By AmeriCare, July 19, 2012
As we grow older, we accrue our share of minor injuries and nagging ailments. It comes with the territory. And, over time, we tend to develop a higher level of tolerance for these minor aggravations – the bruises, the sore back, the aching elbow – shifting our focus, instead, to more serious health concerns. According to an article released by the AARP, however, these minor ailments can accumulate and contribute to more serious issues, such as the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, even though they may seem unrelated to mental health.
“When a lot of small things go wrong, it can add up to an important risk,” says Kenneth Rockwood, M.D., professor of medicine at Dalhousie University, Halifax, and an author of the study, “Nontraditional Risk Factors Combine to Predict Alzheimer Disease and Dementia.”
The 10-year study, launched in 1992, included more than 7,200 cognitively healthy 65-year-old Canadians who were asked questions regarding their overall health. While the questions included known risk factors for Alzheimer’s, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, the thrust of the research was on 19 problems that seemingly have no connection with brain health – including vision and hearing, loose dentures, sinus congestion, arthritis, morning cough, and problems with the skin, stomach, kidneys or bowel.
While the average 65-year-old has an 18 percent chance of developing dementia in 10 years due to normal aging, the study found that each health issue not traditionally associated with Alzheimer’s increased that risk by 3.2 percent. The risk increased as more ailments were listed, jumping to 40 percent among those in the study who reported as many as 12 conditions. Since age is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s, Richard Lipton, M.D., professor and vice chairman of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says the study in a sense is identifying people who “age badly” — developing one ailment after another so their biological age exceeds their chronological age.
While taking care of minor ailments is likely to improve a person’s quality of life, Rockwood says, no one has yet proved that fixing one problem after another would necessarily reduce one’s risk for Alzheimer’s.
His advice? “Don’t panic over one problem.” Focus less on fixing minor conditions, and more on improving your overall health and quality of life. “As much as bad things can add up, so can the good,” he says, citing studies showing that walking as little as 30 minutes a day, three days a week “dramatically attenuated” risk factors for dementia.
At AmeriCare, we are committed to providing exceptional senior care, and other in-home care services, helping our clients live as healthy and happy as possible. Feel free to contact us should you have any concern regarding a loved one’s welfare, or need assistance caring for someone currently dealing with dementia. Our compassionate caregivers are uniquely equipped to help maximize your loved one’s quality of life.
By AmeriCare, July 13, 2012
Nothing reminds us more of our childhood than playing outdoors during the long, lazy days of summer. It’s a timeless joy that never grows old. But as we get into our golden years, spending time outside can seem arduous, especially as temperatures spike to record highs. When done safely, however, it’s great for one’s health, mental attitude, and spirit.
So, let’s take a look at some fun ways for seniors to enjoy the outdoors this summer. Just make sure to take precautions to ensure their safety. Such precautions include avoiding the hottest part of the day, staying hydrated, wearing protective clothing, and applying plenty of sunscreen.
Simple Outdoor Activities
Start simple. Take a walk. Go to the local park and have a picnic. Play bocce ball, shuffle board, or visit a miniature golf course. Take a dip in a local pool, especially those with senior water aerobics, which can be a great low-impact activity for the elderly.
Encourage a senior to do some simple gardening: raised planters and beds can help make this easier on the elderly. Or find a local fishing hole for senior anglers. Bird watching is another enjoyable outdoor activity, even if it’s with simple feeders stationed around the house.
Trips And Outings
Catch a baseball game or an outdoor movie. Just be sure to plan ahead to ensure convenient parking and appropriate seating. Many stadiums have a handicapped section that can accommodate wheelchairs to prevent excessive walking.
Take a trip to a local farm or zoo, as watching and/or feeding animals is fun at any age. Visit a berry patch or orchard: even if the senior can’t pick the fruit themselves, most places offer fresh fruit for sale.
Fun Group Activities for Seniors
Loneliness is one of the leading causes of depression, so help seniors maintain an active social life this summer. Think about planning a group event, like a summer fair where there are crafts, cakes, and games that seniors can prepare for in advance. Or just plan an outdoor barbeque and invite friends and family over for a fun and memorable afternoon or evening.
Other fun senior group activities could include an ice cream social or summer book club. And if reading is a challenge for your group, there are several sites that offer audio books for everyone to listen to together then discuss in a sitting area outside.
If allowed, many seniors will spend each day alone, indoors, with the shades drawn. This is no way to spend a summer, and can ultimately lead to depression and decreased energy. At AmeriCare, our caregivers are experts in senior care, and some of our most useful in-home care services involve finding fun ways for seniors to enjoy the sunny outdoors.
By AmeriCare, July 6, 2012
These days, it seems like every type of service comes at a cost, except for one: family caregiving. According to the AARP, around 61.6 million people provided uncompensated home care for an ailing family member at some point in 2009, and the estimated economic value of their unpaid contributions was approximately $450 billion, up from an estimated $375 billion in 2007.
