The Keys to Happy & Healthy Aging

It has taken nearly 80 years and a variety of research studies to produce the result: a good genetic makeup and wealth really have very little to do with our degree of joy. The Harvard Study of Adult Development launched in 1938, looking into the lives of high-profile participants such as Ben Bradlee and John F. Kennedy. Over the years, it has been expanded to add inner-city residents along with offspring from the original Harvard elite, and the outcomes were unexpected, to say the least.

It was established that the most effective predictors of a long and happy life were not genetics, IQ, finances, fame, or social class but quite simply close relationships. Robert Waldinger, director of the research study and a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, shares, “The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” 

Psychiatrist George Vaillant, who spearheaded the study from 1972 until 2004, shared in his book “Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development,” the factors that forecast healthy aging:

  •     The absence of smoking and alcohol abuse
  •     Physical activity
  •     Mature mechanisms in place to manage difficulties in life
  •     Sustaining a healthy weight
  •     Having a stable marriage

In a nutshell, self-care is crucial for senior health – both mentally and physically – and devoting time and effort to making your relationships the best they can be most certainly falls under that umbrella as well. As a matter of fact, subsequent scientific studies have uncovered that the satisfaction level men and women experience in their relationships is an even better determinant of what their physical health is likely to be later in life than physical factors like cholesterol levels. 

The research also upended prior thinking that our personalities are set in stone by age 30. Many people who encountered difficulties in their early adult years enjoyed fulfilling later years, while others excelled early in life but ran into challenges in later years because of mental health issues and alcoholism. 

The research study is ongoing, looking into its third and fourth generations, as researchers believe there is still more to understand, such as how to better regulate stress and whether a hard childhood makes a difference in middle age and later years.

Let Generations at Home’s compassionate caregivers help instill joy in an older adult’s life; reach out to us today! Our caregivers serve as friendly companions to engage in exercise, conversations, and enjoyable activities together, cultivating socialization and additional relational connections. You can reach us 24/7 at 727-940-3414 to arrange a complimentary in-home consultation to learn more.

Six Ways to Boost Senior Health and Wellness

Many individuals have left their New Year’s resolutions by the wayside by the end of January, but who says resolutions should only be made in the beginning of the year? There’s no time like the present to start a new goal or habit, particularly for seniors hoping to improve overall health. 

We have six tips you can implement today. Select one to begin, or jump right into all of them to attain the greatest benefit:

  1.     Make an appointment for a physical. As opposed to waiting for an injury or illness to contact the physician, a yearly check-up is a perfect way for older adults to stay on top of their own health and potentially prevent problems before they occur.
  2.     Get physical. With the doctor’s approval and recommendations at hand, kick off a new exercise routine – together! Working out with a senior you love allows you to motivate one another and function as accountability partners. Agree to sticking with it for a minimum of 21 days, after which it ought to be an ingrained, pleasurable habit you will wish to continue.
  3.     Stay connected. Help the older adult maintain friendships and contact with friends and family to ward off isolation and loneliness – something we have all become too familiar with throughout the pandemic. Offer transportation if needed for dinner dates, or with setting up technology to stay virtually connected.
  4.     Update vaccinations. Along with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, flu, pneumonia, and shingles vaccines must be up to date. With age comes an elevated risk for severe effects from these illnesses, so vaccinations become much more important.
  5.     Don’t forget mental health. A mental health provider can help determine if anxiety, depression, or other concerns should be addressed, offering both therapeutic tools and medication if needed. Staying mentally sharp through brain enrichment activities can also help with the natural cognitive decline that occurs in aging.
  6.     Monitor what you eat. If the fridge and pantry are full of empty-calorie or fatty foods, replace them with proteins, whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, and low-fat dairy products. An extreme change in diet can be overwhelming and hard to stick to, so start simple with one replacement at first – carrot sticks instead of potato chips, for example – and work up to an overall healthier diet.

Generations at Home is here to help older adults in achieving these and any other goals with personalized in-home care and companionship. From transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and fitness classes to grocery shopping and preparing healthy meals, all while giving socialization a much-needed boost, we’re empowering seniors to live their best lives every day. Email or call us to learn more about how we can help an older adult you love!

Promising Alzheimer’s Vaccine on the Rise

If 2021 will be recalled as the year for COVID-19 vaccines, perhaps 2022 will be marked with a different type of life-changing vaccine: one which may actually slow or prevent the further advancement of Alzheimer’s disease. 

