Posts By: The Bristal

Your Loved One Has Behavioral Changes: Tips for Caregiving

Posted by: The Bristal

A person with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can experience varying symptoms, including declines in memory, language skills, and thinking and reasoning capabilities. The Alzheimer’s Association says as Alzheimer’s and other dementias progress, behaviors change. The behavioral changes may include, but are not limited to, social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, combativeness, apathy, sleep disturbances, inappropriate actions, wandering and mood changes. These new behaviors can have an impact on caregiving.

There are ways that caregivers can help manage their loved one’s changing behaviors. Here are some suggestions to consider.

  • Divert Aggressiveness. The Alzheimer’s Association says if your loved one demonstrates angry behavior, avoid arguing, scolding, finger-pointing or trying to convince him or her of something. Instead, separate your loved one from the cause of the anger by diverting attention to a different activity. Also, try not to take your loved one’s behaviors personally; keep in mind that their actions are a direct result of the disease.
  • Create a Calm Bedtime. Make sure your loved one has a comfortable bed. At bedtime, reduce any noise or light and try playing soothing music. Be consistent with the time your loved one goes to sleep at night and gets out of bed each morning. Try increasing physical activity during the day to help promote being ready for sleep at the desired time. Also, pay attention to caffeine and sugar consumption during the day as these can adversely affect feeling tired.
  • Promote Exercise. Regular walking, exercises, dancing or other physical activity may have a positive impact on problematic behaviors, such as wandering, aggression and sleeping disorders. If your loved one prefers the indoors, try walking in a shopping mall.
  • Encourage Involvement. Try to involve your loved one in various activities each day. Folding laundry or watering plants, for example, can help reduce stress and anxiety. Remember to also encourage activities which provide an opportunity for your loved one to interact with others to help mitigate social withdrawal.
  • Embrace Sounds of Music. Music therapy can help soothe someone with Alzheimer’s disease. When your loved one is agitated, play calming music or his or her favorite songs to foster relaxation.
  • Interact with Pets. The playful interaction with animals and the gentle petting of their fur can help soothe an individual with Alzheimer’s and decrease aggressive behavior. If you or your loved one does not have a pet, look into organizations that offer pet visits to seniors.

Dealing gently, but decisively with behavioral changes in the ways described above can help improve the quality of life for your loved one and reduce stress on you, the caregiver.

Posted in: Senior Care
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What Seniors Should Know About Using the Internet

Posted by: The Bristal

Seniors & Internet

The viewpoint that seniors are slow to embrace modern communications technology is fading fast. According to the Pew Research Center, six out of ten seniors in the US now use the Internet, and nearly 50% have access to high-speed broadband in their homes. However, the online world still can be daunting for some, and especially for a generation that did not grow up in the Internet age. Here are some general suggestions to help seniors make Internet use more convenient, practical and secure:

Use basic settings that are right for you. At times, accessing the Internet can be frustrating for some because they cannot read the text on the screen or hear the sound coming from the computer, due to visual and hearing limitations. The size of the print and the loudness of the sound can be permanently adjusted to suit your requirements. If you do not know how to make these adjustments, consult a friend or family member who does.

Consider using a tablet for the convenience of touch. Some seniors dislike using the mouse or the scratchpad that comes with desktop, laptop and notebook computers, or have difficulty typing. If that describes you, consider the advantage of a tablet, which allows you to execute commands simply by touching the screen. A large keyboard may also be helpful. However, keep in mind that for most convenient use, touch screens require a fairly steady hand and a reasonably prompt reaction time.

Take advantage of online financial management. For seniors who have mobility issues, or who want the convenience of not having to leave home in inclement weather, such functions as online banking, credit card payments, and brokerage account transactions, or even online grocery shopping can be useful tools. Of huge importance, however, is the need to establish and safeguard a strong password for each account. Remembering all of your passwords can be challenging for persons of any age, so be sure to write them down and put them in a safe and easy-to-remember place.

Connect to government services and health information sources. A wealth of information about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs is available on their websites, as is health information from such sources as the National Institutes of Health.

Protect your computer with anti-virus and anti-malware. There are many different products on the market for this type of protection. Research your options to see which program will work best for you. Just be sure that it keeps your device updated with protective software that keeps pace with evolving threats.

Be prudent about using Wi-Fi. If you like to travel, chances are you will want to bring your computer or tablet along with you and take advantage of hotel, airport or train station Wi-Fi “hot spots.” That is fine for Internet browsing, so long as you are mindful that other users have access to the same hot spot as you do at the same time. Do not conduct financial transactions or access financial accounts using public Wi-Fi.

Be alert to scams perpetrated online. Seniors often are targeted with scams, so never respond to online requests for your social security number or other sensitive information, even if the request seems to come from the IRS, FBI or your bank or credit card company. No law enforcement, government or legitimate financial institution will ever ask for such information online. As a general rule, avoid participating in online contests, accepting “free” offers, or clicking on links sent by unfamiliar sources.

