5 Brain Stimulating Activities For Older Adults

Inevitably, cognitive decline, meaning loss of cognitive function, occurs as we get older. Cognitive function is the ability of your brain to process and recall information through skills like perception, memory, learning, attention, problem solving, decision making, and language. You hear it a lot and it is true in this case: “Use it or lose it.” The good news is that the brain can be strengthened like any other muscle, no matter our age. It has a quality of plasticity, allowing it to bend and shape. This enables us to slow the mental decline, even as older adults. 

Good nutrition, as well as physical and mental exercise, contribute to brain health. All three increase blood flow to the brain, thus improving and maintaining cognition. Continued effort in these areas stimulates the growth of new brain cells. These brain cells are active and able to get easier access to the blood supply, oxygen, and nutrients. As a result, more and more interrelated neurons develop, creating a dynamic network of active and healthy synapses. 

So how do we whip the inactive brain cells into shape? We certainly can’t do so by repeating the same things we’ve always done. To train our brains, we must stimulate them with new habits, activities, and experiences. If your loved one does not live in a senior living community, it may be hard for him or her to engage in activities with similarly-aged peers. Caregivers can introduce some of the following activities to help activate their neural functioning, which will also contribute to a healthy lifestyle. It is best to view our brain activity as just as important to our overall health and wellness as what we eat and how much we exercise. 

Let’s get out of the old rut and get to training that brain! In this article, we will explore some of the best ways older adults can stimulate their brains and improve cognitive function. We here at CareAsOne recommend the following 5 brain-stimulating activities for the elderly.

Playing bingo is a classic amongst seniors and elderly people.

1. Brain Games

Whoever said games were a waste of time? Not only are they fun (and addicting), but also games enable your mental processes to become clearer and keep your mind sharp. Brain exercises are like sports for the mind. They encourage the improvement of brain functions like memory, flexible thinking, focus, and processing speed. Cognitive training stimulates our brains, thus engaging neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of neural networks to grow and reorganize. This allows the brain to always change and adapt throughout our lifetime. 

There are so many different kinds of games out there, each strengthening specific sets of our cognitive skills. Here are a few of them your loved one may want to try out for increased mental stimulation:  

Trivia 

Trivia games cater to all kinds of interests. There are general trivia games, but there are also games that have themes based on TV shows, movies, music, pop culture, and even religion. You can even find trivia relating to specific decades. 

Trivia games can be helpful for seniors to stimulate their recall skills associated with their memory. This type of game encourages them to think about events of the past or facts they have learned but would not otherwise remember. Trivia also enables the players to learn new facts.  And not only does playing these types of games enable your loved one to enhance memory and learning, but it also allows them quality time with friends and family, a vital component of old age.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are not only relaxing, but they are also great for enhancing problem-solving skills. This is because the puzzle requires you to pay attention to details and patterns, utilizing your working memory. It also encourages the use of spatial skills and concentration. The best thing about jigsaw puzzles is that they are straight-forward and can be done by anyone. You can also leave the puzzle and come back to it after a while. 

If you feel like doing a detailed 1000-piece puzzle may be difficult for your loved one’s eyesight, you can easily find jigsaw puzzles with large pieces, or you can find a puzzle online that allows you to zoom in.

Crossword Puzzles

Another great brain game is crosswords. This type of puzzle requires critical thinking as well as memory recall. The fact that only simple hints are given encourages the person to assess their spectrum of knowledge on the subject, to see what fits. This is a fun one to do with friends or family to utilize everyone’s shared knowledge to work together. 

Riddles and Other Logic Puzzles

Logic puzzles are great word games for older adults. The player must combine their ideas and background knowledge to find a plausible answer. Problem-solving ability is key when you must associate your ideas with possible solutions. It also promotes pattern-recognition and memory skills. 

Sudoku

Sudoku is a game based on numerical patterns and is great for improving problem-solving and pattern-recognition skills. The puzzle comes in varying levels of difficulty, allowing you to work your way up from an easy to advanced level. Seeing your improvement will make you want to keep getting better and better. 

Card Games

Card games are another popular way for seniors to keep their brains active. Not only are they good for cognition, but they also encourage social interaction, and can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Some popular card games amongst older adults include:

  • Pinochle
  • Rummy
  • Bridge
  • Canasta
  • Cribbage
  • Chinese poker
  • Solitaire 
  • Big two

2. Learn a New Skill

As we age, the brain develops neural pathways between common thoughts. These pathways enable us to perform familiar tasks, solve recurring problems, and help us recall and process data at a quick pace. Because these neural pathways are well worn, they allow us to do these things without expending a lot of mental energy. However, if you always stick to these paths, it will be extremely difficult to develop new neural pathways. This also means you aren’t growing and shifting with the world around you. 

It is imperative to constantly be developing new pathways to keep your brain running smoothly as well as stimulated. The more you challenge your brain, the better the ability you will have to process and recall information. However, not all activities equally stimulate your mind. The most helpful activities are the ones that break your traditional ways of thinking, enabling you to create new brain pathways. To find the best kind of activity that will suit your or your loved one’s brain growth the most would have the following elements: 

  1. New: Pick something you’ve never done before. If it is something that you have experienced, it will not stimulate new pathways. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and try to learn something completely unfamiliar to you. Think of something you’ve always wanted to try, but haven’t. Now is the time to try!
  1. Challenging: What you pick out should not be easy. It needs to demand your constant attention and concentration. If it was only challenging first, it is still not good enough. The mental effort you constantly put forth will allow you to keep forging the neural path.
  1. Room for Improvement: Find something that you can start from a beginner level and work your way up. Not only does the improvement spur your motivation, but it will also cause you to stretch what you are capable of. 
  1. Rewarding: Choose an activity that will be enjoyable for you. That way you will be more likely to keep doing it! If you are truly interested and enjoy the activity you are participating in, the more benefits you will experience as times go on. 
Puzzle are great for brain stimulation and teamwork.

New Skills for Brain Stimulation

With these four elements in mind, think of something that you would love to learn. Here is a list of some possible ideas: 

  • Learn a musical instrument
  • Make pottery
  • Learn to juggle
  • Play chess
  • Dance the tango, waltz, salsa, or another type of dance
  • Learn a new language
  • Master your golf swing
  • Learn to draw
  • Take a cooking class
  • Download a new app on your phone and learn to use it
  • Learn Photoshop

3. Physical Exercise 

Although we are talking about activities for the brain, you may be surprised that physical exercise is one of them. Physical activity is not just for the body, but for the mind as well. Keeping in shape helps your brain stay sharp. This is because exercise increases oxygen to the brain, enhances chemical effects, reduces stress, promotes synapses formations, and boosts growth factors for neuroplasticity. Research shows that those who exercise can reduce risk factors of diabetes and heart disease, as well as those at risk of dementia and other cognitive impairments

Keeps You Alert

Consider pursuing an exercise routine in the morning. Doing so will cause you to avoid the normal brain fog you may usually have when you wake up. Getting your body up and moving will allow your mind no choice but to follow. And getting such a great start in the morning will get your mind ready to take on any challenges in the day. 

Implement short exercise breaks throughout the day. This is helpful when you are worn with mental fatigue, usually sometime in the afternoon. Moving your body can restart your brain to whatever task is at hand. Some examples of quick exercises can be toe touches or a brisk walk around the house. 

Aerobic Exercise

Just about any exercise that is good for your heart is good for your brain. This includes aerobic exercise which gets your blood pumping and your heart rate up. Some examples of aerobics would be brisk walking, jogging, biking, dancing, and swimming. It is also helpful to choose activities that require hand-eye coordination for the sharpening of motor skills. 

Nature Walks

Walks are an especially great exercise targeted for the brain if you can do so comfortably. Walking in nature is especially beneficial. Not only does it allow for socialization with others as you walk, but it also promotes calm, relaxation, and independence. Older adults may feel more connected to their surroundings, as well as themselves on a nature walk. They will rely on their senses to perceive details around them, including landmarks and animals. Remembering these details later will help anchor their memory. And the best way to experience a walk in a way that all details are fully experienced is through mindfulness. 

4. Mindfulness & Meditation

Going on mindful nature walks will not only keep you physically active, but the incorporation of mindfulness will allow you to increase attention span, let go of unimportant distractions, and increase your overall cognition. You can incorporate mindfulness into your walk by feeling the sensations of your body, concentrating on your breath, as well as listening to the environment around you. Besides nature walks, yoga, stretching, or tai chi are great ways to merge your mind and body.

