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Starting the Dialogue with your Aging Parents: Fielding the Trends

March 3, 2014

As health care consumers many patients are unaware of the changing trends in healthcare. I’m not talking about the Affordable Care Act and all of its requirements. I’m not talking about new treatments for chronic diseases or the discovery of new pathogens. My post today will address one of the intricacies of reimbursement and how it is changing the landscape in the management of acute illness and, most especially, in chronic disease management.

You may be asking how this has anything to do with you starting a dialogue with your aging parents?

Hang with me for a few minutes and I’ll try to explain because you can play a very important role in helping your parents navigate through these particular changes as they start to unfold rather than later.

First let’s review some economics that have to do with health care.

  • Many private practice physicians, clinics of all sizes, and hospitals of all sizes depend on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement in order to stay afloat. Medicare is a federal program and Medicaid is overseen by the states. I’m going to make a broad generalization here but usually if Medicare sets out a ruling Medicaid attempts to fall in line. Physicians, clinics, and hospitals have t o “opt in” to accept Medicare and Medicaid assignment of the benefits allowable and they cannot charge the patient for charges above what the Medi/Medi (Medicare and Medicaid) plans will pay.
  • Private insurance usually reimburses at a higher rate than Medi/Medi. Once again, if the physician, clinic, or hospital is a participating provider with a private insurance plan, HMO, PPO, or MCO they agree to accept what the plan allows as reimbursement for services rendered. Patients may be responsible for part of the allowable charges.
  • Since Medi/Medi and private insurance plans are the primary sources of reimbursement for most health care entities they lay out some very strict guidelines and highly regulate the health care business. In addition, they also have very large and “loud” lobbying abilities when it comes to legislation related to health care.
  • Please keep in mind this important factor related to the economics of health care: people are getting older and with aging they are getting sicker. That means treating those who are getting sicker is becoming more expensive because the cohort of aging seniors is growing as the baby boomers move into their later years. This means there is the possibility of health care costs outspending the funds available.

I hope you’re still with me on this because now we move into what may develop as a way to cut costs.

There is a new trend to focus on “Patient Centered Medical Homes” as a way to shift some of the burden away from the medical providers and onto the patients. The concept is a good one and actually very empowering for the patient, but it is often misunderstood and resisted by both health care providers and patients.

Bear with me as I attempt to explain.

  • For years patients have turned over total control of their health to their health care providers. If the doctor says take this medication for your high blood pressure or your cholesterol then most patients will do it without worrying or even thinking twice. If a physician recommends a colonoscopy every ten years after the age of 50 many patients will simply comply and get it done when they are reminded to do so.
  • Many patients I see every day have decided that they don’t need to worry about what they eat or how much physical activity they engage in because if their symptoms get worse they can always get another pill, have a surgery, or get a treatment to take care of it. The same goes for smoking or substance abuse (alcohol and drugs).
  • An idea that we are entitled to excellent health care without responsibility for our own individual health has become rampant and is especially prominent in the elderly at this point. I’ve had more than a few patients say something along the lines of “I worked hard all my life, paid my taxes, and now Medicare will take care of me when I’m sick.” Some go even further to say… ” if Medicare doesn’t cover it then Medicaid will take over and I’ll be fine.”

All three of the bullet points directly above are a very dangerous way to think in this age of changing health care trends and exorbitant costs. I hope I’ve grabbed your attention and that you are starting to think on these points. Don’t take my word for it, read the newspapers and journal articles. Listen to the debates about health care. One thing crops up over and over again–we need to cut the costs of health care.

Ok, now back to the “Patient Centered Medical Home” concept. This idea (for which many doctors, clinics, and hospitals are seeking recognition) means exactly what it states: the patient is at the center of their own health care.  For years we’ve had patient rights about privacy and choice. Now the idea is to get the patient actively engaged in their health care as truly equal partners.

For instance, someone comes in with a new diagnosis of diabetes. Instead of the doctor laying out the entire treatment plan  and telling the patient what medications to take and what needs to change the doctor will discuss evidence based guidelines for treatment and emphasize that the patient’s own involvement will dictate the course of treatment.

From there, the Medi/Medi and private insurance plans will be looking to see where the greatest outcomes are and they will reimburse for services based on the measurable outcomes such as lab work, hospitalizations, length of stay in the hospital, use of the emergency rooms, weight loss, and other measurable aspects of healthier lifestyles.  Where they see the greatest impact and care provided to increase the populations health will be where the greater reimbursement goes. In offices, clinics, or hospitals where the chronic disease rates don’t change and people aren’t taking better control of their individual health the reimbursements will be less.

