The Dangers of Dehydration

the-dangers-of-dehydrationDehydration is an elder care problem. In multiple studies of senior patients in long-term care facilities and those admitted to hospitals, as many as 40% of seniors were dehydrated. When left to their own devices, most seniors simply don’t drink enough water to remain properly hydrated, and this causes serious physical, mental and emotional side effects.

Understanding how dehydration affects the body as well as dehydration symptoms will improve a senior’s overall well-being.

Hydration is The Foundation of a Balanced and Healthy Body

Our bodies are predominantly comprised of water; it is responsible for balancing the body’s fluid levels, facilitating circulation, digestion, transportation and absorption of nutrients, etc. Water is also required for eliminating toxins, kidney health, energizing muscles and maintaining normal bowel function. A breakdown in any of these processes causes medical complications.

Before age 60, the average person is about 56% water, after age 60 this percentage decreases to around 49% due to lost muscle mass. That reduction means seniors are even more prone to the effects of dehydration and the symptoms can be more serious.

Causes and Symptoms of Senior Dehydration

Dehydration occurs for a variety of reasons:

  • Not drinking enough water or liquids
  • As a side effect of certain medications, especially diuretics
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Certain medical conditions such as diabetes

Symptoms of dehydration comes in many forms. The following are some of the most common:

Mild dehydration

The first symptoms of dehydration are easy to miss.

  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Thick saliva
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dark colored urine, typically dark yellow, orange or even brown
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Headaches or mental fogginess
  • Cramping, especially in feet and legs
  • Fatigue, weakness or general malaise
  • Crying without tears or very few tears
  • Unusual sleepiness or irritability

Symptoms of more severe dehydration

By the time dehydration progresses from mild to severe, the senior will need immediate medical attention so s/he can be placed on intravenous fluids until stabilized. Signs of severe dehydration include:

  • Severe cramping in limbs, back and stomach
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Convulsions
  • Eyes appear dry and/or sunken
  • Little to no skin elasticity (if you gently pinch the skin on the back of the hands, it will remain in the pinched position and/or will retract very slowly)
  • Rapid breathing

If you notice any of these signs in a senior, call 911 or take them to the nearest urgent care facility immediately.

Simple Tips For Keeping Seniors Hydrated

While water is the best fluid of all, it’s not the only option for hydration. Here are some simple tips that can keep a senior better hydrated:

  1. Have a beverage (non-caffeinated is best) with every meal or snack
  2. Keep fresh water in a glass with a straw near the bed and chair-side tables at all times
  3. Eat an array of fruits and vegetables, which have naturally high water content
  4. Maintain an assortment of favorite beverages on hand to keep it interesting
  5. Try adding lemon, cucumber or strawberry slices to cold water to make it more palatable.

Adequate hydration is not just a warm weather issue. Focus on hydration year-round for optimal senior health.

8 Signs of Elder Abuse

8-signs-of-elder-abuseElder abuse can take place in many forms – physical, verbal, emotional and financial. While physical elder abuse can often be evidenced in person (although not always), verbal, emotional and financial elder abuse can happen insidiously and often goes undetected for long periods of time.

Whether you look in on a loved one on a regular basis, or live across the country and are only able to visit every once in a while, the following information can help you to determine whether or not your senior loved one is a victim of elder abuse. Never hesitate to begin an investigation the minute you suspect elder abuse.

