The Importance of Vitamin D as We Age

Getting enough vitamin D ensures that our bodies function well, keeps our bones strong, and may minimize the effects of some cancers. Maintaining proper levels of vitamin D is important at every age, however, it’s especially significant for older adults, who are more at risk of fall-related injuries. Without vitamin D, our bodies are unable to absorb calcium, which is the primary component of bone.

While our bodies make vitamin D when exposed to direct sunlight, many older adults don’t always get regular sun exposure and can have additional difficulties absorbing vitamin D. Although many of us are aware of the importance of vitamin D for bone health, there are many other ways vitamin D protects our bodies that are often overlooked.

At Maplewood Senior Living, your health is top priority. Our culinary teams work hard to make sure our residents are eating well as they age and keep a close eye on them to make sure they are getting all the right nutrients they need.  Read about our dining philosophy. 

Importance of Vitamin D for Seniors

Traditionally, people recognize vitamin D by its role in protecting our bones. However, researchers are beginning to accumulate more data that suggests vitamin D does much more than it’s credited. Here are some of the important functions that vitamin D plays in the body:

Bone health and calcium absorption. Vitamin D is best known for its ability to keep bones healthy by increasing the absorption of calcium. Low levels of vitamin D can significantly reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium, increasing the risk of bone fractures. Besides, weak bones can lead to loss of bone density and osteoporosis.

Working with parathyroid glands. Parathyroid glands help balance calcium in the body by communicating with the kidneys, gut, and skeleton. When there is sufficient vitamin D enabling the absorption of calcium, extra dietary calcium is put to use in other areas of the body. However, if there is a shortage of calcium being absorbed or if vitamin D is low, the parathyroid glands will take calcium from the skeleton to maintain proper levels of calcium in the blood.

Prevents cancer. Research suggests that vitamin D can help prevent certain cancers. Some data suggests that many cells in the body can activate vitamin D, helping to regulate cellular growth. In return, this can help reduce the risk of cancers like colon, breast, and prostate cancer.

Reduces the risk of cognitive decline. Older adults are more at risk of developing illnesses that can result in cognitive decline. Recent studies have suggested that low vitamin D levels in older adults are associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

It’s not uncommon for older adults to have low levels of vitamin D, especially since many lack direct exposure to sunlight. In fact, during the shorter summer months, people who live at certain latitudes don’t have enough exposure to UVB energy to make all the vitamin D they need. Many older adults can have difficulty absorbing vitamin D as a result of interactions with certain medications or due to hereditary diseases, such as familial hypophosphatemia.

Lack of vitamin D can be difficult to identify, especially in adults. Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can look like fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, muscle aches, mood changes, and depression. While there are many different causes of vitamin D deficiency, here are a few of the most common causes in older adults, according to the Cleveland Clinic:

• Age. As we age, our bodies naturally reduce vitamin D production in the skin. Researchers have found that older adults produce 50% less vitamin D when compared to younger individuals.

• Mobility. It’s not uncommon for older adults to lose physical mobility as they age. Those who are non-ambulatory might find it difficult to get direct sun exposure as often as needed.

• Skin color. Those with darker skin do not necessarily lose the ability to produce vitamin D. According to a study performed on Maasai herders, they were producing vitamin D at the same level as adults taking 3,000-5,000 units per day.

• Chronic illnesses. Diseases like Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease make it difficult for intestines to absorb vitamin D.

• Weight loss surgeries. These surgeries can make it difficult to consume and absorb sufficient amounts of nutrients and vitamins needed for our bodies to function properly. Instead, those who have undergone weight-loss surgeries may need to consume supplements to ensure their bodies are absorbing enough vitamin D.

• Obesity. Those with a body mass index greater than 30 are more at risk of testing at low levels for vitamin D. Research suggests that fat cells store vitamin D instead of releasing it throughout the body.

• Kidney and liver diseases. These diseases make it difficult for the body to transform vitamin D into a usable form. This can cause a vitamin D deficiency that will need to be monitored.

Health Risks Related to Vitamin D Deficiency

When the body detects low levels of vitamin D, it has trouble absorbing calcium, which is critical for bone health. Instead of malfunctioning, the body takes calcium that’s stored in the bones. If this continues to go unaddressed, it can increase the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, which older adults are already at an increased risk of developing.

Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to other medical problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and autoimmune conditions. Those who have low levels of vitamin D were 70% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

How to Consume More Vitamin D

Adults ages 70 and below require 600 IU of vitamin D, while adults over the age of 70 require 800 IU. While getting enough vitamin D is needed to maintain proper body functions, too much can have an adverse effect.

Vitamin D comes primarily from direct exposure to sunlight. However, we can also consume vitamin D through food sources. While most foods aren’t high in vitamin D, there are some fortified foods, like milk, cereal, and orange juice that have higher amounts of vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from fatty fishes like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, and egg yolks.

Maplewood’s Culinary Director, Chef David Simmonds gave us this delicious salmon recipe for two. He uses a variation of this in our communities.

Salmon Quilt Enroute with Mushroom Duxelle

(Mushroom stuffing, serves2)

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Norwegian Salmon Filet, 10 oz (skinless)
  • Olive oil, 2 oz
  • Mushrooms medium, 12
  • Shallots, 2 cloves peeled
  • Milk/Cream, 3 oz
  • Parmesan Cheese, 3 oz
  • Dry White wine, 4oz
  • Sea Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon
  • Puff Pastry
  • Egg, 1

Cook mushrooms with shallots, olive oil, wine, reduce on low, add milk/cream continue to reduce. Pull from heat and add to a food processer. Blend the ingredients, add parmesan cheese season to taste, and then fold in a whipped egg. Place mixture on sizzle plater. Cut the salmon into thin strips to braid. Braid the strips and place them on top of the mushroom duxelle

Brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 12 minutes or until the internal temperature is 140 degrees.  Chef Dave garnished with roasted beets, green beans, and fresh lemon.

If this isn’t enough, vitamin D supplements can be a better option. It’s always important to consult your doctor before making changes to your diet or adding in a dietary supplement, especially because too much vitamin D can be harmful to your health.

Catering to Vitamin D Needs at Maplewood Senior Living

Taking care of our bodies can feel like a full-time job. At Maplewood Senior Living, our talented staff prioritizes the health needs of all residents. Our team of chefs at each community prepares meals specifically designed to meet the needs of older adults. Maplewood’s Nutritionist, Maria Gleason, works with our culinary teams and residents to create meals that are tasty and healthy. “We make sure our menus incorporate foods that are rich in Vitamin D such as salmon, eggs, cheeses, and fortified milk and orange juice.”

If you’re interested in learning more about our special offerings or scheduling a tour, please contact us.

Living Well with Parkinson’s Disease

Have you or a loved one recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD)? Below, we outline some of the symptoms, the 5 stages, causes, and risk factors. To additionally help you during this difficult time of a recent diagnosis, we encourage you to download our complimentary Parkinson’s Disease Guide to help you through your journey.

