All posts by Samantha Colaianni

doctor medicare medicaid

A Tale of Two Programs: The Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid

Medicare and Medicaid may seem similar at the outset, but are in fact two very different programs. Each one has difference qualifications and serves different purposes, but deciphering and understanding those differences can be confusing. Here are a few points of distinction to help make Medicare and Medicaid more clear. 

A Tale of Two Programs

By Byron Cordes, LCSW, C-ASWCM

Medicare and Medicaid; there could not be two more confusing programs for seniors. The first problem is the names. They sound so similar that the consumer cannot keep them straight. The truth is that the programs could not be more different. In this post, I will try to give a quick differentiation to help make some sense of the differences.

Medicare

In its current form, Medicare is simply a health insurance program for adults who reach 65 years in age or become disabled. The individual or spouse must have paid into the Medicare insurance fund; seen on paychecks as FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act). Once on Medicare, an individual will have their medical expenses covered with some coinsurances and copays. Medicare has an automatic hospital benefit known as Medicare Part A, and a voluntary outpatient benefit called Medicare Part B. There have been additional programs added to Medicare over the years; Medicare C (or Medicare Advantage) is an assignment of the Medicare benefits to a 3rd party insurer, sometimes with additional care, but always managed by the new insurer. Medicare Part D is a prescription program introduced in 2006. To sum up, Medicare A is generally covered by premiums paid in; Medicare B is voluntary and at a fee with penalties if you do not accept it when first eligible; Medicare C is a voluntary assignment of your A & B benefits to another party; Medicare D is voluntary and at a fee with penalties if you do not accept it when first eligible. Medicare is not a social program, so it does not cover the cost of living or long-term care; it is only a medical insurance.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a more cumbersome program to describe. Title 19 created the Medicaid benefit as a joint state-federal program. Because each state administers its own program, Medicaid looks a little different in each state, with different qualification rules. Medicaid, at its core, is also a medical insurance program, but with a social services overlay. Medicaid is paid for through general tax revenues, not premiums, and is known as an entitlement program. This means a person who meets all qualifications cannot be denied. Medicaid for seniors and adults with disabilities typically pays for healthcare needs by itself or as a secondary to Medicare. The program can pay for additional services (unlike Medicare and only in certain circumstances) such as: as help in the home, nursing home care, or even modifications to the home.

While Medicare and Medicaid share similar names, we hope this helps clarify how different the two really are. An Aging Life Care Professional in your area can help guide families on how the two programs can benefit a senior. For more help, visit: www.aginglifecare.org.

 

About the author: Byron is recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts in Geriatric Care Management, derived from 25 years in the social work field. He has had his writings and interviews on geriatrics, families and caregiving published nationally. Byron served as the 2012 President of the Aging Life Care AssociationTM. He received his Masters in Social Work from the Worden School of Social Services at Our Lady of the Lake University and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Oklahoma State University.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

8 Ways the Sandwich Generation Can Make Their Lives Easier

America’s Sandwich Generation, men and women in their forties to sixties with both aging parents and children to care for, is one of the fastest growing populations. This group of people often find themselves stuck in the middle of trying to juggle a hectic schedule that includes caring for parents experiencing a decline in health, keeping up with adult children as they struggle to “make it on their own” and begin their families, and managing the financial and emotional stress that arise throughout these circumstances. This alone is a lot for one person to handle and often leaves little time for self-care and nurturing a relationship with your spouse. 

8 Things the Sandwich Generation Should Know to Help Ease the Stress of Managing the Care of Mom, Dad, the Kids…and Themselves

 

By Kim Miller, BSN, MSN, CMC – Aging Life Care Association™ Member

How does one work a full-time job, raise a family, care for parents who are living with medical complications, maintain a healthy intimate relationship, and have time for stress management and stress relieving activities? The following 8 tips provide suggestions and information to help you cope with these demands and provide a way for you to move gracefully forward into your Golden Years.

TIP 1: It’s never too early to start planning.

The moment is now and the options are many. From making room in your budget now to prepare for the costs involved with aging parents and growing children to delaying the downsizing of your home to reviewing the benefits of long-term care insurance, there are many ways you can help yourself by planning now for what is in store. Rather than feeling suddenly overwhelmed in the face of difficult decisions, seek advice from financial, medical, and qualified professionals to help shore up your financial and physical resources. There are many professionals in the legal and financial sectors that specialize in elder care and long-term care planning.

