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Driving Safety for Older Adults   

Monday , April 19 , 2021

Driving Safety for Older Adults  

Driving a car represents freedom and independence to many older adults. Yet as we age, many of us begin to experience unavoidable physical and mental changes that can affect our ability to safely drive.

It’s vital to be aware of how these changes to your health may impact your driving skills so you don’t risk hurting yourself or others. Keep reading to learn about conditions that may impact your driving and how to deal with them safely:

Trouble Seeing

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, roughly 12% of Americans aged 65 – 74 suffer from severe eye problems as compared to 5% of adults aged 18 – 44. Many experience vision problems so serious, they impact the ability to complete simple daily tasks. This problem is only expected to grow as the baby boomer generation continues to age.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • See your eye doctor every year.
  • If you need glasses or contacts to see far away, always wear them when driving.
  • Avoid driving in the dark, during sunrise and sunset, or during bad weather.

Trouble Hearing 

As we get older, hearing can change. In fact, nearly one in three people between 65 and 74 experience hearing loss. This can impact our ability to hear horns, sirens, or even sounds coming from our own car.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • Have your hearing checked at least every 3 years after age 50.
  • If you have hearing concerns, speak to your doctor.
  • Try to limit sound, such as music or podcasts, inside your car.

Slow Reaction Time and Reflexes 

As we age, loss of brain connections slows reaction time and reflexes. This can make it harder to handle more than one task at a time, more difficult to steer or use foot pedals, and tricky to respond quickly.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you.
  • Start braking early when you need to stop.
  • Avoid rush hour and heavy traffic areas when possible.
  • Stay in the right hand lane when on the highway.

Stiff Joints and Muscles 

As we get older, joints get stiff, and muscles weaken. Problems such as arthritis and spinal stenosis can make it more difficult to turn your head, turn the steering wheel, or brake quickly.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • See your doctor if pain or stiffness seem to impact your driving.
  • Be physically active to keep and improve muscle strength and flexibility.
  • Consider hand controls for both the gas and brake pedals.

Memory Loss 

Memory loss is a concern for many people as they grow older. In fact, about 40% of people aged 65 or older have age-related memory impairment. Often, people with memory loss don’t even realize they are having driving problems, so it’s up to family and friends to act. If decision-making skills are impacted, the individual must stop driving. 

More Safe Driving Tips 

  • Take a defensive driving course. Organizations like AARPAmerican Automobile Association (AAA), or your car insurance company can help you find a class near you.
  • Ask your doctor if any of your health problems or medications might make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • Don’t drive when you are stressed or tired.
  • Always wear your seatbelt and make sure your passengers wear their seatbelts, too.
  • Don’t use your cell phone while driving.
  • Avoid distractions, such as eating or chatting.

What if I Have to Stop Driving?

Are you worried that you won’t be able to get around if you can no longer drive? There are more ways to travel than you think! Many areas provide free or low-cost transportation options for senior citizens, religious and civic groups often have volunteers that will drive you, and most senior living communities offer shuttles to supermarkets, doctors, and more.

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging for help finding services near you: 1-800-677-1116 or

https://eldercare.acl.gov

Posted in: Aging

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The Surprising Ways Gardening Can Benefit Seniors

Monday , April 12 , 2021

The Surprising Ways Gardening Can Benefit Seniors

It’s officially spring, and that means it’s time to start your garden. Whether you grow vegetables, flowers, houseplants, or anything in between, gardening is a fun and healthy hobby!

Studies show that spending time weeding, planting, and sowing is an excellent way to boost mental and physical health—especially for seniors. It stimulates the senses, provides physical activity, and helps us reconnect with nature.

Keep reading to find out more about the benefits of gardening and how to best grow your own:

How Does Gardening Benefit Seniors? 

Home gardening has been on the rise since the onset of COVID-19. Why? Because not only is it an amazing socially-distanced activity, but it also helps promote emotional wellness. 

  1. It lowers stress. Studies have shown that gardening can lower levels of the stress-producing hormone cortisol and raise the levels of serotonin, a calming chemical that helps improve mood. Some studies have even linked gardening to a reduction in symptoms of depression. In addition, gardening increases hand-eye coordination, which helps to keep the brain and body in sync.
  2. It boosts heart health. Did you know that in the 60–79-year-old age group, 69.1% of men and 67.9% of women have cardiovascular disease? Luckily, studies have found that regular gardening can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by as much as 30% for people over 60. Additionally, gardening can help you burn 200 to 400 calories an hour, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  3. It increases mobility. Mobility problems in seniors can stop them from participating in activities they enjoy and lead to social isolation and depression. Many older adults begin to limit what they do physically, believing they are saving themselves from injury – but remaining active is the key to good health. Gardening is known to engage lesser-used muscles and help build strength and mobility.
  4. It increases brain health. No one knows exactly what causes Alzheimer’s Disease or how to prevent it. Still, studies show that positive life choices, such as gardening, can have an impact. In fact, the physical demands, critical thinking skills, and sensory awareness can reduce the risk of dementia by up to 36%.
  5. It encourages healthy eating. There are many reasons why it can be difficult for seniors to stick to a healthy diet. New food aversions. Difficulty chewing. Dietary restrictions. Boredom. The list goes on and on. But growing your own garden makes it easy to access healthy, delicious foods in season—including many you can pluck off the plant and eat on the spot.

