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

7 Common Flu Myths Debunked

Myths about the flu are everywhere. Is what you hear true, or is there too much misinformation floating around? Debunk the seven most common myths about influenza.7 Common Flu Myths Debunked

Myth #1: Getting Vaccinated Can Give You the Flu

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Disease, there is no way that the vaccine can make you sick. Vaccines only contain a weakened or inactivated form of the virus, which cannot infect you. The truth is that people often mistake the side effects of the vaccine for the illness itself. Side effects of inoculation may feel like mild symptoms of the flu, but soreness around the injection site is typically the only symptom people experience. Keep in mind that flu season (which generally lasts from October to March) coincides with a time of year when bugs causing colds and other respiratory illnesses are in the air. It is possible to get the vaccine and then get sick with a completely unrelated cold virus within a few days.

Myth #2: There Is No Treatment for the Flu

There are three FDA-approved antiviral drugs that are highly effective against the flu. Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is available in pill and liquid form, Relenza (zanamivir) comes in powder form, which is inhaled, and Rapivab (peramivir) is administered intravenously. While these antiviral medications do not cure the viral infection, they can minimize symptoms, reduce the amount of time you are sick by one or two days and make you less contagious to others. Furthermore, treatment can prevent complications of the flu, like pneumonia, which can be especially dangerous for older individuals. It’s best to take these drugs within 48 hours of getting sick, so do not hesitate to make a doctor’s appointment if you or a loved one have symptoms of the flu.

Myth #3: Antibiotics Can Fight the Flu

Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. Since influenza is a virus, antibiotics have no effect. Furthermore, overuse and misuse of antibiotics can result in reduced effectiveness against the bacteria they are actually intended to kill and even “superbugs” that are entirely resistant to these treatments.

Myth #4: You Can’t Get the Flu More Than Once During Flu Season

You can certainly contract the flu more than once a year, because there are many different strains of the influenza virus. There are two main types of flu, Type A and Type B, and there are also different subtypes of each. It is possible that you could get infected with one strain and then another during a given season, especially if you have a compromised immune system.

Myth #5: If You’re Young and Healthy, You Don’t Need to Get the Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated each season. Healthy adults are just as susceptible to the virus as other demographics. If you are caring for an aging loved one, simply getting them vaccinated only provides some protection. You and other family members should also get the vaccine to avoid endangering their health.

Myth #6: Cold Weather Causes the Flu

The influenza virus is spread year-round. Contrary to popular belief, going outside during winter without a hat on does not directly increase your risk of getting sick. Influenza peaks in fall and winter for a few different reasons. Scientists speculate that the flu virus thrives in cooler, low-humidity environments. Of course, during the colder months, people tend to spend more time cooped up indoors, making it easier for the virus to spread from person to person. Furthermore, less time spent outside means that most people experience drops in vitamin D during winter that can weaken the immune system. All of these factors contribute to the timing of flu season, which is the same throughout the whole country, even in warmer states like Florida.

Myth #7: If You Haven’t Gotten a Flu Shot by November, It’s Too Late

Flu season often peaks between December and February, but the timing can vary. Some years heightened flu activity has lasted until May. No matter how late it is, if you have not been vaccinated yet, go get it done. You could spare yourself and your family a great deal of misery.

The Facts: How to Avoid Spreading the Flu

Influenza spreads from person to person, often through the air, and you can pass on the infection even before you begin feeling symptoms. An infected individual is also contagious for several days after the onset of symptoms. Infection can stem from a contagious person near you coughing, sneezing or talking, or even from touching a surface that the virus is on, like a telephone or doorknob.

