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.

 

Comprehensive Room-by-Room Home Safety Guide for Older Adults

If you are like many Americans in your generation, you would prefer to live independently in your own residence rather than in an assisted care facility. A growing number of older adults are choosing to age in place, and many adult children are moving aging parents into their home. If you’re considering in-home care as an option, you may need to make some modifications to you or your loved one’s home to make it as safe as possible.

The AARP reports 1 in 4 adults over age 65 take a fall annually, but you can lessen the chances of a fall with some simple adaptations. Many of them can be done in a single day. If you’re an older adult living independently or you are caring for an aging loved one, here are some safety tips to make the home as safe as possible.

Living room

Home Safety Guide for Older Adults

The living room is a great place for the elderly to entertain family and friends. It’s also a great place for them to finally enjoy the rest and relaxation they’ve been working towards their whole lives. But, it can also be a place full of little hazards for an older adult. Read through our tips below to see how you can help make sure your loved one’s living room is properly equipped for them to enjoy in their golden years.

Couches and chairs

Seating should be the appropriate height for older adults. That means that their feet should be able to touch the floor when sitting on the edge and that their hips don’t start too far below their knees, as this can make getting up difficult.

  • Adjust the legs of the chairs and couches to get the proper height or add cushions to help elevate the seat surfaces.
  • All couches and chairs should be stable and not sway or wobble.
  • Make sure that seating is not too low, too soft, or too deep. If you have to rock back and forth to gain momentum to get into a standing position, the chair or couch doesn’t offer enough support. This can present a hazard in terms of hip fractures.
  • Use seating with high arms for assistance in pulling yourself to a standing position.
  • Lightweight furniture is easier to maneuver, which is especially important for dining or activity chairs that need to be moved away from a table in order to sit down.
  • The front of the arm should be flat and able to be grasped easily when sitting or standing. An older person needs to be able to steady themselves as they stand in order to prevent a fall.

Lighting

Home Safety Guide for Older Adults

As we age, weakening eye muscles and a decreased pupil size mean we need more light to see as well as we did before. Lighting in the living room should be bright without being harsh. This will keep visibility high while you or your loved one goes about their daily activities.

  • Install lighting with remotes for older adults who have mobility issuesso they don’t have to reach light switches.
  • If visibility is low in the living room, add track lighting where necessary. This can help increase the illumination in the room to the levels needed for persons over age 65.
  • Different areas of the home require different types of lighting. Hallways, closets, and stairwells should have bright lights. Inadequate lighting in these areas could be associated with a fall.
  • Extra lamps, especially models that turn on and off with a touch, make it more convenient to make the room brighter as evening falls. They increase ambient light levels or better visibility throughout the room and are easily portable.
  • Light quality is as important as increased light levels. Good lighting should decrease shadows, reflections, and glare. Older adults are more sensitive to glare, so while lighting should be plentiful it should also be shielded.
  • Repaint walls a lighter color. A matte finish will reduce glare, and paint with a higher Light Reflective Value will increase ambient light levels in the room. Your eyesight may require two to six times more light than it did when you were younger.

Windows and temperature

Windows should be well insulated to keep heat out in the summer and keep heat in the winter. Extreme temperatures can make anyone sick, but older adults lose body heat faster than when we are young. Being in a very cold house can lead to hypothermia, and a chill can become dangerous before you are even aware of what is happening.  

  • Check that all window seals are tight and not letting any air escape. This ensures you aren’t losing heat through the windows, which could put you at risk for hypothermia.
  • Use heat-control window film or install double-pane windows that are better insulated. This can prevent the house from becoming too cold, and your body temperature from falling below 95 degrees, the point where health problems may occur.
  • Add curtains and shades to any large windows to help control lighting and temperature in the living room.
  • For safety, keep your windows locked at all times. This can help protect older people from abuse.
  • Set your heat to at least 68 to 70 degrees. Older people may be tempted to save on electric bills by turning down the heat, especially as inflation means retirement savings need to stretch further.
  • To save on heating bills, placed a rolled towel in front of doors to keep out drafts and close off rooms you aren’t using.
  • Avoid space heaters, which are fire hazards and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. This is true for adults of any age, but carbon monoxide is a deadly gas you cannot see or smell, so it is especially important if you live alone.

