Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers
Did you know that what you eat can have a significant impact on your brain health (including your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia)? In fact, groundbreaking research released in 2017 revealed conclusive links between diet and Alzheimer’s disease.
“There is also growing evidence that our gut health is directly linked to brain health,” says Liz Weiss, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of multiple family-oriented nutrition books. “Our microbiome depends on a diet rich in fiber…so it's important to choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.”
As important as it is to consume foods that can improve brain health, it’s equally crucial to avoid those that have been shown to damage the brain. Here are the top six foods to avoid for better brain health.
1. Sugary drinks
You can enjoy the occasional soft drink without any negative health consequences, right? Unfortunately, that’s a common misconception. A 2017 Boston University study demonstrates a relationship between brain shrinkage and memory loss in the brain and drinking sugary beverages (including sodas and fruit juices). According to the study’s findings, brain volume is negatively affected by sugary drinks.
“A diet with high amounts of sugar has been linked to brain inflammation and mental health disorders, so limit the amount of sugar you consume for healthy brain function,” advises Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety investigator with ConsumerSafety.org. “By limiting your sugar intake, you will also be able to control your body’s blood glucose levels better, which will boost your brain’s memory functions and reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.”
Healthier options: water, seltzer, pure fruit juice, hot or iced tea
2. Diet soda
Many people think they can remove the risk of health consequences if they swap sugar-sweetened beverages for diet versions. But turns out that these artificially sweetened options also have a negative impact on brain health.
“Artificial sweeteners like aspartame used in sugar-free food items may not be as great a substitute as the claims make it out to be,” says Hoff. “A study done in 2014 found that their test subjects were more likely to experience depression and struggled through cognitive tests while consuming a high-aspartame diet."
And according to the aforementioned Boston University study, those who drink a single can of diet soda per day are potentially tripling their chances of developing both dementia and stroke. Doctors suggest avoiding diet drinks altogether for the sake of your brain health.
Healthier options: water, seltzer, pure fruit juice, hot or iced tea
3. Refined grains and carbs
Whether or not you give any credence to modern gluten-free diet trends, it’s important to be aware of the research on refined grains and carbs (think white bread, white rice) and brain health.
According to neurologist David Perlmutter, president of the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, FL, grains can be linked to a number of modern ailments, from chronic headaches to dementia. Perlmutter theorizes that human genes evolved over millennia to consume diets high in fat and low in carbs. However, the modern American diet is much higher in carbs than fats.
A Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease seems to support Perlmutter’s theory. It shows that people aged 70 and older who consume diets high in carbohydrates are nearly four times more likely to develop cognitive impairment than those whose diet is relatively higher in protein and fat.
Healthier options: whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, oats
4. Saturated fats
Saturated fat is an unhealthy type of fat that contains a high amount of fatty acid molecules without double bonds between carbon molecules. While foods loaded with saturated fats often taste good, they’re not so good for your brain. According to a review published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, there are several lines of evidence supporting a correlation between dementia risk and dietary fatty acid composition.
You may be dismayed to learn two of the biggest sources of saturated fat in the typical U.S. diet: cheese and pizza, according to the National Cancer Institute. Becky Kerkenbush, a clinical dietitian and member of the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, also advises avoiding or limiting butter, margarine, fried food, fast food and pastries, all of which tend to be high in saturated fat and trans fats.
Plus, saturated fats “are harmful for your arteries, so that can accelerate or make dementia worse as you're tying to improve blood flow to the brain to deliver nutrients to the organ,” notes registered dietitian Julie Upton, co-author of “Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Food and Nutrition Guide to Fuel Your Active Life.”
Healthier options: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, salmon, tuna and eggs or other healthy fats such as olive oil or avocado
5. Red meat
Americans are reportedly eating more red meat than ever before, and it may be doing more harm than good. While you chew on a tender piece of beef or pork, it could be slowly chewing away at your brain health. Red meat is rich in iron and can raise iron levels in the brain.
According to research from the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, elevated iron levels in the brain can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses related to aging.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, MRI scans show an iron buildup in the hippocampus (the brain region that is damaged first over the course of the disease). During late-stage Alzheimer’s, MRI scans show a buildup of iron in the thalamus as well. Scientists have found an association between increased iron levels in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and brain tissue damage.
Healthier options: Fish, chicken, tofu
6. Alcohol (in excess)
An important new study shows that excessive alcohol use is a risk factor for the onset of dementia. It’s also been linked to early-onset dementia, which occurs before age 65.
“Too much alcohol as an adult exacerbates and accelerates dementia,” says Upton.
To highlight how damaging alcohol abuse can be, consider the fact that the life expectancy of individuals with alcohol use disorders is shortened, by more than 20 years on average. And among those who die from alcohol-related disorders, dementia is a leading cause of death.
Healthier options: water, seltzer, pure fruit juice, hot or iced tea
Sunday, March 4th, 2018 by Katherine OBrien
Like many Americans, you may believe that eating disorders (EDs) are the exclusive territory of teenage girls and twentysomethings. But in fact, research shows that older women are just as preoccupied with food and weight as their younger counterparts.
A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders shows that 3.5 percent of women 50 and over report binge eating and nearly eight percent report purging. The research also revealed that about 70 percent of midlife women are trying to lose weight and 62 percent believe their weight or shape negatively affect their lives.
“One of the features of an eating disorder is that thinking around food and exercise becomes distorted,” says Melissa O’Neill, director of program development at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center in the Chicago area. Other common hallmarks of women with EDs are depression, low self-esteem and perfectionism.
“People who are feeling depressed and bad about themselves often externalize that to their appearance, and then become hyper-focused on losing weight,” says eating disorder specialist Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross, author of "The Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating Workbook."
Two key players: diet and hormones
Although some men struggle with binge eating disorder or bulimia, women are much more likely to suffer from an ED ( 10 million females versus 1 million males
in the U.S.) partly because women feel societal pressure to be thin.
