The DASH Diet and Nutrition for Seniors

The New Year always brings resolutions, and this year a worthy goal might be to eat better. Seniors are especially susceptible to poor nutrition. Cooking for one seems not worth the effort after years of cooking for a family. Perhaps it’s a little harder to go shopping and lug home bags of groceries. Maybe food just doesn’t taste the same or there’s a lack of hunger. Whatever the case may be, many seniors are not getting the proper nutrition they need, and that can wreak havoc on their health.

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is ranked as the number one diet of 2012 by US News & World Report. This eating plan has been shown to lower blood pressure by lowering sodium intake and increasing the intake of potassium-rich foods.

The average American consumes 2,500 to 5,000 milligrams of sodium per day. The DASH diet research showed that an eating plan containing 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day lowered blood pressure. An eating plan containing only 1,500 mg of sodium per day even further lowered blood pressure. That’s about ⅔ of a teaspoon of table salt. That includes the sodium found in your food and drink, not just the table salt you add to when cooking or eating.

According to the Institute, the plan
  • Is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat
  • Focuses on fruits, vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Is rich in whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts
  • Contains fewer sweets, added sugars and sugary beverages, and red meats than the typical American diet
Studies show that a good diet can lower your your risk of high blood pressure, strokes, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

What else can you do to ensure that you are getting the most and best nutrition as you age?

  • If you miss the added taste salt brings, try spices, herbs, and lemon juice. They’ll add flavor to your food without increasing your sodium.
  • Choose whole foods over processed food. That includes whole-grain breads and cereals, and whole fruit over fruit juice.
  • Nuts, beans, and legumes are a great source of protein. Limit your red-meat intake.
  • Limit the empty calories found in chips, cookies, and alcohol.
  • If food tastes strange or different, check with your doctor. Many medications alter the taste of food.
  • If you find shopping and carrying groceries to be too much effort, enlist the services of one of the many online grocery providers, such as or Peapod. If you prefer to shop for yourself, many stores offer delivery. Just ask.
To learn more about Health Aging Programs and Services, check with your own State Agency on Aging.

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Senior Care: When Moving Requires Downsizing

Senior care requirements sometimes occur suddenly.  As seniors (people age 65 and older), are now the largest group in size and percentage. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, this age group grew at a faster rate than the total poipulation between 2000 and 2010.  It also discovered there are 53,364 centenarians (age 100+). 

The population of older men increased at a more rapid rate than older women which means men are living longer now, too.  Previous generations experienced women outliving men by decades.  Now that women have entered the workforce, this has been changing and the advancement of medical technology has enabled doctors to discover illnesses earlier and successfully treat them.

As seniors are living longer, it has become more acceptable to plan ahead for senior care needs.  And more and more assisted living communities are opening up with all the luxuries you would expect to find on a spa vacation.  Senior care options include senior home care, assisted living, continuing care retirement communities and nursing homes.

Seniors experiencing a medical emergency can find the need to down-size to a smaller apartment in an assisted living community to be overwhelming.  Now there are services which assist with this.  One of my friends who had 2 sibilings, had innovative parents who asked each of them to tell them what items in their home they would like to inherit.  Then they gave them what they could at the time of their downsizing and sold their home and moved into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).  As everyone in the family knew who was getting what for inheritance, that issue was solved.  They were then able to enjoy their retirement years without the added stress of keeping up a large house.  Her mother did die suddenly and her father later developed memory loss and cancer but was able to transfer to the nursing home section of the CCRC and the children can go to work each day knowing he is well cared for (he has even found a girlfriend and is very happy).

Review the costs of nursing homes nationwide as you prepare for our own retirement care.  Nursing homes are often an extension of a hospital stay now (Medicare will pay for up to 100 days) and if you should run out of money to privately pay for care, you may qualify for Medicaid and be able to receive care in a Medicaid nursing home.

MSNBC recently reported on specialists who assist seniors to down-size.  Senior living experts also assist families to find the right assisted living community which will meet their budget requirements and provide the right amenities.  These services are free to seniors as they provide a valuable benefit to the assisted living communities who pay a referral fee to the senior living experts.

