Senior man with beard and glasses using binoculars outdoors in grass dune landscape. Wearing green blocked shirt.

Activities for Home-Bound Seniors

Seniors who are home-bound may find it difficult to ward off depression and isolation. There are a lot of things that can be done to keep a home-bound senior’s mind active, alert, and to keep them feeling engaged. Making a special trip out of the house may be difficult if not impossible, but many things can be done at home to brighten a senior’s day.

It’s important for seniors to feel like they’re still able to contribute. No one wants to feel useless. Try leaving a few household tasks undone for the senior to complete, such as folding the laundry, sorting family photos for an album, or putting away the silverware. Each of these tasks can be completed despite physical or sensory limitations. Furthermore, doing these tasks with a friend, family member or caregiver provides companionship at the same time.

Nostalgic television shows or movies can greatly entertain seniors and keep their minds actively engaged. Obtaining DVD copies of “I Love Lucy” or maybe an old Humphrey Bogart film is very easy. Seniors will reminisce while watching programs that they remember from younger days, and they will enjoy watching them with company. This is a particularly safe bet, because while not all seniors are interested in the same things, you can count on them being a fan of at least a few films.

While going outside on a walk or a drive may not be an option, accessing the backyard can provide some thought provoking entertainment. Birdwatching is a great activity! Seniors can try their hand at identifying various bird species while sitting in their backyards, listening to the birds sing. A guidebook to local birds will give an older person something to study and think about as they go about their day.

In order to further stimulate a senior’s mind, try interviewing them. Recording their history, and the family history as they know it, can be a gift for future generations. It can be videotaped or written down. Structure the questions beforehand, and make sure that each question is slightly related to the previous. Leading an older person gently from topic to topic will help keep their minds active and sharp, while avoiding confusion or embarrassment.

It’s too easy for a home-bound senior to become depressed and feel isolated, which can then lead to physical illness. Simply visiting a senior center or an older loved one who is home-bound is all that it takes to make them feel included in life. Playing games, introducing new activities or just holding a conversation with seniors will stimulate their minds and raise their spirits. The mind needs a challenge, just like it does when we’re all young. Just because someone’s legs don’t work as well as they used to, doesn’t mean they’re too old to have fun.

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Elderly woman with granddaughter

The Top 10 Traits of Successful Caregivers

A senior’s personal hygiene, recuperation from surgery, and meal preparation are just a few of the things that can’t always be taken care of by a busy family. A caregiver can be the perfect solution. However, finding the right aide or companion is the important question. What are the top qualities of a great caregiver?

Integrity - Given the sensitive nature of things cared for by a caregiver (house keys, credit card, phone calls, sometimes paying bills) honesty is an all-important factor in the equation.

Awareness – A good caregiver is able to sense what a senior may not be able to communicate verbally. They know when something is “off” and how to act on it.

Caregivers Know What Must be Done – They have the energy and capability to take action. Elders can’t always communicate their needs and may not even know what’s wrong in the first place. A good caregiver takes action!

Enthusiasm and Compassion – The best caregivers love what they do and it shows! Elders face challenges from isolation and depression to confusion and financial worries. Caregivers will smile, laugh, listen, and do everything in their power to keep the seniors in their care happy.

Making Home a Home – Elders can lose the ability to keep a tidy house due to physical or mental issues. Caregivers know what’s needed to make a home more homey, whether it is music, comforting throws or baking a favorite treat.

The Big Picture – Sometimes it’s necessary to look past the obvious. Medications, dietary needs and underlying “silent” physical, mental and emotional issues that may have not been diagnosed need to be considered. They compose the complete picture of the senior. Expecting the unexpected is part of the job.

Flexibility – The best caregivers know when to slip in quietly and address what’s needed or to be a jovial presence. They know how to adapt to new people and circumstances. They intuitively know when to step up and do the right thing in a tough situation.

Getting Elders “Up and At ‘Em” – Although seniors have lived many years, they don’t have to act like it! Good caregivers get seniors walking, dancing, playing games, and doing all the things that they used to love to do.

