The Number One Killer of Americans

Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? Many think its cancer, but it’s not. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is number one, followed by cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, accidents, and then Alzheimer’s disease. I discovered this surprising fact after being prompted to learn more about heart disease after my aunt experienced a serious heart attack recently. Thankfully she is going to be ok, but she will have to make some serious lifestyle changes to decrease her chances of experiencing another heart attack in the future.

My aunt is only 50 years old and there is no history of heart disease in the family. I have learned, besides family history, other risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of exercise, and stress. These factors contribute to the buildup of plaque within the arteries of the heart. According to, the most common cause of heart attack occurs when blood platelets stick to tears in the plaque and form a blood clot that blocks the blood from flowing to the heart for a long enough time that part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies. The heart of a heart attack survivor will heal within about eight weeks, but a scar will form in the damaged area. The new scar tissue will not contract, so the heart’s pumping ability is compromised. The amount of lost pumping ability depends on the size and location of the scar.

The most important thing I have learned is that it is imperative to get immediate medical treatment at the first sign of a heart attack. This could mean the difference between life and death. Many people do not recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and wait too long to call 911, causing fatal damage to their heart. Symptoms of a heart attack include:


  • Chest pain which may feel like discomfort, pressure or heaviness and may move from your chest to our arms (usually the left), your jaw, neck, belly or back.
  • Fullness, indigestion or a choking feeling.
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting or dizziness.
  • Extreme weakness, anxiety, shortness of breath or palpitations.


Symptoms usually last 30 minutes or longer and do not go away with rest. The pain can be severe or mild. Women, the elderly, and people with diabetes are less likely to experience chest pain during a heart attack, making them less likely to recognize the signs and call for help. “Silent heart attacks” can also occur and have no symptoms.

After a heart attack, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions to prevent another attack. Treatment will likely include medication, a heart healthy diet, exercise, quitting smoking, controlling stress and instructions on what to do if you experience symptoms again.   Heart disease is something everyone should take seriously and educate themselves about, especially those over the age of 50. Ultimately, the best prevention you have against a heart attack is taking care of your body by eating healthy and exercising. The best defense against a heart attack fatality is educating yourself about the symptoms so you will recognize the signs and get immediate help if one does occur.


By Amber Triebull

Summer Activities for Seniors & Caregivers

Enjoying the warm summer temperatures doesn’t have to be a distant memory for elders and caregivers. Finding an interesting activity that is suitable for a senior’s abilities may take some creativity and planning, but it is well worth switching up the routine and getting out of the house.

The Benefits of Getting Outside. A main advantage of heading outdoors, even for a short period of time, is being able to soak up some sunlight. Sun exposure generates vitamin D, which is necessary for a healthy brain, bones and muscles. Getting out also enables elders to socialize with new people, and be stimulated by new experiences and environments.

Ideas for Outdoor Activities. When selecting activities to do with your loved one, focus on hobbies and interests that they used to enjoy. What is something they always wanted to try? Don’t be afraid to ask what they miss doing or what they’d like to revisit. Have a couple of suggestions prepared to choose from and head outside to enjoy the day together.

Catch a sporting event. Attending a grandchild’s soccer game or a professional baseball game can be an action-packed way for your loved one to reconnect with a favorite pastime.

Fish for fun. You can cast a rod from a dock, pier, or other location, even if someone has mobility problems or uses a wheelchair. Check your state’s or province’s tourism websites to see if they provide listings of accessible fishing locations.

Be a tourist. If you live in a city, take an open-air bus or trolley tour to see the local sights. Another option could be a boat tour, depending on what type of equipment an elder needs to take with them. A Sunday drive around town can also allow a senior to check out happenings in the community that interest them. This could be a neighborhood rummage sale, farmers market, community event or even just blooming flowers and trees.

Take a dip. If a senior is willing and able, spending some time in a pool is an excellent way for them to incorporate some physical activity into their routine that seems more like relaxing than a workout.

Stroll around. If a walk is possible, start slow and work up to longer outings. Either keep the first few walks short, or bring along a walker or wheelchair in case your loved one gets tired and needs to rest along the way or requires help getting back.

Be an animal lover. This could be as simple as encouraging a loved one to sit outside and enjoy the sights and sounds, or could mean an outing to the zoo or local dog park. There are plenty of options for seniors who enjoy animals to get outside and either interact with or observe nature.

