Monday, August 20, 2018

How Seniors Can Get the Sleep They Need

Guess author: Karen Weeks
A good night’s sleep is a key component of overall well-being and health. We all know this, as our parents taught us the importance of bedtime and not oversleeping in the morning. We know that children need a great deal of sleep, but as adults, we seem to try to get by with fewer hours as our schedules get progressively more hectic.

Seniors tend to experience less-than-ideal sleep for a variety of reasons. They are often much less busy than they were even just a few years ago, as retirement can create a shock to their routines, but older adults often have trouble sticking to a regular schedule. Some may feel tired earlier in the day and take extended naps, which may end up delaying their evening bedtime. Then, when they finally sleep later at night, they may end up feeling tired in the morning.

In order to maintain optimal health, seniors should focus on having uninterrupted sleep for at least eight hours. Naps can be restorative and helpful, but only when they don’t detract from nightly sleep. Of course, not everyone can sleep soundly through the night. For these older adults, there are several ways to ease back into more regular sleep habits.

Encourage Sleep Through Healthy Living

The ability to sleep is affected by one’s level of exercise and type of diet. Those who work out -- even with mild amounts of low-impact exercise -- experience more even sleep periods. This is because the body is simply tired from the activity. Physical activity drains the body and requires rest for building muscle and improving performance. An overwhelming amount of exercise can create major physical damage, so there needs to be a delicate balance.

Low-impact, sustainable exercise, such as walking, cycling, and swimming, are the best types of workouts to ensure ideal sleep for seniors. These types of exercise are ideal for seniors in general since they help maintain physical health without risking injury.

Diet can also influence sleep. Seniors often eat less regular meals than others, because of isolation or lack of appetite. They may skip meals, opting instead for small, unhealthy snacks. When they do sit down for a meal, they may eat heavily processed convenience foods. Because of these irregular eating patterns, digestion may interfere with sleep.

The types of food and beverages consumed also impact sleep. Caffeine later in the day can keep seniors from falling asleep, but so can sugary drinks. Spicy foods, or snacks eaten later at night, can send digestive systems into overdrive when your body should be slowing down.

It’s also important that your bedroom promotes an atmosphere for healthy sleep. If needed, add some soft lighting, turn off your television before bed, and remove any technology that might distract you from getting sleep. Also, a decluttered and well-organized bedroom (also known as bedroom feng shui) can reduce stress and help you fall asleep easier.

Sleep Follows Mindfulness

Another way to ensure better sleep is to get to know yourself better. Mindfulness through meditation or simple moments of silence can help provide focus. Mediation can be highly structured or simple. However, it’s important to take time to reflect on yourself, your day, and your needs. Sometimes, the mind is racing, and Meditation can help you slow things down.

Meditation is easy. One way to slowly incorporate mindfulness is to take 10 minutes at the end of the day to relax without distraction. Find a quiet area of the house -- a spare room or other simple and decluttered space. Dim the lights, close your eyes, and go through some breathing exercises. Relax, refocus, and prepare for the next day.

Mindfulness benefits seniors in more areas than sleep, helping to encourage an overall healthy lifestyle. When a senior sleeps more regularly, they are more likely to enjoy activities. These, in turn, help a senior tap more deeply into self-knowledge. In a healthy circle, sleep, exercise, diet, and mindfulness result in better senior living.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Choosing and Caring For Your First Mental Health Companion Animal

Guest author: Brandon Butler

If you’re struggling with a mental health condition, you may want to consider adopting a companion animal. Many people struggling with mental health conditions have found that a companion animal helps keep them steady and secure, even on their worst days. While all pet owners find comfort and companionship in their pets, this is especially true for those with mental health illnesses.

How Pets Help Those with Mental Health Conditions

Interactions with pets can lessen anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and offset feelings of depression. From songbirds lowering depression in men at a veteran’s hospital to dogs improving depression in college students, studies have shown a variety of companion animals can help numerous mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, addiction, and more.

People benefit from their companion animal’s presence in several ways. Some people feel a deep emotional connection with their pet that they don’t feel from friends and family. People also report that companion animals distract them from their illness and keep them from feeling socially withdrawn. For starters, you’ll never feel alone with a pet around your apartment or house. Also, dogs in particular serve as great icebreakers. When people see a dog in public, they tend to approach the dog to pet him or her to say hello.

