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Winter Wellness & Safety Tips for Older Adults

The winter months are here—with cold temperatures, dry air, and snow and ice. Here are some tips to help seniors stay safe and well this season.

  • Home safety. Smoke and CO2 detectors are essential when windows are shut tight. If you use a space heater, turn it off when you leave. Protect against indoor trip hazards by removing clutter, low tables, electrical cords and throw rugs. If you have difficulty adjusting to changes in light, keep rooms well lit. Use night lights in the hallway and bathroom.

Outside, wear closed comfortable shoes or boots with rubber soles to avoid slips. If you use a cane or walker, make sure the rubber tips are in good condition so they don’t slip on wet surfaces. If you are in your own home, make sure someone shovels and de-ices your outdoor steps and walkways.

  • Bundle up. Seniors are less able to regulate their body temperature, putting them at increased risk of hypothermia in cold weather. Keep the thermostat set at a comfortable temperature, avoid sudden exertion, and wear layered clothing outdoors to retain body heat. Wear a hat or head scarf, keep hands and feet warm, and protect your ears against harsh weather.

The cold air and indoor heaters may cause dehydration so drink plenty of water and use moisturizers to avoid itchy winter skin. TIP: Indoor plants give off moisture and oxygen, and the colors brighten up a grey day.

  • Eat well. Comfort foods feel good but lack quality nutrition. Include fruits, vegetables and whole grains to maintain optimal nutrition and well-being. (They may also help with digestion and may lower cholesterol and blood sugar.) Add lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts to your diet; consume low-fat or fat-free milk products; and limit unhealthy fats, sodium and added sugars. Remember your vitamins and supplements!

At the JCHC communities, we prepare fresh, nutrient-packed homemade soups for residents who are on meal plans (they are also available for purchase at Lester Senior Housing’s General Store). A bowl of delicious hot soup in the winter is a great way to support our seniors’ well-being with immune-boosting ingredients and a healthy dose of care in every spoonful.

  • Exercise. Daily exercise helps keep your body strong and your mood positive. Try to get fresh air and sunshine, even on cold days, as sunlight provides Vitamin D which aids in strengthening bones. Cold weather walks can burn more calories, an added benefit. Take it slow until you are warmed up, and stay hydrated.

Choose fitness classes that help stretch, tone and strengthen muscles, promote relaxation, and improve coordination and cardiac health; better coordination and balance enhance wintertime safety by helping to prevent falls. These are all reasons why we offer a variety of regularly scheduled exercise classes at all four JCHC communities.

Treadmills and stationery bicycles—like the ones in the fitness centers at Lester Senior Living and Village Apartments—also provide a safe, low-impact workout.
Outdoors not an option? Walk indoors (as many do along the promenade at Jewish Federation Plaza), do chair exercises, or swim at an indoor pool.

  • Stay connected. Make sure you have someone who checks in on you periodically, in person or by phone—a friend, neighbor or relative. An important benefit of living in a senior/retirement community is that one always has neighbors and a staff around, and at JCHC communities, individual 24-hour emergency alert system in every apartment.
  • Stay socially active. Fight winter blues by getting out and sharing social, cultural and educational activities with others. Explore new interests in a group setting. You’ll feel better! If you’re wondering what our residents are up to on any given day at one of our senior living communities, check our calendars online. Several programs a month are open to area seniors at Village Apartments: the Tuesday programs (4:00 p.m.) and the Wednesday afternoon discussion group and knitting club.
  • Join us for lunch – We invite area seniors who’d like to sample our food—including our delicious, homemade, hearty soups—to enjoy a complimentary lunch in Café Ruth, our casual bistro at Lester Senior Living. Café Ruth is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and serves soups, salads and sandwiches. It’s also open to the public to enjoy a light lunch—great for those who work in the area, are running errands nearby, or have finished a morning workout at the neighboring Lautenberg JCC.

If you’d like to enjoy lunch on us in our bistro and tour the community, contact David Rozen at (9730 929-2725 or davidr@richardc95.sg-host.com.

Tips for Seniors on Staying Safe in Summer Heat

As June came to an end, much of the United States was stuck in an oppressive heat wave; in fact, cities as far north as Montreal were experiencing extreme heat and humidity. Being the summer, this won’t be the last heat wave.

Exposure to heat can result in heat-related illnesses, especially for seniors, whose bodies are less able to regulate their temperatures and cool themselves. When our bodies heat rapidly or when we lose fluids and salt due to perspiration or dehydration, common conditions are cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. In some cases, hyperthermia (absorbing more heat than our bodies can handle) is fatal. Older adults can also be more sensitive to sun.

