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National Nutrition Month: Learn What to Eat

March is known as National Nutrition Month. It’s an informational 31-day observance dedicated to making sure people eat the right amount of nutrients to stay healthy. It’s no mystery that as you age, your body needs less energy. However, that does not mean the body needs less nutrients. In fact, it’s important as ever to keep up with that healthy eating lifestyle in order to age happily and healthy. Here is a list of important foods to do just that!

Vibrant Fruits
When at the grocery store shopping with your senior loved one, try to pick out the most colorful fruits on the stands. The brighter they are, the more vitamins and antioxidants they have. Antioxidants are important in a senior’s diet, because they boost the immune system which ultimately keeps your senior healthy for longer!

Look for those red peppers, bright bananas, and dark blackberries. These are the fruits that hold all of those wonderful nutrients in their colorful complexion.

Dairy Products
Osteoporosis is a common disease that affects many older adults. Specifically, it affects their bones, making them weak and frail. That’s why dairy products should be incorporated into their diets. Milk contains plenty of calcium to ward off any adverse effects to your elderly loved one’s bones. Three glasses of milk a day should be enough calcium to keep them healthy. It’s also a great source of Vitamin D, which gets harder to absorb via the sun as you age.

Low-fat yogurt is another healthy dairy snack that’s great for you and your senior loved one. You can even cut up some of the vibrant fruits and place them in there. It’s a delicious treat that’s sure to tickle the tastebuds and keep everyone healthy and satisfied.

Looking for a good source of fiber for your senior’s diet? Try incorporating more whole grain products into their meals. Oatmeal in the morning is a good start. The key is to not load them up on empty carbs. Try to buy whole grain bread rather than white bread. It contains much more fiber and is less processed. It also includes more Vitamin B which helps with cells metabolism for more energy during the day.

Protein is tricky. You can find it in nuts and beans, but mostly in meats. However, a lot of meats contain saturated fats which result in high cholesterol. It’s important to find lean meats that don’t contain a lot of saturated fats. Fish is a good start. Fish also contains Omega 3’s also known as “healthy fats.” Omega 3’s can curb stiffness and joint pains when it comes to Rheumatoid Arthritis. Additionally, they’ve been linked to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Unfortunately, there have not been enough studies done to prove such a thesis, nevertheless they are still very good for your senior’s diet.

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Dementia Aid: The Power of Music

As our nation continues to age, dementia becomes one of the premier social care challenges of the 21st century. Luckily, breakthroughs have been made and one of those breakthroughs is music. Even in our lives’ now, a soft melody can be powerful enough to boost our mood. Listening to a familiar song is just as powerful as seeing a familiar face. Music does wonders for us, and similarly, for those with dementia.

The beauty of music is that a specific song can be associated with a specific emotion or memory. This can best be seen in people who are in their later stages of dementia. Those in the later stages of dementia have a tough time recognizing family, yet a familiar song can evoke powerful memories.

If your senior loved one is still in the earlier stages of dementia, try asking them about some of their favorite songs. Write down their responses and create a playlist for them. It can prove to be very useful over the course of their dementia.

Music can also be used to calm down patients. It has been noted that a person with dementia, when given the opportunity to pick their own music, becomes less agitated throughout the week. This also a good activity to try if your loved one is in a bad mood.

Again, ask about their favorite music. It’s a very personable subject for most people. Often times, it feels like we don’t select the music we like, it selects us, which creates a very special relationship when it comes to people and art. Play these special songs for your senior loved one. You might just see their mood increase as each song gets played.

Be aware that music also has the ability to decrease their mood and make them agitated; so be prudent with your song selection. However, music has a strong place in most peoples’ lives. There has been a strong showing that musical therapy does wonders for anyone, whether they have dementia or not. It’s a wonderful activity for any caregiver and their caree, and it’ll help you get to know a loved one even better!

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Engagement: A Vital Element of Well-Being While Living with Dementia

By Karen Love

image001 I spoke on the phone recently with a gentleman in Florida who is living with advanced early stage dementia. I was struck by the high level of excitement and joy in his voice as he explained what he was doing (dementia advocacy work). I asked him how he might feel if he wasn’t doing this engaging work. He was silent as he considered my question – then responded that he likely would be depressed.

His response was no surprise because part of human nature is to seek out meaningful activity. Prisoners of war, for example, describe some amazing things they did to relieve the boredom of inactivity such as writing books in their heads and doing hundreds of sit-ups. Research is slowly making its way to providing the science and evidence base of what many have known for decades – being engaged in meaningful activity improves how we feel.

