Day-to-Day Life

National Family Caregivers Month has been spearheaded by the Caregiver Action Network since 1994 and formally recognized since 1997, when President Clinton signed the first annual NFC Month Presidential Proclamation.

NFC Month recognizes the more than 40 million caregivers taking care of aging parents, sick spouses, or other loved ones with illness or disability. Caregivers spend an average of 13 days every month on caregiving activities, equivalent to an economic value of $500 billion in unpaid services—three times more than annual Medicaid spending on long-term care. However, because it’s a labor of love, this hard work goes largely unseen and unrecognized for most of the year.

“Family caregivers have an immeasurable impact on the lives of those they assist, but their hours are long and their work is hard. Many put their own lives on hold to lift up someone close to them,” President Barack Obama said in his National Family Caregiver Month Proclamation in 2012. “National Family Caregivers Month is a time to reflect on the compassion and dedication that family caregivers embody every day.”

According to the Caregiver Action Network, November is our opportunity to celebrate the efforts of family caregivers, increase our support, raise awareness for caregiver issues, and educate caregivers about self-identification. The 2019 theme for NFC Month is #BeCareCurious. This theme encourages caregivers to be proactive and engaged when it comes to their loved one’s care, whether that’s in the doctor’s office, in the hospital, or at home.

This month, make an extra effort to #BeCareCurious about:

  • Your Loved One’s Goals: Having hard conversations about treatment goals in the face of a serious disease is challenging for everyone involved, but these discussions are necessary to ensure your loved one is receiving the care they really want.
  • Treatment Options: If your loved one isn’t responding well to their current treatment, ask their doctor about other options. When you’re not feeling well, it can be hard to be your own advocate. That’s why they’re lucky to have you in the room with them.
  • Research: The internet is a great resource for understanding the basics of a loved one’s condition, but it can also be a mess of conflicting and inaccurate advice. Don’t stop at Google. Follow up with your loved one’s doctors to get the full picture.
  • The Care Plan: After a loved one is discharged from the hospital, most of the follow-up care will happen at home. Make sure you understand what they will need in the weeks to come. Ask questions about medications, care procedures, and future appointments.
  • Coverage: Be vocal when it comes to insurance coverage and do your research to fully understand the ins and outs of your loved one’s plan. This will make life easier for you and will help avoid any expensive surprises.

Acting as a family caregiver is not an easy job. It adds stress and complication to your life no matter how willingly and lovingly the care is given. But as they say, knowledge is power. The more you know about your loved one’s goals, needs, and situation, the more confident and capable you’ll feel as their caregiver.

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The later decades of your life can be among the most rewarding. You have more free time to devote to hobbies and people that make you happiest. You may be blessed with the joys of becoming a grandparent. You have more wisdom, patience, and confidence than you did when you were younger. And you have the perspective to know not to take any of it for granted.

It’s important to keep your body and mind healthy to enjoy these years to their fullest. The key to healthy aging is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are five essential science-backed elements to living a healthy lifestyle at any that any age, which continue to serve as a strong foundation for health and daily well-being as we age.

The 5 essential elements of healthy aging are:

  • Diet
    Many Americans consume far more sodium, sugar, and fat than they should, but following a healthy diet can become even more challenging as we age. Make sure your diet is largely composed of whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and good sources of protein. If cooking for yourself becomes an obstacle, take advantage of your senior living community’s dining room. The menus are created according to nutritional guidelines and will help you maintain a balanced diet.

 

  • Exercise
    Regular exercise is one of the most important elements of physical and mental well-being at any age. And contrary to popular assumption, it only becomes more important as we get older. Maintaining your physical fitness will help you retain independence, prevent injury, and can provide relief from chronic illnesses such as arthritis and diabetes.If you don’t already have a fitness regimen, read our tips for how to start an exercise routine after age 60.

 

  • Relationships
    Loneliness is among the biggest dangers to your health — especially later in life. Social isolation increases risk for depression, anxiety, dementia, and even early mortality. Maintaining an active social life can certainly become more challenging as we age, but that just means it’s even more important to make this area of your life a priority. Set up weekly calls or visits with family members, go on walks or get meals with friends, and find ways to get involved in your community.