Avoid paying for more broadband than you need. Very-high-speed Internet can be quite expensive and generally is unnecessary for most seniors. Some service providers boast about Internet speeds up to 200 megabytes per second or more, but such speeds are needed mainly for households where families use multiple devices at the same time. For the typical senior, 50 megabytes usually is more than adequate. Discuss how you use the Internet with your service provider before signing up for a given speed.

Of course, aside from using the Internet to obtain information, you may also want to engage in social media activities. If so, enjoy exchanging Facebook posts with the grandkids or posting on Instagram about that unforgettable trip to Italy you finally took. Just be careful about making information public that could compromise safety, such as the dates when you or a relative will be away from home.

The Internet is fun and can be extremely helpful to seniors, if it is used wisely.

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Popular Devices that Help Seniors with Hearing Loss

Posted by: The Bristal

Seniors who experience moderate hearing loss can often times manage their condition with modest behavioral and lifestyle adjustments. As hearing loss progresses, however, assistive devices may become necessary. In such cases, a variety of devices are available to mitigate hearing loss. Here are the most common ones:

Hearing aids. The electronic hearing aid has come a very long way since its invention in 1898. Originally a clunky device worn around the neck, together with a large battery, the hearing aid has evolved into a small unobtrusive object worn in or behind the ear. Most types are digital – a small computer chip converts sound into digital code, makes adjustments based on the individual’s various needs, then converts it back into sound waves with amplification.

Some hearing aids fit completely or partially within the ear canal, some are molded to fit the outer ear and others are worn mostly behind the ear. Most hearing aids not only amplify sound, but also provide some level of noise reduction. The Mayo Clinic recommends that those considering a hearing aid ask their doctor for a referral to an audiologist, who will help them determine which type of aid is best for them.

Assistive listening systems and devices. These are technological tools that help people with varying degrees of hearing difficulties, ranging all the way from mild hearing loss to deafness. The National Association of the Deaf says they “separate the sounds, particularly speech, that a person wants to hear, from background noise.” The systems and devices take many forms, but not all are available for personal use. For example, some types of systems improve sound transmission in public places, such as theaters, airports and places of worship.

Those that seniors can use at their discretion include personal amplifiers, which amplify sound and reduce background noise, and which often include directional microphones that can be pointed at the sound source; “text telephone” machines that enable telephone users to exchange text messaging (which are declining in use as a result of the proliferation of cell phone texting); closed-caption television, which provides an on-screen transcript of what is being said, and various types of alert systems, such as flashing or pulsating lights that signal the doorbell or the phone is ringing.

Cochlear implants. Seniors whose hearing loss is too severe to be adequately helped by a hearing aid or assistive devices might benefit from a cochlear implant, which is a tiny device surgically placed within one or both inner ears. Unlike hearing aids, which primarily amplify sound, these complex devices function in place of what the ear normally does, stimulating the auditory nerve to send signals to the brain that are interpreted as sound. The NIH’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders advises that, “Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn or relearn.” The help of a speech therapist may be needed.

Regardless of the level of hearing loss, mild or profound, seniors have many options for making sure that the impairment does not endanger them or take away their ability to engage in an active and enjoyable social life.

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Helping a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Experience the Benefits of Staying Active

Posted by: The Bristal

Evidence has been accumulating for some time that physical and mental exercise may help slow or reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s. While researchers continue to try to draw direct and conclusive results based on this evidence, it is still beneficial to encourage a loved one with Alzheimer’s to stay active. Maintaining activity and interests may help invoke a feeling of purpose. Arranging activities with a goal can further heighten that sense of accomplishment. Some examples might include: grocery shopping while checking off a list, tending a garden and harvesting fresh vegetables from it, cooking or baking a favorite recipe together, doing a puzzle, cleaning the house, or playing a word game.

To identify appropriate and meaningful activities for your loved one, it is helpful to draw upon his or her lifestyle, hobbies and social interests. Also be sure to take into account any limitations that your loved one may have, but always keep focus on their strengths. This will enable you to truly create quality time together. The goal does not always have to be completing a specific activity, but rather creating moments of joy.

There are several ways to encourage and help your loved one to be active. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Choose Meaningful Activities. Aim for activities that may have more meaning for your loved one because he or she used to enjoy them. This is a way to leverage his or her passions and interests. AARP says, “A successful activity, whether it’s listening to music or playing a game, helps create meaning and pulls from past interests.” The more meaningful the activity, the better chance your loved one will engage in it. However, don’t be afraid to try new things as well.
  • Make Activities Manageable. Try applying your loved one’s skills to smaller and more manageable activities, with limited decision making during the activity. Also, if he or she is content doing a certain thing, but it is not doing it exactly right, try to avoid correcting him or her. The goal is to engage them and encourage a sense of success.
  • Tap Into Alternate Activities. If your loved one seems resistant to a certain activity, let that resistance guide you toward trying a different approach, or perhaps a different activity altogether. You may even suggest just taking a break from an activity and trying it again at another time. Ask your loved one how a certain activity can be altered to make it more enjoyable. That way, you find the activities that best suit your loved one.
  • Establish a routine. Make a note of the activities that your loved one enjoys and establish a routine. If the activities are familiar, he or she may repeat an activity instinctively. Within the routine, try to mix up the activities from time to time to keep it fresh. You may also find that certain times of the day are better for your loved one to do an activity than other times.

