New Census Bureau Report Underscores the Need for Senior Care

The Baby Boom is now creating a Senior Boom. According to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of individuals age 65 and older is projected to reach nearly 84 million by 2050, almost double the size from 2012. Another factor contributing to the boom is the fact that people are living longer. Currently, the average American is living to be almost 79 years old, up from about 71 years in 1970.

 

This raises the question of how we, as a country, plan on taking care of our aging citizenry. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about one-third of people age 65 or older report functional limitations of one kind or another—limitations that require assistance in dressing, bathing, preparing meals, managing medications, etc. Among people age 85 or older, about two-thirds report functional limitations. And experts project that two-thirds of all seniors will need assistance to deal with a loss in functioning at some point during their remaining years of life.

“Changes in the age structure of the U.S. population will have implications for health care services and providers, national and local policymakers, and businesses seeking to anticipate the influence that this population may have on their services, family structure and the American landscape,” says Jennifer Ortman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Projections Branch.

The aging population presents numerous challenges and great opportunities for agencies and companies that provide senior care. Home care and home health care services, community care facilities for the older population, and continuing care retirement communities are all expanding. All showed an increase of 20 percent or more in their number of employees between 2007 and 2011. Additionally, age-restricted communities are becoming more and more popular. One such community, The Villages in Sumter County, Florida, was the nation’s fastest growing metro area from 2012 to 2013.

Fortunately, the Senior Boom wasn’t an unforeseen phenomenon. We’ve known for nearly 60 years that Baby Boomers would eventually grow old and need greater care. The associated industries caring for these individuals have, so far, been able to keep pace with demand, although occupancy at senior living communities is on the rise, reaching 89.9% in the second quarter of 2014. Fortunately, construction of new communities is also on the rise. It’s safe to say that senior care will be a growing industry for many years to come.

 

Source: IlluminAgeAgeWise

Planning Ahead When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s Disease

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you need to start getting their health, legal, and financial affairs in order. You want to plan for the future, if possible, with help from your loved one while they can still make decisions. You need to review all of their health, legal, and financial information to make sure it reflects their wishes. Here is a planning checklist from the National Institute on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center:

Update health care, legal, and financial information

  • A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances gives someone called a trustee the power to make legal and financial decisions for the person with Alzheimer’s.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care gives someone called a proxy the power to make health care decisions for the person with Alzheimer’s.
  • A Living Will states the person’s wishes for health care at the end of life.
  • A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Form tells health care staff how the person wants end-of-life health care managed.
  • A Will tells how the person wants his or her property and money to be divided among those left behind.
  • A Living Trust tells the trustee how to distribute a person’s property and money.

Check for money problems

People with Alzheimer’s disease often have problems managing their money. As the disease progresses, they may try to hide financial problems to protect their independence. Or, they may not realize that they are losing the ability to handle money matters. Someone should check each month to see how your loved one is doing. This person might be a family member or the trustee.

Protect your loved one from fraud

Scams can take many forms, such as identity theft; get-rich-quick offers; phony offers of prizes or home or auto repairs; insurance scams or outright threats. Here are some signs that a loved one with Alzheimer’s is not managing money well or has become a victim of a scam:

  • Your loved one seems afraid or worried when he or she talks about money.
  • Money is missing from your loved one’s bank account.
  • Signatures on checks or other papers don’t look like your loved one’s signature.
  • Bills are not being paid, and your loved one doesn’t know why.
  • Your loved one’s will has been changed without his or her permission.
  • Your loved one’s home is sold, and he or she did not agree to sell it.
  • Things that belong to your loved one are missing from the home.
  • Your loved one has signed legal papers (such as a will, a power of attorney, or a joint deed to a house) without knowing what the papers mean.

Reporting problems: If you think your loved one may be a victim of a scam, contact your local police department. You also can contact your state consumer protection office or Area Agency on Aging office. For help finding these offices, contact Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or www.eldercare.gov. For a list of state consumer protection offices, see www.usa.gov/directory/stateconsumer/index.shtml. You can also look in the telephone book for a listing in the blue/Government pages.

Who would take care of your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease if something happened to you?

It is important to have a plan in case of your own illness, disability, or death.

