10 Best Back Strengthening Exercises for Seniors

A healthy spine and back are essential for almost every movement in daily life. In childhood and young adulthood, people tend to not realize the importance of back strength.

Over time it’s quite common to give in to what feels comfortable: slouching, sitting, and remaining sedentary. It’s easier to neglect the everyday habits that keep our health working for us instead of against us.

Why Is Back Pain So Common?

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) claims that 65-85% of people over the age of 60 experience musculoskeletal and/or back pain. That is a huge percentage of people suffering from pain and feeling a lesser quality of life than they desire. But why is this so common, especially now that modern medicine only keeps getting better?

Even though back pain can be caused by a long list of issues, one of the most overlooked reasons is one’s lifestyle. In a Swedish study of thousands of adult subjects from 20 to 70 years of age, back pain was reported higher in those who had a less active lifestyle.

“An object in motion stays in motion”, as the famous Newton’s First Law says. When someone stops having physical movement as a regular part of their life, the body weakens. If the muscles, tendons, and ligaments aren’t stretched and strengthened often, the tissues become stiff and weak. Eventually, this can cause mobility issues not only in back muscles but throughout the body. 

A senior person in a gym doing back exercise on Swiss balls
Regular exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy spine.

Best Back Exercises to Help Seniors

If you’re aging and you find back pain to be a persistent issue, remember it’s completely common among millions of people today. Does that mean you have to remain this way forever? Absolutely not! Although you might not be able to reverse the damage of bad posture over the decades, there is hope.

Practicing some of these 10 best back strengthening exercises for seniors can support your body, mind, and stability through the best years of your life to come.

Cat Cow Stretch

“Cat-Cow” (also known as Cat Camel) is a gentle exercise that is most popularly known through modern yoga. It helps stretch the abdominal and hip muscles while strengthening the core, lower back, and neck. It’s done in a fluid, repetitive motion that is easily synced with the breath, therefore relaxing to the nervous system. 

1. Begin in a comfortable position on all fours (weight is on your knees, shins, and hands).

2. Make sure your back and neck are straight, but not straining. Relax.

3. Taking a steady inhale breath, your neck and head gaze upward, and your hips and tailbone mirror in direction. Arch your back in the shape of a “U”. 

4. When you feel the subtle stretch and your breath is full, you’ve completed the “cat” pose. Now move onto “cow.”

5. During your exhale breath, release your head and your bottom down toward the floor. With your hands and knees, gently push into the floor as your spine arches up in the shape of a rainbow.

6. In the “cow” pose you should feel your ab muscles engaged, lower back stretching, and a slight curve in your neck.

7. On your next inhale, repeat the cycle. Continue the rhythm, “cat, cow, cat, cow”.

8. Repeat 8 times for up to 3 sets.

Man doing bridging exercise, lying on his back on black mat
Glute bridges are a great way to strengthen your spine, core, and legs.

Glute Bridge

A bridge exercise is very simple and adaptable once you learn it. A bridge stretches your hips and thighs while strengthening your core (abdominal muscles) and glutes (butt muscles). The glute bridge is great for hip flexors, which help you walk, stand, and drive. 

1. Start by laying on your back on a comfortably-padded floor, such as a carpet or yoga mat. Bring the soles of your feet to the floor with your knees pointing up to the ceiling. Your arms are on the floor, along the sides of your body, shoulders dropped away from the ears.

2. Engaging your outer hips and butt, push your hips up to raise off the floor slightly. Raise your hips and pelvis as high as you can off the floor. You may feel your core engage, too.

3. Gently lower your hips back down to the floor. Release your muscles and relax a second.

4. Repeat the exercise 10 to 12 times.

Arm Raises

Whether sitting against a wall or laying on a mat, arm raises are a good exercise for improving posture. This movement strengthens the shoulders, scapula (shoulder blades), and upper body muscles.

1. Lay on your back in a comfortable position. You may also try arm raises sitting straight up against a wall or bed frame.

2. With your arms relaxed at your sides, steadily lift your right arm until it’s pointing straight up in the air as if you’re raising your hand.

3. (If you have any pain raising your hand all the way, it’s okay. Try doing half the motion, pointing your arm straight out from your chest.)

4. Steadily lower your arm back down to its starting position.

5. Do this same motion with the other arm on your left side, raising and then lowering.

6. Repeat each side 8 times, for up to 3 sets.

Neck and Chest Stretch (Chair)

The neck and chest are two parts of the body that take a toll with poor posture and weakened muscles. The seated neck and chest stretch is an effective way to relieve tension while working the supporting muscles (scapula, neck, and obliques).

1. Start in a comfortable seated chair position with feet flat on the floor. 

2. Reach both hands behind your head, elbows pointing out like a triangle. Clasp your fingers together to support the base of your neck.

3. Gently gaze upwards, allowing your head to lift slightly and your chest open.

4. Inhale one breath.

5. On the exhale, move your abdomen to lower your right elbow down slightly toward the floor. Your left elbow will raise and your right side will feel a nice stretch.

6. Inhale as your rise back to the beginning position.

7. Exhale and move the other side: left elbow down slightly toward the floor and right elbow pointing up, feeling the stretch on the right side.

8. Repeat 5 times for up to 3 sets.

Shoulder Shrugs

Shoulders play a huge role in posture which can affect upper back pain. Including shrugs as regular strengthening exercises for seniors is just as important as focusing on the lower and middle back.*

1. Begin seated or standing straight up, whichever is more comfortable for you.

2. Raise your shoulders toward your ears. You might feel slight tension in your neck.

3. Release and relax your shoulders down to your neutral position, shoulders away from your ears.

4. Repeat several times. For an extra challenge, use light dumbbells during a few of your sets.

5. Make sure to follow this routine with gentle neck stretches to relieve any extra tension after this strengthening work.

Hip Hinges

When bending over, backs are not supposed to be the only part that does the bending. This is how we strain our backs. The spine is ideally to be kept straight and supported by the hips, legs, and core muscles.

This is why hip hinges are a much-needed exercise for supporting the back during everyday movements. Learning this movement improves your range of motion and can prevent future lower back pain.

1. Start by standing straight with feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Keeping your core engaged and spine straight, bend your knees gently to lower as you point your hips back. 

3. If capable, you can reach your arms down to give the lower back a deeper stretch. Watch for balance and your flexibility, though.

4. Keeping the back straight, “hinge” your hips back up, and stand in starting position.

5. Repeat 10 times, making sure to keep your back straight and focusing on the hinging at the hips.

Reverse Leg Lifts (Standing)

Doing reverse leg lifts while standing is great for the glutes and lower back. Most large movements involve the lower back and legs so the two must go together during exercise. 

This is a more advanced movement, so it’s okay if you need to work your way up to it. When doing reverse leg lifts, make sure to move your leg mostly by the strength of your abdominal muscles to get the most benefit.

1. Begin by standing straight up, holding onto something sturdy for balance. 

2. Engage your core and lift your right foot off the ground slightly, pointing your right leg straight back behind you. Hold for 5 seconds and return your leg underneath you, placing your foot on the floor.

3. Repeat with the left leg, hold for 5 seconds, making sure to remain steady and keep your core stabilized.

4. Do the same movements 5 times on each leg for a series of 3-5 sets.

Bird Dog

Another intermediate strengthening move for seniors is a hyperextension called the “bird dog”. Hyperextension is when the lower back and upper back are working together and increasing overall muscle support. The bird dog is excellent for strengthening while improving balance and coordination.

1. Start on all fours: hands and knees on the floor. Line up your hands underneath your shoulders, and knees under your hips for good form. 

2. Lift your right leg and point it back behind you, aligned with your back. Notice the weight shift of the rest of your 3 supporting limbs.

3. Once you’re comfortable with this balance, lift your opposite arm (left) and point it straight ahead of you, arm aligned with your head.

4. Hold the balance here for 5 seconds, and release both your arm and leg back down to the floor.

5. Reverse the opposing sides and hold the balance for 5 seconds, then return to all fours again.

6. Repeat 10 times, remembering to maintain stability in your core. A little wobbling is normal. If you lose balance, keep trying until you can hold.

Standing Lumbar Extension

This straightforward extension is another full-back exercise for nearly any level. Once you can do the basic move, you can increase flexibility and bend further. This will help with strengthening the muscles supporting your spine as well as giving more flexibility to your back.

1. Start by standing up with good posture, feet facing forward, and arms at your sides.

2. Place your hands on your hips for support. 

3. Using your ab muscles for support, bend your lumbar spine backward, creating a decent stretch throughout the rest of your spine.

4. Hold for 3 seconds then return to the starting position.

5. Repeat 8-12 times. 

6. If necessary, follow with hip hinges or forward bends to stretch after these lower back exercises.

Knee-to-Chest

The knee-to-chest routine is an introductory core exercise. It also stretches the back muscles and hamstrings. This move is simple and can quickly relieve low back pain. This should be done gently and slowly– it’s more of a relaxing stretch than a strength workout, so enjoy it a little bit each day.

1. Lay face-up on a padded mat on the floor to start, with your legs extended out as if about to sleep. You can put a pillow under the small of your back for extra support if needed. 

2. Lift one of your legs slightly, then bring your knee in toward your chest. Hug the leg in closer to your chest, feeling the lengthening of your back muscles and hamstring. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Remember to breathe.

3. Release and return your leg to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg and hold for 5-10 seconds. Return to the floor.

4. You can try to do both legs at a time for a more well-rounded stretch that feels good on the back.

5. Repeat 8 times and rest.

How Often Should Seniors Do Back Exercises?

The key to strengthening the back for seniors is consistency. As with any other workout program or good habit, a little bit every single day is the best way to reap the benefits. Instead of trying to do too much all at once, do less, but more often. 

For example, you can try to practice 5 of these exercises at least 3 to 5 days per week. That way, you build up stamina and familiarity both in your body and mind. Overall, including your routine as part of your lifestyle will have the most rewarding, long-lasting effect on your overall health.

Talk to your doctor beforehand if you need help creating an exercise plan that focuses on your back or any other area of the body. A professional can advise you on best practices and how to prevent injury.

They also can guide you based on your specific physical condition and current health status. The suggestions mentioned above are simply options for any older adults who want to take charge of their fitness.

Osteoporosis
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, worldwide, 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 years and 1 in 5 men will experience osteoporotic fractures in their lifetime.

Common Back Ailments In Seniors

  • Spinal Fractures: Many people over the age of 70 suffer from some kind of spinal fracture at some point. This can be very painful. Sometimes people with spinal fractures don’t know the source of their pain and it can be hard to diagnose. Luckily, many spinal fractures heal on their own. But prevention is key here, which a strong body can assure.
  • Hyperkyphosis: Kyphosis, also known as Hunchback, is when the bones in the spine weaken to the point where they change shape and curve incorrectly. It affects the posture of the upper and mid-back. It can be painful and uncomfortable. Hyperkyphosis is commonly a result of spinal fractures that were left unknown or unaddressed. 
  • Osteoporosis: Osteo meaning “bone” and -porosis related to “porous”, this condition is a weakening of bone mass. Keeping the muscles and bones healthy with movement can prevent and relieve spinal Osteoporosis symptoms.
  • Sarcopenia: As we age our physical structure gradually declines. But sometimes people experience a condition called Sarcopenia. This is a loss of skeletal muscle and tissue, which can be very painful. Adding some strength to the muscles can decrease this condition from worsening.
  • Disc Degeneration: Many people over 50 experience disc issues in their spine. Discs act as cushions or “bumpers” that allow back flexibility and protect the vertebrae from injury. If these discs degenerate or slip, they can cause serious problems. Keeping the back healthy and strong allows the discs to stay agile to support your spine.
  • Spinal Stenosis: Another painful condition is spinal stenosis. This affects nerves and bony matter within the spinal canal. It can eventually compress the nerves and cause constant tingling, numbing, or throbbing pain. Sometimes surgery is required as treatment.

What To Avoid

Just because an exercise program or routine is known as a safe back exercise does not mean it’s safe for all seniors. 

Disclaimer: When seeking back strengthening exercises to help resolve pain or to maintain physical fitness, pay attention to your body. If it’s hurting too much, the exercise is too much for you. Try a modification.

Don’t attempt fitness or medical advice unless it’s approved by your health care provider or physical therapist. Pushing yourself too much can lead to worsening pain or bodily damage.

If any movement is too much to do on your own, ask a caregiver or trainer to help you workout to improve back strength.

Making Your Exercise Routine Work For You

There are many simple exercises that seniors can use to strengthen the back. You might have to try a few different ones to see what works best for you in the shape you’re in.

Even though it might seem discouraging to start exercising when aging, there are great benefits that come with healthy movement. The stronger your back, the longer you’ll have the physical support you need to enjoy life.

10 Best Knee Strengthening Exercises for Seniors

One of the most common ailments during aging has to do with joint and knee pain. Since the knees support everyday physical functioning, it’s important to keep them healthy and mobile.

Basic tasks such as walking, sitting, and supporting smaller physical movements depend on the mobility of the knees and legs. Depending on the lifestyle of each individual, the knees can take more impact than actually necessary.

Knowing the optimal exercises and postures which involve the knees can prevent and sometimes even improve the condition of the knee joint. With age comes more wear and tear on the body. Since the knees are what support the upright body, they can be prone to pain and weakness in seniors.

