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More Social Isolation in Seniors Can Lead To Increased Health Care Use, Study Finds

Posted on: April 29th, 2015 by Steven Katz

University of Georgia researchers say that more attention should be paid to the problem of senior iStock_000007806299Mediumisolation—not only for the well-being of our elders, but to replace unnecessary health visits with other sources of human connection.

Read more here to know more about this study.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015


“Calcium for Bone Health” Wordfind

Posted on: April 27th, 2015 by Steven Katz

May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month.iStock_000047433106Medium

One of the best things you can do for strong, healthy bones is to get enough calcium in your diet. Calcium not only helps build strong bones, but is also important for a healthy heart, nerves, muscles and blood. This month’s puzzle contains the names of a number of good calcium sources. Give your brain a workout and find them all!

Need some help? Click here for the puzzle solution.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

Sterling Care Provides Tips on How to Create a Memorable Mother’s Day Celebration for a Mom with Alzheimer’s

Posted on: April 27th, 2015 by Steven Katz

Holidays can be the most challenging times for families whose loved one has Alzheimer’s or a related Home carecondition. Past traditions fall by the wayside and seem to highlight all that has been lost. That’s why Sterling Care is providing these tips to help families celebrate Mom, even as she and the family are dealing with the effects of the disease.

The main thing to remember is that the best gift you can give your mother is your time and attention. Even if your mother no longer recognizes who you are, the need for human connection is still there. Just spending time with her is something she’ll appreciate.

Here are some more tips to make sure the day is something you’ll both enjoy:

  • People with dementia typically like a routine. If you want to have a meal with her, do so at a time when she usually eats, preferably in familiar surroundings. If she has some favorite foods, take those with you. If you’re going out, make sure she is comfortable with crowds and does well in a different setting than what she’s used to.
  • Share your memories of childhood. Many people with dementia still have a degree of intact long-term memories, so reminiscing about a past you share is a good way to connect. Take along a photo album of a past trip you’ve taken together or some childhood events.
  • Enter her world and share her reality. If she talks about President Eisenhower, ask her what she likes about him. If she doesn’t know who you are, but has memories of you, invite her to share those memories without explaining who you are.
  • Try to find an activity that the two of you can do together and be successful at, such as doing a simple jigsaw puzzle, gardening, reading a story or listening to music.
  • Good gifts are those that stimulate the senses, such as a soft blanket, scented lotions, a CD of her favorite music, or a photo of the two of you together. Take some fresh-cut flowers that the two of you can arrange in a vase together.

The important thing is to be flexible enough to adjust to her mood and current reality. Just remember it’s her day and you’ll honor her with your care and attention.

Osteoporosis and Aging

Posted on: April 27th, 2015 by Steven Katz

Bones feel solid, but the inside of a bone is actually filled with holes like a honeycomb. Bone tissues areElderly Exercise broken down and rebuilt all the time. While some cells build new bone tissue, others dissolve bone and release the minerals inside.

As we get older, we begin to lose more bone than we build. The tiny holes within bones get bigger, and the solid outer layer becomes thinner. In other words, our bones get less dense. Hard bones turn spongy, and spongy bones turn spongier. If this loss of bone density goes too far, it’s called osteoporosis. Over 10 million people nationwide are estimated to have osteoporosis.

It’s normal for bones to break in bad accidents. But if your bones are dense enough, they should be able to stand up to most falls. Bones weakened by osteoporosis, though, are more likely to break.

“It’s just like any other engineering material,” says Dr. Joan McGowan, an expert on osteoporosis from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If you fall and slam your weight onto a fragile bone, “it reaches a point where the structures aren’t adequate to support the weight you’re putting on them.” If the bone breaks, it’s a major hint that an older person has osteoporosis.

Broken bones can lead to serious problems for seniors. The hip is a common site for osteoporosis, and hip fractures can lead to a downward spiral of disability and loss of independence. Osteoporosis is also common in the wrist and the spine.

