Seniors – How to Talk to Your Doctor

For people of all ages, it can be intimidating talking to your doctor, but for seniors it can be even more intimidating. The current generation of seniors, generally speaking, is more closed off about personal issues than their younger counterparts and often will wait longer to deal with an issue which usually makes whatever the ailment is, worse. It is important to tell your doctor any symptoms you are having or if there is anything about your body that you are worried about. Those who are uncomfortable bringing up issues with their doctors are not alone as it is a very common problem. Here are some tips to help you speak candidly to your doctor about any of your issues.

Bring a Friend or Family Member

Sometimes having a close friend or family member who is aware of or familiar with any conditions you may have at your appointment with you can be a big help. This way you will have your support system built in to the appointment, but you will also have someone there who knows your conditions or symptoms you may have. They will be looking out for you and may be willing to ask any questions you forget or don’t want to ask.

Write Down Questions or Concerns Before the Appointment

Going to visit your doctor can be stressful and in stressful situations our brains often don’t work the same as they would when in a regular situation. Sometimes this means forgetting to ask the right question or not asking out of fear of sounding ridiculous, but writing down any questions or concerns you may have or any symptoms you may experience will only help your doctor to make more informed prognoses or suggestions on how to better care for your body. If you have written your questions down, you can go through them one by one and make sure you have a full understanding of everything. You can also show your doctor your list of questions, if you are too embarrassed to ask them aloud.

Ask About Treatment Options

Sometimes a doctor will prescribe their recommended form of treatment option whether it be medication, nutritional guidance or specific exercises. You should always ask your doctor about what other treatment options are available. Its important to find the right treatment option for you and if you feel more comfortable with an alternative option that your doctor is able to verify and explain, then it is always worth asking.

Ask About Causes, Prevention and Ways to Improve Your Life

If you are worried about any particular ailments, you should ask your doctor how best to prevent them. Your doctor is knowledgeable in the best ways to keep you healthy. If they suggest you start exercising more, or eating more or less of a certain type of food, they are doing so because they want you to be on a healthy lifestyle path. Your doctor is your best resource for knowledge and advice on your health and being honest with them will keep you healthier and happier.

Back to School – The Best Ways to Ensure You’re Prepared!

The beginning of September can be an extremely stressful time for most families. After having two months off school, most children aren’t excited to go back to the routine that is the school week. Children are often stressed about social and academic situations, while parents try hard to ensure they’re children are prepared for school both emotionally and materially. Parents also have the stress of figuring out before and after school care for their younger children. With everything that goes into preparing your child and yourself for back to school, it might seem overwhelming. Here are some tips to make sure everyone is prepared in the most fun and low stress ways possible.

Back to School Shopping

The first thing you need to do when thinking about back to school shopping is to take an inventory of everything you already have. Once you know what you have, its easier to make a list of what you still need. Although sometimes shopping with your kids can be more complicated than doing it on your own, bringing your children will help them to feel more prepared for school. Letting them make choices for the types of notebooks they get or some new outfits will help them to feel more comfortable with going back to school. This way they will feel like they are going back to school they way they want to look and present themselves which can be a big confidence booster.

Meal Prep

One of the most time consuming and stressful tasks for parents and children old enough to make their lunches, is finding the time to prepare all the meals. Luckily, there are many great recipes and tutorials that can now be found online that show you how to create healthy and varied lunches for an entire week. You and your child can work on most of these recipes together and create their lunches. Choose a night once a week like Sunday, to create the five meals your child will bring to school.

Start Your Routine Early

The summer can bring a lot of bad habits like staying up late and sleeping in. Since these bad habits don’t lend themselves to school and learning, help your children by setting a bedtime and acclimatizing them to it before they go back to school. Starting a week before school starts is a good idea to get your children used to going to sleep and waking up at school appropriate times.

Take Some Family Time

Once the kids go back to school, it becomes a lot harder to make time to spend as a family. With after school curricula’s, work and playdates, sometimes it can feel like there is no time to spend together as a family. Before the kids go back to school, make sure to make use of the time you have left. Plan a board game night, or a nice night out for dinner and a movie. This will be nice time together, but may also offer a distraction from the stresses that can come with going back to school.