  • Consult a lawyer about setting up a living trust, durable power of attorney for health care and finances, and other estate planning tools.
  • Consult with family and close friends to decide who would take responsibility for your loved one. You also may want to seek information about your local public guardian’s office, mental health conservator’s office, adult protective services, or other case management services. These organizations may have programs that could assist your loved one in your absence.
  • Maintain a notebook for the responsible person who would assume caregiving. Such a notebook should contain the following information:
    • emergency phone numbers
    • current problem behaviors and possible solutions
    • ways to calm the person with Alzheimer’s
    • assistance needed with toileting, feeding, or grooming
    •  favorite activities or food
  • Preview long-term care facilities in your community and select a few as possibilities. Share this information with the responsible person. If your loved one is no longer able to live at home, the responsible person will be better able to carry out your wishes for long-term care.

Contact the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at 1-800-438-4380 or www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers for more information on planning for health, legal, and financial matters.

Source: National Institute on Aging, adapted by AgeWise, 2014.

 

Do Working Caregivers Provide Less Care for Loved Ones?

There’s a common assumption that when a loved one needs care, family members who do not work outside the home will be first to step up and provide support. Of course, in reality this is not the case. Many other factors come into play as a family’s caregiving arrangement takes shape.

In a series of studies over the past year, the United Hospital Fund and the AARP have been looking at the facts about family caregiving in the U.S. One thing they’ve discovered is that family caregivers today are performing more and more medical and nursing tasks for their elderly relatives. Family members are providing medication management, performing wound care, monitoring their loved ones’ health conditions and operating specialized medical equipment. The researchers also looked at the level of care and number of care hours provided by family members who were also employed outside the home, compared with those who were not. Said Susan Reinhard of the AARP Public Policy Institute, “We expected that caregivers who didn’t have to manage the demands of a job would have more time to take on these challenging tasks—tasks that would make a nursing student tremble—but our data shows that there’s little difference between the two groups.”

Though working caregivers were only one percentage point less likely to be providing this kind of care (45 percent of them, versus 46 percent of non-working caregivers), the percentages diverged dramatically in another category. Said Carol Levine of the United Hospital Fund, “Where we did find a difference was in the stress associated with juggling the demands of caregiving with other responsibilities.” Levine reports that while 49 percent of family caregivers who are not employed report feeling stressed, fully 61 percent of the working caregivers reported such stress.

This study is yet another reminder of how important it is for our nation to support family caregivers, whose unpaid work is worth billions of dollars each year, and many of whom are also productive members of the workforce.

Read the entire study [link to: http://www.uhfnyc.org/assets/1157] on the United Hospital Fund website.

Source: AgeWise reporting on research from the United Hospital Fund and AARP.

 

May Is Arthritis Awareness Month

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 50 million Americans are living with arthritis. It is the most common disease in people over the age of 65, and approximately half of the population of that age has some form of the disease. It affects all race and ethnic groups, and is the most common cause of disability in the U.S.

Arthritis is not a single disease, but is a group of over 100 different conditions, all of which can cause pain, swelling and an interference with normal movement. Some types of arthritis are thought to be hereditary; some result from overuse or injury of a joint, or from years of “wear and tear”; some types are caused by infection and still others are caused by a malfunction of the immune system. Arthritis may affect only one joint, or many joints at the same time. The joints most commonly affected are the weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees, and also the smaller joints of the hands and neck.

Although there is no cure for most types of arthritis, the pain and inflammation can be reduced by a variety of medical treatments. Appropriate treatment can often result in great improvement to a person’s condition, as well as preventing further damage. Treatment depends on the type and degree of the condition.

Analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications relieve pain and reduce inflammation, or both. Aspirin or ibuprofen are often prescribed. Alternative pain relievers such as corticosteroids, acetaminophen and topical ointments or rubs also may be prescribed, depending on the type and severity of a patient’s arthritis.

Exercise and rest are both important. People with arthritis tire more easily; the physician may also order rest of a painful joint. But it is just as important to remain active. Exercise helps strengthen the muscles surrounding affected joints, protecting them from further damage. It also increases blood flow and lubrication of joints, and helps keep the joint strong and mobile, preventing loss of function. Exercise also helps patients maintain a healthy weight; being overweight puts extra stress on joints. A physician-prescribed exercise program will usually include range-of-motion, strengthening and aerobic exercises.

Physical therapy benefits many arthritis patients and can include heat or cold treatments, whirlpool and massage, splinting to immobilize and rest a joint, and training in performing exercises to loosen and build up joints and surrounding muscles.

Occupational therapists help patients achieve the greatest level of independence possible by providing instruction in alternative ways of performing the activities of daily living and self-care. They can also evaluate a patient’s home environment to suggest any necessary adaptations, such as grab bars or a raised toilet seat.