 

  • Mental Stimulation
    Some people assume that cognitive decline is a natural byproduct of aging, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Practicing good habits for your cognitive health can prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, improve memory, and minimize those pesky “senior moments.” The good news is that following the other four essential habits of healthy aging will naturally support brain health. In addition, find ways to keep your brain active every day. Try new things, learn a new skill, read books, play games, and engage in meaningful activities like volunteering.

 

  • Sleep
    Yes, sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle! Sleep is restorative; while you’re catching Z’s, your body repairs any cellular damage that occurred during the day and reboots your immune system. A good night’s sleep also supports memory, mood, and concentration. Older adults who don’t get enough sleep are more susceptible to depression, memory loss, nighttime falls, and infection.Insomnia becomes more common as we age. To make sure you’re getting good quality sleep, build a healthy sleep routine and stick to it. Go to bed at the same time every day, keep your bedroom as dark as possible, and avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening.

 

If you’re struggling with any of these five elements of healthy aging, ask for help. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about your health, reach out to the staff in your community, or confide in a trusted friend or family member. The most important thing to remember about aging is that none of us should do it alone. Take advantage of the support systems around you and ask for help when you need it.

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Life changes associated with aging can lead seniors to experience social isolation and loss of purpose. The two are often closely connected. Retirement, losing a spouse, adult children moving away, and lack of independent transportation all contribute to a shrinking social sphere, making it more difficult to interact regularly with other people.

It’s not without consequences. Socially-isolated seniors tend to have higher healthcare expenses and a shorter lifespan compared to those who are more socially connected. They have an increased risk for chronic disease, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s. And they are more prone to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

On the flipside, seniors who remain socially connected tend to live longer, report better mood, and have better health outcomes when they are admitted to the hospital. Having purpose likewise helps seniors maintain cognitive function and other markers of wellbeing, such as good sleep and lower risk of disease.

It’s clear: engaging in meaningful, productive activities with other people is beneficial for your physical and mental health. One way to maintain these connections in old age, especially if family lives out of state, is to get involved with your local community.

Here are five ways seniors can get involved in the community:

  1. Sign up for an exercise class — Fitness classes kill two birds with one stone. You get the physical benefits of exercise with the emotional benefits of social interaction. Choose a fitness class that suits your activity level. Talk to the wellness coordinator at your senior living community if you need help finding the right fit.
  2. Attend church services — Staying active in a religious community can be immensely beneficial for body, mind, and spirit. Not only that, but Sunday services ensure that you have at least one scheduled social outing every week. If you’re currently a member of a church, keep attending if possible. If transportation options or mobility challenges prevent you from keeping up with your usual congregation, attend services in your senior living community.
  3. Volunteer — There’s no better way to find purpose and feel useful than through volunteering. Volunteering allows you to be active, to interact with people of all ages, and to make positive contributions to your community. Consider volunteering at local schools, hospitals, or the library.
  4. Join a hobby group — Shared interests are a great way to bond at any age. Connect with the activity coordinator in your community to learn about groups that might align with your hobbies. Most senior living communities will have book clubs, bridge clubs, and bible studies where you’ll find like-minded residents to socialize with.
  5. Take a class — Many studies have shown that a commitment to lifelong learning supports cognitive wellness and may help ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Keep in mind that learning doesn’t have to mean textbooks and classrooms. You could take a cooking class, learn to play a new musical instrument, or take a creative writing course—perhaps writing some personal non-fiction to pass your memories down to your children.

Aim to schedule at least two or three recurring weekly activities—like church on Sunday mornings and a book club that meets on Wednesday afternoons—so that you always have a social event to look forward to. Each week, fill in your calendar with more spontaneous outings, like coffees or lunches with friends. It doesn’t matter what activities you decide to get involved with. The important thing is making it a regular part of your life.

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We’ve braved months of cold winds, icy roads, and even a spring snowstorm or two, but summer is finally just around the corner. As you start trading your sweaters for short sleeves, take a few minutes to brush up on some of the risks that come with warmer weather—and how to stay safe and healthy this summer.

