‘Aging’ Posts

Osteoporosis and Arthritis Affect The Life of Many Seniors

May 27th, 2017 by Doris Bersing

Also known as the elderly disease, osteoporosis is a chronic disease that affects the bones. Several of the most serious consequences are fractures; in senior people, these have a detrimental effect on their general wellbeing. Osteoporosis affects the quality of one’s lifestyle, and even though there are preventive treatments that one can opt for, there’s no definitive treatment.

 

An undertreated disease

Many seniors don’t take osteoporosis seriously, and they undergo treatment when the disease is too advanced. There are things you can do to prevent its onset. For example, you should quit smoking and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Including healthy foods in your daily diet, and exercising is extremely important. Furthermore, a physician may recommend supplementation and vitamins to help strengthen the bones and restore mobility.

Why aren’t older seniors receiving proper treatment for osteoporosis?

Most seniors don’t get proper treatment because the symptoms are misleading. In other cases, they might even receive the wrong treatment. Some don’t want to consult with a physician, and choose to take supplements or vitamins at random. With a complete set of blood tests, it’s literally impossible to keep the condition under control.

In time, osteoporosis can severely affect your lifestyle. Sadly, the system is faulty and it needs to improve. There are seniors who can’t afford medical insurance, and even if they do, oftentimes prescription medication to keep the condition under control is not discounted. This discourages the elderly from buying them.

Preventive measures

If osteoporosis is spotted in time, it can easily be supervised. However, without a change in lifestyle and diet, there’s really not much you can do. It’s crucial that you convince your aging parent to eat more dairy products, vegetables, lean meat and fruits. Proper nutrition matters because it strengthens the bones and keeps the whole body feeling strong and vigorous. Also, it’s equally important to take walks and engage in mild exercise. Vitamin D matters just as much as best source of the power of the sun. In senior adults vitamin D deficiency is extremely common. Bone cartilages become extremely weak as people age. To prevent bone loss, supplementation might be required. However, seniors are not advised to take supplements at random. Visiting a physician is recommended, to make sure you are given the right type of treatment.

Is your mom or dad losing a lot of weight?

Do you feel that your mom or dad is losing a lot of weight, too fast? Osteoporosis is the kind of disease that doesn’t always present clear symptoms. It can be tough to tell that your parent has weak bones. In some circumstances, the symptoms may come too late. The good news is there are things you can do to make things better.

Take mom to the doctor’s office and get a bone density test. The most popular type of test is the DEXA. It’s a painless test that only takes a few minutes, and it is extremely accurate. Following the results, you should start the treatment. You shouldn’t wait because things can get worse, and you wouldn’t want to see mom struggle to get out, walk or get out of bed.

Misdiagnosis

Whether we like it or not, we have to mention that oftentimes physicians make mistakes. Older adults don’t get the right treatment because their condition is misdiagnosed. Osteoporosis must not be confused with arthritis.  To begin with, osteoporosis is a chronic disease that affects bone density. Basically, fractures occur more often when you suffer from osteoporosis. In the US, over 53 million older adults suffer from this condition. The side effects are acute: back pain, height loss and evident changes in body posture. Bone tissue is lost, and your parent’s physical condition may be severely affected triggering impairment and the inability to perform daily activity, such as walk or lift heavy items.  Bottom line is the body becomes extremely fragile with age. As a last resort, you may be compelled to consider care homes or assisted living facilities where professional caregivers will be with your parent every step of the way, providing treatment and extra care. But if you start treatment ahead of time, you have the best chances of postponing the onset of osteoporosis.

Age-Associated Changes in Metabolism

March 22nd, 2017 by Doris Bersing

How our bodies process the food we eat

It doesn’t matter how fast or slow your metabolism is between the ages of 10-30, you’ve probably heard that it’s a slippery slide into obesity past that point. Aunts and moms are generally those who love sharing nuggets of wisdom such as, “enjoy it while you can” and “after 30 it’s all downhill”. Based on that, we could conclude that there is some magical change that happens at the exact moment we celebrate our 30th birthday, causing the body’s metabolism to suddenly slow down to a crawl. Though it’s true that metabolism slows down with age, there’s no single turning point or cause why that happens.

We cannot deny that our metabolism has its ownups and downs. However, there’s no reason to fear any particular birthday more than any other when it comes to the way the body functions. The metabolism slows down as we age. That happens because it goes hand in hand with hormonal changes that happen over the course of years and decades.

Hormonal changes and a slowing metabolism are fundamental parts of aging, but there are ways to stave off both, if only for a little bit. Read on to find out what experts have to say about the process of metabolism slowing down and what healthy habits help curb that.

