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How to Combat Loneliness for Senior Citizens

Loneliness is a common struggle seniors face, and one that has more than an emotional impact. Loneliness and isolation can also affect cognitive and physical health. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco found that 43 percent of seniors say they feel lonely and isolated. A study published by National Institutes of Health found that loneliness in adults over age 60 can lead to: Decreased participation in activities of daily living Decline in mobility Increased risk of death In addition, the impact of loneliness can lead to increased risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia and a higher likelihood of depression, anxiety and/or stress. Loneliness isn’t unique to seniors who live alone. Many of those who reported feeling lonely in the UCSF study were married or living with other people. Understanding the impacts of loneliness in our older loved ones is only part of the solution. How can we combat feelings of isolation and help our loved ones live a happier, more fulfilled life as they age? First, it’s critical that we learn to recognize the common behavioral and physical signs of loneliness and/or depression, which include persistent sadness and lack of motivation or energy. Early intervention can have a positive impact on quality of life. Loneliness that is not addressed quickly can lead to more serious problems. Lessening the effects of loneliness may be as simple as increasing social activities and connection. Here are a few suggestions to help fight loneliness: Take advantage of technology to connect with family and friends. Pursue shared interests with others, such as gardening or book club. Play games at home, online or...

Caregiving Long Distance: How to Make a Long-Distance Relationship Work

We don’t need to see the latest romance movie to understand that long-distance relationships often do not work. For caregivers who live far away (an hour or more) from the home of their loved one (what we call long-distance caregivers) can face difficult and demanding challenges that could turn into real problems. These challenges could become even more complicated with loved ones who are living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Long-distance caregivers who travel to assisted living care homes for dementia residents have to think through not being present to keep constant tabs on their loved one, travel time which can be a real problem during emergency situations where time is key, and the expenses of having to drive a long distance and potentially miss work. Despite these challenges, many caregivers simply don’t have a choice, so how can they make long-distance caregiving work? Here are seven ways you can be an effective long-distance caregiver: Be organized. Develop a system that works for you to keep track of information about medication, pharmacies, contact information, etc. Do your homework. T he more you know and understand about your loved one’s dementia, the better prepared you’ll as the disease progresses, and you’ll also be more equipped to plan ahead in regards to traveling, medical care and assisted living. Reach out. Talk to friends, family, and doctors who are close by about your loved one to help provide care and support. Hire a caregiver. You may feel most confident having an experienced professional providing in-home care for your loved one. Put technology to use. Facetime, Skype and other face-to-face video chat programs and apps are priceless tools when you’re trying to...

Raise Awareness and Help End Alzheimer’s on The Longest Day

  June is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and each year on the longest day of the year — the summer solstice on June 21 — the Alzheimer’s Association promotes The Longest Day events around the nation and across the globe. The Longest Day is all about love for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and raising funds and awareness to help end Alzheimer’s. Did you know that more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today? By the year 2050, this number could rise as high as 16 million, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Together, with the Alzheimer’s Association, you can help raise awareness for care and support while advancing research toward finding a cure. Why June 21? The duration of the sunrise-to-sunset event on the longest day of the year symbolizes the challenging journey faced by those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Teams are encouraged to turn their passions and hobbies into unique experiences they can share with others as they participate in The Longest Day to honor those living with the disease. Here’s how you can participate: Select an activity you love. Do something you love — or honor a caregiver, someone living with Alzheimer’s, or someone you’ve lost by selecting his or her favorite hobby. Pick a way to participate. Start or join a team, host an event, or register as an individual. Choose the way that works best for you! Learn more here. Raise money to move the cause forward. To advance research and provide care and support, each participant is...

6 Tips for Heart-Healthy Living for Seniors

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, and the older we get, the higher our risk. February is American Heart Month, a month set aside to focus on heart health awareness and how to live a heart-healthy life, no matter your age. Science also points to a strong connection between heart health and brain health. If your heart isn’t pumping well, the cells in the brain will struggle to get the food and oxygen they need, which can impact cognitive function. Taking steps to live heart-healthy can truly impact every aspect of your life. Here are 6 tips to live heart healthy at any age: Know your risk. A number of factors may increase your risk for developing heart disease or suffering a heart attack or stroke. Age, gender and family history are a few factors we have no control over. Other risk factors, such as weight, tobacco use, physical activity and diet/nutrition are within our control. Know your numbers. Cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels are all numbers that impact your heart health. Knowing your numbers can help you stay on track toward your healthy living goals. Here are some target numbers from the American Heart Association: Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL HDL (good) cholesterol 50 mg/dL or higher LDL (bad) cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL Triglycerides 150 mg/dL Blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg Body Mass Index less than 25 kg/m2 Waist circumference less than 35 in. Exercise daily. Keeping your body moving is essential, but as we age, getting in regular exercise can...

Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia: What’s the Difference?

  The terms Alzheimer’s and dementia are often used synonymously, but they aren’t the same. Knowing the difference between the two can help you better understand your loved one’s diagnosis and how to provide the best care. What is Dementia? Dementia is a broad term used to describe various symptoms that can impact cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning, one’s ability to perform daily activities and communication. Dementia is considered a syndrome, but is not a disease itself, and can occur due to a number of degenerative conditions, including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and, most commonly, Alzheimer’s disease. According to the World Health Organization, about 47.5 million people around the world are living with dementia. Symptoms of dementia are often mild at first, often beginning with episodes of forgetfulness, difficulty keeping track of time and becoming disoriented or lost in familiar settings. As dementia progresses, symptoms worsen and forgetfulness and confusion become more obvious. Other signs of dementia can include repeatedly asking the same questions, poor hygiene and poor decision making. People may have more than one type of dementia, a state known as mixed dementia. In these cases, people with mixed dementia have multiple conditions that contribute to dementia. This diagnosis can only be confirmed in an autopsy. With the progression of dementia, one’s ability to function independently lessens and the individual living with dementia becomes unable to care for him or herself. Behaviors may even turn into depression and aggression. Dementia is a major cause of disability in aging adults and can be both emotionally and financially burdensome for families and caregivers. Although dementia most often occurs in...

3 Tips to Help You Be a Healthy Caregiver

Caring for your loved one living with dementia is a labor of love and can often be overwhelming and exhausting. We understand how difficult caregiving can be. From our experience coming alongside families as they provide care for their loved ones with dementia, here are a few tips to help you as a caregiver. Take Care of Yourself You may feel as though your loved one is your top priority, but if you fail to take care of yourself, it can take a toll on your own health and well-being. Taking care of yourself allows you to be a better caregiver for your loved one. Be sure to eat well, as making healthy diet choices can help you sleep better, give you more energy and mental clarity, and allow to enjoy daily activities with your loved one. Get regular exercise to reduce your stress and boost your energy level. Choose physical activities that appeal to you, such as gardening, walking, dancing or joining a local exercise group or class. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week. Most importantly, take time to refresh your soul. Seek out activities that calm your spirit and renew your mind. These might include prayer, meditation and focused breathing. Know When to Seek Help Caregiving, particularly in the long term, takes a toll on every aspect of your life including family dynamic and finances. To avoid emotional and even physical problems, know the signs of burnout, including: anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, eating or drinking more, avoiding leisure activities and feelings of resentment....