The Benefits of Senior Exercise

We all know the importance and the benefits of routine exercise and healthy eating habits, but for some of our aging loved ones, that part of their daily routine tends to slip. The benefits of a healthier heart, stronger bones, improved flexibility, sharper mind and overall feeling definitely outweigh not exercising, but it is still easy to develop poor habits as we age. Here in Minnesota our winters can get long and this can lead to being lackadaisical with our exercise routine, but with some health reminders and a little encouragement we can get our senior loved ones sweatin’ to the oldies once again.

John Medina, an affiliate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and author of Brain Rules says that aerobic exercise “keeps cognitive abilities sharp and slashes your lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s in half”. That is an incredible statistic and something we all could benefit from, no matter what the age. Alzheimer’s is not just a disease that affects older people. Early-onset Alzheimer’s can affect people who are younger than 65 years of age and close to 5% of the more than 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease have younger-onset.

Scientists strongly believe that regular exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, which in turn releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein some scientists have dubbed as Miracle-Gro for the brain. BDNF stimulates the formation of new neurons in an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which involves memory, learning, and the ability to plan and make decisions.


Seniors benefit greatly from routine exercise. This topic seems to be one thing that all health professionals unequivocally agree on – hands down, exercise is the single best thing you can do for the body and brain. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that seniors have even more to gain in becoming active than younger people since the older a person is the higher the risk of health problems physical activity can reduce or even prevent. Some of the benefits of senior exercise include:

  • Immune System: a strong healthy body can fight off infections and diseases more quickly
  • Healthy Brain: studies have shown that exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
  • Heart Health: exercise lowers the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Sleep Better: you’ll fall asleep quicker and sleep better throughout the night
  • Bone Density: exercise helps prevent bone loss, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis and accidental falls
  • Digestion: exercise aids in waste elimination and the functioning of your gastro-intestinal tract

According to AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), 40 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are considered sedentary. For those over 64 years of age, that number jumps to 60 percent. These are troubling numbers, but can easily be reversed. Begin by making a new year’s resolution to have a weekly exercise date with a senior loved one. Set a day and time each week to go for a walk in the neighborhood, walk laps in a local shopping mall or walk around a favorite Minneapolis or St. Paul lake – there are over 10,000 to choose from! Even register together for an exercise class through the community. Many communities have various classes that are geared toward seniors, such as aerobic, yoga, meditation, dance and others. It’s never too late to start exercising your brain and body!

At HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals and health care professionals in a number of cities in Minnesota, including the Duluth area, as well as New Mexico. Our home health professionals provide unparalleled public healthcare services through stewardship, honor-driven values, and a genuine desire to serve our communities. Our clients benefit from the range of healthcare services that we provide, from Alzheimer’s and dementia care, to behavioral nursinghome health care nursing, respite care and more. Call HealthStar Home Health today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation. Or visit our website to complete the online contact form.

Early Signs of Dementia

While a person who is getting on in years will often forget things and may seem to have a hard time handling seemingly easy tasks, it is important to be aware that in some cases an elderly individual’s problems stem not from old age but from dementia. Residents who live near an elderly parent or close relative should be on the lookout for these signs to determine in the individual in questions needs professional dementia care. Following is an overview of some of the most common early signs of dementia.

Monetary Issues
Unpaid bills piling up are a warning sign that someone is losing the ability to properly care for him or herself. It is not uncommon for a person with dementia to lose the ability to handle money well. Such individuals may make purchases based on desires rather than sound financial planning while leaving important bills unpaid.

Personal Care Problems
Another early sign of dementia is the lack of ability to care for oneself properly. Unkempt hair, a dirty home and/or wearing dirty clothes are all warning signs. This is especially true for those who regularly take the time to dress neatly and properly groom themselves.

Eating and Health Issues
Many people in the early (and late) stages of dementia are unable to properly prepare food. An individual who notices that an elderly loved one is rapidly losing weight and seems to lack energy should take this loved one to a doctor to be examined for dementia.