What does this mean?

  • Eventually fewer doctors will think favorably of practicing in an area where there are lower reimbursements. This means that patients may not have access to convenient or local health care.
  • Maybe doctors won’t accept patients who are not willing to work diligently to improve their health care.
  • The sickest individuals may find themselves not receiving the same level of care that they expect.

Please note that the above three bullet points are not set in stone or even policy, but could become so in the future.

What can you do now to avoid any negative effects for your aging parents, yourself, and your children?

  • Start the dialogue about healthy lifestyle adjustments. This can be about the food that is eaten, physical activity, decreasing  and then stopping unhealthy behaviors,  and speaking up about what care is desired and actively stating wishes about treatment.
  • Encourage a healthy diet that is based on lean protein, whole grains, at least the minimum servings of fruit and vegetables, and low-fat dairy. Avoid processed food and calories with no nutritional value.
  • Make sure you, your parents, and your children are adequately hydrated with water. The amount varies with each individual but paying attention to whether  skin is dry or supple is a good simple indication of hydration status. If skin is dry then drink more fluids.  If it is smooth and supple then hydration is probably adequate. There are other ways to test hydration status and you can ask me a question in the comments section if you want further clarification.
  • Physical activity is  a great way to improve mood, avoid putting on the pounds, and keep circulation flowing. Look through the archives of older posts for more on this subject.
  • We all know smoking is unhealthy and excessive alcohol can lead to horrible disease problems. If your parents engage in either of these activities raise the subject gently, but let them know you are concerned for their health.
  • Encourage the development of health care proxies, living wills, durable power of attorney for health care documents, and end of life planning.
  • Help your aging parents understand that the medical providers they see want them to be involved and knowledgeable about their health and the care they desire. Assist your parents in researching any new diagnosis they may be given by a medical provider. Work with your parents to develop their concept of how they would like to see their care unfold and what actions they are willing, or not willing, to engage in to increase their health status. Most importantly, help them to understand that asking questions or stating their needs is expected by their health care providers and the best way for them to assist in getting the care they need and desire.

There is much more that could be said on this subject. Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions if you want greater elaboration. Thanks for reading my blog.

Starting the DIalogue with your Aging Parents: Beating the Winter Blahs

February 24, 2014

One more month to go and then the calendar will tell us it is officially spring. Here in west-central Idaho we had a warm and sunny January that had us all thinking that we were getting an early spring. Not so. By the end of January we were back to snow, sleet, hail, rain, wind, and the dreaded gray skies. As we’ve moved through February those bleak late winter days have hung over us like clouds of darkness on a dreary landscape. ( A landscape that is vibrant and beautiful the rest of the year and on warm, sunny winter days.)

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the soft tendrils of a spring sun peaking through and lighting up the world. It will come, as it does every year, but I’m hoping to hurry it along. Your aging parents may be feeling the same way especially if they live in an area where there aren’t many activities to engage in during the winter months. Those who live in urban areas can get out and walk in the malls or take a water aerobics class at an indoor pool. Many rural areas don’t have those options so people tend to stick indoors and hibernate through the winter.

The question is: What can be done to engage interest and activity during the bleak days of winter?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Encourage your parents or elderly friends to have small social gatherings such as card parties, progressive dinners (or luncheons), board game challenges, or old fashioned quilting bees.
  • Take the time to sit with your parents (if you live close or visit over the phone) while perusing seed catalogs. Seeing the bright colors and planning even a small flower garden can brighten any day.
  • If you live close by plan a day spent in the kitchen baking family favorites and then offer to drive your parents around to their friends or other family members to deliver the items. If you don’t live close by try taking an afternoon to bake your parents’ favorite treats and mail them to them with a nice newsy letter.
  • Projects of any kind can make the days pass more quickly and give everyone a sense of accomplishment. Maybe that box of old photos can be organized into albums or scanned onto a disc to share with other family members as a gift. Dad can get started on some woodworking projects that can result in gifts for the grandkids next Christmas or for upcoming birthdays. The possibilities here are endless.
  • Quilting bees or knitting circles can be a good time filler with productive results. Don’t forget to involve the men. They often enjoy using their hands and socializing just as much as the women do. If you live in close proximity to your parents maybe you can organize this activity or open your home. If you don’t live close then plant the seed with your parents and assist them in setting one up by giving ideas and offering suggestions.
  • Book clubs are another good time passer for the winter months. These can be held in someones home, but can also be about a group of people reading the same book in different locations then having an online chat in the form of a book club. With all the technology available today we don’t have to meet face to face in order to carry on a social event.

