Nutrition Needs Change as We AgeWe all want to stay healthy as we age, but there’s no denying that staying healthy gets increasingly difficult the older we get. Older Americans are more likely to get sick and injured than their younger counterparts and a big part of that has to do with their diet. Even people who made an effort to eat healthy all their lives might still suffer increased health risks as they age and their nutritional needs change. Let’s take a look at some of the most common health problems faced by older Americans and how nutrition might play a role.

Atrophic Gastritis

Atrophic gastritis is a condition faced by approximately 20% of older Americans. It’s characterized by a reduced level of stomach acid as a result of chronic inflammation in the cells that produce stomach acid.

Reduced stomach acid can lead to a reduced ability to absorb nutrients, specifically vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and magnesium.

Atrophic gastritis can be treated with medication, but for anyone not yet diagnosed with atrophic gastritis (or any other inflammatory disease) who thinks they might be at risk, it’s a good idea to try to stick to a diet that’s low in inflammatory ingredients, specifically alcohol, sugar, refined grains, and dairy.

Calories vs. Nutrients

Another challenge of aging is that, as we age, we need fewer calories to survive, making it more difficult to get all the nutrients we need.

The solution to this problem is to eat a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods and take supplements as needed to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. Remember to consult with your doctor or dietician before making any changes to your diet, medication, or adding any new supplements to your regimen.

Protein

In addition to losing bone mass, many people also tend to lose muscle mass as they age, which is one reason they tend to need fewer calories to get through the day than they needed when they were younger, had more muscle mass, and were more active.

Reduced muscle mass is a contributing factor to weakness in older Americans, which, in turn, is more likely to lead to fractures and other injuries.

The solution is to eat more protein, combined with strength-training exercises to help prevent the loss of strength and muscle mass.

Calcium and Vitamin D

You probably already know that bone loss, also known as osteoporosis, is a common problem among older Americans (especially women) and is a leading cause of fractures and broken bones. You might know that calcium is an important ingredient in building strong bones, but did you know that Vitamin D is just as important? Vitamin D is needed to carry calcium from the blood stream to the bones, so a full dose of calcium won’t do any good without the requisite amount of Vitamin D.

At Stillwater Senior Living, we make sure every resident has access to healthy, nutritious foods. We have a weekly menu, but adjustments can always be made for residents with specific dietary needs. Reach out now if you have any questions about our menu or any other aspect of our assisted living community.

Things You Need to Know About Parkinson’s DiseaseA diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is always scary, but it can be even more intimidating if you don’t know what the diagnosis really means. You might have heard of Parkinson’s causing tremors and mobility issues, but if that’s all you know about it, you probably have a lot of questions, especially if you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. While we can’t tell you everything about the disease in a blog post, we can give you an idea of some of the things you can expect from a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

  • Early Warning Signs

While tremors and mobility issues are probably the most well-known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, they’re not the only indications that something might be wrong. Before the disease reaches that stage, many patients experience loss of smell, constipation, vivid dreaming, and their handwriting might become very small.

  • Brain Cell Death

Cells in the substantia nigra section of the brain are responsible for producing dopamine, which helps the brain control movement of the body. When these brain cells start to die, Parkinson’s disease develops, and it is the reduced levels of dopamine in the brain that lead to the tremors and loss of motor control that tend to characterize Parkinson’s disease.

  • Unknown Causes

No one knows what causes Parkinson’s disease. Based on what we know so far, the best guess scientists can make is that it’s a combination of environmental factors and genetic predisposition, but so far the exact causes of Parkinson’s disease remain a medical mystery that has yet to be solved.

  • How Is Parkinson’s Diagnosed?

Because Parkinson’s develops when certain brain cells start to die, it’s difficult to diagnose when the patient is still living. In order to diagnose a patient with Parkinson’s disease, a doctor would need to conduct a physical exam, as well as a variety of tests to determine whether two of the four main symptoms are present: tremors/shaking, slow movements, rigid limbs and/or torso, and difficulty balancing.