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley is studying the science of meaningful life. Another research center conducting work in this area, the National Institute for Play, was founded by psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD. Dr. Brown’s research found that ‘play’ renews emotional energy. Doing something enjoyable for just a short amount of time leaves an individual feeling upbeat and happy.

“Play is what lifts people out of the mundane. Play can be compared to oxygen – it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.”
-       Stuart Brown, MD

When people have cognitive impairments such as those experienced with dementia, they lose the ability to themselves initiate ‘play’ and find meaningful and interesting things to do. If others don’t engage them in meaningful and enjoyable things to do each day, feelings of frustration and depression are likely to emerge. Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, PhD and colleagues in Maryland are international pioneers in studying the value and benefits of meaningful activity for people who are living with dementia. Individuals with dementia who are unoccupied, isolated, or bored often exhibit behaviors such as distress, agitation, frustration, depression, restlessness, irritability and aggression. For a small percent of individuals, these behaviors are rooted in psychiatric causes. For the majority of people, these behaviors are a result of boredom and a lack of meaningful activity.

I’ve been in the field of dementia care for over thirty years, and worked with hundreds of people living with dementia. About 15 years into my career my father developed Alzheimer’s, so I have some personal family familiarity with it also. I’ve experienced first-hand the direct impact of meaningful engagement and happiness. For most people, short periods of an enjoyable activity or social interaction are plenty. Other people need more sustained activity and engagement. I think of my friend’s brother-in-law who runs five miles each morning, works a demanding job, then comes home and kayaks around the lake near where they live for an hour. Should he develop dementia, he’ll likely be one of those people who need sustained activity!

We created FIT Kits™ to make engaging someone living with dementia simple, easy and fun. Helping family members and other care partners experience the difference simple engagement can make in bettering the lives of people with dementia is one of the joys in my life.

Brown, S., and Vaughan, C. (2010). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. Penguin Group, New York, New York.
Cohen-Mansfield, et al. (2010). Can persons with dementia be engaged with stimuli? American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 18(4):351-62.

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Know the Warning Signs: Does Your Senior Need at Home Care?

Seniors don’t like to admit they need help. The last thing they want to be is a burden. Therefore, they’ll continue with their lives independently to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, some seniors will need help. It’s up to you to know the warning signs when at home care is needed.

Weight Loss
Weight loss can be caused by several factors. It can be attributed to a loss of taste buds from various medications a senior loved one is taking. It might even be a deeper problem such as lacking the energy to prepare meals. If this is the case, explore your elder care options. A well-balanced diet is essential to healthy aging and weight loss should not be viewed as a temporary problem. If a senior loved has lost the ability to cook for themselves, consider the benefits of hiring. Good nourishment is necessary for aging happily.

Poor Hygiene
This is another proper warning sign that an elderly loved one may need help around the house. Our daily routines are so ingrained into our minds that it should seem odd that a loved one is forgetting to shower or brush their teeth. How well an older person can structure their day is a great indicator to see if they can still efficiently live on their own. If a person’s daily schedule is falling apart, at home care may be the best option to maintain their quality of life.

Cluttered Home
No one likes a messy home. If an older loved one is struggling with keeping their home clean and organized, consider what may be causing this. It could be a sign of depression, as loneliness tends to affect many older adults. Another possibility is that your older loved one may not be in the best physical shape. A caregiver can help by providing the necessary muscle around the house to keep things clean, as well as providing comfort and support to aging loved ones.

Forgetful Behavior
Does your loved one have bills piling up? Does he or she forget to fill their prescriptions? These are the warning signs you should look for in forgetful behavior. Many older adults could greatly benefit from having an extra mind help them remember to keep up with their daily calendar.

There are many signs and symptoms of aging and the come on a big spectrum. However, it takes extra care and observance from your behalf in order to determine if your senior loved one needs at home care.

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

The final week of February is dedicated to raising awareness for people with eating disorders. In a previous post, we told you that anorexia and other eating disorders are not solely found in young people. In fact, eating disorders have been steadily increasing in older adults.

However, some people believe that these new diagnoses in older adults aren’t necessarily new, but have always been a part of this person’s life. If you notice your caree is losing weight rapidly or has less energy than normal, ask them about their eating habits.

