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Advice and Accessories to Help You and Your New Dog Start Strong

Have you always wanted a reliable exercise buddy who’s always eager to join you for a long walk and never has scheduling conflicts? If so, you could be a perfect candidate for a canine companion.

Indeed, research from the University of Missouri found walking a dog was associated with a lower body mass index, fewer doctors’ visits, more frequent physical activity, and a boost in social interaction for seniors in the study, adding up to better physical health overall. So, owning a pet can help keep your heart healthy, and not just because pet owners tend to be more physically active. In fact, simply sitting quietly and stroking a pet lowers people’s blood pressure and pulse rate, and interacting with animals has also been shown to reduce humans’ stress and anxiety levels.

But animals need some TLC in return, so here’s some advice for prospective senior pet owners who don’t already have a dog at home.

Prepping for a Pet

Before bringing a new dog home, stock up on essential supplies such as food, food and water bowls, a leash and collar, and a crate, if possible. According to the Humane Society of the United States, crates can make housetraining and obedience training easier and help limit potentially problematic behavior early on. Plus, if they are used sparingly and appropriately, dogs often view crates as a safe space that belongs to them.

Once you have all the gear on hand, plan your pet’s arrival for a time when you will be home for a few days. This will give you an opportunity to get to know one another and allow you to get a sense of what kind of training tasks you might need to take on together — such as leash walking and practicing good behavior around other dogs. Also be sure to visit a veterinarian within a week of adopting your animal to ensure he or she is healthy and has all the necessary vaccinations.

When it comes to collars, you have a number of choices, and factors including the dog’s breed and advice from your vet should help you decide which provides the perfect fit for your furry friend. For instance, a standard flat collar may not be the best buy for a greyhound or whippet. Since their necks are often larger than their heads, they may need a martingale-style collar to prevent them from slipping out of it, according to the American Kennel Club. Similarly, short-nosed dogs who are prone to respiratory issues, such as pugs or Boston terriers, might be better served by a back-clip harness than a neck collar that could damage their airways. And any collar should include identification tags in case your dog should ever get lost.

Staying Safe on the Road

Once you’re ready for walks, the AKC recommends standard leashes over retractable versions for teaching good leash-walking habits. When choosing among the many available options, consider your dog’s size. You may also want to pick a leash, collar, or harness with reflective fabric so you and your canine companion will be more visible during evening excursions.

To add an extra layer of safety for evening walks, invest in a clip-on blinking light and carry a flashlight to check your path, according to advice from Angie’s List. In addition to making you more visible to drivers, these basic tools will help you avoid other potential problems, such as run-ins with raccoons and other nocturnal creatures.

During extreme weather conditions, keep your pet’s paw pads in mind. For instance, during hot summer days, try taking walks on grass rather than steamy sidewalks when possible. In harsh winter weather, bring a towel along on walks to clean ice, salt, and ice-melting chemicals off your dog’s paws and body, or consider investing in some cute canine booties designed to protect paws.

With a little time, training, and the right tools, you and your new dog will be on the road to health and happiness.

Jessica Brody is the creator of Our Best Friends. Jessica lives in Dallas, Texas with her loving family. She is a certified dog lover, and believes dogs are just about the greatest creatures on earth.

Sleep Disturbances in Patients With Dementia

Often, patients with dementia experience poor sleep. At the same time, patients who are diagnosed with some sleep disorders are more likely to develop the symptoms of dementia.
Sleep Disturbances Common in Dementia Patients
Sleep difficulties are frequently experienced by dementia patients, including:
• Longer sleep latency
• Increased sleep fragmentation
• Decreased sleep efficiency
• Decreased total sleep time
• Increased daytime sleepiness
• Nighttime wandering, confusion, and agitation
• Insomnia
• Sleep apnea
• REM sleep behavior disorder
• Restless legs syndrome
• Periodic limb movements
• Sleep-disordered breathing

Brain Damage and Sleep

The neuronal degeneration experienced in Alzheimer’s patients damages the basal forebrain and reticular formation of the brain stem. These two regions help regulate sleep patterns, so damage can contribute to sleep pattern changes.

