Category Archives: Health & Wellness

It’s not too late for flu shot

As if being in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t enough, here we are in flu season again.

I never really used to think about the flu. I’d get a cold about once a year. I’d increase my Vitamin C intake, get more rest, and keep my distance from others, and that would be all I really needed to do to fight it off in a few days. But as I get older, and as I now work closely with elderly people, I am learning just how important it is to protect ourselves and others from the flu.

What can you do to protect yourself and your elderly loved ones? Wear a mask. Wash or sanitize your hands at every opportunity. Keep your distance from others. And get a flu shot.

According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the flu vaccine is a safe, effective way to help people stay healthy, prevent illness, and save lives. And having done it now for eight years, I can tell you that it’s quick and painless. In Saskatchewan, it’s also free. Getting vaccinated is especially important for elderly people—who are at high risk of influenza complications—and for their caregivers. And the earlier you get your flu shot, the better protected you are.

Can you still get influenza if you get a flu shot? Well, yes, for a number of reasons. One reason can be exposure to a flu virus in the two-week period after vaccination that it takes the body to develop immune protection.  But, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, chances are it will be a milder case.

And if there was ever a time to avoid the hospital, this is it. Because of the pandemic, hospital beds are in short supply, and our medical professionals are exhausted.

This flu season’s vaccine is available now through public health clinics across the province, some physician and nurse practitioner offices, and at local pharmacies. Click here for a list of clinic locations in Saskatchewan.

And if you’re elderly and in need of someone to take you, give me a call. I’d love to help.

Being Mortal changed my way of thinking

I recently had coffee with a man who was in town visiting his elderly mom. We chatted about his mom’s wonderful life, some of her recent health challenges, and generally how she is faring alone in her own home (which she’s lived in for some 50 years). Physically, her eyesight is failing, and she has the occasional “run-in” with the bathtub or uneven patio block in the yard. Mentally, she’s sharp as a tack. Slightly forgetful—we all have our moments!—but she can recall stories from her earlier years in great detail. And, most importantly, she is happy. We talked about how long she might remain in her own home. I suggested that a consideration one day might be her personal safety. I think I struck a nerve. Continue reading

When the sun goes down

Sundown (a.k.a. Sundowner’s) syndrome. It’s a term used to describe the onset of confusion and agitation for people with dementia and for some residents of hospitals and nursing homes, usually occurring in late afternoon or early evening. Symptoms can include argumentative or demanding behaviour, confusion, agitation, paranoia, anxiousness, restlessness, or requests to “go home.”

Sundown syndrome is still a bit of a mystery to doctors and researchers. Some believe it is an accumulation of sensory stimulation throughout the day. Some believe it is caused by hormonal imbalances that occur at night. Some attribute it to fatigue. Others believe it is caused by anxiety resulting from the inability to see well in darkness.

It is certainly stressful to watch someone suffer from sundown syndrome, but know that it’s even more stressful on the individual experiencing it. It’s also not something that he or she can control.

My first encounter with sundown syndrome was uncomfortable, dare I say even a bit scary. Continue reading

Would you want to live forever?

Scientists have successfully altered the life span of fruit flies, worms, and mice, and some believe we are not far off being able to do the same with humans. Pardon?!

In a recent episode of The Nature of Things with David Suzuki called, “Living Forever: The Longevity Revolution,” scientists from around the world explore whether we can repair the human body and perhaps increase the human life span another 100 years, 500 years, even more. The documentary is not about wanting to look and feel younger. It’s about stopping, slowing down, and even reversing the aging process. It’s about the modern quest to create a longer, healthier old age, even eliminating old age altogether.

It’s a controversial subject, and one that’s fascinating to ponder. Continue reading

Look after dem bones

Osteoporosis is pretty common in older men and women. It makes bones thin and more likely to break, and it is a major reason for fractures in women after menopause. If bones are fragile, even a minor fall can cause fractures.

I broke my arm once while high-jumping in a high school gym class. It was just a hairline fracture, but it was oh so painful. I never want to experience another fracture. Ever.

How can we keep our bones strong? Continue reading

Self-care a necessity for family caregivers

Family caregivers are special people. They make time in their busy schedules to care for elderly loved ones, and often put their own lives—and health—on hold. Their intentions are wonderful, even admirable. But providing help to elderly family member, especially one with dementia or a physical disability, can be super stressful and exhausting and can also lead to serious health problems if left unchecked.

Continue reading

Real food vs. meal replacement drinks

I was raised to believe that whole, natural food is better than processed, packaged foods. (Thanks, Mom.) Don’t get me wrong. We ate plenty of processed food growing up in the 70s and 80s. But a single mom raising three kids doesn’t always have the luxury of regular grocery store visits or the time to make meals from scratch. Whatever we ate, Mom always made sure we understood the difference between “real” and processed foods, and she managed to instill in me the ability to choose whole, healthy food more often than not.

When it comes to meal replacement drinks, like Ensure® and Boost®, I knew there was probably a time and place for them, but not as a regular alternative to food. Continue reading

Keeping our brains young

I truly admire people who remember faces, names, birthdays, and especially your last conversation with them. “How was your niece’s grad?” a friend said to me recently. Wow, I don’t even recall telling her about my plans to attend, and here she was—days, even weeks later—asking me about the event! Impressive.

If I’m having trouble remembering things like this in my 40s, I certainly have some work to do to catch up with others my age and to offset the memory challenges that go hand-in-hand with getting older.

Thankfully, there are lots of things we can do to keep our brains sharp and working well throughout our life … what some researchers call “cognitive vitality.” Continue reading

You, only healthier!

I’m not a fan of The Dr. Oz show, but I have to admit that some of the health and wellness information that Dr. Mehmet Oz advocates sometimes makes a lot of sense. In a recent edition of O, The Oprah Magazine, I stumbled across some Dr. Oz tips for good health. They’re applicable for all ages, but here are a few that are especially relevant for seniors: Continue reading