Bottom line: Encourage your aging parents to remain active and engaged during these late winter months. Keeping their minds active and their bodies moving improves health and gives a reason to look forward to the coming seasons.

What have you done to keep the boredom at bay for your aging parents during the cold winter months? I’d love to hear from you with any suggestions you’d like to share.

Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: How do you Feel?

February 17, 2014

The title to this post contains a very interesting question. As children of aging parents there are all kinds of articles telling us how we should feel. From there the articles often go on to tell us how we should act. In essence thee is an expectation and many struggle to live up to it. Today I’d like you to put all of that aside and just answer the question.

How do you feel about your aging parents and their current situation?

  • Are you comfortable with their abilities to care for themselves for the time being?
  • Do you feel they have prepared well for their lives as seniors?
  • Are you worried for them financially?
  • Do you experience bouts of anger regarding their situation?
  • Are you feeling overwhelmed by the things they are asking you to do for them?
  • Is the relationship between you and your aging parents strained or comfortable?
  • Have you spoken to your aging parents about their situation?
  • Do you feel responsible for keeping them safe and well cared for?

Most of us don’t take the time to deal with feelings around these issues. Adult children of aging parents have spoken to me a number of times about the guilt they feel for not doing enough, or for not meeting the expectations they’ve grown to feel others are placing on them.  What frequently amazes me though is that when I ask them how they FEEL they start rattling off what the other siblings think they should be doing or what the neighbor does for her aging parents.

I didn’t ask them about what they are doing; I always ask how they FEEL.

Why is it important to know how you feel about an situation?

Personally, I don’t believe that anyone can come up with a solid plan unless they have explored how they feel about the options. Not the options that society presents, or the options our siblings would like to see us develop, but rather how the individual FEELS in their gut, in their soul, and in their intellectual evaluation of the various options.

  • There is no handbook out there that says as an adult child of aging parents we must forsake our own lives to care for our parents.
  • Financially our parents made their decisions and we are not obligated to pick up the pieces of either good or bad judgments on their part.
  • On the other hand, our parents are not obligated to leave us an inheritance that will make life simpler for us when they are gone.
  • Watching a parent age can be an avenue of discovery for ourselves and the depth of our affection for them or it can be an experience of shame and despair.

Until you step up and actually recognize how you feel about the changes that are taking place and those that are going to come in the future you will be on an unmarked path and prone to irrational decisions that may at times appear to be contradictory.

My challenge to you for the next few weeks is to reflect on your feelings about the situation with your aging parents. Journal your feelings. Let it pour out of you without restraint. You don’t have to share this with anyone since this is an exercise in your own self recognition. Once you have recognized how you feel then start thinking of how you act. 

If you have questions or comments about this exercise in self recognition please leave me a comment. There are multiple ways to work through even the worst feelings. At best your commitment to love and cherish your parents will be strengthened. At worst you will learn something about yourself without judgment from anyone else.

 

Starting the Dialogue with your Aging Parents: Caring takes Mental Fortitude

February 3, 2014

February is often tagged as the “Heart Health” month. Make this your heart healthy month by reading through this previously written blog post on how to love, and sometimes not love, your job as a caregiver. Be kind to those you care for, but also be kind to yourself.

As all caregivers know the tasks involved in caregiving–especially for an elderly person–require physical strength. But how many stop to think of the mental fortitude required in caregiving situations?  In caregiving for the elderly there is the conundrum of being an adult (who may have been the child in this household at one time) dealing with another adult (who may now be acting like a child).  How does one maintain order, safety, and respect in such a situation?

One of the first things to recognize and integrate, despite the possibility of close family ties, is that nothing should be taken personally.  This is often difficult to comprehend. If you are a family caregiver for your aging parent your entire relationship has been based on interpersonal interactions. The rules have now changed: nothing is to be taken personally. Get out of your head and deal with this from your heart in order to build mental strength. How? That one word  is probably hovering at the tip of  your tongue and aching to escape with a strong voice.