Take Control When Needed – Sometimes, it takes strength to get the job done, emotionally, and physically. A good caregiver will do what they have to do to meet the senior’s needs, and won’t down until that has been accomplished.

Great Communicators – The best care relies on clear communication. Misunderstandings, overlooked issues, and health and safety predicaments can be avoided through clear, concise communication.

It can be tough to find the right caregiver but these tips will make the search easier. Remember this; compassion and courtesy are contagious. You won’t need radar to realize when the right person for your loved one is standing in front of you. You will see it and hear it.

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The 5 Coolest Things About Aging

Everyone dreads getting older. Sure, we all get weaker and our bodies deteriorate to varying degrees. But didn’t anyone tell you all the advantages of aging? Life becomes a lot more fun with the passing of the years. Take a look at these five wonderful things that come with age.

Happiness increases with age.
Studies have shown that happiness is actually at its lowest for people in their mid 30s to mid 40s. A Pew Survey found that as many people age, they discover that life turned out better than they expected.

Migraines are reduced or disappear completely.
Migraines have been found to disappear completely with age. According to a study by the Gothenburg Migraine Clinic in Sweden, 80 percent of patients reported fewer migraines that were less painful and shorter in duration. Thirty percent of patients reported migraines disappearing completely as they got older. That’s something to say for getting older, isn’t it?

The quality of sleep increases with age as well.
Sometimes, a senior will complain that their sleep isn’t as good as it could be. This could be due to illness. According to the Center of Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, people in their 70s and 80s had the fewest complaints about sleep. Therefore, if a senior is complaining about not sleeping well, they may want to see a doctor.

With age, comes experience. The passing of years, making numerous decisions, and experiencing life adds up to increased confidence. Older people have the insight to weigh different sides of an argument, see different points of view, and suggest compromises. Seniors understand that one does not always have to be right, that there is value in losing a few battles in order to “win the war”. Like taste buds, an older person’s ability to judge what’s important, and to accept others as they are, becomes more fine tuned.

Lastly, wrinkles.
It’s not the end of the world! Wrinkles on the faces of seniors tell their story. Each wrinkle represents the life experience that we have been talking about. As ego’s subside, and materialism fades into the distance, these wrinkles are the evidence of a senior’s place in life. They should be worn with pride.

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Senior man washing his face after shaving.

Caregiving Tips for Healthy Hygiene

Among the various duties of caring for a senior is the very important task of helping them maintain proper personal hygiene. The simple act of bathing is something that most of us take for granted. However, as people get older, taking a shower or bath can become too physically demanding. According to a recent analysis by the Department of Health and Human Services, almost half of all adults over 65 require help with daily activities.

Knowing how how to assist seniors with personal hygiene can help them to maintain their dignity, while making the process safer and less stressful for them and the caregiver.

  • Allow a senior as much independence as possible
  • Reduce tripping, fall, and health hazards from the environment
  • Maintain a casual and peaceful situation
  • Keep a positive attitude

  • Losing the ability to maintain their own hygiene can be emotionally difficult for seniors. Determining just how much assistance an older person needs is an important first step. For example, if a senior can easily wash their upper body and extremities, allow them to do so, assisting only to wash their back and lower legs. Maintaining a certain amount of independence will increase their sense of control over the process.

    Make sure the bathroom is free from any hazards that could cause physical harm. A beautiful throw rug presents a trip hazard. A non-slip surface in the shower, as well as securely installed grab bars, will reduce the risk of falls. Doctors can also recommend assistive technology, such as waterproof medical alert devices, in case the senior falls.

    Getting a senior into the shower or bath is where much of the fall danger exists. Take it slow to be safe. Also, if the caregiver hurries, seniors will find it tougher to keep calm and will be more prone to accidents.

    The embarrassment of an assisted washing can be too much for a senior. Creating a peaceful atmosphere will help. Play classical music or whatever the senior enjoys during showers or baths. As you wash, confidently explain what you are doing, one step at a time. Keep the conversation natural and relaxed, talking about what is playing on TV, or the weather.

    Maintain a sense of humor and keep a light, happy attitude. Make sure a towel is at hand to ensure the senior doesn’t get cold. Protect the senior’s modesty by having a robe or clothing close at hand so they can get dressed immediately.