Warning signs of heat-related illnesses
Heat exhaustion is typified as dehydration due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Symptoms include muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, fatigue and confusion.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related condition. Heat stroke is dehydration coupled with the body physically overheating and unable to bring down its own temperature. The most obvious sign is a body temperature of 104° or higher. Other symptoms include distorted mental state, flushed skin, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing, and racing pulse.

NOTE: Did you know that certain chronic conditions and medications increase a senior’s risk of heat stroke? You are wise to consult with your medical practitioner about optimal fluid intake and medication management during periods of extreme heat. If you are in an assisted living environment, the nursing staff and medication aides can help.

Staying safe in high heat
These simple precautions can keep seniors safe during the year’s hottest months.

  • Stay in the shade when possible
  • Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, usually 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing outdoors – hats, sunglasses, light-colored clothing
  • Use sunscreen (SPF 50)
  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which dehydrate the body. Don’t rely on feeling thirsty, just drink! Our bodies lose moisture even when we are not sweating heavily.

Staying cool indoors
Even when indoors during very hot weather, it is important to stay hydrated, especially if the air conditioning is not working or if you are keeping it at a moderate temperature to reduce energy consumption (fans that circulate the air are somewhat helpful but don’t do enough to help cool down your body). Visit a local cooling center if you are out and about or need access to air conditioned spaces: public libraries, senior centers, shopping malls, movie theaters, and community centers.

Additional indoor cooling tips during periods of extreme heat include:

  • Cool drinks, such as water, iced herbal teas, and lemonade help moderate the body’s temperature and refresh.
  • Wear lightweight layers you can add or take off as needed; cotton and other natural fibers are best because they breathe and won’t trap heat.
  • Eat cool snacks such as frozen ice pops, frozen grapes or berries, and frozen peas.
  • Choose light, cold meals over hot, heavy dishes. Think salads—grain or pasta, tuna, egg and tossed—over pot roast or lasagna.
  • Place a cool washcloth on the back of your neck; keep a pan of cool water handy to re-cool the towel. Taking a cool shower, bath, or washcloth wipe-down is also effective, especially when the water is just below body temperature.
  • Sit with your feet in a pan of cool (not cold) water.

If you are still in your own home, it’s advisable that you have someone call or check on you during times of very hot (or cold) weather. It doesn’t take much to feel the effects of heat exhaustion and it may be difficult to call for help when you need it.

Of course, if you reside in a senior living community, you’ll have access to cool spaces, plenty of refreshing beverages, an emergency call system, and peers and a helpful staff to look in on you or lend assistance. That’s just one reason why so many seniors choose independent or assisted living options at JCHC communities. We’re happy to tell you about all the other reasons at Village Apartments of the Jewish Federation in South Orange and Lester Senior Housing Community in Whippany. Contact us for more information and a tour.

Creating Memories with Seniors in The Face of Memory Loss

The effects of dementia on family members and friends can be difficult to deal with as older loved ones suffer with memory loss. Grown children and grandchildren may yearn to maintain connections with the seniors in their lives who are having trouble remembering shared experiences, milestone occasions, or even names.

However, there are many wonderful ways that families can create new memories for themselves and reawaken the joy of past people, places and things for seniors with dementia.

Memory boxes. Memory boxes, like scrapbooks, help seniors recall events and people from the past. The memory boxes and the memories they hold—literally and figuratively—can stimulate the person with dementia and prompt conversation. Memory boxes can be about one specific event, person or time in one’s life and they link the senior to his or her identity. Making and looking through a memory box can also lift spirits and spur creativity.

Items to include can be family photos, newspaper clippings, recipes, artwork by the grandchildren, and personal keepsakes; think of items that bring back memories of the loved one’s youth, special achievements, a beloved family pet or favorite vacation place. The box can be a shoe box or plastic bin—something easy to decorate, lift and open, and that can store items of different shapes and sizes. If your loved ones needs some prompts, you can label the items with stickers or tags to spur a memory and get your loved one to talk about the objects and events they are associated with.

Playing favorite music. Just as photos bring back memories for seniors with dementia, so can listening to music—especially music of their youth. Upon hearing music, many older adults with memory impairment become more alert; many will sing along, clap their hands and tap their feet. In our Memory Care Suite, residents enjoy weekly music therapy programs and iPods are available with music for them to listen to and bring back those happy memories. Because music crosses generations, visiting grandchildren can sing along and create a beautiful memory in the moment for everyone.

Bake or cook something together. The sensory stimulation of aroma can bring back memories—and doing the activity together can be fun. We have a baking club that meets every week in our kitchen to make something together and share memories of favorite foods (and some goodies).