Knee Problems Among Seniors

Many seniors all over the world experience knee issues. In the medical field, the top recurring knee problems that are seen include:

  • Tendonitis: Inflammation and swelling of the knee joints caused by overuse or improper use of the knee. It can be most often seen among those with an athletic background.
  • Osteoarthritis: Cartilage in the bones and joints breaks down over time. Osteoarthritis causes weakness, pain, stiffness and can lead to further injury. 
  • Sprains: Weakened joints or muscles can lead to sprains more easily. Knee sprains are often seen throughout aging as the body is working harder to support its weight despite the gradual decline. 
  • Falls: Knee pain and deterioration are a leading cause of falls among older people. Because the knees support a lot of weight of the entire upper body, it makes falls and accidents more likely to occur. Even the simplest tasks can become risky when the knee isn’t as strong as it used to be.

Even though we can’t always control what happens to the body, there are preventative actions just about anyone can take to support their knees through old age. 

Two elderly people on mats.
Stretching is a great way to reduce or even avoid knee inuries.

Preventative Tips For Knee Strengthening Exercises

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Every step someone takes puts pressure on their knees. Walking requires the tendons, ligaments, and muscles to carry out specific movements. Cartilage in the knee, called the meniscus, helps to absorb the impact felt during each step, stumble, or shock.

Having excess body weight can add pressure and impact to not only the knees but the entire body. Being overweight is one of the leading causes of physical injury and health decline. The Department of Health at Harvard University suggests losing weight or sustaining a healthy weight as one of the best ways to prevent knee ailments among seniors.

Have a Regular Workout Routine

Exercise is not about how much you can handle. It’s about being consistent and deliberate with your health. Including knee exercises in your regular workout routine will help them age well with you, preventing early deterioration and injury.

Healthy habits are key to overall health! Make it a regular thing, like bathing or brushing your teeth. Aim to exercise 3-5 times per week.

Avoid Injury 

With any physical fitness routine, it’s essential to know what proper form looks and feels like. When performing an exercise, there is a right and wrong way to carry out each movement.

Doing a stretch or a strengthening exercise the wrong way can cause damage to your body. Before doing new or more challenging exercises, make sure you have someone who can guide you in proper form to prevent injury.

Stretching and Mobility

When it comes to knees, strength is important. But it’s just as important to stay flexible, balanced and loosen the tension surrounding the knees. It’s recommended that you include basic stretching and balance exercises with any strength goals you’re trying to achieve.

Even as you focus on strengthening, you don’t want your body to become too tense that it can’t move.

Why Exercise the Knees?

Physical activity is essential at any stage of life to maintain healthy functions of the body and mind. If you need support getting your legs in better shape, here are some of the most practical ways to exercise your knees.

10 Knee Strengthening Exercises for Seniors

1. Calf Raises

Calf exercises help your supporting muscles in your calf and back leg, taking less pressure off your knee when standing and walking. 

These exercises can be done by simply rising on your tippy-toes then slowly lowering your heels to the floor. Or you can do more of a challenge through these steps:

1. Start by standing on a step, workout stool, or curb. Make sure you have something to hold onto to support your balance. Let the back of your heels hang off the edge of the surface slightly.

2. Rise on your toes, allowing your heels to come up. You’ll feel your calf muscles flex.

3. Slowly lower back down, allowing your heels to go a little bit lower than the surface you’re standing on. You’ll feel a subtle calf stretch.

4. Repeat calf raises 10 times for up to 3 sets.

2. Knee Extensions

Extensions are beginner-friendly. Alternatively, you can make them more advanced. They help strengthen the quadriceps muscles which carry out movements attached to the knee.

1. Sit in a chair upright with your feet flat on the floor.

2. Keeping yourself seated, raise your right leg off the floor and extend it out in front of you.

3. You’ll feel your thigh and quad muscles working. Hold for a count then lower back to the floor.

4. Switch and raise your left leg. Hold, and return to the starting position.

5. Repeat for 10 counts on each leg, up to 3 sets.

3. Standing Knee Flexion 

Knee flexions help strengthen the hamstring muscles. These exercises are easy to do and help improve balance, lower body strength, and can improve gate.

1. Begin standing with a bar or chair in front of you to hold on to for support.

2. As if you’re trying to stand on one foot, raise your right foot off the floor, bending it back behind you at the farthest angle you can. 

3. Straighten your leg back down to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

4. Repeat the routine on the left leg 10 times.

5. Do up to 3 sets on each leg.

4. Leg Raises 

If you want a knee exercise that won’t strain your leg muscles, straight leg raises are a great beginner option to try. This simple movement builds strength in the quads and hamstrings which support the knee’s mobility.

1. Lie on your back on the floor with your legs out straight.

2. Point one leg up toward the ceiling, placing the foot flat on the floor toward your butt. This will be your supporting leg.

3. Keeping your other leg straight out, raise it as high as you can to align with your opposing supporting knee. You’ll feel your muscles working to lift it.

4. Lower your straight leg back to the floor. Repeat 10 times.

5. Switch legs and repeat on the other side. Complete up to 3 sets.

5. Wall Squats

If you have confidence in your balance, here’s an intermediate move to try. Wall squats challenge the strength of your upper legs as well as your glutes and knees.

This is a great exercise to build and maintain your overall lower body strength.  If this exercise causes you joint pain, stop and try a different exercise. 

1. Begin standing, arms at your sides, with your back straight against a wall.

2. Keeping your back against the wall, slowly lower yourself down by bending your knees. Keep your feet and knees aligned, feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your back and pelvis are aligned.

3. Hold the contraction for 3 to 10 seconds. You’ll feel a slight muscle burn. 

4. Still keeping your back against the wall, slide yourself back up to a standing position. 

5. Repeat 10 times, up to 3 sets per day, depending on your fitness level.

6. Step-Ups

Classic step-ups are great for cardio and balance while working out the legs. This exercise is modifiable and exactly how it sounds: you simply step up onto a higher surface.

1. Stand straight with a workout stool, stair, or low curb in front of you. If you need help balancing, use a chair or ask a caregiver to help spot you.

2. Step up onto the step with your right leg, then your left.

3. Step back down with your right leg, then your left.

4. Repeat 10-12 times for up to 3 sets. On every other set, start with the opposite leg.

7. Side Steps 

Side steps are easy and help maintain balance and mobility. You can do these basically anywhere without any special equipment. 

1. Stand in a neutral stance with your feet hip-width apart. 

2. Step to the side with your right leg so your legs are wide apart.

3. Then bring your left leg next to your right. 

4. Reverse the movement: Step to the side with your left foot, then bring your right leg back in.

5. Repeat 10-12 times for up to 3 sets.

For a more aerobic workout, use some ankle weights when performing side steps.

8. Resistance Band Squat Steps 

Working up to more intermediate movements, the resistance band side squat is similar to the side steps mentioned above. Squats will require more balance and lower leg strength, with the resistance band helping gain mobility and knee stability. It’s best to perform this exercise with a fitness trainer or guide.

1. Place a resistance band below your knees. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.

2. Slightly bend your knees as if you’re about to squat. 

3. Step your right leg out, keeping your knees bent. You’ll feel your knees, outer legs, and glutes working.

4. Maintaining the position level, bring your left leg in next to your right. 

5. Repeat these side step quats along the room as far as you can, about 10 steps.

6. Now reverse it. In the semi-squat position, step your left leg out and bring your right leg in to match it. Repeat until you get back to where you started, side-stepping about 10 times.

7. Rest after the full set. Repeat up to 3 times if desired.

9. Clamshell (advanced)

The clamshell is a tougher exercise that works the glutes, hip flexors, inner & outer thighs, and knees. If you have shoulder or neck problems, ask your doctor before trying this exercise, or get a fitness guide to help you through it.

1. Lay on your side with your legs at a 45-degree angle, one leg stacked over the other. Your head should be resting on the arm you are laying on. Feel free to put your arm up along your head laying it on the floor, or bent under your head for added support.

2. Engage your core to support your balance. Keeping your right foot attached to your left, steadily lift your right knee up toward the ceiling as far as you can. You’ll feel your legs working and your hip open slightly. When your leg opens it resembles a “clamshell”.

3. Keeping your hips and feet secure, lower your right knee back down to touch the other. 

4. Repeat the exercise 8-10 times. Then switch to the other side.

5. Repeat each side for up to 3 sets.

10. Leg press (advanced)

If you are already working on a diligent exercise program and you need a new challenge, you can try a leg press*. This boosts leg and knee strength. 

This is recommended only for older adults with a more advanced fitness level, as it can require some extra strain on the knee. Ask your healthcare provider before trying any new strenuous exercise!

* This exercise requires a leg press machine. 

1. Set your preferred weight of the machine. Make sure it’s not too heavy. You don’t want to injure yourself. Start at a lower weight then slowly work up.

2. Sit on the leg press machine with your back against the seat for support. Adjust the machine if you need to and get comfortable with good posture– you don’t want to be tense before performing this exercise, to prevent strain.

3. Place your feet flat against the metal plate before you. Your knees will be bent in this starting position. 

4. Slowly extend your legs straight to push the plate out in front of you. Breathe. Return slowly to the starting position.

5. Repeat 5-10 times, remembering to breathe. If any part of your body feels a sharp pain, stop the exercise immediately, as it’s probably too much.

A group of seniors warming up in a park.
Warming up prior to exercise is essential for protecting the knee joint.

How To Protect Your Knees During Exercise

Ask your doctor: Before you start a new exercise plan to strengthen your knees, get approval from your doctor or fitness trainer. Not all of the exercises mentioned above are suitable for every individual. Having a professional who knows your medical history advise your exercises can help save you any risk of a knee injury. 

Always warm up first: Don’t rush into difficult exercises right away. Make sure you warm up with some walking, light moving around the room, or stretches. You want to loosen your body up to get ready to exercise.

Be consistent: It’s okay to start small and then work your way up to bigger, more skilled exercises. As long as you stick with a plan and move your body regularly, you’ll likely see results and feel the benefits over time.

Start slowly when working out: You have to start somewhere when pursuing exercises for your knees. Don’t expect to automatically need to run or do leg presses that feel too difficult. Begin with side steps, step-ups, leg flexions and calf raises. These will give you a decent workout until you feel ready to move on to more strenuous exercises. Track your progress and be proud of the abilities you already have.

Use proper form: Remember, there is an optimal way to carry out each movement to protect your body from harm. Learn the proper form to get the most out of each exercise. 

Listen to your body: If you notice any pain, popping, extreme tightness, or discomfort, that particular exercise is probably not the best for you right now. Do something gentler on the body until you resolve whatever is affecting your mobility, or get assistance from a professional. 

Seek low-impact movement: Aside from strengthening, your body will thrive off of low-impact movement every day. Walking, swimming, gentle yoga, and stretching are all great ways to stay healthy and agile while aging. Plus, movement helps your brain function and stabilizes your mood, so try to get movement in for your overall well-being.

Benefits of Knee Exercises Over Time

If you do the right knee strengthening exercises with good form and consistency, you can expect to see results over time. Listen to your body, remember to stretch often, and get moving! Keep in mind, healthy habits make a more resilient body.

Make your workouts fun and seek the professional advice that applies to you and any condition you may have. With stronger knees, you’ll be able to withstand all the occasions in life for years to come.

How to Pay for Nursing Homes, Assisted Living, or Home Care

After the arduous decision-making process of picking out a long-term care option, next comes the question, “How will we pay for this?” Each care option has its own set of rules on what payments are accepted or not accepted, and it can be confusing navigating the options. We want to make the process easier for you and your loved one. We will discuss the various payment options that are accepted for elder care, and we will break it down for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in-home care. Here are some common forms of payments that are used to pay for long-term care: 

  • Cash
  • Reverse Mortgage
  • Home Equity
  • Long Term Care Insurance
  • VA
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid

How to Pay for Nursing Homes

Nursing home facilities give a high level of attention and supervision to its residents, even more so than any other long-term care facility including assisted living. Residents can receive personal care, supervision, prescription therapies, rehab, room and board, and skilled nursing care. Due to the high level of care offered, it is no surprise that this type of facility is the most expensive, sometimes costing hundreds of dollars a day.

These long-term care expenses can put a real strain on a family’s finances. About half of nursing home residents use cash, employer health plans, VA benefits, long-term care insurance, and pension to cover the costs. Alternatives include Medicare and Medicaid, government funding programs that have strict limitations on who can qualify, how long payments will continue, and which facilities are eligible for the program. 

Also, the cost of care averages for nursing home care vary wildly from state to state. For example, in a private room in Alaska, the cost of nursing home care is $23,451 a month, while a similar facility in Louisiana costs $5,171. And keep in mind the average stay at this type of facility is about 835 days. Now that we have an idea of how much a nursing home might cost you, let’s explore some payment options. 

Cash: A lot of people use private funds and cash out-of-pocket when they first move into a facility. This may be because Medicaid requires that you have used up all of your assets and personal funds before you can qualify for their federal payment program. 

The more fortunate among us can opt to pay all from their funds. For such an expenditure, it is said that you would need at least a few hundred thousand dollars. This could come from pension plans, Social Security, or investments. One advantage of paying out-of-pocket is that you can negotiate a private pay rate. This is especially likely when a nursing home does not have a waiting list and they want to fill beds. 

Reverse Mortgage: Another payment option is getting a reverse mortgage on your home. This would enable the homeowner to take from the equity accrued on the home while deferring the loan payments until the last homeowner has either moved out or dies. For this option to work, one spouse would have to continue to live in the home while the other is in nursing care. This option is a good way to leverage your home equity, but the amount of money you qualify for will depend on your age and the value of your home. 

