Dr. Mauk’s Boomer Blog
Each week, Dr. Mauk shares thoughts relevant to Baby Boomers that are aimed to educate and amuse.
As you grow older, you are going to notice some changes in your brain’s ability to remember things. You go to the kitchen and cannot remember why, or keep forgetting where you place your keys. Sometimes, you miss an important appointment or a loved one’s birthday because it just slipped your mind. Memory lapses can occur at any age. However, as you grow older, you will find that the memory lapses keep increasing which will invariably upset you. Most people tend to relate memory loss with conditions such as dementia.
In some cases, memory loss may indicate such chronic illnesses. However, in most cases, it just reflects regular shifts in the functioning of the brain. Age tends to slow certain cognitive processes thus making it harder for an individual to learn new things and to get rid of distractions that tend to interfere with memory. While these changes may be frustrating, there is hope. Years of research and studies have yielded fruits. There are now certain things you can do to help keep your mind sharp and protect yourself from memory loss.
Stimulate your brain continuously
Sure, you got your degree years ago, got your dream job, married the love of your life and your life is seemingly amazing, you still need to keep learning. According to researchers, advanced education helps to keep your brain active and thus allows you to have a sharper memory. By being active intellectually, you can stimulate the communication among your brain cells. Going to school is not the only way to stimulate your brain, jigsaw puzzles, traveling around the world and learning a new dance can help you keep your mind active. If you have no idea what you can do to achieve this, play a video game. Studies have shown that computer-based brain exercises have managed to promote brain function by increasing the attention span, improving problem-solving, knowledge retention, reasoning and information processing. These studies showed that areas such as an executive control that were not targeted in the exercises also improved meaning that general cognitive health also enhanced through brain exercises.
The doctor always mentions that a healthy diet and regular exercises are what you need to stay healthy and active. Well, they are right. According to a review done in 2008 of more than 50 studies by Kirk Erickson and Arthur Kramer, your brain functions can improve when you engage in regular aerobic exercises. Of course, some people will not work out even if they know that it is good for their body. If you are one of those people, then do it for the sake of your cognitive health. The studies found that regular workouts improved brain functions such as multi-tasking, problem-solving and planning. Even the slightest exercises like a brisk walk twice or thrice a week over a six-month period will reveal great results. One of the studies reviewed showed that patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s disease who exercised regularly had less brain atrophy.
How does it work? Well, the brain’s neuroplasticity is improved by exercises. This means that the brain can grow new neural and blood flow pathways as a response to stimulation by learning new things and exercises. The higher the number of neural pathway reserves in the brain, the better it will be at handling strokes, head traumas and Alzheimer’s disease which are more likely as you grow older.
Use all your senses
If you are learning a new dance, concentrate all your senses into it. The more senses you use, the more active your brain will be in preserving the memory. A study was conducted to find out how memory retention worked. One group was shown images without any emotional implications, and another was shown images with scents associated with them. The pictures with odor were remembered by most of the participants. Therefore, ensure you engage all your senses even when speaking to nurses and friends at the stroke rehab home. It will go a long way in boosting your memory.
It is now possible for you to remember experiences without having to take medication. Learning how to take care of your general health will help stabilize your mental health.
According to the CDC, nearly 800,000 persons in the United States have a stroke each year. This is about one every 4 minutes, resulting in over 130,000 deaths annually. Stroke is simply defined as an interruption to the blood supply to the brain and is caused by a clot or hemorrhage. It can be a devastating problem for survivors, resulting in changes in mobility, cognition, speech, swallowing, bowel and bladder, self-care, and general functioning to varying degrees. Some people recover completely after a stroke, but others experience lifelong challenges.
The good news is that there is hope and quality of life after stroke. In my research with stroke survivors, I discovered 6 phases that survivors reported as they made the journey through rehabilitation towards recovery. These steps can be used to see where a person is in the recovery process, help us understand how they may be feeling, and help guide the way we interact with them.
