Senior Health Tips

Eating a balanced diet is a basic need we all have in order to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. This is a universal truth, but nutrition becomes more critical as we age. Some seniors struggle to get all the nutrients they need, and many are at a higher risk of malnutrition, often due to a decreased appetite. Even as seniors need to be especially careful about getting proper nutrition, meeting this goal becomes harder. If you’re a senior or have a loved one who is, the good news is that there are simple ways you can work around these barriers.

Beyond Nutrition to Holistic Health

The first thing to realize is that nutrition is tied to many other aspects of our lives. Physical limitations, being active, your social surroundings — they all impact dietary choices and nutrition. One of the best ways seniors can improve nutrition is to take a holistic approach to their health. This means addressing mobility problems through physical or occupational therapy, finding ways to be active, and staying socially engaged to boost your mental health.

If this goal sounds a little overwhelming, don’t try to do it all on your own! There are lots of great holistic wellness programs for seniors, and if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may be eligible for one through your insurance benefits. Even if you don’t have these benefits right now, you can always switch to a plan that includes wellness services the next time you enroll.

Don’t Forget About Your Gut Health

As part of a holistic approach to health, it’s important to be aware of nutrition issues that are less well-known. One of these is gut health, especially your microbiome, which basically means the microbes that are in your digestive tract. You’ve probably heard of “good” bacteria and how they can be found in certain foods. We call these prebiotic and probiotic foods, and they have a major impact on your health, beyond just your digestive system. These foods help keep you healthy physically, but they also impact your mood and can even keep your mind sharp.

Taking care of gut health is important at every age, but Sixty and Me explains how it becomes more important for seniors, as your microbiome loses diversity as you age. An easy way to fight this is to eat lots of probiotic and prebiotic foods. Some of the best are fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir. Legumes, beans, and any food high in fiber are great choices too.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Meditations)

Good Food for Less

For many seniors, being on a tight budget is a barrier to nutrition. Convenience foods, which typically don’t pack much of a nutrient punch, are often cheaper than fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t eat good food for less! Woman’s Day has some of the best tips for eating on a budget, including buying frozen fruits and vegetables, buying store brands, and buying fresh produce in season.

Another issue for some seniors who live alone is that they don’t know how to cook for just one person. An ideal solution to this problem is to make batch meals. If you have more than just a few portions, plan on freezing part of what you make. This way, you won’t get tired of eating the same meal repeatedly, and you’ll have more meals to pull out and eat later on. Making batch meals is also economical, so it’s a win-win solution.

The reality of nutritional needs for seniors is that it takes more than just switching up a few things in your diet. It requires making conscious choices to prepare inexpensive, healthier meals, as well as an awareness of your holistic health needs. Even if it takes time, making choices to put yourself first will be worth it for the amazing boost to your health.

Contributed by Jennifer McGregor

Jennifer co-created Public Health Library to make it easier for people to find high quality health information. She is a pre-med student who enjoys writing about health and medical topics to help the readers find reputable health resources.

Colder weather means most of us – especially seniors – will spend less time outdoors and more hours inside with windows and doors closed. That also means contending with stale air, or as experts call it, indoor air pollution.

Our cozy homes can emit potential health hazards from carpets, curtains, and all the synthetic materials found in a modern house. One way to counteract this silent pollution is with air purifiers. That can get expensive, with the commercial purifier for a single room costing $100 or more. A less expensive and more aesthetically-pleasing way is with — plants. It’s also an excellent way to bring the outdoors inside. After all, it’s the beauty of the outdoors that adds Utah’s high quality of life.

Yes, certain houseplants are natural pollution filters. NASA has discovered some houseplants are effective in controlling potentially noxious pollutants. After several tests, the space agency discovered, “Plant roots and their associated microorganisms destroy the pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and the organic chemicals, eventually converting all of these air pollutants into new plant tissue.”