Home Equity: This type of loan can be used to borrow money against the value of the home as collateral. Usually, a home equity loan is used to pay for a major expense such as home repairs or medical bills, but can also be used for nursing home expenses. Unlike a reverse mortgage, the equity received is not completely free. The loan must be paid back, with interest.

Long-Term Care Insurance: Long-term care (LTC) insurance generally covers care not covered by health insurance. LTC will cover long-term services and support, including personal and custodial care. Having a long-term care insurance policy will give you some peace of mind. This type of policy will pay a specific amount for long-term care for a stated length of time. This allows you to keep your assets, and the specified expenses will be taken care of.   

VA: Run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. veterans network has many benefits for those who’ve served their country. Like Social Security, veterans’ benefits are dependable and will be paid to you by the Department of Treasury. Some estimates for amounts a veteran may be paid can be up to $1,794 a month, $1,153 a month to the surviving spouse, or $2,127 a month for a couple. A new type of agreement for veterans has been created through the VA Mission Act of 2018, called Veterans Care Agreements. These are agreements in which the VA works together with community providers not in the community care network to provide care to Veterans. This ensures the veterans will get the care they need when the facility is not in the normal network. 

Medicare: Medicare is a federal government program that pays for hospital care and medical insurance to people 65 and over. It can also include specific ill or disabled people. About 40% of Medicare and Medicaid subscribers seek out nursing homes. However, Medicare doesn’t cover the room and board in a nursing home if the stay is long-term. Typically Medicare assistance is utilized when the nursing home stay requires short-term rehab after an inpatient hospital visit. Medicare covers 100 days of care in a skilled nursing facility, if at least 3 days were spent in the hospital. However only during the first 20 days will they pay for 100% of the care. The remaining days will require a co-payment, which could be about $167.50 a day. 

Medicare Part A is insurance for a hospital visit, while Medicare Part B is an optional supplementary medical insurance that costs a small monthly premium. There are also Medicare Part C Plans, known as Medicare Advantage Plans. These plans provide skilled nursing care coverage, though costs and benefits can vary. Additionally, there are Medicare supplement plans, called Medigap policies. They also help pay for skilled nursing care, but the care must be covered under the original Medicare plan. 

Medicaid: Another federal government funding program is Medicaid, the most common way people pay for nursing home costs. This program helps pay for select health services as well as nursing home care for those with low income. Medicaid works with privately-owned nursing home care facilities and then helps eligible residents pay for the costs. The program can pay anywhere from 45 to 65% of nursing home costs. However, Medicaid has strict eligibility requirements that consider the age, place of residence, and marital status among other things. To be eligible, your assets and income will be assessed to see if you fall below the line. As a general rule, a person’s assets have to be nearly gone to qualify. Additionally, they cannot receive more than around $2,250 a month in income. The requirements are different in each state. 

When you are first admitted to the nursing home, you may be required to pay out-of-pocket. Many people liquidate their assets before qualifying for the program. As Medicaid assesses your eligibility, they have complicated guidelines as to what qualifies as an asset. The person’s home is exempt from the assessment, as well as some marital assets. Here are a few things Medicaid will be reviewed to determine your financial eligibility:

  • Social Security
  • Wages
  • Pensions
  • Royalties
  • Rents
  • Gifts
  • Annuities
  • Investment dividends
  • Savings interest
  • Half of working spouse’s income
Medicaid is one of the most common government funded ways to pay for healthcare for the elderly.

How to Pay for Assisted Living

An alternative to nursing home care is assisted living. An assisted living facility provides personal and medical assistance to residents, who can still maintain their independence. Personal care and skilled nursing services are available. Some care centers have a memory care facility for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Often this kind of facility provides a lower level of care than a nursing home. However, living in an assisted living home can still be pricey. The average annual cost is about $48,000. And in recent years, the cost of assisted living residency has increased up to $1,321 annually. 

Cash: Most residents and their families pay for this type of facility out-of-pocket. They use retirement accounts, personal savings, pensions, annuities, veteran’s benefits, and Social Security payments. However, $4,000 a month may be a bit more than most people can afford. 

Reverse Mortgage: A reverse mortgage may not be the best option for a person who is living in an assisted living facility. This is due to the fact if the owner lives out of the home for 12 months, the home may be sold. Of course, if a spouse is still living in the home, it is still a viable option. Otherwise, selling or renting the home would be better for an assisted living facility resident. 

Home Equity: Getting a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to pay for care may not be a good option for single individuals and married couples that are in good health. However, those that have immediate care needs may want to get a HELOC since there is not a requirement that they remain in the home, as in a reverse mortgage. Having a HELOC allows some flexibility when there is a sudden increase in care expenses, as well as the flexibility to come back home if care needs allow. It is helpful to think about the level of care as well as the duration the care will be required. 

Long-Term Care Insurance: LTC policies will pay for most assisted living facilities, as long as they are accredited. Your policy can pay for 100% of your costs, but this will be one of the more expensive insurance plans. A good rule of thumb for picking out a long term care policy is that your premium shouldn’t exceed 5% of your monthly income. 

You can receive anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 on average through your insurance program. You can easily compare this to the average assisted living expenses at $4,000 to see that this type of insurance can be quite helpful. 

Though these facilities do accept these insurance payouts, sometimes the insurance company may not approve of the facility. Reasons the facility doesn’t meet the insurance company’s standards could be anything from small size to not having enough staffing. Therefore, it is wise to make sure your policy will be good for the care home you reside at. 

VA: The VA does some assisted living costs for veterans and their spouses. This is through the Non-Service Connected Improved Pension Benefit with Aid and Attendance program. It is required that the veteran had served active duty for at least 90 days and at least one day in wartime. 

Medicare: Though Medicare doesn’t pay for room and board at an assisted living facility, they may pay for medical expenses. This is also true for any medical services received in a hospital, doctor’s office, or home setting. 

Medicaid: Coverage for Medicaid varies from state to state. For instance, some states will only pay for personal care, while on the other hand others will also pay for room and board. Some states do not assist, but here is a list of most of the expenses that usually can be covered by most states: 

  • Personal care services 
  • Housekeeping services
  • Meal preparation
  • Laundry
  • Case management
  • Transportation
  • Personal emergency response systems

Even with Medicaid services, some assisted living residents still have trouble covering the remaining costs. Some states may help these residents by placing limits on the amount the facilities can charge. If the resident still has an issue paying, there are other non-Medicaid programs like Supplemental Security Income that can assist. 

Paying cash, or out of pocket for healthcare expenses for the elderly is very common if you can’t get Medicaid.

How to Pay for Home Care

Home care is becoming a more popular option as other long-term care choices rise in price. This option can be more affordable, plus you will have the ability to stay in the comfort of your own home. One disadvantage is that there are usually substantial out-of-pocket costs that may not be reimbursed. 

Cash: Many home care clients pay by way of their assets, savings, or investments. Family members may also pitch in to cover costs. They may liquidate assets like vacation homes, boats, land, or vehicles. Unfortunately, most of us do not have this option.

Reverse Mortgage: A good option to pay for home care would be a reverse mortgage if the individual does not need immediate care. This will allow them to live independently in their home for years to come until their health needs to take a turn. The proceeds from the reverse mortgage can then be used for long-term care insurance. 

Home Equity: Home equity loans are also an option you could use to pay for long-term care services. However, single individuals and married couples in good health might want to use it as a last option since their care needs are undetermined at that moment. Not knowing the extent of how much future medical care you will need leaves a big question mark for how much equity to take out. In which case, a reverse mortgage might be a better option for healthier elderly individuals receiving their care at home. 

Long-Term Care Insurance: It is important to be aware that some LTC policies will not pay for in-home care. In this case, it might be a good idea to convert the life insurance policy to cash to help pay for care. 

VA: It is possible for veterans and their surviving spouses who require personal care services may qualify for an Aid and Attendance (A&A) benefit, along with their monthly pension. This is available to those veterans who served at least 90 days of active duty or at least one day of active duty during wartime. It also includes those discharged from service under dishonorable conditions. 

Medicare: Some services covered by Medicare for in-home care include intermittent skilled nursing care, therapy, and home health caregiver assistance. Home health care may be covered by Part A or Part B, depending on the circumstances. Here are some instances in which you would be covered: 

  • You are homebound
  • You need skilled nursing services and/or skilled therapy care intermittently
  • You have a doctor’s visit 90 days before you start a home health care
  • You have a doctor’s vision 30 days after the first day you receive care
  • Your doctor presents you with a home health certification stating that you are homebound
  • You receive care from a Medicare-certified home health agency (HHA)

Medicaid: Medicaid and Medicare offer Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) to seniors who need assistance through in-home care. PACE provides medical and social services to eligible individuals who wish to remain in the community rather than reside in a nursing home. Financing for the program is capped, allowing these providers to attend to what the individuals need, instead of limiting them to reimbursements through fee-for-service plans. PACE is offered through Medicare but is only available through Medicaid as a state-by-state option. This program is great for those with a limited income and few assets, and wish to stay at home. 

Preparing for the Future

Your eyes may be crossing with the dizzying array of numbers and options we’ve thrown at you. As you can see, each type of facility has many payment options available to you. Whatever option you end up choosing, knowing ahead of time what your choices are will help you prepare for the future. Establishing a plan ahead of time will give you some peace of mind and could save you money in the long run. Out of all the pay and care options out there, we here at CareAsOne hope you find the one most financially sound for your own needs. 

What Does “Alert and Oriented” Mean?

The phrase “alert and oriented” is one you may have heard in a healthcare setting. It refers to a description of one’s level of awareness of reality at that moment. Orientation can be described as being aware of person, place, time, and sometimes situation. Assessing one’s orientation helps in the evaluation of mental status. It could help in the diagnosis of dementia or other conditions, as well as generally assessing one’s cognition. 

Having problems with awareness can lead to disorientation, an altered mental state. This can be caused by numerous factors. Usually, the disorientation will affect one’s grasp of the situation first, then time, then place, and finally of the person. Being disoriented can also happen alongside some other common symptoms like:

  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Disrupted attention
  • Delusions
  • Believing false things
  • Agitation, aggressiveness, or restlessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Wandering

Perhaps your loved one is showing some of the symptoms listed above. If that is the case, we strongly recommend that they visit their doctor, where they will receive a mental status check. This status check is a common procedure which medical professionals conduct. Assessing one’s awareness should be performed after a variety of circumstances have occurred. Some common circumstances would be:

  • When patient intakes are performed
  • After a procedure in which anesthesia or painkillers were used
  • To assess the progression of a disease or urinary tract infection
  • To check a reaction to a medication
  • After an accident, shock, or major trauma 

Assessment of Levels of Orientation

At times a patient might be perfectly capable of carrying on a normal conversation, but then not know their name. This is why checking one’s orientation is so important. Carrying out a mental status exam is as simple as the doctor asking a few questions. These questions may come across as small talk, but the simple answers they coax out are quite informative as to one’s cognitive abilities. Some assessment questions a doctor may ask could be:

  • What is your name?
  • Where are you?
  • What is the date?
  • What day of the week is it?
  • Why do you think you’re here?
  • What just happened to you?

The patient’s level of consciousness is then characterized in a mnemonic format. The acronyms AO or A&O (alert and oriented) are commonly used, while the abbreviation AAO (awake, alert, and oriented) can also be used. The acronym is followed by a multiplication symbol (x), then a number. Some examples would be AOx2 or AAOx3.

The level of awareness is expressed by x1, x2, x3, or x4. The number describes how aware the patient is, x4 being the most aware of reality. Here are the varying levels or orientation:

  • Oriented to Person (x1): This person knows his or her name and can also recognize their significant others. The common questions to determine this would be, “Who are you?” and “What is your name?”
  • Oriented to Person and Place (x2): This person knows his or her name as well as where he or she is.  The common question to determine this would be, “Where are you?”
  • Oriented to Person, Place, and Time (x3): This person knows his or her name, location, as well as the day of the week, date, and season of the year. The common question would be, “What is today’s date?”
  • Oriented to Person, Place, Time, and Situation (x4): This person knows his or her name, location, and time, as well as why they are currently being treated. The common question would be, “Do you know what is happening right now?”

Asking these questions when a patient is first being seen by the doctor can be compared against any following visits. Any change in the conscious state may help bring to light any underlying issues the patient may be having. Sometimes a patient can answer parts of the questions, but not all. They may know their name and what day it is, but don’t know exactly where they are. In this case, they would be considered AOx3 minus place.

It is also helpful to know that some medical settings only assess the patient’s knowledge of person, place, and time. Therefore AOx3 would be the highest orientation level instead of AOx4. In some settings like within emergency response teams, the letters can be documented as conscious, alert, & oriented (CAO) instead of awake, alert, and oriented (AAO). For example, it would read COAx4 instead of AAOx4. Often the emergency teams ask the patient questions before doing a physical examination in case there is a serious injury that is indicated from how they answer. 

Another completely different system of measuring the level of consciousness is the AVPU scale. This scale is typically used within first aid and emergencies. The acronym AVPU stands for Alert, Voice (responds to), Pain (responds to), and Unresponsive. Healthcare providers will determine what level the patient embodies checking in order from the best-case scenario (A) to worst (U). This is done to avoid any further tests on someone who is not conscious. When the determination is that the patient is alert, they can then pick up on the orientation scale and assess if they are x1, x2, x3, or x4. Still another way to assess the level of consciousness is through the Glasgow Coma Scale

It’s important to be alert and oriented, especially in emergency situations.

