Human contact is essential to our health and well-being, especially as we age. Lack of human contact has been associated with depression, loss of appetite, increased cognitive impairment, and even hypertension. Human contact is so important, in fact, that according to the National Institutes of Health, loneliness and isolation are predictors of “declining health and poor quality of life” in the elderly.
As we age, it can be hard to maintain the social contacts we need, simply because health problems and mobility issues make reaching out to the community around us increasingly difficult. This makes interactions with loved ones that much more important. They can provide that essential human contact we all need to thrive.
Unfortunately, not every family enjoys the luxury of living close enough to their aging loved ones to visit as often as they would like. Do you live too far away from your loved one to provide the face-to-face contact he or she needs to stave off the effects of loneliness and isolation? Don’t worry. Below are three easy ways you can stay in touch with your elderly loved one, even when you live far away:
- Make use of good, old-fashioned snail mail. Most of us don’t even think of sending a letter these days. After all, phone calls and text messages are right there at our fingertips and just so easy to use. However, many older people still remember when snail mail was the primary means of keeping in touch with friends and family far away, and they often love checking the mailbox every day, hoping to find a hand-written treasure. Consider sending letters and cards as a way of staying in touch with your loved one. Your messages don’t have to be long or complex. Even a quick, “Thinking of you!” can brighten your loved one’s day. Knowing that a letter might come in the mail will also give your loved one something to look forward to, and a reason to get dressed and out of the house — even if it’s just for a trip down the driveway to the mailbox.
- Pick up the phone. Phone calls are a great way to connect with older loved ones. Not only will they be pleased to hear from you, but you will be able to check on their well-being by noticing how fast they answer the phone and listening to how they sound. Don’t plan to just try to call “when you can,” either. If you’re like most people with a busy life, that extra hour of time simply won’t materialize. Instead, make a “phone date” with your loved one: A specific day and time when you will call each week. Coordinate with other family members, as well. You can each call on a different day, so your loved one will get some needed attention throughout the week.
- Don’t underestimate technology. Technology is not just for the young. According to the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of online users over age 65 have Facebook accounts, and 31 percent of all seniors use the Internet. If your loved one is comfortable with a computer, use it as a means to stay in touch. Send emails or short, cheerful text messages on a regular basis. Use Skype, as well, for a real face-to-face conversation. If your loved one has problems configuring or using computer technology, try to be sure he or she is set up with computer, camera and mic the next time you visit. You can also enlist the help of the younger generation. The grandkids could be asked to volunteer to be their grandparent’s own, private tech-support team, available over the phone to answer any computer questions or problems that arise.
Staying in touch doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming; it just needs to be heartfelt. Taking the time to reach out to elderly loved ones is a simple gesture that will greatly improve their quality of life.
Author Bio: Michele Teter is the co-founder of Alliance Homecare, a home care provider located in the New York area. At Alliance Homecare, Teter and her team provide a range of services to match every client’s individual wants and needs.
Moving from one home to another is seldom easy — in fact, it’s considered one of the most stressful life events people experience. However, the process can be especially tough for senior citizens. Whether you’re an older adult about to leave your long-term home or you’re the child of a senior getting ready to help a parent leave his/her home, here are some important tips to keep in mind:
- Acknowledge Emotions. Anytime you’re talking about leaving a long-term home, you’re talking about more than changing addresses. Saying goodbye is hard. Instead of ignoring the sadness that accompanies such a move, process it. Remember, it’s normal to feel some sadness, whether you’re moving into an assisted-living facility, in with relatives or simply to a smaller place.
- Pare Down Possessions. When it comes down to the physical moving process, the less you have to move, the easier the transition. Rather than packing every worldly possession and forcing yourself to organize later, take the time now to downsize. Go through all your furniture, knick-knacks, mementos, gadgets and so on, and determine whether you’ll truly need those items in the new place. Separate everything into “keep,” “give away” and “trash” piles. If you don’t want to hand down or donate certain items, plan a garage sale to get a little extra cash in the process.
- Hire Professional Movers. Don’t endure unnecessary stress by managing the moving process alone — hire movers. Find a company that specializes in assisting with smooth transitions, and enlist its help to transport furniture and boxes to their intended destinations. If some things are going to a new home and others are going to friends and family, communicate to your moving company which items go where.