Adaptive devices can make living with arthritis easier. Occupational therapists can instruct arthritis patients in the use of mobility aids that lessen the stress on joints, such as canes and walkers. For arthritis in the shoulder or hand, long-handled spoons, zipper pulls, built-up toothbrush handles and page turners make the activities of daily living easier.

Surgery may be recommended if arthritis is causing severe pain and lost joint function. Some surgical procedures repair or remove damaged tissue. Joint replacement is becoming more and more common, and most patients experience excellent results from an artificial hip or knee.

Good News for Guacamole Fans

Are you planning a Cinco de Mayo party? If you are also trying to eat a healthy diet, this might seem challenging! Nachos, beer and margaritas might fit your Aztec pyramid decorating scheme—but on the food pyramid, not so much.

But what about guacamole? There’s good news there! The American Heart Association recently reported that avocados, the main ingredient of guacamole, can help decrease the levels of bad cholesterol—the kind that raises the risk of heart disease. In a comparison test, a research team from Pennsylvania State University found that test subjects who ate an avocado a day as part of a moderate-fat diet lowered their level of bad cholesterol (LDL) more effectively than did subjects on the same diet but without the avocado. Their total cholesterol and triglyceride levels were also better.

So the good news is that guacamole—made with avocado, onion, perhaps jalapenos or salsa—is a heart-healthy food. The problem comes when we pair it with cheese-laden nachos, a fatty burrito, or even with plain tortilla chips, which are high in calories and sodium. Choose low-sodium chips and eat them sparingly. Or replace the chips with crispy jicama sticks. Create a delicious lettuce wrap with spicy chicken or fish.

Study author Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., RD, who is a nutrition professor at Penn State, reminds us that guacamole isn’t the only reason to put avocados on your grocery list. She says, “Many people don’t know how to incorporate them in their diet except for making guacamole. Avocados, however, can also be eaten with salads, vegetables, sandwiches, lean protein foods like chicken or fish, or even whole.”

Read more about the study here  http://newsroom.heart.org/news/an-avocado-a-day-may-help-keep-bad-cholesterol-at-bay, and find avocado recipes on the website of the Hass Avocado Board  http://www.avocadocentral.com/avocado-recipes.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on a study from the American Heart Association.

 

With Trans Fats, Foods Last Longer But Memories Don’t

You have probably read that trans fats are bad for the heart. Trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to keep foods solid and to extend their shelf life. Here’s where trans fats are often found:

  • packaged baked goods, such as cookies, crackers and frozen pies
  • snack foods such as microwave popcorn
  • certain margarines
  • coffee creamer
  • refrigerated dough products
  • frozen pizza
  • fast foods

Though food manufacturers find trans fats useful, medical science says they should be avoided. Many studies have shown that trans fats raise the risk of heart disease by raising the level of “bad cholesterol” (LDL). Trans fats have been linked to cancer, diabetes and stroke, as well. Prof. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California-San Diego says it best: “As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people.”

At a recent American Heart Association scientific conference, Dr. Golomb reported on a study that gives us yet another reason to avoid trans fats: they seem to damage the memory. Dr. Golomb’s team studied a group of 1,000 healthy men, and found that the higher a participant’s consumption of trans fat, the worse he performed on a word memory test. Each additional gram of trans fat consumed per day resulted in fewer words recalled. This held true across test subjects of different ages, ethnicities and education levels.

Dr. Golomb explained, “Foods have different effects on oxidative stress and cell energy.” You have probably heard of the benefits of antioxidants. Trans fats, says Golomb, are pro-oxidant, and increase oxidative stress.

The best way to avoid the damaging effect of trans fats is not to consume them at all! Read food labels carefully, and if you see trans fats in the ingredients, leave the product to live out its shelf life – on the shelf.

This article is not mean to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Consult your doctor or nutritionist with questions about cognitive and cardiac health, and about a diet that is best for you.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on study from the American Heart Association  http://newsroom.heart.org/news/trans-fat-consumption-is-linked-to-diminished-memory-in-working-aged-adults?preview=18b7

Raining? Snowing? That’s No Reason to Skimp on Physical Activity

Mom always told us to get outside for some exercise. But if you’re like many of us in the U.S. these days, freezing cold, snow and ice might make it unsafe—at the least unpleasant—to get our workout in the great outdoors.

