AuthorMandi Voegele

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Myth Busters: Six Common Misconceptions About Nutrition as We Age

Maintaining a nutritious diet is no easy task, but for many, eating well becomes even trickier as we get older. Add in medications that require dietary changes or chronic health conditions, and it’s no wonder some lose track of a healthy eating routine or experience fluctuations in weight. By prioritizing nutrient-rich foods, we can strengthen our minds and immune systems, while also preventing illness down the road. Below are some common myths on healthy eating habits for individuals 65 and older. 

  1. Myth: Older adults must eat three “proper meals” a day. o Fact: Caloric needs vary from person to person. Eating three full meals a day can sometimes be a struggle for seniors who experience a loss of appetite or find cooking time consuming. Pre-packaged meals or convenience dishes such as frozen vegetables can often do the trick. If three meals are too many, consider swapping them for five or six healthy snacks throughout the day. 
  2. Myth: All hydration needs to come from fluids. o Fact: Staying hydrated is vital for health, but some seniors can struggle to get the appropriate amount of water. While water is the best source of hydration, consuming water-rich foods like watermelon, lettuce, peaches, tomatoes, or strawberries can be a great supplement. 
  3. Myth: Supplements are sufficient on their own. o Fact: Dietary supplements are often seen as a quick way to get your daily vitamins and minerals in, but the best way to receive nutrients is through the food we eat. If you have difficulty eating a variety of food, talk with your doctor about the best approach for you. 
  4. Myth: Low-sodium or low-fat diets are better for everyone. o Fact: Despite popular beliefs, a low-fat diet or low-sodium diet isn’t always the best. Unless you have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, eliminating salt can make food unappetizing and lead to missed meals. Meanwhile, fat is an important source of calories and something that’s especially important for older adults who struggle to keep weight on. It’s all about moderation. Before making any extreme changes to your diet, consult your physician. 
  5. Myth: Older adults don’t need as much protein as younger generations. o Fact: Older adults need more protein than adults under the age of 65. Proteins — lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs — should form the center of a meal. The food group is vital to keeping your bones and organs healthy, as well as your immune system functioning well. 
  6. Myth: We don’t need to worry about nutrition in our later years. o Fact: A healthy lifestyle should be pursued at every stage of your life. The National Council on Aging recommends older adults eat a variety of foods, including lean proteins, fruits and vegetable, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. It’s alright to occasionally enjoy guilty pleasures, so long as your diet is balanced with healthy options as well. 

The earlier you establish healthy eating habits, the easier it will be to continue those behaviors as you age. For more information, visit www.homeinstead.com/care-resources/#SeniorHealthWellbeing. 

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Biden’s Jobs Plan Includes $400 Billion for Home Care

  • 04/02/2021 09:25:50 
  • Link at: https://www.n4a.org/blog_home.asp?display=1046

While details remain scarce, the wide-sweeping jobs and infrastructure proposal that President Biden released on Wednesday, titled “The American Jobs Plan,” contains good news for both advocates for and recipients of home and community-based services. With $400 million of investment in “expanding access to quality, affordable home or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities,” the plan does not yet detail exactly how this boost to Medicaid HCBS would be implemented. 

One of n4a’s priorities, the Money Follows the Person Program, is specifically mentioned, although it’s unclear if it would receive a long-term authorization or it would be made permanent. It is also important to note that this section of the larger plan is also focused on HCBS and other care workers, not just beneficiaries. Wednesday’s announcement included the following nod to issues important to the Administration such as minimum wage increases and support for unions: “These investments will help hundreds of thousands of Americans finally obtain the long-term services and support they need, while creating new jobs and offering caregiving workers a long-overdue raise, stronger benefits, and an opportunity to organize or join a union and collectively bargain.” It is not yet clear to n4a how these twin goals of greater access to services and a better-paid workforce will intersect. n4a will be engaging in advocacy around this jobs and infrastructure package as it pertains to our policy agenda and members’ priorities, including, potentially, investments in transportation, the need to grow and strengthen the HCBS workforce, and infrastructure options that help older adults stay engaged and age well at home (e.g., broadband initiatives). n4a members will learn more as we do, so stay tuned to our members-only Legislative Updates and this space in the coming months as Congress responds to this latest proposal as well as others 

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A 93-Year-old Veteran Whittling Walking Sticks Has Raised $16,000 For Food Pantry

By Judy Cole -Dec 28, 2020

When the going gets tough, the tough keep going, or at least that’s what you do when you’re a 93-year-old retired Air Force Colonel—and John Hobson likes to keep busy.

Courtesy of John Hobson

“If he just got put somewhere and told him to sit down, he’d go crazy,” his son Mark Hobson, told WKEF-TV.

In 2020, Hobson occupied himself by handcrafting close to 100 walking sticks, the proceeds of which, he donated to a local Ohio charity outreach group, the Xenia Area Fish Food Pantry.