There are various triggers that cause eating disorder to occur. Several are similar in older adults as they are in the younger generation, however one potential reason is medication. An older adult’s medication can numb or dull their taste buds which makes food less enjoyable. They can even eliminate appetite, and if an older adult doesn’t have anyone to cook for them, they might just skip eating all together. If this is the case, you must explain to them the importance of being well nourished. A lack of appetite does not necessitate a lack of nutrition. Spend some time with them at dinner, you can even organize a cooking night where the two of you learn new recipes together. That way the new flavors can excite their taste buds!

Another contributing factor to older adults eating less is that a stigma may be attached to food. The reason being? A deceased loved one might have been the one who prepared all of their meals. If this is the case, then every time food is prepared, the caree gets hit with a blast of nostalgia about all the great meals he or she shared with their loved one. It can be painful, bringing up memories of past loved ones, which is why they might do everything in the power to avoid such feelings.

This is a tricky scenario to get around, but your best bet is to replace these remorseful feelings with new, positive ones. Again, have a cooking date night. Learn new recipes together and explore new foods. Meals bring people together. It allows multiple people to come together and share in an experience.

The one main factor found in all eating disorders is stress. This stress can come from many different circumstances, but it’s up to you, the caregiver, to determine where it’s coming from. By eliminating these stress factors and providing positive feelings back in sharing meals, you can help eradicate eating disorders in the elderly.

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Communicating with Someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease

The question, “Is it okay to lie to someone with Alzheimer’s disease?” gets asked a lot. It’s difficult telling the truth to someone when you know the answer is one that hurts. Often times, a person with dementia will ask about their spouse when they may have been deceased for years. They might ask about their own parents when they, too have been deceased for many years. A person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease loses touch with reality, and sometimes reality throws a lot of harsh things our way; so harsh that we don’t even want to mention them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t fully answer the question. There are multiple factors that play into this topic.

The first factor is about the person’s safety. You want to make them feel the most comfortable if possible. There is potential that a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s might not recognize their caregiver. They might see that person as a potential spouse or family member. However, there is no reason to make them believe that their caregiver is someone else. You want your senior loved one to feel comfortable around the one caring for them. There is no need to lie, because you want what’s best for your loved one.

On the other hand, if you’ve moved a parent or loved one into a smaller house in order to make their lives’ more manageable, they might have a lot of questions about their old house, especially if they had been living there for many years. They might ask, “When are we going home?” or “When do we get to leave?” They might even have their bags packed when you come to visit them, because they feel like a stranger in their new home. This is when it’s best to deflect such questions. Again, the idea to do what’s safest for them. The last thing you want is for a loved one with dementia to get into a car and attempt to drive away. That puts multiple people at risk.

As stated previously, when these tough questions are asked, it’s best to deflect them. If you tell them this is their home, they might panic due to the unfamiliarity of it. Of course, deflecting questions isn’t a loophole around lying. You’re still withholding the truth, so you’re not being honest. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t feel so bad about it because you’re not deliberately lying to a loved one for bad intentions. You want what’s best for them.

The moral of the story is morality. It’s not a static line that tells you, “If you do this you’re bad. If you do this you’re good.” It’s not so black and white. It alters and changes much like the world around you. Do what’s best for your loved one and your emotional well-being. If you can’t bring yourself to lie to a person with dementia then don’t. However, in your heart, if you truly believe you’re doing what’s best for them, then that’s okay, too. After all, we’ll whatever we can to make our loved ones happy.

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The Differences of Home Health Care and Home Care

As people get older or suffer with one or more chronic illnesses, there comes a time they’ll need help at home. Whether the extra care attends to personal assistance or their medical care, it’s available.

For example, if a person needs care after a surgery, home health care is accessible. Medically trained and licensed professionals will administer health-related tasks ordered by a physician.

In addition to recovery after a hospital visit, a person may need extra help around the house. In-home care is an option that offers custodial care, homemaker services, and companionship services. They’re delivered by professional caregivers employed by agencies, family members, or privately hired caregivers.

The Differences of Care
Home Health Care: Administers medical services delivered by a nurse, home health aide, certified nurse assistant, licensed vocational nurse, or a doctor. A physician prescribes these services.