  • When Is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?

The average age of patients who experience the onset of Parkinson’s disease is 62. If the patient is less than 50 years old at the time of their Parkinson’s diagnosis, it’s known as young-onset or early-onset Parkinson’s disease.

  • Treatment

As with Alzheimer’s and dementia, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, although the progression of the disease can be slowed down with the help of drugs that can mimic, or even replace dopamine. Exercise is also a critical factor for managing the disease and mitigating the effects of the loss of mobility and balance caused by the disease. In some cases, deep brain stimulation surgery has also proven effective in combatting the disease.

Whether you or your loved one is suffering from reduced mobility, cognitive decline, or both, we can come up with a plan to help them here at Stillwater Senior Living. Everything from our Senior Messages to our new Lakeside Memory Care Neighborhood is designed to help our residents age in comfort and with dignity.

benefits of assisted living

There are a lot of misconceptions about assisted living, and while many of those misconceptions tend to focus on the perceived drawbacks of assisted living, the benefits of assisted living also tend to get overlooked. Specifically, people don’t always talk about who can benefit from assisted living, which is too bad because the answer is much more specific than just “old people.”

We’re going to clear up some of those misconceptions in this article, not only by going over the benefits assisted living provides, but by explaining who benefits from assisted living.

People with Arthritis Can Benefit from Assisted Living

Arthritis is much more than a mild annoyance that comes with getting older. Not only can it become extremely painful, but it can be debilitating, preventing range of movement, which inhibits those affected from being able to perform all sorts of daily tasks.

Assisted living helps those with arthritis by taking care of those daily tasks for them so they can still have food, clean clothes, and clean living quarters, no matter how their range of motion is affected by their arthritis.

People Who Are Isolated Can Benefit from Assisted Living

One of the most important benefits of assisted living that gets overlooked is the social aspect. As we age, our friends and peers die off and our children move out and build lives of their own. As many as 35% of adults aged 45 and older report feeling lonely, and their risk of loneliness and social isolation only increases as they age. Those feelings of being cut off from society and loved ones lead to an increased risk of depression and associated mental disorders, as well as chronic illness.

By contrast, not only are people in assisted living checked up on by staff and nurses, they are also surrounded by their peers, many of whom have been through and are going through similar life events. Assisted living communities also tend to organize social events for their residents to encourage them to get out of their rooms and mingle with other residents, thereby fostering their personal relationships and mental wellbeing.

Family Can Benefit from Assisted Living

While there are certainly many benefits to being a caregiver, especially to a loved one, there’s no denying that it can also be stressful and overwhelming. For those already juggling kids and a career, taking on the responsibility of caring for an aging loved one isn’t always an option, and that’s where assisted living can help.

We can make sure a staff of professionals are caring for your loved one around the clock so you can continue to show up in all the other aspects of your life. By letting us take the burden of caregiving off your shoulders, you’ll also be better able to enjoy the time you spend visiting your loved one because it can be spent on quality time, rather than trying to make sure you’re providing the care they need.

If you’ve been considering assisted living, but you’re not sure if it’s right for you or your loved one, reach out now so we can start a conversation about the benefits we provide to our residents and their families at Stillwater Senior Living.

elder lawAs if all the complications of aging weren’t confusing enough on their own, now there’s another thing to deal with: elder law. What is it? How can you tell if you need it?

Rather than making things more confusing, the goal of elder law is actually to simplify the process by guiding people through many of the most complicated aspects of aging. Elder law is not a specific brand of the law by itself. Instead, it covers a broad range of topics generally faced by older Americans, including healthcare, Medicare/Medicaid, estate planning, probate, power of attorney, etc. In this article, we’ll go over some of the most important aspects of the law covered by elder law and how you can use it to your advantage as you and your loved ones age.

Elder Law Can Help You Navigate Healthcare

The American healthcare system is confusing even when you’re in your prime and require little or no medical attention. As we age, not only do we need more care, but the process of getting that care gets increasingly complicated. Instead of just dealing with one health insurance provider, you might have to navigate Medicare and/or Medicaid, as well as any health insurance company providing supplemental insurance.