You may need to assist your loved one in getting an activity started, so offer support by helping to organize and plan. You may also need to show your loved one how to perform the task and provide simple step-by-step instructions. Most importantly, no matter the outcome, always acknowledge the result in a positive way.

Posted in: Senior Care
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Staying Mentally and Physically Fit While Caring for a Spouse with Alzheimer’s

Posted by: The Bristal

Caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s can be challenging in many ways, but also can be richly rewarding. It can deepen the bonds between spouse and caregiver, and open the door to new relationships through education and support groups. However, much may depend on the caregiver’s determination not to allow the new circumstances to compromise his or her own mental and physical well-being.

As the day-to-day demands on the caregiver and the emotional toll of watching a loved one impacted by the disease increase, it is vital to remain positive and take proactive steps that ease the burdens on the caregiver, for the sake of both caregiver and loved one. Here are some suggestions:

  • Allow time for exercise. Set aside at least 30 minutes a day for exercise at home. It need not be 30 consecutive minutes necessarily. If your loved one needs attention unexpectedly, go back to the workout when he or she is at rest or napping. Be flexible about when you exercise, but be diligent about doing it. Exercise will help keep you fit, and may also help reduce some of your stress.
  • Eat nutritiously. For maintaining your health under demanding conditions, such as caregiving to a spouse with Alzheimer’s, proper eating is as important as getting exercise. Give emphasis to whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and guard against fatigue-causing iron deficiency by eating good sources of iron, including various beans, leafy vegetables and nuts, to name just a few. For an extra treat, add a modest amount of dark chocolate to your diet – also a good source of iron.
  • Go easy on yourself. Few things are more demanding than Alzheimer’s care, so avoid notions of inadequacy. As the Alzheimer’s Association says: “Give yourself credit, not guilt….You’re doing the best you can.” The Association also reminds caregivers to “focus on positive times as they arise, and enjoy good memories.”
  • Join a support group. Support groups for Alzheimer’s caregivers provide a setting for expressing their feelings, sharing experiences, exchanging coping strategies and learning about new developments in Alzheimer’s care. They enable caregivers to better understand they are not alone, and often can be useful in alleviating stress.
  • Let other family members provide relief. If other responsible members of your family offer to give you a short break now and then, perhaps so you can see a movie or attend a party, take them up on it. Again, there is no need to feel guilt.
  • Consider respite care. Sometimes a caregiver must tend to other family affairs that require travel, or an extended visit away from home, or simply needs a break to recharge. For those times, there are senior care communities that will accept seniors with Alzheimer’s for a short stay. Plan in advance for using such a service, because you will want time to research the reputation and competence of the place you ultimately select.
  • Explore relaxation techniques. Try relaxation techniques that can help relieve stress. These include visualization, meditation, breathing exercises and muscle relaxation. Learn about relaxation techniques offered by the Mayo Clinic.
  • Visit your doctor regularly. See your physician at least annually and pay attention to your body for signs of exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness or changes in appetite. Ignoring these symptoms may affect your physical and mental health.
  • Go online for more help. The free online caregiver community ALZConnected, run by the Alzheimer’s Association, is a forum of support and encouragement. It offers the opportunity for caregivers to comment on message boards to share their experiences, thoughts, feelings and tips.

Above all, remember that to be the best caregiver you can be, it is absolutely vital to take good care of yourself as well as of your spouse.

Posted in: Alzheimer’s & Memory Care
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Benefits of a Memory Care Support Group

Posted by: The Bristal

Memory care support groups offer an opportunity for caregivers, family, friends or those with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia to provide support to one another in group settings. In meetings held at regular intervals and led either by trained facilitators or a group member, the groups offer people in similar circumstances the chance to share practical advice and coping skills, as well as to discuss feelings, concerns and frustrations.

Some people dealing with the onset of memory loss withdraw from social activities because it can be a painful reminder of their daily challenges. In a memory care support group setting, everyone is aware of the illness, so the participants are not as likely to feel judged or embarrassed.

Here are some of the potential benefits of participating in a memory care support group. For caregivers:

  • Interacting with others in your situation imparts insights and practical advice on caring for your loved one.
  • It helps you feel less lonely and isolated in your circumstances.
  • It also might convey a sense of empowerment and help you feel you have more control over the situation.
  • The support group often is a source of information about new treatment or therapeutic options.
  • Support groups may help to reduce anxiety and the chances of clinical depression.

