Skin Care Tips for Seniors

Our skin is often the first place we notice signs of aging. Beyond just wrinkles and age spots, our skin is a reflector of our overall health, and yet it is often overlooked.  

Did you know… 

The skin is the largest organ in the body. It has a very important job — protecting our internal organs and systems from bacteria and other foreign matter that can make us sick or otherwise damage us. 

As we age, however, our skin also begins to change. It loses elasticity, becomes thinner and drier, begins to sag, and takes longer to heal. Damage to the skin that occurred in our youth can also start to appear in the form of age spots and dry patches. Medications, diet and exercise can also impact your skin, which is why it is important to check it regularly for changes. 

Among the changes that require attention is the appearance of moles and skin tags, as they can indicate more serious conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, and several forms of cancer. (link to: 

 Good Skin Care Is a Must 

  • Drink plenty of water! The human body is 70 percent water. Staying hydrated is essential to overall health as well as keeping your skin soft and supple. Dry skin can create itchy patches, redness and, if you scratch them, sores that can take time to heal and allow bacteria to enter the body. 
  • Eat your veggies! A well-rounded diet that includes lots of vegetables is a must. Beyond our overall health, vegetables contain the ingredients essential for healthy skin. 
  • Moisturize! Use a good body lotion daily in order toto keep skin supple and smooth. Moisturizing also helps with itching and reduces self-imposed scratch marks. Other ways to keep your skin moist is to take fewer baths. Use warm, not hot, water. And, if dry air in your room is a problem, try a humidifier to add a little moisture. 
  • Use Sunscreen! Everyone today knows the dangers of too much sun. While we need sunlight to provide the vitamin D that we absorb through our skin, too much sun is responsible for age spots and several types of cancers. 

Be Vigilant 

Skin checks are not often standard in wellness checks at the family doctor. In addition to annual visits to the dermatologist, With months in between visits, however, it is good practice to do a skin check every month or two.  

Even if your loved ones are in an assisted living or other facility, it is a good practice check their skin periodically. The aides that dress or bathe them may not notice or be as adequately trained to spot changes in skin health other than skin breakdown that may indicate a serious health issue.  

Catching problems early is the best prevention.  

The National Institutes of Health has provided  this handy guide for what to look for. 

Check Moles, Birthmarks, or Other Parts of the Skin for the “ABCDE’s” 

A = Asymmetry (one half of the growth looks different from the other half) 

B = Borders that are irregular 

C = Color changes or more than one color 

D = Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser 

E = Evolving; this means the growth changes in size, shape, symptoms (itching, tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or shades of color 

See your doctor right away if you have any of these signs to make sure it is not skin cancer. 

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

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

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

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

Sperry never married, has no children and lives alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Chicago Tribune, By Judith Graham

4 Tricks for a Happy Halloween with an Elderly Loved One

Halloween is a holiday that people of all ages look forward to each year. Costumes, candy, haunted houses and festive parties set this occasion apart from all the others, but how do you help an elder celebrate All Hallows’ Eve in a safe, fun and healthy way? Use these tricks and treats to include your loved ones in the festivities this Halloween.

