Advocacy alert: Call your legislators by March 31 to extend spousal impoverishment protection

Nursing home care can be very expensive. Some nursing homes may cost up to $8,000 a month! For older adults who are living on a fixed income, this cost can quickly start eating into savings. Many spouses who are still living in the community may experience “spousal impoverishment” due to the strain of paying for care for their spouse and having little or no income or other resources. In 1988, Congress put protections into place through Medicaid home and community based services (HCBS) for community-dwelling spouses of nursing home residents. These laws protected a certain amount of the couple’s shared resources for the community-dwelling spouse to ensure that their basic needs are met.

On March 31, 2019, Medicaid HCBS spousal impoverishment protections will expire unless Congress acts to extend them. These protections are very important in helping many older adults have a modest income and meet their basic needs. The Justice in Aging organization is urging people to call their legislators to tell them how important these protections are and to urge them to extend these protections.

Justice in Aging includes a sample message that you could use when contacting your representatives:

“I am asking the Senator to support legislation to extend the HCBS spousal impoverishment protections before they expire in two weeks on March 31st. Allowing the protections to expire would harm older adults and persons with disabilities who could lose their Medicaid eligibility or be forced to enter a nursing home against their wishes. It would also cause immediate disruption and confusion, and create administrative burden for states who would have to take time to adjust financial eligibility criteria, redetermine eligibility for married HCBS enrollees, and issue notices to affected enrollees. Congress should pass legislation extending the HCBS spousal impoverishment protections before March 31st. “

Sources:

To find out who your legislators are, visit: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/

For more information about Justice in Aging’s advocacy plan, visit: https://justiceinaging.salsalabs.org/senatorstoomeyandcaseyneedtohearfromyou?wvpId=e7de096e-fa6b-4f11-a6a4-fa264bbf9b87&utm_source=PCA+News+Bulletin&utm_campaign=7c09a2336a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_01_04_03_09_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1ae1e09dde-7c09a2336a-58105829

For more information about the Medicaid HCBS spousal impoverishment protections, visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/eligibility/spousal-impoverishment/index.html

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Dating as an Older Adult

Are you an older adult who is single and would like to jump back into the world of dating? If so, you’re not alone! Many older adults are interested in dating and forming connections with others, but many are also unsure about how to go about dating as an older person. Some may think that dating is just for young people, and fear that they will have difficulty keeping up with new trends in the dating scene. Others may be divorced or widowed, and may find themselves alone after many years in a relationship or want to meet a romantic partner after some time alone. Some may be looking for different aspects of a relationship as an older adult than they did when they were younger. Dating can seem overwhelming, but there are many resources and tips that can help make dating as an older adult a fun and fulfilling process.

1.       Relationship Networking. Many older adults meet romantic partners by “relationship networking,” and letting friends, family members, and others know that they are interested in dating. Friends and family members may be able to help connect you to other single older adults who they think that you may enjoy getting to know. You may also be able to meet people through neighborhood organizations, volunteering, or through shared interests, such as a book club or a hiking group.

 

2.       Online Dating. Dating websites and apps like Tinder and eHarmony have become popular parts of 21st Century American society, but they aren’t just for young people! Many older adults are utilizing dating websites and apps to meet others. Fourteen percent of all eHarmony users are over the age of 55. The dating websites OurTime and Stitch were created specifically for people over the age of 50 to meet many different types of companions, from romantic partners to travel companions to friends and interest groups. Online dating can be a convenient way for older adults to connect with romantic partners and other companions. Some apps, such as Tinder and Stitch, are free, while others, such as eHarmony, cost a fee to use. The AARP has a free online resource to help older adults who are interested in dating, with helpful tips about how to meet people, navigating the world of online dating, and planning a first date.

 

As in all forms of dating, safety is very important when online dating. Do not feel like you need to meet someone in person after only having short conversations with them. It is wise to meet in a public place on a first date, such as a restaurant or a coffee shop. You should let a friend or family member know when and where you are going and the name of the person you are meeting, and if you have a cell phone, have it turned on and with you during your date. Older adults should also be aware of warning signs that someone may be trying to take advantage of them, such as asking inappropriate questions about money, or making statements that make the person feel uncomfortable.

 

3.       Marriage isn’t always the goal. Many older adults may not consider marriage to be the end goal of a relationship. They may simply be seeking love and companionship. A growing phenomenon among older adults called “living alone together” involves both partners maintaining their own homes, social circles, finances, and other activities while still being in a loving and committed relationship. There are many different ways to love others and to be together as you age, and marriage may or may not be the best fit for every older adult who is looking to date.