Exercise along with creating and keeping routines are helpful for many people struggling with mental health issues. All animals need to be tended to and cared for, so they give you meaning and keep you engaged while you maintain a routine. Because they need to be walked two to three times a day, dogs in particular force you to remain active and stay on schedule even when you don’t feel like it.

Finding Therapy Animals

If you need your dog to be specially trained in assisting you with your specific mental health condition, groups like the American Humane Association offer animal-assisted therapy programs for people with depression and other mood disorders. You may also be able to find a local group in your area that offers training. The AKC offers a list of certified therapy dog training groups.

In order for your pet to be covered by the Disability Act and thus be able to go everywhere with you, it must be trained as a psychiatric service dog, which is different than training for a therapy dog or an emotional support animal (ESA). While the latter do have certain legal rights in housing situations and when flying, psychiatric service dogs have the same abilities and protection by laws as other service dogs, such as those for vision impairment.

Choosing and Caring for a Pet

When choosing a companion animal, there are some questions to help you determine which type of animal is best for you. Be aware of the space requirements for different animals and breeds, and consider the space in your home and yard. Also, consider the cons of different pets. For example, can you live with pet hair or do you mind changing a litter box every day? Different animals and breeds require different levels of care, so ensure that you have the time necessary to devote to a pet. They also have different activity levels, and those should align with your own. One of the most important concerns is the financial consideration.

Caring for your pet requires a lot of responsibility, but the five most important things to provide are exercise, food, grooming, veterinarian check-ups, and a schedule. Exercise burns off stored energy, keeps them healthy, and provides a bonding opportunity. Food and treats should be the right quality and amount. Grooming and regular veterinarian visits keep your pet comfortable and healthy. A regular schedule helps your pet’s temperament and helps you create a great relationship with your pet.

Adopting a companion animal may provide great benefits to you if you’re struggling with a mental health condition. Whether you’re suffering from bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, PTSD, or addiction, a pet can provide comfort, security, and companionship. When you and your pet become bonded, he or she will be by your side always without ever judging you or asking questions about your struggles. It’s an unconditional love that’s sure to benefit you both.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Beyond the Pill Box

When a medication is prescribed,  its effectiveness in treating or improving the condition for which it was given can only be measured if taken consistently and as prescribed. For many, medication compliance is a challenge.This is especially true for those who take multiple medications, senior citizens, individuals with mental illness and those who are visually impaired.
Over the years several medication adherence aides have had some positive impact on compliance. However, even with the various devices available, non-compliance continues to have a negative impact in healthcare, inhibiting practitioners ability to improve a patients' health and their quality of life. This behavior ultimately leads to frequent hospitalizations and for some premature death.
Data suggest that 60 percent of individuals with depression, one half asthmatics and two thirds of individuals with HIV fail to take medications as prescribed.The cost of non-compliance in the United States is skyrocketing estimated  to be between $100 - $300 billion annually in the US alone. It is apparent a solution to this problem is needed.
In November 2017, the FDA approved the use of digital pills. This new technology will allow the tracking of a medication when taken. The patient receives a motivational message when a medication is taken or an alert if it is missed. The physician and designated family members also gets a readout on the patients' medication activity. The digital pill has several hurdles to overcome, especially those related to privacy but early data suggest a 99% compliance rate in a study of a small group of individuals being treated for Hepatitis C leading to a 100% cure rate. It is believed that with time the digital pill will be widely accepted not only by the medical community but also by the consumers of health. Learn more "What is a digital pill"?

Saturday, April 7, 2018

What Lurks Inside

Hippocrates considered to be the "Father of medicine" has been reported to have said "all disease begins in the gut". When the general belief was that illness and disease were the result of demonic possession or disfavor of the gods, Hippocrates approach was to separate illness from superstition and treat the whole person (holistic medicine). He understood the connection between well being and the healing powers in nature (plants & herbs), diet, exercise, rest, and fresh air (environment). Hippocrates believed in the correlation of ill health and vapors that entered the body from residues that were formulated from eating a poor diet.
Today more and more practitioners believe that nutrition, along with proper digestion, assimilation and absorption of nutrients, is fundamental to overall well-being. The manner in which we treat our body's ecosystem will largely determine our overall health.  Eating healthy foods, managing stress levels, and maintaining an active lifestyle all contribute to the maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome.
Bearing this in mind, one cannot begin an effective wellness journey unless you address what is going on inside of your belly. Read more "Ten Ways To Improve Your Gut Bacteria, Based on Science".

N.B. Working with a knowledgeable nutritionist or physician is advisable when working to attain/maintain your wellness goals.