Staying Safe During Flu Season

sick couple bed

A case of the flu is an unpleasant experience for anyone, but because the elderly are especially at-risk for developing serious complications from contracting the flu, they should take extra precautions to stay safe during flu season. People between the ages of 70-80 have less immunity than seniors between the ages of 60-70, and are at even greater risk as a result. Here’s what seniors can do to reduce their risk of contracting flu.

    • Get vaccinated Vaccines can help prevent 80-90% of those that get them from contracting the flu, and when more people in the population are vaccinated, the spread of flu is reduced significantly, protecting even those people who did not get the vaccine. Because seniors have higher risk of contracting flu, they should get the vaccine, particularly if they are in a nursing home or retirement community.
    • Practice good hygiene Flu spores can remain viable on doorknobs, railings, and other surfaces for hours – so it’s important to frequently wash your hands and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after touching them. Caregivers for elderly persons should be especially careful to practice good hand hygiene to prevent transmitting infection.
    • Avoid sick persons Most flu transmissions occur when a sick person comes in contact with an uninfected person, and coughs or sneezes in their direction. If you know someone is sick, avoid contact with them until you know they have fully recovered. And if you are sick, stay home from work and avoid social events in order to prevent spreading the flu.
    • Maintain your immune system. Your immune system is going to be working overtime to help you recover if you do contract the flu – so it’s important to make sure you are giving it all of the tools it needs to stay strong and ready for the worst. Exercise and diet are two of the best ways to maintain your immune function. Be sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which are packed with immune boosting compounds.

Fresh Green, Red, Yellow Fruits to Build Your Immune System

colorful fresh group fruits

Fruits are delicious, nutritious, and colorful – but did you know that many of the molecular compounds that give fruits their vibrant color are also great for building your immune system? A number of different compounds give fruit their different colors, including acids, oils, and phytonutrients. These same compounds are used by the body to fight off infections and reduce inflammation. Eating a healthy amount of colorful fruit is one of the best things you can do to build your immune function. Different colors indicate different healthy compounds:

Orange and Yellow fruit typically contain the most vitamin C, among other nutrients. Citrus fruits get their bright colors from the more than 8,000 different flavonoids they contain. And flavonoids have been shown to have antioxidant properties, reduce inflammation, and improve cardiovascular function. They also not only have direct antibacterial properties, but also have been shown to actually work synergistically with antibiotics, boosting their effectiveness.

Red fruit have many antioxidant and immune-building properties as well. Cranberry juice has long been known to contain compounds that can prevent and treat urinary tract infections, and also can help reduce the need for antibiotics in elderly patients. Tomatoes get their red color from lycopene, a compound that also has antioxidant properties and helps promote cell health. And goji berries are becoming an increasingly popular “miracle fruit” that has been shown to increase the levels of important immune cells in the bloodstream.

Blue and Purple fruit are a great source of antioxidants as well. Blueberries get their color from a group of compounds called anthocyanins, which like lycopene are potent antioxidants. These compounds can help reduce inflammation and stress on the immune system. Red (or purple) grapes also contain anthocyanins, and regularly consuming grapes can significantly boost antioxidant levels in the body, helping to reduce the risk of certain cancers as well as promoting longer life.

Spicy Hot Food is Great for You! So Spice It Up!

red dry chillies table

Spicy food is popular all over the world, from spicy chillies in Thai food to “atomic” hot sauce in Southern cooking. A number of studies have found that it may not simply be for the thrill a spicy meal gives our taste buds – there are a number of health benefits to spicy food, which may be why we crave spicy food. These health benefits can help improve heart health, prevent cancer and even help us live longer. As we age, these concerns become more important – so if you don’t already incorporate spicy foods into your diet, you may want to start. Here are some of the top benefits to eating spicy foods:

  • Promotes weight loss Studies show that capsaicin, the compound that gives spicy chillies their kick, can raise the body’s internal temperature and improve metabolic processes, helping burn calories for up to twenty minutes after a spicy meal.
  • Improves cardiovascular health Those cultures where spicy food is the most popular tend to have much lower rates of heart attack and stroke than the rest of the world. Part of the reason may be that capsaicin helps reduce inflammation, which is a major risk factor in heart disease.
  • Lowers blood pressure Capsaicin has been shown to activate a receptor in blood vessels that helps relax them and lower blood pressure. Spicy foods also reduce the effects of bad cholesterol, another cause of high blood pressure and cardiovascular health problems.
  • Prevents cancer The American Association for Cancer Research has found that capsaicin can kill certain kinds of cancer cells. And one of the key ingredients to many curry dishes and mustards – turmeric – may be able to slow the growth of tumors.