NASA says plants can reduce up to 87 percent of toxins in your home within 24 hours. Aside from filtering pollutants, indoor plants can improve your health, reduce stress, help you breathe easier, and improve your mood. That’s a lot more than a $100 air purifier can do.

Here’s a sampling of plants proven to filter pollutants that can be harmful to your well-being:

1. Areca Palm

This big plant is the favorite of scientists for filtering toluene, a family of harmful substances found in glue, paint thinners, nail polish removers, and other common household products. It also acts as a natural humidifier and tolerates most indoor environments.

2. English Ivy

Pretty in a pot or hanging basket, this venerable favorite can grow with just a few hours of sun per day and can last for years. If you have a place in your bathroom, this plant is great for filtering pollutants specific to that room.

3. Chrysanthemum

This fall favorite will thrive anyplace where it can get good sun. It’s especially helpful in kitchens where it can zap toxins like benzines and ammonia, which are common in household cleaners.

 4. Aloe Vera

The darling ingredient of skin care products also doubles as a sieve for the harmful vapors of detergents and varnishes. Like mums, it prefers sunny locations.

5. Snake Plant (Mother-in-law’s Tongue)

Despite its unsavory names, this plant battles airborne chemicals and produces oxygen at night, making it a good choice for bedrooms. Don’t over-water it because it’s susceptible to root rot.

6. Spider Plant

If you’re all-thumbs-but-green, this might be the perfect choice because it grows with little care. It’s especially good at absorbing carbon monoxide and is one of the few houseplants that’s completely harmless to pets, so you can put it anywhere.

7. Peace Lily

This houseplant is as pleasing as its name implies, but wages war against carbon monoxide. Content as a pot-dweller, it requires minimal upkeep other than watering when its leaves begin to droop.

8. Rubber Plant

This has been an indoor favorite since great-grandma’s day. Because it grows tall, it’s excellent in a floor pot and can thrive in partial sunlight. The Rubber Plant bounces formaldehyde vapors, which are found in many household products.

9. Bamboo Palm

Resembling a giant palm/fern hybrid, this big beauty can filter a host of chemical vapors and does double duty as a natural humidifier.

10. Chinese Evergreen

This is a worker bee of a little plant that absorbs a number of harmful chemical vapors and gets better at it as it ages. It’s also easy to grow and is happy in low sunlight.

Most of these pollution fighters are at least mildly toxic to pets, so it’s important to choose locations with that in mind. Placed about your home, they can be a real comfort as you snuggle in for the winter!

Contributed by Eva Williams

Eva loves the outdoors. She loves it with a campfire and s’mores or après ski in a nice lodge with a glass of wine and has written about it for two decades.

Kids are like sponges. They’re eager to absorb new information and they’re very good at catching on to new concepts, ideas, and skills. That’s important as they go to school and gain the skills and knowledge they’ll need during adulthood. But what about learning later in life? Is there such a thing as being “too old to learn?”

Sayings like “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and stereotypes about older individuals’ capacity for learning have been around for decades. But these are largely misconceptions that have been disproved by new research.

Think You’re Too Old? Think Again

Contributed by Pexels (Startup Stock Photos) design-learn-pattern-247819

As a society, we often subconsciously put an age limit on learning. We encourage learning in kids, teens, and young adults, but often discourage older people from trying to learn new information and skills.

Fortunately, that attitude is starting to change. More people of all ages are seeking out new information and changing their lives. You’re never too old to learn. In fact, learning throughout your lifetime can have some major benefits for your health and well-being.

There’s a Ton of Retirees Heading Back to School

If you’re self-conscious about the idea of taking a class or going back to school because you think you’ll be the only one over the age of 50, you might be surprised to find that your fellow students are more like you than you’d expect.

These days, lots of retirees are heading back to school for many different reasons. Some people just want a fulfilling way to spend their time during retirement. Others want to keep their mind sharp, discover new interests, and socialize with other students. And of course, some older Americans want to continue working and take classes to hone their skills or change careers.