  1. Choose healthy treats to haunt your home and candy bowl. Whether you plan to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, have a small get together or simply spend a low-key evening at home with your loved one, make sure you have healthy treats on hand. Help yourselves avoid binging on fattening and sugary candies by having better options available at home and for children who are trick-or-treating.
    As a special treat, you and your elder can indulge in a few pieces of dark chocolate, which is lower in sugar and fat than milk varieties and even packs some immune-boosting antioxidants. A celebratory dessert made with natural and/or sugar free ice cream is another special treat that will delight your loved one. Provide healthy topping options like nuts, berries and other kinds of fruit, and oats or granola that they can choose from to make their own tasty creation. This will boost their intake of nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and protein.
    There are countless healthy options for snacks and desserts available. However, keep in mind that some elders may have difficulty eating certain foods. A loved one who has trouble chewing and/or swallowing may fare better with a healthy smoothie or bowl of pudding instead of a hard granola bar or dense fruit like apples.
  2. Plan your “paranormal” activities appropriately. Your loved one may enjoy the excitement of handing out goodies to trick-or-treaters and seeing neighborhood children in their costumes. This is a fun and easy way for elders to interact with other generations and feel that they are a part of the celebration without even leaving their front porch or driveway. Encouraging them to participate is a great way to improve their mood and get them into the spirit of Halloween.
    However, some elders may not interact well with children or be able to handle the hubbub of trick-or-treating. In this case, post an easily visible note in your driveway or on your front door that says, “Sorry, no more candy,” or “No trick-or-treaters, please.” This can be especially important for loved ones who have dementia and may be agitated or confused by repeated knocking or ringing of the doorbell.
    Most trick-or-treaters make their rounds at dusk or just after dark, which may coincide with the onset of Sundowner’s syndrome. For an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia, confusion and agitation can be heightened at this time of day. Excessive noise, the coming and going of strangers, and costumes can be extremely disorienting and even frightening. Making treats together, watching a not-too-scary movie, or engaging in simple holiday crafts can be great low-key distractions. If you both choose to participate in Halloween festivities, be sure that you remain attentive and aware of your loved one’s mood and comfort level throughout the evening.
  3. Keep seasonal décor spooky but safe. Houses can be decorated to celebrate the height of the fall season with pumpkins, wreaths of fall foliage and cinnamon brooms, or they can be made into sinister dwellings full of cobwebs, spooky figurines, bats and spiders. Regardless of how you wish to decorate, make sure that none of these items present a tripping or fire hazard. One of the best ways to do this is to place larger decorations outside on the lawn, and keep indoor embellishments to small accents.
    Décor may be out of the question for a loved one who has dementia, especially if they are prone to hallucinations, delusions or paranoia. Decorative touches that we think are tame may be extremely unsettling or bothersome for an elder with cognitive impairment. Their brain processes sensory stimulation in ways that can be scary or overwhelming. You know your loved one best, so decorate in a safe and considerate way.
  4. Make costumes creative and comfortable. For some, the ability to dress up is the best part of celebrating Halloween. If your loved one wants and is able to, assist them in making a costume, and let them show it off to trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.
    Keep in mind that complicated or elaborate outfits may make it difficult to walk and/or make trips to the restroom. Simpler costumes will keep your loved one comfortable and make your caregiving duties much easier so you both can enjoy the festivities.
 Holidays like Halloween can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Help your loved one celebrate in a fun and healthy way, and remember that there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of indulgence and kookiness every so often!

Eating Well After 50: 5 Ways to Make Healthy Food Choices This Year

With a new year upon us, you may be setting 2017 resolutions. Maybe you’re committed to making this the year you retire, or perhaps you’re set on finally keeping that promise to do something active each day. Whatever you’re resolved to accomplish in the coming year, consider making healthy eating a priority.

After 50, it’s more important than ever that you are eating well to get adequate nutrients. As we age, our weakening immune systems and other factors make us more prone to chronic conditions, falls, hospital stays, and illness. Proper nutrition can help to prevent—or diminish the dangers—of these age-related risks. Use the tips below to help make healthy eating choices this year, even if you’re on a tight budget.

1. Know what a healthy plate looks like and follow recommended servings

Filling your plate with the right food is key, especially for adults aged 50+. Healthy eating means a focus on the major food groups—fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and whole grains—and the recommended daily serving size for each. ChooseMyPlate, created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a free resource that helps you see how the food groups should stack up based on your age, gender, and level of physical activity.

For men and women aged 51+ who get less than 30 minutes of moderate daily physical activity, this is what your daily servings should look like.

recommend daily serving size for women 50+

recommend daily serving size for men 50+

Download a printer friendly version of these pyramids.

