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July 10, 2020 Senior Lifestyle0

It sure is a wild time to be alive! With the help of modern medicine, the average lifespan of a human being is 79 years. That means that our average senior citizen was born in the 1940s and 50s. In that era, people relied on typewriters and rotary-dial phones to conduct business. Forget Tinder! You had to actually know someone well enough to ask them in person if they would meet you for a milkshake for your first date. You could really wow them with your favorite song on the jukebox. Color television and microwave ovens were brand new inventions. It is safe to say that we have come quite a long way! From smartphones to smart home devices to Elon Musk’s latest and potentially greatest invention, the Neuralink, it is no surprise that technology has become overwhelming for the older population. Let’s review some of the best apps for seniors.

According to a 2017 AARP study, mobile and traditional computing devices are the primary technology resource owned by Americans aged 50 and older. Seven out of ten seniors own a smartphone. This tells us that with the ever-changing nature of technology, seniors are adapting to modern times. While they may be reluctant, there are some fantastic apps on the market that even the elderly who struggle with technology could benefit from. Their overall quality of life may be improved with the click of a button.

Technology for Seniors: Our Top 3 Apps for Elderly Folks:

1. Find my iPhone

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, about 40% of people aged 65 or older suffer from memory impairment. While misplacing your phone is a common occurrence for people of any age, the elderly population is more vulnerable to this scenario since they often forget where they are or where they have put things. Luckily, there is an app in place to help! Find my iPhone to the rescue!

Related:
Am I Having a Senior Moment or Could it be Dementia?

Once it is set up, users can utilize any iOS device to find their missing iPhone and secure all its data. When in use, the app will show the phone’s location on a map, remotely lock it to keep trespassers out, play a sound so you can find it, display a message so that the finder will know how to reach you, or erase all of the data on it.

Note that we do recommend that you help your senior set it up immediately after purchasing a smartphone. The app only works once it is installed and connected to an iCloud account, which may be something that the average senior will struggle to accomplish alone. The concept of the cloud can be difficult for the elderly to grasp, so it may be easier to simply set it up and connect all of their apps for them.

2. Audible

For the senior in your life who has poor vision or likes stories and books but is no longer able to read them, Audible may be a great app to help them stay entertained. Amazon developed this platform, so it is incredibly user-friendly and offers the most extensive selection of audiobooks of all industry competitors.

Many seniors spend a lot of their time alone, which often translates to watching a lot of television. Audible is a great way to keep your loved one entertained while no one else is around. Too much screen time has notoriously negative impacts, such as eye strain, headaches, and neck, back, and shoulder pains.

According to a study published by the Washington Post, screen time is on the rise for our senior population. While Audible is facilitated through an electronic device, it offers a nice break from watching television, as it is audio-only. For the elderly struggling with technology, the ability to listen to classic literature from their generation may be pivotal in turning off the TV. We also love Audible because the subscriber is not bombarded with ads once the book begins.

3. Be My Eyes

This revolutionary app was created for people who are blind or vision impaired. As we age, our vision changes, often causing loss of peripheral eyesight, light sensitivity, Cataracts, and dry eyes. If only there were a gadget for the elderly living alone, that would enable them a perfect set of eyes on demand! Thanks to Be My Eyes app and video chat technology, there now is!

This amazing platform connects visually impaired users to live people who are available to assist via video chat and screen sharing with every-day tasks. This can be anything from choosing matching attire to reading recipes with fine print to finding a lost set of keys. Beyond the sheer functionality of this app, the senior in your life will undoubtedly appreciate the live human interfacing, since they are often alone.

4. Display Text & Size (Bonus)

Number four is a bonus item because it is not an app, but an elder tech hack. Did you know that you can customize the display settings on any iPhone to make the visual elements easier to see? They offer various settings that would help a variety of sight impairments, such as color blindness or far-sightedness.

To use, go to Settings on your iPhone. (This is the icon that looks like a gear.) Select Accessibility and then Display & Text Size. From there, you can adjust several display elements. For seniors, we recommend switching to a larger, bold font and increasing contrast. This will make their use of technology a lot smoother and more accessible.

Because technology has advanced so quickly, our senior population may feel a bit overwhelmed. The world they grew up in was very different, and life moved at a much slower pace than it does today. Luckily, that has created an amazing opportunity for products, apps, and assistive technology devices for the elderly to be developed. It may take some getting used to, but technology can improve the overall health and quality of life for the senior population.


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July 3, 2020 Senior Lifestyle0

For many, assisted living can be a touchy subject. After a lifetime of independence, building, and providing for a family, the senior in your life may find it difficult to consider moving from their home into an assisted living facility. The truth is that at a certain point, the mental and physical health of your loved one may be greatly improved and preserved under professional care and supervision.

Have you noticed unexplained bumps or bruises when visiting mom or dad? Do they sometimes forget where they are going or forget to turn off appliances when they are finished with them? Are they still driving? And more importantly, are they doing so safely? (Hint: look for scratches or dents on their vehicles.) If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it may be time to begin talking with your loved one about transitioning to senior living.

A 2017 AARP report stated that an average of 52% of people aged 65 or older will develop a severe disability that will require Long Term Support and Services (LTSS). The average duration of need over a lifetime is about two years. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there are currently 28,900 residential care communities with 811,500 residents in the United States.

What is Senior Living?

Senior living facilities are condos and apartments within complexes or communities, often chosen when living at home is no longer the most practical option. There are several options to consider when searching for the perfect place for the senior in your life. Finding the right assisted living facility will involve assessing the level of care that your family member requires and ensuring that adequate services can be provided to meet their needs. For example, some facilities are suited only for independent living, while others offer Alzheimer’s Care, which is far more comprehensive.

When ‘shopping’ for the perfect place for you or your loved one, one should consider whether or not there is a need for 24-hour staff, if meals and medications need to be managed and/or administered, and if they will need assistance with bathing, dressing, transportation, and using the restroom.

The Benefits of Assisted Living Facilities

There are many advantages to moving to assisted living, both from a health and lifestyle perspective. Some significant benefits include:

Combats Senior Loneliness

Most senior care facilities have common areas for social and recreational activities. This allows your loved one to develop and engage with a community. Most likely, the same cannot be said if your mom or dad is home alone for all or several hours each day. A study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) argues that both social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased mortality. While you are working all day or tending to a family of your own, your mom or dad may be stuck inside for hours with no one but their favorite soap opera stars to keep them company. In an assisted living facility, they will be given the life-prolonging gift of human engagement, socialization, and specialized care.