Sources

 

AARP (n.d.). Ready to Date. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/home-family/dating/ready-to-date/?intcmp=AE-HF-DATG-TERTNAV-READD

Friedman, S. (2019). Dating for seniors: Not like dating decades ago. Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. Retrieved from http://www.pcacares.org/blog/dating-for-seniors-romance-is-beneficial-for-healthy-aging/?utm_source=Milestones+e-news+from+PCA&utm_campaign=6228591a82-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_09_11_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8fa93d938e-6228591a82-58277125

OurTime (n.d.). Tips for Meeting Offline. Retrieved from https://www.ourtime.com/

 Ray, M. (2015). Getting Flirty After 50: A Guide to Dating as an Older Adult. Sunrise Senior Living. Retrieved from https://www.sunriseseniorliving.com/blog/february-2015/getting-flirty-after-50-a-guide-to-dating-as-an-older-adult.aspx

 

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Resources and Support for Caregivers

If you are a caregiver for an older adult, you are not alone. In 2015, over 34 million Americans served as unpaid caregivers for people aged 50 and older (AARP Public Policy Institute, 2015). Acting as a caregiver can be very challenging physically, emotionally, and financially. Over 20% of caregivers of older adults feel that caregiving has made their health worse (AARP Public Policy Institute, 2015). Over half of caregivers of older adults report that caregiving was moderately or severely stressful (AARP Public Policy Institute, 2015). Over one in three caregivers of older adults reports a moderate or high amount of financial strain due to their caregiving activities, and almost 60% of caregivers say that their work has been impacted by caregiving duties (AARP Public Policy Institute, 2015).

Caring for an older adult loved one can be overwhelming. Many cities and states provide resources and support programs for caregivers that can help make the caregiving process less stressful. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a resource list that helps connect caregivers to different resources in their state. To find caregiving resources near you, visit https://www.hhs.gov/aging/state-resources/index.html or contact your local Area Agency on Aging.

In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s (PDA) Caregiver Support Program provides many different resources for caregivers that can help reduce the stress of caregiving.  Some of these services include respite care that can give caregivers a break from caregiving duties; reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs associated with caregiving; counseling; and education. Caregivers are assigned a care manager. The care manager comes to the home of the person receiving care and completes an assessment of the needs of the caregiver. The care manager can provide support for the caregiver and work with the caregiver to develop a person-centered care plan. You may be eligible for the Caregiver Support Program if you are an adult aged 18 or older caring for an individual with functional deficits, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease; someone aged 55 or older caring for a dependent child under the age of 18; or someone aged 55 or older caring for an individual aged 18-59 with a disability that is not dementia-related. To learn more about the PA Caregiver Support Program, visit https://www.aging.pa.gov/aging-services/caregiver-support/Pages/default.aspx or contact your local Area Agency on Aging to apply for the program. The PDA is also launching a statewide campaign to promote the Caregiver Support Program. This campaign includes a series of 15-second videos featuring caregivers from a variety of different caregiving situations. Visit the PDA’s YouTube page to watch the videos and to share them on social media!

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"Feeling Your Age" from WHYY's The Pulse

They call it the golden years, but there’s a reason many of us dread old age — it can mean losing our health, our independence, our memories, and loved ones.

But getting old doesn’t mean what it used to. Thanks to advancements in tech and medicine, seniors have more options than ever when it comes to maintaining their health and quality of life. On this episode — how we want to age, and what gets in the way.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Reporter Esther Honig documents her father’s cognitive decline.

  • Geriatric nurse practitioner Barbara Resnick from the University of Maryland explains why aging bodies are like old cars — parts break down, but a little TLC can keep them running for the long haul.

  • Endocrinologist Farah Khan on why it’s important to pay attention to bone health before it’s too late.

  • Sharon Wade from St. Louis talks about caring for her mother, who has dementia.

  • We hear about sex and intimacy at an assisted living facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

Listen to the full 48 minute show at https://whyy.org/episodes/feeling-your-age/

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Stay warm this winter! Protect yourself from cold stress.