This figure, which puts a dollar value on every meal prepared, every call made to an insurance company, and every time a caregiver helped an older adult bathe or dress, is nearly as much as the government spent on Medicare in 2009, and nearly four times what Medicaid itself paid for long-term care services. It’s an estimate that explains why caregivers are so overwhelmed and in dire need of support, says Lynn Feinberg, senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute.
“It’s difficult to find paid help to supplement the care family provides at home,” Feinberg says. “There’s a shortage of quality home care aides; with the economic downturn, people are having a harder time paying for the extra care; and public programs are shrinking — many states now have waiting lists.”
“We have to recognize that in the United States, caregiving comes at a cost. We need to provide better support to families in their caregiving roles. Because otherwise, our whole long-term care and health care systems will almost collapse.”
A full report outlining the costs of family caregiving, titled, Valuing The Invaluable: The Growing Contributions and Costs Of Family Caregiving, can be found here.
Significant findings include:
At AmeriCare, our mission is to be a beacon of support for family caregivers. For we are family caregivers ourselves, and know firsthand how stressful, time-intensive, and costly caring for a family member can be. This is why we ensure that our home care services are comprehensive, flexible, and affordable. Please contact us to discuss the unique home care or senior care solutions that fit your time and budgetary needs.
By AmeriCare, June 28, 2012
No one deserves (needs, rather) a vacation more than a family caregiver. Just take a poll and you’ll find that family caregivers are among the most stressed out and time starved people on the planet. For many it’s like working two full-time jobs, it’s just that one only pays in peace of mind.
Burnout is common among family caregivers, and when this occurs, the individual is often no longer capable of providing the type of care that their loved one really needs. So, no matter how impossible taking a vacation may seem, it is essential to one’s health, well-being, and overall ability to provide quality care.
It’s time we clear up some of the common excuses caregivers use for not taking vacations, so you can start clearing your calendar.
A caregiver’s quality of life and emotional well-being are essential to their quality of care. While some caregivers perceive a vacation to be self-indulgent given the circumstances, that simply isn’t true. By addressing one’s own needs, caregivers are better able to meet the needs of others.
Please feel free to contact us to discuss short, or long term home care solutions. Our compassionate network of caregivers will help provide peace of mind while you enjoy your time away.
By AmeriCare, June 15, 2012
They say there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. Well, unfortunately that old axiom doesn’t apply to the sun. While moderate sun exposure is beneficial to our health, too much sun can cause dangerous conditions such as dehydration, heat stroke, and skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the health risks associated with over exposure to the sun, and may require special care to avoid its harmful effects.
Many seniors enjoy outdoor activities, such as walking, gardening, golfing, and fishing. And they should be encouraged to pursue these activities. But it’s important that they take precautions in order to stay safe. According to the American Cancer Society, one risk factor for skin cancer – actinic keratoses (AKs) – occurs most often in those who are middle-aged or older with light skin and have been exposed to too much sun. Small, scaly patches on the face, ears, backs of the hands and arms characterize AKs.
That’s why sunscreen is so important. A study in the Archives of Dermatology found that survey participants who used sunscreen daily – even when they weren’t planning to be outside for extended periods – developed 24 percent fewer AKs than those who used sunscreen at their own discretion. Seniors should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher on exposed areas and re-apply sunscreen every two hours, especially after swimming or perspiring.
In addition, seniors can do the following to help protect him or herself from the dangers of sun and heat:
Having companionship is another great way for a senior to enjoy the outdoors. A friend or relative can make sure that proper protection is applied when out in the summer sun. Or you may choose to hire a caregiver to accompany your loved one on their outings.
As a home care provider, our caregivers are all trained to provide exceptional senior care. And we’re committed to helping our senior clients enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle. So, whether it’s with a caregiver, or out on their own, practicing these safety precautions will help bring a bit more sunshine into your senior’s life.
By AmeriCare, May 30, 2012
Health issues and physical limitations often make it difficult for seniors to get the nutrients they need. And the symptoms of malnutrition, such as weight loss, disorientation, lightheadedness, and lethargy, can easily be confused with illness or disease. In order to encourage better eating habits for your elder loved one, you must first understand the potential reasons for their resistance to food.
Some of the most common explanations for why elderly people eat less include:
Here are some practical tips to ensure the elderly person in your life is getting the nutrition he or she needs.
At AmeriCare, our home care services include grocery shopping and helping plan and prepare meals for our elderly clients. Feel free to contact us to learn more about how we ensure your loved gets the care and nutrients they need.
By AmeriCare, April 18, 2012
It’s natural to get excited when we learn about a new breakthrough in our understanding of Alzheimer’s, as with the FDA’s recent approval of a new medical procedure that allows for early detection of the disease.