Many people with dementia are apathetic. They may not want to spend time with friends or relatives, refuse to go out to different places or even lose the desire to engage in hobbies they previously enjoyed.

Mood Swings
Mood swings are yet another common symptom of dementia. Given the fact that many people with this condition feel confused, have a hard time communicating and cannot care for themselves properly, it is not surprising that individuals with dementia often experience depression.

Getting help for a person with dementia as soon as possible is very important. The above warning signs should be taken seriously and a person who notices these symptoms in him or herself or an elderly loved one should see a doctor at the earliest possible opportunity. Proper treatment can reduce symptoms and help a person live a happy, fulfilling life for as long as possible. For more information on how to get help, call HealthStar Home Health at 651.633.7300

Communicating with Elderly Relatives

As people grow older, sometimes having conversations with those in a different generation can be difficult. Not everyone knows what to say or how to act when speaking with an elderly relative. Especially if that elderly relative is receiving care for dementia. However, taking the time to enjoy a conversation with an elderly relative will offer plenty of opportunity to learn about their lives, the family’s history and other stories from back in the day.

Speak clearly
Close to 30 percent of those over the age of 65 start to experience some sort of hearing loss. Make sure to speak loud, clear and slow. To avoid sounding condescending, make sure to maintain a calm and gentle voice while keeping the conversation filled with short and simple sentences.

Take the time to listen to what the other person has to say. Do not interrupt them by trying to fill in the silence while they think of what to say next. Be patient, sit back and listen to the stories they have to tell.

Pay attention to background noise
When having conversations with elderly relatives, try to do it face-to-face. If possible eliminate any background noise, such as television and radio. This will help both parties focus on the conversation and not what is happening in the background.

Have fun
Use humor when speaking with elderly relatives. They say that laughter is the best medicine, so why not have some fun and use humor during the conversation. This includes cracking jokes and talking about funny situations. Using humor will also help ease the tension when in uncomfortable situations.

Recall memories
Help elderly relatives relive the happy moments in their lives by talking about stories from their past. Recalling memories gives elderly relatives a sense being valued. It is important for them to share their experiences with younger generations and they too value the opportunity to do so.

It is important to smile and look interested in the conversation. Doing so will make the elderly relative comfortable and feel like other family members want to be around.

When speaking with an elderly relative, take the time to listen to the stories he or she has to tell. Just make sure to have patience and speak clearly, so he or she can fully understand what everyone in the conversation is saying.

How Will Your Role Change When Your Spouse Is Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s Disease?

Even if the news of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis for your spouse did not come as a complete surprise, the day you hear those words still feels like a hard kick in the stomach. As you both take some much needed time to try to get a grasp of this big change in your lives, your spouse may begin to feel a sense of loss or loneliness as a result of the diagnosis.

Immediately, with the words of the Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, your role as spouse has changed significantly. You are now a daily caregiver too, and as your partner’s memory declines you may find yourself taking on some tasks, such as handling the taxes or financial matters or doing some household chores. Although you may not be the one with the disease, you will be living with it each day also. You may even notice a change in the emotional and physical intimacy you once shared as your partner’s cognitive abilities decline.

HealthStar Home Health is honored to be an official sponsor of a new film about Alzheimer’s titled His Neighbor Phil, which was filmed in the small community of Zumbrota, Minnesota. This film tells the story of Harvey, a man whose wife Mary has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. This touching film not only shows the effects of this disease on Mary, but also their entire family and the community they live in. Although the film deals with the honest realities of Alzheimer’s, it mainly focuses its attention on the tireless work of the caregivers and how their lives are also affected by this disease. Take a moment to watch this short video clip via Vimeo about the moving film His Neighbor Phil.


According to the Alzheimer’s Association there are some things you can do to help your partner. Ultimately, these ideas will also help you cope and get through these changes to your relationship:

  • Continue to participate in activities with your spouse
  • Find new activities you can do together
  • Attend local caregiver support groups
  • Discuss changes in your relationship with a professional or a clergy member

These ideas and others listed on the Alzheimer’s Association website will help you and other family members adjust to your new normal.

