What Malnutrition in Seniors Looks Like

When we think of malnutrition in seniors, it’s common to envision an older adult who looks frail and underweight. However, malnutrition doesn’t only happen to those who lack access to healthy foods or suffer from hunger. Malnutrition is widely prevalent in older adults, and because the signs and symptoms can be hidden from others, it often goes unidentified.

Maplewood’s dietician, Maria Gleason, explained how seniors can lose track of what they are eating and its nutritional value, “I feel that malnutrition sneaks up on the elderly. Some causes are related to a decline in a medical condition such as chewing or swallowing difficulties. Because of this, they may eat less protein, such as meat, cheeses, and nuts.  We find they are usually less social, show signs of physical and mental decline which may make food preparation more difficult, especially if they are on their own at home. As people age, they need more nutrients because their bodies are less efficient at using them. Most elderly people eat less which can lead to muscle wasting, which then can lead to falls. They also experience a decrease in taste, smell and appetite which additionally leads to eating less.”

Malnutrition can look different on each individual and can take place in those who are both underweight and overweight. Older adults can become malnourished for several reasons. Some chronic diseases, which are prevalent among older adults, can increase the risk of developing malnutrition. Cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic conditions can affect our appetite and eating habits, change our metabolism and cause other changes in our dietary needs. Often, it’s a combination of physical, social, and physiological issues that lead to malnutrition, especially in older adults.

Causes of Malnutrition in Older Adults
Malnutrition in seniors is a common yet under-recognized problem. While the causes of malnutrition might seem obvious, it’s a more complex phenomenon than most understand. Malnutrition can be caused and exacerbated by different factors, all of which can harm one’s long-term health. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of malnutrition in seniors include the following:

Age-related changes. As we age we undergo physical changes that can affect appetite. Our senses of taste, smell and hunger levels can decline with age, which reduce the urgency and enjoyment that we normally associate with eating. Activity levels are likely to decrease over time too, which may slow metabolism and overall appetite.
Living alone. Older adults who live alone are more likely to experience feelings of depression, which can cause a lack of appetite. A person who lives alone will more often miss out on the social pleasure of companionship-dining or may become disinterested in preparing food for only themself. Older adults living alone are more likely to lose track of their nutrition and eating habits than those who live in residential communities.
Dental problems. Those with poor dental health might find it painful to chew and swallow, making eating meals a difficult experience.
Dementia. Cognitive issues caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia can make it difficult to remember to replenish food supplies, prepare meals, or even eat.
Interacts with medications. As older adults work to manage chronic conditions or illness through medication, side effects can cause changes in appetite. Some medications can cause problems with absorbing nutrients, contributing to malnutrition.
Restricted diets. Dietary restrictions, such as limiting salt, fat, and sugar, can lead to inadequate eating and malnutrition.

Effects of Malnutrition on the Body
According to the National Council on Aging, malnutrition threatens our overall health. Malnutrition can weaken bones and muscles, which can make everyday tasks feel difficult and even unsafe. Our mobility, posture, and overall strength will decline when we’re malnourished and increase our risk of fall-related injuries.
When our bodies lack proper nutrition, our immune systems suffer. Our nutrition intake can influence how we recover from injury, respond to chemotherapy and fight off illnesses. When we are undernourished, our bodies lack the energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals to protect themselves.
Severe malnutrition can also harm our organs and damage their ability to function. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which often accompany malnutrition, can accelerate eye disease that can ultimately lead to vision loss. Those who are malnourished can lose neurons in the brain, which can impair speech, decision-making, and memory.

Monitoring Nutrition and Preventing Malnutrition
For older adults who live alone and without care, malnutrition can be hard to identify without knowing the risk factors. Those who live in assisted living facilities or retirement communities traditionally have access to a wider range of nutritious foods and have staff available to monitor their nutrition. Caregivers and family members should consider the following tips to monitor their loved one’s nutrition and prevent malnourishment:

Monitor weight
Tracking your loved one’s weight will help identify any sudden or drastic changes that might be contributing to malnutrition. Changes in how clothing fits can also indicate weight loss for those who are non-ambulatory.

Observe eating habits
Take time to observe your loved one’s eating habits during meal times. Note which foods your loved one is eating and how much they can consume.