To avoid contracting and spreading the virus, use the following tips:

  • Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This is especially important after you touch a sick person, common surfaces, used tissues or laundry.
  • Individuals with the flu should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing to avoid spreading the virus to others.
  • Immediately throw away tissues and other disposable items used by an infected person.
  • Once diagnosed, talk to a healthcare provider about taking antiviral medication to prevent the virus from spreading to other family members, coworkers or friends.
  • Keep surfaces like bedside tables, bathroom surfaces, doorknobs and children’s toys clean by regularly wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
  • Do not share eating utensils, dishes or cups with a sick person. These items do not need to be cleaned separately, but they should not be shared without washing thoroughly first.
  • Wash linens (such as bed sheets and towels) by using household laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. Use a basket to transport laundry prior to washing to prevent contaminating yourself.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to minimize the likelihood of contracting the flu and other viral infections.

Source AgingCare  Marlo Sollitto

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

Emergency Planning: Is Your Loved One’s Long-Term Care Facility Prepared?

Each year, nature pummels the United States with various natural disasters. Americans find themselves contending with tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, wildfires, floods and heat waves that only seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity.

Individuals who are elderly, disabled or have special needs are particularly at risk during and after these events. Preparedness is crucial for those who are still living in the community and for those who reside in residential care communities like assisted living facilities, memory care units and nursing homes. When disaster strikes, long-term care facilities are responsible for ensuring the safety of all their residents and staff on site. In some cases, evacuation and transportation to another care facility out of harm’s way may be necessary.

Securing the safety of frail elders is a huge undertaking. Many long-term care residents are unable to walk on their own, connected to life-sustaining medical equipment or have severe cognitive impairments due to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Every senior living facility should have a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan in place that establishes protocols for both evacuating and sheltering in place.

It’s beneficial for family members who have relatives in senior living to learn about how these communities handle potential emergencies. This will help families understand exactly what the plan of action is for their loved ones and how it may or may not mesh with their own emergency preparations and plans.

Questions to Ask a Long-Term Care Facility About Disaster Preparedness

The following list highlights crucial information on emergency planning and evacuation procedures provided by The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. You can print these questions out and use them to help guide your discussion about emergency procedures with the administrator at your loved one’s long-term care facility.

General Emergency Planning

  • What is the facility’s emergency plan for evacuation and for sheltering in place? (Plans will be different for hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.)
  • How are these plans coordinated with community resources, the city, county and state emergency management?

Emergency Training for Staff Members

  • What staff training procedures are in place for emergency evacuations?
  • Are evacuation drills practiced with both staff and residents?
  • Are there enough staff available to execute emergency plans during all shifts? For example, if a fire breaks out in the middle of the night, will the skeleton crew be able to handle the emergency?

Family Communication

  • How does the facility discuss emergency planning with their residents?
  • How and when will families be notified about a loved one’s status and whereabouts?
  • Is there a phone number for out-of-town family members to call for information before, during and after an emergency event?

On-site Emergency Resources

  • Does the facility have an emergency backup power system or generators? If so, how long can this back-up system provide power? What parts of the facility will have electricity?
  • Are extra medical supplies, equipment and medications (at least a 7-day supply for each resident) stored on-site?
  • How much emergency oxygen is available in portable cylinders?
  • Is the facility prepared with enough potable water and nonperishable food for residents and staff?
  • If the facility is multi-level and the elevators cannot be used, what is the procedure for evacuating physically impaired residents quickly and safely down the stairs?
  • Do residents have emergency supplies and first aid kits in their rooms? (Kits should contain clothing, toiletries, a flashlight, ID and other critical items.)

Evacuation Procedures

  • How will residents be evacuated? Are there contracts in place with transportation providers to relocate residents?
  • Where will residents be evacuated to? Are there contracts in place with other facilities to provide temporary housing for displaced residents?
  • Do family members have the right to evacuate their loved ones on their own if they choose? How would this decision affect a senior’s residency in the facility and associated costs?
  • How are elders who are on life-support or receiving hospice care transported?
  • If the building must be evacuated quickly, what procedures are in place to ensure that no residents are misplaced or left behind?
  • How will residents be identified during and after an evacuation?
  • If the facility is evacuated, how are residents’ charts, medical information, medications and other supplies transported and when?
  • Can family members meet residents at a designated location? Can they assist loved ones at the facility to prepare for evacuation?
  • Will a trained employee ride with residents on each vehicle to oversee their care as needed?

