Parkinson’s Disease & Nutrition

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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic movement disorder. PD involves the failure and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons. Some of these neurons produce dopamine, a chemical involved in bodily movements and coordination. As PD progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally.

Primary motor signs of Parkinson’s disease include the following:

  • Tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • Bradykinesia or slowness of movement
  • Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • Postural instability or impaired balance and coordination

Common nutritional concerns for people with Parkinson’s disease are:

  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Difficulty eating due to uncontrollable movements
  • Swallowing dysfunction
  • Constipation
  • Medication side effects (e.g., dry mouth)

Nutritional concerns vary by individual based on signs and symptoms and stages of disease. It is important to work closely with a doctor or dietitian to determine specific recommendations.

When it comes to nutrition, what matters most?

  • Increase calories. If a tremor is present, calorie needs are much higher. Adding sources of fat to foods (e.g., oil and cheese) is one way to do this.
  • Maintain a balanced diet. Eating properly involves eating regularly. If uncontrollable movements or swallowing difficulties are making it hard to eat, seek the advice of an occupational or speech therapist.
  • Maintain bowel regularity. Do so with foods high in fiber (whole grain bread, bran cereals or muffins, fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes) and drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Balance medications and food. Individuals taking carvidopa-levadopa may need to adjust the amount of protein eaten and the time of day it is eaten, or take their medication with orange juice. If side effects such as dry mouth are making it difficult to eat, work with a health care professional to help manage these.
  • Adjust nutritional priorities for your situation and stage of disease.

Check with a dietitian or doctor for your specific dietary needs.

Cancer and Nutrition

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Cancer begins when cells in the body become abnormal. As these cells duplicate, a mass of tissue made of abnormal cells forms and is called a tumor. Normal cells grow and divide and know to stop growing. Over time, they also die. Unlike these normal cells, cancer cells continue to multiply and do not die when they are supposed to. If the tumor gets bigger, it can damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also break away and spread to other parts of the body.
Nutrition is important for both cancer prevention and treatment. If diagnosed with cancer, there are numerous treatments that can be utilized, all of which can cause side effects capable of affecting nutrition. Some effects of cancer treatments include:

  • Fatigue: Get plenty of rest, and if unable to eat large amounts, choose calorie-dense foods (e.g., butter, cheese, ice cream, and milkshakes)
  • Nausea and vomiting: Avoid excessive exposure to the smell of food, and take medications with food if able
  • Taste changes: Stay well hydrated (this can be linked to dry mouth) and eat citrus foods to stimulate saliva production
  • Dry mouth or thick saliva: Stay well hydrated and try sucking on ice chips
  • Sore mouth or sore throat: Pick soft, easy-to-chew foods; add gravy and sauce to food
  • Diarrhea: Drink plenty of fluids, choose low-fiber foods, and avoid irritating foods (e.g., dairy, sugar, and spicy foods)
  • Constipation: Eat fiber-rich foods and stay well hydrated
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss: Choose calorie-dense foods (e.g., butter, cheese, ice cream, and milkshakes)

There are also unique side effects that can vary depending on the location of the
cancer. For example:

  • Head and neck cancer may lead to chewing difficulties
  • Colon cancer may be associated with more gastrointestinal-related side effects (e.g., diarrhea)
  • Lung cancer may lead to an increase in shortness of breath, which can make eating more difficult

Nutrition is also important for cancer survivors, as well as those looking to prevent cancer. The following guidelines can help minimize the risk for cancer:

  • Eat plant-based foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, and whole grains).
  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and excessive energy-dense foods (e.g., chips, cookies, and candy).
  • Limit consumption of red meats (e.g., beef, pork, and lamb)
  • Limit consumption of processed meats (e.g., bacon, sausage, and salami)
  • If consuming alcohol, keep it to 2 drinks/day for men and 1 for woman
  • Avoid excessive salt consumption

Check with a dietitian or doctor for your specific dietary needs.

Nutrition for Bone Health

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Many factors contribute to the health of our bones, including gender, race, age, and nutrition. Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by weakened and fragile bones, increasing the risk for fractures. Good nutrition can help prevent osteoporosis, including plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Most people need about 1,000 mg of calcium a day, or about 3-4 servings of dairy, including:

  • Milk (whole, skim, soy, and almond)
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Yogurt

Foods with lower levels of calcium include:

  • Dark greens (e.g., kale and collards)
  • Salmon
  • Almonds
  • Fortified cereals

The body produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun; however reliance on this is not recommended as many people do not get enough sun exposure to produce 100% of their vitamin D needs. Foods rich in vitamin D include:

  • Fortified cereals
  • Milk
  • Fortified juice
  • Egg yolks
  • Cod liver oil
  • Fatty fish (salmon and mackerel)

It is very important to consume a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, as these different foods have additional nutrients to improve bone health:

  • Vitamin K: Green leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach, kale, Swiss chard, turnip greens, collards, mustard greens, romaine, and parsley).
  • Vitamin C: Oranges and orange juice, grapefruit, red peppers, broccoli, kiwis, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables.
  • Magnesium: Nuts (e.g., almonds and cashews), cooked spinach, raisin bran cereal, brown rice, peanut butter, and baked potatoes (with skin).
  • Protein: Both animal sources (e.g., meat, fish, eggs, and milk) and nonanimal sources (e.g., beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds).
  • Zinc: Lean beef, breakfast cereal, cashews, Swiss cheese, and milk.