For seniors in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia:

  • The opportunity to talk with one another provides a sense of shared experience and the feeling that one is not alone.
  • There is a comfort in knowing that one can speak freely without fear of judgment or embarrassment.
  • Group participants often feel a sense of release and even enjoy moments of humor in relating their particular challenges to one another.
  • The group provides a social experience that interrupts the self-preoccupation that sometimes accompanies early-stage dementia.

Most support group meetings are held with informal formats and offer open discussion. Occasionally, there may be guest speakers to provide information about specific aspects of memory care management. Some groups are intended only for caregivers, some are specifically for persons with early onset dementia, while others combine the two categories.

The Alzheimer’s Association says support group members report feeling less alone, more able to confront their day-to-day problems and more hopeful about their future.

There are other ways to help seniors and their caregivers cope with memory impairment. For example, the Our Place Memory Café, sponsored by The Bristal Assisted Living and its peer care partners, provides valuable experiences that supplement the benefits of support groups.

Based on a concept pioneered in the Netherlands in 1997 by clinical psychologist Dr. Bere Miesen, the “memory café” creates a welcoming and relaxed setting in a local restaurant, where those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and their families and friends share their feelings and fears and receive help and support. They participate in fun activities and enjoy entertainment, while an atmosphere of patience, understanding and camaraderie is fostered.

The Our Place Memory Café was designed to allow caregivers to meet others in a relaxed and friendly environment. The sharing of knowledge and experiences helps participants to find mutual support – and often times, new friendships. Caregivers and those with memory loss are encouraged most of all to just be themselves.

Posted in: Alzheimer’s & Memory Care
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February Is American Heart Month: Heart-Healthy Tips

Posted by: The Bristal

February is American Heart Month, putting a spotlight on an issue that is of special concern to older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women. And, unsurprisingly, American Heart Association statistics show that about 66% of cardiovascular deaths occur in people age 75 and older.

As we get older, changes take place in the heart and blood vessels that make us more susceptible to heart disease, as the National Institute on Aging explains. For example, blood vessels may stiffen, heart valves may begin to fail, and sections of the heart wall may grow thicker. A common cause of high blood pressure is arteriosclerosis – the so-called hardening of the arteries.

Fortunately, by making certain lifestyle changes, older adults can significantly reduce their risk of heart disease. Here are some heart-healthy tips to consider:

  • Quit Smoking. According to the Mayo Clinic, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke raises blood pressure and heart rate. It does this by displacing some of the oxygen in your blood, which forces the heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen throughout the body. This applies not only to seniors, but to people of all ages. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says your health and quality of life will start improving almost immediately upon quitting. Here are some compelling, eye-opening NIH numbers to consider:
    • 20 minutes after you stop smoking, your heart rate drops to more normal levels.
    • After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal.
    • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your heart attack risk begins to drop and your lung function begins to improve.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight. Choose low-fat and low-salt foods. Eat plenty of vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables (they contain antioxidants and other highly beneficial nutrients), with a goal of five to 10 servings per day. Also, select foods high in fiber, such as oatmeal and whole-wheat bread, which are made from whole grains; and brown rice, which, unlike white rice, is a whole grain.
  • Do Moderate Physical Activity. Check with your doctor for an exercise regimen that would be appropriate for you. If possible, aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-level activity on most or all days of the week, even if you break the exercise into 10-minute periods, with resting in between. The activities may include walking, swimming, or gardening, for example.
  • Reduce Alcohol Intake. Excess alcohol consumption can worsen the conditions that contribute to heart disease, such as high blood pressure, arrhythmias and high cholesterol.
  • Decrease Stress. Stress can compound many heart disease risks that some seniors already face. Find healthy outlets to relieve stress, such as yoga and meditation.

While family history and other factors may increase your risk of heart disease, a heart-healthy lifestyle may help you avoid or delay a serious heart-related illness. Consult your cardiologist for the preventative measures and, perhaps, medications that are right for you.

If you feel any chest pain, contact your doctor right away. Keep in mind that as we age, chest pain is a less common symptom of heart disease, so be aware of other signs, including pain in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back; shortness of breath; lightheadedness; confusion; headaches; cold sweats; fatigue; or swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach and/or neck.