Related:
Senior Isolation During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Memory Loss Prevention: 6 Steps to Maintain an Active Mind

A Focus on Nutrition and Experiential Dining

There is a wide range of meal services provided by assisted living facilities. On the higher end, residents may enjoy farm-to-table dining, and in some cases, they even enjoy entertainment during their meals. Many places have transitioned from cafeteria to restaurant-styled dining to give seniors a better and more social experience. One of the latest trends is 24-hour access to food (via grab-and-go and food/snack carts.) Regardless of the delivery or presentation, most assisted living facilities are focused on the health and well-being of the residents. Therefore, they offer nutrient-dense meals and monitor residents’ intake and consumption to ensure that they are getting what they need for optimal health and longevity.

Peace of Mind

When you make the (albeit difficult) decision to place your loved one in residential care, you can rest assured that they are closely monitored and tended to by healthcare professionals. Gone will be the days spent worrying whether mom slipped and hit her head on the counter. Your worries about why dad didn’t answer the phone after dinner last night can be put to rest. When your beloved senior requires help, whether it be transportation, clean clothes, or even a social outing, they will have access to several amenities and caretakers who can provide these services for them.

Signs it’s Time to Transition to Senior Living

While it may be a stressful topic of conversation, there are a few tell-tale signs that it is time to talk to your parent(s) about transitioning to senior living. When having this discussion, it’s crucial to keep in mind and highlight the benefits mentioned above and that you have their health and well-being in mind.

If you have noticed excessive weight gain or loss, neglected household maintenance, or an increase in falls/injuries, assisted living may be the best option for your loved one. Seniors who consistently need to be reminded to take their medication, or struggle with personal hygiene or preparing meals would benefit significantly from a team of professional caretakers, ensuring that these essential tasks are handled.

In some cases, the decline of a senior citizen may involve Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. In these cases, there are assisted living facilities that specialize in memory care. According to AARP, some signs of Dementia to watch for are difficulty with everyday tasks, repeating stories, becoming disoriented, or exhibiting aggression. If your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia (or other conditions involving cognitive decline), he or she will eventually and inevitably require 24-hour supervision and skilled nursing.

For the health and safety of the elders in your life, assisted living deserves careful consideration. Even though it may be a challenging and emotional topic, it may be the best option for the optimal care and longevity of your senior family member. Many of the preconceived notions about assisted living facilities are things of the past. New standards and trends in place may make the remaining years of life in senior living a place of community-oriented enjoyment and relaxation. HP Legacy Care Group serves at several in the Boston area.


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From sports-related injury and congenital disabilities to age-related conditions, aches, and pains, the benefits of Physical Therapy are abundant. Because there are many indications and treatments within the field, most therapists have a practice rooted in a niche focus.

Modern Physical Therapy (PT) originated in Europe in the 19th Century and is rooted in massage and manual muscle manipulation. The practice made its way to the United States to help with the treatment of Polio. Patients were able to strengthen and use what was left of their declining musculature to accomplish functional mobility. With the success of the treatments, therapists were then trained to work with the military. Soldiers returning from WWI with battle wounds were rehabilitated. While their treated conditions were a result of fighting in the war (i.e., amputated limbs, spinal cord injuries, and head injuries), Physical Therapy began to find more common applications.

The United Nations stated that one-sixth of the global population suffers from neurological disorders. The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that one in two adult Americans live with a musculoskeletal condition. That means that more than half of our adult population could potentially benefit from Physical Therapy!

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapy (AKA Physiotherapy) is a healthcare treatment that helps patients maintain, improve, or increase functional mobility. Physical Therapists utilize a variety of techniques, instruments, and exercises to treat illnesses or injuries that prevent their patients from achieving a full range of motion or performing physical functions.

Types of Physical Therapy

Everyone is susceptible to enduring an injury, and most of us will lose at least some of our mobility as we age. Many people are born with or develop illnesses that affect their movement. All these factors contribute to the vastness and diversity within the field of PT. To better understand the many different types of treatments and exercises therein, the field can be broken down into five distinct areas of practice.

1. Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy:

Anyone who suffers from heart disease, heart attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, or asthma can benefit from cardiopulmonary physical therapy. Many stress- and anxiety-related mental disorders and trauma affect the respiratory system as well. Given the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) anticipates that these conditions are on the rise. Anyone suffering from hypo or hyperventilation can also benefit from cardiopulmonary therapy treatments. There is a range of exercises used by professionals in the field, many of which focus on expanding the patient’s lung capacity and endurance.

2. Geriatric Physical Therapy:

As we age, we become more vulnerable to conditions that affect our functional mobility. While not exclusive to the elderly, issues such as joint replacements, balance disorders, and arthritis are more common among the senior demographic. According to the CDC, an adult (age 65 and older) falls every second of every day. Specialized Geriatric PT can play an integral role in treating these conditions, restoring a patient’s ability to balance, and in providing our elderly population with the tools and treatments needed to increase mobility and reduce pain.

3. Neurological Physical Therapy:

Therapists in this niche specialize in treating patients who experience movement limitations due to injury or disease of the nervous system. Among the many indications commonly treated in this area of practice are Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, and brain or spinal cord injuries. Patients will often be given Physical Therapy exercises to improve arm, leg, and foot mobility.

4. Orthopedic Physical Therapy:

When we first hear the term, “Physical Therapy,” we most likely picture athletes who are rehabilitating after suffering from sports-related injuries. This widespread perception of the field falls under the category of Orthopedic PT. Professionals who specialize in this use various techniques such as endurance, resistance, and strength training, joint mobilization, and stretching to heal, preserve, and protect the musculoskeletal system.

5. Pediatric Physical Therapy:

This area of practice is focused around children (typically anyone under the age of 18.) Disabilities are often (and ideally) diagnosed in the early and developmental stages of childhood. The severity level can range from a child who misses or is delayed in achieving developmental milestones outlined by the World Health Organization, or one who suffers from a genetic disorder (such as Cerebral Palsy). Pediatric Physical Therapists also treat children who suffer from acute injuries, muscle diseases, and head trauma.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

The long list of PT benefits would be difficult to summarize in just a few paragraphs. In an ever-developing field that serves so many different parts of the population, the benefits are exceedingly abundant. Below are some of the most significant advantages, though the list is not exhaustive.