Insomniacs and seniors with sleep problems often have beta-amyloid plaques present in their brains at a higher rate than that of healthy sleepers. This material makes up some of the plaques found in Alzheimer’s patients, and problematic sleep can be an early sign of dementia. In fact, changes in sleep patterns can be one of the first indications of degenerative disease.
Dementia and Circadian Rhythms
Dementia patients may have a disturbance in their sleep and wake rhythms. They may wake up during the night and fall asleep frequently during the day. Some struggle to spend a full hour awake during the day, or a whole hour asleep during the night.

It’s believed the decline in circadian rhythm in dementia may be due to a deficiency in environmental cues and other factors. Evidence suggests there are three stages of circadian rhythm disruption in dementia. The first stage involves rapid decline of circadian rhythm, then a slight return to stronger rhythms before they further decline in later stages of dementia.
Improving Sleep for Dementia Patients
Although dementia patients often experience disturbed sleep, and sleep may get worse as the disease progresses, there are methods for supporting healthy sleep in dementia patients.

• Use light therapy. Exposure to light is a powerful cue for circadian rhythms. It tells the brain when it’s daytime and time to be awake. Exposure to bright light in the morning and throughout the day can be helpful in reinforcing environmental cues that guide sleep and wake cycles for dementia patients. A light box can be used, or patients can simply spend time outside or near a bright, open window during appropriate times of the day.
• Keep a regular schedule. A regular schedule both day and night can support healthy sleep. You should keep a consistent sleep routine for dementia patients, going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time each night and day. Keep meals and activities consistent from day to day. Create a bedtime routine that you repeat each night before going to sleep.
• Make daytime more active. Resting throughout the day may lead to being more awake at night. Avoid afternoon napping if possible, and avoid it during the evening. Encourage exercise during the day and plan activities such as doctor appointments and shopping early in the day.
• Create a safe sleep environment. Make sure the patient’s sleeping area is comfortable and safe. Maintain a dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable sleeping environment. Choose a mattress that is appropriate for their needs and relieves aches and pains. Use nightlights to guide steps at night, and make sure doors and windows are locked. Consider using sensors to get alerts when they may be wandering.

Samantha (Sam) Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.

Woman Sleeping 2002

What Is Geriatric Care?

 

Life passes us by quickly and before we know it, our children have grown up and we have gotten older. Becoming an elderly person means having many additional needs that need to be addressed that aren’t a part of being a younger person. This is where we get into “Geriatric care.” Geriatric care is defined as the medical care of elderly or geriatric individuals. This kind of care doesn’t just mean medical needs, but also addresses other components of elderly people’s lives, such as mental health and social lives. Seniors need to feel like they are a part of a community just like any other human being or any age. Think about children who are in a kindergarten classroom, they are a part of a larger community: their class. And if you take it one-step further, their school. Elderly people want to have that sense of belonging as well. When older people live in a community residence with many other seniors, they feel connected to this center. That satisfies their social needs. Social needs are important, but also essential is that the seniors who are being cared for maintain their mental health.

As people age there can be anxiety about getting older. What will happen to their adult children, as they grow older? How about their grandchildren? Seniors can experience depression if their family doesn’t visit them as much as they would like them to. As for the children of the elderly person, it can be a lot to take in when your mother or father gets older. They might want to talk about their issues surrounding aging with their own counselor, and wonder “where can I find a therapist near me? We all have busy lives, but talking about our life challenges makes them feel less stressful. When a loved one develops Alzheimer’s, for example, the stress on the family can be extreme. This is situation that a psychologist can help one talk through. If your father is suffering from this disease, you can talk to your therapist about how to process your feelings about this. It could evoke a lot of emotions within you seeing your father in a state different from what you’re used to.