Flooring and walkways

There are many great non-slip flooring options that are easily installed that can reduce the risk of a fall if your older adult has slick wood or tile flooring. If an older person falls, they have a decreased chance of a fast recovery. It’s important for an older adult to have flooring that is safe to walk on, and easy to maintain.

  • Keep all walkways free of obstruction and remove any clutter around the living room that could be a trip hazard.
  • Remove rugs that slip easily or curl up at the edges as this is also a major trip and fall hazard.
  • Add a hail railing for greater stability while walking.
  • Use carpet staples to secure the carpet, non-slip rug liners and double-sided rug tape to keep rugs in place. Carpet that is torn and lifted up in areas can cause a tripping hazard. Likewise, rugs that slide easily or curl up at the corners are also a major tripping hazard.
  • Replace rugs and carpet with soft wood or wood-like flooring. This can make getting around easier and safer. 
  • Always wear proper fitting shoes with low heels.
  • Apply non-slip wax to hard floors. Linoleum floors offer some cushioning in case of a fall and are anti-microbial, which could benefit older adults with weak immune systems. Non-slip vinyl floors don’t require wax and provide added stability for those wearing rubber-soled shoes.
  • Avoid tile and natural stone. A surface as hard as tile or stone could lead to a broken pelvis or hip, which could be life-threatening.

Bedroom

Home Safety Guide for Older Adults

A bedroom is a place of rest, peace and quiet, security and safety. But, given that it is often dark and used when an elderly person is tired and not in the sharpest mindset, it’s imperative that the bedroom is designed for comfort and ease-of-use. Here is a list of items and actions to help you ensure your elderly loved one’s bedroom is safe.

Closets and other storage

Home Safety Guide for Older Adults

Items stacked high in closets, bulky furniture taking up too much space, and clothing cluttering the bedroom are all causes for concern. After many years of life, it’s natural to have accumulated belongings.

Sentimental items and piles of paperwork, such as tax returns and newspaper clippings, can make it hard to find the things we use every day. Clearing out large items makes for better walkways and easier access to necessary things like clothing. The first step to resolving a clutter issue is to simply get rid of things. Don’t try to tackle too much at one time. Three hours is a good time limit to give yourself. This allows you to refocus and feel positive when you return to the task.

  • Prepare three boxes labeled 1) keep, 2) toss, or 3) sell/donate. This makes the task of sorting easier, and allows you to stop at any point you begin to feel tired.
  • When you finish for the day, put away your keep items and put your toss items into the garbage.
  • Be realistic about your storage space. If you’ve downsized in your later years, the possessions that moved from your previous home may need to be downsized as well.
  • If the items have sentimental value, think about getting a storage unit to store them in. Items we love may define us as individuals or remind us of the loved ones we have lost. You should decide which items are most important and keep the items that you love.
  • Use small, lightweight storage containers and install shelving to help you or your loved one get organized.
  • Consult your attorney or accountant to see which financial papers you should keep, and which you can toss. In this age of digital files, keeping 30 years of paperwork isn’t necessary.

Lighting

Home Safety Guide for Older Adults

Lighting in the bedroom is important for any time of day. Lighting throughout the house, but especially in the bedroom, should be easily accessible.

  • Lighting with remotes ensure you or your elderly loved one doesn’t have to get up and search for the switch in the dark.
  • Nightlights and low wattage string lighting can stay on at all times for those late night trips to the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Run string lighting along baseboards to light the floor to and from the bathroom or kitchen. These are paths we all frequent regularly, and often at night. String lighting will improve visibility for nighttime trips to the bathroom or to get a glass of water.
  • Check batteries and bulbs regularly to make sure everything is still working.
  • Check the wattage of your light fixtures before increasing the wattage. You never want to exceed the maximum wattage of a lamp or light fixture. If you need to increase ambient light for better visibility, add track lighting or another lamp.

Bed height and railings

Getting in and out of bed gets tougher as we age, but there are simple fixes in bed height that can make this process much easier. When sitting on the edge of the bed, your knees should be parallel or below your hips. Likewise, your feet should always be able to touch the floor when sitting on the edge of the bed.

