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The Ins and Outs of Cholesterol

  
  
  

By: Heather Sumpter

According to the CDC, 71 million American adults have high cholesterol, and less than half seek treatment. While eating your Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, keep your health in
mind!

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance created in the body to help us function; produced by the liver and ingested through foods. Foods high in fat cause the liver to produce more cholesterol and the excess forms plaque in the artery walls. This is where the problem occurs, and by knowing how to control high cholesterol it can prevent future issues with cardiovascular related diseases.

Cholesterol is broken down into two types: good and bad. It is important to create a balance between the two, for having too much or too little can increase your risk factor for heart disease.  Knowing the appropriate levels of each can help navigate better cholesterol control. Going to your doctor for a blood panel can provide you with your levels, and help to create a plan of action. Total cholesterol should be below 200.

The Good and Bad

Cholesterol is carried through your blood stream by lipoproteins, and the two types of lipoprotein are what make up your cholesterol levels. Low-density lipoprotein, LDL, is the “bad” cholesterol, because of its thick and hard structure. It contributes to the hardening of the artery walls which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Keeping these numbers under 100 will help prevent the risk.

High-density lipoprotein, HDL, is the “good” cholesterol and shovels out the LDL from the artery walls. High levels of HDL help guard the body against heart attack and stroke, but low levels increase your risk of coronary disease. Keeping HDL above 40 is beneficial in reducing risks and controlling high cholesterol.

Triglycerides are a common type of fat in the body, and are associated with high cholesterol. In addition, it is made and ingested by the body. Keeping these levels under 150 will help reduce ones risk of diabetes, heart illness, and high cholesterol.

Prevention

  • Eat a heart healthy diet: The American Heart Association recommends a diet focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts. Limiting sugary foods, red meat, and saturated fat is also a recommendation.
  • Get Active: Being physically active can help reduce and maintain weight while lowering cholesterol. It is recommended that adults exercise about 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity three to five days a week.
  • Cigarettes and Smoking: Cigarette smoke promotes the hardening
    of the arteries
    , and even if you don’t smoke avoid being around others that do.

Treatment

If you have cholesterol it is important to seek reatment from your doctor. Medication combined with lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Humana At Home’s professional Care Managers can help you to identify resources and stick
to a plan for better cholesterol and a healthier life.

describe the imageHeather Sumpter, MS
Community Health Educator, SNP
 
Heather is a Community Health Educator for Humana at Home, in which she provides education and community resources to members based on requests and needs. Prior to her role with Humana at Home, she held numerous other qualified positions, including Clinical Health Coordinator at Coventry Health Center and Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer at the Jewish Community Center. She received a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from the University of Pittsburgh, Her background and
education make her a vital member of the Editorial Board.

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Advances in Early Testing for Alzheimer’s Disease

  
  
  

By Kim Miller

Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, as stated by the Alzheimer’s Association’s website. There are currently more than 5 million America’s living with this life-altering form of dementia, a disease which “attacks the brain.” November, National Alzheimer’s Awareness month, is incredibly important for the development of treatments and diagnosis abilities. National Alzheimer’s Awareness month is accompanied by article and informative seminars to spread awareness of the irreversible disease, but is also accompanied by numerous fundraising opportunities, held around the nation in the hopes of overcoming one of the medical industries biggest question marks.

Many health care providers agree that medications developed to treat Alzheimer’s disease are
not effective at controlling symptoms of the disease. It is thought that by the time the disease is diagnosed, the cascade of symptoms is too far advanced for the treatments to be completely effective. Currently, PET scans and tests on lumbar fluid can be used to diagnosis Alzheimer’s disease, but PET scans are expensive and tests on lumbar fluid are invasive. Before we can eradicate the illness, developing a simple diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s disease is essential to finding a successful treatment to the disease.