    It’s important to note that with seniors’ easygoing lifestyles, daily baths may not be necessary. Putting together a bathing schedule that meets the senior’s needs will minimize intrusiveness on their lives.

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    Close-up of old woman's eye

    Maintaining Healthy Eyesight while Aging: Contact Lens Health Week

    We’re celebrating Contact Lens Health Week! Many seniors turn to contact lenses for vision correction. They are among the safest forms of vision correction. Deterioration of eyesight is a natural part of aging, but by following the proper steps for care and replacement, contact lenses can keep the eyes healthy. There are a few things to keep in mind when using contact lenses regularly.

  • Practice appropriate hygiene for your hands when using the lenses
  • Follow manufacturer’s safety recommendations
  • See an eye doctor for regular checkups and instructions

  • If contact lenses and cleaning solutions are not used as directed, it could result in damage to the eyes. Proper hygiene must be maintained, even if the contacts are not used daily. Contact lenses and their solutions are medical devices that are regulated by the FDA. Safety recommendations from the manufacturer or an eye doctor should be adhered to strictly.

  • Clean and safe handling of contact lenses is of the utmost importance. The eyes can be kept healthy by practicing good hygiene. Optometrists will provide precise instructions to seniors, such as a cleaning schedule and how to handle the lenses. A specific type of case is required for storing contact lenses, and it should be replaced every three months or sooner. The case should also be cleaned between uses.

  • Contact lens solution doesn’t last forever. It must be changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, even if the lenses are not used daily. Under no circumstances should old solution be re-used. Patients should use only the products recommended by the optometrist.

  • A senior’s optometrist or ophthalmologist will have the best information regarding contact lenses and theirs are the only directions that should be followed. It’s very important that the senior learn how to safely clean and handle the lenses and avoid potentially eye-damaging situations. Contact lenses may not be a good choice for a senior who is experiencing cognitive decline and cannot follow, or remember, instructions.

  • Eye doctors will not only prescribe the lenses, but will also provide a contact lens replacement schedule. Seniors should be encouraged to regularly follow up with their eye doctor for both lens and eye examinations.

  • In some cases, a senior may be more anxious than excited to try contact lenses, especially if they have worn glasses all their lives, or never needed eye correction. The most important thing is to point out the advantages of contacts and then let the senior make their own decision. Seeing clearly is key for an active life.

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    Lonely old man staring out of a window

    Is it Nostalgia or Living in the Past?

    One of the best things about knowing a senior citizen is that they can tell you how the world used to be. It’s healthy for an older person to reminiscence, right? Not always. Psychologists now know that too much “past-oriented” thinking can be a display of dissatisfaction with the present.

    The past becomes a problem when an elderly person lives completely in their mind, thinking of days gone by and begins to ignore the present. This is commonly found in older people who are unhappy with their surroundings and their quality of life. What are some causes of a senior disregarding the present for the past?

  • Lack of stimulus
  • Inability to actively participate in society
  • Feeling that the only control left over their own life is that “No one can take away my past”

  • As people age, they naturally become less physically active. This can dramatically decrease the quality of life for someone who has spent their life skiing or swimming for pleasure. The lack of physical stimulus can send a senior into nostalgia-mode, making it difficult for them to have any interest in the present. Adding to the problem is the fact that our society easily marginalizes the elderly because they cannot actively participate as younger people can. When this happens, the senior’s memories can become all they have. By clinging to them and realizing that their past is something that no one can take away from them, they find solace.

    Memories and old stories are not inherently bad things, but there is a limit to which we should all be focusing on our past and living within ourselves. As we age, it’s natural to begin to take account of our lives, what’s gone by, and the decisions we’ve made. However, that can quickly become tiresome for children and grandchildren as the senior repeats the same stories over and over again. It may be important for the senior to express these memories. Repetitive stories can easily be handled by saying “Oh, I remember you telling me that,” and asking for more details. It’s also an opportunity to redirect the senior by saying, “I remember that story but you never told me what happened after that.” Regardless of the repetition, always show interest to show respect.