2. Choose food based on important nutrients

Every bite counts as you age, so fill your body with vitamin and mineral-rich foods—and not empty calories. Some of the most important nutrients you need for healthy aging include:

  • Vitamin B12—2.4 micrograms/day. Foods high in B12 include fish, shellfish, lean red meat, low-fat dairy, cheese, and eggs.
  • Folate/Folic acid—400 μg/day. Foods high in folate include dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruits, beans, seeds, and nuts.
  • Calcium—1,200 mg/day. Foods high in calcium include low-fat milk, kale, sardines, broccoli, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Vitamin D—800-2,000 IU/day depending on sun exposure and health conditions. Sources of high Vitamin D include fish, shellfish, low-fat milk, orange juice, and the sun.
  • Potassium—4,700 mg/day. Foods high in potassium include avocado, spinach, sweet potato, yogurt, coconut water, and white beans.
  • Magnesium—400 mg/day. Foods high in magnesium include dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts, fish, beans and lentils, and brown rice.
  • Fiber—30 grams for men and 21 grams for women. Great sources of fiber include avocados, raspberries, blackberries, artichokes, peas, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
  • Omega-3 Fats—500 mg/day. Foods high in Omega-3 fats are flaxseed oil, fish and fish oils, nuts, shellfish, soybeans, and spinach.

3. Stay hydrated

Water is an extra important nutrient because many medications can increase your chances of dehydration. Plus, one of the key minerals we need, fiber, absorbs water. Thus, you need to drink fluids consistently throughout the day, making sure to get a minimum of 8 glasses, or 64 fluid ounces.

4. Read nutrition labels

Be a smart shopper. It’s always best to buy fresh protein, dairy, and produce when you can, but when you opt for packaged foods, look for items that are lower in fat, added sugar, and sodium. Buy spices instead of salt to season your food, and choose a natural sweetener, like Stevia, instead of sugar.

Also, pay close attention to whole grain labels. If food has the “100% whole grain” stamp, it means that each serving contains at least a full serving or more of whole grains, while the basic “whole grain” stamp means that each serving has at least half a serving of whole grains per serving. Learn more about whole grain labeling.

5. Stretch your food budget

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for eating well is a lack of financial resources, but you don’t have to make trade-offs—like opting for canned food over fresh—in your food budget. There are state and federal programs that can help you pay for groceries, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and food delivery services like Meals on Wheels. Visit today to see if you’re eligible.

Challenge yourself to make this the year you commit—or continue to commit—to age well by eating healthy! Have a happy, healthy 2017!

Download an infographic to share with the older adults in your life.

What other New Year’s resolutions are you dedicated to fulfilling in 2017? Let us know in the comments below!


Palliative Care: What Is It and How Is It Different from Hospice?

Hospice care is palliative care, but palliative care is not hospice. The difference between these two types of care is something that I have found difficult to clarify myself let alone explain to others. However, this care is a fundamental part of treating any chronic or terminal illness.

With that in mind, I contacted Kimberly Angelia Curseen, M.D., Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at Emory School of Medicine and Director of Outpatient Supportive/Palliative Care Clinic Emory Healthcare. Dr. Curseen has a passion for palliative care and was happy to clarify this important type of medical care that seems to pass under the radar.

CBB: Dr. Curseen, let’s start with the basics. What is palliative care?

KAC: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word palliate means “to make the effects of (something, such as an illness) less painful, harmful, or harsh.” It originates from the Latin word pallium, meaning to cloak.

Palliative care, also known as supportive care, is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis may be. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and their family. This care can help with emotional and spiritual problems as well as physical problems.

CBB: It seems like the difference between hospice and palliative care is the diagnosis. Are there any other ways this differs from hospice?

KAC: While hospice care is typically provided to patients throughout the end of their lives, palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness. This type of care can also be provided in conjunction with curative treatment. Palliation can be provided at first diagnosis or late into the disease process because access is based on the needs of the individual.

This care is delivered by an interdisciplinary team of medical professionals. The team works closely with the patient’s specialist to help develop an individualized symptom management plan to help them accomplish their treatment goals.

Hospice is the medical service that provides specialized palliative care to individuals who are approaching the end of their lives. In these individuals the doctors involved have concluded that this person may have a life expectancy of less than 6 months if their illness follows its natural course.

