Fingernails: 5 signs that point to bigger health issues

Changes in the fingernails can indicate everything from heart disease to thyroid problems and malnutrition. Here are some nail conditions that might require medical attention.

Nail Separates from Nail Bed

What it looks like: Fingernails become loose and can separate from the nail bed.

Possible causes:

  • Injury or infection
  • Thyroid disease
  • Drug reactions
  • Psoriasis
  • Reactions to nail hardeners

Yellow Nails

What it looks like: Yellow discoloration in the fingernails. Nails thicken and new growth slows. Nails may lack a cuticle and may detach from the nail bed.

Possible causes:

Spoon Nails

What it looks like: Soft nails that look scooped out. In spoon nails (koilonychia), the depression usually is large enough to hold a drop of liquid.

Possible causes:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Anemia

Nail Clubbing

What it looks like: The tips of the fingers become enlarged and the nails curve around the fingertips.

Possible causes:

  • Low oxygen levels in the blood, which could point to heart disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Liver disease

Opaque Nails

What it looks like: Nails look mostly opaque but have a dark band at the tips (a condition known as Terry’s Nails)

Possible causes:

If your senior parent has one of these nail problems, and it doesn’t go away, make an appointment with your doctor to get it diagnosed.

Information compiled from Mayo Clinic

Brain Health: Keeping Your Brain Healthy and Sharp

Maintaining the health of your brain as you age is just as important as staying physically fit. In fact, many studies show that brain fitness can play an important role in warding off dementia. According to the Center for the Longevity of the Brain, more than 24 million people are living with this disease, so the stakes are high. The good news is that there are easy and fun ways to keep your brain sharp. Some simple lifestyle adjustments and engaging activities can make a world of difference in brain health!

Eating a healthy balanced diet is always important, but for brain health, it is essential. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins is an excellent place to start. Eating a healthy diet can also reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and other health conditions that contribute to cognitive decline.

brain health is importantMartha Clare Morris, ScD, an associate professor of internal medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, has found that a diet that incorporates one meal a week high in omega-3 fatty acids can slow cognitive decline by 10% each year. Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that are also called “good fats.” Our bodies need this type of fat in order to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Some of the best natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish, nuts and flax seed.

In addition to diet, physical exercise is important for a healthy body and a healthy mind. Two studies presented at the 2011 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Paris suggest that that exercise can protect one’s brain against mental decline and promote brain health. Exercising four to five times a week for at least 30 minutes is preferable. Simply going for a brisk walk or even exercising from a seated position will yield measurable benefits. Remember that it is important to check with your doctor before starting any new physical exercise program.

Brain Health Can Be Fun!

Exercising your brain is just as important as exercising the rest of your body. Effective brain exercise includes reading a book (preferably aloud), engaging in a favorite hobby, doing simple arithmetic or learning a new skill. Hosting a game night, doing a crossword puzzle, playing card games, learning to dance or play an instrument are just a few other suggestions. The brain is like a muscle and the more it is used, the stronger it will be! Promoting brain health can be fun.

Interestingly, another important way to support the brain health is through social interaction. Research supports the notion that social interaction plays a positive role in one’s cognitive abilities and overall health. According to the National Institute on Aging, “Several research studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults, [while] social isolation may have significant adverse effects for older adults.” In other words, stay in touch. Online social networking has its benefits, but nothing beats the lasting impact of in-person socializing.

Another good way to stay in touch is to volunteer. Meeting new people and starting new friendships can be exciting and may give you a renewed sense of purpose. See how your skills may be a perfect match for local volunteer opportunities at

The trick is to be open-minded and willing to make an effort to stay engaged with your body and your brain. Getting started is often the hardest part of making even minor changes to your daily routine. Stimulating your brain activity to help keep your mind sharp can be as simple as engaging in something that incorporates one or more of your senses such as gardening or attending a concert.

For more information on brain health research, go to the DANA Foundation website  or the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke . You can also find out more about AARP’s Staying Sharp initiatives at

Brain health can be fun. Keeping your brain fit, engaged and active now can help you maintain mental alertness throughout your life.

Reprinted with permission from  Maine Senior Guide.

Seniors Eyecare Program

The Seniors Eyecare Program ensures that every senior has access to medical eye care and promotes annual, dilated eye exams.  It raises awareness about age-related eye disease, including cataracts, provides free eye care educational materials and facilitates access to eye care.

The Seniors EyeCare Program is designed for people who:

  • Are US citizens or legal residents
  • Are age 65 and older
  • Have not seen an ophthalmologist in 3 or more years

People may call the toll-free help line at 800-222-EYES ( 3937) anytime, for themselves and/or family members and friends to see if they qualify for a referral to a volunteer ophthalmologist or to request free eye care information.

To see if you qualify or for more information you can go



Caregiver Toolkit

The process of caregiving and the process of searching for senior care can be both complex and difficult to organize, and online searches can often yield too much information to parse. That’s why we’ve created the Caregiver Tool Kit for Your Senior Care Search. The Caregiver  is a compilation of checklists, guides and other tools that help you simplify, organize and plan for difficult and complicated aspects of caregiving and finding care for your loved one.

The Caregiver Toolkit conveniently unifies nine essential tools to help you master your search.  These tools help make every stage of your search easier and more efficient. These resources include.