Ross, who has treated women as old as their late 60s, sees diets as one of the biggest culprits. “People go on a diet to lose 15 to 20 pounds and then can’t stop themselves,” she says. Women who are genetically predisposed towards an eating disorder “see this newfound change in their appearance as a way to boost their mood and to help them deal with some of the other things that are going on.”
Menopause can be another factor in the development of an ED. Evidence suggests that the fluctuations in estrogen that occur during this time may make women vulnerable to a new eating disorder or the re-emergence of an old one.
“The physiological and psychological changes that happen during menopause seem to echo changes at puberty,” another high-risk time for an eating disorder to emerge, the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Cynthia Bulik told AARP.
The role of loss and trauma
Midlife EDs are often triggered by stressful life events such as divorce, the death of a spouse or the empty nest syndrome. Unresolved traumas such as previous sexual abuse or rape, sometimes triggered by a loss, are often a “huge underlying cause” for an eating disorder, says Ross.
According to O’Neill, a loss of human connection can “drive someone who was engaging into a little bit of disordered eating behavior” to lose control around eating. “In a perfect storm, an individual whose brain is predisposed to run with a maladaptive coping mechanism can become pretty compulsive pretty quickly.”
Women who are recovering from alcoholism may also be vulnerable to disordered eating. When alcoholics stop drinking they significantly reduce the amount of sugar they were consuming via alcohol, points out O’Neill. “What may begin as a craving for sweets can turn into a binge eating disorder or binging-purging cycle,” she says.
Recovering alcoholics or drug addicts are also susceptible to “whack-a-mole behavior”-- after achieving recovery from one substance, “up pops an eating disorder,” she says. “Very often they have struggled all their life to regulate emotions and they have taken to really fast methods… like drinking or drugs or eating disorders or self-harm.” If the treatment strategy does not deal with what lies underneath the ED, “it will just evolve into another behavior,” she says.
Greater health risks
The health effects of eating disorders in older women are more pronounced than in younger women. According to a 2015 study
, while women of all ages experience the same types of medical complications from eating disorders, “the risk of death for cardiovascular, metabolic, gastric and bone disorders is considerably higher” in older women.
Two-thirds of binge eaters are obese, putting them at risk for obesity-related illnesses like diabetes, high cholesterol and heart attacks. If they have concurrent disorders like high blood pressure, they’re at even greater risk for heart problems, says Ross. The other one-third of binge eaters, who are not overweight, are still vulnerable to digestive problems and, occasionally, gastric rupture.
As for bulimics, the recurrent binge-and-purge cycles that mark their disease may damage teeth and affect the entire digestive system. Electrolyte and chemical imbalances can produce heart complications, especially purging is combined with if over-exercising, says Ross.
Anorexia is another serious ED, though not as common in older women as binge eating or bulimia. “We typically don’t see older women who are experiencing anorexia because it is such a deadly mental illness that often it takes the life of an individual or they achieve recovery-- one or the other--at an earlier age,” says O’Neill.
Even though eating disorders can damage a woman’s health and lead to isolation, shame and depression, most people do not view binging on donuts with the same seriousness as, say, a crack addiction. As O’Neill points out, “Eating disorders have a powerful way of insuring their own survival by convincing everyone that it’s not a problem.”
Signs of a distorted relationship with food
One of the defining features of eating disorders is that they are often hidden. It’s not uncommon for women to stuff themselves with chocolate, ice cream and chips alone in their bedroom, only to eat chicken salad in front of friends and family. Still, despite the secretive nature of the disease, you can sometimes pick up on clues, such as the following, that suggest a problem.
- A sudden change in weight
- Compulsive exercising
- Refusal of dinner invitations
- Repeated diets, especially if they are at a normal weight
- Extreme preoccupation with food and/or body image
- Extreme mood changes
- Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
- Stashes of junk food
If you’ve observed any of the above signs in an older woman you love, mention it to them in a non-judgmental way, advises O’Neill. “Just be curious with them and compassionate and supportive.” (Note: A decrease in appetite could be a side effect of a medication or a sign of depression or dental problems, all serious issues themselves, which should be checked out by a health professional.)
Getting help with an eating disorder
To break free from an ED, women can explore several avenues, says Ross, who encourages women to seek help from an experienced team of experts (e.g, a dietitian, eating disorders specialist and therapist). Although talking to a primary care doctor can be an appropriate first step, Ross cautions that some primary care doctors “encourage women to lose weight, and then they get on that diet treadmill and can’t get off.”
Ross also notes that certain medications, such as Vynase, are also used to help treat women with eating disorders. “It won’t make people lose 100 pounds … but it helps give people a little freedom from binging,” she says.
Outpatient eating disorder programs can often be found at hospitals. Another alternative: residential treatment centers, where patients participate in a variety of therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, nutritional counseling, and peer support.
“Peer support groups with people who are active in recovery are a wonderful resource,” says O’Neill. They reduce “the shame of eating disorder behaviors, especially the binging behaviors, that we really are silent about.”
Katherine O'Brien is a freelance content writer and editor specializing in seniors’ health, senior care and aging. She’s covered a wide range of topics including dementia, seniors’ nutrition, advance care planning and emotional wellness. More of Katherine's writing can be found here.
Friday, March 2nd, 2018 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers
The SeniorHomes.com Student Caregiver Scholarship award two university students in the U.S. a $1,000 grant for tuition and/or books, based on each applicant’s essay or video story submission. After reviewing nearly 100 applications from students throughout the nation, our judges deemed the following two students most worthy of this year’s prize.
Jeremy Coleman | Colorado State University
We asked applicants to tell us about the trends or services they believe will become increasingly important for seniors who want to age in place, and how their degree will help seniors age with dignity. This was Jeremy’s winning response.
What do you think about when you hear "the other family doctor?" Your optometrist? No. Your pediatrician? No. Maybe your gynecologist? No. Your veterinarian is the other family doctor.
More than half of Americans own a pet, whether it be a fish, dog, cat or iguana, and pets provide a wide range of services for humans. Personally, I have a pet rabbit which is my emotional support animal, or ESA. And there are numerous other services that animals can provide including being a companion pet, a therapy animal, a working animal and a service animal.