CBB: Is there any scientific evidence showing that this care makes a significant difference in a patient’s health?

KAC: Although palliative and hospice care can be beneficial to patients with countless chronic illnesses, both are probably best known for working with patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, “Studies have shown that patients who had hospital-based palliative care visits spent less time in intensive care units and were less likely to be re-admitted to the hospital after they went home. Studies have also shown that people with chronic illnesses like cancer who get palliative care have less severe symptoms.”

Several recent studies have shown that palliative care improved patient quality of life in addition to reduction in time patients have to spend in acute care. One study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that patients with non-small cell lung cancer (SCLC) who had outpatient palliative care not only have improved quality of life, but also lived longer than patients who did not receive this care intervention.

It is important to remember, though, that these benefits are not limited to patients with cancer. Patients with illnesses such as dementia, Parkinson’s, heart failure, ALS and lung disease have experienced benefits like symptom reduction and lower hospitalization rates as well.

CBB: How does palliative care help someone with a serious illness?

KAC: For persons with a serious illness such as cancer, having a supportive care team provides individuals with access to expertise in symptom management. Whether the goal is to cure, slow, or simply manage the disease, the journey of a cancer patient can often be fraught with distressing symptoms of pain, shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, nausea, anxiety and fatigue. Early, aggressive management of these symptoms becomes an essential part of patient care in order to maintain quality of life throughout the course of the disease.

CBB: Who provides this care and where is it given?

KAC: Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, registered nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s primary doctor. Palliative care teams can provide this care in the hospital, through clinics, and, in some programs, in the home. Other professionals like massage therapists, dieticians, pharmacists and chaplains may be added to a patient’s care team. The purpose of this diverse group of experts is to help the patient and their family members understand the disease as well as all available treatment options, and facilitate communication and collaboration amongst the patient’s health care providers.

CBB: Does insurance cover the costs of palliative care services?

KAC: As with other hospital and medical services, Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans will cover all or part of these care services. The extent of your coverage depends on your needs and your insurance plan. A prior authorization maybe required before your visit. Be sure to check with your insurance company for help with specific questions related to payment options. A social worker may be able to help you with the financial aspects of this care as well.

Thank you, Dr. Curseen, for your clear answers. It is important to spread the message that this type of care is available since there are many people who are struggling with pain and other symptoms who are not aware that their life can be improved while they are undergoing treatment.

How do you know if this care is right for you or your loved one? If you have a serious illness and the symptoms are interfering with your day-to-day life, ask your primary care doctor about palliative options. For many people, improving even one serious symptom, such as severe nausea, can make a vast difference in their overall quality of life. It can’t hurt to consult with a health care provider about available options.

Source:, March 18, 2016

Prehabilitation for Surgical Procedures

According to a 2015 study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS), approximately 7 million Americans are living with a hip or knee replacement. Orthopedic procedures such as joint replacements and foot and ankle surgeries can evoke images of weeks of limited mobility, pain and frustration. An extended recovery time is one significant reason why many people put off these operations and experience anxiety about going under the knife.

But, with adequate mental and physical preparation, you can get back on your feet again in no time. This process is called prehabilitation, and numerous studies have shown the benefits of engaging in “prehab” before surgery or intensive treatment. In addition to orthopedic applications, this technique has also been used in cancer patients who are preparing for treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgical treatments that can be very hard on the body.

Ensuring that you are in the best possible shape prior to going in for an operation has many benefits, but prehab takes time and dedication. This can be particularly challenging for a patient who is already experiencing limited mobility, pain or significantly reduced energy due to a serious illness. For example, it can be very difficult to find an appropriate exercise regimen for a patient who has elected to receive a full knee replacement because of severe arthritis pain.

It may seem counter-intuitive to use these joints and muscles before surgery, but it is one of the most effective ways to get your rehabilitation efforts started before you even need them. Experts recommend at least six weeks of mental and physical preparation pre-surgery. This can seem like a substantial commitment, but even if you only have a few days or weeks before your procedure, every bit of extra effort helps.

