Traveling Smart with Parkinson’s disease

With the change from winter into spring upon us, many of us start to feel the itch of the “travel bug.” But if you’re traveling with Parkinson’s, there is a lot more preparation required. Whether you’re traveling alone or with a companion, each individual needs to know how important it is for a person with Parkinson’s disease to anticipate the difficulties that may arise while away from home.

Planning ahead for seamless travel

When beginning to plan a trip, you first need to decide which mode of transportation will best meet your needs. Plane, train, or automobile? Does each mode of transportation offer the accessibility you need, or extra time to board

If you are going to fly, be sure to look up the TSA special procedures, which can help reduce stress and anxiety through the screening process, or consider enrolling in the TSA PreCheck program. You can print out a TSA notification card that describes your medical condition. There’s no need to explain your specific condition. Once you state that you have special needs or require extra time to board a plane, that’s all you have to say.

If you have a DBS (deep brain stimulation), ask your doctor to write a note to allow you to bypass electronic security and undergo other security checks instead. Part of the screening process can be done while sitting so you don’t fatigue as quickly.

Consider taking a wheelchair through the airport. Airport terminals are large and can be confusing to navigate, leading to a potential increase in stress levels. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when planning your trip and plan to arrive early so you have plenty of time and don’t have to rush.

Make sure that you pack three different sets of medications in three different bags to ensure that you will always have your medications in case a bag or two gets lost. Medications should be brought in their original labeled bottles. Liquid medications can go over the three-ounce fluid limit but should be packed separately from other fluids.

Research accommodations to relieve stress

Be sure to inquire about specific accommodations ahead of time. For instance, if you use a wheelchair or other mobility aid, confirm that your hotel room is wheelchair accessible and request a room near the elevator or on the first floor. Inquire about special accommodations that most hotels will offer at no extra charge, such as shower seats. If you’ll be sightseeing, confirm ahead of time whether the sites you want to visit offer wheelchair rentals and are wheelchair accessible.

If you are driving, ask about parking for your car. Many facilities offer complimentary or discounted parking if you display a “handicapped” sign. If you are driving to your destination, look for valet parking opportunities at restaurants, hotels, etc.

Once you have finalized your travel plans, keep them organized by carrying a printed itinerary, complete with emergency contact information or program them into your cell phone or iPad. Either print or send a copy of your travel plans to a friend or relative who is not going on the trip. It is imperative to always carry a cell phone with you and make sure that numbers and contacts are preprogrammed in your phone. If you are traveling overseas, be sure to have the address and contact information for the US Embassy. It is wise to have your passport with you at all times or locked in a hotel safe.

Getting ready for the trip

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before leaving on your trip. Keep your sightseeing schedule flexible, and build in mini-rests and one nap every day. Don’t try to pack your day too full of activities. This will only make you more tired and increase the risk of Parkinson’s flare-ups, which can lead to an unpleasant trip.

Making a packing list ahead of time can reduce anxiety over forgetting something. As your trip gets near, start packing slowly so you don’t get stressed about the process or forget something because you are in a rush. Sort out your outfits complete with socks, undergarments, and shoes. Include Parkinson’s-friendly clothing and accessories, such as wrinkle-free items, pants with elastic waistbands, or shirts that can be pulled over the head or with snap closures. Avoid clothing with buttons if possible, as it can complicate the dressing process. Pack needed assistive equipment (such as a walker), and always take a cane or walking stick, making certain your name is labeled on each item.

Staying healthy on the go

It is important to stay well hydrated, avoid caffeine, and eat salty snacks if you have postural hypotension. Wearing support stockings while traveling can also help reduce symptoms of postural hypotension.

Bring a bottle of water for taking pills as well as a light snack, if needed, to prevent nausea. Many worry that they will drink too much and then have to use the bathroom frequently, but changing positions frequently and stretching is important while traveling long distances, so use the bathroom as an opportunity to move around. Try to avoid drinking too much alcohol.

If you run into a situation where you are without medication, call your doctor’s office and ask them to send an electronic prescription to a local pharmacy. You should always travel with an updated list of your medications, the dosages, scheduled times for dosing as well as your allergies. This information will also be essential if you end up visiting a doctor’s office or emergency room while traveling. The National Parkinson’s Foundation created an Aware in Care Kit that is available through their website and is designed to help those with Parkinson’s disease receive the best possible care during a hospital stay.

Talk to your doctor before going on vacation to get tips on adjusting dosages if you are changing time zones; you may need to increase or decrease dosing of medication. You should avoid doing any type of medication changes two weeks before leaving for your vacation, as you don’t know how your body will react to the change.

