Posts By: The Bristal

What to Do When Your Loved One Is Coming Home from the Hospital

Posted by: The Bristal

Your loved one is about to come home from the hospital. Are you properly prepared for the homecoming? The answer to this question can be critically important, helping to determine whether your loved one’s return leads to a successful recuperation, or with a readmission to the hospital.

According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, one in five Medicare patients is readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of discharge, and a frequent contributing factor is inadequate access to proper resources at home. Advance planning and preparation can help ensure that your loved one has the resources he or she needs, and remove much of the stress and anxiety that you, yourself, might experience as a caregiver.

Bear in mind that it’s never too soon to start planning. If the hospitalization is sudden because of an emergency, start thinking about your loved one’s discharge as soon as his or her condition is stabilized. If it is a planned hospital stay, make the homecoming a major part of the overall planning process right from the start. Talk to your loved one’s doctors about how long the hospital stay is likely to be, and the special services or equipment he or she may be likely to require at home, such as a hospital bed, shower chair or part-time nurse. Also, discuss whether a rehabilitation facility may be advisable before a return home.

In the hospital, get acquainted as soon as possible with the social worker or discharge planner, both of whom can be helpful in keeping you apprised of a planned discharge date and preparing for it. Be certain not to let a discharge date take you by surprise. Medicare has strict rules about covering hospital stays and may not cover any days in which hospital-level care is not considered necessary for your loved one.

Here are specific factors to consider when preparing to bring your loved one home:

Managing the medication. This can be a surprisingly complex task, especially if medicines taken for the reason your loved one was hospitalized need to be included, along with medicines taken for unrelated conditions. To avoid unwanted drug interactions, always make sure the hospital doctors and your loved one’s private physician are each aware of all the medicines being taken. Make a master list of all drugs to be taken at home, the amount of each, and how often each should be taken. Also include any potentially serious side effects to watch for, and what to do if any show up. All of this should be clearly written down to avoid confusion and mistakes.

Accommodating special equipment. Some basic medical assist items, such as walkers, shower chairs and wheelchairs, can be acquired and stored with relative ease. Others, however, will have special space and power source requirements for which advance planning is necessary. Hospital beds and oxygen concentrators, for example, fall into this category. Safety bars in the bathroom, if required, may have to be installed on tiled walls. These are important factors to consider before the hospital discharge date.

Assessing one’s own caregiving skills. Depending, of course, on your loved one’s condition, he or she will require varying levels of care upon return from the hospital. A useful step in the planning process is to make an honest self-assessment of the depth of one’s own skills and capabilities as a caregiver to a recuperating patient. Ask your loved one’s doctor for a thorough description of the tasks that will be required, and measure them against your own physical and emotional state. Be as realistic, loving and compassionate as possible in order to accurately determine how much outside assistance you will need to ensure your loved one receives adequate care. If you expect to perform potentially complex nursing tasks for your loved one, insist on adequate training from the hospital staff. In addition, do not exclude relatives and friends who may be able to help with your planning.

When a loved one is in the hospital, it is not always easy to focus clearly on matters beyond the immediate situation. Advance thinking about the day he or she returns, however, can head off problems, make life easier for the both of you, and lead to a successful recovery.

Posted in: Caregiving & Family
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New Link Between Poor Sleep and Alzheimer’s

Posted by: The Bristal

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a loss of mental ability that is progressive and has a severe impact on daily life. New longitudinal study evidence presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in the summer of 2017 points to a connection between breathing disorders that interrupt sleep (sleep apnea), and certain biological markers for Alzheimer’s disease.

In people with sleep apnea, the breath can pause for seconds up to minutes, as much as 30 times in an hour, causing the sleeper to go from deep to light sleep, or jerk awake. The condition cannot be diagnosed with a blood test or office visit. Unless an individual is present to hear the snoring or observe the broken sleep, the sleeper may never become aware of it. Apnea is frequently caused by blockage of the airway, which can cause loud snoring, and also frequently affects people who are overweight, as well as children with tonsil enlargement.

The researchers at Wheaton College in Illinois studied both cognitively normal and mildly cognitive impaired subjects. They found that interrupted sleep caused by apnea and other types of disordered breathing can be connected to an increase in beta-amyloid deposits in the brain, which is a biological marker of Alzheimer’s disease. The studies also showed that interventions to reduce sleep apnea may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

As reported in The Washington Post, one of the presenters of this new data at the conference, Megan Hogan of Wheaton College, stated, “During sleep . . . your brain has time to wash away all the toxins that have built up throughout the day. Continually interrupting sleep may give it less time to do that.” Her hypothesis based on the study results is that sleep apnea may impede clearance of these toxins. According to Ronald C. Petersen, Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, a failure to spend time in the deepest stages of sleep because of breathing obstruction may cause build-up of “bad amyloids” in the brain tissue.

