August 12, 2020
Written by: Dr. Pamela Tronetti, DO
Sponsored by Parrish Healthcare
Mrs. James sat by her husband’s hospital bed as the days turned into weeks. Every day she peppered the staff with questions, pointed out little problems before they became big ones, demanded to know the plan for the next day, and monitored his diet, physical activity and symptoms.
Each time a new team of residents and students came, she gave them a thorough report. She also made sure that everyone knew that her husband was a person first and a set of symptoms second.
She was the watchdog who protected him. She never had to bite or even growl, but she occasionally had to bark. When someone you love is in the hospital, they need someone to be their advocate, spokesperson, and yes, watchdog. Here’s what you need to do.
You will need multiple copies of your loved one’s medical history, surgeries, allergies, and medication list. Give one to every consulting doctor, nurse, or pharmacist who comes in.
Keep a notebook to record who was in and what they said (“Karen the speech therapist says that mom needs a mechanical soft diet.” “Dr. Bo will read the echocardiogram and may do a cardiac catheterization.”)
Bring your own dry erase marker for the room’s whiteboard. You can leave your name, phone number, and notes for the staff such as “Mom is hard of hearing.”
“Fine” is not acceptable. If someone tells you that a blood count, pulse rate or oxygen level is “fine,” get the exact number. You need to track and trend numbers and get printouts of all other tests such as x-rays and cardiac reports. A good option is to access the hospital’s patient portal to see the results of all the testing.
What is your loved one eating? Sometimes when people are admitted they are placed on clear liquid diet and it is never advanced to something more substantial. Check the printout that comes with their meal tray to see what diet is listed. Advocate for as liberal a diet as possible.
On the other hand, if you know that they are scheduled for a test and should be NPO (nothing by mouth) make sure that everyone knows that. The last thing you need is to have an important procedure canceled just because someone mistakenly brought breakfast into the room and your loved one ate it.
And one more hint. Avoid the rush hours when ordering meals. Call in your dinner order before 4 p.m., lunch before 11 a.m. and breakfast the night before if possible.
Get your loved one out of bed. Get your loved one out of bed. Get your loved one out of bed! Unless there is an unstable fracture or critical medical illness, they need to be out of bed and walking as much as possible. If it is too difficult for the nursing staff, ask if there is a lift team who can help the patient get up and move around.
Use your eyes and ears. Check out as much of their skin as they will allow. Note any rash, open sores or discolored areas. Point them out to the rounding physicians. Also report if your loved one was coughing, wheezing, vomiting, constipated, complaining of pain, or if they have any other symptom that worries you.
Know the plan for today, the next day, and the rest of the stay. Get a printout of the orders for the day – labs, procedures, and tests. Then ask what will happen based on the findings. Sometimes it is a watch and wait (if someone is recovering from an acute infection or a stroke), but other times there are definite steps to be taken (three days of recovery after joint replacement surgery then rehab) and you need to be part of them.
Discharge planning is facilitated by the Case Management staff. The case manager is the person who can make arrangements for nursing home, rehab center, and home healthcare. You will want to talk to her early in the stay. You also need to make it clear that you need at least 24 hours to plan for any transfer back home or to a facility.
Remember that you don’t need to have the staff like you. You just need them to do their job while you do yours.
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July 16, 2020
Sponsored by: EasyLiving Fl Home Care & Care Management
Do you dread getting on the phone with your elderly parents? Is every visit filled with complaints? Are you left feeling you can do nothing right? Today, our experts will share common complaints from elderly parents and the underlying emotions. Understanding what’s behind the complaints will reveal solutions. We’ll address seven key complaints. And, we’ll offer ideas, resources, and options.
“You’re always in a rush.”
Other related complaints you might hear include: “I never see the grandkids anymore.” Or, “Why don’t you have time for me?”
This and other complaints may have their roots in loneliness. About half of seniors report feeling lonely on a regular basis. Have your elderly parents cut down on favorite activities? They may be bored and isolated, which leads to them focusing on you.
On the other hand, they might feel rushed during the time you do have together. Maybe rightly so. You likely have a lot of tasks and competing demands. You’re just trying to be helpful and get things done for them. But, it’s easy to become a taskmaster and lose the normal parent-child relationship.