But how helpful is it to learn that your future will be afflicted with this debilitating disease if there isn’t currently a cure? Given the heightened attention around Alzheimer’s detection, we thought it would be an appropriate time to focus on methods of prevention.
Following are 10 proven tips, as offered by renowned Alzheimer’s author, Jean Carper, that can help maintain cognitive integrity and keep Alzheimer’s at bay.
1. Take a hike: Nothing beats walking for boosting memory and flooding your brain with chemicals that create bigger neurons. Take a brisk 30-minute walk, or three 10-minute sessions on a treadmill. A “nature” walk through a park also improves memory.
2. Eat an apple or two: Apples stimulate production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is what the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept also does, say University of Massachusetts researchers. You get the same benefits from two eight-ounce glasses of apple juice.
3. Drink a few cups of coffee: “I try to drink five cups of coffee a day,” says Gary Arendash at the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. He says the caffeine blocks build up of Alzheimer’s brain toxins. In one study, drinking three to five cups of coffee a day cut Alzheimer’s risk by 65 percent.
4. Treat yourself to a little dark chocolate: It can boost blood circulation in your brain, lower blood pressure and inhibit stroke damage, all important in preventing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Be sure cocoa content is at least 70 percent. Even a half-ounce of rich dark chocolate a day may be enough.
5. Surf the internet for an hour: Yes, a good Google search can stimulate an older brain and possibly improve thinking and memory. So can playing video games, and doing certain online brain games.
6. Do something new: Your brain cells are stimulated when you think of or do anything new. People who do novel mental activities reduce their risk of cognitive decline. Important: you must make a mental effort; breezing through crossword puzzles doesn’t count.
7. Eat a cup of berries: If you want to make forgetful old lab animals “younger and smarter,” just feed them blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or cranberries, say Tufts University researchers. How much? At least a cup a day.
8. Take a multivitamin: It can slow brain aging, especially if it includes high antioxidants, such as C, E and alpha lipoic acid. Be sure to get 500 mcg B12, 800 mcg folic acid, 20 mg B6 a day–doses found to reduce brain shrinkage up to 50 percent in people with mild memory problems.
9. Have a Curry Meal: A constituent of curry spices known as curcumin blocks Alzheimer’s-like brain damage and boosts memory in animal and lab tests. India, where curry is a staple, has a very low rate of Alzheimer’s.
10. Get together with friends and family: Make it a point to yak it up today, the larger your circle of friends and family, the better. Extroverts with high “social engagement” have less cognitive failure as they age. Being married or having a significant other dramatically cuts your odds of developing Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease we know all too well. If someone in your family is suffering with Alzheimer’s, or other forms of dementia, feel free to contact us to discuss our premier home care services. Our goal is to help your loved one live as independently as possible, from the comfort of their own home.
By AmeriCare, April 11, 2012
The benefits of regular exercise are boundless. It is the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth. Exercise not only helps improve our physical health, it helps improve our mood, mind, and memory as well. It can also prevent future injuries from falling, and help us maintain our independence at older ages.
Being a senior citizen, you may have limitations, but that should not preclude you from pursuing an exercise program. Just be sure to scale the effort based on your abilities. Here are a few tips to get your started.
Consult your doctor
Always check with your doctor to make sure it is safe to start an exercise program. Any kind of pre-existing conditions may require alterations to your routine. A doctor’s visit can also provide a good benchmark for progress. Over time you may see significant improvements in key health measures, such as cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Take It Slow
You don’t have to start working towards a marathon right away. Begin by walking around 15 minutes a day to get the body accustomed to physical activity. Working in your backyard, washing clothes, or performing other housework can qualify as exercise as well. It’s all about staying active.
Weight training improves muscle mass as well as strengthens your bones. People of all ages can lift weights if carried out with proper technique. Be sure to consult a physical therapist or someone experienced in weight training before loading up the barbell.
Cardio exercise helps improve performance of the heart and lungs. There are plenty of ways to get the heart pumping and the lungs working. Dancing, walking, swimming, and sports activities, like tennis, are just a few. There are even some great online workouts, such as through the Stronger Seniors YouTube video page.
Don’t Be Discouraged By Disabilities
Just because your disabled doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. There are plenty of chair aerobic exercises for chair-bound seniors. Swimming and water aerobics also allow people with disabilities to get excellent workouts. As always, be sure to exercise with a partner, especially when in a pool.
As a home care provider we know how important maintaining one’s independence can be for many seniors. Engaging in regular exercise is the best way to stay healthy and independent for as long as possible.
By AmeriCare, April 4, 2012
As we age, our memory begins to fade. Once familiar words become elusive, we walk into rooms and forget what for, grandchildren’s names become interchangeable. We like to think these memory lapses occur because of all the wonderful knowledge we’ve accumulated over our many years. There’s only so much wisdom our minds can manage!