You will find your own way to the “How.” Each individual will do what is comfortable for them in their situation, but here’s the way some handle it. When you were young, sick with a fever, not wanting to follow doctor’s orders or your mother’s advice you probably threw a temper tantrum, had some tears, or rebelled in your own fashion to something you were being told was for your own good. Your mother, or father, didn’t stop loving you because of your tears, angry words, or harsh tone. They made  excuses for you because you were sick, or stressed, or in pain.

Now it’s time for you to return the favor. This is where you start to understand the concept of “Take nothing personally.”

The next step is to realize that even though you are thinking with your heart, and may feel an obligation to sacrifice yourself, you are not the sacrificial lamb. You must set boundaries and make self-care a priority. Here are some suggestions:

Do you like to read?  Get out of the house and go to the library or bookstore once a week and find new things to engage in your reading habit.

Do you have questions about caregiving? Spend time each day on the internet researching and find a support group or a local organization where you can ask questions and get answers.

Are you tired of cooking a bland diet for the person you care for so they can chew it, easily digest it, process it, and not suffer any stomach upset as a result? Get out once or twice a week to a restaurant, or friend’s house, where you can indulge in the food that you enjoy.

These few suggestions should give you some idea of areas where you may find yourself chafing at the bit for a return to a life you had before taking on the role of caregiver.  Look at all the areas in your life. Are there situations where you feel like a martyr? Are you focusing too much time and attention on the person you are caring for and not on yourself? What good does it do anyone if you are not functioning at your very best?

Ask  yourself these questions and take time to really think about the answers. Answer from a place of neutrality. If necessary ask your friends or a trusted advisor to help you assess these questions and come up with truly honest answers.

As you go through this process make yourself a priority, keep yourself mentally strong, seek friends and others who will assist you in staying on track with your own needs while you meet the needs of the family member or client you care for. The final step is to realize that guilt has no place in this picture. If you are doing your best for yourself and giving your client the best possible care while maintaining your own boundaries there is no room for guilt. It doesn’t exist.

This topic often brings up strong feelings in readers. Feel free to share, ask questions, or tell your story in the comment section.

I’d also like to know if there are specific topics you would like to see addressed. Feel free to let me know. This blog is for your information. Feel free to share it.

Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Keep it Safe

January 20, 2014

Last week’s blog post was about getting your aging parents or elderly clients started with a garden for nutritious food and increased physical activity. As an avid gardener and someone who enjoys the taste of home-grown food rather than the cardboard tasting veggies found in the grocery store I love talking about this subject and can get sidelined in rhapsodic bliss thinking about the fresh veggies to come. That being said I hope today’s post will dig a little deeper into some of the how-tos that can make it possible for your folks to enjoy a safe experience as they explore the joys of gardening.

First come the planning. Help your parents decide where to plant and in what manner. Do they have space in the yard to actually turn the soil and grow some crops? Maybe there is no room so container gardening would be better.  Are there issues of being able to bend so that raised beds will be needed or benches with containers? Some medications can cause dizziness so take that into consideration.

How much time to they want to spend?  Is money an issue in getting started? Are there things that are easy to grow that they will use frequently or are they picky eaters and need just a few varieties to satisfy their appetite? How physically active have they been and will they need additional help with the garden throughout the growing season?

Finances can be a big part of how the garden gets planned. If there are extensive costs involved in building benches and buying containers, soil, and setting up a watering system this needs to be explored before starting the project. If the budget won’t handle all the items needed then get a little creative in seeking cast off items that can be re-purposed.  There is a website where I find lots of good information on how to save money and grow food for little money. It is the “Homestead Survival” site and has plenty of articles and extensive archives with wonderful solutions to almost any gardening problem.

As the planning gets underway it’s time to think about Safety while gardening. If plants are going directly in the ground or in raised beds make sure there is enough room between rows for easy ambulation and without the risk of falls. Anyone working in the garden should be wearing closed toe shoes that are easy to walk in. Gloves are useful, not necessarily a requirement, although they help keep the fingernails cleaner and protect against the sting of insects or thorns on berry plants.

I suggest a nice wide  sun hat for both men and women to protect the face and neck from too much sun and also to cut glare. Sunglasses are a good choice as well for easing the strain on aging eyes. A lightweight long-sleeved shirt protects from sun exposure on the arms and is helpful in keeping bugs from biting. Obviously working in the heat of the day can cause sun stroke so encourage your parents and clients to work in the cooler parts of the day and to remain well hydrated.