Seniors living in their own homes want to be able to continue to have as much freedom as possible. Enter pets and veterinarians. With my studies in the veterinary field, I have seen a wide range of things that animals can do and the results are awe-inspiring. With my degree, I hope to improve the lives of seniors living at home by providing them with pets of their own.
For instance, animals can be trained to help seniors get groceries at the store, walk on the sidewalk and even be able to know when the individual needs help to get off of the couch. Instead of having another person follow you around the store or gym, let a dog follow you around. Service animals are commonly seen on college campuses for students who need them.
Another way animals can help seniors at home is solely as companion animals that the senior can interact with on a daily basis. For me, my pet rabbit has been a saving grace because on days when I don’t want to get out bed or just want to sleep in and ignore my duties as a student, he’s a constant reminder that I have to resume my day-to-day activities because he is relying on me to eat, drink water and get exercise.
The experience of having a companion animal is immeasurable because of the unconditional loyalty and joy it can bring to any room. Having pets in senior care homes can also be helpful in reassuring the residents that they, too, can support another living thing. Having a pet can help encourage older adults to be more active and get outside more often.
With my degree, I can help support the lives of seniors in their own communities by providing them with a pet they can call their own and that could help them get through each day smiling and more revitalized. The impact animals have on people cannot be simply stated. In my town of Fort Collins, everyone you meet has a pet, and this speaks volumes.
This scholarship will be helpful to me because I’ll be able to continue my education toward helping everyone live a healthier life with the aid of pets and animals.
Kayla Sherrodd | University of Wyoming
We asked applicants to tell us about the trends or services they believe will become increasingly important for seniors who want to age in place, and how their degree will help seniors age with dignity. This was Kayla’s winning response.
Home is a safe place. Whether you live in a bustling city or a wide-open space in the country, home brings a sense of security and comfort. The thought of migrating from a well-known home to an assisted living facility may be daunting, which is why the use of services for those to age in place grows increasingly important.
The decision to grow old in your own home should be met with welfare and dignity, and services such as fall-proof assessments and remote monitoring make aging in place achievable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are a major hazard for the elderly.
In my experience as a certified nursing assistant, many fall risks could be prevented through fall assessments or devices to reduce falls. Home health certified nursing assistants or nurses can receive training to do fall-proof assessments in an individual’s home. These assessments can vary from checking carpet thickness and sturdiness and the appropriate placement of grab bars, such as in bathtubs and showers. These adaptations can be applied to make an environment free of fall risks, encompassing a genuinely safe home.
Health not only depends on the safety of a home but also the well being of the individual. Through the advancement of technology, prior tasks requiring doctors to be present can be achieved in a home environment through remote monitoring.
Remote monitoring includes the use of monitors to transmit data to doctors about the patient’s overall health. This may include scales that transmit an individual’s weight immediately to a doctor or monitors that track when a person is eating, or when they open and close a refrigerator.
Other monitors include those that measure the weight of medications and those that emit a beep alerting someone to take their medications. The use of new technology can help keep seniors in their homes for an extended amount of time. It’s an upgraded home, but it is still home.
A passion for caring for others is something I’ve embodied ever since my first day working at a nursing home. I witnessed the emotional hardship many residents experienced being out of their homes, and I would do my best to make them feel as comfortable as possible.
Currently, I’m a sophomore in nursing school and have been working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) for about two years. I find it an honor to be a part of someone’s life as they grow older and want to continue helping others through geriatric nursing.
Showing respect and maintaining dignity are important things I’ve learned throughout CNA training and nursing school and is something that can establish trust between patients and their care providers. This involves giving a patient privacy, including them in decision making and treating them as an individual.
Nursing is a career that can significantly impact the lives of others, and I hope I can make many homes safer and people more comfortable when they’re away from home.
These responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Thursday, March 1st, 2018 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers
As caregivers, we work to ensure the safety and happiness of the loved ones we support. We try our best to protect them from potential harm. However, often when we think of cancer, we think of a disease that’s completely out of our control.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in people over 65, second only to heart disease. The power of this one word can change a life completely - bringing anxiety, burden and heartache to all those it touches. However, most cancer diagnoses are actually preventable, according to the World Health Organization.
Throughout the month of February, survivors, patients, advocates and caregivers have been supporting National Cancer Prevention Month. Each year, this month is dedicated to highlighting lifestyle adjustments which can help safeguard health and lower cancer risk.
Lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, alcohol and tobacco use are often discussed as cancer-causing - but what about lesser known environmental factors? Some of the materials we surround ourselves with every day have been shown to increase cancer risk.
These materials are considered carcinogens and can be just as dangerous as a pack of cigarettes. If you see a substance labeled “known cancer risk factor” or “known carcinogen,” it means that researchers have found that material hazardous because it increases the risk of cancer.
Looking out for carcinogens may seem like a daunting task - but starting out small can help ease the anxiety while mitigating risks and improving overall health.
So, Where Is The Risk?
We often assume that our home would be safe from hazards. However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the health of a home greatly impacts those living in the space.
Unfortunately, many people are still unaware of the direct link between their housing and their health. Common household hazards which increase your risk of developing diseases like cancer include the following.
The health of the home often begins at its core, with the materials used to create the structural elements. Although the U.S. government has created tighter regulations in the last few decades surrounding the use of both formaldehyde and asbestos, these carcinogencic materials can still be found in homes today.
Asbestos is a toxic fiber that was most often used as insulation in the construction of residential and commercial buildings between the 1940s and 1980s due to its affordability and resistance to heat, fire and electricity. But when the material is disturbed and its particles release into the air, asbestos becomes incredibly hazardous. When inhaled, the fibers can embed into the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen, mesothelioma cancer can develop.
Formaldehyde is also found in the home - the chemical is highly flammable, produced both industrially and naturally and often found in building materials and household products. Potential sources of formaldehyde in the home include pressed-wood products, tobacco smoke, gas stoves, wood-burning stoves and kerosene heaters.
This chemical is also be present in some cosmetics as well as beauty products such as lotions, shampoos and conditioners, although the levels found in these products are typically not considered to be hazardous. Inhaling formaldehyde gas can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Research suggests that high levels of formaldehyde exposure may cause cancer.
