Healthy Aging for Seniors
No two people face aging in quite the same way. It’s important to be mindful of your body and take proactive steps to live the life you desire and deserve. Fortunately, we know healthy aging care and certain lifestyle choices can add quality to your life like never before.
As you age, you are faced with many decisions about your future, which require not only rational decision-making but also the ability to manage a mix of emotions. Working with your family and friends to plan for the future is the best way to be prepared. By following these steps in planning your estate, you can ensure that an executor or heirs have the documents they need.
For the latest lifestyle tips and healthy aging news, visit the Clarendon Senior Living Blog.
Exercise Your Mind
We all tend to lose things, no matter what age we are. Forgetfulness is rarely regarded as anything more than a passing annoyance. As we age, however, the concern is that forgetfulness is the first telltale symptom of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
For the vast majority, there’s no cause for alarm. And while it’s true that our memories lose sharpness once we pass our 40th birthday, there’s a lot we can do preserve our mental agility.
Research has highlighted a number of brain exercises for seniors that can produce significant gains in memory and information processing:
Try something new. Puzzles, riddles and chess are all good brain teasers, but the key is to try something new to fire up the neurons. If you’re a crossword puzzle or Sudoku fanatic, try bridge.
Break your routine. Your brain gets stuck in a rut and you stop paying attention, so change your everyday patterns in small ways. Rearranging the photos on your desk or taking a different route to work can strengthen the connections between brain cells.
Act on your creative impulses. Take the time to express your artistic side by taking up photography or learning how to play an instrument. Stimulate the imaginative right side of the brain as the logical, rational left side is walking you through the day.
Write it down. The act of writing something down or talking aloud helps lock it in your memory. Keep a small notebook handy to write down the things you want to keep in mind.
Eat “good” fats. Certain fats can actually be good for your brain. If you don’t already take fish oil capsules every day, you may want to try them. Or better yet, eat fatty fish such as sardines and tuna. The omega-3 oil helps your brain function well.
Get a good night’s sleep. Scientists found that sleep helps consolidate learning that takes place during the day. So if you want to try to remember something, recall it before you settle in for the night, and then sleep on it.
THE WARNING SIGNS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s
Want to learn more about the early stages of memory loss? Read below for more information on The Alzheimer’s Association’s 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s.
Is it Alzheimer’s? Top 10 Warning Signs
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
People with Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
4. Confusion with time or place
People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not realize they are the person in the mirror.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. Memory loss often affects vocabulary; your loved one may have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing when memory loss prevents them from locating a mislaid item. This may occur more frequently over time.
8. Decreased or poor judgment
People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
10. Changes in mood and personality
The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
Remember, individuals may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees.
If you notice any of them, please speak with your doctor.
MANAGING YOUR DIABETES
Almost 27% of U.S. adults 65+ have diabetes.(1)
That’s 10.9 million people.
Thanks to advances in medical science, many people with diabetes can enjoy improved quality of life by taking steps to manage their blood sugar levels.
American Diabetes Association provides these simple precautions:
1. Get your flu shot every year.
Coming down with the flu is especially risky for people with diabetes because the stresses of illness can contribute to raised sugar levels. Flu shots provide six months of protection, so get your shot as early in the fall as possible. Also get vaccinated against pneumonia.
2. Make an appointment for a regular eye exam.
Visit an optometrist or an ophthalmologist — specialists who can dilate your eyes to detect signs of retinopathy. It’s not enough to have your eyeglass prescription tested by an optician.
3. Check your feet every day.
Diabetes affects blood flow to the feet, making them more susceptible to dryness, cracking and infection. Make it a daily habit to look at your bare feet for red spots, cuts, swelling and blisters. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help.
4. Take good care of your teeth.
Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day and visit your dentist for a check-up and cleaning twice a year.
Many of the steps that doctors recommend to help manage diabetes — exercising, not smoking, reducing the amount of alcohol you drink — are similar for anyone trying to lead a healthier life, and the benefits are the same.
Source: 1. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Statistics. Accessed 15 November 2012.