Source: AgingCare by Marlo Solitto

Caregiving is the Greatest Teacher for Future Planning

Our Guest Author this month will help many who are facing aging alone once their family caregiving role comes to an end. Carol Marak is the founder of CarolMarak.com, the Elder Orphan Facebook group, and @Carebuzz Facebook Live events. She is an expert about everything aging. Herself a former family caregiver, Carol is personally equipped with aging alone expertise.

No matter what stage of caregiving you’re in, if you’re past it, in the middle of it, or it’s a paying job, the lessons learned will equip you for your own older life.

That’s what happened to me.  After caring for both parents, I realized, “There’s no one here for me to do all that I’ve done for them.”  A thought like this will quickly jolt anyone into scrambling for a plan. I’ve always been the independent sort, and now I face growing older without a spouse, partner, or adult children.

Like me, there are many women, and men, who find themselves in the similar circumstances. Growing older alone. And most of you, I bet, are caring or have cared for a relative as well.


          Carol Marak,
      Aging Alone Expert

The lessons learned give insights into what’s ahead.  At first it’s scary, but soon you’re grateful because you know so much and feel prepared, sort of. You know how to respond in an emergency, what’s needed when making serious medical decisions and legal matters, how to prepare for a medical treatment, the out-of-pocket costs of medical and other necessities, what to expect when you ring a doctor at 2:00 AM, and how to arrange for extra help.

Above all, you know that one day you will need help!  That’s wisdom you cannot buy.

But what people like me, aging alone, don’t learn from helping parents is, who do we count on for assistance, to help us respond to an emergency, make medical decisions, bring us a cup of soup, take us to the doctor, run errands, and more.

We learn what’s to come. But we don’t know where to start when planning for it or even thinking about it.

Growing older for my parents was totally different than what it is for me. They didn’t feel the need or urgency to prepare.  Growing older was part of life and they had no doubts about knowing who would step up for them.

Caring for an older person is hard. Period. No ifs buts or maybes. And making a plan for that is even more difficult. Period.  It’s takes time, effort, and patience. But making a plan when aging alone, well, that’s titanic. We question:

  • Will my money outlast me?
  • Who do I call in case of an emergency?
  • Who will be my health care proxy?
  • What if I’m all alone and lonely, who will come over?
  • What if I’m sick, who will look in on me?

That’s the short list.

Future Planning

These are the tough questions and they’re the reason I started working on my future plan soon after my dad passed away.  I’ve created a FREE starter kit for people who have the urgency to prepare. It’s yours for free to download here.

The thing about planning, it’s not meant to be a once and done deal. Instead, it expands our understanding of the kind of world we want and shows us a path we’d need to take to get to a better place–or, at minimum, the paths we need to avoid.

I believe we all need to have a sense of what’s next, and a vision of the kind of world we want. Planning for the future should deal with tomorrow’s problems–which if not addressed will inevitably leave us weakened, vulnerable, and blind to challenges to come.

Source: Senior Care Corner

10 Farmer’s Market Foods That Are Senior Approved

10 Farmer’s Market Foods That Are Senior Approved

Spring is finally in the air! If you’re like most people, you and your loved ones may have fallen off the health and nutrition bandwagon this winter. With the harsh weather and indulgent holiday gatherings, it’s common to slip up and make poor diet choices that you normally wouldn’t.

If you’re looking for ways for your family to kick off spring on a healthier, more wholesome note, buying groceries at a farmer’s market is an affordable and fun way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet. The produce sold at these markets is usually locally grown, more likely to be organic and can even reduce your carbon footprint.

