Continuing to Staying Safe: COVID-19 Variants, Flu and Pneumonia Season

While many seniors have now received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the increase of the Delta variant – and potentially others – are increasing the need to continue to be vigilant. Flu and pneumonia season is also on its way, and if we learned anything throughout this pandemic, it’s that masks and vaccinations make a big difference in protecting everyone’s health. Many of the suggestions highlighted below are things we’ve all been doing during the pandemic, and they’re great reminders for continued protection.

A Background on Flu Season for Seniors
As we age, changes in our immune defenses can make seasonal illnesses such as influenza more dangerous in older adults when compared to those in their younger years. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults older than 65 are at high risk of developing complications, such as pneumonia, from the flu. In recent years, 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people older than 65, and 50 to 70% of flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among the same age group.

The flu can look different on each individual; however, common symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Flu activity often peaks between December and February, but activity can last as late as May. While contracting the flu might not seem like a big deal, if flu-related complications occur, it can cause severe health problems and even death.

Flu-Related Complications
According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, the flu increases the risk of heart attack by three to five times, and stroke by two to three times in the first two weeks of infection for those older than 65. Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, often develops as a result of flu symptoms and can become a serious complication if unaddressed. Flu symptoms often include cough, fever, shaking, and chills.

According to Healthline Magazine, if you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical treatment immediately:
Severe cough with large amounts of mucus
Trouble breathing
Shortness of breath
Severe chills or sweating
A fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit
Chest pains

Preventing the Flu in Older Adults
While developing flu-related complications is common among older adults, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of contracting the flu. Here are a few ways you can work to keep yourself healthy and reduce the high risk of flu:

Get the flu and pneumonia vaccine
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to protect against the high risk for flu and its complications is by getting the vaccine. Flu vaccines are updated each season to keep up with how the virus changes each year. The flu vaccine can reduce the severity of the flu, decrease the length of the illness and protect against any flu-related complications.

Older adults might also consider getting the pneumonia vaccine, as the illness can be deadly for those age 65 and above. It’s also important to note that getting the flu vaccine helps stop the spread of the virus in your community.

Wash or sanitize hands
Washing your hands with soap and warm water can help disinfect your hands and prevent the illness from entering your body. If you don’t have soap and water, an antibacterial hand sanitizer will also be effective.

Wear a mask
Wearing a mask when in public is one of the best ways you can prevent the flu. It’s especially important for those who actively have the flu – or feel like the flu might be coming on – to wear a mask to protect others from contracting the illness.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Eating a healthy diet and regularly exercising helps keep the immune system functioning effectively and can even help reduce the risk of getting a cold or the flu. Staying hydrated can also help your body fight off infections more effectively.

Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
It’s common to touch your face without thinking about it. However, during flu season, it’s especially important to keep your hands away from your face. When we touch our faces, cold and flu germs can enter the body, causing us to get sick.

Clean your environment regularly
Keeping your home clean, especially in high-touch areas such as the kitchen and bathroom, can help reduce the risk of illness. It’s also important to pay special attention to things we touch often, such as doorknobs, light switches, and counters.

Sanitize mobile devices
Even germs from our phones can get us sick. Clean your mobile device regularly with sanitizing wipes, especially after being out in public.

Avoid travel and crowds
In addition to keeping your distance from those who are ill, it’s also helpful to avoid large crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Being indoors can also increase your risk of catching the flu from an infected individual.

Increase vitamin C and protein intake
Studies have shown that vitamin C can help fight off infection and boost the immune system. You can find vitamin C in foods such as citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. Low-protein diets can weaken the immune system, so be sure to eat enough protein during the flu season. Chicken, fish, eggs, and yogurt are all great sources of protein.

Caregiving Tips for the Flu Season
Flu symptoms typically begin one to three days after being in contact with an infected individual. This means caregivers may be exposed to the virus without knowing it. Whether your loved one becomes ill or you’re just trying to navigate the flu season as a caregiver, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Clean regularly. If you or someone you’re caring for gets sick, it’s important to maintain a high level of cleanliness within the house. This means throwing tissues in the trash can, consistently disinfecting surfaces such as bedside tables, bathroom surfaces, and doorknobs. Be sure to clean used linens, utensils, dishes, bed sheets, and towels in hot water to disinfect them completely.

Find ways to manage your stress. Stress can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of contracting seasonal illnesses. Caregivers should actively try to reduce stress through exercise, counseling, or spending time engaging in their favorite hobbies.

Watch for warning signs of complications. Influenza can quickly shift to a complex illness that can negatively impact overall health. Caregivers should watch for warning signs of complications, which can include severe dehydration, wheezing, chest pain, seizures, vomiting, or confusion.

Navigating Flu Season at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living communities, we know how dangerous the flu can be for older adults. That’s why our culinary team uses the freshest ingredients and offers foods packed with vitamin C at every meal. Our hospitality team ramps up cleaning and disinfecting efforts, while medical staff members administer the flu vaccine to keep residents happy and healthy all season long. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

The Quiet Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, affects nearly 6.2 million people in the United States. Dementia, which is a general term for memory loss and cognitive decline, is a progressive disease during which symptoms gradually worsen throughout a number of years. In the most severe stages, people with dementia can lose the ability to carry on a conversation, respond to their surroundings, and are unable to complete basic daily tasks. While Alzheimer’s has no cure, there are treatments that can delay clinical decline. Early Alzheimer’s symptoms can be subtle and hard to identify. However, recognizing symptoms of dementia-related behaviors can help you or your loved one seek treatment sooner.

Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Like the rest of our bodies, our brains also change as we age. Often, these changes are mild or even unnoticeable. However, some older adults develop abnormal neural decline. Alzheimer’s typically begins in the part of the brain that affects learning and can lead to life-affecting changes. Here are some of the most common early Alzheimer’s symptoms:

Short-term memory changes
Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. You may notice your loved one forgetting what they had for breakfast or what they did earlier in the day. They may also find it difficult to recall information they’ve recently learned or rely on memory aids, like writing notes and memos, to keep track of things. While most people lose some memory acuity as they age, increased or frequent confusion is a red flag.

Difficulty with problem-solving
A person with early Alzheimer’s symptoms might find it difficult to follow instructions, such as wayfinding directions, simple puzzles, paying bills or adding tips to a restaurant tab.

Growing difficulty with familiar tasks
Regular tasks might become increasingly challenging for people with dementia — for example, cooking dinner, getting to a familiar location, or remembering regularly scheduled activities.

Problems with speaking and writing
As Alzheimer’s progresses, expect your loved one to have difficulty communicating. Staying engaged and following along in conversations can become arduous, and you may find your loved ones removing themselves from conversations and seeming socially remote.

Misplacing items
People with dementia might forget where they’ve placed items they use often, such as the telephone, remote control, important documents, car keys, or their wallet. This can lead to frustration and they might even accuse people of stealing.

Mood and personality changes
Depression and sudden shifts in moods are also symptoms of dementia. You might notice a change in reasoning skills or in lifelong personality traits. For example, if your loved one is usually patient, you might notice them becoming agitated more than normal.

Disengagement from friends and family
You might notice your loved one becoming uninterested in socializing with other people or becoming withdrawn. Those with dementia might also stop doing their favorite hobbies or avoid being with others.

Depression
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, between 40-50% of people with Alzheimer’s disease experience depression, as compared to the 7% of the general population. Both the shock of diagnosis and physical changes in the brain can contribute to feelings of depression. Those with Alzheimer’s disease who are depressed will tend to be apathetic, irritable, and suffer from changes in sleeping patterns. However, they are less likely to be at risk of suicide than depressed people living without Alzheimer’s disease.

Anxiety and agitation
Anxiety and agitation are common in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, as people begin to recognize their losses and the severity of their illness. Later on, people may become anxious about being left alone or abandoned.

Sleep disruptions
Disruptions in sleep patterns are common in the early stages of the disease and can even be an early warning sign. Researchers believe that the changes in the brain due to the disease can leave amyloid plaque deposits, which are linked to poor sleeping habits.

Navigating the Diagnostic Process

If you see two or more of the warning signs listed above in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to visit a dementia center or contact a healthcare provider — a primary care physician, geriatrician, or neurologist. While each person’s situation can look different, a healthcare provider will likely perform a series of tests to provide a diagnosis. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, here’s what you can expect during the diagnostic process.

Medical history. Your healthcare provider will ask you to supply a list of your current and past medical problems, family medical history and diet, and a list of your current and past medications. Your doctor may also ask to speak to your family members to determine if they’ve noticed any changes in your behavior, including your memory and thinking.

Physical exam. Your doctor should conduct a physical exam to assess your blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and any other procedures that help evaluate your overall health.

Mental cognitive status tests. A doctor or neuropsychologist may perform a series of tests designed to evaluate memory, thinking, and simple problem-solving abilities. These tests help identify a baseline or changes in executive function, judgment, attention, and language, all of which can be helpful in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.

Depression screening. You’ll be asked a series of short questions that can help determine the presence of depression, which can cause memory and thinking problems similar to Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.
Laboratory tests. To rule out any infections and to monitor kidney and liver function, you might be asked to supply blood and urine samples.

Brain imaging tests. MRI and CT scans allow doctors to look at the structure of the brain and see how it’s functioning. These scans can help rule out other conditions that can cause dementia-like symptoms, including brain tumors, aneurysm, stroke, or buildup of fluid in the brain.

Living with Alzheimer’s Disease at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living communities, we provide the tools and resources needed after dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Support groups, specialized medical care, and dementia-focused activities are provided for residents living with memory loss. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Benefits of Eating Fish for Older Adults

Healthy eating and practicing proper nutrition are important at any age, but it becomes more so as we get older. As we age, our bodies don’t always absorb nutrients as well as they once did. Therefore, it’s important to pay special attention to what we eat and prioritize nutrient-dense foods. While lean meats are great sources of protein, which help our bodies function properly, chicken and fish have less saturated fat than most red meat. Fish is an important part of a heart-healthy diet and can help reduce the risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, cardiac arrest, and the most common type of stroke.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines for Americans recommends eating at least eight ounces of seafood per week. Fish contain high amounts of protein, healthy omega-3 fats, vitamins B-12 and D, and minerals such as iron, selenium, zinc, and iodine. Experts also agree that consuming fish can promote heart and brain health.

Fish Help You Have a Healthy Heart
Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that act as an energy source and help keep the lungs, blood vessels, and immune system functioning properly. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in every kind of fish but are especially high in salmon, trout, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, and oysters. These omega-3 fatty acids aid in healthy brain function, reduce inflammation and arthritis, and can even reduce the risk of depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, and diabetes. Some research also suggests that omega-3s have a positive effect on gradual memory loss commonly associated with aging.

