How to Improve Your Sleep (Without Medication)

Physical, mental, and social changes that naturally develop with age can make it hard to get the rest you need. Everything from medications to failing eyesight can interfere with your body’s sleep-wake cycle. Despite these challenges, there are many effective ways to improve your sleep quality without adding another medication to your list.



Start with Healthy Sleep Habits


One of the best places to start is your sleep habits. While these habits and behaviors may not fix all of your sleep problems, they give your mind and body ample opportunity for fall and stay asleep.



  • Consistent Bed and Wake-Up Time: Your body loves consistency. By going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, you let your body adjust to your preferred schedule. Over time, the body will automatically start releasing sleep hormones at the appropriate time.
  • Bedtime Routine: A regular pattern of activities before bed serves an important purpose. One – a familiar routine helps the brain recognize when to release sleep hormones. Two – it’s gives you an opportunity to relieve stress and tension before bed. A routine does not need to be complicated or long but should include activities that leave you feeling calm and relaxed.
  • Avoid Screens Before Bed: Televisions and other electronic devices can give off a bright blue light that suppresses sleep hormones. Try shutting them off two to three hours before bed to keep your body on schedule.


If after working on your sleep habits you find you’re still struggling, you might need to consult a physician to look for an underlying sleep disorder. Sometimes better sleep comes through something as simple as an anti-snoring device, mouthguard, or therapeutic pillow.



When You Need More Than Healthy Habits


While many people will notice an improvement in their sleep when they use good sleep habits, others may find they need more of an intervention. A few to consider:



  • Mindfulness Meditation: Meditation acts as a stress management tool. Many older adults experience stress due to the loss of a loved one, changes in living situation, or financial concerns. To get the rest you need, you have to be able to put stress aside for a time, and that’s where mindfulness meditation comes in. This type of meditation focuses on the present while allowing thoughts of the past and future to pass through without lingering. Over time, this “present” focus changes the structure of the brain by strengthening the connection between the emotional center of the brain and the logic/reasoning center. The overall effect is less stress and, oftentimes, better sleep.
  • Bright Light Therapy: Natural light helps set and trigger the sleep-wake cycle. As eyes age, less light becomes available to stimulate the brain, and the sleep cycle may become irregular. Light therapy requires direct daily exposure to light bulbs that simulate natural sunlight. Bright light therapy maximizes light exposure in the morning to help reset the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Sleep Restriction: This method uses changes in sleep timing to increase tiredness at night. You would first stay up later than normal, wake up at a regular time, but then stay awake all day, no naps. The next day you follow the same pattern. The theory is that as you get more tired, it gets easier to fall and stay asleep. This method has rules like, if you’re awake, you don’t stay in bed longer than 20 minutes and you don’t get in bed until you’re tired. It’s a process to retrain your body to sleep.



A combination of good sleep habits and interventions based on your unique sleep challenges can help you get the rest you need. With better sleep, you’ll be physically and mentally at your best and ready to live the life you want.



The Link between Alzheimer's and Sugar


Alzheimer's disease affects many, every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops it.  A recent study was published by the journal Diabetologia that involved 5,189 participants over 10 years and the results showed that people with higher levels of blood sugar had more accelerated cognitive decline. Several other studies have been done and the results all show: the higher the level of sugar intake the higher the risk for cognitive decline. 


In Dr. Oz's latest episode, brain health researcher Mark Lugavere and NYU professor and researcher Melissa Schilling explain this link between sugar and Alzheimer's. They also go into what foods we should trade off to prevent high sugar intake.  We have to lower consumption of high-glycemic foods like white rice and potatoes and switch them up for better options like brown rice and sweet potatoes. 


What we eat and how we live has a big impact on our lives and future. Although there are many other factors that influence this disease, food is one that we can control. 

Read more on this article by The Atlantic

 

Skilled Nursing Tips for Family Caregivers / Checking Vital Signs

Vital signs are the front line health metrics which help a care team assemble a picture of a patient’s current condition. Vitals typically measure temperature, pulse rate, and respiration rate, however, blood pressure levels are often also included.

