What Is Melanoma and How Can You Avoid It?

What Is Melanoma and How Can You Avoid It?

Would you be surprised to hear that the most common type of cancer in this country is skin cancer? Research shows that one in five Americans will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer by the age of 70. While the disease develops in people of all ages, seniors are the demographic diagnosed with it most often. The good news is that with early intervention, most forms of skin cancer are treatable.

One type, however, can be especially dangerous: melanoma. Deaths from melanoma are highest among people between the ages of 65 and 84. These age groups account for 50% of deaths caused by melanoma.

To raise awareness about this deadly form of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology designates the first Monday in May as National Melanoma Monday.

8 Common Melanoma Risk Factors

While researchers can’t say for certain why some people develop melanoma and others don’t, there are some factors they believe might play a role:

  • Age and gender: Your age and sex can both impact your likelihood of developing melanoma. Before the age of 50, women are at higher risk. After 50, however, men face the greatest risk for melanoma.
  • Skin tone: Skin tone can increase a person’s odds for melanoma. People who are fair skinned usually sunburn more easily, putting them in a high-risk category. Caucasians with blond or red hair and blue or green eyes are at greatest risk.
  • Personal sunburns: Researchers say having one or more blistering sunburns at any age can increase your odds of developing melanoma. Most skin damage happens during childhood.
  • Family medical history: Ten percent of people who are diagnosed with melanoma have a first-degree relative—a parent, child, or sibling—who has also been diagnosed with the disease. Be sure to tell your physician if your family has a history of melanoma.
  • Moles: While most moles don’t lead to melanoma, some will. The more moles you have, the higher your risk of developing this serious form of skin cancer. Ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a dermatologist who can conduct a head-to-toe skin exam to identify any concerning moles.
  • UV radiation exposure: Tanning beds and sun lamps put off UV radiation. If you have used them, you are at higher risk for melanoma. Be especially vigilant in conducting self-exams and seeing the dermatologist for a check-up.
  • Location: Where you live also impacts your chance of developing melanoma. Those living close to the equator or in a higher elevation are at increased risk. Researchers believe it is because they are exposed to higher doses of the sun’s UV rays.
  • Weakened immune system: Some chronic health conditions, as well as cancer treatments, can weaken a person’s immune system. Research seems to indicate a person’s risk for melanoma rises when their immune system is compromised.

Learn to Recognize the Warning Signs of Skin Cancer

The American Academy of Dermatology encourages people to conduct self-exams regularly. You might do it on the same day each month so you don’t forget. As you are examining your skin, follow the ABCDEs of skin cancer:

  • Asymmetrical: If one half of a mole is unlike the other, it should be evaluated by a physician.
  • Border: An irregularly shaped border on a mole can also indicate melanoma.
  • Color: A mole or moles that vary in color might be nothing to worry about but could also be an early symptom of melanoma. Check with your doctor to be sure.
  • Diameter: Size matters when it comes to moles. Larger skin growths, which dermatologists say are anything larger than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser), need to be looked at.
  • Evolving: Finally, keep an eye out for spots or moles that change in size or shape or are different from others. This is another potential sign of early melanoma.

As is true of many types of medical conditions, taking steps to protect yourself from disease is essential. Read 7 Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for Older Adults to learn what else you can do to decrease your risk for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.

The Health Benefits of Spring Cleaning a Senior’s Home

The Health Benefits of Spring Cleaning a Senior’s Home

April is a perfect month to attack spring cleaning projects at your home or a senior loved one’s. Cleaning the cobwebs from ceiling fans, getting rid of expired foods, and deep cleaning the stove are some tasks it might be time to tackle. A boost in spirit isn’t the only benefit of having a sparkling, tidy house.

We’ll look at rewards that come from helping your family member spring clean and share a list of chores not to overlook.

Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning does more than make your house look nice. Here are a few health benefits that come from an intensive cleanup:

  • Decluttering is essential: Purging the clutter that builds up over the winter lightens your mental load and provides clarity. It can also reduce the risk for falls, a leading cause of injury in older adults.
  • Getting rid of allergens: Cleaning the house of dust and particles can help prevent allergies, asthma, and respiratory illnesses from flaring up.
  • Finding peace: Getting your house in order can reduce stress and help you find peace. Chronic stress is linked to a variety of medical conditions ranging from high blood pressure to depression and digestive issues.

If you aren’t sure how and where to start, this checklist will be of interest.