  • Manage the medication and teaching adherence
  • Manage pain
  • Skilled Assessments and Training
  • Disease management and education
  • Injections, IV infusions
  • Catheter care, tracheotomy care
  • Ventilator patient care
  • Diabetes management and care
  • Post-op rehab – occupational and speech therapies
  • Discharge planning
  • Facilitating support groups, grief counseling
  • Wound care
  • Enabling durable medical equipment

Non-medical home care: The non-medical care tasks are performed by professional caregivers and address the following needs:

  • Assistance with personal care such as feeding, bathing, toileting, dressing, ambulation and transferring
  • Provide help with light housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping, errands, meal preparation, medication reminders and companionship
  • Personal assistance with bathing, grooming, and incontinent care
  • Friendship and companionship for social outings, playing cards, visiting and conversation, reading books, activities, and hobbies, leisure, and travel
  • Light transportation
  • Assistance with medical appointments
  • Respite Care that gives a family caregiver a break

Paying for Care at Home
Paying for either type of care at home takes budgeting skills and a thoughtful strategy. The options are:

  • Out-of-pocket
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Medical health insurance
  • Medicaid and Medicare
  • Cash and Counseling Programs
  • Veterans Administration

Get the scoop on all pay for home care options.

People Who Use Home Health Care
  • Individuals discharged from a hospital or nursing home but needs medical attention
  • People living with terminal health conditions
  • Those with short-term health needs
  • People living with a disability

People Who Use Home Care
  • Those want help with meal preparation
  • Individuals with bathing and dressing requests
  • People with toileting and transferring demands
  • Older adults who need light transportation to appointments, etc.
  • Those living alone and craving companionship and company
  • Individuals who want help around the house – housecleaning and laundry

Carol Marak is a contributor for the senior living and health care market. She advocates older adults and family caregivers by writing on tough topics like chronic issues, senior care and housing. Find her work at and and contact Carol on LinkedIn and

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What Dementia Can Teach Us

There are countless studies on dementia and all the various forms of it, that no one ever really sits back and realizes what this disease can teach us. We spend all of our time figuring out how to stop it, that we never realize how powerful the mind is. We only notice the degradation. A person with dementia is just that: a person. They’re still mind, body, and spirit. In fact, a person with dementia can teach us a lot about ourselves.

Have you ever been assigned a task that seems so impossible that the thought of giving up right at the start enters your mind? Of course, we all have. Giving up is one of the easiest decisions to make. We can come up with a million and one excuses as to why we should stop, yet we can’t think of one good reason as to keep going.

A person with dementia faces many tough challenges. It might be something such as getting out of bed in the morning or bathing by themselves, but strength isn’t measured by the amount of difficulty in the task. It’s measured by the amount of perseverance in the person completing the task. Dementia can teach us about true strength. No matter how difficult the task may seem, there are always ways to overcome and achieve your desired result.

The human brain is an incredible organ. It controls everything in your body. If you’re trying to pick up a glass of water, it sends signals to every part of the body and within milliseconds the body responds. It’s one of those things that’s so unbelievable we take it for grant it. We’ve all had those moments where we lose our train of thought or can’t quite place a finger on the word we’re looking for, but we can always recognize loved ones. We can always close friends when we see their faces.

The brain makes those connections for us, because they’re so familiar. Unfortunately, those in late stages of dementia don’t get that luxury. It destroys those connections the brain makes. What seemed so simple is now a difficult task. It’s something we take for grant it everyday. Our loved ones provide comfort for us and bring us that feeling of familiarity. It’s a great feeling walking into a new space and recognizing faces. Could you imagine a world where everyone is foreign? A person in the late stages of dementia must deal with it everyday.

The Little Things
Sometimes, a warm conversation with a stranger is enough to brighten our day. Sometimes, just listening to a story from a stranger is enough to brighten theirs. Whatever it may be, people with dementia enjoy the attention they receive. They’re thrilled to have someone come and hold their hand as they relive past memories, talk about relatives, and genuinely appreciate the comfort of being heard.

Contact and communication are two overlooked aspects of life. There’s nothing better than a gentle embrace from a close friend or relative, coupled with engaging conversation shared by both parties. However, not everyone receives that gratification. Could you imagine a world where you don’t get to converse with someone everyday? We need contact with other people, yet sometimes we don’t realize how important it is. Enjoy the small things in life. It’s just one of the many lessons we can all learn from people with dementia.

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Random Acts of Kindness Day

If you’re a full-time caregiver, everyday may seem like Random Acts of Kindness Day to you. However, caregivers don’t become caregivers because they’re looking for some sort of fulfillment. They do what they do because caring for someone is their passion. Nevertheless, if you, a caregiver, are looking to participate in this wonderful awareness day here are some ideas in order for you to participate.