8 Signs of Elder Abuse

  1. Constant and repeat bruising, injury or broken bones. True, senior citizens are more prone to bruising from even the mildest of bumps or knocks that occur in day-to-day activities. Yes, the elderly are also apt to lose their balance and/or fall more easily. But, if you feel like accidents occur more frequently than normal, it’s worth looking into.
  2. An unusual dynamic with a caretaker. Pay attention to his/her relationship with the caregiver(s). If your loved one seems afraid, tense, excessively argumentative or withdrawn around the caregiver, it can be a sign of abuse or mistreatment.
  3. Sudden financial difficultyFinancial elder abuse is one of the most common, and silent, forms of elder abuse. Sometimes it’s as simple as a caregiver or family member who keeps the change for grocery bills or writes frequent small checks to him/herself. In worst case scenarios, entire savings accounts can be drained, lines of credit can be taken out in the senior’s name and then maxed out, etc. The effects can be devastating. If you notice a sudden and unexplainable shift in a senior relative’s finances, take note. Try to keep personal/sensitive documentation out of caregiver’s hands and range of access.
  4. Unusual depression or sudden withdrawal. Verbal and/or emotional abuse is another silent from of elder abuse. Adults who are experiencing symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s, may not be able to communicate what is happening. In cases of sexual abuse, the individual is often too embarrassed or ashamed to come forward. If your loved one becomes unusually quiet, withdrawn or depressed - especially if it’s over a relatively short period of time, take time to investigate.
  5. Rapid weight loss or lack of energy. Sometimes, the abuse happens via neglect, rather than any physical or verbal impact. Sudden weight loss, dehydration, or a rapid decline in energy can be signs of malnourishment and neglect.
  6. Bed Sores. If the senior is bed-bound, it is imperative that he or she is moved on a regular basis to keep the blood flowing and the skin from becoming irritated. A neglected, bed-ridden senior will end up getting bed sores on the areas of the body that are in contact with the mattress.
  7. They are dirty and/or smell badly. A well-cared for senior should have their hygiene needs met on a daily basis. There is no excuse for being dirty, smelling bad, or having to wear soiled clothing. This is a sign of caregiver neglect.
  8. Poor living conditions. If your elderly relative is living in a senior care facility, the environment should be clean, orderly and aesthetically pleasing. Dirty, dingy, or facilities with old, malfunctioning equipment should be considered suspect.

Never ignore the signs of elder abuse – take action!

Before you sign the dotted line, make sure you hire a home healthcare provider who has an excellent reputation and reviews, and who screens caregivers thoroughly to help your senior loved ones get the attentive care they deserve.

Gardening with Seniors

Gardening is good for the mind, body and spirit, and these benefits can be even more dramatic for seniors. As seniors become more restricted in their daily activities, gardening offers a low impact way to connect with the earth and do something productive. Plus, gardening-with-seniorsthe results will yield healthy, organic produce that has added benefits for nutrition and health.

Are you looking for activities to engage senior loved ones in your life? Whether its a small window box, patio containers, or raised bed planters in the backyard, these facts, tips and safety recommendations can improve a senior’s well-being.

Gardening Can Improve the Quality of Life for Seniors

A recent study by Texas A&M found that older adults who spend regular time in their garden reported a higher-quality of life than their non-gardening counterparts. The researchers stated, “Gardening is one of the most popular home-based leisure activities in the United States and has been reported as the second most common leisure activity, after walking, of adults older than age 65 years.”

Benefits of Gardening with Seniors Include:

Increased movement. Many physical ailments suffered by adults 65 years and over are connected to decreased activity levels. This is why senior centers, senior living communities and in-home caregivers place such strong emphasis on regular, low-impact exercises such as yoga, walking, water exercise, etc. The activities involved in gardening also provide low-impact exercise. You’d be amazed how much bending, stretching, reaching, and weight resistance is experienced through the regular gardening routine.

Fresh air and sunshine. The best source of vitamin D comes straight from the sun. A little exposure to sun and fresh air, when paired with adequate sun protection and hydration, can help to improve nutrition and mindset. Natural light is a proven mood elevator so tending to a garden on a fairly regular basis keeps the body in touch with nature’s rhythms.

Improved nutrition. There’s nothing like growing your own vegetables to inspire you to eat them. Planning a garden with seniors is a fun way to grow their favorite fruits and vegetables, which can be eaten right off the vine, out of the ground, or used in recipes for nutritious meals.

Seeing the fruits (literally!) of your labor. Perhaps one of the most uplifting things about gardening is the feeling of being productive, essential, and needed in some way. These feelings and experiences can diminish for seniors who do not remain active, or for whom part-time jobs and volunteer opportunities have disappeared as the result of mobility issues. Tending a garden requires meticulous and regular care and day by day, older adults get to watch the fruits of their labor.

Tips For Maintaining a Safe Senior Garden

Gardening is low-impact but it also has its fair share of risks. The following tips can ensure a senior’s gardening activities remain as healthful and beneficial as possible.