Nearly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year and approximately 10 million people worldwide live with the disease today. By 2030, almost 1.2 million Americans will be diagnosed with PD.

According to the Mayo Clinic, PD is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. While symptoms look different for each individual, the disease can often go unnoticed in the beginning stages. PD can start with a gradual tremor in one hand, but as the disease progresses, symptoms can begin to affect both sides of the body.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Those with PD can experience both motor and non-motor symptoms. As the disease progresses, some individuals experience tremors in the face, legs, arms, and hands. It’s not uncommon for adults to experience hand trembling while resting or have the tendency to rub between the forefinger and thumb. Rigidity is also a common symptom of the disease, resulting in muscle stiffness, which can limit the range of motion and become painful, especially if it lasts for long periods of time. PD can cause delayed movements in speech and gait, such as walking with shorter steps or dragging your feet while walking. Speech can also come across with hesitation, softness, or slurring words. Many of these symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce a chemical called dopamine. When these levels become too high, it can cause abnormal brain activity. While the cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, there are some factors that can increase the risk of developing the disease later on.

Causes and Risk Factors

While researchers are continuing to study the disease to determine a cause, there are some factors that play a role in the development of PD. According to Hopkins Medicine, there are a few risk factors that can contribute to Parkinson’s disease:

Genes: There has been evidence of specific genetic mutations directly relating to PD but it is rare to develop them unless PD is present in many family members.
Environmental Triggers: It is possible that some toxins or environmental factors could contribute to getting PD. An exposure to chemicals used in farming, such as herbicides or pesticides; working with metals, solvents, and detergents could also contribute. While these may trigger PD, it is not believed they cause PD.
Lewy Bodies: Microscopic markers of PD in brain cells are called Lewy bodies. It is believed they hold an important clue to the cause of PD.
Age: It is rare for young adults to be diagnosed with PD. On average it develops mid to late in life around age 60 or older.
Heredity: While your risk may increase if you have a close relative with the PD, the risks are actually still quite small unless many relatives in your family have the disease.
Sex: Men tend to develop Parkinson’s disease more than women. In fact, one study suggests that men have a 1.5 times greater risk of developing the disease compared to women.
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What are the 5 Stages of Parkinson’s Disease?

The stages of PD may vary from person to person. The stages listed below are a guideline of what one might experience; however, everyone experiences symptoms differently. Other concurring illnesses or environmental factors may impact progression.

Stage One: Mild symptoms tend not to interfere with daily activities. A person may start to show subtle changes in posture, walking and/or facial expressions.

Stage Two: While the person may still be capable of living alone, symptoms will begin to progress. They may experience tremors, rigidity, and other movement symptoms on both sides of their body.

Stage Three: This is considered to be mid-stage. Individuals may experience a movement slowdown and loss of balance, putting them at a higher risk for falls. The individual should still be able to remain quite independent but may need assistance with tasks such as dressing and eating.

Stage Four: At this stage, symptoms will most likely begin to affect day-to-day activities. While individuals may stand unaided, they could benefit from assistance with walking, such as a walker. To ensure the individuals remain safe, work with the care team to assess for safety in the home.

Stage Five: At this stage, an individual will need 24/7 care. Mobility is compromised. They will need assistance with personal care and may need adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair. During this stage, connection, companionship, and comfort are imperative to their overall wellness.

Resources for Living a Normal Life with Parkinson’s

Learning how to cope with PD can feel like an impossible and lonely job. However, there are so many resources created specifically for those dealing with the disease. Some organizations specialize in creating resources that give comfort and support to PD patients, families, and caregivers. Here are a few of them:

For learning about the disease
The Parkinson’s Foundation offers expert briefings webinars that offer first-hand access to PD research and practical tips for managing the disease from experts. The foundation also has podcasts with topics that discuss treatments, research, clinical trials, and more.

• The Michael J. Fox Foundation has compiled a list of books and resources to teach you more about the disease and offer first-hand experiences.

For living with the disease
The Parkinson’s Resource Organization has created a virtual support group network that meets online multiple times a month. The organization has different types of meetings specifically designed for caregivers, community members, researchers, and of course, those living with the disease.

• The American Parkinson Disease Association offers a complete calendar of programs and events ranging from educational programs to tips on managing your symptoms.

For caregivers and families
• The Parkinson’s Resource Organization offers resources specifically designed for caregivers and family members. These resources include newsletters, educational meetings, and even one-on-one sessions with a PD specialist.

Navigating Parkinson’s Disease at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, our nurses meet with residents and their families, assess needs, and develop a specified plan to meet their requirements. Learning how to live with PD can be difficult for those diagnosed with the disease and their families; however, Maplewood Senior Living is dedicated to making it feel a little easier. Our complimentary and downloadable Parkinson’s Disease Guide is a comprehensive resource for families with someone who has been newly diagnosed or looking for advice as to how to proceed.

If you would like to discuss your diagnosis with someone on our team or schedule a tour, please contact us today.

Heart Health Tips for Seniors

Aside from your brain, your heart is one of the most important organs in your body. The heart is a large muscle that pumps blood into our bodies. The right-side pumps blood to the lungs and the left side receives blood from the lungs and redistributes it through the arteries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States and the statistics don’t vary much between race or ethnic groups. For older adults, maintaining heart health is the key to living a long and healthy life.

Age-Related Changes in the Heart

As we age, our bodies go through physical changes, many of which are obvious, such as the appearance of wrinkles or changes in mobility. However, some changes, like those in our heart, go unrecognized. Aging can cause changes within the heart and blood vessels that can put older adults more at risk of developing various heart conditions Increased stiffness in large arteries can lead to high blood pressure. Other changes, like those within our body’s electrical system, can cause arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeat. As we age, the chambers of the heart can increase in size, causing the heart wall to thicken and develop heart rhythm problems, such as atrial fibrillation. Fatty deposits can build up in the walls of our arteries over many years, which can ultimately lead to heart disease.

Types of Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease encompasses a wide variety of conditions and diseases that can affect our heart function and overall quality of life. While there are many types of heart conditions, here are a few of the most common among older adults:

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

This type of cardiovascular disease occurs when the coronary arteries harden and narrow, causing blockages in the vessels that provide blood to the heart. The development of CAD happens over time and can eventually restrict blood to the heart completely. This can cause a heart attack, stroke, and other heart-related diseases.

Heart attack

Heart attacks usually occur when blood is severely restricted to the heart or completely blocked off, as in the case of coronary artery disease. However, heart attacks can also occur when substances, like fat, cholesterol, and plaque, build up and restricts access to blood to the heart. Heart attacks can result in permanent damage or death to part of the heart muscle.

Arrhythmia

This occurs when the heart develops an irregular rate of rhythm. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly, causing blood to pump ineffectively to the lungs, brain, and other organs. If an arrhythmia goes untreated, it can cause damage to the organs.

Heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart’s ability to pump blood becomes weakened. Blood will eventually move throughout the body at a slower rate, increasing pressure in the heart and reducing the amount of blood and oxygen in the body’s cells.

Cardiomyopathy

This is a progressive disease that causes the heart to become enlarged and thickened, limiting the heart’s ability to pump blood. Cardiomyopathy can cause other heart conditions such as heart failure or arrhythmias.

Signs of Heart Disease

Early heart disease doesn’t normally show symptoms, that’s why visiting your doctor annually is so important. Chest pain and heart attack are usually the first signs of progressing heart disease. According to the National Institute on Aging, here are some of the most common symptoms of heart disease and heart attack:

• Chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t subside
• Pain and discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
• Weakness, light-headedness, and nausea
• Shortness of breath when active, at rest, or while lying flat
• Dizziness
• Confusion
• Cold sweats
• Tiredness or fatigue
• Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach, or neck
• Reduced ability to exercise
• Problems doing normal activities

If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your health care provider right away.

Tips for Preventing Heart Disease

While genetics can play a role in the development of heart disease, some factors can be controlled to help reduce the risk of the disease. Simple lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy and exercising consistently, can help prevent heart disease. If you’re wondering how to keep your heart healthy, here are a few simple ways:

Control portion sizes.
Eating more than you need can contribute to obesity, which is a key risk factor for heart disease. If you struggle with overeating, you might consider using a small plate or bowl to help you control your portions. Stick with high volume, low calorie, and nutrient-rich foods to help you stay full and maintain your weight.

Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Consuming a proper amount of fruits and vegetables with each meal can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Also, eating more fruits and vegetables can help you cut back on high-calorie foods. Keep fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables on hand so they are available for quick snacks and meals. Smoothies, soups, and salads are great ways to pack in servings of vegetables and fruits.

Eat whole grains.

Whole-grain foods are great sources of fiber and help regulate blood pressure and maintain heart health. You can easily add whole grains into your diet by swapping white bread for whole-grain bread and pasta. Brown rice, barley, and buckwheat are also whole-grain foods that are great for heart health.

Reduce sodium.

Consuming a lot of sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Canned vegetables and processed foods are usually high in sodium. Instead, you might consider buying low-sodium options and making foods at home. Try salt-free seasoning blends, herbs and spices, and reduced salt versions of condiments.

Exercise.
Physical activity is extremely important when it comes to protecting your heart. Just 30 minutes of activity each day will strengthen your heart and help maintain proper heart function start with activities you enjoy such as walking, dancing, bicycling, or gardening.

Quit smoking.
While smoking is dangerous by itself, it can also damage artery walls in your heart. Quitting can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer over time.

Manage stress.
Long-term stress puts pressure on the heart and can lead to high blood pressure. It’s important to learn how to manage stress and put relaxation techniques into practice. Yoga, breathing exercises, and tai chi can help manage your stress and allow you to relax, taking the pressure off your heart.

Maintaining Heart Health at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know the important role heart health plays in living a long and happy life. Heart-healthy habits are instilled in each element of living in our Maplewood communities. From our experienced team of chefs to exercise offerings and stress management activities, our goal is to keep our residents healthy and happy. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Aging without Family: Senior Orphans

As baby boomers begin to reach retirement age, many make decisions that will impact how they live the rest of their lives. While most older adults want to stay independent for as long as possible, many underestimate the care they will eventually need. According to Senior Care, 69% of Americans will require long-term care, but only 37% will plan for it in the future. As they age, many older adults will rely on family members, such as adult children or their spouse, to care for them as they need additional support. However, for senior orphans, or those who lack a family member to care for them, aging can look a lot different. Nearly one-quarter of Americans are currently or will be elder orphans in the future.

Older adults isolated for long periods are more at risk of health concerns than those who are not. Adults who consider themselves lonely can experience cognitive decline, trouble completing daily tasks, and develop heart disease and chronic illnesses. Medical complications, mental illness, mobility issues, and access to healthcare are also real concerns for socially isolated older adults. Many elder orphans do live full and happy lives, but aging can pose additional challenges preventable with proper planning.

Life Planning Tips for Seniors

While we can’t avoid the physical, emotional, and mental challenges accompanied by aging, we can prepare for them before they occur. Whether aging alone is an intentional choice or not, we should all prepare for what the future might look like if we happen to age independently. Here are a few ways to start preparing now:

Create a support team
If you are aging without family or friends who can offer you support, it’s important to build your team. Think about those you trust—perhaps a physician, clergy person, social worker, attorney, or a financial planner and ask them to be a part of your care team. Together, these individuals can work to ensure that your wishes are upheld as you age. If you are still in your working years, you may consider having these discussions with those you trust earlier. This can help you establish a care team before you need their support.

Consider how you want to age
If you foresee yourself aging alone, it’s important to think about how and where you want to spend your later years. You might consider adjusting your living situation so that weekly tasks, like going to the grocery store and doctor’s office, are feasible. Many senior orphans consider moving into communities, like assisted living or continuing care retirement communities, to better prepare for their future. These communities offer built-in social networks, easily accessible healthcare, and offer support with daily tasks.

Plan early and often
As you begin planning for the future, assess your family history. If you have a long line of heart disease, cancer, or a history of early death, you should start planning earlier and reassess your plan to reflect your needs.

Instill healthy habits
If you want to make your own decisions later in life, you have to start taking care of yourself now. Eating a healthy diet and exercising can make a positive impact on how we age. Staying engaged and active can help prevent cognitive decline and keep our brains sharp for longer.

Develop and maintain a social life
Loneliness and social isolation can lead to cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and even early mortality. The best protection against depression and loneliness is to connect with others often. Joining senior clubs, recreation centers, or volunteering can all help ward off loneliness and isolation while giving you a platform to connect with others routinely.

Challenges for Elder Orphans

Healthcare

Older adults are more at risk of developing chronic illnesses and diseases that require additional healthcare such as doctor’s visits or medication management. For those without caregivers, healthcare arrangements should be made in advance. One option is to appoint a healthcare proxy. This process legally designates a person to act on behalf of a patient and allows them to make medical decisions when necessary. While it’s best to choose someone, you’ve known for a long time, such as a friend or former colleague, social workers can also act as a healthcare proxy when necessary.

In addition to appointing someone to advocate for your healthcare needs, it’s also important to compile important documents somewhere easily accessible. This might include your living will, which will help identify your end of life wishes, as well as your do-not-resuscitate order if applicable.

Financial Planning for Seniors

Many older adults will require assistance with managing their finances, especially for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Generally, many aging adults assign their adult children to manage their finances. However, there are plenty of options for those without caregivers or family support. Here are a few things you can be doing now to ensure you’re prepared for the future:

How to Plan for Your Future Financially

• Seek Professional Help. CPA and financial advisors can help provide money management services such as paying bills, facilitating required minimum distributions, reconciling bank statements, and end of life planning.