  • Many bed frames allow for height adjustments, preventing difficulty getting out of bed. A frame that is the wrong height could cause you to use rocking momentum to rise, which can increase the risk of a hip fracture and/or fall.
  • Change the size of the box spring or mattress to get the best height.
  • Bed rails prevent falls in the middle of the night and offer extra support when getting in and out of bed.
  • Consider purchasing an adjustable bed rail with LED nightlights to make it easier for an older adult to get in and out of bed when it’s still dark and visibility is low.
  • Make sure that the bed rail can be operated correctly by whoever is using them, especially if the person is going to be at home alone.
  • Check the weight limit on the bed rail to make sure that it is appropriate for you or your loved one to use.

Bathroom

Home Safety Guide for Older Adults

The bathroom is full of hard, slippery surfaces which makes it a common place for falls and injuries at any age, but especially for the elderly. Read through our tips below to see how you can secure a bathroom and prevent any mishaps for your elderly loved one.

Mats and shower controls

The shower might be the most dangerous place in the house for an older adult since it’s so easy to slip and fall, and a fall can be so dangerous given a shower’s hard surface. It may also be hard to be heard over the shower or to reach a phone to call for help. You may want to remove locks on bathroom doors so that if someone does need to assist, they are able to get inside without delay.

  • A rubber mat or non-stick decals should be among the first things installed in an older adult’s bathroom. They are cheap and easy to put in and make a huge difference in the traction at the bottom of a tub, preventing a fall.
  • A handheld showerhead on a sliding rail allows for individual adjustment, making it easier to shower while seated.
  • You’ll want to pair this with an ADA-compliant grab bar for safety, as a handheld showerhead is too flimsy to grab onto during a fall.
  • The thermostat for the shower water should be set no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding. Age-related sensory loss, thinner skin, and decreased mobility could lead to burns if the water temperature is set too high.
  • Sink, tub, and shower anti-scalding devices recognize when the water is too hot and stop the flow. If an individual has compromised health or is undergoing chemotherapy, the increased bacterial growth from a lower water temperature may not be suitable. In these cases, an anti-scalding device can protect against burns. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. They are best used when a caregiver is present, since the water may need to be manually remixed to the proper temperature.
  • Hot and cold shower levers should be easily identifiable for the older adult using them, especially since visibility may be lower in the shower without visual aids such as glasses.  

Grab bars and seating

room by room senior guide sink

If the towel racks in your elderly loved one’s bathroom are loose, that is a clear sign they’re using them for support. Towel racks are not designed to act as grab bars and can easily be pulled out of a wall, causing a fall. Instead, install grab bars in and around the shower, near the toilet and anywhere else they may need support.

There are a few seating options to consider for the bathrooms of an elderly loved one. Each option helps older adults who struggle with getting up and down from different heights. Adding a seat to the shower helps older adults who have a hard time standing for long periods of time. It also gives them a stable place to rest while showering.

  • A vertical bar should be installed at the tub edge. If you are having a hard time getting in and out of your tub, a grab bar can make it easier.
  • An angled bar should be installed on the long back wall of the tub.These bars give you something sturdy to grasp in case of a fall.
  • The best location for the bars depends on who will be using them, so discuss placement with your loved one before installing them.
  • Grab bars don’t have to make your home look institutional. “Designer grab bars” are both sturdy and stylish. Some even serve double duty as towel racks and toilet paper holders.
  • Shower transfer benches allow you to sit and slide into and out of the shower easily. This can help if you are having a harder time getting in and out of the shower due to decreased flexibility.
  • Raised toilet seats decrease the distance an older adult has to sit when using the toilet. Most raised toilet seats will fit directly onto the bowl, making installation easy.

Medication

Keeping an older adult’s medication organized and easily within reach is incredibly important. Install a medicine cabinet that can be reached easily and consider keeping medications in a daily pill organizer.

  • If the bathroom becomes cramped with medications, it may be best to move medications to the kitchen where it’s easy to remember to take them with meals.
  • Make and maintain a medicine list that includes all the medications you or your loved one takes (including OTCs or herbal supplements), the name of the healthcare provider who prescribed them, and how often and at what dosage you should take them.
  • Check expiration dates, and discard expired medications safely.
  • Keep all medications in the bottle or box they came in so instructions are close at hand.
  • Store medications safely out of reach of pets and visiting grandchildren.