- A senior companion/concierge service can help Mom or Dad continue their favorite activities. Our companions have great success engaging elders and offering them a new lease on life.
- Give yourselves the gift of quality time. Enlist someone to handle certain tasks so you can set aside “us time”. You could hire a care manager to attend doctor’s appointments or organize paperwork, a gardener/lawn service, or a caregiver to do light housekeeping or grocery shopping. There may be community services, friends or family members who can help out too.
- Schedule a regular time together. This might be a weekly dinner or outing. If you live far away, plan to Skype/Facetime once a week to catch up. Put it on your calendar and theirs. Set aside focused time. This may help to cut down on phone calls when you’re distracted by a million things.
- Check out two great books on this topic, with ideas for handling these conversations. How to Say it to Seniors by David Solie and Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders by Mary Pipher
“You never help me.”
Some elderly parents don’t say this directly but have a lot of complaints about things that need to be done. Or, the conversational tone will always be “woe is me” or martyrdom. They might complain about how tired they are or list all their tasks. Other parents pointedly talk about all the marvelous things that their neighbor’s son does for him.
Help for you both
You probably do a lot for them. And, you’re probably stretched thin with all your roles. It’s not a cop-out to hire someone to help. You don’t want your elderly parents hurting themselves doing things they shouldn’t. But, the reality is you can’t do it all either…and still be the son/daughter.
Pick out a few key tasks and bring in some help. Explain your boundaries and ask them to give it a try. Enlist help from a sibling or professional if you get resistance. Alternatively, get them to try it for a project or short-term need. You can’t control how they behave, but you’re in control of your boundaries and how you react. However, because we have a long, often complicated, history with our parents this can be tough. If you’re struggling, consider talking this through with a professional.
“You just want to put me in a home.”
This is often accompanied by complaints about other people’s kids or today’s society. “How awful, they just dump their elderly relatives in a home.” They may tell you horror stories of someone’s facility experiences.
Don’t promise something specific that might not be realistic. For example, don’t say “I will NEVER let you go to a facility.” Instead, reassure them that this isn’t your intention and suggest meeting with a professional to make a plan.
You can actually turn this complaint into an opportunity! Get a geriatric care management assessment to make an “aging in place plan”. The care manager will assess the home for possible safety issues. She will suggest resources. (Check out our aging-in-place checklist for some recommended resources.) The plan will prioritize what needs to be done now along with future planning. Clients and families both find this process hugely reassuring.
“You’re always nagging me. Stop telling me what to do. I’m not your child.”
Every nice chat turns into a fight. You are just trying to tell Mom what she needs to do to stay healthy. A genuine concern about Dad’s safety makes him feel like he is being disrespected. The dynamics of eldercare can be quite complicated. After all, these are your parents, not your children.
It’s all in the approach
Get some advice on how to approach the situation. You might just do a phone consult with a care manager to start. Or, you might want the reassurances of that comprehensive assessment.
Here is a small snippet of one family’s success story getting “unstuck” with the help of a care manager:
Julie (care manager) was especially helpful as we all flew in for a “loving intervention”. If it were not for Julie’s one-on-one time with our mother, and the wise counsel and respect she gave to her, I am convinced we would still be stuck…and sick with worry. Instead, Julie empowered Mom to face the next chapter of her life. She also coached us on how to have a loving intervention…
“I’m completely trapped now that I can’t drive.”
Driving was the main lunchtime topic on a recent visit to my grandfather. He willingly, though reluctantly, gave up driving. His memory is a little muddy as to how that came about at times, but he never forgets the loss. Fortunately, the family made an action plan before even approaching the driving conversation. He has a driver all lined up to help with trips that are not included at his retirement community. He set aside the funds from selling his car to pay for this.
Drive to thrive
If your parent is reliant on you or friends for rides, they will complain. Wouldn’t you? Furthermore, the results may be worse if they don’t complain about it but simply withdraw from activities. A lot of unhappiness and complaining may stem from being lonely and depressed. Make sure to set up a realistic plan so they can thrive without driving. This may include some combination of senior transportation services and a private driver.