Incorporating mindfulness into other areas of your life is a great antidote for stress. Chronic stress can damage the hippocampus. This important part of the brain helps us form new memories and remember old ones. Therefore stress can be responsible for some loss of memory. 

You can take it a step further and try mindfulness meditation. There have been many studies done highlighting the positive effects of meditation on conditions like depression, anxiety, diabetes, chronic pain, and high blood pressure. It is also beneficial for learning, reasoning, memory, creativity, concentration, and focus. People who meditate have more activity in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain. This part has been linked with the feelings of joy and equanimity. Meditating can thicken the cerebral cortex and help develop more neural pathways which will sharpen your mind and encourage memory. So now that we see how beneficial mindfulness and meditation can be, let’s get you started with some easy mindfulness exercises. 

  • Focus on the breath: Whether standing in line, sitting at your desk, laying in bed, or sitting on a meditation cushion, practice the following exercise. First, when you breathe in, be mindful that you are taking an in-breath. Then when you breathe out, be mindful that this is out-breath. Continue this for several moments, focusing on your in and out-breaths. If your mind gets distracted, simply return your attention to the breath. Keep your concentration on every aspect of the in and out-breath, without any observations or judgments. 
  • Become aware of your body: After you have established an awareness of the breath, next you can move onto the awareness of the body. You can say something like “Breathing in, I’m aware of my body. Breathing out, I’m aware of my body.” This will bring your attention back to your body, making mind and body one. We often are not fully present in all situations during our day. Practicing and incorporating this technique into our daily lives can help us become more focused and not miss out on our lives. 
  • Release tension: As you are becoming aware of your breath and body, you may notice some tightening or tension in your body. It is possible to let this tension go by becoming aware of it and mindfully let go. Perhaps you have some unresolved stress you are holding in your body. Notice it, relax, and let it go.
  • Walking meditation: Now with the mind focused on the breath and the body, and you have released any tension, go on a walk. Practice paying attention to your breath and the sensations you feel in your body as your feet move along the earth. Do not judge these sensations, simply experience them. 

5. Socialization

Being with friends and family members has some of the biggest effects on your mental health. Humans are not meant to live isolated. Interacting with other people stimulates our minds in the best way. This is because it not only has cognitive benefits, it also benefits our emotions. Studies have found that most active social people have slower memory decline than those that are isolated. 

If your loved one is isolated, try exposing him or her to some new activities. This could be getting a volunteer job at a food bank or joining a club with like-minded individuals. Or they can visit their friends more often, participating in mutually interesting activities. If you don’t live with your loved one, try to visit them as often as you can, as well as calling them often on the phone. Another great way for them to socialize is to get them a pet. Having a constant companion around is sure to stimulate your loved one’s energy level. There is a bonus that he or she will meet other pet-owners when taking a dog out for a walk. 

Human interaction enables people to practice their communication skills, think critically, memory recall, among many other cognitive abilities needed as we age. Since elderly people tend to withdraw as they get older, make an extra effort to keep them surrounded by friends and family they love. 

Keep Brain Active for Higher Well-Being

Keeping your brain active is the surest way to extend your brain power through old age. And this type of health care will inevitably lead to a higher sense of well-being. So whether it is playing a game of rummy, enrolling them in a Spanish class, going on a nature walk, sitting mindfully together for 10 minutes, or gathering the whole family around them, you can contribute to the longer-lasting brain health of your loved one.

8 Healthy Foods That Can Interfere With Medications

Many of us like to keep to a healthy diet to and good exercise routine to keep on top of our physical well being. The benefits of a healthy diet are numerous for not just our physical health but also our mental one too. Unfortunately, some of us also need to take medication to keep either our body or our minds ticking normally.

Medication, of every kind, always comes with some certain risk attached. That is why it is firstly and foremostly important that you discuss taking medication with your doctor and a pharmacist first. Your diet should also be discussed so that they can advise you if some dietary changes are needed in order for the medication to take full effect and for potential side effects to having their harms reduced by discussing food-drug interactions.

We have written this informational blog post to help you to gain an understanding of which types of common foods, particularly healthy ones, can have a negative interference with the medication you are taking. Many of the foods discussed are rich in nutrients that are great for you and you’re even encouraged to take dietary supplements to get the kind of vitamins that these foods supply. Of course, discuss this with a medical professional after reading our guide because they know best. Also, remember that everyone’s body is different, so there may be foods that are not on the list that also may not react well with your medication. This applies to all sorts of kinds of medications from ones treating long-term chronic illnesses to over-the-counter drugs that treat a headache. 

We’ll walk you through each healthy food and discuss its health benefits so that you can understand why having them as part of your diet is beneficial. After that, we’ll mention what medications it may not interact well with and what the potential risks could be when drug interactions are involved.

Grapefruit and Grapefruit Products

First of all, we shall take a look at how grapefruit and grapefruit juice can have an impact if it is mixed with certain types of medication. The health benefits of grapefruit are numerous. They are rich in both potassium and vitamin C which is not only essential contributors to a healthy and balanced diet, but the body actually needs them to function properly. Take for example sailors of over a century ago. When you were a kid you may have read about pirates who were sick with scurvy, which caused their lips to bleed, teeth to fall out, and their skin to flake. This is because they were on long voyages of months at a time with no access to fresh fruit and vegetables. A month without vitamin C can cause the effects of scurvy and other illnesses to become transparent.

Although it is an essential nutrient to the body, the high doses brought on by grapefruit and grapefruit juice may not interact well with some medications. Many of these medications are ones provided to deal with heart problems and heart disease but there are several more:

  • Drugs that treat abnormal heart rhythms, like Nexterone and Pacerone.
  • A variety of antihistamine medications like Allegra.
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Zocor and Lipitor.
  • Drugs that treat high blood pressure, such as Procardia and Adalat CC.
  • Organ-transplant rejection drugs, such as Sandimmune and Neoral.
  • Anti-anxiety medication like buspirone.
  • Corticosteroids that treat Crohn’s disease or colitis, such as Entocort EC and Uceris.

Depending on your medication, having too much grapefruit or grapefruit juice can affect you in two separate ways depending on the type of medication you are taking. It can either cause too much of the medication to get into the body or it can cause too little. Statin drugs, which purpose is to lower cholesterol, are broken down by enzymes in order for them to work properly. High levels of grapefruit can cause the enzymes to be blocked which means that the drug doesn’t break down properly and too much of it can go throughout your body which can enhance negative side effects. Grapefruit can also affect allergy drugs such as Allegra. This is because allergy drugs are taken throughout the body through transporters, to take them to cells. High volumes of grapefruit can, however, block these from coming through, meaning that your medication may have little effect.

Too much grapefruit can prevent medications from breaking down properly.

Bananas

Bananas are always a practical and healthy snack to have on hand. Not only are they delicious but they are also stacked with numerous great health benefits. Bananas are great for helping you to maintain a healthy weight, boosting your nervous system, and for aiding you in avoiding type 2 diabetes. Bananas are filled with fiber, potassium, magnesium vitamin C, and B6. All of these things are great for the body and important in maintaining a strong immune system. They also often find their flavor used in nutritional drinks, which may or may not be healthy.

People who are taking angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors should avoid bananas, however. This medication lowers your blood pressure and helps the heart to pump more blood. Potassium does not interact with this too well though. This is because high levels of potassium can contribute to having an irregular heartbeat and cause heart palpitations which can lead to heart failure. Potassium only affects your blood levels when it is taken in high amounts but make sure that you speak to your doctor first if you are taking ACEs. 

Leafy Greens 

Foods that are rich in vitamin K are simply wonderful for the body. They include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, and spinach. These have high levels of fiber and have a low-calorie count meaning that they are excellent for maintaining healthy body weight and diet. Vitamin K is vital to help keep your blood flow healthy as it helps to thin the blood and let it flow better. Low term absence of vitamin K can cause your bones to weaken and may cause osteoporosis in older people as well as calcification (calcium channel blockers) in arteries. 

