Seniors and Allergy Season

seniors-and-allergy-season

The return of spring is a welcome change of seasons. Increased sunlight and warmer weather provides us all with more opportunities to be outside. This is particularly important for seniors, for whom bed- and chair-bound winters can lead to stiffness, rapid loss of muscle tone and a lack of energy.

Of course, there is always a balance in life, so we trade all that rosy sunshine and an abundance seasonal allergies for a healthy dose of pollen and other allergens. What is typically a minor nuisance to the young and healthy can be a bit more threatening for the senior population.

Tips to Help Seniors Survive This Year’s Allergy Season

For one thing, seniors often have pre-existing medical conditions that make it more difficult for them to cope with the respiratory problems that accompany allergies. Also, senior immune systems are often weaker than those of their younger counterparts, which can result in more intense allergy symptoms and discomforts and can also make seniors more prone to new allergies.

Signs of seasonal allergies include:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy and/or watery eyes
  • Itchy and/or sore throats
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Congestion

Often, seniors are wary of accepting they have allergies because they’ve, “never had them before…” However the experts say that adult-onset allergies are on the rise, so any senior experiencing these symptoms for the first time should schedule a visit to the doctor.

Please Be Advised: DO NOT purchase over-the-counter allergy medications for seniors unless you have been advised to do so by their doctor. Seniors are more sensitive to the negative side-effects of antihistamines, the active ingredient in most allergy medications.

There are several things you can do to help seniors weather the spring allergy storm.

  1. Schedule a visit to the doctor. Do schedule a visit with the doctor if it’s the first time a senior has experienced allergies to make sure you choose an allergy medication that works well with any other prescriptions they’re currently taking.
  2. Avoid over-the-counter medications. One of the most important reasons to go to the doctor, rather than the pharmacy, is that traditional over-the-counter allergy medications contain antihistamines. Not only can these cause seniors to become drowsy, foggy, forgetful and confused, they can also cause mood swings and dangerous interactions with other prescription medications. Often, doctors will prescribe nasal steroid sprays or other medications to assist with allergy symptoms.
  3. Check pollen counts. Look at local weather forecasts and schedule outdoor activities for days when the pollen count is lower.
  4. Wear protective clothing and gear. Wearing sunglasses, long sleeves, pants and a mask can protect sensitive seniors from excess pollen and airborne allergens. Once seniors are back inside, have them change clothes and wash their hands. Outdoor clothes should be placed directly in the washing machine. This will help to eliminate the transfer of allergens to the inside of the home.
  5. Change HVAC air filters. Sometimes, the level of dust mites, pollen and dander inside the home are higher in concentration than those outside. This is because once allergens make their way in, they can have a hard time getting back out. Schedule an HVAC tune-up this time and year and have the technician replace the filters while he’s at it. Old HVAC ducts may need to be cleaned. Air filters are very affordable so, during allergy season, it may be worth it to change them every month to maintain healthy indoor air quality.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Some foods, like white, refined sugars, processed carbohydrates (like crackers and many snack foods), saturated fats and aspartame (a common sugar-free sweetener) actually increase inflammation in the body. Increased inflammation leads to a hyper-active immune system, and that will lead to more severe allergenic responses. A healthy, anti-inflammatory diet can reduce allergy symptoms as well as other conditions linked to inflammation such as arthritis. Focus on eating whole grains, lots of vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and minimal amounts of processed foods.

Feel like your senior loved one needs a little extra care this season? Contact HomeAide Home Care. We can provide any level of home-based senior care you need, whether it be weekly check-ins and errand running to full-time or respite care services.

Tips for Helping Seniors with Spring Cleaning

tips-for-helping-seniors-with-spring-cleaning

Spring cleaning is hard enough when you’re young and able; the task is even harder when you throw a senior body in the mix. Not only does it become more difficult – or downright dangerous – to bend over, reach into far corners of lower cabinets or to access light fixtures or upper shelving – poor eyesight and reduced stamina make it impossible to do a thorough job.

