Exercise has long been promoted as a necessity for living a long and healthy life. While many of us associate that with aerobic-style fitness programs, building and maintaining muscles is vital, too. Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, accelerates in your sixties and seventies. Surprisingly, however, it begins when people are in their thirties.
Adults living a sedentary life can experience a decline in muscle loss by as much as 3 to 5 percent each decade after the age of 30. Even people who are physically active may see a decline in muscle mass and strength without specific interventions. Preventing muscle loss is a critical part of the aging process for a variety of reasons.
Most notably, muscle mass is essential for maintaining core strength and preventing falls. That’s critical because falls are a leading cause of injury and disability in people over the age of 65. Research also shows that greater muscle mass can lower the risk for metabolic syndrome, which is linked to heart disease.
If you are an older adult or the adult child of one, here are some senior-friendly steps you can take to keep your muscles strong.
Tips to Maintain and Build Muscle Mass
- Start walking: While it might not seem like it, walking is good for your muscles. It helps with both muscle strength and muscle endurance. Since it doesn’t require any special equipment beyond a good pair of sneakers, walking is a budget-friendly form of exercise that can be performed anywhere.
- Try yoga or Pilates: Both yoga and Pilates are gentle forms of exercise that build core strength. If the idea of getting down on the floor to practice either of these isn’t appealing, try doing either one from a seated position. YouTube has free videos you can follow, like this 15-minute seated Pilates workout for seniors or this chair yoga demonstration.
- Incorporate resistance training: Regular workouts that focus on muscle strength are essential. Many seniors have had success with resistance band exercises. If you don’t belong to a fitness center that offers a class, this total body resistance band workout from SilverSneakers may be useful.
- Eat a healthy diet: Nutrition also plays an essential role in building and maintaining muscle mass. Try to incorporate lean proteins, such as poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans, into your meal planning. Hydration is also important for healthy muscles. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day is the easiest way to meet your body’s need for hydration. If you aren’t much of a water drinker, foods with a high water content, like leafy greens, berries, celery, melons, and peppers, are helpful, too.
- Avoid sitting too much: Research shows a sedentary lifestyle can be nearly as dangerous for an older adult as smoking. It is linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It can also lead to a loss of muscle mass and strength. By getting up and moving around frequently throughout the day, you can help prevent that.
As is true of starting any new exercise, it’s best to discuss it with your primary care physician before getting started.
Wellness Programs Are a Part of Daily Life at Heritage
Because we know how important exercise is to our residents, we offer a variety of daily fitness programs. From stretching classes to walking clubs, we make it easier to live an active lifestyle. Call a Heritage community near you to learn more today!
My parents have lived in the same home for over five decades. It’s the house my siblings and I grew up in. Unfortunately, it’s no longer a safe place for them to live. There are so many things that I see as being downright dangerous for them. The laundry room is in their old basement, all the bedrooms are upstairs, and the bathroom tub isn’t easily accessible for showers. That’s in addition to both of them needing a helping hand with personal care.
All summer long, we’ve tried talking with our parents about moving to assisted living. However, my dad is convinced it’s a bad time to try to sell their house. And he doesn’t think assisted living communities have openings in the fall and winter.
Do you have any suggestions? The fear that something will happen to one of them in that old house is starting to keep me up at night.
Lisa in Holland, MI
Moving a Senior to Assisted Living
It sounds like you have good reason to worry about your parents! The reasons your dad is giving you for not moving are likely tied to a fear of change, but there may be other reasons. Since they’ve lived in that house for so long, it’s understandable that they would be reluctant to make a change.
First, anytime of year is a good time to move to an assisted living community. While snow and ice can make moving day a little trickier, most moving companies in Michigan and Indiana are accustomed to working around bad weather. I would also suggest talking with a few realtors about timing the sale of a house. Those we work with often say fall and winter can be good seasons for selling. Because fewer houses go on the market during colder months, sellers have a better chance of attracting serious buyers.
Next, it might be helpful to figure out the real reason your parents are putting off a move that could keep them safer and healthier. A few that we often hear from families are:
- The fear they will lose their privacy and independence. Some older adults aren’t aware that they’ll have their own suite or apartment, even in assisted living.
- Worries that assisted living communities aren’t affordable. Once they realize everything that is included, such as meals, transportation, and utilities, it’s easier to understand the value.
- Concerns that they’ll be forced to participate in activities during the day. While we encourage residents to socialize, it’s up to them to decide how many—or few—programs they attend.