Metabolism is the speed with which the body turns calories from food into usable energy

No matter what we’re doing, our bodies are hard at work doing things such as extracting oxygen from the air, healing damaged cells and pumping out hormones. For all that, the body uses calories, and their combined worth in a single day is called “basal metabolic rate” (BMR). This differs from one individual to another, and a way to find out your BMR is to have your doctor check it for you or use an online calculator.

You will spend more calories when jogging, doing pushups or sprinting, but your BMR value tends to remain constant, since it’s controlled by your hormones. Genes, gender, body type and age also affect the BMR. As we grow older, the hormones within our bodies begin to change, affecting the way our bodies burn calories and store fat. When hormones are released in different quantities, our basal metabolic rate begins to fluctuate.

Biggest metabolic rate changes are related to menopause

The metabolism tends to grind to a halt way after 30, and generally around menopause. The average women see their metabolisms change is at the age of 50, when they get into menopause. The most notable hormone responsible for metabolism is estrogen. When it starts decreasing, the metabolism takes a big hit. Harvard Health also mentions the human growth hormone (HGH), released from the pituitary gland. It also slows down to a trickle as we grow older, since it regulates our muscle mass and fat burning. Muscles tend to grow slower as we age and break up faster. Since muscles are more metabolically active than fat cells, they are a huge factor in whether your BMR will slow down or speed up.

Post-30 weight gain is mostly due to lifestyle changes

People’s metabolisms slowly decline throughout 30s and 40s, but the weight gain is mostly caused by general lifestyle changes that you might not be aware of. We love to exercise in our 20s, but as we age and get to 30, we lose interest because we’re too focused on our careers or kids.

The silver lining: Faster metabolism is related to more physical activity

You can’t escape your genes, but you can take care of your body to make a difference. Even if someone has good genes and has looked skinny their entire life, a lack of physical exercise and proper dieting may trigger weight gain. It’s very important to try and restore muscle mass.

Eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, and working out can help the metabolism get back on track. Why wait for your body to break down, when you can look and feel amazing at 50? Sure there might be lots of nursing homes near me just waiting for seniors to jump in, but if you eat right and exercise, you can live alone at home and be healthy. That’s the definition of a fulfilled lifestyle!

Aging Women: From Crone to Mentor

March 12th, 2017 by Doris Bersing

After fighting for equal rights and against negative stereotypes, baby-boomer women find themselves in a society that obsessively worships youth and relegates its seniors to second-class status. Baby boomer women grew up around the fighting of the feminist movement in the sixties and seventies; many were feisty revolutionaries.

In the eighties, the message to them was to embrace the inner Goddess within. Now in their golden years, they imagine a new role as sage, which will help them obtain the freedom they have been chasing since their youth. But what is this new role?  What if wisdom is lacking? Where then do they find meaning in their lives?

We question how the women’s movement has affected women of age. The women who took what they learned as activists in the civil-rights movement and applied it to the rampant sexism of the civil-rights and black-power movements – who participated in the first sweeping consciousness-raising process that Bettina Aptheker called “learning to name our oppression” – these women are still too young to have been included in Coming of Age.

But that phase of the women’s movement spawned two generations of equal rights, abortion rights, lesbian and gay rights, anti-ageism, and AIDS activists; a devoted, beleaguered army of caretakers of abused women and children in the shelter movement; and labor groups such as the CLUW and Women in the Trades, to name only a few “special-interest” groups. Many old women, some place along the line, have been affected by those struggles, as I was, and by the huge body of songs, poems, essays, and visual art that celebrates them, as I was.

Elderly woman today face personal challenges, triggering some profound questions–among them: What is their role as they age? Reproduction is no longer a goal; nor is raising children. If they had a career, it is in the past, or nearly so. Traditional roles for midlife or older women, such as caring for grandchildren or caregiving for a husband or other family member–are still common for women. These limited identities may be difficult to bear for those who spent a lifetime trying to make a difference.

To those old ones who still do battle with dragons [1]

The “aging” woman, with her dry skin and wrinkled body does not represent the pretty, sexy, vital or accomplished; she is considered to be in her dimmed time. Jungian psychotherapist and author Jean Shinoda Bolen has said, “In a youth-oriented patriarchy, especially, to become an older woman is to become invisible: a nonentity.” Or, as historian Bettina Aptheker[2] recently said of older people, especially women, “We’re either invisible, or we’re in the way.” What’s the future for this woman? What role should aging women play in our society?

Food for thought!

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[1] Studs Terkel. In Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It. St. Martin’s Press; 1st St. Martin’s Griffin Ed edition (September 1996)

[2] May 8, 2008: Bettina Aptheker on Feminism and Ageism. A public lecture at Pacific Institute. San Francisco.