- Pack an Overnight Bag. Set aside a few changes of clothes, important toiletries, towels and sheets to have with you for that first night or few nights in your new home. Instead of rifling through boxes and feeling overwhelmed with all there is to unpack, there will be a little normalcy — even when you’re still getting settled. Other good items to bring are a first-aid kit and flashlight.
Moving as a senior citizen isn’t easy, but it can be a smoother, more pleasant experience with a little planning. Use the tips above to aid your upcoming move.
Chris Crompton is a marketing manager for Transit Systems Inc., a leader in the shipping and freight industry since 1989. Transit Systems offers low rates and professional service on long distance small moves and shipments.
Needs of the child
An essential consideration in assigning terms of endearment is what is ultimately in the best interest of your child. I asked myself which was more important – that JJ have us as grandparents? or that he have a forever Mom and Dad? In our case, this was a simpler choice because JJ had plenty of other grandparents, Saunties, and Bruncles, but only one set of reliable parents who were part of his life. While we kept his original birth certificate, the county issued a new one that named us as his parents as if he had been born to us. One of our other adopted children suggested when JJ goes to school, it is more important that he and everyone else knows who his Mom and Dad are. Seemingly simple choices now can become of great importance later in his life.
Involvement of the birth parents
There are many situations in which grandparents care for their grandchildren, even formally adopting them, but the natural parents are still part of the child’s life. In cases like these, it is probably best to keep everyone’s titles the same in order to have less confusion for the child. However, if the birth parents are incarcerated, deceased, have ongoing substance abuse problems, have moved far away, do not ever see the child, or pose a danger or threat to the family, consider what is in the child’s best interest.
Wishes of the child or children
One Grandmother recently told me that when they adopted her grandson at a young age, her husband wanted to continue to be called Grandpa. However, as soon as their boy started to talk, he began to call Grandpa his Daddy, and soon after, Grandpa gave up and embraced his role as Dad along with the new name. What do your children want to call you? What do you want to be called? If they name you Mom or Dad, it is usually because this is how they see you. It is a term of great endearment that fills a need in their life. Names are important because they express relationships to us and others. Strongly weigh what your children prefer to call you and negotiate mutually respectful names for your unique family ties.
Wishes of the relatives
While other relatives cannot determine what your adopted grandchild will call you, relatives will also have some concerns about their changing relationships within this unique family system. Ask relatives what they would like to be called. Grandparents who continue to be part of your child’s life may have unique or cultural names that they prefer to be called so that the child recognizes them as special. Honor those wishes as much as you can. Even small choices as these can strengthen the family ties and provide your little one with the security he deserves.
So, in the land of Saunties and Bruncles there are many unfamiliar twists and turns. The list of difficult choices and tunnels off the rabbit hole on this strange journey will continue on. But, as you take one step at a time, you can successfully navigate your changing role in this new, wonderful family.
The number of seniors diagnosed with diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 11.8 million individuals over age 65 have some form of diabetes, whether it is Type 1 or Type 2. That accounts for almost 25 percent of the population of people in the United States over age 65.
Just because this disease has reached an epidemic level doesn’t mean you have to accept that someday you will get it, too. There are a number of steps you can take to help decrease your chances of receiving a diabetes diagnosis.
Try to Increase Your Daily Amount of Exercise
Aches and pains, health problems and busy schedules often result in people starting to slow down as they age. Unfortunately, this is the worst thing you can do if you are trying to prevent diabetes.
Exercise reduces your risk of diabetes by not only lowering blood sugar levels, but by helping you lose weight. Both high blood sugar levels and being overweight has been proven to increase an individual’s risk of developing diabetes.
Many seniors are unsure of where to start when it comes to increasing exercise, especially if there has been a decrease in mobility. Luckily, there are a number of ways seniors can get their daily amount of exercise without having to run a marathon or lift weights at the gym.
Some exercise recommendations include:
- Walking at a moderate to brisk pace
- Seated or chair aerobics
- Lightweight strength-building exercise
It is recommended that seniors try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise in a day, but it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Exercise routines can be broken up into 5-minute or 10-minute increments. This makes exercise goals easier to reach, as it seems less intimidating.
Start Making Healthy Choices when it Comes to the Food You Eat
The food and drinks you consume on a daily basis dramatically increase or decrease your risk of diabetes. If you wish to reduce the risk of developing this disease, it is important to start making healthy food choices.
