4 Things to Remember to Promote Positive Mental Health in Your Golden Years

May 21st, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Living Well Senior Care in San FranciscoJim Vogel (*) shares with us 4 things to remember to promote mental wellness in seniors. He says maintaining mental health in your golden years is an important component of overall well-being. Seniors are at risk for memory loss, depression, suicide, and mood disorders. Activities that promote an active body and mind can help prevent these ailments and improve the overall quality of life. As you approach your golden years, there are a few important things to keep in mind that will keep you on the path to wellness.

  1. Retirement isn’t for everyone.

It’s becoming more and more common for seniors to take on part-time jobs as a way to get out of the house, socialize, and earn some extra spending money. Working two days a week as a cashier provides a way to make friends in the form of coworkers and also keeps your brain working as you count back change and help customers with their purchases. It also guarantees that you have a reason to get out of the house regularly.

Working part-time can be hugely beneficial in fighting depression as many seniors find themselves staying home and becoming isolated, whether due to mobility challenges that prevent them from leaving the house, or simply not having a good reason to get out and get moving. On top of these mental benefits, most part time jobs require some physical activity whether it be standing, walking, or lifting. Being physically active even a few days per week ensures the body will stay healthy as well as the mind.

  1. Morning Walks Are a Great Start

Exercise is hugely important to mental well-being as well as physical. Exercise has been shown to have positive impacts in combating the symptoms of anxiety and depression – two common mental health issues which a disproportionate number of seniors suffer from. Rather than paying to join a gym or purchasing a home workout video, simply take a morning walk. Morning walks serve a number of purposes beyond exercise. They coax you to get out of bed every morning, they provide an opportunity to socialize with neighbors, and they guarantee you some fresh air. Starting your morning by greeting your neighbors, admiring gardens and flowers, and breathing the morning air is a great start to a positive day.

  1. Hobbies, new and old, never hurt.

Hobbies stimulate both body and mind and can also create opportunities for socialization. The local senior centers are a wonderful place to find (or teach) craft classes which allow you to enjoy a relaxing activity and also socialize. Attending craft classes let you meet like-minded people who enjoy the same hobbies. What’s more, most senior centers offer access to transportation services, so you don’t have to worry about driving your car or taking public transportation, particularly if mobility is a challenge for you.

Hobbies have been shown to reduce stress, even if done in the comfort of your own home. Things such as knitting, quilting, and crocheting are rising in popularity for their utility. A year of making hats, blankets, and scarves means you can save money on Christmas shopping, too, offering beautiful handmade items with a personal touch.

  1. Seniors get free college.

A number of schools in the United States have free programs for seniors who are returning to school whether or not they are degree-seekers. Lifelong learning keeps the mind sharp and attending college courses has even more benefits. Returning to school part-time or simply taking a class or two that interests you provides an opportunity to socialize with your classmates, plus you have a reason to get out of the house and explore your local college campus.

Furthermore, if you were unable to get the degree you always wanted in your youth, acquiring a degree can bring feelings of accomplishment and pride. Even if your local colleges don’t have a senior plan, many will allow you to sit in on classes for free. It’s never too late to cross things off your bucket list.

Becoming a senior comes with a new set of challenges. Maintaining mental health and physical fitness is a top priority which can become more difficult with age. Though most people consider retirement to be a nice, quiet part of life, it may be in your best interests to stay active. Getting a job, exercising, learning a new craft, or going back to school – all of these things enable a relaxing, enjoyable retirement that’s also healthy and active.

(*) Jim Vogel and his wife, Caroline, created ElderAction.org after they began caring for their ailing parents. Through that rewarding and sometimes difficult process they’ve learned a lot about senior care and specifically the need for more effective senior mental health and support. Their site offers elder-positive resources and other helpful information on aging. In his spare time, Jim loves fishing, reading, and spending time with his kids.

Thank you Jim and Caroline for your insight. It takes a village to care for our elders.