ADDRESSING HEARING LOSS
Experiencing Hearing Loss1
30% Seniors, Ages 65-74
Almost 50% of Seniors, Ages 75+
While loss of hearing can be considered a normal part of aging, it can be very isolating. Hearing problems may make it difficult to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, respond to safety warnings, hear doorbells and alarms and may even lead to increased falls. If untreated, hearing loss may also lead to depression and withdrawal. Look for the Signs! There are many telltale signs of hearing loss in seniors.
Watch for these warnings:
• Problems hearing on the telephone
• Uncharacteristic silence in social situations
• Sometimes responding inappropriately in conversation
Types of Hearing Loss
There are several types of hearing loss associated with aging. Gradual hearing loss is called presbycusis. Presbycusis is most prominent at high frequencies, although a decrease in hearing across all frequencies sometimes occurs. Equally important, presbycusis may make it difficult to distinguish among different speech sounds.
Another form of hearing loss is tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears. It’s often found in those who have worked in noisy environments for extended periods.
Finding the Right Device
If you or a loved one seem to have difficulty hearing, visit an otolaryngologist, or an ear, nose and throat specialist. Together with an audiologist, they can test your hearing and determine treatment options.
You have many choices in listening devices that compensate for lost hearing.
Hearing aids come in a variety of different designs. To find the one that works best, you may have to try a few to find the right fit. When purchasing a hearing aid, make sure you have the option of returning it during a trial period.
Personal listening systems, each composed of a directional microphone connected to earphones — help you hear specific sounds while eliminating or lowering other noises. Some personal listening systems are designed for crowded rooms while others are meant for one-on-one conversation.
TV listening systems can help you better hear the television or radio without turning up the TV’s sound.
Telephone amplifying devices work with hearing aids that have a “T” switch. When the hearing aid is in the “T” position, the amplifying coil in these special phones is activated, making it easier to conduct a conversation on the phone.
Speaking to Someone With Hearing Loss
A senior who suffers from hearing loss must focus intently during conversations. If your loved one has hearing loss, you can help by taking the following steps:
• Wait until the person can see your face clearly to watch your expressions before speaking.
• Try to speak as clearly as possible. Don’t shout, don’t exaggerate sounds, and don’t speak more slowly than you normally would.
• Eliminate background noise. Turn off the TV and radio and close windows if it is noisy outside.
• Avoid chewing gum, eating snacks or covering your mouth when you talk.
• Hearing Made Clear, an in-depth resource created by AARP, is a useful guide for understanding the latest research on hearing loss prevention.
Source: 1. National Institutes of Health National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Quick Statistics. Accessed 15 November 2012.
HOW TO LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE
90% of people will develop high blood pressure1
While common, hypertension, as high blood pressure is known, is still quite serious. Unchecked, hypertension in the elderly can damage blood vessels and lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and vision problems.
Fortunately, small changes can produce big improvements. Follow these steps to lower your blood pressure and make a dramatic difference in your overall health.
1. Check Your Blood Pressure Regularly
Perhaps the most important step you can take is to get regular checkups and to take your blood pressure medication properly. A blood pressure reading uses two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. A reading of 120/80 or lower is considered normal while a reading of 140/90 or more is high2.
Consider purchasing a blood pressure monitor to measure blood pressure as often as your physician recommends. The additional information you gain can help your physician make more accurate decisions about treatment — and it can be a strong motivator to pursue the lifestyle changes that are critical to successful hypertension treatment.
2. Adopt the DASH Diet
One important lifestyle change is to eat wisely. You can help control hypertension by following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which was devised by experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The DASH eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts and has reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets and sugared beverages. For more information, read the Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH from the NIH.
3. Avoid Salt
Limiting sodium intake is particularly important, whatever your diet. Although less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day is the current recommendation for otherwise healthy adults, limiting sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day will have a more dramatic effect on blood pressure2.
Salt is included in foods where you might not expect it. For instance, a quarter cup of pasta sauce can have as much as 275 mg of salt, while one-third cup of canned tuna can have 300 mg. These numbers can add up quickly, making the search for low-sodium alternatives worthwhile.