Ailments Which Cause Disorientation

It is still unknown which part of the brain affects one’s awareness of reality, but lesions on the brain stem and hemispheres have been said to cause disorientation. This suggests that these parts of the brain work together to maintain awareness. There is an array of physical ailments or situations that cause disorientation. Some of them include:

  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Stroke
  • Amnesia
  • Concussion
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Dehydration
  • Brain tumor or hematoma
  • Fever
  • Drug overdoses
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
  • Hypoxia
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Renal failure
  • Mitochondrial disease
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • An emergency which causes distress
  • Triggering of mental disorders

Though all of these can cause disorientation, we will go over some of the most common causes of this cognitive disability in the elderly. These include Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia, and delirium. 

Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Types of Dementia

Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia develop slowly. The symptoms are consistent and progressive, disorientation, and short-term memory loss being some early signs. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that affects memory, behavior, and thinking. People with the disease commonly become disoriented about where they are, as well as time. They often think they are living in a much younger version of their lives from long ago. It is common for them to be confused about where they are as the disease progresses out of the early stages. They may believe they are living in a completely different area, perhaps even one in which they lived as a child. The late stages of Alzheimer’s could disorient the person to an AOx1 level where they do not even know their name. 

Someone unaware of their location and time can often start to wander and may even try to leave. For example, he or she may think they are in their childhood home, and that they must leave to go to school. It is common for Alzheimer’s sufferers to wander, getting confused, anxious, and lost. In this situation, being in a memory care facility is the best option to ensure your loved one’s safety. 

Other types of dementia do not all have the same orientation issues like Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s’ patients experience issues with awareness and memory, whereas with frontotemporal dementia, memory is more often impacted. However, disorientation does often occur in other forms of dementia like Lewy body dementia and vascular dementia, especially in the later stages. 

Family members’ interaction with the individual is critical for detecting dementia. Making sure they are aware of reality by asking them simple questions like where they are can help with early detection. These are questions you wouldn’t usually think to ask, but being aware of early warning signs can help get your loved one treatment sooner rather than later. When taking your loved one for check-ups with their doctor, he or she must note what questions they have asked, and what answers were given. The following visits may have different answers, indicating a progression of the disease. 

Delirium

Delirium is a sudden worsening or change in one’s mental state. He or she may experience reduced thinking capacity, short attention span, unusual speech, and hallucinations. People who are affected may become disoriented. Delirium may be caused by many things including a certain type of medication, an infection, a change of location, or a trauma. Someone can experience this mental state change after undergoing surgery or being in an emergency room. 

There are three types of delirium, including hyperactive, hypoactive, and mixed. Someone experiencing hyperactive delirium may be behaving with agitation and having hallucinations. Hypoactive delirium is characterized by drowsiness and becoming withdrawn. Mixed delirium may have symptoms of both of these types. 

Those experiencing this state change can see it go away within days or weeks. Not all cases are the same, and your loved one’s character may fluctuate. The disorientation may only last for a short period. However, if your loved one is acting disoriented without any warning signs from a known disease or other explanation, it is recommended that you take them to see a doctor immediately. Continue to assess their awareness and orientation while he or she is delirious to see the progression.

Ability to Participate in Legal Proceedings

Now we know a bit about those experiencing varying levels of consciousness. It can be easy to imagine that someone who doesn’t know their name simply cannot make decisions for themselves. But at what point are they considered unfit to determine their legal matters? 

Often someone with Alzheimer’s or another ailment which affects one’s consciousness level will need to sign a power of attorney for someone to handle their affairs for them. This should be done at a time they are deemed oriented enough to understand what is going on. Otherwise, someone with a low level of awareness may be coaxed into a decision that could be bad for them. It is also important that someone who is not properly oriented is not allowed to make any critical decisions for him or herself. Therefore their level of consciousness must be known by any attorney or judge involved in the process. 

As stated before, A&Ox4 is the highest level of awareness, indicating that someone is completely normal and based in reality. Comparatively, those with a level of A&Ox2 do not know what time it is or what is happening. Someone at this capacity probably will not carefully read and attempt to understand legal documents presented to them. Keep in mind, however, that the level can change from day-to-day. He or she may be an A&Ox2 one day, and then at an A&Ox4 the next. During the day they can also fluctuate from one end of the spectrum to the other. It is important to monitor your loved one’s awareness throughout the day to predict when he or she will be most alert.

Knowing the patterns of your loved one’s consciousness level can help know when it is a good time to put legal documents in front of them. The window of time when someone has the mental capacity to sign important legal documents is called a lucid interval. Even those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia may experience lucid intervals. The interval can last anywhere from minutes to hours. Sometimes lawyers will meet with their disoriented clients a few times just to ensure their awareness of what they are doing, and that they understand the process. 

The attorney involved must be questioning whether someone might challenge the legal proceeding taking place. If, for example, the disoriented person is trying to leave all the ownership of his or her estate to one child, and not another, this may raise a suspicion of the attorney. The attorney must be sure to assess the person’s orientation level to be sure that he or she is deciding with awareness. 

The determination of whether or not the client is lucid enough is a mix of medical, legal, and psychological judgments. This is often done by the attorney and based on conversations with the client, their family members, social workers, and even medical advisors. Sometimes a judge will be involved in the process of guardianship decisions are being discussed. Medical doctors or doctors of psychiatry are not able to make the judgment of whether or not the disoriented person is lucid enough to make a legal decision. They do, however, give their evaluation of the patient to the attorney who will use it to make the determination. If the attorney still cannot decide based on all the evidence, a neuropsychologist may be sought out to evaluate whether the person is aware enough to understand the situation. 

Creating a calm environment is key when someone is not alert and oriented.

How to Interact with Someone Who is Not Alert and Oriented

Dealing with a loved one who is experiencing disorientation is difficult. The person does not seem to be who you used to know them to be, which can be sad, frustrating, and confusing. However, despite how this change may make you feel, it is important to still treat your loved one with gentleness and kindness. Reminding them of the date, season, time of day, and location can help jog their memory. There are also a few other things you can do to help:

  • Be aware of their habits, medical history, medications, and symptoms. By knowing these things and presenting any of the information can help the doctor determine a diagnosis. 
  • Create a calm environment. You can do this by making their surroundings familiar to them. Surround them with their favorite objects to soothe them. If their location has to change, bring along these objects to give them some sense of familiarity. 
  • Surround them with familiar people, including yourself. People that bring your loved one comfort will help calm and relax them, which can help ease disorientation. It is also helpful to be around when your loved one is examined by the doctor. Having a familiar face can help the doctor assess what their normal behavior is like. 

Person, Place, Time, and Situation

If your loved one is showing signs of disorientation and has yet to seek medical help, encourage them to visit their doctor. If he or she is so disoriented that they seem like a danger to themselves or others, call 911. We here at CareAsOne think that checking in on your loved one is not only good for their mental health but assessing their consciousness level can help you catch some diseases early. 

In this article, you have learned that determining someone’s awareness level is as easy as asking questions regarding their person, place, time, and situation. Asking these simple questions regularly will help you easily zone in on cognitive impairment. And keep at it. We commend you for your care and dedication to your loved one’s health and wish you all the best. 

Can You Sell Your Home & Become Medicaid Eligible?

The time has come. Every elderly person dreads the day they have to step out of their home to make their way to the nursing home. This transition can be complicated, emotional, and downright scary. You or your loved one may be worried about Medicaid planning, nursing home costs, home upkeep, health issues, and even putting the house up for sale. However, before you put that real estate sign up, you must understand some of the Medicaid rules regarding homeownership. 

The requirements for Medicaid qualification are a fine tightrope you must walk to qualify for the program. Or perhaps you or your loved one have already qualified with the house considered an exempt asset. You must realize that the sale of your home could throw off the balance of the Medicaid eligibility. In this article, we will detail some of the income and asset limitations Medicaid specifies, what could happen if you sell your home or not, and how to prevent Medicaid liens being placed on your property. 

Qualifying for Medicaid

If you or your loved one needs a nursing home or long-term care, there is a program that helps individuals with general health coverage or coverage for nursing homes or assisted living services. This is called Institutional Medicaid. You can enroll in Medicaid to help pay for long-term care. This program is meant for those elderly people with low income and few assets

All states have these programs, but the Medicaid rules and eligibility requirements are different in each state. The services that can be financed by Institutional Medicaid include room and board, nursing care, personal care, and therapy. Medicaid may finance 100% of your costs in a Medicaid-approved facility. Getting this financial aid isn’t easy though. You can only qualify for this program if you meet the nursing home eligibility requirements and have income and assets below the limits specified for your state.  

  • Nursing home eligibility requirements: To determine you qualify for a nursing home level of care, states will assess how well you can function, as well as how much help you need with activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs can include things like bathing, dressing, mobility, and toileting. 
  • Income limitations: Income limits vary from state to state. However, the hard income limit for Medicaid in 2020 is $2,349. Some income sources are counted, and some are not. Check with your state to learn the rules that apply to you. Some states have programs for those over the hard limit but have high medical bills to spend down their extra income. 
  • Asset limitations: It is said that a single Medicaid applicant can keep up to $2,000 in countable assets in most states. Some assets are considered exempt or “non-countable,” but often up to a specific amount. Once the specific amount is exceeded, the then “countable” asset will add to the $2,000 limit. Here are some common assets that typically qualify for an exemption:
  • Primary residence
  • Personal belongings
  • Vehicle (1 only)
  • Property essential to self-support
  • Life insurance with a value of less than $1,500
  • Prepaid burial plot/arrangements
  • Assets held in specific kinds of trusts

Anything other than these assets listed above will be counted toward the countable asset limit. There are also different rules and limits for married couples when one is applying for Medicaid benefits. It is important to realize when you are applying for Medicaid that all of your assets will go toward the financing of your care. If you receive a large sum of money, you will be disqualified from Medicaid coverage until that money has been spent. 

Your house doesn’t count toward your asset limit in most cases. 

Home Requirements

So the good news is that your house doesn’t count toward your asset limit in most cases.  If a spouse or dependent child is living in the home while you are in the nursing home, the home is considered exempt no matter what. If not, there are a few fundamental Medicaid qualifications for your primary residence to be exempt. 

  • The home must be in the same state that the homeowner is applying for Medicaid in.
  • The applicant’s equity interest of the home must be $595,000 or less, though some states set a higher limit of $893,000. The equity value of the home would be calculated as the fair market value minus debts. California on the other hand does not have a maximum equity value limit set. 
  • The applicant has to continue to live in the home or have the intent to return home if they are in a nursing home. 

If you don’t fall under the above specifications, your home may count as an asset. If the home is determined to be a countable asset, Medicaid may use it to repay what they have spent to cover care for you, once you no longer need care or become deceased. This involves filing a lien for the property and could mean they will sell your home to pay off the lien in the future.  

Five-Year Look-Back Period: No Gifting or Transfers

The process of evaluating a candidate is rigorous. Besides meeting the specified asset and income requirements, it is also necessary for Medicaid to look back through five years of your financial statements. In some states, the look-back period may be less than five years. The program is very meticulous in ensuring the aid they give is needed. If at any point the applicant has transferred an asset for less than its fair market value five years previous to the Medicaid application date, it will disqualify their application and there will be a penalty period before you can apply again. This means you cannot shelter assets in the form of gifts or selling them for $1 to a family member. If the look-back uncovers any assets you’ve attempted to shelter, Medicaid will go after them to aid in the payment of your care. 

To Sell or Not to Sell, That is the Question

When deciding whether or not to sell the home, you must factor in any expenses or upkeep difficulties it may cause you or your family members. If you or a family member is spending a lot of time and money just to take care of an empty home, you might consider selling it. You have to determine the long-term costs it will produce and factor that into your decision. However, if the home is occupied, it might be a better idea to keep it. Let’s explore whether to sell or not to sell. 

Choosing To Sell

People usually choose to sell if no other family member needs to live in the home. This might be a good option for a single Medicaid recipient. Choosing to sell the home versus keeping it as an exempt asset means thinking in terms of how much of the recovery funds Medicaid would be looking to have paid back. If the care costs for the person are expensive, the amount of recovery could quickly diminish the home value. If this is a possibility, it might be a good idea to apply for Medicaid right before or after selling the home. If the Medicaid expenses won’t be significant, then maybe keeping the home would be a palatable option for the family.

While you own your home, it doesn’t count toward your income. But if you sell it, this will change your income and asset levels significantly. You will be taking an exempt asset and turning it into a countable asset, which likely exceeds the $2,000 limit. As a result, you will automatically be disqualified from the Medicaid payment system and will be in the private pay system. Once you have spent the money from the sale of your home, you can reapply for Medicaid assistance. This is called “spending down” your assets.

Spending Down Assets

If someone is over the income and asset limits, they will typically pay out-of-pocket for their long-term care until their assets have been diminished enough to qualify for Medicaid. This is called “spending down” their assets. You can spend down your assets by paying off debt, buying an annuity, taking a vacation, buying a funeral trust, or paying for long-term care. 

You could also consider the half a loaf gifting strategy in which you transfer about 50% of the funds to another party. This could prevent the anticipated recovery against the house, which could quickly eat up its value. Additionally, selling the home while the homeowner is alive enables the capital gains exclusion by reducing or eliminating the taxes owed through capital gains. 

If you do decide to sell your home and then spend down the funds, consider consulting an attorney to enlist some guidance in the best way to do so in your particular case. 