Ride services provide a lot of freedom, especially for on-demand rides. Until recently, that required having a smartphone and navigating an app. Not all elderly parents want to (or can) do that. Now, you can request Uber and Lyft from a computer. Or even better, EasyLiving with Lyft Concierge can handle it all for you with just a phone call!
Does Dad constantly talk about what a disappointment your brother is? Or, does Mom pit you against (or compare you to) your siblings? On the other hand, you may find yourself in an ongoing battle with your siblings. Perhaps you are not on the same page regarding what Mom and Dad need. Or, one of you lives nearby and the other far away. The caregiving situation may seem unbalanced.
It may be time to get someone to intervene. A good resource to get started is this article our care management team wrote about dealing with family conflict in eldercare.
“I’m tired of eating TV dinners.”
A lot goes into meal preparation. This can get tough as someone gets older. It’s also difficult cooking for one. Plus, elderly parents’ appetites and nutritional needs often change. And moreover, most people don’t like eating alone. All this adds up to many seniors eating TV dinners or subsisting solely on snacks and sweets.
- Use a grocery delivery service like Shipt to deliver fresh foods. Eliminate the hassle of shopping. The healthier foods in the house, the less likely they’ll turn to canned goods and frozen meals.
- Hire a meal prep caregiver to come in four hours/week. She can do some light housekeeping and prepare healthy meals for the week.
- Plan a Sunday lunch together. Enjoy a weekly meal where you prepare some of Mom or Dad’s favorites. Stash some leftovers for them to eat throughout the week, or provide some extra meals they can reheat. More than the food itself, the focused time together matters (see #1).
- If you live far away or sense your elderly parents hate eating alone, consider hiring someone for both meal prep and companionship. If you already have a caregiver involved, take this into consideration in scheduling. Sometimes we think of tasks Mom needs to be done but forget about this key ingredient. Why not have the caregiver come around lunch or dinner so they can also provide mealtime companionship?
Check out more ideas, including meal delivery services, in our post How To Help Dad with Better Nutrition: Three Delicious Ways.
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June 23, 2020
By Meghan Belnap
If you have plans to get cataract surgery, it’s important that know what to expect. Cataract surgery involves removing the lens of the eye and replacing it, giving the patient clear vision. As you learn more about cataract surgery, make sure your ophthalmologist covers the following details.
When performing cataract surgery, doctors use different techniques used to remove the lens. Up until a few years ago, phacoemulsification was the most popular technique for cataract surgery. This process utilizes an ultrasound device to dissolve or emulsify the cataract. Now, many of today’s ophthalmologists use laser-assisted surgery as their procedure of choice for cataract surgery.
When speaking with your doctor about your upcoming surgery, ask them which technique they recommend. In certain cases, an ophthalmologist won’t choose laser cataract surgery as it may not be compatible with the patient’s anatomy.
Another detail to discuss with your doctor is the type of lens that will be used in the surgery. Multifocal intraocular implants are a popular option. This type of lens implant is designed for high-quality intermediate vision, near vision, and distant vision. Ultimately, ophthalmologists hope to provide their clients with glasses-free vision after their surgery, but this isn’t guaranteed.
After cataract surgery, you may feel ready to resume regular activities. However, your eye doctor may warn you about inflammation and potential infections. Doctors typically prescribe eye drops and pain relievers for recovery after surgery. In addition to these options, some ophthalmologists recommend steroids.
When it comes to cataract surgery, corticoid steroids are a popular choice for controlling ocular inflammation. Many ophthalmologists choose to use steroids as fast-acting anti-inflammatories after surgery. Be sure to speak with your doctor about using ocular steroids as a treatment for cataract surgery. Working with your ophthalmologist, you can choose a steroid that is effective for you.
How to Prepare
As you consider cataract surgery, make sure to ask your ophthalmologist what preparations you should make. Before cataract surgery, doctors recommend that patients make arrangements with their friends or family prior to cataract surgery. As your eyesight will be compromised following surgery, it’s best to have plans for a ride home once the surgery is over.
In addition to getting home from the ophthalmologist, you’ll need to prepare for the recovery period. Experts recommend a 48-hour recovery period to rest your eyes after cataract surgery. In the event that you live alone, now is the time to plan ahead and ask someone to help.
Knowing what to expect before you schedule your cataract surgery will help you make the best decisions for your health. Keep this information in mind as you follow up with your ophthalmologist about cataract surgery.
Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.
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June 3, 2020
By Anica Oaks
If you are reaching your older years or know someone who’s a senior, it’s especially important to know about the risks of stroke. These risks increase as people get older, and learning how to recognize certain signs will make it possible for you to take quicker action that may be lifesaving. Here are four important things for every aging senior to know about stroke.
Certain Factors Increase Stroke Risk
In addition to aging, there are certain factors that could increase a senior’s chances of having a stroke. Being overweight is unhealthy at any age, but seniors should be especially diligent about maintaining a healthy weight to try to avoid a stroke. Smoking and eating high-sodium foods that increase blood pressure can also raise a senior’s risk of having a stroke. Having obstructive sleep apnea, which is sometimes more common in seniors and can interfere with breathing while trying to sleep, can further increase stroke risk.
Severe Disability Can Result
People who suffer from strokes are often left with major disabilities that make managing everyday life more difficult. Experiencing a stroke may affect your ability to walk, talk and eat without assistance. A stroke can also cause cognitive effects such as difficulty remembering or rationalizing certain thoughts or emotions. A locum tenens stroke doctor in your area can work with you or a loved one who’s suffered a stroke to try to lessen some of the debilitating effects.
Mini-strokes Can Happen
Not all strokes cause major symptoms or need medical attention right away. Also known as a transient ischemic attack (ITA), a mini-stroke occurs when blood flow to a certain part of the brain is obstructed for a short period. Even though not all mini-strokes are immediate cause for concern, they could be signs that a major stroke will occur in the future. Some of the most common signs of a mini-stroke include sudden headaches, dizziness and partial weakness or numbness.
Family History Often Plays a Role
If any of your family members had a stroke, there could be a genetic factor that will increase your chances of having one as well. This is often especially true if any family member had a stroke at a younger age. It’s important to research the medical histories of parents, grandparents and any siblings to determine if the problem runs in your family.
One of the best ways to ensure better health as a senior is to learn about the risks of having a stroke. Knowing these risks will help you take the appropriate measures to keep yourself and any other seniors in your life safer.
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May 11, 2020
By Brooke Chaplan
As people get older, they sometimes develop eating problems based on various medical conditions. Certain medicines can cause people to eat more or less than they should. Health problems with lethargy and dementia, for example, might cause seniors to miss meals or not be able to maintain adequate nutrition. Here are some ways you can help older individuals eat better.
Most people enjoy a few favorite foods. For some, it might be creamed spinach, and for others, roast chicken. Give the senior a choice of several favorites, and be sure to include nutritious foods or a healthy option. Check with the person or his or her doctor to find out which foods are recommended for someone in the elder’s condition. Even if a favorite is not that healthy, offer it now and then as part of a balanced meal.
Offer Healthy Snacks
Although some seniors do not always eat healthy meals, they sometimes enjoy nutritious snacks, depending on their general physical and dental health. Fresh fruits and veggies with yogurt dip, walnuts or cashews, cheese or peanut butter with whole wheat crackers, and low-fat ice cream may be enjoyable treats that will help to supplement an eating pattern that is not as nutritious or complete as it should be.
Reorganize Dining Times
Seniors’ eating schedules can occasionally get off kilter due to restless sleep, a medical issue, or bathroom issues. If possible, rearrange their dining plan so they can eat the main meal at lunch, for example, or have dinner a little earlier or later than usual. Adjusting meal times can make it easier for seniors to eat when they’re hungry rather than when food is placed before them.
Consult a Professional
Some seniors develop serious eating problems that can lead to a drastic weight change and may even harm their health. When the situation seems to escalate beyond normal, contact the person’s doctor for advice. You might also consult an expert nutritionist about treatment options for eating disorders for an elderly person. Sometimes it becomes necessary to make minor changes to the person’s habits or schedule, and a professional may be able to offer suggestions that will help.
Good nutrition is important for everyone, and especially for older people whose health may be impacted by serious medical conditions or deteriorating immunity. Try tips like these to support a senior’s need for nutrition or contact a professional who can help.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan
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January 27, 2020
By Anita Ginsburg
Joint pain and stiffness from arthritis can be daily challenges. While conventional treatments work to control inflammation and slow disease progression, there are natural therapies that can play an important role in how you feel.