Seniors and the Risk of Weight Gain

Weight gain can be a serious problem for people of all ages, but for seniors it can pose a particularly dangerous threat. Many of the usual health issues that we associate with aging are also the same issues that we associate with weight gain. The older we get, the more important that exercise and eating correctly becomes. Younger bodies are able to bounce back a lot better than older bodies, especially with the slowing down of our metabolisms. One of the largest health problems that can stem from weight gain is heart failure. Some other health problems that can arise through weight gain with age are diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea and high blood pressure.

Weight Gain in Seniors

Weight gain in seniors is a common issue. As we age, we tend to gain weight for a multitude of reasons. Lower muscle mass leads to a slower metabolism and the number of calories we lose when we aren’t being physically active decreases. As we grow older, we also tend to be less active in general. Most people work in professions that are considered sedentary and we don’t engage in as many physical activities like we used to. Exercise is usually the first thing that people give up when they find their schedules and other obligations become too time consuming. It is important through any of these lifestyle changes that we keep an eye on our health and weight.

One of the most common reasons for weight gain isn’t necessarily a lack of exercise, but instead an increase of food intake and junk food cravings. High stress levels can cause a lot of issues with us as we age and the more weight we put on at a younger age, the harder it is to lose that weight as we age.

Addressing Weight Gain

Prevention is always the best medicine, so we should always strive to not let weight gain get out of hand. The more we weigh, the higher probability it is that we will encounter severe health issues later in life; however, for those who are overweight and looking to take control of their situation it is important to combine a combination of healthy eating and exercise.

For healthy eating, seniors (or people of any age) should be trying to eat well-balanced meals each day and eliminating junk food from their diets. Learning to ignore food cravings and to listen to your body tell you when it is actually hungry can be a huge factor in keeping your body healthy and avoiding the health issues associated with weight gain.

For exercise, seniors should know the limits of their bodies and not push too far. The first steps are improving mobility, balance and flexibility. At first, it may be enough to go out for a brisk walk, but upon the strengthening of muscles and confidence in your body, picking up weights or participating in fitness classes can help you to either lose the weight that is causing you health problems or prevent them altogether.

Finding Happiness in Caregiving

When considering becoming a caregiver for your parents, most thoughts revolve around concerns such as:

  • Will I be able to provide proper care for my loved one?
  • Am I physically and mentally prepared for the strain of caregiving?
  • Will this affect my relationship with my parent?
  • How stressed will I become?
  • Will I have anytime for myself?

Most of these concerns tend to be on the negative side. Since caregiving is a rigorous job that can be the cause of stress, grief, frustration and depression, it is in our nature to worry about and focus on the negatives. Often regarding caregiving for an elderly loved one, you may feel overwhelmed or like you have no more time for yourself and it is natural to focus on these feelings and share the bad news of the job, rather than focusing on any of the positive feelings you may be having.

In all of these struggles you may be facing it is important to be aware of and take advantage of the benefits that also come with elder care. Oftentimes, these benefits and positives are not fully realized until you are for any given reason no longer your loved one’s caregiver.

Relationship with Your Loved One

Since you’re suddenly spending so much time with and caring for your parent, you will notice the strengthening of your bond with your parents or loved one. As people age, they also usually become more willing to communicate. For someone who may not have a completely open and honest relationship with their parents, spending all of this time together will offer you time to talk about their past and their likes and dislikes. You may find out a lot about your parent that you never knew. These moments and memories that are shared can become invaluable.

Relationship with Yourself

In caregiving for a loved one, you will probably find that you are a lot more capable than you ever imagined. Accomplishing so many tasks (administering medication, cooking and cleaning, driving your parent to the doctor, etc.) will help you to gain time management and organizational skills you may not have ever knew you had the ability to accomplish. You will feel great about yourself realizing just how much you are able to complete in any given day. You will feel stronger and have more self-confidence the more you are able to do when you care for your parents, specifically if you feel something is out of your own particular skill set.

Realizing the Importance of Taking A Break

Nothing will teach about what is really important in life more than caregiving for your loved one. Although the care of your parent is necessary, taking a break and caring for yourself is also important. One of the major causes of caregiver burnout is taking on too much and not taking a break. This is not only a good lesson to learn in caregiving, but it is also a good lesson to learn in life. Taking care of yourself will only make it easier and make you better at taking care of someone else.

