January marks Glaucoma Awareness Month, so it’s an important time to think about who is at risk for this disease. Glaucoma is an eye disorder that gradually leads to decreased sight due to optic nerve damage. Because there are no clear warning signs other than gradual vision loss, many people do not realize they have glaucoma until it is too late. On average, a person can lose up to 40 percent of their vision without noticing. Once your vision is lost to this disease, it cannot be restored.
Certain groups of people are more at risk for developing glaucoma than others. If you fall into one of these categories, it is essential to visit your eye doctor on a regular basis for a comprehensive exam that tests for glaucoma.
Adults 60 Years or Older
Seniors are more susceptible to a number of conditions as they age, so it’s no surprise that their risk for glaucoma increases as well. In fact, statistics show that you are six time more likely to get glaucoma when you are over 60.
People with a Family History of Glaucoma
If glaucoma runs in your family, unfortunately that puts you at a much higher risk of developing it. The most common kind of glaucoma is actually hereditary, meaning it can be passed on through different genes. This increases your risk of glaucoma between four to nine times.
African Americans and Asians
Specifically, these two races have a much higher risk of developing glaucoma than the rest of the population. It’s actually the leading cause of blindness in people of African descent and is six to eight times more common in African Americans than in Caucasians.
As for Asians, they are specifically at risk for a kind of glaucoma called angle-closure glaucoma, which accounts for less than 10 percent of all diagnosed cases.
Hispanic Adults Over 60
While we’ve already gone over the general risk for people over 60, it turns out that people of Hispanic descent over 60 have an even higher risk when compared to the general population.
Other Risk Factors
While you can’t change your race or your age, there are certain risk factors that are preventable. For example, steroid users were found to have a 40 percent increase in certain types of glaucoma compared to non-steroid users.
Additionally, eye injuries are a contributing factor to glaucoma. These often occur during sports such as baseball or boxing where the eye can be bruised.
Those who have high myopia, hypertension, and a central corneal thickness of less than .5mm are also at an increased risk.
This winter, we’ve experienced some uncommonly warm winter temperatures – followed by a plunge to frozen extremes – then back again to balmy, jacket-free weather – all in the span of a week. While these variances in conditions might be toying with our emotions, could they also be toying with our immune system?
Many people believe that having up-and-down temperatures in winter can lead to increased sickness. However, medical experts do not agree with this urban legend.
“While the common cold is more common in the winter, it is a myth to believe that weather change will cause any viral or bacterial infections,” said Dr. Yolanda Yu, a pediatrician.
There you have it. Enjoy the warm weather while you can, because it’s not the cause of you getting sick with a cold or the flu.
However, it can be the cause of certain effects in your body, such as swelling in the sinus passages. This might mimic the appearance of a more serious illness, but can quickly and easily be relieved by taking an antihistamine, nasal spray, or nasal rinse.
Scientists have discovered a new way to test for Alzheimer’s disease, and it involves peeing into a cup.
That’s right – a simple urine test could be a new non-invasive method to diagnosis Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages. Currently, there is no definitely test for living people, as the only way to know for sure if a person has the disease is to dissect the brain. The only sign scientists can observe is a buildup of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain, which is what seemingly causes the mental decline associated with the disease.
A study was performed on mice which had been genetically altered to have the gene thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s. The urine of these mice was then compared with mice who did not gave genetic changes.
In the mice with genetic alterations, a specific odor was detected that was not present in the urine of the unaltered mice. Using chemical analysis, scientists determined that no new compounds were present in urine. Instead, different concentrations of the existing compounds were present, creating the unique smell.
What’s more, the genetically altered mice had not yet shown signs of plaque buildup in the brain at the time the test was conducted, leading scientists to believe that the changes in urine were due to genetics themselves. Therefore, this test could be used as a method of detecting Alzheimer’s before plaque buildup in the brain actually occurs.
While the test won’t help stop Alzheimer’s from happening, it can give patients and families time to prepare for the future as well as begin preventative treatment for any forming symptoms. Further tests are required to determine efficacy in human subjects.
Now that flu season is upon us, it is vital to get a flu vaccine. All of our patients are sick in some way, and many are elderly, which means that their chances of catching the flu are greatly increased. Often, the flu can lead to other serious complications such as pneumonia or death. The simplest way to avoid all of these threats is to get a flu shot.
You can get a flu shot from your doctor, from a clinic or local drugstore, or even from us! Just ask your nurse for more information. Typically, the flu vaccine takes two weeks to be effective, as your body needs time to build up antibodies against the flu virus. Even if you had a flu vaccine last year, it is important to get a new one this year because the influenza virus mutates constantly. Last year’s vaccine will no longer be effective. This year’s flu vaccine has been specially formulated to protect against the current strain of the virus.
Flu activity is highest from December to February, so don’t waste any time. Once a flu outbreak begins, it can be hard to stay healthy. Getting a flu shot will protect you most of the time and keep you healthy and safe.