TIP 2: Don’t make any assumptions and trust your instincts.

Recognizing when to seek advice is key. Early signs of feeling like you’re squeezed in the middle can be identified by simply noting if you have asked yourself the following questions:

  • How can I spend time with my children and help my parents every time they ask?
  • How many hours in a day are too many spent in the role of caregiver?
  • How do I fit in time for my marriage?
  • When was the last time I sat down?
  • Why do I feel so isolated?

It’s important to recognize when you begin to feel stretched too thin. Listen to that voice inside and seek the advice of a professional. This is especially important for women who often assume they should know about caring for the aging in the same way that they instinctually know about childcare. Everyone ages differently and every situation is unique. It’s impossible to know in advance how to handle the needs that will arise. It’s best to not assume anything.

TIP 3: Don’t try to go it alone. Seek expert advice and assistance.

Don’t be ashamed about feeling overwhelmed or ill-prepared. This is the case for most of us. There are a wide variety of services and professionals available to help you. A great place to start is to find an Aging Life Care Professional™. An Aging Life Care Professional is typically a nurse or social worker who has expertise in the aging process and the issues that may arise. An Aging Life Care Professional can assess all aspects of your unique situation and help you develop a plan that will meet your aging parent’s needs over time.

Ultimately, someone may need a geriatrician, psychiatrist, or lawyer. There may be a need to provide personal care by a professional. All of these individual providers are focused on a particular service while an Aging Life Care Professional can partner with you to coordinate the care your aging parent needs. Many people feel that this is a job for them to do on their own because they know their parent the best, however, this can be overwhelming. Partnering with an Aging Life Care Professional allows you to extend your reach in caring for you parent while remaining in balance with the other factors in your life.

You can find an Aging Life Care Professional™ by searching aginglifecare.org. You can also contact your local Area Agency on Aging, which can give you information about programs, services, and facilities available right in your community.

TIP 4: Bring them to the table and let them keep their seat at the head.

Talking with mom and/or dad about seeking assistance or advice about how to care for them can often feel daunting. It challenges the typical roles of parent and child. Even though they are aging, the need to be the parent and to feel in control does not fade away and can often become even more present. The first step is to recognize this fact, accept that it will be challenging and then move forward with respectful nurturing and loving care. The rest is artful conversation and psychology.

Here are some considerations when approaching your parents about needing help:

  • Give them the sense that they are the employer, even when they are not and that this is something that your parents will be managing. Try referring to them as a consultant. Find something in the home that they have been frustrated by and suggest that the person will help them make a plan to solve the problem.
  • Explain to your parents that this is someone who will be helping you (their child) by assuring your peace of mind that they are safe. This keeps you in the position of the child who needs help, and the sense that the parents are still needed to support you.
  • If the above are not successful, then it may be time to bring in an expert like a well-respected physician, lawyer or financial advisor who will then provide a prescription for the geriatric care manager.

TIP 5: Sharing is caring. Incorporate your family into the daily mix.

As corny as it may sound, a family meeting can be a great way to get everyone onto the same page about priorities and responsibilities. It provides the opportunity for everyone to share what they are going through and develop strategies to help meet everyone’s needs. It is an opportunity to discuss the caregiving needs, household chores and scheduled tasks to be accomplished on a daily and weekly basis. Bring a pad of paper and make a “to do” list for each person. Don’t forget that your close friends can also be a part of this meeting – the more, the merrier!

TIP 6: Anticipate and address the questions of children and grandchildren.

Even when they don’t ask, your children are likely wondering why their grandparents are more forgetful (especially about remembering their name, etc.), why they need assistance getting dressed, or why someone is coming to help them each day. It is important to educate your children, even at an early age, about these normal parts of life. You can also assure your children that grandma may not remember things but she still loves them. Explain that she can’t express herself but she is still thinking about them. There are many books available for children of all ages to help them better understand topics such as memory problems, feelings of sadness, death and so on. These books will allow them to acknowledge the sadness while also realizing the importance for grandma to have people around her who love her and can take good care of her. Additionally, the books can help you approach the delicate, difficult and sad parts of decline as well as finding the good parts worth celebrating about getting older.

There are many books available for children of all ages to help them better understand topics such as memory problems, feelings of sadness, death and so on. These books will allow them to acknowledge the sadness while also realizing the importance for grandma to have people around her who love her and can take good care of her. Additionally, the books can help you approach the delicate, difficult and sad parts of decline as well as finding the good parts worth celebrating about getting older.