Keep track of medications
You might consider bringing a list of medications and the dosages to a health care provider to see if there might be an interaction causing a change in appetite or nutrition absorption.

Make meals a time for socialization
Those who share meals are much more likely to enjoy their meal and consume it. Older adults in a senior living community — in independent living or an assisted living setting — eat together and participate in social programs that encourage proper nutrition.

Encourage physical activity
In addition to the well-known benefits of increased strength and flexibility, light exercise can help stimulate the appetite. Talk to a health professional about appropriate fitness activities for yourself or a loved one.

Take care of oral health conditions
Addressing dental problems can make mealtimes more enjoyable and decrease the risk of malnutrition. In recent years, it’s been noted that oral health has a significant effect on overall health. In short, take care of your mouth, and your mouth will take care of you.

Improving Nutrition
If you or your loved one struggles with appetite, there are strategies that can help. Focusing on nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats will keep you feeling full and nourished. Using spices and herbs while preparing meals can increase interest in eating and appetite.
It’s important to consult your healthcare provider or nutritionist if you or your loved one feels they might be at risk of malnutrition. These professionals can also recommend safe supplements, like nutrition drinks or vitamins.

Eating Well at Maplewood Senior Living
Maplewood Senior Living communities have dedicated nutritionists and chefs that plan meals using nutrient-dense ingredients, designed to prevent malnutrition in seniors. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Why Cardiovascular Health is Important

Exercise is important at every age but maintaining a consistent exercise routine as we get older can help keep us independent for longer. Studies have suggested that physical activity, such as cardiovascular exercise, is the number one contributor to longevity. In addition to helping us live long and independent lives, exercise, in general, helps maintain weight, reduce the impact of chronic diseases, improve immune and digestive functioning, regulate blood pressure, lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even some cancers. Older adults are more at risk of living sedentary lives, especially as they undergo physical changes that might make exercise seem more challenging. However, by making an exercise plan that fits your needs and modifying exercises to fit your abilities, exercise can be a part of your life at every age.

How Much Exercise Does an Older Adult Need?

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, physical activity needs to change as we age. Older adults need 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours a week, of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as cardio. Just 30 minutes of physical activity can be physically and mentally beneficial for older adults. The guideline also suggests that older adults practice muscle-strengthening exercises two days a week and three days of cardiovascular exercises, such as walking or dancing. As we age, it’s normal to lose muscle mass and bone density, however, physical exercise can help reduce the risk of these conditions.

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise for Older Adults

While all types of physical activity are beneficial for our overall health, cardiovascular exercises have special benefits for older adults. Exercise can help older adults manage their blood pressure, improve bone and joint health and preserve their long-term cognitive function. Here are a few benefits that come with maintaining a consistent cardiovascular exercise practice:

Improved Immune Function. Our immune systems help fight off illnesses and protect us from diseases. A healthy immune system will also help heal our bodies from illnesses more quickly. According to Harvard Health, exercise can promote good circulation, which allows the cells that make up the immune system to move throughout the body more freely and more efficiently.
Enhanced Respiratory and Cardiovascular Function. According to the American Lung Association, regular exercise helps strengthen your lungs and heart. As we exercise, oxygen gets infiltrated into the bloodstream, transporting it to our muscles. As our exercise routines become more consistent, our bodies become more efficient at oxygenating our muscles.
Increased Bone Strength. Just as our muscles respond to exercise by getting stronger, so do our bones. Older adults are more at risk of losing bone density and developing osteoporosis. However, regular cardiovascular exercise can help strengthen our bones and reduce the risk of losing bone mass and developing osteoporosis. Exercising for bone strength can also help reduce the risk of falls and decrease the recovery time from a fall-related injury.
Decreased Risk of Chronic Illnesses. According to the Mayo Clinic, aerobic exercise can help decrease the risk of developing a chronic illness and help manage symptoms of an existing illness. Low impact exercises can help improve muscle function for those with lower back pain, while those suffering from arthritis can reduce pain and stiffness through cardiovascular exercises. Also, exercise can help improve the quality of life for those with cancer and lower the risk of dying from breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers.
Improved Gastrointestinal Function. Regular cardiovascular exercise can help boost metabolism, regulate the elimination of waste and encourage overall digestive health. Those suffering from slow digestion and constipation often find relief when implementing a consistent exercise regimen.