    Conversations should be encouraged between generations, even if it begins with a story the senior has told many times. The grandfather learns about what’s cool now and the grandchild learns about what was cool way back when. While indulging in nostalgia and describing their younger years, a senior is kept in the present by describing it to someone who wasn’t there. It should be a learning experience and people around the senior should be encouraged to write down these valuable memories and reflections of the past. Keep in mind, old memories and stories are not a bad thing in any way. The important thing for all of us to remember is “everything in moderation.”

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    Doctor and an Elderly Patient

    Know the Early Signs of Heart Disease

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. today. Eighty-four percent of those over the age of 65 fall victim to various forms of the disease. More than one in three men will exhibit the symptoms of heart disease, but many attribute heart attack signs to being tired, indigestion, and other conditions. The danger of heart attack and stroke is that they can occur suddenly and without any warning. Knowing the early signs of heart attack and heart failure can save lives!

    Both men and women may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, unusual sweating, lightheadedness, or nausea when experiencing a heart attack. These should be red flags, as well as pain or tingling in the upper extremities. Women are more apt to experience discomfort in the jaw, neck, abdomen, and across the back.

    Stroke is called the silent killer. It has virtually no symptoms until it strikes. Remember the signs and symptoms of stroke with the FAST acronym – Face, Arms, Speech, Time.

  • F: Is the face drooping on one side?
  • A: Can the person hold up both arms at an even level?
  • S: Is the person’s speech slurred, words spoken in a garbled manner, or is there no speech at all?
  • T: Time is of the essence. Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone is having a stroke. There is a limited window of time in which to administer stroke-mitigating drugs at the hospital.

  • The main causes of heart attack can actually be avoided through a healthy lifestyle. High blood pressure and cholesterol levels will induce heart disease. Both of these can be lowered by a healthy, balanced diet and in some cases medication. Fruits and vegetables are good for the heart. Limit saturated fats, salty foods, and fatty meats. Reduce alcohol intake to fend off arrhythmias (an irregular heartbeat), as well as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

    Quit smoking! It’s a killer, no matter how you look at it. Smoking can cause plaque to build up on the inner walls of arteries, putting pressure on the heart or causing blockages in the arteries.

    Exercising 30 minutes daily in coordination with a healthy diet will help to create a healthy heart and body.

    If at all possible, minimize stress. Stress can lead to unhealthy habits and lifestyles, negatively affecting physical and mental health. Depression may inspire cravings for fatty foods and salty snacks. It’s important to avoid this, as being overweight puts pressure on the heart. Exercise helps to avoid depression, stay healthy, and build a strong healthy heart.

    Above all, seeing a doctor regularly can help older people keep tabs on their health. Keeping diabetes under control, or treating angina will ward off heart disease. The more informed the senior, the better.

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    Adult Son Helping Senior Father With Computer At Home

    Avoid these Top Mistakes for Financing Elder Care

    It’s easy to become leery of the inevitable costs of aging. Government figures show that 7 in 10 Americans will require some type of long-term care, whether it’s assisted living, help from a relative, or an in-home aide. An Associated Press poll has shown that 54 percent of those 40 and older have done little or no planning to face these eventualities.

    It’s important to keep certain facts in mind when planning for future elder care. Institutions that we once could depend on may no longer be the best recourse. Saving money under the mattress isn’t recommended. Scammers and identity thieves can swoop in and steal untold amounts of money from unaware seniors.

    Here are a few tips that can help guide planning for elder care:

  • Medicare does not pay for long-term care.
  • Social Security doesn’t solve everything, and may not cover all expenses.
  • Inflation can devalue personal savings. Consider a savings account or government bond to defend your finances against inflation.
  • Keep your will and other important documents up-to-date.

  • As banking is increasingly conducted online, it’s important to be aware of fraud. Online scammers cost American seniors approximately $2.6 billion annually. Scams are not always easily detected, but common sense is usually the best prevention. Any offer that seems too good to be true usually is.