You may find yourself with so many new caregiving responsibilities that you neglect taking good care of yourself. One of the best things you can do for your partner is to stay physically and emotionally strong and avoid caregiver burnout. It can be overwhelming at times to take care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, so keeping the stress under control is key and will help both of you. Remembering to see your doctor on a regular basis, stick to your exercise routine and eat healthy each day will greatly reduce stress levels and help to avoid caregiver burnout.

The Alzheimer’s Association lists 10 symptoms of caregiver stress including:

  • Denial
  • Sleeplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression
  • Health problems

As many as 70% of families are opting to care for their loved ones at home as long as possible while managing the various stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It will get overwhelming, so if you are experiencing these signs of stress or others on a regular basis, it is time to see your doctor.

Memory loss screenings are the first step of detection and treatment. HealthStar Home Health provided free memory screenings while at the 2015 Minnesota State Fair and we are thrilled to announce we provided over 3,200 free screenings to visitors at our booth in the HealthFair 11 building. That is more than 1,000 more than last year’s state fair screenings! HealthStar knows how important early detection is and we are committed to providing the resources families need. For additional information on dementias and caregiving, visit our website at

Listen to Daniel Roebuck, star of His Neighbor Phil, discuss more about Alzheimer’s disease and this important film.

Home Safety and Alzheimer’s

Many people experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s are still able to live in the comfort of their own home. However, as the person’s symptoms progress, it is necessary to make some safety updates and changes to the home. This ensures the safety of the person and helps adapt the environment to their medical needs.

Inspect the home
Before determining what needs to be done to add safety measures to the home, it is important to first inspect it. This includes going from room to room looking for things that many pose a risk to the person with Alzheimer’s.

Hide hazards
Disguise any area of the home where the person should not be going without close supervision. This includes hanging murals over doorways to forbidden rooms or using folding doors to hide stairs, kitchen entrances and storage areas.

Install new locks
Another effective method to prevent access to a room is to install locks out of sight. This means putting them high up on the door, making it difficult for the person to find it. This should also be done to all exterior doors to the house to help prevent the person from getting out.

Check safety devices
Conduct an inspection of fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detector to ensure they are in working condition. Also, verify that all emergency phone numbers, such as police, fire departments, hospitals and poison control are kept visible and are easy to find when needed.

Install new lighting
Make sure that the home is well lit. This includes all walkways and rooms to help reduce the chances of becoming disoriented or tripping.

Remove weapons
Having a weapon in a home where a person with Alzheimer’s resides can be a dangerous thing. The person can injure themselves by playing with the gun or they may mistake a caregiver as an intruder.

Lock up medications
Place all medications in a drawer or cabinet that can be locked up. This will prevent the person from taking more medication than necessary because he or she forget they already took it.

With a little work, the home can be adapted to fit the needs of a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Even as their disease progresses, affecting their mind and physical abilities, these safety precautions can make it possible to still live in the comfort of their own home.

Learn more about how HealthStar Home Health can help care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia by calling us at 844-633-7344.

HealthStar Home Health at the MN State Fair

HealthStar Home Health is returning to the Minnesota State Fair in 2015 with a mission to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias by providing FREE memory screenings to anyone who stops by our booth. We will once again have a booth at the MN State Fair in the Health Fair 11 building at the intersection of Dan Patch & Cooper. Our booth will be open from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm with FREE memory screenings taking place until 6:00 pm each day of the fair, which runs August 27th – September 7th, 2015.

Are you concerned about your memory, have a family history of Alzheimer’s, or notice a loved one that is becoming more and more forgetful? HealthStar Home Health understands the importance of proper detection and treatment of dementia or Alzheimer’s and is offering face-to-face memory screenings free of charge. The screening will only take a few minutes and consists of questions and tasks that will assess memory.

