Stretches

 

My Great Uncle Bud used to always say, “It’s hell to get old.” He griped incessantly about his loss of strength, poor balance, and frequent trips to the hospital from falls. Yet his experience, that of an elderly person in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, was far different from today’s seniors. We know now that a body can be rebuilt at any age, and that most of the physical problems seniors experience are the result of inactivity.

Why does the body break down during inactivity? It’s a process known as the Use-Disuse Principle. In a nutshell, it means that the body will only hold onto the parts of itself that are frequently used. If a certain muscle group isn’t used for a long time, the body will discard those muscles to use the energy that would have been consumed by them elsewhere. So the cliché “Use it or lose it” is ultimately true.

Over the years, I have worked with a number of seniors who began a fitness journey at their doctor’s recommendation. Most had never exercised a day in their life, and preliminary fitness tests revealed severe muscular deficiencies. The majority could not easily perform simple movements such as sitting and standing. In light of this, most of the traditional gym equipment was off-limits until these older adults could regain some basic strength and stability. To help them get started, I created three at-home exercises to include in their daily routines.

The following three very basic exercises are designed to help seniors who have never participated in fitness programs, or who haven’t exercised in a while, to improve the strength and balance in their legs, core, and shoulders before using a gym. If the following exercises are performed every day for about a month, the risk of injury and overtraining when starting a more intense fitness routine—such as one designed by a personal trainer—will fall substantially. None of these exercises require any extra equipment.

The Toothbrush Challenge

Dentists recommend brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each session. This amounts to four minutes of nothing other than standing in front of a mirror and staring at ourselves. The Toothbrush Challenge makes use of this time to do a very basic strength and balance exercise that can help restore a senior’s stability fairly quickly.

While brushing your teeth, set a timer for one minute. During that minute stand only on one leg, with the knee slightly flexed (DO NOT LOCK OUT THE KNEE), and hold that position. Be sure to perform this exercise in a place where you can catch yourself in case you lose your balance. Once the first minute is up, set the timer again and repeat the exercise with the other leg.

The first few times you perform this exercise, you probably won’t last the entire minute. What’s important is that you try to keep balancing until the end of the minute. If your other foot touches the ground, reset and keep holding. Do this exercise every time you brush your teeth. After the first week, you should feel a marked improvement in your ability to balance and hold yourself on one leg. After one month, your legs will be far stronger and stable, and from there you can attempt other exercises at a gym.

The Textbook Toss-up

Shoulder injuries are a common complaint among seniors. The slightest tweak from overreaching for something in the back of the cupboard, or even from sleeping in an awkward position, can drastically hinder your quality of life. Weak shoulders are also prone to injury when exercising at a gym, so it’s a good idea to strengthen those muscles in a low-risk manner. The Text Book Toss-up is a great way to accomplish this.

Set a timer for one minute. Using a book about the size of a standard bible, grasp the sides firmly with both hands and extend your arms straight out ahead of you. Without bending your elbows, slowly lift the book above your head until you reach 90 degrees, then return to the starting position. Once returned to the starting position, bend your elbows and slowly bring the book to your chest. From there, extend back out to the starting position. Without dropping the book, repeat these two movements in sequence until the timer runs out.

The first few times you do this, you’ll feel a deep burn in your shoulders. Only perform three repetitions of the exercise at first and see how you feel the next day. Over time, assuming you do this every day, you should grow strong enough to begin setting the timer to two or even three minutes. If you’re really feeling strong, swap out a book for something heavier, like an encyclopedia, textbook, or atlas.

The Restless Leg (Abs Workout)

The abdominal muscles are crucial to good balance. As such, it’s important to strengthen them, but many seniors may struggle with traditional floor exercises such as ab crunches. To solve this problem, I created the Restless Leg Abs Workout. It’s designed to allow seniors to strengthen their abs and legs in a single movement, all from the comfort of their own bed.

Lying in bed, place your hands underneath the small of your back and stretch your legs out as straight as possible. Make a mental note to flex (or suck in) your stomach muscles and hold them that way. Raise one leg up without bending the knee and hold it for one minute in that position. At the end of the minute, reset the timer and repeat with the other leg. Do this three times with each leg.

The key to this exercise is to keep the stomach muscles engaged throughout. This means keeping your stomach sucked in while holding one leg off the bed. Again, over time this will become easier for you, and as you improve you may move on to more challenging and strenuous exercises.

—-

Christophe Adrien, also known as The Viking Trainer, is a Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT) and Certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition (SFN) with a Master’s Degree from Oregon State University. He is a lifelong health and fitness enthusiast who regularly contributes to publications such as 1-800-HOMECARE™1-800-HOSPICE™ and Baby Boomer Cafe, among others.

 

LightingTips

 

Just as it’s a good idea to adapt other parts of the house to accommodate the needs of older adults who want to age in place, it’s also best to upgrade the lighting in the home to make it a safer, more comfortable place to live. Here are some tips to help you create a safer home with better lighting, based on research by the American Society of Interior Designers and the Illuminating Engineering Society.