    The old saying, “Hope for the best but plan for the worst” is especially appropriate in this situation. As middle aged people find themselves sandwiched between caring for children, maintaining their careers, and assisting older loved ones, saving for the future can get lost in the crowd.

    Think ahead, be informed, and be smart. The future isn’t bought and paid for, but it can be saved for.

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    Seniors exercising

    Going Back to School at Any Age

    Don’t let the societal convention that college is just for the young people fool you. More and more, seniors are pursuing higher education. Whether to complete a degree, or for personal enrichment, it is an exciting pursuit. Thirteen percent of the U.S. population is now over 65. As Baby-Boomers age, that statistic is only going to rise. Classrooms are becoming diversified across the country not only by color and culture, but by age as well.

    Across the United States, schools of higher education are offering tuition-free or tuition-reduction programs for seniors, with age requirements as low as 55 years. The Shimer College, a liberal arts school in Chicago, has opened their classroom doors with free classes for anyone over the age of 60. This is an amazing opportunity for seniors to participate in the Great Books Program. The works of Shakespeare, Kafka, Marx, Einstein, and Nietzsche are among those to be studied at Shimer.

    All public colleges and universities offer reduced tuition for people over 55. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board also provides tuition exemption to those older than 65 who wish to audit classes. Twenty-three state universities in California give free education regardless of income to seniors through the Over 60 Program. The Oasis program, a national non-profit, offers higher education and volunteering to people over 60, with 27 chapters open across the U.S.

    These educational pursuits bring an array of positive influences to the life of a senior and intergenerational exchanges are a positive influence on all ages. For example, if an older person is more knowledgeable about politics, a younger person will be up to date on technology and current pop culture. When seniors sit next to younger students and participate in group discussions, they may be able to help put the world in context for the younger generation. The contact familiarizes each age group with the other and connects the dots across the age gap.

    Most importantly, scholarly pursuits can help bring fulfillment to seniors who have lost the ability to pursue more physical goals. Decreased mobility can force older people to give up beloved hobbies and activities. Seniors shouldn’t feel that they can’t go to college. If anything, the array of programs helping them get into higher education programs serves as absolute encouragement.

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    Volunteer helping senior with sewing project

    3 Reasons Seniors Should Volunteer

    Many people look forward to retirement. It is a time of less stress, fewer responsibilities, and more time to pursue hobbies. What few anticipate, however, is that it may end up being too much of a good thing. Aging and retirement can lead to isolation, with little or no contact with the outside world. Lack of exercise and socialization can lead to depression and deteriorated health. That doesn’t sound like the rosy picture of retirement that most of us anticipate.

    Volunteering is one of the best ways for retired people to stay involved, stay active, and have fun. It can improve an elderly person’s life in a myriad of ways. A senior may ask you to give them “one good reason” why they should volunteer. Well, here are three.

  • With free time, a senior can volunteer to work on something they’re passionate about.
  • It’s a fantastic way to improve an aging person’s health.
  • The senior will expand their own horizons as they help others to do so.

  • Through volunteering, a senior can demonstrate their talents and skills to the community, as well as their resilience and ability to stay active. If the senior misses working and having a stimulating career, volunteering will provide the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that work used to provide. When the brain stays active it is better equipped to ward off Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. When the body stays active it can in longevity and a stronger defense against disease.

    Another benefit of volunteering is that the senior can mingle with younger people, keeping them vital through intergenerational contact. Old and young mingle, communicate, learning from one another. Across the country, dozens of companies will help place seniors in positions from which they can give back to their community.

    Whether it’s building houses for Habitat for Humanity or working as a guide at a local museum, every retired senior can find a volunteer position that meets their interests. Retired Senior & Volunteer Program (RSVP) provides trained assistants to place seniors in services appropriate to their skills and interests.

    RSVP is just one of many companies providing practical options for adults to expand their horizons and reap the benefits of volunteering. Another organization called Foster Grandparents provides tutoring, mentoring, and caring for disadvantaged and special needs children. The Senior Companion Program is where seniors can help other seniors by visiting them. Seniors Helping Seniors provides support services through email and phone calls.

    Regular stimulation of the mind and body through volunteering can keep us healthy and happy.

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