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A Look at Senior Eye Health

Posted by: The Bristal

a look at senior eye health headline

As we age, it is natural for vision changes to occur. As a result, some people may struggle to see as clearly as they did when they were younger. Regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist help keep eyes healthy by uncovering certain conditions that can seriously impair sight, including the following:

  • Cataracts. Cloudy areas in the lens of the eye, cataracts usually form slowly. Some may become large or thick and impair vision. In these cases, the cataracts can usually be removed by surgery.
  • Dry Eye. This condition occurs when tear glands do not produce enough tears. It can cause itching, burning or redness and it is more common as people age. Treatment options may include using a humidifier, special eye drops or surgery.
  • Presbyopia. Beginning at around the age of 40, you may find that you have increased difficulty reading small print or seeing objects close up. This condition is typically treatable with the use of reading glasses and/or contact lenses.
  • Glaucoma. This is a condition which refers to a group of eye diseases which cause damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers or surgery. There are no early symptoms for glaucoma, but having regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist enables prompt detection and treatment.
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD, a leading cause of severe vision loss in people over 50, according to the National Eye Institute, is an eye disease that occurs when the central part of the retina is damaged. Advanced AMD may lead to vision loss, so it is vital to get dilated eye exams.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy. Caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina, this is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in adults in the U.S., according to the National Federation of the Blind. In most cases, laser surgery can prevent significant vision loss associated with this disease.

Ways to Help Keep Your Eyes Healthy
In addition to getting routine eye exams, here are some lifestyle tips to consider to help maintain healthy eyes:

  • Eat Fruits & Vegetables. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is important for your eyes. In particular, the American Optometric Association (AOA) states that the organic pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin, found in fruits and vegetables, may protect against cataracts and AMD. The AOA suggests eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, as recommended by the National Cancer Institute and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Wear Sunglasses. Strong sunlight may damage your eyes and may increase your risk of cataracts. Wear sunglasses consistently to protect your eyes.
  • Don’t Smoke. By reducing the supply of antioxidants in the eyes, smoking can increase the chances of developing such conditions as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Arrange Good Lighting. To see well, your eyes need three times as much light when you’re in your 60s compared to when you were in your 20s, says the National Institutes of Health. Increase the daylight in your home by keeping curtains open and windows clean. For reading, use direct light from an adjustable table lamp to avoid glare.
  • Exercise Regularly. Good circulation and oxygen intake are important for eye health; both are stimulated by regular exercise.
  • Sleep Well. Good sleep is important to eye health. It’s needed to ensure that your eyes are properly lubricated and cleared of irritants, and that your eye muscles are sufficiently rested. The National Institute on Aging recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

The American Optometric Association recommends annual eye examinations for everyone over age 60. If you notice any changes in your vision, see your doctor of optometry as soon as possible.

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Ways to Relieve Knee Pain

Posted by: The Bristal

ways to relieve knee pain
While people may experience knee pain at any age, in older adults it is typically caused by changes in the body due to aging. Those changes can include weakening of the bones, decreased muscle strength, inflammation from arthritis and other conditions.

According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis among older people and a frequent cause of debilitating pain. It occurs when the cartilage that protects the knee’s bones breaks down. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 2 people may develop knee osteoarthritis by the age of 85.

The Mayo Clinic says specific signs and symptoms may accompany knee pain. They include swelling and stiffness in the knee, redness and warmth to the touch, weakness or instability, noises as the joint moves and an inability to straighten the knee fully.

Here are some tips to help individuals who experience knee pain:

  • Physical Therapy. Talk with your doctor about the option to see a physical therapist. A physical therapist will prescribe a customized regimen that may improve your knee’s strength and range of motion, increase function, decrease pain and improve overall quality of life. Your physical therapist may apply ice and heat, use stimulation methods or apply ultrasound techniques that can increase blood flow.
  • Knee Conditioning. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers knee conditioning exercises that are designed to strengthen the muscles that support the knees, reducing stress on the knee joints and helping to relieve pain. The group notes, however, that such exercises should be done after consultation with your doctor to ensure they are appropriate for your particular circumstances.
  • Weight Loss. The Arthritis Foundation cites recent studies showing that losing weight reduces pressure on the knees and eases pain and inflammation. A healthy diet combined with exercise can help you lose weight and strengthen your muscles, both of which can help to reduce knee pain.
  • Pain Medication. Medication, including over-the-counter pain relievers and topical creams with numbing agents, may help control your knee pain. Your doctor might also recommend an injection of either steroids or cortisone.
  • Knee Surgery. Certain older adults are candidates for surgery, such as arthroscopic surgery or knee replacement. A surgeon will look at several factors before recommending whether surgery is appropriate and, if so, which type it should be.

Knee problems should not be ignored. If left untreated, they most likely will become worse over time. Seniors should see their doctor for the proper diagnosis.

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Ways You Can Give Back This Holiday Season

Posted by: The Bristal

give-back-this-holiday-season-1The holiday season is a wonderful time of year filled with celebrations and gratitude. One of the best ways you can express your thankfulness is to give back this holiday season. There are many opportunities for people of all ages to give back, so we’ve compiled this list of possibilities to sift through to find the perfect way to give back this holiday season.

