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Pump That Iron!

5 Myths about Exercise and Older Adults from helpguide.org

Myth 1: There’s no point to exercising. I’m going to get old anyway.

Fact: Exercise and strength training helps you look and feel younger and stay active longer. Regular physical activity lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Myth 2: Elderly people shouldn’t exercise. They should save their strength and rest.

Fact: Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy for the elderly. Period. Inactivity often causes seniors to lose the ability to do things on their own and can lead to more hospitalizations, doctor visits, and use of medicines for illnesses.

Myth 3: Exercise puts me at risk of falling down.

Fact: Regular exercise, by building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, actually reducing your risk of falling.

Myth 4: It’s too late. I’m already too old, to start exercising

Fact: You’re never too old to exercise! If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while, start with light walking and other gentle activities.

Myth 5: I’m disabled. I can’t exercise sitting down.

Fact: Chair-bound people face special challenges but can lift light weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics to increase range of motion, improve muscle tone, and promote cardiovascular health.

Last year I took a Chronic Diseases class and as part of the class, we had a group presentation on staying fit to prevent diabetes. One of the other girls and I went to a Sit and Be Fit class at the local rec center. It was a great experience to talk to all of these wonderful elderly folks. They were so motivated to stay in shape that they came through the snowstorm, very early in the morning to get their exercise. How fun! They were even nice enough to let us take some pictures with them… 

Depression

Image this. You are happily married with a house and a car and your hobbies. One day, your spouse gets sick and quickly passes away. You have to help arrange the funeral and afterwards are living alone. Several lonely months pass and one day as you are taking out the trash, you slip and fall and break your wrist. After you get out of the hospital, your kids sit you down and tell you that they are worried about you; that you aren’t able to care for yourself. Despite your protestations that it was an accident, a one time thing, they help you pack up some of your things, sell your house with the garden that you worked so hard to maintain and move you into a nursing home where you share a room with someone you don’t even know. The room is not as comfortable and your roommate snores. Your days seem to drag on because you aren’t interested in the activities they have planned and you are sick of everything that is on TV. As the days pass, you stop enjoying your life– the bright spots seem farther and farther in between.

Depression is a problem in the aging population– a bigger problem than we might realize. With all of the changes that are happening in their lives, some people don’t know how to cope or don’t have a good emotional support system in place. 

Though many elderly people live rather secluded lives, we can all watch for these warning signs of depression (listed on helpguide.org ) among our aged friends and relatives:

  • Sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable pastimes
  • Social withdrawal and isolation (reluctance to be with friends, engage in activities, or leave home)
  • Weight loss; loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
  • Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing)
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts

If you see any of these signs, they may be red flags showing that your loved one is depressed. Some ideas of things you can do (as listed on helpguide.org) include but are not limited to:

  • Invite your loved one out. Depression is less likely when people’s bodies and minds remain active. Suggest activities to do together that your loved one used to enjoy: walks, an art class, a trip to the museum or the movies—anything that provides mental or physical stimulation.
  • Schedule regular social activities. Group outings, visits from friends and family members, or trips to the local senior or community center can help combat isolation and loneliness. Be gently insistent if your plans are refused: depressed people often feel better when they’re around others.
  • Plan and prepare healthy meals. A poor diet can make depression worse, so make sure your loved one is eating right, with plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and some protein at every meal.
  • Encourage the person to follow through with treatment. Depression usually recurs when treatment is stopped too soon, so help your loved one keep up with his or her treatment plan. If it isn’t helping, look into other medications and therapies.
  • Make sure all medications are taken as instructed. Remind the person to obey doctor’s orders about the use of alcohol while on medication. Help them remember when to take their dose.
  • Watch for suicide warning signs. Seek immediate professional help if you suspect that your loved one is thinking about suicide.

We can all make a difference in the life of an older person that we care about. If we all keep our eyes open, we can see when they might need help even when they don’t ask for it. Remember to be sensitive and understanding– a lot of changes have been going on in their lives and we all need somebody to lean on. 🙂

One of my favorite residents loves to sing. She sings all day long– and when she forgets the words (which is a lot of the time) she just makes up new ones and keeps on singing. I love to sing with her… and I think we sound pretty good together. We probably won’t start recording a CD anytime soon, but we have lots of fun together. Some of our favorite songs are My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, You are My Sunshine and Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man. 

Now, this lovely lady lives on the Dementia/Alzheimer’s Unit of the nursing home, so a lot of the time she has behavior problems. The hardest part of my job is trying to convince people to let me help them– the actual helping is easy. So, when she starts to get agitated and frustrated in the shower or while getting dressed, I try to get her to sing with me. It helps her take her mind off of her troubles. 

Sometimes the songs work and sometimes they don’t, but in any case I think they are a valuable part of her life. 

I did some reading on Music Therapy and found a couple of interesting things I would like to share.

“Music is used with elderly persons to increase or maintain their level of physical, mental, and social/emotional functioning. The sensory and intellectual stimulation of music can help maintain a person’s quality of life.” (American Music Therapy Association)

This description of what music therapy can do in a nursing home is true– I have seen these changes in people many times and it makes me so happy to see it. Though this segment is on the long side– it is worth reading all the way through.