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Senior Caregiving Jobs: Employment High in Senior Care

Senior caregivers and Certified Nursing Aides will continue to find job opportunities with positions increasing along with pay.  The minimum wage increased in 8 states in January, 2012, and senior caregivers, even without professional experience, are usually paid above minimum wage and provided with training.

Caregivers for seniors can obtain part-time and full-time jobs with senior care companies.  View a job description and a video about the requirements and benefits of working as a senior caregiver or Certified Nursing Aide and apply for a caregiving job.

Caregiver pay can start at minimum wage or around $9 or $10 per hour, depending on which part of the country you live.  You may view the minimum wage levels in each state in Caregiverlist's "by-state" information section.

Caregiver training involves learning how to intereact with a senior with various age-related illnesses and understanding how to safely monitor changes in health.  Caregiver Certification can be obtained online as part of a 10-hour online course.

Many caregivers become professional caregivers because of personal experience caring for a loved one or family member.  Anyone with a caring personality who also can demonstrate a consistent job history can be considered as a senior caregiver.  Passing a background check is the first step in the process and you can purchase your own background check to confirm it is accurate before applying for a senior care position.

Registered Nurses first become Certified Nursing Aides as part of their R.N. training, which means anyone who would like to become a C.N.A. may advance, if they would like, to become a L.P.N. or R.N.  View Certified Nursing Aide schools along with their admission requirements to consider growing your career in senior care.


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Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee for Caregivers

Senior caregivers usually have very busy schedules.  Professional caregivers have the added challenge of needing to be sure to arrive 5 minutes early for their senior care jobs.  As seniors will quickly become distressed if a caregiver is not on time, most companies require early arrival.

This means coffee-drinking usually comes with the territory of senior care.  In addition, sharing a cup of coffee with a senior also can be part of a daily routine.  And now that there is a Starbucks on nearly every corner of major cities, stopping in for a cup of joe can also be enticing, even when you weren’t planning to do so.

As everyone is focusing on new goals for the new year, there is good news that coffee does have some health benefits.

Coffee’s Health Benefits

·         Memory Enhancement:  3 or more cups of coffee a day can reduce the threat of Alzheimer's and dementia by up to 65%. Coffee releases a substance called GCSF which assists to clean away the plaque build-up that is present in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients.

 ·         Heart Health:  1 to 2 cups daily makes your blood vessels expand and contract better with each heart beat.

 ·      Fights Diabetes:  as coffee consumption goes up, diabetes risk goes down.  Drinking 4 four cups daily improves insulin's effects and reduces your diabetes risk by 1/3rd.

 ·         Prevents Strokes:  Drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day may cut your stroke risk by up to 19%.

 ·         Reduces Cancer Risk:  Research is showing that coffee is a really potent weapon against cancer. For women, the latest research suggests drinking 4 cups of coffee a day may lower their risk of endometrial cancer by up 25%. Postmenopausal women who sip at least 5 cups a day may cut their risk of certain types of breast cancer in half.   For men, both caffeinated and decaf coffee may fend off prostate cancer. And for both sexes, 3 cups of coffee a day may help fight the most common skin cancer, basal cell.

If you received a new coffee maker for Christmas, or maybe have one of the Keurig K-Cup brewers in your office (which can definitely become addictive), this means even drinking 3 cups of coffee, or more, each day will be perfectly fine.  In fact, it will be good for your health according to this latest research.

Caregivers usually have coffee included as a free benefit by their clients, so drink up and enjoy and explore new varieties and flavors.

Remember that coffee is considered a “natural” drink and because of this, has advantages over other unnatural ways of obtaining caffeine, such as drinking carbonated soda pop (some people call it "pop" and some people call it "soda", I am from a soda drinking area, but just wanted to make sure you know I am referring to Diet Coke, Rootbeer, and you know, soda........we always have fun teasing our Minnesota cousins who ask for a "pop", which to us is the same as a spanking, not something you drink).