Here are a few things to know about prehabilitation:

  • It can reduce your need for post-operative care by nearly 30 percent. AnotherJBJS study published in 2014 found that physical therapy before a joint replacement can significantly reduce the amount of time and money spent in rehabilitation. The stronger your body is before any operation, the better prepared it is to heal afterwards. Prehab activities can shorten your hospital stay and reduce your need for assistance from home health care and placement in a skilled nursing facility or an inpatient rehabilitation center.
  • You can “train” for the rehab process. Recovery can be rigorous and require a lot of physical activity, usually accompanied by some level of pain or discomfort. Participation in targeted physical therapy exercises presurgery will help to improve a patient’s strength, flexibility and endurance, providing an early advantage when it is time for them to work on recovering. Foregoing prehab and starting from scratch post-surgery can mean more pain and a much longer healing process.
  • Exercise does not have to be rigorous. Many physical therapy locations have gentler or lower-intensity options such as yoga, Pilates or water-based activities. All of these workouts will reduce the risk of further injury while building strength and cardiovascular endurance.
  • Diet matters too. While strength, flexibility and cardio training are important, your eating habits matter too. Optimizing your nutritional intake before an operation means you will be equipped with the vitamins and nutrients needed for the healing process. In some studies on prehab, scientists even included protein supplements in participants’ diets. Each person’s nutritional needs can vary considerably (especially when it comes to older adults), so consult with your doctor or a dietician before using supplements or making substantial dietary changes. These professionals are qualified to assist in creating a healthy, personalized diet for each patient’s unique situation.
  • Prepare yourself mentally. Going under the knife is a nerve-racking experience for most people and tends to lead to a buildup of apprehension beforehand. Lower stress levels may contribute to a better outcome post-surgery, and regular physical activity is a proven method for decreasing tension and anxiety. Getting into a routine that includes exercise and proper nutrition helps reduce stress levels, which leads to a quicker recovery time. If you are feeling particularly anxious about your arrangements, try meditating, breathing exercises or other enjoyable activities that help you to decompress.

Of course, prehabilitation is only the beginning. Compliance in rehab following surgery is equally important, but many patients are less than enthusiastic about weeks of physical therapy or a stay at an inpatient facility.

“Some of the most important things a resident can do to obtain a full recovery is to stick to their routine, and be completely compliant with their medication and care,” said Abelina Koselke, registered nurse at Rainier Rehabilitation in Puyallup, Washington.

If you’re preparing for surgery, there is no better time to start conditioning. Ask your physician about starting a fitness program. Rehabilitation facilities in your area may offer prehab programs and can help you get approval from Medicare or your insurance company. Medicare typically will only cover a certain amount of physical therapy services. If prehab puts you over the limit or your private insurance does not cover such therapeutic programs, there are a few options available. You can pay out of pocket, elect to make a few physical therapy appointments before your procedure to create regimen to use on your own, or there may free pre-op courses available at your hospital.

Consult with your physician to see if they have any additional suggestions for prehab and rehab as well as coverage options. Your body and your mind will thank you for this extra TLC.

Source:, March 16, 2016

Maple Syrup Fights Alzheimer’s

Maple syrup isn’t just delicious, it also could cure Alzheimer’s disease

It’s a sweet new health discovery: Maple syrup could cure Alzheimer’s disease.

The delicious pancake topping may soon find its way into granny’s pill bottle because it stops brain cell damage that causes the disease, scientists revealed Monday.

The tasty treat may prevent the clumping and “misfolding” of brain cell proteins — which build up and cause plaques that trigger the devastating disease, researchers at the American Chemical Society said.

An extract of the sticky stuff stopped the dangerous “folding” in two types of brain proteins, researchers from the Krembil Research Institute of the University of Toronto said.

“Natural food products such as green tea, red wine, berries, curcumin and pomegranates continue to be studied for their potential benefits in combating Alzheimer’s disease,” said symposium director Dr. Navindra Seeram.

