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.

Nutrition Guidelines for COPD

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COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a progressive lung disease that makes breathing more difficult. Common symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest discomfort, weight loss, and coughing. A common nutritional concern for COPD is weight loss.

As the lungs lose their ability to function, the body must work harder to breathe, leading to an increase in the number of calories burned. The number of calories eaten per day must increase to meet this need. Increased fatigue and shortness of breath can make it difficult to eat at times.

Tips for the Prevention of Weight Loss:

  1. Eat numerous meals/snacks throughout the day (5 or 6 total)
  2. Eat slowly and enjoy the company of others
  3. Choose foods high in calories and avoid those considered “diet,” “light,” or low in fat or calories
  4. Choose foods high in protein such as milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, fish, meats, poultry, nuts, and beans

Continue to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables, for plenty of vitamins and minerals, with extra calories added to them:

  1. Add peanut butter to fruits
  2. Top vegetables with cheese, butter, or salad dressing
  3. Make salads with nuts, cheese, avocadoes, meat, and regular dressing

Fat is a very concentrated source of calories, so adding foods or condiments with fat can increase the number of calories in a meal:

Choose cream based soups instead of broth-based soups

  1. Add butter or margarine to foods
  2. Add peanut butter to toast or oatmeal
  3. Add extra cheese to foods
  4. Choose regular salad dressing
  5. Add avocado and guacamole to vegetables and salads

Have family and friends help with meal preparation, prepare food in advance, or choose meals that require little-to-no preparation to avoid extra work which could lead to fatigue and loss of appetite. Some individuals may find it easier to drink instead of eat to get extra calories.

Some options for high calorie drinks include:

  1. Milkshakes
  2. Whole milk
  3. Fortified milk (whole milk with milk powder added)
  4. Oral nutritional supplements

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

Ten Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Community

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When visiting an assisted living community be sure to ask these 10 questions:

Is memory care available?

If your memory declines, can the community continue to care for you? Many places have memory care in place, for people who move in needing that care, but also for those who live in the community and develop certain memory conditions during their stay. Memory care should be a safe and secure area in the community.

Are the rooms private?

If privacy is a concern for you be sure to ask if the rooms are private. Some assisted living facilities require residents to share a room, while others have private rooms available.

Do they provide individualized care plans for each resident?

Check to see if there is a written care plan, individualized for each resident. Every person is different, and will need different plans for care. This care plan can include things like medications, diet and exercise.

How often are meals served?

Are meals available 7 days a week? If so, how many meals do you get a day?

What kind of services and activities are provided?

Do they have laundry, transportation or worshiping services? What about a podiatrist or neurologist?  Is there an assisted living activity coordinator?

Can you bring furniture, bedding and other items from your home?

Bringing items from home may make you feel more comfortable. What limitations do you have on what you can bring? Many places give you the opportunity to bring in furniture, bedding and knickknacks.

Can you have pets?

Are you allowed to bring pets into the community? If so, what pets can you bring? Many communities allow you to bring in cats, dogs, fish and even birds! Make sure you ask this question, and find out the cost associated with bring an animal.

Can you and your visitors come and go at will?

It’s a common practice for assisted living communities to allow residents, families and friends in and out at will. But, check with the community and state regulations to ensure that this is the case.

Is the community safe?

Many communities have security guards and cameras. Other questions to ask would be, are there locks on the windows and doors? Are there well-lit rooms and hallways? Is there a generator, in case of emergency?

What if I run out of money while living here?

Out living funds can be a concern for older adults. Some communities will give you a 30-day notice to move out if this occurs. Others, have policies in place that may help cover the cost of living and care.

What other questions have you found helpful in your assisted living search?

How to Help Your Parent Get Involved at Their Retirement Community

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If your parent or loved one is struggling to make friends at their retirement community, look no further. Sometimes it can be hard to get to know people at a new place. Luckily, we have some great tips for how to get your loved one involved.

Most retirement communities have activities that range from physical fitness and day trips, to music and crafts. And, there are typically resident groups, such as writer’s groups or resident councils. The range of activities allows residents to choose the activities they are interested in and truly enjoy. Doing the things they love will increase the likelihood that they return to a future activity, try new activities, and meet likeminded people.

Also, keep in mind that activities are typically based on the level of care. This means that the activities are divided into groups for assisted living, independent living, skilled nursing, and even memory care. This may ease your loved one’s mind, when worrying about if they can properly engage in the activity.

If your loved one is still hesitant to get involved, try to develop a relationship with their activity coordinator. This is the person who plans and attends all the activities for their level of care. They can reach out to see what types of things your loved one is interested in, and help motivate them to attend future activities.