TIP 7: Speak with your employer.

Many employers are familiar with or sympathize with the demands that are involved with being a part of the Sandwich Generation and are willing to work with you to keep you working for them. Since you never know until you ask, make an appointment to discuss the different ways your employer may be willing to accommodate you. Some companies allow you to work from home, adjust your hours or change the days of the week that you are in the office. It is also becoming more common for employers to offer brief periods of leave so you can attend to unexpected family matters. Your employer likely has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that may be able to help you access resources or provide you with support.

TIP 8: You are not the last or the least. Make time for number one.

Since we know stressors can contribute to and lead to health problems of a mental and physical nature, start out on the right foot and make time throughout the week for you. While it is essential to build important things like exercise, regular sleep, and healthy eating into your schedule, there is also no shame in giving yourself the opportunity to continue your hobbies, favorite pastimes, friendships and even alone time. Maybe you won’t have as much time for extracurricular activities as before, but just several hours a week can elevate your spirits and do a world of good for your health.

Here are some suggestions for keeping in touch with your sense of well-being:

  • Take 10 minutes a day to sit down, listen to music, meditate or even just close your eyes.
  • Keep your marriage on the priority list and add a weekly activity for just you and your spouse to enjoy.
  • Give laughter a chance and enjoy the funny moments that life brings along each day.
  • Try to set aside one hour a day for something you love to do like reading the paper, taking a walk during your lunch break or calling a friend.
  • Look for the ways that providing care enhances your relationships with your family and affords a sense of satisfaction.
  • Listen to your body and learn to recognize when it is telling you to slow down or that something is not right. It’s very important to immediately take action, take a break and seek medical attention when necessary.

No matter how much the above might seem like an indulgence, doing any or all of them can help save you from hitting the proverbial wall. Once you are at the point of burn out it is very easy to wind up sick which often happens when constantly being the caregiver and never the care recipient. To help avoid reaching that run down state, remember to check in with yourself on a daily basis.

In the end, it is good to remember that you are the most qualified person for taking care of yourself. By helping yourself stay strong and healthy, you are ultimately helping your family and parents by remaining available and capable for the challenges that live in the middle of that very tightly squeezed sandwich.

About the author: Kim Miller, BSN, MSN, CMC is a Certified Care Manager at SeniorBridge, a national health care company offering individually tailored care management and home care services. She has over 30 years of experience as a nurse, with 16 of those years as a nurse practitioner. Email Kim at kmiller@seniorbridge.com or follow SeniorBridge on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

The Value of Working with an Aging Life Care Professional

When it comes to caregiving, it can be difficult for families to feel confident in the decisions they are making for their loved ones. Aging Life Care Professionals® can help these families navigate the muddy waters of end-of-life and palliative care choices, providing peace of mind and qualified answers. The Florida Chapter of the Aging Life Care Association® has published a comprehensive study on the value of ALCA Professionals and all they do for their clients.

The Florida Chapter of the Aging Life Care Association® has presented their findings from a comprehensive study concerning the value of Aging Life Care Professionals® for caregivers and their families.  The results show what a hugely positive impact ALCA Professionals have for people struggling with care giving and care management decisions. Below is the first page from the pamphlet version of the findings, which is easily downloadable for sharing.

When it comes to expressing the value of using the services of an Aging Life Care Professional®, tools like these can be incredibly helpful in disseminating information that can grow your clientele and educate those who may be unfamiliar with care management services. You can also access our special edition of the Aging Life Care Journal here, which contains the full study and its findings.

(Click on the image to enlarge.)

The pamphlet is available to download here in pdf form.

 

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

I’m Still Listening: Communication and Dementia

No matter the level of one’s memory loss, stage of Alzheimer’s disease, or type of dementia, human connection and communication is important to overall well-being. Communication requires patience, understanding, and good listening skills. But often, even the most well-trained or educated caregiver gets frustrated or avoids communication altogether. July is Social Wellness Awareness Month, and it’s more important than ever to make sure those in our lives with limited communication abilities are still able to develop and maintain social relationships. 