Agonizing: In this first phase of the process, stroke survivors are in shock over what has happened to them. They can’t believe it, and may even deny the warning signs of stroke. The important task during this time is survival from the stroke itself. Call 911 if you see the warning signs of facial droop, arm weakness, or speech difficulties.
Fantasizing: In the second phase of the stroke process, the survivor may believe that the symptoms will all go away. Life will return to normal, and there is a sense of the problem being unreal. Time takes on a different meaning. The way to help is to gently help them recognize reality, and without taking away hope for recovery.
Realizing: This is the most important phase that signals a turn in the recovery process. This is when the survivor realizes that he/she may not fully recover from the effects of the stroke and that there is work to be done to rehabilitate and reclaim life. Common feelings during this phase of realizing are anger and depression. The way to help is to encourage the person to actively engage in rehabilitation. The real work of recovery is just beginning.
Blending: These last 3 phases in the process of stroke recovery may be occurring at much the same time. This is where the real work of adaptation to life after stroke begins. The survivor begins to blend his “old life” before stroke with his new life as a stroke survivor. He/she may start to engage in former activities even if it requires adaptations to be made. He/she will be actively engaged in therapy and finding new ways to do things. The way to help is to promote education. This is a time when survivors are most ready to learn how to adjust to life after stroke. Listen to your rehab nurses, therapists, and physician. Be active in the recovery process.
Framing: During this phase, the individual wants to know what caused the stroke. Whereas in the Agonizing phase they were asking “why me?”, now they need to the answer to “what was the cause?” Stroke can be a recurring disorder, so to stop a subsequent stroke, it is important to know the cause. Interestingly, if the physician has not given the survivor a cause for the first stroke, patients often make up a cause that may not be accurate. Help the survivor to learn from the health care provider what the cause of his/her own stroke was. Then steps can be taken to control those risk factors.
Owning: In this final phase of stroke recovery, the survivor has achieved positive adaptation to the stroke event and aftermath. The survivor has accomplished the needed grief work over the losses resulting from the stroke. He/she has realized that the effects may not go away and has made positive adjustments to his/her life in order to go on. Survivors in this phase have blended their old life with the new life after stroke and feel better about their quality of life. While they still may revisit the emotions of the prior phases at times, they have accepted life as a survivor of stroke and made good adjustments to any changes that resulted. They feel that they have a more positive outlook on life. At this point, survivors can use their experience to help others cope with life after stroke.
For more information about stroke recovery, visit www.seniorcarecentral.net and view Dr. Mauk’s model for stroke recovery.
Whether you enjoy the company of dogs, cats, or even iguanas, pets have been proven to benefit seniors in plenty of ways. For many, they have become an integral part of the family. In fact, assisted-living facilities have adopted a few animals from shelters to keep residents company and uplift their spirits. Pet ownership has helped so many seniors by keeping them physically active, providing emotional support, and even improving cardiovascular health.
However, keeping up with your pet’s needs may not be as easy as it was when you were younger. Elderly individuals may be at a disadvantage when matched with highly-energetic pets. The costs of pet care are also a big consideration in this situation, especially when you have your own care costs to contend with.
To keep all the hassles and stresses at bay, we have listed a few tips in living a happy life with your beloved pets.
- Care providers who include pets
Many care providers include pet care in their list of services. This may consist of dog walking, pet sitting, boarding, grooming, and even training. So check with your care providers if they can also accommodate your pets.
- Maintain a regular schedule for feeding and walking
Schedules and routines do not just benefit the animals; these also can help you maintain a good quality of life. Create a schedule for you and your pets to eliminate surprises and memory lapses that could possibly come with old age.
- Set a spending limit and sticking to it
Though pets undeniably cost money, these expenses can be cut down to affordable amounts. Many veterinarians offer senior discounts, so check if yours provides any for special rates.
There are also various pet-care support programs, like selected Meals on Wheels, which help seniors in providing food for their pets. Low-cost clinics are also a great option for individuals on a budget.
- Create an emergency plan
Individuals get affected by emergencies, which is why they plan and prepare for it. This is also true for our pets. As their caretakers, it is your duty to ensure their safety before, during, and after an unforeseen incident.
