CareNotes: The Home Care Newsletter Vol 3 Issue 3
Home Care Assistance Updates!
This month, members of our corporate team traveled to Philadelphia to attend the National Private Duty Association’s (NPDA) Annual Leadership Conference. At this event, our executives networked with senior care leaders and attended various panels and lectures. At Home Care Assistance, we are committed to keeping up to date with the latest industry trends in order to best serve our senior clients!
Also, we are excited to announce our newest Home Care Assistance office in Puerto Rico!
New Tea on the Block: Pu-erh
Pu-erh (Pronounced pew-er:) tea may be new to most North Americans, but it isn't actually "new." It's been grown and cured in the Yunnan province of China for over 2000 years and its distinguishing characteristic is, in fact, its age.
Broad leaf tea leaves are fermented, pressed, and aged to make pu-erh tea (some versions are made without fermenting the tea first). All pu-erh tea used to be aged for decades, some are even aged as long as a century. Modern tea producers have found ways to speed up that process for most commercially available pu-erh tea.
Chinese medicine uses pu-erh tea to flush out toxins, treat dysentery, improve digestive function, facilitate weight loss, and improve blood circulation.
Modern scientific studies have found that pu-erh tea can lower blood pressure, reduce free radicals, and aid weight loss. It has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels and promote healthy bacterial flora in the intestines, thus, as traditional Chinese medicine proclaims, promoting healthy digestion. One Chinese study found that the fungi and bacteria that increase in pu-erh tea as it ages and give the tea its unique flavor are also those that develop polyphenols and cancer-fighting properties.
For as cure-all as this can start to sound, most striking are the studies that point to pu-erh tea's ability to lower cholesterol levels.
All tea – whether black, oolong, green, or pu-erh – contains antioxidants and polyphenols. Several studies have found that pu-erh tea is particularly effective at lowering bad cholesterol. A 2005 study at the Wun-Shan Branch Tea Research and Extension Station in Taipei, Taiwan looked at the cholesterol-lowering properties of all four types of tea and found that while they all decreased LDL-C (bad cholesterol), only pu-erh tea did not also lower HDL-C (good cholesterol) to some extent. When it comes to cholesterol, pu-erh tea takes the bad while leaving the good.
The same study found that pu-erh and oolong teas lowered triglycerides more than did black or green teas. All teas improved the activity of an important antioxidant enzyme.
An earlier French study found that subjects with high blood lipid levels experienced a 22% reduction in those levels when they were given three servings of pu-erh tea daily. The control group showed no change.
A similar study at Kunming Medical College in China found that subjects with hypertension or coronary heart disease (all of whom were admitted to the hospital for these conditions) who were given three servings of pu-erh tea daily showed a 64% reduction in blood lipid levels as compared to a 67% reduction in subjects who were given standard cholesterol-reducing drugs.
The Balanced Care Method™ recommends drinking several cups of tea daily because of the significant levels of antioxidants and flavonoids. Okinawan elders – the longest and healthiest lived population on earth – regularly drink large amounts of tea, keeping them hydrated and full of health-enhancing antioxidants and flavonoids.
Hydration is an important health benefit of tea. Sipping tea, including pu-erh tea, helps people stay hydrated. Unlike sodas and juices, tea provides water without empty calories or high levels of simple sugars. Dehydration in seniors can lead to symptoms that mimic serious conditions, even dementia. Symptoms of dehydration can include fatigue, headache, dry mouth, little or no urination, muscle weakness, dizziness, confusion, forgetfulness, rapid breathing, and even an increased heart rate.
Aim for a total of eight glasses of water or the equivalent every day. More may be necessary if taking medications that have diuretic or laxative effects. Avoid dehydration:
- Drink before you feel thirsty
- Have water or tea nearby for sipping throughout the day
- Drink water or tea before eating food at meals
Many American tea companies are starting to carry pu-erh teas in their lines. For the best quality, look for pu-erh teas from Yunnan province. Note that the older pu-erh teas will be more expensive.
Pu-erh teas are more forgiving when it comes to brewing than other types of tea. They are hard to over-brew. Brew pu-erh teas with boiling water and let steep about three minutes. Sweeten or add lemon to taste.
Eat Less, Live Longer?
The publication earlier this year of Greg Crister's Eternity Soup: Dying for Eternal Youth as well as a big story in The New York Times Sunday Magazine last October have brought calorie restriction into the mainstream. Calorie restriction is a theory and practice of consistently and permanently eating an extremely low-calorie diet with the aim of extending one's lifespan.
Calorie restriction diets that aim to extend lifespan aim do so by consuming fewer calories than are needed to maintain normal weight, while still including all the nutrients and vitamins needed for good health. Most people who follow this diet eat 20 to 30 percent less than is normally recommended for their weight and age.