Thoughts from an Aging Life Care Manager™

by Tracey A. Olson, LSCW, MSW, MBA, CASWCM – Aging Life Care Association™ Member

 

Keep-away is a game that was played in my neighborhood as a kid. I didn’t like it very much. One person would throw a ball to someone else, over the head of a person in between. The person in the middle rarely stood a chance of intercepting the throw; they were hopelessly excluded.

As I accompany older adults to the doctor’s office, I often see the same thing happening.  The doctor talks to me, but not the patient. The patient is left in the middle, feeling excluded and left out of the exchange. This happens far too many times, and it doesn’t seem to matter if the patient is able to understand the situation or not.  Even when an older adult is able to make their own decisions, they are often not spoken to directly.

Let’s say the patient has memory loss and they will not be making their medical decisions alone.  The patient should still be addressed directly.  It is important to include the person in the conversation — it is their health, their life.

Now, when this happens, I look at the person instead of the doctor so that the doctor will catch on.  And if the doctor doesn’t’, I say “Please address Jean.” There should be no games of keep-away at the doctor’s office.

This is not unique to doctors’ offices. While my client Jean can communicate and understand in the moment, she doesn’t remember conversations. Before our visit to the doctor, I met with Jean at her home to explain the upcoming appointment.  As we were meeting, Jean’s caregiver said, “Don’t bother. She won’t remember anyway.”

The caregiver made the comment in front of Jean as if she wasn’t even there.  Jean deserves respect as a person, and a patient, even if she is going to forget our conversation minutes later. In the moment, Jean could hear what was being said and possibly understand the meaning. She could have been part of the discussion.

Every person, regardless of memory or condition, deserves to be looked at in the eye and addressed directly. If they are able to communicate, I believe having a conversation gives a sense of comfort in the moment. That comfort is worth having the conversation, even if it isn’t remembered.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers these tips for best ways to communicate with someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Visit their website for more on Alzheimer’s and Communication.

  • Identify yourself.
  • Call the person by name.
  • Use short, simple words and sentences.
  • Speak slowly and distinctively.
  • Patiently wait for a response.
  • Repeat information or questions as needed.
  • Turn questions into answers.
  • Avoid confusing and vague statements.
  • Turn negatives into positives.
  • Give visual cues.
  • Avoid quizzing.
  • Write things down.
  • Treat the person with dignity and respect.
  • Convey an easygoing manner.

If you need help caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, dementia or memory loss, turn to an Aging Life Care Professional who has the experience to advocate and plan for the best possible care.

About the author: Tracey Olson, is an Advanced Professional Aging Life Care™ Expert, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Masters Level.  Tracey takes a strengths perspective – not just identifying and focusing on needs, but also on strengths – when working with older adult clients and their families. Tracey’s independent care management practice, AgeWell Solutions, is located in the Chicago suburbs.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs

summer

Beat the Heat: Summer Safety Tips for Aging Adults

With temperatures already breaking 100° in parts of the country, the dog days of summer are here and it will only get hotter.  This raises some concern for keeping safe and cool, especially among senior citizens. Aging adults, in particular, may be at higher risk of heat-related maladies as they are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Additionally, as we grow older, our bodies become less efficient at regulating body temperature. Certain health conditions and medications can also make it more difficult for the body to regulate its temperature or to perspire.

Surviving the Dog Days of Summer

by Lindsay Rosoff, LMSW, Aging Life Care Association™ Member

While a simple rise in temperature may not seem like a health threat, according to the National Weather Service, heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related death in the United States, causing hundreds of fatalities each year.

Fortunately, there are several things we can do to stay safe and cool, even in the midst of summer’s hottest days.

Stay hydrated

Just as our sensitivity to heat dulls as we age, so does our awareness of thirst. This, along with our body’s ability to conserve water as we grow older, put seniors at greater risk of dehydration. Summer heat adds to the risk, because on hot days, the body loses water more quickly. Here are some tips to staying hydrated this summer.

  • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to take in fluids. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these can cause the body to lose even more fluid.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruit, a wonderful source of fluids – not everything has to be water.
  • Add fresh lemon or lime to your water to add a little flavor.
  • Use water to dilute fruit juices, making them last longer and increasing your fluid intake.
  • Get creative! Make “mocktails,” like non-alcoholic daiquiris and pina coladas.

If you are on a fluid-restricted diet, consult your physician about how to get the fluids you need during the hot summer months.