  • Wear gloves and protective clothing. Thinner skin is more apt to bruise or become cut on branches, thorns and the edges and points of gardening tools. Gloves, long-sleeved shirts and pants will help to protect delicate skin.
  • Raise the beds. If seniors have a difficult time getting up and down, raise the gardening beds so they can be accessed in a wheelchair or while standing. You can buy accessible gardening products online or use containers on tabletops for easier access. Have a stool nearby for resting.
  • Cool gardening. Avoid full sun exposure by gardening in the earlier morning or later afternoon hours.

Spring is the season to start planting a garden with your senior and bring a little sunshine to their life.

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is a bit of a mystery to many, but it is an underused – and undervalued – part of our healthcare system. It is not a place where people go, rather, it is a service that combines a multitude of different forms of care. In the case of senior hospice care, the overarching goal of hospice is to provide the highest level of comfort, basic medical care, and support as a loved one passes from life into death, allowing him/her to live their remaining days with as much dignity as possible.

In this blog, we will discuss some of the common questions and concerns surrounding hospice care for seniors.

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What qualifies a senior for hospice care and how is it paid for?

In most cases, a doctor must certify that a patient has an end-of-life diagnosis and the prognosis is usually 6-months or less. When patients meet the qualifying criteria, hospice is covered by Medicare, Medi-cal, and most private health insurance policies. Once hospice care begins, the services run indefinitely, or until a doctor no longer feels the situation is terminal. If you or a loved one is considering enrolling in a hospice care program, contact your insurance providers to discuss the financial details so there are no surprises.

Please note: Hospice does not provide full-time care. It does provide daily check-ins from a medical professional and access to 24/7 hotlines. However, the bulk of the caregiving is expected to come from a spouse, family members or professional caregivers. In some cases, hospice programs will not enroll a patient without proof of full-time care provision.

Isn’t hospice care a death sentence, or a form of giving up?

No and no. Firstly, hospice care isn’t the cause of death. The conditions leading up to the end of one’s life can be very simple or very complex, ranging from an acute illness or a slow decline from Alzheimer’s disease. There are a multitude of treatments, medications, procedures and machines that can prolong an individual’s life, but there comes a point where the individual and/or family members must determine that the quality of life is now more valuable than the number of days remaining.

As soon as this point is reached, hospice is a wonderful option because it alleviates much of the stress of the clinical medical world, and prioritizes the comfort and desires of the patient. Although hospice usually is considered a form of palliative (end of life) care, there are situations where patients improve so much with hospice care that they are removed from hospice. However, this is less common in the case of senior hospice care.

Is hospice care always provided at home?

Hospice care is most commonly provided at home, as this is usually the patient’s preferred place to be. Seniors usually want to be surrounded by the ones they love, in the home they know,  with their favorite belongings, scenery and their beloved pets. However, senior hospice care can also be provided in a nursing home, retirement community, or the hospital.

What types of services does hospice provide?

Hospice care is provided by a team of professionals including:

  • Your primary physicians and medical specialists
  • Family, friends, and volunteer caregivers
  • Professional caregivers
  • Social worker
  • Spiritual/religious counsel
  • Bereavement counselors
  • Palliative care specialists
  • Physical therapists

Together, they form a strong support network for both the patient and the patient’s immediate family.

One of the largest complaints we hear from seniors and their families is that they didn’t enroll in hospice care soon enough. Contact HomeAide Home Care, Inc. to learn more about our home care services.

The Benefits of Geriatric Massage

Who doesn’t love a massage? It’s a way to step out of the world-as-we-know-it, free the mind of its ceaseless chatter, and enjoy the soothing and pleasurable feeling of having your tension erased from your physical body. However, massage is not just about the general satisfaction of physical pleasure, studies have shown that there are significant medical and health benefits to having a massage on a regular basis. This is especially true for the senior population.

Geriatric massage is a special niche, designed to provide a relaxing therapeutic treatment that has residual health benefits specifically targeting the physical and emotional ailments that can plague seniors.

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What is geriatric massage?

