How to Stay Young

The “fountain of youth” is more and more in demand as baby boomers come of age. Aging is an inevitable part of life, but poor health is not an inevitable consequence of aging. Good genes help, but research indicates that it is more about how we live that makes the difference. Studies have shown that those with an optimistic outlook on life actually live longer, healthier lives. So are you ready for a long life?

What can you do to stay young?

Attitude is extremely important. When we act old, we become old. We here at Living Assistance Services, truly believe laughter is the best medicine. We make a point of telling a joke at the beginning of each of our staff meetings. Laughing together means communicating together – it’s a medium we can all relate to. A sense of humour doesn’t have to fade with age. As Mark Twain once wrote, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.”

So get busy laughing; laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

Let us know your comments. What do you do to stay young?

What does home mean to you?

The “home” is very important to us at Living Assistance Services because we are dedicated to ensuring that seniors live their lives to the fullest, in as much comfort and dignity as possible in their homes. For many of our senior loved ones, “home” is their private residence, for others it might be a nursing home or retirement residence.

The dictionary defines home as “the place where one lives permanently”, however, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of home; and how we use it to mean so many different things. Home could be a place of comfort, security, peace; a place of love. For some home is a place where you can hang your hat, a place where you can relax, put your feet up.
It may be something specific about the physical details of where you’d like to live, or it could be more about how you feel when you are in the right place.

One of my favourite home-isms is…
“Home is where the heart is”

Do you have any favourite home-isms? Let us know what “home” means to you in the comments section below.

You can also join our discussion in our LinkedIn group where community members are sharing their perspective on the meaning of home.

Cheers and to a happy home for all,

David Porter

Myths & Realities of Old Age

Think you know the facts about growing older? Think again.

Senior moments, increasing isolation, an inability to grow and change – these are just a few of the common stereotypes about what people can expect later in life. But thanks to research over the years, these tired cliches have been largely proven to be untrue. Of course, it’s hard to know first-hand until you’ve been there, and while many of us don’t want to admit it, aging, is a fact of life that begins at birth. How we age is impacted by a number of factors such as biology, physiology and our social circumstances and varies from person to person.

There are many myths about old age. Some of the common ones are:
The older you get, the less sleep you need.
Intelligence declines with age.
Most people get dementia if they live long enough.
Most older adults have no interest in, or capacity for, sexual relations.

What other aging myths have you heard before? Let us know your comments below. Share the discussion. Let’s dispel the myths about older adults.

To read more Myths & Realities of Old Age, click on our Caring Matters newsletter – page 2.

Caring for the elderly: Are you dealing with resistance?

One of the toughest challenges you can face when dealing with the elderly is resistance to care.

How do you help a loved one who doesn’t want help?

If your loved one needs care, he or she is probably dealing with some sort of loss – whether it’s physical, mental, and/or the loss of independence. Accepting care for some, means giving up their privacy, and having to adjust to new routines. As a result, your loved one may feel scared and vulnerable, angry that he or she needs help or guilty about the idea of becoming a burden to family and friends. In addition, he or she may be stubborn, have mental health concerns or simply think it’s a sign of weakness to accept care. He or she might also worry about any associated costs. It’s important to remember these are all common issues for many families dealing with aging loved ones.

Communication is key, and starting the communication process can seem like a daunting task. Do you find yourself asking what is even the best way to approach a loved one about needing care?

Click on Caring for the Elderly: Dealing with Resistance to read how you can use effective strategies for managing resistance to care.

We can all use a little help when it comes to caring for our senior loved ones. Let us know your comments below.

Humour for Health

Did you know there is a medicine that is proven to strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, reduce your pain, and help diminish stress?

If you guessed laughter, you are correct.

Humor is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.

So go ahead! Get busy laughing.

Looking to create opportunities to laugh? Try one of these:
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show.
  • Go to a comedy club.
  • Read the funny pages.
  • Seek out funny people.
  • Share a good joke or a funny story.
  • Check out your bookstore’s humor section.
  • Host game night with friends.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Go to a “laughter yoga” class.
  • Goof around with children.
  • Do something silly.
  • Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke).

Do you have any other ideas for opportunities to laugh? When was the last time you had a hard laugh? Let us know in the comments section below. Go ahead! Make us laugh!

Click here – on pg. 4 of our Caring Matters newsletter, to read more info on Humour for Health.

Less Salt for Longer Life

Want to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure and more?

Cut the salt.

A small amount of sodium is needed to maintain health, however, in some people, too much sodium causes blood pressure to rise. High blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.

According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, about six million, or roughly 20 percent of adult Canadians have high blood pressure (hypertension), the leading risk for death in the world, the number one risk factor for stroke, and a major risk factor for heart disease. A further 20% of Canadian adults have pre-hypertension, when blood pressure is elevated above normal but not to the level considered to be classified as high.