Winter is coming! Winter often brings holiday festivities, beautiful snowy weather, and cold temperatures. While the snow and cold can help the season feel special, they can also be very dangerous. People who aren’t protected from the cold, especially older adults, might be at risk for a condition called hypothermia, or cold stress. Cold stress is caused when someone is exposed to cold temperatures for too long and loses too much of their body heat. This causes their body temperature to drop dangerously. Signs of cold stress include:

·         Shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs

·         Sleepiness or confusion

·         Poor control over body movements

·         Slowed or slurred speech

·         Slow reactions

·         Weak pulse

You might think that cold stress only affects those who stay outside for too long, but it can also affect people who are inside in temperatures that are too cold. Cold stress can even begin to affect you at temperatures as mild as 65 degrees inside! You’re also at risk for cold stress if you don’t dress warmly enough; don’t have shelter from weather elements like cold temperatures, snow, rain, or wind; live in a house or room that is cold; eat poorly; or take certain prescription medications or over-the-counter medications for the cold or flu.

Older adults are at a higher risk for cold stress than younger adults because their bodies respond differently to cold temperatures than they did when they were younger. Your body’s response to cold weakens as you age. Many older adults also have chronic conditions or use medications that can make them more vulnerable to cold temperatures. If you take medications for high blood pressure, depression, nervousness, poor circulation, and sleeplessness, you may be at a higher risk for cold stress.

There are some ways that you can prevent cold stress. These include:

·         Staying warm and dry both inside and outside

·         Avoiding exposure to snow, wind, rain, and water/dampness

·         Dressing warmly- wearing loose layers of wool clothing, covering your head and neck, changing out of damp clothing, and wearing warm shoes and socks

·         Eating nutritious, hot meals on a regular basis

·         Drinking plenty of fluids

If you think that you or a loved one may be experiencing cold stress, call 911 immediately. Until help arrives, you should:

·         Cover your head and neck

·         Take off wet or damp clothing and put on warm, dry clothing

·         Wrap yourself or your loved one in blankets, towels, extra clothes, or newspaper

·         Warm yourself or your loved one gradually

In an emergency, DO NOT:

·         Give hot drinks or hot food

·         Give alcohol or medications

·         Bathe or shower

·         Rub or massage arms and legs

For more information about cold stress, please visit the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s blog post about the topic or the National Institute on Aging.

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Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning This Winter!

Carbon monoxide has been called “the Silent Killer.” It is a gas that forms when an appliance that burns wood or fuel malfunctions or has poor venting. It is invisible, odorless, tasteless, and can’t be heard. At least 15,000 people go to the emergency room for carbon monoxide poisoning each year in the United States, and in 2015, there were 393 deaths from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States. Winter months are particularly deadly, because many people use gas and oil-burning furnaces to heat their homes. 36% of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning deaths occurred in December, January, and February in 2015. 

It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint carbon monoxide poisoning, because early symptoms often resemble the flu. These symptoms include:

·         Headache

·         Nausea

·         Sleepiness

·         Dizziness

·         Confusion

If you have any of these symptoms, especially if you’re using a furnace or a generator, or multiple family members show the same symptoms at the same time, go outside immediately and call 911 or the Poison Control Center at 1-(800) 222-1222.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented. You can protect yourself and your household from carbon monoxide poisoning by:

·         Installing carbon monoxide monitors and making sure they have working batteries. You should check your carbon monoxide detector once a month and replace low batteries as needed.

·         Having your furnace inspected every year to make sure that it is working properly.

·         Only using gas-powered generators outside and away from vents or windows during a power outage. They should also be more than 20 feet from your home.

·         Don’t use gas ovens to heat your home during the winter.

·         Don’t use barbecue grills or gas-powered equipment indoors.

·         Don’t warm up your car in the garage or another enclosed area during the winter.

·         Don’t sit in a car with the engine running if there is deep snow, mud, or another substance blocking the exhaust pipe.

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October is National Residents' Rights Month!

October is National Residents’ Rights Month. Residents of assisted living, nursing facilities, personal care homes, and other care facilities have rights that are guaranteed to them by the law. These rights include:

  • The Right to a Dignified Existence- being treated with consideration, respect, and dignity

  • The Right to Self-Determination- choice about activities, schedules, health care, and providers

  • The Right to be Fully Informed of care, risks, and changes to care plan or medical/health status

  • The Right to Raise Grievances- file complaints without fear of discrimination or acts of revenge

  • The Right of Access to services, community members, medical records, activities, and other services inside and out of the facility

  • The Right to Financial Affairs- managing financial affairs and information about services and charges for services

  • The Right to Privacy

  • Rights during Discharge/Transfer- right to appeal transfers or discharge without being discharged during a pending appeal; a 30-day notice of discharge or transfer including the reason, date, and location where the transfer will be

The theme for National Residents’ Rights Month in 2018 is “Speak Up: Know Your Rights and How to Use Them.” This theme reflects how important it is for residents of care facilities to know their rights so that they can confidently speak up for themselves and be more engaged in their care and achieving a quality of life.