Heat-Related Summer Health Risks for Seniors

We sometimes get as hot in the summer as it gets cold in the winter, and that means heat-related health issues can be a real danger—especially for seniors. While extreme heat can be dangerous at any age, your risk for heat-related illness increases as you get older. Dehydration and hyperthermia are the top health risks seniors face in the summertime.

Dehydration – Feelings of thirst tend to decrease as we age, which means seniors are more likely to become dehydrated. Some medications may also make you more susceptible to dehydration by acting as a diuretic or making you sweat less. Talk with your doctor about side effects of your daily medications that may put you at risk.

Watch out for signs of dehydration:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Low urine output
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate

Hyperthermia – Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both forms of hyperthermia, a condition in which the body’s internal temperature is dangerously elevated. Our body’s natural heat regulating mechanisms don’t work as well when we get older, which increases the risk for hyperthermia.

Symptoms to watch for:

  • Excessive sweating or lack of sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Headache
  • Rapid and shallow breathing

Heat exhaustion can develop quickly, and if not treated can turn into life-threatening heat stroke. If you or someone else is experiencing symptoms, get to a cool place, start hydrating, and contact your nursing staff immediately.

Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

Just because sun exposure comes with some risks doesn’t mean you should spend your summer indoors. Exposure to sunlight is critical to mental and physical wellbeing. Follow these tips to get your daily dose of sunshine the safe way:

  • Stay Hydrated – Drink more water than you think you need. If you feel thirsty, that’s a sign you’re already becoming dehydrated.
  • Take a Siesta – The sun is at its peak during midday. Head inside for a rest during these hours to avoid the most intense rays.
  • Crank the A/C – Extreme heat can follow you indoors if you don’t set your air conditioner accordingly. Set your A/C at a comfortable 72-75 degrees F and use fans to distribute the cool air.
  • Dress Cool – Choose light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen to help regulate body temperature. Throw on a hat before you go outside.
  • Avoid Strenuous Activity – Your body has to work much harder to regulate its temperature when it’s hot outside, which means hyperthermia can come on quickly. Consider trying one of these low-impact summer activities.

Summer is a great opportunity to spend time outside with grandkids, replenish your vitamin D, and enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature. We hope you keep these safety tips in mind while you get the most out of this sunny season.

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Physical activity is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle no matter what age you are but becomes even more important as a senior.

Regular exercise improves both physical and mental health, lowering your risk for almost every chronic illness that strikes in old age and slowing the process of mental decline.

Have you tried any of these four low-impact exercises for seniors yet?

One of the low-impact exercises mentioned in the link above is, yoga. Yoga is a great exercise for seniors as you can do it on your own at home, outside on the grass or anywhere you want!

Now that spring is upon us, find out if your community offers a yoga class in the health center and ask if you can move the class outside a couple times a week to spend some time outside. Morning yoga is a great way to wake up the body and loosen muscles with some guided stretching, and it’s also a good time of day to avoid the worst of the heat.

Find out why this is a great exercise for seniors with these 10 yoga benefits below:

  1. Improves flexibility
  2. Strengthens core muscles
  3. Calms the mind
  4. Improves balance
  5. Low-impact to reduce strain on your body
  6. Relieves pain
  7. Empowers you
  8. Strengthens your bones (AARP)
  9. Reduces anxiety
  10. Encourages mindfulness

Do any of these benefits fit something you want to work on in the months to come? If so, try out yoga.

It’s never too late to start working on your physical fitness. The key is adapting your fitness routine to the limitations of your body at any given age, as well as to the conditions of the current season.

If you’re thinking you’re not even sure how to get started exercising, read this article about how to start an exercise routine over the age of 60.

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Brr! Are you feeling extra cold this winter? We sure are.

It can feel extremely hard to feel motivated to find fun activities to participate in during the winter months. It always seems easier to snuggle up in a blanket. But, it’s imperative for your mental, physical and emotional health to stay busy—especially through the winter when we’re already short on Vitamin D.

Continue reading 10 Ways for Seniors to Stay Busy Indoors this Winter

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