In March of this year, steps were taken towards finding a blood test that could identify those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. At Oxford University and Kings College in London, scientists looked at blood from 1,148 individuals. Four hundred and seventy six of these individuals had Alzheimer’s disease, 220 had mild cognitive impairment, and 452 had no signs of dementia. They found 16 proteins that were strongly linked to brain shrinkage. Another analysis discovered that lower levels of 10 blood proteins could predict progression of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease, with about 87% accuracy.  It is not understood why these proteins are lower in people who are predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, and this can’t be directly linked to our current understanding of the illness.

These blood based biomarkers would be more accessible, less invasive, easier to gather, and less expensive than current testing.  However, more research is needed to improve accuracy and establish a simple test for Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease could be available to the public in as little as two years. 

Two studies identified new, non-invasive and simple eye tests that have also been developed, which could be used as screening tools for Alzheimer’s disease. These studies look at a protein called beta-amyloid, found at increased levels in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. Beta-amyloid is also found in the retina of the eye.

In one study a dye is used to measure the amount of beta-amyloid in the eye. A PET scan was done to measure beta-amyloid in the brain. Early results show that levels of beta-amyloid in the retina correlate to levels in the brain with very high accuracy. Although more research is needed, this test could be used as a screening test for Alzheimer’s and could be part of a routine eye exam. It could also be used as a measure of response to treatment. 

The second study uses a new type of scan that detects beta-amyloid in the lens of the eye. Again, it was found that the level of beta-amyloid in the lens correlates with levels in the brain with a high level of accuracy. This test costs about $300, which is 10 times less expensive than a PET scan, the current diagnostic test. The scan takes less than a minute, and results are available in less than 5 minutes.

Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.  Current treatments are ineffective because there is no reliable and easily-accessible early diagnostic test. While it may be several years before these new tests are available to the public, they offer hope for a simple test that can be used to screen for Alzheimer’s disease long before symptoms start. This would allow for early treatment, and a better chance for delaying or preventing onset of symptoms.

 

Kim MillerKim Miller, ARNP, MSN
Consultant, Clinical Services

Kim is a Masters trained nurse who received her bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University. Her nursing career began with caring for cancer patients both in the hospital and as a home health nurse. Kim has worked for the last 15 years as a Nurse Practitioner. Her experience and clinical expertise includes rehabilitation medicine and geriatric care. Because of her extensive experience and skills, she is able to continue to pursue her passion to provide care and offer solutions for the special needs of the elderly population and their families.

Movember; What You Should Know About Prostate Cancer

  
  
  

By: Jason McBride

Imagine seven men you know all together eating in a room; according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, at least one of them is likely to have prostate cancer during his lifetime. Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men today.

What is a prostate? How does it help? What causes prostate cancer? What can reduce the risk of developing it? To pay homage to Movember, which happens every November, I will candidly answer these questions and more. But ladies, take note; this information is not exculsively necessary for men – you should know about this too!

*Disclaimer – this information is not intended to replace the help of a doctor; it is informational only.

What is a prostate? What function does it have?

First things first, let’s discuss the prostate itself. The prostate is a walnut shaped gland located below the bladder , which, as part of a man’s reproductive system, produces  at least half of the semen. It, however, is not considered a vital organ, so a man can live without it. As men age, the prostate tends to get larger, yet having an enlarged prostate is not always due to prostate cancer. Women do not have a prostate gland like men do.

What causes prostate cancer? What is it like?

Though experts aren’t entirely sure of the cause, they believe that age, family history, and diet play a role. Cancer cells often grow slowly, though not all prostate cancers are equal. It has four stages; you can learn more about the specifics of each stage here.

What may reduce the risk of prostate cancer?

Diets low in fat, high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids may help. Foods such as tomatoes and beets, which have lycopene, can also help. Being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight may also reduce the risk.

Why might a man decide to get checked for it?

