Category Archives: Health

Taking Too Much Vitamin D?

Recent studies show the risks of high doses of vitamin D 

The health benefits of taking proper doses of Vitamin D supplements are well established, such as stronger bones and teeth; lowered risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers; and improved resistance to multiple sclerosis. Studies also show that Vitamin D may have protective benefits against cognitive decline in older adults.

Recent research, however, such as a study published last year in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, suggests that high monthly doses of Vitamin D do not improve lower extremity functioning and muscle strength in adults over age 70. Furthermore, high doses of Vitamin D also may lead to an increased risk of falling in seniors.

Vitamin D is best known as the vitamin we get from sun exposure. Some foods are sources of Vitamin D (although often in relatively small amounts):

  • cod liver oil
  • tuna
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • milk or yogurt fortified with vitamin D
  • beef or calf liver
  • egg yolks
  • cheese

But, as people age, their skin converts less sunlight into Vitamin D. For example, the body of a 70-year-old will make about 25 percent less Vitamin D than a 20-year-old will make given equal exposure to sunlight, says the anti-aging organization Life Extension. Older adults also have a lowered ability to absorb Vitamin D from food sources.

The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies establishes the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for vitamin D and other nutrients. The RDA for vitamin D rises for people over age 70 for several reasons: their decreased ability to efficiently synthesize vitamin D, they are likely to spend more time indoors, and they may not be taking adequate doses of vitamin D supplements.

At age 70 the recommended minimum daily International Units (IU) of Vitamin D is 800 IU per day, says the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements. These requirements can vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors.

Will taking higher doses of vitamin D supplements increase the vitamin’s health benefits? Not necessarily.

The Vitamin D Council warns that, although most people take Vitamin D supplements with no problems, it is possible to take too much, which can bring on a condition called Vitamin D toxicity. These harmful levels of Vitamin D can happen if you take 4,000 IU (or more) for three months or longer, or if you take a very large one-time dose (more than 300,000 IU within 24 hours). For some people, harmful levels might occur at even lower doses.

Are you getting enough Vitamin D? Too little? Too much? The only way to know is through a 25(OH)D blood test. Ask your doctor for this specific test. The results will show whether you’re getting healthy amounts of Vitamin D. You can then talk with your doctor about taking proper levels of Vitamin D supplements, how much sun exposure is beneficial, and dietary changes you should consider.

February Is American Heart Month

Know the risk factors for developing heart disease

This month, the America Heart Association is challenging all Americans to learn more about heart disease and its risk factors, and to join its mission to promote healthier families and communities, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Facts About Heart Disease in the U.S.

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease are in men.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD), caused by plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart (called coronary arteries) and other parts of the body, is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually.
  • Every 43 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack. A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when a part of the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough blood flow.
  • Of the 735,000 Americans who have a heart attack each year, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 have already had a heart attack.

Heart disease is a major threat to senior’s health. In fact heart disease accounts for 84% of deaths of those 65 years and older. Therefore seniors are especially encouraged to make those all important heart healthy choices. In senior living communities, such as those managed by ISL healthy meals, exercise and an active lifestyle are incorporated into resident’s choices, making a difference in their lives.

Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions, says the American Heart Association. Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to create opportunities for people to make healthier choices.

Key Risk Factors for Heart Disease

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. Nearly half of Americans (47 percent) have at least one of these three risk factors.

These medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease:

  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use

Healthy Lifestyle Factors

Seniors and others can prevent and control many coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors by engaging in a heart-healthy lifestyle. For example some risk factors can be controlled or at least made better like high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity. Only a few risk factors—such as age, gender, and family history—can’t be controlled.

Seniors should try and control each risk factor which include:

  • Heart-healthy eating
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress
  • Physical activity- at least 30 minutes 5 times a week
  • Quitting smoking

The good news is that making changes can help control several risk factors at the same time. For example, physical activity may lower your blood pressure, help control diabetes and prediabetes, reduce stress, and help control weight.

Make heart healthy choices this February.

To learn more about a healthy senior lifestyle in senior living contact our community today!