In addition to the materials used to build your home, there is risk in where
your home was built. Certain regions in the United States have higher levels of radon, a radioactive gas released through the natural decay of rocks in the soil. Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. Exposure to radon is responsible for roughly 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year, according to the EPA
Radon is invisible, tasteless and odorless and can travel from the ground into your home through cracks in the walls and foundation. Since the chemical is emitted from the soil, levels are usually highest in the basement or the lowest floors of the home.
Once inside your home, radon gas accumulates. According to the EPA, one in 15 homes in the U.S. has radon levels at or above the EPA's recommended safety level. Testing your home is the only way to determine if you have elevated radon levels.
Plastics in Bottles and Food Containers
The health risks associated with Bisphenol A, or BPA, came to light in 2008 when reports of its toxicity started to make headlines. Some 10 years later, we’ve learned that this industrial chemical used for over 40 years to harden plastics is indeed harmful to the human body.
Studies show that BPA exposure is prevalent in the U.S., with detectable levels of BPA present in 93 percent of tested urine samples. Elevated rates of exposure to this chemical have been linked to the development of breast and prostate cancer.
Most exposure to BPA comes from eating food or drinking water stored in BPA containers - anything labeled as a number 7 or 3 plastic may contain the chemical. You can reduce exposure to BPA by not microwaving food in plastic containers, ensuring that the plastic used is not marked with recycle codes 3 or 7, reducing the use of canned foods, and opting for glass or stainless steel food containers whenever possible.
Lowering Risks to Safeguard Your Health
Although there’s still a lot we don’t yet know about cancer, limiting exposure to known cancer-causing toxins, can help you protect yourself and your loved ones from the cancers that we know most about.
Through education and lifestyle adjustments, the chance of a painful battle with cancer may be reduced. In light of National Cancer Prevention Month, take a moment to investigate the health of your home to help ensure the health of those you love.
Monday, February 12th, 2018 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers
As an older adult, you know just how important it is to stay healthy as a way to lower the risk of illness. This is especially true when it comes to heart health. Cardiovascular issues are extremely common. In fact, one in every three deaths in the United States is due to heart disease. That means cardiovascular issues cause more deaths than all types of cancer combined. While there isn't a way to completely prevent heart disease, there are a number of things you can do to drastically reduce your risk factors.
Making smart lifestyle choices can help you keep your heart healthy and reduce the risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
“Most people know what it takes for a healthy heart, but they are often filled with excuses of why they don’t take steps to make it happen,” says Coach Sarah Walls, personal trainer and owner of SAPT Strength & Performance Training, Inc., who is also the strength and conditioning coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. “Taking care of our heart health should be a top priority for everyone.”
Understanding the most common risk factors for heart disease can enable you to take action to make healthier choices. What follows are eight key ways to improve your heart health.
1. See a Doctor Regularly
One of the most effective ways to reduce your risk for heart disease is to attend regular physical checkups with your doctor. As you get older, these appointments should include tests for cholesterol, blood pressure and other potential risk factors.
Diabetes can also increase the risk of heart disease, and statistics show that about one-third of American adults are pre-diabetic. Regular medical care can help manage diabetes, reducing the possibility of heart disease.
2. Get regular exercise
While eating a nutritious diet can help you avoid obesity and the associated cardiovascular risks, it's also important to make sure that you’re getting regular exercise. Physical activity can improve your heart health, lower your resting heart rate, and help you maintain a healthy weight.
For overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least a half hour of moderate aerobic exercise five days a week, or a half hour of vigorous cardio activity three days a week. This aerobic activity should be combined with muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week.
3. Manage stress
While there’s not a clear, direct link between stress and heart disease, research has shown that stress can affect a number of behaviors and elements that raise your risk, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and smoking, according to the American Heart Association
Luckily, using stress reduction techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi or meditation can help calm you and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that raises the risk of heart attack, says Walls.
4. Ditch tobacco
Smoking tobacco is one of the most prevalent risk factors for heart disease. There are numerous studies linking tobacco smoke (including secondhand smoke) with cardiovascular disease and cancer. If you’re a smoker, one of the best things you can do for your heart health is to quit right away. Many have found success using aids such as nicotine gum or patches.
5. Eat healthfully
Your diet contributes heavily to your overall health and your risk of heart disease. Choosing healthy foods
and consuming the right amount of calories daily can help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your heart in good condition. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Some plant-based substances can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Additionally, filling up on produce can help you avoid eating too many high-fat foods.
Choosing whole grains over refined options is also important. Whole grains provide fiber and other nutrients, and they can help you maintain a healthy blood pressure. Cutting back on sugar and unhealthy fats in your diet can also help strengthen your heart and lower your risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, and other health issues.
6. Don't Neglect Your Oral Health
“There is a strong link between gum disease and heart disease,” says Dr. Harold Katz, founder of oral care company Therabreath
. “Periodontal disease is a form of inflammation (albeit in the mouth). The first step in this inflammation is known as gingivitis and the most obvious sign is bleeding gums (pink in the sink).”
These open wounds in the mouth allow toxins to enter and travel to other parts of the body, including the heart valves, Katz explains.
If you have sensitive, bleeding, or inflamed gums, it's wise to seek treatment from a dentist. Lowering the risk of periodontal infection can improve your overall health and potentially reduce your risk of heart problems.
7. Understand your genetic history
Many cardiovascular risk factors have to do with genetics. People whose parents have had heart attacks or strokes usually have a higher risk of these issues. Additionally, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can also be affected by genetic factors.
While you can't do anything to change your family's medical history, understanding it can help you make the best decisions for your own health. If you have family members with heart disease, make sure to discuss this with your doctor. He or she may make different recommendations for heart-healthy lifestyle choices and the frequency of cholesterol, blood pressure, and cardiovascular tests.
8. Watch for signs and symptoms
While you may be familiar with the common symptoms of a heart attack, there are other signs
that can indicate possible cardiovascular disease. Shortness of breath, sleep apnea, heartburn, chest or shoulder aches can all be potential indicators of heart problems.