Another study done at the University of Wisconsin and published in the journal Neurology, found that self-reported disordered sleep in otherwise healthy adults with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease put them at greater risk for the disease, and suggests that strategies for improving sleep may reduce disease risk.

Suggested ways to help promote good nighttime sleep for seniors include keeping up a regular schedule for meals and bedtime; avoiding alcohol, caffeine and nicotine; getting exposure to sunshine in the morning, exercising daily, but not within four hours of bedtime, and relieving pain. Depression, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and other treatable illnesses can contribute to poor sleep; a thorough evaluation by a doctor can detect and relieve these conditions and make for a better night’s rest.

Posted in: Alzheimer’s & Memory Care
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The Bristal at East Northport Named “Caring Super Star of 2018” by

Posted by: The Bristal

The Bristal at East Northport Honored as “Caring Super Star of 2018” for Excellence in Assisted Living

Positive Consumer Ratings Led to This Industry-Leading Distinction from


The Bristal at East Northport is pleased to announce it has been selected as a “Caring Super Star of 2018” for service excellence in Assisted Living in three or more years since 2012. In ratings and reviews from family caregivers and older adults themselves, The Bristal at East Northport earned a 5-star consumer rating (the highest possible score) within the last year, while also having a high volume of positive reviews and meeting other qualifying criteria for this national honor year after year. Nationwide, there are 267 senior living communities honored as Caring Stars for 2018, and 78 who have earned the Caring Super Stars designation, so The Bristal at East Northport truly stands out as among the top senior living communities in the country.

In New York State, only two assisted living communities were named Caring Super Stars of 2018, and The Bristal is so proud that East Northport was among those honored.

Online reviews help Americans research and select the best senior care providers for aging or ailing loved ones. In multiple research studies, the majority of family caregivers have indicated that they turn to the Internet and consumer reviews when narrowing their options among senior living communities in their area, and have relied on these perspectives as much as or more so than in-person recommendations from geriatric professionals or medical personnel. Now entering its seventh year, the Caring Stars annual list helps consumers see which senior living communities are top rated by other families just like theirs.

Posted in: Events, News & Press
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Tips for Seniors to Cope with Loneliness

Posted by: The Bristal

Loneliness is a challenge we all face at some times of our lives, even when we’re not actually alone. Loneliness can impose an extreme mental and physical burden, taking a large toll on mental well-being, but also on health and longevity as well as the ability to carry on activities of daily living.

According to doctors at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, studies show that persistent loneliness “causes accelerated aging with multiple health consequences.” They add that loneliness is “associated with problematic changes in the cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems.”

Among the factors that give rise to loneliness in seniors, along with chronic illness and reduced ability to get around and manage for oneself, are physical isolation, deaths of loved ones and other lapses in emotional support networks, which can happen quickly and deprive a senior of a positive outlook. For older adults whose horizons may be shrinking due to the loss of loved ones and decreased mobility, it is possible to adjust and continue to enjoy a vibrant life.

Effective ways to cope with increasing isolation and loneliness among seniors do exist. Here are some that are widely recommended by medical authorities and other experts on aging:

Venture into the community. Adult education courses, houses of worship, senior centers, volunteer charity programs, civic affairs committees, even grass-roots political action groups offer a huge bounty of opportunity to get out and meet people with like-minded interests. New friendships are waiting to be made, not to mention the benefits of meeting new challenges and the sense of achievement that comes with new learning or promoting a good cause. Do not overlook all of the ways your local community makes it possible to meet new people and relieve the sense of isolation.

Join a book club. Did you think that book clubs are an artifact of a more genteel past? That would be a misconception. According to Publisher’s Weekly magazine, the 145-year-old authority on the publishing industry, book clubs are flourishing, even amidst the growing presence of e-reading devices. In fact, many book stores encourage and support the clubs. It’s a venerable institution that remains a fertile source of new friends and acquaintances.

Draw upon past interests. At a much younger age, perhaps you had an interest in photography, weather science, archeology, or other fascinating topics or activities. Many people do, but then largely abandon their avocational passions as their chosen profession begins to dominate their time. Revisiting those early interests now can lead you to connect with people who share them, injecting a new vitality to your daily experience.

Consider a part-time job. Employment in the community can reinvigorate your daily routine and ease the sense of isolation. Many employers ascribe good work characteristics to retired seniors and are happy to have them on the job. If the work is in retail, you may enjoy the frequent contact with the public.   