Types of Cardiovascular Exercises for Seniors

As our physical abilities change as we age, it’s important to make adaptations in our exercise routines to decrease the risk of injury and promote overall safety. Incorporating cardiovascular exercises into your routine doesn’t have to be as challenging as it sounds. Here are a few cardiovascular exercises that can be added to your fitness routine:

Ballroom Dancing
Dancing in general is a great way to get your heart rate up, build muscle and strengthen bones. Ballroom dancing, however, has become popular among older adults because of its ability to strengthen cognitive function. Remembering steps and the fast-paced movements keep our brains sharp and help with balance and coordination, which can protect us from fall-related injuries.

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics classes can help older adults reap the benefits of cardiovascular exercise without putting much impact on bones and joints. Practicing aerobic exercises in the pool can provide more resistance to add a strength-training element to this exercise as well.

Swimming

If you prefer independent exercise, as opposed to group activities, swimming laps can be a great alternative. Swimming can help build lung capacity, build endurance, muscle strength, and promote heart health.

Recumbent Biking

Biking is also a low-impact exercise, which is a great activity for older adults. For those who struggle with balance and coordination, or who prefer a safer activity, recumbent bikes can provide all the benefits of traditional cycling without the risk of injury or falling.

Making an Exercise Plan that Fits Your Lifestyle

Establishing an exercise routine can feel challenging, especially for those new to exercise. However, following a few simple steps can make your cardio routine a reality. First, start by choosing an activity that you find interesting, fun, and that will raise your heart rate. Choose the length of your workout, starting with just 20 minutes if you are doing something new or haven’t exercised for some time.

And, lastly, set your workout schedule each week, choosing the days you will exercise and at which time during the day. Sticking to this schedule will help you be consistent and allow you to establish a routine without having to make hard decisions each day. As you get into your routine, you might consider setting goals for yourself such as exercising three days a week or adding a new level of intensity after a month of consistent exercise. As always, it’s important to consult with your doctor before adding a new exercise to your routine or adding levels of intensity.

Keeping Up with Cardio at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how important cardiovascular exercise is to the overall health of our residents. Each of our facilities comes with a robust workout and wellness facility that offers group and private classes. To learn more about our facilities or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Senior Sleep: Why It’s So Important

Older adults ages 65 and above need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 1 in 3 older adults fail to meet the minimum requirement of sleep each night. While some older adults might prefer to change their sleeping patterns as they age, such as going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier, the amount of sleep they need doesn’t differ much compared to their younger years. However, there are many different reasons older adults might not be getting adequate sleep. For some, feeling sick, experiencing pain and the increased frequency of urination can affect the overall quality of sleep. As we age, our risk of health problems increases and the medications used to treat these issues can actually interfere with our sleep duration and quality. Although it’s common for older adults to experience changes in their sleep, it’s important to resolve these issues, as sleep is responsible for maintaining many functions of the body.

Importance of Sleep for the Body

We rely on sleep to carry us through the day and give our bodies energy to function properly. Getting adequate rest each night allows our blood pressure to regulate itself, reducing the chances of high blood pressure and other sleep-related conditions. Our mental health is also impacted by sleep. Research suggests a link between lack of sleep and increased risk of depression. In fact, a recent study suggests that sleep is a contributing factor in deaths by suicide. A lack of sleep can also impact our ability to relate to and connect with others. Some studies have even suggested that a person’s emotional empathy, or the ability to recognize and relate to other people’s emotions and expressions, is less when they don’t get enough sleep.

Adequate, high-quality sleep gives our bodies time to repair themselves. In fact, research shows a link between sleep and reducing inflammation in the body. For example, those with gastrointestinal diseases have an increased risk of flare-ups during periods of sleep deprivation. Sleep helps the body regenerate and recover, allowing the body to better fight off infection and illness.

Aging and Sleep Quality

It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience changes in their sleep quality as they age. According to the Sleep Foundation, our body’s “master clock,” located in the brain’s hypothalamus is composed of 20,000 cells that make up the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which controls our circadian rhythms. These circadian rhythms influence our daily cycles, like when we get hungry, tired and when certain hormones are released in the body. As we age, so does our SCN. Deterioration in the function of the SCN can disrupt these rhythms, affecting when we feel tired and alert.