The hormone estrogen helps to make and rebuild bones. A woman’s estrogen levels drop after menopause, and bone loss speeds up. That’s why osteoporosis is most common among older women. But men get osteoporosis, too.

“A third of all hip fractures occur in men, yet the problem of osteoporosis in men is frequently downplayed or ignored,” says Dr. Eric Orwoll, a physician-researcher who studies osteoporosis at Oregon Health and Science University. Men tend to do worse than women after a hip fracture, Orwoll says.

Experts suggest that women start getting screened for osteoporosis at age 65. Women younger than age 65 who are at high risk for fractures should also be screened. Men should discuss screening recommendations with their health care providers.

Screening is done with a bone mineral density test at the hip and spine. The most common test is known as DXA, for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. It’s painless, like having an X-ray. Your results are often reported as a T-score, which compares your bone density to that of a healthy young woman. A T-score of −2.5 or lower indicates osteoporosis.

There’s a lot you can do to lower your risk of osteoporosis. Getting plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and exercise is a good start, Orwoll says.

Calcium is a mineral that helps bones stay strong. It can come from the foods you eat—including milk and milk products, dark green leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens—or from dietary supplements. Women over age 50 need 1,200 mg of calcium a day. Men need 1,000 mg a day from ages 51 to 70 and 1,200 mg a day after that.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. As you grow older, your body needs more vitamin D, which is made by your skin when you’re in the sun. You can also get vitamin D from dietary supplements and from certain foods, such as milk, eggs, fatty fish, and fortified cereals. Talk with your health care provider to make sure you’re getting a healthy amount of vitamin D. Problems can arise if you’re getting too little or too much.

Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, helps bones, too. Weight-bearing exercises include jogging, walking, tennis, and dancing. The pull of muscles is a reminder to the cells in your bones that they need to keep the tissue dense.

Smoking, in contrast, weakens bones. Heavy drinking does too—and makes people more likely to fall. Certain drugs may also increase the risk of osteoporosis. Having family members with osteoporosis can raise your risk for the condition as well.

The good news is, even if you already have osteoporosis, it’s not too late to start taking care of your bones. Since your bones are rebuilding themselves all the time, you can help push the balance toward more bone growth by giving them exercise, calcium, and vitamin D.

Several medications can also help fight bone loss. The most widely used are bisphosphonates. These drugs are generally prescribed to people diagnosed with osteoporosis after a DXA test, or to those who’ve had a fracture that suggests their bones are too weak. Bisphosphonates have been tested more thoroughly in women, but are approved for men too.

Researchers are trying to develop drugs that increase bone growth. For now, there’s only one available: parathyroid hormone. It’s effective at building bone and is approved for women and men with osteoporosis who are at high risk for having a fracture.

Another important way to avoid broken bones is to prevent falling and occasions for fracture in the first place. Unfortunately, more than 2 million so-called fragility fractures (which wouldn’t have happened if the bones had been stronger) occur nationwide each year. “To reduce the societal burden of fracture, it’s going to take a combined approach of not only focusing on the skeleton but focusing on fall prevention,” says Dr. Kristine Ensrud, a physician-researcher who studies aging-related disorders at the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

Many things can affect the risk for a fall, such as how good a person’s balance is and how many trip hazards are in the environment. The kind of fall matters, too. Wrist fractures often occur when a person falls forward or backward. “It’s the active older person who trips and puts her hand out,” McGowan says. Hip fractures often arise when a person falls to the side. Your hip may be strong enough to handle weight that goes up and down, but not an impact from another direction.

“That’s why exercise that builds balance and confidence is very good at preventing fractures,” McGowan says. For example, she says, tai chi won’t provide the loads needed to build bone mass, but it can increase balance and coordination—and make you more likely to catch yourself before you topple.