In Pennsylvania, the Ombudsman program is responsible for advocating for residents. Ombudsman work with residents, families, and facility staff to provide information about resident rights. They also respond to complaints or concerns raised by residents or family members, and they visit long-term care facilities to make sure that the quality of care meets a high standard. Ombudsman can address a variety of issues, including concerns about finances, quality of life, professional care, resident rights, and information and education.

To learn more about the rights of residents in care facilities, please see this bulletin from The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care: http://theconsumervoice.org/uploads/files/long-term-care-recipient/CV_NHrights_factsheet_final.pdf

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Flu Season is here! Flu shots are important.

Fall and winter months are well known for cooler weather, colorful leaves, and festivities in the holiday season. But fall and winter are also well known for influenza (flu) outbreaks. Flu season lasts from October to May, and each year, millions of people in the United States get the flu.

The flu is caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Common flu symptoms include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Cough

  • Fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with flu will have a fever)

  • Chills

  • Sore throat

  • Headaches

  • Body aches

  • Tiredness or weakness

Flu symptoms can be mild or moderate and may improve in a few days, but they can also be very severe and even deadly. The flu is particularly dangerous for young children, older adults, and people who have weakened immune systems. Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States are hospitalized with the flu each year, and thousands die annually from flu complications. 

You can help protect yourself from the flu by getting a seasonal flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older. Flu vaccines can protect you from getting sick, but it can also help prevent you from passing on the virus to anyone who is especially at risk for flu complications. You can get a flu vaccine at your healthcare provider’s office, at a pharmacy that gives shots, or a community flu clinic or health center.

To find clinics near you that offer flu vaccines, you can visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Flu Vaccine Finder or call your health provider or pharmacy.

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September is National Disaster Preparedness Month

If a disaster were to strike your community, would you be prepared? September is National Preparedness Month. It’s an opportunity to remind people that disasters can come at any time, and that it’s important to be prepared for them.

During a disaster event, you may not have access to food, water, or electricity for several days. Preparing an emergency kit can help keep you and your family healthy for several days during a disaster or until help arrives. Put enough supplies in your kit to last yourself and your family for 3 days. Some important items to include in your kit are:

  • Medications

  • Non-perishable food and water

  • Supplies for babies and children

  • Pet supplies

  • Cell phone and charger

  • Flashlight and whistle

  • Cash

  • Copies of important papers, like a passport or social security card

  • First-aid kit

  • Battery-powered radio with extra batteries

Another key way to stay prepared in case of an emergency or a disaster is to plan ahead. When making a disaster plan for yourself or your household, you should

  • Determine what types of disasters might affect the area where you live.

  • Make a plan about how best to communicate with loved ones during an emergency situation. If a disaster strikes, everyone in your household may not be together.

  • Consider the age, mobility level, medical needs, and dietary needs of yourself or members of your household, and what you might need in the case of an emergency.

  • Create a support network of family, friends, or others who can help you during an emergency, and share your disaster plans with them.

  • Find a local disaster shelter. You can find open shelters near you on the American Red Cross website or by calling your local American Red Cross chapter. You can find your local chapter by visiting the Red Cross website.

  • Find out the emergency plans of your healthcare provider, particularly if you receive routine treatments at a clinic or hospital. Work with them to find backup providers if necessary.

  • Find out if your local emergency shelter accepts pets. Not all shelters accept pets, so you may need to find an alternative plan to keep your pets safe during a disaster event.

For more tips about how older adults, individuals with disabilities, and others can plan ahead for a disaster situation, please visit Ready.gov. You can also find more information by calling the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

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Overuse of dementia medications

Dementia is the loss of mental ability and/or behavioral abilities that is severe enough to interfere with everyday life. Some functions that can be affected include memory, problem solving, and the ability to pay attention. Dementia is not a specific disease, but describes a variety of symptoms that can be associated with a loss of memory or thinking skills.

Dementia is more common as people grow older. As many as 50% of all people who are 85 years old or older may have some form of dementia. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. As many as 60% to 80% of all dementia cases are Alzheimer’s. There are many different symptoms of dementia, but some common symptoms include the following.