That being said, cleaning and organizing is important for senior health and well-being. A dirty house is unsanitary and can become a health hazard for seniors. Cluttered rooms and floors are trip hazards and plenty of studies show that a clean, organized space is associated with a brighter and more content mental outlook.

The following tips will help you and your senior loved one to get spring-cleaning done in record time:

  1. Create a schedule. In most cases, a thorough spring-cleaning can’t happen in a day or two, or even a single week. Help seniors create a realistic schedule – tackling one thing at a time. Maybe there will be one schedule for the senior – listing one manageable task per day – and one for the helper(s) – including the more difficult or dangerous tasks. If the senior is able, have him or her create the list of what needs to be done so they have some degree of autonomy. Then the rest of you can divvy it up accordingly as a team.
  2. Recruit friends and family. Spread the deeper cleaning and organizing chores up over a series of weekends, and recruit family and close friends to help out. This is a fun way for seniors to get to visit with people they haven’t seen in a while and gives the visitors a way to feel needed and useful. In four weeks, eight weekend days, you can get a house into ship-shape order – outside and in. An added bonus: having loved ones visit on a regular basis is a key component to preventing loneliness and depression, two common states of mind for seniors.
  3. Evaluate senior safety. Use the spring-cleaning experience as a way to assess how the senior is getting around on his/her own, and how the home could be made a little more senior-friendly. Eliminate trip hazards, increase safety lighting, install grab bars in the bath/shower and at the toilet area. Change batteries in smoke and CO detectors. Rearrange cabinets so items that are used most often are placed in the most accessible locations.
  4. Hire a professional. This may be a good time to looking to senior home care options. If seniors are no longer able to clean their own home, a home healthcare provider can do it for them. They can also help with grocery store and errand runs, driving, laundry, meal preparations and other tasks that become more tiring and difficult to manage in the senior years. As a senior’s physical and/or mental health deteriorates, those services can be extended, without requiring a move.
  5. Figurative Spring-cleaning. Tax time is the perfect time to do a figurative form of spring-cleaning, taking stock of the financial, medical and legal picture. If you haven’t done so already, consider bringing up the subject of Power of Attorney, Advanced Medical Directives, estate or trust plans as well as preferred long-term care plans to get everyone prepared – and on the same page – should the senior be unexpectedly incapacitated by a sudden illness, stroke or the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Things are much less complicated for everyone involved if these items are put into place well before they are actually needed. You can also schedule important annual wellness visits, including a visit with the General Practitioner, the dentist and the optometrist.

With the return of spring comes the return of the light. Your willingness to help out with your loved one’s spring-cleaning will certainly be a ray of light in the senior’s eyes. Need a little assistance with cleaning and organizing this year? Contact us here at HomeAide Home Care and we can schedule a free consultation.

Making Any Home Senior Friendly

making-any-home-senior-friendly

Creating a safe environment is one of the most important steps in helping seniors to age place. Typically, this involves things like being proactive in terms of fall prevention, moving seniors from an upstairs bedroom to a first-floor room and making the home as accessible as possible for mobility aids.

However, unless a senior is bedbound, odds are they are spending time in your home or the homes of close friends and family members in addition to their own. In this case, it’s important that all homes are as senior friendly as possible. In fact, this tenet is becoming so widespread that many contractors and remodeling professionals are advocating “livable” home designs – interior designs that are safe and accessible for all.

If you happen to be planning a kitchen or bathroom remodel, talk to the design-build team about accessible or universal design changes that will adapt your kitchen for seniors, children or adults with mobility aids. In addition to making your home safer for senior friends and relatives, you also benefit from a safer and more occupant-friendly environment as well as wider resale appeal.