If it’s too cold, rainy or icy (or in a few months, too hot), it takes a little creativity to be active indoors. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) offers these great ideas for seniors who want to get some exercise even when weather conditions aren’t great:

  • Walk on the treadmill, ride the stationary bike, or use the rowing machine that’s gathering dust in your bedroom or basement. Or use one at a nearby gym or fitness center.
  • Work out with an exercise DVD. You can get a free one from the NIA’s Go4Life program (www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life).
  • Go bowling with friends.
  • Join a local mall walking group.
  • Walk around an art gallery or museum to catch a new exhibit.
  • Check out an exercise class at your neighborhood Y or senior center.
  • If you like dancing, take a Zumba or salsa class.
  • Try yoga or Tai Chi.
  • Go to the gym and work on your strength, balance, and flexibility exercises or set up your own home gym. All you need is a sturdy chair, a towel, and some weights. Soup cans or water bottles will do if you don’t have your own set of weights.
  • Go to an indoor pool and swim laps or try water aerobics.
  • How about a game of indoor tennis, hockey, basketball or soccer?
  • Go indoor ice skating or roller skating.
  • Maybe it’s time for some heavy-duty cleaning. Vacuum, mop, sweep. Dust those hard-to-reach areas.
  • Play ping pong with the grandkids.

The NIA reminds us that we’re more likely to exercise if it’s convenient. Put your weights next to the sofa so you can do some lifting while you watch TV. Walk around the house while you’re talking on the phone. Make an extra trip up and down the stairs when you do the laundry.
Visit www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life to find more tips and resources for staying active.

Source: National Institute on Aging, adapted by IlluminAge AgeWise.

Supplements May Contain Dangerous Ingredients

Many seniors take dietary supplements in an effort to improve their health. Some supplements have medical value. But many are worthless, even dangerous. Seniors can be at risk for health fraud by scammers who target people who are at their most vulnerable. These crooks prey on the hopes of those who are experiencing ill health, pain and fear. The companies spend a bundle on infomercials and ads in the back of magazines—often more than they spend on the ingredients that go into their products.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminds consumers that supplements are not FDA-approved. Consumers should be wary of products that promise fast, easy weight loss or a miracle cure for diseases and conditions such as arthritis, cancer or HIV/AIDS. They should be aware of red flag terms such as “male enhancement,” “anti-aging” and “scientific breakthrough.” Consumer protection experts also warn of pyramid schemes that recruit seniors to invest in worthless supplement products and sales materials.

The hit to your pocketbook isn’t the top danger of these products. Some supplements can endanger your health. It’s important to know that, for the most part, supplements are not regulated, and the FDA only steps in if a safety issue is suspected. Many supplements are produced in unregulated plants, often out of the U.S., with no safety standards or inspections. Some contain substances that have not been tested on humans, as well as pharmaceutical ingredients that should not be available over the counter or have been banned entirely. For example, “all-natural muscle builder” products have been found to contain steroids. Some “Chinese herbal” weight loss pills actually contained sibutramine, a dangerous and banned drug. A recent study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that even when the FDA orders a recall of supplements containing banned ingredients, manufacturers and dealers regularly ignore the order and these products continue to be sold.

The study authors, from Harvard Medical School, analyzed recalled supplements and found that many remained on store shelves over a year after the recall. Dr. Pieter A. Cohen and his colleagues said, “Action from the FDA has not been completely effective in eliminating all potentially dangerous adulterated supplements from the U.S. marketplace. More aggressive enforcement of the law, changes to the law to increase the FDA’s enforcement powers, or both, will be required if sales of these products is to be prevented in the future.”

For now, it is largely up to consumers to protect themselves. Read up on supplement safety on the FDA website  http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm246742.htm. Speak to your doctor before you spend your money on supplements. Following the advice of a trained, licensed healthcare provider is the wisest choice when it comes to making healthcare decisions. Scam artists take advantage of our hopes. But the best source of a sense of well-being comes from knowing we have made educated choices.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2014, with excerpt from the Journal of the American Medical Association.

American Heart Association Confirms Connection of Memory Health, Heart Health

The risk of developing cognitive impairment, especially learning and memory problems, is significantly greater for people with poor cardiovascular health than people with intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health, according to a recent study appearing in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Cardiovascular health plays a critical role in brain health, with several cardiovascular risk factors also playing a role in higher risk for cognitive decline.

Researchers found that people with the lowest cardiovascular health scores were more likely have impairment on learning, memory and verbal fluency tests than their counterparts with intermediate or better risk profiles.

The study involved 17,761 people aged 45 and older at the outset who had normal cognitive function and no history of stroke. Mental function was evaluated four years later.