Fatigue is another possible symptom, and it’s particularly common for women who have heart problems. You should discuss symptoms like these with your doctor, especially if they appear suddenly or increase in frequency.
Heart disease is, unfortunately, a common issue for adults. However, there are several things you can do to significantly reduce your risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular issues. Maintaining a nutritious diet, exercising, seeing a doctor and dentist regularly, and avoiding tobacco can improve your overall health and reduce your chances of heart disease.
Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 by Tammy Worth
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you’re looking for a way to show your appreciation for an older special someone, parent or friend this holiday, there are plenty of gift options out there. We’ve compiled a Valentine’s Day gift guide with everything from small trinkets to exciting adventures for your senior loved ones.
Pretty little things
Valentine’s Day is a good time for gestures both small and large. If you prefer to show your love with a sweet, simple yet meaningful gift, there are a wide variety of options on sites like Natural Life. Their wide selection of charming, bohemian-inspired trinkets include small glass trays, bracelets, mugs, keychains, bandeaus, prayer boxes and small succulents.
Cost: $3 and up
To order: Natural Life
Scoops of sweetness
If ice cream is your loved one’s weakness, then they might enjoy a gift from Nebraska-based Ecreamery. The shop’s 16 flavors of ice cream, sorbet and gelato are available to order online and include Valentine-themed pints with flavors such as red velvet cheesecake and amaretto cherry with almonds and chocolate chunks.
Cost: Starts at $7.99
To order: ecreamery
A get-well box
If someone you love is hospitalized or at home recovering from an illness, this is a great time to let them know you’re thinking of them. One way you can do that is by sending a care package like the “Feel Better Box” available at thehospitalbox.com. The care package comes with stickers for decorating and three bags labeled for opening whenever your loved one needs a hug. There’s also space in the box to add personal touches like photos, books or their favorite treats.
To order: The Feel Better Box
A cookbook for two
Most cookbooks offer recipes for a family, and are meant to serve four or more. But many people in their 50s and beyond either live alone or with just one other person. If they enjoy cooking but aren’t keen on leftovers, consider gifting them a cookbook that caters to smaller households.
"The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook" from America’s Test Kitchen provides cooking tips and foolproof recipes of all kinds including soups and desserts made for two.
To order: Amazon.com
There are lots of ways to memorialize time spent with loved ones, and hand-written notes are always appreciated. The company greetingStory offers a box full of cards labeled with questions like, “What do you admire about your grandparents?” and “What are your favorite activities to do with your grandparents?” Kids can fill the cards out to capture these memories in their own writing. Boxes come with packs of 12, 24 or 48 cards.
Cost: starts at $29
To order: greetingStory
A comfy medical gown alternative
If your aging loved one spends a lot of time in the hospital or doctor’s office, they may appreciate this Jacks and Janes “wellness gown,” a welcome alternative to the hospital gown. These garments are warm and lightweight and provide more coverage than the traditional medical gowns. They can be used at the doctor’s office or hospital and then brought home and washed for the next visit. Each gown comes with a bag for easy transport.
To order: GetJanes
If your aging loved one is the person who already has everything when it comes to material goods, you may want to think about a subscription service this Valentine’s Day like the one from Amazon Prime.
They won’t just get free shipping (which can come in handy when he or she would prefer not to run errands in the cold), but a range of entertainment options including videos and movies, a free e-book download each month, unlimited music streaming and photo storage.
Cost: $99 per year
To order: Amazon Prime
A good night’s sleep
If you know someone who has trouble sleeping, consider a gift that could help them get more zzzzzz’s. One option is the Nightingale Sleep System, which uses “sound blankets” to block out noises like snoring in nearby bedrooms. According Nightingale, the device can even work for someone with a hearing-related health condition like tinnitus. The system can be set up through a phone, Bluetooth or computer.
To order: Nightingale
An anytime massage
As we age, our bones, muscles and joints can get achy and need a little extra care. If your loved one enjoys massages but can’t get outside or just wants to stay in the comfort of her own home, consider gifting them with an on-demand massage from a company like Zeel. Their massage services are available 24-7 in more than 70 cities and metropolitan areas across the country.
At Zeel, you can usually get a same-day massage and some therapists are available in about an hour.
To order: Zeel
A day of adventure
If your sweetheart is far from a couch potato, you may want to consider giving them the gift of adventure this Valentine’s Day. There are plenty of ways to do this – an online search brings up many results. Or you can try a company like Cloud 9 Living, which offers golf lessons from a pro, dinner cruises, flying and driving lessons or helicopter rides. Options vary depending upon the locale.
To order: Cloud 9 Living
Legos for adults
Legos aren’t just for kids anymore. If your Valentine likes to work with their hands, Lego offers a surprising range of sets that adults love. He or she might enjoy building an old-time fishing store, a double-decker London bus, a Disney castle, a winter village or 50s-style diner. Building with Legos can be a great way for your loved one to pass the time while improving their dexterity.
To order: Lego
photo courtesy of Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bonita Springs, FL
If you think nothing is more romantic than sweeping across a dance floor, dance lessons will spark a fire this Valentine’s Day. Organizations like the Fred Astaire Dance Studio offer lessons all over the country. Many of the studios offer private, group and practice sessions. Dancing can help your loved one burn calories, improve muscle strength and provides a great opportunity to socialize and express themselves.
To order: Fred Astaire Dance Studio
Friday, February 2nd, 2018 by Tammy Worth
You’ve probably heard of Airbnb, VRBO and other services that let people rent out rooms or their entire homes to vacationers. There’s a new option on the market that aims to provide that same convenient alternative to hotels – but this one only caters to the 50-and-over crowd.
The idea for The Freebird Club sparked for Peter Mangan when he began working and living part-time in Dublin. He was renting the home he had built in Southern Ireland and his father, an aging widower, took care of the home and managed the guests.
His father’s lifestyle had become less active since retirement and Mangan couldn’t help but notice how much he was enjoying this new experience.