The first human trial of Protollin, delivered by way of nasal spray, is underway in 16 seniors with-early stage Alzheimer’s symptoms and who are between the ages of 60 and 85 years old. The predicted outcome will be to activate immune cells which will eliminate the beta-amyloid plaque thought to cause the disease.

Arriving on the heels of controversial results of Biogen’s Aduhelm, the first new approved drug for Alzheimer’s in decades, the stakes are high. Aduhelm is an antibody infusion that at first appeared to fail in its goal of improving memory and cognition functioning, leading Biogen to discontinue clinical trials. Yet several months later, there did seem to be a beneficial impact in a small group of participants, leading the FDA to approve its use – even though the outcomes are not definitively clear.

Identifying an effective preventative or treatment option is vitally important. The most current statistics show approximately 6 million Americans currently diagnosed with the disease. It is also among the leading causes of death in adults within the U.S., with a steep incline in mortality rate of 88% between 1999 and 2019. And that statistic may only be scratching the surface, as it represents only those clinically diagnosed. We know that those with cognitive impairment may struggle with receiving the correct diagnosis, and they often are challenged by other health issues as well.

Scientists are hopeful that Protollin, along with Aduhelm and other antibody drugs undergoing study, is positioning us on a promising path forward. Jeffrey Cummings, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas brain-science professor, goes as far as to say, “It just feels like we have turned a corner.” 

Our elder care experts are helping older adults with Alzheimer’s each day, and we excitedly look forward to a point in the future when the disease is defeated. Until then, we’re here for your needs with personalized, creative care in order to make life the very best it can be for those diagnosed with dementia. 

It’s vitally important for loved ones caring for a person with dementia to protect their own health by ensuring ample time for self-care. Our dementia care team can help you set up a schedule for regular time away – just as much or as little as you wish. We are skilled in effective management of many difficult effects of the disease, including wandering, aggression, agitation, sundowning, and many others.

Reach out to us at any time at 727-940-3414 for a free assessment to learn more. 

Caregiving for COPD: How to Best Communicate and Connect

happy-senior-man-holding-oxygen-mask-with-copdIt began with those in your inner circle, and it has gradually been spreading outward to close friends and acquaintances. Discussing your COPD diagnosis and knowing how to respond to the many questions that arise about it can be uncomfortable – for you personally, and for those you’re speaking with as well.

Interestingly, you could find that the greatest challenges come in communicating with your primary caregiving partner – the individual who is closest to you. Family caregiving for COPD can raise a number of emotions. The person on the receiving end of care may feel insecure and self-conscious as a result of needing assistance, which could lead to feelings of anger, sadness, and frustration, just to name a few. The care provider may feel incapable of meeting all of the required needs, regretful for mistakes made, and downright worn-out from attempting to manage someone else’s care needs with their own.

There are a number of key strategies to improve communication with your caregiving partner:

  • Make sure you are both fully informed about COPD, the corresponding symptoms and treatment plans, and its typical progression. The doctor can offer resources for both of you to more fully understand what you are facing.
  • Don’t beat around the bush. Clearly and honestly state your feelings and needs.
  • Listen to your partner – and let them know they’re being heard. Nod, maintain eye contact or use other nonverbal indicators to demonstrate you’re listening.
  • Be assertive without being controlling. Your emotions are valid and deserve to be shared in a constructive way without lashing out at the other person.
  • Avoid argumentative words and phrases, for instance, “You never…” or “You always…”. The individual is probably going to become defensive and hurt feelings will intensify.
  • Remind yourself that no one is a mind-reader. If you’re assuming your caregiving partner knows what you are thinking or how you’re feeling merely by your actions, it opens the door to misinterpretation.
  • Maintain empathy and respect for one another. You both are facing new and evolving challenges, and will both make mistakes. A little grace will go a long way.

It’s also a smart idea to call a time-out if emotions start to escalate. Take a break from one another and focus on calming activities, such as listening to music, reading, exercising, or writing in a journal. When you both feel calmer, try the conversation again.

At Generations at Home, we understand the stress that can develop when battling a chronic health issue like COPD, and we are available to help. Our friendly caregivers make great companions to talk with and spend time with engaging in enjoyable activities. We work with family caregivers to make certain they have time required for self-care, while enriching the lives of the older adults for whom they care. Reach out to us any time to find out more about our home care services in Pinellas County, Florida.

