Staying Healthy When There’s a Nip in the Air

The chill in the air, frost on the windows in the early morning, bright sunshine through light gray clouds: Winter can be delightful.

For older adults, though, planning is important to ensure safe and enjoyable winter days. Let’s look at a few ideas for staying healthy:

Safety First

Service your home heater. As people get older, it is more difficult to regulate body temperature and more dangerous to stay cold. Have an HVAC service check your heater to be sure that you won’t get caught without heat on a cold day. While you are at it, be sure that portable or room heaters and carbon monoxide detectors are in excellent condition and away from flammable items.

Get ready for snow and ice. Check your supply of de-icer, if you use it, and plan ahead for someone to clear snow. Inventory your emergency supplies, including food, water, medications, batteries and a portable radio or TV, in case of power outages.

Healthy Habits

Eat a varied, colorful diet to ensure your body and brain have nutrients for top performance. What a great time to do this with warm bowls of soup and delicious cranberry whole grain muffins! Cook a big pot of vegetable soup and freeze it in pint jars to eat every week or so. Add some home-baked muffins, and you have healthful food for a December evening. (See recipe ideas at vegetable soups and muffins.)

Exercise is essential for healthy bodies and brains, but the usual neighborhood walks and trips to the gym may be out of the question some days. You can find exercises on the computer at websites such as NIA’s Go4Life, and SilverSneakers.com. Exercise at home or with a neighbor for 30 minutes five times a week.

Games and Books

Stay mentally active to keep your mind healthy. Mah Jong, Bridge, a feisty game of Monopoly, and, of course, any interesting book or magazine make you think, may reduce stress, and are perfect for a healthy brain.

Socializing

Socializing is incredibly important for a healthy body and mind. Bundle up and go to a class or have dinner with friends when you can. When it is just too cold, the telephone and computer can keep you in touch with others. Try using Skype or Facetime to see your friends on the phone or computer while you are talking!

Stay healthy and enjoy the chill in the air!

Would you like help making healthy and safe decisions for yourself or a loved one? Contact Dr. Cheryl Greenberg at TheAgeCoach@gmail.com to discuss your concerns and plan the next steps in a healthy and satisfying future.

Dementia Diagnosis: Doctors and Questions

When you or a loved one is concerned about the possibility of having a dementia, getting a thorough evaluation is the next step. Knowing and understanding what is happening will help you with interventions and planning.

So, what should you do? Here is a brief list of considerations and steps to take:

Select a physician.

  • Consider the physician’s knowledge and comfort regarding working with older adults.
  • Consider making an appointment with a geriatrician, a physician who is specially trained to diagnose and treat older adults. Don’t necessarily avoid other doctors, including family practitioners and internists, though; they often have the same knowledge and skills.
  • Understand that additional specialists may be included in the diagnostic and treatment process. They may include neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other specialists as needed.

Schedule a doctor’s appointment, which will include several types of examinations.

  • Physical exam, including
    • medical history
    • family medical history
    • physical exam
    • laboratory tests of blood and urine, particularly to rule out other possible causes of symptoms
    • review of prescribed medications, patient-opted medications, and supplements
  • Social and behavioral profile, particularly a log of recent changes and concerns as seen by the patient and/or others
  • Neurological exam
    • assessment of balance, reaction time, reflexes, coordination, muscle tone, speech, sensation, etc.
    • ruling out of conditions and diseases, such tumors and strokes
  • Mental status test that evaluates awareness, memory, problem solving, executive function
  • Psychological evaluation, often to rule out other causes of dementia symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, other mental illness concerns/illnesses
  • Brain scans (not routinely administered)

Ask the doctor questions to be sure you understand the diagnosis.

  • Diagnosis by name
  • Evidence that underlies the diagnosis: What did the doctor see in exams and tests that led to the diagnosis?
  • Doctor’s assessment of the current stage of the disease
  • Possible interventions, including therapies and medications
  • The role of the doctor going forward

Would you like help navigating the diagnosis process? Contact Dr. Cheryl Greenberg at TheAgeCoach@gmail.com to discuss your concerns and plan the next steps in getting and understanding a diagnosis.

Your Fulfilling Future: Planning Together

So excited about our new course, “FULFILLING FUTURES,” at Shepherd’s Center of Greensboro!

Recently, a woman wrote to Amy Dickerson, the advice columnist, to say that she was embarrassed to be old enough to have an 8-year-old grandchild. Ms Dickerson told the writer to embrace her life regardless of age.

I agree. Let’s grab the rings, find the possibilities, have fun!

Are you thinking about new adventures, roles and fun? We will explore the possibilities and make plans for a “fulfilling future” May 2 – June 6, 2019. Sign up at http://www.shepctrg.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Adventures-In-Learning-Spring-Classes-2019.pdf

Look for more sessions of this workshop – or private coaching about your plans for the future – at TheAgeCoach.net or TheAgeCoach@gmail.com.

Cold Weather & Dementia

It is winter . . . really winter. . . with temperatures in the teens and 20s, heavy gloves, warm soup, and a genuine reluctance to be outside if we are not skating or skiing. Still, most of us know how to navigate and even enjoy a crisp cold day.

But what about a person who has a dementia? Do you know the dangers of cold weather for older adults and individuals with dementia?