Room-by-Room Spring Cleaning Tips for Seniors and Caregivers


The kitchen is one of the most heavily utilized rooms in a home. The constant use can make it harder to keep clean. Take time this spring to do the following chores:

  • Wipe the cabinets down inside and out. Change shelf paper, if necessary.
  • Take everything out of the refrigerator and freezer and wipe them down. Check expiration dates on condiments, dressings, and other items.
  • Inspect and clean the oven with a fume-free oven cleaner that won’t aggravate allergies or respiratory problems.
  • Check the exhaust system on the range to see if it needs cleaning. It’s an important step for reducing the risk of fire.
  • Empty the pantry and wipe down the shelves and floor. Dispose of items that are expired and donate foods that are good but likely won’t be used.


While most of us clean the bathroom regularly, it also needs a little extra attention a few times each year.

  • Change the shower liner and wash the curtain. Do the same with decorative towels.
  • Scrub the bathtub and shower and replace the bath mat, if necessary.
  • Sort through the medicine cabinet and safely dispose of no-longer-used or expired medications. Check with your pharmacy for advice on where and how to dispose of prescription medications.
  • Clean out the linen closet and donate older linens (especially towels) to a local animal shelter or veterinarian’s office.
  • Deep clean the toilet and the floor surrounding it. Replace or tighten the bolts on the toilet seat if it doesn’t seem secure.

Primary Bedroom

Give the senior’s bedroom extra attention this spring by doing the following:

  • Wash the curtains, bedding, blankets, mattress cover, and rugs.
  • Find a strong helper to help you flip or turn the mattress and box spring. Wipe both down along with the bed frame.
  • Use products specifically designed for cleaning miniblinds to remove dust and grime.
  • Use spring cleaning as an excuse to encourage your senior loved one to sort through their clothes and to donate items they no longer wear.

Living Areas

Books, magazines, newspapers, junk mail, and other clutter can quickly build up in living rooms. Make sure to declutter the room before you start deep cleaning. Box up items you need to drop off at your local recycling center.

Then tackle the following tasks:

  • Dust the woodwork and wipe down the window frames.
  • Use a long-handled duster to clean ceiling fans and lighting fixtures.
  • Use a static-free cloth to lightly swipe over the television and other electronics.
  • Vacuum under the sofa, as well as over and under sofa cushions.

Should time permit, you might also want to clean out the garage, attic, or shed. It will make downsizing easier should your loved one decide to move to a smaller home or a senior living community.

Is It Time for Senior Living?

As you and your loved one work your way through their house, use the time to discuss how happy they are with their current living environment. Is it getting to be too much for them? Do they feel isolated and lonely? Your family member might be struggling more than you realize. Encourage them to be honest and let them know you can work together to find a solution, such as home care services or a local senior living community.

For older adults in Michigan and Indiana, exploring one of the local Heritage Senior Living communities might be helpful. Call the nearest location with any questions you have or to schedule a tour and lunch at your convenience!

Lifelong Learning and Healthy Aging

Lifelong Learning and Healthy Aging

Most people associate fitness with physical activity. We visualize people walking, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, or performing aerobics. While that’s a vital part of healthy aging, another type of fitness is important, too. That is giving your brain a daily workout.

One way to do that is by becoming a lifelong learner. Here’s what we know about continuing to challenge your brain with new information and hobbies as you grow older.

Brain Health and Continuous Learning

After you retire, it’s easy for bad habits to sneak up on you, like spending too many hours sitting in front of the television. Not only is a sedentary lifestyle bad for your physical health, it’s bad for your cognitive health, too.

Just like with muscle mass, the phrase “use it or lose it” applies to cognitive health. When you settle into a routine and your brain isn’t stimulated by new things, cognitive well-being can decline. But when you make a point of learning something new every day, your brain responds by staying alert and active.

A few ideas to make brain health a part of your daily fitness routine could include:

  1. Learning a new language: Learning another language is a great way to test and expand your mind. While it might be fun to take a class at a local community college or learning annex, online platforms may be more convenient and cost-effective. Duolingo and Babbel earn high praise from users. By spending two hours a week on either one, you’ll be able master a basic understanding of a new language in four to five months.
  2. Taking a class: Many universities and colleges offer seniors the option to audit classes or take a course at a deeply discounted rate. You could learn more about marine biology, art history, or literature with students of all ages. Another choice might be to take advantage of programs top tier colleges offer online. For example, you could choose Marketing Analytics through the University of Virginia or Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies at Harvard University. No matter what your educational background, you can sign up for a class of your choice. Most are free.
  3. Creating music: The benefits of music are well documented. It has the power to soothe, uplift, or calm the spirit. That’s why it’s used as therapy in settings like hospitals and hospice care centers. Learning how to play a musical instrument stimulates the brain. Explore sites like Music Go Round and Reverb to find and purchase used musical instruments from guitars to drum sets. If classes aren’t offered by any music stores near you, try Simply Piano or Simply Guitar by JoyTunes. It’s a great option whether you need a refresher or are new to learning an instrument.
  4. Dabbling in art: The process of creating, even if you don’t think you have any artistic skills, challenges the mind and boosts the spirit. If you don’t have a nearby art museum or school that offers classes, you can find one online. Sites like Creative Live and Skillshare host virtual art classes on topics ranging from photography to drawing. And don’t forget about YouTube. You can find a variety of free educational videos to watch and learn from there.
  5. Reading a book: Another activity that stimulates the brain is reading. Whether it’s the latest thriller or a new science fiction release, a good book can be brain food. If you don’t have the space to add more books to your collection or are trying to stick to a budget, ask your local library about e-lending programs and apps like Libby that allow you to read online.

Opportunities for Learning Abound at Heritage Senior Communities

We understand that staying mentally and physically active is an essential part of healthy aging. Therefore, our residents have a variety of programs and events to participate in every day. From stretching and walking groups to religious services and art workshops, Heritage communities are a thriving place to call home. Call the location nearest you to ask for a copy of our monthly activities calendar, and join us for a program of your choice!

Does Your Diet Need a Heart-Smart Makeover?

Does Your Diet Need a Heart-Smart Makeover?

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide. The statistics are startling. Research shows that 1 in 4 deaths are linked to heart disease. Heart health experts say it doesn’t have to be this way. Many of the risk factors that lead to cardiac-related illnesses can be controlled through lifestyle choices, especially what we do and don’t eat.

In honor of National Heart Month, we are sharing a few tips to give your diet a heart-smart makeover.

Ways to Improve Heart Health through Diet

  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast.

You’ve probably heard your doctor or another medical professional say it’s important not to skip breakfast. That’s because breakfast sets the tone for the food choices you’ll make all day—good or bad. A high protein breakfast, such as a bowl of oatmeal or a smoothie, will help you feel full longer. You’ll be less likely to feel sluggish and crave sugary treats mid-morning.

  • Watch your sodium intake.

This can be tricky. Some sodium is necessary for maintaining proper fluid levels in the body, as well as for nerve and muscle function. Too much, however, can set you up for cardiac issues. It contributes to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Unfortunately, many western diets contain too much sodium. “Get the Scoop on Sodium and Salt” is a good article to review.

  • Limit sugary treats and beverages.

Sugary treats like baked goods, soda, and candy are another part of many people’s diets. While an occasional indulgence is probably fine, moderation is important. Elevated blood sugar is linked to heart disease, especially among women. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons per day of added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.

  • Incorporate foods with soluble fiber into your menus.

Soluble fiber plays a role in overall health, including managing cholesterol and blood sugar. Both of these are important to maintaining a healthy heart. The American Heart Association Eating Plan recommends a total intake of 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day with 6 to 8 grams of it being soluble fiber.

  • Avoid or limit processed foods.

Many times, seniors who live alone rely on fast foods or convenience foods to avoid cooking for one. While they might be easier, most are high in sodium, trans fat, and calories. All of these contribute to weight gain, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, which are known risk factors for heart disease.

  • Limit alcoholic beverages.

One surprising lifestyle choice people don’t often associate with heart problems is consuming too much alcohol. While some studies say red wine might be good for your heart, not everyone agrees. Ask your doctor for advice based on your personal medical history.

  • Explore Mediterranean-style diets.

People who live in areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea seem to have lower incidences of a variety of illnesses ranging from diabetes and heart disease to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Learning more about the Mediterranean diet might help you adopt a healthier way of eating.

  • Build a strong relationship with a primary care doctor.

One final suggestion is to find a primary care doctor you trust and feel comfortable with and see them regularly. You’ll be more likely to stay on track with preventive tests and screenings when you have an established relationship with a doctor.

Nutritious Meals Served Every Day at Heritage

Residents at Heritage communities enjoy delicious, nutritious meals every day. If you or a loved one is considering moving to a senior living community in Michigan or Indiana, we invite you to call us and schedule a visit. One of our experienced team members will be happy to take you on a tour and arrange for you to stay for lunch! Call us today to set up a time.

Living a Purpose-Filled Life during Retirement

Living a Purpose-Filled Life during Retirement

A happy, thriving retirement is something people dream about for many years. We envision days filled with activities of our own choosing, such as sleeping in, traveling, and reconnecting with favorite hobbies from the past. But what happens a few months after you retire?