Then there’s long-term care insurance, which can help pay for things like in-home healthcare or assisted living.

The simplest way to cover these costs is simply to pay out of pocket, but that option is too pricey for many people, in which case a qualified elder law attorney can help them navigate all the steps required to get the coverage they need.

Elder Law Can Help You with Your Estate Planning

Our estate planning needs also tend to change as we age. While a qualified financial planner can help protect your assets from taxes so your dependents and beneficiaries aren’t left with a tax burden when you’re gone, as we get older, we’re more likely to need long-term care and/or assisted living, and that’s where elder law comes in. Elder law takes a more holistic approach to your finances by helping you set aside funds and assets for your loved ones while making sure your healthcare needs are not neglected.

Too many people make the mistake of assuming they’ll never need long-term care or assisted living, and they fail to account for it in their financial planning. Elder law can help prevent you from making that mistake to ensure both you and your loved ones are covered.

Elder Law Can Help You Navigate Power of Attorney

Your power of attorney is the person capable of making financial and medical decisions for you when you are no longer capable of making them yourself, but there are different kinds of power of attorney. In addition to helping you make sure only someone you trust is granted your power of attorney, elder law can also help you protect your ability to make decisions for yourself as much as possible. For example, a “springing” power of attorney means the rights of your durable power of attorney don’t lock down until certain requirements have been met, such as a specific medical diagnosis.

If you have questions about elder law and/or assisted living, we’re happy to help. Reach out now to start a conversation.

Meditation for SeniorsWhat started out as a fringe practice used by a few to maintain a sense of calm has become widely adopted, with scientific evidence to support the idea that it provides many more benefits than just helping you calm down when you’re stressed. While meditating regularly provides benefits to people of all ages, it can be particularly beneficial to seniors. So, whether you’re an older American and/or you have loved ones who are older Americans, consider these benefits when thinking about adding meditation to your daily routine … or convincing them to add meditation to their routine.

Delays the Onset of Dementia

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, or any other form of dementia, but studies show that, by meditating regularly, we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Because meditation is a way of clearing the mind of distracting thoughts, it’s also a way to increase focus, which requires an increase in brain activity. By “exercising” the brain with meditation, we can delay some of the brain cell death that results from of a condition such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s similar to the way other mentally stimulating activities, such as gardening and crossword puzzles, also help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Helps Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a common symptom of aging, and a dangerous precursor to things like stroke and heart attack. By actively meditating for a few minutes every day, seniors can keep their blood pressure under control. It’s not a replacement for blood pressure medication, but it’s a great addition to any routine prescribed by a doctor to get and keep your blood pressure down to a healthy level. As with Alzheimer’s/dementia, meditation might not cure you of your high blood pressure, but with regular practice, it might be able to delay the need for medication for a while.

Reduces Your Risk of Contracting a Stress-Related Illness

Many of the most common chronic illnesses are at least partially due to stress. We mentioned high blood pressure (a.k.a. hypertension), but other illnesses, such as high cholesterol and diabetes also seem to have roots in stress, at least to an extent. Meditation can’t necessarily cure you, but when practiced regularly, it can delay the onset of stress-related illnesses, and help mitigate the effects of a stress-related illness after you’ve already started showing symptoms.

Increases Energy and Boosts Your Immune System

By helping you stay calm, meditation can help keep your cortisol levels low. Cortisol is the hormone produced and released by your body when you’re under stress. It’s also known as the “fight-or-flight” hormone, but with many of us feeling stressed in ways that involve neither fighting nor fleeing, we end up in a near-constant state of stress, which means our body is pumping out cortisol continuously. Since cortisol inhibits the immune system’s ability to respond to threats to the body, those of us who constantly feel stressed are significantly more likely to get sick than those who meditate on a regular basis.