The principles of geriatric massage – laying down and having a trained masseuse use lotion or oils to manipulate the muscles, connective tissues, and even the skeleton itself – are the same as traditional massage therapy. However, geriatric massage usually involves a lighter touch, to be sensitive to the thin skin and physical sensitivities that often increase with age.

If the client is wheelchair bound, or finds the massage chair uncomfortable, a geriatric massage can be performed while the patient is seated. Geriatric massage often spends a longer time on the hands and feet, in order to increase circulation, but can be adapted to meet the specific needs of the client. This may also include reflexology techniques, which stimulates specific pressure points on the hands and feet that coordinate to specific parts of the body. Reflexology has also been shown to provide natural pain relief.

What are some of the benefits of geriatric massage?

Similar to Yoga and other healing practices that focus on clearing the mind, relaxing the body, and gentle motion, massage has been shown to alleviate depression, improve circulation, and reduce pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints. Also, it can just plain feel good to be touched. Consider that many seniors, especially those whose spouses have died or whose loved ones live far away are without the regular comfort of human touch, hugs, or kisses that most of us enjoy on a semi-daily basis.

Massage enhances emotional well-being. At the bio-chemical level, massage stimulates the release of multiple “feel good” hormones, such as adrenaline and oxytocin. This is one of the reasons many people feel a sense of relaxed euphoria for a day or two following their massage. These chemicals help to relieve anxiety and depression. In fact, massage has been shown to help bereaved relatives cope with their grief

Improved circulation. This is a biggie. Our heart pumps blood for a reason – to feed our bodies cells with much needed oxygen, water, and nutrients. It is also required to eliminate the CO2 and toxins out of our cells and out of the body. When the circulatory system is ailing, the rest of the body is too. Massage can be especially helpful for seniors who have diabetes, certain heart conditions, or whose mobility limitations prevent them from being able to move comfortably or safely; all of these conditions contribute to poor circulation, which can snowball into other undesirable side effects.

Reduced pain and stiffness. It’s hard to find a senior citizen that doesn’t suffer from some amount of pain or stiffness. The same chemicals mentioned above, adrenaline, oxytocin and other “feel good” hormones also help to combat pain. As your lymph system is stimulated, inflammation will begin to decrease, which helps the joints move more comfortably.

So go ahead, treat yourself to a geriatric massage. You might even find it’s partially or fully covered by your healthcare insurance.

Everything You Need to Know About Sundowner’s Syndrome

everything-you-need-to-know-about-sundowners-syndromeSundowner’s Syndrome, also called Sundowning, is a clinical phenomena that occurs in approximately 20% of senior citizens with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It is a state of agitation or confusion that begins as the sun sets. For many patients, this upsetting state of mind will last through the night. While it is obviously disturbing for the person experiencing Sundowning, it can be equally or more disturbing for caregivers who have to watch a person they love in distress, and who become exhausted from lack of sleep and constant worry.

Unfortunately medical science does not know exactly what causes it. It is thought that the cognitive physiological changes that cause Alzheimer’s and dementia may also damage the area of the brain that controls our circadian rhythm – the internal clock each of us has that maintains a certain rhythm to our waking and sleeping cycles.

What are the symptoms of Sundowner’s Syndrome?

As the sun begins to set adults affected by Sundowning may become:

  • agitated
  • forgetful
  • confused
  • anxious
  • restless

As a result, they will have difficulty sleeping, which can further exacerbate their Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms during daytime hours. It can also cause them to wander, yell, become delirious, angry or combative.

There are also factors that seem to increase Sundowner’s symptoms. If a person is already tired or fatigued they can experience more dramatic Sundowning. Low-lighting, a disruptive or noisy sleeping environment, and poor nourishment are also factors. It has also been linked to certain medications, severe constipation, or a disruption in daily sleeping and waking patterns.

Is there a way to avoid or mitigate Sundowning Symptoms?

Because the exact cause of Sundowning has yet to be known, there isn’t a specific fix. However, there are things that can help to prevent it and/or ease the symptoms.

Adequate Lighting. Nighttime lighting is already important in senior housing as it improves sight for seniors with poor vision, and prevents trip and fall accidents. However, lighting is even more important for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Shadows and dark places can intensify their agitation and anxiety. The more you can prevent shadowing, the more it will help the senior feel secure.