“He’s just a sweet man who gives a darn about other folks who don’t have [anything],” Mark Hobson said.

To sell his wares, Hobson set up a roadside stand in his front yard. The price was beyond reasonable: $3.00 each, or a food pantry donation.

CLICK HERE to read more.

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Health Experts Warn Seniors to Prepare for Tough Holiday Season & How You Can Help

The holiday season poses an additional challenge for seniors during this pandemic. As older Americans are the most high-risk population, seniors need to be particularly careful this upcoming holiday season. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 million coronavirus cases have been reported since November 23, despite recommendations that people forgo traveling for Thanksgiving and limit celebrations to members of their household.

But many are still holding family gatherings outside the CDC guidelines with people in the high-risk 65-and-up age group.

Christine E. Kistler, an associate professor of geriatric and family medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and research committee member of the American Geriatric Society, identified large gatherings as a key risk factor in the upcoming holiday season that will contribute to an increase in cases.

“When tough choices have to be made, there are steps that families can take to lessen but not eliminate the chances of spreading the virus,” said Kistler.

Health experts weigh-in

Tough choices do need to be made this holiday season based on the sheer fact that, according to the CDC, eight out of 10 COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. have been adults 65 and older. Senior Americans have accounted for 190,964 of the 240,213 reported COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday, November 25. 

Mariah Robertson, a Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center geriatric medicine and gerontology educator fellow, warns that the real number to be worried about is two weeks later. 

“I anticipate that we’ll see in the next two weeks [after Thanksgiving] an even higher spike in cases across the country because people are gathering and traveling,” she added. “We’ll see something similar near the Christmas holiday for similar reasons.”

“As a geriatrician, it really scares me,” said Mariah Robertson, a Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center geriatric medicine and gerontology educator fellow. “We’re going to see a lot more older adults in the hospital and a lot more older adults dying as a result of some of these gatherings and some of this travel that people are doing.”

“I anticipate that we’ll see in the next two weeks [after Thanksgiving] an even higher spike in cases across the country because people are gathering and traveling,” she added. “We’ll see something similar near the Christmas holiday for similar reasons.”

The problem with social isolation

The holiday season already is already associated with a strain on mental health, such as depression and anxiety. According to a survey, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that approximately 24 percent of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40 percent “somewhat” worse. 

Factoring in the potential emotional strain from social isolation during this pandemic and the loneliness and anxiety that comes along with that, our seniors need our emotional support especially during this time of year! 

Alternative holiday plans for 2020

Until there is an FDA-approved vaccine that has been widely distributed and America has seen a significant drop in cases, health experts say preventive measures will need to be taken.

Robertson added that while “social isolation is bad for anyone… we still need to find ways to connect during these really important holidays” through alternatives such as virtual meetings or house drive-by greetings.

Creative ways to make your senior loved ones feel cared for this holiday season:

  • Help them with holiday shopping. Assist them in online ordering or simply pick things up for them as they normally would go shopping themselves. 
  • Drop them off their traditional holiday treats and meals.
  • Zoom, Facetime, Skype, or other video chat over your holiday meal as you would across the table.
  • Offer to help (or surprise) them with holiday lights or decorations to keep the spirit of the holiday season alive!
  • Go caroling! Surprise your senior loved ones with holiday carols (wear masks of course and social distance). 
  • Do a house drive-by and wish them a happy holiday. You can spend this time dropping off holiday presents or goodies as well! 

(Article from MedicareWorld.com: https://medicareworld.com/feature/seniors-prepare-tough-holiday-season-how-you-can-help/)

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Taking Care of Yourself: Tips for Caregivers

3 older women doing yoga meditation

Dealing with Feelings of Frustration and Guilt

Caregiving, especially from a distance, is likely to bring out many different emotions, both positive and negative.  Feeling frustrated and angry with everyone, from the care recipient to the doctors, is a common experience. Anger could be a sign that you are overwhelmed or that you are trying to do too much. If you can, give yourself a break: take a walk, talk with your friends, get some sleep—try to do something for yourself.

Although they may not feel as physically exhausted and drained as the primary, hands-on caregiver, long-distance caregivers may still be worried and anxious. Sometimes, long-distance caregivers feel guilty about not being closer, not doing enough, not having enough time with the person, and perhaps even feeling jealous of those who do. Many long-distance caregivers also find that worrying about being able to afford to take time off from work, being away from family, or the cost of travel increases these frustrations. Remember that you are doing the best you can given the circumstances and that you can only do what you can do. It may help to know that these are feelings shared by many other long-distance caregivers—you are not alone in this.

Taking Care of Yourself

Caregiving infographic icon
Share this infographic and help spread the word about caring for yourself while caring for others.