Throughout the House

  • Provide more ambient light. As people age, they tend to need brighter light, but it should also be glare-free. Points of light—such as exposed bulbs—cause glare, so all light sources should have shades or be concealed.
  • Light levels should be consistent from one area to the next. Avoid situations where a brightly lighted area blends into a darker area, as this can be dangerous for older adults to navigate.
  • A contrasting color scheme makes it easier for those with age-related vision problems to see shapes. Avoid monochromatic color schemes.
  • Opt for silent lighting fixtures – avoid those that flicker or have a humming sound.
  • Make the most of natural light. Remove heavy drapes and shades from windows. If it’s within your budget and makes design sense, have additional windows and skylights installed.

Living Areas

  • Provide uniform lighting from hanging fixtures, wall sconces and recessed lighting.
  • Use table or floor lamps near seating areas for reading or other activities, such as sewing.
  • Place TVs and computers so that their screens don’t reflect light from lighting fixtures or windows.
  • Lighting is just as critical in bedrooms. Jennifer Ballard, Chief Clinical Officer at Interim Health Care, Inc. recommends taking these steps to ensure safety: “Add a light that can be reached lying down. Use motion-sensor night lights that will ensure the path from the bedroom to the bathroom is well lit. Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case the power goes out, and get a desk phone with large, backlit numbers.”

Kitchens

  • Hanging or ceiling-mounted fixtures can provide general lighting. If there’s space above the wall cabinets, fluorescent or LED strip lighting can be installed there to reflect off of the ceiling.
  • Provide dedicated task lighting at all work areas, including counters, sinks and cooking appliances. Shielded under-cabinet lights make good task lighting. “Task lighting is especially important over the stove and over the kitchen counters when preparing food, as well as anywhere that a senior would be managing their medication,” adds Ballard.
  • Consider installing a contrasting edge on the countertop, contrasting inserts in the counter or even contrasting cutting boards placed on the counter. They’ll make the surfaces easier to see and safer to use.
  • Place a hanging fixture equipped with a dimmer over the table—the same goes for dining room tables. The light can be dimmed for dining and increased when someone is sitting at the table for an activity that requires more light, like paying bills, writing out grocery lists or using a laptop computer.

Bathrooms

  • General lighting should be bright and glare-free. If possible, place light switches outside of the bathroom so that the senior does not need to enter a dark room and try to find a light switch.
  • Place vanity lights on the sides of the bathroom mirror at about eye level.
  • Make bathtubs and showers safer by installing light fixtures designed for wet locations in the ceiling above the fixture.
  • Provide safety for people who need to use the bathroom at night. Light the path to the bathroom and the room itself, and use fixtures on dimmers or nightlights so that the person using it does not have to adjust to a brightly lit bathroom from a dark hall or bedroom. LED rope lights installed along the bottom of a vanity make good night lights.

Proper lighting can make a house safer and easier to navigate for elderly adults, providing a boost of confidence for those who wish to live independently in their homes. Choose the options that work best for you and your loved ones.

—-

Fran Donegan writes for The Home Depot on topics ranging from gardening to home improvement tips for seniors. He provides guidance on the best types of lighting seniors can use for different tasks. To see a selection of lighting and ceiling fan options, head to Home Depot’s website.

 

ToughConvo

 

Communicating your end-of-life wishes is often among the most difficult conversations you can have with your family and loved ones. It’s also a conversation that many avoid until it’s too late.

The importance of clearly laying out your end-of-life preferences cannot be overstated, however. And doing so before you a suffer a life-threatening illness or other crisis will help reduce anxiety and doubt for family members who may be confused about final wishes that haven’t been clearly expressed.

Perhaps the most important question when it comes to communicating end-of-life wishes is, “how to do it?” Fortunately, there are a variety of steps you can take and proven methods that should make the process easier for you and your family. Getting started now, before it’s too late, should be a priority.

  1. Plan ahead

There’s no time like the present when it comes to letting your loved ones know about your final wishes is now. You can start by drawing up a living will that states your treatment and care preferences if you should ever be in a position where you can’t speak for yourself.

It’s also important to have a durable power of attorney in place that appoints one family member or other trusted person to make medical decisions for you in the event you’re unable to do so. Take all the time you need to reflect on what’s most important to you, then get the paperwork started.

  1. Be clear about what you want

It’s not easy to think about becoming too ill to make healthcare and other important decisions. But a critical injury or debilitating illness can happen to anyone at any time, and it’s vital to be clear about your wishes as soon as you can in case the unthinkable happens to you.

  1. Finding the right opportunities

While finding the right time to talk about your end-of-life issues can be a challenge, here are some events that can present opportunities to sit down with family and loved ones:

*Gatherings or time spent related to milestones such as the birth of a child, marriage, death of a loved one, retirement, anniversaries, etc.

*During holiday gatherings when many family members may be present.

*When creating your will or other estate planning.

*When a major illness requires that you or another family member move out of the home and into a long-term care setting – such as an assisted living community or a nursing home – or when a friend or family member is facing a serious illness or end-of-life situation.

  1. Talk often

It’s important to have end-of-life conversations early and to ensure that everyone understands your wishes. Moreover, your preferences may change over time and create the need for regular discussions on the subject.

  1. Ask permission

Again, discussing end-of-life issues isn’t necessarily easy, and it may make some of your family members uncomfortable. Asking your loved ones for permission before diving into the topic reassures them that you respect and honor everyone’s desires.

