Tag Archives: Guest Post

Alcohol and Ageing: The International Trends Worrying Health Researchers

Risky drinking – defined as drinking at levels that put a person at risk of medical or social problems – has for centuries been viewed as an affliction of youth and immaturity. Yet, as the first wave of baby boomers reach retirement age, a startling trend is revealing itself: older adults are now drinking more than any previous cohort of retirees, with over 40 percent of older drinkers in some Western countries being classified as ‘hazardous drinkers.’

Our international research team recently explored patterns of drinking in older populations in nine different countries, including the United States, England, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Russia, Ghana, South Africa, and India. These countries span different political approaches, distinct continents, and various development levels, and the results were startling.

Drinking in older adults appears to be closely tied to wealth. We found that the proportion of older adults that drink is much higher in Western countries (e.g., the U.S., England and New Zealand) than non-Western countries. Additionally, while evidence shows that older men are more likely to drink than older women, this disparity is far smaller in Western countries than it is in non-Western countries.

When we explored the patterns of drinking across countries, we found that older drinkers in Western countries also seem to drink more frequently than older drinkers in non-Western countries. However, we also found that frequent (2-3 days per week) or very frequent (4+ days per week) heavy drinking occurs in both Western or non-Western countries, as with China and South Africa show an alarming number of older adults consuming alcohol heavily.

There are three key reasons why rising rates of drinking among older adults should spark international concern.

  1. Aging increases the risk of alcohol-related harm: Alcohol use merely is much riskier for an older adult than it is for a younger adult. The physiological aging process reduces our ability to process and detoxify alcohol, meaning we are more sensitive to its effects as we age even at the same level of consumption. Combined with this rising sensitivity to alcohol, aging itself also raises the risk of alcohol-related harm. As we age we are more likely to develop chronic conditions associated with (or exacerbated by) alcohol use or use medication that alcohol may interfere with, and to experience symptoms (e.g., nausea, sleeplessness, frailty, falls, depression) that alcohol can make worse. Unsurprisingly, older adults are far more likely to experience alcohol-related injuries and mortality than younger age groups.
  2. Older drinkers are neglected: Despite being at a heightened risk of alcohol-related harm, older drinkers are very likely to remain undetected in our communities. Research shows that older adults are much less likely than younger adults to be screened for alcohol use by health professionals. Furthermore, health conditions potentially underpinned by alcohol use are often misattributed to the aging process. Lastly, a recent report titled ‘Calling Time’ by Dr. Sarah Wadd and the British organization Drink Wise Age Well illustrates consistent neglect of older adults in alcohol policy, research on alcohol trends and harms, and availability of alcohol and addiction services.
  3. There are no benefits of drinking for older adults: A long-held assumption is that alcohol may be beneficial to heart health, and many older drinkers consume alcohol based on this belief. However, a growing body of international research now shows that the assumed health benefits of alcohol use were the result of poorly analyzed data and that there are no health benefits of drinking for older adults.

Unfortunately, our current health systems are ill-equipped to cope with this trend: in an era of rapid population ageing, a wave of older adults drinking at risky levels places considerable pressures on current health systems. Alcohol is the principle choice of drug for the ageing population and, although many do not meet the criteria for a substance use disorder, a large proportion will still require intervention to address the adverse consequences of excessive alcohol consumption (REF: Savage). Indeed, the number of older adults requiring substance misuse treatment services in the United States alone was expected to triple in the first two decades of this century (REF: Gfroerer). Given a rising rate of risky drinking despite the increased risk of harm and reduced likelihood of detection by health professionals, it is little wonder that the UK Royal Society of Psychiatrists now refers to older drinkers as ‘our silent addicts’.

What can we do? Fortunately, there is one key way in which we can collectively help mitigate this public health challenge.  As former American supreme court justice, American Lawyer Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) once said “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” This sums up the critical issue here: many older drinkers are just unaware of their risk levels because society does not realize that there is an issue to address. We have the evidence that shows many older adults are now drinking hazardously, despite the risks this poses, so now it is up to each of us to start talking to friends, family members, colleagues, health professionals and policymakers about it.

Dr. Andy Towers is a senior lecturer in the School of Health Science at Massey University (New Zealand). His teaching and research focus primarily on alcohol and drug use trends, policy and outcomes. In conjunction with colleagues at the University of Auckland (New Zealand), he leads a collaboration of researchers from the United States, Europe and the World Health Organisation in an international study of the global prevalence of older adults drinking patterns and health-related outcomes.