Reasons why older people are skipping their vaccinations

December 13th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

old man bow one's head on his wife shoulderOver 65% of thepeople living in US get their annual flu shot. However, the percentage has recently dropped to 63. Every year, the estimated number of people getting hospitalized with the flu is somewhere at 220,000 according to the CDC. Between 50 and 70% of these people are seniors with ages over 65. Older adults cannot afford to get sick, and common health concerns such as the flu can greatly affect their overall wellbeing.

In 2014, nearly 61% of older people have got pneumococcal vaccines. These are meant to protect the body from infections that might cause meningitis and pneumonia. Basically, there’s no improvement; thus, meaning that millions of seniors out there are still vulnerable. Why aren’t people getting vaccinated? What are the main reasons for them to skip on such important health measures?

Increased health coverage for senior adults, yet no reaction

 Nearly 58% of seniors have gotten a tetanus shot over the past 10 years. However, only 14% has got the advised dose of the well-known Tdap vaccine; which protects against whooping cough and diphtheria as well. Grandparents need to take better care of themselves because they’re the ones that spend more time with grandkids that are too young to get any type of vaccine.

Why aren’t seniors getting vaccinated? One of the main causes is because they don’t have coverage. Even though the FDA has approved many of the above over 10 years ago, people are still ignorant. Some seniors don’t even know that they can get affordable healthcare. In 2014, only 31% of people over 65 had health insurance. The numbers have increased dramatically, although if people they don’t get informed, they can’t know how much these shots cost, or if they cost at all.

Missed opportunities

 Medical experts claim that vaccines are not part of the medical routine of older people. That may be one of the main reasons people don’t get vaccinated. However, when kids come in for a checkup, the first thing that the pediatrician recommends is a vaccine. Seniors often have more severe medical issues. Most specialists focus on other health concerns in the oncology or cardiology sector; almost no physician cares about common conditions, such as the flu.

It is important for older people and their caregivers to discuss more about the importance of vaccination. There are useful guidelines and even a quiz on the CDC website that provides lots of useful advice. For shingles, the most recent vaccine called Zostavax may reduce the risk of contracting a disease in seniors by nearly 50%. The problem is that the vaccine is short on supply, and things haven’t changed since 2012. Also, the increased price may also be an impediment, as not many seniors can afford it.

In a recent study, performed in the summer of this year, the statistics show that almost 40% of older people who asked for it couldn’t pay for it with their own money. Zostavax is covered by the Affordable Care Act only if the patient also has private health insurance. Many seniors don’t have that sort of coverage.

Effectiveness of vaccines on older people

As opposite to Zostavax, many specialists agree that Shingrix – a newcomer, is a lot better. Apparently, it can reduce the incidence of contracting shingles to 90%. But, the efficiency doesn’t seem to be lower in seniors like Zostavax. Shingrix comes with its fair share of side-effects. It demands a second dose after a few months from getting the first. Many people will forget about that aspect. Also, the manufacturing company hasn’t settled on a final price. However, if the vaccine gets approved by the FDA and the CDC recommends it, Shingrix may become extremely useful. But that will only happen if the people remember that they need a second shot.

Public health leaders are not very eager to find out what the FDA has planned. In 2017, an estimated number of 1 million people will get shingles in the US. The CDC doesn’t want to wait, and compels older adults to get vaccinated as soon as possible and avoid hospitalization. Some nursing homes, like Forest HC in England help with short-term recovery, but the bottom line is seniors need to take better care of them to avoid any unnecessary post-operative following their lack of immunity. They must become more aware that their bodies are vulnerable, and many are willing to do that if they can get more affordable health insurance.

Ways for Seniors to Improve Mental and Physical Health

December 8th, 2016 by Doris Bersing
Living Well, Be active as you grow olderEasy Ways for Seniors to Stay Healthy

In a time where daily stress is almost a given, it’s important for us to take care of ourselves.

Seniors, especially, need to find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety as well as ways to actively improve physical and mental well-being. Fortunately, there are many ways to do that, and most of them are more simple than you might think. Here are a few of the best.

Engage in daily exercise

Exercise is important for everyone, but for individuals over the age of 50, it’s imperative. Getting in at least thirty minutes of workout time every day will help improve your mood and overall health, and it might be a good way to socialize, as well. Start a walking group with friends or neighbors, or invite your spouse or coworker to a swim aerobics class. Having someone to talk to will make you look forward to working out rather than dreading it.

Consider a pet

If you don’t already have a pet, consider getting a dog or cat. Animals can help reduce anxiety and even lower blood pressure, and they are wonderful companions. Dogs are also great motivators on days when you don’t feel like exercising, because they’ll always be up for a walk!

Stay in touch

When life gets hectic, we sometimes forget to stay in touch with loved ones. Make it a point to sit down and write a letter to someone you care about, or give them a call. Set aside time on a specific day every week to do it so you’ll have no trouble remembering.