The effect of leafy green vegetables and vitamin K can have an adverse effect if the patient is taking Warfarin (also known as Coumadin). Warfarin is an anticoagulant, which is a blood thinner and helps circulation move as normal. This medication tends to be prescribed to you if you have had a blood clot in the past or if you are at risk of one in the future. Users of Warfarin must always be cautious about the side effects as some of them can be extremely harmful, and even cause death

Vitamin K can cause your blood to clot which is why you must be cautious with leafy vegetables if you are taking Warfarin. This is not to say that eating some cabbage soup will cause you adverse side effects but rather that you shouldn’t base your diet on it. If you are prescribed Warfarin speak to your doctor first to find out if you can safely reintroduce leafy greens into your diet. 

Cranberry Juice

Cranberry juice and cranberries are considered by many nutritional experts to be a ‘superfood’. This is because of their high levels of nutrients and antioxidants. They are well known to help stop urinary tract infections, lowering the risk of heart problems, and slowing the spread of some cancers. Despite all of these great benefits, cranberries can be counterproductive if you are taking heart medication such as Digoxin, Warfarin, or Lovastatin. This is because similarly to leafy greens, cranberries also thin the blood. Although this is good if you are healthy, if you are on some heart medications, drinking too much cranberry juice can have an adverse effect. 

Dairy Products

Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and aged cheeses are full of health benefits for everyone, particularly children and adolescents. This is because they are full of calcium which helps to promote bone growth. As well as this there are many other healthy nutrients be found in dairy products such as phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D (in products fortified with vitamin D), riboflavin, vitamin B12, protein, potassium, zinc, and magnesium. As well as this many dairy products such as yogurt are great for digestive health as they help to regulate the bacteria in your gut.

The gut is where calcium can become problematic when medication is involved. Antibiotics such as the Quinolone (Cipro, Levofloxacin Ciprofloxacin, and Avelox) and tetracyclines (Vibramycin and Minocin), varieties, do not interact well with dairy products. These antibiotics need to interact with gut bacteria in order to work effectively but due to the dairy products already mixing with these bacterias in a positive manner the effectiveness is reduced. This is because the bacteria in the gut struggles to absorb the antibiotics properly because of the way the dairy products are interacting with them.

Due to the antibiotics possibly not being able to work effectively it means that the infection that you were trying to treat may rebound in an even stronger manner. This can lead to the possibility of becoming very sick or in the best-case scenario, having to retake an extended dosage of the antibiotics. That is not to say that dairy products are to be outright forbidden if you are on these types of antibiotics as most of the time it is ok to have a glass of milk or yogurt at least two hours after taking a dosage. Like always, double-check this with a doctor or pharmacist first. 

High Fiber Foods

Fiber is a very important part of any balanced diet and can mainly be found in rich foods such as fruit, vegetables, and grains. They are fantastic for overall health and particularly good at reducing the chances of diabetes and heart disease. One of the great benefits of fiber is that the body cannot digest it. The reason that this is great is that it passes through our digestive tract and feeds the bacteria that live there. 

There are ten times as many bacteria in our body than there are cells. It helps to regulate our body’s functions and is important to every aspect of our health such as blood sugar levels, the immune system, and even brain function. The majority of the bacteria in our bodies live in our digestive tract so it is vital that it is fed and kept healthy. If it is not conditions such as colitis and inflammatory bowel disease can occur. Thus, a good range of fiber in the body is a great thing. 

However, due to the way that fiber interacts with the gut it may be a good idea to try and reduce your intake when you are on some types of medication. It causes the same effect that some antibiotics do when they are mixed with dairy products. You don’t want the effects of your antibiotics to be subsided when taking them so its best to reduce your intake and to speak to a doctor or pharmacist about changing the fiber in your diet when you receive a drug prescription. 

That morning coffee might be interfering with your medication more than you think.

Coffee

Some of us simply need our coffee and cannot bear the thought of rolling out of bed without the knowledge that a steaming cafe late shall soon be resting on the kitchen counter. Similarly, that commute to work can also be unbearable if you know that you won’t be able to swing by your favorite coffee shop before walking through the office door. Although it may not be considered a healthy food like our article states. For many of you, it is a vice that has positive effects on your mental health. 

This is the type of medication that coffee can affect. If you have been prescribed an antipsychotic drug such as Clozapine or MAOIs, it is best to avoid caffeinated drinks. Caffeine can contribute to increasing the number of antipsychotics in your blood and thus put you at a greater risk of adverse side effects. 

Alcohol

Again, alcohol is not a healthy food but it does have some benefits for us. If it is drunk in moderation and with good company, it can be a catalyst towards good times. Also, a smooth red wine at the end of a long, hard day can take the edge off things and bring you some relaxation. With some of the positive mental health benefits to the side, alcohol can also interfere in very bad ways if you are on some types of medication.

There is a long list of prescription drugs, and over the counter medications that alcohol simply does not go with. Alcohol does not mix with many painkillers such as paracetamol, codeine, morphine, antihistamines, antibiotics, diabetes drugs, and medication for HIV/AIDS. If you are on a larger combination of medications then you should certainly be wary of consuming alcohol.

The side effects of your medication can be multiplied if alcohol is consumed while you are taking them. Even after just one drink.  The bad side effects that you can receive include symptoms such as vomiting, stomach problems, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, memory problems, brain functions, changes to blood pressure, fainting, and a heightened risk of accidents. As well as these unwanted symptoms alcohol can also increase the damage that you may be taking medication for. This is apparent with liver damage, heart issues, and many mental health problems.

Alcohol can also decrease the effectiveness of the medication that you are taking, perhaps even making it obsolete. It can even make some medications toxic for your body. If you drink alcohol always make sure to check with your doctor about the risks of drinking it alongside your new medication as you can never know what the risks may be. 

Conclusion:

It is important to have a varied and balanced diet that is filled with nutrients. By doing this you help to contribute to the overall health of your body, helping to minimize the risks of you having health issues in the future. This applies to both your physical and mental health. Nobody wants to be in a position where they need to take medication, particularly if it is long term or chronic. By eating healthy foods you can help to perhaps mitigate this risk. 

If at some point in your life, you must take medication you need to check the risks of every kind of food or substance and how that can interact with it. This even applies to healthy, common food. Many of the foods that we discussed such as leafy green vegetables, grapefruit, cranberry juice, high fiber foods, and dairy products are essential parts of having a well-rounded diet. 

However, when taking alongside many medications, there is a risk of side effects. This tends to be when you consume high amounts of these foods but every person’s body interacts differently. Even a small amount of these kinds of foods can bring out negative side effects depending on the medication. The bottom line is though like it has been throughout this article, is to always check with your doctor first about the risks that some types of food, even healthy ones, may have on your medication.

What’s the Life Expectancy for Someone With Dementia?

Dementia is a type of disease that is thoroughly misunderstood. The widely known view of dementia is that it means someone has Alzheimer’s and is going to forget their family and friends. While this is one true part of what happens in many families affected by dementia, there is a whole medical sphere dedicated to understanding and treating it. 

The fact is, dementia is a fatal disease. Whether it slowly progresses over time or seems to consume a person all too soon, all types of dementia impact the end-of-life process and eventual death. It’s important to learn about what a dementia life expectancy can mean.

How Does Dementia Affect Life Expectancy? 

Many types of dementia cause deterioration to the brain, which means a person’s life expectancy becomes significantly shortened. Other types affect the physical body and motor function, which can lead to a lower quality of life and individual autonomy at an earlier age. 

Some people receive a dementia diagnosis and can still live fairly healthy and functionally for decades to come. Others get diagnosed too late and quickly experience major cognitive decline that leads to early death. 

Dementia changes how a person’s brain functions and processes information. People with dementia develop memory problems, personality changes, impairment to their movement abilities, and a decline in their cognitive, emotional, and physical health. All these things can dramatically affect life expectancy, especially because there is no cure for dementia. 

memory loss due to dementia
Dementia goes through various stages depending on the area of the brain that’s affected.

Symptoms of Dementia 

The signs and symptoms of dementia vary greatly based on what type of dementia a person has. Remember, there are many kinds of dementia that come with their unique challenges and prognoses. 

In general, though, there are overarching symptoms that come with most types. The stages can be seen throughout almost all forms of dementia. In the medical realm, these are referred to as Early Stage Dementia, Middle Stage Dementia, and Late Stage Dementia. 

Here are some of the common symptoms that are seen in each dementia stage.