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Addiction in Older Adults: Prevalence, Effects and Solutions

Is an addict a teenager using heroin? Or a young adult drinking excessive amounts of alcohol? Recent studies challenge these assumptions. 20 to 30 percent of adults between 75 and 85 years of age have had problems with alcohol consumption, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also found that 3.6 percent of 60- to 64-year-olds have used illegal drugs. Between 2006 and 2012, the number of older adults who sought emergency treatment for improper drug use jumped to 78 percent.

Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Substance abuse can exacerbate other pre-existing conditions, including dementia, which in turn could lead seniors to use too much or too little of their prescriptions or forget to take them entirely. Confusion could also prompt people to mix substances and prescription drugs, which can produce dangerous results. Additionally, ageing bodies do not process alcohol and drugs the same way that younger bodies do. Seniors could become drunk, high, or impaired faster than younger people who consume the same amount of intoxicants. This could lead to a greater risk of health problems, injuries such as falls, and addiction.

There are many different reasons why older adults become substance-dependent. Many seniors use alcohol or drugs to cope with life changes such as divorce, retirement, or death of a loved one. For others it is a residual habit from when they were younger; adults who experimented with substances in the past could continue to use drugs and alcohol for recreational purposes, without realizing the risk of addiction increases with age. The long-term use of pain medication to treat other conditions is also likely to turn into a substance addiction if not monitored carefully.

Fortunately, the recognition of this issue brings a plethora of rehabilitation solutions specifically catering to older adults. Seniors can now pursue addiction treatment in the company of their peers. In fact there are rehab programs and facilities especially for older adults, including programs that provide alternative medications as they wean patients off prescription painkillers. Some doctors recommend alternating prescription and nonprescription drugs to treat pain.

Acknowledging addictive behaviors and substance abuse among seniors is the first step to recovery. As these issues garner national attention, society is likely to see the development of more and more innovative solutions to help prevent seniors from becoming unduly addicted to harmful substances.

Pam Zuber is an editor and writer on many topics such as addiction, recovery, biology and psychology. She is particularly interested in topics that relate to achieving and maintaining good health. Zuber has written for various treatment centers including Elite Rehab Placement, Monarch Shores and Willow Springs Recovery.

The Dementia Diaries: A Great Resource for Dementia Awareness Week

In honor of Dementia Awareness Week held May 15-21, Emma Barrett, Programme Manager for Social Innovation Lab Kent (SILK), and Matthew Snyman, Author of The Dementia Diaries, have written a great piece about The Dementia Diaries. The book a collection of stories about young people and their experience with dementia.

Dementia. It does not care about geography, place or time. Dementia will touch all at some point in their lives, whether it be grandparents, parents, friends, partners or acquaintances. It is often difficult to talk about or share.

Dementia is a real life problem that we wanted to try and solve, so we asked for advice from grandchildren in families living with dementia. Children and young people have amazing talent for problem solving; they are fearless and often blunt, but can approach problems that adults struggle with in surprising, empathetic and intuitive ways.

So when we asked young carers what to do about dementia in our local communities in England, they were amazingly incisive. One teenager Jack, whose great-uncle had dementia, said “we need a book, where the facts are true and the feelings are real… a bit like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but about dementia… so my friends in school understand what I’m going through”. It was as simple as creating an accessible and shareable way to talk about dementia.

And this was how The Dementia Diaries was born. A story that started in a community center in Kent, UK, but has touched hearts worldwide. The Dementia Diaries is about more than dementia. It is about giving a voice to people who do not have a voice. Ultimately it is about love, relationships and what it means to be human.

“…It is also a book about the wisdom of children and young people…it is a book about the surprising depths of love between generations. Written by young people who have the courage to face the brutal facts of life. It is carefully leading you by the hand into new perceptions and discoveries of one of the diseases we all fear. I have a sister who is now in the final stage of Alzheimer’s, and the book has made me laugh and giggle with her over and over again…”, said Jens Peter Jensen (Social Innovation Platforms, Denmark)

The Dementia Diaries was as much about the process of bringing people together as the book itself. We found many people facing isolation, dealing with day-to-day challenges alone. “Sharing my story, I now feel more open about living with someone with dementia and it’s not a big hush hush. I feel it should be shared now, and not kept to yourself”, said Raisa, one of the younger contributors to the book.