 

Elder Care in a For-Profit World

May 12th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

May 24

Health care tools and technology- Helping seniors continue to live at home

May 5th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

BrCX0s0CEAEDAyaAfter talking for years about the need of a new paradigm helping seniors to age in place and the important role of healthcare tools and technology to help them continue to live at home, i welcomed with contentment the recommendations of our friend Edward Francis at Foresthc.com.

We have often stressed aging in place as the natural way of aging. Living in your own home for as long as possible is important to many people, especially to seniors. It is full of memories and is comfortable and familiar. This makes it very difficult to leave and, providing your health is adequate there is no reason to move. There are a variety of new tools available which will help any older person keep living comfortably in their home:

Medical alarms

A personal alarm is not a new idea! They have been fitted to homes or carried on your person for many years. If something happens you simply need to press the button for assistance. However, if you are unable to reach the button for any reason then the alarm is useless. Modern technology has now devised fall detection and incorporated it into these alarms.  Should you fall then the alarm will automatically summon assistance. It even has a GOS tracker built in to help the emergency services locate you.

Monitoring your meds

It can sometimes be difficult to remember to take your medication and this can often be the only reason that someone needs to move to a nursing home or an assisted living home. However, there is now a pill dispenser which sounds several alarms and even calls your cell phone to remind you to take your medication. Alongside this you can have sensors fitted to your botles which confirm when the pills were taken and how many. If you miss a dose then a message is sent out to your caregiver for them to follow up.

GPS shoes

Many older people love to walk and enjoy the fresh air. Unfortunately, the city you live in could be rapidly changing and, combined with an impaired cognitive function, you may find yourse
lf lost. A GPS tracker in your shoes will help other to know where you are and locate you, if necessary. This system works best if you set geographical boundaries and even time limits.

Home monitoring systems

Sensors placed around your home will allow your caregiver to build up a picture of your normal movements and any routines you have. The system can then be programmed with this information and any deviation to your usual activity will flag an alert with your caregiver and encourage them to investigate and confirm your health and safety. These sensors can also be used to detect if you have a fall or potentially an unknown illness as your patterns will change. They will even show if someone is in your home that is not you.

Apps

There are now apps available which will allow you to communicate with your caregiver, friends or family with just a few clicks. This can be a pre-set message which simply tells people that you are fine, or you can use a panic button which alerts everyone in a predetermined list that you need assistance. Other apps will also remind you to take your medication or can even direct you back to your home if you have lost your way. Among some of the most efficient, we must mention:

  • BloodPressue iBP
  • Pill Reminder Pro
  • Geriatric Depression Scale
  • Dragon Dictation

Remote monitoring

It is possible to get a wrist band which can track your vitals and connect to a smart phone. The information concerning your vitals can then be relayed to a doctor or caregiver. This will ensure you receive prompt help if needed and that you do not waste the doctor’s time or raise your stress levels by needing to visit a doctor. There is a wide range of items which can be monitored including, heart rate, blood glucose, steps taken, diet, and even time spent sleeping!

Many people are already active on at least one social media site and this can be an excellent way for them to stay in touch with another senior relative. Messages can be kept simple but will provide valuable reassurance, especially if you live a distance away from your family. Seniors can easily live comfortably in their own homes. However, because accidents might happen, it’s certainly a good idea for caregivers to keep an eye on their behavior even from a distance. Apps and monitoring devices are excellent tools. Most of them are quite affordable (some are even free), so it’s definitely a good thing that technology is finally starting to care for the elderly as well but always the high touch is needed to supplement the high tech to effectively help seniors age in place.

Parkinson’s Disease Support Group: May 3, 2016

May 1st, 2016 by Doris Bersing

May 3, 4:30pm: Therapy Session by Living Well Assisted Living At Home

Kaiser Permanente, 4141 Geary Boulevard Room F2 (between 5th and 6th Avenue), San Francisco, CA 94118

Parkinson’s Disease Group: April 5, 2016

April 3rd, 2016 by Doris Bersing

April 5, 4:30pm: Informational Session Presented by Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente, 4141 Geary Boulevard Room F2 (between 5th and 6th Avenue), San Francisco, CA 94118

Feeling forgetful? Tips for seniors to preserve their mental abilities

March 10th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Our associate Edward FrancisBrain Changes explains here few important tips for seniors to preserve their mental abilities when feeling forgetful. He says, “….If you’ve recently noticed that you’re going through some thinking issues, it could mean that your mental abilities are decreasing. Are you having issues remembering where you put your house keys? Do you struggle remembering what you did yesterday? These are common changes that the brain may be experiencing as you age…” But we could ask: how can seniors distinguish common thinking issues from severe health conditions linked to mental stability such as Alzheimer’s or dementia?