If you think that you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. A person’s chances of surviving a heart attack increase if emergency treatment is administered as soon as possible.

Brain Exercise in the Winter

Taking part in an activity that is fun and thought provoking improves a senior’s quality of life. Many studies support the connection between lifestyle and dementia risk- finding that following a brain-healthy lifestyle and performing regular, targeted brain exercises can also increase a brain’s cognitive reserve.

In the cold often dreary days of winter getting some good mental stimulation can often mean indoor activity- and that means for many crossword puzzles! Solid research supports that doing crosswords puzzles helps in many ways including:

  1. Prevent Dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends picking up the crossword habit to help stave off dementia.
  2. Verbal Skills Improve
  3. Solve Problems with Practice
  4. Identify Patterns
  5. Trivia Buffs- get happy

Here is a link to a website with free large print crossword puzzles older adults will appreciate.  http://www.qets.com/crossword_puzzles.htm.

Of course there are also crossword puzzles found in daily newspapers and countless books that are all about crossword puzzles. If the senior in your life loves a good brain challenge, engage with them in good crossword puzzles!

ENJOY!

Alzheimer’s Update

With several promising Phase 3 trials going on in research and increased funding 2016 is poised to be a good year in the search to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

  • Forbes Magazine has gone out on a limb and predicted that a breakthrough drug in the search to conquer Alzheimer’s may be on the way in 2016. Unlike the five existing therapies to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease this drug looks cure it.   Eli Lilly’s solanezumab has been in development for 15 years.  Currently in Phase 3 studies, this experimental drug could be the first marketed treatment to slow the worsening of Alzheimer’s.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association, the leading advocate for federal Alzheimer’s disease research funding and caregiver support, highlighted the historic $350 million increase for Alzheimer’s disease research funding in the FY2016 budget, signed into law on December 18, 2015 by President Barack Obama. This marks the largest increase ever for federal Alzheimer’s research funding. The bill includes $350 million in new spending for Alzheimer’s disease research, a 60% increase over the 2015 amount and well above the president’s request of $51 million. This brings total funding to $936 million. Alzheimer’s researchers hailed the news. “This sends a positive message to younger scientists, who have been leaving the field in droves, that they can initiate and sustain their research careers investigating this disease … I am grateful to Congress for finally seeing the necessity of this action,” Gary Landreth at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, wrote to Alzforum.

The New Year is a Good Time to Explore New Living Options

We in the senior living industry always see an increase of inquires in the beginning of the New Year.  Why? The answer is really quite simple.  Over the holiday’s the reality of where a seniors loved ones mental and physical health is currently at becomes apparent when children or loved ones are home for the holidays and spending more time together.  We often find that if you are starting to ask the question ‘is assistance needed?’ then it may be time to begin inquiring into senior living options.

It is best to begin the search into senior living options, earlier rather than later so that all involved have the time and the best choices available to make the right decisions for a loved one.

Consider these questions when deciding whether it is time to inquire into senior living community options:

  • Emotions: How are they emotionally? Are there changes in their activity level and mood? Are they seeing friends and partaking in activities they have loved for years?
  • Health: Are they taking their medications correctly? Has there been significant weight loss? Unexplained weight loss could indicate a major health problem.
  • Home: What shape is the home in? If the home is in need of repair and un-kept, these can be signs that more help is needed.
  • Hygiene: Neglecting personal hygiene and cleanliness can be a sign that help is needed. Are they taking care of themselves physically? Look to see if they are keeping up with basic daily routines such as bathing, brushing teeth and wearing clean clothes.
  • Mobility: Are they having difficulty moving around their home? Having trouble walking or being unsteady on their feet puts them at risk for falling and injuring themselves.
  • Memory: Are you noticing changes in their personality? Memory loss, difficulty in performing familiar tasks, poor judgment, misplacing items, disorientation, rapid mood swings, increased apathy or passiveness are all early warning signs of Alzheimer’s. A doctor’s evaluation can help determine the cause and treatment of these symptoms.
  • Money: How are the finances? Any mishandled finances to cause concern?
  • Transportation Do you see any dents in a car? This may indicate erratic or unsafe driving.