Why is it helpful for a family caregiver to measure these key health indicators? In a time of concern (i.e. if your loved one is under the weather), checking their vitals helps you to gauge the severity of the situation from a health standpoint. If you’re wondering whether to take them to the E.R. or call their doctor, it can bring you peace of mind and help you make a clearer decision knowing that their blood pressure, temperature, and pulse are all normal and you’re not necessarily in crisis mode.

Checking vitals is often times what a nurse will do in the doctor’s office or hospital, however, it’s possible for any family caregiver to do it at home. Luckily, loads of technological medical devices are available at your pharmacy or online with which you can take accurate vitals readings digitally. Understanding the data you’re given, however, is a different matter.

Don’t miss this quick guide to checking and understanding vitals:

Temperature
Did you know that a normal body temperature may range anywhere from 97.8 to 99° F? 98.6° F is the average, however, your loved one may run a little colder or a little hotter than that. Knowing their baseline temperature will help you catch sudden spikes or drops that may require special attention.

Increases in body temperature, or fevers, are especially worth monitoring when they creep over 101° F. While a fever isn’t necessarily dangerous, high body temperatures may exacerbate symptoms of certain conditions like multiple sclerosis and dementia, especially if they are the result of an infection. If you are worried about a sudden fever, monitor your loved one’s temperature and record the readings every 1 to 3 hours; share this information with your loved one’s home health nurse and doctor.

Hypothermia, on the other hand, is a drop in body temperature below 95° F which typically results from exposure to the cold but can also be caused by low blood sugar, alcohol intoxication, and advanced age. A low body temperature coupled with hypothermic symptoms like shivering, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and lack of coordination require immediate medical attention.

Respiration and Pulse Rates
Your loved one’s respiration rate, or the number of breaths they take in a minute, may range on average from 12 up to 20 breaths while at rest. Medical conditions and illnesses can affect how slow or how fast your loved one is breathing. Sudden changes in respiration rate should be monitored and reported to a medical care team.

Your pulse rate measures the number of times your heart beats in a minute; on average, pulse rates can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute. Pulse rate is typically measured with other helpful devices like a pulse oximeter or digital blood pressure monitor, however, you can easily measure pulse rate yourself with a couple fingers.

Gently place your forefinger and middle finger over the artery on the thumb side of your loved one’s wrist or on your loved one’s neck on either side of their windpipe. Set a timer for 60 seconds and then measure the number of thumps you feel with your fingers during that time. An exceedingly high pulse rate over 100 bpm is called tachycardia and may require immediate medical attention if it does not subside. The same goes for a pulse rate that is far lower thanyour loved one’s norm.

Blood Pressure
The clinical accuracy of blood pressure readings is a must in a good digital blood pressure monitor. Being able to quickly and clearly display an accurate reading, as well as record it and alert users to alarming readings, equips caregivers with health information they can rely on.

A normal blood pressure for a healthy individual is around 120/80 mmHg; it’s a measure of the force at which blood is being pumped through the circulatory system. Depending on your loved one’s condition, their baseline blood pressure may be higher or lower. Any unusual blood pressure reading that drops below 90/60 or jumps up above 140/90 could indicate that another underlying factor is at play, like an infection, and that your loved one should be monitored closely (and their doctor called).

Measure blood pressure regularly around the same time each day while your loved one is at rest, following the instructions that come with your digital monitor. Knowing what is a normal reading for your loved one will help you recognize potential warning signs sooner rather than later.

Blood Glucose App Helps Caregivers Track Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2012, 9.3% of the population had Diabetes. For senior caregivers with senior clients who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, managing blood sugar levels may seem like a difficult task. The iGluco app allows senior caregivers to easily track their senior clients' blood sugar levels over time.

When users first download the app, they need to create an account. This includes basic informationc such as name and email address. Then, users need to complete their profile with more detailed information, such as gender, age, height and weight. Then, users need to set up their glucometer to work with the app if they want it to automatically sync with the app. Alternatively, caregivers can manually input the information from readings as they happen or they can upload offline measurements from the device.

To add a new measurement. caregivers first need to enter the blood glucose reading as ml/dL. Then, users need to enter the time of day with detail, such as before or after breakfast, whether or not they took medication or insulin, if they exercised, how many carbs they ate, etc. All of these factors affect blood glucose levels, so more accurate information will help caregivers and health care professionals recognize patterns over time.