Understanding the brain and its functions

As you age, your brain’s volume begins to shrink. As soon as this happens, the nerve cells inside your brain may lose connections with your other nerve cells and just shrink. The blood flowing through the brain loses intensity as we age. This is an age-related change that is believed to be the root cause of cognitive decline. It is perfectly normal to experience memory lapses every now and then; however significant memory loss is not part of the aging process. It is important to make an appointment with a physician and know for sure whether or not your memory loss is a sign of cognitive decline or not. Cognitive symptoms that get in the way of your daily activities must not be overlooked as these will interfere with your daily activities.

Changes in the brain that might trigger dementia

Dementia is a form of cognitive decline in mental abilities, including language skills, reasoning, memory, perception and judgment. The causes are different from patient to patient. Alzheimer’s in particular, is one of the most common forms of dementia. It materializes when the brain’s nerve cells deteriorate and die. Vascular dementia on the other hand, happens when the brain’s nerve fibers are damaged by cardiovascular or cerebrovascular problems, most commonly strokes.

Tips for seniors to prevent cognitive decline

Promising medical research shows that taking into consideration the following steps might help preserve your mental abilities as you get older.

  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control – adhere to a healthier lifestyle. Exclude unhealthy carbohydrates, sugar and salt from your diet, and focus your attention on eating more vegetables and fruits. Drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. Daily walking for 30 minutes or swimming should keep your blood pumping and your cholesterol levels under control.
  • Quit smoking & alcohol consumption – both smoking and alcohol consumption may increase your chances of developing dementia as you age. It’s ok to have a glass of wine in the evening, but make sure to drink in moderation.
  • Work out – regular physical activity is believed to help preserve adequate blood flow into the brain; daily activities that keep the blood pumping may reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, an ailment directly linked to developing dementia.
  • Keep your brain stimulated – mental stimulation is vital for your brain health. Stay active by boosting your degree of social interaction. Play challenging games (chess, solve puzzles) and engage in daily activities to keep your brain engaged.

Poor concentration can be a major cause for memory loss. Seniors can start forgetting things when their brains are not properly stimulated. Boredom and lack of stimulation may be a trigger for developing severe anxiety and depression. That’s why it is fundamental for seniors to find activities that can sustain mental stability. Reading books, solving puzzles, and playing chess should definitely be checked out.

Home care and professional healthcare

Many seniors don’t want to admit that they can’t manage on their own anymore, and they would do anything to preserve their independence for as long as possible. That’s not always the smartest thing you can do. If you’re becoming forgetful it’s best to ask for help. Turn to your family and friends, and consider home care. Hiring a caregiver to help you with your grocery shopping, daily home maintenance and cleaning might also be a great idea.

Bottom line is, we can’t put an end to the aging process; and whether we like it or not at some point in life our brains will deteriorate. Most people are terrified of nursing homes; they don’t want to be left alone in a place filled with stranger. And yet, the idea of care homes is not as scary as it seems. There are comfortable facilities where you can enjoy an active lifestyle, interact with people your age, and live a happy and fulfilling life. All you have to do is take a leap of faith!

Aging in Place: Safety Tips for Your Kitchen

March 3rd, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Aging in Place: Safety TipsBecause 90% of us do not want to leave our homes but to age in place, we need to pay attention to places like the kitchen that can be unsafe for us as we grow older. The kitchen is the heart of your home—and it’s also one of the most important spaces to remodel when it comes to aging in place. You’ll need to be able to make regular use of your kitchen, and the harder it is to access important appliances, locate your cookware, or even walk across the floor, the more dangerous it can be. Your kitchen can remain inviting and stylish while being loaded with accessibility features and convenience that will make it ideal for your senior years.