 Make a canine connection. If you’re able to care for a dog, you’ll find that in many ways, the dog returns the favor, with an emotional bond that conveys at least some of the benefits of human bonding. Caring for the animal also provides a sense of purpose. It can work with a cat also, but Fido bestows a bonus: a dog regularly gets you out of the house and into the street, where you get exercise and an opportunity to encounter neighbors and other dog walkers.

Make use of local services. If your ability to get around is limited because of a disability, find out what services are available to keep you mobile. Government or charity-sponsored paratransit, such as Access-A-Ride in New York City, can help you overcome the physical challenges of staying connected to the community.

The effects of aging and chronic illness can make the world seem smaller. However, by taking a good look at what your community offers, it’s possible for seniors to maximize opportunities to cope, find companionship and connection, and retain independence.

Posted in: Lifestyle Blog
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Feinstein Institute Teams with The Bristal Assisted Living to Study if Dance Can Slow Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by: The Bristal

The Bristal and The Feinstein Institute are proud of their collaborative work being done at The Bristal at Lake Success. Below is a recent press release from The Feinstein Institute after a recent event to introduce this amazing new dance study.

Feinstein Institute for Medical Research dance study

Clockwise from right: Dance therapist and member of Dr. Peter Davies’ team, Cecilia Fontanesi with The Bristal Assisted Living residents Berte Odnoposoff, Esther Feldman and Phyllis Roth participating in a dance therapy session.

Assisted living residents are spending time on the dance floor to participate in a new study evaluating if dance can help slow the progression of memory loss. The study is overseen by leading Alzheimer’s disease researcher Peter Davies, PhD, director of the Feinstein Institute’s Litwin-Zucker Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders, and taking place at The Bristal Assisted Living in Lake Success.

“The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other memory disorders among assisted living residents is very high and this really impacts their ability to enjoy life and remain active,” Dr. Davies explains. “I’m thrilled to partner with The Bristal Assisted Living so that we can rigorously research if dance and our other programs can help slow the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory disorders. Residents participating in the program have the opportunity to enjoy themselves and help us to find out if there is some cognitive benefit.”

Assisted living communities are an increasingly popular option for senior housing and care as they provide residents a more enriching environment. It has been shown that activities, personal engagement and physical health have helped keep residents in assisted living longer, delaying the move to a more institutional environment. Dr. Davies with his team – Erica Christen, RN; Amber Sousa, PhD; Jeremy Koppel, MD; and Cecilia Fontanesi, R-DMT, MPhil – will study over the next two years whether dance, strength training and programs to enhance cognitive activities could improve residents’ lives.

“I’m very happy to work with Dr. Davies to encourage assisted living residents to move and connect with each other,” said Ms. Fontanesi. “The dance therapy classes build a sense of belonging, motivating residents to stay engaged in the community, enriching their lives and knowing that they matter.”

Ms. Fontanesi’s first therapy session started with the residents passing around a balloon, initiating purposeful movement while retaining a shared focus, and ended with the residents delightfully dancing to “Cheek to Cheek” by Frank Sinatra.

The study is funded by The Bristal and these activities take place in a 1,100-square-foot clinical space created specifically for Feinstein Institute researchers at The Bristal at Lake Success, which is The Bristal’s first community dedicated to helping residents with memory disorders.

Said Kimberly Bent, MSW, Executive Director of The Bristal at Lake Success: “Not only will our residents benefit from this research, but it is also our hope that the findings discovered here will benefit assisted living residents across the country suffering from memory disorders.”

Check out some clips from the program:

The Island Now also covered the event. Read their story here:

Feinstein Dance Program on The Island Now

Posted in: Events, News & Press
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Downsizing to a New Home: Suggestions for Seniors

Posted by: The Bristal

For many seniors, a time comes when it is necessary and beneficial to change the home setting. For some, the need to downsize has to do with finances, for others it may mean going to live in a place where more support is available, or a location that is closer to relatives and friends. No matter the reason, the decision can be a great source of stress.

When it comes down to tackling the task of downsizing to a new residence, the challenges of deciding what to keep, what to give away, sell or discard may be overwhelming. What seems comfortable to one person may look like a mess to another. As reported by The New York Times, according to David J. Ekerdt, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of Kansas, for each decade after the age of 50, a person is progressively less likely to be able to let go of their belongings. The emotional impact for seniors of dismantling a home where they may have lived for decades can be substantial.

A good way to begin the downsizing is by seeking what is called a senior move manager. The growing specialty of senior move managers seeks to empathetically help older adults with the logistical and emotional tasks of relocation (or for those staying put, but needing to pare down possessions, of divesting). Once hired, a manager will interview the senior about his/her home and possessions in order to learn what’s most important, create an inventory, and help seniors make decisions about what to keep and discard.