Early Stage Dementia (Mild Dementia)

  • Memory trouble
  • Forgetfulness, brain fog
  • Mild cognitive impairment 
  • Slight changes in mood or personality
  • Increased inability to focus and concentrate
  • Experiencing “senior moments”, like confusing loved ones’ name or events
  • Losing track of time
  • Decrease in spacial awareness 
  • Trouble finding the right words during conversations
  • Delay in performing basic daily activities, like paying bills, organizing the pantry, or showing up to appointments on time

Middle Stage Dementia

  • Forgetting personal information, like your phone number or a close relative’s address
  • Jumbled long-term or short-term memories (timeline of events become hard to recall)
  • Unexplainable mood swings, irritability, or aggression
  • Forgetting the date, year, or month 
  • Confusing what season one is currently in (wearing winter clothes in mid-summer, etc.)
  • Disturbed sleep (insomnia or excessive sleeping)
  • Repetitive or compulsive actions, such as touching the face or cleaning incessantly 
  • Behavioral changes, paranoia, delusions 
  • Physical impairments like difficulty holding one’s bladder 
  • Wandering aimlessly or easily getting lost in one’s community 

Late Stage Dementia

  • Becoming unfamiliar with loved ones; forgetting family and friends
  • Inability to feed oneself or use the bathroom on their own
  • Drastic behavioral changes
  • Difficulty swallowing food or water 
  • Becoming disillusioned or disconnected from reality
  • Loss of bodily control (walking, using the bathroom, moving, self-care)
  • Communication struggles
  • Loss of personal identity 

How is Dementia Caused? 

As of now, there is no distinct known cause of dementia. Science is always working to research what factors contribute to this deadly disease. It is an extremely complex disorder to fully know. Because of this, it’s also incredibly hard to effectively treat. 

While there are no known causes of all the different types of dementia, there are some theories that it has to do with genetics and lifestyle factors. Right now, the only claim at trying to prevent dementia has to do with lifestyle.

Some of the things that can contribute to dementia development include:

  • Severe brain injury
  • Damage to brain cells
  • Preexisting medical conditions that decrease oxygen to the brain
  • Genetics and personal health
  • Unhealthy lifestyle 

Common ways to prevent dementia that are known include leading a healthy life. Eating clean, practicing regular exercise, learning how to effectively manage stress, and engaging in brain-stimulating activities and hobbies might be able to help. All these things are what help keep the brain healthy, active, and capable of repair. 

Types of Dementia: Life Expectancy for Each

Each type of dementia has its own set of symptoms, outcomes, and timeline that affects life expectancy. Additionally, every person who is diagnosed with dementia will have factors that affect their experience with dementia. No two dementia cases are perfectly identical, but they can be similar.

Alzheimer’s Disease 

The most frequent diagnosis and cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease has shown major patterns in dementia life expectancy. This is because it comes with brain damage associated with a disconnect in neurons (brain never cells). 

Some studies have shown that this disease is also associated with a buildup of abnormal fibers and proteins in the brain, which can contribute to memory loss. Eventually, the brain physically deteriorates over time. This is what leads to the eventual cause of death among late-stage dementia. 

Symptoms Specific to Alzheimer’s

  • Decline in cognition 
  • Memory loss
  • A decline in thinking, reasoning, and expression 
  • Impaired judgment when making decisions 
  • Personality and behavior changes 
  • Social withdrawal 
  • Confusion 
  • Progressive decline overall 

The life expectancy of someone with Alzheimer’s disease is typically 10 years or so after they have been diagnosed. Some people with Alzheimer’s live decades after they onset dementia symptoms begin. Others only live 6-8 years past their initial mild symptoms.

Lewy Body Dementia 

Another common type of dementia is Lewy body dementia (LBD), or “dementia with Lewy bodies”. This is another type of dementia that increasingly gets worse and worse over time until inevitable death. 

“Lewy bodies” are types of proteins that grow and build up in the brain. An abnormal amount of lew bodies can begin to grow and interrupt brain nerve cells. When this happens, it can drastically affect thinking and physical motor ability. 

LBD is slightly different than Alzheimer’s because it is generally related to more severe physical symptoms and changes to how the brain processes information. There are two types of Lewy body dementia:

1. Dementia with Lewy bodies

2. Parkinson’s disease dementia 

Symptoms of LBD:

  • Muscle aches or stiffness
  • Tremors or shakes
  • Major changes to behavior 
  • Struggles with balance and movement 
  • Memory issues
  • Disorganized thoughts, speech, and emotions
  • Decline in alertness 
  • Hallucinations 
  • The body struggling to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, and digestion 
  • Damage to the automatic nervous system

Lewy body dementia life expectancies usually range from 4 – 8 years after diagnosis. However, some people have lived roughly 20 years after being diagnosed with LBD. Symptoms usually start mild and slow, then progress over a number of years. 

Vascular Dementia 

Vascular dementia is a type of dementia that is caused by issues with the vascular system (anything related to blood and oxygen transfer). This dementia is a result of changes or blockages in the body’s blood supply to the brain. 

Most often with vascular dementia, it occurs after a stroke or serious injury. When the blood supply is dangerously cut off from the brain, brain cells can die and parts of the brain can become permanently damaged. People can start to show symptoms right after a stroke (or numerous strokes), or signs can appear years later.

Symptoms of Vascular Dementia

  • Stroke-like symptoms 
  • Paralysis, weakness, or numbness either in one part or several parts of the body
  • Difficulty walking or moving
  • Gaps in reasoning or logical thinking
  • Changes in personality and mood
  • More intense emotions and mood swings than usual
  • Unable to focus or pay attention to important tasks

Typically, the life expectancy for someone with vascular dementia is short. On average, people live about 5 years after being diagnosed. They can sometimes live longer, but it’s unlikely that their lifespan will include capabilities before middle-stage dementia symptoms. They will usually require constant care and supervision. 

Frontotemporal Dementia 

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) can appear in people younger than 50, which is a bit different compare to Alzheimer’s or Lewy body dementia. Most of the time, Frontotemporal dementia is diagnosed in people around their 40s. 

This is a more rare type of dementia and its main characteristics affect language and behavior. It can be a scary and confusing disorder when not diagnosed on time, or when improperly diagnosed. 

Symtps of Frontotemporal Dementia 

  • Language and speech problems 
  • Loss of social awareness (acting out or being inappropriate in groups)
  • Major personality changes 
  • Mood changes (depression, panic, aggression)
  • Obsessive or compulsive actions (drug or alcohol use, repetitive actions)
  • Loss of motivation for life 
  • Repetitive communication or incoherent expression 
  • Dangerous risk-taking behavior or outlandish ideas
  • Fragments in empathy or compassion; malicious actions
  • Becoming impulsive 
  • Signs of mental illness

The frontotemporal lobe dementia life expectancy is, on average, 6 – 8 years after being diagnosed. They can sometimes live another decade, but require 24/7 supervision and health care. 

Is There Treatment for Different Types of Dementia?

There is currently no cure or official treatment for any type of dementia. As mentioned before, it is a fatal disease that progresses over time. The only “treatment” for it is to track and manage the symptoms that come with each phase. 

Providing comfort, safety, support, and medical care throughout the three stages is often the only thing that can be done during the person’s new dementia life expectancy. 

How to Know Someone’s Dementia Life Expectancy 

Life and death are constant mysteries that no human will likely ever fully figure out. Of course, there is no way to officially know how long someone will continue to live, even if they have a sure diagnosis of something. 

But by observing scientific patterns of the various types of dementia, you can get a general range of time for how most other people with that disease have lived. 

With modern technology, there is even data prediction software that can account for relevant symptoms and predict average life expectancy. This type of technology uses dementia research and algorithms to give an estimated prediction of how long a person might live. It takes into account their lifestyle, age, history, diagnosis, and level of care available. 

You should never rely on this type of estimate, but it’s simply a guide. If you or a loved one has dementia, focus on getting the right types of care they will need moving forward. Enjoy the time you have left with them. Find the support you need as a family member during this hard diagnosis. 

retired couple holding hands and looking at each other
Dementia can be overwhelming for the families of affected people and support is needed from the healthcare system.

Caring for Someone With a Dementia Diagnosis 

Finding out someone you care about has dementia can be a piece of life-shattering news. So many questions, fears, and sorrows come with the realization that a friend or family member will soon be rapidly declining in their last years of life. 