This week, we’re celebrating Bone and Joint Action Week. Over half of all Americans over the age of 18 suffer from some sort of musculoskeletal condition, such as arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis, and trauma. In fact, these conditions are the most common cause of severe long-term pain and physical disability worldwide. Over time, they can lead to decreased productivity in work or at home, as well as a diminish in quality of life.
While a lot of back pain stems from unavoidable ailments such as old age or disease, plenty of cases are caused by completely preventable situations. If you are a frequent sufferer of back aches, then you may want to consider the cause. By learning more about the common causes of back pain, you can figure out the best way to make it stop.
1. Lying Down or Sitting Too Much
Since all of our patients are homebound, many of them do not have the ability to walk around freely. Some patients are even confined to bed, too weak or sick to even get up at all. Unfortunately, this can wreak havoc on your back. This happens because the discs that line and cushion your vertebrae are compacted when you are sitting. This prevents fluid from reaching the discs, preventing them from getting the nutrients they need to keep doing their job. In fact, sitting puts more pressure on your back than standing or lying down, and can even cause long term damage if you do it all day every day. To prevent this, try and get up at least every 20 minutes to give your back a break, use a back support in your chair, and don’t lean forward too much.
2. Weakness in the Core
Again, because many of our patients are just coming out of the hospital and are weak, they usually don’t have great core strength. Your core includes your ab, back, side, pelvic, and buttock muscles, all of which work together to help support your spine. These are the muscles that allow you to twist, bend, rotate, and stand up straight. Without these muscles, your back is in danger of being unsupported. A core weak leads to slouching, which causes pain in your back. Remedy this problem by doing stretches and exercises like lunges, squats, and planks to strength your muscles.
3. Sleeping Incorrectly
You might not think there’s a wrong way to sleep, but there is. Laying on your stomach while catching some Zs actually puts a lot of pressure on your joints and muscles, keeping everything tight and compressed. Laying on your bed, on the other hand, allows your spine to stay long and neutral throughout the night. Additionally, it is important to choose the right kind of mattress to optimize spine comfort. Always go with a medium firmness as this is the best surface to keep your spine happy. Use a pillow that keeps your head in line with your spine throughout the night.
4. Emotional Instability
Mental illness is known for terrorizing the mind, but it can also have palpable effects on the body. A study from the University of Alberta has revealed that people with major depression were four times as likely to suffer from low back and neck pain. They think it’s because depression can trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to increased muscle tension in the shoulders and back. Additionally, depression makes it hard to find motivation for moving or exercising. However, moving and being active is actually a treatment for both depression and back aches, so it’s important to try and overcome the urge to lay in bed.
Don’t forget to let your nurse or therapist know if you are suffering back pain. If you doctor agrees, we can have a physical therapist come to visit you and provide alleviating treatment. He or she will provide you with exercises to strengthen your core and get your back feeling better.
You might take breathing for granted since it’s so simple. An unconscious effort drives your lungs to inhale and exhale, taking a backseat to other important thoughts you have throughout the day. However, since October is Healthy Lung Month, it’s important to shine a spotlight on one of the most important organs in your body. For many, breathing is not such a simple process.
In fact, people who catch pneumonia have quite a lot of trouble breathing. Pneumonia is an infection of the lung that is caused by bacteria, a virus, or fungi. Anyone can develop pneumonia regardless of age, race, or health. While it is typically a side effect of the flu, pneumonia can be caused by over 30 different things. Most people can recover from it in one to three weeks, but for some people it is fatal.
How Pneumonia Affects Your Body
Once the germs that cause pneumonia infiltrate your body and get past all of your defenses, you may start to experience coughing, fever, chills, and trouble breathing. This is because the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs swell and begin to fill with fluid. Additionally, this may prevent oxygen from reaching your blood, leading to the death of cells in your body. Additional symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Sharp or stabbing chest pain that worsens with breathing or coughing
- Excessive sweating and clammy skin
- Confusion (especially in the elderly)
- Loss of appetite, low energy, and fatigue
How to Avoid Catching Pneumonia
Unfortunately, there is no cure or vaccine to prevent all strains of pneumonia. However, there are some things you can do to make yourself less likely to contract the illness. Standard procedures such as washing your hands and leading a healthy lifestyle can do wonders for keeping you germ free and your immune system healthy. It also helps to get vaccinated against the flu, as this is a common cause of pneumonia. Other risk factors that might exacerbate your chance of catching pneumonia include:
- Chronic lung diseases like COPD
- Difficulty swallowing
- Cerebral palsy
- Living in a nursing facility
- Recent surgery or trauma
What to Do if You Catch Pneumonia
Even when taking the utmost care, there’s still a chance you might get pneumonia. If you do, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Also be sure to get plenty of rest as your body needs time to fight off the infection. If you have a fever, use aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to bring it down. Depending on the type of pneumonia you have, your doctor may prescribe anti-viral medication or antibiotics. Let your doctor know if you develop any severe symptoms or your illness doesn’t go away, as this could lead to complications such as:
- Respiratory failure
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Lung abscesses
In the past, we’ve examined senior depression and mental decline. But in celebration of this year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, we’ve decided to go a different route and instead examine bipolar disorder in older adults. While bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed in young adults, between 0.1 to 0.5 percent of people over 65 meet the criteria for late onset bipolar disorder. Additionally, 10 to 25 percent of people over 50 that have mood disorders end up being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Even though it’s not an epidemic, bipolar disorder in seniors is still something to be wary of.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a brain illness that causes sufferers to shift between periods of mania and depression. Patients switch between these extreme highs and lows, which prevents them from carrying out day-to-day tasks and causes unusual shifts in mood and energy. Unfortunately, scientists don’t know the cause of or how to cure this disease. There are some treatments available to alleviate symptoms, such as medication, psychotherapy, or electroconvulsive therapy.