A Healthy Diet. As mentioned above, malnutrition and constipation seem to trigger more Sundowner’s Symptoms. Make sure your senior loved one is eating a well-balanced diet to remain nourished. A high-fiber diet and adequate hydration will help as well. Have dinner early and then offer a light snack before bedtime. Limit caffeine and other stimulant intake during the afternoon and evening hours.

Be Active. Keep your senior busy and active during daylight hours so they begin to feel tired at night. A sedentary lifestyle causes sleep troubles at any age, but seniors and those with Alzheimer’s or dementia are especially prone. Daytime exercise, hobbies and mental stimulation will help to trigger a healthy sleep response.

Familiarity. Use night lights in the bathroom and bedroom at night so they can orient themselves when they wake up. If they are in the hospital or away from home, bring pictures as well as favorite and familiar objects that will lend a sense of security to a new location.

Melatonin. Ask the senior’s healthcare provider about melatonin supplements. Recent studies have shown low doses of melatonin can inhibit the development of Sundowner’s Syndrome, decrease its symptoms, and help patients sleep. In turn, this has seemed to slow down their general cognitive decline.

If your loved one is experiencing Sundowner’s Syndrome, speak to a healthcare professional immediately so you can begin to find what works for your client or loved one.

How to Help a Client or Loved One Avoid the Holiday Blues

While television ads and societal cues tell us the holidays are full of cheer, the reality is that depression rates increase this time of year. Senior citizens are especially prone to holiday blues. Whether your loved one lives alone, or in a senior living community, this season presents several depression triggers, ranging from the biological to psychological.

Decreased sunlight and shorter daylight hours can have a naturally depressive effect on the body. Combined with cabin fever, loneliness, and memories of days gone by, seniors can feel they are the only cheerless humans in a sea of holiday-crazed happy people.

how-to-help-a-client-or-loved-one-avoid-the-holiday-blues

The following tips can help prevent your senior client or loved one from succumbing to the holiday blues.

  1. Light therapy. The first step is to battle the biological triggers for depression that occur around the season and time changes. Our bodies can become depressed when deprived of natural sunlight. This condition has been given a name, Seasonal Affective Disorder, with an appropriate acronym – SAD. Light therapy has been proven to help combat SAD by triggering the same biochemical response caused by natural sunlight. A small light therapy box can sit on the table during breakfast, or while reading the paper. Just 15 to 30 minutes a day is usually sufficient. Talk to the senior’s healthcare provider before starting treatment.
  2. Diet and exercise. Make sure your senior client or loved one is eating well and getting enough exercise. If their exercise routine used to involve daily walks outside, start looking for indoor alternatives. Senior living communities usually offer exercise classes, dance classes, or indoor aquatic exercises. Otherwise, speak with your local senior center to inquire about other options.
  3. Ask and listen. The holidays can bring a mix of feelings for all of us. Many seniors hide their negative feelings because they don’t want to distress their family and friends. If you feel comfortable, ask the senior to share their feelings, sad or otherwise. Let them know you feel holiday nostalgia as well. Then patiently listen. The more you are willing to listen and support their feelings, the more comfortable they will feel opening up.
  4. Bring out the albums. Another way to help seniors process their feelings is to let them tell stories triggered by photos. Take an afternoon or evening to sit down and pour over old photo albums. It’s a wonderful opportunity to spend time outside of the holiday rush and learn more about your clients or relatives interesting lives. We all have stories to tell, and allowing seniors to share theirs can help them process sad or lonely feelings, while they are being kept in good company!
  5. Call more frequently. There is a good chance that you live far away from your aging relatives, in which case their loneliness may be more poignant. Make an effort to call more frequently, send card or flowers, or send your holiday gifts in small batches over the course of a few weeks. This can help them to feel more connected and cherished.
  6. Volunteer. We often think of volunteering for senior citizens. However, able-bodied senior citizens make wonderful volunteers in their own right. They have time on their hands, and there are plenty of community outlets that need help this time of year. Contact organizations like Senior Corps, homeless shelters, or local food banks where you and your senior loved one can lend a helping hand.