Regular exercise can also help to further strengthen bones, especially weight bearing exercise. Weight bearing exercise is activity that forces your bones and muscles to work against gravity. Different types of weight bearing exercises include brisk walking, jogging, hiking, soccer, basketball, dancing, tennis, skiing, bowling, and weight training (using free weights or machines).


See a doctor or dietitian for your specific nutrition needs.

Nutrition for Dementia and Alzheimer’s

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Dementia is the loss of memory, cognitive reasoning, awareness of environment, judgment, abstract thinking, or the ability to perform activities of daily living. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that involves slowly developing symptoms that get worse over time. Dementia resulting from vitamin deficiencies, or caused by underlying disease (such as brain tumors and infections) may be reversible. Other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, are not reversible, and are often treated with medications.

As dementia progresses, changes can occur that may affect someone’s ability to obtain adequate food and nutrients to maintain their health status. Such changes will vary depending on the type of dementia, as well as the stage of the disease. Some of these changes include:

  • Altered sense of smell and/or taste
  • Inability to recognize food or distinguish between food and non-food items
  • Poor appetite
  • Chewing difficulties (pocketing food, repetitive chewing, etc.)
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Forgetting to eat
  • Shortened attention span leading to a loss of interest in eating
  • Difficulty using eating utensils
  • Increase in pacing or walking
  • Drug side effects

The symptoms of dementia vary, and the treatment and nutrition care should be determined by these symptoms. Some techniques to consider for continued delivery of food and nutrition include:

  • Provide kind reminders to eat.
  • Provide meals in a low stress environment, minimizing noise and visual
  • distractions.
  • Develop a meal routine that can be repeated over time, to provide meals at
  • similar times, or even similar meals every day.
  • Have someone eat with the individual to provide assistance and reminders
  • on how to eat.
  • Have family join the individual at meal times to encourage eating.
  • Pay attention to other health issues, such as infections, fevers, injuries, or
  • other illnesses, as these may increase food and fluid needs.
  • Provide well-liked food and drinks to encourage eating.
  • Limit the amount of food served at one time so as not to overwhelm.

Provide finger-type foods for individuals struggling to use utensils:

  • Hamburgers
  • French fries
  • Carrot sticks

Check with a dietitian or doctor for any specific dietary needs.

Memory Matters

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As I sat listening to Mr. A work his brain out, on the Dakim BrainFitness machine, he turned to me and said, “You know your memory is a very important thing. You will see so much in this life and your memory keeps track of it all.” I pondered this for a moment. He’s right. Every important event, face, and activity is all stored in my memory. Could you imagine losing it all?

Unfortunately, a decline in memory is a reality with age. As people age, their ability to remember often declines, even if they don’t suffer from dementia or another mental illness. This could be due to many factors including:

  1. The shrinking of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a small organ in the brain that is involved in memory, especially long-term memory.
  2. The repair process declines. Brain cells often need repaired but, the hormones that repair them decline with age. This could lead to fewer functioning brain cells and an impaired memory.
  3. A decline in blood flow to the brain is also common with age. This can impair memory but, it can also affect cognitive skills such as reading.

Luckily, progress has been made to prevent these changes. In a clinical trial conducted by the UCLA School of Medicine, Dakim BrainFitness was shown to significantly improve the two most important cognitive functions — memory and language abilities — and users strengthened attention, focus, and concentration.

And let me tell you, it works for Mr. A! As he and I continued our conversation, he sang his favorite song (Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue, 1925), recited a bible verse starting with every letter of the alphabet, and told me vivid, detailed stories from when he was a teacher.

Our residents have fun working on the Dakim BrianFitness machines and they keep their memory in tip-top shape! We are proud to have some of the few machines in Ohio.


How to Deal with Your Parent’s Memory Loss

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When a family members memory fades, it can be very difficult for you to cope. But, with these tips, you may find peace with your parent’s condition. They may help to keep the bond that you are longing for.

Don’t expect them to fulfill promises.

If you tell them to do something, or better yet, not to do something, they may not remember this information. Be sure to lower your expectations of what they are capable of, now that they have been diagnosed with this disease.

Don’t argue with them.

No matter how logical your argument, they may not understand. For example, if you are at the park and they insist that they want to go to the park, try taking them to a park down the road instead of arguing that you are already there.