Meditating is just one brain exercise that provides health benefits to seniors, and as experts in assisted living, we don’t stop at meditating. Our new memory care wing has a host of mental activities to help mitigate the effects of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. If you want to know what else we do to keep our residents safe and healthy, don’t hesitate to reach out.

celebrate love in assisted livingCelebrating Valentine’s Day in assisted living can be challenging at the best of times, and let’s face it, these are not the best of times. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate love and the people who matter most to us. This year we have some ideas as to how you can celebrate love with those closest to your heart, even if they’re in assisted living and you have to physically keep your distance.

  • Send Them Gifts

You might not be able to give them gifts in person, but you can still send them a care package. Whether it’s the traditional box of chocolates, something new they’ve had their eye on, or a box of their favorite homemade cookies, sending them a gift is the perfect way to let them know you’re thinking of them and they’re still as special to you as ever.

  • Call Them

Just because you can’t visit them in person doesn’t mean you can’t give them a chance to hear your voice, and that can mean more than you might realize. Sometimes a good old-fashioned phone call really is all it takes to lift someone’s spirits and make them feel connected to you (and for you to feel connected to them). You don’t have to talk about anything big, so don’t feel like you should only call when you have major news to share. It’s often sharing the small events of day-to-day life that really bring people together, so don’t hesitate to call them just because you’re thinking of them.

If your loved one can manage a Zoom call or FaceTime, even better. It can’t match meeting up in person, but it’s as close as we can get these days, so use video chat to connect with your loved one whenever possible.

  • Send Photos

Sending photos of you and your family is also a great way to help your loved ones in assisted living feel connected to you and the rest of the family, especially if you have kids. Grandparents always love seeing photos of their grandkids, especially given how fast they grow. Video conferences are great, but sending a physical photo gives them something they can hold onto and keep, and if you do it regularly, they’ll get to see their grandchildren’s progress as they look over their photo collection.

  • Send Gift Cards

You might not be able to take your loved one out to lunch or dinner for Valentine’s Day this year, but you can send them a gift card to their favorite restaurant, especially if it’s a restaurant that’s doing deliveries. That way your loved one can order their favorite meal as a special treat and know you were thinking of them.

If you want more ideas for expressing love and gratitude to your loved ones on Valentine’s Day, don’t be afraid to reach out to get some recommendations directly from the experts. You can also ask us what we’re doing here at Stillwater Senior Living to celebrate love with our residents.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family. We are also excited our new Memory Care Neighborhood is now open.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

What Should Seniors Be Eating to Stay Healthy?We should all be doing our best to maintain a healthy diet all year long, but it’s especially important for seniors to eat healthy, since a nutritious diet can help keep both their body and mind strong, avoiding or delaying the effects of dementia, and reducing the chances of breaking a bone if they should fall or bump into something. While fruits and vegetables are necessary ingredients in any nutritious diet, seniors need to take extra measures to make sure they’re getting certain vitamins and minerals in their daily diet, as well as loading up on some of these foods:

Calcium and Vitamin K

We talk a lot about the dangers of seniors breaking bones due to the fact that their bones tend to lose density as they age, making them more brittle and therefore more susceptible to fractures and breaks. Calcium is obviously an important nutrient our bodies need for building strong bones, but a lot of people forget about vitamin K, which the body needs to transport calcium from the blood stream to the bones. So, while it’s important to include a healthy amount of milk and cheese to make sure you get your calcium, it’s equally important to make sure you eat some dark leafy greens with your dairy to get the benefit of vitamin K.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another important ingredient for building strong bones. Our bodies make vitamin D from sunlight, but as we age, our bodies start to lose the ability to made vitamin D, making it necessary for us to get it from food. There are plenty of vitamin D supplements on the market, but you can also get milk enriched with vitamin D, and bone broth and mushrooms are both natural source of vitamin D, so make sure your older loved ones are getting at least one of those things in their diet on a regular basis.