Final Thoughts

Gardening can be an enjoyable activity when the weather is nice, and the benefits are many. One of the best things about gardening for seniors is that it is adaptable for all skill and ability levels. For example, potted plants or raised beds can be used instead of a traditional garden for those who can’t bend or kneel.

Need help getting started? In response to the influx of home gardeners during COVID-19, the Rodale Institute is offering a free Victory Garden Starter Kit complete with an Organic Gardening 101 webinar!

Check it out – and don’t forget to share photos of your home garden on our social media pages!

Have fun and happy gardening!

Posted in: Health

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National Health Care Decision Day

Monday , April 5 , 2021

National Health Care Decision Day

April is full of significant days: “National Autism Awareness Day,” “National Siblings Day,” and “National Administrative Professionals Day” (April 21), to name a few. At ComForCare, we like to focus on “National Health Care Decision Day,” which takes place every year on April 16.

The goal of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is “to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning” – something we care very deeply about.

Thinking about death and the possibility of declining health is hard. It’s no surprise that many people avoid it at all costs. But making these decisions ahead of time can be one of the kindest things we can do for our families. Taking the burden of making these wrenching decisions from their shoulders can be a tremendous help during a stressful time.

What is National Healthcare Decisions Day?

National Healthcare Decisions Day aims to educate and empower the public to take part in important advance care planning initiatives. Hundreds of different national, state, and local organizations take part in the annual program, now in it’s 11th year. Participating groups emphasize the importance of advance directives, ensuring that the information, opportunity, and resources needed to document health care decisions are available to all adult U.S. citizens with decision-making capacity.

In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, I encourage you to:

Understand your options

There are different types of advance directives and they can vary based on state law. In the past, we’ve discussed two important documents that we should all be aware of: advanced directives (also known as living wills) and Do Not Resuscitate orders.

These documents typically include instructions about your health care decisions. For example, you can specify that you do not wish to be resuscitated in the event of cardiac arrest or other catastrophic health failure. An advance directive can also be used to specify how you’d like your health care handled should you develop a condition like Alzheimer’s Disease or become unconscious for an extended period of time.

Other types of directives include the 5 Wishes form (legally recognized in 42 states), Do Not Resuscitate order, and physician orders for life sustaining treatment (POLST).

Talk to others about your wishes

Bottom line: if your loved ones aren’t aware of your wishes, they can’t carry them out. Advance care planning starts with talking with your family, friends, and healthcare providers to make your desires known. Let them know if you have a living will, DNR, or other end-of-life plans and give those closest to you copies of any important documents. This will relieve them of the need of trying to guess what you would want if you are ever faced with a medical crisis.

Engage others in conversation

End-of-life planning is important no matter how old you are or whatever your station in life. Talk to others about why advance directives and other types of planning are vital and help them to understand their options. By making others aware, we can help ensure that their healthcare wishes are met and help spare their family the stress of uncertainty.

Not sure how to bring up this sensitive topic? The National Hospice and Palliative Care Association has suggestions on how to get the conversation going on their website.

Consider your legacy

Thinking ahead to the end of life isn’t just about planning for health care. It also offers us opportunities to enrich our lives and to leave something meaningful for the next generations–something more valuable than money or property.

What do you want your friends and family to remember about you when you’re gone? What stories would you like told by generations to come? None of know how long our life might be, but we can actively engage every single day and act with meaning and purpose. By living a life in a way that is meaningful for us, we can leave the legacy we desire.

Here are some other ways you can leave lasting memories for those you love:

  • Be honest: Be your authentic self and share your failings as well as your victories. A life lived with transparency and openness will set a wonderful example for the generations to come.
  • Share the gift of time: At the end of your life, your loved ones are going to remember the times you spent together more than anything else. Commit yourself to sharing meaningful experiences with your friends and family, even if it’s something as simple as a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon.
  • Tell your story: My grandfather used to share stories of growing up on the farm with his brothers and sisters. I remember those stories as if I was there myself, even though they happened far before I was ever born. By sharing your stories, you will give your children and grandchildren tales they can enjoy well into adulthood.
  • Talk about your vision for life after you’ve departed: Let your children, grandchildren, and other loved ones know what you’d like to see happen for them in the future. Those thoughts might help steer them through difficult times one day. After all, there likely isn’t one among us that hasn’t asked, “What would dad have done?” at least once.

Further resources

For more ideas on how to leave a legacy, see the below sources:

  • Grand Magazine: Words of wisdom on how to leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren to cherish.
  • AARP: Information on ethical wills–a way to share your values, blessing, and life’s lessons with your family, friends and community.
  • Talk of a Lifetime: Tips for making sure that you collect all the memories you need to make this book special for everyone.

Posted in: Aging

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