The manager then coordinates packing, hiring movers, donating and selling valuable goods, planning the way items will fit into the new location, communicating with utilities, and even changing addresses for subscriptions. Having someone pragmatically take on these tasks, with their mounting details, can be an enormous relief in the midst of what can seem to most seniors and their adult children as an overwhelming process that might otherwise lead to endless postponement or family squabbles.

These managers can also coordinate with family members who live far away, as well as with estate attorneys, social workers and others to create a unified agreed-upon plan for downsizing. To find a senior move manager in your area, visit the website: National Association of Senior Move Managers.

Other tips to consider:

  • To avoid finding yourself in an emergency situation where choices may be unavailable, get started early. No one really wants to think about aging and loss of function, but the more advanced planning a senior has in place, the more he or she can feel in control.
  • Do a good “spring-clean” once or twice a year, with an eye towards purging accumulations, and items that you no longer use (or maybe forgot you have!) Begin with closets, drawers and cabinets, going through them one at a time, with help from a friend or relative if necessary.
  • Put all relevant paper records together in one place; throw out what is outdated.
  • Give away precious items and mementoes to family and friends (and see their pleasure in receiving them for yourself). Done bit by bit, discarding things can make you feel lighter.
  • Go room by room and really look at your possessions—clothes, furniture, ornaments, kitchen stuff, linen cupboards, garages and car trunks, and ask yourself what you still really need or care about, then begin getting rid of the rest.

Downsizing can be tough, but with the right assistance and a plan, it doesn’t have to be debilitating. For more tips about tackling clutter and downsizing, read Tips for Decluttering and Downsizing.

Posted in: Lifestyle Blog
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How Alzheimer’s Disease Was Discovered

Posted by: The Bristal

How Al

The neurodegenerative disease we call Alzheimer’s is named for the German physician Alois Alzheimer, who first identified and described it more than a hundred years ago.

In 1901, Dr. Alzheimer, grief-stricken because of the recent death of his wife, plunged himself into clinical work with extraordinary fervor. To divert his mind from sorrow, he began personally examining all new patients admitted to his Frankfurt-based hospital at length, compiling extensive documentation on their conditions and prognoses.

Among the patient examined by Dr. Alzheimer was Auguste Deter, a 50-year-old woman experiencing memory loss, suspicion, agitation and other extreme psychological problems.  After Auguste died in 1906, Dr. Alzheimer — now working in Munich — had the opportunity to do a post-mortem examination of her brain.

Using a microscope, Alzheimer saw odd substances and structures (later called plaques and neurofibrillary tangles), in Auguste’s brain matter. He then was able to convince noted psychiatric practitioners in Germany that these plaques and tangles – together with the clinical symptoms and course of the illness – had never been seen before. In the following years, Dr. Alzheimer, along with Gaetano Perusini, a research colleague, published more case studies, with their findings being further validated in 1908 through inclusion in the noted textbook Psychiatrie.

Since Dr. Alzheimer’s premature death in 1915, science has credited him with his groundbreaking discovery, which set the standard for understanding neurodegenerative disease.

Other milestones in Alzheimer’s research

Research into Alzheimer’s disease has been ongoing during the 20th and 21st centuries. The 1931 invention of the electron microscope – which made it possible to magnify images of brain tissue up to 1 million times – has enabled further direct study; in the 1960s, researchers developed a measurement scale to assess the decline of cognition and function in older adults. Together, these tools allow for the correlation of behavioral impairments with educated guesses about brain lesions and tissue damage.

By 1976, medical science recognized Alzheimer’s disease as the most common form of dementia. Eight years later, two researchers, George Glenner and Caine Wong, identified “beta-amyloid” – the protein fragment making up most of the plaque material seen in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Soon after, a second protein called “tau” was determined to be responsible for the tangles that are the other important marker of the disease.

What causes Alzheimer’s disease?

While these discoveries are important and fruitful, the causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still not fully understood by medical science.

Science continues to develop improved ways to study the plaques, tangles and other features of Alzheimer’s, through advanced brain imaging techniques and discoveries in genetics. For people with late-onset of the disease, the APOE gene, which takes several forms, seems to play a part. However, simply carrying the gene does not mean a person will certainly go on to have the disease.

Risk factors for the disease include age, genetics, environment and lifestyle factors, with the impact of each factor varying for any given individual. Vascular conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and hypertension may be involved in cognitive decline, as well as metabolic conditions, such as diabetes. Healthy eating, exercise, getting enough high-quality sleep and staying socially engaged and mentally stimulated are associated with remaining well with increasing age, and may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Clinical trials are studying all of these areas.