Regardless the cause, here are some simple activities that can help boost brainpower and keep our memory sharp.
Exercise benefits your brain as well as the rest of your body. Increasing blood flow to the brain reduces brain shrinkage and lowers the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Take the stairs, park at the far end of the lot, and go for an evening stroll around your block. Every step adds up.
Memory storage happens while you sleep, which is why it’s so important to get the proper amount of sleep. Even a six-minute nap can aid short-term recall, while longer naps can accelerate the process that helps the brain retain long-term memories.
Play Brain Training Games
Brain games such as word puzzles or Sudoku help strengthen cognitive function, which aids memory development and retention.
Drink Coffee Or Tea
Tea has a positive effect on memory by activating enzymes in the brain while the caffeine triggers concentration. People who drink moderate amounts of coffee have lower odds of developing dementia later in life.
Deficiencies in folate and vitamin B12 increase one’s risk of developing dementia. Great vegetable sources for folate include romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, collards, broccoli, cauliflower and beets.
Your memory requires some familiarity to keep your life functioning smoothly. Place certain essentials, such as your keys and glasses, in the same place every time. Write yourself reminders, if needed. The act of writing yourself reminders will keep your mind active.
Retirement reduces many of our daily decision-making opportunities, exercises, and problem-solving requirements. Volunteering can supplant many of these mind-stimulating activities.
Keeping the mind engaged is an essential way to maintain cognitive acuity. So, remember to stimulate both the mind and body in order to stave off dementia and keep your precious memories intact.
By AmeriCare, April 3, 2012
From the day we are born, we are driven to pursue a sense of independence. It is one of our most inalienable rights, which is what makes it so hard to give up. Unfortunately, as we age, it becomes increasingly difficult, and, often, altogether impossible, for us to care safely for ourselves. At this point, the family of an aging loved one is faced with a difficult decision:
Oh, but this can be such a dreadful conversation. We’ve seen it so many times before. And we understand why: it is a perceived affront to one’s sense of independence, something many seem willing to die before they willingly resign.
Most families will face the dilemma of trying to convince an unreceptive parent of the need for care assistance at some point. In fact, we will likely find ourselves on the receiving end of this unpleasant conversation later on in life. So, we’d like to provide some tips that can ease the conversation and help the parent accept the type of care that will allow him or her to live as independently as possible, preferably in the comfort of their own home.
Start The Dialogue Early
There are certain essential conversations that we all look to postpone. Planning a will is one of them. But the earlier we begin having these conversations, when the need still seems ages away, the better. It removes the gravity from the situation. So, find time to casually ask your parents how they’d like to be treated in their elder years, should they require assistance to augment their independence. This way, you will already have a general plan in place when the time arrives.
Respect Their Dignity
It is not uncommon for a child-parent role reversal to occur at some point in a relationship. When this happens, the child often feels a heightened sense of responsibility for the parent. One may even begin treating one’s parent as they would a child of their own. Try and take a moment and put yourself in your parent’s position. Remember that resistance comes from a perceived assault to a senior’s sense of dignity and role as an independent parent. Be sensitive towards this response and treat your parent with the respect of a dignified adult, not as you would an obstinate adolescent.
Focus On Help With Remedial Tasks
Many seniors see care assistance as an invasion of privacy and the surrender of independence. They don’t stop and think about how liberating it can be to have help with basic, remedial household chores. Many people use a housekeeper, which doesn’t entail the same perceived stigma that may come with a personal caregiver. Present the scenario as assistance with basic chores, laundry, and meals rather than personal care. Then, the unfolding relationship between the parent and their caregiver will naturally allow for a greater degree of home care services, should the need arise.
Enlist The Help Of A Professional
Often times an elderly parent will be more receptive to the counsel of a professional, such as a trusted physician or clergyman, than that of a family member. Just be mindful not to make this meeting seem like an intervention, which may elicit a strong defensive response. If possible, work to have the meeting occur as a part of a planned appointment or during the parent’s natural routine.
Look For Signs Of Dementia
Trying to convince a parent suffering from dementia to accept home care is a more complicated scenario because their judgment may be impaired. If your parent displays behavior symptomatic of dementia, such as retelling the same story, forgetting appointments, becoming lost in previously familiar surroundings, or losing the ability to perform routine tasks, arrange a medical evaluation to determine if the condition exists. Find out from the physician the extent of cognitive impairment and the level of assistance your parent may need. Educate yourself on the issue by contacting the Alzheimer’s Association or the NIH’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center.
Above all else, remember, you are ultimately doing what you know is best for your parents because you love them. Conduct these conversations through a place of love and work to find the perfect home care solution for your family’s unique needs. We’re happy to help if you need us.