  1. Keep the purpose in mind

Your conversations with loved ones should address two important goals: making sure that your financial and healthcare wishes are expressed and honored, and providing them with the information and confidence they need to make future decisions.

  1. Find an Appropriate Setting

Find a quiet, comfortable place to have discussions about end-of-life wishes – preferably somewhere private and without distractions. A noisy restaurant or other public places is probably not the right setting to broach this tough topic.

  1. Be a good listener

Whether you’re discussing your end-of-life wishes, listening to another family member express theirs, or getting feedback from family and friends, it’s important to listen carefully. Make every effort to hear and understand what your loved ones are saying, and make clear to them that it’s important to you. If you’re listening to someone else,express their wishes, try to reaffirm what they’re saying and acknowledge their right to make life choices, even if you disagree with them.

  1. Know your audience

Some loved ones and family members may want to discuss end-of-life wishes in private rather than in a group setting. Use your knowledge of the people involved to figure out the best way express your wishes.

  1. Let others set the pace

If you’re in the role of listening to a family member express their wishes, follow their lead. Avoid correcting the person or becoming argumentative if they say something you don’t agree with.

HolidaysDementia

 

Celebrating the holidays with a loved one who has dementia can pose a number of unique challenges. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to enjoy a holiday celebration and traditions with this love done. If you’re hoping for a good holiday but are unsure of how to approach things due to your loved one’s dementia, the following tips can help.

Use the Senses to Evoke Memories

The senses, especially taste, smell and hearing, have a powerful effect on memories. Your loved one may not remember a specific event if it’s mentioned in conversation, but a sensory experience associated with the event could help bring the memory back.

When planning your holiday festivities, make your loved one’s favorite dishes and put on familiar tunes that they know well. The tastes, smells and songs may help bring to mind past holidays that are associated with cherished memories.

Share old photos of well-known places

Old photographs are another resource you might use to help your loved one remember past holiday celebrations. Just keep in mind that they may be embarrassed if they don’t remember a family member or dear friend’s name.

Instead of showing your loved one photos of family members and friends and asking them if they recall who’s in the pictures, use a less direct way of sharing photos so they won’t be ashamed if they can’t recall who is pictured. You can:

  • Put up a few photographs when decorating, so people can notice or pass by the pictures as they choose
  • Play a game trying to guess who is in old photos or baby photos, with everyone present guessing
  • Share photos of well-known places, which lets your loved one say they don’t remember the place rather than anyone in the picture

Opt for a simple celebration

Unfamiliar things can be frightening to someone whose memory is failing them, and even simple holiday items can become unfamiliar over a yearlong period. Just because your loved one remembered something last year doesn’t mean that he or she will remember it this year, especially if their condition has significantly worsened

Help your loved one enjoy, rather than be fearful of, all that’s going on by keeping your holiday celebration simple. Depending on what they’re comfortable with, you may want to only put up a few decorations, limit the number of gifts exchanged or even forgo a tree or candles.

Help your loved one act properly

At times, your loved one may not know hot to properly act during your family’s holiday celebration. They may be paralyzed by fear, or they may be confused about everything going on.

If you ever sense that your loved one either isn’t sure what they should do or will make a major faux pas, take the lead and guide them in what they should do. For instance, after they open a gift, you might want to remind them who the present was from and to say thank you.

If they’re having a particularly difficult time, you might even need to say something like “Mom, do you want to say ‘thank you, Jim?’” With such a direct question, your loved one can simply repeat what you say, or can simply say “yes.”

Keep activities calm

Lots of hubbub can make someone with dementia uneasy, and even those who don’t mind the activity can become fatigued after a daylong celebration. Young children, large family gatherings and constant activities can all take a toll.

Help keep your loved one from getting too overwhelmed by all that’s going on. Don’t be afraid to:

  • Have people move to a different room for a while
  • Ask kids to play in a different part of the house (especially if they got loud toys for gifts)
  • Specifically set aside some downtime in the middle of the day
  • Suggest everyone go outside for a while, take a shopping trip or see a movie

Celebrating the holidays with a loved one who’s suffering from dementia takes some forethought, but it isn’t too challenging. Keep these tips in mind, and you, your family and your loved one can all have a great time.

 

 

As the holidays approach, you’re likely starting to think about the perfect gifts for loved ones. Sometimes the older relatives on your list can be trickier to shop for. They may insist they don’t want or need anything, but you still want to get them a thoughtful gift.

We’re here to help take some stress out of your holiday shopping with this roundup of items aimed at enhancing the lives of older adults. To further simplify your holiday to-buy list, the below gifts are organized by price, including options to fit a range of budgets.

 

Gifts $25 and under

 

Hickies No-Tie Lacing System

 

Hickies1

 

Older adults with arthritis in their hands, fingers and wrists no longer have to struggle with laces on sneakers and walking shoes. The Hickies No-Tie Lacing System provides a sleek alternative to velcro shoes for those who have trouble tying their laces and/or bending down by turning any lace-up shoe into a slip-on.

The modular design allows for a one-size-fits-all approach so you can customize the tightness, comfort, security, and color. Available in four colors, the lacing system works on fabric and leather shoes alike.