There are ways to find peace, support, and adequate care for your loved one with dementia. It might take some time at first, but developing a care plan can make everyone’s life easier in the next phase. 

Make a Plan

The first step to caring for someone with dementia is to make a plan. Learn all you can about their type of dementia. 

As time progresses, research hospitals, nursing homes, and dementia care advocates, so you have a set plan of action when your loved one starts to reach late-stage dementia. In the later stages, dementia patients require ongoing, constant supervision and medical aid. 

Health Care Aid

Managing and monitoring someone with dementia can be expensive when it comes to health care. Look into what your insurance provider will cover, seek government aid, and any local resources available to you and your family. 

Remember that you don’t have to do this alone. It takes a community that loves and supports each other to get through the challenges that come with dementia and death.

At Home Caregivers

If your loved one is entering the middle to late stages of their disease, you must look into home caregivers. These professionals can make the patient comfortable, help them with daily life, and be there if any emergencies occur. 

Support from Loved Ones and Community

There are support groups for family and friends of individuals with dementia. It’s a life-harrowing process, and the sad fact is that dementia loses your loved one slowly. Finding a safe mental and emotional outlet to process, share, and grieve the little losses can keep you sane as you continue to care for them in their last years.

What to Do During End of Life Dementia

Once the inevitable end-of-life process begins and your loved one with dementia can no longer function on their own, there are a few steps required on behalf of family and friends. Here are the general steps that occur during the final stages of dementia.

Understanding 

If the person’s dementia has been happening for years or even decades, you’ve likely had time to reach an understanding of what will happen. If not, learn more about dementia while you can, so you can offer the support needed. 

Remember to not take any outrageous or negative behaviors personally, as it’s not the patient’s fault they are acting this way. They might say offensive things, behave aggressively, or completely forget who you are. It’s easy to become angry and hurt by witnessing this tragic loss of their personality. But it’s not the person who is doing these things… it’s an effect of their brain’s decline. 

Family Support 

Bringing the family together and helping each other out is a crucial aspect of late-stage dementia. Although you might not be able to emotionally relate to your loved one anymore as they near death, you can lean on fellow loved ones to say goodbye and find peace in the situation. 

Comfort Your Loved One

The only thing left to do is now make sure your loved one is comfortable, safe, and has the care they need during their last moments. Caregivers can make sure they live in a sanitary environment, have the nourishment they need, and ensure they won’t cause any harm to themselves or others.

Acceptance

Finally, acceptance of the person’s life and death helps bring peace to the loss. It takes a long time to grieve a loved one after slowly losing them to dementia. But starting to accept the loss for what it is can help you move forward with precious memories and time you did share with them, whether during their best or worst.

If you need guidance finding care or support for someone with dementia, reach out to a professional care facility today. Help is available and your family needs all the resources they can get. 

What Are Arthritis Nodules? (Joint Nodules)

Nearly 25% of people living with Rheumatoid arthritis experience something called arthritis nodules. Also called rheumatoid nodules or joint nodules, these fleshy, painless bumps can be seen on areas of the body where joints are most affected by arthritis. 

At first, these growths can appear unsightly, but the good news is that they’re often not as serious as they seem. They can be treated and usually go away on their own. Depending on the level of care received, they can become a persistent issue or occur several times a year.

What Are Rheumatoid Nodules?

Arthritis nodules are associated with the chronic inflammation condition called Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This is a type of autoimmune disease where a person’s immune system wrongfully fights against its healthy joint and tissue cells. 

The main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:

  • Ongoing joint pain
  • Stiffness in the muscles, joints, and tissues
  • Tenderness or pain in the body
  • Fatigue
  • Fevers 
  • Feeling achy or stiff throughout the day for more than 6 weeks

These main symptoms of RA can be painful and debilitating. However, the rheumatoid nodules themselves don’t typically cause pain. The main cause for concern in people who get joint nodes are unattractiveness and slight discomfort. 

a woman wth rheumatoid arthritis holding a cup of tea
Approximately 5% of people with rheumatoid arthritis develop joint nodules within two years of disease onset.

What Does an Arthritis Nodule Feel Like?

Rheumatoid nodules can feel squishy or firm. They can move around freely unless attached to deeper tissues in the joint, where they can feel stuck or hardened. Many people claim they feel like little balls of dough when touched. 

When it comes to size, arthritis nodules can be as small as a mustard seed or as large as stone fruit, like a plum or peach. They’re almost always round in shape but can sometimes be linear or deformed-looking. 

Are These Nodules Painful?

More often than not, arthritis nodules are not painful. Sometimes they can become sore or tender if they are attached to underlying nerves that are already inflamed, but the nodules themselves generally don’t cause any pain. 

Where Can Arthritis Nodules Develop?

Usually, joint nodules grow in areas of the body where frequently-used joints experience friction or pressure points with everyday movement. Sometimes they can develop where an individual’s body part touches a surface, such as on the tailbone of someone bedridden. 

Most often, Rheumatoid patients notice these nodules on their:

  • Elbows
  • Hands
  • Knuckles
  • Finger joints
  • Back of the heels (Achilles tendon)
  • Tailbone

In more severe cases, they can form in more areas of the body where you might not expect. These include:

What Causes Joint Nodules?

The causes of rheumatoid arthritis nodules aren’t specifically known at the moment. It’s something that causes a bit of scientific mystery, especially because these types of arthritis nodules aren’t often seen in other forms of arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other rare forms of joint-related immune system disorders don’t cause nodules. 

One thing that is known to contribute to the forming of arthritis nodules is a type of medication called methotrexate. Many people with RA are prescribed this medication to help their immune system slow down and not worsen the painful symptoms of RA.

If methotrexate is the main risk factor in rheumatoid nodules, the doctor will switch antirheumatic drugs to something like rituximab.

What Are Rheumatoid Arthritis Nodules Made Of?

As these growths affect someone with RA on the dermis level (having to do with the skin), studies have shown that they are made of several different elements. 

Dead skin cells: Old, dead protein cells in and on the body can build up and accumulate in the nodules.

Fibrins: Associated with blood clotting and tissue repair, sometimes fibrins are found in RA nodules.

Inflammatory tissues: As stated, rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory joint disease which means excess antibodies can build up and cause RA nodules. 

Who Gets Joint Nodules?

Some rheumatoid arthritis cases are diagnosed because of an observable onset of rheumatoid nodules. They can sometimes be mistaken for cysts, bursitis, tumors, or more serious skin conditions. Taking other symptoms into account can help a doctor properly diagnose the actual disorder. 

People most likely to get arthritis nodes are:

  • Those who have a severe form of Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • People with RA who smoke cigarettes
  • Someone with a family history of RA
  • Women with RA (more likely to develop in females)
  • RA patients who are bedridden
  • A patient with arthritis who takes the prescription medication methotrexate
  • People who work with their hands a lot while having Rheumatoid arthritis
A needle biospy questionnaire.
A skin biopsy may be needed to confirm arthritis nodule diagnosis.

How Are They Diagnosed? 

Most of the time, people who already have a diagnosis of rheumatology can be easily diagnosed with joint nodules once they start to appear. 

Some patients have a higher rheumatoid factor, which means there are higher amounts of proteins in their body that actively attack their healthy joint cells. This means their symptoms are likely more painful and ongoing. People with a lower rheumatoid factor could have few symptoms or be asymptomatic.

If the person doesn’t know they have arthritis, a rheumatologist will be able to diagnose properly. They might do a biopsy of the nodes which can help them give medical advice.

Symptoms of Arthritis Nodules:

  • Small to large masses of growth on the skin near joint areas
  • Numerous nodes forming in one area (AKA Accelerated Nodulosis)
  • Typically round but sometimes oddly shaped or linear
  • Able to be moved around loosely under the skin
  • Rubbery, squishy, or firm lumps
  • Bumps or lesions that lack ulceration (they don’t cause open wounds or drainage)
  • Existing or co-occurring diagnosis of rheumatic diseases
  • Other skin conditions like psoriasis or vasculitis have been ruled out

Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis Nodes

In most instances, RA nodules don’t require treatment. They likely go away on their own over time. They can come and go depending on the flare-up of symptoms in patients whom arthritis affects.

Sometimes, though, these nodules can inhibit movement and comfort. If a nodule is too large, like the size of a lemon, corticosteroids can be injected to shrink the size. Surgical removal is also an option to treat some nodules, if necessary. 