• Authorized Signature. If you have children or friends who are long-distance, you might consider granting them permission as an authorized signature on your account. This permits them to sign checks but doesn’t give ownership of the account. This setup can be a good option for managing bills and other recurring payments. As always, you should only give financial access to those you trust completely.

• Money management programs. For those who prefer outside help, there are companies you can hire to handle bill payments and other financial matters, specifically designed to serve the elderly. You can find these programs through the America Association of Daily Money Managers.

Aging at Maplewood Senior Living

Our communities at Maplewood Senior Living offer a wide variety of services to ensure that residents feel supported, especially for those without family. Regularly scheduled activities, exercise classes, and support groups encourage residents to socialize and decrease the risk of loneliness and isolation. To learn more about our communities, please contact us.

Caregiving 101: Preventing Burnout and Maintaining Self-Care

Nearly 10,000 baby boomers reach the age of 65 every single day. As the number of baby boomers retiring begins to increase, so will the demand for caregivers. In fact, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, nearly half of older adults will require outside support by the time they reach 85 years old. Traditionally, caregivers assist older adults in daily activities such as medication management, eating, bathing, getting dressed, and running errands. Caregivers can be unpaid family members or professionals who are hired by the individual or the family to assist a loved one. While caregiving is a rewarding profession, it can also be emotionally and physically demanding. Over time, it’s not uncommon for caregivers to experience stress, which can ultimately lead to caregiver burnout.

What is caregiver burnout?

Caregiver burnout occurs as a reaction to the emotional and physical strain of caring for another person. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to report high levels of stress when compared to those who are not caregivers. While caregiver stress can show up in different ways, some warning signs are common amongst caregivers according to the Mayo Clinic:

Caregiver Burnout Symptoms

• Feeling overwhelmed and worried
• Fatigue
• Gaining or losing weight
• Becoming irritated or angry
• Losing interest in activities
• Experiencing headaches or body aches
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
• Feeling sad
• Lack of concentration

When these warning signs are ignored, it can lead to dangerous mistakes, such as making errors in managing medications or slower responses in emergencies. When caregiver stress goes unacknowledged for long periods, it can also lead to long-term health concerns.

Long-term effects of caregiving on health

Caregivers can experience a wide range of emotions in a single week, let alone a single day. Caregiving can reinforce feelings of helpfulness, love, and commitment, and provoke feelings of worry and exhaustion at the same time. When left unidentified, chronic stress releases stress hormones in the body, which can have serious long-term effects on your health. Here are some of the most common ways stress can affect the body:

Depression and anxiety. Long-term stress can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, which can increase your risk of developing other conditions like heart disease and stroke.

Weakened immune system. When stress is left unacknowledged it can cause additional stress on your immune system. The immune system works to fight off illnesses and diseases. Weakened immune systems can increase your risk of developing a cold or flu, and reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

Obesity. Chronic stress can produce betatrophin, which blocks a protein that breaks down body fat. Long-term release of betatrophin can lead to weight gain or obesity, which can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Increased risk for chronic diseases. Ongoing stress can also increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.

Problems with short-term memory. Those who experience high levels of stress can also develop problems with their short-term memory, making it difficult to care for another person.

Self-care for caregivers

While stress is common for caregivers, leaving it unaddressed can cause long-term problems on our overall health and wellness. Our bodies have a natural way of combatting stress, which is regulated by our nervous system. However, if you’re experiencing high levels of stress, you may need to activate your body’s natural response through a variety of activities. Here are a few ways to help address stress and prevent feelings of burnout:

• Practice self-compassion. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to feel like they’re not doing enough for their loved one. This can lead to feelings of guilt, especially when caregivers take time to care for themselves. However, practicing self-care allows a caregiver to be present and focused when caring for a loved one.

• Practice breathing exercises. Meditation and relaxation techniques have been proven to be effective ways to process and redirect feelings of stress. Taking five minutes at the beginning or end of the day to breathe deeply or practice meditation will help you relax your body. Here are a few exercises to get started.

Eat well. Forgetting to eat or not getting enough quality sleep can contribute to caregiver stress and burnout. The simplest thing caregivers can do for themselves is eating a balanced diet and create a relaxing nighttime routine. To prevent inflammation in the body, avoid foods that are processed and high in refined sugars. Focus on eating foods that are high in nutrients, protein, and fiber.

Connect with others. Caregiving can be isolating, especially for those caring for a spouse or family member. Reconnecting with others and prioritizing socialization can help combat feelings of isolation and depression. You might even consider scheduling social activities, like talking to a friend on the phone, into your weekly calendar.

Reduce stress. It’s important to be able to recognize warning signs that might occur when you begin to feel stressed. These signs might include disruptive sleeping patterns, forgetfulness, or feelings of loneliness. Once you understand what is at the root of your stress, you can begin to take action.

Ask for help. It can be extremely difficult for caregivers to accept help. But, accepting someone’s offer to help can allow you to manage your stress and conserve your energy. Make a mental list of ways that others could help you if they offer and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Start to exercise. Consistent daily exercise can help reduce your risk of caregiving related injuries, illness, depression, and anxiety. A mind-body practice such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation can help reduce stress. Just 30 minutes of exercise each day can promote better sleep, help manage your sleep, and reduce physical and mental tension.

Services for caregivers

In addition to prioritizing self-care, there are many resources available to caregivers who may be feeling overwhelmed or burnt out. Many communities offer meal delivery and other non-medical services like housekeeping, cooking, and making changes to your home like installing ramps or modifying bathrooms. Respite care, which is when a substitute comes to relieve a caregiver, can help free up time for full-time caregivers who may need to run errands or schedule appointments. The National Eldercare Locator can help you identify caregiving services in your area.

Caregiving support at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we are constantly looking for new ways to show our support to caregivers. We also are available to discuss options to relieve the strain of caregiving if having your loved one live in one of our communities would be a more suitable option. If you’re interested in learning about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Supplements for Seniors: What’s Good for an Aging Body?

Prioritizing our health through exercise, diet, and lifestyle choices can impact how we age and our quality of life. However, how we take care of our bodies will start to change, especially as we age. According to the World Health Organization, “requirements for some nutrients might be reduced, and some data suggests that requirements for other essential nutrients may rise later in life.” As we age, it’s important to reevaluate our diets and make changes to meet the evolving needs of our bodies. While we all age differently, there are a few common changes that happen to our bodies as we age.

How Our Bodies Change as We Age

Our bodies are constantly changing throughout our lives. Our needs as teenagers are drastically different from the needs we have as small children. Similarly, as we age, our bodies require different amounts of vitamins and other nutrients for many different reasons. Here are a few of the most common reasons, as reported by U.S. News and World Report.

Dietary Needs.

In addition to a slowed metabolism, older adults often become less active, which can cause them to eat less or not feel as hungry. Aging adults can also experience a diminished sense of taste, which can take some of the pleasure out of eating. While older adults require less food in general, this also means they need to meet their nutritional requirements in smaller quantities of food which can be challenging.