“And now, in preliminary laboratory-based Alzheimer’s disease studies, phenolic-enriched extracts of maple syrup from Canada showed neuroprotective effects, similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine,” she said.

Researchers plan to study whether a maple syrup extract can be effective as a cure for degenerative brain disease.

The syrup protects two brain proteins — beta amyloid and tau peptide, researchers said.

Researchers from the American Chemical Society discussed the discovery at an annual symposium, which is being held March 13-17 in San Diego.

Dr. Donald Weaver of the Krembil Research Institute revealed the discovery.

Source: New York Post, March 17, 2016

Food, Eating and Alzheimer’s

Regular, nutritious meals may become a challenge for people with dementia. As a person’s cognitive function declines, he or she may become overwhelmed with too many food choices, forget to eat or have difficulty with eating utensils.

Nutrition tips

Proper nutrition is important to keep the body strong and healthy. For a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, poor nutrition may increase behavioral symptoms and cause weight loss.

The basic nutrition tips below can help boost the person with dementia’s health and your health as a caregiver, too.

  • Provide a balanced diet with a variety of foods.
    Offer vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods.
  • Limit foods with high saturated fat and cholesterol.
    Some fat is essential for health — but not all fats are equal. Go light on fats that are bad for heart health, such as butter, solid shortening, lard and fatty cuts of meats.
  • Cut down on refined sugars.
    Often found in processed foods, refined sugars contain calories but lack vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can tame a sweet tooth with healthier options like fruit or juice-sweetened baked goods. But note that in the later-stages of Alzheimer’s, if loss of appetite is a problem, adding sugar to foods may encourage eating.
  • Limit foods with high sodium and use less salt.
    Most people in the United States consume too much sodium, which affects blood pressure. Cut down by using spices or herbs to season food as an alternative.

As the disease progresses, loss of appetite and weight loss may become concerns. In such cases, the doctor may suggest supplements between meals to add calories.

Staying hydrated may be a problem as well. Encourage fluids by offering small cups of water or other liquids throughout the day or foods with high water content, such as fruit, soups, milkshakes and smoothies.

Possible Causes of Poor Appetite

  • Not recognizing food. The person may no longer recognize the foods you put on his or her plate.
  • Poor fitting dentures. Eating may be painful, but the person may not be able to tell you this. Make sure dentures fit and visit the dentist regularly.
  • Medications. New medications or a dosage change may affect appetite. If you notice a change, call the doctor.
  • Not enough exercise. Lack of physical activity will decrease appetite. Encourage simple exercise, such as going for a walk, gardening or washing dishes.
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste. The person with dementia may not eat because food may not smell or taste as good as it once did.

Make mealtimes easier

During the middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s, distractions, too many choices, and changes in perception, taste and smell can make eating more difficult. The following tips can help:

  • Limit distractions.
    Serve meals in quiet surroundings, away from the television and other distractions.
  • Keep the table setting simple.
    Avoid placing items on the table — such as table arrangements or plastic fruit — that might distract or confuse the person. Use only the utensils needed for the meal.
  • Distinguish food from the plate.
    Changes in visual and spatial abilities may make it tough for someone with dementia to distinguish food from the plate or the plate from the table. It can help to use white plates or bowls with a contrasting color placemat. Avoid patterned dishes, tablecloths and placemats.
  • Check the food temperature.
    A person with dementia might not be able to tell if something is too hot to eat or drink. Always test the temperature of foods and beverages before serving.
  • Serve only one or two foods at a time.
    Too many foods at once may be overwhelming. Simplify by serving one dish at a time. For example, mashed potatoes followed by meat.
  • Be flexible to food preferences.
    Keep long-standing personal preferences in mind when preparing food, and be aware that a person with dementia may suddenly develop new food preferences or reject foods that were liked in the past.
  • Give the person plenty of time to eat.
    Remind him or her to chew and swallow carefully. Keep in mind that it may take an hour or longer to finish eating.
  • Eat together.
    Make meals an enjoyable social event so everyone looks forward to the experience. Research suggests that people eat better when they are in the company of others.
  • Keep in mind the person may not remember when or if he or she ate.
    If the person continues to ask about eating breakfast, consider serving several breakfasts — juice, followed by toast, followed by cereal.

