• October 25, 2017 /  Basics

    7 Ways We Can Keep Our Home Safe

    It’s a fact of life that as we age, our safety concerns increase. Physical changes associated with aging may raise new issues in your home, so it’s important to create a safe environment for independent living. And it’s never too early to start! It’s better to make these adjustments now so you don’t have to worry about them a decade down the line.  Fortunately, there are many ways to make your home environment much safer.

    1. Fire Safety

    While smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers are essential safety equipment in every home, placing these items in easy-to-access locations is especially important in the home of a senior citizen. Impaired hearing may make it difficult to hear an alarm sounding in another part of the house, so it’s important to place carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in frequently used spaces such as bedrooms, bathrooms, the kitchen, and the living room. Likewise, impaired mobility may make it more difficult to get to a fire extinguisher quickly for small fires, so store several in easy-to-reach places such as in a kitchen cupboard, in the bedroom, in the bathroom, and in the living room. If possible, make smoke detectors part of a monitored alarm system, which decreases fire department response time.

    2. Safer Bathrooms

    Showers can be slick, making them dangerous for those with limited mobility or poor eyesight. There are multiple ways to increase the safety of baths and showers.

    • Grab bars help with stability, and can prevent slips and falls. Likewise, a grab bar installed near the entrance to a tub or shower will give you something to hold onto when stepping over the edge of the tub. Install grab bars at arm height, as well as one at about waist height. You can also install a grab bar next to the toilet so you can pull yourself up and safely lower yourself.
    • Rubber mats or decals render tile less slippery, minimizing the risk of slipping and falling.
    • Shower seats give you a place to safely sit during a shower. These improve safety by allowing you to sit if you feel dizzy or tired. Choose a sturdy seat that affixes firmly to the floor of the tub or shower.
    • Walk-in tubs and showers eliminate the risk associated with the high-step into the bath tub/shower that is a fall hazard.
    • Taller toilets make it easier to get up and down. Many major manufacturers make toilets with higher seats, which can improve safety for those with mobility impairments.

    3. Monitored Alarm Systems

    Along with a monitored fire alarm system, you’ll be safer with monitored burglar alarms, as well as a personal emergency response and home safety alert system. Choose monitored alarm systems that have easily accessible panic buttons. These systems provide easy ways for you to call for help if you’re injured, sick, or unable to get to a telephone.

    4. More Lighting

    Inadequate lighting may cause accidents. Make sure all high-traffic areas (such as the living room and bedroom) have bright, easily accessible lighting. Install automated and safety lighting inside and outside of the house. Outside, install motion activated safety lights, which can provide visibility after dark and may discourage intruders, as well. Inside, install an automated lighting system so you can easily access and turn on lights without having to cross a room to find a light switch.

    5. Safer Stairs

    Indoor and outdoor stairs may also create hazards. Take the following precautions to make stairs safer.

    • Outside, install non-skid strips on steps and porches to provide extra traction when they are wet.
    • Tighten all handrails and banisters to provide a sturdy support for ascending and descending stairs. If stairs do not have a handrail, install one at slightly lower than elbow height.
    • Remove runners from stairways, which can be a tripping hazard.
    • Indoors on wooden stairs, install non-skid strips.
    • Install ramps if you use a walker or wheelchair.

    6. Outdoor Safety

    Outdoor areas have a number of safety hazards that need to be secured to keep you safe.

    • Trim trees, plants, and hedges so they don’t infringe on walkways.
    • Maintain adequate outdoor lighting. Consider installing pathway lighting to help improve nighttime visibility.
    • Fix cracked, broken, or displaced pavers and tiles, which can be tripping hazards.
    • Level rough patches of lawn that may have bumps or holes that can be tripping hazards.
    • Install non-skid decking, or use materials on decks to keep it safer in wet weather.
    • Fix broken steps and loose or uneven boards on decks and porches.
    • Tighten handrails and deck rails so they are secure to grip.
    • Keep sidewalks clear of debris that could cause trips and falls.

    7. Bedroom

    Make bedrooms safer with several bedroom upgrades.

    • Install sturdy bed rails to assist with getting in and out of bed.
    • Place a phone next to the bed and post emergency phone numbers where they are easy to see.
    • Create some kind of emergency escape in case of fire, such as a window safety slide.
    • Adjust bed height so it is not too difficult to get in or out of. Medical professionals suggest a safe bed height is at knee level or lower. An adjustable bed can also increase safety, making it safer for you to get in and out of bed.
    • Use a firm mattress on the bed, which makes it easier to get off the bed.
    • Place lighting controls next to the bed and just inside the door so you don’t have to cross the room in the dark.
    • Install a night-light or small lamp in en-suite bathrooms so it’s easier to find the way in the dark.

    While we may not have the ability to stop ourselves aging (or stop the physical declines associated), we can make large changes to our home environment to accommodate them. By taking steps to improve your surrounding environment, you can greatly increase your health, safety, and longevity!

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  • October 16, 2017 /  Basics, Dementia

    Reduce Your Dementia Risk With Exercise

    In our last article, we discussed what proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Today we’re going to go into further detail on one such step: regular exercise.

    Many older adults find that with age fitness is more difficult to maintain. You may face chronic pain, fatigue, or illnesses that limit your physical abilities. Additionally, if you’re isolated from friends and family you might lack the motivation to exercise on your own. There’s still plenty you can do, however! Let’s learn why exercise plays such an important role in reducing one’s risk for these serious diseases, and how you can incorporate it into your own life.