  • Problems with short-term memory or thinking skills

  • Trouble keeping track of things, such as a wallet or household items

  • Trouble remembering appointments

  • Difficulty planning and preparing meals

Dementia symptoms may be mild at first and get worse over time. There are many different causes of memory loss, so if you or someone you care for is experiencing symptoms of memory loss or dementia, you should visit a doctor to determine the cause. To learn more about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association website.

Some medications may provide a brief delay in mental impairment for 3 to 12 months for certain adults with dementia. However, these medications (chEI and memantine) may not benefit all patients. There is also evidence that these drugs may not be beneficial beyond short-term use. These drugs also don’t treat the underlying causes of dementia. However, many people might take these medications for as long as 10 years or more. An AARP study found that some patients who used dementia drugs for 10 years paid nearly $20,000 for these drugs. 90% of this cost was experienced after the treatment wasn’t supported by evidence. In addition to the high cost of being on these medications, people who use these medications long-term may be increasing their risk for experiencing negative health outcomes.

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August is National Immunization Month!

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Organizations and communities across the United States raise awareness every August about the importance of vaccines for people of all ages. Vaccines play an important role in protecting against many diseases like polio, measles, or the seasonal flu. These diseases once harmed or even caused the deaths of millions of people, but because of vaccines, they are much less common and deadly than they once were. Vaccines help protect the person who got the vaccine from getting sick. They can also help prevent the spread of these diseases to people who are more at risk for complications, such as infants and young children, older adults, and those with chronic illness or weakened immune systems.

It is especially important for older adults to get vaccines. As you age, your immune system may not be as strong as it was when you were younger. This can make it easier for you to get sick and to have a harder time fighting off infections. Older adults are also more likely than younger people to have complications from illness, such as longer-term illness, hospitalization, and even death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that older adults get the seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine every year. The CDC also recommends that older adults get the Td or Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. In addition to these vaccines, the CDC also recommends that older adults get shingles and pneumococcal vaccines.

If you have ever had chicken pox, you may be at risk for developing shingles. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. This virus can stay inactive in your body for years after you’ve recovered from chicken pox, but it can suddenly become active again. 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will get shingles in their lifetime, and over 1 million Americans are affected by shingles every year. Shingles usually lasts 2-4 weeks. Symptoms of shingles include

  • a painful, blistering rash that develops on one side of the face or body

  • a tingling, burning, or itching sensation that appears 1-5 days before the rash develops

  • fever, headache, chills, and upset stomach

Older adults are more susceptible to complications caused by shingles. The CDC recommends that people who are 50 or older get 2 doses of the Shingrix shingles vaccine 2 to 6 months apart every year. For more information about shingles and the shingles vaccine, please visit the CDC website.

Pneumococcal vaccines can help protect against pneumococcal disease, or infections that are caused by a type of bacteria. Pneumococcal disease can be spread by person-to-person contact with saliva or mucus. There are many different types of pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type. Symptoms include

  • fever and chills

  • cough

  • rapid breathing or difficulty breathing

  • chest pain

Older adults are at higher risk for getting pneumococcal disease due to weaker immune systems. They are also more at risk for developing complications from pneumococcal disease, like sepsis. Symptoms of sepsis include

  • confusion or disorientation

  • shortness or breath

  • high heart rate

  • fever, shivering, or feeling very cold

For more information about pneumococcal disease or the pneumococcal vaccine, please visit the CDC website.

 

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Consumer Alert Text Messages to Help Avoid Scams

Many people across the United States become victims to scams and frauds every year. Older adults are especially at risk of being scammed. Scams often happen over the phone. Common scams include:

·         A caller saying that they are from the IRS and that you owe back taxes

·         A caller saying that you have won a sweepstakes or the lottery

·         A caller claiming to be your grandchild or someone else close to you who has been in an accident and needs money

Scammers usually ask for money. They may ask you to pay them through gift cards or a wire transfer. Many older adults have lost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to scammers.

The AARP has 3 quick tips for helping older adults spot potential scams or frauds.

1.       You’re contacted out of the blue with an offer for free money or fast cash.

2.       You’re pressured to act quickly, or told that the offer is available for a “limited time only.”

3.       If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

In Pennsylvania, the Office of the Attorney General wants to help protect older adults and other consumers from scams. A new text message alert system can help raise awareness about scams and frauds. These text message alerts will go out at least twice a month. They will give tips about how to spot and scams. They will also warn about new scams and provide updates on consumer protection issues. There is no fee for signing up for this service, but charges from your mobile carrier may apply. You can also decide to opt out of the text service at any time. To sign up for this service, please click here!