Health Benefits of Eating Fish
In addition to protecting the heart and brain, eating fish regularly has been linked to other health benefits. Fish can impact many functions of the body, including your liver, quality of sleep, and weight management. Some of the main benefits of eating fish include:
Lowers risk of heart disease
According to some studies, consuming fish has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids work to prevent inflammation, which helps protect the heart and decrease the risk of other chronic diseases.
Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Fish consumption can increase gray brain matter, which prevents brain deterioration and shrinkage, both of which can cause a decline in brain function. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that people who ate baked or broiled fish once per week had a lower risk of developing either Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.
Lowers symptoms of depression
Researchers believe that omega-3 fatty acids are linked to the functioning of serotonin in the brain, which plays an important role in mood regulation. Wild-caught fish such as salmon and sardines are believed to help fight depression and manage its symptoms.
Improves vision and eye health
Both the eyes and brain rely on heavy amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to maintain their health and function. Consuming fish, which is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, can help improve vision and maintain eye health.
Improves quality of sleep
Research suggests that consuming omega-3 fatty acids consistently can have a positive impact on sleep quality. Regularly consuming fish can help you fall asleep more quickly and improve your overall function during waking hours. According to Psychology Today, DHA, a type of omega-3 fat, stimulates melatonin, which is a key hormone that facilitates sleep.
Alleviates arthritis
Many older adults suffer from arthritis or the swelling and inflammation of one or more of their joints. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body and can help lessen the symptoms of various types of arthritis.
Lowers blood pressure
According to the Mayo Clinic, inflammation in the body can damage blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids can help benefit heart health by decreasing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of blood clotting, and reducing irregular heartbeats. Researchers suggest consuming two servings per week of fish to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Best Types of Fish to Eat
According to Healthline Magazine, some fish contain contaminants such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, which can negatively impact our health. However, the following fish are eco-friendly and have lower rates of mercury and contaminants:

Alaskan salmon. Both farmed and wild salmon contain omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals. While there’s a debate over which one is better, both can provide the same health benefits.

Cod. This white fish option contains phosphorus, niacin, vitamin B-12, and nearly 20 grams of protein in a three-ounce portion.

Mackerel. This oily fish is packed with healthy fats which can improve endurance, aid in exercise recovery, and also improve skin health.

Sardines. Sardines are an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. In addition, sardines are also packed with protein, which is essential for building healthy bones and maintaining muscle mass.

Tuna. Tuna is rich in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. In addition, the omega-3s present in tuna can help the risk of stroke and heart attack, while also improving the immune system.

Chef Giovanni Dillard from Maplewood at Danbury shared a fish recipe that her residents love.

Pan-Seared Salmon with an Orange Ginger Glaze

4oz salmon

2tsp Parsley

Salt and Pepper to liking

1tsp Garlic powder

4 tsp Olive oil

Flour

2tsp butter

2tsp flour

1tsp Ginger

1tsp chopped garlic

1 C Orange juice

  1.  Drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil
  2. Rub salmon with spice mixture
  3. Take a frying pan on medium heat (let the pan get hot for about 3 minutes)
  4. Olive oil 2tsp in pan and sear salmon till golden
  5. Take salmon and place on cooking sheet and bake on 325 for about 10 minutes until internal temperature reaches 145

Orange ginger glaze

  1. In the same saucepan,  take butter garlic, and ginger cook for about 1 minute until fragrant.
  2. Next, add flour and cook until light brown
  3. Add orange juice and cook until thick

Serve with mashed or roasted potatoes. I like serving with asparagus but any vegetable will do. This is a simple recipe that takes from start to finish about 20 minutes!!

Ways to Incorporate Fish into Your Diet

If you’re not used to consuming fish as a part of your regular diet, incorporating it into your weekly routine might seem daunting. However, there are a few quick and easy ways to add fish into your routine without having to spend much time preparing it.

Many dietitians suggest substituting tuna for chicken when preparing recipes such as chicken salad or chicken casseroles. Adding fish to your breakfast can be as simple as serving smoked salmon with your eggs or topping it on your favorite bagel. You might consider adding fish to your favorite pasta dishes, on your tacos, or adding it to a stir-fry or homemade sauce. Fish can also be a quick on-the-go snack. Tuna and salmon pouches can be eaten alone, on crackers and salads, or in a sandwich for a quick, protein-packed meal.

Cooking with Fish at Maplewood Senior Living
Maintaining a healthy diet is important no matter your age. However, at Maplewood Senior Living, we know how much diet can impact overall wellness for older adults. Our excellent culinary team uses the freshest ingredients and heart-healthy recipes when preparing meals and food options for our residents. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Supporting a Family Caregiver: Alleviating Stress and Anxiety

As more of the population continues to age, many older adults are relying on friends and family caregivers to close the gap in the demand for healthcare. There are more nonprofessional primary caregivers than ever before.

According to a survey conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute, in 2015, an estimated 43.5 million American adults provided unpaid care, with nearly 85% caring for a family member or parent. Caring for an aging parent can often fall on one person in the family, especially those who live nearby. While caregiving can be a rewarding experience, it can also present many issues for a family caregiver. The same survey reported that 40% of caretakers felt emotionally stressed, and almost 20% said caregiving caused financial problems and physical strain. When unaddressed, long-term stress, often referred to as caregiver burnout, can negatively affect overall health and increase the risk factors for chronic illnesses and depression. The first step in addressing caregiver stress is to be able to recognize and identify the symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
For most caregivers, providing care for a loved one can be a fulfilling responsibility. However, with any transition or life event, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions. At some point, family caregivers will likely experience burnout, which may manifest itself with symptoms such as anger, stress, exhaustion, or loneliness. According to the Mayo Clinic, these factors can increase the risk of caregiver stress in individuals:

Living with the person for whom you provide care
Feeling socially isolated
Living with a depression diagnosis
Experiencing financial strain
Caregiving most hours of the day
Lacking coping skills and problem-solving abilities
Lacking choice in being a caregiver

If you or a loved one is caring for a family member, such as an aging parent, it’s important to look for the signs of caregiving stress and acknowledge them quickly. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, here are a few of the most common signs of caregiver stress:

Watching your loved one deal with an illness is both emotionally and physically difficult. Denial is a natural coping mechanism and can be a sign that a caregiver is beginning to experience tremendous stress. Denying a loved one’s disease or even denying feelings of stress are common among family caregivers.

