Understanding Memory Loss

Staying Put at Home Tips for Mental HealthYou left the refrigerator door open last night. You found your “lost” coffee mug in the garage. You forgot the name of your best friend in high school. Are these recall lapses normal or signs of a memory loss problem? Like gray hair and wrinkles, some memory loss can be a normal part of the aging process. With a growing awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, though, you and millions of other senior Americans may be wondering if these occasional memory failings point to a more serious condition.

Why Memory Loss Happens

Older age changes the brain’s makeup. For instance, the chemicals that support brain cell health diminish with time. Some seniors also suffer from conditions such as cardiovascular disease that can reduce blood flow to the brain and impact its recall abilities. Your sense of taste can wane as well with age, and if you don’t eat enough nutritious foods, your brain can’t function properly. Certain areas of the brain, namely the hippocampus, can also experience decline. If this memory consolidation center deteriorates, you might notice memory loss.

What Distinguishes Normal Memory Loss from Dementia

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia can gradually rob a person of their cognitive abilities, including recall. Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia; Huntington’s disease and vascular dementia are other conditions that can also deteriorate brain function. So how do you know if your memory loss indicates a bigger problem? Dementia affects reason and logic. It can also impact a person’s ability to perform common tasks. So someone with this condition might forget how to shower or find their way home.

How to Address Memory Loss

If you have concerns about your recall abilities, talk to a doctor. In many instances, controllable factors such as stress, vitamin deficiencies, and medication can influence memory loss, and a physician can determine if your issues stem from a fixable source. However, even if a doctor diagnoses dementia, management strategies ranging from prescription drugs to exercise to socializing with loved ones can help to delay the progression of the disease. First and foremost, understanding the problem is the most important step for improving your quality of life.

Summary Points:

  • The brain can experience some normal aging changes that may prompt memory lapses.
  • Dementia typically interferes with routine activities.
  • Both controllable and uncontrollable causes can contribute to memory loss, but in either case, a physician can recommend management strategies.

The Benefits of Downsizing

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home SafetyYou’ve spent a lifetime making your house into a home. Your walls are lined with treasured photographs. The shelves are filled with beloved books. Each room is accented with mementos from special occasions and vacations. So why would you want to part with them? Downsizing your possessions—or your home—can be a challenge both physically and emotionally. But for many seniors, fewer belongings can lead to improved safety, stronger financial security and even a greater ability to enjoy their time as they wish.

Prevent Falls

Paring down your possessions does not mean having to throw out items with great sentimental value. But consider other objects that may be getting in your way—literally. When shelves and closets fill up, many people turn their staircases and hallways into improvised storage spaces. As NIH Senior Health mentions, though, clutter can cause slip and fall accidents. Getting rid of extraneous belongings such as old magazines, dated electronics and underused furniture can make your house a more organized and safer place.

Save Time

How long does it take to dust your fine China? How many hours do you spend mowing the lawn, raking leaves or shoveling walkways each year? The fewer possessions you have, or the less square footage you own, the quicker you can take care of your household chores. So instead of tidying up your house, you can visit your grandchildren. Rather than cleaning out the rain gutters, you can play a round of golf.

Reduce Expenses

Consider the size of your home. If you’re still paying a mortgage for the house in which your children grew up—children who no longer live in those vacant bedrooms—you may be spending more than necessary for your housing needs. Moving to a smaller home can significantly decrease your mortgage. If you choose to stay in your house, you can still get rid of that second car or antiques collection, save on their insurance costs and make a bit of money as well.

Summary Points:

  • Years of living in the same place can lead to the accumulation of unnecessary belongings.
  • Getting rid of little used and obsolete items can reduce fall dangers.
  • Fewer possessions can also allow for more time and financial freedom.

Make a Fitness Plan and Fight Arthritis Pain

Pain Relief Staying Put at HomeExercise is good for the body and mind. But when arthritis hip pain or arthritis knee pain makes it difficult to walk across the living room, let alone to the park or gym, keeping up with your workout resolutions can become a challenge. While medication can mask arthritis pain, exercise can actually help prevent it from happening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that physical activity can improve joint function and ease arthritic complications. So to prevent arthritis pain from taking control of your mobility, create a workout regimen that works for you.

Do What You Love

When considering your exercise options, pick activities you want to do—not those you think you should do. Walking can be a great cardiovascular workout, but if you find it tedious, you will likely give up on your walking routine no matter the health benefits that it can bring. So if you would rather bike or swim, make that exercise the cornerstone of your fitness plan. And as with any exercise regimen, get your physician’s approval before heading to the bike path or diving into the pool.

Keep It Diverse

A favorite activity can help to keep arthritis pain at bay. Yet when done too often, any exercise can lead to workout burnout. To avoid exercise boredom, incorporate other forms of physical fitness. For instance, if you typically do aerobic exercise, try weight-bearing activities a few times a week. If you normally frequent the racquetball court, try dance lessons every once in a while. Besides getting a great workout, you might just discover new activities that both you and your joints love.

Rally Your Friends

Some people give up on exercise because they consider it a chore that must be done. If you’re not enjoying your walks, laps or bike rides, find a way to make it more fun. Specifically, enlist your loved ones. Rather than meet up with your buddies once a week to play cards, join the local softball team together. If you don’t see your grandchildren enough, bring them to the pool for some bonding time in the water. You can even transform lunchtime into a power hour walk with your neighbors or coworkers.

Summary Points:

  • Exercise is a proven deterrent to arthritis pain.
  • For lasting arthritis pain relief, find activities that you enjoy and will do consistently.
  • Exploring novel exercise options can keep your fitness routine motivating and fun.