Things to consider include:

Minimal stairs and easy-access-entryways. Even the slightest of injuries, like a sprained ankle, can make it tricky to navigate stairs. So, imagine what it’s like when you are weaker, suffer from arthritis or have to use a cane or walker on a regular basis. Stairs are in impossibility for those in a wheelchair. For these reasons, accessible homes include at least one, single-level entryway or a gently-sloped ramp so access in and out of the home is both safe and comfortable.

Wider doorways and hallways. Again, mobility aids make it challenging to navigate narrow hallways and doorways. Even access around dining room tables, kitchen islands, perimeter countertops, and living room furniture can be a problem. When arranging furniture or designing permanent features, try to keep a width of at least 32-inches between objects so individuals with walkers, crutches or wheelchairs can maneuver without a struggle.

Slip-free floors. Here’s another area where livable designs make for all-around safer homes. Hard surface flooring can be dangerous for adults and children if they aren’t made using slip-proof materials. This is especially true for kitchens and bathrooms, where wet floors are more common. That being said, hard-surfaces and low-profile carpets are the easiest for the elderly and those with mobility aids to navigate, so be thoughtful of that when choosing flooring surfaces.

Downstairs bedrooms. Even if stairs aren’t impossible to navigate, they can exacerbate latent physical issues – like arthritic knees and hips, weaker muscles or equilibrium challenges. Stairs also make for a much more dangerous fall if seniors lose their balance. If at all possible, senior guests should have access to a downstairs bedroom, even if that means temporarily converting a den, office or child’s room into a guest room.

Re-organize cabinet spaces. If a senior will be staying with you for more than a day or two, or if a senior relative will be moving in, you may need to re-organize your cabinets. Keep everyday dishware, mugs and cooking utensils in easy-to-reach places. Typically, this includes the upper-shelving in bottom cabinets and lower-shelving in the upper-cabinets. The same goes for the bathroom. The ideas is to eliminate as bending/crouching- or requiring a step stool – as much as possible. If you’ are considering a remodel, look into cabinetry with pull-out shelving, which makes storage even more convenient.

Need help making your home more senior-friendly? Consider a consultation with HomeAide Health Care. Our consultations are always free and we’ll leave you with tips and recommendations on simple changes that will make your home more safe and accessible for all of its occupants.

Helpful Tips on Cooking for Seniors

helpful-tips-on-cooking-for-seniors

Nutrition is such a critical part of senior health. Eating the right foods and staying hydrated decrease the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimers, keeps seniors strong so they are less prone to falls and helps elderly adults remain active.

Cooking healthy meals for seniors is a single step that leads to multiple, long-term benefits.

Things to Consider When Cooking for Seniors

Even so, there are things you need to take into consideration when you prepare meals for seniors. Their dietary restrictions may prevent common ingredients like butter and high-fat meats. They may have a sensitivity to acid as the result of medications they are taking, and so on. First, be aware of any dietary restrictions by speaking with the senior’s doctor.

Then, use the following tips to create delicious, healthy meals:

  1. Skip the salt. Most seniors are on some type of salt restriction so paying attention to sodium content is key. Use low-sodium products whenever possible and then beef up the flavor by adding white wine, lemon juice, vinegar and other acids that can replace the need for salt.
  2. Make it easy to chew. Even if seniors have their own teeth, it chewing and swallowing is more difficult once we’re older. Swap out some of the traditional “meat and potatoes” meals for stews, soups or braised versions, which are softer in texture and easier to chew and digest. Using fresh, moist ingredients also keeps food from being tough. Invest in a slow cooker cookbook, or check out slow-cooking websites for great recipe ideas. Dishes made in the slow cooker typically cut down on kitchen labor and you can make freezable leftovers to boot – so it’s a win-win.
  3. Look into a cooking class. There are cooking classes and other programs geared to senior health. Check with your local senior center to see if they know of anything in your area. They may also have cooking classes or short tutorials aimed directly at seniors, focusing on low-maintenance meals they can put together without a whole lot of standing or food prep.
  4. Learn about smart substitutions. There are some pretty smart substitutions you can make in order to cut down on fat and cholesterol. Once example is to use a can of white beans or boiled, diced potato that can be pureed and used as a substitute for cream in soups. Adding canned beans – like white beans or pinto beans – to soups is also great, zero-fat, zero-cholesterol way to boost protein content. Try swapping equal parts applesauce for oil in any baking recipe.
  5. Let them choose. Do you remember going to the cafeteria at your high school or university? The good news was that you didn’t have to cook; the bad news was that you didn’t have a choice in the food selection. Give seniors some autonomy by letting them choose recipes from a favorite cookbook or cooking-oriented magazine. Then make sure you incorporate the recipes they choose in with your weekly menu plans.
  6. Use whole-wheat whenever possible. The benefits of whole-wheat are incontrovertible. They are higher in protein and fiber, both of which are better for seniors. They are also lower in carbs, which makes them better for seniors who are pre-diabetic or who have diabetes. Look for whole-wheat pastas, tortillas and breads and get rid of the white stuff.
  7. Ask them about their favorite childhood food memories. So many dishes from the past have been sort of lost along the way. Sometimes, this is for health reasons. Other times it’s simply the result of a shift in food trends. Ask your senior clients or loved ones what their favorite foods were as a child and then try to prepare them. Make healthy substitutions wherever you can, but remember that once in a while, it’s okay to splurge.

Are you concerned your senior loved ones aren’t eating nutritious meals? Does your busy lifestyle make it difficult to keep track of what is being eaten and what isn’t?

That’s what HomeAide Home Care is here for. We have an entire team devoted to providing compassionate senior care, right in the comfort of their home. This includes meal planning and preparation. Contact Us to learn more.

Helping Elderly Relatives Stay Independent

helping-elderly-relatives-stay-independent

While our culture celebrates the wisdom of our elders, their wisdom is often negated when they wind up feeling more like a child as the result of physical deficiencies or the loss of their independence. This loss of mobility, ability, friends and loved ones and a sense of autonomy often leads to depression, loneliness and anxiety. And, who wants their loved ones to feel that?

Independent Elders Are Happier Elders

So, the trick becomes coming up with health and safety-oriented changes that continue to foster a sense of autonomy and empowerment.

Here are five ways to help your senior loved ones remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible.

  1. Let them stay at home. Unless the senior is voluntarily moving to a retirement or assisted living facility, trying to force their hand is a dangerous game. Take into consideration that the National Institute on Aging states, There is No Place Like Home – For Growing Old. Facilitating a safe way for seniors to age in place is one of the most cost-effective and emotionally rewarding things you can do for parents, grandparents and other seniors. According to Financial Advisor Magazine home-based care is more affordable than both nursing home and assisted living facility options.
  2. Create a safe living environment. Fall prevention is essential for a healthy senior life. Diminished vision, brittle bones and lack of balance are a recipe for trip-and-fall disasters, many of which lead to expensive and debilitating surgeries. If seniors live in a multi-story home, move their bedroom to the first floor so their life revolves around a safe, single level.
  3. Keep them mobile. As we age, balance becomes more of an issue. Eyesight and hearing start to diminish diminish along with muscle mass and bone density. Regular exercise is instrumental for keeping seniors fit, active and as physically strong as possible. Studies also show that it is good for overall mental and emotional well-being. Senior centers, yoga studios and local gyms offer fitness programs and classes tailored to seniors. Visit these places with your loved one to find the right fit. Also, research and invest in the right mobility aid(s) before they are absolutely essential. The more familiar and comfortable a senior is with a cane, walker or other form of aid, the easier it will be to implement it into their life when needed.
  4. Invest in pre-made meals. Preparing and cooking food is no easy feat and the lack of good meals takes a disastrous toll on a senior’s physical and cognitive health. There are several options for seniors who no longer want to cook. Meal delivery services, like Schwans, offer door to door service, providing a wide range of tasty foods, meals and desserts that are flash frozen and easily prepared. You can order food online to be delivered anywhere in the county. Meals on Wheels is another option, which delivers prepared foods once a day to the senior’s door. In-home care providers often offer meal preparation as a part of their service menu and this is a good way to have a homecare provider get their foot in the door – providing meals, light cleaning, transportation and so on, setting the stage for when more regular care and assistance might be required.
  5. Provide transportation. One of the greatest losses of independence occurs when a senior can no longer drive. For many, this is the beginning of a home-bound life that shouldn’t be! From transportation offered by local senior centers to public buses and dial-a-ride services, there are plenty of options. Again, many in-home care providers offer transportation as a service and a friendly caregiver can be scheduled as many times a week as senior clients like, ensuring they don’t miss out on favorite games, hobbies, movies, church services, restaurants and other social events.