Many schools offer free or inexpensive tuition for retirees, typically on an audit basis. Students won’t earn credit, but they will get the opportunity to learn and engage with a community of like-minded people.

Benefits of Learning As You Age

The concept that learning is only for the young is damaging to people as they get older. Learning throughout your life is actually a great way to protect your brain and stay sharp.

Research shows that people who get a college education live longer, make more money, and enjoy mental health benefits. Men who hold a bachelor’s degree live 12.9 years longer on average than those without a degree. For women, the margin is 10.4 years.

Older men and women can also use education to adapt to the job market and enjoy better financial health later in life. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn more and are less likely to be unemployed than people with a lower level of education. In a rapidly-changing job market, more education can make a positive difference in employability long-term.

Learning Later in Life Can Help Against Depression

Mental health is a huge concern for people of all ages. Anxiety and depression are among the top mental illnesses afflicting Americans, affecting well-being, quality of life, and even influencing suicide in some cases. 18 million people struggle with depression each year in the United States, and although there are many resources to help those who need it, stigma and other factors mean that many people suffer in silence.

There are many ways to help reduce anxiety and depression, including exercise, medication, psychotherapy, and meditation. Some people also use remedies like cannabis extract to reduce their symptoms.

Because of the mental health benefits of lifelong learning, we now know that keeping the brain engaged is yet another way to help fight depression. People want to feel fulfilled, engaged, and like they’re doing something important at every stage of their lives. By continuing to learn and evolve, older Americans can help protect themselves against common mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Unsure of What To Learn? Keep it Practical – Study What You Need to Know

You may understand all the benefits of learning at every stage of your life, but you also might be wondering: what should you learn?

Unless you’re interested in a specific subject or you want to pick up a new hobby, it can be hard to decide what to learn next. If that’s your dilemma, try keeping it practical. Even something as simple as learning better financial management strategies can help you stay sharp and allow you to gain the benefits of learning.

Don’t be intimidated! Taking a class, reading a book on a new subject, and even doing daily puzzles are all great ways to keep you learning and enjoying life.

Contributed by Patricia Monson. Patricia is the Research Coordinator at
Applied Nursing Research and enjoys sharing the latest high-level
research on senior health and care.

You may think that only people who can stand on their heads or touch their toes can practice yoga. Well, it’s time to think again! Yoga boasts a slew of benefits for seniors, from managing arthritis pain to balancing mood and emotions. And you don’t have to have been practicing for decades to reap these rewards. Studies show the benefits of yoga can be felt within just a few short weeks of regular practice.

Even though you understand the benefits, there may still be something holding you back. For many seniors, it’s a combination of time, support and money. Yoga classes cost money and take time, often requiring us to catch rides to and from a gym or studio. While these are totally reasonable obstacles, they can be easily overcome. Here are 10 ways to help seniors build a strong, sustainable yoga practice.

Senior Travel-Pixabay(qimono)

Photo by Pixabay (qimono)

#10 Check out Silver Sneakers: Your Medicare plan may cover some or all of the costs of joining a gym that provides yoga classes. Ask your health plan advisor for information on Silver Sneakers, which are fitness classes offered at gyms all across the nation and catered specifically to seniors. All classes are led by a certified instructor to ensure your safety, with the added benefit that they can easily cater the class to your needs and abilities.

#9 Look for Senior Discounts: Gyms and studios often run discounts and specials just for seniors to help them get access to the classes they need for preventative care and health. You can even check out coupon and discount websites like Groupon to find affordable deals, or give them a call to ask about specials. You may also come across some that run ads in your local newspaper. If you have a local studio in mind, stop by and express your interest in learning yoga. They may offer you a free class to help gauge your interest or offer you a coupon or discounted price.