Using Ready.gov’s list of steps to take, you will be able to safeguard and care for your pets through pet and animal emergency planning. Through this, you get to rest soundly knowing that they are protected even when you are not present.
ALTCP.org provides free long term care information, resources, long term care insurance quotes and expert planning advice for seniors and adults. Our mission is to raise awareness and promote self-education on the need to plan for long term care and buy long term care insurance.
Before your loved one has a health scare, it’s important to have these legal documents ready to protect them and your family. Start the conversation early about your loved one’s healthcare wishes and end-of-life care. Learn what legal documents every senior needs by reading on!
1. Last Will and Testament
Having a will ensures your loved one’s wishes for their estate are properly carried out after their death. If a person doesn’t have a will, state law determines what happens to their assets. It’s recommended that your loved one update their will every five years to keep up with changing circumstances in day-to-day life.
2. Advanced Directive
If your loved one is ever unable to make decisions for themselves due to memory loss or a serious health condition, the family is left to make decisions for them which could lead to disagreements about your loved one’s wishes. An advanced directive, also know as a living will, is a document used to specify your loved one’s health care decisions ahead of time. They can accept or refuse certain types of care (e.g. feeding tube, oxygen administration, life support, etc.) depending on what their wishes are.
3. Power of Attorney
By granting power of attorney to a trusted and responsible family member (proxy), this allows them to make decisions on your loved one’s behalf in case they are unable to. A standard power of attorney allows the family member to pay bills and write checks—while a durable power of attorney for medical care can make healthcare decisions for your loved one.
4. Do-Not-Resuscitate Order
A do-not-resuscitate (DNR) is a legal document that instructs health care providers not to provide life sustaining treatment if a patient’s heart stops or they stop breathing. If your loved one is nearing end-of-life care or terminally ill, they may not want to be resuscitated in a medical emergency. Only the patient or their health care proxy can sign a DNR order.
You can download a free starter kit from The Conversation Project to help guide the conversation with your loved one about their end-of-life care. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
About the Author: Peter Kang is a writer for eCaregivers. He is inspired by his caregiver experience with his late grandfather and role model, a Korean War veteran, to help families find affordable care for their loved ones. Follow Peter on Facebook and Twitter.
If you’re past your 40th birthday, you’ve likely noticed some subtle signs of aging despite your best efforts to eat right and exercise regularly.
One of the most common signs of aging is changes in our vision. The eyes gradually lose their elasticity as we age, leading to a variety of vision problems, including difficulty reading and seeing things up close.
Fortunately, many of these issues can be corrected, with corrective lenses or laser eye (LASIK) surgery.
Common eyesight problems for people over 40
There are more than a dozen vision problems directly related to aging. Some of the more common issues include:
- Dry eye syndrome — As we age, we have fewer tears in our eyes and they can become dry and irritated as a result. This problem is especially prevalent in women. You can combat this problem by using artificial tears.
- Changes in light and perception — Aging also affects the eye’s ability to adapt to darkness. This problem is particularly common among African-Americans. Prescription eye drops usually help ease this condition.
- Presbyopia — Presbyopia is the gradual hardening of the eye’s lens as we age. This usually results in difficulty reading or seeing things at close range. Reading glasses are generally prescribed to correct this problem.
- Cataracts — Cataracts are a cloudiness on the retina that affects vision. More than 22 million Americans are affected by this vision problem. In fact, more than half of Americans will develop this problem by the time they reach age 80. When vision becomes so cloudy it affects a person’s quality of life, cataracts are treated by eye surgery, a common and safe operation.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) — AMD is the leading cause of irreversible eye damage in those over age 50. This condition destroys the sharp, central vision needed for things like driving and reading. Lasik surgery can help prevent further damage to the eye, but can’t restore vision that has been lost.
- Diabetic Retinopathy — Diabetes affects more than 4.5 million Americans over the age of 40. This chronic condition affects the blood flow to all parts of the body, including the eyes, resulting in blurred vision and “floaters.” Lasik surgery is usually performed to correct this problem.