Is it time to make a few changes that will establish a greater sense of independence in your elderly loved one’s life? Schedule a FREE in-home assessment with HomeAide Home Care. We’ve provided all manner of in-home caregiving services for Bay Area senior clients for almost two decades.

Minimizing Loneliness During the Holidays

minimizing-loneliness-during-the-holidays

The holidays can bring a mixed-bag of emotions for any of us, but they can be especially bitter-sweet for the elderly. Memories of times-gone-by are often layered with sadness and loneliness because so many of the individuals present in those memories are no longer alive or live far away.

Tips For Preventing Seniors Holiday Season Loneliness

One of the greatest gifts you can give your senior loved-ones this time of year is the gift of attention. There are all kinds of ways – both big and small – that you can make a difference and minimize elderly loneliness during the holidays.

  1. Help to plan their social calendar. There are myriad of free and very low-cost events taking place around the holiday season – yet many seniors are cut off from them because they no longer drive, or perhaps they don’t like to drive at night, when many of these activities take place. Look online and search for holiday events where your loved one lives. If you can’t take them yourself, consider enlisting the help of other friends or relatives who can volunteer a few hours to help. Many local senior centers and communities offer low-cost shuttling services. You can also use a companion service, hiring professional caregivers to transport them to and from the event, keep them company while they’re attending and ensure they’re comfortable.
  2. Make contact more often. Since this time of year is known to exacerbate senior stress, loneliness and depression, this is a good time to add another day of the week to visit or call. If you typically stop by on Sundays, maybe you could add a Wednesday dinner or special dessert to the mix. Or, if you call every Saturday morning, try calling again on Monday or Tuesday to check in. The added attention and connection can do wonders.
  3. Be present to their grief. Your grandmother isn’t the only one mourning the loss of your grandfather. Odds are you, your mother or father and the children miss him too. Sometimes, seniors feel guilty sharing their grief or sadness – especially if the loss is many years ago, because they want this to be a happy time of year for you. However, if you open the topic up for conversation, saying something like, “You know, this time of year is so special – but it also brings up so many memories of grandpa (or dad, or Uncle Bill) that I feel sad, too. I really miss him.” This can open doors of communication, allowing the senior to express her feelings of grief and loneliness. It’s a special opportunity for you both.
  4. Fly them to see you. Does your elderly loved one live far away? Perhaps you can look online and fly them out for a visit – if not on the actual holiday, maybe for a long weekend before or after. The whole family may be willing to go in on the cost. If traveling is difficult, hiring a temporary caregiver from a licensed home healthcare agency can ensure your loved one travels safely and comfortably on both legs of the journey.
  5. Surprise them with packages. A gift basket is nice, but what if you sent them little cards or packages for the 12 Days of Christmas, or honoring the 8 days of Hanukkah. Receiving one small gift or a card in the mail each day gives your loved one something to look forward to – not to mention the love and appreciation of receiving such a fun and heartfelt surprise.
  6. Reach out to local music groups. Is there a local music group in your area that carols or volunteers to sing at senior centers? They or a small group of them may be more than willing to reach out to your loved one’s senior community – or maybe even make a special visit to their home – to play and sing favorite holiday tunes.
  7. Send them their favorite meals. Can’t visit and can’t fly them out? Make sure they eat some of their favorite foods and treats over the holiday season. Companies like magickitchen.com offer delicious, home-cooked meals that are flash frozen and delivered to the senior’s doorstep. They include desserts and when all’s said and done, each meal is less than $20. They also cater to special dietary needs.