Our bodies age over the course of time. It would be great if we looked youthful and lived forever, but unfortunately that isn’t reality. We all age and that is a part of life. But, just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean your life has to end. Geriatric care focuses on maintaining wellness for seniors. When you take into account the social, psychological and health of a elderly person, they can lead a happy life.

Written by:
Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.

Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.

3 Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Home for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

 

Providing care to a loved one is a rewarding experience. You know that you are giving her the best possible care and that she will spend her remaining days surrounded by loving family. When serving as a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, make sure that your home also is as safe as possible for her. People living with Alzheimer’s have unique symptoms and traits that will require you to modify your home to make it the best environment possible, and you can ensure that your home will meet her needs by discussing your plans with your loved one’s doctor.

Increase Safety Around Stairs

Stairs are difficult for seniors to navigate, and they’re even more difficult for people living with Alzheimer’s. Steps pose a significant tripping hazard, so install ramps wherever possible in place of stairs. Keep in mind that building a ramp may be a DIY project, or you could hire a professional to design, build, and install ramps for the exterior of your home.

Ensure there are landings at the top and bottom of the ramp with railings on both sides for increased safety. Also, be sure the ramp surface is textured to decrease the risk of slipping and reflective to help your loved one find it in the dark.

As for interior stair safety, you have a couple of options. First, you can make arrangements for your loved one to live on the main level of your home by turning a den into a bedroom so she does not have to navigate stairs.

Another option is to install a stair lift so your loved one can access your entire home. Stair lifts climb up and down staircases on motorized rails and have comfort and safety features to keep your loved one secure. Also, make sure that your stairways are well lit, both outside and inside, to make your loved one feel safer.

2. Install Safety Gates and Locks

People with Alzheimer’s are prone to wandering, and you can help prevent falls by installing safety gates at the top and bottom of your stairs. If you are concerned that your loved one will wander away from your home, especially in the middle of the night while you’re asleep, you should place additional locks on your doors that are out of her reach or that require a key to unlock. Another option is a door lock designed specifically to stop Alzheimer’s patients from wandering, such as the Confounding Door Lock.

You also should ensure that all of your windows have locks that are in working order. If you’re concerned about your loved one becoming confused and trying to exit through a window, install window locks on all windows. Just be sure to purchase the correct locks for your type of windows.

3. Install Monitors or Sensors

Sensors and monitors are available for purchase specifically to help caregivers track their loved ones with Alzheimer’s. Motion sensors quickly detect when your loved one moves around the home and can detect variations in your loved one’s typical daily patterns to alert you to possible problems by sending a notification to your smartphone.

Some companies offer home automation systems with monitors and sensors that will make you feel more at ease when your loved one with Alzheimer’s is home alone or you are busy completing a task. These systems are easy for homeowners to install and include wireless monitors and cameras that you can place anywhere in your home to keep tabs on your loved one. Some of these systems also include door monitors that alert you when your loved one attempts to exit through an exterior door or leaves her bedroom in the middle of the night.

Before you can provide care to a loved one with Alzheimer’s properly, you need to modify your home to better suit her needs and ensure her safety. Begin by increasing safety around stairs with ramps or stair lifts, installing safety gates and door and window locks, and installing monitors or sensors around your home.

Perhaps most important to the safety of your loved one is your ability to care for him or her. Consider partnering with a team of dementia care specialists who can ease your burden with respite care when providing around-the-clock care by yourself becomes too much. By caring for yourself, you will return to your duties with a fresh set of eyes and both you and your loved one will benefit.

Written by: Lydia Chan

A Helping Hand – Nutritional Advice For Those Suffering With Parkinson’s Disease

Every year 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) are recorded in America, making it the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the U.S. With no cure, it is vital to ensure those suffering with the disease are offered the best in facilities and help to ease the symptoms. A healthy and balanced diet should be followed in order to help with maintaining muscle, heart and brain function.