Enjoy a cup of coffee while studying for Caregiver Certification or obtaining your Certified Nursing Aide certification as you develop your career as a senior caregiver.  As senior care companies are constantly hiring new caregivers, you may also apply for a senior care job near you.  And remember, a cup of coffee a day, or 2 or 3 or 4, may keep the doctor away. 

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Find Senior Care Costs

Costs of senior care vary widely, based on the location of the care and the type of care.  The first steps are to find out if the senior will continue on Medicare or need to switch to Medicaid.  Here are some guidelines and tools for finding senior care costs to enable family caregivers to plan ahead.

Medicare:  senior care health insurance for all seniors in the U.S.A. unless they have few assets and a low enough income to qualify for Medicaid which then replaces Medicare.  Medicare does NOT pay for long-term senior care, but only for short stays in a nursing home after a hospital stay.  Learn more about Medicare's benefits.

Medicaid:  very low-income seniors may qualify for Medicaid which has more benefits to pay for medications and long-term care, although the choices are limited based on Medicaid providers.  Medicaid is funded by both the state and federal government and because of this, each state's Medicaid qualifications vary slightly.  Caregiverlist provides the "by-state" Medicaid qualifications.  Usually no more than $2,000 in assets are necessary to qualify financially along with a low monthly income.  However, there is a spousal poverty prevention built into Medicaid which will allow for one spouse to maintain the home and car and some assets, while allowing the other spouse to spend-down to qualify for Medicaid.  This is usually necessary when someone has an age-related disease such as Alzheimer's disease and will need long-term care around-the-clock.  Medicaid will pay for nursing home care ongoing.

As all seniors who are not on Medicaid must privately pay for senior care, here are the senior care options:

  • Senior Home Care by Licensed Senior Home Care Agency
  • Assisted Living Community
  • CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community)
  • Nursing Home
  • Supportive Living*

Submit a request for services and rates of senior home care agencies near you to receive a price quote.  It is important to understand that senior home care must be provided by a senior home care agency in order to protect the senior and the family, as the agencies professionally train the caregivers and have all necessary insurances such as worker's compensation insurance, professional liability insurance and provide for payroll taxes.  This insures that the senior and their family are protected from elder abuse and financial fraud.  Many states have passed laws to require professional health care organizations to only refer to licensed senior home care agencies because hire-direct caregivers present opportunities for financial fraud and elder abuse and the elder abuse departments have become so overwhelmed with these cases that they want to educate consumers to stay away from hire-direct senior caregivers.  Senior care can be difficult and professional caregivers have proper training and the support of a care team.  Read more about hire-direct senior care fraud here.

Assisted Living communities vary widely.  Some independent living communities will also provide all the benefits of assisted living.  Reach out to a company like Senior Living Experts who provides Registered Nurses and Social Workers to assist families with understanding the costs and services of assisted living and takes the senior on tours of communities to determine the best solution.

CCRC's, or Continuing Care Retirement Communities require a significant down payment (many times seniors will sell their homes and use the proceeds as the down payment) and then the senior has the advantage of knowing they can stay in the community, transfering from apartment to studio to nursing care room, as needed, and being able to stay even if they should run out of money and go onto Medicaid (full time caregiving can be $80,000 a year).

Nursing homes usually are an extension of a hospital stay.  Find the costs of nursing homes nationwide along with their ratings in Caregiverlist's nursing home directory.

Supportive living communities are available in some areas of the country such as Illinois. Usually there is a financial requirement to qualify and a senior must still be active when they move in.  You can learn about customized senior living programs that have been developed in your area through your Area Agency on Aging, and you can find their contact information for each state nationwide in Caregiverlist's "by-state" directory.




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Girl Scout Cookies and Caregivers

Girl Scout Cookies have been around for more than 80 years.  The cookies are a bit smaller than they use to be, but they still taste great and they still raise money for a good cause which happens to also support research that benefits caregivers.

Thin mints? Trefoils? Do-si-dos? Tagalongs?  If you were a girl scout, or the parent or brother of a girl scout, you probably remember all of the girl scout cookie names, as well as your favorite flavor.  The Philadelphia girl scouts were the first council to have a bake sale as a fundraiser, with the girls doing the sales and marketing.  This lead to the New York Girl Scout chapter following and then creating a branded cookie style with the Girl Scout logo.  This cookie mold was then licensed to other bakers allowing Girl Scout cookie sales to take place nationwide.