Other tips to beat the heat

Here are some other ways to beat the heat this summer:

  • Keep your home safe and comfortable by running the air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day and by letting in cool air in the early morning and late evening hours. If you need financial help to keep you home cool, contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
  • If your home isn’t air-conditioned, take a break during the hottest part of the day by going to a movie, shopping at an indoor mall, or visiting a library.
  • Dress in lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing, make of natural fabrics, like linen or cotton.
  • If you must go outside (gardening, errands), plan this for the early morning hours, when it’s coolest.
  • Supplement your diet with folic acid – a new study from Penn State showed that folic acid can enhance blood vessel dilation in older adults, which may help them to avoid heat-related issues such as heart attacks or strokes.
  • Take a cool shower or bath.
  • Get plenty of rest.
 If you do experience problems …

If you or a loved one experiences heavy sweating, weakness, a fast and weak pulse, nausea or fainting, this could be a sign of heat exhaustion. In this case, move to a cool location as quickly as possible. Lie down, loosen clothing and apply cool, wet cloths to as much of the body as possible. Sip some cool water.

Heat stroke is a more serious situation and is characterized by a body temperature above 103 degrees, hot and red skin, a rapid and strong pulse, or unconsciousness. In this case, call 911 immediately. Before paramedics arrive, move the person to a cooler environment, apply cool cloths, but do NOT give them fluids.

Enjoy your summer!

With a little diligence and preparation, everyone should be able to enjoy  these dog days of summer safely. If you are concerned about a family member, neighbor, or loved one, consult with an Aging Life Care Professional™.

About the author: Lindsay Rosoff, LMSW, Care Manager with ProperCare of Austin, TX, seeks to help older adults meet the challenges of aging with independence and dignity. She has extensive experience with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and leads several support groups in the Austin community. Thank you to ProperCare and IlluminAge for the use of this blog post.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Summer Self-Care: Resources to Take a Caregiving Break

When you are responsible for the care of an aging loved one, a summer vacation or weekend getaway may seem impossible or out-of-reach. Questions race through your mind: What happens if Mom falls? Who will remind Dad to take his medications? What if there is a storm? You feel overwhelmed and cancel your plans. But caregiving burnout is real, and it is important to take time to take care of yourself. 

With a Plan in Place, You Can Take a Vacation from Caregiving Duties

Not taking time away from caregiving responsibilities can lead to bigger problems – caregiver burnout, stress, or poor health. With some extra planning and help, you can take a break from your caregiver role. Aging Life Care™ experts offer these tips to help make sure your loved one is safe and comfortable while you are away:

1. In-Home Caregivers: If there is not another family member or trusted friend or neighbor to fill in for you, connect with an Aging Life Care Professional™ who can help arrange for in-home care, monitoring, or transportation needs. Many Aging Life Care Professionals offer 24/7 service and can serve as an emergency contact while you are away. Depending on the individual’s needs, paid caregivers can assist with activities of daily living – bathing, dressing, mobility, meal preparations, house cleaning, or transportation. If you plan on using a paid caregiver, spend time getting the caregiver and your loved one familiar and comfortable with each other and to be sure it is a good match.

2. Organize Important Documents: Prepare a folder or binder of information for the person/agency who will provide care and oversight while you are away. Include information on emergency contacts, physicians, preferred hospital, pharmacy, and other service providers, such as therapy services, Meals on Wheels, home care agency, etc. Also include your loved one’s medication list and other important documents such as Power of Attorney, Living Will, Advance Directives, and Do Not Resuscitate orders.

3. In-Home Technology: There are a variety of new technologies designed for keeping aging adults safe in their homes, including personal emergency response systems (PERS), GPS tracking devices, automated medication reminders and dispensers, as well as systems that allow you to remotely monitor or control the usage of certain electrical outlets or appliances.

4. Respite Care: Many retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes offer respite care on a per diem basis for short stays. If your loved one just needs daytime-only activities or supervision, consider an adult day care center.

“Caregiving is exhausting and difficult work,” says Jeffrey S. Pine, past-president of the Aging Life Care Association™.  “But with some extra planning and research, it is possible to take some time away from your caregiving responsibilities to recharge your batteries.”

To access a nationwide directory of Aging Life Care Professionals, please visit aginglifecare.org. For more on how an Aging Life Care Professional can help you plan for a caregiver vacation, read Next Avenue’s  “How to Take a Vacation When You’re a Caregiver” by Wendy Shuman.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

8 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Developing Dementia

Your genetics do not have to be the final word on your brain’s health. Through small, easy lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk of developing dementia, and improve your quality of life while you’re at it.