Learn How to Respond Safely to Aggression Caused by Dementia

adult-son-talking-to-senior-father-with-dementiaOf the many challenging behaviors typical in Alzheimer’s, possibly the most challenging to manage is aggression. An older adult who may have always been mild-mannered can unexpectedly lash out in outbursts which are truly intimidating: hitting, cursing, kicking, yelling, biting, or throwing things. How can you, as a family care provider, safely diffuse aggression caused by dementia and help reestablish a feeling of calm?

To begin with, remind yourself that the aggression is caused by the disease. It’s not something the individual can control, and it is not intentional. With that being said, it needs to be diffused to keep both you and the senior loved one protected from harm.

The 6 R’s of Managing Difficult Behavior,” developed by Dr. Peter Rabins and Nancy Mace in their book The 36-Hour Day, could be an effective way to help. Read through and refer back to them so you are equipped for the next burst of aggression.

The 6 R’s

  • Restrict. Maintain a calm demeanor and tone of voice as you strive to help the individual disengage from the behavior.
  • Reassess. Consider what could have provoked the incident. Causes may include physical pain, an excessive amount of noise or other distractions in the room, hunger, thirst, fatigue, etc. Keeping a journal of what was occurring before and during each incident can help provide clues.
  • Reconsider. Empathize with the senior loved one by picturing yourself dealing with a disease that impedes your ability to clearly convey your wishes and needs, to accomplish tasks independently which were once very easy, to feel disoriented and confused, etc.
  • Rechannel. Redirect the older adult to an activity the senior enjoys, or relocate to an alternative environment, such as stepping out onto the front porch or going into the dining area together for a snack.
  • Reassure. Let the senior know that everything is ok and that you are there. In the event that the person responds favorably to touch, place your hand on their shoulder, offer a pat on the back or hug, or take their hand in yours.
  • Review. Make note in your journal what went well – or what didn’t – to assist in utilizing the most effective response when the aggression arises again.

Understanding that aggression may occur at any time in someone with dementia, it’s helpful to assess the home environment and make a plan to make certain it really is as comfortable and calming as possible, such as:

  • Playing relaxing music the older adult enjoys in the background.
  • Placing familiar, comforting objects within quick access.
  • Staying clear of movies that may display violence or other disturbing images.
  • Opening the blinds in the day to allow an abundance of natural light to stream in.

Generations at Home is here for you as well with specially trained dementia caregivers who understand the nuances associated with the disease and how to most effectively manage the related challenges. Contact us to learn more about our in-home Alzheimer’s care in St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas.

Your Guide to Starting Family Caregiving: How to Best Care for Someone with a New Diagnosis

family-caregiver-talking-with-senior-womanIt may have been suspected, or maybe broadsided you out of the blue. Mom has just received the official diagnosis for a progressive disease that is going to make independent life difficult. While there are a number of unknowns, one thing is for sure: she’s adamant about remaining at home – meaning you will have some decisions to make on how to provide for the care she’ll need and what starting family caregiving looks like.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with what to expect next, these tips can certainly help.

  • Learn as much as you’re able in regards to the disease. The older adult’s physician can provide you with resources and educational materials to help you know what to anticipate and also to increase confidence in your family caregiving role.
  • Prioritize organization. Create a folder to keep important paperwork: prescription details, test results, contact information for doctors’ offices together with the pharmacy, and any other pertinent medical information. Start a journal to help monitor any changes in condition or concerns that arise, as well as the details surrounding those changes.
  • Put aside past hurts. A new diagnosis could cause old family dynamics to resurface. If unsettled issues are interfering with your ability to provide the best care, turn to the support of a professional therapist to work through them.
  • Establish boundaries together. Talk to the senior about how much and what sort of assistance would be beneficial. It is normal to want to step in and take control, nevertheless, it’s vital for the senior to maintain as much independence and control as possible.
  • Take proper care of yourself, too. Your personal health and wellness are incredibly important. And, the level of care you provide can be compromised if for example, your own needs are not being met. Prioritize and designate time each day for self-care by seeking out and accepting help from others.

It is vital to know about the risk for depression and caregiver burnout, and to take the appropriate steps immediately if you begin to experience red flags including:

  • Increased anxiety, agitation, and irritability
  • Retreating from social interactions
  • Lack of interest in once-enjoyed pastimes
  • Resentment
  • Lack of appetite
  • Issues with falling or staying asleep
  • Challenges with focus and concentration
  • Fatigue

Locating a dependable care partner provides time to see the doctor for a checkup to rule out any other potential health issues, to talk with a therapist to effectively work through the numerous emotions involved in caregiving, and to relax and recharge.