• Medications can often interfere with the way our bodies absorb nutrients and vitamins into our bloodstream. For example, long-term use of diuretics can inhibit the absorption of folate, which generates red blood cells and DNA.

Findings have suggested that as we age, our bodies’ ability to absorb and utilize nutrients becomes less efficient, which can cause our nutrient requirements to increase over time.

Physical Changes.

Other physical changes can affect hunger cues and the ability to eat and digest food. For example, many older adults experience a decline in their oral health, such as reduced saliva flow, which can make it difficult to chew and swallow.

Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Older Adults

These changes in our bodies can cause nutrient deficiencies, which can impact our overall health, quality of life, and longevity. Here are a few of the most common deficiencies in older adults:

Vitamin B12. It can be difficult for older adults to absorb this vitamin from food as well as they could in younger years. Vitamin B12 is responsible for creating red blood cells, DNA, and maintaining nerve function. Even if your diet contains enough B12, which is found in fish, meat, milk products, and eggs, it’s not uncommon for older adults to miss their daily requirements.

Folate. Too little of this vitamin can lead to anemia, which can cause a variety of health issues. Older adults whose diets don’t include fresh vegetables, fruits, or breakfast cereals may be falling short on folate.

Calcium. We need calcium to maintain bone strength, which is especially important as older adults are more at risk of fall-related injuries. Too little calcium, which is found in dairy products, can lead to brittle bones and fractures.

Vitamin D. We produce Vitamin D when we’re exposed to the sun, but we can also consume it through Vitamin D fortified foods like some juices, yogurt, and milk. Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium, maintain bone strength, and protects us from chronic diseases.

Potassium. This mineral is also important for keeping our bones strong, in addition to reducing high blood pressure and kidney stones. Potassium is found in fruits and vegetables.

Magnesium. The absorption of magnesium reduces in age and can be difficult to absorb when taking certain medications. Magnesium is extremely important for older adults as it helps to build our immunity, keep our hearts healthy, and build strong bones.

Fiber. Fiber helps our digestive system function properly and can also protect against heart disease. Most people only get half of the recommended levels of fiber from their diets. Foods like whole grains, nuts, beans, vegetables, and fruits are high in fiber.

Managing Your Needs through Supplements

Many of the deficiencies we might experience as we age can be addressed by making changes to our diet. However, sometimes even that might not be enough. Supplements can help you achieve your daily nutritional requirements in addition to making small changes to your diet. It’s important to note that supplements can interfere with certain medications, so it’s crucial to consult your doctor before adding in supplements. Here are a few supplements that can be helpful for older adults:

Fish Oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids and support cardiovascular health. Some researchers suggest that this supplement can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, prostate cancer, and depression.

Calcium is stored in our bones and teeth and plays an important role in preventing bone decay in older adults. Calcium is found in dairy products, but it can be hard to consume the proper amount, especially for those who have food allergies.

Probiotics are a class of bacteria that help the digestive system function properly. They also work to keep the gut healthy, which some researchers suggest is linked to our brain health.

Potassium can be hard to absorb, especially for people with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Some medications can also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb potassium. Potassium supplements can help reduce the risk of kidney stones and monitor blood pressure levels.

Tips for Taking Dietary Supplements

Before you start taking dietary supplements, it is strongly advised to check with your healthcare provider because some supplements can react with medications and can actually be detrimental to your health if you have other health concerns. Be sure to take the correct dosage. Purchase from third party verified sources to ensure they are safe and high quality.

Products marked with USP or NSF on the label are more reliable. And, be sure to monitor any side effects. If you experience vomiting, bone pain, constipation, diarrhea, or headaches, be sure to consult your healthcare provider.

Aging Gracefully at Maplewood Senior Living

Health is always a priority at Maplewood Senior Living. Our culinary teams in our communities provide healthy, well-balanced meals designed to meet the various needs of our residents. Our medical team is also available to answer any dietary or nutrition-related questions. If you are interested in learning more about our communities, please contact us.

The Importance of Dental Health for Seniors

Our oral health is more important than we might realize. Our mouths act as the entry point to our digestive and respiratory tracts. Along with our body’s natural defenses, proper oral care, like brushing our teeth and flossing, work to keep bacteria under control. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 35% of seniors in the U.S. do not undergo an annual dental visit.

As we age, our risk of developing oral health problems can increase, putting us at risk of developing dental-related illnesses and diseases. Many older adults rely on medication for various health concerns, which can harm their oral health. While taking care of our teeth might seem like a small issue, ignoring our dental health can impact our overall wellness in different ways.

Oral Health Concerns for Older Adults

As they advance in age, older adults are more susceptible to oral health problems that can negatively impact one’s quality of life. Here are a few of the most common oral health issues among older adults:

Tooth and root decay
According to the CDC,  1 in 4 older adults have untreated tooth decay. The tooth roots become exposed as gum tissue begins to recede from the tooth, causing toothaches, difficulties eating, chewing, and swallowing. Those with severe cases might also experience swelling and pus around the tooth.

Periodontal/Gum disease
This disease is caused by plaque build-up and can be made worse by tobacco use, improper bridges and dentures, poor diets, and food left in the teeth. Also, cancers, anemia, and diabetes can increase the risk of gum disease. Gum disease is common in older adults and while adults living with it has decreased since the 1970’s thanks to better dental health, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2004), approximately 17.2% of seniors over 65 have gum disease and 10.5% have it severally.

Tooth darkening and loss
As we age, our enamel layer weakens, allowing dentin, or the tissue underneath the enamel, to show through, causing the teeth to appear yellow. While darkened teeth can be caused by consuming stain-causing foods and beverages, it can also be a sign of a more serious issue.

Oral cancer
Oral and pharyngeal cancers are most common in older adults. Many people are diagnosed around 62 years old.

Dry mouth
Medications, cancer treatments, and other underlying diseases or conditions can lead to dry mouth. The reduction in saliva flow can dramatically increase the risk of cavities.

Impaired taste
Loss of taste is not uncommon in older adults, but poor dental health can contribute. Diseases, medications, and dentures can all increase the risk of decreased taste.

Oral Hygiene Tips for Seniors

The good news is that dental care is something that can be done easily from the comfort of your own home. In addition to getting an annual dental exam, you can also follow these simple steps to reduce the risk of infection, disease, and overall poor dental health.