Kitchen

room by room senior guide kitchen

The kitchen is a central place in any home and a room in which family members spend plenty of time. Be sure it’s well-equipped for your elderly loved one with the below tips.

Storage

A kitchen should be rearranged as needed to make daily use items accessible so that you have easy access to cookware and canned goods. This puts less strain on your back and knees. Having everything is at hand and conveniently located makes it easier to make healthy meals without extra work. It also prevents you from buying things you already own.

  • Be aware of any items that are too high or too heavy for an older adult to reach.
  • Move pots, pans and any other kitchenware to the lowest shelves possible.
  • Pull-down shelves are great for storing items in hard to reach areas.
  • Consider storing heavy items like mixers, cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, and food processors on the counter and not below waist level, as lifting heavy items from low surfaces can cause injury.
  • Spice racks and lazy susans are great space-saving options for decluttering spice and condiment cabinets.
  • Store cleaning products and hazardous items separately from food.

Old food

room by room guide old food

It’s common for an older adult’s appetite to dwindle. If the older adult in your life is experiencing a loss of appetite, exercise and staying hydrated can help boost hunger. While boosting their appetite should be the ultimate goal, a loss of appetite can lead to old food accumulating in pantries and the fridge. Ingesting expired food can make anyone sick, but adults over 65 are even more susceptible to food poisoning.

  • Double-check expiration dates on all canned and fresh food items.
  • Instead of relying on a sight or smell test before eating, always use a food thermometer to check the doneness of meat, poultry and egg dishes.
  • Label leftovers with a date and throw away items that are more than a day or two old. Don’t rely on your memory.
  • If you need glasses, be sure to wear them when handling food.
  • Making simple dishes allows you to save your energy for cleanup. Rather than spending time on extensive prep work such as chopping vegetables, buy pre-chopped frozen vegetables.
  • Refrigerate leftovers immediately and use a food thermometer when reheating, to ensure they’ve reached the proper temperature. Everyone should follow this rule, but chronic conditions such as arthritis or cardiovascular disease may weaken the immune system.
  • Set up a support system of friends and family to help with meals and cleanup. This can help keep your nutritional needs met and your kitchen sanitary when your energy is low.

Emergencies and fire safety

As we grow older, decreased mobility and hearing loss can make it hard to respond quickly to an emergency. Fires are a serious risk for older adults, but they can mostly be prevented by taking a few extra steps.

  • A list of emergency contact numbers should be placed on the front of the fridge, along with any other important contact information an older adult may need.
  • If your loved one has a smartphone, label any emergency contacts with the abbreviation ICE (in case of emergency). If someone finds your loved one they can check who best to contact first. This is a good tip for anyone at any age.
  • A working fire extinguisher should be placed in an easy-to-reach spot in case of emergency.
  • If you have multiple floors, you should keep a fire extinguisher on every floor.
  • Move flammable items like curtains and paper towels as far away from the range/stove as possible.
  • An automatic shut-off range means you never have to worry about your loved one leaving the oven or stovetop on again.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and test them regularly.
  • Kick the smoking habit, or help your loved one to cut out cigarettes. Smoking is the top cause of fires for older adults.

Outside/garden

room by room guide outside garden

Spending time working in the garden and enjoying the outdoors is a great way for older adults to stay active. But, it’s no secret that yards and gardens require lots of upkeep and can pose a risk of falls and other injuries. Take a look at our tips below to help keep your older adult’s outdoor space safe.

Snow removal and other maintenance

Older adults should get help removing snow and ice from their sidewalks and driveways. The best option would be to hire a year-round yard maintenance crew that will mow the yard in the warmer months and shovel snow in the colder months.

  • Install snow melting mats along walkways to help keep the snow down if hiring a maintenance team is not an option.
  • Be on the lookout for slip-and-fall hazards such as leaves, fallen branches, the garden hose and especially ice. Make sure walkways are clear of bikes, lawn ornaments and grandchildren’s outdoor toys.
  • If your loved one still wishes to maintain their own yard, encourage them to always do yard work with a friend and make sure they work within their limits.
  • You should always stay hydrated and stay away from caffeine and nicotine while doing yard work, as these can stress an older person’s heart when working hard.
  • Be realistic about what you are able to do, and seek assistance for the remainder.
  • Take a few minutes to stretch and warm up your muscles before engaging your muscles. Try to switch up tasks every half-hour so you avoid repetitive-use injury.
  • As for any adult, you should always lift properly. Bend at the knees and not the back. Use a wheelbarrow or cart to transport anything heavy so that you avoid straining your back.
  • Wear gloves and protect your body with lightweight long-sleeve shirts and pants. Physical (zinc- or titanium-based) sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat may help prevent melanoma and skin damage on thinner skin.