Make a video. Provide some gentle prompts that help your loved one to share some family history, a funny story or personal events; or record family visits to play back for your loved one. Get the kids involved and on camera, too during the “interviews.” This is a beautiful way to strengthen family bonds and create a keepsake for the next generation. You can also have your family pre-record video messages to play for your loved one to brighten his or her day, remind them of their family connections and create a feeling of familiarity if they are no longer living at home. If you have old home movies, consider transferring them to DVD and watch them together—and enjoy a nice trip down memory lane.

Create art. Art give seniors with dementia a creative outlet, promotes relaxation and improves mood. Doing art together as a family also enables everyone to enjoy a fun activity together, even when verbal communication is difficult for the senior. Whether it’s drawing, painting, or flower arranging, a keepsake is also created that the person can keep in his or her room … and remember a happy moment with family or friends. At the Lester Senior Housing Community, our eclectic creative arts program is popular with residents in our independent living and assisted living buildings, including residents in our Memory Care Suite.

As you’ll see on our calendars, we offer our memory care residents a full range of activities that both stimulate and soothe: poetry and conversation circles, floral arts, music therapy and baking, aromatherapy and pet therapy among them. If you have a loved one with memory loss, we invite you to take a tour of our Memory Care Suite and learn more about our personalized approach to caring for seniors with dementia. Contact David Rozen at DavidR@richardc95.sg-host.com or 973-929-2725.

The Importance of Good Nutrition for Dementia Sufferers

So many of the things we take for granted in life become difficult for those with dementia, not the least of which is eating healthy and nutritious meals. Poor nutrition can increase a dementia patient’s behavioral symptoms. It can also cause weight loss that could make a person’s condition deteriorate more rapidly. To prevent these issues for seniors with memory disorders, caregivers need to make sure that those in their care are getting nutritious meals that help them maintain their physical and cognitive health.

It sounds simple, right? However, for a variety of reasons, people with dementia, especially older adults, don’t always want to eat. Some reasons for this include:

  • Not recognizing food. The person may no longer be familiar with the foods that they may have eaten in the past.
  • Ill-fitting dentures. Eating may hurt because of dentures that don’t fit correctly.
  • Medications. Any additions to or changes in medications may change the patient’s appetite.
  • Not enough exercise. Not exercising will decrease a person’s appetite.
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste. This may cause the food to be less appetizing as it once was.

Despite all of these issues, a healthy eating plan is important for seniors with dementia. They don’t need to have any special diet, unless they have other issues that call for certain food restrictions. If not, they should eat a well-balanced, varied and nutritious diet which will help them maintain optimal health.

Here are some ways you can help someone with dementia to keep up good eating habits for as long as possible:

  • Limit distractions. Serve meals in a quiet place. Avoid television or other distractions so the person can concentrate on eating.
  • Keep the table setting simple. Don’t put items on the table such as centerpieces or plastic fruit that might distract or confuse the person. That goes for extra utensils as well; only put utensils on the table that the person needs.
  • Distinguish food from the plate. Someone with dementia may have a hard time distinguishing food from the plate or the plate from the table because of impaired visual abilities. Try to use white plates or bowls with a contrasting color placemat. Avoid anything with patterns.
  • Check the food temperature. A person with dementia might not be able to tell if something is too hot to eat or drink and may burn themselves. Test food and drink temperature before serving.
  • Serve only one or two foods at a time. Too many foods at once may be confusing to the patient. Try serving one food at a time, for example, mashed potatoes followed by meat.
  • Be flexible to food preferences. Dementia patients may not remember liking certain foods, or may suddenly like something that they didn’t care for previously. Keep that in mind when preparing food. This is one of the ways our individualized comfort care comes into play in our Memory Care Suite; it’s about providing what the individual prefers.
  • Give the person plenty of time to eat. This helps avoid the risk of choking and creates a calm atmosphere, so important for emotional well-being.
  • Eat together. Make meals a social event so residents look forward to the mealtime. Research suggests that people eat better when they are in the company of others.
  • Keep in mind that people with dementia may not remember when or if they ate. If the person asks over and over about eating breakfast, consider serving several breakfasts—maybe eggs, then toast, then a pancake, then juice.

At the Lester Senior Housing Community’s Memory Care Suite, we understand the importance of good nutrition and caring for healthy bodies as well as minds and spirits. Healthful and enjoyable meal experiences for our residents are just one component of the holistic, person-centered care our caregivers provide. If you have a loved one with a memory disorder who would benefit from Memory Care at Lester, contact David Rozen at (973) 929-2725 or davidr@richardc95.sg-host.com.

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