Over time, caregivers can view the average results from all of the readings entered. This information includes an average number for blood glucose, the highest and lowest blood glucose readings, and a breakdown of the number of readings considered high, normal and low. This information can be useful for caregivers to share with their senior clients' doctors during regular visits to check in on the daily management of their diabetes.


The Learn area of the app also includes resources to help senior caregivers delve deeper into diabetes management. It includes articles from Diabetes Forecast Magazine, which range from active lifestyle tips and recipes to advice for traveling with diabetes and tricks for remembering to take medication. 

The iGluco app is available for Apple platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

- Paige Krzysko

Patient Education App Helps Caregivers, Senior Clients Understand Medical Issues

For caregivers, looking after senior clients with specific medical issues can be challenging. It's important to fully understand the health issue and the steps being taken to prevent or lessen the effects of the issue at hand. The primary source of information should always be a medical professional, but for caregivers and senior clients looking for more information, the Complete Ortho app offers detailed patient education materials.

When caregivers first open the app, they don't have to create an account, which is refreshing. It brings users directly to a screen to select an area of the body to drill down to the information they're seeking. Body area options include: shoulder, elbow, hand & wrist, spine, hip, knee, and ankle & foot. Caregivers and their senior clients can use these to drill down to an area where they may be experiencing pain, or to an area where they already have a doctor's diagnosis but would like more information. The descriptions in the app will help caregivers and their senior clients get more information about what could be causing pain or difficulty before visiting the doctor. Of course. all information should be verified with a physician. 

Once caregivers select a body part, they will be taken to a screen with a close-up on a skeletal view of that part of the body on the left and a menu with several options on the right. Caregivers can see on the right a tab for anatomy, which goes into detail about all of the different aspects of that body part. For example, when looking at the foot diagram, you can click on "Achilles Tendon." When users click on it, a diagram within the app highlights the tendon and whirls to the correct position to display it. So if a senior client finds out they're having an issue with their Achilles Tendon, now they can see exactly where it's located on their body and where the problem may be stemming from. 


The next tab in this area of the app is dedicated to conditions concerning that area of the body. This area offers short videos explaining the function and structure of the different parts of anatomy in the first tab and then offering explanations of why an issues has occurred with them and where the pain is stemming from. For example, with the Achille' Tendon, the app explains that users might experience pain from frequent running or jumping. 

The final tab on this area explains the treatments for the conditions listed in the previous tab. These contain more videos that go into detail about the purpose of certain medical procedures. This area will be particularly useful for senior clients who may already know they need a specific surgery or procedure to gain a thorough understanding of what will be done.

The Complete Ortho app is available for Apple platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko


Health App Tracks Activity for Caregiver Stress Relief

The job of a caregiver can be unpredictable and stressful. One of the most important considerations for maintaining a healthy lifestyle comes with managing that stress. Caregivers have several options when it comes to stress relief: meditation, exercise and sleep all contribute to wellness. For caregivers with Apple phones, the built-in Health app automatically tracks steps so caregivers can gauge their daily activity. 

You probably don't realize the number of steps that you take each day. For caregivers especially, who might be crossing a room several times a day to get things for their senior clients, 15 steps here and 20 steps there add up fairly quickly. The Health app uses GPS data to track how far your phone moves, and with it, how many steps and miles you walk in a day. Caregivers with Apple phones don't even need to download anything to use this function; it comes pre-installed on the phone and tracks movement automatically. 

When caregivers open the app, they are greeted with a dashboard that shows the number of flights of stairs climbed, number of steps and walking + running distance average for the week. If caregivers also have a device such as a Fitbit that tracks calories and other fitness data, they can connect that with the Health app to produce more data, such as exercise minutes or workouts. 

For each category presented, caregivers can click to see more historical data and compare charts over time. For example, clicking on walking + running distance will show all of the daily data for the week, month or year and display bar graphs across the top to illustrate the data. It will also show your average distance overall. The comparison charts help caregivers realize when they might have a week or month that's particularly low so that they can adjust their routine to add in more exercise.


Consider setting a daily step or distance goal for yourself, or maybe even for you and your senior client if they feel like going for a walk. For senior clients, regular movement helps keep their joints active, even if it's just a leisurely stroll around the block. For senior caregivers, walking or running even an extra mile every day can help relieve stress. 