Practice good hygiene. Brushing and flossing your teeth every day can help remove plaque, which causes tooth decay and gum disease. Consider using fluoride toothpaste, a soft-bristle toothbrush, and brush after breakfast and before going to sleep. If you have trouble flossing, there are alternatives such as a pick or handheld flossing brush. Be sure to take out dentures for at least 4 hours or overnight and clean them regularly.
Monitor changes in your oral health. While we’re used to monitoring changes in our skin, like texture or moles, we need to do the same in our mouths. If you notice a new sore spot, lump, or white patch in your mouth, you should consult your doctor or dentist.
See your dentist regularly. While dental needs vary from person to person, most dentists recommend one to two checkups and cleanings per year. You might consider consulting your dentist to see what your individual needs are to maintain proper oral health.
Lead a healthy lifestyle. Our diets and lifestyles can have an impact on our oral health. Having a healthy diet and limiting sugary foods and drinks can help prevent tooth decay. Smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco can increase your risk of gum disease and mouth cancer.
Consult your doctor. If you’re experiencing dry mouth, make sure to consult your doctor. Dry mouth can make eating and talking difficult and increase your risk of tooth decay and infection.

What Happens During a Dental Exam

If it’s been a while since your last dental exam or you are preparing for a visit to a new dentist, you can expect your dentist to ask you the following questions about your dental history:

• When was your last dental appointment?
• Have you noticed any changes occurring in your mouth?
• Are you experiencing any tooth sensitivity?
• Do you have trouble chewing, tasting, or swallowing?
• Are you having any pain, discomfort, soreness, or bleeding?

After your dentist goes through your history, they will proceed with the examination by evaluating your skin for moles or discoloration, your bite, jaw, salivary glands and lymph nodes, interior cheeks, your tongue, and other inner areas.

Your dentist will also check your dentures to see if there are any cracks or worn out spaces. If you’re nervous about your exam, you can always call ahead of time and ask the dental staff what to expect upon your visit.

Paying for Dental Care

Traditional Medicare plans don’t cover routine dental care. Instead, organizations like AARP offer supplemental insurance plans for their members and cover dental cleanings and exams. Discount dental plans are also a good option for those looking for coverage. You can search for a reduced dental plan through the National Association of Dental Plans. Once you select a dentist within the network, you can expect to pay between 10 to 60% less than the typical fee.

Dental Care at Maplewood Senior Living

Our communities at Maplewood Senior Living provide robust healthcare services, including dental care for residents.

Brian Geyser, APRN-BC, MSN, VP Clinical Innovation & Population Health at Maplewood Senior Living told us, “We know good oral health is critical for older adults. Taking good care of the mouth and teeth not only reduces the possibility of gum disease, dry mouth, oral cancer, and infection, but it can help prevent things like pneumonia, heart disease, hypertension, and other non-oral conditions. That’s why we offer on-site dental services in all of our Maplewood communities.”

If you’re interested in hearing more about our offerings, or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Winter Exercises for Seniors

Exercise is important at every age but especially for older adults. As we age, our muscle mass decreases, which can make completing daily tasks more difficult. People who exercise tend to have improved immune and digestive functioning, lower blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Exercise can also help decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer. However, as temperatures drop during the winter months, it can be tempting to abandon our regular exercise habits. Research has shown that just 30 minutes of exercise each day can ward off the health risks related to inactivity.

Risks of Physical Inactivity in Older Adults

It’s not uncommon for older adults to be less active than they were in their younger years. By age 75, nearly one in three men and one in two women engage in little to no physical activity. Physical inactivity can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, obesity, a weakened immune system, poor blood circulation, increased inflammation, and loss of muscle mass. Those who are physically inactive are also at greater risk of losing their independence sooner than those who maintain a physically active lifestyle. While exercising all year long is imperative for overall health, it is important to keep up with wintertime exercises as well.

Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

It’s tempting to call it quits on your exercise routine when it’s cold outside. Working to maintain your fitness even during the winter months will help you live a long and active life. Here are some of the benefits that come with wintertime exercise:

Strengthen your heart
Each time you exercise, you help strengthen your heart and improve cardiovascular endurance. Maintaining a consistent exercise schedule can make your heart muscle strong and help you cope with various life stressors. Exercising in cold weather can make the heart work harder to distribute blood throughout the body. These can enhance cardiovascular health for those who exercise regularly. Be sure to consult your doctor before participating in new exercises, especially in cold weather.

Stay hydrated
In general, older adults are more at risk of dehydration, but this risk can increase during the winter months. We’re more likely to feel less thirsty during the winter, but our bodies still need to be hydrated. Exercise can cause us to sweat and act as a reminder to drink water and consume more hydrating foods.

Beat the winter blues
As the weather changes and our exposure to sunlight decreases, it’s not uncommon to feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder. However, research has shown that exercise can improve your mood by releasing serotonin and dopamine, which act as natural mood boosters.

Stay energized
Winter weather can make you feel lethargic and lacking energy. Moving the body is a great way to revive you and make you feel more alert.

Improve the quality of sleep
Research has shown that people who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may see a difference in sleep quality at night. Experts suggest you choose an exercise such as yoga or walking to elevate your heart rate. These also encourage the biological processes in the brain and body that contribute to high-quality sleep.

Boost your immune system
Our immune systems work to help fight off illnesses like the common cold and flu. A consistent exercise regime can strengthen our immune system. Exercise helps to ward off illness and keep us healthy all winter long.

Reduce the effects of cabin fever
Being confined to home during the winter months can make us feel anxious, restless, and disconnected from others. Don’t be afraid to step outside or go for a walk during the winter. Be sure to dress appropriately and avoid going outdoors if there is ice or snow in the walkways.

Enjoy holiday treats
The holiday season is notorious for sugary and high-fat treats such as pies, cookies, casseroles, and other baked goods. While exercise is more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle than burning calories, it is wise to keep a healthy balance while indulging in treats and comfort foods.

Exercises to do Indoors for Seniors

Staying active each day can vastly improve our health. Research has shown that adults who exercised decreased their risk of injury and disability by 25%. The winter weather can present obstacles to exercising, but it shouldn’t stop you from being active.

Cheryl Kearney, Lifestyle Director at Maplewood at Mayflower Place told us, “Our motto here at Mayflower Place is “Senior Fitness for Healthier Living.” Our fitness instructors are awesome! Residents can go to the gym, swim in the pool, have 1-1 room visits, or attend balance classes. It is our priority to make everyone steadier on their feet. They can join a stretching class, yoga, walking groups plus we offer group exercises 3x a day 4 days a week at varied times to accommodate their busy schedules. One of the benefits of exercise is a decreased risk of falls. Exercise improves not only improves mental health as well as emotional well- being but it is also great for social engagement.”

Here are a few easy exercises you can do indoors or from the comfort of your own home.

• Indoor walking. Walking outside during inclement winter weather can be dangerous. Instead, try walking inside a public space like a shopping mall or museum.

• Stretching. Stretching is the most important way to prepare for exercise, but it’s also beneficial by itself. Stretching can decrease the risk of injury and helps increase flexibility and strength.

• Swimming. Swimming in an indoor pool is low impact and is especially beneficial for those with joint pain or osteoporosis. Research has shown that swimming can improve muscle and heart strength and reduce stress.