Collagen

Collagen is an essential nutrient that a lot of Americans are missing from their diet, especially seniors. It’s necessary for building and maintaining strong tendons and ligaments, which means getting enough collagen can also prevent fractured and broken bones by building a strong support network for those bones.

Collagen can be found naturally in bone broth, but they also sell powdered collagen as a supplement. It dissolves easily in liquid and doesn’t have much flavor, so you can just add it to your cup of coffee or tea in the morning as a quick and easy way to get this nutrient.

Healthy Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for building and maintaining both a strong brain and a strong heart. They’re found in a variety of foods, but fatty fish, such as salmon, are especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t like fish, you can take fish oil as a supplement to make sure you get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids.

Some correlations have also been found between the consumption of coconut oil and brain health, although there is not currently enough data to definitively say whether coconut oil is capable of preventing, much less curing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. What we do know is that coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MTCs), a kind of fat that is easily digested and used by the brain for energy. Regular consumption of coconut oil, combined with a low-carb diet, can also prompt the liver to make ketones, which the brain uses for energy when there is no sugar available, and there is evidence to suggest that these ketones promote a healthier brain function.

As part of our services as an assisted living community, we offer customized meals for our residents, so they can maintain their dietary preferences, even if they aren’t the ones doing the cooking. If you’re curious about what we serve in our dining hall, you can view our weekly menu here.

memory careMost people are familiar with the idea of nursing homes and assisted living, but what about memory care? Some (but not all) assisted living communities offer memory care, and some (but not all) nursing homes offer memory care. So, what’s the difference? How do you know when to look for memory care, and what should you look for when researching your options for memory care?

Specially Trained Staff

Any time you’re looking for assisted living, one of the first things you need to look at is the training of the staff who will be taking care of your loved one. This is true regardless of whether you need memory care, but it’s especially important if your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia because extra precautions will need to be taken to keep them safe, calm, and happy.

Memory care also requires ongoing training, so it’s not enough for staff to have gone through memory care training once a few years ago. When researching your options for memory care, make sure they have a system for continuously training their staff, not only to remind them of best practices, but to help them keep up to date with new developments in the world of memory care.

You should also make sure that the relevant training extends beyond just the nurses – every member of the staff who interacts with residents, including janitorial and maintenance staff, need to be trained on how to interact with memory care residents to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort.

Staff-to-Resident Ratio

A lower staff-to-resident ratio is always desirable because it means more attention can be paid to your loved one’s needs, but it’s especially important to keep that ratio low in memory care because residents with dementia require a higher level of attention and care than other assisted living residents. So, while you’re asking about the staff training provided, you should also ask about the staff-to-resident ratio and make sure it’s at a level with which you’re comfortable.

24-Hour Supervised Care

While assisted living usually requires a fairly low level of care – making sure residents remember to take medication, helping with certain daily tasks, etc. – memory care requires a much higher level of care and supervision. Not only do residents with dementia require a higher level of attention and supervision to make sure they don’t wander off, but they also require more care as the disease progresses and they start to lose some of their physical capabilities, as well as their mental capacity.

Cognitive Treatments and Therapies

While there is no cure for dementia, certain cognitive treatments and therapies have been shown to slow the progression of the disease, so make sure the memory care provider is up to date with all the relevant cognitive treatments and therapies, and that they provide them to their residents.

Stillwater Senior Living is proud to announce the opening of its brand new memory care wing! If you’re looking for memory care for your loved one, reach out now to ask about availability.

communication strategies for dementiaThere are many struggles that come with a diagnosis of dementia, but one of the most painful can be the struggle to communicate with your loved one. As their brain deteriorates, your loved one will experience a reduced ability to do all kinds of things, including the ability to communicate effectively. This can be frustrating for you as well, so it’s important to keep these strategies in mind.

  • Patience is Key

We know how hard it is to sit quietly while a loved one struggles to find the right words to express themselves, but it’s important to resist the urge to interrupt and try to guess what they’re saying because that will only increase their frustration. Instead, wait patiently until they’ve finished before you try to respond.