How to prevent, reverse and/or retard eyesight problems related to aging
There are many things that you and your eye doctor can do to help you keep your good eyesight well into your golden years. Proper eye care is not just your doctor’s responsibility. Some of the things that you have control over include not smoking, eating eye-healthy foods full of vitamins C and E, exercising regularly, protecting your eyes with UV-rated sunglasses when outdoors and breathing clean air. In addition, it’s important to keep your regular, annual eye exams, so your doctor can identify and treat any problems early.
Lasik surgery and eye problems due to aging
Lasik surgery can help treat a number of vision issues associated with aging. In fact, more than 11 million Americans have had some sort of LASIK eye surgery since it became widely available in 1991. LASIK can help to improve vision in patients who are near-sighted, far-sighted and/or have an astigmatism. This type of eye surgery works by reshaping the cornea and is effective in improving vision in more than 96 percent of patients, according to WedMD.
According to the Administration on Aging (AOA), simple home repairs, improvements, and modifications can help seniors move around their home more easily and avoid accidents such as slips and falls. Some of the easier home improvement projects that seniors can undertake with the help of home care aides to improve their lifestyle include:
Replace High Pile Rugs
Unlike low pile rugs, high pile rugs have longer threads that give them a luxuriant and aesthetically appealing look. However, high pile rugs tend to impede the movement of seniors who rely on walkers or walking canes and even worse, can increase the risk of trips and falls, which in turn increases the risk of injuries. In fact, data from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)( http://www.aaos.org/Research/ ) shows that 90% of hip fractures in seniors are caused by falling. Moreover, 50% of patients with hip fractures remain dependent on a walker or cane, whereas 20% die within one year of falling. With this in mind, seniors could enlist the help of their senior care aides to replace high pile rugs with low pile rugs.
Installing Handrails and Grab Bars
Seniors can easily trip and fall when using the stairs or even the bathroom. Fortunately, installing handrails and grab bars can reduce this risk significantly. Inside the bathroom, grab bars should be installed on the walls. On the other hand, appropriate handrails should be installed along walls or suitable surfaces that run parallel to staircases.
Improve Mobility inside the Bathroom
Seniors can enlist the help of home care aides to install slip-resistant rugs on slippery floors such as the bathroom floor. This is in addition to installing a curb less shower to reduce the risk of falling while attempting to get inside the shower area. Remember, the elderly may have difficulties accessing bathroom areas that are elevated even slightly.
Replace Doorknobs with Lever Handles
A common problem that seniors face, especially those suffering from diseases that affect body joints such as arthritis, is turning doorknobs. Luckily, this problem can be resolved by replacing doorknobs with lever handles. Doing so would also improve safety because an elderly person would easily be able to open doors and escape in the event of an emergency such as a fire outbreak.
Replace Traditional Light Switches with Touch or Rocker Switches
Another problem that some seniors face is turning on/off traditional light switches. Seniors generally experience vision and mobility problems, meaning it becomes increasingly difficult for them to locate and turn on/off toggle switches. Nevertheless, seniors can resolve this issue with the help of home care aides by replacing the problematic switches with touch or rocker switches.
Poor lighting can cause accidents such as falls with injury. Additionally, elderly may also injure their arms and hands while reaching for items stored inside poorly lit kitchen cabinets and drawers. An effective way of resolving these issues is by installing recessed lighting to illuminate kitchen workspaces and cabinets. Furthermore, it is wise to install suitable lighting to illuminate corridors, verandas, and outdoor walkway. This will make it easier for the elderly to move around or access whatever they need with relative ease, especially at night.
Some of the easier home improvement projects that seniors can complete with the help of senior care aides include installing handrails and grab bars, replacing high pile rugs with low pile ones, installing recessed lighting, replacing door knobs with lever handles, as well as replacing traditional toggle switches with touch or rocker switches. If you find yourself needing reliable in-home senior care, providers like Seniors Helping Seniors (http://www.seniorcarebrentwoodca.com/ ) are always there to help.