Choosing Not to Sell

It is important to be aware that the rate Medicaid pays for your care is going to be lower than the private pay rate. This means it is cheaper, in the long run, to stay within the Medicaid system by not selling home. 

If you decide not to sell your home, you may ask that your heirs simply wait till you are deceased to sell the house. Or they may choose to keep the house. Either way, you must realize that your heirs will most likely have to repay Medicaid due to liens being put on the home. Repayment can be done from the money made from the sale of the home or repaid from the heirs themselves if they keep the home. If the property is sold, the profits will go to Medicaid first as repayment for your care. Then what is left over will go to your heirs. 

You can still sell your home and apply for Medicaid in most situations.

Medicaid Liens

They say nothing in life is free, right? It turns out that even though your house may be considered exempt from your countable assets, it is possible that Medicaid can still put a lien on your home when you are in their system. A lien is a claimed right to the property until the debt owed has been paid. Having a lien on your property will guarantee that the government is repaid the money they provided for your long-term care costs. This is implemented through the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) whose goal is to recover funds Medicaid has spent on its beneficiaries. MERP recovers the sum of these payments at the time of death through the deceased’s estate. 

This means that upon your death, the debt incurred is due and payable. First, your appointed heirs will be confronted with the bill. If they are unable to pay the money (they will be given the chance to get a loan to repay), Medicaid Estate Recovery may sell the home. The sale proceeds will first go toward the debt owed to the government as well as any expenses, and then the rest is given to your heirs. 

Depending on what state you live in, there are a few options that may protect this from happening. Planning for this situation is the best thing you can do. Talk to an elder care attorney about the best options for your situation. You can look into options like:

  • Gifting the home: This creates a penalty that can be reversed in almost every state. If the advantages of gifting the property outweigh the consequences of a penalty, it is still a viable option. If the Medicaid beneficiary is incapacitated (as in the case of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease), a power of attorney with gifting rights must have been set up before incapacitation.
  • Community spouse still lives in the home: A Medicaid lien cannot be placed on your home if your spouse is still living in it. The state will also not try to recover funds even after the community spouse has died. In the states that do attempt to recover funds, the community spouse may be able to gift the property. 
  • Bypassing probate: There are a handful of states that attempt to recover funds through the probate process. This means that planning ahead of time to bypass probate could prevent the recovery of funds by MERP. Some strategies for this could include a living trust or changing the title to joint ownership with rights of survivorship. 
  • Irrevocable trusts: An irrevocable trust which meets Medicaid requirements and includes the title to the home may help avoid recovery. However, if this trust has been transferred within five years, there will be a penalty. One exception to this is in a state where the community spouse is the sole homeowner and has the power to transfer the property title without affecting the nursing home spouse’s eligibility.
  • Promissory Note: It may be possible to sell the home on a promissory note. This would change its status from an asset to a loan. This was a common strategy before the Deficit Reduction Act came into effect. Now, the rules make this option a bit more limited.
  • Ladybird Deed: This deed is not available in all states. It transfers ownership of the property upon the death of the Medicaid recipient. Since transferring ownership while living, a Medicare beneficiary incurs a penalty, transferring upon death still incurs a penalty but it is not assessed. Since the beneficiary is no longer alive, the transfer cannot be considered a gift.
  • Life estate: This form of ownership allows the parents to give the home to their adult child or family members. The parents then live in the house for the rest of their lives, but the house is already in the heir’s names.
  • Caregiver exemption: In this rule, a parent is allowed to transfer the home to his or her adult child under certain circumstances. The adult child had to have lived with the parent at least two years before he or she moved into a nursing home or assisted living facility. Also, the adult child had to have provided care which delayed the parent from entering into the care facility.

Long-Term Estate Planning is Key

Thinking ahead is important to protect your savings and assets. Estate planning long-term will help you continue to support your family members but also still allow you to qualify for Medicaid. Think about possibly gifting things long before you require nursing home care. Doing so five years ahead of time may save you from lots of penalties incurred through Medicaid. 

If you gift things ahead of time, and in increments, you will not only avoid Medicaid fees but also avoid gift taxes, as well as the potential for estate taxes. Just make sure to find out what is the limit amount in your state for gifts not to be taxed in a given year. 

Entrusting an elder law attorney or a Medicaid planner for advice is a good idea in any decision you may choose. They can help you become aware of possible actions that could save you and your loved ones money in the long run. Whether you decide to sell or not to sell, we here at CareAsOne hope this transition goes as smoothly as possible.

9 Different Types of Wound Care Dressings

Caring for your wound is just as important as allowing time for it to heal. And knowing the appropriate wound care dressings that you will need can ensure you stay free from infection, protects from more damage, and increases wound healing time. Perhaps you have sustained an injury and have nothing in your medicine cabinets besides a pile of Band-Aids. Or perhaps you are a caretaker whose client is healing a wound. Let’s explore wound dressings and some things we should keep in mind for the proper care of an injury.

What exactly is a wound dressing? A wound dressing is any material that comes in contact with the wound to prevent any further damage. They help stop bleeding and allow the blood to start clotting. They absorb blood and other fluids. They help in the debridement of the wound, or removal of dead tissue. There are several factors you should consider when evaluating the type of dressing you will need. 

  • Age
  • Skin type
  • Wound type and size
  • Location
  • Severity

With nearly 3,000 types of dressings on the market today, it can be difficult knowing that your options are. This article will help you get more familiar with the most common types of wound care dressings and when each one is most appropriate. But if your injury is serious, stop right there! We urge you to see your health care provider or go to urgent care for wound treatment to avoid any complications. Now, let’s discuss the main types of wound dressings and their best uses. 

The gauze is one of the most common wound dressings.

1. Gauze 

Gauze, or cloth dressings, are the most commonly used and readily available wound dressings out there today. They can be made from woven or nonwoven silk, linen, polyester, rayon, or cotton causing them to be highly permeable. This type of material is non-occlusive meaning it does not seal on the skin, allowing blood, water, and air to easily pass through. This dressing easily helps the wound dry out, minimizing exudate, the fluid leaking from the wound. 

Gauze can come in many different shapes and sizes that can be easily adapted to fit the wound. There are sterile and non-sterile varieties. There are also those with or without an adhesive border. You can use it on anything from a small finger injury to a wound that extends across the body. There are pre-cut varieties in the form of squares, sheets, or packing strips, as well as long wraps that can be wound around a limb or cut to size. 

  • Gauze sponge: This type of gauze is typically made from 100% cotton, and is commonly used to absorb blood or other fluids. They are usually cheap, and are great for all-purpose use in the cleaning, dressing, packing, and prepping all types of wounds. 
  • Gauze bandage roll: Also used for all types of wounds, the gauze roll can be used as a first layer or added layer on a wound. The 100% cotton roll can be wrapped around limbs on the head and is especially useful for those wounds that are in an area that is not easy to dress.

Best Uses: We recommend gauze dressing for the protection of open wounds or broken skin which occurred from a minor injury. This could include a scraped elbow, a slightly uncomfortable cut, or injuries in delicate areas. The gauze is used as the first layer of protection, and sometimes the second layer to seal in the dressing. This is especially helpful in an area that is difficult to dress due to the material’s ability to conform to your body. Another use would be to cleanse the wound, as well as keep it free from infection. Due to the inexpensive nature of this material, it can be used for one-time or short-term use and then discarded.

2. Transparent Films

Transparent film dressings are clear polyurethane thin sheets that have an adhesive coating on one side that sticks to the skin. The coating sticks to the skin around the injury which is dry but does not adhere to the wound itself due to its reaction with the wound exudate. 

Due to its thin nature, it is said to be one of the more comfortable kinds of dressings. Also contributing to its comfortability is its flexibility. Its high elasticity allows it to flex, making it possible to conform to a range of body contours. And because the film is clear, this allows you to easily see the area and to gauge the progress of its healing without removing it. Transparent films allow your wound to stay clean from bacteria, which means less infection and speeding up the healing process. 

Best Uses: Transparent dressings can be used as either a first or second securement layer on the injury. This is a commonly used dressing that a doctor will apply when they want to keep track of a wound. This often includes larger, more complicated injuries like burns, ulcers, surgical incisions sites, skin graft donor sites, and IV sites. Being able to see the site allows the doctor to easily identify any potential complications earlier, like infections.

3. Hydrogels

Hydrogels are meant to soothe wounds, reduce pain, help heal, and fight infection. This wound dressing is made of 80 to 99% water or glycerin, adding moisture to dry wounds. By adding moisture to the area, Hydrogels enable faster healing by breaking down tissue that is dry and dead and promoting cell growth. Hydrogel dressings can’t absorb much fluid and therefore aren’t effective for a lot of injuries. Coming in the form of gels, sheets, or impregnated gauzes (gauzes saturated with the solution), the dressing when applied will feel cool and can even decrease the pain. Compared to some other options, hydrogels are not as effective at warding off bacteria due to their permeability of gas and water. Additionally, they can quickly dehydrate, especially the water-based ones. Hydrogels are often non-adhesive and will need another dressing on top to secure it. 

Best Uses: Hydrogels are best used for dry wounds that need to heal, as well as those with eschar. It is best used for those injuries which have little to no fluid excreted. It is also helpful to use hydrogels for wounds that are especially painful. Because of their ability to promote cell growth brought on the added moisture, hydrogels are ideal for second-degree burns, pressure ulcers, donor sites from skin grafts, as well as wounds that have become infected.

4. Foams

Another common type of dressing is foam dressings. Foams are made of foamed polymer, usually polyurethane, and made into sheets or other shapes. They have open cells which can hold fluids, enabling absorbency. But the extent of absorbency is based on the thickness and composition of the foams. Foams absorb the excess fluids as well as keep the area moist at the same time, allowing for faster healing as well. The ultra-soft nature of the material also helps cushion the injury, protecting it from further harm. 

These dressings can sometimes come pre-soaked in solutions, or combined with other materials. Foams come in many shapes and sizes. They can easily be removed because the contact with the wound is non-adhesive. Foams can come with an adhesive border, often with a coating of a protective transparent film that helps prevent bacteria from entering but allows water vapor to enter. This aids in maintaining adequate moisture for the wound’s healing.

Best Uses: Foams help prevent bad odors, as well as moderate to heavy discharge. They are ideal for both partially-thick and full-thickness wounds, and both serious and unserious wounds. You can also use foams for pressure injuries. 

Hydrogels and foams are great for some wound dressings.

5. Hydrocolloids

Hydrocolloid dressings are made up of hydrophilic colloidal particles. These can include gelatin, pectin, and cellulose. These materials allow for flexibility, which means greater comfort for all skin types. The wound dressings have secure backings made up of a film or foam self-adhesive, making them non-breathable, not to mention easy to apply. By creating a sealed, moist wound environment, hydrocolloids can keep the wound clean, prevent infection, and speed up the healing process.

There are different types of hydrocolloids, which means they also have different levels of absorption. Coated with polysaccharides and other polymers, the dressing absorbs slough and exudate, and then slowly swells into a heap of gel-like matter. Once you remove the heap (which is biodegradable), there will be some residue left on the wound bed which may have a bad smell to it. Oftentimes this smell is thought to be the indication of an infected injury. 

You can find hydrocolloid dressings in varying shapes and sizes. There are some which include beveled edges, which add grip to the skin to keep it from rolling up. Using this type of dressing will insulate the area and keep it from water, oxygen, or bacteria from coming through. People using hydrocolloids as their wound dressing have much lower rates of infections than many other dressings out there. This includes gauze, semi-permeable films, semi-permeable foams, and sheet hydrogels. Not only do they have a good track record in preventing infections, but hydrocolloids also are one of the longest-lasting kinds of dressings.

Best Uses: You can use hydrocolloids for burns, necrotic injuries, with compression wraps, wounds with light to moderate drainage, and on venous or pressure ulcers. They are effective for autolytic debridement. 

6. Calcium Alginates

This type of dressing is made of brown seaweed fibers and sodium, making them biodegradable. Calcium alginates can absorb up to twenty times its weight. This high absorbency makes it ideal for sucking out the moisture from a deeply tunneled wound. Like hydrocolloids, alginates react with the exudate, creating a gel-like substance which enables the injury to heal quicker. 

This gel seals a moist environment that traps some bacteria. The smell of this reactive bacteria may be a foul odor once you remove the gel, but can be easily washed away. This odor can sometimes be mistaken for an infection. These permeable, nonocclusive dressings often require the assistance of another dressing to cover it, being gauze. You can find alginates in three varieties:

  • Sheets: These may be put on the wound bed to absorb the draining fluids.
  • Ropes: This variety tightly fills tunnels or areas under the skin which have become eroded, i.e. areas of undermining.
  • Applicators: With tips of alginate, applicators are used to probe the lesion, occupy cavities and tunnels, to obtain swab cultures, and to measure the depth of the wound.

Sometimes used interchangeably with alginates are hydrofibers. These are dressings made of sodium carboxymethylcellulose and are extremely similar in its appearance and effects. 

Best Uses: These macroalgae can be very absorbent, which makes it perfect for those wet injuries which have a lot of drainages. This means extreme or deep wounds, including burns, packing wounds, venous ulcers, or higher-state pressure ulcers. Alginate dressings need to be changed often due to the amount of fluid they will absorb. This could mean at least every two days. We recommend consulting your doctor if you think they may need to be changed more or less frequently, depending on the severity of your injury. If the dressing is changed too much, it could lead to too much dryness, which equates to a bigger possibility for harmful bacteria to enter. 