• Fitness apps and videos. Streaming a workout from your laptop or another smart device is just a click away. Apps like Yoga Pocket and Tai Chi for Seniors offer classes for free or at a low cost. They are easy to do in the comfort of your own home. YouTube also offers a wide variety of free exercise classes, especially for seniors.

• Wii games. The Nintendo Wii makes fitness fun with its virtual games that get you moving into a full-body workout. You can play by yourself or with a friend!

• Strength exercises. Strength Training is an option for active adults who want to exercise and strengthen their muscles. These strength exercises use your body weight to improve muscular strength and mobility. You can find a complete list of strength training exercises specifically for older adults here.

Tai Chi.

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that practices meditation in motion. These low-impact, slow-paced movements are perfect for seniors who want to improve their balance, strength, and increase range of motion. Tai Chi is known to help improve self-confidence, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Here are a few poses for beginners:

Touch the Sky

• Start by sitting comfortably in a chair
• Place your arms in your lap, palms turned upward, fingers pointing towards one another
• As you inhale, raise hands to your chest, turn palms outward and lift hands above your head
• On an exhale, relax your arms and lower them to your sides
• Return your hands to the starting position
• Repeat ten times

Hand Exercise

• Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width distance apart
• Raise arms out in front of you
• Flex your hands and feel the stretch, rotate your wrists to the left and then to the right

Stay Moving at Maplewood Senior Living

Health is our number one priority at Maplewood Senior Living. We have many fitness and exercise programs in each of our communities that promote wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle for all residents. To talk more or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Understanding Dementia and Alzheimer’s: What is Sundowning?

Worldwide, nearly 50 million people are living with dementia with 10 million new cases being diagnosed each year. While each individual can experience various symptoms and side effects, sundowning is common in the later stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. According to a journal published by the US National Library of Medicine, as many as 20% of dementia patients experience sundowning. Sundowning, also known as “late-day confusion” can cause symptoms such as confusion and agitation that worsen later in the day.

As the evening and nighttime approaches, sundowning can often trigger sudden changes in cognition and emotions. Behavior changes can range in each person but often include suspicion, hallucinations, confusion, and anger.

Sundowning Symptoms

Individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can become disoriented and confused quite easily, especially during the later stages of the disease. With this, many patients become more vulnerable to sundowning and the symptoms that come with it. Many will experience confusion, anxiety, and agitation beginning later in the day. Sundowning can also interrupt sleep schedules, which can lead to additional behavioral problems.

While researchers don’t know exactly what causes sundowning, some factors can make it worse. These factors can include:

• Mental and physical exhaustion and fatigue
• Reduced lighting and increased shadows
• Reactions to nonverbal cues from caregivers who may be feeling frustrated and exhausted themselves
• Consumption of caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
• Disruption in circadian rhythms
• Thirst and hunger
• Stress and depression

How to Cope with Sundowning Symptoms

Many people experiencing sundowning might cope with what they’re feeling by pacing, rocking, screaming, or even becoming violent. For some, the behaviors might leave quickly, but for others, these behaviors can last for hours and severely interrupt their sleep schedules. Seeing your loved one suffer or caring for someone who experiences sundowning can be awful and leave you feeling hopeless. However, there are many different ways you can work to help manage these symptoms and lessen their severity.

Minimize Triggers
When your loved one has a sundowning episode, record what happened before, during, and after. Look for patterns in their behavior and try to identify some of their triggers. For some, triggers might look like fatigue, cross-talk during meal times, loud noises from the television, or a change in caregiver.

Maintain Routines
If your loved one isn’t sleeping well at night, make sure to minimize napping during the day. Keep your evenings quiet and peaceful by avoiding stressful tasks and prioritize activities during the daytime. Regular daily schedules can help your loved one feel safe and secure, so try and establish a routine that is easy to follow each day.

Simplify Surroundings
Too much clutter or stimulation can cause anxiety and stress, both of which have been linked to sundowning. Experts suggest creating a calm space wherever your loved one sleeps. This includes setting the temperature between 68-70 degrees, using light-blocking curtains, and installing night-lights for safety.

Increase Light Exposure
Sundowning often occurs during the evening and can be brought on by the transition of daylight into the evening darkness. Keep your house well lit, especially during the evening, and make sure your loved one is exposed to direct sunlight as much as possible. If this isn’t possible, use bright lights or a lightbox in their room.

Play Calming Music
Music has shown to have healing properties for those suffering from memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Music can provoke memories and act as a mood booster. You might consider playing calming music throughout the day, but be sure to monitor the volume, as loud noises can be confusing and cause agitation.

Use Essential Oils
Essential oils can be great tools to use for calming and soothing your loved one. Scents like lavender and chamomile can be diluted and used as aromatherapy during the evening to promote feelings of calmness and safety. If your loved one needs help with waking up or completing activities, you might consider using grapefruit, lemon, or orange scents. Essential oils are wonderful tools when used properly, but make sure to do your research before using them and never apply them directly to the skin.

Connect Through Touch
Physical touch can be a great way to ease anxiety and transition into the evening. You might consider giving your loved one a hand or foot massage or gently massaging their head. Even a simple hug can help break the cycle of anxiety and stress.

Acupuncture
Acupuncture can be used to treat anxiety, stress, and depression and is especially helpful for those suffering from dementia. You might consider asking your doctor to refer you to an acupuncturist who specializes in dementia or is familiar with the disease.

Adjust Eating Patterns
Large meals before bedtime can cause agitation and disrupt sleep patterns. You might consider serving a light meal for dinner and limiting heavy foods and caffeine for lunchtime. This can help reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of sundowning.

Coping Strategies for Sundowning

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia comes with many challenges, especially when dealing with sundowning. Here are a few ways you can cope with sundowning while also making sure to care for yourself.

• Talk to a doctor. If you need additional assistance, consider making an appointment with your loved one’s healthcare provider. Many times, they can offer support and medication when necessary.
• Recognize your own needs. Caregiving is a rewarding and exhausting job. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, your loved one might be able to recognize these emotions and begin to feel the same way. Try to manage your stress and anxiety by taking time for yourself.
• Share your experience with others. You are not alone! The Alzheimer’s Association has an online support community where caregivers share their own experiences and support those in the same position. These groups allow others to share strategies and inspire others.

Sundowning Support at Maplewood Senior Living

Navigating Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be extremely challenging. However, our Maplewood Senior Living communities offer support groups and activities for those who have been diagnosed and their caregivers.

Krystal Martin, Memory Care Director at Maplewood at Chardon suggests “A short nap in the early afternoon (20-30 minutes) can help to re-energize the person and prevent the tired, “want-to-go” feelings. Knowing about the person can help the caregiver—whether a family member, professional caregiver or a caregiver in the assisted living setting—can assist to help the person navigate through this challenge.