During cold weather, you may find folks

Living in cold homes without realizing the danger of being cold

Venturing outside without warm clothing or protection from wet weather

Experiencing low body temperatures as a result of taking medications or drinking alcohol

Falling on ice and becoming disoriented in snow falls

The overall concern is hypothermia, which is a condition in which the body temperature is dangerously low. Hypothermia can cause confusion, disorientation, problems with communication and behavior, and physical impairment. Hypothermia may lead to death.

Caregivers can help by being sure that older adults and individuals with dementia stay in warm environments, eat well to ensure healthy body “insulation,” and avoid activities that might lead to hypothermia.

We can also help individuals with a dementia enjoy lovely winter days. As always, care giving involves sharing positive experiences with an extra layer of safety. For our cold crisp days, let’s help our loved ones with cozy wool scarves, bowls of warm soups . . . and hand-in-hand ventures to see beautiful snow falls.

 

For a brief overview of ways to avoid and treat hypothermia, see the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Weekly article, Hypothermia.

 

Should Older Adults Write New Year’s Resolutions?

When we were children, we couldn’t wait to stay up until the ball dropped in Times Square, the confetti was tossed, someone sang Auld Lang Syne … or whatever meant that we didn’t have to be in bed at the usual time.

As young adults, we looked for parties and threw the confetti ourselves. We were mature enough, we believed, to take on the world. We wrote New Year’s resolutions that we took seriously, for a couple of days at least.

And then in middle age, we may have been a bit more subdued, but noting the year and thinking about the future were still important for December 31.

So, what about older adults? Have they seen it all? Are they “over” celebrating? Should they have a special early afternoon party and plan to be in bed at the usual pre-midnight time?

I suggest, rather emphatically, no!

As long as older adults are physically and cognitively healthy, celebrating and writing resolutions can still have real meaning for them. Planning new activities, engagement with family and friends, volunteering or working, refurnishing their houses or moving to new communities . . . new life adventures . . . may be some of their resolutions for the new year.

As C. S. Lewis wrote

Are you an older adult? Do you live with or care for an older adult?

I invite you to take time to celebrate the new year and write your resolutions for 2019!

If you would like suggestions for New Year’s Eve celebrations and making resolutions, look at New Year’s Eve & Resolutions (Home Care Assistance) and New Year’s Eve Party Ideas (Medicare).

Celebrating Holidays When a Loved One Has a Dementia

The winter holidays are here! Thanksgiving with turkey and the trimmings, conversation, football on TV, and family games. Kwanza, Christmas and Chanukah are next. What warm memories of these celebrations many of us have and how much we would like to participate in all our usual traditions.

But . . .

We are caring for a loved one who has a dementia. Everyone is adjusting to new ways of living our daily lives. We don’t have energy for all our usual preparations. And some of the old traditions aren’t appropriate for a person who has a dementia.

How can we have our special holidays? Here are a few quick tips.

  • Adjust your celebrations.
    • Modify and simplify your traditions, keeping some of the special memories.
    • Involve your loved one in holiday activities that are comfortable and safe for him or her.
  • Communicate with family and friends.
    • Talk about your loved one’s strengths and changes.
    • Plan new traditions together.
  • Take care of yourself.
    • Ask for help with holiday tasks and caring for your loved one.
    • Arrange for respite time . . . quiet time, pampering, exercise . . . for you.

Holidays can still be special for you, your family and friends.

Enjoy the possible. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy new traditions.

For more about holiday celebrations, read the National Institute on Aging article, “Holiday Hints for Alzheimer’s Caregivers” at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/holiday-hints-alzheimers-caregivers.

 

 

 

Mother’s Day for Mom and Her Caregiver

Celebrating in new ways:

As we approach Mother’s Day, many of us think about how different the celebration is, now, if Mom is in the middle or late stage of Alzheimer’s Disease or another dementia. We feel sadness, but we also try to honor our mothers in ways that they will understand.

Tips abound on the Internet and in publications, and the tips are wise:

  • Simplify the celebrations.
  • Adapt your expectations about what Mom will understand and enjoy.
  • Give gifts that are meaningful today: soft items to hold, fragrant flowers, a bird feeder that Mom can watch from the living room or porch.
  • Listen to Mom’s stories about the past, if she can tell them, and tell the stories to Mom if that meets her needs better.

Still, there are important statistics that suggest there is more to do.

The majority of caregivers for older adults. . . about 2 out of 3 . . . are women; about a third of the caregivers are daughters of the older adult.

As we know, caregiving is time consuming and stressful. It causes the caregiver to put aside her needs, relaxation, hobbies and interests. While the caregiver is providing love and support, she may not have time to “receive” love and support in return.

So, on Mother’s Day this year, let’s celebrate with Mom, but let’s also celebrate the caring and generous hearts of the daughters and daughters-in-law who are by Mom’s side.

  • Provide respite for caregivers . . . time away from responsibilities.
  • Give gifts that show appreciation and provide the pampering that relieves stress: a gift certificate for a massage, tickets to an art exhibit or popular movie, a quiet meal on the patio.
  • Listen to the caregiver’s stories. She may well need to share the delights and the stresses of her caregiving days.

 

For ideas about celebrating Mother’s Day, read an article posted by the New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association at Honoring  Mother’s Day When Mom Has Alzheimer’s.

For “2018 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures” (and caregiving statistics), go to https://www.alz.org/facts/.