Alginates do not work well for wounds that are dry because they would create an even drier environment, making the time to heal even longer. 

7. Composites

Composite dressings, also known as combination dressings, are multi-layered. They can be used as either the primary dressing or secondary dressing. Typically the composite dressing consists of three layers:

  1. Inner layer: The contact layer is non-adherent, which keeps the injury safe during dressing changes. 
  2. Middle layer: This layer is absorptive, taking away moisture from the wound to avoid maceration, but still keeping the environment hydrated. This layer can be made of alginate, hydrogel, semi-permeable foam, or hydrocolloid. 
  3. Outer layer: A barrier for bacteria, this protective outer layer is imperative for the prevention of infection. It is often made of a semi-permeable film. 

Best Uses: These dressings don’t have as many uses as many other types, due to their prepackaged nature. However, they can be used on light to heavy wounds. Be extra careful if you have dry or sensitive skin. Check with the manufacturer to be sure the composite dressing can be used on an infected wound site. 

Making sure the wound is cleaned properly will keep it from getting infected.

8. Collagen

Collagen dressings are a bit different than most other dressings because they act as a temporary second skin. Having this second skin enables new cells to accumulate, grow, and become sustainable. Without such a dressing, the amount of time that the wound would heal would take much more time. Not only that, but collagen helps with the removal of dead tissue, the formation of new blood vessels, and the tightening of the edges of the site. 

Best Uses: Collagen dressings are mostly used for chronic wounds that have a very slow or completely stalled rate of healing. You can use them on transplant sites, pressure sores, burns, ulcers, surgical sites, or large surface area injuries. 

9. Silicone

Silicone is a common synthetic polymer that has a lot of applications in this day and age. In dressing form, soft silicone is tacky, allowing it to form a tight seal that repels water. The tackiness of the silicone allows it to be reapplied several times without losing its adhesion. It will not stick to the wound though, and will not create further damage. Additionally, silicone has anti-bacterial properties and is adhesive to even fragile or dry skin. 

Silicone dressings are comfortable, and reduce pain and trauma in injuries during the changing of dressings. It doesn’t leave a residue, making it easy to work with. Though they can be helpful in wound dressing, they can be expensive.

Best Uses: Topical silicone gel sheets are said to prevent keloids or excessive scar tissue. This happens through the prevention of moisture penetrating the wound. With less moisture, there is less blood flow and therefore less collagen in the area. Since collagen is the material scars are made of, the absences of it will cause the skin to be paler, making the scar less apparent. 

Better Healing

We hope that this information we’ve provided has given you an idea of what types of wound care dressings are right for you. Wound management is imperative to ensure the proper healing of your injury. Here is a quick summary of our 9 types of dressings:

Gauze can be used on any part of the body and is the most permeable. Transparent films are helpful in the monitoring of a wound. Hydrogels help with pain and work best on dry sites. Foams work with bad odors and lots of discharge. Hydrocolloids help prevent infections and last the longest. Calcium alginates are highly absorbent and are critical in the care of deep wounds. Composites are multi-layered and can be used on cases ranging in severity. Collagen dressings work as a second skin for those slow-healing wounds. Silicone can help in the prevention of scarring. 

Now that you know a wider variety of products that can be used for wounds besides Band-Aids, you can utilize this knowledge for better healing. If you sustained your injury due to a fall, take a look at some balance exercises that can help you avoid falls in the future. We here at CareAsOne wish you, your client, or loved one a speedy recovery. 

Neuropathy Treatment: 5 Home & Natural Remedies

If something can be treated naturally, would you try it? Sometimes going to a healthcare facility for your medical condition can send you in a downward health spiral due to negative side effects associated with treatment. Some conditions might have good results without undergoing invasive medical procedures or buying tons of pricey medications. One of these conditions is neuropathy. 

There are four kinds of neuropathy, each affecting a different set of nerves. They are autonomic, peripheral, proximal, and focal. Autonomic nerve damage is harmful to body processes such as digestion and can affect heart rate and blood pressure. Peripheral neuropathy affects the toes, fingers, hands, and feet and is the most common. 

Peripheral Neuropathy

In the US, there are more than 20 million people with peripheral nerve damage, and probably many more undiagnosed. Peripheral neuropathy, often shortened to neuropathy, happens when the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord have been damaged. These nerves, called peripheral nerves, are vital for relaying information from the brain to the rest of the body. When damaged, they elicit stabbing, burning, or tingling pain in the hands and feet. You may also feel numbness. These symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are usually mild and are rarely debilitating or deadly. However, they can harm your ability to perform daily activities, which can reduce your quality of life

This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, shingles, as well as rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. Diabetes is the predominant cause of peripheral nerve damage, resulting in what is called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Keep in mind that not only medical conditions cause this disorder; you can also experience symptoms due to injuries or stress. 

Though the condition is not curable, there are different methods of treatment to ease the pain. To treat nerve damage, the focus is on relieving the pain, reducing discomfort, and restoring function. The chosen treatment for pain cessation will depend on what the underlying cause may be. A healthcare professional may administer corticosteroid injections, perform nerve stimulation, conduct physical therapy, or even recommend surgery. However, oftentimes doctors will prescribe nerve pain medications. Some of them may include amitriptyline, oxycodone, gabapentin, pregabalin, tricyclic antidepressants, or duloxetine. They will also prescribe topical ointments such as lidocaine, menthol, and methyl salicylate.

You must be aware, however, that these medications often come along with side effects that can be just as difficult as the problem itself. Some of these common side effects include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, drowsiness, and dizziness. Not only that, some medications do not react well alongside other drugs. 

What if, instead, you tried out some natural remedies for your symptoms? There are quite a few home remedies as well as natural remedies you can utilize. And the best thing? No harmful side effects. In this article, we will discuss 5 of these remedies, what they are, and how they can help. 

Essential oils can be used for therapy purposes.

1. Essential Oils

Essential oils have a variety of uses, including healing neuropathy and nerve pain. The regeneration of nerves can be a slow process, but treatments of aromatherapy can be a great alternative method to aid in this process. Some essential oils are known to have especially pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. They are said to achieve this by increasing circulation within the body. And all this is non-invasive, and found naturally in plant extracts! Some of the most effective essential oils for nerve pain relief include:

  • Chamomile: Chamomile acts as an anti-inflammatory, as well as a pain reliever that can help with neuralgia, rheumatic pain, and neuritis. Chamomile can help promote blood flow in the body. 
  • Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus oil works well as an anti-inflammatory. It also suppresses muscle spasms and helps pain relief. It is said to help encourage blood circulation in several nerve conditions, including neuralgia and sciatica. 
  • Geranium: Geranium oil sedates and has analgesic properties. There have been clinical studies showing that it can help in the reduction of pain.
  • Helichrysum: This oil works fast to provide relief. It helps with inflammation and reducing pain.
  • Lavender: One of the most widely used, lavender oil has a big reputation for its pain-relieving properties. The scent is calming that helps with the reduction of anxiety, stress, and depression. It also fights inflammation and promotes blood flow in the body. This oil can help in the treatment of sciatica, muscle aches, neuralgia, and muscle spasms. 
  • Peppermint: Peppermint oil is an especially helpful essential oil for the treatment of nerve damage. It induces pain relief, as well as exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. Peppermint is a stimulant and should not be used before bedtime. It works well combined with other oils, making it even more potent.
  • Rosewood: This oil aids in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. It also relieves nerve pain. 
  • Ylang-Ylang: Ylang-ylang oil works as a strengthener for your nerves. It also sedates, enabling you to relax and let go of stress and anxiety.
  • Frankincense: This oil is another sedative that fights inflammation in arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have shown that frankincense can help prevent cartilage tissue from breaking down, which is the major cause of these conditions.

Applying these oils to the area of pain can soothe the stinging and tingling caused by neuropathy. It may be helpful to speak to someone skilled in aromatherapy or natural medicine to determine which oils are the best for your condition. This could be a certified herbalist, a doctor, or an aromatherapist. Also be sure to ask if the essential oils are ok for you if you are pregnant, nursing, or have a medical condition that the use of oils may interfere with. They should guide you on the right path and where to buy the proper oils. 

Also, before you begin, make sure you read all the labels to determine that your essential oil is pure. Then, test the oil on a small area of skin before trying it on large areas. These oils work best diluted because not doing so can cause your skin to become irritated and inflamed. 

There are several ways you can administer these oils. You can mix them in with your creams and lotions. Or you can add a few drops into the water when you take a bath. Taking an essential oil bath can be doubly healing due to the warm water in the bath. Warm water is said to increase blood circulation throughout the body, which can lessen the pain. Another way to administer the oil is to add them to a diffuser. In this way, you can also share the healing properties with your loved ones in the room. Or you can even apply the diluted oil directly onto the skin. You can dilute the oil by adding a few drops of the chosen essential oil in 1 ounce of a carrier oil like olive oil. You can also use a cold-pressed nut, vegetable, seed, or fractionated oil. Some people like to blend their essential oils, combining the properties of several oils into one. Experiment and find out what works best for you.

2. Capsaicin

One FDA-approved product for the treatment of neuropathy is a high-dose capsaicin patch. Capsaicin, a naturally occurring compound derived from cayenne peppers is beneficial for some people with nerve pain. It can decrease the intensity of pain signals triggered by nerve damage. 

Capsaicin is often used as a topical ointment for those who cannot tolerate medications, or want to avoid them. The initial treatment of the ointment may burn, but eventually, you will experience a reduction in sensations.  You can also incorporate cayenne pepper into your diet, as well as take it in supplement form. Capsaicin often works well for people, with very few people experiencing systemic side effects. Some negative aspects of the chemical compound include lack of efficacy when used at low doses, high cost, as well as the need to often reapply. Talk to your doctor before you undergo this treatment method. And before using, be sure to test on a small area.

3. Supplementation

Supplements not only have many health benefits, but they can also aid in the alleviation of nerve pain. It is important, however, to not overuse them, and to take them for additional aid in your relief, not as a cure. Taking supplements depends on your comfort level, the state of your condition, and the go-ahead from your doctor. Make sure to only take the recommended amounts your doctor suggests. 

Vitamin deficiencies are one of the risk factors for peripheral neuropathy. There are many supplements you can take to help ease your symptoms, a lot of them also not listed here. Do your research on the variety of vitamins and supplements that you can also take. Here are the ones we recommend: 

  • Vitamin D: A vitamin D deficiency can worsen nerve damage. Taking a supplement can help reduce symptoms. 
  • B-complex vitamins: These are essential for the health of nerves, and can be helpful in the diminishing of pain. A deficiency in B vitamins can lead to extensive nerve damage. You can get vitamin B from food, but the supplement offers it in a much more concentrated form. Follow doctors’ orders for the recommended dose to avoid the worsening systems and to prevent toxicity. Vitamin B-12 assists in the formation of red blood cells and DNA. B-12 and B-6 both play a key role in the maintenance of the myelin sheath which encloses the nerve fibers and makes sure the messages your nerves are conveying are traveling through your body. This helps reduce the pain from nerve damage. Vitamin B-6 also assists in the formation of chemicals that implement communication between nerves. Vitamin B-7, also known as biotin, in combination with a chromium supplement can help with blood glucose levels to fight diabetes and diabetes-induced neuropathy. Biotin is said to help control the pancreas’ output of insulin, while chromium is said to improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid: This is a potent antioxidant that is made in our bodies which eliminates free radicals. You can also find it in spinach and broccoli, though only in small amounts. Taking alpha-lipoic acid has been proven to reduce numbness, tingling, and burning symptoms. It helps the leveling of blood sugar and can help maintain healthy blood vessels that are connected to the nerves.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties and can decrease numbness, burning, and tingling.
  • Magnesium: It is said that magnesium may help with chemotherapy-related nerve damage, but more research is needed. However, a study published that those with high 

amounts of magnesium in their daily intake were less likely to experience nerve damage. 

  • Evening primrose oil: Has anti-inflammatory properties and can decrease numbness, burning, and tingling. 
  • Acetyl-l-carnitine: This amino acid is an antioxidant that helps burn fat and increase energy. Produced in your liver and kidneys, l-carnitine helps your heart and brain to function, as well as promotes muscle movement. Not only that, l-carnitine protects the nerve fibers, helps with nerve pain, and aids in the process of nerve cell growth. These are especially important components in healing for those with diabetic neuropathy. This amino acid can be taken in supplement form.

4. Lifestyle Changes

A healthy diet, exercising, and incorporating good habits into your life can have the most positive effect on your nerve pain. Lifestyle changes can leave you feeling healthier, calmer, more balanced, and restful. Small incremental changes implemented here and there throughout your regular daily activities can have a positive effect on your nerve health.

Diet

We have covered the positive effects vitamins and other supplements can have on reducing nerve pain. You can also find many of these supplements in the form of healthy foods. For those with diabetes, changing their diet can especially help lessen the symptoms, allowing diabetic nerve pain to lessen. To achieve this, eating foods rich in fiber is recommended. Do your best to stay away from white bread products, processed food, alcohol, and sweets. 

Exercise

Exercise helps manage pain and benefits your overall health. It can increase the blood flow to your arms and legs. It also helps reduce stress. Maintaining healthy physical condition through regular exercise, is extremely important, especially for those that have diabetic neuropathy. For diabetics, maintaining an exercise routine allows the body to better regulate blood sugar, which will in turn slow or reduce nerve damage. For those with peripheral neuropathy, exercising helps reduce the pressure of the peripheral blood vessels. 