Remember, it’s the disease.

Patience is key. Keep in mind that it is something your loved one doesn’t have control over. Remembering this will make it easier to face some of the challenges that may present themselves.

Talk to their doctor about their condition.

In order to give them the best care, talk to their doctor. It may be safer for your loved one to live in a memory care unit. Where they are secure. Depending on the type, and severity of the memory loss there may be medical interventions that can be used too.

Take care of yourself.

Taking care of yourself is so important when dealing with any stressful situation, especially when it pertains to a loved one. Take a hot bath or read a book to unwind. It may help you to get your mind off everything for a bit.

Memory loss can be hard for everyone involved. What tips do you have for families struggling with memory loss?

Best Unique Fall Crafts for Older Adults

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Fall is the best time for crafts! As the weather cools off, it’s time to enjoy warm apple cider and an afternoon of painting, carving or sewing. Here are our top 3 fall crafts to try with your loved one.

Fall Planters

Crafting fall planters is a must if your loved one is a plant lover. These can be made by purchasing traditional pots and painting fall quotes and pictures. If you want to take it a step further you can create planters with hollowed out pumpkins. These pumpkins can also be painted or carved. If carving images into the pumpkin, be sure to just graze the surface, as you do not want to put a hole in the front of the pumpkin.

Painted Acorns

On a sunny afternoon, take a walk and collect acorns. These can be painted to be pumpkins, scarecrows or even haunted houses! Let their imagination run free.

Goofy Gloves

Get ready for winter by crafting goofy gloves this fall. You and your loved one can sew phrases such as ‘Cat Lover’ onto the finger tips, or back of the gloves. If you and your loved one are really skilled, then try to sew an image on the gloves!

These activities will make for such a fun fall visit with your loved one. These activities will keep their mind active and can be done even if you have small kids tagging along for the afternoon.

P.S. Don’t forget the apple cider!

Transitioning from in Home Care to a Community

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Many families combine professional home care with family care giving. They might hire a non-medical caregiver to provide care during work hours or at other times. These arrangements work well, if an older adult doesn’t need skilled nursing care. However, what should families do when family care giving or non-medical home care is no longer adequate? There is no one indicator to pinpoint when someone’s needs move from home to assisted living or skilled nursing care but, there are a few signs that can help in the decision-making process.

Consider the individual who suffers from impaired memory. In the early stages, family caregivers might be able to adjust their schedules and monitor a loved one to keep him or her safe. However, as memory loss progresses, the person with impaired memory may wander away from home or become a danger to themselves and others.

The older adult who needs some help with personal care may require more assistance as time passes. For example, when an individual becomes bedridden, two people may be required to lift or turn them. In other situations, the person receiving care may require treatments or procedures that are best performed by skilled nursing staff.

The decision to move a loved one to a care facility is never an easy one, but families often find that it’s best. In fact, many people who move into assisted living or long-term care do better because of the professional care they receive. They can build more relationships, while enjoying the best care possible.

Fun Ways for Seniors to Exercise Their Brain

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You have probably heard this said about the brain, “If you don’t use it you lose it.” That’s why it’s important to exercise the brain, especially as someone grows older. An active brain is a healthy brain. For that reason, you should engage older adults in activities that give their brain a regular workout. There are a lot of activities that can keep the brain healthy and active. Here are a few:


One of the simplest ways of keeping the brain working is through good conversation. Everyone enjoys sharing their stories. You can ask questions that motivate them to recall events and experiences. During the conversation, it’s important to ask open-ended questions such as “tell me about the most interesting place you have visited,” to encourage the individual to think back on past events and share details.


Another tip for exercising the brain is to play board games or card games. Games require people to concentrate and think about winning strategies. It’s best to ask what games he or she enjoys. A familiar game or one that does not frustrate them will be most helpful.


Crossword puzzles and word searches are excellent activities for brain exercise. Make it interesting by asking them if they would enjoy it more if the activity were timed. For example, you might give him or her five minutes to find five words in a word search.


Music listening is also a good brain exercise. In fact, research suggests that when babies listen to classical music it aids in brain development. For older adults, music may uplift the mood and help them relax, especially when a song is familiar and brings back positive memories.

What are your tips to maintain a healthy brain?

Our Resident Blog- To our Precious Ann

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A poem to Ann from Joan:


O Ann, Ann, our comedian;

Our hostess with the mostest; our Samaritan.

You’ve united us beyond compare

With cards and costumes debonair.

The get-together meetings for new residers

And appetizers are grand providers

PDR dinners for new neighbors are great.

They help make it easier to relate.

Your current events really keep us more sane

As we discuss the happenings that rattle our brain.

How much we owe you, our very dear friend,

For making our lives comfortably inter-blend.

So let us be thankful for your intercession

Making a compassionate, caring population.