8 Tips for Reducing the Risk of Developing Dementia                                                                      

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month                                                                                        

 by Keri Pollock, B.Sc.

“Genetics is not your destiny when it comes to later-onset Alzheimer’s, as genetics accounts for a small percentage of the risk.  But you can influence and reduce risk by making good lifestyle choices,” according to Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging at the David Geffen School of Medicine.

Dr. Small is familiar to many for his books such as The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program and Two Weeks to a Younger Brain, books that translate the latest brain science into practical strategies for improving cognitive health and decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.

While the evidence isn’t definitive, there’s enough of it to demonstrate that the following practices benefit us all as we age, and can likely help lower our chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia, or at a minimum, delay the onset or progression of dementia.  Just one or two lifestyle tweaks can reap big dividends in our overall health, especially brain health, as we age.

Tip #1: Physical Activity                                                                                                                                  

 If you were to do just one thing, let it be regular exercise. And this doesn’t have to be anything fancy or too vigorous. Daily walking is one of the most effective and lasting choices you can make. What’s good for the heart is good for the brain, and exercise will work your heart muscle and oxygenate your brain.

Tip #2: Quit Smoking

As a former smoker (29 years smoke-free), I know how difficult it is to quit. But the benefits of quitting are overwhelming. According to one large study, you double your odds of developing dementia if you smoke a lot in middle age, and other studies demonstrate similar connections. Find a smoking cessation program, I can’t encourage that enough. And when you stop smoking, you feel better, and food tastes better, which will help you enjoy the next tip.

Tip #3: Brain Food

Nutrition contributes to brain health in marvelous ways. The Mediterranean diet is often cited as one of the best for brain and heart health. And what a great time of year to adopt this eating program: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, nuts, olive oil, and limiting consumption of red meat and fats. Check out a local farmers market for great deals on fresh, local produce.

Tip #4: Stay Socially Engaged

Loneliness and isolation can have the equivalent impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And social engagement can easily contribute to intellectual engagement. For ideas on how to build a broader social network, click here to read my colleague Jullie Gray’s article – The Most Surprising Secret to Aging Well — on this subject from the ALCA Blog.

Tip # 5: Keep Mentally Engaged

Be a lifelong learner. Learning builds new neural pathways. Now’s the time to learn a new language, how to salsa dance or how to play the piano. Reading, puzzles, watching Jeopardy!, it all counts. And variety is the spice of making this work to its best advantage. Check out your local library, community or senior center to see what classes are available. Stay curious.

Tip #6: Stay positive

–And reduce stress. There is something to that song Don’t Worry, Be Happy and the attitude it encourages. A positive attitude contributes to cognitive health. Many of the suggestions above can contribute to a positive attitude as well. Find what works for you and keep doing it! Mindfulness meditation is growing in popularity, is a relatively easy practice to learn, and it can help address both chronic stress and attitude.

Tip #7: Manage Diabetes and Hypertension

Both are tied to dementia. If you don’t have high blood pressure or diabetes, practice good health habits to keep them at bay. If you do have either condition, follow your doctor’s orders to manage and improve your health.

Tip #8: Give your body a rest

Adequate, consistent sleep is restorative, healing, and necessary to supporting brain health. Sleep is the brain’s way of cleaning house.

Bonus Tip: Take the time to invest in yourself.

Pick just one of the eight habits that you would like to change to start investing in better brain health and lowering your odds of developing Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. In an interview with O, The Oprah Magazine, Small shared: “According to our data, if everyone in the United States adopted one additional healthy lifestyle habit, the number of expected Alzheimer’s cases would be reduced by a million in the next five years.”

It’s never too late to start. And while evidence of the long-range impact of these lifestyle changes is not yet definitive, as Dr. Small puts it, “I don’t want to wait 10 years just to find out I should have been doing these things all along.”

Looks like I need to find time to take a walk today!

RESOURCES

About the author: Keri Pollock directs marketing and communications for Aging Wisdom, an Aging Life Care™ practice in Seattle; Keri has worked in the field of aging for over 20 years. She currently serves on the Elderwise board of directors, the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter Discovery Conference Planning Committee, and co-chairs the University of Washington Elder Friendly Futures Conference. Follow Aging Wisdom on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and SoundCloud.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.