#8 Make a Home Studio: Clear out a room in your home for a daily yoga practice. If you have furniture or boxes gathering dust in an unused bedroom, put them in storage. Another idea is to use your dining room for your yoga space. According to Angie’s List, many people have found alternative uses for their dining room as only 23 percent of homeowners routinely eat meals in this room. Once you’ve cleared a space, store your yoga mat nearby so that it’s always ready. Bring in some relaxing additions such as a scented candle, greenery, or artwork.

#7 Watch Yoga Videos: There are hundreds of free online yoga videos from certified professionals. You can follow along as they practice or watch videos that break down poses so you can work on safe alignment. You can also purchase yoga DVDs in the electronics or fitness section at most stores such as Walmart or Target, making practicing yoga as easy as popping in a DVD.

#6 Focus on Your Breath: If you can breathe then, guess what? You are practicing yoga! Try to pair your movements to an inhale and exhale. You can do this when walking, washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. Mindfulness is central to yoga’s mental health benefits. Sit in a comfy chair or in a seated position on the floor and clear your mind of any intruding thoughts so that you can pay attention to nothing but your breathing. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly for 10 minutes to start or end your day.

#5 Download a Free Meditation App: There are dozens of well-reviewed free meditation apps that you can download to your phone or tablet. You can use these to learn more about meditation, start a basic practice and to encourage and track your progress.

#4 There are Yoga Apps, Too! You can download yoga apps for your phone or tablet that you can use for free. Try to make it social by inviting your friends to use the app or practicing with your caregiver or a family member. Once you get the hang of it and learn what moves work best for you, you can create your own routine to follow.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(SofieZborilova)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(SofieZborilova)

#3 Focus on One Pose: Instead of jumping into a whole series or flow, just focus on one or a handful of poses at a time. You can do them while watching television or after you first wake up. Keep it simple and move deeper into the pose as time allows. Yoga takes time and practice, so don’t be discouraged if you struggle at first. Start with simple moves and use props such as a chair for extra assistance. Should you decide you’d like to try more advanced moves, attend a class first to make sure you are doing it correctly and aren’t at risk of injuring yourself.

#2 Try a Work Share Arrangement: Many yoga studios and gyms will provide free classes in exchange for help watching the register and cleaning the studio. Talk to studios near you to find one that is interested in this kind of partnership.

#1 Take Classes with Friends: Whether you are paying for a class or going to the gym, practicing with friends can reduce the risk of senior isolation and make yoga more fun—and make it more likely you will stick with it. Plus, you can carpool with your friends, which is especially helpful if driving is a concern for you.

Yoga helps seniors stay healthy in both mind and body, and is also a fun, yet relaxing way to spend time alone or with friends. Try out any one of the tips above to make these your golden years for health and fitness.

Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

The heat of summer is here, so this is a good time to review some vital safety tips for seniors.  Elderly persons are more prone to the effects of heat and at greater risk for dehydration. Make sure you or someone you can trust is checking in on your elderly family members. 

• Try to plan activities that require going outside during non-peak hours when it might be a little cooler.

• Move exercise indoors.  Consider exercising at a gym, walking on a treadmill, or “mall walking” instead of outdoor walks or activities. Swimming and water aerobics are good options as well.

• Drink plenty of fluids (non-alcoholic, caffeine-free as these ingredients have a diuretic effect). Talk with your doctor if you take medications that affect fluid intake, such as Lasix.

• Stay indoors, in cooled spaces as much as possible. Check your loved one’s air-conditioning system, and do a maintenance review. If electricity goes out, or your loved one does not have air conditioning, consider alternative arrangements when heat is at dangerous levels.