“When older guests stayed, they hit it off on a consistent basis and were going to local pubs and sightseeing and having dinners together,” Mangan said. “He had a new social outlet and it was putting a smile on face.”
Mangan also got positive feedback online from guests about his father’s hosting abilities and he soon realized he had hit on a need: a social form of home sharing dedicated to people over 50.
“In an aging society where we hear about loneliness and isolation, this is a way older people can connect,” he said. “Travel hosting will allow people of a certain age to connect and meet and travel and stay with each other.”
Launched in early 2017, The Freebird Club has about 2,000 members with 200 hosts spread among 25 countries. About 40 percent of its members are American and a majority are in their late 50s and early 60s. Mangan’s goal is to offer travel options for aging adults who want to travel more, but either dislike the idea of group tours or lack the confidence to set out on their own.
A social connection
What differentiates Freebird from its competitors – other than the age designation – is the social aspect. According to Mangan, when someone stays at a rental through a place like Airbnb, a vast majority of their properties are vacant. There’s no guarantee travelers will have any social connection.
“It’s our niche … it offers a way to ensure that no matter where they go, they are staying with a fellow club member who has signed up to take part in this aspect of the club,” Mangan said.
And when it comes to socializing between guests and hosts, the Freebird founder says he understands that one size doesn’t fit all. But at the very least, customers can know they’re staying with a live-in host who is welcoming and has “bought into this ethos.”
In a focus group of older adults held in London prior to starting the site, participants voiced concern that they would be mismatched and would want more or less social interaction than was available. For this reason, hosts rank themselves on a scale of one to five: the first level for hosts who don’t want a lot of interaction, moving up to chatting and sharing meals, up to Level 5; hosts who make themselves available as a tour guide.
Focus on safety
Mangan said charging a fee for taking part in the club was important for creating a sense of security for aging adults booking a room online. For that reason, the cost to join is a one-time charge of 25 Euros (or about $31).
Everyone joining the club – hosts and guests – have to register and pay the fee. Prospective members must fill out identification information and upload a personal profile. Hosts are required to upload details of their accommodations and proof of address and to undergo an interview. This call is used to let hosts know what’s expected of them and to provide an extra level of comfort to prospective guests.
Benefits for hosts
Much like with Mangan’s father, being a host provides some social interaction with other adults of a similar age. But it also allows them to take advantage of empty rooms to supplement their income.
As the site grows, Mangan says Freebird is always in need of additional hosts. While the company tries to ensure that attractive destinations are well represented, members living anywhere can join and list properties.
“There’s an opportunity to make money from those rooms,” he said. “And we increasingly see that people get to know their area more. When they have a guest, they are more likely to go to nearby vacation spots that they might not otherwise visit.”
What's in it for travelers
Guests booking on Freebird will be staying in someone’s home, so the cost is usually less than a hotel or other rental. Mangan said they have some places for rent for as little as $25 and up to $130, depending upon the quality of the accommodation and its location.
“You are never getting a whole apartment, but we have rooms in fabulous city apartments and villas in Spain,” he said.
He stresses that booking on Freebird isn’t just about going to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, or other top tourist destinations. The site is as much about meeting new people all over the world. A guest may stay someplace slightly more obscure because they found a host who loves fly fishing or basket weaving or they may want to learn French and find a host who is willing to help them.
Though Mangan says he wants to help people spend time with others with shared interests, the site isn’t quite set up specifically for that purpose yet. But he plans to create a platform for someone who’d like to visit Dublin, for instance, for a theater festival. The guest could then perform a sub-search on the site to find a host with that interest who may want to attend the festival too.
The site’s founder has also worked with www.internationalrail.com to help members get discounts on rail tickets to travel through Europe, Canada and Japan. This would allow people to country or city-hop (and stay in Freebird rooms along the way) at a more reasonable price.
Mangan said that while The Freebird Club is still young and small, it’s growing daily. He hopes to create momentum and soon see the site foster a strong international social travel community.
Monday, January 29th, 2018 by Cathy Cassata
When your loved one is no longer able to make their own healthcare and financial decisions, you’ll want to be able to carry out their wishes as they imagined you would. However, if they become incapable of communicating their desires to you, having a proper estate to turn to can help ensure those last wishes are fulfilled.
"People used to think that estate planning was something for the ultra-wealthy," says Devon Rood Slovensky, an estate planning attorney in Roanoke, Virginia. "Estate planning isn't just about assets--it's about your health and your ability to take care of yourself. And everyone can benefit from planning for health and mental impairment, regardless of assets."
The law considers an "estate" to mean all of the property a person owns, both outright and jointly, such as bank accounts, real estate, stocks and bonds, vehicles, jewelry, retirement accounts and even pets. Interest and money that a person is entitled to later, such as insurance proceeds and securities dividends, are also considered part of a person's estate.
Here are a few key steps to help get your loved one started.
1. Start the process now
When it comes to getting started with estate planning, it’s the sooner, the better, says Candice Aiston
, an estate planning attorney in Portland, Oregon.
"It's important to get things done when the elder is able to make decisions on their own. Figuring out when that point is can be hard for a lot of clients who have dementia or who have periods when they are at full capacity, and others when they are not," says Aiston.
If a person becomes incapacitated and doesn’t have an estate in place, their family has to go to court to get a conservatorship to make their financial decisions and a guardianship to make their medical decisions.
Since age isn't the only factor that goes into someone being unable to make their own decisions, Aiston says it's never too early to start estate planning.
"The best time to do estate planning is when you turn 18, but other than that the best time to do it is now," she says.
Slovensky advises getting started by having the elder take an inventory of their resources. That includes not only tangible resources like their home and brokerage accounts, but also the people in their lives whom they love and trust.
"They need to think through who they can rely on, and backups to those people," says Slovensky.
If you’re unsure of how start this conversation, Aging Life Care Manager Debra D. Feldman suggests telling your loved one a story about a friend who encountered problems due to a lack of estate planning.
"This is a good way to show them what could go wrong, so that they can think about how they don’t want that for themselves or those taking care of them," says Feldman.