Cost: $14.99

To order: hickies.com

 

Staybowlizer

 

Staybowlizer1

 

Perfect for the baker or chef in your life, the Staybowlizer kitchen aid acts as a third hand when cooking or baking. Its suction technology locks a bowl to the kitchen counter or table, eliminating the need for sore or arthritic hands to grip the bowl to hold it still. The Staybowlizer can also be used to secure a double boiler and is oven, microwave and dishwasher safe up to 500°F.

Cost: $19.99

To order:  staybowlizer.com

 

Chipolo Plus

Chipolo2

 

If you have a loved one who’s in the early stages of cognitive decline, the Chipolo Plus can lower everyone’s anxiety when trying to locate misplaced items like keys, medicine bottles and other important belongings. Just attach it to the object and whenever the tracking device is within 200-feet of you, you can enable the device to play a 100db loud melody until you find it.

When misplaced items are out of Bluetooth range, caregivers and loved ones can check the last known location feature on the app for a map that shows where it was last seen. You can also mark your device as lost to allow it to be discovered by the community.

Cost: $24.99

To order: shop.chipolo.net

 

Gifts $25-$100

 

Gardening tool gift set by Radius

 

RadiusTools1

 

This set of gardening tools by Radius was especially designed for people with arthritis and hand weakness. The tools are comfortable to use, and their patented design features a natural grip meant to minimize hand and wrist stress. Ideal for the older adult who loves to garden. The gift set includes an aluminum hand cultivator, hand transplanter, hand weeder, and hand trowel that all come with a lifetime guarantee.

Cost: $39.99

To order: RadiusGarden.com

 

Conscious Step Socks

Socks1

Socially conscious older adults will love the chance to change the world with a pair of socks. The new Conscious Step Conscious Collection boxes contain socks, which support six of Conscious Step’s amazing partners, Water.org, UNAIDS, Action Against Hunger, Room to Read, Trees for the Future, and Global Citizen.

Purchasing these boxes will either provide 18 months of safe water, 2 schoolbooks for children in their native languages, and raise awareness through Global Citizen, OR provide 7 days of HIV therapy for an expectant mother, 6 lifesaving therapeutic food packs, and plant 20 trees.

Available in men’s US shoe size 8-12 and women’s size 9-13, each pair features a seamless 168 needle thread count and reinforced heels and toes for durability and are made from sourced from organic cotton dyed with non-toxic dyes.

Cost: $44.95, single pairs $14.95

To order: ConsciousStep.com

 

Bella electric ceramic kettle

 

BellaKettle1

 

If you have an older loved one who loves a good cup of tea, the Bella electric ceramic kettle can help lower their worries about forgetting a tea kettle on the stove. The kettle is equipped with dry boil protection that cuts the power if it senses there’s no more water left. The convenient cord storage and concealed heating element provides a space-saving design meant to reduce clutter.

 Cost: $49.99

To order: Bellahousewares.com

 

MagnaClick dress shirts

MagnaClick1

 

MagnaClick dress shirts for men are self-buttoning and feature magnets sewn into the pleats of the shirt eliminating the need to fuss with buttons. The technology was created with people with mobility issues in mind, including adults who suffer from arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The shirts are sold under the Van Heusen brand and are available in 5 colors (white, blue, black, charcoal, and canvas).

Cost: about $64.95 (but prices may vary by store)

To order: Available at Kohl’s, JCPenney, Macy’s and other major retailers.

 

VIDBOX

 

Vidbox1

 

Help older loved ones reflect on—and preserve—cherished memories that technology may have left behind in boxes and boxes of videotapes. The VIDBOX conversion tool, accompanied with easy step-by-step instructions, provides the ability to convert cherished footage at home at the user’s leisure.

An especially suitable gift for the photography lover or archivist of family milestones, the VIDBOX is available for PC and Mac and is compatible with VHS, Betamax, S-VHS, camcorder, TV, DVD player, game consoles, TiVo, DVR and cable set-top boxes.

Cost: $69.99 to $89.99, depending on platform

To order: vidbox.com

 

StoryWorth

 

StoryWorth1

 

Recording family stories is a wonderful gift for the entire family, but many seniors don’t know where to start. StoryWorth helps older adults record their stories through weekly emails (sent for a year) with questions they might not think to ask.

The weekly emails feature unique questions meant to get your loved one talking about their life, such as,“What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever seen?” or “Have you ever pulled a great prank?”

All stories are securely stored on the family’s private StoryWorth account and can be easily shared with additional family members, if desired. After a year, StoryWorth’s team will create a bound hardcover book containing all of the stories shared within the past year.

Cost: $79

To order: storyworth.com

 

Reminder Rosie ReminderRosie

Reminder Rosie’s personalized, voice controlled, talking reminder system and alarm clock has a sleek clock interface and is a simple, hands-free solution for older adults to remember medication, appointments, and everyday tasks. Easy to set up, it can be used out of the box without touching any buttons. Reminder Rosie can be heard within a 100-foot radius, and turns off once someone says “reminder off” or pushes down on the big button. It’s a great tool for anyone who takes medication, but especially for those with dementia, memory loss, visual impairment or arthritis or other hand weaknesses, as it’s completely voice-activated.