Eat well

Your diet can have a very specific impact on your health and how you feel, so make sure you’re not overloading on refined sugars and carbs, which can make you feel sluggish. Lots of leafy greens, fish, nuts, and fresh fruit will go a long way toward helping you feel better in every way.

Get some rest

You might think you’re getting enough sleep, but if you feel tired all day it’s possible you need to take another look at your habits. Are you lying awake for a long time at night? Taking long naps during the day? Try staying away from the television, computer, or smartphone for an hour or two before bedtime. Instead, read a book or take a long hot shower. Get yourself relaxed before bed to ensure you’ll sleep and feel rested when you get up.

Get creative

For retirees, especially, the days can seem long and uninspired. If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled, try a new hobby. Get creative and take up a painting class, or try gardening or woodworking. Allowing yourself to create things and try something new will open up a whole new world, and you may just find happiness there.

Staying active and keeping your mind healthy and alert will ensure you’ll be feeling good and ready to tackle anything, no matter what your age is.

Parkinson’s Disease Support Group: December 6, 2016

December 4th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

December 6, 4:30pm: Upcoming Treatments: lecture by Dr. Rima Ash

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

Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms and getting the right treatment underway

November 29th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Dementia CareParkinson’s is a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system. In the beginning, the patient experiences mild tremors and rigidity in their limbs. As the disease progresses, the physical problems intensify.  Automatic movements like blinking, gesturing and even smiling are no longer controlled. Apart from stiffness in walking, patients begin to move slower and they must drag their feet to take a step. Speech patterns slow down as well, and in time the patient will become unable to communicate.

Unfortunately, Parkinson’s disease doesn’t have a cure. However, patients can delay the onset of the disease with the right medication. People who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s don’t have enough dopamine in the brain, which means medication to substitute or increase dopamine levels are required to delay the materialization of the disease. In some cases, medication doesn’t work. The solution can be surgery to boost symptoms through regulating specific regions inside the brain.

Getting the right treatment

Parkinson’s disease manifests differently from patient to patient. Mild symptoms are not treated, and a specialist may just recommend monitoring the process of the disease. Drugs may be recommended when the patient start shaking; your physician may also recommend physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy. As far as medicine is concerned, the most common type is Levodopa.

Levodopa has been used for several years, and in nearly all patients with PD the drug has rendered results. When taking this medicine, the body transforms it into dopamine. At first, the patient is given a small dose and as the disease progresses, the amount is increased. In most cases, Levodopa is combined with another drug called carbidopa (or benserazide). These are meant to prevent levodopa from converting into dopamine the moment is reaches the bloodstream. The goal is to reduce side-effects and boost the amount that the brain need to function properly.

Dopamine agonists

With a similar role as dopamine, dopamine agonists act on the brain receptors. Basically, the medicine is a dopamine substitute. But unlike levodopa, they don’t have to go through a conversion process as soon as they reach the body. Several of the most common types are rotigotine, ropinirole, and pramipexole. Less used alternatives are bromocriptine, pergolide, and cabergoline; these are alternative because they may have some side-effects (even though it doesn’t happen often), such as heart valve thickening and lung tissue scarring.

Caring for a patient with Parkinson’s disease

 People who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease depend on professional caregivers for many different activities – from helping them move around the house and get dressed, to taking them to the doctor, cooking, and eating. The disease is a progressive one, and in time the need for a caregiver becomes substantial. Caregivers have the expertise to help a patient accept and understand the disease. If you have a parent of loved one diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the best thing that you can do is become their caregiver, or hire someone to assist you. The job is a challenging one, so whatever you choose to do just remember that the experience will be emotionally and physically demanding.

Get involved

Physicians advise caregivers to attend regular appointments. It is the best way for a doctor to understand the needs of your patient, as well as monitor the onset of the disease and recommend treatment. Keep in mind that Parkinson’s may trigger dementia. The patient may experience memory loss and difficulty understanding what happens around them.

  • Reach out for help and connect with family and friends face to face
  • Stay active and find the strength to be there for your loved one
  • Get informed and know as much as possible about the materialization of the disease
  • Compel your loved one to rest and include more foods based onomega-3 fats (these have a key role in brain health)
  • Consider putting your parent in a adequate nursing home. This is always a difficult task, shopping around for the best place. In UK care homes London are very well sought after, and they provide excellent services. In USA, you can check Caregiving.com to find facilities and their qualifications depending in your geographic area.

Parkinson’s is a nerve-racking progressive disease. Both sufferers and caregivers must learn to accept it. Rather than think about the worst-case scenario, it’s best to stay positive. Consider proper treatment and have a conversation with your parent about professional help, either at home or in an assisted care facility.