Light serves as one of the most powerful cues in maintaining circadian rhythms. Older adults are less likely to get efficient exposure to sunlight, which can affect the functioning of the SCN and throw off our circadian rhythms. As we age, the body secretes less melatonin, which can also play a role in disrupted sleep.

Common Sleep Issues in Older Adults

It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience sleep issues that result in sleep deprivation or other related side effects. Researchers suggest that more than half of older adults suffer from insomnia. Chronic sleep problems can interfere with our body’s ability to regulate itself, complete daily activities, and decrease our quality of life. According to the Sleep Foundation, common sleep changes with age include:

Pain. Discomfort can cause sleep disturbances including poor quality of sleep or waking up in the middle of the night. This can be especially disruptive for those with chronic pain disorders like arthritis, nerve damage, and lower back pain.
Nighttime urination. Frequent nighttime urination, or nocturia, affects nearly 70% of men and 75% of women above the age of 70. Nighttime urination can disturb sleep patterns and increase the risk of fall-related injuries.
Daytime drowsiness. Excessive daytime sleepiness is often a sign of other underlying sleep issues like sleep apnea. In addition, it can also be a warning sign of cognitive impairment or cardiovascular diseases.
Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when there are pauses in breathing during sleep. This can occur when there is a repeated or partial collapse of the upper airway. Symptoms can include headaches, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating.
Restless leg syndrome. This causes an urge to move the legs while resting or sleeping and can result in involuntary movements of the legs or feet. Restless leg syndrome can affect 10 to 35% of people over 65, impacting sleep and quality of life.
Insomnia. Those who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep may suffer from insomnia. Those with insomnia might experience daytime sleepiness or other cognitive impairments related to sleep deprivation.

Sleep Tips for Seniors

There are many ways you can improve your sleep by keeping a bedtime routine, setting yourself up for a restful night, and reevaluating your diet. If you struggle with getting adequate sleep, here are a few places to start:

Establish a bedtime routine
Finding a consistent bedtime routine that works for you will remind your body that it’s time to prepare for sleep. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day will help get your body into a routine. Developing bedtime rituals such as taking a bath, playing music or meditating can also help you wind down before bed.

Setting up your environment
When we use our bedrooms for more than sleeping, our bodies can get confused when it’s time to rest. Watching TV or using a computer while in bed for long periods of time should be avoided. Make sure to block out noise that might disturb you like turning off the television or using a white noise machine. Keep your bedroom dark and cool as light and heat can cause sleep problems, especially for older adults.

Make healthy choices
Diet can actually play a big role in your quality of sleep. Make sure to limit caffeine, especially later in the day, and avoid alcohol before you go to sleep. Eating a full meal at dinnertime or having a light snack before bedtime will keep you from waking up hungry in the middle of the night. Be sure to cut down on sugary and processed foods as they can pull you out of the deep stages of sleep.

Staying Well Rested at Maplewood Senior Living

Sleep can positively or negatively impact our whole day. At Maplewood Senior Living, we offer meditation and relaxation classes, healthy meal options, and install safe lighting to make sure all residents have what they need for a restful night of sleep. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

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.

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.

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.

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.

When is The Right Time for Assisted Living?

As we age our health care needs are likely to change, which can make navigating health-related decisions difficult. While many older adults envision spending their retirement years living independently, it is likely that many seniors will require additional support later on in life. At some point, many adults may have to decide whether to hire outside help, rely on a family member or move into an assisted living community. This process can become more complicated when failing health and financial concerns are factored in.

What is Assisted Living for Seniors?

Senior assisted living facilities are designed for older adults who need additional support with their day-to-day lives. These communities offer support with daily tasks such as eating, taking medication, bathing, housekeeping, preparing meals, and monitoring medicine. For added peace of mind, medical care is also accessible around the clock in the event of an emergency. As older adults begin to consider transitioning into an assisted living community, many older adults and their family members ask, “How do I know it’s the right time to move?”

Signs it Might be Time for Assisted Living

Coming to terms with a loss of independence can be extremely difficult for aging adults. In fact, for many adults, concerned family members often initiate the conversation of moving first. While we all age at different rates and in different ways, there are some clear signs that it might be time to move into an assisted living community.