Tap Into Your Talent

There is always a way to give back while doing something you love; sometimes you may just have to get a little creative. Here are some suggested ways you can give back this holiday season, using your talents, hobbies and passions:

  • Knitting. If you love to knit or crotchet, then try making scarves, blankets and hats for donation. Many organizations will collect these handmade items for distribution.
  • Sewing. If you prefer needle and thread over needle and yarn, then get sewing! You can sew quilts and blankets that can be donated.
  • Baking. You can always bake homemade goods to donate to different charitable organizations as a way to say thanks to those who give back all year-long. Want to step it up a notch? Organize a bake sale and donate all of the proceeds to a worthy cause.
  • Creating. No matter what medium you prefer you can make original holiday cards to distribute to friends and family, but you don’t have to stop there; donate some original cards to brighten up strangers’ holidays as well.
  • Performing. No matter what your performing arts passion is, you can use it to give back. If you like to sing, you can sing at a hospital or put on a concert and donate the proceeds. If dance is your thing, organize or join a charity holiday pageant or show. Like to act? There are plenty of opportunities to join a community production, but if none of them float your boat you can organize your own troupe to perform at a hospital.

Use Stuff You Already Own

  • Holiday Cards. You can donate a box of unused greetings cards to many organizations, but did you know you can also recycle your used cards? You can find out more about St. Jude’s Ranch for Children’s program here.
  • Light Strings. You can donate working light strings and recycle broken strings; they are made of highly recyclable materials.
  • Decorations. Many charities, such as The Salvation Army, will take your used decorations so long as they are in decent working condition.

Give “Good” Gifts

It is the season of giving after all; this year, try giving charitable gifts. You can make a donation in someone’s name, “adopt” an endangered animal or shop brands that pledge that a part of their sales goes to charity.

There are lots of ways to give back this holiday season, so don’t limit yourself to this list. Don’t forget that giving back should be fun and make you feel good, so be careful not to take on too many charitable projects at once. Happy holidays!

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Why Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Is Important

Posted by: The Bristal

Why Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Is ImportantAlzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, creates challenges for an individual’s memory, thinking skills and behavior. While the symptoms typically develop slowly and become worse over time, the Alzheimer’s Association says the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is important.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person, and while during the early stage, an individual may still be able to drive, work and participate in daily activities, he or she may notice some cognitive changes. Those changes result in problems that include, but are not limited to, difficulty in identifying the right word or name, remembering names when introduced to new people, completing tasks at work or in a social setting and planning and organizing routine activities. Sufferers also may forget information soon after reading it and lose or misplace objects.

Here are some of the reasons why the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is important:

  • Symptoms May Be Associated with Another Condition. An individual may show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, but be suffering from a different illness. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 9 percent of people with dementia-related symptoms have a separate condition, such as general depression, vitamin deficiencies or alcohol abuse. To obtain the correct diagnosis, it is especially important to first consult with your primary care physician.
  • Better Chance of Benefiting from Treatment. While certain causes of cognitive decline are not reversible, they may be treatable, giving those living with Alzheimer’s more independence. Appropriate treatment can slow the rate of decline and is typically most effective when administered in the early phase of the disease. In addition, there is more time to research treatments that may provide some relief of the symptoms. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Aging, several medications are available for the mild and moderate stages of Alzheimer’s, while treatment options for the advanced stages are more limited.
  • Lessened Anxiety about Current Challenges. An early diagnosis gives the individual with Alzheimer’s and their caregiver more opportunity to learn about the disease and develop realistic expectations, which can reduce anxiety. Early detection can also help reduce feelings of guilt on the part of the caregiver or family during the advanced stage of the disease. Simply knowing that early treatment is available can be a stress-reliever for all those involved.
  • Gaining More Time to Plan. An early diagnosis gives the person with Alzheimer’s, and their family, time to prepare. Decisions can be made on caregiving, transportation, living options, financial and legal matters and long-term planning. By preparing early, people living with this disease can create a plan that benefits their quality of life and helps them get ready for the future. Also, the caregiver or family is better prepared to provide support when this plan is being developed.

Posted in: Alzheimer’s & Memory Care
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Helpful Tips to Manage Medications

Posted by: The Bristal

Helpful Tips to Manage MedicationsMedication management can sometimes be overwhelming for seniors, especially when it comes to managing multiple prescriptions and doses. The Washington Post reports that an increasing number of elderly patients nationwide are on multiple medications to treat chronic diseases, which raises their chances of dangerous drug interactions and serious side effects (see article).

Moreover, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists estimates that more than 34% of seniors are prescribed medications by more than one physician, and 72% use medications they were prescribed more than six months prior.

Seniors must be especially mindful of how to manage medications to avoid serious side effects. Some people become uncertain of which medications to take and when. This is particularly the case when doctors change or add to the list of medications. Some errors include, but are not limited to: taking two or more drugs that heighten each medication’s potential side effects; taking the wrong dosage; taking a brand-name drug and the generic version at the same time; taking prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications without knowing how they interact with one another; and eating certain foods that can have dangerous interactions with medications.