Living with and Improving Mobility Restrictions

For many seniors, at some point in their life, mobility restrictions will become an issue. For some, this could entail needing a walker or cane when moving around for balance to ensure that falls are avoided. For others, mobility issues can be more severe and require a wheelchair or other mobility assistance device. This can be a problem for a lot of seniors who find that suddenly they are needing to ask for help a lot more and needing this assistance can sometimes feel like a loss of independence. Loss of mobility can stem from chronic illnesses, falls that result in broken bones, or just regular issues with pain in joints. In most cases, there are many ways that we can help seniors who are struggling with their activity and it’s important to do so, so that seniors can maintain their independence.

Assistive Mobility Devices

Fortunately because there are so many seniors that are facing mobility issues, there are a lot of options available to seniors for assistance in their mobility. For something to lean on, consider using a walker or a cane. These are simplistic mobility devices that can make a world of difference to seniors struggling to get around and perform daily tasks. By offering just that little bit of extra support, these devices can make a large difference in daily life.

For seniors who still live at home who have a bedroom on an upper floor, chairlifts can be installed. Stairs tend to be a large issue for seniors and can, in fact, be a major player in seniors falling. By installing a chairlift in the home, seniors will be able to safely gain access to their upstairs rooms without having to risk taking a nasty fall.

Other devices such as shower chairs, grab bars and ramps can be added throughout the house just to help ensure that seniors are safe in their homes and can be assisted by devices rather than by people. This can mean a lot for seniors who want to maintain their independence.

Use Exercise to Improve Balance

One of the best ways to help a senior maintain as much mobility as possible is to help them with their balance. Falls have become one of the most common reasons for seniors having mobility issues and prevention is always the best medicine. By working with seniors to increase their balance, we can help to prevent nasty falls which will increase and promote independence for much longer. Almost any activity that includes walking will help to increase balance in seniors, but strengthening leg and core muscles specifically will improve balance drastically.

Many seniors fear becoming dependent on others and want to avoid needing any assistance. Mobility issues can exacerbate this fear and allowing your loved ones independence through the means of an assistive device can make a big difference to how they will feel about doing things on their own. It’s important to work on your balance at any age because it can make a big difference in later stages of your life.

How to Help Your Loved One Downsize

Downsizing a lifetime worth of belongings can be an extremely daunting task and for a lot of seniors it can be difficult emotionally as well as physically. Downsizing can happen for many reasons. For some, big family homes may feel too big to deal with all the upkeep now that most of the family has left and for others, an entirely new lifestyle in a smaller space may be desired, but sometimes seniors must downsize because they need to move to an assisted care facility and are unable to live in their homes on their own. No matter the situation, downsizing can be difficult because as people, we often become attached to our belongings and it can be hard to decide what will stay and what will go. As a friend or family member of the senior who is downsizing there are things you can do to help.

Time

One of the biggest things an individual can do to offer their friend or family member help in downsizing their belongings is to offer their time. Whether this time is spent helping to sort, organize or move belongings, this can provide a huge relief to your loved one. It can be hard for seniors to ask their families for help spending time with tasks like this because they don’t want to feel like they are burdening them, so if you know a loved one is looking to downsize, offer your time to come and help to go and sort through their belongings with them.

Support

Another way to help your loved one to downsize is to be there for them. Realizing that downsizing can be an emotionally trying situation, there is nothing more important than supporting your family member. For instance, helping your loved one to look at an item and decide whether it should stay or go can be extremely helpful. Since you don’t have emotional attachments to the belongings, you will be able to offer an unbiased opinion while still being able to stay sensitive to their emotions. Having someone in the room to be a trusted voice of reason can be one of the most helpful parts in downsizing.

Everything Else

Although finances can be an awkward discussion, its important that you make sure that your loved ones are in a good place financially. Downsizing can include the selling of big or antique furniture pieces, or realty costs including closing costs, legal costs, etc. Selling a home can be a large and stressful task. Offering to meet with realtors, or even gifting a cleaner to come in clean up the house to show it to prospective buyers are a few ways to assist in a financial way. You can also be there to help your loved ones to meet with potential movers or be there on moving day to ensure their belongings are being treated with care.

Although downsizing a home full of belongings and memories can be a difficult task, being there for your loved one emotionally and in person can make a world of difference to their downsizing experience.

 

Should I Be a Caregiver for My Parent?

As our parents get older and it begins to become apparent that they may need more help in their everyday tasks, it can be a big question of whether or not it is up to us to provide this care? For some, it is not possible to become a parent’s caregiver because of work or childcare obligations, but for those that it is an option, it can become an extremely hard decision.