Encourage independence

During the middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s, allow the person with dementia to be as independent as possible during meals. Be ready to help, when needed.

  • Make the most of the person’s abilities.
    Adapt serving dishes and utensils to make eating easier. You might serve food in a bowl instead of a plate, or try using a plate with rims or protective edges. A spoon with a large handle may be less difficult to handle than a fork, or even let the person use his or her hands if it’s easier.
  • Serve finger foods.
    Try bite-sized foods that are easy to pick up, such as chicken nuggets, fish sticks, tuna sandwiches, orange segments, steamed broccoli or cauliflower pieces.
  • Use a “watch me” technique.
    For example, hold a spoon and show the person how to eat a bowl of cereal.
  • Don’t worry about neatness.
    Let the person feed himself of herself as much as possible. Consider getting plates with suction cups and no-spill glasses.

Minimize eating and nutrition problems

In the middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s, swallowing problems can lead to choking and weight loss. Be aware of safety concerns and try these tips:

  • Prepare foods so they aren’t hard to chew or swallow.
    Grind foods, cut them into bite-size pieces or serve soft foods (applesauce, cottage cheese scrambled eggs).
  • Be alert for signs of choking.
    Avoid foods that are difficult to chew thoroughly, like raw carrots. Encourage the person to sit up straight with his or her head slightly forward. If the person’s head tilts backward, move it to a forward position. At the end of the meal, check the person’s mouth to make sure food has been swallowed. Learn the Heimlich maneuver in case of an emergency.
  • Address a decreased appetite.
    If the person has a decreased appetite, try preparing favorite foods, increase physical activity, or plan for several small meals rather than three large ones. If the person’s appetite does not increase and/or he or she is losing weight, consult with the doctor. Keep in mind, as the person’s activity level decreases, he or she may not need as many calories.
  • Only use vitamin supplements on the recommendation of a physician.

Help Is Available

  • Alzheimer’s Association Message Boards. Exchange tips with other caregivers who are experiencing eating and mealtime challenges with a loved one with dementia.

    My Plate for Older Adults. Read information from Tufts University about the unique nutritional and physical activity needs associated with age.

    Eating. Get strategies from the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology for meeting the nutritional needs of people with Alzheimer’s.

    Swallowing Problems in Adults. Learn about swallowing problems from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

    Meals on Wheels. Find out about free, home-delivered meal services for seniors.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

Blindness Due to Age-Related Macular Degeneration Should Not be Considered an Inevitability

The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises that early detection and today’s treatments for common eye disease among seniors can help stop vision loss.

While age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in Americans age 65 and older, seniors who develop AMD should not consider blindness in advanced age to be inevitable, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The Academy is advising the public that regular eye exams, along with today’s treatments for AMD—if provided early enough—can help seniors avoid unnecessary AMD-related vision loss.

AMD, which affects an estimated 11 million Americans, is the deterioration of the eye’s macula—the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye that is responsible for central vision, the ability to see fine details clearly. AMD has two forms—wet and dry. While dry AMD leads to a gradual loss of vision, wet AMD leads to faster vision loss and is the most advanced form of the disease. Wet AMD is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all AMD-related blindness. As AMD is not commonly detected in patients until they begin to suffer vision loss, it is critical for seniors to understand the importance of routine eye exams. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that by age 65, seniors should get eye exams every one to two years, or as recommended by their ophthalmologist.

Years after Joan Nick, an 86-year-old retiree from Carmel, Calif., lost vision in her right eye in her 60s due to glaucoma, she was diagnosed with dry AMD in her left eye. Her ophthalmologist at the time advised her not to worry since the disease typically progresses slowly. But, during a routine eye exam, Nick was shocked to find she could not read an eye chart. Although she hadn’t noticed any changes in her vision, her AMD had progressed from dry to wet. Nick immediately visited a retina specialist who began treatment that restored the vision lost to AMD.