HealthStar Home Health and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America encourages memory screenings for adults with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, are experiencing memory concerns or for those who want to check their memory now to use as a base for future comparison. Common warning signs of dementia include often forgetting names, places & events, confusion over daily routines and asking repetitive questions.

As many as 70% of families are opting to care for their loved ones at home as long as possible, while managing the various stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. HealthStar’s Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care program offers support both in and out of the home to the caregivers and families dealing with the challenging behaviors often associated with this disease. Memory loss screenings are the first step toward detection and treatment. Our nursing experts are able to provide in-home education, training and non-pharmacologic behavior assistance, which is fully covered by most insurance plans and traditional Medicare.

Also, HealthStar is honored to be an official sponsor of a new film about Alzheimer’s titled His Neighbor Phil, which was filmed in the small community of Zumbrota, Minnesota. This film tells the story of Harvey, a man whose wife Mary has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. This touching film not only shows the effects of this disease on Mary, but also their entire family and the community they live in. Although the film deals with the honest realities of Alzheimer’s, it mainly focuses its attention on the tireless work of the caregivers and how their lives are also affected by this disease. Family and caregiver burnout dramatically rises when faced with this disease and the challenges of caring for a loved one. HealthStar is committed to providing the support and care for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia as well as those caring for them. Take a moment to watch this trailer about the moving film His Neighbor Phil.

Knowing the importance of further research and ongoing education, HealthStar will be involved with several events at the fair to help support the film including radio interviews with Alzheimer’s Speaks on August 27th from 12:00 – 2:00. Lori La Bey, nationally-known radio host and founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks, will conduct spontaneous interviews with various actors, sponsors and fair-goers. Another event we’re really looking forward to is a HealthStar sponsored autograph signing with cast members including lead actor, Daniel Roebuck (The Fugitive, Lost, Glee), Ellen Dolan (As the World Turns) and local actor, Bob Bird, at our booth from 10 AM to 12 PM, Sunday, August 30, 2015. Be sure to check out the schedule of events on the days you plan to be at the state fair.

So, plan to stop for a visit at our booth in the Health Fair 11 building at the intersection of Dan Patch & Cooper at the MN State Fair and take advantage of a free, confidential memory screening. HealthStar Home Health will be promoting the film His Neighbor Phil and conducting memory screenings at our booth, which will be open from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm each day with FREE memory screenings taking place until 6:00 pm. Hope to see you at the fair!

Caring For A Loved One With Dementia: It’s Okay To Ask For Help!

As anyone who cares for a person with dementia knows, trying to do it without help can be overwhelming. That’s why HealthStar Home Health offers dementia care across Minnesota, including Duluth, Bemidji and Minneapolis. Our care allows patients to get all of the help they need and lets relatives have the peace of mind of knowing that their loved ones are being fully taken care of.

In some cases, the need for help stems from the physical needs of the patient. Most people with dementia are elderly, and this can mean that they have trouble moving around or handling things that require dexterity. This becomes a problem when a non-professional caregiver has to do something like get the person out of bed or help lower him or her to the toilet. A professional nurse or similar caregiver will be able to take care of these things in ways that don’t endanger either themselves or the patient.

For many people, help is needed simply because the overall job is too much for one person. Keeping an eye on an adult 24/7 is tiring, and when that adult needs care for all or most things he or she does, the problem is even worse. There is no failing in asking for professionals to come in to take the load off and ensure that everything is being done. It’s also important for the patient’s well-being. Caregiver burnout isn’t like getting a cold or a virus, the symptoms of caregiver burnout can begin slowly, and gradually get worse overtime. Common symptoms include feelings of depression, fatigue, and a decreasing interest in work or other hobbies. HealthStar’s professional team of caregivers can help relieve some of the stress for family caregivers, so they can take care of themselves.

One of the important tasks performed by a professional dementia caregiver is administering medicine. It’s very easy for someone to forget a dose or accidentally give a double one if she is exhausted. A nurse or other practitioner will consider this an essential part of the job duties and therefore make it a top-of-mind priority. The same goes for other demanding aspects of dementia care, such as bathing and feeding.