The Floor 

When it comes to your kitchen floor, you have to start with the floor plan. Make sure that it’s wheelchair accessible, with plenty of room to maneuver. Place cabinets conveniently, so that they’re close to the counters and stoves where they’ll be needed, but keep them out of the pathway so that it’s easy to move around them. Next, look at your food preparation areas. You’ll want to be sure that countertops are at the right height for use from a wheelchair. Adjustable countertops can make it easier for you to keep using them as usual until you need a wheelchair and make it more comfortable for others who might share in food preparation responsibilities.

Next, look at your seating. While you don’t want to clutter up your kitchen or make it impossible to get around, you do need to have readily-accessible seating to make food preparation easier. Make sure that you have comfortable, sturdy seats: you don’t want to have to rely on a bar stool if your legs get shaky! Leave plenty of room around the table for a wheelchair, but don’t skimp on comfortable seating, either. You can always move a chair away to make it more easily accessible later.

Your kitchen flooring is almost as important as the floor plan. First, accept that the cute rugs that you enjoyed in your earlier years are a thing of the past: they can lead to trips, slips, and falls. Next, begin your search for a kitchen floor that will be durable and slip-resistant while still looking great. Cork, rubber, and linoleum are all excellent choices for seniors, as are smaller tile that have more grout lines—see here for some ideas.

Lighting

 While aging eyes can be exceptionally sensitive to bright lights, you still want to be sure that you can see clearly enough to accomplish all the necessary tasks in your kitchen. Make the most of natural light: big windows that are free of curtains and blinds are ideal for the brightest possible room. Next, install ambient lighting that will illuminate the room at a comfortable level. A dimmer switch can help make it easier to reduce lighting if your eyes are feeling sensitive. You should, however, make sure there’s plenty of task lighting over the stove and in food preparation areas so that it will be easier to focus on your current task.

It’s also important to ensure that you’ll have the light you need when you’re navigating the room at night. Make sure that light switches are available at every entrance to the room. Consider installing motion sensors on the lights so that it will kick on automatically if you walk into the room in the middle of the night. If this is impractical, you can also put in nightlights to help provide some light if you’re just taking a quick trip to the kitchen.

Appliances 

The appliances you choose for your kitchen should reflect your changing needs as you get older. Your microwave, for example, should be simple to operate, with big, visible buttons that are easy to press. An electric stove with large dials and simple operating instructions is best, but if you do have a gas range, make sure that it has a pilot light and auto-shutoff feature. Your dishwasher should be positioned conveniently next to the sink. Consider installing one that’s higher off the ground to make it easier to load and unload as your mobility decreases. Senior-friendly sinks are shallow and easy to reach from a wheelchair. Choose a refrigerator that reflects your needs: large enough to hold several days of pre-prepped meals if necessary. Think about the layout of your refrigerator and where the doors will open as well as the shelves that will be accessible from a wheelchair.

Cabinets

 Organize your cabinets carefully so that they will remain fully accessible. Place items that you use most frequently in cabinets that are easiest to reach. Consider drawer pull-outs in cabinets that may be difficult to access from a wheelchair or as your mobility decreases. You should also make sure that your cabinets are shallow enough that you can easily reach to the back.

Accessories

 Knobs, switches, and faucets can be some of the most frustrating items in your kitchen when your fingers aren’t as nimble as they once were. Look for knobs that are large and easy to hold, switches that can be operated simply, and faucets that use one lever to switch between hot and cold to make it easier to adjust the water to the right temperature. Make sure that any labels on levers and switches are in clear, large fonts that you’ll be able to read even after your eyesight begins to decrease.

Your kitchen is one of the most important rooms in your home. You need to be able to prepare food, eat, and host guests with ease. Luckily, there are plenty of products on the market that are designed with an aging population’s needs in mind. Take the time to think through your future needs now to ensure that when the day comes, you have a kitchen that will allow you to maintain your independence and age in place, at home where you want to be.