It is 100% treatable if detected early! In addition, the exam that the doctor does to check for prostate cancer is quick and painless. Men over 50 are at greatest risk of developing it. Those with a family history of prostate cancer and African American men are encouraged to talk with their doctors after they turn 45. Some Humana members may be eligible for a Medicare Rewards program, which rewards those with select preventive screenings and vaccines this year with five $10 gift cards. A prostate cancer screening may count towards this program. Women, you can help by using your convincing powers to encourage the men in your lives to complete this screening.

What symptoms should I look for? Can I do anything at home?

Men don’t typically develop symptoms until the cancer has progressed. A doctor, or your professional care manager, should be contacted if there are problems urinating or having/maintaining an erection. Men may also do a self-exam, which their doctor can provide more details about how to find abnormal lumps. This, however, should not replace a professional screening.

Is treatment necessary?

Men who do have prostate cancer may not be aware of it, may not need treatment, and often die from other causes. Though one man out of 36 will die from prostate cancer, as stated by the American Cancer Society's website, “if you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with prostate cancer - slow down! After getting past the shock, start asking some questions. Find out all that you can about the tumor, and determine whether the cancer fits into the low-risk category. Be sure to explore all treatment options, including active surveillance. In some cases of prostate cancer "no treatment" may turn out to be the best treatment”.

Men with prostate cancer may have varying degrees of erectile dysfunction after treatment. In fact, regular sex is recommended after prostate cancer treatment, even for men who may be having difficulties.

What resources are available to me or my loved one who has prostate cancer?

Some education and support organizations include U.S. Too International, Man to Man, and hisprostatecancer.com for women. Your professional care manager can also help to find resources, provide guidance, seek other professional help, and assist in recovery!

 

Jason McBride 8.7.2014 formattedJason McBride
Personal Health Coordinator

Before working at Humana, Jason spent three years working independently-contracted as a Spanish Medical Interpreter, while simultaneously completing his Master of Public Health degree. He has worked in and at several hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, home visits with occupational and physical therapists, in court, and has also done phone interpretation. These different experiences gave him a greater appreciation for different medical procedures and technologies, and allowed him to gain a greater appreciation for the work that medical professionals do, especially nurses. He currently works as a Personal Health Coordinator for Humana at Home.

Meditate Away the Sadness

  
  
  

By: Heather Sumpter

Yoga, a popular form of exercise, was developed more than five thousand years ago in India, to provide strength through a mind and body connection, and to increase relaxation through meditation. There are five main types of yoga, which include Ashtanga, Bikranm, Hatha, Iyengar, and Vinyasa. Yoga can be performed by virtually any person, regardless of age, gender, or level of physical fitness, and can be performed any place.

It is suggested that yoga can help reduce symptoms of chronic pain, treat multiple types of arthritis, strengthen muscles and improve range of motion, lower blood pressure, reduce insomnia through relaxation techniques, weight reduction, protection from injury, and maintenance of a balanced metabolism. In 2007, the National Health Interview named Yoga as the top 10 complementary medicine practices in The United States and according to the National Institute of health, Individuals who practiced yoga had less disability, pain, and depression than those with other conventional treatments.

Yoga, along with its numerous other physical health benefits, can also be mentally beneficial for a person. Though stretching, controlled breathing, and stress reduction, yoga can help to brighten up a saddened mind. In fact, yoga is more and more frequently being used as a treatment for depression, PTSD, and stress induced anxiety. This article highlights the best poses for someone using yoga to cope with mental problems.

Yoga is also a great stress management tool because stress can cause pain symptoms in the body. Through the incorporation of meditation and breathing a person is able to improve their mental health. By concentrating on the aspects of yoga, a person can improve mental clarity and relax the mind. Therefore it can improve one’s self-awareness and reduce the symptoms of stress.

Anyone can get started with yoga; it is generally safe when practiced with an experienced instructor. Side effects of yoga are low, but poses should be modified for those that are pregnant or have low blood pressure. It is important to note to speak with your doctor before beginning a yoga program, and it should not replace medical care that is already in place. With yoga, it is important to start off slow. Listen to your body and know your limits with poses. It is important to remember that hitting every pose is not the purpose of yoga and just by focusing on the mind body connection, this complementary form of treatment can produce lasting results. Interested in learning more about yoga in seniors? Check out this video by the National Institute of Health.