Healthy Springtime Produce Options for Caregivers and Seniors

  • Fava Beans
    Your loved one may remember eating fava beans boiled with a dollop of butter or margarine, but this method of cooking completely strips them of all their nutrients. Instead, try quickly sautéing the beans in a little olive oil. You can even mix cooked fava beans with steamed basmati rice, chopped dill and freshly minced garlic for a savory whole-grain dish that will surely wake up your elder’s taste buds.
  • Asparagus 
    Asparagus is another great spring vegetable that is naturally rich in glutathione, an antioxidant that fights aging and can potentially lower one’s cancer risk. Asparagus is usually harvested in the spring, making it a perfect pick for the farmer’s market this time of year. Try chopping the stalks into bite-sized pieces and adding it raw to salads. For a healthy alternative to French fries, you can also roast asparagus spears in the oven with a little olive oil, garlic powder and salt. Unlike roasted potatoes, asparagus won’t cause spikes in blood sugar.
  • Mint
    Many herbs flourish in spring, thanks to milder temperatures and plentiful rain and sunshine. Mint is a popular springtime herb that is not only refreshingly tasty, but it also has medicinal properties. Mint is a natural digestive aid that can soothe nausea and upset stomachs, which can be common in seniors as they age. Try adding fresh mint leaves to a salad. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can mix mint, garlic, salt and diced cucumbers into plain Greek yogurt for a tangy tzatziki sauce to serve with chicken or beef or to use as a dipping sauce for fresh vegetables. Additionally, steeping fresh mint leaves in boiling water with a few slices of lemon is an easy way to make a caffeine-free herbal tea that can be served hot or cold.
  • Radishes
    Usually root vegetables like carrots and potatoes are harvested in the fall, but radishes have a crisp bite to them that makes them perfect for spring. They are versatile, fiber-rich vegetables, packing pack up to two grams of dietary fiber per cup. Increasing a senior’s fiber intake can help ease constipation and improve digestion. Radishes are often an acquired taste, so try introducing them into your loved one’s diet gradually. They can be served raw, roasted or sautéed, and the peppery green tops are edible and nutrient dense as well!
  • Peas
    Green peas are no longer the vegetable you hated as a child. In fact, they are actually legumes that are low in calories and contain an impressive amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Peas are one of the best foods for reducing dangerous inflammation in an elder’s body that can contribute to conditions like indigestion, heart disease and even Alzheimer’s disease. Garden peas are also relatively high in protein and can be served as a side dish or added to salads, soups and pastas. My personal favorite use for peas is tossing them into a hearty chicken salad!
  • Strawberries
    Strawberries are one of the sweetest fruits to feed your loved one during spring. Loaded with vitamin C, they contain antioxidants which can help with all sorts of health problems and ailments. If your elder bruises easily, the high vitamin C content in strawberries is thought to alleviate their severity and aid in faster healing. Don’t be afraid to get creative with strawberries, as you can easily add them to oatmeal or cereal, layer slices of strawberries in a delicious yogurt parfait, blend them into a nutritious smoothie, or dice them with red onion, cilantro, jalapeno and some lime juice to create a zesty strawberry salsa.
  • Green Onions
    Also known as scallions, green onions add a punch of freshness to any dish. Unlike white onions, which can be rather pungent and acidic, scallions are much milder in flavor and texture. Topping a bowl of chili or soup with a handful of chopped scallions is an easy way to instantly elevate the dish. While most people usually use scallions as a garnish, keep in mind that the heartier white bottoms of the stalks can be used in the same way as white onions in a variety of recipes. Try sautéing green onions in a tomato sauce, adding them to an omelet, or incorporating them into Asian entrees like stir-fries, noodle dishes, and salads for subtle yet distinguished flavor.
  • Arugula
    As seniors age, their sense of taste and smell are likely to diminish over time. Instead of bland lettuce mixes like iceberg and romaine, opt for a bitter, leafy green like arugula. Arugula is rich in selenium, which is what gives it its peppery flavor. It’s also rich in a crucial B-vitamin called folate, making it a great base for spring salads. You can also use arugula in sandwiches and wraps, as a pizza topping, wilted into pasta dishes, and even as the main ingredient in a bright pesto sauce (in lieu of basil).
  • Artichokes
    Artichokes are one of the most overlooked veggies available in the spring and summer months. They are high in vitamins C and K and pack plenty of dietary fiber, but most people buy them canned or jarred because they aren’t sure how to prepare them fresh. Surprisingly, these large, intimidating looking flower buds aren’t all that difficult to cook. After washing, simply trim off the tight tops of the buds, trim and lightly peel the stalk, and carefully snip off the sharp thorns on the tips of the remaining petals. Prepared artichokes can be boiled, steamed, baked, grilled and even microwaved with your seasonings of choice. (Lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and herbs are popular accompaniments.)
    The cooked petals don’t yield much flesh, but the tender, sought-after artichoke hearts can be used in pastas, dips, spreads and sandwiches. Just be sure to avoid eating the hairy-looking choke! Everyone loves a warm spinach and artichoke dip, so why not use fresh artichokes when they’re in season? If your loved one enjoys sandwiches and wraps, try adding artichoke hearts to roasted red peppers and low-sodium turkey for a healthier take on an Italian cold cut.
  • Apricots
    These bright, sweet fruits are high in vitamins A and C, potassium, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. The nutritional value of apricots makes them an excellent dietary choice that helps to prevent eye diseases and promote cardiovascular health. Their small size makes them perfect for snacking, but they can also be made into jams, butters and other condiments. Another surprising use for apricots is grilling or roasting them alongside lean protein like chicken to produce an entrée with balanced sweet and savory notes.