Cost: $99.99

To order: reminder-rosie.com

 

Gifts $100 and up

 

Mosaic Weighted Blankets

Blanket3

 

Anyone living with medical conditions including Restless LegSyndrome (RLS), Alzheimer’s, Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), Fibromyalgia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and general anxiety can have trouble falling — and staying — asleep.

Mosaic Weighted Blankets are designed to mimic the “back in the womb” experience by putting a slight pressure on the body to create the same sensation a person experiences when they receive a hug. The deep pressure created by the blanket causes the release of serotonin in the brain, the “happy, feel-good hormone”.

After an increase in serotonin, melatonin is released, which provides a calming effect as the user gets sleepy. You can custom order Mosaic Weighted Blankets since they come in a variety of fabrics and colors to suit any décor or older person’s favorite color and pattern preferences.

Cost: Prices start at $100

To order: mosaicweightedblankets.com

 

Simple Music Player

SimplePlayer1

 

Research has confirmed both the benefits of providing people who have dementia with music they remember, and the need for easy operation that those living with cognitive issue require. The easy-to-use Simple Music Player is a retro music player that should put a smile on users’ faces and transport older adults to another era.

The music box comes preloaded with 40 oldie classics but can also be updated with additional tunes by a caregiver. Once set up, the player is highly intuitive and does not require any prior knowledge or memory to start and stop. The styling is also reminiscent of old radios and should be instantly recognizable as a music player.

Cost: $219.99

To order: dementiamusic.co.uk

 

An earlier version of this article first appeared on Caring.com

BathroomRemodel

 

Seniors who want to age in place should consider remodeling their bathrooms so that they better accommodate their needs. Below are some ideas to keep in mind when planning a remodeling project.

1. Include a Bathroom on the Main Floor

If possible, place a bathroom on the same floor as the main living area. A bathroom located where the senior spends most of their time means they can avoid using the stairs. It’s a tall order for many homes, but can make a world of difference for older adults with declining mobility.

2. Provide Adequate Floor Space

The bathroom should be large enough to accommodate someone using a cane, a walker or even a wheelchair to get around. Someone who uses a wheelchair will require the most space—at least around 60 inches of open floor space to turn around. Doorways should be at least 32 inches wide so that a wheelchair can get through. Some chairs may require 36-inch-wide openings.

3. Make Tubs and Showers Accessible

For some seniors, standard bathtubs are difficult to get in and out of safely. At the very least, replace shower doors with shower curtains and apply a non-slip surface to the bottom of the tub. A tub seat or chair makes using the tub easier.

For showers, the best choice is a roll-in shower that allows someone in a wheelchair to get into the shower without getting out of their chair. A shower seat is also a good option. Plan for accessible shower or tub shelf storage so that shampoo and soap are within easy reach.

4. Keep Tub and Shower Fixtures in Mind

Faucets should be clearly marked. Stick to lever models, as they’re easier for people with limited mobility to operate. For the most flexibility, install a hand-held shower head or one attached to a pole that adjusts up and down.

Replace a standard faucet with one that has an anti-scald valve. These maintain the temperature of the water when the water pressure changes, preventing the user from getting burned should someone flush a toilet or the water pressure changes in some other way.

5. Add Grab Bars

Avoid the temptation to use towel bars as grab bars—they won’t hold. If you’re installing grab bars yourself, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. The bars should be attached to wall framing or with special fasteners. Install a bar vertically near the entrance to the tub for support getting in and out of the tub or shower.

Add grab bars along the back and side walls to provide support while the person is standing on the wet surfaces. It is also a good idea to place a grab bar near the toilet.

6. Consider a Toilet Seat Extender

Some people have trouble sitting down on a toilet or getting back up after sitting on one. A seat extender can make these transitions easier. If you plan on replacing the toilet, opt for one that meets the requirement of the American with Disabilities Act.

7. Choose Sinks and Vanities Wisely

To accommodate someone who uses a wheelchair, consider installing wall-mounted sinks. These allow the user to pull right up and use the sink. Choose lever-type faucet controls, which are easier to operate than knobs.

8. Create Easy-to-Reach Storage

Storage is always a main concern in a bathroom remodeling. Shelves and cabinets should be within reach of whomever will be using the space. Consider sliding shelves in storage cabinets and countertops that allow someone in a wheelchair to pull up to the counter and use the surface comfortably.

Countertops should have rounded edges for safety. Edges can also be finished in a contrasting color or material to make them easier to see for someone with poor eyesight.

9. Use Bright, Clear Lighting

Lighting throughout the room should be bright with a minimal amount of glare. Plan on a ceiling fixture or fixtures to provide general room lighting, but you should also add task lighting around sinks, tubs and showers.

10. Stick with Non-Slip Floors

Non-slip tiles are a good choice for bathroom floors in a senior’s home. While throw rugs may serve an aesthetic purpose, they’re not the best choice for the bathroom, where an older adult could slip or trip on one.

Many of these bathroom upgrades are simple to accomplish and relatively inexpensive, while others may present more of a challenge. Choose the ones that fit your circumstances today, but remember that needs change. While you, or the person you are remodeling the bathroom for, may be independent today, it never hurts to design with assistance in mind.

 

Fran Donegan writes on home heating topics for The Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY writer and the author of the book Paint Your Home. He also writes advice for homeowners about remodeling rooms to simplify aging in place. For more information about bathroom remodeling services, visit Home Depot’s website.