The caregiving team at Generations at Home is here with additional resources for family caregivers, in addition to skilled, dependable respite care services that enable for a healthier life balance. Contact us for a free in-home consultation to find out more about home care in Tarpon Springs and the surrounding areas.

This Year’s Flu Season for Seniors: Your Guide for What to Know

senior-woman-showing-bandage-on-armWhile COVID-19 still dominates our overall health concerns, it is important to bear in mind that other illnesses can be just as dangerous, particularly for older adults. Flu season for seniors is upon us, and it is time to ensure that the older adults you love are protected.

There are a number of different flu vaccines available, some that are better suited for older adults. These include:

  • High-dose vaccines
  • Adjuvanted vaccines
  • Intradermal vaccines
  • Nasal spray vaccines

Typically, adults over the age of 65 are encouraged to receive either a high-dose or adjuvanted shot, but seek advice from the physician for his or her recommendation.

If a senior loved one is reluctant to receive a flu shot, here are a few fundamental reasons to educate them on why it is so important:

  • The immune system weakens as we grow older, making it more challenging to recover from infections.
  • Serious complications due to the flu tend to be more frequent in seniors.
  • 85% of flu-related deaths and up to 70% of flu-related hospitalizations occur in those over the age of 65.
  • Secondary infections, for example, ear and sinus infections, bronchitis, and even pneumonia, can develop from contracting influenza.

In addition to receiving a flu shot, seniors can boost their immunity through:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet that contains foods rich in vitamin C, D, and zinc, as well as lean proteins and complex carbs.
  • Staying physically active with regular exercise each day. 30 minutes per day is ideal, and can be broken down into smaller portions throughout the day.
  • Keeping the environment clean and sanitized. A HEPA filter will also help with improving indoor air quality.
  • Improving sleep habits, aiming for eight hours of sleep every night. Implementing a routine at bedtime that includes calming activities, limiting technology and TV, and keeping the bedroom dark and cool are all methods to help.

Keep in mind that following COVID-19 safety recommendations can help with preventing other illnesses as well. Wash hands frequently, practice physical distancing, wear a face covering, and avoid large crowds.

Generations at Home’s caregivers are here to help! Let us provide transportation and accompaniment to doctors’ appointments and to receive a seasonal flu vaccine, in combination with our full range of in-home care services. We are available to also prepare healthy and balanced meals, motivate seniors to engage in regular exercise, and much more. Take the first step towards improving health and wellbeing for a cherished older adult by calling us at 727-940-3414 to request a free in-home consultation for in-home care in Clearwater & throughout Pinellas County.

Is Your Loved One Taking a Medication That Mimics Dementia-Like Symptoms?

senior-couple-reviewing-medicationsConfusion. Disorientation. Memory loss. While these are definitely hallmark warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, they may also arise from taking specific medications. Rather than immediately assuming an inevitable diagnosis of dementia, review the following list of prescription medications that mimic dementia-like symptoms.

Pain Medications

Opioids in particular are reported to affect short-term memory. The good news is that the problem is typically remedied once pain medications are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

Prescribed to treat IBS, insomnia, bladder control problems, depression, heart problems, vertigo, Parkinson’s, along with other conditions, drugs with anticholinergic effects that block acetylcholine’s effects in the brain can cause memory disturbance, agitation, confusion, and delirium, among other significant health problems. An example is tolteridine.

Benzodiazepines

These prescription medications help treat both insomnia and anxiety, with sedative qualities that may also cause cognitive problems. Long-term usage of benzodiazepines may also be a risk factor for developing dementia. Examples include lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam (Restoril).

Corticosteroids

Mood and cognitive changes, delirium, and psychotic symptoms are just some of the complications associated with corticosteroid use. One of the most common examples is prednisone.

Chemo Medications

Known as “chemo brain,” chemotherapy drugs impact some individuals in the areas of memory, focus and attention, and executive functioning. These changes might persist, even after ending chemo treatment.

Statins

Prescribed to reduce cholesterol, statins have a suspected link to memory and mental slowing and decline. While there are conflicting results from a variety of scientific studies, it is important to be aware of the possibility for cognitive complications.

It’s also essential to keep in mind that many prescription medications impact seniors differently than those who are younger. This is due to some extent to the decreased efficiency in an older person’s kidneys and liver, in addition to interactions with other medications being taken and a decreased cognitive reserve in the brain. Alcohol use can further exacerbate complications.

Be sure to speak with the physician before starting, stopping, or changing any medication, and about whether any cognitive complications you’re seeing in a senior could be the reaction to a medicine.