Joint pain affects people of all ages, but it is most commonly seen in people over 65. While most physicians choose to treat joint pain with over-the-counter medications and alternative therapies, it’s important to find what works best for you. Oral medications can help, but they aren’t the only way to treat joint pain. Below are four ways to minimize your symptoms naturally.
Weight loss is one of easiest and most effective ways to treat some forms of joint pain. Even an extra ten pounds adds undue stress on already tender joints. People suffering from osteoarthritis or other forms chronic pain may see a reduction in symptoms when they lose weight.
The best place to start is with your diet. Identify foods that contribute to weight gain and cut them out of your diet. Simply avoiding soft drinks and foods high in sugar can result in weight loss.
There are a lot of topical preparations to treat joint pain. Ice or heat therapy can help, and some people find that alternating both is helpful. There are also creams that can help. Topical treatments anesthetize the nerve endings in your skin, which can help minimize the ache.
Because CBD fights inflammation, CBD cream for arthritis pain can minimize joint stiffness. With some of CBD’s other benefits, you may also experience an alleviation of feelings of anxiety.
Physical and occupational therapy can also help reduce pain due to arthritis. Although painful in the moment, gentle movement can ease joint pain in the short term. Stillness or avoiding using the affected joints only exacerbates the issue. An occupational or physical therapist can teach gentle range of motion exercises and stretching, which you can do at home as well. Gentle massage can also be effective form of treatment.
Regular exercise does more than keep you slim. It also boosts flexibility and mobility. Even tiny calf pumps and arm circles can help keep your joints pliable. Try performing low-impact aerobic exercise, like walking.
You can also try yoga, which is good for both your body and mind. In yoga, you may also learn mindfulness and how to meditate. Both treatments can help reduce anxiety and the pain that goes along with it.
Living with chronic pain can take over your life. And while it’s easy to fall into thinking that you’ll never be pain free, that’s simply not true. There are things that can minimize joint pain and help you get back to living. Positivity thinking can do things modern medicine can’t.
Bio: Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University, and now writes articles about health, business, family and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family whenever she isn’t writing. You can follow her on Twitter @anitaginsburg.
November 29, 2019
By Lizzie Weakley
As you get older, your metabolism slows down and your circulation decreases. Common aging-related diseases like diabetes and hypothyroidism can also decrease your cold tolerance. This means that seniors are especially vulnerable to winter dangers like hypothermia, frostbite and pneumonia. Read on to learn how you can stay warm and safe during the coldest months of the year.
Dress in Layers
Bundling up in layers is a great way to stay warm in any temperature because you easily remove outer layers indoors or if the weather changes. Try a long-sleeved shirt under a cardigan with a jacket on top or a hooded sweatshirt with a cotton tee underneath. Accessories like scarves and gloves add extra warmth.
Drink Hot Beverages
A mug of hot cocoa, a cup of hot tea or some java from the corner coffee shop can warm you up from the inside. Holding the hot container can also keep your hands warm. If drinks aren’t your thing, try a steaming bowl of soup or a hot slice of apple pie.
Adjust the Thermostat
Turning the heat up is an obvious way to keep warm, but high heating bills and malfunctioning HVAC systems can be an obstacle for many seniors. If you or someone you love can’t afford to stay warm, look into special programs that help seniors cover energy bills in the winter or pay for heating repair services.
Reverse Ceiling Fans
Your ceiling fan provides a nice cooling breeze in the summer, but did you know that it can also help you stay warm in the winter? Reversing the blades on your fans pushes warm air down into the room to keep you cozy instead of wasting it at ceiling-level. Most new fans have a small switch you can flip to change their direction.
Take Warm Baths
There’s nothing like a warm bath to take off the chill, but remember to be safe in the tub. Install grab bars to help you get in and out, use non-slip bathmats and a bath chair if needed. Check the temperature of your bath with a thermometer to prevent burns. Water that seems fine to the touch may be too hot for soaking. You can get help from a loved one or an assistant if you have trouble getting in the bath.
