Eat Your Leafy Greens

close up of green lettuceWe’ve long known the health benefits of eating green leafy vegetables. They’re packed with vitamins and minerals that help you lose weight, fight cancer, and keep your heart healthy. And now they can save your memory too.

Green Leafy Vegetables Improve Brain Function

A new study suggests that eating just one daily serving of green leafy vegetables—spinach, kale, lettuce—can significantly improve your brain function. The long-ranging study focused specifically on older people and followed their eating habits over five years. The results showed that people who ate 1.3 servings of leafy greens every day had the brain function of people 11 years younger.

Previous studies have told us that a nutritious diet plays an important part in cognitive function, but now we know that green leafy vegetables alone can prevent mental decline. The theory behind this revelation is that green leafy vegetables are rich in lutein and folate. Lutein is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation in the brain, and folate is a B-vitamin that reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other Benefits of Green Leafy Vegetables

Besides preventing mental decline, green leafy vegetables offer a wealth of other benefits:

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Diabetes prevention
  • Weight management
  • Sun protection
  • Cancer prevention
  • Bone health
  • Eye health
  • Gut health
  • Excellent source of iron and calcium

How to Add Green Leafy Vegetables to your Diet

These vegetables are really easy to add to your diet, and they’re tasty too. If you’re not already eating 1–2 servings a day, you can start today with minimal investment.

The vegetables you want to add to your diet include arugula, broccoli, cabbage, chard, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, and spinach. They’re delicious in salads, stir fries, and on the side. You can also add them to your omelets, sandwiches, and even smoothies.

A serving of leafy vegetables is about 1 cup, or 1/2 cup cooked. Aim to consume two servings a day for maximum benefit.


Being a Couch Potato is a Dementia Risk

Being out of shape can cause changes in your brain that may increase your risk for dementia. A new study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that poor cardiovascular fitness caused memory loss and cognitive impairment in over 60 percent of the study participants.  The study results show the lower your cardiovascular fitness, the more the nerve fibers in the brain’s “white matter” — the area that affects learning and memory — deteriorates. This is the same kind of damage we see in dementia patients.

We tend to think that so-called “brain exercises,” such as logic and crossword puzzles, keep the brain healthy. There is no evidence that’s the case. Research actually supports that physical exercise is the key to brain health. It seems that the brain needs the same types of exercise as the heart to stay healthy.

Previous studies suggested that physically active adults had lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease. This new study shows more of the mechanics behind that. If higher levels of fitness correlate with lower levels of “white matter” deterioration, it follows that regularly working out can play a key part in reducing brain degeneration.

Here are the results of other studies connecting the affects of exercise and cognitive function:

  • When older, sedentary men and women started walking 40 minutes a day, three times a week, the hippocampus, the area of the brain connected to memory, increased in size. The hippocampus generally decreases as you age.
  • Men and women with an average age of 71 performed as well on memory tests as those a decade younger than them after five years of moderate or vigorous exercising.
  • Women who participated in strength training at least once a week had a 15% improvement in cognitive function.

The recommended amount of aerobic exercise for older adults is 75-150 minutes a week. Working out for just 30 minutes a day will give your mood a boost — and just might help you fight dementia too.


Ambulance Transports and Medicare: What Is and Isn’t Covered

If your loved one requires an ambulance for any reason, you might wonder whether or not Medicare will cover it. Ambulance transports are covered under Part B (outpatient) Medicare, but there are many regulations and limitations surrounding coverage.

It’s important to know your coverage and rights in advance. The best customer is an informed one, and that is especially true in medical care!

So here’s what you have to know about coverage of ambulance transports:

Allowed Amounts

Before we go into the coverage of various types of transports, let’s talk about “allowed amounts” for a minute. Medicare has a capped amount they allow for each ambulance ride, and anything above that amount is the provider’s responsibility.

Medicare covers 80% of the allowed amount. You will be responsible for the 20% coinsurance, unless you have a Medigap plan and/or Medicaid. If you haven’t yet paid your deductible for the calendar year, you will need to pay it before coverage kicks in.

Emergency Transports

Medicare always covers transports for emergencies. When you call 911 during an emergency, the transport to the hospital will be covered at 80% of the allowed amount.