If a person with RA has ongoing joint nodules that debilitate them, they often seek at-home care or assisted living. A caregiver can help improve their health and lifestyle needs while living with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. 

What Does Arthritis Actually Feel Like?

According to the CDC, nearly 25% of American adults have some type of arthritis diagnosis. It’s one of the leading causes of chronic joint pain throughout the country. Although it mostly affects adults and seniors, it can occur in people of any age. 

There are different types of arthritis, which can be confusing to differentiate and understand. Pain affects everybody differently, too, so if you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with arthritis, you might be wondering: what does arthritis feel like? What can you expect? And what are the treatment options available?

What is Arthritis? 

In a general blanket statement, “arthritis” means pain or inflammation in the joints. Yes, this is an extremely broad definition, as there are over 100 types of arthritis that exist! No wonder this medical ailment is so misunderstood among the population and health workers alike. 

People of any age can get arthritis. It can be a chronic condition or come and go for short, temporary periods of life. There is no single known cause of arthritis, and the severity of symptoms varies from person to person. 

Although there are so many kinds of arthritis, the overall fact that can be seen in all of them is this: arthritis dramatically affects the mobility and movement of those who have been diagnosed. 

Elderly female patient suffering from arthritis pain in her hand
According to the CDC, an estimated 78.4 million adults will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by the year 2040.

Two Main Categories of Arthritis

When we’re talking about joint pain, many people jump to assume it has to be some type of arthritis. This might be true, but what does it mean? And how can you know for sure? 

Firstly, never try to diagnose yourself or others based on a few symptoms. If a doctor officially finds that you have some type of arthritis, it’s important to learn all you can about it to manage and treat it. The first step to understanding is knowing which category your diagnosis belongs to.

There are two distinctive “families” of arthritis that can clear up some confusion from the start. These two categories are:

Mechanical: This means the arthritis is a result of the normal breaking down of joints over time. It’s caused by lifelong wear-and-tear where the body, in its aging process, starts experiencing pain in weight-bearing joints or bones. Osteoarthritis is the most common example.

Inflammatory: A type of arthritis that results from chronic inflammation in the body. This can be caused by a temporary or permanent injury or some type of autoimmune disorder. The most common type of inflammatory arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. 

Symptoms of Arthritis

Remember, different types of arthritis will have different symptoms. But some of the major warning signs of this joint disorder. 

Joint Pain 

The joints in one or various parts of the body feel pain. This pain can be ongoing or temporary, mild or unbearable, constant or only felt while moving. 

Limited Mobility

It might be difficult to move as easily or limberly as you once used to. Limited mobility and a decrease in range of motion is a sign that is seen in many arthritis patients. Sometimes they can no longer lift their hands over their head, or have trouble bending over to pick up objects. Other times they cannot even move their neck, grasp silverware, or sit and stand without feeling pain.

Joint Swelling

Inflammation of the joints causes swelling. Affected joints can become swollen, red, and hot. This type of swelling can be slightly uncomfortable or cause severe pain. 

Stiffness

Along with joint issues there comes joint stiffness throughout the body. It’s not always easy to feel relaxed or flexible with arthritis. It can become difficult to move normally if the joints are debilitated.

Joint Damage

With mechanical arthritis most of all, the joints start becoming damaged with more and more wear and tear. Damage can be caused by simple daily activities or excess use. 

Other signs of arthritis can include: 

  • Deep aches and pains in the body
  • Pain that worsens posture or proper form
  • Changes to your gait (the way you walk)
  • Clicking, cracking or popping of the joints
  • Pain felt after using a specific body part normally 
  • Feeling the bones or joints rubbing against each other; “grating”
  • Radiating pain with normal movement 
  • Stiffness in the joints, even after proper use

What Causes Arthritis?

There aren’t any official known causes of arthritis. Additionally, the different forms of arthritis can have varying factors that lead to its development over time. 

Even though there is no sure answer, modern science is starting to research how individual lifestyle, genetics, and adverse experiences contribute to the development of all kinds of arthritis. 

What Does Arthritis Feel Like?

There is no way to answer this question with full clarity. Ask ten different arthritic people to explain to you what their arthritis feels like, and you’ll likely get ten different answers. The bottom line is what arthritis feels like depends on what type of arthritis someone has. 

Most Common Types of Arthritis 

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is perhaps the most common type of arthritis. It’s what most people are likely to automatically think about when they hear the term arthritis. Harvard Health estimates there is a 50/50 chance that someone will experience Osteoarthritis in life

“Osteo” means related to the bones. Therefore, this type of arthritis affects the joints, cartilage, and bones. This “wear-and-tear” is most often seen in people over the age of 50. But it can also affect younger people with preexisting conditions or major injuries. It starts mild but then gradually gets more and more serious over time. 

It causes cartilage– the padding material between our bones– to break down. As you can imagine, this can be super painful. It mostly affects the knees, elbows, hands, and hips, which are joints we all use most often. But it can affect any joint in the body– even small joints like the fingers, spine, and toes.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation of the joints
  • Swelling
  • Throbbing 
  • Tenderness 
  • Discomfort when moving
  • Grinding or popping sounds in the affected joints 

 Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the types of inflammatory arthritis disorders. It’s an autoimmune disorder; “rheumatic” meaning of the soft tissue. This means the body thinks the healthy cells are a threat to the immune system, and therefore attacks them as an unwanted virus or foreign substance. As a result, the immune system gets depleted and the body suffers in physical ways. 

In this case, the joint cells get attacked. This is then what causes RA. Along with physical joint pain and swelling, it can cause fatigue, mood swings, chest pain, and organ problems.

People who have rheumatoid arthritis often feel like they lack energy for daily priorities. Some say that it feels like they have cold or fever symptoms that won’t ever go away. Achy, sore muscles and joints are common with RA. 

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • Swollen joints
  • Chronic joint pain 
  • Tightness and stiffness that gets worse throughout the day
  • Fatigues
  • Change in appetite
  • Fever symptoms
  • Cycles of change in all RA symptoms (sometimes joint pain goes away then comes back)

Not everyone who has RA feels joint pain. Other side effects can show up in unrelated parts of the body, like:

  • Kidneys
  • Heart
  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Bone marrow
  • Nerves and blood vessels
  • Lungs
  • Brain

Fibromyalgia 

According to the CDC, about 4 million people in the United States live with a chronic disease called Fibromyalgia. It is a musculoskeletal disorder that causes hypersensitivity to pain receptors in the body, as well as cognitive difficulties, fatigue, and arthritis. 

Fibromyalgia is most often seen in women rather than men. There’s no known cause for it, and although medication can help, treatment is complex. Mainly, lifestyle improvements such as rest, a healthy diet, and gentle exercise can help manage and relieve ongoing flare-ups.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia:

  • Headaches
  • Extreme fatigue (so tired it hurts)
  • Muscle aches, body aches, joint pain
  • Cramps and stiffness
  • Sensitivity to pain; also to heat, cold, and touch
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Muscle twitching and tension
  • Brain fog, difficulty concentrating (AKA “fibro fog”
  • Digestive issues
  • Increased stress levels or extreme mood swings

Psoriatic Arthritis

Many people know of the skin autoimmune disease called psoriasis. It’s a type of ongoing skin condition that causes flaky, silvery skin atop red bumps and swelling. It’s caused by the immune system attacking healthy skin cells, thinking they’re a threat to the body. 

Psoriatic arthritis is a similar immune disorder. It affects the joints, ligaments, and tendons. Just as people can have topical psoriasis without showing signs of psoriatic arthritis, so can people become diagnosed with the arthritis form of psoriasis without showing any signs of the skin disorder. 

Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis:

  • Redness or swelling of the joints
  • Puffy fingers or toes
  • Spinal pain
  • Deformities in the joints that can be seen over time
  • Scaly skin with flare-ups
  • Red eyes or dry eyes
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Weakness 
  • Pain in the tips of fingers or toes 

Ankylosing Spondylitis 

A more rare type of arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the spine and mental condition of the individual. It can sometimes begin at birth and be a lifelong disorder, or it can develop at any age. It causes frequent flare-ups of intense pain throughout the spine.

The bones in the spine of someone with AS can become fused. The effects can radiate up into the neck, head, and other parts of the body. It can cause nerve and joint damage, but still most often pains the lower back.

Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis:

  • Pain in the lower back
  • Change in spinal shape (most often curves forward)
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Depression, anxiety, mood disorders
  • Radial pain throughout the butt, chest, thighs, shoulders, neck, rib cage, and more
  • Difficulty breathing during flare-ups
  • Tenderness in the tailbone or pelvis
  • IBD or IBS (bowel issues)
  • Eye inflammation and dry eyes
  • Soreness in the feet or hands
Physiotherapist working with elderly patient in clinic
Physical therapy can help clients cope with chronic arthritis pain.

Types of Treatment for Arthritis 

Fortunately, there is a lengthy list of treatments that are available in treating all different forms of arthritis. Although treatment will need to be determined by a professional medical provider, there are treatments you can take charge of in daily life to prevent and manage arthritis. Here are some of the most effective treatments for arthritis today. 

Physical Therapy

Some types of physical therapy can help arthritis symptoms improve. Working with a physical therapist who specializes in joint and inflammatory disorders can be helpful. They can guide you through safe and effective exercises to target specific areas of your body that are affected by your type of arthritis. 

With physical therapy, you’ll likely also need another form of treatment alongside it. Treatments like medication, living healthier, and hot or cold therapy can help.

Medications 

Certain medications can relieve arthritis symptoms. Some prescriptions can work at controlling the immune system, in the case of rheumatic arthritis that is caused by an inflammatory disease. 

NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) are easy to access and help relieve inflammation and pain in the body. Some of them are strong and need to be prescribed by a doctor. But most of us are familiar with over-the-counter forms of NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and cold medicine. 

Medications are not a cure for arthritis. Always follow the guidelines of your health care providers. They can offer relief, but should not be depended on for an expected cure.

Holistic Treatment Plan

Holistic meaning “whole”, when it comes to arthritis, focusing on the body, mind, and lifestyle connection as a way to cope with arthritis is useful to many. There is no magic solution to fix chronic arthritis pain, so taking those small steps every day to help manage symptoms can make a big difference. 

Eating healthy foods, making exercise a routine, and weight loss are great places to start. Learn how to protect your joints and muscles so you can avoid further damage and pain. 

Seek out a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, if you can. Chronic pain can take a toll on one’s physical, mental, and family health. Having the medical support you need which addresses all aspects of life and how arthritis affects it is often beneficial. 

Pain Management

Sometimes, the pain is prominent and it can be hard to know what to do for any relief. Seeking a pain management specialist can help you find the tools you need to at least get through the day-to-day without suffering too much pain. Usually, pain relief treatments include multiple types of treatment on a personalized schedule and research-based foundation. 

Helping a Loved One Who Has Arthritis

If you have a family member or loved one with arthritis, it’s important to be sensitive to their needs. As their condition could worsen over time, learning all you can about their specific arthritis helps both you as a caretaker and your loved one as a patient. 

Learn Their Symptoms

Reading about what arthritis feels like can give you a perspective about what they need daily. Along with pain comes mental health changes and threats to the individuals’ well-being. Knowing what their symptoms are and what to expect during a flare-up can prepare you to give the best care you can. 

If You Can’t Care, Support

It isn’t always possible to offer physical or emotional care if you aren’t a professional. If you can’t extend any skills in this arena, at least know how you can support your loved ones while they receive medical care. Listen to them, help them with appointments, and show you care. 

Find a Caregiver

Life gets chaotic and arthritis can impact the family in more ways than one. Finding a caregiver can help maintain or even improve the quality of life for everyone involved. They can help with movement, daily functions, and offer relief to the arthritis patient. 

Whether you have a new arthritis diagnosis or you have a loved one who is starting to need some extra help for theirs, plenty of options are available today. Do your best to find out the details you need to know about arthritis. Set yourself and your family up for the best symptom management you possible can, so life can still be lived to the fullest. 

10 Great Hobbies for Seniors & Elderly People

Retirement can be a big shift for many older adults. For most people, it is a positive shift. You will find the opportunity to do things you never had time for before. However, for others, the shift may be more difficult. These retirees may experience more problems with mobility and daily activities, as well as increased illnesses, and decreased mental health. For some people, their job was their identity, and when it is gone, they may start to feel purposeless. However, engaging in new skills or activities can turn this way of thinking around. Elderly people can use this newfound free time to engage in fulfilling hobbies that they enjoy, allowing them to experience more meaning and purpose in life.

Some seniors may be restricted in their ability to participate in some activities. However, there are plenty of hobbies that are perfect for those confined to a sedentary lifestyle. Even though the physical body may be restricted, exercising the mind can have a major positive impact on your long-term health. 

Picking Out Your New Hobby

So let’s explore what sort of hobbies may be right for you. Think about your interests, as well as physical limitations. Let’s take a closer look to figure out what kind of hobbies would suit you best. Ask yourself:

Would you like a group activity or solo activity? Solo activities can include things like photography, bird watching, painting, or candle making. Group activities could include card games, traveling, RVing, or swing dancing. 

Was there an old hobby in the past you didn’t have time for? Think back to the past, maybe even as far back as childhood. Some things we enjoyed in our childhood can give us some of the greatest joys, even later in life. You may be able to reignite an old passion by picking up that forgotten pastime. 

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time? During your working years, did you perhaps see or hear about things that interested you? Perhaps you thought you would enjoy it, but you were too busy at the time. Well now is the time to explore it!

Would you enjoy an Inside hobby or an outside one? If you are a home care patient, you will have to find an indoor activity that caregivers can assist you with. This may include computer games, bird watching, or jewelry-making. Or perhaps you would like to spend more time outside. Think about what you love to do outside and go for what interests you most. 

Would you like to challenge your physical capabilities or mental ones? If you are looking to sharpen your mental skills, perhaps you will be suited for reading, playing games, or learning a new language. If you want to do something more physical, think about taking up pickleball, golf, aerobics, or bowling. 

Would you like to engage in a new activity on the water or land? If you are near a body of water, try swimming, boating, fishing, or snorkeling. If you are on land, try hiking, ax throwing, or horseback riding.

Do you want a hobby that makes a difference around you and gives a sense of purpose? If so, consider volunteering, fundraising, or fostering an animal. You could also consider taking an online class learning something you could implement in your daily life to benefit others around you. For instance, take a cooking class and prepare fine meals for your family and friends. 

Do you want to explore a new hobby online? Get more familiar with online platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook. Try out a new app that may be helpful to you. Consider buying or selling products on eBay, Etsy, or Amazon. You could also subscribe to podcasts that interest you. Or consider joining an online gaming community to make some friends around the world.

Hopefully, these introspective questions have gotten your motivation juices flowing. Perhaps you have already come up with a new hobby you are interested in pursuing. If you are still stumped, here is a list of some of our favorite hobby ideas for elderly people.

Reading is a great way for seniors to relax.

1. Reading

When was the last time you got lost in a good book? Not only are books a fun escape for our imaginations, but reading can also enhance seniors’ cognitive abilities. It may even help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. And having these improvements in cognition can in turn preserve one’s lifespan. Let’s explore some of the cognitive benefits of reading: 

  • Improves memory: Studies have shown that people who stimulate their brain through reading can experience a slower rate of memory decline than those who didn’t. Even if you haven’t read in years, if you start engaging in a frequent cognitive activity like reading now, you may reduce your rate of decline by 32%! When you read, you engage your short-term memory to recall earlier parts of the book. As a result, your short-term memory in everyday life can improve as well. You can also mold your brain in this way to become more receptive to learning, as well as being able to retain more things in your memory. 
  • Improves decision-making skills: Challenging your brain through reading can enhance your ability to analyze and reason to solve problems. This is an ability that declines throughout adulthood. 
  • Delays onset of memory-related diseases: When you engage in activities that challenge your brain, you build a reserve of neural connections. Having more means it will take longer for Alzheimer’s or dementia to destroy these neurons, and thus will take longer for symptoms to emerge. 
  • Reduces stress: Research has shown that getting lost in a book can reduce stress faster than many other relaxing activities. This includes listening to music, going for a walk, or having a cup of tea. For readers, it can take only 6 minutes for heart rate and muscle tension to relax once they have picked up a book. 
  • Better sleep: Turning the pages of a book at bedtime is more likely to help you fall asleep faster than changing the channels on TV. This is because turning reading into a regular bedtime activity will signal your body that it is time to sleep. Not only will TV keep you up longer, but it can also disrupt your rest. Pick up a book instead, and you may even continue the story in your dreams!