We are equally proud of the accompanying Learning Resource that is available to download for everyone who purchases the book. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. What better way to inspire a dementia friendly generation for the future? The Dementia Diaries helps people to learn from real life human experience with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure. “Life can sometimes be hard, but guess what you can still live well with dementia”, said Brian, one of the contributing grandparents.

In this book, people will find heart-warming stories about the good days, bad days and everything in between with dementia. Full of handy tips, facts and activities, The Dementia Diaries reveals the other side of dementia through the eyes of those who know it best. Join Fred, Sam, Brie and Sarah to read all about their escapades with their grandparents. “These are not just Diaries, they are a real beacon of hope for the future”, said Angela Rippon, OBE. Read testimonials from other people here.

Join The Dementia Diaries communities on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


From May 15 – 31, readers can win a copy of the award-winning Dementia Diaries! To enter, LIKE Dementia from Jessica Kingsley Publishers on Facebook or FOLLOW on Twitter. The winner will be selected on June 1, 2016!


Matthew Snyman is an award-winning writer and filmmaker based in London, born in South Africa, but grown in Kent, UK. He is focused on creating great stories for young people and for the young at heart. Follow Matthew on Twitter and visit his website

Emma Barrett Palmer is a social innovator and part of SILK’s founding team, the first lab of its kind in a UK government setting. She facilitated the co-creation of The Dementia Diairies and the book and learning resource. Emma is happiest with a pen and a blank sheet of paper. Follow Emma and SILK on Twitter.

Menopausal Experiences Among Major Ethnic Groups in the U.S.

The world’s population is rapidly aging and women make up the majority of seniors in every country due to their higher life expectancy. There will be over 60 million peri- and post-menopausal women in the United States by 2030 and about 1.2 billion throughout the world.

Menopause Experiences in the United States

In the U.S., menopause often begins at the age of 51 with most women experiencing hot flashes and other symptoms like vaginal dryness and joint pain, according to the National Institute on Aging. While most studies have not focused on ethnic populations in the United States, a recent study by the Western Journal of Nursing Research found that certain ethnicities in the U.S. are more prone to menopausal symptoms. The study documented specific ethnic differences in the number and severity of symptoms among four major ethnic groups (Non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanic, African Americans, and Asians) and focused on women ages 40-60 since most women experience menopause around the age of 50.

According to the study, Hispanic women reported night sweats and hot flashes more frequently than non-Hispanic white women, although other symptoms were less common. Hispanic women also reported significantly larger numbers of total symptoms, physical symptoms, and psychosomatic symptoms than Asian women. African American women reported a significantly larger number of psychosomatic symptoms than Asian women, and non-Hispanic white women reported significantly larger numbers of total symptoms, physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, and psychosomatic symptoms than Asian women.

Osteoporosis and Menopause

Osteoporosis is a progressive form of bone loss common among postmenopausal women. About 70 percent of women in the United States have osteoporosis by the age of 80 and about 15 percent of non-Hispanic white women in the country eventually experience an osteoporosis-related hip fracture, according to the John Hopkins Arthritis Center. The development of osteoporosis is associated with lack of estrogen after menopause but hormone replacement therapy has been found to reduce the risk of the disease among women.

Interestingly, research has found that estrogen levels may be one factor that influences the development of osteoporosis in women, although ethnicity and lifestyle might be more important. For instance, 10 percent of Hispanic women over 50 have osteoporosis, according to the California Hispanic Osteoporosis Foundation. There are probably several explanations for the lower osteoporosis rates, aside from genetics. Ultimately, a more labor-intensive lifestyle and diet rich in phytoestrogens help guard against bone loss.

Photo Credit: Pain Pix
                                                               Photo Credit: Pain Pix

Conclusion

Specific differences exist for particular ethnic groups of menopausal women in the U.S. These differences are useful for targeting efforts to promote strategies to reduce menopausal symptoms and make best use of health promotion efforts such as adopting healthy-eating habits and leading an active lifestyle.

Sophie Okolo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Global Health Aging.

Richard Gaines, MD is the President and Chief Medical Officer of HealthGains, a leading hormone optimization center founded in 2005. Dr. Gaines has more than three decades of experience as a healthcare executive and physician with a focus on hormone therapy and platelet rich plasma therapy.

The Dangers of Type 2 Diabetes among Older Hispanics

Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Diabetes is a 5th leading cause of death among Hispanics and Latinos in the USA. Hispanics are 66 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites and they have a 1.4 times greater risk of developing chronic kidney disease due to diabetes, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Moreover, there is currently an epidemic of diabetes among Hispanics and Latinos not only in the United States but also in Central America.