Some healthy food choice recommendations for seniors include:
- Try to eliminate or reduce your intake of foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt.
- Reduce the amount of juices and sodas you drink and replace them with water.
- Watch the amount of carbs that are consumed every meal, as carbs can increase blood sugar levels.
- Reduce portion sizes.
- Consider eating several small meals throughout the day, as opposed to two or three big meals.
- Choose healthier snacks, such as nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Making dietary changes can be difficult, which is why there is help available. Many nutritionists offer group classes or individual sessions that focus on making healthy lifestyle choices that can help reduce your risk for diabetes.
Maintain a Healthy Weight or Work to Lose Weight
Excessive weight gain can increase your risk for diabetes because the body is unable to produce the natural insulin needed to break down glucose. It is important to either maintain your weight, if you are at a healthy weight, or lose weight if you wish to prevent Type 2 diabetes.
If you are overweight, losing anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds could dramatically decrease your risk for diabetes. The amount of weight you will need to lose will vary depending upon your unique situation. Speak with your doctor or health care provider to determine how much weight, if any, should be lost. He or she may be able to provide you with recommendations on how you can lose weight.
While following these recommendations may lessen your chances of getting diabetes, it may not completely stop it from happening. Some factors — such as other health problems, genetics and race — increase the possibility of diabetes. Unfortunately, these factors are uncontrollable and/or cannot be changed.
Even though there are some risk factors of diabetes that cannot be controlled, you can still dramatically minimize your risk of getting this disease by incorporating some, if not all, of these recommendations into your daily life.
Thomas Boston founded Cash Now Offer as a way to help the diabetic community. Being a diabetic himself, his main goal is to make sure everyone who is in need of diabetic strips has access to them.
Some people, when they get to be my age, make a bucket list – that is, those activities they would like to do before they die. Well, I decided to make a list of the things I don’t ever care to do and am happy that I haven’t done…so here is my short not-bucket list:
Go sky diving. While this might be one many people’s bucket list, I have no desire to go skydiving. I just can’t imagine that the euphoria at having survived jumping out of plane and relying on a parachute for my life would ever override the sheer terror of the falling feeling. In fact, I would probably have a heart attack and die of fright on the way down.
Own a snake. I hate snakes and would never call one a pet. I would always be worried that it would escape and I would find it in my shoes one day all dried up, or worse yet, that it would curl up in the shower or hide in my closet. A big snake might eat my little dog or cat. Snakes seem like tricky creatures that would give me nightmares. Nope, no snakes for me.
Smoke a cigarette. No, I have never smoked a cigarette. In fact, when I was about 8 years old and my Dad was once smoking a cigar, which he did only occasionally (being more of a pipe man himself), I wanted to be like him and try a smoke. Dad said okay, and told me to take a big deep breath to inhale that delicious cigar smoke. As you might imagine, the fitful coughing after that one drag, combined with his laughter, cured me of ever wanting to smoke anything – thus Dad’s lesson. He did, however, teach me great technique in stuffing his pipe, though not smoking one!
Go bungee jumping. Even if we set aside all the health hazards of having your hips and knees nearly yanked out of their sockets, your pelvis twisted and jolted, or the risks of having a stroke from all the blood rushing to your brain as you hang upside down, this is not appealing at all to me. Those with hiatal hernias or GERD should not put this on their bucket list. Similar to my feelings about sky diving, I just would not trust that the bungee cord would be strong enough or short enough to make it worth the thrill. Even with a go-pro camera to record the event, I’m sure that my screaming would overshadow any future comedic home movies that would come from it.
Get drunk. I can’t see the attraction of getting drunk and not remembering what you did the night before. I guess that it makes for funny big screen movies, but vomiting all over the carpet and having to clean it up the next day when sober just doesn’t make it onto my list of anything remotely resembling fun. Besides, if I ever got inebriated, I would probably be found dancing on a table in a nightclub, make the evening news, and embarrass my kids to death.
Get a kidney stone. I have already had one kidney stone and they are definitely not fun. I don’t care to have another, so I drink plenty of water throughout the day. It is true what they say, that the pain can be excruciating and intractable. Kidneys stones should be on the “avoid at all costs” list of everyone.
So, what’s on your not bucket list?
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.