Read How to Help a Client or Loved One Avoid the Holiday Blues for additional tips on adding holiday cheer to those who need it.

Types of Canes and Walkers

types-of-canes-and-walkers

Mobility aids can completely transform a senior’s life. At the most basic level, canes and walkers provide the stability and balance necessary to prevent falls. In some cases, they make a chair-bound senior free again – able to take walks around the block, visit a corner grocery store or to bet able to get outside and garden again without fear.

The key is to choose the right cane or walker for the elderly person’s needs, and to make sure the equipment is a good fit for the person’s height and weight. Failure to select the right type of walker, or to ensure a good fit, can cause discomfort and will compromise their safety.

A Guide to Selecting a Cane or Walker For the Elderly

The first step is to make an appointment with a healthcare provider. Let the doctor know you’re interested in using a cane or walker and he can assist you in selecting the right one.

The following are basic guidelines for selecting the right type of mobility aids for your needs.

Determine the amount of support you need

Canes can support as much as 25% of your body weight, while certain walkers can support up to 50% of your body weight. You want to choose the type of aid that will provide the most support for where you are at today – taking into consideration that the need for more support will increase as you age.

Many seniors opt to get one of each and use them in different scenarios. Perhaps a cane will be used around the house, to putter in the yard, or to make short trips to doctors or friends’ homes. A walker may be used for longer jaunts or to take advantage of the basket option if you will be carrying or purchasing small items.

What is the main reason you’ll be using the device?

Typically, canes are used for:

  • Arthritis in the knees and hips.
  • Minor issues with balance, especially on stairs or uneven ground.
  • An injury to the foot, ankle or leg.

Walkers are recommended for:

  • Arthritis pain in the knees and hips is more severe.
  • Moderate to severe balance problems or more serious issues with gait.
  • More generalized weakness in the knees, hips or legs.

Things to Look For in a Cane

Canes are typically made from wood or metal, aluminum being the most common. They come with single, triple or quad-feet – the latter two providing the most stability. The bottom should always have a rubber non-skid tip to prevent slipping. Handle options are curved, rounded or gripped and it’s important to try out different types to see what feels the most comfortable.

Things to Look for in a Walker

Most walkers are made from aluminum to ensure they are light weight. There are generally three types of walkers:

  1. Standard, pick-up walkers.
  2. Walkers with wheels on the front and feet on the back (the feet should have rubber, non-slip tips).
  3. Rolling walkers, which have 4-wheels, hand-brakes and come with or without a seat/basket attachment.

Most seniors find that the rolling walkers with the seat/basket option make the most sense. Not only do they provide support, but the built-in seat provides a place to rest comfortably on a longer walk or while cooking or cleaning. The basket allows seniors to get the mail, carry a purse, or pick a few things up from a nearby store without having to carry the bags.

A proper fit is important for an elderly person’s ergonomic health, safety and comfort. Your healthcare provider can help you order the right size and ensure a proper fit.

 

What is Sitting Disease?

what-is-sitting-disease

Technological innovations have created a world where humans can sit much more than we stand, walk or move, leading to a new health condition called Sitting Disease.Headlines reading “Do You Have Sitting Disease?“, “Sitting Disease is Killing Us,” and “Sitting Disease: The New Health Epidemic” abound on websites and publications dedicated to health. The term “sitting disease” is actually coined by the scientific and health communities as a way of summing up the leading cause of other major health concerns in the late-20th and 21st centuries.

Sedentary lifestyles are responsible for a range of other diseases, including heart disease and high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even some hormonal imbalances.