An emergency transport’s Medicare coinsurance is normally around $80. If you have Medicaid or a Medigap (Medicare supplement) plan, they will cover the balance. Many other secondary or supplemental insurance plans will cover the emergency transport coinsurance as well.

Non-emergency Ambulance Transports

Residents of nursing homes are able to see the attending doctor when he makes his rounds in the facility. But if they need to see a specialist—such as a cardiologist or dermatologist—they usually need to go to the doctor’s office. Nursing home residents also sometimes need to go to a hospital or clinic for certain treatments unavailable at their facility.

Usually, residents who need to go out for appointments are able to go by private car or taxi. But if your parent is bed-confined or otherwise unable to ride in a car, he or she will need a non-emergency ambulance transport. Medicare has strict rules about coverage for non-emergency transports.

The ambulance provider must get a doctor’s order affirming that an ambulance is necessary. They must also document the patient’s condition, and may not bill Medicare if the patient did not technically need the ambulance. Medicare automatically denies payment to any claim that does not meet their medical necessity standards.

Medicare also doesn’t cover transports to doctors’ offices. If your mom is at the facility under her Part A stay, the first 100 days of rehab care, the facility must pay for the transport. Otherwise, she will be responsible for the full cost of the transport.

Some secondary insurances will cover routine ambulance transports. If your mom or dad will need an ambulance for an appointment or treatment, check their coverage beforehand. This will help you avoid expensive surprises after the fact.

Repetitive Ambulance Transports

Say your dad is at Regency Heritage in Somerset, NJ, and has weekly wound care treatments at Robert Wood Johnson hospital. If he needs to go via ambulance—the wound location makes it difficult or impossible to sit, for example—Medicare considers that “repetitive transports”or a “frequency.”

Repetitive transports include trips to and from dialysis, chemotherapy, radiation, and wound care. The rules for repetitive transports are even stricter than those of regular one-time ambulance transports. Medicare only pays for trips that were authorized in advance and meet rigorous medical necessity standards. Frequencies that were not authorized or were found afterward to be medically unnecessary are the patient’s responsibility.

Non-medical Transports

Medicare only covers ambulance transports to “covered” locations. These are typically a hospital, the patient’s residence, a skilled nursing facility, or a clinic. All other locations are not covered. If you want to bring your bed-confined parent to a family party, for example, be prepared to foot the bill.

Medicare will also only cover transfers from one facility to another if the second facility offers care unavailable at the first. If you want to switch mom or dad to a skilled nursing facility closer to you, Medicare will not cover that transport.

Mobility Access Vehicles (MAV)

Medicare doesn’t cover non-ambulance transports, even for medical reasons. Trips in private cars, taxis, paratransit services, or any other specialized vehicle will not be covered. Some private insurances will cover transports in certified wheelchair vans.

Be an Informed Customer

If your loved one needs to go by ambulance for a routine appointment, here are some questions you can ask to make sure you won’t be hit with unexpected charges:

  • Does he or she absolutely require an ambulance?
  • Why can’t I take him or her in my car?
  • Did his or her doctor sign a Certificate of Medical Necessity?
  • Were all required authorizations for both Medicare and private insurance obtained?
  • If the transport is to a doctor’s office, will the facility cover the transport?
  • What will my parent’s out-of-pocket cost be?
  • Which company will be transporting my parent? How can I reach them with questions?

If your parent receives a bill you think is too high, or you feel Medicare should have paid for the trip, you have the right to appeal to Medicare. You can also contact the ambulance company and request an explanation for the charge.

New Blood Test for Detecting Concussions

A concussion is mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). It happens most commonly after a sudden blow or bump to the head. Sports injuries in children and young adults, and falls in the elderly are the most common causes of concussions.

Until now, there has been no definitive way to to diagnose a concussion. Doctors usually diagnose it based on history of head injury and symptoms like headache, dizziness, and cognitive problems. They may also order a CT or MRI scan to check for injuries in the brain.  The point of the scan is to detect brain tissue damage, however a majority of patients with concussions don’t have detectable brain tissue damage. In addition, many medical experts are concerned with reducing radiation exposure in patients.