 

Heather Sumpter 8.18.2014 formattedHeather Sumpter, MS
Community Health Educator, SNP

Heather is a Community Health Educator for Humana at Home, in which she provides education and community resources to members based on requests and needs. Prior to her role with Humana at Home, she held numerous other qualified positions, including Clinical Health Coordinator at Coventry Health Center and Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer at the Jewish Community Center. She received a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from the University of Pittsburgh, Her background and education make her a vital member of the Editorial Board.

The Benefits of Staying Positive

  
  
  

By: Jacob Edwards 

Recent research has been finding more and more evidence on the health benefits of optimism and positivity. Since positive thinkers generally cope better with stressful situations, the harmful effects of stress are diminished more quickly, in turn, lead healthier lives. People often disregard frequent headaches, insomnia, or increased fatigue as merely products of every day life, when all these things can be directly related to increased stress levels.

This is generally easier said than done, but there are a few tips and tricks that you can keep in mind when trying to over come negativity in your life.

  • Focus on the positive; rather than dwelling or accepting negative situations beyond control, optimists generally focus on what they can do to overcome the situation – even with the most drastic of life changes. Taking control of your life in small, yet meaningful, ways can produce a larger overall effect, and help you to control the negativity in your life. The key to taking care of stress is to believe that you can, in the very least, change your attitude towards the situation at hand.
  • Remember the correlation between attitude and life events; there have been numerous studies focused on the way in which a person explains bad events occurring around them. In one, a 35-year long study performed by Harvard, social scientists collected open-ended questionnaires from 99 of their 1944-1945 graduating classmen. The study tracked the graduates all the way until age 60 and found that those who answered the surveys in a pessimistic way faced poorer health later in life.
  • Understand the negative effects of pessimism; pessimism in early adulthood was found to be directly related to increased health problems in mid to late adulthood. Pessimism can be a result of stress, as those lacking in positivity generally have a harder time dealing with stressful situations. Stress, when left to fester, can cause great damage later in life; it produces the dangerous hormone cortisol, and the increased level of this hormone increases the risk of lower immune function and bone density, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and even diabetes.
  • Know how positivity can change you; beyond relieving stress, positive thinking can make a person more resilient, both mentally and physically. Dr. Dennis Charney, Dean of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, studied 750 Vietnam War veterans who were tortured. Among those who did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder or suffer from depression, optimism was at the top of the list of ten things that set them apart from other veterans who had similar experiences, but suffered mentally. Optimism was followed by selflessness, humor, and a belief in the meaning of life—all aspects of a positive outlook.

In terms of positivity lending to physical resilience, my father is living proof. Frightened as a little boy, I saw my father take medicine intravenously nearly every day of my childhood. Not until much later in life did I find out what he was treating. My father had always been sick—never fully crippled by his illness, but always at a disadvantage. He was diagnosed with Hepatitis C at age 30, a disease doctors said was ultimately incurable.

He never complained or even really spoke about it to those who knew him well, and the only reason I knew was because I saw him take his medicine at our house. With a good spirit, he put me at ease by telling me how the medicine would someday cure him and sure enough, 40 years later, my father is alive, well, and hepatitis free.

A lot of people aren’t fortunate enough to be completely cured and if anyone asks him how he did it, he always says it was his ability to envision himself one-day healthy again. With so many benefits of staying positive, I’m sure you won’t mind me telling you to look on the bright side.

 

Jacob Edward is the manager of Prime Medical Alert and Senior Planning in Phoenix Arizona. Jacob founded both companies in 2007 and has helped many Arizona seniors and their families navigate the process of long term care planning. Senior Planning provides assistance to seniors and the disabled finding and arranging care services, assisted living, as well as applying for state and federal benefits. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys dining out and supporting his alma mater Arizona State's Sun Devil sports teams. Jacob lives in Tempe Arizona.