• Be aware of signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (MabelAmber) Senior Couple
Photo courtesy of Pixabay (MabelAmber) Senior Couple

The most common signs of dehydration in the elderly are thirst, confusion, irritability, and poor skin elasticity. Keeping hydrated on a regular basis is the most important preventative measure, and individuals should be encouraged to drink fluids even when not thirsty as thirst may not be triggered until already dehydrated. Heat and dehydration may make seniors more prone to dizziness and falls and can cause or increase confusion. Heat exhaustion is the more mild form of heat-related illness. Warning signs may include the following: Heavy sweating; Paleness; Muscle Cramps; Fatigue; Weakness; Dizziness; Headache; Nausea or vomiting; Fainting. The skin may be cool and moist. The pulse rate may be fast and weak. Breathing may be fast and shallow.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat, and it is unable to cool down. Body temperatures rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Warning signs may include the following: An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F); Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating); Rapid, strong pulse; Throbbing headache; Dizziness; Nausea. Any indication of heat stroke is a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical attention.

Be aware of other summer dangers. Talk with your loved one about alternatives if he/she handles maintenance around the home, such as yard work or cleaning gutters. This may be especially dangerous in the heat, but may also pose general risks for falling and safety. Be vigilant about sunscreen and protect against insect bites. If you or someone you know has a bite that seems abnormal or you notice any unusual symptoms, seek medical attention.

Contributed By Caren Parnes, for The Senior’s Choice

You worked hard to put money away for retirement, so it is important that you understand the various strategies available to you to make sure you maximize that savings by minimizing taxes and avoiding penalties. Here are several tips to maximize your retirement savings:

Avoid early withdrawal penalties. Over and above the income tax due on your withdrawals, you must wait until age 59 ½ before tapping your retirement savings to avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, you can take penalty-free 401(k) withdrawals beginning at age 55 if you leave the job associated with that 401(k) account at age 55 or later.

Roll over your 401(k) when changing jobs. If you withdraw money from your 401(k) when you change jobs, 20 percent will be withheld for income tax, as well as paying a penalty for early withdrawals. The mechanism to avoid these costs is to roll over your 401(k) into either a new 401(k) or an IRA.

Mixing your types of retirement accounts. If you qualify for a Roth IRA, these accounts have a variety of benefits a traditional IRA does not, including more flexibility on penalty-free withdrawals and no required minimum distributions. However the biggest difference between the two types of accounts is how they are taxed. IRAs are tax-deferred, so they provide you with an immediate tax benefit, but you must pay taxes when you withdraw the money during retirement. Roth IRA accounts require paying taxes when you deposit the savings, but that means you don’t pay taxes on them during retirement. Diversifying your money in a traditional IRA as well as a Roth IRA will allow you to moderate your tax burden during retirement. Also, if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket during retirement, maximizing your retirement funds in a Roth account will allow you to lock in today’s low tax rate.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay-1(stevepb)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay (stevepb)

Understanding minimum distribution. You are required to withdraw money from your traditional 401(k) and IRA after age 70 1/2. If you miss a required withdrawal, you must pay a 50 percent penalty on the amount that should have been withdrawn. Make sure you mark your calendar for that cutoff date and make arrangements with your financial institution to remind you automatically about your required distribution.

Understanding the rules on your first distribution. Your first required minimum distribution is due by April 1 of the year after you turn 70 ½. All subsequent distributions must be taken by Dec. 31 each year. If you delay your first distribution until the same tax year as your second distribution, you will be required to take both distributions in the same tax year, which could result in an unusually high tax bill.

Start withdrawals in your 60s. While you must begin traditional retirement account withdrawals at age 70 ½, you can lower your tax burden by take smaller distributions starting at age 59 ½, which can spread the tax bill over more years, potentially allowing you to stay in a lower tax bracket and reducing your lifetime tax bill. Check with your financial advisor to find out if this option would make sense for you.

Calculate your tax burden with added Social Security or Pension Benefits. If you’re going to be receiving Social Security benefits or regular payouts from a pension, it’s important to incorporate them when planning your withdrawal strategy. Even if you’re receiving a relatively small amount each month from these sources, the extra income may increase your tax burden.