The search for new treatments – along with research addressing the underlying disease process in hopes of preventing or postponing onset – is flourishing. Clinical trials of various behavioral and drug interventions are underway. Volunteering to participate in a clinical trial can help science progress toward better treatment – and perhaps, even a cure – for Alzheimer’s disease. To find out more, talk to your physician about local studies, or visit the ADEAR website (Alzheimer’s disease Education and Referral Center), a service of the National Institute on Aging, and search for clinical trials in your area.

Posted in: Alzheimer’s & Memory Care, Senior Care
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Kitchen Safety Tips for Seniors

Posted by: The Bristal

Kitchen Safety Tips for Seniors

The modern kitchen is central to American life, so much so that Julia Child’s actual kitchen from her Massachusetts home is a permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. As we get older, however, the kitchen can become an increasingly dangerous place, where a senior’s physical or cognitive impairments inflate the potential for fires, accidents and food-borne illnesses.

Fortunately, there are simple steps that seniors and their loved ones and caregivers can take to help reduce or eliminate the common dangers posed by the kitchen. Here are important kitchen safety tips.

Avoiding kitchen fire hazards:

  • Do not leave cooking food unattended. Doing so is a primary cause of kitchen fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, whose recent statistics indicate that unattended equipment was a factor in one-third of home cooking fires and roughly half of the associated fatalities.
  • Keep ovens and stovetops free of food residues, which can ignite. If necessary, have someone periodically clean the oven for you, as it can be a difficult chore, especially for seniors.
  • If the oven has an exhaust hood and duct over it, see that they are kept clean as well.
  • Never allow dish towels and other cloth items to hang or sit near the burners.
  • Avoid loose-fitting clothing when cooking so that no part of your garments can come in contact with flames; long sleeves are especially vulnerable to catching fire.
  • Unplug countertop appliances, including the toaster, when they are not in use.
  • Never cook while feeling drowsy, or in a state of confusion, or after taking medication that might make you sleepy.
  • Do not let the handles of pots and pans extend out beyond the stovetop, where you might accidentally bump them and spill the contents; always turn them facing in, instead.
  • Use a timer to automatically remind you that the oven and/or stovetop are in use.
  • Make a habit of checking the kitchen every time you finish cooking to be sure everything is turned off.

Avoiding common accident traps:

  • Keep the kitchen uncluttered and brightly lit when occupied.
  • Heavy items, such as dishes, pots and pans, should be stored at waist level.
  • Do not use cabinets that are out of easy reach or require stepping stools.
  • Use unbreakable plastic for glasses, cups and dishes.
  • Beware of liquid spills that create a slippery floor; check the refrigerator for water leaks.
  • Be certain that electrical cords do not present tripping hazards, or dangle from the counter to the floor.
  • Protect your hands and wrists with mitts.

Avoiding food-borne illness:

Anyone can catch food poisoning, but according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, seniors tend to be more susceptible because of “changes in our organs and body systems.” For example, the FDA notes, “our stomach and intestinal tract may hold on to foods for a longer period of time; our liver and kidneys may not readily rid our bodies of toxins, and our sense of taste or smell may be altered.” To lessen the chance of catching a food-borne illness and endangering others for whom you may be cooking, be aware of the following.

  • Keep the temperature inside your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  • Do not let leftover foods sit on the table after you have eaten; put them in the refrigerator immediately.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables.
  • Store meats and vegetables in separate sealed containers.
  • Understand that spoiled food does not necessarily look or smell bad, so discard it if you have any reason to suspect spoilage.

Keeping it a happy kitchen, however, means keeping it safe as we grow older.

Posted in: Lifestyle Blog
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Outdoor Walking Tips for Seniors

Posted by: The Bristal

Some 2,400 years ago, the Greek physician Hippocrates said: “That which is used, develops. That which is not used wastes away.” Today, that bit of ancient wisdom is often reflected in a more succinct phrase: “Use it or lose it.” Whichever way one says it, the concept has never lost its validity. In fact, it has become especially relevant to the subject of walking as a means of helping seniors preserve their mobility and overall state of health.

Virtually all medical authorities agree that walking is a vitally important form of exercise for older adults (including those who use a cane or walker for assistance), not only to maintain mobility, but also for potential benefits pertaining to blood circulation and heart health, joint diseases, bone density, breathing, balance and mental acuity. The Arthritis Foundation, for example, provides a comprehensive discussion of walking’s benefits here.