The Dangers of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes carries a number of dangers. While it may be easy to ignore, the disease affects the blood vessels, nerves, heart, kidneys and eyes. Complications of diabetes can eventually become life-threatening or disabling regardless of race. In fact, several studies have found that Hispanics and Latinos are at a greater risk of two of the most serious risks of diabetes: end-stage renal disease and foot amputation. Most cases of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are caused by diabetes and these cases are on the rise throughout Central and South America, according to a study published in the Clinical Kidney Journal. The study reported that the highest incidence of diabetes-caused ESRD was found in Mexico and Colombia.

Research has found that Hispanics and Latinos are also at a higher risk of foot damage due to diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. Diabetes can lead to nerve damage in the feet and poor blood flow which raises the risk of a host of foot complications. In severe cases, toe, foot, or even leg amputation may be necessary. Diabetes is the leading cause of foot and leg amputations in the United States and Mexico. Between 2001 and 2004, the hospitalization rate for diabetes-related amputation among Hispanics and Latinos increased to 80 per 100,000 compared to roughly 28-31 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic whites.

Diabetics in developing countries are twice as likely to develop foot ulcers and require amputation than those in developed countries. In South and Central America, about 1.25 million diabetics undergo foot amputation. This number is expected to rise to 2.5 million by 2030, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

A great deal of the disparity is attributed to lack of health care and screening. Just 38 percent of adult Hispanics over the age of 40 with diabetes received the recommended annual foot, eye and blood sugar screenings compared to 47 percent for whites and blacks in the U.S. Hispanics were also 3.6 times more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be hospitalized for uncontrolled diabetes and 2.9 times more likely to be hospitalized for foot or leg amputation due to diabetes.

Controlling Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes can develop at any age but it is most often diagnosed in middle-aged and older people. Screening for type 2 diabetes is especially important after the age of 40. Therefore, it is important to note that while diabetes complications can be very serious, they are avoidable. The best way to avoid serious foot problems, including gangrene and amputation, is by receiving regular diabetic foot care and maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. Seeking the care of a knowledgeable foot and ankle doctor should also be top priority for all diabetic patients to avoid potentially life-threatening complications that may seem benign at first.

Parul Patel, DPM is the lead physician of Infinity Foot and Ankle, a podiatry practice with three locations in Texas. She has more than 11 years of experience in podiatric medicine and specializes in podiatric care such as diabetic podiatry, preventative care and surgical podiatry.

Aquatic Wellness: Designing Functional Pools for A Personalized Experience

“This design to the length, reach, and breadth parameters of the body human translates into the least amount of energy, water, and space for the most exercise and traction. Do more with less…then reuse it.” The Vertical Pool

Aquatic therapy is a process wherein the body is submerged in a pool of warm water and made to perform movements for physical rehabilitation and recovery after an illness or injury. Many populations including seniors and veterans with disabilities are subject to physical limitations that can be improved through aquatic therapy, including internal organ function like pulmonary and cardiovascular efficiency.

As a professional aquatic practitioner, I have always dreamed of patenting my own pool design on a small footprint to economize on space and expense. A pool does not need to be large; it needs to be deep. After studying up on all the in-home and sports medicine pools on the market, I grew frustrated that not one pool – even at the cost of more than $60,000 – could meet my three critical requirements of internal pool depth of more than 54 inches, small in size and a sloping ramp access. This was until just a few months ago when a prospective buyer sought out one of my professional association member bulletin boards for a recommendation about what kind of pool to choose for her home. It was then that I learned about the Vertical Pool (TVP).

The Vertical Pool (TVP) has an internal depth of 67 inches – a full 13 inches deeper than most other small pools on the market. This meets two of my three criteria: internal depth and small size. I found several other redeeming features which offset the lack of my third requirement of a ramp access. Some of these redeeming features include a cross-bar above the deep section of the pool to hang from, an easy way to disassemble and relocate the pool, and an unprecedented price – features I have never seen in any pool during my 25 years in the field of aquatic therapy.

Additionally, aspects like specially designed accessories to clean the pool, a shower massage hose, an adjustable floor, and even a rudimentary device known as a “swimhorse” – a support frame that enables people to swim in place and horizontally – coupled with an eye for conservation, make this pool more than amazing! The more I considered TVP and my personal needs, the less hesitant I became about the modest $12,000 investment. After all, I can break it down and take it with me when I move. Even the biggest name-brand on the in-home pool market cannot be broken down and re-assembled with a base purchase price of $12,000.