Depression: Building Our Mental Muscle

  
  
  

By: Nathaly Miniello

Care Manager and CoupleDepression, despite any and all stigmas surrounding the word, is medically known as an illness; one that affects millions of Americans every year, regardless of socioeconomic status, race or age.  October is National Depression Education and Awareness Month, and the more we know about depression, the easier it becomes to recognize the signs and symptoms, and to seek professional help when needed.

In an article in Psychology Today depression is defined as: “A mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” In other words, depression is more than just “the blues”; depression is not a weakness, and it is not  something that you can simply “snap out” of. Depression is a seriously mental illness, which can stem from any number of causes, and may require long-term treatment.

But don't get discouraged, most people who suffer from depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or both.

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I have treated people with depression of all ages, and the treatment practice that I have found most effective is a cognitive-behavioral approach. To simplify this term, think of it as the connection between our thoughts, feelings and behaviors; let’s focus on one - our thoughts.

Tracking our thought patterns can be a task; however, starting with small steps, such as focusing on negative thinking or cognitive distortions, can greatly impact our emotional well-being.. If our thought patterns are self-deprecating, rigid, and negative, is it much more likely that negative behaviors and emotions will follow. Negative thinking is an obstacle to self-change; remember that perceptions influence thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Let’s encourage and empower our positive thoughts to surface, and bury the negative patterns!

The Most Common Types of Negative Thinking are:

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: "I have to do things perfectly, because anything less than perfect is a failure;" not recognizing a middle ground.
  • Overgeneralization: “My friend did not come to visit me - I will always be lonely;” coming to a general conclusion based on a single event; constantly using definitive words such as everything, always, and never.
  • Disqualifying the Positives: "The Doctor praised me for doing so well, but I gained 3 pounds;" exaggerating negatives and disqualifying positives.
  • Catastrophizing: "If something is going to happen, it'll probably be the worst case scenario."
  • Dwelling on Pain: “If I worry enough about my problem, maybe I will feel better.”

In order to solidify this concept, let’s discuss a therapeutic technique that is particularly helpful for depression – start by making a schedule for your happiness!

  • Chart out the next seven days on a piece of paper, starting with today (e.g., Thurs, Fri, Sat...).
  • For each day, schedule one pleasant activity (anything you enjoy which is not unhealthy) that you wouldn't normally do. It could be as simple as reading a chapter of a novel or eating lunch without any distractions, being mindful of every bite and flavor.
  • Alternatively, schedule an activity that gives you a sense of mastery, competence, or accomplishment. Choose something small (baby steps), and aim for something that will take you less than ten minutes.

Doing activities like this produces higher levels of positive emotions in our daily life will help make our thinking less negative, narrow and self-destructive. Building our mental muscle will help us to respond instead of react.

Let’s work on increasing our self-worth, self-acceptance, spirituality and hope, appreciation of life and caring for others.

 

Nathaly Miniello 8 1 2014 formattedNathaly Miniello, LMHC, CRC, Certified Hypnotherapist
Personal Health Coordinator

Nathaly joins Humana At Home’s Editorial Board with a range of experience in the health care field, currently working as a Personal Health Coordinator. Other major roles that have shaped her professional history include working as a Family Therapist at Directions for Living, and as a Sexual and Physical Abuse Treatment Program Therapist at LSF, Inc.. Nathaly received her Bachelor of Arts and Science in Psychology and Behavioral Healthcare, and her Masters degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from the University of South Florida.

August: National Immunization Awareness Month

  
  
  

By: Christina Korma

August is National Immunization Awareness month; the month to empower everyone, including older adults, to talk with their healthcare providers about getting immunized.describe the image

Vaccines are readily available to everyone, and can prevent needless suffering and fatalities, which many unvaccinated people risk each year. Many people wrongly believe that vaccines are only for children, but the CDC recommends four vaccines specifically for older adults. The recommended vaccines include shingles, pneumococcal disease, influenza, and Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap).