What to eat

Most important is to have a balanced diet that incorporates all of the main food groups. Everything should be eaten in moderation, however there are clearer guidelines on the quantities and types of food those living with PD should eat. PD makes bones more fragile and therefore it is essential that any diet contains at least three servings a day of dairy and vitamin D high foods. These will help strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures.
Carbohydrates should be the center of any meal, providing healthy calories. Although considered by some to be starchy and fattening the right carbohydrates are essential for energy, and are very filling. Wholegrain versions can also provide relief from constipation, a common problem for those with PD. Protein is provided via meat and fish products, and should be consumed two to three times a day. Pick the right protein or the alternatives, such as soy or Greek yogurt, for those who wish to be meat free. It is essential with any diet that you stay hydrated. Aim to consume six to eight glasses a day, water is ideal but any fluid will help. This, along with having five different servings of fruits and vegetables is key to any healthy and balanced diet.

Problems with eating

Along with providing the correct foods it is important to remember that those suffering with PD may have difficulty with the physical act of eating. Simple methods such as keeping the head elevated and eating cold and hot food separately will help. Meals should be small and often, and drinks should be taken between meals and not during. Remember to chew foods thoroughly so they are easier to swallow and digest. Tips like these should make meal times easier and more enjoyable.
By eating the best nutritional food available, those suffering PD may live more comfortably knowing they are treating their bodies as well as they can. A diet created to support brain, muscle and heart function will support other treatments, and hopefully create a more favorable lifestyle.

 

By: June Brown

Supporting Seniors After The Loss of A Spouse

As we age, many things can change in our lives – our sight and hearing can go, we lose our dexterity, and we even might begin to lose a lot of our friends and loved ones. Making sure your loved one stays cared for even after the loss of a long time spouse can be hard, but we have a couple ideas that might make it easier!

Dealing with Loneliness

Loneliness is one of the main challenges facing seniors that have lost a spouse. Loneliness and boredom can go hand in hand to make depression-like symptoms and deep sadness very prevalent in a senior’s life. Keeping a social and active life becomes a really hard thing to make feasible – this is where assisted or independent living can come in handy. The benefits of moving into a senior living facility are sometimes outweighed by the negative things that people have heard about them. Most of the time, if you find a reputable facility that allows you to tour and meet with the staff and other residents, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue. Senior facilities allow your loved one to be as independent or assisted as they desire, and most places already have nursing care and other medical amenities built in. They provide meals, day trips, and other social activities within the building as well. Most also have nice campuses, where you can take a walk around, or feed the ducks at their water feature! Discussing these options with an older loved one that has just lost a spouse might not be a bad idea.

Options Other than A Facility

If a retirement community is not an option for your loved one, either financially, or if they just refuse to move in, a good option is also to get a smaller home. Smaller homes have less maintenance work needed to keep them up, and you can also hire a cleaning service to help out when need be. Finding a house close to someone who can help take care of them often is also a good idea, because you won’t have to travel far in the case of any kind of emergency. It has also been shown that those who own a home and lose their spouse unexpectedly, are more likely to have issues with depression, because they suddenly become isolated, and have all of the pressures of dealing with the home maintenance, but by themselves. Allowing this grief and isolation to fester and grow, is not helpful to anyone in your family, especially your loved one.

Allow The Sadness to Run It’s Course

Don’t forget, that after the loss of a spouse, the feelings of grief and depression can take a long time to remedy themselves. Each person will deal with loss differently, and just being there for your loved one can go a long way to helping their emotional strength. Some constructive things you can discuss with your loved one includes joining a grief support group, meeting with members of your religious community, or talking with a professional counselor. Trying to help your loved one stay social and active is a huge part of their emotional recovery – and sometimes they won’t do what they need to without a little push. Make sure to discuss their options in an open and constructive way, and honor the decisions that they make – whether it is one you necessarily agree with, or not.

Allowing your loved one to take their time and find their own way in their new life without their spouse is very important – but taking what steps you can to make it easier on them is always helpful.

By: Jim Vogel of Elder Impact