Along with selling cookies, the Girl Scouts of America promotes a healthy lifestyle for members, which includes a well-balanced diet and plenty of exercise.  The Girl Scout research Institute (GSRI) created a guide for helping girls to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to take these skills into their communities.

Actionable items taught include healthy weight, nutrition and exercise for all family members and caregivers.  A healthy environment leads to better health, the research shows. 

Senior caregivers can learn more by reading the Girl Scout Research Institute report called "Weighing In".    Caregivers may also find certified caregiver training which teaches safe caregiving skills and apply for a senior caregiving job in their area (both Girl Scouts and non-Girl Scouts are welcome).

And if you would like to buy some girl scout cookies this year, well, there is even an App to help you find the right flavors more easily or you may just plug your zip-code in here at the Girl Scout Cookie website.

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Power Wheelchairs: When Electric Wheelchairs Are Needed

Power scooters, power wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs - everyone has seen the television commercials promoting wheelchairs for seniors.  Why?  Well, it turns out Medicare will pay for them in some cases but it is very important to understand when it is necessary to have an electric wheelchair and important to understand that just like buying a new car, many details must be present in order for it to be a great fit.  Custom fitting of power wheelchairs from height to weight to managing the controls are a vital part of the process.

Who Needs An Electric Wheelchair?

The use of an electric wheelchair is not limited to seniors. Many people suffering from chronic illnesses such as Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis find an electric wheelchair necessary for daily activities. This article will offer advice on choosing the best wheelchair and what methods are available for payment.

Choosing the Best Electric Wheelchair

There are several variations of electric wheelchairs that are suitable for any individual based on their physical needs. Wheelchair styles can differ in frame size, seat size, seat height, tire size, and number of wheels. While shopping for an electric wheelchair it is best to test out several chairs and seek a doctor’s opinion. Electric wheelchairs can be customized for better back, neck, and leg support.

Add-ons and Accessories

Electric Wheelchair manufactures now offer several options for customizing a wheelchair. Common accessories include arm rest pouches and organizers, reflectors, seat belts, and seat cushions. Many companies also offer the option to install ramps and chair lifts. Ramps and chair lifts can be installed in homes and vans. Using a ramp or a chair lift saves time and adds an extra level of safety. Unfortunately Medicare does not cover the cost of a ramp or lift.

Cost Coverage

Whether the payment for an electric wheelchair comes out of pocket or is paid by a third party, the cost can add an unnecessary amount of stress. The best option is to plan in advance and know all of the available options.


Under the Social Security Act, Medicare Part B, persons who qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance are eligible for durable medical equipment reimbursement. The equipment must be appropriate for in-home use. Medicare can cover up to 80% of the cost of an electric wheelchair. However, there are specific guidelines for coverage. The physical condition of the patient is the most important in determining coverage. The patient must have a condition that without the use of a wheelchair would cause them to be confined to a bed or chair. They must be unable to operate a manual wheelchair and safely operate an electric one. Documentation from a person’s physician is required. The documentation must support the necessity for an electric wheelchair. A documentation of the patient’s current functional levels and limitations along with a medical diagnosis is essential. Most conditions resulting from a neurological or muscular disease are covered. Once approved, Medicare will determine the patient’s level of coverage, whether it is rental or full purchase price. To assure a quick reimbursement, check the coding of the wheelchair from the salesperson. The coding is used for Medicare reimbursement and must be exact.


Medicaid is offered to families with low-income and varies from state to state. It is usually not suitable for wheelchair coverage. However, Medicaid was established to offer services for children through the age of 21. The Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment program requires Medicaid to support the use of wheelchairs for children through age 21. If results of this screen program show that a wheelchair is medically necessary it may be covered by Medicaid for a child. Many states will provide Medicaid services through an HMO or a preferred provider.

Knowing all of the options and resources available is essential to getting the most out of an electric wheelchair. One resource to learn more about electric wheelchairs is All Mobility Scooters, where you can find more advice and articles on wheelchairs and cost coverage.