NIH-funded researchers are looking for better ways to tell how strong your bones are, and how high your chances are of breaking a bone. For now, though, the DXA test is the best measure, and many seniors, even older women, don’t get it, Ensrud says. If you’re concerned about your bone health, she adds, “Ask your health care provider about the possibility of a bone density test.”

Source: NIH News In Health, a publication of the National Institutes of Health. For more consumer health news, visit

Too Much Salt May Affect More Than Just Blood Pressure

Posted on: April 23rd, 2015 by Steven Katz

You have probably read about the importance of limiting salt consumption for years. Perhaps your iStock_000033884056Mediumdoctor has put you on a low-sodium diet. Our bodies do need a certain amount of sodium (one of the chemical elements in salt). Sodium helps maintain a healthy balance of fluids in the body, helps nerves transmit electrical impulses, and helps muscles contract and relax normally. But most of us get all we need from the salt that naturally occurs in food.

According to The National Heart Lung and Blood Association, 500mg is a safe daily minimum intake of sodium to maintain optimum health. Most Americans consume more than six times that much. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1500mg of sodium per day.

Most scientists agree that too much sodium can increase blood pressure, which can lead to heart problems and stroke. But what if you have low-to-normal blood pressure? Should you put the salt shaker back on the table? Reach for the salted caramels?

Not so fast, says a new study authored by two faculty members from the University of Delaware’s College of Health Sciences and two physicians at Christiana Care Health System. The researchers discovered that too much sodium can cause harm to the heart, kidneys and brain, as well as blood vessels, regardless of whether or not it raises blood pressure.

“High dietary sodium can also lead to left ventricular hypertrophy, or enlargement of the muscle tissue that makes up the wall of the heart’s main pumping chamber,” says University of Delaware’s David Edwards, one of the study’s authors. “As the walls of the chamber grow thicker, they become less compliant and eventually are unable to pump as forcefully as a healthy heart.”

The study also revealed that high sodium intake is associated with reduced functioning in the kidneys, even if the increase in blood pressure was minimal. Another finding was sodium’s adverse effect on the sympathetic nervous system, the main purpose of which is to regulate the body’s “fight or flight” response.

“Chronically elevated dietary sodium may ‘sensitize’ sympathetic neurons in the brain, causing a greater response to a variety of stimuli, including skeletal muscle contraction,” says William Farquhar of University of Delaware, another of the study’s authors. “Again, even if blood pressure isn’t increased, chronically increased sympathetic outflow may have harmful effects on target organs.”

Coauthor Claudine Jurkowitz of Christiana Care acknowledges the challenges associated with studying the effects of salt restriction on clinical outcomes, including getting an accurate assessment of salt consumption and the large number of study subjects needed to obtain meaningful data. In spite of these and other challenges, Jurkowitz concludes, “A large body of evidence confirms the biological plausibility of the association between high sodium intake and increases in blood pressure and cardiovascular events.”

So how does one shake the salt habit? Study author William Weintraub, chief of cardiology at Christiana Care, says that hiding the salt shaker may not be enough. “Approximately 70 percent of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods, including items that we don’t typically think of as salty such as breads and cereals,” he says. “Also, restaurant food typically contains more salt than dishes prepared at home, so eating out less can help reduce salt intake, especially if herbs and spices – instead of salt – are used to add flavor to home-cooked meals.”

As Weintraub notes, one way to reduce salt intake it to use alternative seasonings. In addition to herbs and spices, try lemon or lime juice. This way, you still get flavor as well as the health benefits many of these replacement seasonings offer. And remember, switching to sea salt or other “gourmet” salts won’t help; they might be pretty, but they have virtually the same amount of sodium as plain table salt.

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Talk to your healthcare provider about a nutritional plan that includes a safe level of sodium for you.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on a study from University of Delaware.

Older Americans Month 2015: “Get Into the Act”

Posted on: April 22nd, 2015 by Steven Katz

Older adults are a vital part of our society. Since 1963, communities across the country have shownLong Term Care Planning Sterling Care their gratitude by celebrating Older Americans Month each May. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Get into the Act,” to focus on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others.