If you aren’t someone who tolerates spicy food easily, you can still get the health benefits of capsaicin and other spices. Green and red bell peppers have capsinoid, a molecule that is similar to capsaicin and may mimic some of its benefits. And mild curry dishes contain all of the benefits of turmeric and other spices – without the burn.

Spending Time with the Grandchildren Benefits Grandma and Grandpa

Multi Generation African American Family Sitting Garden

Spending time with grandchildren can be one of the most rewarding experiences of growing older. Grandkids are awfully cute, and spoiling them is practically a grandparent’s duty. And watching grandchildren grow, take their first steps, and learn is very gratifying. But it turns out that spending time with grandchildren isn’t just fun – it also has very important health benefits for grandma and grandpa.

A recent study published in the journal Menopause found that spending time with grandchildren just one day a week could actually lower grandmothers’ risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders. In this study, the researchers tested the cognitive abilities of 186 women between the ages of 57-68, 102 of whom were grandmothers. They found that women who spend at least one day per week babysitting their grandchildren scored the highest on the tests. But they also found that those women who spent five days a week or more taking care of their grandchildren scored the lowest. They suggested that this was because these grandmothers felt their own children were demanding too much of them. The resulting emotional distress could have impacted their cognitive function.

So what does that mean for grandparents? The social interaction and enjoyment gained from spending time with grandchildren matters in terms of emotional well-being and mental ability – but there’s a limit to its effectiveness. If grandparents are being relied on as caregivers too much, ultimately it could have a negative impact on their quality of life and overall mental health. Grandparents should spend time with their grandchildren and get all of the benefits of doing so. But they should also make sure they are taking care of their own needs and looking out for their own emotional well-being.

Eating the Right Calories and Food Older Persons Need

Elderly Woman Eating Salad

For older adults, eating right provides numerous benefits, including improved mental capacity, better immune function, more energy, and faster recovery times from illnesses. Good nutrition keeps the body healthy and strong, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, bone loss, and diabetes. Good nutrition also helps keep the mind sharp and can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. And a wholesome diet provides more energy and improves mood and self-esteem. Here’s a short guide to nutrition for older people:


Women over the age of fifty who are not very active need about 1600 calories a day. That number goes up to about 1800 calories for somewhat active women and 2000 calories for very active women. Men who are over 50 need about 2000 calories a day. Men over 50 who are somewhat active need between 2200-2400 calories a day, while very active men need about 2800 calories a day. These numbers depend on height and weight as well, so they should consult with a physician for precise figures.

Foods older persons need

  • Fruit whole fruits are preferred to juices, as fiber and vitamins are more available in them. A variety of fruits is important to getting a full complement of vitamins.
  • Vegetables at least 2 cups of vegetables daily. Leafy greens like kale and spinach are rich in antioxidants and calcium. Again, variety is important.
  • Grains whole grains are much better than processed white flour because they have more nutrients and more fiber. Try to select bread, cereal, and pasta that have the words “whole grain” in the ingredient list.
  • Protein older adults who don’t have kidney disease or diabetes need a daily serving of about 25 grams of protein per 50 pounds of body weight. Rather than relying only on red meat for protein, try to vary your sources. Fish, legumes and beans, and nuts are all excellent sources of protein.

Healthy Nutrition Rich Meals & Daily Exercise

mature woman swimming

As people grow older, the importance of nutrition and exercise only gets more important in maintaining their health and fitness. Eating a well-balanced diet and getting daily activity is a great start. But there are specific things home health caregivers can make sure elderly persons are incorporating into their diet and routine to help them stay vital.

Incorporate meals rich in these nutrients:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease, arthritis and some cancers. These are found in different fish oils and flaxseed oils. Older persons should eat foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids at least twice a week.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D become increasingly important as people grow older. These nutrients help preserve bone density. Additionally, calcium helps keep blood pressure at manageable levels. In addition to dairy products, many leafy greens are excellent sources of calcium and essential vitamins.
  • Limiting sodium content helps to prevent high blood pressure, so caregivers should prepare meals that are low in sodium. This doesn’t just mean cutting back on table salt: frozen and processed foods are often high in sodium unless the label specifically says otherwise. Fresh fruits and vegetables have the lowest sodium content.

Incorporate the following exercises into a regular program

  • Cardio and endurance exercises should be performed for 30 minutes every day to get the heart rate up and increase breathing. Walking, riding a bicycle and swimming are all excellent low-impact cardio exercises. If the older person gets tired quickly, this routine can be broken up into ten minute segments.
  • Strength and resistance training helps older persons maintain their bone mass, improves balance, and strengthens muscles – all of which are important in preventing falls and broken bones. Weights, resistance bands, or even walls and furniture can all be used for resistance. 2-3 workouts a week should be performed and all muscle groups should be exercised.
  • Stretching is very important to a good exercise program. Stretching before and after exercise helps the muscles warm up and cool down. It also helps improve overall flexibility, reduces muscle soreness and stiffness, and can prevent injuries.