It’s common to feel anger toward the person with the disease or illness for not being able to do the things they once did. Role reversal can spark anger in family members, especially adult children, as they begin to care for their parents.

Social withdrawal. You may notice a caregiver has withdrawn from people or social events they once enjoyed.
Anxiety. Primary caregivers experiencing stress may also show signs of anxiety about the future. It’s common for caregivers to worry about how they’ll provide care as their loved one’s condition progresses.
Exhaustion. Caregiving is a physically and emotionally demanding responsibility, which can result in exhaustion. Caregivers may experience sleeplessness due to distress or disrupted sleep if care is needed throughout the night. Either way, sooner or later exhaustion will set in, adding to caregiver burnout.
Irritability. Coupled with exhaustion and anxiety, you may notice a caregiver becoming irritable. Moodiness and unlikely behaviors are also signs of caregiver stress.
Lack of concentration. A primary caregiver can become so overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks that they lose the ability to concentrate on one task at a time. This can lead to missing appointments or mismanaging medications.

Tips for Preventing Caregiver Burnout
When you notice a caregiver struggling or experiencing stress, there are several things you can do to help. It can be difficult for a primary caregiver to admit they need additional support. The best way to help is to offer. Here are a few ways to alleviate stress and anxiety for a family caregiver:

Prioritize caregiver health. Caregivers are better able to take care of their loved ones if they prioritize their own health. You might consider showing your support to your family caregiver by preparing healthy meals or taking over caregiving duties so they can exercise, go to their own doctor appointments, or spend time doing something for themselves.
Create a support group. If you have a family member acting as a primary caregiver, there are many ways to help out even if you live far away. Consider organizing other family members or friends to chip in with peripheral support.

Some examples include:

  • Schedule a regular phone call for social support.
  • Offer to deliver meals from time to time.
  • Help with bill-paying, medical paperwork or other accounting necessities.
  • Provide respite by taking over caregiving for a few hours.
  • Caregiving really can’t be done alone. Family caregivers need support, even if they’re reluctant to ask for it.
  • Encouraging breaks. Taking a break is one of the best things a caregiver can do for themselves. Family members can help support their caregivers by encouraging things like respite care and adult care centers. Medicare will usually cover most of the cost of respite care in which an aide comes to the home to provide care or the individual stays in a hospital or nursing facility. Adult care centers can also provide a nice break during the daytime, so caregivers can attend to their own needs or use the time to take a break.
  • Help set realistic goals. If your family member is feeling stressed about their responsibilities, consider helping them break down large tasks into smaller steps. When we feel stressed, it can be difficult to remember how to prioritize tasks and organize our days. Offering help and encouragement can make your family member feel supported.
  • Provide resources. There are a variety of resources designed specifically for family caregivers, but it can be difficult to look for them when experiencing stress or anxiety. Other family members can compile and organize a list of resources for additional support. Providing links to websites, such as the Family Caregiver Alliance, support groups, and respite care options can help your caregiver find the support they need when they need it.

Supporting Caregivers at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living, we know caregiving has its joys and challenges. That’s why we offer a wide variety of support for caregivers providing care for family members. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Alzheimer’s Research Trends in 2021

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It’s also a progressive disease that causes symptoms to worsen over time. Older adults who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s might notice mild memory loss, whereas those in the late stages can lose the ability to carry on a conversation or even respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s disease affects one in nine people age 65 and older, and women more significantly than men. Although there’s been significant research on Alzheimer’s, because of the complexity of the illness, there is no cure. However, that hasn’t stopped medical professionals from continuing their Alzheimer’s research. Join us as we discuss Alzheimer’s research trends in 2021.

How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Treated?
Alzheimer’s is characterized by abnormal changes in the brain. While scientists do not know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s, most experts believe plaques and tangles play a significant role. Plaques, which are deposits of a protein fragment, build up in the spaces between nerve cells, and tangles, which are twisted fibers of a different protein, develop more frequently and predictably in the brain of someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. Because Alzheimer’s can look different in each individual, it’s highly unlikely that one drug would be able to treat all individuals with the disease. However, because of research and clinical trials, scientists have made significant progress in understanding the memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s.

While there are several prescription drugs to help manage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, none have been able to cure it or even stop the progression of the disease. The first FDA-approved therapy that addresses the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s has recently received approval as treatment. Aducanumab works to remove amyloid, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, from the brain, which can help reduce cognitive and functional decline for those with early-stage Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s Research
In addition to the recent approval of Aducanumab, international researchers have made significant progress in learning more about Alzheimer’s disease this past year. Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University recently discovered that a specific element of a key protein, called tau, may cause the proteins to accumulate in the brain. These deposits can actually trigger Alzheimer’s. While the tau protein is key to the healthy function of certain cells, when the microtubules, or “cell highways” they create aren’t formed properly, it can cause a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases. To learn how to identify when a tau protein isn’t working properly, researchers are using different organisms, such as the drosophila fruit fly.

An upcoming research study at the University of Arizona Health Sciences will focus on identifying various therapies that prevent or delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. The study will focus on understanding one of the strongest genetic risk factors, ApoE4, which is a key element in how our bodies metabolize fat and brain energy. This study is expected to allow researchers to more thoroughly understand and develop interventions for those with late-onset Alzheimer’s.

Trials and Research of Alzheimer’s Disease
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, clinical trials allow researchers to conduct studies with human volunteers to determine whether a possible treatment is safe and effective. Without the help of participants and clinical research, there can be no treatments, preventions, or cures. New drugs must complete a series of phases before being approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The treatment must perform well enough to move on to the next phase.

