Guest Post: Seniors & Super Foods

seniors and aging nutrition infographicThere are many super foods that can help you deal with stress and aging. Stress can crop up in the senior or elder years that you envision to be the most peaceful. Having the right foods in your diet can alleviate tension and stress, along with their negative effects.

Here are some nutrients you need in your stress-fighting plan:

Omega-3s

Salmon

Fatty fish like salmon is a great source of omega-3s, which keep stress hormones like cortisol under control. You should try to have two servings of wild salmon every week.

Flaxseed and Chia Seeds

These seeds give you a great plant source of omega-3 called Alpha-Linolenic (ALA) acid. However, the body can’t completely convert ALA into other omega-3s that are found in animal sources, so if you’re vegan it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about supplements.

Magnesium

This mineral helps to keep depression away, which is good because depression can be linked to other health problems.

Kale and Spinach

Dark leafy green vegetables are a great source of magnesium. Magnesium not only keeps depression away, but can reduce stress because it controls cortisol levels in the body.

Cocoa

A delicious source of magnesium is cocoa. It also contains antioxidants to lower your blood pressure numbers.

Fiber

Fiber isn’t just good for keeping you regular – it has benefits for your mood and mind.

Beans are a great source of fiber, but which is the best for your fiber needs? Navy beans contain approximately 19 grams a cup, while small white beans follow suit with approximately 18 grams. Other beans, such as kidney, pinto, black and lentils also contain good amounts of fiber.

B-Vitamins

Lacking B-vitamins can be harmful to nerves and brain cells, causing feelings of stress and anxiety.

Steel-Cut Oats

Oats are rich in Vitamin B6, which is known as a vitamin that fights stress, so it’s worth starting your day with it.

Avocado

Avocados contain high amounts of B-vitamins you need to keep you feeling calmer.

Sweet Potatoes

Roasted sweet potatoes are comforting food, but they’re also loaded with nutrients, including B-vitamins.

Greek Yogurt

Since it contains pantothenic acid, or Vitamin B5, another B-nutrient that fights stress, Greek yogurt is a healthy snack to have handy when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Eggs

Biotin is a B-vitamin found in eggs and other foods. Deficiencies of it can lead to anxiety.

Zinc

You need this essential nutrient because it helps your body in many ways, such as by boosting your immune system, synthesising protein and maintaining neurological function.

Walnuts

It’s not just walnuts but all nuts that can give you zinc. Pop them in your daily yogurt or smoothie to reap their benefits.

Pumpkin Seeds

In season this time of year, these seeds are high in zinc while also keeping your blood sugar levels constant. This is important to ward off anxiety, shakiness and weakness that can occur if your sugar levels drop.

Vitamin C

An interesting study found that when people who had to undergo the stress of public speaking took Vitamin C in tablet form, their stress effects were lower than those who didn’t take the vitamin beforehand. Top up your Vitamin C intake with foods such as:

Acai Berries

These berries are a great source of Vitamin C, as well as other nutrients. They also have fatty acids that enable better absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

Pomegranate

Just 100 grams of pomegranate will give you almost 20 percent of your daily requirement. An added benefit of Vitamin C-enriched foods is that they help your body fight off infections that can suppress your immune system.

Blueberries

These berries are a rich source of Vitamin C, so they can neutralize toxic free radicals that cause damage to the body.

L-Theanine

This amino acid is found in tea. It can help you gain greater mental awareness while boosting feelings of calm.

Reach for a hot cup of tea when you feel stressed as studies show that it can help to relax the mind without causing drowsiness.

Oils to Ward Off Oxidative Stress

Although not regarded as the normal type of stress, oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between free radicals and the body not being able to fight them off with antioxidants, and this lack of harmony can lead to illnesses, possibly even hypertension.
Both coconut oil and olive oil have been found to reduce oxidative stress in various organs of the body, so they’re worth adding to your meals.