The good news is that reducing your salt intake can lower your blood pressure and the risk of disease.

You can eat less salt by:

Eating less processed foods.

Limiting eating at restaurants and fast food outlets.

Add little or no salt to foods when cooking.

Remove the salt shaker from the table.

For more salt-saving suggestions, and to read the article ‘Less Salt for Longer Life’ in our most recent issue of the Caring Matters newsletter, click here.

Do you have any suggestions to minimize salt intake, or other ways to reduce blood pressure? Let us know your comments below.

Are your feet healthy?

Most people are born with healthy feet, but three out of four people develop serious foot problems as they age.

Healthy feet contribute to your safety and health. Feet that are healthy and pain free help you keep your balance and allow you to stay active. Keeping an eye on your feet can even give you an early warning sign about serious health problems such as diabetes and arthritis.

Some warning signs it might be time to visit the doctor or foot specialist include:

  • a sore on your foot that doesn’t heal or gets infected
  • pain when you walk that stops when you rest
  • unusual coldness, cramps, numbness, tingling or discomfort in your feet
  • less sensitive to foot pain, hot or cold
  • the skin on your feet or legs changes colour
  • a change in the shape/structure of your foot

Click on the Foot Care – Info-sheet to learn about basic foot care, tips for buying shoes that protect your feet; and how feet can be affected by diabetes and arthritis.

How to Sleep Well as You Age

As we age we often experience normal changes in our sleeping patterns. We may become sleepy earlier, wake up earlier, or enjoy less deep sleep. Although these changes are a normal part of aging, disturbed sleep, waking up tired every day, and other symptoms of insomnia are not a normal part of aging. Sleep is just as important to our physical and emotional health over the age of 50 as it was when we were younger. Below are a few tips that can help you overcome age-related sleep problems and get a good night’s rest.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP FOR OLDER ADULTS

No matter what your age, sleeping well is essential to your physical health and emotional well-being. For older adults, a good night’s sleep is especially important because it helps improve concentration and memory formation, allows your body to repair any cell damage that occurred during the day, and refreshes your immune system, which in turn helps to prevent disease.

Many physicians consider sleep to be a barometer of a person’s health, like taking his or her temperature. Older adults who don’t sleep well are more likely to suffer from depression, attention and memory problems, and excessive daytime sleepiness. They are likely to suffer more nighttime falls, have increased sensitivity to pain, and use more prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids. Insufficient sleep can also lead to many serious health problems in older adults, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight problems, and breast cancer in women.

Tip #1: Understand how sleep changes as you age

As you age your body produces lower levels of growth hormone, so you’ll likely experience a decrease in slow wave or deep sleep. When this happens you produce less melatonin, meaning you’ll often experience more fragmented sleep (more rapid sleep cycles) and wake up more often during the night. As your circadian rhythm (the internal clock that tells you when to sleep and when to wake up) changes, you may also find yourself wanting to go to sleep earlier in the evening and waking up earlier in the morning.
As you age, you may have to spend longer in bed at night to get the hours of sleep you need, or you may have to make up the shortfall by taking a nap during the day. In most cases, such sleep changes are normal and don’t indicate a sleep problem.

Tip #2: Identify underlying problems

Many cases of insomnia are caused by underlying but very treatable causes.While emotional issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression can cause insomnia, the most common causes in adults over 50 are a poor sleep environment and poor sleep and daytime habits. Try to identify all possible causes of your insomnia so you can tailor treatment accordingly.

  • Are you under a lot of stress?
  • Are you depressed? Do you feel emotionally flat or hopeless?
  • Do you struggle with chronic feelings of anxiety or worry?
  • Are you taking any medications that might be affecting your sleep?
  • Do you have any health problems that may be interfering with sleep?
Common causes of sleep problems in older adults
  • Poor sleep habits and sleep environment.
  • Pain or medical illness.
  • Medications.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Psychological stress or psychological disorders.
  • Sleep disorders.
  • Learned response.
    • Tip #3: Improve sleep habits

      Poor sleep habits, including a poor sleep environment and poor daytime habits, can be the main causes of sleep problems and low-quality sleep. In many cases, older adults develop these poor sleep habits over a lifetime but find they create more and more problems as they age. Fortunately, these habits are easy to improve.

      Improve daytime habits for better sleep

      • Be engaged.
      • Improve your mood.
      • Exercise regularly.
      • Expose yourself to sunlight.
      • Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
      Encourage better sleep at night

      Naturally boost your melatonin levels.
      Don’t read from a backlit device at night (such as an iPad).
      Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool, and your bed is comfortable.
      Tip #4: Talk to your doctor about sleep problems

      If your own attempts to solve your sleep problems are unsuccessful, your doctor may be able to help with sleep problems due to:

      • A sleep disorder
      • Medication side effects or interactions
      • Medical conditions or illnesses
      • Pain

      Bring a sleep diary with you. Write down when you use alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, and keep track of your medications, exercise, lifestyle changes, and recent stresses. Your doctor may then refer you to a sleep specialist for further treatment.