To realize all the advantages that walking can bring, however, it is necessary for a senior to consider the factors that will make his or her journeys on foot safe, comfortable and enjoyable. For starters, it is imperative to consult with your doctor before undertaking a substantial walking program. He or she will advise you if any aspect of your medical status warrants restrictions on the scope of your walking activity in terms of pace, distance, terrain and weather conditions. Having your doctor’s assessment in advance will – no pun intended – get you off on the right foot.

Here are tips to consider for general safety and comfort:

  • Warm up and cool down. Regardless of how fast you intend to walk, begin each walk at a casual pace to get the blood flowing to your muscles and joints. End the walk by gradually slowing your pace over a period of a few minutes.
  • Think carefully about intended routes. Plan ahead. Try to minimize encounters with broken pavements, construction hazards, congested sidewalks and heavily trafficked intersections. You may also wish to avoid steep inclines.
  • Dress for success. In this case, that means wear loose fitting clothes that are appropriate for an extended walk. Bear in mind that you may feel comfortable at the start, but get warmer as the walk progresses. Consider dressing in layers, which is a tactic that also can be useful when weather conditions are variable.
  • Choose appropriate footwear. Select walking shoes with good arch support and non-skid soles.
  • Air quality counts. Be alert to weather advisories about poor air quality, especially if you have asthma or other breathing disorders. Postponing or shortening walks on days with high air pollution may be the most sensible course to take.
  • Don’t forget water. Staying hydrated is always important, but all the more so in hot weather, regardless of the humidity level. Bring water along on extended walks. This may present a complication for seniors with such common conditions as an enlarged prostate or over-active bladder, so consider choosing walking routes that include accessible restrooms, such as the public library or a favorite diner or gas station.
  • Check out those canes and walkers. Don’t let the need for a walking aid prevent you from hitting the trail (providing that your doctor agrees, of course). Just choose an appropriate distance and go at a comfortable pace. However, do make sure the cane or walker is the right height for you to ensure maximum safety and comfort. In addition, you might want to consider a walker that includes a seat so you can rest along the way.
  • Stay focused. Some seniors prefer to chat with companions while walking or to listen to music. While that can make walking more enjoyable, don’t allow it to distract you from potential hazards, such as a pothole, patch of ice or uneven terrain. Be especially alert when stepping off a curb, where a misstep can result in a sprained or broken ankle. Always be focused on where you are walking.
  • Stay connected. Take a cell phone with you, for safety’s sake. If cost is an issue, consider a basic service plan that may be available for as little as $10 a month.
  • Forget the adage: no pain, no gain. The objective is healthy exercise, not a place on the Olympic team, so do not attempt to exceed sensible limits. If you encounter pain or serious discomfort, stop and rest. If it persists, notify your doctor.

Many seniors make their exercise a social occasion by joining walking clubs, which often are sponsored by community senior centers. If none is available or convenient for you, the American Heart Association encourages older adults to start their own, with advice on how to do it here.

Overall, walking is good for you at any age. Dr. Hippocrates, in fact, declared that, “Walking is man’s best medicine.” Just be sure to keep safety in mind and apply good sense along the way.

Posted in: Lifestyle Blog
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How Dementia Can Affect Communication

Posted by: The Bristal

People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can find themselves gradually closed off from the world due to increasing cognitive dysfunction. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, this condition affects their ability to remember, speak and understand what they hear from others. Other challenges can include difficulties with writing and reading.

Your loved one may notice difficulty in finding the right words when speaking. He or she may describe a familiar object because they cannot recall its name—nouns are the first type of words to be affected. Trains of thought are frequently derailed, and logical word sequences become harder to summon up. People with dementia find it difficult to join a conversation, to understand a subtlety or a joke, or keep up with complex sentences that include two or more pieces of information.  Unable to find the right word, a person may say the wrong or a made-up word. As dementia worsens, these mistakes increase.

Some people try to conceal their communication problems by pretending to understand more than they do when, in fact, they may completely misunderstand the conversation or situation. They may revert to silence, relying more on gestures than speech. The inability to speak coherently as they used to can cause individuals with dementia to feel frustrated and alone.

There are ways that loved ones and caregivers can make communication easier. In a study with professional caregivers, methods that were successful included providing a single direction or idea at a time, asking close-ended questions and making repetitions with paraphrasing.

Caregivers should use the person’s name to get their attention before talking. A gentle touch on the arm or shoulder can help; wait until the person looks at you, then begin to speak. Maintain eye contact, speak slowly, with pauses between sentences. Keep your sentences simple and short, choosing basic, easy words, and allow time for your loved one to respond. As verbal and cognitive abilities decline, both partners can rely more on the tone of the voice and body language. The caregiver can listen for and look for clues in communication from their loved one and react accordingly. It is helpful for the caregiver to minimize the number of words used and concentrate on his or her tone while simultaneously using gestures.