    Scientific Evidence

    What scientific evidence is there to support this claim? As one reference, we can look at a study done by neuroscientist Art Kramer. He scanned the brains of 120 older adults, half of whom started a program of moderate aerobic exercise — just 45 minutes, three days a week, mostly walking. After a year, the MRI scans showed that for the aerobic group, the volume of their brains actually increased.

    What’s more, individuals in the control group lost about 1.5 percent of their brain volume, adding up to a 3.5 percent difference between individuals who took part in aerobic exercise and those who did not. Further tests showed that increased brain volume translated into better memory.

    This isn’t an isolated case. Bryan James is an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago. He conducted a study in which he looked at a different measure of activity — something he calls “life space.” He added up how often people got out of their bedroom, went out of their house, traveled out of their neighborhood or out of town. “The people who never left their home — even though they didn’t seem to have any cognitive problems when we started following them — were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over five years,” James says.

    Why exactly does this happen? Increased aerobic capacity has benefits for the metabolism and physiological function of the brain. A protein known as brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) is known to be important in the development, survival, and plasticity of nerve cells called neurons. It’s also important in protecting against neuro-degeneration that’s associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia.

    Regular aerobic exercise boosts the level of BDNF by 2-3 times, and clearly the more often you exercise, the more prolonged the effect. We all deal with stress and fear in our everyday life, requiring our brains to constantly adapt. Since exercise has been shown to help us do this, it may well explain how it can be effective in reducing the risk of depression, anxiety, and dementia.

    What You Can Do

    As mentioned, this blog has covered the topic of fitness in the past. There are 3 common threads among them: start with easy, gentle exercises until you know your personal limits; reach out to family and friends for support, or look for a group to join; and have fun! By finding activities you really enjoy doing, you ensure that you continue to do them with regularity.

    For more, check out our past articles regarding fitness and overall wellness:

    4 Ways to Stay Active as a Senior

    How To Exercise When You Have Arthritis

    Five Wellness Tips for Seniors

    Speaking of Exercise

    Does this mean that you can 100% prevent dementia? Sadly, no. There are a myriad of factors that influence someone’s risk. However, you can play an active role in your own future health, and do a great deal of good for your brain!

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  • October 2, 2017 /  Dementia

    Lifestyle Tips to Help Prevent Dementia

    For those with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, forgetting names and misplacing keys is more than just a frustration – it can feel like a sign of what’s to come. But we are more than our genes and in fact, for the vast majority, it’s lifestyle choices that represent the biggest dementia risk factors.

    Change is hard, and it’s unrealistic to try to completely transform your life just for the sake of making changes. A smarter move would be to take manageable steps that will actually make a provable impact. Taking a look at scientific evidence can help you make those changes.

    Improve Your Daily Routine

    From how you spend your daylight hours to how well you sleep at night, it’s your daily routine that impacts your health the most.

    • Quit smoking.A daily habit of lighting up can be a dementia risk factor, research shows. In 2014, the World Health Organization found that smokers have a 45 percent higher risk of developing dementia than non-smokers. Be aware of second-hand smoke exposure too – it may increase your dementia risk by nearly the same amount as if you were holding the cigarette. For tips on quitting, read our previous article on the subject here.
    • Sleep better.The CDC estimates that 50-70 million U.S. adults don’t get enough sleep. Studies suggest that slumber is essential to brain health. As you snooze, your brain resets and cleans out the hormones and chemicals it used during the day. One of the chemicals that is scrubbed away each night is amyloid-beta, a chemical that forms brain plaque – a key suspect in what causes Alzheimer’s.
    • Exercise regularly.One of the signs of dementia is loss of brain mass. A 2013 study conducted by Maryland School of Public Health researchers tracked four groups of healthy adults aged 65-89 – those with high and low Alzheimer’s risk and those with high and low activity levels. Only one group lost brain mass – those who had both a high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s and who also did not exercise. If you need ideas on how to start getting fit, read our article about how to stay active!

    Fuel Your Body

    Your body and your brain run on what you consume. There is a significant amount of science on which foods can help reduce your dementia risk.

    • Drink raw fruit and vegetable juices.A 2006 study from Vanderbilt University found that drinking fruit and vegetable juices more than three times a week could cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 76 percent.
    • Eat less sugar.Diabetes may not cause Alzheimer’s directly, but the two diseases share the same root cause – the body not using insulin properly. According to research published in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal in 2011, diabetics are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and have an increased risk of developing dementia of any kind.
    • Eat more fish.Omega-3 fatty acids may protect against brain atrophy, which is associated dementia. An eight-year study lead by University of South Dakota researchers found that women with the highest levels of omega-3s in their blood had 2.7 percent larger brain volume – that means their brain atrophied less. Plus, those who reported eating seafood at least once a week were less likely to have the dementia-related brain plaque.

    Strengthen Your Brain

    Protect your brain’s health by strengthening the areas often targeted by dementia.

    • Learn a new language.In 2013, a study published in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal found that participants who spoke a second language developed dementia 4.5 years later than their monolingual counterparts.
    • Do new things.Simply put, learning new skills helps enhance cognitive function. In a 2013 University of Texas at Dallas study, participants learned quilting or digital photography for three months. They found that no matter if the participants learned the skill alone or with others, their memory of past events was enhanced. The key is to find and spend time mastering new hobbies that make your brain think in new ways.
    • Meditation not only lowers stress – research suggests it can help reduce brain atrophy. A study from the Jena University Hospital in Germany found that the brains of people who meditated regularly appeared on average seven years younger than their true age.

    Dementia may not be inevitable. The studies highlighted here seem to suggest that it’s possible to influence and change your dementia risk factors. Know the science so you can take control and face dementia head-on!

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