Although it’s normal to need the thermostat turned up as you grow older, being cold constantly even when the temperature is very warm can be a sign of something serious. If you suddenly get cold more easily than usual or find it difficult to keep warm, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
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November 8, 2019
By Lizzie Weakley
As we get older, our bodies may begin to require more care and might function less efficiently than when we were younger. After decades of wear and tear, our joints, muscles, and bones begin to ache from years of service. In addition, the older we get, the risk for a chronic illness increases, which may cause chronic pain or discomfort. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with this problem that are both practical and affordable. Check with your doctor before trying any of these tips.
Depending on your age and overall health, your doctor may give you approval for starting an exercise program. This can be done at home by watching an exercise program for persons whose circumstances, like age and health, are similar to yours. Alternately, the doctor may suggest joining a local YMCA or recreation center exercise class that meets at least weekly. Exercise can help to strengthen bones while making joints and muscles more limber. Systematic exercise also may stimulate the production of your body’s endorphins, which can ease pain and help you feel better. The immune system may also benefit and contribute to the reduction of inflammation.
Avoid inflammatory foods like sugar, and for some, white flour or gluten, may ease physical discomfort. Weight reduction for obese persons can take extra pounds off of the body frame, also reducing physical discomfort. Certain foods or a specific eating plan may be suggested by your doctor or a nutrition specialist to ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs to function efficiently, which may in turn lessen physical pain.
If you are a busy person with chronic pain, it may be a good idea to spend some time each day relaxing and escape stress temporarily. Taking a short nap or enjoying nature in the back yard or at the park provides a break from your daily routine, which also have a positive effect on chronic pain levels.
Medical Pain Management
Your GP may provide a referral to pain management doctors who can treat your discomfort from a medical perspective. With many treatment options to choose from, there is a good chance they can find ways to make you feel more comfortable. Pain management experts have the skills and knowledge needed to assist with chronic pain issues.
There is no need to suffer pain in silence. Try tips like these to get your pain under control so you can enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle.
Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and walks in the park with her three-year-old husky, Snowball.
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October 25, 2019
By Anita Ginsburg
Unfortunately, our bodies tend to become weaker, frailer and less agile as time goes on. As a result, we become slower and our reflexes aren’t as sharp. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be this way. There are plenty of ways to keep your body in top form. Granted, this isn’t something that will magically happen nor will it happen overnight. Keep reading for tips on maintaining mobility as you age.
Eat a Nutritional Diet
Having a nutritional, well-balanced diet is one of the best ways to maintain mobility. In fact, one of the most common reasons why our bodies deteriorate is because of a poor diet. Constantly eating things that are high in fat, sugar and preservatives is not healthy, especially for older people.
In fact, we can start to lose muscle mass as early as the age of 30. Make sure to incorporate a lot of fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts into your diet every day. A good way to stay on track is to fill your plate with at least 70 percent fruits and veggies and 30 percent protein.
Manage Your Weight
Eating a healthy diet is beneficial, however, it won’t mean much if you’re overweight. Being overweight not only makes moving harder, it’s also really detrimental to your health. Being overweight is proven to cause health problems such as diabetes, which requires an ongoing medical supply of insulin. As such, it is important that you do everything in your power to maintain a healthy weight.
Exercising is one of the best ways to maintain your mobility while keeping your body healthy. Exercise is also good for our joints. Our joints become more vulnerable to injuries and damage due to the lack of synovial fluid and the cartilage becoming thinner. If you need equipment to help you stay on your feet longer for walks or errands, visit a local medical supply. While it’s important to move around as much as you can, don’t push your body past its limits by ignoring mobility tools available to you.
It is essential that everyone consumes the necessary amount of vitamins every day. However, everyone is different and may not be able to consume certain foods or drinks to do so. This is where vitamins come in. You can get vitamins through your local pharmacy or have them prescribed by your doctor. Vitamins are especially essential for people who have certain deficiencies.
Lacking the proper mobility can affect more than our physical health. It also affects our well-being. We might start to lose interest in hobbies, become depressed and we even start to isolate ourselves. Maintaining your mobility will certainly help prevent any of the above-mentioned issues from happening. Make an effort every day to follow these tips and you just might feel like you’re a teen again.
Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University, and now writes articles about health, business, family and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family whenever she isn’t writing. You can follow her on Twitter @anitaginsburg.