  • Phase I trials. The first stage of testing typically involves 100 volunteers or less and looks at the risks and side effects of a drug. These participants are usually healthy volunteers who haven’t been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
  • Phase II trials. This phase requires volunteers who have been diagnosed with the condition the drug is designed to treat. These studies help provide information about the treatment’s safety and help to determine the best dosage of the medication.
  • Phase III trials. The third stage requires a research team to enroll several hundred to thousands of volunteers at multiple sites worldwide. This provides evidence for safety and effectiveness that will be considered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Phase IV trials. After the FDA approves a drug, researchers must continue to monitor the health of those taking the medication to gain insight into its long-term safety and effectiveness.

Getting Involved in a Clinical Trial
If you or a loved one is interested in participating in or learning more about a clinical trial, there are various ways to get involved. The first option is to speak with your healthcare provider. Because your doctor has a deep understanding of your medical information, they may be able to connect you with an appropriate clinical trial.

In addition, TrialMatch, operated by the Alzheimer’s Association, connects individuals to clinical studies in their area. To be connected within TrialMatch, you’ll need your clinical diagnosis, tests used to diagnose the stage of the disease, and a current Alzheimer’s medication list.

Questions to Consider
Before you commit to participating in a clinical trial, it’s important to understand the trial information by making an appointment with your healthcare provider. According to the National Institute on Aging, individuals considering participation in a clinical trial should ask the research team these questions:

● What’s the purpose of the study?
● What tests and treatments will be given?
● What are the risks and side effects?
● What are the benefits of the research?
● How much time is required?
● How long will the study run?
● How will the trial affect my daily life?
● Will I learn my results?
● Are expenses reimbursed?
● Will I be paid?

Living with Alzheimer’s at Maplewood Senior Living
Memory care residents at our Maplewood Senior Living communities have access to high-quality medical care and staff trained specifically in dementia care. Support groups, access to clinical trial information, and Alzheimer’s medication are available to all residents living with Alzheimer’s. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Start Today: 10 Easy Exercises to Add to your Daily Routine

Maintaining your physical health becomes more important as we age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity can help delay, prevent, and manage chronic diseases in addition to reducing the risk of premature death. While starting a routine of easy exercises for seniors might seem overwhelming, just 30 minutes of physical activity per day can help you stay fit and reduce the risk of developing health problems. Staying active can also help boost your energy, maintain your independence, protect your heart and manage symptoms of diseases and illnesses. A consistent exercise routine doesn’t have to require equipment, either. Physical activity can be as simple as walking to the store, exercising in your home, or trying out a new exercise video with a friend. It’s never too late to find enjoyable ways to reap the many benefits of a daily exercise routine.

Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults
Exercise doesn’t only provide physical health benefits—it can improve mental health as well. According to HelpGuide, physical activity has many benefits for older adults, even for those starting an exercise routine later in life. Here’s what you can expect to happen when exercising consistently or adopting a new physical activity routine:

Reduce the impact of chronic disease. People who exercise consistently are more likely to experience better digestive functioning, improve their blood pressure and bone density and lower their risk of obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
Enhance mobility, flexibility, and balance. Different exercises can help improve your balance, flexibility, and coordination—all of which reduce your risk of falling. Strength training can help manage symptoms of arthritis and other chronic conditions.
Improve the quality of sleep. Good quality sleep helps to restore energy levels, heal physical and cognitive damage and improve overall physical function. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster, sleep without interruption and wake up feeling ready for the day.
Boost mood and self-confidence. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins which act as natural mood boosters. The release of endorphins can help reduce feelings of sadness, depression, and anxiety.
Improve brain function. Physical activity can help improve brain function and increase creativity. In addition, exercise can also help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline and help slow the progression of memory and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Types of Exercises
Adding variety to your workout routine can help you stay fit and reduce the risk of developing health complications. Finding a good balance between different types of exercises can help you strengthen your muscles, improve your coordination, reduce the risk of injury and decrease the time it takes you to heal if an injury were to occur. Here are a few of the most common types of exercises:

Aerobic exercise
Aerobic activities, such as walking, dancing, cycling, and swimming, help condition your heart and build your endurance. These exercises can be done at different intensities depending on your overall goals. Aerobic exercises done at a moderate intensity would increase your breathing and heart rate and may cause you to sweat. Those working at a vigorous intensity would be breathing rapidly and find it difficult to carry on a full conversation.

Muscle-strengthening
Muscle-strengthening exercises can help older adults prevent the loss of muscle mass and bone density, while also working to improve overall mobility and function. When done correctly, muscle-strengthening exercises will work for all major muscle groups. These exercises include working with resistance bands, exercise machines, and free weights.

Flexibility exercise
Flexibility can help you improve overall muscle function, while also decreasing the risk of fall-related injuries. Stretching can prevent injury, lessen pain, improve posture and physical performance and increase strength. Flexibility exercises include yoga and Pilates.

Balance exercise
Engaging in exercises that improve balance can help reduce the risk of falls, which is a great risk for older adults. Tai chi and yoga can help develop balance along with adding other exercises, such as backward and sideways walking, and heel and toe walking, to your daily routine.

Easy Exercises for Seniors to Try at Home
While everyone can benefit from exercise, older adults live healthier and more independent lives when physical activity is prioritized. Older adult exercise doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few easy exercises for seniors that can be done in the comfort of your own home without much equipment. The exercises below are designed to work the whole body, allowing you to build strength, improve balance and coordination and increase flexibility. As always, be sure to consult your healthcare provider or ask a certified personal trainer before trying anything new to your exercise routine.