Besides the listed cognitive benefits, you may even experience social ones as well. We suggest joining a book club or hanging out at a local library. You can find someone to discuss your favorite books with, or explore new ones together. 

2. Bird Watching

You’ll be surprised by what you notice when you just stop and watch the world around you. Birds can be very fun to watch. You will notice their intelligence, humor, cleverness, craftiness, and social interaction. If you are no longer mobile, bird watching may be a great new activity to try. It can easily be done from the comfort of a home window or around the neighborhood. As you watch over time, you will get familiar with your local birds and their personalities. 

Birdwatching is quickly becoming one of the most popular hobbies around the country, and for a few good reasons. It is simple, inexpensive, and encourages us to get outdoors. Not only that, this hobby can stimulate memory, alertness, and attention to detail. Getting to know the rhythm and pattern of local birds coming and going can be stress-relieving for seniors.

Getting started doesn’t take much. Focus on creating a welcome space for birds, keeping in mind food, water, and shelter. Here are a few things you can use to create a bird-friendly environment: 

Bird feeders: Place feeders throughout the yard, hanging from trees, bushes, or any structure that can hold the weight. Fill the feeders with nutritious seeds like sunflower, safflower, shelled and cracked corn, peanuts, flaxseed, sorghum, etc. 

Birdhouses: Including a birdhouse will set you up for lots of prime bird watching. Some of the most fascinating bird activity happens during the nesting season. With the addition of a house for birds to nest in, you will be able to observe courting, nest building, laying of eggs, and hatching.

Water baths: Birdbaths and water features are not only a source of hydration, the water can help birds clean and care for their feathers. Place the birdbath in a flat part of the yard that doesn’t get too much sun.

Binoculars: If you don’t have the convenience of close-up bird watching, invest in a pair of binoculars. If you are going somewhere, you can bring the binoculars along to observe a new bird environment. 

Bird guide: Find a bird guide that features birds in your local area to help you identify and learn about your neighborhood feathered friends.

Another helpful way to create an ideal environment for birds is to include a variety of bird-friendly plants in your yard. Find out what is local to your region, preferably plants that survive in all seasons. The birds will eat the fruit, nuts, seeds, and berries of these plants, and feed unwelcome insects to their young. 

3. Gardening

Besides attracting wonderful birds to your yard, gardening has an endless amount of other benefits. It provides a hefty amount of physical activity, allowing you to burn calories and strengthen muscles. The sun’s rays will provide you essential vitamin D, and you will feel the stress melt away as you enjoy the relaxing effects of connecting with nature. Consider implementing raised beds or vertical gardening to minimize the strain on your back and joints. Also keep in mind the environment you live in, and which plants will ideally grow. Native species are always a good bet, but here are a few ideas of easy things you can plant: 

Fruits and vegetables:

  • Bell peppers
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cabbage
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic 
  • Cucumbers

Herbs:

  • Mint
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Basil
  • Thyme 
  • Parsley

Flowers:

  • Sunflowers
  • Nigella
  • Sweet peas
  • Marigolds
  • Nasturtiums
  • Fuschias
  • Pansy

4. Volunteering

Volunteering can enhance the overall well-being of seniors. It provides a sense of purpose and meaning, which can often be diminished after retirement. It can also contribute to improved self-esteem, knowing you are making a positive difference in the world. Seniors tend to withdraw and isolate as they age, often causing them to suffer from depression. However, the new friends that can be made and the sense of community that comes with volunteering is a lifeline for senior’s mental health. Here are some ideas of areas and places where seniors can volunteer:

  • Humane societies or animal shelters
  • Legal advocate i.e. International Seniors Lawyers Project
  • Political campaigns
  • Tour guide
  • Disaster relief i.e. Red Cross
  • Hunger relief i.e. Meals on Wheels
  • Working with children i.e. Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Helping veterans i.e. USO
  • Habitat for Humanity

5. Research Family History 

Tracing one’s genealogy is becoming an increasingly popular trend. And now being able to use the Internet as a helpful resource, older adults can find out more than they ever could have imagined. Seniors can compile family records and heirlooms, record stories, or take DNA tests. They can easily contact relatives around the world, as well as discover the family medical history that may affect them. Elderly people will enjoy sharing their stories through video recordings, scrapbooking of family photos, or write down family history for their loved ones to treasure and pass down. 

Understanding more about where they come from can help seniors feel a sense of identity, which can provide them with peace. They may gain a sense of pride by knowing and understanding everything their ancestors did to ensure the thriving of their family. Additionally, thinking back to their own life experiences will exercise their memory recall, therefore strengthening their cognition.

Learning how to play music is a great way to enjoy your day.

6. Learn to Play a Musical Instrument

Have you ever wanted to play music, but never had the time to learn? In the senior years is one of the best times to take on such a hobby. Not only will it keep the brain active and stimulated, but it will also help with memory retention, hand-eye coordination, and sharpen dexterity. Depending on what level of difficulty you want, here are a variety of instruments you can learn:

Easiest:

  • Ukulele
  • Harmonica
  • Piano

More difficult:

  • Guitar
  • Recorder/Tin Whistle
  • Bongos/Drums

7. Playing Games

Games aren’t just for kids. People of all ages can enjoy them. Seniors can benefit greatly from playing a variety of games. Games can improve memory and other brain functions. Stimulating the brain through play can even help deter the progression of dementia. Not only does playing games provide cognitive benefits, but it also encourages social activity. Playing games with grandkids or a group of friends can prevent isolation and loneliness, a common problem in seniors. Get together, laugh, and try some of these games with your loved ones: 

Puzzle, Tile, and Board Games: 

  • Chess
  • Monopoly
  • Backgammon
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Checkers
  • Dominos 
  • Mahjong
  • Jenga
  • Cranium
  • Scrabble
  • Jigsaw puzzles

Card games:

  • Rummy
  • Cribbage
  • Canasta
  • Pinochle
  • UNO
  • Bridge
  • Spades
  • Crazy Eights
  • Old Main

Video/Computer/Phone Games:

  • Bejeweled
  • Candy Crush Saga
  • World of Warcraft
  • Words with Friends 2
  • Puyo Puyo Tetris

Word and Number Games:

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Sudoku
  • Boggle 
  • Scattergories
  • Balderdash
  • Word Search

8. Learn a New Language

After retirement, seniors are overwhelmed with free time. Some seniors choose to spend this free time traveling and exploring the world, something they have never had the opportunity to do. A good way to prepare for traveling is to learn the language of the country you will be visiting. Not only will it enhance the enjoyment of your trip by making it less stressful, but you will also benefit from the enhanced cognition that comes along with language learning. 

Learning a new language challenges the brain to recognize words, determine meaning, and enhance overall communication. Bilingual people are said to have better problem-solving and decision-making skills. Committing yourself to the study of a new language may put you out of your comfort zone, but the new world it opens up will be so rewarding.

9. Walking

Living a sedentary lifestyle is one of the quickest ways to experience a cognitive and physical decline. Walking, as well as any other physical activity, should be implemented into our lives for the following benefits:

  • Improves heart health
  • Fresh air exposure
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces pain by strengthening muscles
  • Low participation cost
  • Promotes social interaction

And lastly, this low-impact activity can help improve your general sense of well-being by reducing anxiety and boosting your mood. As you walk, you will find yourself feeling more positive and optimistic about life. Grab a friend and explore the neighborhood, stopping to enjoy nature sights, as well as connecting with your neighbors. 

10. Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafts are powerful mediums of self-expression. Get in touch with your inner artist, whether you consider yourself talented or not. The experience of getting lost in creating will help you release stress while improving cognition and motor skills. Plus, whatever you create can be shared as a gift to the world. The ability to inspire others and make them smile through your art creation will spur on further projects. This will make it more and more worthwhile as your ability improves. Here are some fun arts and crafts activities that seniors love:

  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Ornament-making
  • Knitting
  • Pottery
  • Scrapbooking
  • Jewelry-making
  • Quilting
  • Woodworking

Ignite New Passion in Your Golden Years

The best hobbies are the ones that ignite a new passion for you. This newfound motivation will bring you more health benefits, not to mention healthy aging. We here at CareAsOne hope this article has inspired you to pursue an exciting new path in your golden years.