Helping the person maintain familiar routines can help minimize feelings of restlessness and anxiety and ultimately agitation. As the day gets later, allow activities to wind down, planning more relaxing and less involved activities. Playing familiar music that invites positive, warm feelings can help to calm the person. Finally, if the person is still feeling anxious or restless, validate their emotions, empathize with how they might be feeling and join them in their reality rather than attempting to orient to the here-and-now.”

If you would like to learn more about our Memory Care offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

The Many Health Benefits of Chocolate

The way we choose to fuel our bodies is important no matter our age. Food gives us energy, keeps our bodies functioning, and helps control our weight. When fueled properly, our diet can also help prevent some diseases and protect our brain health. As we age, our dietary needs change and the food we consume becomes more important. You may think you have to cut out or restrict the foods you enjoy the most that aren’t as nutrient-dense as others. However, that’s not the case with chocolate. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and packed with nutrients, which makes this treat a superfood. While this may come as a surprise, you might find chocolate’s unique history even more intriguing.

The History of Chocolate

Most of us know chocolate as a dessert bar, however, 90 % of chocolate’s history comes in the form of a beverage. The word “chocolate” can be traced back to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which refers to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. It’s estimated that chocolate has been around for over 2,000 years. Both the Mayans and the Aztecs believed that the cacao bean had magical properties and was often used in rituals during birth, death, and marriage. During the 17th century, Europeans began using chocolate in the form of a beverage, which was believed to have healing properties and often used for medicinal purposes. By 1828, a Dutch chemist discovered powdered chocolate by removing some of the natural fat in cacao. This eventually led to the creation of solid chocolate. In 1868, Cadbury was the leading manufacturer of boxed chocolate, followed shortly by Nestle. Today, chocolate can be found in most stores and on every dessert menu. While most of us recognize chocolate for its delicious taste, many are unaware of its health benefits

Is Chocolate Healthy For You?

Made from the seed of the cacao tree, dark chocolate is filled with nutrients that can lower the risk of heart disease and also acts as one of the most powerful antioxidants in the world. Dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao or higher has more antioxidants than even green tea and red wine and can also help reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. Real data suggests that eating just one ounce of dark chocolate a day can lead to a wide variety of health benefits:

Prevents heart disease

One of the most impactful benefits of dark chocolate is its ability to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. A study published by Clinical Nutrition found that “people who ate dark chocolate more than five times a week reduced their risk of heart disease by nearly 57%.” Flavonoids present in dark chocolate help reduce nitric oxide, causing our blood vessels to relax and ultimately lower our blood pressure.

Improves brain function

Eating dark chocolate may help improve brain function and decrease the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Findings from a study conducted by researchers at the Autonomous University of Baja California suggest that the flavanols in dark chocolate can help enhance the brain’s neuroplasticity, which ultimately helps improve brain function and cognitive skills.

Reduces the risk of diabetes

Those who have diabetes are traditionally insulin resistant and suffer from high blood sugar. Studies have shown that dark chocolate can help improve our ability to process glucose, and over time can reduce the risk of diabetes. A study published in January 2017 found that those who did not consume chocolate had twice the risk of developing diabetes within five years when compared to those who consumed dark chocolate at least once per week.

Aids in weight loss

Quality dark chocolate with a high cacao content is filled with soluble fiber, minerals, and is actually very nutritious. Dark chocolate is high in manganese, copper, magnesium, iron and low in polyunsaturated fat. Eating a small amount of dark chocolate after a meal, especially if you crave sweets, can trigger hormones that communicate a feeling of fullness to your brain. This can stop sugar cravings, help with weight loss, and decrease your risk of overeating after meals.

Can Help Prevent cancer

Antioxidants help protect our cells from free radicals which can cause damage to our bodies over time. When our bodies have too many free radicals attacking our cells, we’re more at risk of developing diseases and even cancers. Dark chocolate, which is packed with antioxidants, also contains cancer-fighting properties and is thought to decrease our risk of developing certain cancers.

3 Ways to Serve Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate can taste very bitter, especially if you prefer eating milk chocolate but want the same health benefits. The good news is it doesn’t take much to make dark chocolate taste delicious. As you look for ways to add dark chocolate into your diet, here are a few delicious ways to serve it:

• Melt. By placing dark chocolate in the microwave for a short time or on the stovetop stirring consistently, it becomes a sauce that is delicious over oatmeal, ice cream, fruit, or even graham crackers.
• Shave it. To eliminate some bitterness, try shaving small curls of dark chocolate to pair with dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, or even on top of frozen yogurt.
• Blend it. Using cacao powder as your base and add a frozen banana to make dairy-free ice-cream. You can also add cacao powder to your smoothies to give a chocolate flavor.

We asked Alan Livingston, Culinary Director at Maplewood at Cuyahoga Falls how he feels about chocolate, clearly, he loves it, “In the dessert world, chocolate is the epitome of comfort. Melted chocolate, chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, hot chocolate, chocolate cream pie, chocolate truffles, or just a chocolate bar. How do they make you feel? For me, the experience is calming and joyful, brings back good memories, and helps me live in the moment.

From rich, dark chocolate to white chocolate (technically not really chocolate, but who cares!), the possibilities of what you can create are endless. It’s hard to believe that chocolate as we know it has only been around since the early 1500s when it was first bought back to Spain.”
He added, “For me as a chef, the best moments are when I can create something with chocolate that puts a smile on someone’s face or helps them to just take a second in an otherwise hectic day and to appreciate the simple things.” Chef Livingston gave us this simple recipe that can be used for gift-giving any time of year but especially at the holidays.

Dark and Milk Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:
Two 11oz bags of Ghirardelli chocolate chips, one dark, and one milk chocolate
2 cups of crushed peppermint

Equipment:
½ sheet tray (standard size) lined with either parchment paper or a silicone baking matt
Offset spatula
A whisk or spoon for stirring
Small heatproof bowl, glass or metal and a pot with water

Directions:
Place 1 ½ bags of the chocolate (1 bag milk and half the dark) in a bowl over a pot with simmering water and melt the chocolate.
You do not want the bowl touching the water, and you want the water simmering, not boiling. It does not take a lot of heat to melt chocolate, and you don’t want to overheat it. Chocolate is temperature-sensitive. (Remember, it can melt in your hand)
After the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and add remaining dark chocolate, whisk or stir together until all the chocolate has melted and there are no lumps. It should look glossy. This is a quick method of tempering chocolate. (See note below)
Spread the chocolate onto the parchment using the offset spatula, then sprinkle the peppermint on top and press gently into chocolate.
Let sit in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to set up, remove, and break into pieces.
Variations:
Dried fruit of any sort. Apricots, cranberries, strawberries, etc.
Almonds or walnuts
*Tempering controls the crystals so that only consistently small crystals are produced, resulting in much better-quality chocolate, and gives you that snap.

Eating Smart at Maplewood Senior Living

We know how important diet is when it comes to living a long and healthy life. Our food service teams at each Maplewood Senior Living community prioritize fresh, local, and healthy ingredients in each meal they prepare—including dessert! To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.