Even after the nurse leaves for the day, the benefits will continue. This is because the relative who does the care during these times will be much better rested and more alert. The end result is that the patient will remain in better condition than otherwise possible while nobody ends up too exhausted to function properly.

To learn more about dementia care HealthStar Home Health offers, call your local HealthStar branch office.

Home Care Services Delay Nursing Home Admission for Loved One’s of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is devastating, but it also tends to progress slowly. This means that with the proper care, a loved one can remain at home and mostly independent for a surprisingly long period of time. In today’s world, this period of time is longer than it has ever been. That’s because more and more people want to avoid nursing homes, and this has driven up the demand for home care services.

Thanks to the increased demand, there are more service options and companies than there once were. In fact, it’s not hard to find one that specifically offers help for suffers of Alzheimer’s disease in Minnesota, Wisconsin and New Mexico and their caregiver relatives. These companies can provide everything from occasional check-up visits to daily care. They still don’t provide 24-hour care, but for many people, a daily visit is all that is needed to avoid full-time nursing for an extended period of time.

At first, people with Alzheimer’s will notice that it’s harder to remember things than it should be. This is what often leads them to see a doctor and get the diagnosis. During this very early phase, the effects are still mild. Check-up visits, reminder calls, and the provision of meals may be all that is needed to allow them to stay at home without other help.

As the disease progresses, more care will be needed. A daily visit by a nurse or other care practitioner will ensure that medicines are being taken properly and that basic hygiene, such as bathing and toothbrushing, is done. Relatives will usually step in to provide more care at this point.

Eventually, the patient will need full-time care. This, however, doesn’t mean that a nursing home is needed at this point. Help from relatives, combined with professional aid from a home care service, can allow the patient to avoid an institution despite their infirmity. In its final stages, Alzheimer’s may force the loved one into a hospital or similar environment, but thanks to all of the care options available, it is likely that this won’t happen for a very long time.

Of course, there are many ways people choose to deal with Alzheimer’s and the progressive infirmity it causes. However, the ability to avoid an immediate move to a nursing home is a point of light for many who contend with the condition.

Recognizing Signs of Alzheimer’s

If caught in the early stages, there are more treatment possibilities available to those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Being able to recognize the early warning signs, makes it possible to get a loved one the proper care needed before symptoms progress. Signs of Alzheimer’s can often be confused with normal signs of aging. Which is why we suggest knowing how to recognize the warning signs before jumping to conclusions.

Warning signs

When trying to determine if a loved one is starting to show signs of Alzheimer’s it is important to keep track of what is observed from day-to-day. Observations can include actions, conversations and activities the individual participates in regularly. Here are some early warning signs of Alzheimer’s:

  • Daily routines are disrupted by memory loss
  • Experiencing challenges with planning
  • Decline in cognitive thinking and abilities
  • Having difficulty with familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time and/or place
  • Difficulty with spatial relationships and visual images (known as agnosia)
  • Problems with speaking and understanding language (known as aphasia)
  • Misplacing things more than normal
  • Inability to retrace steps
  • Poor judgment
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Continual changes in mood and/or personality, including signs of hostility and depression
  • Behavior issues
  • Experiencing sundowning, meaning behavioral issues get worse in the late afternoon and evening hours of the day
  • Difficulty with basic motor skills (known as aprazia)
  • Experiencing strong emotional responses to minor problems
  • Psychosis – recurring hallucinations and/or delusions

What to do

If there are any concerns a loved one is experiencing any of the above listed warning signs, it might be necessary to see his or her physician. The doctor will be able to offer a proper diagnosis after a full day of evaluations. In most cases, this is done on an outpatient basis, making it possible to keep the loved one in the comfort of his or her own home.

Make sure to ask the doctor what diagnostic procedures will be used to determine if the patient is suffering from Alzheimer’s. If the evaluation process does not sound comprehensive enough, it might be necessary to seek assistance from a different physician.