Chair squat. Squats help build strength in the hips, glutes, and thighs. While standing in front of a chair, bend your knees and send the hips back and the arms straight out in front of you. Sit all the way down on the chair. As soon as you make contact with the chair, stand back up. Perform 10-12 reps.

Knee lift with a medicine ball. Hold a lightweight or medicine ball with both hands and lift it above your head. Lift the right knee while bringing the ball down to meet the knee. Lower the knee and raise the hands back up. Perform on the other side. Continue this exercise starting with 30 seconds and working your way up to one minute

Side leg lift. Stand sideways near a wall for support. Shift the weight into the right leg and lift the leg out to the side without tilting your torso. Keep your foot flexed and feet parallel. Lower the leg back down. Try 10-12 reps on each leg.

Lat pulls with a band. In a standing or seated position, hold a resistance band over your head with both hands. Create tension in the band by pulling with your hands, keeping the distance between them wider than your shoulders. Keeping the left hand in place, pull the right elbow down to the ribcage and press back up. Try 10-12 reps on each side.

Wall push-ups. Stand three feet away from a wall. Facing the wall, lean forward and place your hands flat against it, in line with your shoulders. Lower your body toward the wall and push back. Repeat 10-12 times.
Pelvic tilts. To help stretch the muscles in your back, take a deep breath and tighten your glutes. Tilt your hips slightly forward and hold for three seconds. Tilt-back and hold for another three seconds. Repeat 10-12 times.

Shoulder blade squeeze. Sitting up straight, rest your hands in your lap and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keep your shoulders down and hold for 3 seconds. Release and repeat.
Toe taps. While sitting in a chair, lift your toes while keeping your heels on the ground. You should be able to feel the muscles in your shin working. Repeat this 20 times.

Knee lifts. Sitting in a chair with your arms resting by your side. Contract your right leg muscles and lift your leg. Your knee and thigh should be three inches off the seat. Pause for three seconds and lower your leg. Repeat 10-12 times.
Seated rotation. Sit on a chair and hold a lightweight. Holding the weight at chest level, keep your knees and hips facing forward. Rotate your torso to the right as far as you can while contracting the muscles around your waist. Rotate back to the center and then to the left. Continue alternating sides for 12 reps.

Exercising at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we’re always looking for ways to prioritize the health and wellbeing of our residents by creating easy exercises for seniors. Our state-of-the-art exercise equipment, certified personal trainers, and excellent group exercise classes allow residents to explore new activities that can help build strength and improve balance. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Benefits of Talk Therapy for Seniors

Each individual approaches their retirement years differently. For some, this period of transition may be met with excitement and anticipation while others worry about the physical and mental effects of aging. Throughout the aging process, it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions. However, some periods might be more difficult than others. Losing a spouse or friend, learning to transition into a new home, feeling isolated, or dealing with an illness or chronic condition can severely impact one’s mental health and quality of life.

Healthcare providers often recommend senior talk therapy or psychotherapy to help navigate these difficult periods. What is talk therapy? According to the American Psychiatric Association, “psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illness and emotional difficulties. Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms so a person can function better and increase well-being and healing.” Psychotherapy — like talk therapy for depression — can be beneficial in many situations especially as older adults go through the aging process.

When Should You Consider Seeing a Therapist?
There are many different reasons to try senior talk therapy. While some older adults may be having difficulties with age-related life changes, others simply want to adopt a new mindset or perspective.

Here are some of the different situations in which an older adult might choose to work with a therapist:

When experiencing medical issues
According to the National Institute on Aging, approximately 85% of older adults have at least one chronic condition and 60% have two or more conditions. Chronic pain can interfere with daily life and change how you function. However, senior talk therapy can help you deal with pain and allow you to live a happier and healthier life. In addition, those who have a stroke or are at risk of stroke or those who have a family history of heart disease might also choose to work with a therapist to help cope with fear and the side effects of experiencing a medical condition.
For cognitive and mental health concerns
Older adults often experience normal age-related memory loss as they age. However, some adults may develop Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia that can interfere with daily life. Other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are also common among older adults and can severely impact an individual’s quality of life. Senior talk therapy can provide ways to cope with mental health concerns and conditions.
Issues that come with old age
Many older adults experience grief and loss in some form during their retirement years. For some, the loss of independence, death of a spouse or friends, or dealing with mobility issues can cause these feelings to come to the surface. Ongoing therapy sessions can help them work through their feelings.

Benefits of Talk Therapy
Physical and mental changes that come with aging can result in irritability, changes in appetite and sleep quality, difficulty concentrating, and forgetfulness. When these conditions go unaddressed, they often get worse. Speaking to a psychotherapist can help you identify issues and improve your overall quality of life.

Here are some of the benefits that come with working with a therapist:

Helps you adopt an optimistic mindset. It’s easy to get stuck in the “it is what it is” approach to life, especially when it comes to aging. However, older adults need to feel fulfilled in life, just as much as someone in their younger years. Therapy can help identify aspects of our lives that aren’t serving us and work to improve our mindset.
Teaches new sources of meaning. Retirement provides the opportunity to tap into other parts of our personalities. As we age, there’s more freedom to explore hobbies and other interests we might not have had time for in our past. Working with a therapist can help with this transition and encourage us to get more out of life.
Teaches you how to ask for help. Learning how to ask for help can be a lifelong lesson. It’s common for older adults to associate asking for help with losing their independence. However, that’s rarely the case. Therapists can help older adults build a solid support system without losing autonomy.
Creates a vision for the future. We always need a vision for the future, even as older adults. Knowing what you want your future to look like can be a powerful source of self-esteem and encouragement.
Assists in a change of behaviors. Sometimes our habits can contribute to our problems. Speaking with a therapist can help bring awareness to our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, which can allow us to regain control.
Provides support and validation. Counselors provide support and guidance by creating a non-judgmental atmosphere where clients feel safe to express themselves. Good therapists will show compassion, understanding, and empathy.
Aids in self-discovery. Seeing a therapist will provide you with the opportunity to understand yourself more deeply. By understanding your values, personality, and beliefs on a deeper level, you embark on a journey of self-growth and healing.