Stand Up & Get Moving: Seniors Are Prone to Sitting Disease

According to Mayo Clinic, researchers analyzed data compiled by National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. This data was taken from more than 5000 individuals and the results revealed rather startling information:

  • The large majority of American adults (up to 70%) sit for more than six hours per day.
  • About 20% to 35% of people watch four or more hours per day.
  • Sitting is actually shortening American life expectancy.

That last fact is rather startling, isn’t it?

The researchers found that cutting one’s “sitting time” down to less than three hours a day increases life expectancy by as much as two years.

Reducing TV time to less than two hours per day increases life expectancy by about 1.4 years.

What Can Seniors Do if They Lead a Sedentary Lifestyle?

So, how can you actively reduce the amount of time you sit down each day? There are several, simple things you can do to get up, get your body moving and make changes to a sedentary lifestyle.

  1. Get a standing work station. If you still work at a desk job or spend a lot of time in front of the computer, purchase a work station with a standing option. Standing while working enhances posture at the same time that it increases blood flow, tones muscles, increases metabolism and burns extra calories.
  2. Make time to exercise. Exercising for 30-minutes a day, even something as simple as taking a walk to the mailboxes, working in the garden or riding an exercise bike makes a big difference. If you can, increase that time by an extra five or 10 minutes. Experts say that even 30-minutes of exercise may not be enough anymore to counteract the effects of sitting eight or more hours each day.
  3. Get a stationary bike. Stationary exercise bikes are sold left and right at garage sales and on websites like craigslist.com. Take advantage of these great deals and get yourself a low-profile stationary bike for your living room. Try riding it while you watch one of your favorite programs. Or, hop on the bike during commercials and for every hour you watch television you can enjoy approximately 15-20 minutes of exercise without leaving the room!
  4. Talk and walk. Do you have a regimen of friends and family you talk to on the phone? Try standing up and moving around while you talk. Use a cordless phone and do laps around your house while you catch up, or do some gentle stretching exercises.
  5. Sign up for an exercise class. The more active you are, the more likely you are to remain active. Sign up for a senior exercise class to ensure you move your body at least a few times a week. Yoga, water exercise, senior aerobics or Tai Chi are all great options.

Life is too precious to shorten it a single minute. Get up and get moving!

 

Gardening Safely with the Elderly

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Gardening is one of the healthiest and most gratifying activities seniors can participate in. With one simple activity, seniors can check off a whole list of “goals for health and well-being.” When seniors garden they:

  • Spend time outdoors, appreciating and working with nature.
  • Get a healthy dose of exercise.
  • Feel productive and are able to witness the fruits of their labors (literally!).
  • Can eat fresh fruits and vegetables year-round if the garden is designed appropriately.
  • Have the opportunity to be more social with other community gardeners.

Gardening is a favorite hobby for many. However, it can be especially important for those who may have lost their ability to participate in other hobbies, like sports, woodworking or playing an instrument – all of which can require a level of physical activity level or dexterity that is no longer possible.

A love of gardening can be cultivated by all, but the key is to provide a safe and comfortable garden that the elderly can navigate easily – and this can be done with just a few modifications.

Tips For Creating an Accessible Garden For Seniors

The following tips can help you design an accessible garden that makes it easy for seniors to get outside and work a little bit each day.

Raise the beds. One of the most prohibitive features of most gardens or landscapes is that they are located on the ground. The older we get, the more difficult it is to kneel, or get back up, from a seated or kneeling position. Bending over is also more difficult and can alter a senior’s sense of balance, making him or her more prone to falling. Raised garden beds are a simple solution.

Build garden beds that are comfortable to work in from a wheelchair or stool. The beds should also be narrow enough that adults can comfortably reach past the mid-point of the bed so they don’t have to strain to access plants (or weeds) growing in the middle.

Add vertical trellises. Build vertical trellises for climbing plants so seniors can work at seated or standing level to harvest things like beans, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, peas and other climbing vegetables.