According to research, a lack of purpose can increase an older person’s risk for health conditions like heart disease and depression by as much as 40 percent. That’s a pretty compelling case for creating meaningful days after retiring.

Ways to Live a Purpose-Driven Retirement

What steps can you take to bring purpose to your life when you’ve left the working world behind and your children are grown and gone? Here are some ideas you might want to explore:

  • Volunteer: Lending your time and talent to a cause you believe in can make you feel more productive. Just knowing someone is counting on you can lead to more meaningful days. You can choose a full-time position or volunteer for just a few hours a week. Are children your passion? Or maybe you enjoy nature. Reach out to organizations that serve those groups to see if they need volunteers. Another way to connect with a nonprofit agency is to call your local United Way for advice or utilize a website, like VolunteerMatch.
  • Pursue hobbies: The days can be hectic when you are juggling raising a family with the demands of the working world. It can lead people to make their own hobbies and special interests a low priority. Once you’ve retired, reflect on what you loved as a child or young adult. Maybe you liked singing in your church choir or taking photos. Did you have dreams that time didn’t allow you to pursue, such as learning to speak a foreign language or play a musical instrument? Now is the time to prioritize these interests. Life enrichment programming is one of the most common reasons older adults choose to move to senior living communities like Heritage.
  • Stay active: Aging well requires prioritizing self-care. Committing to a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated are both important. So is exercising regularly and incorporating light weight training, stretching, and cardiovascular activity into your fitness routine. Also, getting 8 hours of quality sleep each night is essential. Talk with your primary care physician for more advice if you have questions.

Build a Relationship with a Primary Care Doctor You Trust

Finally, schedule a yearly appointment with your primary care physician. It’s the best way to keep a preventable medical crisis from disrupting your retirement dreams. If you feel as if your doctor isn’t willing to answer your questions or spend quality time with you, it may be a sign that they aren’t comfortable working with seniors. “4 Tips for Helping a Senior Find a Primary Care Doctor” is a good article to help you or an aging loved one with the search.

Protecting Senior Skin during Harsh Winter Weather

Protecting Senior Skin during Harsh Winter Weather

Winter weather can do more than make your teeth chatter. Windy days and freezing temperatures can also be tough on the skin, especially for seniors. Older adults are prone to age-related skin conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis. Both can leave skin feeling itchy and irritated year-round.

With frigid outdoor elements and drier air in the house caused by the furnace, it’s easy to see why winter can further exacerbate skin problems. While most people have their own skin care regimen, there are other steps older adults can take to protect their skin during the frostiest months of the year. Here are some to explore this winter.

Winter Skin Care Tips for Seniors

  • Add humidity to the house: Unless the furnace in your house has a built-in humidifier, you’ll probably need to add moisture back into the air. One way is by setting the thermostat lower, especially overnight. It may also help to place humidifiers in the rooms you spend the most time in. A word of caution: make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for care, which usually include using distilled water and cleaning the unit frequently.
  • Stay hydrated: Many people know to drink extra water when it’s hot and humid outside, but hydration is important in the winter, too. In addition to drying out skin, dehydration contributes to sagging skin, which makes you appear older. The general recommendation is to consume 8 to 10 glasses of water every day, but check with your physician to be sure.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen: We generally think about layering on sunscreen on sunny summer days. It’s an essential step for guarding against skin cancers, like melanoma. Winter can be equally risky. The sun reflecting off of the snow can leave you with a painful “snow burn.” Make a habit of applying sunscreen every morning, but especially when you will be spending time outside or riding in a car.
  • Change your moisturizer: Heavy moisturizers might leave your skin feeling greasy when it’s warm outside, but they are perfect for winter. Rich moisturizers for the face and body can protect your skin. This list of recommendations might help you find one you like.
  • Take shorter showers: While a long, hot shower might sound inviting when you are cold, it can dry out your skin. Keeping the water lukewarm instead of hot and making showers brief is kinder on older skin. Apply a good quality moisturizer afterward, too.
  • Bundle up outdoors: When the mercury falls below freezing, frostbite can occur fairly quickly. It is especially dangerous when it’s both cold and windy outside. Prevent skin damage by bundling up before you head outside. A hat, mittens or gloves, and a scarf to shield your face will help. Try to keep any area of your skin from being exposed.

Despite your best efforts, you might still experience dry and cracked skin this winter. It might be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. The doctor can determine if there is an underlying health issue or allergy that might be causing your skin challenges.

More Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

If you are the family caregiver for a senior loved one, there are other winter hazards to be aware of. “Creating a Winter Safety Plan for a Senior Loved One” has good information that you might find useful.