Volunteer at the SPCA
There’s nothing more rewarding than finding that special someone who offers nothing but unconditional love, even if they happen to be covered in fur and walk on four legs. Volunteering at your local SPCA is a wonderful way to spend your Random Acts of Kindness Day. Of course, the moral of this holiday is to help other human beings by offering your services, but in reality, the workers of the shelter will certainly be glad to see you as soon as you walk through that door. Most animal shelters have more dogs than volunteers, so any little bit helps.

Helping out these furry friends by taking them on walks, feeding them, and just giving them the attention they deserve is a wonderful act of kindness. You can even bring your senior loved one, as interactions with pets is a wonderful activity for the elderly. It’s good way for the two of you to participate in an activity together!

Cook Dinner for a Friend
Has there been a certain somebody whom you haven’t seen or talked to in awhile? Invite them over for dinner! Prepare that one special meal you’re really good at making and have a casual meal with a good friend. It’s mutually beneficial for both parties. Your friend gets a delicious meal, and you get some quality time with a close acquaintance. Everyone wins.

Some of the best therapeutic medicine for a caregiver is to have warm conversations with good people. However, the purpose of this dinner isn’t solely for your benefit. That takes away from the random act of kindness aspect to it, but sometimes holding conversations that steer away from work and other stressors are enough to make anyone feel better. So bust out those cookbooks or old family recipes and invite someone over for dinner for Random Acts of Kindness Day.

Thank Someone Who Made a Difference in Your Life
Did a teacher truly strive to make you a better person? Or perhaps there was a coach that inspired you to be the best you can possibly be. Parents are also great influencers in their childrens’ lives. Whoever it may be, reach out to them. The beauty of the internet these days is that a personal connection is only a click away. Send an email or a Facebook message. Folow them on Twitter and send them a direct message. Let them know that their beacon of influential light made a difference in your life.

It’s also mutually beneficial to you, because someone who has made a difference in your life can continue to do it. If there is someone out there who truly sent you down the right path, you’re going to want to stay in contact with them. Their words of wisdom don’t need to cease simply because of distance. Connect with them again. It’s a great activity to do at the end of Random Acts of Kindness Day. Of course, all of these suggestions don’t need to be done simply because of a holiday. These are good life practices that should be considered everyday!

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Celebrating Valentine’s Day with your Senior Loved One

Valentine’s Day is a holiday celebrating feelings of love and romance. It brings couples back to that first feeling of falling in love. It’s a nostalgic holiday meant to be shared with your one and only. Unfortunately for seniors, it can be a lonely holiday. If an elderly loved one has lost their spouse, those memories are bittersweet. That’s why this Valentine’s Day, it’s important to make those seniors who have lost loved ones feel extra special. Here are a few activities you can do to celebrate this holiday with an elderly loved one.

Mentioned earlier in this article is the idea of bringing back bittersweet memories toward an elderly loved one’s husband or wife. It’s painful to know that one you pledged your love to is gone, but as the old saying goes, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Scrapbooking is a good way to honor that message.

Go through all the old photos of the two lovers together. Bring back those bittersweet memories, not to invoke a feeling of sadness, but to pay homage to someone who shared the same love as you have for your senior loved one. Soon enough, those feelings of sadness will become joy as your senior’s spirits are lifted as the two of you take a stroll down memory lane. Keep those memories in a tangible place such as a scrapbook in order for your senior to go back through it whenever he or she wants to.

Involve the Kids
Nothing shows your love and appreciation better than by making a handmade gift for someone. That’s why, this Valentine’s Day, involve the kids in helping make Valentine’s Day special for that senior loved one. They’ll love going through each card and noticing the different creative direction and personality in each card. Don’t forget to join in on the fun!

Bring out all the colored construction paper, markers, and stickers so you can really decorate those cards. Also, don’t forget to have each child write their own little heart-felt message on the inside of the card. It’ll add a nice personal touch to each card and have your senior loved one truly thankful for all the great notes.

Be a Companion
In all reality, the best gift to give to a senior loved one this Valentine’s Day is your time. Don’t forget about them, especially if they have lost a loved one. Just by spending some time with them you will turn a potential day of grieving into a wonderful day. Don’t feel bad if you weren’t able to plan some elaborate holiday extravaganza. Don’t feel bad even if you didn’t have the time to pick up a card. Your time and yourself is the best gift to give, because it shows how much you care. After all, showing someone how much you care for them is showing them how much you love them and Valentine’s Day is a holiday meant to showcase your love.

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