If managing a diet yourself seems overwhelming, consider the aid of a senior care professional So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach for the above calming superfoods and send stress packing.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 7.26.28 AMAbout the Author:

Originally born in Flagstaff, Arizona, Felicity Dryer was raised by her parents (more or less modern-day hippies) to always make her health a top priority. Throughout her life, she has focused on encouraging others to reach for and achieve their personal goals. Now she lives in sunny Los Angeles where she is pursuing her career as a freelance health writer, and continuing to help those seeking encouragement to keep moving forward to achieve their goals. In her free time, she enjoys hosting game nights with her friends, spending her warm days on the shores of California and enjoys watching Saturday morning cartoons.

Medication Dangers & Safety Tips

Did you know people taking multiple medications are at greater risk of falling?

Sedatives, anti-depressants,  anti-psychotic, and many more types of drugs can contribute to falls by reducing mental alertness, worsening balance and gait, and causing drops in systolic blood pressure while standing. One of the most important pieces of advice I give to families and anyone assisting an elder, is to take medications just as the physician ordered them. There are myriad ways to accomplish this:  a medication box, or any one of several types of medication reminder electronic devices, or even making another  individual responsible for dosing and administering medication.

PillPouch_blue1-1Prevention Tips

  • Know the 5 Rights of Medicine:
    1. Right Dose
    2. Right  Drug
    3. Right Time
    4. Right Person
    5. Right Route
  • Use a medication organizer i.e. med box, electronic device,  specific person to administer as a reminder device to prevent  distribution and consumption errors.. Use a Pill Pouch to organize understand specifics of each medication.
  • Talk with your physician or pharmacist about ways to reduce your chances of falling by using the lowest effective dosage, regularly assessing the need for continued medication, and the need for walking aids while taking medications that may affect balance.
  • Have a home care nurse,  pharmacist, or physician conduct a “brown bag” medicine review of all current medications.
  • Limit intake of alcohol as it may interact with medications.
  • Know what each pill is for and what it looks like, and side effects to expect. Remembering that month to month generic pill manufacturers may change and the same pill may have a different appearance.
  • Follow the doctor’s orders closely for taking the medicine – quantities, duration, timing, food intake, etc.
  • Keep track of symptoms, side effects or changes in conditions and communicate them to a doctor.
  • Remove all out-of-date medications and those no longer in use.
  • Take expired prescriptions and unmarked bottles to local resource for disposal. Many communities offer a day or two each year where you can drop them off for free. (Please DO NOT FLUSH as this harms the environment.)
  • Keep all medications in original containers to avoid confusion on dosage and type of pill.
  • Get prescriptions refilled far enough in advance to avoid running out of medication.

Caregiver Tips:

  • Remember the 5 Rights: Dose/Drug/Time/Person/ Route (oral, topical, eye drop etc.)
  • Store all medicine in a secure location.
  • Ask pharmacist for child resistant containers.
  • Dispensing device resources:

Heart Health & Aging

FEBRUARY IS AMERICAN HEART DISEASE MONTH

gored-400x0American Heart Disease Month means more than a quick blood pressure check, skipping bacon, and wearing red. Although I really like the wearing red part!

RECENT STUDIES

There is a ton of research that suggests you take steps to reduce cardiac risk factors during middle age, then you can stave off  heart disease for 14 years! Considering the risk of developing any type of cardiovascular disease in one’s lifetime is 60% for men and 55% for women, preventative effort is needed and beneficial. Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease and stroke, which can both result in death. Often at a very early age. Researcher J.T Wilkins, MD reports this and more in a wedMD article this month.

Despite high-tech innovations, medications & procedures, strict exercise and diet regimens that have been found to ‘fix’ symptoms of heart disease, we still see that moderation of diet and paying attention to a healthy life style pays off to prevent use of these modern ‘therapies and treatments’. Seems easy right? When you take your health into our own hands, you can influence that which we can control. Fact is, there is no changing your family history if one parent died of heart disease or stroke but you can mitigate the outcomes if you know and change your lifestyle accordingly.