Tools can make gardening easier and it is best to keep those tools in good condition. Rakes, hoes, and even shovels can be purchased that are small and lightweight for those who aren’t able to wield hefty objects.  I’ve even bought child-sized implements for some of my more frail clients. If container gardening then handheld tools are lightweight and easy to use.

Depending on the budget for the garden there are various ways to keep the plants watered and weed-free. Spraying with  a hose is always one option, as are soaker hoses, irrigation systems, and furrowed irrigation channels. All work. It depends on the size of the garden and the financial and time budgets. One of the most relaxing things for me while working a stressful job a few years back was to come home and stand out in the garden watering my plants with a hose. This was my  relaxation time and gave me great comfort.

Straw, leaves, or wood chips make great mulch and keep the need for weeding down. Speak with your local nursery  about their recommendations. At this time of year many tree trimmers are out and about in my neighborhood. They shred the tree limbs as they cut them and offer the wood chips free of charge to anyone who wants them. Many cities and small towns also run similar programs so it’s worth asking around to see if that is an available option.

Since this is a garden for your parents or clients be sure to ask them how they want it set up, what the budget is, and how they want to care for it. Good luck, happy planning, and I’d love to hear how things turn out.

If you have a successful story on any topic related to your aging parents or elderly clients please feel free to share in the comments. Your interaction is very important to me.

Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Fun, Physical Activity and Food

January 13, 2014

We made it through another holiday season. Hopefully everyone who reads this blog made it through with some renewed family ties, good conversation, and new insights on how to work with each other to build healthy aging into the picture for ourselves and support our aging parents in the same effort.

January is known as the month for making, then breaking, resolutions. I’d like all of my readers to be thinking about how they can improve their health, the health of their aging parents, and the health of their children and grandchildren. That’s a tall order and one that is frequently broken by the middle of February. So much effort goes into making goals and resolutions about food, exercise, and healthier living at this time of year.  Let’s see if I can suggest one that can last through the entire year and become a renewed habit every year.

What if we were to put a different spin on it. What if we were to take something fun, incorporate it with physical activity, and reap the benefits of healthy food?

This is not something that requires anyone to get in the car and drive to the gym,  buy a bunch of workout clothes, or invest in weights or exercise equipment. Actually this has been around for centuries and most of our grandparents (and maybe our parents) did it as a matter of course. People in rural towns with large yards or acreage can be involved and even those in the city can find creative ways in small spaces.

What am I talking about? Have you guessed yet?

  • It’s green, red, yellow, purple, gold, and brown.
  • It’s soothing and stimulating at the same time.
  • It’s something that can be done year round with some extra tools or from spring through fall without those extra tool.
  • You can customize it.
  • You can repeat the process year after year with new additions or deletions as you please.
  • It’s a way to meet new people and share your bounty.

Ok, I have to tell you what it is if you haven’t guessed it by now. I’m talking about a home garden or participating in a community garden. The benefit is that this is a GYM (Grow Your Muscles) experience with the added benefit of delicious food and is something the entire family can participate in.

I have to tell a personal story here. About 50 years ago my grandmother decided to grow some geraniums on her back porch. This porch was really small–maybe 4 by 6 feet. She hung them in baskets and put them along the rails. Her porch was overflowing with geraniums and she loved the color. The following year she added a couple of tomato plants in containers and the year after that she had lettuce and carrots along with her geraniums. Every year she looked forward to starting her “porch garden” and it gave her great joy to talk about her plants.

Now imagine yourself sitting down with your aging parents and pouring over seed catalogs while the snows are raging outside the window in late January or early February. Then imagine when the seeds ordered from those catalogs arrive in late February or early March. After that it’s off to buy some planting mix, grow lights, and get those seeds into some dirt. Then comes the excitement when the first little green shoots poke through that rich dark soil. Eventually comes the day when they can be transplanted into bigger pots and hardened off outdoors or put into the soil of the garden. Anxiously you await the first site of fruits or vegetables on the plants. Then the plants are watched over, lovingly tended, and assisted when needed until the fruit or vegetables are ready to pick. Oh, the joy of the bounty as baskets are full to overflowing with the fruit (and vegetables) of the labor. Finally, it’s time to feast and share on all of that delicious produce.

Obviously I left out a number of steps in that narrative, but any good garden book or online gardening blog can fill in the rest.

