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The Startling Link Between Dementia and Nutrition

Dementia and Nutrition

It’s important to understand the link between dementia and nutrition.

We are what we eat, as the saying goes, and that’s shown to be the case with certain types of foods and an increased risk for dementia – and with others that may actually improve cognitive functioning. While many of us are resolving to live a healthier lifestyle in 2021, we can also help the seniors in our care maximize wellness by understanding the link between dementia and nutrition, and adjusting dietary habits accordingly.

Why It Matters

A diet high in processed foods, carbs, and sugar produces toxins in our bodies that cause inflammation and plaque buildup in the brain. A senior who consumes too many of these types of foods while limiting fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins may be experiencing impaired cognitive functioning as a result, as the brain isn’t receiving the right type of fuel it needs.

Foods to Avoid

Many popular go-to food choices, unfortunately, are on the list of those linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, including:

  • White sugar, rice, bread, cakes, and pasta, which increase insulin levels and send toxins to the brain
  • Processed meats and cheeses: bacon, smoked meats, mozzarella sticks, American cheese, etc. which build up the proteins linked to Alzheimer’s
  • Beer, which contains the nitrites that are also linked to Alzheimer’s
  • Microwavable popcorn, which contains a chemical, diacetyl, that is linked to an increased level of amyloid plaques in the brain

Foods to Enjoy

It’s not easy to create and stick to new dietary habits, but replacing the foods above with the recommendations below will lead to better health outcomes for the seniors you love – and for yourself. All of the following are linked to improved memory and overall cognitive functioning:

  • Cold-water fish, such as salmon
  • Green, leafy vegetables
  • Dark-skinned fruits and berries
  • Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate

If the thought of overhauling a senior loved one’s diet is overwhelming, let us help! As one of the top-rated caregiver agencies in Phoenix, AZ and the surrounding areas, the aging care experts at Nightingale Homecare are trained, experienced, and skilled in planning and preparing meals that are both nutritious and delicious, in accordance with any dietary restrictions or recommendations.

Not only that, but our caregivers are adept in creative Alzheimer’s care techniques, understanding and effectively managing some of the more challenging aspects of the disease, while helping seniors engage in meaningful, enjoyable pastimes and activities to make each day the very best it can be.

Contact us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more about our customized home care services for seniors, and to request a free in-home consultation to let us get to know you and the challenges you’re facing. We’ll be happy to create an ideal solution for your particular circumstances – from just a little support for a few hours each week, up through and including full-time, live-in care.

Reduce Anxiety and Build Cognitive Functioning with These Fun Activities for Seniors

Activities for Seniors

These activities for seniors help improve wellbeing in a variety of ways.

During the pandemic, as we’ve all had to find more at-home activities to enjoy, the benefits of crafts have become more apparent. In fact, activities for seniors such as crafting have been shown to improve social, cognitive, and motor skills, while reducing anxiety and stress. Not only that, but they bring enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment, meaning, and purpose, especially when created to share with someone else.

Our experts in home health in Phoenix and the surrounding areas have compiled some great activities to try:

Cookies in a Jar

Who doesn’t love homemade cookies? Get the whole family together and enjoy putting together these mason jar cookie mixes to share with friends and neighbors. Gather together a 1-quart canning jar for each mix, and then layer in the following ingredients, in the order they’re listed:

  • ¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 cups flour mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. baking soda, and ½ tsp. salt

Then create a label for each jar with the following instructions for the recipient to use in baking the cookies:

  • Empty cookie mix into large mixing bowl, blending together with your hands.
  • Soften 1 ½ sticks of butter and add to the bowl, along with 1 egg and 1 tsp. vanilla.
  • Shape the dough into walnut-sized balls, and placed 2” apart on sprayed baking sheet.
  • Bake for 11 – 13 minutes at 350 degrees and enjoy!

Memory Quilts

For senior sewers, there’s nothing more precious than a memory quilt, created from pieces of clothing that tell a story. For instance, a quilt could be prepared for someone who has always loved sports, made with pieces of jerseys from their favorite teams, or from teams they played on themselves over the years. Wash, iron, cut, and stitch the fabric together according to the more detailed instructions provided here.