Keep tax-preferred investments outside retirement accounts. Investments that generate long-term capital gains receive preferential tax treatment when held outside of a retirement account. However, if you put them in a retirement account, you will pay your typically higher regular income tax rate when you withdraw the money from the account. In contrast, you can lower your tax bill by holding more highly taxed investments, including Treasury inflation-protected securities, corporate and government bonds and funds that generate short-term capital gains, inside retirement accounts.

Contributed by:

Caren Parnes for the Senior’s Choice

What is long-term-care insurance?

Long-term care insurance covers a range of supportive services (medical and non-medical) that an individual may need when they are no longer able to perform many day-to-day activities or tasks on their own. Activities of daily living, commonly known as ADL’s, include tasks such as feeding, bathing, toileting, dressing, or transferring from a bed to chair.

Additionally, long-term-care covers services that may help individuals with other everyday essential tasks. These supportive tasks include medication reminders, house cleaning, errands, and meal preparation.

LTC covers care services whether it be in the individual’s own home or in a facility. Who provides care may depend on the individual’s needs, but many times can come from a family caregiver, a homecare company, an adult day service, or a facility.

How do you know if long-term-care insurance is right for you?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(skeeze)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay(skeeze)

LTC may be right for you if:

  • You want to be able to pay for your own care when it is needed down the road.
  • You like the idea of being independent as long as possible.
  • You are able to afford the premiums and have a good income and amount of assets.

LTC may NOT be right for you if:

  • You have a limited amount of income or assets.
  • You struggle paying for day-to-day necessities such as housing, rent, food, medications, etc.
  • Your only income is through a Social Security benefit or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and you can’t afford the premiums.

Companies like Aspen Senior Care, an in-home personal care agency, want to help make sure seniors get the most bang for their buck. Cindy Harris, a LTC Claim Specialist with Aspen, says that many people don’t utilize their long-term-care options as well as they could.

“My job is to work with LTC insurance companies and get them to pay claims on our clients’ behalf,” says Cindy. “That way they get the full care they need and don’t have to worry that they won’t get the coverage they’ve paid for!”

Slowing down as you get older may feel like a natural part of aging, however, chronic fatigue and dissipating energy levels shouldn’t be ignored. If you or someone you care for is feeling more and more tired each day and simply wiped out, you won’t want to miss this guide on recognizing fatigue in older adults and what to do about it:

Common Causes of Fatigue

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Mohamed_hassan)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Mohamed_hassan)

You might be surprised to learn that it’s more than physical exhaustion that can lead a senior to feel fatigued and lacking energy. Common causes of fatigue in older adults may include:

  • Medication side effects – medicines that are commonly taken for things like allergies, pain, nausea, and depression can have side effects that make you tired, zap your energy levels, and even contribute to brain fog.

  • Stress, anxiety, and depression – emotional stress that comes with things like grief over the loss of a loved one, difficulty hearing, financial woes, and loss of independence can manifest in very physical ways including fatigue and diminished energy.

  • Sleep deprivation – lack of sleep has been linked to everything from bad moods and fatigue to increased risk for Alzheimer’s. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults over 65 get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.

  • Poor diet – malnutrition, or not getting adequate nutrients in your diet, can be a source of fatigue, weakness, and even increase your susceptibility to getting sick. For example, anemia (low iron) can definitely exacerbate feelings of tiredness. At the same time, consuming lots of food that is primarily “junk” or fatty, processed, fried foods can do the same thing.

  • Medical treatments and surgery – common treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation used to treat cancer, can cause severe fatigue as can recovering from a major surgery like a knee or hip replacement.

  • Alcohol consumption – 2.5 million older adults in the U.S. have an alcohol or drug abuse problem and both contribute to not just poor health but chronic fatigue as well. Alcohol especially can interact with medication you may be taking, inhibit proper nutrient absorption from the food you eat and change your behavior and thinking skills.

  • Boredom – is your day lacking the pep and vigor it once had when you were working or more mobile? Waking to a long day ahead that has little planned or scheduled can make you feel lackluster and tired.