How to Find a Therapist
If you’re interested in working with a therapist, it’s important to find the right fit. A good way to find an appropriate therapist is to ask a friend or trusted family member for a referral or start researching online.

Here are a few tips to consider as you do your research:
First, it’s important to check your medical insurance to see what type of care is provided. For those aged 65 and older, Medicare covers individual and group psychotherapy with doctors and other licensed professionals. If you use another type of insurance, you might consider calling your patient advocate to see what’s covered.

Once you understand what is covered by your insurance provider, you can start researching providers in your area that work with your insurance type. Online review sites are helpful when deciding if a counselor might be right for you. Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist, American Psychological Association’s Locator, or ZenCare are all great resources to consider. You can search providers by location, specialties, and age group specialization.

Most providers offer a free phone-call appointment which provides the perfect opportunity to ask questions, go over any specific concerns you might have, and ask about their schedule and payment options. Remember, it might take meeting a few different counselors to find the right fit.

Prioritizing Mental Health at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living, health is our number one priority. In addition to traditional medical care, our integrated care model also offers mental health services for all of our residents. By taking care of their mental health, our residents can live more joyful and fulfilled lives. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Fresh from the Garden—Vegetarian Dishes and Keeping a Healthy Balance

Plant-based diets are growing in popularity because of both ethical and environmental reasons. However, many individuals adopt a vegetarian diet because of its many health benefits. A vegetarian diet for seniors has been shown to strengthen the immune system, lower the risk of heart disease and stroke and improve overall well-being. A typical vegetarian diet includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. Because our nutritional needs change as we age, older adults need to watch their diets closely. Medications, a loss of appetite, or loss of taste can make it difficult for seniors to get the nutrients they need each day. However, vegetarian and plant-based diets provide several health benefits for older adults.

Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet for Seniors
According to Medical News Today, people following a vegetarian diet can benefit both physically and mentally. Those who choose to adopt a plant-based diet are also more likely to make decisions that promote an overall healthy lifestyle. While only 1.8% of older adults above the age of 65 eat a vegetarian diet, the benefits speak for themselves:

  • Decelerates the aging process. Telomeres are the rebuilding enzymes found in our cells, which can affect how our cells age and regenerate. Some researchers believe that a diet rich in vegetables and other plants can increase the activity of telomeres and help slow down the process of aging.
  • Promotes a healthy weight. Switching to a vegetarian diet for seniors can help an individual maintain a healthy weight as most eat high volume and low-calorie foods.
  • Boosts energy. Our bodies break down plant-based foods more easily than meat and dairy products. Because of this, our digestive systems don’t have to work as hard when we consume a vegetarian diet, leaving us with more energy and strength.
  • Promotes cognitive health. According to researchers at Boston University School of Medicine, a plant-based diet, especially one rich in berries and green leafy vegetables, can help slow down heart failure and lower the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
  • Decreases the risk of cancer. Some studies suggest that those who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in meat products have some protection from cancer compared to those who consume a non-vegetarian diet.
  • Lowers the risk of diabetes. Because vegetarians and those who eat mostly plant-based consume a higher intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, and often a lower intake of unhealthful fats, are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Avoiding Deficiencies on a Plant-Based Diet
While eating a plant-based diet offers numerous health benefits, some overall risks should be considered especially for older adults. Foods typically eaten on a plant-based diet are often low in calories and protein. which if not addressed can cause health problems and malnutrition. That’s why eating a balanced diet is important for seniors. According to Harvard Medical School, here are a few of the most common deficiencies and how to avoid them.

Calcium deficiencies– Calcium is one of the most important nutrients that support strong bones and teeth. In addition, calcium also ensures the function of our muscles, cells, and nerves. Older adults should aim to consume between 1,000 and 1,2000 mg of calcium per day. Those who eat mostly plant-based can meet their calcium needs by consuming calcium-rich foods such as almonds, dark leafy greens, figs, tofu, and oranges.

Prioritize deficiencies- Protein helps maintain muscle mass and strength, promotes bone health and other physiological functions. As we age, our bodies process protein less efficiently and need more of it. This is especially true when losing weight, or upon a diagnosis of a chronic or acute illness. Some plant foods such as soy products, legumes, nuts, chia seeds, and spirulina are excellent sources of protein. Older adults should aim to consume 7 grams of protein daily for every 20 pounds of body weight.

B-12 deficiencies– Vitamin B-12 is a nutrient that generates DNA, the genetic material in all cells, and helps keep our nerve and blood cells healthy. B-12 is found in poultry, meat, fish, and dairy products in addition to some fortified foods such as plant milk and fortified cereals. It can also be taken as a supplement but be sure to consult your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet as they can often cause problems with medications.