The theme also reflects on the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law in July 1965. Since that time, the Act has provided a nationwide aging services network and funding that helps older adults live with dignity in the communities of their choice for as long as possible. These services include home-delivered and congregate meals, caregiver support, community-based assistance, preventive health services, elder abuse prevention, and much more.

By promoting and engaging in activity, wellness, and inclusivity, more Americans than ever before can “Get into the Act.” Older Americans Month offers an opportunity to emphasize how older adults can access the home- and community-based services they need to live independently in their communities. It is also an occasion to highlight how older adults are engaging with and making a difference in those communities. All Americans should work together to promote healthy aging, to increase community involvement for older adults, and to tackle important issues concerning seniors in American.

Source: U.S. Administration for Community Living 

Living With Arthritis

Posted on: April 22nd, 2015 by Steven Katz

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 50 million Americans are iStock_000015408478Mediumliving with arthritis. It is the most common disease in people over the age of 65, and approximately half of the population of that age has some form of the disease. It affects all race and ethnic groups, and is the most common cause of disability in the U.S.

Arthritis is not a single disease, but is a group of over 100 different conditions, all of which can cause pain, swelling and an interference with normal movement. Some types of arthritis are thought to be hereditary; some result from overuse or injury of a joint, or from years of “wear and tear”; some types are caused by infection and still others are caused by a malfunction of the immune system. Arthritis may affect only one joint, or many joints at the same time. The joints most commonly affected are the weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees, and also the smaller joints of the hands and neck.

Although there is no cure for most types of arthritis, the pain and inflammation can be reduced by a variety of medical treatments. Appropriate treatment can often result in great improvement to a person’s condition, as well as preventing further damage. Treatment depends on the type and degree of the condition.

Analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications relieve pain and reduce inflammation, or both. Aspirin or ibuprofen are often prescribed. Alternative pain relievers such as corticosteroids, acetaminophen and topical ointments or rubs also may be prescribed, depending on the type and severity of a patient’s arthritis.

Exercise and rest are both important. People with arthritis tire more easily; the physician may also order rest of a painful joint. But it is just as important to remain active. Exercise helps strengthen the muscles surrounding affected joints, protecting them from further damage. It also increases blood flow and lubrication of joints, and helps keep the joint strong and mobile, preventing loss of function. Exercise also helps patients maintain a healthy weight; being overweight puts extra stress on joints. A physician-prescribed exercise program will usually include range-of-motion, strengthening and aerobic exercises.

Physical therapy benefits many arthritis patients and can include heat or cold treatments, whirlpool and massage, splinting to immobilize and rest a joint, and training in performing exercises to loosen and build up joints and surrounding muscles.

Occupational therapists help patients achieve the greatest level of independence possible by providing instruction in alternative ways of performing the activities of daily living and self-care. They can also evaluate a patient’s home environment to suggest any necessary adaptations, such as grab bars or a raised toilet seat.

Adaptive devices can make living with arthritis easier. Occupational therapists can instruct arthritis patients in the use of mobility aids that lessen the stress on joints, such as canes and walkers. For arthritis in the shoulder or hand, long-handled spoons, zipper pulls, built-up toothbrush handles and page turners make the activities of daily living easier.

Surgery may be recommended if arthritis is causing severe pain and lost joint function. Some surgical procedures repair or remove damaged tissue. Joint replacement is becoming more and more common, and most patients experience excellent results from an artificial hip or knee.

Home Care Supports Arthritis Patients and Their Families

When a senior has painful arthritis, family members often worry that their loved one is not safe living at home. Is their loved one taking medications correctly? Following the doctor’s recommendations for exercise? Is their loved one becoming isolated by decreased mobility and fear of falling?

Professional home care services help senior clients manage arthritis in several important ways:

Assistance with the activities of daily living. Mobility limitations and painful joints make it hard to do some of the daily tasks most of us take for granted. A home care professional can assist with housekeeping, transportation, laundry, personal care, and meal preparation, including special diets.