Here are some tips to help seniors manage medications:

  • Ask Questions. It is extremely important to take your medications in the exact amounts and at the times prescribed by a physician. Whether it is a hospital stay or doctor’s visit, ask your physician a lot of questions, such as: What is the specific name of the medication and what does it prevent or treat? What should I do if I forget to take a dose? Should I take this medication before, during or after meals? What are the potential side effects? Are there other medications, foods and/or activities I should avoid while taking this medication?Take notes or ask your doctor to write down instructions. Do not stop taking a drug without asking your doctor. And if you are experiencing unexpected side effects, contact your physician immediately. Be sure to explain everything you can about your situation, including any over-the-counter medications or vitamin supplements you may be taking.
  • Know What You Are Taking and What It Does. If you take more than one medication, including over-the-counter drugs, they can interact in negative ways. Certain foods or alcohol can also affect medication usage. Some drugs may be potentially harmful if you have certain medical conditions. If you have more than one doctor, or visit a new physician, be sure to tell each one about all of the medications you are taking.
  • Document Your Medications. Keep a list of all medications. Record the dosage and how often you are supposed to take them. Keep the list in a convenient place and make copies for your caregiver or a family member to keep on hand.
  • Stay Organized. Plastic pill organizers can help sort medications by the day of the week and the time of day. Electronic devices, such as a smart phone or iPad calendars and reminders, can be helpful in organizing and prompting you when to take which medications.
  • Label Bottles. It may be helpful to put a label on each of your pill bottles to indicate what it prevents or treats. For example, you could write “Blood Thinner” or “Cholesterol Medicine” rather than going by the medical name for each drug. This may help make things clearer for you.

It can also be helpful to review your medications with your doctor periodically to make sure you still need to take them, and to see if any changes in your regimen are needed. Clear communication between you and your doctor is a key component to a successful medication management program.


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Why Vitamin D Is Important for Seniors

Posted by: The Bristal

why-vitamin-d-is-important-for-seniors-headline-graphicVitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally found in certain foods, including fish, eggs, fortified milk and cod liver oil. It is also available as a dietary supplement. According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin D’s primary role is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, and assist the body in absorbing calcium, which forms and maintains strong bones. It thus plays a vital role in protecting older adults from osteoporosis, and may also help protect against high blood pressure, cancer and other diseases.

This vitamin is a critical nutrient that the body needs to function properly, and D insufficiencies may trigger severe health problems, particularly in older adults. The consequences of vitamin D deficiency in seniors are likely to be “losses in bone, strength, and function and the development of pain,” states the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

According to AgingCare, some signs that you may be experiencing vitamin D deficiency include, but are not limited to: weakening of the muscles, mood changes and fatigue, overeating and weight gain and stomach problems.

UV radiation from the sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, which, in fact, is called “the sunshine vitamin” because it is naturally made by the body when the skin is exposed to the sun.

Natural foods high in vitamin D include fish oils, fatty fish, mushrooms, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are great sources of vitamin D. For example, a 3-ounce sockeye salmon fillet contains about 450 international units (IUs) of vitamin D, which represents a good portion of the 600 IUs recommended as a daily allowance for adults age 19–70 by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services National Institutes of Health. For those over the age of 70, 800 IUs are recommended.

Nearly all types of cow’s milk in the U.S. — and some soy and rice milks — are fortified with vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from fortified orange juice. Check the label to see if the brand you are buying contains added vitamin D.

Without a sufficient level of vitamin D, bones may become thin and brittle. Getting enough vitamin D is essential for strong, healthy bones and can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Only your doctor will be able to determine if you are getting the proper amount each day. They will take into consideration your medical status, potential health issues, and current medications before considering a supplement regimen.

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Tips for Seniors to Have a Healthier Thanksgiving

Posted by: The Bristal

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to be surrounded by family, friends and scrumptious food. Though, the holiday can present some dinner-table challenges for seniors because aging is frequently associated with a decrease in taste and smell, and their bodies do not metabolize foods the way they did when they were younger. While it is important for everyone to follow a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains, seniors need to be especially mindful of their salt, fat and calorie intake. Here are some tips to help you have a healthier Thanksgiving.