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Being Good to Yourself as an Older Adult

Many older adults may feel lonely, sad, and stressed. This can be because of the loss of loved ones, health problems, trouble with money, or many other reasons. If you are feeling low, you may not feel like doing anything, you may not eat enough, or you may overeat. Being good to yourself can help you feel better and improve your eating habits and health. Ways to “be good to yourself” include

·         Getting enough sleep.

·         Staying in touch with family and friends.

·         Joining a social group.

·         Surrounding yourself with people you enjoy.

Lifespan Tip Sheet for Older Adults

·         Eat breakfast every day.

·         Select high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, vegetables, and fruits.

·         Have three servings of vitamin D-fortified low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, or cheese every day to help keep your bones strong as you age.

·         Drink plenty of water or water-based fluids.

·         Ask your health care provider about ways you can safely increase your physical activity.

·         Fit physical activity into your everyday life. Take short walks throughout your day

·         Stay connected with family, friends, and your community

Please visit the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for more Health Tips for Older Adults and other information about healthy living and health conditions.

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Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults

Physical activity is good for your health at every age. If you have never been active, starting regular physical activity now may improve your endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Being active may help you live on your own for a longer time and keep you healthy.

Being active can be hard if you have limited mobility or if you have serious health problems. You can still find activities to meet your needs. Slowly raising your arms or legs, for example, may help you when done on a regular, repeated basis.

Healthy older adults should do four types of activities regularly: aerobic (or endurance) exercise and activities to strengthen muscles, improve balance, and increase flexibility.

When doing aerobic activity, you should be able to speak several words in a row but not be able to have a long conversation. You should aim to do 150 minutes of medium intensity aerobic activity every week. To add more aerobic activity to your life, you can

  • Go for a brisk walk.
  • Do heavy housework or gardening.
  • Take part in a group activity, like a water aerobics or tennis class for seniors. Your local community center or senior center may offer free or discounted classes.

Activities that strengthen your muscles make you push or pull against something. You can use hand-held weights, exercise bands, or even soup cans. Strength training can help increase your strength, independence, and balance. It may even reduce your need for a cane! You should try to do strength exercises at least 2 days a week. Strength training exercises include

  • Raising and lowering your arms for a certain number of counts. You can do this when you’re seated.
  •  Climbing stairs in your house or a mall if you can do it safely. You can use a cane if needed.
  •  Digging in the garden, raking, or pushing a lawn mower.

Activities to improve your balance can help you stay steady on your feet and reduce the risk of a fall or injury. You should try to do these exercises at least 3 days a week. Balance improving exercises include

  • Walking heel to toe in a straight line.
  • Standing on one foot if you are able.
  • Standing up from a chair and sitting down again without using your hands.

Activities that increase flexibility can help you keep the full range of motion in your muscles and joints and prevent stiffness. You should try to do flexibility exercises at least 3 days a week. Flexibility exercises include

  • Stretching all muscle groups.
  • Taking a yoga class or practicing yoga with a video.

If you are just starting any new physical activity, start slowly and work up to your goal. To track your progress and stay motivated, keep a daily diary of what you do and how long you do it.

How to Become More Physically Active

  • Pick an activity you enjoy and start with small, specific goals, such as "I will take three 10-minute walks this week." Slowly increase the total amount of time and number of days you are active.
  • If you live in an assisted living or retirement facility, ask if the fitness center offers a free health checkup and fitness program.
  • Start a walking group with one or more friends where you live or through your place of worship.

Safety is very important as you become physically active! Safety tips for older adults include

  • Asking your health care provider about ways you can safely increase the amount of physical activity you do now. If you have an illness or other health issue, you should ask your health care provider if there are any limits to the types of exercises you can do. They can help suggest a type and amount of exercise that’s right for you.
  • Taking time to warm up and cool down.
  • Starting slowly and build up to more intense activity.
  • Wearing a sturdy pair of shoes.
  • Stopping if you have pain, become dizzy, or feel short of breath.
  • Drinking water.

You can start slowly and increase your goals as you build your strength over time. For example, you can do many arm and leg exercises without weights to get started. As you progress, you can add hand-held weights, like soup cans, to improve your strength.

For more ways to add exercise and physical activity into your lifestyle, see these Health Tips for Older Adults from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 

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Healthy Weight and Eating for Older Adults

Healthy Weight

As you get older, you might notice that your body is changing. You may not have as much muscle as you used to have. You may not burn as many calories as you did when you were younger, especially if you aren’t very physically active. If you don’t want to gain weight, you may need to eat fewer calories than you ate when you were younger. This means that you need to eat foods that are high in nutrients to give your body the energy it needs to work well.