  • Dehydration – dehydration continues to be a leading cause of hospitalization in adults over 65 and symptoms can often be confused with fatigue. Disorientation, low energy levels, and brain fog might actually be an indication that your body is low on fluids.

Does Low Blood Pressure Cause Fatigue?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Gadini)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Gadini)

In short, not really. A sudden and severe blood pressure drop can definitely foster symptoms of dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, and fainting. However, chronically low blood pressure will not be the sole source of your fatigue. Sometimes a medication you are taking for low blood pressure can cause fatigue (like some beta blockers), however, if you are experiencing chronically low blood pressure, you should talk to your doctor right away.

In addition to treating you for low blood pressure by adjusting medications or modifying your diet, your doctor may also encourage you to practice accurate blood pressure monitoring at home with an easy-to-use digital blood pressure monitor that records readings and alerts you to high and low spikes – check out this helpful list. A sudden drop in blood pressure can be life-threatening so if you or someone you care for has one, get to a hospital as soon as possible.

Tips for Preventing Fatigue

Avoid long naps and late-day caffeine fixes – keep your afternoon naps to 30 minutes or less and avoid drinking caffeine after lunchtime. This can not only help you fall asleep faster come bedtime but improve the quality of your sleep too so you wake rested and energized.

Address bad habits – quitting smoking is practically the best thing you can do for your health in general, no matter your age or health status. But, it can also fight fatigue by lowering your risk for tiresome lifestyle conditions like breathing problems and heart disease. Cutting excessive alcohol consumption can do the same thing.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (MabelAmber)1

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (MabelAmber)1

Exercise regularly – it might seem like ‘rest’ should be on order if you are feeling fatigued, however, it’s the opposite that is true. Routine exercise helps to increase your appetite and improve your sleep as well as make you stronger, more flexible, and well, happier – all things that can bolster energy levels.

Keep a daily journal – recognizing patterns of fatigue will most aptly help you and the person you care for address them. Note diet, exercise, and nightly sleep habits as well as the times of day when you feel most fatigued and then start a conversation with your doctor to address it.

Holidays tend to add a higher level of confusion and stress for those experiencing a decline in cognition. A change in routine and busy gatherings can be overwhelming and confusing for your loved one. Long-term caregiver, Betty De Filippis, gives her tips regarding her experiences with her mother-in-law, Joan, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2013.

As the disease progressed through four years of caregiving, Betty learned many different techniques that aided — or hindered — Joan’s care. She learned how to help Joan more fully enjoy the holiday season with loving advice from friends, neighbors, and her family physician.  

Let others know what is going on 

“One of the first things that comes to my mind is to not be afraid to tell people what is going on. Explain why they are noticing a change in your loved one’s behaviors, so they understand how to better help or respond. I actually announced it one night at a church gathering of our friends and neighbors. It was so amazing how many people came to me later to offer their advice on how they handled similar experiences.”

Remember, it’s not only your loved one who will be experiencing change. Family from out of town, or those who may not see your loved one often, may be in for a shock when they see changes. Be straightforward and help them learn what may be helpful or not helpful. A family email before a get-together would be a great way to share some information and update your family regarding any changes they may experience.

Keep your expectations realistic and go with the flow 

Fun in caregiving

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Beesmurf)

Events or tasks that may have once been easy and enjoyable for your loved one tend to change when they begin to experience a decline in cognition. You may need to change plans due to your loved one’s struggles. Just slow things down and make sure they feel comfortable and included. Read their body language and give gentle cues to help them if they seem to be struggling.

“Some people at a more advanced stage of dementia may experience ‘realities’ that are not actually happening (hallucinations or delusions). Instead of trying to convince them what is real, ask them about the reality they are experiencing,” says Betty.  “If they ask questions, answer them honestly, but if they disagree, it will be ok if you just go with it. Help them do what they forgot how to do; if they want to do it another way, go with it. It shows caring and doesn’t embarrass them or confuse them further, which could cause them to feel frustrated and act out.”