Taking care of yourself if one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver. Make sure you are making time for yourself, eating healthy foods, and being active. Consider joining a caregiver support group, either in your own community or online. Meeting other caregivers can relieve your sense of isolation and will give you a chance to exchange stories and ideas. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Caregiving is not easy for anyone—not for the caregiver and not for the care recipient. There are sacrifices and adjustments for everyone. When you don’t live where the care is needed, it may be especially hard to feel that what you are doing is enough and that what you are doing is important. It often is.

Article by: National Institute on Aging

http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/taking-care-yourself-tips-caregivers

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Caregiver Grief Comes in Many Forms

Article Shared from https://caregiveraction.org/caregiver-grief-comes-many-forms

Mom has some dementia. We moved her to assisted living just a few months before the whole pandemic thing started. She had just started to show signs of agitation – but whenever I visited her she would calm down. But then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t visit and I started to worry – how was she doing? Was she getting worse? After a couple of months I started seeing heartwarming pictures of families seeing loved ones through the window of their nursing home, or standing on the curb as grandparents waved from the porch – and I wanted some of that warm feeling for myself and for mom. So, I arranged a window visit, and it didn’t go well. She doesn’t understand the virus, quarantine, visiting restrictions, or what the world is currently experiencing. She kept asking why we couldn’t touch or get someone to unlock the door. She got more agitated and confused the longer we went on. I kept it light, upbeat and told her I would be back later, but maybe that isn’t a good idea. I don’t know. I worry.

Whether your loved one is living in their own home, or a long term care facility, the pandemic has probably changed how and when you interact with them, and you have probably questioned if visiting – and hugging them – is safe for either of you. If you live in another state, you may not be able to travel to see them as frequently or safely as you did before the pandemic. You may even start to feel like you are no longer their caregiver.

Being a family caregiver means not only taking up new duties, it also means taking on a new identity. This role often takes precedence over other relationships – and during the pandemic, if we can no longer be with the person we are caring for, we are left for a time on a threshold between these roles, not fitting into old patterns and not ready for new activities. No matter how much we do as caregivers, it takes effort to feel we did enough, especially when we are trying to balance our complex roles. When we can no longer be with our care recipient, it can leave us feeling sad and with a sense that we’re not being good caregivers. Many are left with a sense of unfinished business, have feelings that were not expressed, or are denied forgiveness that was not asked.

Caregiver grief is a lonely business. With conditions such as dementia, it usually begins long before your loved one’s death. Depressive feelings of sadness and emptiness, anger, and guilt, are common – and isolating. The challenge lies in looking at our grief as a companion rather than an enemy, a reminder of the preciousness of the relationship. Self-care is critical to managing this grief. When we have no one else to care for but ourselves, it can be difficult to re-establish routines. The discipline of physical exercise, of good nutrition and diet, can begin to take up those spaces that caregiving used to fill, and lay the foundation for what is to come. Caring for oneself with time and patience also helps relieve depression and anxiety, and helps you move beyond loneliness.

Finding new routines during an ever-changing set of restrictions can be especially challenging. If your loved one is living in a long-term care facility, stay in touch with the facility staff. Visitation policies can change at a moment’s notice. And if your loved one lives far away, consider different ways to travel and see them. Renting a small RV and living in it while you visit would be one way of maintaining isolation and avoiding exposure to hotels and airports. And sadly, if your loved one is experiencing a health crisis or is approaching end of life, you may want to re-evaluate your approach. Sometimes, the danger of exposure to COVID can feel less important than saying good-bye in person.

After a time, you will be able to look back and discover many gifts in the caregiving journey you undertook, knowing that you gave so much love and good care under the most trying of circumstances. Eventually, we will all move back into life in a new way, wiser and more patient, with a renewed sense of tenacity and appreciation for the human touch.

Adapted from CAN’s signature series Life After Loss 

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WHY OPEN ENROLLMENT FOR MEDICARE IS IMPORTANT TO YOU

Medicare’s Open Enrollment is October 15-December 7

Let AgeSmart Community Resources help you find your way through the ever-changing world of Medicare Open Enrollment. Beginning October 15 all people with Medicare may change their Medicare health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year to better meet their needs. Information for next year’s Medicare plans will be available in early October.

AgeSmart’s trained Senior Health Insurance Counselors can help you make an educated decision about your coverage. Our goal is to help simplify the process and make sure you have the insurance and prescription plan to suit your needs. We will meet with you over the phone, review your current plan, and based on the information you provide, share options that may better serve your individual situation.

These services are confidential and unbiased. To schedule a telephone appointment, please call AgeSmart Community Resources at 618-222-2561.

AgeSmart Community Resources, your local Area Agency on Aging, serves Madison, St. Clair, Bond,  Clinton, Monroe, Randolph and Washington counties. Our mission is to give older adults the opportunity to help them maintain their health and independence and to live well.  For more information about AgeSmart Community Resources visit www.AgeSmart.org.

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