2. Select a healthcare power of attorney
Your loved one should start by selecting their power of attorney for health care
. This is the person named to make medical decisions for them if they’re unable to do so themselves. This person is designated in a legal document called an "advance health care directive," or depending on your state, it may be referred to as a "living will," "healthcare proxy" or "durable power of attorney for healthcare." Although state laws differ slightly, these directives are usually enforced only if someone is close to death from a terminal condition or in a permanent coma.
Having a healthcare power of attorney lets healthcare providers know what life-prolonging treatments a person does and doesn't want if they're no longer able to communicate their wishes with medical professionals. The healthcare power of attorney has the right to make sure their loved one’s wishes are enforced.
"These documents help make difficult decisions for family members easier, and lets the hospital know who to look to for answers," says Slovensky.
When choosing a healthcare power of attorney, Feldman says people should consider who will see their wishes met.
"Parents often just pick their oldest child for power of attorney for healthcare and power of attorney for property just because they are the oldest or don't want to insult or offend them. However, this person may not be best-suited," Feldman says.
She notes that many of her clients appoint one child as their power of attorney for healthcare and another for power of attorney for property. While this may work when siblings get along, Feldman notes that if the adult children don't get along, it could cause problems.
"What happens is the child who has healthcare proxy wants to move mom or dad into XYZ nursing home and the other child who has property proxy says 'no' and won't pay for it," she says.
3. Name a durable power of attorney
While the healthcare power of attorney is able to make decisions related to a person's health, only the durable power of attorney
(also called a "financial power of attorney") can make financial decisions on their behalf, such as applying for Medicaid, paying for a nursing home, setting up a revocable living trust to manage assets after they die and more.
If a person becomes mentally incompetent, is in a coma or experiences another debilitating medical emergency and doesn’t have a durable power of attorney for finances, a judge will have to appoint someone to manage their finances for them, even if the appointee is unfamiliar with the person or their money matters.
"Absent a power of attorney, your family would have to go through a guardianship procedure, which costs money and takes time, even in an emergency. A guardianship proceeding is generally at least 25 times more expensive than preparing a power of attorney, and can greatly exceed that if your family members fight over who will make the best decisions," explains Slovensky.
Aiston adds that some states recognize what’s known as a springing power of attorney, or a financial power of attorney who doesn't get power until their loved one is incapacitated.
"This is a bit safer than the durable power of attorney, but many states don't offer it," Aiston notes.
4. Choose how assets are handled
If a person dies and hasn’t set up a will or trust, their assets will pass by the rules of intestacy, or “intestate succession,” which can vary from state to state. Under these rules, the state will create a will for the deceased person that distributes his or her estate to their surviving heirs, such as spouses, children, other descendants or parents. If none of these people exist, the person’s property may go back to the state.
"This might be okay in some circumstances. For example, if you don't own an home, don't have significant assets, you have a nuclear family (no stepchildren), no minor children, and your adult children get along (and you want them to have everything)," says Slovensky. "[But] most Americans don't fall into these circumstances."
Choosing to have a will or trust is the best way to make sure a person's assets got where they want them to.
Estate Planning 101
What is a Will?
is the simplest estate planning document. It tells a probate court what a person wants done with their assets after they die. It does not include healthcare decisions. Some of the things a will might include consist of the following:
- Who the person wants to leave their property to
- Who they want to be their guardian and manage property for any dependent children
- Who should act as their representative or executor to manage their estate, pay debts and taxes, and distribute remaining property
"For a lot of families, [a will] is good enough, but significant assets or additional complicating factors may make it necessary to set up a trust," notes Slovensky.
For instance, a will may not be detailed enough for people who want to give more specific instructions about what happens to their assets, such as this scenario: a person wants to specify that their first child will inherit their house after they die, and that their first grandchild gets the house after their parent dies.
Other situations that may make a will insufficient include:
- Providing management for property that goes to a child with special needs or a disability
- Having children from one or more prior marriages who are likely to conflict with a current spouse
- Concern that someone may claim the will is invalid because they were mentally incompetent or subject to fraud or duress when writing them
Aiston points out that having a will does not save loved ones from going through the courts.
"Many people think that doing a will means that they are not going through the courts and saving their family from going through the probate process, but actually the will's whole point is to go through the probate process," she says.
What is a trust?
There are two kinds of trusts
. Revocable trusts allow a person to change their terms at any time, as long as they are mentally competent to do so. Irrevocable trusts can't be changed or amended once they're created.
The main purpose of a trust is to bypass the probate court system. When a person has a trust, they will most likely still have a will, a power of attorney and an advance medical directive.
Like a will, a trust outlines a trustee and what a person wants done with their assets. When a trust is drafted, a person transfers titles to most of their assets into their trust, so that the trust owns these assets. For some assets, like life insurance, the beneficiary is changed to the trust so that the payouts go to the trust. Then when a person becomes incapacitated, their trustee can step in and manage their assets without having to deal with probate court.
"The reason people want to avoid [probate court] is it can take a year or more, can be costly, and it's a matter of public record. Trusts are the easiest and cleanest way to go that will cause family the least amount of hassle," says Aiston.
Slovensky outlines a few other benefits of trusts:
- They are constructed to carefully plan for tax treatment and minimize taxes involved with transferring wealth
- Created for bespoke, unique circumstances, such as caring for a special needs relative to ensure that inherited wealth does not dis-entitle them to government benefits
- Provide for the ongoing administration of assets, so that assets are carefully managed over a longer time period to ensure multiple generations benefit from wealth accumulated over a lifetime
While trusts do cost more to put together upfront, Aiston says they save family members money in the long-run.
Monday, January 22nd, 2018 by Phil Karp
If you or your aging parent are looking for a more manageable living space than your current home, a condo may be a great option. However, condo living isn’t for everyone. Here are 10 pros and cons to consider before you pursue condo living.
Pro: Little or no maintenance
One major perk of condo living is that the HOA handles most aspects of home maintenance and repairs. This usually includes lawn maintenance, and may also include some degree of interior and exterior maintenance and repair. Be sure to ask about what’s covered before you purchase a condo.