Many factors, including age, lifestyle, health conditions, job type and travel can help your doctor decide which vaccines are best for you. Click here to get to the CDC’s quiz and determine which vaccines work best with your lifestyle! In the meantime, below is a list of things to keep in mind when exploring immunizations this month:

Shingles

  • Typically occurs in older adults who have had chicken-pox.
  • Causes a painful blistering rash, typically on one side of the body.
  • One in five people with shingles will have long-term pain, even after the rash has healed.
  • Adults age 60 and older should receive the singles vaccine.

Pneumococcal disease

  • Pneumococcal disease is one of the most common causes of vaccine-preventable death, especially in older adults.
  • Causes a bacterial infection that can lead to pneumonia, meningitis and infection in the bloodstream.
  • Adults age 65 and older should receive the Pneumococcal vaccine, but it may also be recommended for other age groups to receive this vaccine based on risk factors.

Influenza

  • Each year 24,000 people die from the flu, most of whom are adults 65 and older.
  • The flu is easily spread through close contact, including coughing and sneezing.
  • Once vaccinated, it takes about two weeks to develop protection, which means it is still possible to get the flu even if you have received the flu shot.
  • Everyone should be vaccinated against the flu each year. The flu virus is always changing, so a new vaccine is introduced each year to protect us.

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis

  • It is recommended that everyone receive the Tdap vaccine to prevent tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
  • Once an adult has received the Tdap vaccine they should receive the Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster every 10 years.
  • Check with your healthcare provider if you plan to be around children under 12 months old to determine if you should receive the Tdap vaccine.
  • Tetanus is a severe infection caused by a cut or wound.
  • Most deaths related to tetanus are among older adults.
  • Diphtheria is a disease caused by the toxin of the diphtheria bacteria.
  • It can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis and even death.
  • The CDC reports that before vaccines, the US saw around 200,000 cases of diphtheria and hundreds of cases of tetanus each year. With the help of vaccines, the cases of both diseases have dropped about 99%!
  • Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can be deadly in infants.
  • According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, adults are the most common source of pertussis infections in infants.

Vaccines are a safe and important way to stay healthy. Just like diet and exercise, immunization plays a vital role in keeping you and your loved ones healthy. Each year, thousands of older adults die from diseases that could have been prevented by immunization. Check with your healthcare provider to ensure that you are receiving the vaccines you
need, and discuss any allergies or medical conditions you have to determine if
a vaccine is safe for you. Some vaccines are not safe for people who have weakened
immune systems.

Be inspired by National Immunization Awareness month - talk with your healthcare provider about important vaccines to help you stay healthy, happy, and most importantly, at
home.


Christina Korman 8.6.2014 formattedChristina Korman, BS, CHES
Personal Health Coordinator
Christina Korman joins the Humana at Home Editorial Board with a vast background in health and education. She attended the University of North Florida, where she received her Bachelor of Science, majoring in Health Science and minoring in Health Education. She currently works as a Personal Health Coordinator with Humana at Home in St. Petersburg Florida, but worked previously as a Community Health Educator for the Special Needs Program, and as a Health Educator.

How to Get Out of the Hospital without Getting Stressed

  
  
  
get discharged from the hospital safelyBy Karen Begley, Donna Ettel, and Timothy Leadem

Being discharged from the hospital is a whirlwind of emotions. You’re excited to be going home, getting back to your friends and family, and be back in your own space. At the same time, you’re given a list of medications, rules, follow-ups to make and people to contact. How can you keep up?

Stephanie*, a registered nurse, shared that even a health professional can find the experience confusing. “After my husband had outpatient eye surgery to repair a torn retina, it wasn’t until we arrived at home that we realized we were on completely different pages about the after-care instructions involving his eye-patch,” she remembers.   