Motion detectors and fencing

room by room guide garden

For loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that make them prone to wandering, there are a few tips you can implement to help reduce their chances of getting lost. A GPS tracker can be a lifesaver, and those designed for older adults have functions that include emergency buttons and health metrics. They can give you peace of mind, knowing that you can locate a loved one should they become lost.

  • The most effective thing you can do is install a fence in the front and back yard.
  • Add obvious indicators around entrances like large flower pots and easily recognizable yard art to help remind them of where they are and where they need to go.
  • Modern GPS trackers are discrete, able to be worn as a necklace or watch or carried in the bottom of a bag.
  • Motion detector lights and solar lighting to illuminate walkways and entrances at night are a great option for anybody, but especially seniors.
  • Motion detector lights can also serve as a deterrent to intruders who may try to steal from or harm your older loved one.

Doorbell

room by room guide doorbell

Any home is improved by a good doorbell. There are a few doorbell options that can be helpful for older adults. Doorbell technology with louder sounds and more convenience mean the difference between missing or receiving an important visitor or package.

  • Install a particularly loud chiming doorbell to help alert an older adult with decreased hearing that someone is at their door.
  • Most doorbells have volume adjustments, so you may just need to adjust the one already in place to a louder setting.
  • Install a doorbell that flashes a strobe light inside. A flashing light that goes off when the doorbell rings can alert older adults hard of hearing that someone is at the door.
  • A doorbell with an intercom system lets you know who is ringing before you answer.
  • Smart video doorbells allow you to view and speak to your visitors without getting up and view a video clip when motion is detected.

With some small measures, you can adapt your or your loved one’s home to make it safer and easier to navigate. By making simple modifications such as adding grab rails, more light, and eliminating clutter, you or your loved one can live comfortably in the home for years to come. Once you’ve created a safe space at home, you’ll also want to consider vehicle safety, whether you are driving your loved one on errands or they are still driving themselves.

The best vehicles for older drivers are the ones that have above average visibility, a high number of safety features, and easy-to-use control panels. You’ll also want to make sure you have excellent coverage in car insurance, as should drivers of all ages.

Source: The Zebra

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

Bidet Attachments: The Toilet Tweak That Can Keep an Older Adult Clean

Bidets are commonplace in bathrooms across Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, but this plumbing fixture has never really caught on in the United States. For some reason, Americans prefer to use toilet paper and wet wipes to cleanse themselves instead of water.

However, more and more people—myself included—are beginning to embrace the bidet. In fact, many seniors are finding that bidets offer a safer and more efficient method of freshening up after toileting.

Bidet Attachments: The Toilet Tweak That Can Keep an Older Adult Clean

Bidet Attachments vs. Freestanding Bidets

To clarify, I’m not talking about traditional freestanding bidets. They take up lots of bathroom space, and older users would likely have a great deal of trouble transferring from the toilet to straddling the bidet.

What I’ve found very helpful are toilet bidets. These devices simply attach to the existing toilet in your home and require no remodeling, plumbing work or additional floor space. Essentially, the attachment is a small wand underneath the toilet seat that moves into position and sprays water over the perineal area.

I don’t remember how I first learned about toilet bidets, but when I found a cheap one that could be easily installed on my toilet without major plumbing expense, I decided to try it. The Blue Bidet—now a feature on every toilet in my house—retails for just $37. There are countless models, each with different features on the market. Simpler electric models allow for adjustable water temperature and pressure, while so-called “intelligent” cleansing seats offer features like a nightlight function, a heated air dryer and remote-control access (at a hefty price).

When I installed my cheaper toilet bidet several years ago, I became an instant fan. As I age (and as my symptoms of Parkinson’s disease worsen), I am more and more disgruntled when I have to use a standard toilet and toilet tissue. After returning from a recent short trip, I told my housemates I had missed them almost as much as I had missed my bidet!