Watch the eyes of your loved one to see if he or she understands. Repeat what you heard back to the person and ask if it is accurate, or ask your loved one to repeat what he or she said. Try to be engaged by giving visual cues, and break instructions down into simple steps, conveying them slowly. At times, words can become jumbled and you may hear one or two clear words. Try repeating those words back to your loved one to let him or her know you are listening and understanding. Patience is key.

Communication is easiest for those with dementia when it is a quiet, peaceful place, where distractions, such as a television or other people’s conversations will not interfere. Also, they can communicate better when their physical needs are met first — thirst, hunger, pain, toileting, etc. — and should be attended to pro-actively.

The more advanced dementia becomes, the more important it is not to give up communication. Communication may come in many different forms; a bouquet of flowers, a card, a hug, a smile, working together or simply holding hands. Always convey a positive attitude, so as not to create anxiety. Interactions between loved ones and caregivers can help keep the affected person grounded and in the world, both receiving and giving love.

Posted in: Alzheimer’s & Memory Care
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How Caregivers Can Help Loved Ones with Oral Care

Posted by: The Bristal

Oral Care

As seniors age, they become more vulnerable to dental and gum problems. The danger is especially great for persons with dementia, who may lose the ability to properly practice oral care and be unable to alert caregivers to developing problems. However, caregivers can take several important steps to help their loved ones head off or lessen the effects of oral problems.

Several factors combine to make dental and gum problems more common among seniors. The Centers for Disease Control notes, for example, that gum recession, common in advanced age, exposes more and more of the dental roots to food, often resulting in cavities. Meanwhile, old fillings within the teeth may get partially chipped away, setting the stage for new cavities next to the original ones.

In addition, many seniors take prescription and over-the-counter medicines that cause dry mouth as a side effect, which contributes to oral problems. As the National Institutes of Health explains, saliva plays an important role in fighting tooth decay and oral infections. By inhibiting the production of saliva, the causes of dry mouth deprive seniors of the body’s natural defenses. Dry mouth also tends to increase the discomfort of denture wearers.

How can a caregiver address some of the difficulties listed above? Start by making an assessment of your loved one’s cognitive and physical capabilities as they apply to oral care. This will help you determine the extent to which self-care is possible and what level of assistance or intervention may be required on your part. If your loved one has sufficient physical dexterity and focus of mind for some degree of self-care, consider the following steps:

  • Make sure he or she is using a fluoride toothpaste, and add a daily fluoride rinse to the routine. Some people have the misunderstanding that fluoride use is only effective for children. That is incorrect. The Centers for Disease Control reminds us that fluoride should be used at “all ages.” It helps to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities at every age.
  • Impress upon your loved one that brushing at least twice a day is just as important as it is for young people. Preferably, use a brush with soft bristles, advises the American Dental Association. Flossing also is important, but if that is too difficult, other products are available in drug stores. As the Mayo Clinic suggests, “Resist the temptation to use toothpicks or other objects that could injure your gums and let in bacteria.”
  • Encourage your loved one to sip water frequently to keep the mouth moist and comfortable. Ask if he/she experiences dry mouth. If the answer is yes, ask the doctor if a medication may be to blame, and if so, whether a substitute drug is feasible. Also, consult with your loved one’s dentist regarding other possible causes and remedies regarding dry mouth.
  • Take your loved one to the dentist on a regular basis, at least twice a year.

If your loved one has very limited cognitive and physical abilities, caregivers will find it necessary to play a more active role in administering oral care. The Alzheimer’s Association, for example, advises that people in the middle and latter stages of the disease, “may forget what to do with toothpaste or how to rinse, or may be resistant to assistance from others.” In such cases, the association recommends trying short, simple instructions (“hold your toothbrush; put paste on the brush”) and using a “watch me” technique, in which the caregiver simulates brushing.

If you must do your loved one’s actual brushing, here are some tips to help you from the National Institutes of Health.

In general, if your loved one cannot communicate effectively, be aware of signs of pain or distress. Loss of appetite or resistance to oral care may be indications of something that needs to be addressed urgently.

Regardless of his or her state of health overall, proper oral hygiene can be a critical factor in heading off serious conditions and enabling a better quality of life for your loved one.