If a family member is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in the Duluth, Minneapolis, or Bemidji areas, let us here are HealthStar Home Health help. We can help loved ones continue living lives as independently as possible. Learn more about our comprehensive Alzheimer’s program, Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer.

Memory Concerns? Take a Proactive Approach

Our health care model transitioned to an innovative, proactive approach over the past several years. A focus on the areas of diet, exercise, preventative clinical services, and a high emphasis on monitoring areas of concern is shifting the way care is delivered. While strides have been made in these areas, it is rare that changes to one’s memory are met with such a proactive approach. So often today outreach for support is not initiated until a critical event such as financial loss, exploitation, wandering, or failure to thrive has occurred. As a comprehensive provider of home health care, HealthStar Home Health knows firsthand that early detection of memory issues leads to early intervention, and the ability for family to plan together.

The reasons for ignoring memory changes could include embarrassment, denial, and fear, so it is understandable why many may fall into this critical misstep. A typical response from an individual who notices changes to his or her memory is to hide the problem, concerned that a diagnosis of Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in inevitable. Those close to that individual may harbor similar fears as well. This perpetual cycle makes it difficult to enter into tough dialogue, often resulting in the memory issue developing quietly but profoundly.

What is not well known is that there are many causes for memory loss, many being curable and treatable if recognized early. By regularly integrating memory screenings Health Care professionals can become a catalyst for change and construct critical conversations with their patients around memory concerns. While a memory screening will not diagnose a memory issue, it is the first step in identifying a problem and it will subsequently trigger further diagnostic testing. We need to encourage and empower all those who have concerns that they or their loved ones are experiencing memory changes to discuss those concerns with their health care providers and request memory screening.

If further diagnostic testing reveals a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other Dementias, remember, the benefits of earlier diagnosis include improved management of the disease, ability to treat and mange co-existing conditions, and the opportunity to help patients and their families plan ahead. Caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or Dementia has a huge impact on their care partner’s ability to achieve work-life balance. According to the coalition for Preparing Minnesota for Alzheimer’s, working caregivers report their caregiving responsibilities affect their work. 57% report arriving to work late. 17% have taken a leave of absence. 10% switch from full-time to part-time hours. 9% left the work place completely as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. The average cost to U.S employers of full-time employees who are caregivers totals $33.6 BILLION per year in lost productivity. (Preparing Minnesota for Alzheimer’s , 2011). These staggering numbers identify a critical need for supporting caregivers to manage their stress through education, training, and supportive services.

In 2013, HealthStar Home Health, in collaboration with C&V Senior Care Solutions, integrated a comprehensive home care program called Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer. Paid completely through the Medicare home care benefit, Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer supports the person, the caregiver and, the family to manage the diagnosis and the challenges that surround it. Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer teaches families to understand how the disease affects the brain and enable the caregiver to enter the world of the person who has dementia or Alzheimer’s. Caregivers are trained to handle behaviors which include uncooperative behavior, agitation, aggression, wandering, sun-downing, sexually acting-out, dressing and bathing difficulties, eating difficulties, repetitive behaviors, and more. The program incorporates a multi-disciplinary approach and utilizes Skilled Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Social Workers, and Speech Pathologists. It uses standardized evidence-based teaching and assessment tools, and is based on the theory of Retrogenesis, developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg. Retrogenesis means “back to birth”, which concludes that Alzheimer’s unravels the brain almost exactly in reverse order as the brain developed from birth. This foundational understanding provides a method of creating approaches, environments, and techniques based on the developmental stage that correlates with the stage of dementia. The patient and the Caregiver will demonstrate competent self-care skill management of Alzheimer’s disease including a full range of behavioral, physical, social, and spiritual implications of this disease in order to remain safe at home.

By initiating supportive services upon diagnosis or at the initial onset of problematic behaviors, families receive help before it reaches crisis level. This proactive approach can successfully increase the quality of life for patients and their families affected by this dynamic disease.

-Shannon MacKenzie
Area Manager
HealthStar Home Health