One day your mom and dad look in the mirror. Their skin is glowing, their bodies are leaner, their stamina has improved, and their lives are changed. How? Why? All because you suggested they start a garden. They’ve been spending time outdoors which has helped their skin. In addition, they’ve been getting some physical activity instead of sitting in front of the TV all day. Their nutrition has improved because they are eating healthy foods instead of prepackaged processed foods high in sugar, fat, and salt. All of this shows in their newly energized lifestyle filled with adventure and vitality.

Maybe you live close to your aging parents and can share in the process. Maybe you live miles away but your children spend a couple of weeks during summer break and they develop a sense of adventure and wonder through the process of gardening with grandma and grandpa. It strengthens the bond between generations and induces wonder into the mysteries of nature.  Maybe your parents post pictures of their progress on Facebook and you all get to share the bounty during the fall and winter holidays. Maybe your parents even remember that it was you who suggested a garden and they thank you with some of their extra produce.

What other benefits can you come up with from encouraging your parents to start a garden this year? Do you have an experience about gardening you’d like to share. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Spammers and Scammers in 2014

January 6, 2014

Thank you to my readers for bearing with me as I took a two-week break to celebrate the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The time away from the blog was productive and allowed me to put a few things into perspective.  I hope that you were able to enjoy some time doing the things you love with the people you care about. Life is meant to be joyous.

Originally, I had another post planned for today, but recently a couple of events have turned my attention to the number of spammers and scammers vying for my personal and financial information. Senior citizens are often targeted so I decided this was a good topic of discussion for today’s post.

Here are a few reasons why this topic is on my mind:

  • Approximately six weeks ago a major vendor for many local businesses was hacked. This resulted in debit and credit card information falling into the wrong hands. Just about everyone in town was informed by their financial institutions that their cards had been compromised which led to a flurry of new cards being issued and PINs being changed in an effort to avoid fraudulent activity.
  • About that same time there was nationwide coverage here in the US about the hacking of Target and how the information of 40 million people had been compromised.
  • Then last week it hit close to home again when I received a letter in the mail from a so-called Credit Service offering me a $10,000 limit on a credit card. Supposedly I was already approved and only had to provide a signature.  Warning bells were going off in my head as I read the letter: 1) it was printed on cheap paper; 2) I had never heard of this credit service; and 3) they wanted a signature but no other information.
  • The following day I received a phone call from a heavily accented young lady telling me that I was eligible to have the interest rate reduced on my credit card.  Warning bells again because she introduced herself by name but did not identify which company she was calling from.  When I asked her what account she was calling about she stated my Visa card. When I asked her which one she said my Citibank Chase Visa card. I don’t have a Citibank or Chase card. When I asked her to give me the last four numbers of the card she was referencing she repeated my Citibank Chase card. When I asked her a second time to confirm the last four numbers she hung up on me.

No harm, no foul on the first item above. My financial institution noted that the charges against my debit card were not in my ordinary spending pattern and they occurred outside of the area where I live or have ever traveled. A simple phone call from the fraud unit confirmed that I had not moved, traveled, or changed my spending habits.

Luckily, I was not one of the 40 million people who used a credit card at Target so I also dodged that bullet.

The third item above from the “credit service” may have been legitimate, but I would never send my signature to an unsolicited business.

As for the fourth item I’ve never had a credit card company call me to offer a lower interest rate and given that when I asked for them to confirm the card number they were calling about the caller hung up it seems rather obvious to me that this was an effort to obtain information that would be used nefariously.

What do you think?

So, this is an easy topic to talk to your aging parents or elderly clients about. You’re not asking them to divulge information to you–instead you can share with them what I’ve shared with you and ask if they’ve ever had any similar calls. Then you can lead into a collaborative discussion on how to prevent fraudulent access to financial and personal accounts. Being reminded that we are all vulnerable to these attacks at any time is something to be taken seriously. I, for one, will be looking into protection with the various companies who provide services for protection from identity theft.

Do you have a similar story to share on this topic? Have you had a discussion with your aging parents about protecting their personal and financial information? How did it go? What can you share with us? I’d love to hear from you.

Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Christmas Break

December 23, 2013

I want to wish all of my Christian readers a very Merry Christmas filled with joy in the season and happy times.

For everyone I want to wish you a very happy ending to 2013 and lots of new adventures and success as we move into 2014.