These tips can help seniors to remain in better spirits before, during, and after the holidays, allowing them to find the peace and joy this season is all about.

What You Need to Know About Advance Directives

Advance care planning is something that every adult should undertake, regardless of age. Unfortunately, too many adults put it off, assuming they can do it tomorrow, or next week, or in 10 years. The reality is that an unforeseen medical emergency, terminal health diagnosis, or an accident can occur at any time. Advance care planning, which includes an Advance Directive, is a vital step in protecting your family, as well as your own well-being should you become incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself.

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Your own advance directive is a very personal and legally binding document (or set of documents) that is set in place to act as your voice when your voice can’t be heard. Situations considered and addressed in an advance directive include:

  • Whether or not you want to be resuscitated and by what means. This may include a form regarding which scenarios you want to be resuscitated, and in which scenarios you do not (requires a DNR order).
  • Do you give permission for your organs and tissue to be donated?
  • The types of life support you are or are not interested in using to sustain your life.
  • The length of time you would want extreme measures to be taken to sustain your life.
  • How you feel about blood transfusions or dialysis.
  • What is your stance on artificial nutrition and artificial hydration?
  • What do you want in terms of comfort care?
  • End-of-life care?
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia care?

While these scenarios are never easy to contemplate, it is significantly easier on your loved ones if you have made this choice before they are faced with very stressful decisions in the event that something should happen to you.

A second part of the advance directive is called a durable power of attorney. This document identifies one person whom you have decided to be your spokesperson at the point where the advance directive would come into play. Choose this person very carefully, and make sure she or he has assured you your wishes will be respected.

How do I create and advance directive?

The first step is to learn all you can about advance directives and the types of information you want included in yours. Once you have decided, it is important that you communicate your wishes with the ones closest to you, such as your spouse, children, and siblings, to ensure they are aware of your wishes and will (hopefully) agree to abide by them.

Once you are ready to draw up the legal advance directive, you can work with an attorney, paralegal, or you can fill out pre-printed advance directive forms yourself. Here is a link to the Advance Healthcare Directive Form for the State of California. When you have completed your advance directive forms, make multiple copies. Unfortunately, if you are in a car accident, medical personnel aren’t going to have access to your advance directive unless or until a loved one provides it. You may want to keep a copy in your glove compartment, purse, briefcase, etc. Also give one to your attorney, family members, and your primary healthcare providers.

If you are living in a retirement community of any kind, provide copies to the administration and/or management personnel. If you use the assistance of a home health care provider, it is a good idea for him or her to have a copy, as well as their employer.

The sooner you take the time to get your advanced care plans in order, the sooner you can rest assured that your wishes will be honored in the event of an unforeseen accident or medical crisis. It can provide peace of mind to you and the ones you love.

The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

Did you think Yoga was a new, hip workout trend for the young folks? Don’t be too hasty to judge. In fact, many active living communities offer regular yoga classes as a part of their physical recreation programs. Why? Because in addition to being a low-impact form of exercise, yoga has been shown to increase strength in bones and joints, increase balance, boost mental function, help with pain management and alleviate stress and depression. We could go on! There are seemingly innumerable ways that yoga for seniors can be beneficial.

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What is Yoga?
Yoga comes to us from the east, via India. In fact, the word Yoga means “union”. The type of yoga we are most familiar with in the west is called Hatha Yoga, and it is comprised of breath work, sustained body postures, and meditation. This triad seems to be a perfect union, pun intended, for holistic well being.

In a typical yoga class, students will use mats, straps, and a few postural aids. These are often supplied by the hosting facility, although students may be responsible for bringing their own mats. The instructor will lead the class through a series of stretches and poses, all designed to work on specific areas of the body. Throughout the postures, students will be reminded to focus on their breath, keeping it deep and regular. They are also encouraged to keep their mind anchored in the feeling of the posture. When the mind wanders, you simply guide it back to the task at hand. Over time, this practice of exercising both the body and the mind can have a profound effect on the mind-body connection.