Use the start of spring as an opportunity to wake up your taste buds and reestablish healthy eating habits. A farmer’s market is a great place to seek culinary inspiration, and attending one can be a fun outing idea for caregivers and their aging loved ones. Keep these ingredients and recipe ideas in mind the next time you hit your local farmer’s market!

Source: AgingCare  by Taji Mortazavi

What Happens When a Senior Can No Longer Care for Their Pet?

Howard Cutler knows the joy animals can bring to people. His childhood memories are filled with stories of his family’s two beloved dogs and cats. After moving into a senior housing complex in Atlanta, Georgia, Cutler acted on his love of animals and adopted a Shih Tzu named Ollie from a fellow resident who could no longer care for the animal. For seven years, the pair was inseparable until Cutler’s Parkinson’s disease forced him to move to a different assisted care facility that didn’t allow pets.

“He was my friend and my companion, and giving him up was very difficult for me,” Cutler explains. As much as he wanted to keep little Ollie, Cutler knew he needed to rehome his beloved pet. He began looking among his neighbors in the senior complex to find a new owner. “Ollie was loved by everyone there, but I was worried that I wouldn’t find the right person.”

Cutler was fortunate to find the perfect fit in his friend and neighbor Nancy Markovich. “Howard was heartsick that he had to give up Ollie,” Markovich recalls. “So, I offered to adopt the dog and promised to take good care of him.”

Ollie’s veterinarian, Dr. Duffy Jones, says pets provide much-needed comfort and companionship to people of all ages, especially seniors. “The value that animals bring to people is amazing,” he says. “I’ve seen older pet owners who are struggling financially choose not feed themselves so they can feed their animals. Their pet is the reason they get up in the morning.”

But when aging pet owners find themselves unable to care for their animals, surrendering the pet is often the best course of action. “Most owners understand they’re sick and their pet needs more care than they’re able to provide,” Dr. Jones says. “They want to make a plan for their pets; It’s a real source of comfort.”

Senior Pet Owners Must Plan for the Unexpected

Dr. Jones encourages all pet owners to devise a succession plan for their animals as early as possible. Having a “plan b” in place before the pet owner becomes too ill, needs to move to a care facility or passes away will offer invaluable peace of mind for the owner and added security for their pet. He offers the following tips for creating a contingency plan for a loving animal:

  • Consider adoption. Ask friends and family who are familiar with the pet if they are willing and able to offer the animal a new home. Those who interact with the pet regularly will be better equipped to determine if the animal’s size, personality, routine, etc. would fit well with their schedule and lifestyle.
  • Talk to a vet. Veterinarians have many resources at their disposal and can often help rehome a pet. No-kill shelters can also be a useful option, and there are many non-profit rescue organizations around the U.S. that will also assist older adults in finding new homes for their animals.
  • Get the owner’s input. Be sure to let the pet owner have a say in the decision. Ask them who they would like to look after their pet. “In some cases, older people don’t have a lot of family around and their friends are going through similar transitions, so they worry what will happen to their pets,” explains Dr. Jones. “Animal owners are visibly relieved when we tell them we’ve found their pets a new home. It’s not uncommon for them to cry.”
  • Allow for a smooth transition. Ideally, the current owner will be able to help the pet transition to its new home. The goal is to help the animal and new owner build trust and become familiar with one another incrementally. Try having the new owner come for extended visits with the pet, take the animal for walks and care for it in the new home for short periods before full-time ownership begins. Small steps are easier on everyone involved compared to an abrupt change.
  • Rehomed pets aren’t gone forever. While evaluating prospective adopters, discuss the possibility of allowing the original owner to continue visiting with the animal. Even a monthly visit with a cherished furry friend can brighten up a senior’s day.

Dr. Jones says euthanizing a pet should be the last resort. “Some older people think that putting a pet down is best because the animal is so bonded to their owner,” he says. “We usually try to talk them out of it, explain that there are so many other options and then we work with the owner to rehome their pet(s).”

When Is It Time to Rehome a Senior’s Pet?

With so much research touting the physical and mental benefits that animals provide to humans, Dr. Jones advises that older people keep their pets for as long as possible. Unfortunately, though, circumstances do change. If either the pet or their elderly owner is living in a neglectful situation or experiencing a reduced quality of life, then it is time to explore alternative options. It can be difficult to balance the health, safety and happiness of both the senior and their pet, but it must be done.

Dr. Jones sympathizes with family members who don’t know what to do about their aging loved ones and their furry friends. “For caregivers, the thought of taking care of a person and their pet can be overwhelming,” he notes. “Sometimes older people haven’t trained their pets well, which can amount to behavioral problems and unsanitary conditions. But what people don’t see is that these animals mean so much to their owners. Separation often causes physical and emotional decline in both parties.”

Balance What Is Best for the Senior and Their Pet

Markovich has no regrets about adopting Ollie. She tried to make the transition as smooth as possible for both pet and owner. Cutler now receives the care and assistance he requires while Ollie gets the love and stimulation that dogs thrive on. Markovich inherited Ollie’s food and water dishes from Cutler and even places them in the same spot in her apartment at the senior housing community. The twosome goes for daily walks and Markovich hopes that she’s kept Ollie trained to Cutler’s standards.

Every month, Cutler gets to see his favorite companion when Markovich brings Ollie for a pet therapy visit at the assisted living community. “When he comes to see me, he’s overjoyed,” says Cutler. “When Nancy is ready to leave, he goes to her side to let me know he was happy to see me, but he is leaving with Nancy. I feel sad about that, but also happy that I was able to find a good home for him.”

Markovich is equally grateful for the opportunity to help a friend in need and to find the loving companionship that a pet brings. “Ollie sits by me on the sofa, sleeps on my bed and we are thick as thieves. He is a true blessing for me,” she remarks.

Source: AgingCare  by Candace Rotolo

WHEN IT’S TIME TO SEE A GERIATRICIAN

If you’re in your 60s or 70s, you may have wondered if you should start seeing a geriatrician instead of, or in addition to, your primary care provider. These are family doctors or internists with special training in the health needs of older adults. About 30 percent of people over age 65 need one, according to the American Geriatrics Society.

But you might not need to book an appointment at the same time you sign up for Medicare. “Geriatricians specialize in the care of people with multiple chronic medical conditions that cause challenges with their day-to-day physical and mental functioning,” explains Michael Steinman, a geriatrician at the University of California San Francisco. And so the reason for using this specialist is not determined by just age. “A 65-year-old with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes may benefit, but an 80-year-old who walks five miles a day and is only on one or two medications doesn’t need one.”

