Diet can impact how much age-related muscle loss we will experience as we grow older. Poor choices can cause a host of problems, including a loss of strength that leads to balance problems and falls. But a healthy diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and protein can lessen or delay a decline in muscle strength. That can help older adults avoid a disabling fall.
Research shows some people begin losing muscle mass as young as age 30. Each decade, we lose an estimated 8% of our muscle mass. It’s a condition known as sarcopenia. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, many people also begin to see their weight creeping up in their thirties and forties.
But there are steps you can take to minimize sarcopenia. In addition to adopting an exercise routine that includes weight training, eating the right foods can help. While it’s important to plan healthy menus for every meal, breakfast is the one many people skip. That can leave you feeling tired and less motivated to exercise and eat well-balanced meals the remainder of the day.
Protein Intake and Older Adults
The experts from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Nutrition suggest adults of any age should consume about 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed a Dietary Reference Intake calculator. You can use it to calculate how much protein you need in a day, as well as a variety of other vitamins and nutrients.
To help you determine the appropriate amount of each type of protein you should eat, here are a few general guidelines:
- 3 ounces of meat typically contain an average of 21 grams of protein
- 1 cup of milk will deliver 8 grams of protein
- 1 cup of dry beans equates to 16 grams of protein
Breakfast Foods with Protein
Some breakfast foods that can help seniors meet their recommended daily protein goals include:
- Low-fat yogurt
- Reduced-fat cheese
- Reduced-fat cottage cheese
- Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts
- Peanut butter
- Tofu and soy products
A great way to make the most of your breakfast is to combine several forms of protein with fruits, vegetables, fiber, and other essential elements. Here are a few options:
- Breakfast bowl: Create a breakfast bowl that contains Greek yogurt, fruit, and a fiber-rich cereal, like shredded wheat or raisin bran.
- Oatmeal: Top steel-cut oatmeal with an egg or nuts and yogurt.
- Protein smoothie: Whip up a quick smoothie with low-fat yogurt, peanut butter, fruit, and spinach.
- Avocado toast: Another suggestion is toasted sourdough or whole grain bread topped with smashed avocado and an egg or dollop of Greek yogurt.
Healthy Meals at Heritage Senior Communities
One reason many older adults choose to move to a senior living community is to have easy access to nutritious meals. At Heritage Senior Communities, residents have their choice of menu options at every meal. Each one is prepared on-site at our communities.
Learn more about our commitment to healthy meals by calling the Heritage community nearest you today. We’ll be happy to schedule a time for your personal visit and even invite you to join us for a meal!
I’m hoping you have some ideas that might help me care for my 83-year-old mother long distance, at least for a while. She lives alone in northern Michigan in the house my siblings and I grew up in. Until my dad passed away 6 months ago, it seemed like a safe and happy place for her to live. After his passing, I’ve become more concerned.
My mom has macular degeneration that is somewhat controlled with treatment. While she isn’t able to drive, she manages fairly well at home. The retina specialist she sees tells us that could change fairly quickly, however.
I don’t want to try to force her into moving to a senior living community so soon after losing my dad. However, I feel like we need a plan for managing her care now and once her vision worsens. My dad always handled tasks like filling her medication tray and driving her to the doctor for her treatments.
I live on the West Coast with my family but visit my mom every few months. It’s the time in between that concerns me. Do you have any tips for supporting a parent long distance? When will I know it’s time to be more forceful in encouraging her to move?
Caring Across the Miles: Tips For Long-Distance Caregivers
First, please accept my condolences on the loss of your father. I’m sure that is difficult on many levels, not the least of which is concern for your mother.
We often hear from adult children whose parents have been able to compensate for one another’s challenges and can live safely at home. Once one parent is on their own, however, the need for change becomes more pressing. A few factors I would encourage you to consider and plan for are:
- Finding transportation: For many older adults, especially those in rural communities like northern Michigan, finding reliable transportation to and from appointments and errands is a challenge. If your mom doesn’t have a friend or family member who can help, contact your local agency on aging. Many maintain lists of either volunteers or professional services who assist seniors with transportation.