Con: HOA fees
Most of the perks of living in a condo don’t come free—condo owners are obligated to pay dues to cover the costs of the amenities and services. Lawn and building maintenance, pool upkeep, and well maintained common areas, for instance, are paid for with HOA fees.
Fees can vary greatly between complexes, so be very clear about them before you put an offer on a condo. In some cases, the cost of the fees may outweigh the savings and perks associated with condo living—especially if the amenities don’t appeal to you.
Many condominium complexes are gated and monitored. There may also be a staffed front desk, as well as security staff on premises. This can provide added safety and security for singles and older adults who live alone or travel frequently.
Con: Less privacy
Most condos share a wall with at least one other unit. Whether you’re looking at townhouses, single-story cluster homes, or apartment-style condo buildings, you can count on having a neighbor in close proximity. This means that other people may notice your comings and goings, so if that kind of privacy is important to you, then a condo may not be your best option.
The population density may also result in a noisy environment. Even if the place doesn’t seem noisy at all when you’re looking at it, that could change quickly with new neighbors.
Condos may offer a solution for people who want to live in areas that might otherwise be unaffordable, such as walkable shopping areas and city centers. In addition, many condos offer upscale design details that you may not find in houses at a similar price point, such as granite countertops, hardwood floors and skylights.
Con: Parking proximity
Some condo complexes offer private garages directly underneath or behind the corresponding units. But more commonly, parking is in a separate lot or garage located near the building. This could be an uncomfortable inconvenience that is especially problematic for aging adults with mobility challenges.
Whether you’re looking at age-restricted communities or all-ages condo complexes, condominiums often offer a variety of attractive amenities. From common areas such as rooftop terraces, gardens and grilling areas to fitness centers, pools and game nights, condo complexes often provide social activities that are literally steps from home. Some amenities may appeal especially to aging adults, including grocery delivery and shared transportation to popular shopping destinations.
Con: Limited Rentals
What separates condos from apartments is that each condo is privately owned and people have personally invested in each unit. This often leads to properties that are better cared for than typical apartments are, with lower turnover.
To ensure that the complex remains cared for, and to minimize turnover, many HOAs impose limits on how many units can be available for rental at once—if at all. This may be a problem if you or your parents plan to one day transition into age-restricted housing, and want to rent a condo in the meantime. Additionally, it could limit the possibility of renting the property to generate income later in life.
Condominium communities geared specifically toward aging adults may offer special features to accommodate their needs, including alert buttons, support rails and wheelchair accessibility in bathrooms. Other features may be potentially life-saving, such as increased accessibility for medical professionals.
This point is listed above as a pro, because in the right circumstances, condos really can offer optimal accessibility. On the other hand, not all condos offer accessibility accommodations, and the ones that do may have limited availability due to high demand.
Whether you’re looking for a simpler living space or for housing that will support your needs as you age, condos have a lot to offer. But they also have drawbacks, so it’s important to weigh your choices carefully—especially if you’re looking to buy or rent long-term.
About the Author
Phil Karp's 25 years in the real estate industry give him insight and experience about the traits necessary for a successful career in the field. As Senior Manager of Brokerage Services at Owners.com, he works with an array of new and experienced homebuyers and homeowners. Phil lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and rescue dog, Dakota.
Friday, January 12th, 2018 by Linda Lee Ruzicka
Gardening is an activity that can not only help seniors eat healthier but also keep active physically. And as an added benefit, gardening brings mental and emotional benefits.
How? Here are some unexpected ways gardening can improve an older adult's health.
1. Better blood flow to the brain
that adults in their 60s and 70s who are gardeners have up to a 47 percent lower chance of developing dementia compared to non-gardening older adults. Even though gardening doesn’t involve a lot of strenuous physical activity, it still boosts oxygen levels in the blood. Although it’s a low-impact activity, gardening increases the heart rate, which leads more blood flow into your vital organs.
2. Increased serotonin levels
Digging in the dirt is a great way to boost your mood and relieve stress. One reason for this researchers found is that Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacterium found in soil, releases serotonin, a chemical that helps to balance mood and cognitive function.
3. Enhanced mental stimulation
When seniors or adults of any age are gardening, they become more aware of the environment around them. And because gardening requires the ability to gather information and learn new skills along with problem-solving and planning, it keeps the brain active. This brain activity helps create new neural pathways. And when gardening also doubles as a social activity, it helps older adults preserve social and verbal skills.
4. Released anxiety
It's not uncommon for older adults to experience anxiety
, whether they have an anxiety disorder or less frequent nerves. And for seniors with dementia, becoming agitated and anxious is a common symptom. With its sounds, sights, and scents, spending time in a garden can bring about relaxation and help relieve anxiety in seniors, including those with dementia.
This helps to control agitation. In fact, some memory care facilities have memory care gardens where their patients can walk around without fear of becoming lost.
5. Vitamin D exposure
When you’re out in the garden, you’re exposed to Vitamin D
, which is essential for increasing calcium levels. Calcium is beneficial for the bones and immune system.
In addition to the act of gardening itself, there are numerous low-maintenance plants with medicinal health benefits. Including tea that can be made out of the leaves or flowers. According to lawn care company LawnStarter, native plants such as the beautyberry have additional health benefits and can be used to help with joint pain and stomach aches. Or there’s the aloe vera plant, which is known for its extract, used to soothe skin irritations.
Gardening Safety Tips
Here are some safety tips for seniors to keep in mind before digging into gardening:
- Attend to any insect bites, bruises or cuts immediately.
- If using power tools or other types of gardening tools, use care when operating them.
- Make sure that all pathways and walkways in the garden are flat, non-slip surfaces to avoid falling or tripping.
- Warm up your muslces before starting to garden and drink plenty of water.
- Avoid too much sun exposure, and garden either in the morning or later in the afternoon. Apply sunscreen often, wear a hat, protective shoes, gardening gloves and lightweight, comfortable clothing.
Linda Lee Ruzicka is an avid gardening blogger and expert. In her spare time she can be found enjoying and relaxing in several gardens around her home that she tends.