1. An Effective Alternative to Higher-Risk Options. Because Physical Therapy is an efficient way to manage or eliminate pain, it can potentially help a patient avoid surgery. Even if surgery is needed, routine treatments before an operation can strengthen the patient and reduce post-op recovery time, often lowering the overall cost of the procedure. In other cases, patients are prescribed addictive medications, such as opiates. Since PT can give a patient the necessary tools and exercises to manage and reduce pain, they may be prescribed a lower dose of medication or none at all. Many muscle groups, such as the lower back, respond very well to non-invasive treatments, rendering Physical Therapy exercises very effective.

2. Helps to Restore Functional Mobility. Physical Therapy exercises can help patients regain their full range of motion through techniques focused on stretching and strengthening their muscles. Whether injuries are related to sports, trauma, or age, PT greatly benefits the outcome of a movement-limiting injury. With one-on-one care and attention, a therapist can assess a patient and prescribe a customized plan to strengthen the necessary muscle groups and re-align or stabilize the skeletal and postural systems. With these processes combined, patients are often able to achieve restored functional mobility.

3. Helps in the Management of a Wide Variety of Medical Indications. Whether due to old age, congenital disabilities, or disease, Physical Therapy is used to treat an expansive range of conditions. Beyond those discussed earlier, many physical therapists are also qualified to treat Vertigo, concussions, urinary incontinence, and Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ). In many cases, PT is preventative of a medical condition getting worse, becoming intolerable, or completely debilitating a patient.

Related:
Quarantine Pains: Staying Active During Self-Isolation

More often than not, Physical Therapy involves a very personalized care plan. Due to the vastness of the field, there are therapists who specialize in specific areas of focus. It may take a bit of research to find the right match, but ultimately it will be worth it to find a professional who can customize a plan that meets your particular needs. The benefits of the practice can be preventative, preservative, or restorative.


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Brain freeze, senior moment, mind blip, tip-of-tongue moment, and for the juvenile… brain fart! With so many familiar buzzwords coined to make light of memory lapses, you know that each one of us has experienced forgetfulness. Forgetfulness is not something people give much credence to as young adults, but for the 50-and-over crowd, those forgetful moments start to take on new meaning. 

Brain “glitches” happen to all of us, but as we get older, we tend to worry about them more. Who hasn’t had the “Why did I come in here?” moment, or struggled to find a word or a name that you have used countless times, or the “ I could have sworn I parked my car over there” moment? You are not alone! However, there is little consolation in numbers here, as older adults will agonize and wonder if what they are experiencing is common memory lapses or if they are a candidate for dementia. 

The 20th century saw a surge in the number of people who were 65 years of age and older. The number went from 3.1 million in 1900 to 35 million by 2000. At an estimated 78 million today, baby-boomers make up the second-largest generation, spanning the ages of 56 to 76. Boomers know that with aging comes increased risks of fragility, illness, disability, and cognitive decline. However, the fear of developing dementia has become more of a concern for this generation, becoming far more widespread than the disease itself. 

When it comes to our memory and a decline of mental acuity, Boomers are not only anxious about Alzheimer’s Disease and how it would impact their quality of life. A survey conducted by The Alliance For Aging Research found that the majority said: “they were not emotionally, psychologically, or financially ready for the potential of Alzheimer’s in their future.”  

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), which accounts for 60-80% of all dementia, is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. While deaths from other major causes have seen a decline, such as heart disease decreasing by 7.6% between 2000 and 2018, Alzheimer’s Disease saw an increase of 146% in the same period. And, when it comes to memory loss due to old age as opposed to cognitive disease, AD is undignified in its attack and is ultimately deadly. 

So, it is understandable for older adults to be concerned about what they forget and how often. To alleviate some of the worries, it is essential to understand the differences between age-related memory challenges and cognitive decline due to dementia symptoms. It is also necessary to acknowledge some other factors that play a role in our forgetfulness and that a healthy brain can lower risks for developing dementia.

Healthy Living For A Healthy Brain

Forgetting an occasional name or where you parked your car should come as no surprise when we consider the pace at which most of us live. Many Americans in the 21st century live fast-paced lives: working long hours, raising children, managing social activities, and consuming information in a technologically progressive environment… while being continuously fatigued as a result of inadequate sleep. As a result, more and more older adults suffer from stressful lifestyles, bringing on medical issues that reduce cognitive abilities. 

Treatable health conditions can not only cause memory loss but can also increase one’s risk of developing cognitive impairment with aging. Health concerns listed below and seeking treatment are essential for people concerned with developing Alzheimer’s:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • High Cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Chronic Stress  

Age-Related Memory Loss 

A healthy aging brain will have lower levels of blood flow as we age. Lower blood flow levels will impact certain parts of the brain like the frontal cortex, where verbal fluency is leveraged, making it more difficult for word retrieval. Neurons can shrink, making the connectedness to both the temporal and medial cortices work harder to function effectively. Verbal fluency, the ability to form long-term memories, and how the brain processes multiple aspects at once, will change as a result as we get older.

The following examples of mind-blips are typical among older adults and are not considered warning signs of dementia:

  • Occasionally misplacing your car-keys, reading glasses or wallet
  • Walking into a room and forgetting your original intent
  • Forgetting the name of an acquaintance or neighbor, mainly if you run into them outside of the typical environment
  • Being unsure of the day of the week for most of the day but finally figuring it out
  • Occasional difficulty finding the right word to use

Symptoms That May Indicate Dementia

Dementia is not a normal part of aging. If you or a loved one is concerned about memory problems or other dementia symptoms, if you/they have trouble with social abilities, or if memory loss interferes with everyday activities, it is imperative to consult a primary physician. Some symptoms of dementia would be:

  • Unable to find your way to a familiar location
  • Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving
  • Confusion and disorientation, or not remembering how you got somewhere
  • Difficulty communicating or finding the right word.
  • Trouble with coordination and motor function
  • Physiological changes such as anger, aggression, paranoia, agitation or inappropriate behavior

The good news is, the brain, our body’s controlling organ, is much like our muscles. When we exercise our muscles, we improve muscular strength. When we don’t, they atrophy. Our brains will function best if stimulated and challenged by doing things like crossword puzzles, reading regularly, learning a new language, or learning how to play an instrument. If our brains are idle, it too will atrophy or diminish, leaving us more at risk for developing cognitive impairment.