“I am so thankful that this treatment has given me a second chance to enjoy the activities I love, such as reading and cooking,” says Nick.

Rahul N. Khurana, M.D., Nick’s ophthalmologist specializing in retina-related conditions and a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, encourages seniors to learn from Nick’s example of taking action to fight the progression of AMD. “Many older people develop AMD and other age-related eye diseases as part of the body’s natural aging process, but seniors should not suffer in silence about their sight loss because they feel it’s inevitable,” said Dr. Khurana. “There is so much that we ophthalmologists can do these days to help seniors prevent, slow and treat AMD. It’s important for seniors to know that people with AMD today have a much better chance of saving their vision than they did 10 years ago.”

For individuals who have been diagnosed with dry AMD, nutrient supplements have been proven beneficial in lowering the risk of developing wet AMD. For those who have the wet form of AMD, treatments are available and include anti-VEGF injections that are administered directly into the eye, thermal laser therapy, or photodynamic therapy which involves a light-activated injected drug in combination with a low-power laser.

Seniors who are worried about AMD or other eye conditions, and have not had a recent eye exam or for whom cost is a concern, may qualify for EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that offers eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost for eligible seniors age 65 and older. Visit to see if you are eligible.

More information about AMD

Symptoms of dry AMD include:

  • Blurry or hazy vision, especially in your central vision
  • Need for increasingly bright light to see up close
  • Colors appear less vivid or bright
  • Difficulty seeing when going from bright light to low light
  • Trouble or inability to recognize people’s faces

Symptoms of wet AMD include:

  • Distorted vision—straight lines will appear bent, crooked or irregular
  • Dark gray spots or blank spots in your vision
  • Size of objects may appear different for each eye
  • Colors lose their brightness or do not look the same for each eye

Learn about AMD risk factors and view an AMD vision simulator [optional link to:] to see how this eye disease can affect vision. For more information about AMD and other eye diseases, visit

Source: The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. For more information, visit The Academy’s EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit or to learn more.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

“Nightcap” Before Bedtime? Not a Good Idea!

Do you have a “nightcap” to help yourself relax before bedtime? This might not be such a good idea, according to sleep researchers. Experts have long known that consuming beer, wine or spirits right before bedtime can cause us to wake up after only a few hours and then feel tired during the day. A recent study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine helps explain why.

Mahesh Thakkar, Ph.D., and his team report that alcohol is a powerful sleep inducer, and almost one in five Americans drinks alcohol to help fall asleep. But, says Prof. Thakkar, alcohol interferes with the body’s natural mechanism that regulates sleepiness and wakefulness. This mechanism, called sleep homeostasis, makes us want to sleep if we haven’t slept in a while, and wakes us up if we’ve slept too long.

The researchers found that drinking alcohol interferes with the sleep homeostatic mechanism, putting pressure on us to go to sleep right away. When this happens, the sleep period is shifted. In addition, as the alcohol wears off, we may wake up. Said study co-author Dr. Pradeep Sahota, “Based on our results, it’s clear that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid. Alcohol disrupts sleep and the quality of sleep is diminished.” He added, “Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases your need to go the bathroom and causes you to wake up earlier in the morning.”

These findings are important for seniors, who are at higher risk of sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night and waking up too early. Poor quality sleep worsens many health conditions and can lead to depression and falls. Instead of having a drink, seniors are advised to read a book or listen to soothing music before bedtime, and to improve the sleep environment. Adding exercise during the day—but not right before sleep—also helps.

Dr. Thakkar said, “Sleep is an immense area of study. Approximately one-third of our life is spent sleeping. Coupled with statistics that show 20 percent of people drink alcohol to sleep, it’s vital that we understand how the two interact. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, don’t use alcohol. Talk to your doctor or a sleep medicine physician to determine what factors are keeping you from sleeping. These factors can then be addressed with individualized treatments.”

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, reporting on a study from the University of Missouri Health System

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015