(Family Features) It’s not easy getting old, as the saying goes, and it can be even harder to watch your parents age. Helping parents transition into the later years of their lives can be a delicate matter, but there are ways to help them ease into an elderly stage and cope better with challenges.

Carol Lavin Bernick, former executive chairman of Alberto Culver, navigated this type of life transition with her parents. In her book, “Gather As You Go: Lessons Learned Along the Way,” Bernick offers tips to give and get joy while preserving your parents’ dignity in addition to wisdoms on business and leadership, philanthropy, dealing with tough times and being a working mom.

For example, consider these tips and ways to aid aging parents:

Provide Entertainment

Music can be a helpful gift – try loading a music player with a playlist of your parents’ favorite songs. Old movies can also spark conversation. Host a luncheon for some of their best friends and make their favorite treats. They may be housebound, but there are still ways for them to interact.

Adjust to Physical Changes

Reading materials could require larger-than-normal print, and a magnifying clip-on screen for a computer can be helpful as well. Serving foods that are easier to cut can make eating a simpler process. Keep an eye on weight and nutrition and try to find someone who will make a house call for haircuts.

Relive Memories

Encourage older relatives to write (or dictate) their thoughts on financial tips, military service, business success, valued life lessons and, of course, the stories of how they met their spouses. Make a family tree together and try creating a photobook with old and new pictures. Share news about family members’ relationships and accomplishments, which might bring back personal memories.

Consider the Little Things

Surprise your parents with a few new pieces of clothing for a thoughtful gift. Laminate a list of their medications and their doctors to keep with you in case of emergency and provide a copy to your parents and any other caregivers. Create a contact list on your parents’ mobile phone to help them easily reach family and friends without needing to search. If there are young children in the family, try bringing them by for a visit – their energy and smiles may help brighten the room.

Find more tips to assist aging relatives at gatherasyougo.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images



(Family Features) Whether circumstances are good or bad, exciting or stressful, there are several simple ways to improve emotional and mental fitness.

As one example, sharing a hug with a loved one has been found to boost immune system responses, help fight disease and increase overall health, according to an article published by “The Guardian.” Hugs increase serotonin, which is the body’s natural antidepressant, can be a natural sleep aid and help reduce stress and anxiety.

However, according to the article, hugs are on the decline. Among the reasons for this decline in hugging are busy schedules and the prevalence of technology extending the workday into time spent at home. It can be hard to focus on personal connections when work follows you home in your pocket. At times, it seems there are stronger connections to mobile devices than family members sitting in the same room.

There is a simple solution, though. In honor of National Hug Day, you can get back to showing love through the simple act of hugging.

With the help of its mascot, Seymore Good, Tree Top encourages everyone to “squeeze the day” and acknowledge goodness in others by sharing a meaningful, honest hug. The grower-owned fruit cooperative that uses simple ingredients and real fruit also introduced innovative clear apple sauce pouches that let parents “See the Good” in what their kids are eating before they eat it.

In the spirit of reducing stress and giving meaningful, memorable hugs, consider these tips:

Keep it real. Avoid superficial hugs or giving a hug just out of habit. Instead, try focusing on the hug and giving it with purpose, as an expression of friendship. Squeeze hard, but not too hard.

Take a breath. Once you are in the hug, pause for a moment and breathe. Just one breath. This is where you have the chance to squeeze a little longer. Go ahead and be a little vulnerable. In the moment, remember who you are hugging and why you are hugging him or her. This is a moment when the healing power of the hug can shine through, and a hug or squeeze is a sign of affection and trust.

Let it go. Be sensitive to the movements of the person you are hugging and be willing to be the first to let go. Leave the embrace with a smile on your face, even in the hardest moments of life. Always let the person you are letting go of know you are happy.

Visit treetop.com for more information.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images



Adult females working out and smiling

(Family Features) Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? One in four people die from it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and millions more have it or are at risk of developing the disease. Smoking, being overweight or having diabetes, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure or a family history of heart disease all increase your chances of getting the disease.

The good news is that you can do something about it.

“It’s never too late – or too early – to lower your risk for heart disease,” said Josephine Boyington, Ph.D., a nurse, licensed nutritionist and program director in the Division of Cardiovascular Health at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

“Heart disease is a general term for a variety of conditions, such as clogged arteries, that make it difficult for your heart to pump blood properly,” she said. “Adopting small changes, like moving more and following a heart-healthy eating plan, can make a big difference. Research has shown that making healthy lifestyle changes that last can be a lot easier when you have friends or family doing it with you.”

To mark American Heart Month, the NHLBI – the nation’s leader in research on the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders – is encouraging that kind of group support. It is celebrating “Our Hearts,” a national effort to motivate Americans to join each other in adopting heart-healthy behaviors throughout the year and beyond.

Ready to start? Here are three tried-and-true ways you and your friends and family can help each other give your hearts a boost.

1. Adopt a healthy eating plan. Try NHLBI’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. It’s free and, when compared to a typical American diet, has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure and improve blood cholesterol levels. The DASH eating plan features fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, nuts and lean meats, and it limits foods that are high in saturated fats, sugars and sodium. Have fun with menus by inviting friends to join you for a heart-healthy dinner party or start a lunch club at work and trade creative recipe ideas with your colleagues.

2. Move more and #MoveWithHeart. One of the major risk factors for heart disease is inactivity. Getting up and moving helps lower that risk – and you don’t need to put in hours at a time to see results. Breaking up your daily activity into small chunks, such as 10-minute increments three times a day for five days a week, can begin to make a difference. To stay motivated, find a walking buddy or make a standing date to walk with a friend or neighbor, dance at home with your kids or play a pickup soccer or basketball game with colleagues. The bottom line: just move.

3. Quit smoking. It can be hard to stop, but the benefits to your lungs and heart are huge. For inspiration and to keep you motivated, consider a support group. You can find resources and connect with a trained counselor by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting smokefree.gov.

For more information about heart health, and to discover what activities are going on in your community, visit nhlbi.nih.gov/ourhearts. Use #OurHearts on social media to share how you and your friends and family are keeping your hearts healthy.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

#hearinghealth #hearthealth

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