Good Habits

Review your overall happiness and outlook. Do you feel stressed? Tired? Rundown? A few habit changes may help you revive your energy levels, as well as improve your neuropathic symptoms. 

One habit that affects your blood circulation and blood vessels is smoking. When you smoke, your blood vessels narrow, which means not as much oxygenated blood can get through. Due to this limited blood flow, you will experience more numbing and painful symptoms. If you were to quit smoking, you would see an improvement in the blood flow, as well as healthier blood vessels.

Some other great habits you can try are relaxation techniques. These habits such as deep breathing, mediation, and stretching exercises like yoga help people manage their pain by relieving stress. They can help you learn to cope with the pain, which can decrease the intensity of it. These noninvasive relaxation techniques help you gain more control of your condition through a mind-body approach. After all, the mind and the body are deeply connected. 

One of the most important good habits is sleep. Limit your caffeine in the afternoon to ensure you will get a full night’s sleep. If you keep a consistent bedtime and get at least eight hours of sleep every night, your stress level will reduce, allowing you to better cope with neuropathic pain.

Acupuncture can also be used to treat the body’s pressure points.

5. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese tradition used to treat pain by inserting needles into the body’s pressure points to stimulate the nervous system. When this occurs, endorphins are released, which are the body’s natural painkillers. 

Acupuncture is used by neuropathy-sufferers who want to alleviate their chronic pain. Not only is the ancient tradition said to relieve the pain, but it also increases blood flow, which can restore nerve damage. Many people who have undergone acupuncture treatment have had more improved symptoms than those who have gotten traditional medical treatment. And not only that, this method can balance the energy of the body, which can lead to greater emotional well-being.

Find the Right Solution For You

As a disclaimer, we want to state that this article is not meant to be taken as medical advice. However, we do believe that utilizing some of these remedies may have a positive effect on your nerve health. And not only can they help alleviate painful symptoms, but they can also help increase your overall health and well-being. Whatever treatment path you decide to go down, we encourage you to talk to your healthcare provider before you make any big changes. Seeking out the advice of a professional is always helpful. We here at CareAsOne hope you find the right solutions for you and wish you increasing comfort and well-being.

What is IV Therapy? Plus Possible Complications

Nobody likes needles. But these cringe-inducing skin-prickers are imperative in the delivery of IVs, which are a staple in the healthcare industry today. Chances are, you or your loved one will undergo some type of IV therapy in your medical history. The vast applications of this therapy reach anyone with cancer, to someone who simply experiences dehydration. It is used for both medical and nutritional purposes. In this article, we will define IV therapy, naming some common uses and types, then we will explore vitamin therapy as well as complications that can occur from IVs.  

What is IV Therapy?

IV therapy is the direct administration of nutrients and fluids into veins, allowing them to become immediately absorbed into the body by bypassing the digestive system. This is done by way of a small tube inserted into the vein, known as a cannula. IV therapy is short for “intravenous therapy.” Intravenous means “inside the vein.” This is the fastest way for nutrients to spread through the body and get to the organs. This mode of nutrient administration results in up to 100% absorption rate, in comparison to a 20-50% absorption rate when taken orally. 

You may have heard about IV therapy being the latest health trend popularized by athletes and celebrities. However, the history of injections and transfusions goes back centuries. Up until relatively recently, IVs have been used for medical intervention during an illness. But these days it has become trendy to utilize vitamin drips. Intravenous therapy can consist of incorporating fluids, blood transfusions, medications, or nutrients into the bloodstream. As you can see, different kinds of IVs are used for different purposes. We will first explore these uses:

Uses

  • Fluids: Fluids can be administered by IV to replace or expand the number of fluids in one’s body. This could be done as a result of dehydration. A saline solution is the most commonly used fluid, a water-based solution made up of 0.9% salt. 
  • Medication and treatment: A patient’s medications can be mixed with fluids like saline or dextrose solutions. Since the medication can spread so quickly to the entire body, this is a commonly used method in emergencies. IVs can also be used for chronic health conditions like cancer, by administering the chemotherapy treatment through the veins. IV medications also can replace oral medications which cause nausea or diarrhea due to the bypassing of the gastrointestinal tract. In certain cases, some in-home treatment plans allow patients with severe chronic pain to administer their pain medication intravenously.
  • Blood transfusions: Blood product refers to the blood which has been collected from a donor and given to a recipient in the form of a blood transfusion. This often occurs in times when blood has been lost due to some trauma or surgery. It is also performed for people who are severely anemic. 
  • Nutrition: People who cannot get nutrients through normal eating and digestion of food may get an IV containing things like salts, amino acids, lipids, dextrose, and vitamins. What they receive will depend on their deficiencies. 
  • Sports: Intravenous therapy can be used by athletes for hydration, though these days the practice is not as common. This is due to the abuse of the method, enabling athletes to change blood and urine test results which would reveal their use of performance-enhancing drugs. These days athletes are not allowed more than 100mL every 12 hours. 
  • Hangover: Dr. John Myers developed an IV solution consisting of vitamins and minerals in the 1960s. This was called the “Myers’ cocktail,” and was used for the treatment of hangovers, and general wellness. Clinics that serve these “cocktails” became popularized in the 2010s by celebrities. Heavy drinkers may experience acute ethanol toxicity, and thus use intravenous therapy to help increase their electrolytes and vitamins.
IVs are often times connected the veins in the hand.

Types of IVs

The type of IV used depends on how long the treatment needs to take effect, as well as how much needs to be injected. It also depends on if more than one substance needs to be transfused at a time. Here are the 3 types of intravenous methods: 

  • Bolus/IV Push: A bolus intravenous treatment is administered by a syringe into an access port that has been pre-established. The solution is delivered rapidly with one quick depression of the syringe, or over a few minutes. After a bolus dose of medication has been administered, sometimes an IV flush is added afterward, which includes a bolus of plain IV solution. This helps the medication push into the bloodstream. Some medications are not suitable for Bolus doses because of how quickly they can take effect. One such medication is potassium. Bolus doses typically take 15 to 20 minutes and incorporate 30 to 60 ml of fluids. This type of intravenous treatment must be supervised by a medical professional the entire time.
  • Infusion/IV Drip: This type of intravenous treatment is infused slowly through the use of a catheter directly into the vein with a needle. The needle is removed once the catheter reaches the vein. Infusions can be administered in either a pump or a drip method. In the US, a pump infusion is the most common. Pumps are attached to the IV line, sending the medication solution into the catheter slowly. This is a useful method when the dosage has to be precise. Drip infusions use gravity to deliver a steady amount of medication over time. This is done with the medication solution dripping from a bag to your catheter by way of a tube. IV drips usually take 45 to 60 minutes. They will infuse anywhere from 250 to 1000 ml of fluids at a time. Patients can lay back and relax during this process. 
  • Secondary/IV Piggyback: A secondary IV may be administered while an infusion is connected. Also called an IV piggyback, the secondary bag is held above the primary bad, allowing the fluid to flow into it. Connecting the bags reduces the need for more IV sites in the arm, meaning you get stuck with fewer needles. This is helpful as long as the two solutions are compatible with one another. 

Intravenous Vitamin Therapy

It’s all the rage. But since IV vitamin therapy has turned into a fad glamorized by the rich and famous, it may be hard to take it seriously. We ask, does IV therapy work when you incorporate vitamins? It turns out that having higher levels of vitamins and minerals directly shot into your bloodstream can lead to a greater absorption into the cells. This will allow them to fight illness easier and stay healthy longer. If these nutrients are taken orally and therefore absorbed through the stomach, there are a variety of factors that affect the body’s ability to efficiently do so. Some factors include things like age, health, genes, metabolism, and kinds of products and food we consume. Having a direct shot into our bloodstreams bypasses all of that. With a direct IV infusion, we are more easily able to treat a wide range of health issues. 

Treated Conditions

One of the more popularized vitamin cocktails is the Myers’ cocktail, as mentioned previously. Today these vitamin infusions are still popular and have a lot more benefits than simply treating a hangover. This type of therapy is also recommended for those who don’t eat enough, or who suffer from a condition that doesn’t allow them to properly absorb all the nutrients.

Some common conditions that can be benefitted by a Myers’ cocktail treatment are:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraines 
  • Muscle spasms
  • Allergies
  • Pain
  • Sinus infections
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Angina
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Dehydration

Benefits

Besides the list of conditions above, there is a wide range of added benefits associated with various vitamin treatments. For this reason, many people who are otherwise quite healthy will utilize intravenous vitamin therapy to boost wellness and energy, among other things. The list of benefits of IV therapy goes on and on. Some of them are:

  • Boosted immune system
  • Energy boost
  • Clearer skin
  • Stress relief 
  • Removal of body toxins
  • Balance hormones
  • Enhanced mood
  • Better concentration
  • Calmer and more relaxed
  • Balance of blood sugar
  • Quicker sports recovery time
  • Better sleep
  • Quicker jet lag recovery time
  • More fertile
  • Signs of aging reduction

Intravenous Vitamin Therapy Process

Each vitamin cocktail is tailored to each person’s needs. The client must be evaluated beforehand to make sure he or she is a good candidate for the treatment. Only rely on this medical advice given by a healthcare professional that you trust. Here is a breakdown of how the process usually goes: 

  1. Before the treatment, the client’s medical history, medications, and allergies will be considered. There may even be a blood test performed just to see where the client’s nutrient levels are, and to infuse the proper amount into the IV. 
  2. A pharmacist will concoct the solution in most cases, following a doctor’s specifications about your specific needs. 
  3. Then, a qualified healthcare professional will disinfect the skin (usually on your arm), locate and access the vein, then secure the needle. There is only slight discomfort when the skin is first punctured. A dehydrated patient may have to experience this a few times till the nurse hits the vein. 
  4. Then the vitamin infusion will begin, monitored by the healthcare worker. Once the catheter is placed, the infusion could take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. The amount and how quickly the fluid is given is influenced by factors like age, weight, type of treatment (IV drip or push), and medical condition. 

It is common for the patient will start to feel a boost immediately following the treatment but will feel all the effects fully 12 to 24 hours after. These effects can last anywhere from 8 days to 3  weeks. How long they last depend on the patient’s condition, the mixture, and the type of therapy. 

The vitamins used in an infusion are water-soluble.

Common Intravenous Vitamins

So let’s talk about vitamins. The vitamins used in an infusion are water-soluble, which means your body will soak in the nutrients it needs, then excrete the rest through the kidneys and out through the urine. Infusions may contain a single vitamin or a cocktail mixture of vitamins and minerals. Some of the most common ingredients used for an intravenous vitamin drip contain vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, amino acids, and antioxidants. One particular antioxidant, glutathione, has been shown to improve rigidity, posture, speech, gait, and decreased body movement. There are multitudes of nutrients that can be infused into an IV treatment, but it is best to find what will work best with each person’s needs and tailor the infusion to that. 

Your doctor can assess your levels of these vitamins and minerals and recommend what would be best for you. However, it must be said that in general, most people can get enough of their daily nutrients through a balanced diet. Thus the need for an IV vitamin drip is questionable for most people. IV vitamin therapy really should only be utilized by those who have a medical need for it, and have been prescribed by a doctor. This is especially true since undergoing IV therapy does pose some risks associated with it.

Possible Complications

If you truly want to undergo intravenous vitamin therapy, make sure you do a fair amount of research first. Talk with your primary care physician to get his or her opinion on if it is right for you. Have them check for any vitamin or mineral deficiencies you may have that would be benefitted from such a treatment. Be sure that your doctor is also taking into account any medical conditions you have when making the evaluation. 

Also, be sure that the doctor you see regarding the treatment is professionally established and board-certified. The clinic that you plan to attend the procedure may not be closely regulated. Be sure to check out their reputation as a well-respected IV therapy clinic by looking at reviews. Make sure the clinic is clean, and that the medical professionals are washing their hands and changing gloves when necessary. You even have the right to ask for their credentials if you feel suspicious of their level of professionalism.  

Undergoing an intravenous treatment is typically a safe procedure and does not often have adverse effects. However, your treatment must be the right amount of vitamins and minerals for you, otherwise having a higher amount may increase the risk of negative effects. Here are some side effects that may result from IV therapy

  • Phlebitis: Veins may become inflamed from an IV therapy treatment. This occurs when the cannula is too big or isn’t secured well. This can be prevented easily by the healthcare worker using the smallest needle possible. Symptoms of phlebitis include warmth, pain, swelling, and redness around the vein. 
  • Extravasation: This occurs when the IV fluid leaks into the tissue that surrounds the vein. It also happens when the cannula is too large. Symptoms of extravasation include a burning sensation and swelling around the site of the IV
  • Air Embolism: When an air bubble gets into a vein, it could be fatal. This is because the air can reach the brain, heart, or lungs. The best way to avoid this is to make sure the patient is well-hydrated and laying on their backs when the IV line is injected and removed. When an air embolism is occurring, the patient’s skin may appear blue, they may have a hard time breathing, and they can have low blood pressure. 
  • Hypervolaemia: This occurs when there is an increase in blood volume that is out of the ordinary. This happens mostly to pregnant women, children, the elderly, or those with kidney issues. Some symptoms may be an increased heart rate and bloated neck veins. 
  • Infection: If the IV line, port, or the site of the injected are not properly sterilized before the insertion of the IV, there is a greater risk of infection. This can easily be prevented through sterilization of everything beforehand. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, and fever.