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October 16, 2019
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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the Winter Blues, affects millions of people every year. A form of depression that occurs at the same time every year, with symptoms diminishing when Spring weather arrives, the likelihood of a SAD diagnosis increases as we age — and seniors who are housebound are especially at risk.
One of the most frustrating aspects of SAD is that it often mimics the symptoms of other illnesses. Seniors exhibiting symptoms of the Winter Blues have been diagnosed with everything from thyroid problems to mononucleosis, often because they don’t make the connection between their symptoms appearing every year and improving with the weather, and because the disruption to their sleep cycles, mood, and behavior is so extreme. For that reason, it’s important for seniors and their caregivers to understand the symptoms of SAD, so they can help ensure a correct diagnosis and the right treatment.
Understanding The Winter Blues
For many people, just the thought of Winter is enough to bring them down. The idea of being stuck inside, with short days, freezing temperatures, and mountains of snow and ice outside, isn’t always appealing. Winter weather can disrupt your usual routine, preventing you from visiting with friends or taking your daily stroll, which can lead to sadness.
It’s not just the disappointment and boredom that can come with Winter weather that causes, SAD, though. Although researchers aren’t certain of the exact cause, it’s believed that the disorder is due to changes in the amount of natural light exposure during the Winter season. The shorter days and longer nights, and in northern climates, the changes in the angle of sunlight, are disruptive to natural circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle. This disruption disrupts the body’s production of serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood. Without enough natural sunlight each day, serotonin levels fall, causing symptoms of depression — and significant changes to the sleep cycle.
SAD and Sleep
Although SAD causes many of the classic symptoms of depression — withdrawal, changes in appetite, changes in mood, loss of interest in activities — but changes to sleep patterns are some of the most common. The Winter Blues can cause increases in sleep for seniors, especially during the day, but it can also contribute to insomnia.
Many of these sleep changes are attributable to the changes in ambient light during the day. The human body is naturally attuned to the cycle of day and night. When that cycle changes, and there is more darkness than light or vice versa, the sleep-wake cycle is disrupted. This is only exacerbated by the natural tendency for circadian rhythms to chance as we get older. In general, as we age, we become sleepier earlier in the day, and wake up earlier in the day. But when the sun starts going down at 3 p.m., as it does in some northern climates, that could mean a very early bedtime for some people.
One of the most interesting aspects of the effect of SAD and sleep is the fact that many people report symptoms of insomnia during the Winter, when in fact, they don’t have insomnia at all. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that people with SAD often report that they have insomnia, when they are in fact getting just as much sleep as usual. The difference? They typically spend more time in bed, because the seasonal changes cause them to spend up to four hours a day more resting than usual. The perception is that this extra time resting is insomnia — or sleeping to excess — when in fact they’re getting the same amount of actual sleep as usual.
Still, the fact that the Winter Blues can have such an effect on sleep patterns is cause for concern. There are things you can do, though, to support better sleep during the Winter, and reduce the effect of SAD.
Supporting Healthy Sleep
Encouraging healthy sleep for any age during the Winter months is important for maintaining overall well-being, but it’s especially important for older adults. It’s possible to reduce the symptoms of SAD and improve sleep with a few changes to the daily routine.
- Consider investing in a “happy light.” Using a special, full-spectrum lamp for a short time every day can help regulate the circadian rhythms and improve mood.
- Start the day with some exercise. Exercising each day is a key part of healthy sleep. Take a short walk outdoors in the morning if possible, or do a simple indoor workout during bad weather.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Create a sleeping area that’s conducive to sleep: Dark, cool, and comfortable. Establish a bedtime routine to encourage sleep; for instance, go to bed at the same time every night, take a warm bath, read, or use specific lotions to indicate it’s time for bed.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Avoid long afternoon naps. If you need to rest, only sleep for 20-30 minutes.
- Talk with your doctor. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or trouble sleeping, your doctor can help by recommending lifestyle changes, further testing to rule out other issues, or prescribing medication.
The good news about the Winter Blues is that they are temporary, and when Spring comes, the symptoms will disappear. There’s no need to suffer in the meantime though. Understanding what’s happening and taking steps to get plenty of sleep can help alleviate the effects and keep you healthy all season long.
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