Related:
Memory Loss Prevention: 6 Steps to Maintain an Active Mind
Eating Smart for Brain and Heart Health

If you experience temporary memory lapses every now and then, you can most likely attribute it to a “senior moment” rather than concerning yourself with the worst-case scenario. When you think about aging gracefully and being at our best physically and emotionally, the same practices for the prevention of all chronic illnesses will support a healthy memory. The healthy motto as always is: Sleep well, watch what you eat, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, drink in moderation, manage stress, and stay social.


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June 11, 2020 Health & Wellness

It is hard to believe it is June already, which means Father’s Day is just around the corner! June also happens to be Men’s Health Awareness Month. What better gift to give your dad and other significant men in your life, than the gift of encouraging awareness and the relevance of their health.

National support and education for women’s health issues, namely breast cancer, has been more widely recognized in the United States than men’s healthcare matters. In 1985, October was established as Breast Cancer Awareness Month to promote advocacy and awareness for early detection and improved breast cancer treatments. In large part, the number of women who died from breast cancer decreased by 40% from 1989 to 2007 due to increased awareness and support by a compelling cause, symbolized by the identifiable pink ribbon.  

Men’s Health Awareness

How many of us knew there is a month dedicated to men’s health? We are willing to bet that not as many of us are familiar with June being recognized not only as a time to celebrate and honor fathers, but a month to celebrate men’s health. In 1994, Congress passed a bill establishing June as Men’s Health Month, a month dedicated to education and awareness on the health and wellness of men and boys, symbolized by a blue ribbon.

Men live shorter lives than women by an average of 5 years. In fact, American men have lower life expectancy rates at all ages and die at higher rates from most illnesses such as cancers, heart disease, respiratory disease, kidney disease, and suicide. 

Why the disparity between men and women? Men have been said to have a predisposition to higher risk behaviors like heavy drinking and smoking, and are more likely to take more significant risks when it comes to driving and recreational activities. Also, men have a history of serving in wars and are more likely than women to hold higher-risk jobs with workplace hazards in occupations such as emergency response, including firefighters and police, construction, manufacturing, agriculture and forest, mining, and military occupations.

When it comes to physical and emotional well-being, women are far more likely than men to keep annual physical appointments and seek professional medical advice when not feeling well. A survey of 500 men, ages 18 to 70 across the US, found that only 3 in 5 men get an annual physical, and only 40% will go to the doctor if they are concerned about a severe medical condition. 

Why are men skipping medical appointments? Researchers shared in an article in the Wall Street Journal that the idea of masculinity and “manly” stereotypes may contribute to the notion that it is weak to seek medical advice. The idea that men should be strong, self-reliant, vital, tolerant, and manage emotional self-control may have a negative impact on eventual health outcomes.

Men also reported in a 2016 survey that 20% were uncomfortable with the idea of prostate and rectal exams, and 21% were afraid to hear bad news from those exams. The biggest reason men said they did not keep regular medical appointments was that they were too busy to go.

So, how can we encourage men to think differently about their health care? How can we dispel the notion that it is not weak to talk about health concerns or seek medical advice? Engaging in conversations about health can lead to taking action regarding your loved one’s health and well-being.

The Men’s Health Month movement is about awareness, just like the Breast Cancer Awareness movement. Its purpose is to “heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.” More knowledge and recognition of this event and its purpose could have the potential to narrow the mortality divide between men and women.

Knowledge is Power

This year, the week leading up to Father’s Day is when communities across the country will promote Men’s Health Week. This is the perfect opportunity to generate conversations about the health issues that are the biggest threat to men. Accompany the special guy/s in your life to an event and learn more about men’s health care. The chances are good that something is happening in your community to support this vital cause. Take a look at this website to see more examples of events.

  • A conference provided by the Marine Corps for 3,000 individuals in the military on testicular cancer 
  • The Franklin Baptist Church of New Orleans offered free screenings for vision, cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure, and seminars on colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and tobacco use risks.
  • Edwards Air Force Base, hosts “Ask-a Doc” where fathers and families learn about hypertension, sleep apnea, and skin cancer prevention
  • San Diego Black Health Associates announced its “Steppin’ to Health” project designed to encourage men to get a check-up.

Fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers will live longer, healthier lives when they pay attention to their health and see a primary physician on a regular schedule. Age-appropriate screenings such as blood pressure screenings, EKG’s, PSA tests (for prostate health), and chest x-rays, are just a few preventive measures that, if followed, can improve health and reduce premature death and disability. A relationship with a healthcare provider will determine what is best for you or your loved one. 

It may be easier to talk about having a healthy diet, exercising, or getting enough sleep to support a healthy lifestyle, but not going to the doctor should not be an option. 


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Our health and the health and well-being of our loved ones have been top-of-mind as we’ve endured the last three months of a nationwide pandemic. We are practicing social distancing, and have become diligent practitioners of good hygiene in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus while protecting ourselves and the livelihood of others. 

Currently (June 2020), there is no specific cure or treatment for COVID-19, however, immunization and infectious disease specialists are working intently to deliver a potential vaccine. In the meantime, it is now more important than ever before to incorporate positive lifestyle habits that will help you stay healthy and support your immune system, which is command central for your body to fight infections and viruses.

Based on what we know today, people who are at higher risk of infection from COVID-19 are older adults and anyone with underlying medical conditions. People who are immunocompromised are among those who are more susceptible to infection and are at higher risk for severe illness and potentially fatal outcomes.

Being immunocompromised means having a weakened immune system, which reduces the body’s ability to fight infections and other diseases. Many conditions can cause a person to have a suppressed immune system, such as:

  • People who are undergoing cancer treatment
  • Bone marrow or organ transplant recipients
  • Smokers
  • People who have used steroid hormones or other immune weakening medications for a prolonged period

If you do have a compromised immune system, it is particularly essential to practice healthy lifestyle habits to help ward off illness and infection.

What is the Immune System?

The immune system is a complex network of organs, cells, proteins, and tissues that work together to protect the body against infection to maintain overall health. It plays an essential role in protecting the body against harmful germs and substances that could cause illness, infection, or disease.  

