Staying Connected with Loved Ones During the Holidays

2020 has certainly been a year for the history books! We have all felt the effects of the pandemic along with many other challenges faced this year. One segment of the population who has certainly felt the effects is our older adults. The holidays can bring about some additional challenges for them.

1 in 5 older adults has reported feeling socially isolated or lonely throughout their older adulthood. One study has reported that the number has doubled since the start of the COVID-19. The holidays can exasperate feelings of loneliness and isolation as many older adults cannot celebrate with their families or friends due to physical limitations or their financial situation. The holidays are also a time to reminisce on family traditions, loved ones who are no longer with us, and activities once enjoyed. 

What do I do if my loved one is feeling lonely?

If I had to name a theme for 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic it would be technology! While technology has been a great tool for many of us during this time, it can be a source of frustration and confusion for some of our older adults. The next time you reach out to your loved ones, ask them how they would prefer to chat. Do they prefer video calls, telephone calls, or just a quick text message?

If your loved one is more chatty than usual or makes comments like “I just enjoy talking with people,” they may be a great candidate for a telephone reassurance program. Telephone reassurance programs are brief, friendly phone calls made by volunteers. I like to think of it as a “Phone Pal” program. Henrico County’s EngAGE initiative has EngAGEing Conversations: Telephone Reassurance Program which has connected older adults with volunteers either on a one-on-one basis or by contacting individuals up to 3 days a week by a rotating group of volunteers. However, if your loved one does not live in the county searching “Telephone Reassurance Programs” can be a great place to start!

Noticing Things Around the Dinner Table

Holidays are a notorious time for families to notice changes in their loved ones. If we are not able to see our loved ones frequently, family gatherings are a great time to notice changes in memory, mobility, and personal hygiene. Is your loved one having trouble getting around the house? Are they having a hard time remembering their famous holiday recipe? These are all things to note when visiting our loved ones.

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

If your loved one is experiencing issues with memory, it may be subtle. When my Grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease became very apparent, my entire family started thinking back and realizing how well my grandmother had been able to compensate for her illness over the years. Here are ten signs to look out for this season:

  1. Memory loss: especially newly learned information. Information from the past can be recited with precision at this point, but new information will be hard to retain. This is the most common early signs of dementia.
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks: Individuals with dementia may have difficulty planning and completing everyday tasks, especially those with multiple steps.
  3. Problems with Language: Individuals with dementia may have a hard time naming specific items and will often substitute names like “toothbrush” with “the thing that cleans my teeth.”
  4. Disorientation of Time and Place: Individuals with dementia have a hard time navigating time and place and can easily get turned around in their own neighborhood.
  5. Poor or Decreased Judgement: Individuals with dementia may make decisions that make your scratch your head like wearing a heavy jacket in the middle of summer or give away large sums of money.
  6. Trouble Understanding Spatial Relationships: Individuals with dementia may have difficulty balancing or trouble reading. Dementia can affect your vision and judging distance.
  7. Withdrawal from Work or Social Activities: Individuals with dementia may experience changes in the ability to hold or follow a conversation. They may have begun to withdraw from their favorite hobbies, social activities, etc.
  8. Changes in Mood and Personality: Individuals with dementia may experience mood or personality changes. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious. Becoming easily upset with things outside of their comfort zone may be a sign.
  9. Misplacing things and Losing Ability to Retrace Steps: Individuals with dementia may put things in unusual places or lose things and be unable to retrace their steps. They may accuse others of stealing as the disease progresses.
  10. Challenges in Planning or Solving Problems: Some individuals with dementia may have trouble following through with independent living tasks such as keeping track of monthly expenses or following a familiar recipe.

Where Can I Find Resources to Help My Loved One?

Discovering changes in your loved one can be unsettling, but there are organizations to help!

If your loved one is experiencing Memory-Related Issues, contact the Alzheimer’s Association. They have chapters across the nation. Call their 24/7 hotline at 800-272-3900.

If you are not sure what resources exist in your loved one’s area, then contact their local Area Agency on Aging. Each region is served by an Area Agency on Aging. In the Richmond area, that organization is Senior Connections who can be reached at 804-343-3000. If your loved one is outside of the Richmond area, you can search for their Agency on Aging using the Eldercare Locator tool:

Lastly, as a Henrico County Employee, if you have any questions, concerns, or need information on how to best proceed for your loved one, contact Sara Morris, Advocate for the Aging at 804-501-5065 or [email protected]. The Advocate for the Aging assist older residents and their families and assists employees in navigating senior services.