- Investigating prescription packaging: Since you mentioned your dad always filled your mom’s pill box, I’m sure this is a worry for you now. You could try calling the pharmacies she uses to see if they offer packaging services. They are sometimes referred to as punch cards. Pharmacies pre-fill these in the order/time of day a dose should be taken. That helps prevent older adults from making dangerous mistakes with medication. If that isn’t an option, try a tech service like the MedMinder pill organizer.
- Creating a local support system: Another suggestion is to try to assemble a local support team for your mom. This could include friends or family who are willing to check on her and could get to her quickly in the event of an emergency. If you don’t feel comfortable relying on them, consider hiring a geriatric care manager. These care management professionals can usually help with everything from overseeing people you hire to clean your mom’s house or mow the lawn to beginning the process of downsizing a senior’s home.
- Utilizing video chat: Don’t underestimate how valuable video chatting with your mom every few days can be. It will allow you to see her face-to-face to assess how she is doing and even how her house looks. If she doesn’t already use a device like an iPad, it’s probably worth investing in one and helping her set up Zoom or Skype.
- Trying home delivery services: Investigate which local stores and services are available to support independence. For example, many pharmacies will deliver to older adults at no additional cost. See if her favorite grocery store delivers or works with a service that does. If funds permit, maybe hire a personal chef who comes right to the home. Some will prepare meals for clients and stock their freezer.
- Exploring vision support resources: Lastly, try to connect with an organization that advocates for and assists people with vision loss or a vision impairment. Most communities have nonprofit agencies that fill this role. They will likely be a good resource for assisting with your mom’s unique needs.
Assisted Living for Adults with Vision Loss
One final suggestion is to consider helping your mom transition to an assisted living community while she still has some of her vision. Though most people with macular degeneration don’t experience complete vision loss, it will be more challenging to move to a new environment with severe vision loss. Getting relocated and settled in before that happens is a definite advantage.
Other benefits of assisted living for adults with vision problems include transportation services, housekeeping and laundry, medication management, and healthy meals. We invite you to call one of our Heritage Senior Communities to learn more about how assisted living can help an older adult with vision loss remain more independent!
I hope this is helpful, Justine, and I wish you and your mom the best of luck!
While my kids were home from college on holiday vacation, we visited my parents for the first time in over a year. I call and video chat with my parents several times a week, and they always tell me they are managing everything just fine. That’s why we were so shocked at what we found when we got to their house.
Both my mom and my dad have lost weight they didn’t need to lose. I checked their refrigerator and cupboards, and it’s obvious they are relying on frozen dinners and canned soups. Both parents are walking with canes they bought at the drugstore. My mom had bumps and bruises on her arms and legs, and my dad admitted that she’s had a few falls lately. That frightens me as I know how dangerous a fall can be for seniors.
The condition of their house was equally surprising. Their bedroom had a large pile of laundry waiting to be done. The floors badly needed to be vacuumed. The bathroom shower obviously hadn’t been cleaned in a while. My parents always kept their house and yard neat and tidy, so this was definitely not typical of them.
After a long discussion, they reluctantly told us keeping up the house has become a real struggle. They are both having a difficult time caring for their personal needs. My mom has been experiencing frequent falls and is afraid to get into the shower. While my dad is doing a little better physically than my mom, he seems to be having a tough time too. We all agreed it’s time for them to make a change. After some preliminary research online, it seems like assisted living might be a good solution.
My parents and I agreed that I would start calling assisted living communities near their house. We want to ask some initial questions to screen out places that don’t seem to be a good fit. I’ll fly back to town in a few weeks to take my parents to visit the assisted living communities that seem like good options. As I’m preparing my list of calls, I’m trying to figure out what to ask. I’m new to this process so I don’t really know how to get started.
Bonnie in Douglas, MI
Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Community
It sounds like you are on the right track! But the search for an assisted living community can be overwhelming, especially if you aren’t familiar with senior housing options. Call communities in the area of town your parents would like to live in to learn more about them.