 

Alert1

 

Mom is fiercely independent and strives to do everything on her own. You love her for it, but that stubbornness also means she often doesn’t ask for help when she should.

Now that she’s older, you’re worried about Mom’s safety. She denies there is any problem at all, but you can see her struggling.

It’s tempting to go along with Mom and pretend everything’s OK, but denial can be dangerous. Let’s talk about how you can help Mom stay safe.

Driving

Mom loves to drive. She loves being able to get to all of her social events. But you’ve noticed her car has more dents than it used to, and you don’t feel safe with her behind the wheel.

Aging often comes with worse eyesight, muffled hearing and slower reaction times. If your mother is an unsafe driver, she is putting herself and other drivers at risk.

If Mom doesn’t believe she’s lost any driving skills, she may feel as though you’re trying to take away her independence. And if driving is her primary mode of transportation, losing her car may be unthinkable.

When it comes to getting Mom to give up her keys, give her alternatives so she doesn’t have to make any other sacrifices. While you’re at it, show her how much nicer the alternatives can be.

Driving alternatives:

  • Create a driving schedule with your family to get your mother where she needs to go. She may love seeing her siblings and children more often.
  • Use a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft that can pick Mom up and drop her off at the touch of a button. She may love the feeling of having a driver at her beck and call.
  • Set up carpools with friends. Does her neighbor go to the same bridge club? Perhaps her friends can pick her up on the way to their bingo nights. Driving with friends is more fun that driving alone!

With every option, show your mother the cost savings. Without a car, she won’t need to pay for insurance, gas or car maintenance. More money in her pocket may be just the incentive she needs.

Memory Loss

 Between misplacing keys and forgetting names, we have all had our share of memory loss. But has Mom’s forgetfulness started to impact her safety?

With true memory loss, there is a point at which household tasks become dangerous. That may be leaving the stove on after making tea or burning herself while ironing her shirts. Signs like these mean it’s time to take action.

Rather than arguing over what Mom remembers, try using technology to make her safer. Use technology tools as substitutes so that she can continue doing the tasks she always has.

Memory loss tools:

  • Monitored stove guards automatically turn off the stove either after a certain amount of time or if there is no one in front of the stove. They reduce the risk of fires and burns.
  • Monitored smoke alarms automatically call emergency services if smoke is detected in the house. They decrease the risk of Mom not hearing or responding to a smoke alarm.
  • Reduced-temperature water heaters only allow the water to get up to a safe temperature, reducing the risk of scalding.

Mom may know she has trouble remembering things, but doesn’t want to admit it. Instead of approaching the topic directly, try emphasizing how these tools can make her life easier.

Living Alone

 For many seniors, living alone is the ultimate sign of independence. Mom may vehemently disagree with the idea of moving out of her beloved home. But for you, Mom living alone is a dangerous unknown.

Luckily, there are solutions to help her stay safe without needing to move quite yet.

Home safety tools:

  • Medical alert system. A medical alert gives Mom a way to call for help if she needs it. Choose a fall detection system so that it will go off if she falls, even if she doesn’t want to or is unable to press the button.
  • Grab bars. Install grab bars in the bathroom, where falls are most likely to happen. Find support bars that are decorative in addition to being sturdy. Mom will accept them more easily if they’re nice to look at.
  • Add night lights all around the house. This is the easiest addition to make, and a little extra light can make Mom’s fall risk a lot smaller.

It is unlikely that Mom will want any of these items. Ask her to accept them not because she needs to use them all the time but as a favor to you, just in case, so you don’t worry about her so much.

Keeping Mom Safe

 Mom may think that denial is the easiest way to pretend that she’s not getting older. “Out of sight, out of mind.” But this way of thinking is not a long-term solution. In fact, she may just feel younger when she doesn’t have to struggle with doing things the way she used to.

Your job is to be there for Mom as her support system. These conversations will be difficult, but they are necessary. With you by her side and a little time, you can work together to overcome denial and help her stay safe.

Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.

 

Depression Of A Senior Woman

 

Memory loss is the main symptom that most people associate with Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s not the only sign. Researchers have identified several other common signs of Alzheimer’s that may come before memory loss. The following symptoms can be the first to appear in adults who develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Personality changes

There are many examples of Alzheimer’s-related personality changes that can occur before memory loss. A normally warm and friendly person may suddenly become a bit of a curmudgeon, or begin to say inappropriate things. Or, you may notice that the person is starting to make odd accusations. Other signs include:

*Developing uncharacteristic fears of new or unknown situations, or a distrust of others whether it’s familiar people or strangers.

*Signs of depression, or changes in sleep or appetite.

Issues such as these are often difficult to link to Alzheimer’s because medical conditions and aging may also cause changes in someone’s mood, behavior, or personality.

Vision Problems

Vision problems are also among early signs of Alzheimer’s that can precede memory loss. Symptoms may include trouble driving, navigating stairs, or judging distances. In more severe cases, the family member or loved one may not recognize herself or himself in a mirror, or when passing his or her reflection in a building or window.