Carrying extra weight can be dangerous. People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and bone problems.

You may also become underweight as you age. This can be concerning, because it might be a sign of illness. It may also mean that you may not have enough to eat or that you’re not eating enough foods that are high in nutrients.

“Healthy weights” are different for every person, so ask your healthcare provider what weight is healthy for you. Healthy weights are often determined by two measures: Body Mass Index (BMI) and measuring around your waist.

  • BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height. While a BMI score of 18.5 to 24.9 usually indicates a healthy weight for adults, the BMI is limited in how well it gauges body fat in older people or those who have lost muscle.
  • Measuring around your waist may tell you if you carry extra fat. A waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men indicates increased risk for a number of health problems.

Healthy Eating

Older adults don’t need to eat as many calories as they did when they were younger, but they still need to eat just as many nutrients. Foods that are high in nutrients contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients your body needs.

To include more foods that are high in nutrients in your diet, you should choose to eat:

  • fruits and vegetables (choose a range of types with vibrant colors)
  • whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice
  • fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, or soy or rice milk that is fortified with vitamin D and calcium
  • seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs
  • beans, nuts, and seeds

You should eat less of foods that have high calories but don’t have many nutrients. These foods include:

  • sugar-sweetened drinks and desserts that have added sugars
  • foods with butter, shortening, or other fats that are solid at room temperature
  • white bread, rice, and pasta made from refined grains

Following a Healthy Eating Plan

There are steps that you can take to follow a healthy eating plan that fits your weight, budget, and dietary needs.

One part of a healthy eating plan is to control portion sizes. A portion size is how much of a food you eat at one sitting. Many people eat much more food than they need, especially if they go out to eat. To watch your portion sizes, try:

  • Avoiding eating in front of the TV, computer, or other screens. You may not notice how much you are eating if you are distracted.
  • Reading the Nutrition Facts label found on food and drink packages to see how many calories and how much fat are in a single serving size of an item.
  • Cooking ahead and freezing portions for days when you don't want to cook.
  • Keeping frozen or canned vegetables, beans, and fruits on hand for quick and healthy meal add-ons. Rinse canned foods to remove extra salt. Drain juice and syrup from canned fruit to remove extra sugar.
  • Eating often with someone you enjoy. If you can't cook for yourself, contact a local program that delivers meals.

You may need to speak with your healthcare provider or dentist if

  • You find chewing difficult, don't want to eat, or have trouble with your dentures.
  • You feel that life events such as the death of a loved one or moving from your home are keeping you from eating well.
  • You think your medicines may be making your food taste bad or affecting your appetite.
  • You think you should take a daily vitamin like iron or vitamin C.

For more ways to add healthy eating and physical activity into your lifestyle, see these Health Tips for Older Adults from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 

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Memory Cafés

Living with memory loss or dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, can be very lonely. People with dementia and their caregivers often find that they aren’t able to be as social as they used to be. The challenges caused by dementia can take a lot of time, and people with dementia and caregivers may not have time to socialize. Some people with memory loss and dementia may also be self-conscious about their memory problems and may not want to meet up with friends and other people.

Memory cafés are one way that people with memory loss and dementia and their family members or caregivers can meet up with people in similar situations. Memory cafés usually take place once or twice a month for an hour or two. They are held at many different locations, like restaurants, cafés, libraries, and community centers. At memory cafés, people with memory loss and their caregivers can get together and have coffee, tea, pastries, and other snacks. There might be games, music, art, or other types of entertainment for guests to enjoy. They can have conversations with each other, provide support or advice, and meet new friends who are also dealing with memory loss and dementia.

Memory cafés are popping up all across the United States! If you would like to find a memory café in your area, or if you would like to start a memory café, please visit the Memory Café Directory. To learn more about memory cafés, you can visit Alzheimer’s Speaks or watch a video on YouTube about a memory café in Minnesota.

  

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Informal Caregivers and Stress

In 2007, 12 million people living in the United States required long-term care services. By 2050, 27 million people are estimated to require long-term care. These individuals have a chronic condition, such as an illness or trauma, which makes it hard for them to complete daily tasks like bathing, eating, dressing themselves, and doing household chores. Long-term care services can be provided in a person’s home, or in a residential setting like an assisted living facility or a nursing home.