10 Easy Nutritional Tips to Eat Clean

Fresh Vegetables Greens

  1. Eat like a baby! Smaller more frequent meals throughout the day this will keep your blood sugar levels stable and will increase your metabolism
  2. Always eat breakfast! Your morning meal establishes a healthy metabolism for the rest of the day. Plus, you wont consume large quantities of food at lunch or dinner
  3. Drink lots of water! H2O! The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) a day. For women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) a day
  4. Change how you snack. Rule of thumb: in the “health-food” world buy foods with five ingredients or less. If you can pronounce it you can eat it
  5. Not all sugar is created equal! Swap your white sugar for real maple syrup, raw honey, brown rice syrup, and even coconut nectar. These sugars have more advantages over standard white table sugar, including a slower spike in blood sugar, they are rich in vitamins and nutrients including manganese, magnesium, Vitamin A, calcium and potassium, just to name a few
  6. Stick to clean proteins ONLY! What is a clean protein? Well, it’s usually free of antibiotics and animal by-products (factory-farmed animals are sometimes fed ground up blood and remains of other dead animals), they could be fed an all-organic diet or raised on a pasture instead of corn and grain, resulting in leaner, more nutritious meat. Look for the No Hormones/ No antibiotics / free range on the labels
  7. Like mom always said “ eat your veggies”. When looking at your dinner plate it should be more than half full of veggies! The recommended daily amount for most adults is 2½ to 3 cups. Vegetables are full of vitamins and heart healthy fiber!
  8. Reduce your alcohol intake. I know I know, you’ve had a long day and want that glass of wine. But save it for Friday! You can still have alcohol, but stay within the recommended limit—one drink per day for women and two for men
  9. Holy whole grains! Look for the word “whole” with the first ingredient in breads and pastas. Why holy you might ask? A study found that people who eat three or more servings of whole grains have a lower body mass and less belly fat!!!
  10. And last but not least, listen to your stomach people! Don’t wait until you’re in a food coma to stop eating. Once you feel content, you should be done with your meal.

Protect Your Skin From The Sun

Baby Red Sunglasses

When the sun hits our skin, changes occur within the cells. These changes contribute to a sped up maturation process of the skin, increasing susceptibility to the most common type of cancer; skin cancer. Be aware that the rays of the sun are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you are out in the sun always use sunscreen and wear protective clothing.

Check your skin once a month for growth, sores, moles, or birthmarks that correspond to the following characteristics (remember this mnemonic):

  • Asymmetry Cancer spots will not look equal on both sides if an imaginary line in drawn down the center of it
  • Borders A mole or spot with blurry and/or jagged edges
  • Color A mole that has changed colors or consists of more than one hue
  • Diameter A spot larger than a pencil eraser should be evaluated
  • Elevation Cancer spots are often raised and have uneven surfaces

If you identify with any of the above, please have your skin evaluated by a doctor.

Physical Therapy Recommendations For Preventing Falls and Risks with Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an exercise of the mind and the body. It involved proper breathing, coordination and balance. The goal is to successfully combine these components through slow intentional movements, breathing, and neurological channels including mindfulness and imagery. Originating in China, the number of older adults participating in Tai Chi continues to increase all over the world.
About 1 in 3 older adults will fall one or more times per year. Tai Chi has proven to be a successful intervention, in preventing, and reducing the risk for falls. According to the Logghe’s Group (Netherlands), fall risks are decreased through Tai Chi by an extraordinary 49%. Tai Chi can be particularly helpful for people with Parkinson’s disease, stroke survivors, and frail elders. Tai Chi is a weight-bearing exercise that increases leg strength. Leg strength increases balance; therefore, the risk of falling decreases. Proprioception is a “sense of how our bodies are positioned”, a perception that can generously develop through practicing Tai Chi. Partakers state that the practice has helped them become more “conscious of their bodies”. Tai Chi also boosts neuromuscular coordination- the connection between nerves and muscles, increasing reflex and reaction time.

One of the greatest predictors of falls, is the FEAR of falling. It’s hard not to be afraid of falling especially when there has been a history of falls. Tai Chi reduces the anxiety associated with this fear, and helps people feel more comfortable and confident with their own bodies. It’s important for patients to visualize their health in a systematic oriented way—the way Tai Chi is designed. Find a Tai Chi school in your community and help fuel your journey to better health. ​The video provided below is a montage of individual stories of how Tai Chi has benefited their lives.

Tai Chi Senior Center