Trouble with basic functioning

Struggling to carry out basic, familiar tasks is also among the early signs of Alzheimer’s. The person may have trouble following written directions, such as recipes. Or, he or she may struggle with their favorite hobby. Other signs can include failing to follow through with plans, not tracking bills, or finding themselves unable to solve simple problems that used to present no difficulty.

Additionally, you may notice that the person fails to complete tasks they were in the middle of doing – whether it’s baking a cake or making a repair.

Poor judgment

Making questionable decisions is also among the common early signs of Alzheimer’s. This might include making odd decisions in self-care, such as dressing inappropriately or neglecting basic personal hygiene. For example, the person may dress in a winter parka on a hot summer day, seemingly unaware that the clothing they’ve chosen is not weather-appropriate. Or you may see that a person who once took pride in their appearance no longer bothers with how they look.

Language problems

Other Alzheimer’s symptoms that can precede memory loss are word retrieval, and struggling to find the right word to complete a thought. This is a symptom that may come before more obvious issues such as repeating questions or stories. Language issues can be particularly frustrating for the person who fixates on finding the right word in the middle of a conversation. He or she may also forget or substitute words for everyday objects.

While anyone can experience these problems from time to time, they occur with increasing frequency for someone with dementia.

Trouble with finances

A person who is displaying early signs of Alzheimer’s may struggle with keeping their finances in order. They may have trouble balancing a checkbook and with other simple mathematical tasks, or forget to pay bills – issues they never had before. Or they may be more likely to fall for any number of financial scams targeting senior citizens.

Social withdrawal

Social withdrawal is another personality change that can be an early symptom of Alzheimer’s. Your loved one may struggle with not being in control of his or her faculties at all time – enough so that he or she may have less energy or desire to interact with others. They also may not be aware that they’re losing interest in interacting with friends and family because they’re focused on just getting through each day.

Embarrassment about their struggles and depression can also cause the sufferer to withdraw from family, friends and social situations.

Disorientation

Those who exhibit early signs of Alzheimer’s may become disoriented in unfamiliar or new environments, such as a hospital, airport, or hotel, or even in environments they know well. They may get lost while driving or after parking, or have trouble keeping appointments and remembering other events and commitments. Disorientation is typical in later stages of the disease but can also occur early on.

All of the symptoms listed above can go unnoticed for a long time and may be concealed by the person experiencing them, as these behaviors can cause understandable understandably distress. If you first notice these symptoms in someone you know, keep track of their behavior to see whether or not these behavior patterns become more obvious. If the answer is yes, encourage them to tell their doctor about what they’re experiencing.

Close-up of doctor holding a bag of medical marijuana

 

Anita Mataraso began using marijuana therapeutically 25 years ago to ease the physical discomfort and other symptoms of Lyme disease. The disease left her with side effects, including nerve damage and fibromyalgia that she had trouble treating with conventional medications.

Though at the time she wasn’t aware of the medical applications of marijuana, Mataraso knew that it was one of the few things that made her symptoms feel better. “When I smoked, I was able to escape the pain in my body for a couple hours, and it was very helpful to me in that regard,” she says.

More than two decades later, Mataraso is now the director of the Rossmoor Medical Marijuana Education and Support Club at the Rossmoor senior community in Walnut Creek, Calif. She now finds herself at the forefront of a growing trend of seniors turning to medical marijuana for recreational and especially therapeutic purposes. The club has grown from 20 members just five years ago to a roster of 500 people. “Our mission is to educate people about cannabis and how it may impact their lives, particularly in terms of senior issues,” says Mataraso.

A National Trend

Statistics suggest that the membership growth Mataraso has seen at Rossmoor reflects a national trend. The prevalence of past-year cannabis use among adults age 50 or older rose significantly between 2006 and 2013, increasing 57.8 percent for adults age 50–64 and a whopping 250 percent for those 65 and older, according to a study released by the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has shifted dramatically over the years. As of October 2016, 57 percent of Americans say that marijuana use should be legal, while 37 percent say it should be illegal, according to a Pew Research Center Survey. A decade ago, popular opinion was nearly the reverse: 60 percent opposed legalization and just 32 percent were in favor.

As opinions change, so does the perceived stigma surrounding pot use.

“Probably the single most motivating factor changing the way people think of marijuana is that, in many jurisdictions, the regulated use of marijuana by qualified patients or any adult has shifted from illegal activity to legal activity,” says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, or NORML, an organization that seeks to legalize responsible marijuana use among adults. “Many seniors who in the past were ineligible to use marijuana or who were violating the law are now able to do so,” he explains.

Why Marijuana Use is Growing

Armentano cites two other reasons for the increase in pot use among seniors: a growing awareness of the perceived therapeutic applications of the drug and the fact that many baby boomers are resuming marijuana use after many decades as they retire and their children are grown.

“This is a population that, in many cases, has some past firsthand experience with cannabis,” he says. “But the majority of adults ceased their use because they entered the workforce at 20 or 30 and had kids. Now that the children are grown up, and the folks are retired, they’re returning to the use of a substance they once enjoyed.”

A number of states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, and as of November 2016, four states had legalized recreational marijuana use for adults. Yet federal law, through the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, continues to list it as a Schedule 1 drug—in the same category as heroin.

Officially, the federal government finds that marijuana has no medicinal value, and research on the therapeutic properties of the drug has been limited in the U.S.