Proponents of calorie restriction contend that since processing calories uses energy, taxes organs, and creates cancer- and disease-causing free radicals; keeping calories to a minimum thus extends life. The easiest analogy is that our bodies are like cars and eating/digestion is like driving them – the less you run them, the longer they'll last.
The science behind calorie restriction is based primarily on animal studies. The theory, according to Crister, stretches back to the 16th century when the Renaissance humanist Alvise Corano posited that an extremely modest diet would lead to a longer life. His doctor recommended a simple diet because of symptoms that sound like type 2 diabetes. Corano ended up living to the age of 83 and credited his long life to his modest eating habits.
Modern and scientific studies cited by calorie restriction proponents have mostly been done on rodents. Mice fed a diet that reduced their calories by 30 to 60 percent from a young age increased their lifespan by 30 to 60 percent. Mice given a diet that reduced their calorie intake by 44 percent as "adults" lived, on average, 10 to 20 percent longer. Calorie restriction also seemed to lower cases of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer as well as decrease the rate of nerve damage from Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and strokes.
The problem (or the good news if restricting less than 1,000 per day sounds more pleasant) with this theory is that it doesn't carry fully over to humans. The limited studies of calorie restriction in humans have found both positive and negative effects, and no evidence that it extends lifespan. According to the Mayo Clinic, the limited research that has been done on calorie restriction in humans has shown it beneficial in lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and (not surprisingly) maintaining a healthy weight. Yet seniors and leaner people are particularly susceptible to the ill effects of calorie restriction which include hormonal changes, reduced bone density, and a loss of muscle mass. Calorie restriction has been shown to cause depression, irritability, and lethargy.
Eternity Soup points out that there is a difference between lifespan and life expectancy. A lifespan is the maximum number of years that an organism can, with all things being optimal, live. While no one is sure about the true possible human lifespan, many agree that it probably hovers around 120 years. Of course, because of disease, lifestyle, and environmental factors, our life expectancy is nowhere near that and instead hovers in the 70s and 80s.
The possible benefits of calorie restriction become even murkier when one considers the emerging notion of longevity quotients, which is how long an animal lives relative to how long it should live based on its body size, all questions of optimal life span aside. Calorie restriction allows animals such as mice with low longevity quotients to reach their full lifespan. People already have a high longevity quotient, that is, we live longer than one might expect based on our size. The possible lifespan-enhancing effects of calorie restriction, following this logic, are minimal.
What is clear is that balanced modest diets – not restricted but not gluttonous either – have clear health benefits at every stage of life. The Balanced Care Method™ focuses on maintaining a lean body mass through a diet high in nutrient-rich, plant-based foods, regular physical activity, and eating until 80 percent full.
Corano, the Renaissance Italian who believed less food would help people live longer, believed the perfect meal was one of panatella, a soup made of rich chicken broth, bits of dried whole grain bread, a poached egg, and a generous spoonful of olive oil: Delicious, healthful, and a good addition to the Balanced Care Method™.
This recipe is inspired by Corano's description of a good, simple meal. We've added a few vegetables to make it more Balanced Care Method™-perfect. This recipe makes one serving but is easily doubled, tripled, and beyond.
1 slice whole grain bread
2 to 3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tomato (fresh or canned), chopped
1 cup spinach or chard leaves, cut into ribbons
1 egg (optional)
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Toast the bread. Tear or cut the toast into bite-size pieces and place in the bottom of a soup bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Reduce heat to a steady simmer and add tomato. Bring broth back to a simmer and add the spinach or chard. Cook until spinach or chard is tender, about 2 minutes.
- Crack egg into soup and simmer, undisturbed, until cooked to desired doneness (about 3 minutes for cooked whites and a runny yolk, about 6 minutes for a set yolk). Use a slotted spoon to transfer egg onto toast pieces in the soup bowl.
- Pour broth and vegetables over the egg and toast. Garnish by drizzling with the olive oil. Serve hot.
Caregiver of the Month – Michelle Misensa
Michelle started at Home Care Assistance of Raleigh in early 2009. While attending Atlanta International University, she majored in Business Administration. After moving to North Carolina and deciding to enroll at Wake Tech, she decided to pursue a career in healthcare. She has been a Certified Nursing Assistant and for five years and loves her career. Michelle states that being a Certified Nursing Assistant is great. “It is rewarding to be a part of something bigger than yourself by helping other people. It makes me happy.”
During her tenure at Home Care Assistance, we have watched her grow personally and professionally. Her smile and bubbly personality light up any room she enters. Her team and most importantly, her clients love her. She does an exceptional job caring for her clients and can please even the most demanding and high maintenance of customers. In addition, Michelle is a team player. She is always willing to fill-in for any call outs and during busy weeks, she may go from client to client providing live-in then hourly care and never complains. She is an asset to the Raleigh team.
Congratulations Michelle on being the Caregiver of the Month.