The activity coordinator could also provide you with a calendar of upcoming events that families can attend. Family events are a great way for your loved one to ease into meeting new members of the community. If you are attending these events, try to encourage conversation with other families. This will help your loved one develop relationships in the community. And, it can help you to develop relationships with people in your same position.

What tips have you tried to motivate your loved ones to become involved?

For the activity calendars at Wesley Glen, please click here.

How to Adopt a Healthy (and Flexible) Lifestyle

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In such a busy world of fast food, to-go and TV’s, it’s no wonder people are seeking a balanced lifestyle. Luckily, there are several small changes you can make that will lead to better health, including getting more physical activity, eating more whole foods and taking time for yourself and your relationships.

Sedentary lifestyles can lead to several ailments including high cholesterol, diabetes, and certain cancers. Moving, whether the activity involves planned exercise like aerobics, or just taking a walk, benefits the body by burning calories and building lean muscle mass. Try to engage in physical activity that you genuinely enjoy. And, a workout partner or trainer might help to keep you accountable.

Food is such an important aspect of everything we do that it’s sometimes most difficult to adopt healthy eating habits. We celebrate a new life by eating when a child is born, we break bread with those who are grieving, treat our friends to lunch for their birthdays, and we celebrate weddings, anniversaries and retirements with sumptuous feasts.

Eating more whole foods provides essential nutrients. Fiber, found in many whole foods, can lower cholesterol and contribute to a healthy colon. Many fruits and vegetables contain vitamins A and C. Both vitamins are antioxidants that can protect the cells from damage. Iron, found in vegetables like dark leafy greens, helps build healthy blood. Potassium found in oranges, tomatoes and potatoes can help regulate blood pressure.

It’s okay to indulge sometimes though. On occasion, you need a day to relax and take care of your mind. But, make sure that you are consciously making a choice, rather than letting your emotions takeover. On these days, try to incorporate fun activities, or spend time with friends and family. And, make a meal at home that you love, even if it’s loaded with cheese!

It can be hard to find this life balance. But, it can lead to tremendous amounts of overall health benefits. How do you find balance?

5 Wheelchair Exercises to Help You Stay Fit

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Exercise is key to better health, especially when in a wheelchair. It has the ability to strengthen the muscles and burn fat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get moderate physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Additionally, the CDC suggests that adults engage in strengthening activities that work the major muscle groups at least two days per week. But, how do you stay active while in a wheelchair? Here are some tips:


Stretching can prepare you for the rest of your workout. If you are in a wheelchair you can practice stretching where ever you are. Simply extend the arms and hands above the shoulders and stretch as if you are reaching for the stars. Bring the arms down and repeat 3-5 times.

Weight Train

Weight training can strengthen the arms, upper body, and back. This training involves using free weights. Begin with lighter weights between 2 and 5 lbs. Lift the weights above your head, starting with just a few repetitions. You can also practice curls by holding the weights in your hands facing upwards and bringing the weights back toward your body by bending your elbows. Try 3-5 repetitions, rest, and try 3-5 more.


Resistance bands are popular for exercising the arms and shoulders. Resistance bands allow you to work your muscles as you pull and stretch the bands.

Stay Limber

You can keep your hands limber by making a fist, holding for about 30 seconds and then extending the fingers. Repeat 3-5 times.


Move more in your wheelchair. Like walking, your wheelchair is the way you go from place to place; roll your chair as a form of exercise. Find a place where you can roll about 30 feet and roll your chair between other exercises.

Please consult with your health care provider before implementing these tips.

Making Friends as You Age

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Making friends gets harder as you get older.  The desire to meet new people, though, never really goes away.  As you move to new places, you’ll doubtlessly be surrounded by others.  Meeting them, especially in this day and age, can be more difficult than you might imagine.  If you follow these tips, getting to know your neighbors might be a bit easier.

You should start to get to know your neighbors in a casual manner.  If you’ve just moved in, go next door and introduce yourself.  You don’t have to give your life story, and you certainly don’t have to invite your neighbors over – but, you should let them know that you are there.  You aren’t looking to engage in a lifelong friendship right away, but rather to open up the lines of communication.

Next, make yourself available.  Say hello when you see them and engage in a bit of small talk.  If you see your neighbors do something that piques your interest, ask them about it.  Don’t be afraid to be the person who makes the first move.

Finally, don’t be discouraged.  Not every neighbor is going to be a life-long friend, but it’s important that know each other.  Even if you never get past introductions, you’ve made a connection that might come in handy in the future.

Getting to know your neighbors is a great way to make friends and a good way to feel like you are part of the community.  Always try to initiate contact and make sure you keep the lines of communication open.  If you can get to know the people around you, you’ll feel more comfortable in your own home.