Bidets Help with Better Hygiene, Safer Toileting

“As people get older and frailer, it’s harder for them to do good personal hygiene, particularly if they have arthritis,” Dr. Mary Tinetti, Chief of Geriatrics at Yale School of Medicine, explained to New York Times blogger Paula Span via email. Maneuvering around to wipe and wash becomes surprisingly difficult for people as they age. In fact, attempting to do so can even lead to a dangerous fall from the toilet.

For many older adults, a bidet toilet could mean the difference between independence and needing assistance with toileting. Many seniors refuse help with personal care because it comes with a loss of privacy and often dignity. However, this can jeopardize their safety, and poor personal hygiene can lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), skin breakdown and general irritation. Prompt and thorough cleansing of the genitals, perineum and anal areas after toileting is crucial for maintaining skin integrity, especially for elders living with incontinence. Bidets can provide a higher level of cleanliness, safety and modesty while toileting.

For caregivers who must assist with toileting and personal hygiene, bidets can help immensely with this delicate task. It may take some practice to get the hang of using a bidet seat or attachment, but it can be easier, cheaper, more hygienic and less awkward than assisting with toilet paper or wet wipes. Better yet, adequate cleansing after toileting can help maximize cleanliness between the shower or bath days that caregivers and seniors alike typically dread.

Explore toilet bidets and other senior assistive devices in AgingCare’s Senior Product Guide.

Source: AgingCare by Joh Schappi

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

How to Motivate Without ‘Bullying’ During Caregiving

How to Motivate Without ‘Bullying’ During CaregivingDuring my caregiving years, my mother and I had many tense moments about rousing her from bed to get ready for medical appointments. I’d pop into her bedroom and wake her, then remind her a few minutes later that she really needed to get up, then cajole her, plead with her, and ultimately use my sternest, I-mean-business tone. I thought I was helping motivate her in those instances. She’d say she felt like I was bullying her.

I never liked being called a bully and denied it was so. After all, we were always in a rush. If I pressured her, I reasoned, then it was for her own good. But in retrospect now, 20 months after her death, I wonder if I was in the right. What really mattered to her during those times? Was she clinging to the comfort of her pillow because she was still tired or even depressed? Was it more important for her to have control over her own life and sleep in than submit to another routine exam with a doctor who couldn’t help her much anyway? Instead, I overruled her and expected her to “obey” me.

I don’t think I’m the only family caregiver to transgress the blurry line between supportive guidance and arm-twisting. Sometimes when tired or frustrated or impatient — or when there really is a situation of dire urgency — many caregivers are prone to pressure care receivers too hard to conform to schedules and regimens. We rationalize the approach we’ve taken on the basis of practicality and expedience. But many of us second-guess ourselves later about whether it was necessary.

Certain things do have to get done. Otherwise, family caregivers might feel that they are guilty of irresponsibility and neglect. But how can we manage to be coaches, not bosses, and effective motivators, not feared bullies? Here are some ideas.

Rarely put tasks over the relationship: There are few caregiving tasks so crucial that they warrant trampling a care receiver’s feelings in the process of accomplishing them. Rather, there are what I think of as front- and back-burner issues. On the front burner are mostly issues having to do with safety, such as taking medications appropriately or driving capably, for which the caregiver should be firm and persuasive. However, most other issues are on the back burner of importance and need for action. For these items, caregivers should allow care receivers to exercise as much choice as possible and shift plans accordingly. That means being more flexible and accommodating, as well as respectful. In retrospect I could have scheduled my mother’s doctor’s appointments later in the day, even if it was less convenient for me, or canceled them altogether.

Develop a range of approaches and strategies: Great coaches are attuned to the moods of their players and apply the right touches at the right time to encourage maximum effort and performance. Great caregivers, too, can sense what care receivers are feeling at a given moment and tailor their requests — for instance, appealing to reason, resorting to silly humor or changing the subject entirely — to the approach that will motivate.  In general, I found that a gentler style was more apt to work with my mother, but there were also times that she wouldn’t agree with me at all. That’s when I would turn to my wife, who, with a smile and an even softer tone, could somehow win my mother’s cooperation making the same request she’d already rejected from me.

