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!

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.

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.

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.

Study Reveals a Distinctive Progression of Dementia in Latinos

senior with dementia hugging caregiverA new study sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association is revealing some surprising results in the progression of dementia in Hispanic people. While further exploration is needed to fully understand whether these differences are the consequence of social/cultural nuances or the dementia itself, it’s worthwhile information for Latino families to know.

Daily Activities

One highlight of the study was the significantly faster decline in the ability to perform everyday activities, such as getting dressed, walking, and taking a shower, in comparison to other ethnicities. Andrea Ochoa Lopez, the University of Houston doctoral student who carried out the research, explained that the cultural dedication to caring for elderly loved ones could be a contributing factor.

“Some families want to start doing everything for their older members to try and remove some of the burdens and make their lives easier,” she mentioned. “But there is research showing that when cognition is declining, older people actually do better when they stay active. And there is also still stigma. They may not want their elder family member to be seen as ill or mentally unstable.”

Anxiety and Depression

While we realize that anxiety and depression are risk factors for dementia, a separate research study of 5,000 individuals showed a noticeably higher percentage of Hispanic people reporting these concerns: more than 25%, when compared with almost 16% and 11% in black and non-Hispanic white participants, respectively. Concentrating on the mental health of those with dementia is essential. Clinical psychologist Michael Cuccaro explains, “We have lots of great evidence that medications and talk therapy help, but minorities have the lowest rate of getting this help.”

Although more extensive research is required to better comprehend these ethnic differences in dementia, finding minorities to take part in studies has been an issue. Latinos currently make up less than 8% of present dementia scientific research studies – in spite of the reality that the prevalence of dementia in Latinos is as much as 50% higher than it is in non-Hispanic whites.

Families who want to learn about current Latino dementia research opportunities can go to the Alzheimer’s Association’s TrialMatch page to find out more.

At Generations at Home, our professional caregivers are extensively trained and experienced in helping seniors with whatever their particular challenges are, making life the best it can be. We achieve this by meeting with each older adult in his or her home before the beginning of services, enabling us to generate a customized care plan. We then diligently monitor the care plan ongoing to ensure that needs are always met thoroughly, both now and as needs change with time.

Whether the need is for a little help with meals and housework, transportation and companionship, or if more specialized dementia care assistance is necessary, Generations at Home has got the perfect solution. Call us at 727-940-3414 to arrange your free in-home consultation to find out more.

The One Phrase to Avoid When Caring for Elderly Parents

daughter talking to elderly parentAs our parents age, it’s not necessarily simple to know exactly what our role as adult children must be. We’d like what is best for them, but if we’re not cautious, we’ll overstep our boundaries and find ourselves attempting to parent our parents.

This is also true when safety is a concern. There’s a thin line to walk between ensuring senior parents are safe, and supporting the independence they want and deserve. All things considered, it was not all that long ago when our parents were meeting not merely all their own needs, but ours as well. The change from care provider to care recipient can be frustrating and painful for seniors.

With this thought, there are a number of elements of independent life that a senior may now be lacking. And if we aren’t careful in how we approach these losses, it may lead to arguments, hurt feelings, and fractured relationships.

For example, one part of senior independence that’s often jeopardized is in others stepping in to take over tasks that could now be a little more challenging and take a bit longer for an aging adult to perform. Even though intentions are certainly good, it is actually bad for a senior’s self-worth and self-esteem. A much better approach would be to allow extra time, and to only offer assistance when truly necessary.

Yet one of the greatest indicators of freedom is the ability to drive, to go wherever and whenever we please. When driving is no longer safe for an older adult, it’s essential to approach the topic with tact and empathy. Neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez explains that too often, adult children lose patience with their older parents, resulting in hurtful comments that may be truly traumatic.

He recommends avoiding phrases such as, “You’re not allowed to drive anymore!” It is much kinder and more effective to give elderly advice with choices, and to engage them in brainstorming a potential alternative. An example of this could be, “I’m sure it’s getting much harder to be able to see clearly now, which must make it challenging to drive. Let’s talk about some options that will allow you to go wherever you want safely.”

Together, then you can come up with an idea that’s agreeable to everyone. When it comes to choices, take into account that Generations at Home’s caregivers are available any time, day or night, to provide safe transportation and accompaniment for seniors. Our services are available in accordance with each senior’s wishes and timeframe, whether that involves a weekly lunch date with a friend, medical or salon appointments, attending religious services, or simply a Sunday afternoon drive to get out of the house and relish the scenery. Call us at 727-940-3414 for details.