Even so, research and anecdotal evidence points to marijuana being a potentially useful treatment for many common medical conditions that seniors grapple with, including chronic pain.

“There is also an awareness that many conventional medications that are prescribed possess a litany of significant and adverse side effects, and many older adults are making a calculation that they can substitute therapeutic cannabis for some of their other medication,” says Armentano.

Cheryl Shuman, founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club and the founder of marijuana activist group Moms for Marijuana International, has noticed an uptick in demand from seniors for products they can use therapeutically, so much so that she plans to roll out a line of products designed specially for seniors. “Seniors more than any other group can benefit the most because when you consider the fact that many of them have glaucoma, Alzheimer’s, dementia, pain—and marijuana works,” she says.

Shuman began using therapeutic marijuana after receiving a diagnosis of ovarian cancer at age 47. She was visiting her elderly parents at the time and was rushed into emergency surgery. Her prognosis was not good, and doctors advised her to consider hospice care.

After receiving her diagnosis, Shuman reconnected with a high school friend who suggested she try marijuana with a high level of cannabidiol (CBD), which is not psychoactive and is reported to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. “By month two, not only was I walking and doing light exercise, I was showering on my own again, working on computer and doing yoga,” she says. “Within 90 days, I was in full remission and able to go back to work full-time.”

At first, Shuman’s parents were skeptical of the effectiveness of marijuana and wary of its illegality. They even refused to allow her into their home. But after seeing the success their daughter had using the drug, their views changed. “It went from my parents not allowing me in the house to my mom calling me everyday and asking about my progress,” she says. “My mom even asked if I thought it could work for her.”

Trend Expected to Grow

The legal strides marijuana legislation has made have made it much easier for people to explore and discuss their use of the drug. And though some stigma and stereotypes surrounding pot remain among seniors, Armentano says he expects the trend toward greater acceptance and use to stay. “Support is only going to grow in the future,” he says, pointing out that younger generations are even more supportive of pot use than seniors and baby boomers.

Mataraso agrees. “The trend will continue and the research and the science is going to knock out the [misinformation] that’s been going around all these years,” she says.

 

 

 

Notepad with disaster plan on a wooden table.

 

Natural disasters affect everyone, but older adults are more vulnerable than others for a variety of reasons, including limited physical mobility, chronic health conditions and social and economic limitations. In fact, research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than half of older adults had some kind of functional limitation.

If you’re caring for or have an elderly loved one, it’s important to have a plan in place in case a natural disaster strikes. It’s a plan that potentially needs to accommodate a number of factors, from medications and medical devices to assistance with daily activities of living.

What follows are some steps you can take to make sure the elderly adult you know or care for is protected during a natural disaster.

1. Have medications ready

It’s vital that your elderly loved one has their medications with them during a time of evacuation. Adverse health events are more likely to occur if essential medications for chronic diseases aren’t available, especially for older adults with a history of heart attack, stroke, diabetes or cancer therapies, among others. Without his or her medications, the older adult is at risk for health issues that would require emergency care.

That said, it’s a great idea to keep their medications in easy-to-grab containers during a quick evacuation. Experts also recommend making a photocopy of prescriptions to make it easier to get refills from a different location.

2. Let others know

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends making sure your cell phone, laptop or other mobile devices are fully charged when you know a storm is coming.

However, since lines of communication may be limited or even lost during a natural disaster, it’s important to plan ahead for alternative ways to let family, friends and neighbors know where you and your elderly loved one can be found. Keep a stash of quarters to use at phone booths in case

your cell phone no longer works, plus a list of any relevant phone numbers you may not know by heart.

3. Have a detailed emergency plan in place

It’s important to be specific when it comes to being prepared for a natural disaster. Things can get hectic during the actual disaster, and explicit instructions with specific times, places, and things that need to be done will help avoid confusion during a time of extreme stress.

The plan may include other priorities, including:

  • What to do with pets – Most shelters don’t allow pets, so talk with the local animal shelter or a veterinarian to learn about emergency options. Also, make provisions to include any food or supplies for the pet.
  • How to transport other devices – Older adults may require mobility, assistive or communication devices that must come with them during an evacuation.
  • Choose a meeting place – It’s recommended that families designate a secure rendezvous point away from home that’s convenient for everyone.
  • Have copies of essential documents – Make sure to have copies of essential documents, such as Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance cards, birth certificate, Social Security card, etc. It’s also wise to bring a small amount of cash.

4. Turn off the news

Don’t constantly watch or listen to news of the disaster in front of your elderly loved one unless you absolutely must. This can make someone who already feels vulnerable more anxious and nervous. Instead, quietly prepare for the evacuation by gathering supplies.

Move quickly but don’t rush, while also leaving yourself ample time to do what needs to be done. Moreover, know where you’re going, whether it’s to a family member’s house, a hotel, or a shelter while making sure everyone knows of your plans ahead of time.

5. Have backup

Designate a backup person, whether it’s a neighbor or close friend who lives nearby to check on – and if needed, evacuate – your loved one in the event that you can’t be there yourself. Make sure that you have a reliable way to reach them and that they’re able to easily get in touch with your elderly loved one. This is particularly crucial if you’re a long-distance caregiver.