Declining health conditions– As we age, we become more at risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. In fact, according to research conducted by AARP, “more than 70 million Americans ages 50 and older, or four out of five older adults, suffer from at least one chronic condition.” Managing these conditions, including traveling to doctor’s appointments and taking the appropriate medications, can pose problems for older adults. Assisted living communities help seniors manage these conditions, which allow residents to enjoy a higher quality of life.

Difficulty with managing finances– Age-related memory loss can cause confusion when it comes to managing money. This can make paying bills on time and sticking to a budget more difficult. Other memory disorders, like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, can also affect one’s ability to understand finances, putting them more at risk of scams, forgetting to pay bills, or filing taxes properly.

Inability to care for oneself– If your loved one is unable to maintain their living space, bathe themselves, or complete basic daily tasks, it may be time to consider assisted living. A large number of family members take on the responsibility of caregiving without understanding how demanding that can be, especially when they have their own families to care for each day. Assisted living facilities have caregivers on staff who will make sure their residents maintain proper hygiene, a healthy diet, and live in a clean environment.

Lack of socializationAccording to a study conducted by the National Institute on Aging, nearly 17% of all Americans aged 65 or older are isolated due to their location, living status, language, or disability. Loneliness and isolation can have negative long-term effects on one’s health, such as cognitive decline, increased mortality, and feelings of depression. Socialization is at the core of assisted living facilities. Planned activities, social dining areas, and one-on-one interaction are everyday occurrences at most facilities.

Questions to Consider

Making the move into an assisted living community can be a hard decision for everyone involved and finding the right time to move can be even more challenging. When a loved one has suffered from serious health concerns, such as a broken hip, the need for an assisted living community might become more obvious. However, for older adults who still manage to take care of themselves, but are slowly losing their independence, the transition can become unclear. If you’re not sure if now is the time for assisted living, Consumer Affairs has gathered a series of questions to help you in your decision-making process, which is summarized below:

Health

Has your loved one fallen recently?
According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries and the most common cause of non-fatal related hospital admissions among older adults. If your loved one has recently fallen or is consistently falling, this may be a sign that you should consider a move to an assisted living community.

Is your loved one taking their medications?
If you notice your loved one is struggling to keep up with their medications, try to find out the cause. Are they forgetting? Is picking it up at the pharmacy difficult for them? If the answer is yes, assisted living can help. On-site staff can ensure that each resident has access to and takes their medications on time.

Does your loved one suffer from a chronic condition?
If your senior has been diagnosed with a worsening chronic condition, assisted living communities can help preserve their quality of life. For those with chronic conditions, basic daily tasks can become increasingly difficult. When you have staff support, energy can be reserved for exploring hobbies and socializing with others.

Self-Care

Is your loved one having trouble taking care of themselves?
Cooking, housekeeping, laundry, and other basic daily tasks can become more difficult as we age. Assisted living communities offer these services so seniors can avoid related injuries and instead spend time doing what they love.

Are they eating properly?
Have you noticed significant weight loss or weight gain within the last few months? Both rapid weight loss and weight gain can be side-effects of health problems or difficulty in preparing and eating food. If you’re not sure what the cause might be, you can always consult their doctor and ask if assisted living might help relieve the problem.

Mental-health and dementia

Do they wander from home and get lost?
This could be a sign of a cognitive issue such as Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. If you notice your loved one wandering or getting lost in familiar places, talk to your loved one and their healthcare provider. Assisted living communities with memory care units are designed to support those with cognitive impairments and memory disorders.

Are they isolated?
Isolation is a public health concern, especially for older adults. Long-term isolation can lead to increased blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, and depression. Your loved one might be feeling isolated if they rarely leave their home, live alone or have stopped participating in social activities. Initiating a conversation about isolation and loneliness with your loved one might help you make an informed decision when it comes to assisted living.

Assisted Living at Maplewood Senior Living

Watching your loved one age is hard. Recognizing that they’re beginning to need more care can be painful. Our assisted living communities at Maplewood Senior living are here to help and give you peace of mind. To learn more about our communities or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

We also have a complimentary Guide – Is It Time for Assisted Living? Please download it today. Please Click HERE to do so.