4. Lose Weight Through Diet and Exercise
Losing just five pounds can lower blood pressure. Adopting a healthy senior diet by following some of the recipes on our Senior Eats Blog can make it easier to shed extra pounds. Just 30 minutes of light exercise a day should have a noticeable effect, and can also help lower blood pressure.
Sources: 1. National Institutes of Health. Lifetime Risk of Hypertension. Accessed 15 November 2012. 2. National Institutes of Health. What is High Blood Pressure? Accessed 15 November 2012.
Many individuals are not aware of the realities that they may face as they age. As a result, they are left largely unprepared, especially from a financial point of view.
The price of quality senior living is rising rapidly, and is poised to skyrocket in the next 10 to 15 years. Even more troubling is a shortage of financial resources to help seniors afford their care. Individuals will have to plan ahead in order to avoid a highly complicated and stressful situation in the future.
Long-Term Care Insurance
Do you own your own home? If so, you almost certainly have a homeowners’ insurance policy on that home. Realistically, you can hope that you never have to use that policy, and if you do, it would only be once or twice over the course of time that you own the home. And that’s just to protect your property!
What about your health? What about your life?
The Department of Health and Human Services reports that, at minimum, 70% of adults over the age of 65 will require some form of long term care. That number will only increase in the next 10 to 15 years.
Long term care insurance provides an important measure of security for you and your family. It can provide the bulk of your monthly costs, or even the entirety, for assisted living, board and care, in-home care, and other costs associated with long term care.
Purchasing a long term care insurance policy is one of the smartest decisions you can make when it comes to your financial future. Individuals with such policies have a peace of mind regarding their care that most other people do not have. In addition, the younger you are when you purchase the insurance, the less your monthly premiums will be during the life of the policy.
For more information, please contact Clarendon Assisted Living, and we will be happy to refer you to some outstanding professionals in the long term care insurance industry.
Veterans of the United States Armed Forces are eligible for monthly benefits to assist with the cost of long term care. These benefits can often mean the difference between being able to afford quality senior living, and being forced to live in a substandard facility or have an insufficient number of home care hours.
To learn more about Veterans’ Benefits, and to see if you are eligible, contact The Law Offices of Gerald L. Kane at (818) 905-6088.
ESTATE PLANNING PREPAREDNESS
You’ve written a will, completed a durable power of attorney and filed a set of medical directives with your physician. As far as you are concerned, your estate is in order. And from a legal point of view, you are right. If you have been well advised, your wishes about your estate will be clearly spelled out.
Your own experience will tell you that the passing of a loved one is a trial in itself — and that dealing with estate matters can add needlessly to a period of mourning. Taking the time to prepare the estate for your heirs is an act of love that they will appreciate and remember.
Include a Letter of Instruction in Your Estate Planning Documents.
Tracking down your safe deposit box key, insurance policies and even your estate-planning documents can be a chore if your executors or heirs are not familiar with the way you arrange your records.
Your letter should specify personal information, such as:
• Your social security number
• Policy numbers for life and long-term care insurance
• Account numbers for bank or brokerage accounts (with passwords for online access)
• Phone numbers of people you do business with — accountants, attorneys and financial planners
Also include the location of vital records, including:
• Tax returns
• Lists of medical expenses and other deductible items
• Bank statements
You might also share the location of your address book, which will help your heirs in their efforts to notify family members, friends and neighbors about your death.
As an addendum to your letter of instruction, take the time to list all your assets and liabilities. This will give your heirs a concise overview of your estate — and help them prioritize the financial issues they need to deal with.
Make Provisions for Winding Down Your Estate
You should also make sure that your heirs have enough ready cash to pay funeral costs and two or three months of utilities and other expenses. One way to do this is to set up an investment account with a pay-on-death (POD) designation to your executor.
Also provide the information your heirs need to disconnect these utilities when the time comes. Here again, a list is useful. This one should include your service providers and the location of recent bills. In many instances, you can also include an heir on your telephone and utility accounts as someone who is authorized to make decisions, including discontinuing service.