Tips to Help Manage Dysphagia in Elderly Parents

mature caregiver giving glass of water to senior womanThere’s nothing better than a tall, cold drink on a hot summer day, but for a person with dysphagia, this simple pleasure can be dangerous. Dysphagia – or difficulty with swallowing – impacts millions of seniors, because of weakened mouth and/or throat muscles. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS and stroke are typical causes as well.

Symptoms of dysphagia include:

  • Drooling
  • Coughing, choking or gagging when drinking, eating, or taking medication
  • A gurgling sound in the senior’s voice after eating/drinking

Additionally, if you suspect dysphagia in an older family member, ask him or her the following questions – and check with the medical practitioner right away for additional guidance:

  • Have you been coughing or choking when trying to eat or drink?
  • Are you experiencing regular issues with food “going down the wrong pipe?”
  • Is food getting caught in your throat?
  • Is it taking you longer to eat than it used to?
  • Are you losing weight?

If you’re taking care of a senior loved one with dysphagia, keep these strategies in mind:

  • Pay attention to posture. Ensure that the older adult is sitting fully upright, at a 90-degree angle, before trying to drink or eat.
  • Bypass the straw. Straws speed up the rate at which the liquid goes into the mouth, which can cause choking or aspiration.
  • Thicken liquids. Most pharmacies sell thickening gels or powders that should be added to all fluids for anyone with dysphagia. However, avoid serving ice cream and jello, which change from their thickened form to a liquid in the mouth.
  • Keep nutritional needs in mind. Good options for dysphagia-friendly foods include yogurt, pureed fruits, pureed veggies, pureed beans, and pureed lentils, avocado, soft cheese, and creamy nut butters. Discover some simple, dysphagia-friendly recipes.
  • Consider prescription drug administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid can be difficult. Speak with the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist to see if prescription drugs can be crushed and mixed with pudding or applesauce to help them go down easier.
  • Timing is everything. The tiredness that accompanies a chronic medical condition that creates dysphagia may make it tough to eat or drink for more than fifteen minutes at any given time. Try to plan meals around times when your loved one is least tired, and have thickened drinks available throughout the day to ensure hydration.

Generations at Home can help plan and prepare healthy meals and thickened beverages for a loved one with dysphagia, and we’ll even pick up all of the ingredients, too! Learn more about our home care services by contacting us for a free consultation at 727-940-3414.

Understanding the Different Stages of Dementia

Female home carer hugging senior male patient at care homeOne of the first questions in most people’s minds when a family member is diagnosed with dementia is precisely what can be expected in the weeks, months, and years to come. We realize that the hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the progressive decline in cognitive abilities and also the skills required to manage everyday life. Yet, every person advances through these changes in a different way. There are a number of factors that will impact the rate of decline, such as:

  • Prescriptions the individual is taking
  • Overall health and physical makeup
  • The system of support available
  • The person’s general emotional wellbeing and resilience

There are other determinants to factor in based on the specific type of dementia diagnosed. As an example:

  • MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment): Mild cognitive impairment affects up to 20% of seniors. More than the typical minor cognitive decline experienced in aging, MCI involves difficulties with language, judgment, thinking, and memory which are obvious to the senior individually and frequently to others as well. Researchers found that about 38% of seniors with MCI later developed dementia. The other 62% never progressed further than MCI – and in a number of cases, their condition actually improved, for unknown reasons. Indications of MCI include forgetfulness, impulsiveness, depression, apathy, anxiety, aggression and irritability, and others.
  • Vascular Dementia: Because vascular dementia is caused by a blockage in the flow of blood to the brain, the kind of blockage will affect the progression of the disease. For example, if small blood vessels are blocked, the decline is typically gradual. Major blood vessel blockage may cause a sudden onset of symptoms, accompanied by intense periods of change thereafter.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: Progression of Lewy body dementia can be gradual, but could also include widely differing degrees of alertness and attention during the early stages. One day could find the senior lucid, while the following day – or even several hours later – could bring hallucinations, confusion, and memory loss. In the later stages of the disease, restlessness, agitation, aggression, tremors, and stiffness become more prevalent.
  • Frontotemporal Dementia: Unlike other forms of dementia, short-term memory is usually not impacted in the early stages of frontotemporal dementia. Instead, early symptoms include behavioral changes, such as distraction, rudeness, apathy, and disregard for social norms. As the disease advances, difficulties with language become noticeable as well, in addition to memory loss, vision problems, and other typical symptoms observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Reach out to the dementia care team at Generations at Home for more informative resources to help you better understand and care for someone you love with Alzheimer’s. We are also always here to assist with creative, compassionate care in order to make life more fulfilling for a senior with dementia, and to help family members achieve an improved life balance. Call us at 727-940-3414 to learn more.