Several organs make up the immune system including your spleen, adenoids, lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, tonsils, and bone marrow. Together, these cells work to create immune cells, otherwise known as white blood cells which are responsible for detecting and killing foriegn substances such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. This process creates antibodies that can discern good cells from bad cells, eradicating them, and protecting the body against infection. 

There are two subsets of the immune system that work in concert with one another in a healthy and properly functioning system. Innate Immunity is something we are all born with. This system recognizes an invader, which stimulates an immune response eliminating bacteria, viruses, or any other foreign matter. This innate immunity includes the skin and mucous membranes of the throat and stomach. If a pathogen manages to evade the innate response, the adaptive or acquired immunity will take over.

Our Adaptive (Acquired) Immunity develops over time as we are exposed to various types of bacteria, fungi, or viruses, either through exposure to an infection or through vaccination. Over time, the body develops antibodies specific to certain pathogens based on the body’s memory to past exposure. 

Can I Strengthen My Immune System?

Keeping your immune system healthy year-round is essential in preventing infection and disease. Healthcare providers, nutritionists, scientists, and others have endorsed lifestyle improvements, healthy nutritional habits, and positive mental health as contributors to an efficient immune system.

Related:
Doctor’s Orders: Health Benefits of Laughter
How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety in this Unprecedented Time

With our concerns about the infectious nature of the coronavirus, we may be more concerned than usual about staying healthy and strong. For those of us who are not in the best physical shape, or at our healthiest before the virus, we may be wondering how to get healthy fast.  

The notion of “boosting” your immune system quickly is appealing, particularly during a time of increased vulnerability to an infectious virus.  We are bombarded daily with advertisements claiming certain vitamins and herbal supplements as effective ways to strengthen our immune system and improve our health. Supermarkets have entire aisles dedicated to vitamins, supplements, and magic powders enticing consumers looking for ways to manage day-to-day health. 

Not so fast! There is little scientific support to the efficacy of supplements or herbal preparations in improving overall health or having the ability to enhance the immune system. Researchers have found that vitamins may be beneficial to people who are malnourished, but that the average American adult is not. And, if you were relatively healthy before, supplements will do little to sustain that health. So what can we do to strengthen our immune system?

Healthy Living For A Healthy Immune System 

A healthy lifestyle as a whole has always been the best defense against the flu, viruses, and disease. Every part of your body will function better, including your immune system when you follow basic healthy habits. Some recommendations from Harvard Medical Health are below: 

Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands: Germs typically start off by being airborne, but can survive for periods of time on certain surfaces. Germs and bacteria can be transmitted by contaminated hands to your eyes, nose, and mouth. Be conscious of what you touch, try not to touch your face, and always practice good hygiene. If you cannot wash your hands immediately, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.  

Maintain a healthy weight: Eating fruits and vegetables will naturally provide the body with essential nutrients such as vitamins C, E, and D as well as antioxidants which will support the immune system. Zinc is known to boost white blood cells and can be found in nuts, beans, and lentils.  

Exercise regularly: According to the American Heart Association, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week to gain health benefits. With stay-at-home restrictions and social distancing practice, this may feel like a lot. Take a 30-minute walk or another activity, 5 times a week and you’re there.

Keep stress at bay: Living during a pandemic is stressful. And stress does have a negative impact on our immune system. If it is possible to avoid stressful situations, do so. If you feel stressed, try practicing meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises to help alleviate these feelings. 

Get vaccinated: Staying up to date with vaccinations is probably the best defense against the flu and viruses. In getting a vaccine for the current flu or viruses, our bodies will recognize the pathogen if you are exposed.

Whether you practice healthy habits or rely on over the counter vitamins or herbal supplements, it is always recommended you maintain regularly scheduled medical appointments and discuss any vitamins you are taking with your physician to be sure they are appropriate for you.  


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May 28, 2020 Mental Health

We have all heard the saying, “laughter is the best medicine,” but did you know that there are real health benefits of laughter? As we deal with high-stress situations, such as the coronavirus pandemic, we may find ourselves feeling anxious, afraid, and distracted by the ongoing negative news. At a time like this, laughter may be just what the doctor ordered.

“Trouble knocked at the door, but, hearing laughter, hurried away” ~ Benjamin Franklin

In our current crisis, surprisingly, humor is everywhere. Laughter binds us together against a universal threat. A collective chortle allows us to escape reality when it begins to feel overwhelming, even if it’s only for 15 to 20 minutes a day. Millions of people are flocking to social media platforms like TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook for comic relief. Sharing funny memes, dance routines, or jokes about quarantine boredom, brings a ray of sunshine on dark days, and staves off loneliness during social distancing.

Comedians like Bill Burr, Ray Romano, Adam Sandler, and Jimmy Fallon were among 90 comedians who raised more than $350,000 for the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund through ‘Laugh Aid’ Livestream. The Comedy Gives Back event provided more than 2.5 million viewers with more than eight hours of much-needed laughter.  

Even elected officials in some cities are leveraging humor to nudge citizens to comply with “stay-at-home” orders. Chicagoans are getting plenty of laughs from their Mayor Lori Lightfoot memes, which have proliferated the city. Lightfoot has countered her hard-nosed, no-nonsense persona with lighthearted and funny public service announcements (PSA) that have resonated with its residents, some calling her a memelord’s dream

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo recruited comedian Danny DeVito to do a PSA to promote Stay Home, Stop the Spread, Save Lives campaign, addressing the challenge of density in New York City and encouraging people to stay home. While California Governor Gavin Newson tapped comedian Larry David to deliver his “stay-at-home” message, and Metuchen, New Jersey Mayor, Jonathan Busch starred in his own satirical hand washing video promoting good hygiene.      

Why are politicians, comedians, doctors, and nurses turning to humor during a pandemic when emotions are running high with fear and anxiety? Laughter has been shown to strengthen our immune system, increase endorphin levels, improve alertness, lower blood pressure, increase the production of t-cells to help the pituitary gland release its suppressing opiates. 

Research has shown that excessive negative emotions like anxiety, fear, and sadness can interfere with our daily lives and undermine our physical health. Evidence suggests that people with anxiety disorders are at higher risk of developing several chronic medical conditions. They may also have more severe symptoms if they become ill and are at higher risk of death. 