- Inaccurate ideas about what senior living is. The nursing homes of the past were often dark and depressing. Some of today’s seniors mistakenly link that to modern senior living communities.
I hope this information is useful to you, Lisa. I’d like to extend an invitation to you and your parents to attend a special event at a Heritage community or join us for a meal. It’s a great way for them to see firsthand what assisted living has to offer!
My dad was the primary caregiver for my mom the last few years until she passed away from cancer. Because our attention was so focused on Mom, we didn’t realize how much my dad’s own health had declined. Dad doesn’t have an illness like my mom did. He just seems to be getting frail.
One concern is that he doesn’t eat much. When he does, it’s fast food. I stock his freezer with healthy meals he can reheat, but he doesn’t seem interested. My parents were married over 60 years, and this is the first time in his adult life he’s lived alone. I’m wondering if that’s part of the issue.
Dad has admitted he could use a little help around the house each week when I can’t be there. His solution is a home care aide. We used an agency when my mom was still alive, so he is comfortable with that. My brother and I think assisted living would be a better option for his overall well-being.
Can you help me understand the differences between these two types of senior care? I’m just not sure if we should try to encourage him to move to assisted living or if home care would be better.
Janice in Williamsburg, MI
Assisted Living or Home Care for an Aging Parent
This is a question that families often ask as they begin searching for solutions for a senior loved one. It sounds like your dad has been through a lot these past few years, so it makes sense that he could benefit from a helping hand.
While both options have similarities, there are distinct differences between assisted living and home care. And just to make sure you fully understand your options, your dad might also be a good candidate for an independent living community.
Let’s take a quick look at each of these types of care.
What Is Home Care?
Home care is also referred to by a variety of names, including private duty care or in-home care services. Depending on the situation, home care aides can help with light housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping, meal preparation, transportation to appointments and errands, and personal care.
Be aware that home care is for people who:
- Require minimal to moderate assistance at fairly regular intervals. Because appointments are typically required, it’s not usually a good option for people who need assistance at random times, such as late night bathroom trips or last-minute errands.
- Have nonmedical needs that can be met with a few hours of support each day. Because laws vary by state, it’s important to know what services an agency can and can’t provide. Medication management is often closely regulated by states.
- Reside in a safe, senior-friendly home that is easy to navigate. Home care can’t compensate for a house that has too many stairs or a bathroom that isn’t senior-friendly.
Adult children often find home care useful in the short-term when they are exploring local independent and assisted living communities. It helps to keep the older adult safe and give the family the time needed to make an informed choice about senior living.
The Benefits of Independent Living
Independent living communities are a senior housing option designed with the active adult in mind. Older adults who make this move want a lifestyle free from the worries of home maintenance and repairs so they can focus on their social lives.
Here are some of the benefits of independent living communities that seniors and families appreciate most:
- Maintenance-free living: No more worries about shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, or fixing the dishwasher! A move to independent living comes with a maintenance-free lifestyle.
- Healthy meals: Because seniors who live alone often find preparing meals for one to be too much work, they develop bad eating habits. Many independent living communities offer meal options that make it easier to eat well.
- Amenities and conveniences: Depending on the community, residents will have a host of amenities and conveniences. Housekeeping, laundry, lawn care, snow removal, transportation, trash removal, and an on-site beauty/barber shop are a few standard services.
- Social opportunities: These communities provide meaningful ways to connect with others every day. From a morning cup of coffee in the dining room to a group outing to a popular local restaurant for lunch, the lifestyle is a primary reason people move to independent living.
- Safety and security: The safe, secure environment these communities offer to older adults is another benefit. From having staff on-site 24/7 to emergency call systems, residents feel safe living alone.
Understanding Assisted Living
Assisted living is sometimes described as the best of two worlds. Residents have the privacy and independence they value while also knowing help is nearby when needed. Residents usually have their own apartment or suite with on-site caregivers available around the clock to offer support.
The benefits of assisted living include:
- A senior-friendly environment with features in place to decrease the likelihood of falling
- Preventing or delaying health issues linked to isolation, such as depression, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease
- Reliable, affordable transportation for outings and errands, which is especially helpful if a senior wants to limit or give up driving
- Assistance with medication management so residents stay on schedule with their prescription and over-the-counter medicines
I hope this quick overview gives you some direction. Please call a Heritage community near you with any questions or to arrange a personal tour for your dad and your family.
When a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, family members often pitch in to help with their care. It can be a rewarding experience. Whether it is a spouse, parent, or grandparent, providing support for a loved one helps you feel as if you are making a difference.