Steps You Can Take Now

ABC-HeartPreventionWe CAN control our stress levels, the foods we consume and the approach we take to working exercise into our daily lives. Here are some activities you can do today:

  • Deep breathing is a natural way to reduce stress: take five slow, deep breathes- hard to feel anxious while focusing something completely natural, right?
  • Look into yoga- there is something for everyone.
  • Healthy food just tastes good- no denying fresh fruit trumps the canned, syrup-laden kind. America is in the midst of a healthy food movement- try it, you’ll like it.
  • Lots of attention to using a pedometer to track your steps lately too: a small investment to dial-in to your activity level and really understand the benefit, a simple bit of extra walking can add to your overall wellness. Before you know it, you will be parking farther away and taking the steps.

Give yourself some grace and understand making life changes like even the simple ones I have mentioned may be a challenge, especially at first. Also, know the rewards are worth having and lead to increased health you may never have known, which is a gift to you and your family.

We are living longer as a society because we are learning the steps we need to take to ensure a healthy life. By committing to living better now, you will continue to live well as you age.

Five Elder Abuse Signs

Elder-AbuseHard to imagine and way under-reported

Nurses, physical therapists, counselors etc, who provide care in the community are on the front lines identifying potential elder mistreatment. Abuse and neglect of the elderly is a serious and prevalent problem that was estimated to affect more than a million individuals. And that number may be conservative.

Statistics:

Terry Fulmer, PhD,  Advanced Practice RN, reported in her article in The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, only one in ten cases of elder abuse are actually reported and there is even serious under-reporting by clinical professionals.  Ms.Fulmer attributes this professional under-reporting to, most likely, lack of appropriate screening instruments. Elder mistreatment is defined by abuse (physical, verbal and even sexual), mistreatment, neglect, exploitation, and abandonment.

We use a screening tool called the Elder Assessment Instrument (EAI) which has been present in literature since the 1980’s. This tool or some variation of it, may be used in all clinical settings by people who treat the elderly population. The tool takes about 15 minutes to use and includes assessment of five indicators.

These indicators include:

  • A general assessment
  • Possible abuse
  • Possible neglect
  • Possible exploitation
  • Abandonment

What to look for:

General assessment includes appearance of clothing/hygiene/ skin/nutrition and any additional findings of care and environment.

Abuse and neglect indicators include injuries, bruising, various stages of fractures, sexual abuse, and clinical signs like bed sores, depression, diarrhea, poor hygiene, and failure to respond to warning of obvious disease and repetitive hospital admissions due to probable failure of health monitoring.

Exploitation indicators include misuse of money and finances with reports of demands for goods in exchange for services and inability to account for money and/or property.

Abandonment may include withdrawn care without alternative arrangements, or evidence a senior citizen has been left alone in an unsafe environment without adequate support.

Each of these indicators also may be reported by the elder in question as well. Although there is not a formal scoring system in this tool, clinicians AND care-givers can be more aware of the signs of elder mistreatment by using the tool as a starting point and guide.

As we provide care to our ever-increasing elderly population, responsibility lies not only with clinicians but well-meaning family and friends. If there is ANY question an Elder is being mistreated, a social service referral should be generated.

How to report or inquire about elder abuse:

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) serves as a resource center dedicated to the prevention of elder mistreatment. It was first established by the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) in 1988 as a national elder abuse resource center. I have included the link above so you may review this site for more details and contact information for reporting potential elder abuse and local support in your geography.

All of us have the responsibility to participate in the full circle of properly caring for our wise, valued, and vulnerable seniors.

Understanding Dementia in Your Senior Needing Care

Dementia is not a disease, rather, it is a medical term used to describe a group of symptoms. Decline in cognitive function is the key feature. This decline may be manifested in thinking, reasoning, memory, problem solving, and speech. Other features that may occur are changes in behavior and personality. Dementia of the Alzheimer’s type is the most common of the 60 types of dementia. Two other main types of dementia are Vascular Dementia (VaD) and Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). According to The Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of death among all ages, and the 5th leading cause among those aged 65 and older. The greatest risk for getting Alzheimer’s type of dementia is advancing age. The average course from onset (the time of diagnosis) to death is 4-6 years. It is important to note that those with dementia have often been having symptoms long before a formal diagnosis is made. There is no known cause or cure at this time- treatment is limited. Over the next week I will be adding blog entries regarding Alzheimer’s and key information regarding the disease and caring for your Elders: especially as it pertains to organizing home care and potentially nursing facility long term care.