Picnic outdoors. Picnics are another flexible activity that you can plan at a park, in your own backyard, or on the surrounding grounds of a long-term care facility. At the park, seniors can watch children run around and enjoy the buzz of outdoor activity. Make sure to locate an area with comfortable seating and plenty of shade in advance, or remember to bring your own.

Go out for a treat. Most seniors have a favorite place to eat that picks their spirits right up. Instead of limiting this indulgence to special occasions or the post-doctor’s appointment routine, make an outing out of it “just because.” This could consist of a coffee and pastry from a favorite breakfast spot, or a lunch special from the diner around the corner. If the weather is nice, enjoy your goodies at a patio table.

Older bodies don’t adjust to temperature changes or perceive thirst as well as younger ones. With each of these activities, be sure to watch your loved one for signs of fatigue, thirst, sunburn, and overheating that could signal it’s time to leave, perhaps with a promise to return at another time.


—By Caren Parnes

Contributor for The Senior’s Choice

Crime & The Elderly

Older people are often targets for robbery, purse snatching, pick-pocketing, car theft, or a number of scams. During a crime, an older person is more likely to be seriously hurt than someone who is younger. But, even though there are risks, don’t let the fear of crime stop you from enjoying life. Be careful and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some “do’s and don’ts” that can help you fight crime and stay safe.

Be Safe at Home

  • Do try to make sure that your locks, doors, and windows are strong and cannot be broken easily. Consider a good alarm system. Make sure they are locked—both when you are in the house and when you’re away.
  • Do make a list of your expensive belongings. You might even take pictures of the most valuable items. Store these papers in a safe place.
  • Don’t open your door before you know who’s there. Look through the peephole or a safe window first. Ask any stranger for proof of identity before opening the door. Remember, you don’t have to open the door if you feel uneasy.
  • Don’t keep large amounts of money in the house.
  • Do get to know your neighbors. Join a Neighborhood Watch Program if your community has one.

Be Street Smart

  • Do try to stay alert. Walk with a friend. Stay away from unsafe places like dark parking lots or alleys.
  • Do keep your car doors locked at all times and park in well-lit areas.
  • Don’t open your car door or roll down your window for strangers.
  • Do carry your purse close to your body with the strap over your shoulder and across your chest.
  • Don’t resist a robber. Hand over your cash right away if confronted.

Be Safe with Your Money

  • Do have your monthly pension or Social Security checks sent right to the bank for direct deposit.
  • Don’t carry a lot of cash. Put your wallet, money, or credit cards in an inside pocket.
  • Don’t keep your check book and credit cards together. A thief could use the card to forge your signature on checks.

Fight Fraud

Older people may be victims of frauds like con games and insurance, home repair, telephone, or internet scams. The following tips may help:

  • Don’t be afraid to hang up on telephone salespeople. You aren’t being impolite. You are taking care of yourself! Remember, you can say no to any offer.
  • Don’t give any personal information, including your credit card number or bank account, over the phone unless you were the one who made the call.
  • Don’t be fooled by deals that seem too good to be true. They probably are. Beware of deals that ask for a lot of money up front and promise you more money later. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to get more information about the record of any company before doing business with them.

Avoid Identity Theft

How can someone steal your identity? Using your name, Social Security number, or credit card without your okay is called identity theft and it’s a serious crime. Be sure to protect yourself:

  • Do keep information about your checking account private. Put all new and cancelled checks in a safe place, report any stolen checks right away, and carefully look at your monthly bank account statement.
  • Do shred everything that has personal information about you written on it.
  • Do be very careful when buying things online. Websites without security may not protect your credit card or bank account information. Look for information saying that a website has a secure server before buying anything online (it will have https://, not http:// in front of it).
  • Do check with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to find out how to protect yourself from common online scams that can trick you into revealing your personal or financial information.