Tin Can Lanterns

These are a lovely way to repurpose all of those used cans that were destined for the recycle bin, and make fun and unique gifts for kids and adults alike. Here’s all you need to get started:

  • Empty cans of any size (coffee cans work great)
  • A permanent marker
  • Hammer and nails of varying sizes, OR, a cordless drill
  • Wire for hanging, and wire-cutter pliers
  • Tea light candles (battery-operated candles if desired for safety)

Then follow these instructions:

  • Determine the design you want to place on the can, and draw it in dots with the permanent marker.
  • Hammer nails one by one over the marker dots, or, use the cordless drill
  • Be sure to include two holes on opposite sides at the top of the can, and then hook a piece of wire through each hole to make a hanger.
  • Add a tea light candle to the finished can, turn off the lights, and enjoy!

At Nightingale Homecare, the experts in home health in Phoenix and the surrounding area, we love helping the older adults enjoy life to the fullest, and are always here with more creative ideas and activities for seniors. We’d be happy to spend an afternoon creating crafts such as these with a senior you love! Just give us a call any time at (602) 504-1555 to get started!

Senior Isolation: How to Stay Safe While Staying Connected

Senior Isolation

Help loved ones overcome senior isolation with these tips.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been paramount to seniors’ physical health to stay isolated; yet we know that senior isolation carries with it a number of serious health concerns as well. The challenge has been balancing both the physical and emotional needs of older adults, and for many, the answer has been found in technology, allowing for social interactions during a time of quarantine.

Yet technology brings with it a challenge in and of itself. As many as one in three seniors have never used and do not have access to the internet at home; and for those who do, half need assistance with setting up and utilizing a new app or device.

Our aging care professionals offer the following tech tips to help the seniors you love stay connected in order to prevent senior isolation:

  • Ensure seniors are equipped with the tools they need. Many older desktop computers lack cameras, speakers, and necessary software to access programs like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime. Decide if your loved one would be most comfortable with a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, and find a version without all the bells and whistles, making it more user-friendly.
  • Download apps according to interests. The sheer number of options available in the great worldwide web can be overwhelming. It’s helpful to select a handful of apps or sites that the senior will especially enjoy to play games, stream movies and music, learn a new skill or hobby, and to contact family and friends.
  • Instruct the senior and maintain a patient attitude. Remember how it felt when you first learned to drive, or speak another language, or solve an algebraic equation? Keep those feelings in mind as you teach an older loved one how to get around on a new digital device. It will be especially challenging trying to remotely provide instruction over the phone, so stay calm and patient and allow as much time as needed for the senior to grow comfortable with his or her new technology.
  • Explain the risk of scams. Senior scams are rampant, and scammers are extremely savvy in what they do, making it difficult for many to detect until it’s too late. Talk with your loved one about setting boundaries, such as never giving out credit card or other personal information over the internet (unless it’s through a known and trusted site).
  • Partner with Nightingale Homecare! Our team of senior care experts are always available to help the older adults we serve learn new technology, connect virtually with loved ones, and recommend appropriate and engaging activities seniors can do online.

Nightingale Homecare, the leaders in home care assistance in Peoria and the surrounding areas in Arizona, helps prevent senior isolation for older adults in our community each and every day. We offer friendly companionship to engage in a variety of activities at home, such as conversations, games and cards, exercise programs, arts and crafts, and so much more, according to each person’s interests and always in adherence to safety guidelines. We also provide a full range of home health care services to meet the medical and non-medical needs of seniors, right at home.

Contact us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!

Coping with Chronic Stress from COVID-19

Chronic Stress

Find help for dealing with chronic stress in seniors related to COVID-19.

The arrival of COVID-19 has forced our country to face a major crisis.

Although Americans of all ages are experiencing the stress associated with the outbreak, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) estimates that nearly 28 percent, or 14 million older Americans, live alone and are especially vulnerable to stress. NIA studies have shown that isolation and loneliness can increase existing physical and mental conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline. During the pandemic, the effects of those conditions increase for seniors due to even higher levels of isolation and loneliness, as well as the fear of severe illness if they do contract the virus.