Positive Psychology studies have shown that positive emotions such as excitement, joy, and happiness resulting from laughter, can have far-ranging health benefits. Laughter can help reduce pain, increase immunity, and helps build resilience to stress. Laughing is an innate part of our universal vocabulary. We are born with the capacity to laugh, and we all understand the language. But as adults, life tends to get more serious, and we laugh less frequently than we did as children. One study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times a day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times a day.

“Always laugh when you can. It’s cheap medicine” ~ Lord Byron

A Laugh A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

While there may not seem like much to laugh about these days, laughter may be the one contagious thing you don’t mind catching. Remember how you felt the last time someone left you in tears after delivering a hilarious joke? Consider the benefits a good laugh can have for our stress levels and overall well-being. Laughter is not a cure-all or replacement for prescribed medicines; however, the Mayo Clinic has cited proven long-term, and short-term benefits humor can have on enhancing our lifetime experiences:

Short- and Long-Term Health Benefits of Laughter

Boosted Immune System: It may come as a surprise to hear that negative thoughts can produce chemical reactions that bring more stress to your system, ultimately weakening your immunity. However, you can combat that with positive thoughts and laughs, which can release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. It may be a good idea to up the laughter before flu season!

Stress Relief: When you’re laughing, do you feel stressed? Kind of hard to imagine feeling both at the same time, right? With high blood pressure being a risky side effect of stress and anxiety, we recommend laughing, which can ignite and cool your stress response. As a result, you’ll find a more normalized heart rate and blood pressure. 

Soothes Muscle Tension: Muscles tight? Laughing can stimulate and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Improves Your Mood: This one may seem obvious because if we are laughing, we must be in a decent mood! However, we’re diving a bit deeper. Depression affects many, including those suffering from a chronic illness, many of whom are at risk of experiencing depression. Laughter can have long-term benefits in reducing anxiety brought on by depression.

Supports Organ Function: Get a bigger dose of that oxygen-rich air with laughter! In turn, you’ll stimulate your heart, lungs, and muscles. It also increases endorphins from the brain with both euphoric and calming effects. 

Natural Pain Relief: Why take pain killers when you can produce them naturally? Laughter may help ease troublesome pain by causing the body to produce natural painkillers.

Bringing Laughter Into Your Life

Fortunately, laughter is not something you have to learn. It is a natural part of life that is instinctive, something we are all born to do. The seriousness of life can be tempered with humorous interventions like genuine voiced laughter. Searching for “funny” when faced with traumatic or challenging circumstances may seem counterintuitive, but laughing as a defense mechanism will help us cope and is good for us in the process. 

If laughing is not a regular part of your life, but you would like it to be, try these easy (and free!) suggestions:

Smile: Start with a smile. A smile is the beginning of laughter, and people are drawn to both. Look up and smile at people you pass on the street, co-workers in the elevator, clerks in the supermarket, or the bus driver. Like laughter, a smile is contagious, and people will smile back.

Surround yourself with fun, playful people: FaceTime or Zoom, the people who make you laugh. Sharing humor can ease tensions during difficult times.

Cue up the comedy: Instead of tuning into the news in the evening, watch a funny movie, tune into a comedian’s act or watch reruns of sitcoms with canned laughter.

Find the funny in everyday situations: Funny situations can be found all around us—the antics of a silly cat or dog, or finding humor in the toilet paper shortage – why do people need so much tp? Having the ability to laugh at yourself is an excellent start to laughing at the funny in life.

Laughter is a shared social signal and makes us feel like we are in control, particularly at a time, we cannot control much. It is free, it is spontaneous, it brings people together, it is relatively uncensored, and it feels pretty darn good. It is ok to laugh during these tough times, as long as you don’t laugh at the expense of someone else’s feelings. 

“Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.” ~ John Cleese

 


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In hospitals around the world, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are fighting to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, a highly contagious and little known virus that has infected over 1.5 million US citizens and has killed nearly 87,000 people at the time of this post. 

Nursing staff are on the frontlines and are affected in all settings: within the community, primary and social care, redeployment, clinical placement, hospital wards, and more. Nurses are bravely responding to this crisis without question of their duty.

Historically, professional nurses have brought compassion, ethical and competent care while meeting the medical needs of the communities they serve. However, they are now finding themselves in uncharted territory in response to the enormity of the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has required an unprecedented, fast-paced response from the nursing community. This response has been challenged by exposure to a highly contagious virus, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), work overload, and increased moral stress when required to make high-stake decisions on patient care. 

The Risk Of Burnout 

Nurses play an integral role in promoting health, preventing illness, and ensuring the well-being of their patients throughout their healthcare journey. They are no strangers to stress and tragedy in this profession. However, the coronavirus has upped the ante on anxiety, increased levels of stress, and exhaustion.

Related:
How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety in this Unprecedented Time

High and increasing rates of burnout amongst healthcare providers have been well-documented. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes burnout as an “occupational phenomenon,” citing 63% of hospital nurses reporting burnout before the COVID-19 crisis. The risks for clinician burnout seems particularly high now, with a growing concern for long-term emotional and mental consequences beyond the pandemic. 

Providing care to others during the COVID-19 pandemic can lead to fear, depression, feelings of isolation, and ongoing emotional trauma. Nurses providing care to critical patients are putting themselves at risk with multiple exposures, at times without appropriate PPE. Nurses have the same pandemic-related stressors as the general public, but with additional challenges, as they leave their homes each day to care for gravely ill patients. Nurses’ greatest worries include:

  • the fear and uncertainty of a heightened risk of infection
  • worry that they may carry COVID-19 home and infect loved ones
  • a dwindling or already inadequate supply of PPE needed to minimize the risk of infection
  • increasing demands to work longer hours as their colleagues become sick or are quarantined
  • ever-changing recommendations from local leadership, medical and public health experts, and political leaders
  • the inability to provide the level of care they are used to
  • having to make distressing and difficult ethical decisions about which patients get lifesaving care and which do not 

The hard data has been slow in coming, but we know that the mental health impacts of this pandemic are here now. For some, it will remain long after the threat of infection has been reduced. Researchers examined the mental health outcomes of 1,257 healthcare workers attending to patients with COVID-19 in 34 hospitals in China, the epicenter of the virus. The study showed that a large portion of them report experiencing symptoms of depression (50%), anxiety (45%), insomnia (34%), and psychological distress (75.1%). 

Be Aware and Monitor Your Mental Health

Provision 5 of the American Nursing Association (ANA) Code of Ethics for Nurses states, “The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence and continue personal and professional growth.”