Being the daughter of a World War II Navy Commander, and a considerate “fish out of water” who is passionate about the limitless benefits of working out or relaxing in water, I was particularly impressed with the million-dollar investment of TVP inventor, Peter G. Hold. Hold designed and created a functional personal pool that many wounded members of the armed forces may afford.

While many of my professional peers can argue that these soldiers need to be in class and supervised, both for socialization and safety, I have come to realize that many veterans with disabilities may not be able to attend classes in a community pool for a multitude of reasons. And if they cannot attend classes, they will not gain improved functional goals attained by aquatic therapy. Therefore, it is sometimes easier to rely upon a caregiver for the occassional visit to a class or therapist, and then be able to have “homework” to do in one’s own Vertical Pool.

As industry icon Dr. Igor Burdenko, whom I interviewed for this article, said in response to my question about how the Vertical Pool will impact the industry of aquatic exercise and therapy, “I see that this pool has an opportunity to be used all over the world. Nothing comes even close!” For more information, please visit The Vertical Pool and Aquatic Therapy Foundation. Make sure to access the ATTRIBUTES tab on The Vertical Pool website and scroll down to Dr. Burdenko’s explanation of the value of vertical.

Photo Credit: Felecia Fischell                                  

Felecia Fischell is an aquatic specialist with 25 years experience in aquatics. She leads aquatic classes and consults as an aquatic personal trainer and a swim instructor in and around Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, USA. The Founder of FunLife Aquatics Consulting and Personal Training, Felecia presents at health fairs and has given aquatic presentations to high schools, Howard County Board of Education, Howard County General Hospital and Howard Community College.

The Hidden Health Crisis of Alzheimer’s Disease Among Older Adults

Alzheimer’s disease is “the most under-recognized public health crisis of the 21st century,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Only 45 percent of people with Alzheimer’s are told about their diagnosis by a healthcare provider, compared to more than 90 percent of people with the four most common types of cancer. And of the top 10 causes of death in the USA, Alzheimer’s is the only one that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.

Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

What is a public health crisis? The World Health Organization (WHO) uses the term “crisis” for a “situation that is perceived as difficult.” A crisis may at times elude public knowledge, contain different levels and layers of intensity, and have the potential to reach levels beyond what is predicted. For example, specific events such as the 2014 Ebola virus epidemic and 2001 anthrax attacks are characterized as public health crises. Issues like addiction and obesity often have the same distinction.

Alzheimer’s fits the definition of a public health crisis. People who have the disease are impacted, along with their loved ones and the entire healthcare system. In the coming years, the number of Alzheimer’s diagnoses and deaths is expected to increase. The financial toll of the disease on families and the economy is also expected to rise, worsening an already difficult situation.

What Is Being Done?

The CDC’s BRFSS Survey

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), collects data at the state and local level to target and build health promotion activities. Because the data tracks the impact of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, it can be a strong tool for informing the community about these trends and how to respond. The survey can also help policymakers with decisions involving Alzheimer’s.

Initiatives Promoting Cognitive Health

Enhanced cognitive activity — along with good physical health, exercise, nutrition and social engagement — can potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The following initiatives represent some of the ways that federal agencies are addressing the crisis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Healthy Brain Initiative

The CDC and the Alzheimer’s Association organized the Healthy Brain Initiative, which seeks to better understand cognitive impairment. The initiative targets interventions to improve cognitive health and implementation of positive actions into public health practice.

According to the Public Health Road Map Report for 2013-2018, the initiative focuses on ensuring that people with dementia are aware of their diagnosis as well as reducing preventable hospitalizations among patients with dementia. Other action items are divided into four domains: monitor and evaluate public health data; educate and empower the nation about causes of disease, injury and disability; develop policy and mobilize partnerships on cognitive health; and assure a competent public health workforce.

Healthy People 2020

The Healthy People program establishes national health-related goals set by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The most recent 10-year agenda for public health topics and objectives listed dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, as a new topic area for the program.

The primary goal in Healthy People 2020 is reducing morbidity and costs related to dementia as well as maintaining or enhancing the quality of life for those with dementia. Other areas where progress is important include early diagnosis, interventions to delay and prevent onset of disease, better ways to manage Alzheimer’s when other chronic conditions are present, and understanding lifestyle factors that influence risk.