At the last minute I decided to take a 2 week hiatus from the blog to catch up on some of my own activities that need closure before the end of the year.

I’ll be back on January 6th posting every Monday. If you have any topics you’d particularly like covered please feel free to leave a comment. Thank you for being part of my community and for sharing you ideas, views, and questions.

 

Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Let’s Get Moving

December 16, 2013

Over the past few months I’ve posted frequently about food, adequate nutrition and hydration, and the benefits of a healthy diet.  I honestly believe that the primary factor in maintaining a healthy body, regardless of age, is to eat a balanced diet of nutritious food in adequate amounts. The second factor is to drink enough water to keep the system hydrated at an optimal level for digestion, elimination, and cell regulation.

Today I would like to discuss the third factor which is physical activity.

There are many myths out there about physical activity. There are also many excuses why individuals decrease their physical activity as they age. Some of these are pain, lack of motivation, boredom, depression, and a dislike of exercise. Unfortunately, too many people buy into the idea that it is supposed to hurt as we age, that arthritis is normal, and that there is nothing to be done about the changes brought on by age.

HOGWASH!

If your aging parents or elderly clients are voicing these sentiments you owe it to them to set the record straight. In the news there are multiple examples of active seniors engaging in physical activities on a daily basis. Some of it is strenuous and more than is necessary for the average person, but all of it is important to physical health, regardless of age. You can help your parents enjoying a better quality of life by dispelling the myths about physical activity and age.

Here are some of the benefits of engaging in regular physical activity:

  • Weight loss The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight as we age are many leading to less risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, and primarily making it easier to get around.
  • Increased self-esteem When our self-esteem is intact we have better family relationships, social interactions, and are more engaged in enjoying life.
  • Greater satisfaction with life Life is meant to be lived with joy and full engagement–who wouldn’t want satisfaction with their life.
  • Increased energy With increased energy there is a stronger desire to be engaged in enjoyable activities. Natural body rhythms are easier to maintain and recognize such as hunger, thirst, and sleep/wake cycles.
  • Stress reduction, less anxiety, decreased depression Many seniors are on antidepressants and medication to reduce anxiety. If it can be done naturally through physical activity the complications of medication side effects are removed.
  • Improved muscle tone This leads to stronger muscles and better balance which decreases the risk of falls and therefore decreases bone fractures. Hip fractures are a major cause of senior citizens ending up in nursing homes or long term care facilities.
  • Increase joint flexibility A major reason for pain medication in seniors is loss of flexibility in the joints and increased arthritis. Pain medications can have major side effects such as dizziness (leading to falls), constipation (leading to the need for stool softeners), and dependency on the medication (which leads to higher doses and more risks). Isn’t it  logical to try to avoid the medications and handle the problem naturally through physical activity?
  • Stronger heart, lungs, muscles, and bones Physical activity is a great shield for keeping major illnesses and diseases at bay or reducing the effects if someone is diagnosed.

Unfortunately, we aren’t often told about all of these benefits when we’re younger or how physical activity can impact our health and well-being as we age. But now that you are aware you can encourage your aging parents and elderly clients to incorporate physical activity into their lives. It’s never too late to start.

When embarking on a physical activity it is important to have the right equipment (good shoes for one) and to start out slowly. A few minutes a day to get started and then building up slowly to a set goal will show much faster results than jumping right in and going overboard. Remember, it took years to build the problems faced as we age, they are not going to disappear overnight.

Some good guidelines are to start out slowly  with simple stretches and mild activity. When that level can be done with ease take it up a notch and add a few more minutes or additional activities. It has been shown that working up to 150 minutes a week of physical activity has decreased the risks of certain health issues and shown an improvement in strength, flexibility, and tone for participants of all ages and has even been shown to reverse the progression of some chronic diseases, pain, and depression.

Here are some suggested activities to engage in with high benefits:

  • Swimming and/or water exercises This is an excellent activity for those with pain and joint problems since the water offers resistance, but with a weightless feeling. The time and intensity can be increased as an individual tolerates.
  • Walking This can be done anywhere and doesn’t require any special equipment. Even in bad weather someone can walk in place or throughout the house. There are also groups who engage in mall walking during winter months and outdoor school tracks in better weather. Be sure shoes fit properly and are the right type of shoe for walking. Building up from a slow, meandering pace  to a brisk walk increases blood flow, strengthens the lungs and heart, tones muscle, and can be a great tension reliever. Find a calm, beautiful place to walk and you will have a new adventure every day.
  • Chair exercises, online videos, activity CDs The possibilities are endless. Your aging parents can engage in Yoga, Tai Chi, Zumba, dance moves, Aerobics or whatever piques their interest. With this type of phsyical activity they can engage in something different every day for variety and fun. 