Traveling does not have to end when Parkinson’s advances. By taking time to plan everything in advance, you can focus on having fun!

 

Lead an enriched life this year!

At the start of a new year, we look ahead at what’s to come and consider what we’d like to change from the year before. What do you want to accomplish this year?

No matter your age or situation, it’s never too late to make a change—and there are many simple things we can all do to enhance our personal wellness and feel good today and every day!

While working toward making a change, it can often be valuable to think of our goal as a habit we wish to permanently incorporate into our lifestyle, rather than something with a specific end mark.

Here are a few ideas to consider incorporating into your daily routine:

  • Drink a full glass of water first thing each morning. Get hydrated and get a fresh start.
  • Set a mantra or plan for each day. Begin your day with a goal in mind, no matter how small or simple it may be.
  • Move as much as you can. Set a timer to move around or at least change position every 30 to 60 minutes each day.
  • Do a good deed for someone else. When someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, pay it forward. A selfless act feels good to giver and recipient, and can help inspire kindness in others, as well!

Cultivating a general sense of wellness can help us feel our best and have more energy to spend on what makes us happy. Focusing on ourselves throughout the year means that we can approach each new milestone with confidence.

Gratitude goes a long way

Giving back and expressing gratitude are synonymous with this time of year—it’s only natural to look back on all we’ve been thankful for over the past several months as we look forward to the start of a new year. As we gather together over the holidays, we can share these feelings with loved ones and give thanks to each other.

Showing gratitude can be as simple as giving someone a compliment, sharing a meal with a loved one, or trying to see the positives in a bad situation. More formal ways to give back might include volunteering at a local food bank, becoming a mentor, making a charitable donation, or teaching a class.

Ingraining these habits in our everyday lives helps make these feelings more prominent and can encourage others to follow our lead. In addition to helping others feel a sense of purpose and appreciated, giving to others benefits the giver, as well.

It can help:

  • Increase self-esteem
  • Stimulate the release of endorphins similar to the “high” that comes from exercise
  • Gain a new perspective and take your mind off of everyday concerns
  • Grow as a person and develop new skills and knowledge

This month, consider the ways in which you can show your appreciation for those who make your life a little brighter each day. Spread kindness, express your feelings, and enhance self-worth for yourself and others!

Downsizing at any time for simpler living

Downsizing is a popular topic in the world of senior living—a move to a retirement community often involves sorting through decades of belongings and preparing to transition to a smaller space. There are countless consultants and organizations available to help older adults prepare for this overwhelming task.

But lately the downsizing trend is not limited only to those who are preparing for a major life change like a move to a retirement community. Simplified living has become a way of life for people of all ages. Removing unnecessary belongings can help relieve stress, cut down on cleaning, and allow for more time to focus on life experiences rather than tending to belongings.

In 2014, Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo released The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which quickly became a bestseller in a society that has become obsessed with “stuff.” In her book, Marie shares how to joyfully declutter your home and surround yourself with things that make you happy. Her purposeful approach to simple living promotes happiness and creating an intentional home space.

This trend shows us that we don’t have to wait for a major life transition to start the downsizing process. Eliminating clutter and being mindful of what we bring into our home can provide benefits for anyone.

The tips below can help you get started whether you’re looking to simplify certain areas or prepare for a big move.

  • Limit the amount of space you’re willing to give certain items. Only allowing yourself to keep enough books to fit on a bookshelf can make it easier to determine which ones are most important to you.
  • Keep additional clutter from entering your space. Opt out of catalogs, subscribe to paperless billing, and consider the usefulness of freebies and giveaway items before accepting them.
  • Follow the one-year rule. If you haven’t used something in the last year (or two), especially clothing, it’s unlikely that you will use it again at all.
  • Save digitally. If something holds sentimental value to you, take a photo of it to keep forever. Similarly, take time to digitize old photos and videos to free up physical storage space and keep your memories intact online.

Simplifying over time can help make a move all the more easier when the time comes. Create intention in your home!

Plugging in to today’s technology

Technology is abundant in the lives of most people these days, but older adults historically have not embraced it with the same fervor as younger generations. Today’s seniors are most likely to adopt technologies that provide some benefit to their lives instead of just technology for technology’s sake.

If you’ve tried to help a loved one use technology, you may have been met with resistance for a number of reasons:

  • They don’t see a need or any benefit in using a certain technology.
  • They’re not confident they’ll be able to use it.
  • They worry they can’t afford it.
  • They get easily frustrated.