The Health app comes pre-installed on all Apple products. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Yoga for Beginners App Offers Caregivers, Clients Easy Way to Exercise

Relieving stress and staying active play a big part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but most of the time that seems easier said than done. For senior caregivers whose work is particularly demanding, setting aside time a couple of times a week to exercise and de-stress can make a big difference in mental and physical health. The Yoga For Beginners app offers a way for caregivers and their senior clients to stretch and exercise wherever is most convenient for them. 

The home screen of the app is divided into four different sections: Yoga Plans, Yoga Poses, Health Tips and Instruction. Under Yoga Plans, caregivers will find the different options for yoga programs that they can complete through the guided instructions in the app. The Yoga for Beginners plan is free, while the others such as Yoga to Relieve Stress or Yoga for Better Sleep must be paid for. Starting with Yoga for Beginners will give you and your senior clients a feel for the basic poses and will help with the aforementioned issues. Simply doing any yoga helps bring calm to the mind and stretch the body. 

Once users select a program, they can click start to begin the countdown and launch into their exercise routine. The screen shows the specific pose that caregivers should use, and if a demonstration is needed then caregivers can click on the play button in the upper right-hand corner. This will pull up a video explaining and demonstrating the pose for someone who has never done it before. The videos are embedded directly into the app from YouTube, so they aren't all the same style or instructor. But given the free nature of the app, they do a sufficient job of educating the viewer on how to complete the exercise. 


Under the Yoga Poses area of the app, caregivers will find a list of poses that serve different purposes and instructions on how to complete them. The categories include Yoga Poses, Abs Exercises, Stretch Exercises, etc. Every category includes some free poses and some locked for a paid subscription. These all include a written description of the activity and what it helps with, and then a YouTube video showing the exercise. These YouTube videos appear to be specifically put together for the app, as opposed to the videos in the other portion that differ in instructor and style video-to-video. 

Under Health Tips, caregivers will find several categories sharing tips on everything from Women's Health and Weight Loss Tips to Healthy Eating and Aging & Health. When users read these tips, even in the prose they are reminded to consult with their doctors for expert opinions before changing their habits drastically. Especially when it comes to senior clients, medical professionals will offer a more sound opinion than general tips in an app. However, this section can offer some food for thought, and options to discuss at future doctor's appointments. 

The Yoga for Beginners app is available for Apple platforms. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Diabetes Management App Assists Caregivers in Working With Senior Clients

Diabetes can be difficult to manage, especially upon initial diagnosis. For many people, managing diabetes requires not only following instructions from doctors, but also learning how their own bodies respond to a specific diet or doses of insulin. To help make this learning process easier, the One Drop app gives senior caregivers a place to keep daily records of their diabetes management. 

When users first download the app, they need to create a new profile. After inputting their e-mail and creating a password, the app asks what type of diabetes the user is diagnosed with. Options include Type 1, Type 2, Pre-Diabetes, Gestational and others. After answering this question, profile set-up is complete and users are taken to the home screen. 

The main focus of the app is centered around the button in the center bottom of the screen to log different activities. Users can add a record when they check their blood sugar, take a medication, eat something or exercise. All of these factors affect blood sugar levels, which is key in managing diabetes. 

When users record their blood sugar, they can use a slider on a circle at the top to enter the exact number, and then complete optional fields below such as, "How are you feeling?" Under this topic, caregivers can adjust additional sliders to indicate the level of stress, energy, happiness and confidence that their senior client is experiencing at the time of the reading. Other optional fields include photo, tags, notes or a protip. These fields call for a typed entry, so caregivers can enter whatever information will be most useful and leave the rest blank. 


The other fields to log information follow simple formats to the Glucose level entry. For the field to log foods, caregivers can enter either an amount for carbs in grams, or search for a specific food to log from the in-app library. Caregivers can track the information most pertinent to their senior clients, which could be particularly useful for someone newly diagnosed trying to figure out what affects their blood sugars the most. For example, tracking Carbs for a week and following it up by checking Blood Sugars twenty minutes later could offer insight into how your senior client is affected by certain foods. 