By National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health

Care for Terminally Ill Seniors

When a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or “failure to thrive,” consider seeking help from a hospice agency to assist with improving your loved one’s quality of life. Typically, hospice is available to people who are expected to live 6 months or less due to an incurable disease. Failure to thrive is defined as a patient who’s health has declined because of weight loss due to lack of appetite, depression and refusal of medical treatment. The patient may be giving up and feels there’s no reason to go on, or they may have recently had a stroke or other illness that has left them with complications. The purpose of hospice is to provide comfort care through pain management and symptom control. Hospice also provides medical equipment, medication and supplies, all which are covered through Medicare. Hospice does not treat the disease; rather, they focus on the patient’s quality of life, helping them to live fully, with dignity, surrounded by their loved ones.   Some families are concerned that by accepting hospice care they are giving up hope that their loved one will get better; however, if the patient’s condition improves, he or she will be taken off the program until such time is needed in the future. Hospice patients receive such excellent care that many times the response is dramatic and the TLC they receive provides an extra boost to their health which extends their life. Hospice also provides bereavement support for one year to the family after experiencing a loss.

By Amber Triebull

Social Activities Promote Senior Health

If you are age 50 or older and interested in community activities, consider checking out your local senior center. Senior centers offer an array of classes and activities to meet all kinds of interests. Get active in ballroom dancing or yoga, or learn something new in a cooking or Spanish class. Join the bridge club or book club to socialize with other seniors in your community, or relax while knitting or painting amidst good company. Many senior centers also offer senior health and nutritional classes to provide education about issues relevant to you. If getting involved in a weekly class isn’t your thing, most senior centers offer monthly or annual events such as luncheons, holiday celebrations, special outings or trips, amongst other special affairs. Socializing with others is good for your emotional health and joining a group offers an opportunity to make new friends and experience new things.   Contact your local senior center for more information about the classes and activities offered in your area.


By Amber Triebull

Is it Grief or Depression?

It’s inevitable; the longer we live, the more loss we will experience.  It could be the loss of loved ones, the loss of health, independence, or the loss of a feeling of purpose in life.  Grieving over these losses is completely healthy and normal.  The symptoms of grief can be described in five stages, the first being denial, disbelief or numbness.  The second, anger and blaming others.  The third, bargaining.  For example, “If I am cured of this cancer, I will never smoke again.”  The fourth is a depressed mood, sadness and crying.  The final stage is acceptance and coming to terms with the loss.  Not everyone experiences all these emotions when coping with loss, and it’s possible for the stages of grief to last a year or more.  But when a person has lost all hope and joy in life, they may be suffering from clinical depression.

It can be difficult to recognize the signs of depression amongst the elderly because symptoms of grief, side effects of medications, and symptoms of chronic illnesses can all resemble the symptoms of depression, causing depression to go unnoticed and untreated.  Assuming depressive symptoms are caused by another underlying problem can be detrimental to your loved one’s health.  Depression can increase a person’s risk of cardiac disease and their risk of death following a heart attack.  Depression also reduces a person’s ability to rehabilitate and can impact their sleep, energy and appetite.

Overcoming depression can involve finding new things to enjoy, staying physically and socially active and feeling connected to loved ones.  Medication and/or counseling may also be helpful.  As a caregiver, family member or friend of a depressed senior, consider scheduling regular social activities for them, take them out to do things they enjoy, prepare them healthy meals, be emotionally supportive by listening to them with compassion and without judgment, and encourage the person to follow through with treatment.

Although depression amongst the elderly is common, it is not normal.  If you believe you or your loved one is suffering with depression, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.  Several web-sites offer on-line depression screening tests, one being provided by the National Mental Health Association.  Take this test with you to your doctor to begin the conversation about your concerns.


By Amber Triebull

Use It Or Lose It

Robert Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging, says “If exercise could be packed into a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.”

It’s a fact that most adults don’t get enough exercise. With few exceptions, nearly everyone can participate in some sort of activity that leads to improvement in health if performed in the correct intensity and frequency, no matter your age. No group in our population benefits more from exercise than seniors. Exercise improves mood and relieves depression and can lessen the symptoms of certain underlying diseases and disabilities. Staying physically active on a regular, permanent, basis improves cardiovascular fitness, reduces susceptibility to heart attacks and strokes, enhances metabolism, delays age related deterioration of some muscles and bones, and improves brain function. According to the National Institute on Aging, each year, more than 2 million older Americans go to the emergency room because of fall related injuries. Balance and stretching exercises can help prevent falls and avoid a disability that can result from a fall.