“As a nurse, I knew the eye patch was an important part of the surgical recovery process. How could we have heard two totally different instructions?”

The discharge paperwork instructed her husband to wear the eye patch until his return visit to the ophthalmologist, but left their questions unanswered. When should their next visit be? Should he wear the patch while he’s sleeping? What about in the shower? Would this not put too much strain on his other eye?

Why are discharges so risky?

As a professional care management company, we are very familiar with discharge instructions, and yet we have long recognized the conundrum with patient discharge instructions. Sometimes, the instructions can be so unclear and confusing that they can result in a failure to comply, or even in a hospital readmission, particularly with seniors.

The problem can be due to a number of reasons. Some patients go home and unexpected problems arise, which results in a trip back to the hospital; this could be due to premature discharge, or because the patient is not properly educated on how to care for themselves outside the hospital environment.

Regardless, of the reasons, these problems are a result of a fragmented system of care, which too often leaves discharged patients without the education and resources they need.

What is causing the lack of proper care education?

There are a number of reasons that a patient could leave the hospital before being fully aware of how to care for themselves at home. For starters, discharge can be an incredibly emotional and overwhelming time, and asking patients to retain additional information could lead to information overload.

Other common reasons a patient would not know how to continue their care include:

  • Unwillingness of the patient to admit to being hearing or visually impaired
  • Financial factors
  • Language barriers between the physician and the patient
  • Lack of access to care services or medications needed 

What can I do prior to my discharge time? 

  • When you are notified of your discharge date and time, ensure your doctor plans to meet with you before you leave the hospital.
  • Share your discharge date with your caregivers and ask if one of them can be present for your meeting with the doctor. It’s extremely helpful to patients when they have a friend or family member or their professional caregiver present to listen to the discharge instructions with them.
  • Expect to receive written discharge instructions and ask for them if they are not provided.
  • If you will need special transportation home from the hospital, determine who is responsible for scheduling it. If home nursing or durable medical equipment will be needed in the home, request that all necessary contact information for the nursing agency and/or equipment provider be included in your discharge instructions.  If possible, have a caregiver with you when any in-home providers make their initial visits.

 

What should caregivers keep in mind at the time of discharge?

When you or your loved one is being discharged, there are important aspects of communication you should listen for. If you aren’t provided with this information, be sure to ask the physician before leaving the hospital. These include:

  • Follow-up appointment dates and times
  • Signs and symptoms that may develop and when to contact the physician
  • Symptom management at home (shortness of breath, pain, nausea)
  • Instructions for self-care
  • Home health services, such as a professional care manager
  • Medication teaching and scheduling
  • Changes to medication regimen during hospitalization
  • Contact information for post-discharge questions
  • Reasons for post-discharge appointments
  • Any pending results from studies ordered in the hospital

 

How can I avoid having problems when I get home?

Physicians, nurses, discharge planners, and others are working to do a better job of educating patients and their caregivers about what to do when they go home. They are also working harder to connect them with primary care and other social support services. The most important thing that you can do to ensure you do not end up back in the hospital is follow the instructions of the professionals as closely as possible. A few other tips include:

  • Try to have your prescriptions filled as soon as you leave the hospital and always take your medications as directed, even if you start to feel better.  This may mean finishing the bottle. 
  • If your doctor has put you a new diet, try to have the right foods waiting for you at home. 
  • Remember that your discharge instructions should list the follow-up appointments that have been scheduled for you. Many patients do not attend their follow-up appointments because they no longer feel sick. This can be dangerous. If possible, call ahead to confirm your follow-up appointments.
  • If you begin to feel ill, call your doctor immediately – never wait for your appointment.

*name has been changed to protect identities

Caring For Loved Ones with Lewys Body Dementia

  
  
  

Our Long Distance Dedication to Casey Kasem

By Eileen Zenker

With the recent, sad news of Casey Kasem’s deteriorating health, Lewys Body Dementia (LBD) has been more prevalent in the media than ever before. Although this is certainly not because this illness is rare; according to the LBD Association’s website, LBD affects more than 13 million Americans today.