There are different types of senior living communities to accommodate the varying needs of seniors. The three most common types of senior living options are:

  • Independent Living communities are for active older adults who require little or no assistance from others. They enjoy private dwellings, control over their own schedules, and freedom to come and go as they choose. Social networking, optional events, special interest clubs, and conveniently located services may be offered onsite as well as resort-like amenities with all the comforts of home.
  • An Assisted Living residence is a combination of housing, services, personalized assistance and care tailored to the individual needs of those who require help with activities of daily living
  • Memory Care is designed especially for residents with memory loss including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Many independent and assisted living communities offer memory care areas within their communities. Residents live in a secured space and enjoy an environment and activities coordinated by staff members trained specifically for caring for those with memory impairment.

Thankfully there are many wonderful options in the 21st century for seniors. Check with us about the many senior living opportunities available today!

2016 Medicare Open Enrollment: October 15 to December 7

Make Needed Changes Now to Medicare Plans 

Now is the time to review and reassess Medicare plans for older adults so that coverage will be adequate and cost-effective for 2016. From October 15 to December 7, 2015, the 2016 Medicare Open Enrollment period is designated for older adults enrolled in Medicare to take these actions:

  • Change their Part D (prescription drug) plan
  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Change Medigap plans
  • Change Medicare Advantage plans

DailyCaring, an organization that supports families caring for older adults, says that “even though we all wish we could ‘set it and forget it’ with health insurance, Medicare plans change all the time.” To save money, older adult’s plans should be reassessed every year so that necessary changes can be made during the Open Enrollment period.

DailyCaring offers tips for knowing which changes to look for in the paperwork and how they could make a big difference in costs.

How to Find and Evaluate Key Plan Changes

In early October, older adults should have received an annual notice from their health insurance company. The package might be dauntingly thick, but look for the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC), a thinner booklet. The first pages of the ANOC booklet should summarize key plan changes for 2016.

Will the current plan still cover needed services and prescriptions for 2016? You don’t need to take any action or make any changes if:

  • Current plans are still being offered
  • Ongoing medical care and prescription needs for 2016 will be covered
  • New medical care and prescription needs for 2016 will be covered
  • Procedures or tests that may be needed in 2016 will be covered

But if plans are changing and you think switching plans might be a good idea, look into these issues:

  • If the plan premium is increasing 10 percent or more, you might be able to find a better plan.
  • Has the deductible gone up? It used to be zero and now it’s not? Consider switching plans.
  • For prescription drug coverage, figure out changes in drug premiums and tiers, and how these will affect what’s paid out of pocket. This investigation process might take some work, but this is where you can save a lot of money.
  • How much did you spend in co-pays this year? Were some expenses not covered, and might those expenses happen in 2016? If so, consider switching to a Medigap plan with fixed costs.
  • Are you paying for a Medigap plan but your senior doesn’t have many doctor visits (apart from annual checkups and preventive care)? A better option might be Medicare Advantage plans with lower premiums and other benefits like hearing and vision coverage.

For more information on this topic and related topics of interest to caregivers of senior adults, visit the DailyCaring website.

Helping Seniors Enjoy the Holiday Season

The busy holiday season can be challenging for any of us, but older adults can find the added activity to be especially draining. Low mood, confusion, and stress may put a damper on seniors’ holiday merriment.

Below are some tips on how to help seniors find joy, relaxation, and connection during this potentially tough time.

Reminisce. Take out the photo album, listen to old records, watch family movies, tell stories of holidays past. Sharing memories can be powerful and engaging for older adults.

Plan for alone time. Set aside a room or area in which the senior can take a break from the overstimulation of family gatherings.

Include the senior. Make a point to invite your senior to participate in as many family activities as they can handle. Simple tasks include setting out dinnerware, folding napkins, and adding ornaments to the tree. Helping out will give them a sense of purpose and usefulness, helping them feel more involved and needed.

Connect. Loneliness can bring on depression, so it’s important for seniors to connect with others during the holiday season. Go out of your way to visit and talk with older people in your life more frequently than you might have done during the rest of the year.