Unlike a stressful event that has an identifiable beginning and end, the COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing and often changing event that has the potential to cause chronic stress in an individual. Chronic stress related to the pandemic can disturb all the major systems in the body. The body reacts to chronic stress differently, with the individual maintaining a constant state of alertness, despite there being no imminent danger.

Caregivers and family members can help support elder loved ones by understanding chronic stress and its effects on seniors, and then help loved ones engage in self-care activities that promote a sense of safety and security.

Things to Watch For

Monitoring for signs of chronic stress is critical in ensuring that you or your loved one gets help when needed. According to the CDC, stress during an outbreak such as COVID-19 can result in:

  • Fear and worry about a person’s own health and/or the health of loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Chronic fatigue and exhaustion
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcoholtobacco, or other drugs

What You Can Do

Reassure yourself and/or your loved one that although we cannot control the virus, we can take steps necessary to control our emotional and physical reaction to it. Below are some tips for you and/or your loved one if experiencing the stress of social isolation and fear related to the pandemic.

Take Up A New Hobby or Re-Activate an Old One: This helps to create a sense of purpose. It can be something like growing a garden, cooking, sewing, reading, scrapbooking, completing puzzles, or other activities.

Stay Active: The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity per week for seniors. Getting outdoors and walking or participating in an age-appropriate workout are examples of moderate activities. Due to the sometimes extreme temperatures experienced in Arizona, be sure and plan outdoor activities for the coolest parts of the day. Wear a cloth face mask and practice social distancing while outdoors, and be sure and check with a health care provider before starting any exercise program. Physical activity will help physical and mental well-being.

Take Breaks from the Media: Reading, watching and listening to news about the pandemic can increase anxiety. It is important to stay informed, but limit the amount of time spent watching the news and stick to credible news sources.

Eat Well: Plan meals to ensure the proper number of calories and nutrients. The USDA website is a great source of information for planning healthy meals. Click on this link to explore recommendations.

Stay Connected to Your Community: Religious organizations, libraries, senior groups and families are finding creative ways that people can stay connected. Look into Skype, Zoom, and virtual services online and make some calls to find out about what is going on.

Get Rest: There are loads of recommendations for getting the sleep you need, but you need to put those tips into practice…and that takes practice! Check out the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s recommendations by clicking on this link.

Maintain a Routine: Routines help improve sleeping, eating and emotional and physical health.

Manage Medications and Self-Monitor: It is important that medications and chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are well managed during isolation, especially during the pandemic. Health care providers should be consulted for any challenges with managing medications or illnesses. Many doctors can now conduct telehealth visits, allowing seniors to get care without ever leaving home.

Meditate: Deep breathing, stretching and meditating can help calm the spirit. Mindful Magazine offers an excellent online guide to meditation. Click on this link to explore. Another exceptional provider of meditation and mindfulness is HeadSpace. Check them out by clicking this link.

Managing Your Mental Health

If you and/or your loved one already have mental health or substance abuse issues, you may find it more difficult to cope with those struggles during the pandemic. Don’t be surprised if you experience some depression during this time. It’s important to recognize that this isn’t a sign of weakness, and there is success in treatment. Look for these signs that you may be experiencing depression:

  • Sadness or feelings of despair
  • Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains
  • Loss of interest in socializing or hobbies
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Lack of motivation and energy
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Fixation on death; thoughts of suicide
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed movement or speech
  • Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
  • Loss of self-worth
  • Worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing
  • Neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting meds, neglecting personal hygiene)
  • Worsening pain, such as arthritis, headaches

Many support groups are holding online meetings to help provide support. Check out these online support groups:

If you feel you or someone in your household may harm themselves or someone else:

    • Toll-free number 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
    • The OnlineChatSuicidePreventionHotline is free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
    • Call 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224 

If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety:

    • Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746

If you need to find treatment or mental health providers in your area:

If you notice your own or your loved one’s stress reactions are interfering with life for longer than a week, call your health care provider. If you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, or feel like you could harm yourself or others, call 911.

Remember, Nightingale caregivers are always available to support our vulnerable elders with any home care need. We’re proud to be rated as the top provider of senior care in Glendale, AZ and the surrounding areas. Call us to arrange for your customized home care at 602-504-1555.

Activities for Seniors to Pass the Time at Home

Activities for Seniors

Try these activities for seniors this summer.