A nurse’s code of ethics and values become compromised when they are overworked and exhausted, when they are asked to work unprotected, when they fear for their own health and safety, and when they cannot practice their trade the way they were trained to. Nurses are natural problem solvers, demonstrating incredible resilience in caring for their patients on a normal day. However, today, they are being tried and tested in ways they have never experienced, and need to recognize that it is normal to feel vulnerable, and that is ok to ask for help when they are feeling excess stress or psychological distress. 

Experiencing or witnessing traumatic events and multiple deaths will impact individuals differently. It is important during the pandemic, and on any given day, to recognize the signs of emotional stress and where to look for support.

Some of the warning signs of excessive stress are:

  • Difficulty problem solving and making decisions
  • Disorientation, confusion or memory issues
  • Misinterpretation of situations and comments
  • Anger, hostility or frustration
  • Difficulty maintaining emotional balance
  • Headaches, tremors, rapid heart rate, palpitations
  • Trouble sleeping, nightmares, flashbacks
  • Conflict with others, reduced ability to support peers or endangerment to others

Managing Stress to Avoid Burnout 

Recognizing the signs and addressing them, is more important now than ever before. Taking care of yourself will ensure the best care for your patients. Some tips for self-care, recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are below:

  • Remind yourself that everyone is in an unusual situation with limited resources.
  • Increase your sense of control by keeping a consistent routine daily. When possible, get adequate sleep, eat healthy meals, and take breaks during shifts to stretch, rest and check in with supportive colleagues, friends, and family.
  • When away from work, get outdoors for fresh air while staying active or relaxing and spending time with family.
  • Engage in mindfulness techniques such as breathing exercises and meditation.
  • Communicate with co-workers, supervisors, and other nurses about job stress. Talk openly about how the pandemic is affecting your work. Identify factors that cause stress and look for solutions 
  • Recognize that you are performing a crucial role in fighting this pandemic and that you are doing the best you can with the available resources.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to coping with mental health. If symptoms affect your ability to provide care to your patients or family, or if you are feeling overwhelmed by sadness, anxiety, depression, or hopelessness, seek help from a trained mental health professional.

Related:
Managing Sleep Deprivation During Crisis
Quarantine Pains: Staying Active During Self-Isolation

If you or someone you know needs help in finding mental health or substance abuse support in your area, go to SAMHSA, call the Disaster Distress Hotline (1-800-985-5990), or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

The Future and the Need for Governance: COVID-19 has not only exposed racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities, but it has revealed a health care system that is ill-equipped to care for its citizens and is failing to protect its health care workers. 

Healthcare organizations will need to illustrate a higher level of commitment to support all frontline workers to ensure best practices can be followed in the future. The assurance of adequate levels of PPE to do their jobs safely; eliminating redundant administrative duties; avoiding excessive hours worked; hazard pay and providing anonymous mental health advocacy are just the beginning of a system in need of a tremendous overhaul to protect our valuable healthcare workers.


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May 14, 2020 Coronavirus

As we make our way through the 9th week of Massachusetts’ stay-at-home advisory, state and local officials discuss stages of a soft openingof different agencies and businesses, and when it will be safe to do so. In the meantime, communities continue to hunker down and adjust to what is now our new normal.

While social distancing is necessary to control the spread of the virus, we have seen inspiring solidarity in communities practicing social sharing, social embracing, and social connections, all while physical distancing. The resilience of our communities has shone in what has been the most horrific of times. 

Grassroots groups are self-organizing to provide meals and assistance for seniors and others who are unable to leave their homes. Mini pantries are springing up on lawns supporting neighbors in need of food and neighbors wanting to give. Chalk art on sidewalks in neighborhoods, offer messages of hope.

Celebrity musicians, chefs, sports figures and actors are using their platforms on a national level to spread awareness, feed the hungry, to entertain, and raise funds to support the medical community and those impacted by the coronavirus. During this unprecedented time, it is essential to work on a smaller scale and support our local communities, residents, and businesses. 

Fostering solidarity by small acts of kindness, sharing skills, volunteerism, and supporting small businesses are ways we can help our communities. 

Volunteer for organizations providing critical services

Due to health and safety concerns, many volunteers who are at higher risk due to age or medical conditions, have had to restrict commitments to nonprofits who provide critical services. As COVID-19 continues to spread, food inequities continue to rise. If you can fill an important gap in the Massachusetts area, food banks could use your help.

Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB): GBFB is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and is amongst the largest food banks in the country. Last year they provided 68.5 million pounds of nutritious food to people in need in Eastern Massachusetts, and they maintain a goal of providing three meals a day to each food insecure individual in this area. Their volunteers play a critical role in this mission, which is even more crucial now during the COVID-19 crisis.

Seniors are the fastest-growing food insecure population in Eastern Massachusetts. One in five older adults struggle with hunger, and many face additional challenges such as decreased mobility, rising healthcare costs, or are on a fixed income. The Greater Boston Food Bank helps ensure this senior population has access to the nutritious meals they need to stay healthy through their Brown Bag and Community Supplemental Food Programs.

Related:
Surviving The Economic Impact of COVID-19
Senior Isolation During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Volunteers are needed to support the Brown Bag and the CSFP, both of which are high need/critical projects today. The GBFB values the health of the community and follows the CDC, local, and state public health guidelines. Volunteers are provided with disposable gloves and masks, and shifts are no larger than ten people. As the demand for food continues to rise, the services provided by the GBFB are even more essential. Consider supporting your community by either donating or volunteering today.

Support Small Businesses

There are nearly 49 million essential workers, more than 30 million unemployed, and an estimated 16 million Americans who have been working from home. As restrictions are slowly lifted, some workers will return to offices, some will continue to telecommute, and many unemployed will find they no longer have a job to go back to. Perhaps some of the hardest hit will be small business owners. 

Specialty shops, restaurants, bars, florists, mom and pop businesses, and seasonal businesses who rely on tourism, face a severe economic risk. Some predictions suggest that as many as 75% of them may not survive the current crisis. This kind of loss will not only be felt by the owners and the staff they employ but by the cities and communities they helped define.