The Role of Education

Education is critical for the public health crisis of Alzheimer’s disease. This can lead to greater public understanding of the disease, resulting in more support for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Enhanced public education can also create additional momentum for research on Alzheimer’s. Hence, public health professionals who are trained to help with Alzheimer’s can make a difference, from investigating the disease to providing resources in their community.

The rest of the article, including the state of Alzheimer’s disease, is available on Rivier University Online.

Brian Neese has been writing about online education for more than five years, with specialties in health care, business and education. In his spare time, he enjoys sports, movies and spending time with family and friends.

HO-HO-H2O: Aquatic Therapy and Exercise Gifts

For the Christmas season, Felecia Fischell, aquatic specialist, has written a personal piece on  shopping for aquatic gifts.

The noodle is by far the most useful and versatile piece of aquatic equipment, and experientially speaking, HYDRO-FIT® sells the best product on the market. The HYDRO-FIT density foam has the longest shelf life I have ever seen. Several lasted more than 10 years, being used in a fresh water lake, saltwater cruise ship pool, chlorinated swimming pool, hot tub and the ocean. Currently referenced on their website, HYDRO-FIT sells the 54-inch long, 3.25-inch diameter solid noodles for $11.95 plus shipping. The shipping was considered “oversized” and therefore more expensive. However, I would rather purchase them again, as an eco-conscious consumer, because I have seen way too many of these equipment deteriorate and crumble in as little as one calendar year of indoor swimming pool use. Financially speaking, a $12 noodle, lasting 10+ years, is less expensive than buying $3 noodles every year or two. Because they are solid, not hollow, and made of superior foam, noodles retain their flotation properties well and do not become easily waterlogged. If you purchase a noodle, it can be straddled or wrapped around the back under the arms and may negate a need for the more expensive waist belt.

Photo Credit: Courtesy from HYDRO-FIT, Inc.
Photo Credit: Courtesy from HYDRO-FIT, Inc.

Waist belts are particularly useful when training in deep water. Low back support and aid in maintaining a vertical posture, when striding and pressing through the water with limbs can be important. This is so as not to compromise safest form through movement. There are many brands of belts and since this may truly be a personal comfort matter, it is difficult to recommend a specific one. Most belts should fit snugly around the midsection, almost as if the person cannot breathe when out of the water. The belt should not have dangling loose parts or get in the way of arm or leg movement through their fullest range of motion. Since waist belts are not often used in therapy as in exercise, this article provides tips to consider, rather than recommending a preferred brand. Please note, however, that belts which are straps with flotation “pillows” can be placed in different locations along the strap secured around the body. This may not only impede some movement but also increase the risk of losing the safest vertical form.

HYDRO-FIT still makes many of my most favorite products and during the Christmas season, their $100 cuff kit is being sold for $85. This kit includes a pair of webbed gloves (thin), a pair of hand buoys, a set of cuffs (which can be used not only on ankles or arms, but also buckled together to form a waist belt), and a very useful, sturdy mesh tote. I have enjoyed using other brand webbed gloves, as they do not need to be rolled down off the hand from the wrist, to prevent stretching that occurs if pulled off from the fingertips. Novice users do not require the added resistance and power of thicker, more robust gloves. Hence, the “wave mitts” included in this kit are perfect for beginner.

All of the items mentioned (highlighted and underscored) so far, except the gloves, are buoyancy equipment. The webbed gloves are drag equipment, as are paddles, bells and blades. Drag equipment is useful in that it works “omnidirectionally.” When under water, the drag equipment can train muscle parity (balance between complementary muscle pairs) more smoothly as it is not buoyant and likely to pop up to the surface. Muscle parity is frequently a more desirable objective in the outcome of rehabilitation and developing proper function for daily activities.

