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Start Weight Training Now for Healthy Old Age

Monday , May 31 , 2021

Start Weight Training Now for Healthy Old Age

Hippocrates said, “That which is used develops; that which is not wastes away.”

As adults steadily move towards old age, it becomes progressively more important to maintain health and fitness through various exercises. More and more, research shows that strength training exercises, in particular, can help maintain health and fitness later in life.

On the flip side, if efforts are not made, the age-related loss of muscle mass can become a slippery slope from which it’s hard to recover.

Why is strength training so necessary for healthy aging? And does that mean other exercises, like walking and stretching, can be ignored? Keep reading to find out!

Why do we lose muscle as we age?

Research from Duke University has found that simple strength-related activities (such as standing up from a chair or balancing on one leg) often become more difficult as early as your 50s.  But why is that?

Often, it’s simply because people become more sedentary as they age – whether it’s due to health issues, physical limitations, or fatigue. In addition, as we grow older:

  • Hormone levels change
  • Protein requirements alter
  • And motor neurons die

Altogether, this can lead to a condition known as Sarcopenia, or the age-related loss of muscle mass. The word means flesh loss – from the Greek’ sarx’ (or flesh) and ‘penia’ (or loss).

This loss of muscle can affect posture, stability, and balance. It is one reason older adults fall so often, but older adults can fix it through regular exercise and strength training.

Sarcopenia can begin to affect adults as young as 30 years old, but it’s not until around 50 that the effects become very noticeable. At that point, muscle mass typically decreases about 30% during the next two decades. Then, even more dramatic losses begin after the age of 80.

It is important to note that age-related muscle loss can vary significantly from person to person.

Those that were active in their younger years are far more likely to stay fit as they get older – that’s why most experts suggest adults start weight training well before they reach middle age.

Signs of Sarcopenia

Often, the signs of Sarcopenia can be vague. Symptoms such as feeling physically weaker or suffering from frequent falls might be attributed to old age or other health issues. However, if you or a loved one experiences one or more of these signs and can’t explain why you should talk to a health professional:

  • Diminished muscle strength
  • Feeling physically weaker over time
  • Having more difficulty lifting common objects
  • Poor handgrip strength
  • Difficulty walking or rising from a seated position
  • Becoming exhausted quickly and having difficulty carrying out daily tasks
  • Unexplained weight loss

Fighting age-related muscle loss

The only way to stay ahead of the aging process is by staying active and fit.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, older people who lift weights can slow or even reverse the age-related loss of muscle mass. In fact, they can actually GAIN strength and better mobility, mental sharpness, and better metabolic health.

Experts say that a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and balance work is the key to preventing or reversing the condition, with a particular emphasis on the strength training portion.

A typical weight training program might include:

  • 8 to 10 exercises that target all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulder, and arms)
  • Sets of 12 to 15 reps, performed at an effort of about 5 to 7 on a 10-point scale
  • 2 to 3 workouts per week

Of course, it is best to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Once you’ve been given the go-ahead, a qualified personal trainer can help set up a sequence of exercises tailored to your abilities and can monitor you for safety and technique.

And remember: All of the exercises in the world won’t help if you don’t eat appropriately! So always try to get lots of protein (shoot for 30 grams per meal), check your vitamin D levels, and eat your Omega 3s.

Posted in: Aging, Health

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Caring For A Loved One After Joint Replacement Surgery

Monday , April 26 , 2021

Caring For A Loved One After Joint Replacement Surgery

Joint replacement may seem like an “old person” surgery, but creaky knees know no age! In fact, I can distinctly remember my father having both knees replaced when he was only in his early 40s. And a friend of mine – just 37 years old – recently had both hips replaced.

There are a variety of reasons adults (both young and old) might need joint replacement surgery. It was a career in the military and years of physically demanding work that destroyed his knees for my dad. And several rounds of cancer-killing radiation ruined my friend’s hips.

No matter how old your loved one is when they have a joint replaced, they will need a helping hand to assist them through the various phases of surgery – both before and after. As a caregiver, you can facilitate conversations with the doctor, help make decisions, and lend a hand during the recuperation period. And because it’s a demanding role, it’s important that you take care of yourself during this time, too.

Here are some of the ways you can help make the process a little easier:

 

Preparing Your Home For Recovery 

Every joint replacement patient has different needs, and the restrictions they face after surgery will depend on several factors. Still, many people find it helpful to set up a “recovery room” on the house’s first floor. This room should include:

  • Easy access to a nearby bathroom OR a bedside urinal/commode
  • A bed that isn’t too high off the ground
  • A telephone or cellphone (with charger)
  • Bandages and other supplies necessary for wound care
  • A walker or crutches, if needed
  • Open walkways, without rugs or electrical cords in the way
  • Comfortable clothing and shoes that are safe for walking around the house
  • A variety of snacks and beverages
  • Several entertainment options (books, crosswords, television, etc.)

Recovery

During the recovery phase, your loved one may need significant assistance in their activities of daily living.