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Making a Comeback

It happens to so many adults, and likely, it has happened to you: you start working out, you push your body, and start dreaming about six-pack abs and smaller clothing sizes. Suddenly, you see possibilities you never had the courage to dream about. Then WHAM! Something stops you right in your tracks. You get hurt. You get busy. You get tired or burned out. And suddenly the gains in fitness, weight loss and confidence disappear as quickly as they materialized.

So how do you get moving again after being sidelined? The strategies below will help you get going.

Get some perspective. Do you know what happens in your body when you stop working out? There’s a decrease in blood volume and mitochondria (the powerplants in our cells), and your lactate threshold falls. In general, the longer you’ve been training, the more quickly you’ll be able to get back into it after a layoff. In other words, someone who has been working out consistently for 10 years, then has a layoff for a year, will have an easier time of returning to work outs than someone who has been physically active for only a year, then off for a year. Why is that? The longer your exercise history, the bigger the foundation in aerobic strength. You will have built up a much higher level of mitochondria to produce energy, more red blood cells to deliver oxygen to exercising muscles, and more metabolic enzymes than someone who just started working out. Yes, your level of fitness decreases during a layoff, but it won’t drop as low as if you had zero fitness history.

Slow and steady wins the race. Another consequence of taking an extended break from working out is losing conditioning in your muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue. It’s difficult to assess how much conditioning you lose or how quickly you lose it, but it’s the weakness in the musculoskeletal system that causes so many people to get injured when they return to working out. This is why a slow and steady exercise plan allowing rest and recovery days are so important.

Walk before you run. Before jumping into a high intensity workout, you should be able to walk for at least 45 minutes (without pain if returning from an injury).  Walking conditions soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and connective tissue), preparing them for more rigorous demands of jogging and running, for example.

Start where you are. Don’t pick up where you left off, or at a weekly workout schedule that you had in the past. Too many times the desire for quick fitness results creates a situation where the individual is doing more than they ought to too soon after injury, and they end up sidelined even longer.

Don’t over medicate. Over-the-counter painkillers might make you feel better in the short term, but they can mask pain that tells you that you should stop. And for some, they can lead to gastric distress. If you can’t run through pain, don’t run. Walk or rest instead.

Cross-train. Working out every day will help speed up improvements in  your cardiovascular fitness, but that doesn’t mean do the same workout each and every day. Add 2 or 3 days of cross-training to your routine. There are so many modes of exercise – cycling, rowing, swimming, using an elliptical trainer – that don’t worsen a previous injury. Also, Yoga, Pilates, weight training and core exercises can help you get stronger.


The Takeaways:

Practice patience: Rushing back to the routine you maintained before your setback is a surefire way to cause an injury.

Mix it up. Cross-train with other forms of exercise that work other parts of your body and still give a good cardiovascular workout.

Be safe, not sorry. As difficult as it can be to rest when you’d rather workout, remember that the conservative approach you take now will yield many happy and productive workouts down the road.

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Holiday Photos at Home

The holidays are a magical time of year. (As you can see by the smiles on the faces of these County leaders in the above pictures taken a few years ago.)

This year, the festivities are looking a little different: family members may not be able to travel, social distancing has limited store hours, and the big guy himself is limiting his appearances around town.  Don’t worry! That doesn’t mean you have to skip out on holiday photos; you just have to get a little more creative. Here are some tips for taking a card-worthy photo at home:

  1. Use your phone’s built-in grid lines to line up and balance each photo

  2. Focus on one subject and make sure the subject takes up about a third of the frame

  3. Don’t be afraid of negative space (that’s the area around and between subjects)

  4. Use props if you want to

  5. Think about leading lines – any angle that points toward the subject, which draws the eye to the right part of the photo

  6. Don’t zoom in; move the phone closer if you need to

  7. Use your device’s timer feature

  8. Candid photos are GREAT options

  9. Free photo editing apps like Google’s Snapseed, Adobe Lightroom, and Photoshop Express work wonders

  10. Have fun with it

Can you guess who the three County leaders are in the cover photos? Email your answers to Christy Nealey ([email protected]) by December 15 to be entered into a drawing for a fun prize!

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