Prevent Falls with Good Health

Staying Put at Home Tips for Home SafetyFall prevention can take many forms. Making sure that your house is safe is one way to avoid fall injuries.  Taking care of your health is another important measure to stop slip and fall accidents. When you do both, you have the greatest chance to enjoy peace of mind at home. Even with health concerns, you can be proactive in maintaining your senior safety with these fall prevention tips:

Exercise

Physical fitness becomes imperative during the senior years. Though the elderly may experience problems such as osteoporosis, heart disease and arthritis, which can hamper movement, a lack of regular physical activity can make these problems worse. Especially when it concerns bone or joint health, exercise can prove critical for preserving bone mass and promoting flexible joints. Exercise can also enhance muscle strength, balance and overall stamina, making it easier to walk with comfort and confidence.

Medication

Medication can also impact fall prevention. For instance, prescription medication can loosen arthritic joints and strengthen fragile bones. However, some drugs may have side effects that potentially raise fall dangers. Should you take medications, ask your doctor if drowsiness or fatigue is a side effect, as either complication can impede mobility. As AARP points out, though, never stop or change your medication schedule without your physician’s approval.

Sleeping Habits

Many seniors find it difficult to sleep. Insomnia may produce restless nights, or arthritis pain may cause sleep interruptions. Some older individuals might also read or watch television into the early morning hours. If you fall into any of these categories, it’s important to cultivate healthy sleeping habits, as studies indicate that sleep deprivation can increase fall risks for seniors. Addressing pain and restlessness with remedies ranging from hydrotherapy to exercise to medication can help you find the good night’s rest you seek.

Summary Points:

  • Your health can directly impact your fall danger.
  • Seniors who take fatigue-inducing medications may be at a greater risk for falls.
  • You can enhance fall prevention at home with exercise and sleep.

Why Sleeping Disorders Develop

Sleep Aid Staying Put at HomeA lack of sleep can do far more than make a person feel lethargic and irritable. The Mayo Clinic states that insomnia can contribute to heart, weight and metabolic concerns as well. Yet as frustrating as it is to lay awake each night, an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment can successfully manage many sleeping disorders. However, integral to treating a sleeping disorder is first identifying the primary problem. So if you can’t sleep, consider these common insomnia causes:

Poor Sleeping Conditions

Do you keep the television on when you go to bed? Are the windows open or the lights on when you try to snooze? Then you might be making it harder for your body to fall asleep. Noise, whether it comes from your TV or street traffic, can disrupt your sleep cycles. Light can also prevent the production of melatonin, a hormone that induces slumber. Heat can affect your ability to sleep as well. To create an ideal sleeping environment, eliminate as much noise and light as possible and keep the room temperature below 70 degrees.

Nighttime Stimulants

Certain activities and beverages can also produce insomnia. The nicotine in cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco can keep you awake at night, as can the caffeine found in soda, coffee and certain teas. Many people rely on a nightcap to relax in the evenings, and though it may initially accomplish this task, alcohol can make it harder to stay asleep at night. The National Sleep Foundation encourages individuals with insomnia to avoid alcoholic drinks in the hours preceding bedtime. If you need to unwind before going to bed, try a warm bath instead.

Existing Medical Problems

No matter how comfortable their sleeping environment or helpful their habits, some people simply can’t sleep. If you fall into this group, it may be because of a current medical condition. Many health issues, especially those common to older individuals, can result in insomnia. If you suffer from heartburn, heart failure, arthritis pain or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), consult a physician about alleviating the symptoms contributing to your sleeping disorder. Keep in mind, though, that some medications may also interfere with your sleep cycles. So before taking any prescription drug, ask about its potential sleeping side effects.

Summary Points:

  • Sleeping disorders can increase the risk of serious physical health problems.
  • Lifestyle habits and home environment may be to blame for insomnia in some cases.
  • Insomnia can also result from existing health conditions.

When Cancer Pain Strikes

Pain Relief Staying Put at HomeCancer pain can complicate an already challenging situation. The good news is that multiple modes of cancer pain management can effectively address discomfort for many cancer patients. Getting the pain relief you deserve starts with understanding the nature of your cancer pain and discussing your symptoms with a qualified medical professional.

Know Why Cancer Pain Occurs

Cancer pain often stems from the harm that invading tumors can inflict on healthy cells. Especially when malignant growths prevent the healthy function of organs, bones and other internal structures, discomfort can result. According to the Mayo Clinic, cancer care can also generate pain complications. While treatment methods such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery aim to eliminate cancer from the body, in doing so, they may produce uncomfortable sores, burns and incisions.

Talk to Your Doctor

Individuals experiencing cancer pain should not suffer in silence. If you have ongoing discomfort that interferes with your life enjoyment, let your physician know. Cancer pain management frequently entails the use of medications that can minimize and even eliminate discomfort. Your doctor may first need to isolate the reasons for your pain, but upon locating its source, he can prescribe medications most suitable for your condition.

Find Alternative Relief from Cancer Pain

Medication alone is not the only answer for cancer pain. Per the approval of your physician, you can take advantage of several natural remedies for pain relief. Many cancer patients find massage to be effective in alleviating discomfort. Others attest to the benefits of Eastern techniques such as acupressure and acupuncture. The American Cancer Society notes as well that individuals with cancer can use hydrotherapy to lessen their cancer pain. Under some circumstances, a combination of clinical and natural remedies may prove best for comprehensive cancer pain management.

Summary Points:

  • Cancer pain can develop from the disease or its treatment.
  • Cancer care experts can often alleviate pain with prescription medications.
  • Natural remedies, including massage and hydrotherapy, can also ease cancer pain.