Generations at Home is also readily available to assist older adults in a variety of ways – medication reminders to make sure meds are taken just as prescribed, picking up prescriptions, transportation to doctors’ appointments, and keeping an eye out for any changes in condition and reporting them immediately, just to name a few. Contact us at 727-940-3414 for help and support any time throughout Pinellas County.

Caregiver Anger: The Emotion You May Not Have Expected

If you were to list the top five emotions you experience in meeting the care needs of your aging parents, what would they be? Maybe you would first think of emotions like compassion, love, and sometimes, even frustration or stress. Would anger make the list? In many cases, though family care providers would not wish to disclose it, the answer is a resounding YES. Caregiver anger is common for many family caregivers.

The truth is that a large number of adult children grapple with the fact that their parents are growing older. Growing up, our parents might have exuded strength, health, and control, giving us an underlying impression that they would always be there for us. Watching a decline in their health shatters that idea, which may leave us feeling disillusioned, let down, fearful, anxious, and yes – angry.

As the tables turn and aging parents become the ones in need of care, family dynamics can become complicated. And the negative stereotype within our culture towards aging informs us that growing older is something we need to resist or deny – something that can have an effect on how both aging adults and their adult children handle age-related decline.

Add to that the compounded stress experienced by people who are part of the sandwich generation – taking care of children at home and aging parents simultaneously. Nearly one in three adults with senior parents believe their parents require some amount of care along with emotional support.

So, how might you shift to a more positive mindset?

The most crucial step is coming to a place of acceptance. Laura Cartensen, Stanford University psychology professor and director of the Center on Longevity, explains, “The issue is less about avoiding the inevitable and more about living satisfying lives with limitations. Accepting aging and mortality can be liberating.”

Honest, open communication is also important. Family caretakers and their parents should express their thoughts about what is working well in the relationship, and what needs to be altered. Sometimes just learning the other person’s perspective makes all the difference. For instance, a senior parent may exhibit irritation with being reminded to put on his/her glasses. An appropriate response might be to clarify the reason for the reminders – because of a concern that the parent may fall, for example. A compromise can then be reached.

Focusing on the quality time your caregiving role gives you with your senior parents, while balancing your parents’ needs with your own, is key. Among the best ways to achieve this is by selecting a dependable care partner to help. Connect with Generations at Home at 727-940-3414 to learn more.

The Post-Pandemic Importance of Strength Training for Older Adults

older disabled adult strength trainigAs we’re finally easing our way out of this pandemic, we’re finding out more information on how it has impacted the elderly – both physically and emotionally. We know older adults have been at a greater threat of serious side effects and death from the COVID-19 virus; however, the impact of 15 months of physical distancing and social isolation is likewise worrisome.

Dr. Jonathan Bean of the New England Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center in the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System has observed a “significant decline in functioning” in both his senior patients and his own mother. While she had been able to walk using the assistance of a walker, be involved in conversations, and take part in other activities of daily life independently pre-pandemic, her self-care and cognitive abilities have diminished dramatically.

Physical therapy Linda Teodosio confirms, explaining, “Immobility and debility are outcomes to this horrific pandemic that people aren’t even talking about yet.” She is observing a substantial increase in both chronic disease exacerbation and falls – very likely because of poor lifestyle choices brought on by the pandemic, such as unhealthy food choices and less exercise.

As a result, increasingly more older adults are in need of physical therapy and other rehabilitative services. Several health plans are attending to the matter by following up with seniors to check on their wellbeing and also to help connect them to the services they require to regain their strength. Surprisingly, up to 20% of an older adult’s muscle tissue could be lost simply by not walking for as few as five days, according to physical therapist Sabaa Mundia.

Before leaping into a different exercise regimen, however, it is vital that seniors first schedule a consultation with the physician for a complete exam and recommendations on safe, ability-appropriate physical activity. Then make a plan to assist the seniors in your life to follow a healthier lifestyle which includes plenty of exercise.

Let Generations at Home assist the seniors that you know stay as physically active and engaged as possible to stay strong post-pandemic. Our professional caregivers are always readily available to provide the encouragement and motivation to help seniors make physical exercise a routine element of each day. We can also provide transportation and accompaniment to exercise classes, the gym, the pool – wherever and whenever an older adult wants to go. Sometimes, just adding in a daily walk with one of our friendly care providers can make a world of difference in how older adults feel!

Call us at 727-940-3414 for a complimentary in-home consultation to learn more about how we can help.