Some of the most important things to watch out for as a caregiver are hygiene, nutrition and social interaction. A lot of seniors are unable to drive, so being a caregiver can also require driving seniors to appointments or to various locations so that they are able to socialize, run errands or shop. Depending on the general health and abilities of your parent, being their caregiver can be a small task (helping them out here and there to do a few things that are more difficult for them) or it can be a full-time position (cooking all their meals, bathing and ensuring all of their medications are taken on time, etc).

Before becoming your parent’s caregiver, it is important to ask yourself some questions to see if you are prepared or able to take on the extra responsibilities that come with the tasks your individual parents need.

Am I financially prepared or able to take on the extra costs of caring for another person?

This can be a huge aspect of deciding whether to become your parent’s caregiver. If you find it hard to meet your current financial obligations, adding the cost of another person who will need extra medical attention might mean this isn’t a cost you can take on.

Am I able to take care of my elderly parent?

If you are uncomfortable or feel you are unable to perform any of the aspects of taking care of your elderly parent, it might be best to consider hiring in a caregiver or outside help. If this is the case, you can still be heavily involved in your parents care by being in contact with their caregiver. Even if you do feel able to perform the tasks your parents require, you do need to also consider the physical and mental toll that becoming your parent’s caregiver can take.

Will I be able to make time for the rest of my family?

If taking care of your parent becomes your fulltime responsibility so much so that you are unable to focus on the rest of your family, friends or other obligations, becoming a caregiver probably won’t work for you. Not only do you need to make time for your family and friends, but you also need to make time for yourself.

There are many resources available for caregivers and it is important that if you decide to take on becoming a caregiver for your parent to take advantage on these resources. It is also important to remember to ask for help if you feel that you need it. Friends, families and support groups can be a great place to talk through any issues you might be having and to find support for what you’re going through.

Why It’s Important to Let Your Child Make Mistakes

As a parent, sometimes it can just seem easier to “fix” a problem your child is having by solving any of the issues for them. This could be as simple as fitting a piece into a puzzle they are working on, or it can be a more complicated issue like giving in to what they want while they have a tantrum in a public place. It is important for your child to learn from mistakes or consequences in any given situation. By fixing a problem, solving an issue or giving in to an unnecessary demand, you can harm the development of your child, even though if in the moment it seems like the right thing to do. This can also be the case when your children fight. Although sometimes being a mediator can be helpful, it is best for children to learn as early as possible how to mediate their own issues. This will help them to become more well-rounded adults.

Every Child is Different

This seems obvious, but its important. Just as every child is different, parenting each individual child must also be different. In accepting the person your child is, and not forcing the idea of who you think your child is, you can maintain a much better relationship with your child overall. By knowing or trying to understand who your child is, you will be better able to guide them through situations that may arise.

Actions Have Consequences

Not every outcome of your child’s decisions is going to be a good one, nut it is important that you allow your child to experience both good outcomes and negative consequences. You can tell a young child not too touch the stove because its hot as many times as you want, but if that child comes into contact with the stove, they will suffer the natural consequences and get burned. Although your child burning themselves is not an ideal situation, if it occurs accidentally, that child will learn from their mistake. As a parent, there will be a lot of guilt in this sort of situation, but humans learn through trial and error and it is natural for a child to need this sort of situation to learn what “too hot” means.

Judgement of Others

One of the easiest and most common reasons a parent will give in to their child is because of the judgement of others. Its horrifying to think that other people either think you are a bad mom or dad because your child is misbehaving and if it feels like other people around you are thinking it, or are making comments, it can make you start to think maybe there is truth to their words and opinions, but giving in to your child’s tantrums can instill more bad behaviour. If your child thinks that they get their way by crying or yelling, they will do it more often. By standing your ground in any particularly bad tantrum situations, your children will learn that they aren’t able to get away with that behaviour.

In letting your children have tantrums, make their own mistakes and getting to know who they really are, you are setting them up to be a much more well-rounded adult. It can be hard to watch your children fail, especially when you know the answers or are able to fix their issues, but in the long term, failure will be good for your children and celebrating their failures and being there for them in these situations can teach invaluable lessons.