  • Eat Breakfast & Lunch. It is helpful to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch on Thanksgiving Day to avoid severe hunger pangs when it comes time for dinner. This may reduce the urge to overindulge.
  • Skip Salt & Sugar. Especially as you age, your sense of taste and smell may change and foods may seem to lose flavor. However, grabbing the salt shaker is not the answer. High levels of salt could result in high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart problems in seniors, says the American Heart Association. To add zest to your food on Thanksgiving, ask your host for herbs and spices, such as garlic, oregano, basil, pepper, thyme and sesame. Also, choosing citrus, vanilla and cinnamon as delicious substitutes in recipes can help sweeten things up without added sugar.
  • Turkey Tips. A 3-ounce serving of skinless white meat is a top source of lean protein, containing 25 grams of protein, barely 3 grams of fat and less than 1 gram of saturated fat. Three small slices of skinless white meat contain only 102 calories. According to Harvard Health Publications, dark meat has more saturated fat than white meat, and eating the skin adds a heavy amount of bad fats. Opting for white meat over a thigh can save you loads of calories. Just one turkey thigh contains more calories than a slice of prime rib!
  • Avoid the Gravy Train. Canned gravy is full of salt and sugar, as well as preservatives that have no nutritional value. Homemade gravy tends to be just as bad; a quarter-cup has little in the way of useful nutrients and 18 grams of fat, most of which are saturated. Try herbs or spices instead of gravy to add flavor. If you will be cooking your own Thanksgiving meal, the Mayo Clinic offers this low-fat gravy recipe and a full substitution guide for replacing ingredients with healthier choices.
  • Focus on the Greens. Seniors need to pay special attention to their calorie and fat intake; it is a good idea to add a lot of vegetables and limit foods high in fat. There are great selections for filling your stomach with something that is good for you. If you will be a guest and don’t expect many greens at the table, bring a vegetable side and salad of your own to share. Green beans, in particular, are filled with vitamins A, C and K.
  • Savor Slowly. Eat slowly by putting your fork down between bites. Taking the time to taste each mouthful is one of the best ways to feel satisfied. Choosing whole grains, vegetables, salads, broth-based soups and drinking lots of water will provide a well-rounded meal and should add to your feeling of fullness.
  • Choose Desserts Delicately. After dinner, first take a break before eating dessert, so your dinner can settle; this may help you make better decisions on dessert. Try to select the lighter, healthier side of dessert, such as fresh fruits. Cakes and cookies contain large amounts of sugar. Whenever possible, use sugar-free substitutes.
  • Check with Your Doctor. You may be on a special diet due to a health condition and/or certain medications. Talk with your doctor about the foods you should eat on Thanksgiving.


This holiday is not just about the delicious abundance of food. It is helpful to focus on enjoying the relationships with your family and friends. One way is to suggest taking a walk after dinner – you’ll spend more quality time together and get your exercise in for the day!

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Fun Fall Activities for the Family to Enjoy

Posted by: The Bristal

fun-fall-activities-for-the-family-to-enjoy-headline-graphicIt’s always sad to say goodbye to summer, but that won’t stop us from shifting our focus to saying hello to fall! Think of the wonderful colors, the crisp air and spending time with family. There are so many fall activities to be done with family and friends of all ages! Here are some of our favorite fall activities:

Explore, Collect, Create.

A lot of fall activities deal with the staple fall items: apples, pumpkins and changing leaves. The first step is to get outdoors and explore the fall landscape.

Take a walk and admire the fall leaves; collect your favorites to use for crafts. There are tons of fall leaf crafts, but here are some of our favorites:

  • Leaf Lantern. All you need is a clean jar or bowl, fall leaves and mod podge. Place a tea light inside once it dries and you’re set!
  • Preserve Them.  You can press leaves in between pages of a large book or melt down some bees wax and give leaves a quick dip.
  • Make a Print. Coat leaves with a thin layer of paint and press onto paper and use the prints to make a garland or wreath; softer leaves work best for this. Paint too messy? Place a piece of paper over your leaf and lightly color over it with pencil or crayon to create a leaf rubbing.
  • Leaf Bouquet. Make mini leaf bouquets with a wide range of colors to bring indoors, no flowers necessary. If you want a more traditional bouquet, stick within the fall theme with white, yellow and red roses, sunflowers and mums.

After you’re done with the leaves, head on over to your local pumpkin patch and get picking! These do-it-yourself ideas all involve pumpkins:

  • Be Traditional. Carve your pumpkin! But, don’t feel limited to a Halloween theme. Treat the pumpkin as a lantern; try using a cookie cutter to punch out shapes, such as stars, around the whole pumpkin.
  • Jazz Them Up. Use pumpkins as is, for décor. Though, if you want to jazz them up a bit, try painting it, wrapping it with fabric, yarn or ribbon or bedazzling it with jewels or pins.
  • Make or Bake. There are so many terrific things that can be made with pumpkin, canned or straight from the source. Some unique options, aside from the traditional pumpkin pie, include chili, waffles, ravioli and baked stuffed pumpkin.

Our last bit of fall inspiration comes from apples. It’s a lot of fun to pick your own apples at any age, but even more fun can be had after the picking!

  • Light it Up. Scoop out the top center of an apple and use it to rest a tea light; go the extra mile and fully scoop out and carve your apple.
  • Stamp it. Slice an apple in half, dip it in some paint and stamp away! You can create wrapping paper, garland and bags, but the possibilities are limitless.
  • Bake More. Don’t stop at the classic apple pie; try French toast, caramel apples and apple chips.
  • Enjoy Cider. You can use store bought cider or have the fun of making it yourself. Don’t limit yourself to drinking cider; you can use it as a marinade or in dressings.

With these fall activities you’re bound to have a season full of excitement with family and friends. Let’s welcome fall and all its wonderful attributes.

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