Be Your Judge

Intravenous therapy has boomed in the last century, despite being a centuries-old technique. These days we have seen celebrities and athletes get pricked by needles, alongside people with a growing number of treatable conditions. The advancements in technology, equipment, and knowledge of proper techniques have caused this therapy to become a relatively painless and risk-free process. The successful treatment of a condition by IV often far outweighs the possible complications that can occur. However, you must be your judge. 

Besides weighing the possible complications, it is important to pay attention to who you are allowing you to treat you with an IV. Make sure you surround yourself with authorized experienced professionals that will treat you with the best care. And consider if something like treating a hangover is worth possible negative side effects. We here at CareAsOne hope that this article has given you a better idea of what you can expect from this type of therapy. Knowing your options can help you communicate with your doctor about treatments you might be interested in. From anything from chronic disease to stress symptoms, we wish you only the best health running through your veins.

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.

The Best Diet & Supplement Plan for Sarcoidosis

Some conditions are eased with a healthy diet. One of these conditions is sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is characterized by granulomas, which are inflamed patches of red, swollen tissue usually affecting the lungs and skin. It can also develop in other organs. This condition is rare, affecting less than 200,000 people a year in the US. The symptoms that occur will depend on what organs have been affected. Usually not severe, these symptoms can get better without treatment after a few months or years. Some of them are:

  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Red tender bumps on the skin
  • Patches of bumps
  • Blurred vision
  • Red teary eyes
  • Pain in bony areas due to cysts
  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

When the disease is based in the lungs, it is called pulmonary sarcoidosis. In a few cases, people may see their symptoms appear gradually and worsen. These severe cases are known as chronic sarcoidosis. Additionally, because sarcoidosis patients have increased inflammation, they may also be at risk of other inflammatory conditions, like high blood pressure or lung disease. 

Causes

The exact cause of this condition is still unknown due to a lack of sarcoidosis research. However, it is speculated that granulomas form when the immune system has gone into overdrive responding to foreign substances like bacteria, viruses, dust, or chemicals. It has even been suggested it could be caused by an abnormal reaction to one’s body proteins. The granulomas could be a manifestation of the body attacking its organs and tissues. Though concrete evidence in the exact cause of granulomas is lacking, there are still some patterns that show certain demographics that are more at risk of developing sarcoidosis. This condition can happen to anyone, but here are the most at-risk groups.

  • People between the ages of 20 and 40
  • Women
  • People with Scandinavian, Irish, Peurto Rican, or African ancestry
  • People with the condition in their family

There is currently no cure but symptoms can usually be managed with medication like corticosteroids. Sometimes no treatment is necessary at all. It can even go away on its own. It is possible, however, that sarcoidosis can last years and cause damage to your organs in the process. Pulmonary disease is the number one common cause of death for those with sarcoidosis. To prevent the worsening of symptoms as well as the worst-case scenario, we highly recommend implementing a healthy balanced diet and supplements to your treatment plan. In this article, we will talk about some of the best foods you can eat, herbs and supplements you can take, and foods to avoid if you have sarcoidosis. 

Sarcoidosis Treatment Diet

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition. Therefore the best way to treat it is to target the inflammation. You can do this by eating the right foods that neutralize the flare-ups. Although not a lot of research has been done on sarcoidosis specifically, there are other inflammatory conditions that have been studied. Results show that certain patterns of eating can help lower inflammatory levels. This is the case for a decrease in C-reactive protein found in the blood, which is an indicator of inflammation. 

Several popular anti-inflammatory diets incorporate these eating patterns. In general, they all incorporate whole foods. They also have lots of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds. Any of the following diets can work to help ease the symptoms of sarcoidosis, as well as contribute to weight loss. They are: 

Cuisine-based diets:

  • Mediterranean Diet: This diet is based on the traditional cuisine of countries along the Mediterranean Sea, and is considered one of the best diets to prevent heart disease. It is particularly high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Fish, poultry, and eggs are eaten in moderation, and red meat is eaten only occasionally. Low-fat Greek or plain yogurt is a good choice in the dairy department and only small amounts of cheese. Herbs and spices are used to enhance flavor to avoid the use of salt. But the staple of this diet is the higher intake of fruits and vegetables. Typically the goal is to eat 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. To make it truly Mediterranean, share meals with friends and family while drinking a glass of red wine. 
  • Nordic Diet: This one is great for weight loss goals and lowering blood pressure. The Nordic diet centers around the cuisines of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Staples of this diet include whole-grain cereals, like rye, barley, and oats, as well as berries and other fruits. Vegetables may include cabbage, potatoes, and carrots, alongside fatty fish like herring, salmon, and mackerel, and legumes such as beans and peas. Rapeseed oil, also known as canola oil, is used. This oil has a high amount of healthy monounsaturated fat, and also includes alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3. 

Guideline-based diets:

  • DASH Diet: This diet is especially helpful in lowering blood pressure by reducing sodium and eating foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. There are two versions of this diet, a standard version and a lower sodium version. In the standard DASH diet, you are able to consume up to 2,300 mg of sodium a day. With the lower sodium version, the limit is 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Compare this with the regular American diet which can have 3,400 mg of sodium a day. The stapes of the DASH diet include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products. In moderation are fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and seeds, which are limited to a few times a week. Red meats, sweets, and fats are allowed in small amounts.
  • MIND Diet: This diet was designed specifically for preventing dementia and loss of brain function associated with aging. Therefore the foods chosen for the MIND diet are those that are said to promote healthy brain functioning. Some of them are vegetables, especially green leafy ones, berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, fish, beans, poultry, and wine. 
The Mediterranean diet is great for your health, especially salads.

General Diet Rules

All of these diets above have certain elements in common. We have compiled them into some general rules to follow. Here are some general guidelines on foods to implement when developing your diet to treat sarcoidosis:

Antioxidants: Foods high in antioxidants can protect your cells from free radicals, and thus reduce excessive inflammation. Some of them include: 

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Seaweed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ginger
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Flaxseed
  • Green tea

Magnesium-rich: It has been shown that diets low in magnesium can lead to chronic inflammation. Those with low levels of magnesium have high levels of CRP, an inflammatory marker. They also have higher blood sugar, triglycerides, and insulin levels. Adding magnesium into the diet can reduce CRP, and thus inflammation. Magnesium can be found in:

  • Fatty fish
  • Dark chocolate
  • Barley
  • Bran
  • Corn 
  • Rye 
  • Oats 
  • Soy
  • Brown rice

Use healthy oils: All oils are made up of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fatty acids. The ratio of how much of each of the three determine whether the oil is healthy or not. Healthy oils are considered the ones with a lower amount of saturated fats. Therefore oils with unsaturated fats, both mono and poly are the best for your overall health. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol, thus helping prevent heart disease. For the sarcoidosis, we would most recommend using: 

  • Olive oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Canola oil

Lean meats: Fish is the best choice when it comes to fighting inflammation, due to its high amount of omega-3s. Some of the best fatty fish are salmon, tuna, halibut, or sardines, and try putting one of them on your plate twice a week. Additional lean meats you can add to your diet in moderation are chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef, lamb, or bison. It is also helpful to remember to keep your portion size small when it comes to meat. We recommend the serving size of your palm. 

Healthy fats: Besides fish and cooking oils, you can find healthy fats in a variety of other foods. Many of them have omega-3s and magnesium, which are essential to fighting inflammation. We strongly recommend a diet that incorporates nuts and seeds. Some healthy fats we recommend are: 

  • Avocado
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Soy
  • Flaxseed

Probiotics: Try implementing foods that contain natural microorganisms with live, active cultures of good bacteria. These bacteria will populate our gut and fight the bad bacteria. There have been studies indicating that this type of bacteria can help decrease our overall inflammatory levels. Some common foods containing natural probiotics or have probiotics added to them are: 

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Miso
  • Tempeh 
  • Kimchi
  • Sourdough bread

Prebiotics: Besides implementing foods that have good bacteria, it is important to eat foods that stimulate the growth of good bacteria. This mostly includes fiber-filled vegetables which help these bacteria not only grow but thrive. Some examples of prebiotics include:

  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Apples
  • Cocoa

Good Carbs: Consider adding to your diet foods that contain powerful carbohydrates instead of empty carbohydrates which have been refined. These powerful carbs include large amounts of fiber, protein, and antioxidants. You can find good carbs in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Here are a few of our favorites: 

  • Strawberries
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Oats 
  • Quinoa 
  • Brown rice
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Peas
Having a cup of green tea is a great way to start the morning.

Best Diet Plan for Sarcoidosis

Keeping with these diet guidelines, we have calculated what we believe is the best diet plan for sarcoidosis. A typical day on this plan would go as follows:

Early Morning: Green tea

Breakfast: 1 slice whole-grain toast with peanut butter and fresh banana and blueberry Greek yogurt parfait

Mid-Morning: An apple

Lunch: 1 cup of brown rice and bean salad, and green garden salad with fresh vegetables

Evening: Hummus, flaxseed crackers, raw vegetables

Dinner: 3 oz salmon with asparagus

A few other tips to go along with your diet plan would be to make sure you are drinking enough water and exercise. It is important to drink 6 to 8 glasses of filtered water daily because hydration flushes out toxins, thus decreasing inflammation. We also recommend exercising at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Exercise is important because it can stimulate the immune system, which produces an anti-inflammation response from cells. Before proceeding, however, get the go-ahead from your doctor first before implementing a new exercise routine.

Herb and Supplement Plan

Although there is not a lot of scientific evidence associated with herbs and supplements treating sarcoidosis, it may still be a good idea to incorporate them into your daily intake. Be sure to consult with your doctor whether or not the herbs and supplements will affect the usage of your medications. 

Herbs

Herbs may help strengthen and tone the systems of the body. Though there are no herbs that are said to treat sarcoidosis specifically, these herbs are said to help with inflammation. 

  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa): Recommended dosage is 300 mg, 3 times a day. This could help reduce inflammation. Be sure to consult with your doctor because turmeric can increase the chances of bruising or bleeding when combined with anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs. This includes medications like aspirin, naproxen, clopidogrel, and more. 
  • Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa): Recommended dosage 20 mg, 3 times a day. This could help reduce inflammation. This herb should not be taken by people with leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and a few more autoimmune diseases. Cat’s claw also may have side effects when interacting with some medications, so be sure to get your doctor’s approval before taking it. 

Supplements

Using supplements is another good way to have an impact on inflammation. Make sure the use of these supplements is in line with your doctor’s medical advice. Here are some of the most highly recommended anti-inflammatory supplements: 

  • Multivitamin: consisting of vitamins A, C, E, and B-complex, as well as minerals like magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium. 
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: If you do not like fish, taking a fish oil supplement might be a better way to get your omega-3s. We recommend taking either 1 to 2 capsules or 1 to 3 Tablespoons of oil, 1 to 3 times daily. Check with your doctor first because fish oil could increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood-thinners. 
  • Probiotic supplement: Choose one containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, the most commonly used probiotic. We recommend 5 to 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) per day. These are “good” bacteria that help regulate the bowels, creating an unfriendly environment for “bad” bacteria. They help keep a healthy balance of bacteria and preventing disease. Talk to your health care provider if you are taking immunosuppressive drugs, or have a suppressed immune system. Be sure to refrigerate your probiotics for the best results. 
  • Bromelain: This is a mixture of enzymes that originate from pineapple, and is often combined with turmeric. We recommend taking 500 mg a day. Talk to your doctor before you take it as it could increase the risk of bleeding, especially when combined with some medications. 

Foods to Avoid with Sarcoidosis

Since there are foods that help sarcoidosis, there are also foods that make it worse. Here are some of the dietary restrictions we would recommend to keep the condition at a minimum. 

Avoid Sugar Spikes: Certain foods cause blood sugars to rise quickly, which is known as a sugar spike. The sugar spike can increase inflammation. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid foods that cause sugar spikes. Some of them include: 

  • Sugary drinks like soda, juices, and sports drinks
  • Processed foods and baked goods like cookies and cakes
  • Refined grains like white rice, bread, pasta
  • Breakfast cereals with added sugar
  • Honey and maple syrup
  • Coffee drinks with added flavor and sugar
  • French fries
  • Onion Rings
  • Donuts
  • Dried fruit (often contains added sugar)

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco. Caffeine and alcohol can both cause dehydration, which is the opposite of what we want when decreasing inflammation. We recommend drinking only one cup of coffee a day, if at all. Large amounts of alcohol can cause inflammation in the intestines, therefore it should only be consumed in small amounts, like one glass of red wine a day. As for tobacco, it has recently been discovered that nicotine can activate neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, which can release molecules that can increase inflammation. 

Avoid red meat: Red meat, as well as processed meat, is rich in saturated fats, which leads to inflammation. Red meat would include meat from cows, pigs, sheep, and goats. Processed meats include bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni, sausage, salami, meat jerkies, and some deli meats. 

Support for Those with Sarcoidosis

Living with sarcoidosis is not easy. You may feel anxious and uncertain about your future health. Your symptoms may even interfere with your daily activities. We want you to know that you do not have to go through it alone. Besides implementing some of these diet and lifestyle changes we have touched on, you can also join support groups to help manage your sarcoidosis. You will find yourself among people who share the same experiences and emotions, and can also provide you with new knowledge of your condition. We here at CareAsOne hope this article has given you some tools to get started on your treatment journey. We wish you ease and success in your recovery.