What is Lewys Body Dementia?

LBD is actually an umbrella term used to describe two related diagnoses: Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, and Dementia with Lewys Bodies; although the early symptoms of these two diseases differ, they cause the same changes to take place within the brain, causing sufferers of both illnesses to experience similar cognitive, behavioral and sleep problems.

Key Differences between Alzheimer’s and Lewys Body Dementia

While it may seem as though Alzheimer’s Disease and LBD are the same illness, there are a number of differences that you can look out for in your loved one. Symptoms for LBD include, but are not limited to:

  • Effects on judgment, planning and visual perception, hallucinations, delusions and misidentifications, REM sleep disorder, and disruptions to the autonomic nervous system, causing drops in blood pressure when standing, dizziness, falls and urinary incontinence.
  • Movement symptoms are more prominent in early LBD as opposed to Alzheimer’s Disease, although Alzheimer’s can also cause problems with walking and overall balance.
  • Memory loss is more noticeable in early stages of Alzheimer’s, although advanced LBD can cause memory loss in addition to its typical symptoms.

What Can I Do?

As a caregiver, there are a number of things that you can do to help your loved one with LBD.

  • Get educated: The more you know about the illness, the less stressful your job as a caregiver is going to be, and the better quality help your loved one is going to be receiving. For example, did you know that, although LBD may cause hallucinations, prescribing antipsychotics for someone with LBD can be extremely dangerous? Protect your loved one by getting educated.
  • Know the available resources: Although it may feel like you are alone in this struggle, there are millions of others caring for those with LBD. Look for resources and support groups through national association sites. Websites such as the Lewy Body Dementia Association, the Alzheimer’s Association, and even the compassionate allowance program of The Social Security Administration
  • Seek professional help: It is okay to admit you’re in over your head – all that means is that you acknowledge your loved one needs more professional care than you can give. Enlist professional Care Manager, like those at SeniorBridge, to help you manage the medications, appointments, diet and exercise regimes, and everything else in between, to ensure your loved one is getting the care they need.

These tips and tricks should help to make your job as a caregiver that much easier, and, in the wise words of Mr. Kasem himself, ensure that you can “keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”

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Can a Hot Tub Help You Sleep?

  
  
  
By Meggie Haneckow

As you can imagine, hot tubs have numerous health and wellness benefits for individuals of any age; so many, in fact, that they are becoming increasingly popular in today’s society. Just to name a couple, hot tubs can help increase metabolism, aid in weight loss and muscle toning, enhanced blood flow and ease relaxation.

With easier relaxation, comes easier sleep; many of those who suffer from insomnia use hot tub therapy to obtain restful sleep. If you are one amongst the innumerable people who suffer from sleeplessness, hydrotherapy using hot tubs or spas could be the cure you are seeking. Try these helpful alternative therapy methods to help you ease your insomnia and catch some much needed z’s.

  • Soak Warm Water; warm water can help relax your muscles, reducing stress and helping you to get relaxed enough to sleep.
  • Use Aromatherapy; spas and aromatherapy, in which essential oils are used, go hand-in-hand. Try using calming scents such as lavender to sooth tension and nerves.
  • Read a Book while soaking in a hot tub; this can help you to relax by loosening your muscles while distracting your mind from the stresses of everyday life.
  • Drink Some Tea; green tea is a tension reliever, soothing the nerves as well as the body. Drink tea during or after your hot tub session, they can help you to lower your stress levels, easing you closer to sleep.

While this may be surprising, just 20 minutes of hydrotherapy can be sufficient. Should you chose to use this type of therapy as a sleep aid, consider spending time in the hot tub at night, either inside or outside, to help you relax, release tension from your muscles, and free your mind right before going to sleep.

Meggie Haneckow is a professional at master spa parts, a leading provider of spa parts.
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