Paddles have evolved in design and form such that there are now glove-like devices that can be worn. There are far more designs and manufacturers of these than the paddles I use and started using more than 20 years ago. Comments based upon experience allow me to reference a pair of paddles that are hand-held, about 17-inch long and have a disc at each end. There is a center dial, allowing for adjustment of the triangular openings around the inner diameter of each disc. Water flows through the adjusted openings, making the resistance minutely modifiable. They are inexpensive, at less than $20 per pair, and withstand the test of age and durability. Water Gear Aquaflex manufactures these paddles and they can be obtained from many online vendors, including Swim2000.com. Persons with gripping issues or especially compromised wrist joints should not necessarily use such paddles.

max Blades and Bells by AquaLogix are inexplicably a new favorite. Purchased just a little over a year ago, their durable plastic polymer construction gives a sturdy appearance and I have found them easy to don, care for, carry and use. The bells come in three different sizes and the grip handles, inside the bells, make the equipment particularly comfortable to hold. The blades almost appear to be the innards of a turbine engine, and they are attached to a velcro strap that cinches around each ankle (or wrist/forearm). Using drag equipment is beneficial to those who prefer developing their strength by controlling the amount of force to move the equipment through water. Such folks do not want the feature of buoyancy to support their extremities when working out in the water.

From the Nekdoodle to the Wonderboard and Buoyancy Wrap by Sprint Aquatics, there is SO much product on the market today. Swim Outlet is one online clearinghouse for aquatic equipment of all sorts including suits, shoes, videos and electronics. Purchase choices are greatest through internet sources, where name brand sources can sometimes be found at small discounts. Store bought products are usually of lesser quality and cannot be supported for replacement, like many manufacturer websites. The choices are numerous, overwhelming and sometimes hard to decide. Visiting local aquatic and therapy facilities that use equipment is a great way to try out products before making the investment. There is no harm in asking if you may borrow or even test out the products in a pool facility during a non-busy time. Just make sure to bring your own towel and be prepared with a swimsuit worn under your clothes or kept in the car. Have fun helping yourself, a friend or loved one celebrate a positively Buoyant New Year!

Felecia Fischell is an aquatic specialist with 25 years experience in aquatics. She leads aquatic classes and consults as an aquatic personal trainer and a swim instructor in and around Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, USA. The Founder of FunLife Aquatics Consulting and Personal Training, Felecia presents at health fairs and has given aquatic presentations to high schools, Howard County Board of Education, Howard County General Hospital and Howard Community College.

12 Ways to Reach Out to Caregivers During National Caregivers Appreciation Month

Photo Credit: Marianne Scuccio
Photo Credit: Marianne Sciucco

Chances are you know someone caring for a loved one who is sick or has a disability. This could be due to an illness such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, stroke, or a variety of other conditions. Some family members provide live-in care, others visit daily or weekly, and some oversee care from a distance, or care provided by hired aides or a nursing facility.

No matter how the caregiver performs his or her role, caregiving is a tough job, requiring resources that are often scarce: time, money, support, and assistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more than 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care to someone age 18 and older who is ill or has a disability, and an estimated 21 percent of households in the USA are impacted by caregiving responsibilities.

Almost all of this work is unpaid, typically provided by family members and often performed around the clock with no breaks. Also, many caregivers juggle other responsibilities such as jobs, raising children, and managing their own households.

November is National Caregivers Appreciation Month, and a great time to reach out to those providing care and help lighten their load. In recognition of those who work tirelessly and selflessly to care for a loved one, below are 12 ways to offer assistance and let caregivers know that you care. These people need support and often that support does not cost much, if anything, and takes little time.

  1. Ask if you can sit for them a little while so they can run errands, take a break, see the doctor, or attend church or a caregiver’s support group, whatever they need to do to take care of themselves.
  2. Going to the grocery store? Call and ask if there is anything you can pick up for them.
  3. If your employer allows, donate paid sick time, vacation days, or personal time to a coworker caring for a relative who is hospitalized or needs post-hospital care.
  4. Volunteer to mow the lawn, weed the garden, rake the leaves, or shovel the snow.
  5. Share the bounty, whether from your vegetable or your flower garden. Fresh produce and fresh flowers are cheerful.
  6. If you have the skills and tools, offer to change the oil in their car and rotate the tires.
  7. Again, if you have the skills and tools, offer a free haircut to the caregiver and/or their loved one.
  8. Walk their dog.
  9. Ask if they would like you to wash and clean out their car.
  10. Volunteer to take out the trash and bring the barrels out to the curb on trash day.
  11. Double cook a meal, preferably one of their favorites, and send over a dinner.
  12. Include them in your prayers.

For more information about caregiving and caregivers, please follow #AlzAuthors on Twitter during National Caregivers Appreciation Month in November 2015, or find AlzAuthors on Facebook.