But caregiving can also be physically and emotionally exhausting. The unique challenges caused by the disease can leave family caregivers fatigued and worn out. It’s fairly common for loved ones to begin experiencing health issues of their own as a result.
Added to that is the emotional journey Alzheimer’s takes families on. Dementia experts often call it “the long good-bye.” It’s a fitting description of a disease that slowly robs a person of their health, independence, and memory.
The Alzheimer’s Caregiver Struggle
The demands of caring for an adult with Alzheimer’s are unique. Whether it’s worries about wandering or issues related to memory, loved ones face a variety of challenges. It can lead to feelings of uncertainty and loneliness.
Families may get embarrassed about behaviors they aren’t aware are common when a person has Alzheimer’s, such as angry outbursts in public or inappropriate comments. While friends may sympathize, they likely can’t understand and relate unless they’ve been through it.
The result is that between 40 and 70 percent of family caregivers find themselves battling depression. One way to better cope with the rollercoaster of emotions many caregivers experience is connecting with peers. Joining a caregiver support group allows you to do just that.
Benefits of Joining a Caregiver Support Group
Support groups give caregivers a judgement-free place to share guilt, fears, and frustrations. It can also be a forum for asking questions and obtaining suggestions from people who’ve faced similar challenges. You can join a support group that meets in person, such as one hosted by a specialized dementia care community or senior center, or an online group.
Some caregivers prefer an in-person meeting because of the face-to-face interaction it offers. It can be a meaningful way to connect with caregiving peers. Others are more comfortable with the anonymity of an online support group or forum. The 24/7 accessibility makes it easier for busy caregivers to participate. Caregivers can post their questions or challenges in chat forums or on message boards any time of day or night and get advice.
Here are a few online caregiver support groups to explore:
- ALZConnected: Created by the Alzheimer’s Association, this forum gives dementia caregivers access to helpful information and resources. They also host message boards and chat rooms dedicated to specific topics related to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
- Family Caregiver Alliance: This organization is for all types of caregivers. Through this website, people can connect with groups that support everything from cancer patients to struggling spouses.
- com: On this site, you will find resources and forums on a variety of topics of interest to caregivers. They range from where to buy adult briefs at the best price to how to plan for a loved one’s move to senior living.
Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage
If you are caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, exploring the options for assistance in your local area is important. For those who live in Michigan, Heritage Senior Communities may be of interest. We invite you to schedule a visit and personal tour of a specialized dementia care program at a location near you!
My parents recently sold their home in another state and moved to Michigan to stay with my wife and me. The arrangement is temporary while we search for a senior living community for them.
I’m trying to get them on track with their health care and nutrition. They have never been very good about going to the doctor, but it got worse in the last few years. Their diet is also unhealthy. The first thing I need to do is find a doctor. They both need a complete physical and likely most of their health screenings, especially bloodwork.
Do you have any ideas for helping me locate a doctor for seniors? I prefer someone who has experience working with older adults. Any tips would be much appreciated.
Steve in Elk Rapids, MI
Finding a Doctor for a Senior Loved One
Your question is commonly asked by adult children! Unless an older adult is fortunate enough to have a longtime primary care physician, many find themselves needing to make a change. Because of the shortage of family practice doctors in many areas of the country, this task can be much tougher than in the past.
I do have some suggestions that might make your search easier:
- Investigate physicians in their insurance plan: Since you mentioned your parents moved to Michigan from another state, one factor to keep in mind is their insurance network. If they transitioned to a different Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll need to check to see which doctors are covered. For older adults who are on traditional Medicare, there will probably be more options. Medicare will create a list of doctors near you who accept new patients. You can find this list online or by calling Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227. (TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.)
- Ask for recommendations: You can read reviews on a variety of sites, such as Vitals, Healthgrades, and RateMDs. While they can provide some insight, nothing can replace personal referrals. Ask friends and colleagues involved in a parent’s care which physicians they like and dislike. Maybe ask for recommendations on Facebook, too.
- Talk with the hospital discharge planner or social worker: If you have a preferred hospital in your community, they might be able to point you in the right direction. While they likely can’t provide recommendations, many are aware of physicians who work with seniors. Those who work in emergency departments of the hospital sometimes keep a list of physicians who are accepting new patients.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, call the office to see if they offer meet and greet times for potential new patients. Even a few minutes of a physician’s time might give you an idea of whether they will be a good fit for your parents.
If you find yourself struggling to overcome your parents’ reluctance to see a doctor, we have a few tips. How Do I Get My Dad to See the Doctor Regularly has ideas you might find useful.