One other area of the app tries to create a sense of community by sharing other user's readings. No identifying information is available beyond initials and location to maintain privacy, but users can check the feed to see what other users are sharing and leave encouragement by liking the record or leaving a sticker on it. 

The One Drop app is available for Apple platforms. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko 



Healthy Recipes in App in Time for the Holiday Season

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and the one with the most calorie-heavy dishes. With Thanksgiving next week and the following month full of once-a-year treats, abandoning healthy eating for indulgence can be tempting. However, caregivers can use the Kitchen Stories app to find new recipes to make at home or for senior clients to eat in moderation, despite the time of year. 

When caregivers download the Kitchen Stories app and open it to their main feed, they will see a rotating set of featured items as well as several recipes below. When caregivers click on "Filter" in the upper right-hand corner, they can adjust the recipes they see on the home feed by category, difficulty, diet or preparation time. The diet preferences include: vegetarian, vegan, sugar-free, lactose-free, gluten-free or alcohol-free.

Under the Search tool, the app features a variety of recipes sorted into several categories, such as 20 minute dishes, low carb, weeknight dinners, vegetarian and under 400 kcal. While not every category represents a "healthy" recipe, caregivers can sort through the options and find a recipe to meet certain dietary needs. However, for other dietary needs such as low-sodium or low-fat, caregivers might need to make their own adjustments and substitutions to the recipes. 


Once caregivers pick a recipe, they can click on it and see how to make that recipe two different ways. At the top of each recipe page, the app provides a video showing each step of making the recipe, from raw ingredients to cooking methods to the finished product. Underneath that, caregivers will see the traditional recipe format, showing the text list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions for how to cook the item. 

Also included on the recipe page is the basic nutritional information for the dish: calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates. A rating system on the recipe also shows what other users thought of the dish after having made it on a scale of one to five stars. The one-star rating says, "I didn't enjoy this," and the five-star rating says, "Absolutely delicious!"

The How To section of the app features short videos showing different cooking techniques for those who are still learning. The topics range from "How to prepare beets" to "How to knead dough (and why)." On average they range from one to three minutes long, so caregivers can watch them and emulate the techniques in their own kitchen. 

Once users find recipes they like, they can add them to their saved recipes for reference. They can also add ingredients to the shopping tab so they know what they need to buy when they go to the store. 

The KitchenStories app is available for Apple and Android platforms. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko 

Comprehensive Health App Allows Caregivers to Track Overall Activity

When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, so many factors are at play together. From eating a balanced diet to getting exercise and relieving stress, it can all be difficult to track. Luckily, the My Health Diary app allows senior caregivers to quickly and easily store health information about all the different activities in one place so that they can see an overall picture of their efforts. 

Users must first create an account with the app upon downloading it, which includes identifying information and linking existing Health apps on their phone to the app. For iPhone users, the My Health Diary app can pull in information from the build in Apple Health app. This includes an Activity section with a counter for how many steps are walked in a day, in addition to other optional features that iPhone users can choose to track, such as Nutrition, Sleep and Mindfulness. 


Once users create their account, then they can set up their dashboard within the app with the widgets they'd like to use. The app features over 20 different widgets to track different aspects of health, ranging from sleep and steps to medications taken and blood pressure. Widgets can be added or removed from the dashboard at any time by going to the Settings area of the app. 

Caregivers can customize this section to fit the needs of their senior clients. For example, if a senior client needs to track their blood pressure on a daily basis in addition to taking a medication for it, then caregivers can record the results in the blood pressure widget to keep a record over time. This can be useful for personal information, as well as to share at upcoming doctor's appointments to make sure clients are on track.

For caregivers who want to track their own health, the exercise widget in the app will provide an idea of where they're at now and how much more activity they should do to meet their fitness goals. Another area of the app allows caregivers to set Care Items for a particular day of the week. For example, for stress relief caregivers could set a goal to take a walk for 30 minutes three times a week. This could also be used to remind caregivers of specific times that senior clients needs to take medication. 

The Files area of the app gives caregivers a space to take photos of prescription instructions or store important medical documents for their senior clients in case they need them for quick reference. To store a document, users can either upload one or take a new photo. 

The My Health Diary App is available for Apple platforms. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko 

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