  • The Senior Care Calculator: a tool that compares the costs of care in your area to the current actual costs living and care.
  • Best Kept Secrets to Financing Senior Care : Little known info about financing senior care.
  • The Assisted Living Checklist: a checklist to help you access and choose an assisted living community.
  • The Document Locator Checklist: A list of important documents regarding your older loved one that you should have access to in an emergency.
  • Memory Care Checklist: A checklist to help you access and decide on a memory care provider.
  • Senior Home Safety Checklist:  A comprehensive checklist to assure seniors who live at home are as safe as possible.
  • A guide to VA Benefits: A detailed guide to veteran’s benefits for seniors.
  • A guide to Pet Friendly Assisted Living: Tips for finding senior communities that accept cats and dogs.

The Guide to Senior Housing: Simplifies the complex lingo of the world of senior housing and senior care, and discusses the various types of senior care and housing.

Click on the various links below to access the Caregiver Toolkit.

Beware Scammers Posing as the IRS

Watch out for con artists posing over the phone as representatives of the IRS.  It’s an old idea,but treasury and IRS officials say thousands of people have fallen for increasingly sophisticated phone scams designed to steal money or identities.

The IRS recently issued a fresh warning, saying the scams may come in various forms.  In recent months people have reported “a particularly aggressive phone scam,” the IRS said.  In some cases, callers tell victims that they are “entitled to big refunds, or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS”.

The IRS says it “will always send taxpayers a written notifications of any tax due via the U.S.Mail”.  The IRS “never asks for credit-card, debit-card or prepaid- card information over the phone.

If you receive such a call, just hang up- and consider the following advice from the IRS.

  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040 if you think you owe taxes, or think you might.
  • If you are sure you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think you might, report suspicious calls to the Treasury inspector general for tax administration at 1-800-366-4484.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission ( and use its “FTC Complaint Assistant” on that site. “Please add IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint,” the IRS says.

For more information, go to and type in “scam” in the search box.


Maine Senior Farmshare Program

Maine’s Senior FarmShare program has embarked on another season.  Eligible seniors are again able to get free fresh, fruit,vegetables and herbs from local Maine farmers.

The program provides $50 worth of produce to each participant.  Qualifying seniors contract directly with local farmers for pickup or delivery.  Participating farmers offer a variety of methods for providing produce.  Seniors pick it up at a specific farmers’ market, or at the farm or farm stand.  Some farmers offer home delivery.

To qualify for a Senior FarmShare, a participant must be a Maine resident, at least 60 years old and with a household income of not more than 185 percent of the federal poverty income guides.

Seniors may contact the Area Agency on Aging at 877-353-3771 to find participating farmers.  The list is also available at  Information is also available at Maine Senior FarmShare Program at 207-287-3491, or e-mail at


Letter of Instruction: The Most Important Letter You Will Ever Write

“Where is Mom’s Social Security card?” It’s a common refrain when someone can’t help with their own affairs. Confusion and uncertainty compound the difficulties of dealing with a family emergency. There is a way to help those who will have to act in a family emergency. It’s called a “letter of instruction.”

How an Hour Now May Eliminate Uncertainty in Times of Family Emergencies

The letter of instruction is NOT a legal document. It does NOT replace a will or trust, a Health Care Power of Attorney or Living Will, or a Durable Financial Power of Attorney. On the other hand, the letter of instruction offers practical guidance usually not contained in any legal document. It’s a good way to let to those trusted to take care of your affairs know what you would want them to know.

letter of instructionSince the letter of instruction is not a legal document, it does not need to be notarized or signed in the presence of witnesses or with any other special formality.

It is also different than the “Separate Writing” that lawyers sometimes recommend accompany a Will or Revocable Living Trust. That document directs the distribution of your personal property after your death. [For example, Aunt Sally's watch goes to my daughter Amanda; and Grandpa's shotgun to Billy.]

Who should write the Letter of Instruction?

A husband and wife should prepare one together. The person who handles the family financial affairs should write one for the person who will have to take over in case of death or incapacity.

When is it used?

A Will is usually not read until some time after the person’s death. The letter of instruction should be readily available and in a place where a family member or other friend can find it in the event of emergency. For example, my family knows ours is in the top left-hand desk drawer in my study.

What’s in the letter?

The letter should give the contact information for the people to be notified in the event of a family emergency, and should also tell the location of all important papers . . . and passwords! It could even spell out personal preference in how various matters are to be handled, including funeral arrangements.

It should contain the specific locations of items mentioned in the letter, such as: “My insurance papers are in my safe deposit box,” or “My Social Security file is in the bottom left-hand drawer of the living room desk.”

Who should have the letter?

You should consider making the letter available to someone outside the household. If you choose to provide a copy to the person who would most likely take over if something happened, you need to remember to send them updates when you change the letter. Mostly, however, it is important that someone be able to find the Letter in the event of an emergency.

Reprinted with permission from Maine Senior Guide.

Senate Aging Committee Launches New Anti-Fraud Hotline

If you or someone you know suspect that you have been a victim of a scam or fraud aimed at seniors, the U.S.Senate Special Committee on Aging, of which U.S.Senator Susan Collins is ranking member, has set up a toll-free hotline to help.

The hotline makes it easier for senior citizens to report suspected fraud and receive assistance.  It will be staffed by a team of committee investigators weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.  The investigators, who have experience with investment scams, identity theft, bogus sweepstakes and lottery schemes, Medicare and Social Security fraud, and a variety of other senior exploitation issues, will directly examine complaints and, if appropriate, refer them to the proper authorities.

Anyone with information about suspected fraud can call the toll-free hotline at 1-855-303-9470, or contact the committee through its website, located at

“Ensuring that seniors are as equipped as possible to avoid becoming victims of fraud and other scams is among our committee’s top priorities,” said Collins.  “This new hotline offered by the Senate Special Committee on Aging will help to identify and put a stop to the cruel scams that hurt seniors and their families.”