Use accessible paths. In order to prevent falls, and to accommodate seniors who use mobility aids, pathways should be wide, flat and made from a hard, water-permeable surface. If you are designing raised beds in rows, the space between the beds should be wide enough for two seniors to pass by one another without complicated maneuvers.

Implement long handles and wands. Look for things like extended watering wands, tools with long and/or curved handles and comfortable-grip handles make it much easier for seniors to attend to their garden tasks.

Provide plenty of shade. Most vegetables love a hearty dose of sun, however seniors are particularly prone to sunburn, heat illness and dehydration. Make sure there are plenty of shaded areas where seniors can rest out of the sun, provide wide-brimmed hats and gardening gloves. During the hottest times of the year, advise seniors to wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothing and keep gardening hours to the earlier and later parts of the day when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong.

Ask for input on what to grow. Make sure your garden offers a wide array of colors, scents and flavors to keep things more interesting for the gardeners. Ask seniors for their input so they can grow fruits, vegetables and herbs they want to eat and that represent a variety of different food cultures.

For more information about starting a senior-friendly garden, read this PDF titled, Elder Accessible Gardening, published by the EPA.

Staying Cool and Hydrated

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Everyone knows staying hydrated is important. What many don’t realize is that dehydration can happen very quickly and seniors are especially susceptible to the condition. Not only that, seniors have side-effects that are more dramatic than those in a younger person, including behaviors that mimic dementia. Keeping the elderly population hydrated is one of the simplest things you can do when it comes to supporting their health.

Dehydration Is a Serious Problem For Seniors

There are several reasons why dehydration occurs more quickly in seniors. For one thing, “thirst receptors” become less acute, which means a senior won’t feel thirsty the same way a younger person would. The older we get, the less our bodies are able to retain water or to regulate body temperature. Plus, many of seniors are on medications that have a diuretic effect, which causes their body’s to lose even more water. Thus, maintaining regular water and fluid intake is very important – especially when the weather warms up.

A dehydrated senior is more prone to slips and falls due to dizziness and lack of balance and can also begin to display memory lapses or confusion. This mental confusion can seem like the signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s but is, in fact, simply a lack of water. By knowing the signs and symptoms of dehydration, you can help senior loved ones get the necessary amount of fluids he or she needs to remain balanced, healthy and cool.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

The first signs of dehydration include:

As dehydration becomes more severe, the symptoms will progress to:

  • Extremely dry mouth, mucous membranes and skin (if you gently pinch skin on the top of the hands, it will remain slightly folded rather than immediately returning to normal)
  • Brown urine or no urine
  • Sunken eyes
  • Rapid breathing or heartbeat
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Delirium or loss of consciousness

At the first signs of dehydration, simply administering water or other low-sugar fluids should be enough to reverse the condition. If the symptoms have already moved into the severe category, begin administering fluids and call a healthcare professional to see if more direct medical attention is required.

Tips for Keeping Seniors Hydrated

There are things you can do to keep seniors hydrated around the clock. This is especially important during the summer months. In addition to being hotter, air conditioning creates a dryer environment and dehydration will compound the difficulties an elderly body has regulating its core temperature.

Add a straw. Simply adding a straw to glasses of water, juice or iced tea will encourage a senior to drink more, especially bed-bound seniors who may have a harder time sipping from the edge of a cup when their body is at an elevated angle.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Plants contain lots of water so eating fruits and vegetables will also increase a senior’s overall water intake. Plus, they contribute to a healthy senior diet.

Minimize caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic, which causes the body to evacuate more water. For this reason, try to make the switch to decaffeinated coffee and tea if possible, or at least minimize the amount of total caffeine that is consumed.

Keep beverages handy. Keep water bottles or favorite beverages by the bed, on side tables, on the kitchen counter and other places where seniors will remember to take a sip or two, even if they aren’t feeling thirsty.

As with many health-related tenets, prevention is the key. Keeping hydrated is always easier than treating dehydration.