Solicit and heed feedback: We can sometimes get so wrapped up in the hectic pace of caregiving life that we lose a sense of how we are coming across to others. But we can listen to feedback from family members about how we are conducting ourselves. Take a moment to say to the care receiver, “We are having to work together more closely nowadays than we ever have before. Am I treating you the way you want to be treated?” Regard the answer seriously.

Beware of creeping bullying: No caregiver sets out to be the sort who pushes others around. But if he finds that applying pressure to the care receiver is the most efficient way of completing his many tasks, then he may slowly tend toward using sheer force. Caregiving isn’t about efficiency, however; it’s about caring. And nothing could be less caring than bending people to one’s will. We need to be aware of the excesses of our own styles and never convince ourselves that the ends justify the means.

by Barry J. Jacobs

Source: AARP

Getting Compensated for Caregiving Can Change Family Dynamics

Getting Compensated for Caregiving Can Change Family DynamicsYou can be paid for your work and treated fairly

Does money change everything, as the old saying goes? If Alicia had won the lottery, then she might understand why her siblings were now treating her a little differently. But all she’d done was become certified as a home health aide so she could receive a modest hourly wage from her county for dressing, grooming and feeding her Parkinson’s disease-stricken mom. Nowadays, however, her sisters seemed less interested in pitching in with caregiving tasks since family caregiving had officially become her “job.” Even her mother seemed to be asking more of her, as if she were now the hired help and not her youngest daughter.

More states are allowing care recipients to hire and pay family members as their home health aides under what is sometimes called consumer-directed care. These are popular programs for obvious reasons: Family members — some of whom had to quit or cut back on work to take care of a loved one — are now being paid at least a little money for all the care they provide. No one is getting rich, but at least they are better able to cover some bills. More importantly, receiving an hourly wage gives them a feeling of being publicly acknowledged and valued rather than (as is too often the case) feeling invisible and underappreciated.

In my clinical practice, I’ve also worked with many families in which a parent’s decision to leave a house or the bulk of an inheritance to the primary caregiver roils family dynamics like nothing else. The caregiver who will receive money becomes immediately suspected by others of playing the Altruistic Child to cash in. Anger and conflict frequently result.

How can family caregivers earn some compensation for their devoted efforts but not be regarded as mercenaries by other family members? Here are some ideas:

Demonstrate transparency: Many of us are inclined to keep our financial affairs private, even when among family members. But because caregiving is inherently a family enterprise, it is vital that we are aboveboard about monetary transactions, especially if we are profiting in some way from a parent’s need for assistance. Let other family members know about the opportunity to earn an hourly wage for providing hands-on care. Tell them exactly what you’ll make. Communicate plainly that this money is going to offset costs incurred by caregiving activities — e.g., expenses for medication copays, lost salary, the price of fuel for driving to the doctor.

Keep in mind what others think is fair: It may seem fair to you to receive money for the many sacrifices you are making on behalf of someone you love. (I agree with you.) But there are other family members who may believe they are also making sacrifices — though, admittedly, not as many as you are — and deserve to be compensated to some degree as well. For them, it may seem patently unfair that you get glory and money and they get neither. Don’t begrudge or disagree with their feelings. Empathize with them instead and tell them that you greatly value their participation in caregiving. You don’t have to fork over some of your newly earned cash to prove that. Just express your appreciation that the two of you are part of a cohesive caregiving team whose sole mission is to help Mom.

Preserve your parent-child relationship: Care recipients can become increasingly demanding over time even when money is not involved. But when a family member has been hired for a caregiving job, there is a greater tendency for the care recipient to treat even close relatives with impatience and barked orders. Even when you’re on duty, though, you’re not just an employee. Complete the necessary tasks but let your parent know that you’re there for love, not money, and that you expect that your personal rapport with one another is not going to be suddenly altered by changed economics.

Weigh the money’s worth: For some families, receiving a caregiving salary will be an unmitigated boon about which everyone is thrilled. For others, there will be no end to the resentment, jealousy and sniping. Judge for yourself whether working as a loved one’s home health aide is worth it. If it isn’t, then don’t be resentful in kind. Instead, be consoled that peace in the family may ultimately be of greater value than any amount of money in the pocket.

by Barry J. Jacobs

Source: AARP