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.

Caregiving: Can You Make Medical Decisions?

Who Can Make Medical Decisions in a World with HIPPA?

American’s medical records are protected by the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Neither friends nor relatives have access to our medical information without the express consent of the patient.

This is usually comforting in a world with so much data and so much communication!

But what happens when a senior needs help with his or her medical decisions? What happens if there are end of life decisions to be made?

Three legal documents give others insight and permissions on behalf of a senior.

  • HIPAA authorization gives permission to the doctor to share medical information with the person(s) that the patient names.
  • An advance health care directive (living will) lists/describes an individual’s preferences about medical care, including whether certain life-sustaining treatments should be administered.
  • A medical power of attorney (health care proxy, durable power of attorney for health care) identifies someone who can act on behalf of the individual if needed.

It is not always comfortable to think about illness and end of life decisions. However, there are many resources available that can help. Attorneys are skilled at advising and preparing the documents. Information and forms are available in print and on the Internet, as well.

For a brief description of medical powers of attorney and living wills, look at WebMD.com’s Advance Directives.

 

Is This Dementia? Memory Changes

He isn’t remembering well. Does He Have a Dementia?

How often has a loved one forgotten something and, for a split second, you said to yourself, “Why didn’t he remember that? What does this mean? Should I be concerned?” Here are guidelines to help you.

The car keys are missing. Is he losing his memory?!

  • We all put our house keys down and forget where we put them.
  • We forget a name even though we know the person.
  • We go to the supermarket for eggs and come home with coffee, bread . . . but no eggs.

Are these signs of dementia?

Everyone forgets from time to time. As we get older, we forget more often.

However, it is not a sign of dementia if we can remember the keys, name and eggs after a little while and our forgetting doesn’t stop us from carrying out our normal activities.

Some forgetting is normal. Taking a little longer to remember as we get older is also normal.

Memory changes that interfere with independent activities – our work, social life, conversations, reading and learning – may indicate a health problem that should be checked by a doctor.

These memory changes may include

  • Not being able to find the right words to express something, not following a conversation, or having difficult completing a thought
  • Forgetting names of people and places
  • Being confused about where one is, not knowing how to get to a familiar location, or not being able to retrace one’s steps
  • Having difficulty recalling the information needed to make appropriate judgements and decisions
  • Not recalling where an item has been placed even with time and effort

HelpGuide.org offers a quick look at how to figure out what forgetting the car keys might indicate at What Does My Forgetting Mean?