Researchers used data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study to determine cardiovascular health status based on The American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7™ score. The REGARDS study population is 55 percent women, 42 percent blacks, 58 percent whites and 56 percent are residents of the “stroke belt” states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The Life’s Simple 7™ initiative is a new system to measure the benefits of modifiable health behaviors and risk factors in cardiovascular health, such as smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose. It classifies each of the seven factors of heart health as either poor, intermediate or ideal.

After accounting for differences in age, sex, race and education, researchers identified cognitive impairment in:

  • 4.6 percent of people with the worst cardiovascular health scores;
  • 2.7 percent of those with intermediate health profiles; and
  • 2.6 percent of those in the best cardiovascular health category.

“Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved, intermediate levels of cardiovascular health are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function,” said lead investigator Evan L. Thacker, Ph.D., an assistant professor and chronic disease epidemiologist at Brigham Young University Department of Health Science, in Provo, Utah.

“This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health.”

The differences were seen regardless of race, gender, pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, or geographic region, although higher cardiovascular health scores were more common in men, people with higher education, higher income, and among people without any cardiovascular disease.

Cognitive function assessments involved tests to measure verbal learning, memory and fluency. Verbal learning was determined using a three-trial, ten-item word list, while verbal memory was assessed by free recall of the ten-item list after a brief delay filled with non-cognitive questions. Verbal fluency was determined by asking each participant to name as many animals as possible in 60 seconds.

Although mechanisms that might explain the findings remain unclear, Thacker said that undetected subclinical strokes could not be ruled out.

Source: The American Heart Association. Visit www.heart.org to find heart health information for consumers and professionals.

Alzheimer’s Experts Study Controllable Risk Factors

Scientists at the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference emphasize lifestyle factors.

Each year, leading experts on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders meet at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, which is the world’s largest gathering of leading researchers, who present the latest information on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of memory and cognitive disorders.

This information is of interest to anyone concerned about brain health, including older adults and families of people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease. This year, several new studies shed light on risk reduction strategies:

Mentally Stimulating Activities Promote Brain Health

A number of previous studies have suggested that puzzles, games and other activities that make our brains work a little harder could also protect our memory and thinking. Researchers from the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center presented the results of a study that adds to this understanding.

The scientists studied a group of people at higher risk of Alzheimer’s due to a family history of the disease and/or the APOe4 gene, which is associated with higher risk. They found that the people who often played games, read books or went to museums had greater brain volume in several important regions. According to researcher Stephanie Schultz, “Our findings suggest that for some individuals, engagement in cognitively stimulating activities, especially involving games such as puzzles and cards, might be a useful approach for preserving brain structures and cognitive functions that are vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.”

Moderate Exercise and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

The Alzheimer’s Association says that of all the lifestyle choices we can make, exercise is the best-documented way to promote brain health. At the conference, Mayo Clinic researchers reported the results of a study that specifically looked at the relationship between mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and exercise. Mild cognitive impairment is a condition that causes slight changes in memory and thinking. It may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s.

The research team, led by Dr. Yonas Geda, reported that physical exercise in midlife and later life was associated with a reduced risk of MCI. They also found that in people who already have MCI, those with a history of moderate exercising during the ages of 50 – 65 had a “significantly decreased” risk of progressing to dementia. Dr. Geda said, “In our studies, we found that physical exercise at various levels, especially in mid-life, is beneficial for cognitive function. These are intriguing results, but they are not yet conclusive. More research is needed to determine the extent and nature of physical activity in protecting against MCI and dementia.”

Brain-Healthy Lifestyle Choices Work Together

There are some risk factors that we can’t do anything about—but certain brain-healthy lifestyle choices are under our control. A team of researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland noted that individual studies have looked at the protective effect of individual modifiable risk factors, such as diet, exercise, socialization, social activities and management of heart disease. The team decided to look at the collective effect of all those factors. They studied a group of people age 60 to 77, and reported that those who were encouraged to follow a full set of brain-healthy lifestyle choices performed better on cognitive tests two years later. At the Conference, study author Dr. Miia Kivipelto said, “This is the first randomized control trial showing that it is possible to prevent cognitive decline using a multi-domain intervention among older at-risk individuals.” Kivipelto also noted that the study participants found the experience positive, and only 11 percent dropped out of the study during the two-year period.

These studies are yet another reminder about how important it is to take care of our own health! No matter what your age, take advantage of support resources in your community that can help you get the exercise, mental stimulation, regular healthcare, healthy eating and other activities that lower your own risk.

Source: AgeWise reporting on news releases from the Alzheimer’s Association. Read more about the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference here [add link to: http://www.alz.org/aaic/about/highlights.asp]