So, now that I’ve given you some ideas it’s your job to get out there and encourage your parents or elderly clients to get moving. Of course, all of the benefits are available to you as well so why not tag along with them!

Have you had some form of success in getting your aging parents or elderly clients up and moving? I’d love to hear your story. Feel free to leave comments. Let’s get healthy!

Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Healthy Tidbits

December 9, 2013

A startling statistic made it’s way into my world this past week which opened my eyes to a number of problems faced by an aging population. This revelatory statistic is that only one in ten adults eats the recommended suggested daily number of five fruits and vegetables.

There was no mention of what children are eating and I won’t hazard a guess on that front, but I do want address the tragedy, and health implications, for anyone. Fruits and vegetables are a necessary part of a healthy diet and here are some reasons why:

  • Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which help our immune system fight infection and stave off inflammation.
  • Natural fiber is found in fruits and vegetables in varying amounts which aids in keeping us regular.
  • The natural fiber also helps with satiation and a feeling of fullness without the need for heavy fillers.
  • When grown in healthy soil fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals necessary for the human body to function properly so supplementation is not needed (which saves money).
  • Most fruits are naturally sweet when eaten at their peak ripeness and therefore serve to satisfy a sweet tooth without exposing the consumer to unhealthy processed foods.
  • The list goes on, but I think you can see where I’m headed.

Many additional benefits come from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but the guidelines don’t even go so far as to say the food must be fresh. The key here is to get people, and especially our aging population, eating fruits and vegetables. Five servings a day shouldn’t be hard to incorporate. Let’s take a look at some easy ways to add these items to a simple diet without making much of a fuss in terms of preparation or a major change in food budgeting:

  • Add a sliced banana or a handful of berries to morning cereal.
  • Eat a medium sized apple, tangerine, pear, plum or other fruit with lunch.
  • When making a sandwich for lunch add some lettuce or spinach and a bit of sliced tomato or sliced bell pepper.
  • Eat a salad three or four times a week with dinner (include leafy greens, some carrots, sliced or diced tomato, some diced cucumber, or a few slices of bell pepper–make it colorful).
  • Green beans, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, stewed tomatoes, carrots (raw or cooked), and peas are simple additions to casseroles or as a side dish and can easily become a routine part of every dinner.
  • Once someone is used to adding vegetables to their plates they can explore further by adding squash, zucchini, eggplant and other veggies to the menu.
  • For those with difficulty chewing or swallowing there are soups, purees, and smoothies which can be a delicious way to get the benefits of fruits and vegetables without causing pain. They can be served hot or cold.

It really isn’t hard to incorporate five servings of fruit and vegetables a day into the average diet. Some individuals complain that availability drops off in the winter months so they don’t eat what is recommended during those times. It is true that fresh may be harder to find and more expensive at certain times of the year, but there is still a huge freezer section available and plenty of alternatives.

As a nurse who has worked in nursing homes and seen that many of the patients/residents receive as many as three different laxatives a day and still have trouble maintain regular bowel habits it is now clear to me that a large part of that can be attributed to the fact that diet is playing a huge role. Start when you’re young and develop the habit of a minimum of five servings a day and you will be doing your health a big favor.

In addition, help your aging parents by encouraging them to eat the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables and assist them in trying new foods, finding recipes they like, and experimenting with preparation of those foods. Of course, there’s nothing that says we can’t eat more than the recommended five servings a day.

Your parents were probably raised in households where vegetables made up a major portion of the food presented to them. Somewhere along the way life got busy, microwaves and processed foods became common, and dietary habits changed. Let’s get back to eating healthy diets.

There was a Facebook post I ran across last week as well that says this perfectly: If you’re great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize this as food don’t eat it.” How many of our great-greats would recognize Hamburger Helper as a meal? Yes, they probably made a similar casserole, but it most likely also contained some vegetables. Make food a priority for yourselves and your aging parents and watch the health benefits unfold.

Do you have a story to share about how a change in diet benefited someone’s health? Feel free to share in the comment section. I appreciate all of you who read this blog and enjoy hearing from you.

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