Posted in: Caregiving & Family
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Dancing May Improve Brain Health in Seniors

Posted by: The Bristal

The intense search for effective Alzheimer’s treatments has uncovered persuasive evidence that performing certain complex tasks may help the brain form new neural pathways that can slow cognitive decline and help ward off dementia. Most of those tasks are mental in nature, such as reading and doing challenging puzzles. However, there is also at least one physical activity that has been shown to help improve brain health: dancing.

Attention first began to focus on dancing with the results of a landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003. It showed that among 11 forms of physical leisure practiced by the study’s subjects over a 21-year span, frequent dancing was the only one that appeared to lower the risk of dementia.

Now a more recent study has produced new evidence that dancing can have beneficial effects on the tissue in the brain that biologists call “white matter,” which facilitates communication among different regions of grey matter in the brain. That communication is vital for preserving cognitive functions.

In the new study, conducted by scientists from five universities under the auspices of the University of Colorado, and partially funded by the National Institute on Aging, 174 healthy subjects aged 60 to 79 were divided randomly into four groups. Meeting in a gym three times a week for six months, one group took part in dancing, another was assigned to aerobic walking, a third combined aerobic walking with taking nutritional supplements, and the fourth served as a control group, confining its activity to stretching and toning exercises. Changes in areas of the brain were monitored periodically using a form of magnetic resonance imaging.

While the study’s complex findings covered a wide range of brain functions, the result that attracted the greatest level of attention is that the dance group participants experienced the most beneficial effects, strengthening the integrity of the white matter structure in their brains.

“We provided first evidence for a dance intervention resulting in (a white matter benefit),” said the study authors in their report. “We attribute this to the fact that dance is a combined cognitive, physical and social training, known to boost intervention outcomes.”

How can seniors best take advantage of these findings? The primary answer is: prudently. While physical exercise is encouraged for people of all ages as a part of a healthy lifestyle, seniors may want to speak to their doctor before adding dance into the mix.

It should also be noted that the dancing in the study involved predetermined steps and the social interaction associated with more formal dances. By contrast, many of us associate dancing with simply standing on a dance floor and “doing our thing” to the music. Seniors who are not acquainted with ballroom or country dances, or even hip hop’s more gentle movements (there are classes for seniors), may not experience the same benefits as those that the study participants experienced. If you’d like to add dance in as a part of your health routine, opt for lessons or learn from your spouse or other dance partner.

Equally important, if your physical circumstances, or your loved one’s, simply will not allow for dancing, do not be discouraged. Virtually all forms of physical exercise can be highly beneficial, even leisurely walks. Do as much as you can, for yourself and your loved one.

Posted in: Lifestyle Blog
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Why Assisted Living is a Great Choice for Seniors

Posted by: The Bristal

Today’s seniors often live longer than members of previous generations did, but health challenges — both physical and cognitive — in the senior years can make it difficult or impossible to go on living independently at home. For seniors, the most basic daily chores; dressing, bathing, doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, vacuuming and so on; require more effort. While many elderly people want to remain in the old family house or apartment — with all its comforts and memories — the inability to keep it up can become an overwhelming burden.

Assisted living communities provide a great option for people who are ready to be relieved of some responsibilities of daily life, but are healthy enough not to require professional nursing care. For many choosing this option, the result can be renewed pleasure and participation in life.

Assisted living communities provide services and a social life that can make daily life easier, more comfortable and livelier. At an assisted living community, each resident is provided with his or her own room and bathroom. All the burdensome housekeeping tasks, such as cleaning and laundry, are done by the staff. Meals are served in a pleasant communal dining room, promoting socialization, and snacks and drinks are available around the clock. This means there’s no need to shop, cook, serve or clean up; just show up and enjoy each meal.

Aides are there to administer medications and help or supervise, as needed, with such everyday tasks as bathing, dressing, and grooming. Many assisted living communities provide the services of barbers, hairdressers and manicurists on site. Each day, different group activities are offered, including exercise sessions, holiday celebrations and outings for shopping and entertainment. Residents are also free to go out on their own and to receive visits from family and friends whenever they would like.

Assisted living apartments provide privacy and preserve independence; each resident can furnish and decorate their individual apartment to suit their own unique personality. Cable TV, phones and wireless internet are available in each apartment. When the resident leaves his or her apartment, the community is there to provide potential friendships, company at meals and engaging social activities. These activities are not mandatory; residents can choose which to participate in, based on their interests.

An assisted living arrangement typically is more financially manageable than the old house or apartment ever was, because all meals, utilities, transportation, housekeeping and personal assistance needed each day is included in the monthly fee. With so much taken care of, residents can once again live life to the fullest, enjoying dignity, companionship, and the exercise of personal freedom to make the most of each day, knowing any help they might need is already there.

Posted in: Transitioning to Assisted Living
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