Usually, you see a geriatrician  for an initial consult, with follow-up as needed, says Mary Tinetti, M.D., chief of geriatrics at the Yale University School of Medicine. Most geriatricians work in centers and have a team-based approach; for example, besides meeting with the doctor, you’ll see a social worker, hearing specialist, nutritionist, and even physical or occupational therapists in the same visit. You’ll still see your primary care physician for day-to-day matters, like blood pressure checks or visits when you’re sick. If there isn’t a geriatrician near you and it’s hard for you to travel, Tinetti suggests seeing if a geriatric center will do a telemedicine consult. (You can check the American Geriatrics Society’s online locator serviceto find out if any of the nation’s 7,000 certified geriatricians practice near you.)

Reearch shows that it’s best to make an appointment sooner rather than later. Adults who see a geriatrician are less likely to end up in the hospital, possibly because these physicians are more likely to be on the lookout for warning signs such as frailty and appetite loss, and also are more likely to avoid prescribing potentially risky medications.

Here are four signs that you may need a geriatrician.

  • You’re on multiple medications. More than a third of adults over age 62 are taking at least five prescription drugs. Over 60 percent use some type of herbal or dietary supplement. But the more meds you’re on, the more likely you are to experience side effects, have cognitive problems or even end up in the hospital. “The older you get, the harder it is to metabolize and clear medicines from your body,” says Steinman. “And the more drugs you’re on, the more likely you are to experience drug-drug interaction.” A geriatrician can review all your meds and determine which ones you really need and which you can shelve.
  • You’re having trouble with your memory. Almost 60 percent of people over age 65 with probable dementia are undiagnosed or unaware that they have it, according to a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study published last year in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. A geriatrician can screen you for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a precursor to dementia, as well as for depression, which can be more subtle in older adults, says Veronica Rivera, a geriatrician at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
  • You’re less mobile. If you don’t feel as steady on your feet as you used to or are having trouble getting around, it’s a good idea to see a geriatrician who can assess your balance and gait, says Tinetti. (Falls are the leading cause of injuries and death from injuries among adults over age 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). A geriatrician can also give you balance-strengthening exercises to do at home and/or prescribe a course of physical therapy, as well as send a physical therapist or occupational therapist to your home to do a fall-risk assessment. All these steps can help keep you independent — and in your home — longer.
  • You’re hospitalized. Research shows that older adults who get care from a geriatrician in the hospital do better once they’re discharged. People over age 65 who got a geriatric consult while hospitalized for a traumatic injury such as a broken rib, head injury or fracture were able to resume about two-thirds more of their daily activities (like shopping, walking across a room, managing finances and self-care) than those who didn’t, according to a University of Michigan study published in JAMA Surgery. 

Written by: Hallie Levine, AARP

Source: agegracefullyamerica.com

8 Facts to Know About Lewy Body Dementia

Most people mistakenly believe that all types of dementia share similar symptoms, like the hallmark signs of forgetfulness and confusion that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, Lewy body dementia (LBD), the second most common type after AD, is characterized by unique symptoms that make it difficult to diagnose and treat.

It’s important for family caregivers who are looking after aging loved ones to familiarize themselves with some of the basic signs of various age-related diseases like LBD. Noticing strange new behaviors or quirks early on can help ensure a senior gets the medical attention they need in a timely manner.