What benefits can I expect from my yoga practice?
Yoga is being prescribed by many doctors and therapists as an alternative, or supplement, to medication. Why? Because its effects on overall health can no longer be disputed. It is an especially good entry-level activity for older adults because it meets you where you are at. You do not have to have good balance, or be flexible, to do yoga; rather, yoga will make you flexible and will improve your balance as you deepen your practice.

Here is a list of common medical conditions that have been improved by Yoga:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Back Pain
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia

Yoga practitioners routinely site an improved quality of life by practicing it on a regular basis.

How do I get started?
There are a wide variety of yoga styles and classes. If you are just starting out, you will want to find a beginners yoga class. Start by looking at your local senior centers, or within your active living community, to see if there is a senior-specific yoga class in the area. If not, any beginning yoga class will do. Discuss any physical conditions you may have to help your instructor tailor certain exercises to meet your needs, or explain alternative poses when necessary.

Let go of any common misconceptions people have about yoga:

  • I have to be flexible. People taking Yoga are flexible because they take yoga. Your muscles and connective tissue will become more supple and flexible over time.
  • I have to have good balance. Just as above, students hone their balance through their yoga practice. Your improved balance will help to prevent falls.
  • I’ll have to stand on my headYou won’t ever have to do any postures you don’t want to, least of all one you aren’t ready for.

Find a friend to take with you and give yoga a try. The benefits of yoga for seniors will be well worth your efforts. Namaste!

The Benefits of Art for Senior’s with Parkinson’s Disease

Senior centers and active living communities have always included art classes or seminars as an option for seniors to pass the time, or to learn a new hobby or skill set. However, over time, medical professionals have witnessed how the arts, including art, music, and theater, have seemed to improve the mindset and emotional health of their patients, in addition to positive physical benefits. Now, research is beginning to prove these observations correct as more data links art therapy and the improvement of common side effects from aging such as depression, physical ability, and cognitive function. Parkinson’s disease patients are one population for whom art therapy has proved to have major benefits.

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Art, Music and Drama Can Help Parkinson’s Disease Patients Both Physically and Emotionally

Senior living facilities, medical clinics, and research programs are beginning to partner up with art and music professionals to work with Parkinson’s disease patients as they use art therapy as a means for physical therapy, as well as an emotional outlet.

One example of this takes place at Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago. The hospital has created a special program called Creative Arts for Parkinson’s. Specially trained professionals from the local Institute for Therapy Through the Arts lead jam sessions, poetry readings, and sing-a-longs. Depending on the schedule for the day, and the group’s interests, the participants may learn to play simple instruments and make music as they sing songs together. Sometimes, they are handed scripts and each of them chooses a character to read as they learn how to project their voice and emote using well-known or relevant script material.

The goal of programs like these are multi-fold. They gather individuals together who have been given an unwelcome diagnosis, and teach them that they are not alone. Singing and playacting helps to exercise mouth muscles, vocal chords, throat muscles and the diaphragm, all of which can become weaker and less productive as the disease progresses. Perhaps, even more importantly, the arts provide a medium through which Parkinson’s disease patients can begin to emote their anger, frustration, and sadness in a way their daily life may not accommodate. Says Diane Breslow, the center’s coordinator, “Very often with Parkinson’s disease there is a fear of the future and the unknown; we want to give these patients a better way to live with their disease in the present.” In addition to music and theater, the physical arts can also provide therapy for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

In 2010, medical clinicians and health professionals from all over the world gathered in Scotland for a World Parkinson’s Congress. While there, they were able to attend a presentation by Deborah Elkis-Abuhoff, a faculty member in the Counseling, Research, Special Education and Rehabilitation Department’s Creative Arts Therapy program at Hofstra University. Elkis-Abuhoff shared her research regarding clay manipulation and its ability to tame tremors, soothe agitated emotional states, and provide a sense of accomplishment for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. In fact, many patients find that by working with physical artistic mediums, they are able to control their movements in a much more focused way than in their normal day-to-day activities.

And, in a rather amazing coincidence, it seems that dopamine-stimulating drugs used to combat the side effects of Parkinson’s disease might give rise to increased artistic capacity, as has been witnessed by experts from around the planet.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, art and music programs can provide a welcome relief and improvement in Parkinson’s disease effects, in addition to providing a support network.