Sixty-three percent of people who require long-term care are adults aged 65 and older. Many who look after this group are called informal caregivers. An informal caregiver is a person such as a family member, neighbor, or friend who provides unpaid care for someone. Informal caregivers can provide care for someone part-time or full-time, and they may or may not live together. Most caregivers of older adults are an adult child or spouse and many caregivers of older adults are older adults themselves. The average age of caregivers for people who are 65 and older is 63 years old, and 1 in 3 of these older caregivers report that their own health is fair or poor. In the United States alone, there are about 34 million people who are informal caregivers for people over the age of 50! Caregivers spend an average of 13 days each month helping with tasks like shopping, housekeeping, and transportation, and they spend an average of 6 days per month helping with tasks like feeding, bathing, and grooming.

Being a long-term caregiver can be very stressful; 66% of caregivers of older adults reported moderate or high amounts of emotional stress due to their caregiving role. Many caregivers must balance their caregiving duties with other family duties and work responsibilities; 60% of caregivers of older adults worked at the same time as being a caregiver and 60% of working caregivers reported that their work had been affected by their role as a caregiver. Many said that they had missed work, come in late to work, or left work early because of their caregiving responsibilities. Fourteen percent of working caregivers took a leave of absence from work due to their role as a caregiver, and 10% left work or retired early because of caregiving duties.

If you are a caregiver of an older adult, you may notice that you are feeling signs of stress. These signs include:

·         Not sleeping much or sleeping too much and feeling very tired all the time.

·         Weight gain or loss.

·         Feeling sad, anxious, or becoming angry more easily.

·         Losing interest in things you used to enjoy.

·         Misusing alcohol or drugs.

The stress caused by being a caregiver can feel overwhelming, but there are ways that you can manage this stress! If you or another caregiver that you know is feeling very stressed because of your responsibilities, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you:

·         Accept that you may need help in caregiving duties from family and friends, and plan ways that family and friends can help with caregiving responsibilities.

·         Set realistic goals for your caregiving duties, and break down larger duties into several small tasks.

·         Find a support group! There may be groups for caregivers of older adults in your area where you can receive encouragement and advice from others who are experiencing similar situations.

·         Seek out resources for caregivers in your area, such as transportation resources or meal services. You can contact your Area Agency on Aging or another organization that helps older adults and their caregivers for more resources.

·         Practice self-care! Set aside time each week for yourself and your own needs. This can include taking part in hobbies or other enjoyable activities, exercising, or spending time with family and friends.

·         See your doctor or other healthcare professional if you feel you need professional help.

For more information about long-term care and informal caregiving, please visit the National Center on Caregiving and the AARP’s Focused Look at Caregivers of Older Adults. For information about caregiver stress and ways that caregivers can relieve stress, visit the Mayo Clinic.

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The Growing Problem of Benzodiazepine Misuse in Older Adults

Opioid abuse is a major problem in the United States, and there has been a great deal of attention on the opioid crisis. The country is also experiencing a problem with benzodiazepine use and misuse, but this issue is not in the national spotlight.

Benzodiazepine prescriptions increased 67% between 1996 and 2013.  Benzodiazepine overdose deaths also increased around this same time (1999-2015). Opioid use was present in 75% of benzodiazepine overdoses. Some experts think that this may put a focus on opioids instead of the harm associated with benzodiazepine.

Benzodiazepine use among older adults is of special concern. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to harmful effects of benzodiazepine. This includes an increased risk of falls, fractures, motor vehicle accidents, and dementia. The American Geriatrics Society and other professional societies in other countries do not recommend that benzodiazepine be prescribed to older adult patients. Many providers still prescribe benzodiazepine drugs to older adults even with warnings about safety and information about other types of available treatment options. Research has shown than many providers are not aware of how dangerous benzodiazepine can be to older adults. Research has also shown that many providers do not know that other treatment options exist. Benzodiazepine prescriptions for older adults remains inappropriately high, especially for those who are aged 85 and older.

 

Helping older adults overcome holiday sadness

The holiday season might be called "the most wonderful time of the year," but for many older adults, the holidays can bring feelings of loneliness or sadness. They may be reminded of loved ones or holiday traditions that they have lost. The American Medical Resource Institute has put together a resource for older adults and their caregivers to help them overcome sadness they may feel during the holiday season. This resource includes signs that you or a loved one might be experiencing sadness during the holidays, a checklist of triggers for holiday sadness, and some ways that older adults and their loved ones can have fun during the holidays. For more ways to beat the holiday blues, please visit the American Medical Resource Institute's website!