If you get frustrated, they’ll get frustrated, so you need to remain calm at all times. Keep your voice low and level, and while your body language should convey that you’re engaged in the conversation, it should never communicate frustration because your loved one will pick up on that and it will only increase their frustration.

  • Become an Interpreter

While it’s important not to interrupt your loved one when they’re struggling to find the right words to express themselves, sometimes they’ll ask for help or just give up trying to speak, in which case you can offer a guess based on context. Even if you guess wrong, you might be close enough to the mark to lead them to the right words (or for them to lead you to the right words). But if you’re way off base, it might just frustrate them further, so it’s important to know when to back off and change the subject.

  • Use Gestures

As the disease progresses, communicating visually will become easier than communicating with words. For example, instead of using words to ask your loved one if they want a certain object, you can point to it and watch their reaction. If they nod and reach for it, it’s a good indication that they want it.

  • Show Respect

Although our golden years are sometimes referred to as a “second childhood”, your loved one is not a child and will not appreciate being treated like one. Avoid using babytalk or demeaning phrases, such as “good girl”. And never talk about them as if they’re not there because, even if they have trouble communicating, they can hear you, and they know when they’re being ignored or overlooked.

When you are communicating with them, show that you’re engaged by maintaining eye contact. You can also hold their hand, which can help keep both of you calm when they’re struggling to find the right words to express themselves.

You can check out our blog for more tips on how to care for a loved one with dementia. If you’re looking for an assisted living community that offers memory care services, we recently opened our own Memory Care Wing and we would love to answer any questions you might have regarding memory care.

alzheimer's care tipsCaring for an aging loved one is always challenging, but it can be especially challenging if they have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. They forget things and get confused, and that can be frustrating for everyone. But getting frustrated only makes the situation worse, so get creative with ways to alleviate, or even avoid that frustration. Doing so can require some creativity, so we’ve come up with a few ideas we hope will help and might even inspire you to come up with some other creative ideas for caring for a loved one with dementia.

Display Old Photos

Patients in the later stages of dementia tend to lose both the power of speech and the ability to process language (although those two things are separate and don’t necessarily happen at the same time). To try and compensate for it, using pictures whenever possible is a great way to keep your loved one happy and engaged. You can load hundreds of photos onto a digital picture frame and have it display them on a loop. Some digital picture frames even play music alongside the photos, which is another great way to keep your loved one calm.

Use Photos Instead of Names When Possible

Smartphones are great for their ability to pair pictures with names in our contact list, making it that much easier to identify the people we’re trying to reach. If your loved one doesn’t have a smartphone, see if you can find a phone that has space for pictures instead of names on the speed dial list so your loved one doesn’t have to struggle with names they can’t remember when they need to reach someone.

Don’t Fight Their Reality

Things tend to be most frustrating when you try to convince them something they know is not the case, or tell them they can’t do something. Rather than fight it, accept their reality and come up with reasons not to do something that fits their reality. For example, if they want to reach someone who is long dead, just tell them the person is unavailable. If they want to drive, tell them the car is in the shop instead of arguing with them. It will make things so much easier and more pleasant for everyone.

Get a “Dementia Clock”

A “dementia clock” is a clock that displays the date and day of the week, in addition to the time, and can be seen from across the room. This way your loved one doesn’t have to constantly ask what time it is or what day it is, they can just look up and act like they knew the answer all along.

Eliminate Tripping Hazards

We did a whole blog post on how to avoid falling hazards, but lighting is also key to avoiding falls and injuries, so get lights with motion sensors that light up when someone enters the room. This avoids fumbling for switches and makes it less likely your loved one will try to make do in the dark when they can’t find the switch.

Get them a cane and/or a walker, too. Even if they’re steady on their feet now, that can change quickly, so make sure you’re prepared now.

We have a lot more tips for caregivers responsible for a loved one at home, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some more pointers, or if you think it might be time for assisted living.

Watch this video to get a sneak peak of our Memory Care Neighborhood!