Introducing the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator

Approved last week by the FDA, the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator is a blood test designed to evaluate mTBI. The blood test is able to detect bruising and bleeding on the brain with 97.5% accuracy, and can observe the absence of damage 99% of the time. It works by detecting certain proteins released by the brain after an injury. The blood test will revolutionize concussion diagnosis, and will be a huge money-saver for hospitals.

Blood tests are much cheaper than CT scans, and they are basically painless. There are no averse side effects associated with blood tests, which is not the case with CT scans. One CT scan uses the same amount of radiation as 20 chest scans. Switching to the blood test will eliminate the need for all that radiation exposure.

“Availability of a blood test for mTBI/concussion will likely reduce the CT scans performed on patients with concussion each year, potentially saving our health care system the cost of often unnecessary neuroimaging tests,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner in a press release.

Trauma affects the body worse as we age, so seniors who fall are more likely to sustain a concussion. Since early evaluation and diagnosis are critical for quicker and easier recovery, this blood test will be a game changer.

How to Find the Right Doctor for You

Elderly woman and senior practitioner during medical check-up

There are many reasons you may be looking for a new doctor. Among them, your doctor is retiring or has already retired, or you recently moved to a new area.

When you are looking for a new doctor, here are some things to consider.


What kind of doctor should I choose

There are different kinds of doctors:

  • A family doctor sees patients of all ages, with no particular specialization
  • An internist works with adult patients
  • A geriatrician specializes in older people

There are benefits and drawbacks to choosing each type. At Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers, we have all three types of doctors on our staff. Their varied specialties provide depth to their care and treatment of our residents.

After deciding what kind of doctor you’re looking for, ask local friends or relatives for recommendations. Ask them specific questions such as, “What do you like about your doctor?” and “How organized is the office?”

What to look for when choosing a new doctor

Here are some things to ask when researching a new doctor:

  • Is the doctor board certified? Board certified means that the doctor has extra training, passed exams, and is certified to work in a specialty field such as geriatrics.
  • Does the practice accept your insurance?
  • Does the office submit the insurance claims or is it the patients’ responsibility?
  • What hospital does the doctor work with? Would you be comfortable being treated at that hospital?
  • Is your doctor affiliated with any nursing homes? If you plan to enter a long term care facility in the future, you may want to choose a doctor associated with the good nursing homes in your area.
  • Is the doctor’s office easy for you to get to? Is there enough parking and is the building wheelchair accessible?
  • Does the office have a lab onsite, or would you have to go to a separate facility for blood work or x-rays?
  • Who sees patients when the doctor is unavailable?
  • Is the staff friendly and courteous?

You chose a doctor. Now what?

When seeing your new doctor for the first time, bring your medical records and a list of medications you are currently taking. Don’t be afraid to bring up any concerns you may have. Talking to the doctor is a good way to gauge his manner and knowledge. You want to be able to talk to him comfortably and feel like you trust him.

Remember that you’re not locked in to your choice of doctor. If it’s not working out, you can always switch to a different practice.

Free Senior Care Resources!

The Regency Alliance on Senior Care has put together a fabulous selection of educational pamphlets on all aspects of senior care, which are empowering as they are enlightening.

Click on any image to open a beautiful interface with an option for printing the pamphlet of your choice!

Con Artist Pamphlet
Diabetes and Older Adults
Diabetes and Older Adults
Facts about Alzheimers
Facts about Alzheimers
Fitness for Seniors
Fitness for Seniors
Your Entitlements
Your Entitlements
Your Health Benefits
Your Health Benefits
Living Wills
Living Wills
Maintaining Memory
Maintaining Memory
Parenting your Parent Part 1
Parenting your Parent Part 1
Parenting your Parent Part 2
Parenting your Parent Part 2
Parenting your Parent Part 3
Parenting your Parent Part 3
Parenting your Parent Part 4
Parenting your Parent Part 4
Seeing The World Through Older Eyes
Seeing The World Through Older Eyes
Selecting Long Term Senior Care
Selecting Long Term Senior Care
Senior Blues
Senior Blues
Visiting Someone in a Nursing Facility
Visiting Someone in a Nursing Facility
Winter Safety
Winter Safety for Seniors