But usage is increasing. According to a Pew Research Center study, 60% of adults over the age of 65 now use the internet and 77% have a cell phone. Of those who have a smartphone, 82% reported finding the phone a way to connect rather than distract.

Fortunately, most of today’s technology is intuitive and easy for nearly anyone to learn how to use. Many tools can be valuable for seniors and can help improve personal wellness, such as video calls to keep in touch with friends and loved ones, health tracking apps, brain fitness apps, and more.

For those looking to help an older adult get connected—or embrace more technology yourself, consider the following approaches:

  • Research a range of size and price options. Tablets are less expensive and usually simpler than a desktop computer. If home internet service is not feasible, consider using computers at the local library, or using Wi-Fi in cafés and other public places.
  • Look for local classes and workshops designed to help seniors with technology. While family members and friends can teach how to use new devices, sometimes being with those in similar situations and learning from a professional can have more of an impact.
  • Explore how technology can actually make things easier. There are apps for everything these days, including medication reminders, health trackers, and safety notification.
  • Stay safe—keep informed of scams and viruses to make your online experience a positive one.

 

The Hidden Dangers of Depression

hands_shutterstock_176258786Although not often discussed, depression in older adults is common—affecting about six million Americans over the age of 65. It’s a serious condition that can easily be overlooked by both loved ones and medical professionals.

Depression later in life often accompanies other medical conditions, which can make it difficult to identify. The condition may be expressed through physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, or loss of appetite, all of which can be easily attributed to other factors. Other symptoms of depression may include aches and pains, loss of interest in hobbies, and a lack of motivation.

It may also be difficult to distinguish between depression and grief, which may be caused by the death of a spouse or friends. Grief is natural, but when it persists and includes feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or even suicide, it may actually be depression.

In older adults, depression can develop as a result of a serious health condition, such as a stroke, heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer’s—and can also increase a person’s risk of developing certain conditions. It’s important to recognize depression as a separate issue and treat it as such.

Staying aware, active, and engaged

There are certain steps you can take to minimize the effects of depression, especially for those who may be at a higher risk.

  • Walking for 30 minutes three times a week or other types of regular exercise can be even more effective than medication in treating depression.
  • Consider taking folic acid and B12 supplements, as deficiencies can increase the risk of depression in older adults—but check with your doctor first.
  • Review medication side effects with your doctor, as symptoms of depression may be a known effect.
  • Socialize regularly. Spending time face-to-face with friends and loved ones offers support.
  • Maintain a healthy diet of foods that provide nourishment and energy.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark at night and get enough sleep.

If symptoms of depression persist, your doctor can determine the best treatment approach, which might include medication, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, or a combination of treatments. Be sure to vocalize your concerns if you are experiencing symptoms of depression. Seek help and don’t be embarrassed.

Staying safe and healthy through ergonomics

couplejumpingWhile we often consider safety risks for certain activities we partake in, other risk factors for everyday tasks are a bit less obvious. Ergonomics is the science of human safety and capabilities in the workplace and at home.

As part of National Safety Month in June, take time to evaluate how you can keep yourself safe and secure in all that you do.

Ergonomics affects so many aspects of our daily lives—including how we sit, sleep, stand, lift, and reach. If not practiced properly, repetitive actions can lead to overused muscles, poor posture, and eventually to injury. As we age, our muscle and bone mass naturally decreases, which can lead to stiff joints and limited mobility.

No matter what activities you partake in at home, at work, or anywhere else, it’s important to make sure you’re safe and comfortable at all times. The following tips can provide a helpful starting point to assessing your ergonomic safety.

  • When sitting at a computer, make sure to keep feet flat on the ground, position monitor at eye level, and keep wrists flat and straight. Sit up straight—even the most expensive chair won’t protect you from creating tension in the neck and back without proper form.
  • If you’re sitting in one spot for a prolonged amount of time, take breaks to get up and walk around every hour to avoid slouching or slumping. Tighten and relax your abdominal muscles a few times in a row to improve core strength and keep your back safe.
  • Wear supportive footwear, especially when standing. Supportive shoes help maintain the body’s center of gravity and alignment of the spine.
  • When lifting something from the ground, bend only at the knees and hips, keep the object close to your body, and avoid twisting while lifting.
  • Get regular aerobic exercise—such as running, walking, or swimming—to help the muscles of the back stay strong and promote good posture.
  • Aside from posture and proper bodily techniques, proper lighting is important to keep eyes healthy and reduce the risk for eye strain. Position lighting to avoid glare on screens and use task lighting as needed.

Staying proactive and practicing proper techniques in everyday activities can be the difference in staying safe and healthy!