November Is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

 Surprising Facts You Might Not Know

Although Alzheimer’s affects approximately 1 in every 2 families in the U.S., and has been extensively covered in the media, there’s still quite a bit of information about Alzheimer’s that you might not be aware of.

Dennis Fortier, president and CEO of Medical Care Corporation, which specializes in helping physicians evaluate patients’ memory and cognitive functions, writes in Caring.com, an online resource for caregivers of older adults, that there are numerous vital facts about Alzheimer’s that you might not know—and that might surprise you. Here is a summary:

Alzheimer’s is usually detected at the end-stage of the disease. On average, Alzheimer’s follows a 14-year course from the onset symptoms until death. Surprisingly, we usually diagnose Alzheimer’s in years 8-10 of the disease course. We diagnose Alzheimer’s disease far too late to optimize the effects of available treatments.

Memory loss is not a part of normal aging. Many patients with symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease do not seek treatment—partly because they dismiss those symptoms are being the normal and untreatable effects of aging. A startling number of doctors incorrectly believe that memory loss is inevitable with age. Be aware that memory loss is not a part of normal aging and timely medical intervention is critical. 

Current Alzheimer’s drugs may be more effective than you think. One reason that current treatments are often deemed ineffective is that they are prescribed for patients with end-stage disease and massive brain damage. With earlier intervention, treatment can be given to patients with healthier brains, who will likely respond more vigorously. A great start would be to intervene earlier with the treatments we have.  

Alzheimer’s disease can be treated. With a good diet, physical exercise, social engagement, and certain drugs, many patients (especially those detected at an early stage) can meaningfully alter the course of Alzheimer’s and preserve their quality of life. Be aware that “we have no cure” does not mean “there is no treatment.” 

Better drug treatments for Alzheimer’s are on the way. Some very promising drugs, based on sound theoretical approaches, are in FDA clinical trials right now. It is possible that an effective agent is already in the pipeline.

Taking care of your heart will help your brain stay healthy. Brain health is very closely tied to the health of your body, particularly your heart. Researchers have shown that high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity contribute to greater risk for cognitive decline. Be aware that maintaining good vascular health will help you age with cognitive vitality. 

Managing risk factors may delay or prevent cognitive decline. Well-identified risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include diabetes, head injuries, smoking, poor diet, lethargy, and isolation. All of these risks are manageable, and publicizing them is one purpose of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Be aware that many risk factors for Alzheimer’s can be actively managed to reduce the likelihood of cognitive problems as you age.

Flu Season Begins

October marks the month when flu vaccinations become available. The flu can make existing health conditions worse and is especially dangerous for people with chronic health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, which often affect older adults. Seniors with these conditions are more likely to develop complications from the flu that can result in hospitalization and even death.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the single best way to prevent the flu is to get an annual vaccination, which is recommended for everyone aged six months and older, with rare exception.

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, if possible by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.

We encourage all seniors to consult with their physicians about getting a flu shot this year.

For more information about this year’s flu season visit: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2015-2016.htm

It’s that time of year again—Medicare Sign Ups October 15-December 7, 2015

 

It’s October which means Fall Open Enrollment begins for Medicare. During the Annual Coordinated Election Period, which runs from October 15th through December 7th, people with Medicare can change their choice of health coverage (whether they receive that coverage through a private Medicare Advantage plan or traditional Medicare), and add, drop or change Medicare Part D drug coverage. It’s very important that Medicare beneficiaries review their drug plan annually.

Why? Because Medicare private drug plans can make changes each year; changes can include which pharmacies are in their networks as well as which drugs are covered and the costs.  Most people can only change their plans during the Fall Open Enrollment Period.

Find out whether medications you are taking will be covered on your plan next year.  If your physician had to submit a prior authorization exception request and you need the same medication  next year, call your plan to find out what you need to do to make sure that your plan continues covering your medication.  Your physician may need to submit a new request and he may be able to do so before the end of the year to ensure that your coverage continues without interruption.

Now is the time to be asking questions! For more information visit http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/the-medicare-annual-coordinated-election-period-has-begun/