. The concept involves relationships, creativity, contemplation, introspection and spirituality.”

McCarthy has worked with interventions to increase this type of positive aging. These include encouraging “a time for quiet solitude in natural beauty followed by a discussion about a person’s outlook, helping to develop a broadened perspective on life or a feeling of being an integral part of the cycle of life.” McCarthy says storytelling can also be beneficial.

“Successful aging is important for the rapidly growing population of older adults and their families and caregivers,” says McCarthy.  She urges more attention to interventions that promote a sense of successful aging, and reminds us:  “It is also significant for society as a whole, which will bear the burden of unprecendented demands on health and aging services.”

Source: IlluminAgeAgeWise reporting on study from University of Louisville [optional link to: http://tcn.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/05/16/1043659614526257.full.pdf?ijkey=ifzmJkLq4agorci&keytype=ref]