How to have those difficult but necessary conversations

Few of us have given much thought to our parents’ aging and becoming dependent on us. It always seems to be something that will happen “someday,” far off in the future.

As adult children, many of us feel uncomfortable talking to our parents about their finances, estate plans and possible care needs, as they transition into their later phase of life.

In addition, many parents do not initiate these conversations because they grew up in an era where their financial and medical information was considered private, even within families. Still other parents don’t want to “burden” their children.

Do you find yourself wondering how to initiate these conversations?

To learn how you can initiate these conversations easily and comfortably, make sure to read the full article When Roles Reverse on page 2, of our Caring Matters newsletter.

Let us know your comments below.

Why You Need to Care for Yourself When You’re Caring for an Elderly Loved One

Caregiving for a elderly loved one can be very stressful, particularly when the caregiver is also the spouse and emotions are involved.

Under healthy circumstances, spouses draw support from each other. When a spouse becomes the caregiver, not only do they lose the traditional help around the home, they also lose emotional support from their spouse. Many spousal caregivers feel utterly distressed because they feel the journey of caregiving is one that they must undertake alone.

Spousal caregivers often are more stressed than the spouse being cared for which can actually often result in the caregiver predeceasing the care recipient.

Family caregivers are so often consumed in the caring process that they often forget themselves. For the spousal caregiver, who may be a senior, there can be additional issues such as suffering from one or more chronic illness themselves.

It is therefore important to realize any signs of caregiver burnout before it occurs.

If you are caring for a spouse, have you noticed any of the following?

  • Feeling helpless and hopeless
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulties relaxing, even when help is available
  • Feeling depressed
  • Feeling increasingly resentful to the person you are caring for
  • Drinking, smoking or eating more
  • Cutting back on leisure activities
  • Having less energy than you once had
  • Constantly exhausted (even after sleeping or breaks)
  • Neglecting your own needs (too busy or you don’t care anymore)
  • Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
  • Feeling tired and run down, even after taking breaks
  • Difficulty sleeping

Is one of your parents caring for a spouse? Are they exhibiting any of these signs?

  • Anxious & irritable
  • Overreacting to minor nuisances
  • New or worsening health problems
  • Weight Loss / Gain
  • Increase drinking or smoking
  • Decreased socializing
  • Changed household habits – signs of neglect, clutter, bills unpaid etc.
  • Changed Personal Habits – hair is undone, unkemptness etc.

A spousal caregiver who is not fully capable, mentally and physically, cannot properly care for their spouse. It is therefore critical that the caregiving spouse remains in the best health possible.

Take timeout for YOU!

Set aside 30 minutes every day for yourself. Do whatever you enjoy, whether it’s reading, gardening, tinkering in your workshop, knitting, playing with the dogs, going to the movies, walking, visiting friends or simply napping.

Get Social.

It is easy to let friendships and other social connections fade away as the responsibilities of caregiving become demanding. Don’t be afraid to talk about your new role as a caregiver. Seek out other caregivers; remember they are going through similar experiences and can likely share some insights to assist you in your role as caregiver. This also provides the care recipient with the opportunity to interact with other people while giving you a well-needed break to socialize, relax or just pamper yourself.

See your Doctor Regularly.

The stress of caregiving can take a toll resulting in illness and/or depression. When you visit your doctor ensure that you inform him/her that you are a caregiver. Make a list of any mental or physical changes that you have noticed about yourself since your last visit, including issues such as changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
When you’re stressed and tired, the last thing you feel like doing is exercising, but exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood enhancer…even 30 minutes a day of moderate walking can be beneficial.

Eat Well.

You will need nutritious food like fresh fruit, vegetables and lean protein to effectively handle stress. Fast food including caffeine and sugar are easy but will also give you quick crashes and increase your irritability.

Don’t skimp on sleep.

When you skimp on sleep you become irritable, have little energy, and you are less able to cope with stress.

Pamper yourself.

Get yourself a manicure, have a bath, get a massage, buy yourself some flowers, go for a stroll in the park, read a book, take a well-needed nap. You may have to get respite care for your loved one whilst you engage in these activities, but it would be well worth it in the long run. Remember, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.

Say YES to help!

Try to get as many family members involves as possible. Ask family members to assist with bills, errands, groceries, cutting the lawn, etc. Some of the other resources for help include adult day centers, home care services and assisted living facilities.