Oh, the long, hot days of summer! In Arizona, it starts early and goes late. Often, our elders remain indoors during most of the summer months, and more recently, with COVID-19 lurking, seniors with underlying conditions are stuck inside even more so than usual.

It may be a nice time to discover a new activity, or reacquaint with an old hobby! Here are some ideas to either do on your own, with a friend or neighbor, or to encourage an elder loved one to consider to allay boredom and the same old thing every day.

When you add an activity to your day or to the day of a senior you love, you might consider this approach:

  • Focus on enjoyment, not achievement.
  • Determine what time of day is best for the activity.
  • Be flexible and patient with yourself if it’s something new.
  • Minimize distractions.

If you choose an outside activity, make sure it’s early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid extreme temperatures. Outdoor activities can be relaxing and fulfilling. It’s always great to get a change of scenery and enjoy fresh air.

The following are ideas for outside activities:

  • Plant some flowers or herbs in small pots.
  • Pull old plants and weeds from the garden.
  • Take a walk and identify the flowers and plants with a book on plants along the way.
  • Check on your garden daily for new sprouts or ripe vegetables. This can also lead to other activities such as picking and preparing what has grown in the garden.
  • Put a birdbath and feeders out in the yard, so you can watch the birds out the window.
  • Have your meal or snack outside.
  • Read a book or poetry in the shade outside.
  • Play a game of horseshoes.
  • Sit on the porch noticing all the activity, colors, and scents. Wave to the neighbors!

Indoor activities:

  • Sew something for a friend.
  • Take up embroidery or knitting.
  • Call an old friend who would be surprised to hear from you, and catch up.
  • Learn how to Zoom or FaceTime, and suggest a family “gathering.”
  • Read a new book indoors in a quiet spot, with a nice cup of tea.
  • Find a poem or prayer you’d like to memorize and spend several minutes a day reciting it.
  • Pull out old music and listen and reminisce.
  • Find a new radio program or podcast you’d like to listen to.
  • Pull out your old photo albums and just reminisce, or reorganize them.
  • Gather together some paints or colored pencils and create some artwork.
  • Write a letter to an old friend or family member.
  • Make a memory book or a personal scrapbook.
  • Organize drawers or cupboards.
  • Find a new recipe and make something special.
  • Make cookies.
  • Get a handbook for dice games and play.
  • Pull out a once-loved board or card game and play…or learn a new one!
  • Watch an old musical.
  • Make apple pie or cobbler from scratch. See who can peel the longest unbroken peel!
  • Soak and massage your feet, or a friend’s. Paint your toenails if desired!
  • Plan a happy hour for yourself with music and salsa and chips and margarita mix.
  • Put up maps of the state, country and world and mark all the places you’ve been and where you’d like to go.
  • Write down your family timeline and history….births, deaths, moves, marriages,
  • Write down your favorite childhood memories, your memories as an adult and things you have learned about life.
  • Polish and shine your shoes.
  • Make birthday card collages for friends from old magazines and photos.
  • Put on some favorite, irresistible music and MOVE! (You don’t have to call it dancing!)
  • Sing favorite hymns and carols.
  • Blow up an inflatable punch ball and use it as indoor balloon volleyball.
  • Learn simple exercises you can do in a chair.
  • Experiment with aromatherapy and essential oils. Try new ones and notice what they do to your mood. Remember, don’t apply them directly to your skin. Always use in lotions or diluted in infusers, and don’t use for extended periods. Here are some ideas on essential oils to influence mood.Invigorating: Peppermint, rosemary, lemon

    Relaxing: Chamomile, marjoram, ylang-ylang

    Sedating: Lavender, juniper, sandalwood

    Mentally clarifying: Clary sage, fennel, basil

    Depression-lifting: Grapefruit, rose

    Immunity-strengthening: Bergamot, tea tree, cajuput

    Anxiety-lifting: Orange, jasmine, frankincense

For more recommendations of fun activities for seniors, call on the aging care pros at Nightingale Homecare! We’d love to provide the friendly companionship for older adults, along with plenty of creative and engaging ideas that make each day the best it can be. Call us any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more about how our experts in home care in Glendale, AZ and the surrounding area can help a senior you love.