I do have a few suggestions for questions you’ll want to ask:
- Availability: Since it sounds as if there is some urgency to transition your parents to a safer environment, it’s a good idea to ask about availability. Some of the best assisted living communities are full and have a waitlist. If there is a waitlist, inquire about how long it is expected to be before something opens up and what the process is to get on the list. You may be required to make a deposit and fill out an application.
- Affordability: If your parents are like most people, they’ll have a budget. Try to get an idea of how much they can afford to pay for assisted living each month before you start calling. Keep in mind, there might be options for financing care. For example, if one of them was a veteran, they might qualify for some financial assistance. Or if they purchased long-term care insurance, the policy may include assisted living coverage. Some assisted living expenses might even be tax-deductible.
- Other questions: Finally, on your initial screening call, think about factors that may impact whether your parents would consider a particular community. For example, if your mom and dad have a pet, will they be welcome? Another one might be transportation. Since it sounds like you live far from your parents, finding an assisted living community that has a transportation team or can make arrangements for getting to and from appointments might be important.
Once you’ve narrowed your list, the next step is to schedule in-person visits and assemble questions to ask. “Important Questions to Ask on an Assisted Living Tour” will be a good resource to review when you are ready to move forward in the process.
Good luck with your search! Please keep the Heritage Senior Communities in your area in mind as you make your calls.
When most people hear the words Alzheimer’s disease, a mental picture of an older person comes to mind. While it is true that advanced age usually plays a role in a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s, there are exceptions. A person under the age of 65 who is diagnosed with the disease is typically considered to have early-onset dementia.
While the odds of developing the disease are low (only 5 to 6 percent of the 6 million cases of Alzheimer’s disease in this country are people under the age of 65) it’s still important to understand the risk. This is especially true if a parent or grandparent had early-onset Alzheimer’s.
What Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s?
When the days are busy, it’s easy to misplace things or forget to run an errand from time to time. It’s one reason adults in their 40s or 50s might originally miss the most common early symptom of the disease in themselves or a loved one: forgetfulness.
Added to that is the fact that stress and some medical conditions can mimic Alzheimer’s disease. Age can also play a role in not receiving a timely diagnosis. Even if a middle-aged adult faithfully sees their primary care physician every year, the doctor might not look for signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s assuming their patient is too young.
If you are concerned that your forgetfulness or that of a loved one is more than just the demands of a busy life, here’s one quick way to understand the difference. When you or your family member temporarily forgets someone’s name or an important appointment, is it remembered later? If so, it’s probably nothing to worry about. If not, it should be discussed with the doctor. Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a red flag for dementia or another health condition.
Signs of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
If you are concerned about the changes you see in yourself or a loved one, some of the warning signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease beyond memory loss can include:
- Having difficulty getting organized and ready for work or other daily plans
- Being unable or struggling to complete multi-step tasks, such as writing out checks or preparing a meal
- Declining judgment skills, especially related to financial management
- Experiencing a change in disposition or personality, such as becoming quick to anger or easily tearful
- Becoming lost in familiar places or on the way to and from known destinations
- Using words incorrectly or laboring to find the right word
- Asking the same questions repeatedly but not being aware of it
- Developing vision problems, especially a loss of depth perception
These are all red flags that should be shared with a physician for further follow up and testing. Keep in mind that the symptoms outlined above may be indicators of a treatable condition, such as an infection, thyroid disease, or even a vitamin deficiency.
A primary care physician will likely conduct a physical examination to determine if the problem is Alzheimer’s and to rule out conditions that can mimic most types of dementia. In some cases, these medical issues can be reversed with early intervention. That’s why it’s important to schedule a doctor’s appointment promptly.
A Reputation for Excellence in Dementia Care at Heritage
If the need for specialized dementia care in Michigan does arise, we encourage you to consider Heritage Senior Communities. Our person-centered approach to care helps adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia live their best quality of life. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more!