How to Plan for Senior Living

It is so important to start planning for retirement and living as a senior from an early age.  Oftentimes, government pension plans and assistance don’t cover the costs of the average senior and so they must rely on their personal savings, their families, or go back to working after being retired a few years.  Most seniors don’t want to feel dependent on their loved ones and they also don’t want to have to enter back into the workforce after having been retired, so it is important to plan ahead and have access to other savings put aside earlier in life to take care of yourself in your senior years.

As a society, we are living a lot longer than we once did which is a great thing because it means that we now have more life to live.  With modern science and healthcare, today’s seniors have a longer life expectancy than seniors even twenty years ago.  Unfortunately, many of today’s seniors didn’t expect to live as long as they are and are finding it financially a burden to try and live their daily lives. Seniors today are outliving their resources and it’s a challenge in our society that going forward needs to be addressed.

Mental and Physical Health

Although in Canada we have a great universal healthcare system, not every cost is covered. When planning for senior living, you must factor in the possibility of needing different medications, or other tools for everyday living.  These can include wheelchairs, hearing aids, walkers, etc. that all need upkeep.  Often in the past seniors have either underestimated their life spans or the resources that they have needed which then extends the burden of care to family members.

Where Will You Live?

One of the biggest costs and considerations when planning senior living is where you will live. A lot of seniors prefer to live in their homes, while some move into assisted care facilities.  In either situation, it is important to plan ahead and budget for the costs of these options.  Living at home has the same costs you’ve always had.  General upkeep of the house, property taxes, but the added cost of home care should be considered.  For many seniors, home care becomes necessary when they can either no longer drive themselves to appointments, or movement becomes more difficult throughout the house creating challenges with cooking and cleaning of the house.

For seniors that choose to live in assisted care facilities or senior homes, it can be a little easier to predict the costs of living.  At these facilities, seniors pay a set amount per month and have a combination of their accommodations, food and care included in the cost.  These facilities often include other amenities as well that can make senior living fun!

Although planning for senior living and ensuring you have a safety net of money set aside for your senior years is important, it is also important not to stress too much about money because the stress can cause other health issues.  Most seniors have great support systems in their families and including them in decisions can also be a big help. This way your family will know your wishes and be able to help you achieve them in your later years.

Seniors – Eating Safer and Smarter

Our bodies, metabolisms and taste buds are constantly changing and for seniors, nutritional needs and patterns are extremely important to watch and ensure that a healthy diet is being followed. Although a healthy diet is important for everyone despite age, seniors are more likely to have health problems, dietary restrictions based on a doctor’s recommendation, and changes in appetite.

Eating Patterns

Eating patterns and food preferences can change for seniors for several reasons. For some seniors, symptoms of depression can also coincide with changes in appetite. Depression is a common issue for seniors because sometimes seniors feel inadequate when they feel they need others to take care of them. If a person feels that they are unable to do things on their own, it can lead to a feeling of being useless. This is why depression can be so common with seniors. Depression is a known contributor to eating poorly, so its important to look out for signs and symptoms. Isolation can also be a contributor to poor dietary habits. Food and eating is often used as a tool for social interaction. For seniors who are feeling lonely or isolated, it can be hard to have a proper diet. Sometimes it can be easier to eat snacks or easy to make foods than to cook a properly balanced meal. This disinterest in cooking can also be a huge factor in an improper diet.

Medical Conditions/Medications

A lot of seniors have medical conditions and medications they need in order to keep these conditions under control. Common conditions can include high blood pressure, low circulation and high cholesterol. Many seniors are able to use their diets to improve these conditions or are required to have a specific diet based on the medications they are taking. It is important to know which nutritional requirements your medical condition or medication needs. Some medications, for instance, must be taken with food and others cannot be taken with food. Being aware of the requirements your medications/conditions can completely change the way you need to eat. Checking with your doctor or pharmacist or working with a nutritionist can be helpful to get to know what types of food you should be eating.

The Body

Eating smart and healthy options becomes extremely important in your senior years because the body starts changing and proper nutrition can prevent or help to slow down future health issues. After living for so many years, the immune system becomes less reliable and so proper nutrition to prevent sickness and keep your body strong is invaluable.

Your doctor will ultimately know what is best for you and your health.   It is important to listen to and implement any advice they may have. Food restrictions or foods that will largely positively effect your health are important for you and for anyone else who is preparing your meals. Although it is important for everyone to have good nutrition and make healthy nutrition choices, it can be even more integral for seniors so they are able to avoid other medical conditions and keep healthy.