  • Medication: Depending on the type of surgery, it is not unlikely that one or more medications will be required. Ask the doctor if she can provide the prescriptions in advance, so you can have them ready and waiting at home before surgery.
  • Meals and snacks: If you will not be living in your loved one’s home full-time, it is vital that they meals they can quickly and easily make on their own. Try preparing a few options in advance that can be quickly reheated in the microwave – or provide quick meals that don’t have to be heated at all.
  • Wound care: Your loved one will likely have bandages and dressings that need to be changed daily (or more). If possible, meet with your loved one’s doctor in advance to learn proper techniques and safety procedures before outpatient care begins. 
  • Household tasks: Depending on the type of joint replacement your loved one receives (knees, hips, etc.), they may not be able to stand or bend for several weeks. This typically means that most household chores are out of the question. Plan to take on these tasks on your own or arrange for outside help. 
  • Doctor appointments: Post-surgery, your loved one will likely have several follow-up appointments within the first four to six weeks. Missing an appointment can lead to setbacks and complications, so it’s vital to take these follow-ups seriously. 
  • Activity: After surgery, the physical therapist will likely prescribe a home exercise program. This may happen in the hospital or at an outpatient PT facility. These exercises are essential, as they help your loved work independently on gaining strength and mobility. You can help by keeping track of exercises and making sure they are performed correctly.
  • Paperwork: As with any surgery, joint replacement comes with a lot of paperwork. On top of the discharge orders provided by the hospital, your loved one will likely receive reports at each follow-up visit – and an absolute flurry of bills in the mail. Help them stay on top of things by organizing everything in an accordion folder or binder with tabs for each type of correspondence.

Self-Care

Remember during this challenging time that it is also essential to take care of YOU. It’s easy for caregivers to fall into the trap of constantly providing and never receiving – and that is a quick road to burnout. Remember to:

  • Take breaks
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Make time for exercise
  • Maintain outside interests
  • Stay in touch with family and friends
  • Get enough sleep

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, this is not the time to grin and bear it. Your lack of wellness won’t only affect you; it will also affect the quality of care you can provide to your loved one. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if you need it!

Final Thoughts

Proper preparation can help you provide the best care possible for your loved one after their joint replacement surgery. Recovery can be difficult, but it will be a lot easier with you helping out!

Posted in: Home Care

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Understanding the Three Ds: Dementia, Delirium, and Depression

Monday , March 22 , 2021

Understanding the Three Ds: Dementia, Delirium, and Depression

Older adults are at high risk for depression and cognitive disorders such as dementia and delirium. Clarifying the diagnosis is the first step to effective treatment – but it’s not always easy. 

Delirium and depression can cause cognitive changes that may be mistaken for dementia, such as poor memory. And people who have dementia often develop signs of depression, like poor appetite and low self-esteem. 

There is also the genuine possibility that an older adult may have a combination of all three issues concurrently. 

So, how can you tell the difference between dementia, delirium, and depression in older people, to ensure they receive the proper care? Keep reading to learn more about the signs and symptoms of each condition. And make sure to sign up for our “Understanding the 3 Ds” webinar at the bottom! 

Delirium

Delirium is a neuropsychiatric syndrome that causes sudden changes to a person’s thinking and attention, causing them to become confused. Episodes of delirium are common among older adults, especially those who are ill, in the hospital, or recovering from surgery. The condition develops acutely and is temporary and reversible. 

The most common symptom is inattention, though a person experiencing delirium may also suffer from difficulty with orientation, memory, or language and thought. Hallucinations or illusions may also be present. 

Depression

Depression is a common mood disorder. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, over more than 264 million people suffer from the illness, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide. 

The diagnosis of depression depends on the presence of two main symptoms: persistent and pervasive low mood and loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities. Other signs include: 

  • Increased fatigue and sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability (primarily in men)
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Uncontrolled emotions

Symptoms are of clinical significance when they interfere with everyday activities and last for at least two weeks. 

Along with apathy, depression is one of the most common symptoms in Alzheimer’s Disease – especially those with Lewy bodies. 

Dementia

Dementia is not a single disease but an umbrella term covering a wide range of medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s. According to the National Institute on Aging, “Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.”

Signs of dementia can vary greatly, but some common examples include: 

  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Increased confusion
  • Reduced concentration
  • Personality or behavior changes
  • Depression or apathy

Complications in Diagnosis

Symptoms of delirium, depression, and dementia can be pretty similar. For instance, delirium and depression may present with apathy and withdrawal, while delirium and dementia are characterized by confusion and disorientation. 

To further complicate matters, delirium and depression often occur in a person with dementia, so it is common to have all three issues at once. 

Differentiating delirium from depression and dementia requires knowing the characteristic features of each condition and knowing the patient’s history (either personally or from a family member or friend). 

The Victoria State Government has a helpful chart with a side-by-side analysis of all three conditions and their key features. 

Attend a FREE ComForCare Workshop

ComForCare is offering a free virtual workshop on Wednesday, March 31st, from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm. 

The workshop entitled “Understanding the 3 Ds: Dementia, Delirium, and Depression” will count as one continuing education credit for social workers and case managers and 1.5 contact hours for RNs/LPNs.

By the end of the program, participants will be able to: 

  • Distinguish between dementia, delirium, and depression and the causes and prevalence of each
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms that overlap across all three conditions, as well as the differences that set them apart
  • Identify common scenarios in which combinations of conditions may occur
  • Explain why people need a thorough evaluation of any changes in mental status, including those already diagnosed with dementia
  • Take the appropriate actions to connect families and individuals to evaluations and resources if dementia, delirium, or depression are suspected

Go to bit.ly/delirium2021 to sign up today! 

Posted in: Aging

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