Marianne Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up, but became a nurse to avoid poverty. She later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. Her debut novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, is a Kindle bestseller, BookWorks featured book, IndieReader Approved, and winner of IndieReCon’s 2014 Best Indie Novel Award. A native Bostonian, Marianne lives in New York’s Hudson Valley and when not writing, works as a campus nurse at a community college. She can be reached via her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Keeping Brains Healthy Across the Lifespan: Is It Really As Easy As Counting to 5?

Photo Credit: Allan Bergman
Photo Credit: Allan Bergman

Research over the last 20 years on the impact of lifestyle on brain health indicates that how people live each day can strongly influence the delay and potential prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. To appreciate the full weight of these findings, the World Alzheimer’s Report 2014 estimates that if dementia is delayed for just five years, incidence would be cut by half! By 2030, this delay translates to nearly 44 million people who will not succumb to dementia, and estimated financial savings for individuals, their families and global health systems is projected to exceed $600 billion.

Risk for age-related brain disease, the number one fear of people over 50 in the USA, begins decades before symptoms appear. The appeal of embracing a protective lifestyle is a welcomed alternative and becomes increasingly important from middle age onward. While the brain’s plasticity across the lifespan means that it is never too late to benefit from healthy lifestyle choices, the rule of ‘use it or lose it’  implies that loss of unused neural networks, skills and healthy habits are harder to recapture the older people get.

Figuring out how to live each day may not be so simple. Though multiple studies show a difference in types of daily activities for people who did not develop dementia versus those that did, pinpointing WHAT activities is complex. Researcher Jaak Panksepp’s work sheds light on wired at birth brain networks that need to stay active across the entire lifespan to effectively promote survival and longevity for mammals. These include seeking, play, care and restoration. Scientific news reports also tout the importance of sleep, exercise, diet, leisure activities, antioxidants and other factors supporting brain health. In general, beneficial lifestyle activities create awareness and reflection, involve physical activity, promote heightened engagement and connection to people, pique interest, and more.

Frequency counts! The above-referenced research suggests that those who did not develop dementia engaged in at least five beneficial activities per day, five days a week. Given that average cognitive decline for people over 60 is 1-2 percent per year, frequency appears to be very important to avoid this slippery slope. Actual improvement in cognitive function will also likely require MORE than these activity levels. For most, this runs counter to conventional thinking about aging, which tells people to slow down or retire as they age.

Brains are better off if individuals participate in beneficial activities such as good sleep, exercise, learning and play; and people engage in interesting, fun hobbies five times a day, five days a week. Due to the slippery slope of decline per year, people need to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives by staying active. The goal is not to overwork the body to keep brains healthy, so below are two mechanisms that promote wholesome lifestyles and offer protection if people take time out because of illness, injury, or vacation.

1. The longer people engage in beneficial activities, the more cognitive reserves they build, which protect against cognitive decline. Education and physical exercise are the primary ‘reserve’ builders. Education across the lifespan is the best way to maintain and improve brain functioning, and the more physical exercise people do over many years, the greater resiliency their bodies have to fight unhealthy aging. Reserves will kick in for protection if injury, illness or an abundance of stress occurs. Even those with ailments can partake in tailored activities that ensure the highest possible quality of life.

2. It is possible to multiply the benefit of each activity by adding ‘boosters’. There are a number of ways to do this, but for simplicity’s sake, counting to five is ideal:

  • Add social engagement to any activity throughout each day.
  • Weave a physical element into whatever you are doing – work up a sweat as you vacuum, go for a walk while on the phone, take action breaks when sitting for extended periods.
  • Choose activities that are meaningful to you – be with people you care about, do things you consider important and have always wanted to do.
  • Love what you do! Choose activities that make you and others laugh, that make you feel great, and that bring out the best in you.
  • Try new things, meet new people, stretch your mind and body in ways you have not done before.

By counting to five – five activities a day, five days a week, five boosters that add up to five more years of brain health – one can reap a potential lifetime of health benefits for both the brain and body.

Joan Parsons, MBA and MS Certificate in Interpersonal Neurobiology, is founder and CEO of Lifestyle Rewired. The company offers lifestyle assessments, High Value Activity Programs and Immersion Travel Programs that enrich and protect brain health. Joan’s mother Sally developed dementia in her 70’s, becoming the inspiration to identify how such a vital woman could succumb to brain disease at a relatively young age. Researching hundreds of studies on the impact of lifestyle on the brain enabled the team to develop concepts and models to support life long brain health, hence Lifestyle Rewired was born. The company’s programs and tools focus on activities that inspire learning, new experiences, and meaningful human connection.