Tips for Getting Started
If you’re interested in adopting a vegetarian diet for seniors or consuming more plant-based foods, it’s important to consult your doctor. Receiving medical clearance is highly suggested as some medications or chronic conditions may prevent you from adopting a vegetarian-based diet.
When starting, take it slowly. You might consider combining different plant food sources, such as soups, salads, and smoothies, to maximize calories and nutrients. As we age, it’s not uncommon to experience a loss of appetite or difficulties with chewing and swallowing. Find different ways to get adequate nutrition in every meal.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
– Include protein in every meal
– Eat snacks or small meals throughout the day
– Include plant-based milk in your beverages such as tea, coffee, or smoothies
– Add olive oil to your meals. You can do this by adding oil to your salads and soups
– Add nut-butters to bread, in smoothies, or on top of dairy-free yogurt

Low iron can also be an issue for older adults who don’t eat a varied diet. Iron is responsible for making red blood cells that supply oxygen throughout the body. In addition, iron also supports a healthy immune system, heals wounds, and promotes cognitive function. Whole grains, green leafy vegetables, seeds, and dried fruits provide sources of iron. Older adults who eat a plant-based diet should diversify their diet by trying new things and experimenting with different recipes.

Prioritizing Nutrition at Maplewood Senior Living
A balanced diet becomes increasingly important as we age. That’s why our culinary team at our Maplewood Senior Living communities provides residents with new recipes, fresh ingredients, and healthy meals throughout the day.
If you’re interested in learning more about our offerings or scheduling a tour, please contact us.

How to Become Your Own Health Advocate

Approximately 85% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, which means as we age we’re more likely to need additional support from our healthcare providers. It’s a common practice to take a doctor’s belief as to the final word; however, individuals need to play an active role in their own healthcare. Learning how to be an advocate for your health can help you become more confident in making decisions, nurture trusting doctor-patient relationships, and lead to better overall treatment.

Staying in Control of Your Health
Every individual deserves to have control over their healthcare, but knowing where to start might feel like a challenge. Becoming your own healthcare advocate starts by thinking about what you want out of your experience and what you need to feel confident about your healthcare-related decisions. U.S. News & World Report compiled a list of tips to help you get started. Here are a few of our favorite ways to become an advocate for your health:
Understand your medical insurance
Medical insurance can be complicated, but understanding your policy will serve you well. This insight will help you know which healthcare providers are available to you and how to budget for medical costs. If you’re 65 years and older, you’re eligible for Medicare, which is the federal health insurance program for older adults and can be broken down into four parts. You can learn more about Medicare here.

Know which questions to ask
Healthcare providers typically see several patients in one day, so you may not have much one-on-one time with your doctor. Create a list of questions and ask them at the beginning of the appointment. This can help the visit progress naturally and will ensure your most important questions get answered. Getting your questions answered is paramount to being an advocate for your own health.
Maintain your medical records
If you’re seeing a new healthcare provider or adding a specialist, consider keeping your own copy of your medical records. Most healthcare providers keep electronic copies of your records, so sharing them shouldn’t be difficult. Having your records handy puts you and your doctor on common ground, and it can expedite the process of beginning a new healthcare relationship.
Always review your medical bills
Medical bills can be difficult to understand, and reviewing them can save you money. Instead of paying your medical bill immediately, take some time to review it. Question anything that doesn’t add up or seems like an extra charge. This can also help you improve your medical literacy for the future.
Ask for a second opinion
If you don’t understand your diagnosis, receive recommendations for major non-emergency surgery, or if you don’t feel comfortable with your healthcare provider — seek a second medical opinion. A reputable physician will understand a patient’s desire for this and may even recommend another doctor. A physician’s resistance to your getting a second opinion should be seen as a red flag. A second opinion can often save you money and keep you feeling confident in your choices.
Communicate concerns and needs
The best way to advocate for your health is to communicate what you need with your healthcare provider. If you have questions about the cost of your premium, treatment plans, diagnosis, or medications — you’re within your rights to ask and get answers.

What Are You Advocating For?
Before any appointment, spend some time reflecting on what would make you feel most comfortable and cared for during a medical visit. This could be anything from the level of attentiveness from staff to the ease of parking at the office. You want to advocate for your ideal appointment, whatever that might look like. Here are a few things to consider:

Office. What does your ideal doctor’s office look like? Spend some time thinking about your expectations and start advocating for them right away. Do you want an office that is clean and organized? Do you prefer your office to have a dedicated wait space that is well maintained? Are the chairs easy to get in and out of? By evaluating the importance of these items, you’ll have a better idea of your expectations and how to seek them out.

Staff. During an ideal medical appointment, think about how you’d expect to be treated by the office staff. Are they friendly and attentive? Do they put in extra effort to explain your billing questions and professionally address your concerns? If you’re dissatisfied with the way you’re treated, mention it to your doctor. Ultimately, they’re in charge of your experience.

Practitioners. While all aspects of a medical appointment are important, it’s crucial to evaluate the expectations you have for your practitioner. What values are important for you? Is a certain amount of time with the provider an expectation? By clarifying what qualities are non-negotiable — to yourself and your provider — you’ll know when you’ve found an ideal doctor-patient relationship.

What to Do Before Your Appointment
Preparation is part of being an advocate for your health. The more prepared you are for your appointment or medical event, the more confident you’ll feel. Here are a few things you can do to get prepared:
Research your provider
Learn about your provider, especially if it’s your first time. Do an online search about them. Ask friends if they have a provider they trust and would recommend, or call the provider’s office and ask for some additional information.
Guide the conversation
If there’s certain information you want your practitioner to know before your appointment, you can always disclose any additional information when scheduling the visit. For example, if you’re overweight and you would prefer not to discuss this topic, the staff can make a note of this and share it with the healthcare provider.
Keep track of your symptoms
If you’re seeing a practitioner for a specific reason, keep track of your symptoms or whatever might be bothering you. This can help speed up the diagnosis process and help you get the right treatment quickly.

Advocating for Health at Maplewood Senior Living
Protecting the health and well-being of our residents is our priority at Maplewood Senior Living. Our communities offer high-quality care that is patient-centered and customized to meet the needs of each individual. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings or schedule a tour, please contact us. It’s a smart step toward becoming your own health advocate.