Be respectful, patient, and kind 

“This is probably the best advice I ever received from our family physician, while he quite literally let me cry on his shoulder,” says Betty. Remember that at whatever stage of memory loss your loved one is experiencing, they are not acting out or being difficult on purpose. “This is not something they are doing to irritate others, they are not just being ornery. This is something that is happening to them. If it is hard and frustrating for us, think how much more difficult it is for them.”

Holidays are meant to be a time to cherish with loved ones. Although your loved one may be “different” than you’re used to, they are still the person they used to be — they are just dealing with a difficult disease. They are doing the best they can in a situation that may be too overwhelming for them to handle. In some cases, they may not even understand what it is you’re gathered to celebrate or why there are so many people there. Check in with them often, read their body language, and respond accordingly. Most importantly, remember to be patient, be kind, and enjoy your time together.

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Seniors don’t often call saying they need in-home care. Many times they don’t realize they need additional help, and often they don’t even know it’s available. Usually one of their children seeks services because they’ve been helping their senior loved one and have noticed their needs have grown. Other times these adult children live out of town and come for a visit and are surprised by a few things going on in their parent’s home.

So, what are the signs that your elderly loved one might need some assistance at home? Here are the top signs we see:

1.  The house is no longer clean and organized like it used to be.

Common household chores can become overwhelming and tiresome. The vacuum becomes heavy and a pain to use for many aging seniors. Sometimes their eyes don’t see the dust and dirt like they used to. Other times your aging parents just don’t have the energy to keep up with the cleaning.

2.  You notice that medications are not being taken as they should. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (27707)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (27707)

They say that one out of every two seniors over 80 has some type of dementia or memory loss. Even without dementia, it can be hard to remember to take your medications day in and day out, especially if someone is not filling pill boxes every week. Days blend with other days and important medications get missed.

3.  The fridge has minimal or spoiled food and the freezer has a lot of frozen foods.

Many times seniors start turning to easily prepared foods and frozen dinners. I remember one family whose parents were surviving mostly on granola bars and popcorn. It was a sad situation for several months before the family found out and hired a personal care agency to help prepare some hot nutritious meals. Preparing, cooking, and cleaning up all take energy and willpower and many seniors begin lacking both over time.

4.  Your aging parents are having a more difficult time getting around the house.

Joints get painful and muscles start atrophying with many seniors as they sit more and move less. Some begin to stumble and fall, which of course can be very dangerous. We always say, “One fall can change it all!” because we’ve seen it so many times. It’s best to remove any fall hazards in the home, especially loose rugs and items that block pathways. Look at getting a cane or walker to help stabilize your parents as they walk and be sure that all ice is cleared from walkways during the winter months.

5.  Your loved one is coming home from the hospital or rehab after a major fall or illness. Lonely-Senior-Developing-Dementia

The saddest scenario is when an elderly parent comes home after dealing with a hospital stay and they are too weak to get around on their own. Both the kitchen and bathrooms can be especially difficult to navigate while trying to recover. There are so many hard surfaces, slick floors, and sharp edges in a bathroom and kitchen, so one fall can easily result in bad bruises and/or broken bones.

Hiring a personal care agency can make all the difference.

Changes to seniors can be hard to notice, especially if you see them every day or so. Family coming in from out of town usually notice certain changes right away, whether it’s a change in cognition or memory loss or just the cleanliness of the home. Asking for extra help blesses your loved one and you. If you are the primary caregiver, it’s important to recognize if you’ve been feeling worn down and overworked as this is a good indication you may need more help as well.

A personal care agency can make all the difference during these sometimes difficult transitions. It’s always better to seek help before the crisis hits. Although that’s easier to say than do, we encourage families to get a little extra help going as soon as possible. Then, when a lot more help is needed, your aging parent will already feel comfortable having more assistance in their home.

Contributed by Gary Staples, Owner of Aspen Senior Care