Remember the old saying “Use it or lose it”? If muscles aren’t used, they waste away. Humans lose 20 to 40 percent of their muscles as they age. Studies show that having muscle mass may mean the difference between a senior’s ability to get up from a chair, or needing someone there to help them get up. Strong muscles reduce the risk of serious falls that cause broken hips and other disabilities. Tufts University conducted a study, published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, showing that gradual loss of muscle results in seniors burning fewer calories while at rest which can lead to weight gain. This study suggests that seniors can regain some of their more youthful resting metabolic rate and help avoid obesity with regular muscle-building exercises.

If you’re interested in improving your health through increased physical activity and diet, there’s a great website I want to recommend dedicated to exercise programs specifically designed for seniors. The name of the program is Go4Life and it’s made available through the National Institute on Aging. The Go4Life program focuses on four key exercise categories; Endurance, Strength, Balance and Flexibility. You don’t necessarily have to engage in all four categories to receive benefits from their program. For example, maybe balance and flexibility are of most interest to you. You can work on only those two categories of exercise. I encourage you to visit their website. You’ll find downloadable worksheets and tip sheets, visual examples of every exercise, goal setting and tracking sheets, tools and tips for healthy eating and more. The best part is, it’s all free! You don’t need any special equipment, you can get started today!


By Vinny DiNicola

Be sure to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.


Vinny DiNicola is a Certified Senior Advisor® and owner of HomeLife Senior Care with wife Angela. Email:

Preparing for the Future

Before starting my business caring for seniors, I knew very little about long-term care insurance.  I believed that as long as you were “saving for a rainy day” all would be well.  I soon found reality is very different!  None of us know what the future holds. Nothing is more disturbing than to see a senior who needs help but is unable to afford it.  Many I’ve talked to believe Medicare will take care of the cost. Medicare offers coverage for a very limited time and offers no coverage for non-medical, in-home care.  Long-term care insurance is an insurance policy which pays a set amount for the cost of care when an individual needs help with activities of daily living due to declining health or cognitive impairment.  The daily amount usually ranges from $100 to $200 per day for a designated time frame, often times 3 years, depending on the policy.  This differs from medical insurance because, while medical insurance will help cover the cost of immediate medical expenses such as doctors bills, it will not cover the cost of care required for the daily help a person will need if they are living with chronic illness or disabilities.   With the right policy, long-term care insurance will cover the costs of home care, assisted living, nursing homes, adult day care and respite care. The relief our clients and their families feel in knowing they’re able to receive the care they need without financial worries is priceless. For many, the amount of the policy is secondary to the peace of mind it offers for those fearful of becoming a burden to their family or depleting their retirement funds.

Policy costs vary depending on the age of the person when they purchase a long-term care policy and the length and amount of coverage.  According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a 60-year-old healthy couple can expect to pay an average of $3,335 a year for a plan that pays out $150 per day for three years.  Once a policy is purchased, it is usually guaranteed renewable for life and cannot be cancelled by the insurance company for health reasons. Once a policy is activated, there are no monthly payments that have to be made.


By Angela DiNicola

Care Benefits for Veterans

For qualifying veterans and surviving spouses, the Aid and Attendance (A&A) Pension provides funds to pay for in-home care when a veteran, or surviving spouse, is in need of assistance for daily living activities such as dressing, eating, cooking, bathing and toileting.  The veteran does NOT need to require assistance with all of these things to qualify.  It also pays for the care of veterans who are blind, are a patient in a nursing home, or for assisted care in an assisted living facility.  A&A can also help with care for a veteran’s sick spouse when the veteran is still independent if the spouse’s medical expenses reach an amount that depletes their monthly income.

In order for a veteran to qualify for the A&A benefit, a doctor needs to determine that the veteran cannot completely function on their own and is in need of the assistance of another person.  This other person does not need to be a licensed health aid, it can be anyone hired to provide care for the veteran.  These benefits are available to any War-Time Veteran with 90 days of active duty, or their surviving spouse, and meet the medical and financial requirements.*

It may take four months or more for an application to be processed and eligibility to be determined.   The good news is that all benefits are retro-dated back to the original filing date.  It may take the veteran or family member some time to locate all the required paperwork needed to make a claim, but the process can be started by submitting a one page form, VA Form 21-4138 (Statement in Support of Claim) which will get the claim into the system.  Once this form has been submitted, the veteran will have one year to file the packet and supporting documents.  Please visit for more information about the Aid and Attendance Pension or contact the local Contra Costa VA office at (925) 313-1490.  The VA administration can assist in completing and submitting the needed forms.