Facts About Lewy Body Dementia

  1. It affects millions of seniors. 
    According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association, LBD affects approximately 1.4 million individuals and their families. Although it is widely unknown, it is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. LBD is not Alzheimer’s disease.
    Many people use the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” interchangeably, but dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a progressive neurological disorder that affects cognitive function, of which there are many different kinds. Alzheimer’s is one form of dementia that is characterized by impaired memory, issues with decision making, trouble with problem solving and difficulty learning new skills.
    There are crucial differences between AD and LBD. For one thing, people with LBD experience unpredictable changes in cognition, regardless of the time of day, whereas people with Alzheimer’s tend to have more trouble in the late afternoon and evening—a symptom known as “sundowning.” Those with LBD also tend to have more visual hallucinations and movement issues, while the hallmarks of AD include memory loss and trouble performing familiar tasks. Furthermore, abnormal alpha-synuclein protein deposits in the brain called Lewy bodies are the hallmark biological marker of LBD, unlike Alzheimer’s, which is caused by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles in brain tissue.
  3. LBD is difficult to diagnose.
    As with Alzheimer’s, LBD can only be conclusively diagnosed through an examination of brain tissue after a person has died. However, medical advancements have significantly improved the certainty with which doctors can diagnose living patients.
    Doctors consider the person’s symptoms, interview their family members, perform physical and mental evaluations, obtain a family and personal medical history, and conduct blood tests and brain imaging tests like MRI, PET and CT scans. Symptoms of LBD include problems with depth perception, hallucinations (often visual), delusions, paranoia, Parkinsonism (body stiffness, tremors, trouble walking), and physical issues like heart rate and blood pressure fluctuations, constipation, and fainting spells. To be diagnosed with LBD, an individual must have dementia as well as several of these symptoms.
  4. Medications and LBD can have adverse interactions.
    An accurate, timely diagnosis of LBD is essential to avoiding dangerous medication reactions. Many drugs prescribed to people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease—especially antipsychotic drugs used to control hallucinations—can have a dangerous effect on people with LBD. Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) is a neurological disorder brought on by a negative reaction to antipsychotic medications that often occurs in people with LBD. Individuals who develop NMS can experience muscular rigidity, high fever, variable blood pressure and severe sweating. Anticholinergic medications, benzodiazepines and over-the-counter sleeping pills can also have negative effects on seniors with Lewy body dementia.
  5. Parkinson’s disease and LBD are very similar.
    People with LBD often exhibit the same symptoms as those with Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD). While the two conditions start off differently, their biological underpinnings are closely related, and people with Parkinson’s disease can be diagnosed with either PDD or LBD. The factor that physicians use to distinguish between these two conditions is the timing of the onset of cognitive symptoms. People who develop dementia within a year of their Parkinson’s diagnosis are thought to have LBD, while those whose dementia symptoms start beyond the one-year mark are thought to have PDD.
  6. LBD affects sleep quality.
    Sleep issues and dementia often go hand in hand, but there’s a specific sleep condition that appears to disproportionately affect people with LBD. Studies indicate that as many as two-thirds of LBD patients struggle with REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). RBD is an ailment that causes movement, speaking and gesturing during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which is usually characterized by paralysis in healthy individuals.
  7. Like most dementias, LBD is unpredictable.
    One of the biggest challenges facing seniors with LBD and their families is the fact that symptoms of the disease tend to worsen and improve erratically. Periods of mental fog, aggressive behavior, movement issues and vivid hallucinations can last seconds, minutes, hours or days. Fluctuations in symptoms can be caused by underlying infections, medications or general progression of the disease. Because of this, it can be nearly impossible to determine how far LBD has progressed in a given individual. However, if the exacerbating factor is capable of being fixed (like a urinary tract infection), then the person with LBD can often return to their prior level of functioning after receiving treatment for the secondary issue.
  8. LBD has no cure.
    There is currently no way to cure or halt the progression of LBD. Instead, treatments are aimed at controlling the cognitive, psychiatric and motor symptoms of the disorder. Those who have been diagnosed with the condition may benefit from palliative care, which focuses on using drugs and nonpharmaceutical treatments to manage symptoms and improve a patient’s comfort and quality of life. For instance, cognitive issues may be addressed with cholinesterase inhibitors, a type of medication that promotes brain cell function by regulating the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. To improve sleep quality and minimize the effects of RBD, careful treatment with clonazepam (Klonopin) or melatonin might be prescribed. Levodopa may be used to mitigate the motor effects of severe Parkinsonism. Occupational, speech and physical therapies are the most common nonpharmaceutical approaches to helping people with LBD manage their condition and maintain day-to-day functionality. Average life expectancy after diagnosis is about 8 years, with progressively increasing cognitive and functional disability.

Source: AginCare by Anne-Marie Botek

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