“Residents sit in a circle, many of them lost in their own minds–eyes unfocused, seemingly unaware of any outer reality, or themselves, for that matter. Others are anxious, muttering phrases repeatedly or moving in an agitated fashion. Some have Alzheimer’s disease; others suffer from dementia from other causes. Yet when soothing music, with a hint of bright flutes and piano, begins playing in the background, the residents’ behavior begins to change subtly. Those who might have been upset or disturbed become less so; unfocused eyes begin to sharpen and try to locate the source of the music. A man in the middle of the circle picks up a guitar and begins playing and singing an upbeat, happytune, stopping to look at each person fully, laughing, maintaining eye contact with them as he moves around the circle, smiling broadly. His audience becomes more animated. Some begin clapping with the beat, smiling, nodding their heads. The transformation appears almost magical: People who previously had been completely withdrawn appear more aware of themselves and their surroundings, more focused, displaying interest.”

What a blessing music is in my life and in theirs!

20080521_guitarplayer_33.jpg

When I was a lot younger, my family and several other families we knew put on a Christmas concert in our local nursing home. We played carols on our violins and sang along with the piano. Afterwards, we handed out cards to the old people and let them pinch our cheeks and pat our hands. 

It was scary. I was nice to them, but when the visits were over, I was always quite relieved to be out of there. 

It seemed to me that all these old people either didn’t know what was going on so they were pleasant or they did know what was going on and they were really grumpy. As I have spent lots more time at nursing homes, I have found that this is not true. 

Many of the old folks have great senses of humor– I found this article on BBC.com that said some interesting things about old people and how their senses of humor change with age– I would recommend reading it for sure. It’s called ‘Do Old People Have a Sense of Humor?’ 

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3181489.stm

I was very privileged to witness this sweet moment of support and affection between these two friends–

As people age, many do not get as much physical affection as they used to; but this does not mean that they don’t need it. These old folks experience a ‘touch deprevation’ because of the norms and youth-seeking in our society today. So many people rush out to get the latest age-defying makeup  or to use the dye with better gray coverage– this makes us look down on the physical signs of aging. 

How sad it is that many of these women who nurtured children on their laps, cuddled with their babies and kissed scraped knees are being left alone without those same comforts– 

On the website Healing Touch International it says;

“Healing Touch can be an effective complementary therapy that can help in the management of acute conditions (for example, pain after surgery or injury) as well as chronic conditions and diseases that can not be cured. In the management of these conditions traditional health care is supplemented or enhanced with the use of Healing Touch which works to help facilitate the bodies own natural pattern of defense and healing…. Healing Touch was able to significantly lower agitation levels in those with dementia.”

 [ http://www.healingtouchinternational.org/index.php?Itemid=392&id=186&option=com_content&task=view ]

or look at

[http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/1128/Dementia-Care ] to see more about how massage and touch affects Dementia patients specifically.
I totally believe that Healing Touch can help calm people down, make their experiences better and help them create bonds and friendships.

Check it out.

Look at Me

Some people say that this poem was written by a grandmother in Scotland, others say it is by an elderly man. Either way, no matter who wrote it, there is a lot of truth in the words.

Normally I try to stay away from things like this because they make me cry. But this one I liked and decided to share… 

See Me

What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
Are you thinking, when you look at me —
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far-away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply,
When you say in a loud voice — “I do wish you’d try.”

Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe,
Who unresisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.

Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse, you’re looking at ME…
I’ll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still;
As I rise at your bidding, as I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who love one another,
A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet.
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet;
A bride soon at twenty — my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep;
At twenty-five now I have young of my own,
Who need me to build a secure, happy home;
A woman of thirty, my young now grow fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last;
At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn;
At fifty once more babies play ’round my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead,
I look at the future, I shudder with dread,
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known;
I’m an old woman now and nature is cruel —
‘Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.

The body is crumbled, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where once I had a heart,
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.

I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living life over again,
I think of the years, all too few — gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last —
So I open your eyes, nurses, open and see,
Not a crabby old woman, look closer, nurses — see ME!

My great-grandma is a pretty cool lady– a regular spit-fire. She has always been involved in everything; she leads square dances in town, built a cabin, she was even the one who taught me how to do a backbend… when she was in her late 70’s!

She still is active, but she is getting even older. This is something that I don’t think the state of Colorado realized when they renewed her driver’s license a few months back. Guess how long they renewed it for?

TEN YEARS.

Ten years. Are you kidding me? She will be well into her 90’s before that thing expires again. They didn’t call her in for a driving test before they renewed it, she did the whole thing by mail. The thing that is really scary about this situation is that she is a dangerous driver, she is not safe on the road. But the state of Colorado doesn’t want to deal with taking her driving privileges  away from her which means that we, as her family, are responsible for it.

Though we love grandma and only want the best for her, taking away all the freedom that a driver’s license brings to her will not be easy. For either of us. She is going to fight it tooth and nail.

It’s something I see a fair bit of in the Nursing Homes– families that don’t take away the car until there is a serious accident. It is traumatic for both the elderly people and their families in this case.  This webpage gave me some pretty good suggestions about how to approach the driving issue with my greatgrandma and might be helpful to some of you… http://helpguide.org/elder/senior_citizen_driving.htm  or if you want some more tips on how to know when the time is right to get your loved one off the road, http://www.aging-parents-and-elder-care.com/Pages/Checklists/Elderly_Drivers.html might be helpful.