It has never been more critical than it is now to support your favorite local restaurant, hairdresser, nail salon, or independent brand. Below are a few examples of ways you can help your small community businesses:

Order delivery from independent restaurants: Although restaurants can no longer offer dine-in services, most do offer delivery service or curbside pick-up. As we have been advised to stay at home, there has never been a better excuse to order takeout. If possible, try to avoid contracted delivery services, as the restaurant incurs a fee. And, remember those who relied on tips before the pandemic will appreciate a generous tip even more at this time.

Purchase gift cards for regular services: You may have a relationship with a hairdresser, manicurist, esthetician, or holistic healthcare provider. Show an act of kindness and support by purchasing gift certificates to be used at a future date. This will help the revenue stream now when it is desperately needed. 

Buy locally sourced produce and groceries: Rather than shopping in the supermarket chains, consider patronizing small local grocers, butchers, bakeries and bagel shops. You will find most open for business offering curbside pick-up. If you do shop in the large chain markets, look for fresh produce and other products locally sourced and sold at the market. 

Shop small online: Don’t forget that many small businesses are accessible online. Whether you need a book, office supplies, occasional gift, or masks (which will be a staple in our wardrobes), head to personal websites or Etsy rather than the big box retail chains. Unique and handcrafted items from small local businesses often make the best gifts.

The strength of the nation is built on the strength of individual communities. The coronavirus has impacted every person, but our station in life will influence our experience. Some will suffer much more than others and will need the support of our friends and neighbors. “Boston Strong” values respect, inclusivity, patience, integrity, and joy…… with these values, we will triumph over tragedy!


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We are sleepless in Seattle, Los Angeles, Newark, and Boston… Americans across the country are adjusting to the societal changes brought on by the novel coronavirus. As the death toll and unemployment rates continue to climb, and the uncertainty of when life outside will resume, fear and anxiety are causing poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation for many.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 50 million Americans were already suffering from over 80 different types of sleep disorders, and another 20 to 30 million said they experience intermittent sleep problems. As the lines between work, child care, and home have become blurred, the pandemic presents a host of new challenges for people who already experience sleep problems – even for those who previously had none. 

The Coronavirus As A Sleep Inhibitor

Maintaining a daily routine is paramount to our overall well-being. Consistency in our daily activities, such as wake-up times, commuting schedules, regular work hours, designated exercise time, and bedtimes, served as “anchors” to our underlying daily rhythms. However, the coronavirus outbreak changed our daily lives and routines overnight. Without a regular schedule, that absence of consistency in conjunction with the ever-changing pandemic landscape, we find ourselves ruminating in the dark over all of the stressors of the day. 

Sleep impairment, as a result of too many sleepless nights, can aggravate mental and physical health issues. Beyond general irritability and the inability to focus, chronic insomnia impacts a range of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Insomnia has also been linked to an increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. A lack of sleep can exacerbate these health problems.

Related:
How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety in this Unprecedented Time

Most healthy adults need 7-9 hours of optimal sleep a night, which helps regulate mood, improves brain function, and increases energy and overall production during the day. Ample rest also supports the immune system, which reduces the risk of infection and can improve outcomes for people fighting a virus. Sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, with the average time clocking in at less than seven hours, according to The National Institutes of Health.

How Do You Know If You Are Sleep Deprived?

If you are getting less than 8 hours of sleep a night, you are probably sleep-deprived. Some people are more resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation, like older adults, while others, like children and young adults, are more vulnerable. Occasional sleep interruptions are typical; however, excessive missed hours can lead to daytime sleepiness, poor job performance, emotional difficulties, and increased anxiety.

Some signs include:

  • Yawning
  • Moodiness
  • Fatigue
  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty learning new concepts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Increased appetite

How You Can Get A Better Night’s Sleep

Sleep is a critical biological process and has essential benefits to both physical and mental health. Sleep is vital for all of us all of the time, but particularly now as we are faced with a pandemic. To nip insomnia in the bud, below are a few suggestions to help achieve a better night’s sleep:

1. Establish a regular sleep routine. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night with the goal of at least 7 hours per night. Your body’s internal clock will eventually adjust, optimizing quality sleep. You may be tempted to sleep in on the weekends, but consistency is the name of the game.

2. Limit screen time at night. Avoid computers, cellphones, tablets, and tv at least an hour before bed. The blue light and light from the television are stimulants and suppress melatonin necessary for sleep. Avoid excessive news consumption, particularly at night. Pandemic updates will most likely increase levels of stress, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

3. Get regular exercise. While the crisis has limited our options for physical activity, there are many ways you can stay moving. People who exercise regularly do experience better quality sleep and fall asleep faster. Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day supports the biological process in the brain that contributes to higher quality sleep. Exercise does speed up metabolism, elevates body temperature, and increases cortisol levels, so try not to exercise too close to bedtime.

4. Get some vitamin D. Exposure to light plays a crucial role in how our bodies regulate sleep. Spending time outside in natural light, especially in the morning, has a positive effect on our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep/wake cycle, is a 24-hour internal clock that helps our brain cycle between sleepiness and alertness. Keep curtains and blinds open as much as possible, move your desk close to a window and take breaks outside for some sunlight and fresh air.

5. Food for thought. Eating a healthy diet plays a role in how well you sleep. Avoid stimulating foods and drinks such as caffeine, alcohol, sugary foods, and refined carbs. These can trigger wakefulness during the night. Also, avoid heavy or spicy meals late at night as they often result in stomach upset or heartburn—limit fluids close to bedtime to reduce late-night trips to the bathroom.

6. Practice a bedtime routine to calm your mind. For most of us, our brains are highly or overstimulated most of the day. Taking steps to manage overall stress levels can make it easier to wind down before bed. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or mindful meditation, taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music will quiet an overactive brain.

7. Improve your sleep environment. Sometimes even small changes to your sleep environment can make a big difference in the quality of sleep. Make the room as dark as possible as too much light signals the brain to stay awake. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room with a temperature between 60 and 67 degrees. Try a diffuser with a favorite scent like soothing lavender, which can decrease your heart rate and lower blood pressure helping to induce sleep. And, working from home does not mean working from bed. Reserve the bedroom for sleeping, and you know.

The novel coronavirus news changes rapidly, and the times are uncertain. It’s essential to pay attention to self-care and emotional well-being. If you feel your sleep problems are worsening or that the steps taken to improve sleep are ineffective, it is vital to seek the advice of a medical professional.


Copyright by LCG Boston © 2020. All rights reserved.