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Flu Virus: Use Online Tools to Combat Influenza

Caregivers for seniors have the added challenge of making sure they keep themselves healthy, in addition to monitoring the health of the senior they assist as a caregiver.  During the winter months, illnesses spread more easily and it is important to wash hands regularly and to steer clear of those who are ill.

Influenza, better known as "the flu", is a virus which as many as 20% of the population in the U.S.A. contract each winter.  For seniors, flu can be the extra hardship to their immune system which will trigger hospitalization and even death.  Along with pneumonia, the flu can be a virus the immune system cannot combat when there are other health challenges.  Around 20,000 Americans die from flu-related causes each year.

Caregiverlist's health partner, EmpowHER, offers an Influenza Resource Center where caregivers can quickly and easily gain insight to what causes the flu, how to prevent it and where to find flu shots.

Caregivers can also find online caregiver training and take a sampleCertified Nursing Aide test to learn more about safe skills for caregiving.



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Minimum Wage Increases in Eight States

Senior caregivers, minimum wage and overtime have been at the forefront of policy news lately and with good reason. By 2050, the estimated number of elderly persons who will need some type of long-term care is projected to almost double from 15 million in 2000 to 27 million. With this increase, the demand for paid caregivers is expected to rise dramatically. Most formal long-term care is provided by direct care workers, such as nursing assistants, home health aides, and personal aides, who provide basic care and essential help with daily activities, enabling people to continue to age at home. Most of these workers are paid an hourly rate.

Home health care jobs are projected to be among the fastest growing occupations in the near future.

Effective January 1, 2012, minimum wage rates in eight states rose between 28 and 37 cents. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have all raised their minimum wage rates in an effort to keep pace with inflation. Not surprisingly, most of these states’ minimum wage already exceeded the national minimum wage of $7.25. Washington now leads all states with a minimum wage of $9.04 per hour.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, 72.9 million American workers age 16 and over were paid at hourly rates. That represents 58.8 percent of all wage workers. It is estimated that the new wage increases will affect more than 1.4 million low-income earners.

While that is great news for the many low-income workers in those states, senior caregivers in Florida, Vermont and Oregon will not see an increase in their paychecks, because minimum wage does not apply to home health care workers in those states. A recent initiative proposed by the Obama administration seeks to rectify that situation.

Elsewhere, the city and county of San Francisco’s Minimum Wage Ordinance took effect and compensation increased for hourly workers to $10.24 from $9.92. The very progressive ordinance applies to part- and full-time employees, adults and minors, employees who work at least two hours of work in a particular week in San Francisco but are not necessarily city residents—it even protects undocumented workers.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) established a national minimum wage, guaranteed time-and-a-half overtime for certain jobs and prohibited the employment of minors. In July of 2009, the federal minimum wage rose from its 2007 rate of $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, when the final of three incremental increases took effect.

While the new wage hikes are certainly good news to all hourly workers, industry statistics show that home health care aides who work through reputable Senior Home Care Agencies already enjoy a mean hourly wage of $10.46. A sure way to increase your potential income is to add to your skill set by completing a professional training program to make yourself a more attractive home care candidate when applying for jobs in your area.

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Find Senior Care Jobs: Certified Nursing Aides and Professional Caregivers

Senior caregiving jobs continue to be available as the large baby boomer population grows.  Senior care companies in major cities hire 5 to 10 new professional senior caregivers each week in order to keep up with staffing demands.

Certified Nursing Aides (C.N.A.'s) and professional caregivers can apply for a job to gain a part-time or full-time or live-in caregiving position.

Beginning a career in senior caregiving will deliver fulfillment beyond a paycheck and offer the ability to have a job position with a flexible schedule.  Positions are available in senior's homes, assisted living communities and nursing homes and include benefits through working for professional senior care companies.

Training programs are also available to keep caregivers updated on the latest approaches to caring for seniors with age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.  Online training is also available to gain certification as a professional caregiver.

Learn about caregiving job descriptions and apply for a senior caregiving position near you.

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