Encouragement and confidence to support activity. With a home caregiver present, clients feel more secure engaging in the recommended activity program, whether it is a formal exercise program, a walk around the block, chair exercises or gardening.

Transportation to healthcare appointments and prescribed activities. Not all home care happens at home! If transportation is a challenge, the home care worker can take the client to doctor’s appointments, exercise classes, or physical therapy.

Medication management. It is very important for arthritis patients to take medications at the right time, and in the correct way. Depending on the type of caregiver and state regulations, home care workers can provide medication reminders, take clients to the pharmacy or pick up prescriptions, help organize medications, and report any side effects.

Fall protection. Arthritis is a risk factor for falls. Home caregivers can remove clutter from pathways, mop up spills promptly, perform potentially hazardous household tasks, and assist clients as they walk up or down stairs.

Care after joint replacement recovery. When a patient comes home after hip or knee replacement surgery, complying with post-surgical instructions is one of the top predictors of successful recovery. Home care helps patients comply with post-surgical instructions, such as avoiding dangerous motions that could damage the healing joint.

When arthritis compromises a senior’s mobility and quality of life, trained, professional caregivers support a client’s independence and provide welcome peace of mind for the patient and family alike.

For More Information

The Arthritis Foundation offers support, resources and information about more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions.

See the website of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases for information and the latest updates.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons provides consumer information, including a detailed discussion of different types of arthritis and treatment.

© IlluminAge AgeWise 2015

Good News for Guacamole Fans

Posted on: April 22nd, 2015 by Steven Katz

Are you planning a Cinco de Mayo party? If you are also trying to eat a healthy diet, this might seem challenging! Nachos, beer and margaritas might fit your Aztec pyramid decorating scheme—but on the food pyramid, not so much.

But what about guacamole? There’s good news there! The American Heart Association recently reported that avocados, the main ingredient of guacamole, can help decrease the levels of bad cholesterol—the kind that raises the risk of heart disease. In a comparison test, a research team from Pennsylvania State University found that test subjects who ate an avocado a day as part of a moderate-fat diet lowered their level of bad cholesterol (LDL) more effectively than did subjects on the same diet but without the avocado. Their total cholesterol and triglyceride levels were also better.

So the good news is that guacamole—made with avocado, onion, perhaps jalapenos or salsa—is a heart-healthy food. The problem comes when we pair it with cheese-laden nachos, a fatty burrito, or even with plain tortilla chips, which are high in calories and sodium. Choose low-sodium chips and eat them sparingly. Or replace the chips with crispy jicama sticks. Create a delicious lettuce wrap with spicy chicken or fish.

Study author Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., RD, who is a nutrition professor at Penn State, reminds us that guacamole isn’t the only reason to put avocados on your grocery list. She says, “Many people don’t know how to incorporate them in their diet except for making guacamole. Avocados, however, can also be eaten with salads, vegetables, sandwiches, lean protein foods like chicken or fish, or even whole.”

Read more about the study here, and find avocado recipes on the website of the Hass Avocado Board.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on a study from the American Heart Association.

Advantages of Cochlear Implants to Seniors

Posted on: April 20th, 2015 by Steven Katz

Videos of children who have received a cochlear implant and are hearing for the first time often go viral on YouTube. Perhaps not as dramatic, but nonetheless significant, cochlear implants also offer some seniors an improvement not only in hearing, but also in cognitive and emotional well-being.

Read more here to know more about this interesting topic.

Copyright © AgeWise, 2015

Facts About Driving in Seniors

Posted on: April 20th, 2015 by Steven Katz

It often happens that as couples grow older, one gives up driving while the other one continues to Driving Seniordrive. University of Missouri researchers took a look at the consequences, emphasizing that planning for transportation is vital.

Read more here to know more.

Copyright © AgeWise, 2015