By Amber Triebull

*Information in this article was provided by  

Engaging Activities for Seniors Living with Dementia

Participating in activities can promote a sense of accomplishment, independence and overall happiness for a person with dementia.  It is important to remember that people with dementia are “people first,” and need to feel part of the world around them.  It may be challenging for a family member or other caregiver to think of activities to engage a person with dementia, so I have compiled a list I hope you will find helpful.  Pick activities the person can succeed in, keep directions simple and be flexible and encouraging!

  1. Play a game; change the rules to make them simpler if necessary.
  2. Garden together.
  3. Prepare meals together. Give the person a specific task such as washing the lettuce or mixing ingredients.
  4. Listen to music they used to enjoy. Sing together.
  5. Read short stories aloud.
  6. Look through old picture albums; encourage the person to reminisce.
  7. Share stories about the “good old days.”
  8. Complete art projects such as painting, scrapbooking, wood building, knitting or quilting.
  9. Exercise! Take a daily walk together or encourage participation in a senior’s exercise class.
  10. Plan outings to museums, parks, church, coffee or ice cream shops, places the person used to enjoy visiting.
  11. Sorting projects; paper, work related items, coins.
  12. Encourage participation in housekeeping such as dusting, wiping counters or folding laundry.
  13. Do hair and nails together.
  14. Care for a pet by grooming, feeding or walking.
  15. Puzzles and crossword puzzles.
  16. Watch classic movies together.

Find activities you both enjoy doing together while keeping the mind and body of your loved one living with dementia active!


By Amber Triebull

Laughter is the Best Medicine

We’ve heard this saying a million times, but do you really know all the ways laughter can improve your health? Let’s start with the more obvious reasons: laughter relaxes the body, relieves stress and anxiety, and provides an overall sense of well being. It’s difficult to feel angry, anxious or sad when you’re laughing! It feels good to laugh, and those good feelings remain with you, keeping you positive, boosting your outlook on life by helping you see life’s daily problems in a more realistic, less serious light. Now, here are some facts about laughter you may not have known: according to Psychology Today, laughter boosts the immune system by releasing infection-fighting antibodies, improving your resistance to disease. It reduces blood sugar levels which increases glucose tolerance in diabetics. Laughter also improves the function of blood vessels by causing them to relax and expand, increasing blood flow which is beneficial to the heart and brain. Laughter can also temporarily relieve chronic pain. Here are some ways to incorporate humor into your daily life:

• Read the funny pages or a funny book
• Watch a funny TV show or movie
• Play games with friends
• Spend time around children
• Hang out with funny people
• Go to a comedy show
• Play with a pet
• Tell funny stories or jokes
• Be playful, do something silly
• Try to find the humor in tough situations
• Laugh at yourself – lighten up!

In case you haven’t had a good laugh today, here are a couple jokes to boost your mood!

An 85-year-old widow went on a blind date with a 90-year-old man.
When she returned to her daughter’s house later that night, she seemed upset.
“What happened, Mother?” the daughter asked.
“I had to slap his face three times!”
“You mean he got fresh?”
“No,” she answered. “I thought he was dead!”

Three sisters, ages 92, 94, and 96, live together. One night the 96-year-old draws a bath. She puts one foot in and pauses, “Was I getting in the tub or out?” she yells.
The 94-year-old hollers back, “I don’t know, I’ll come up to see.” She starts up the stairs and stops. She shouts, “Was I going up or going down?”
The 92-year-old is sitting at the kitchen table having tea, listening to her sisters. She shakes her head and says, “I sure hope I never get that forgetful,” and knocks on wood for good measure. Then she yells, “I’ll come up and help both of you as soon as I see who’s at the door.”

An old man is afraid that his wife is losing her hearing. So, he walks up right to her ear and asks, “Can you hear me?” She didn’t answer. He walks up closer and asks again, but there was no answer. Finally he asks her one more time really loud and his wife says, “For the third time yes!!!”

There once was an old man who was about to die. He told his wife to put a bag of money in the attic. “When I die I’ll get it on my way up,” chuckled the old man. Well when the old man died the wife went up to the attic and found that the bag of money was still there. “I knew I should have put that money in the cellar!” said the old woman.

By Amber Triebull

HomeLife Senior Care is an award winning, professional agency providing clients with exceptional in-home care. Call today for a no obligation assessment: 925-240-5770. “Our Family Helping Yours.”