Symptoms of manic episode include:
- Feeling overly happy or outgoing
- Being extremely irritable
- Inability to focus on one thought at a time and talking very fast
- Becoming easily distracted
- Taking on new projects
- Feeling overly restless
- Not feeling tired or not sleeping enough
- Feeling unrealistically confident in yourself
- Acting impulsively and choosing high-risk activities
Symptoms of a depressive episode include:
- Feeling overly sad or hopeless
- No longer excited about hobbies or enjoyable activities
- Constantly feeling tired
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Feeling restless and irritable
- Change in sleeping or eating habits
- Feeling suicidal
How Can Bipolar Disorder in Older Adults Be Diagnosed?
Diagnosing bipolar disorder in seniors can be tricky, as many other medical conditions mimic the symptoms of this particular disease. Illnesses such as depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s, brain tumors, or stroke can all imitate different mood swings. Additionally, instead of an elevated or positive mood, bipolar disorder in older adults can causes symptoms like confusion or disorientation, which are side effects of many other conditions and medications commonly taken by seniors. In order to diagnose this disease, a doctor must conduct a complete medical examination to rule out all of these various other possibilities. After that, they may then refer the patient to a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist.
What Should I Do if I Think My Loved One Has Bipolar Disorder?
If you think your loved might be suffering from bipolar disorder, please tell us right away. One of our certified mental health nurses can conduct a mental health examination to determine what course of action might be required. After conferring with and receiving orders from your doctor, we can then develop a plan of care to help treat the patient’s mental state. Remember that you are not alone in caring for your loved one. We are always here to help, and there are also many family support groups and caregiver education programs to help you acclimate to your new role.
In honor of National Rehabilitation Week, we’ve decided to take a look at the rehabilitation process for a common procedure, a knee joint replacement. This type of surgery is required when the knee is damaged by arthritis. During surgery, doctors cut open your knee and remove the damaged part of the joint. An artificial joint is then attached to the cleaned surface, which uses the support of muscles and ligaments surrounding the knee for mobility and function.
While the process sounds scary, it’s actually becoming more and more common, with 4.5 million people in the US having undergone the procedure. With new advances, the surgery is now much less invasive than it once was, giving patients an easier recovery time and a longer lasting knee joint. However, it is still a major surgery that requires an extensive rehab process. It is important to know what to expect before your surgery so you can have a good idea of how long your recovery will take.
Right After Knee Surgery
You might think you can relax after your knee surgery happens – but you’re wrong. As soon as you wake up, your doctors prefer you to start moving your knee. In fact, they prefer it if you can be up and walking that same day! Moving the knee helps prevent swelling, blood clots, and strengthen muscles. Often, your leg is placed in a continuous passive motion machine, which moves your knee for you while you are in bed. You will also be wearing compression stockings, which help to squeeze your leg to keep the blood circulating. You’ll stay in the hospital overnight to make sure you have no complications.
The Days After Knee Surgery
Don’t get too comfy in bed, because you’re definitely getting out of it today. The first item on your itinerary will be meeting with a physical therapist. He or she will show you different exercises to complete to help your knee heal and get stronger. These can include getting out of bed, getting up out of a chair, walking with crutches, and continuing to bend and straighten your knee. After you prove that you can move about on your own with a reduced dependence on a walker or cane and bend your knee to a 90 degree angle, you will be discharged from the hospital.
A Few Weeks After Knee Surgery
Your pain and swelling should gradually decrease, allowing you improved mobility and flexibility. It is absolutely imperative to continue your physical therapy exercises, otherwise your knee won’t heal properly and your recovery time will be much longer. You might also try going on a walk several times a day, riding a stationary bike, or swimming, depending on your doctor and physical therapist’s instructions. As time goes on, you should find it easier to get around, bathe, and dress yourself. Avoid any strenuous activities for at least six weeks after surgery, as these can irritate your knee. Six weeks is the average time for short-term recovery, after which you can begin doing things like you normally would.
A Few Months After Knee Surgery
At this point, your doctor should clear you to return to activities such as driving or playing sports. Keep in mind, you will still have to avoid sports that place a lot of stress on the knee joint, such as running or jumping. It is important to commit to an active lifestyle, as gaining weight or losing muscle tissue can negatively affect your knee. Pain at this stage should be minimal or non-existent. It might take up to a year for you to feel 100 percent again, which is completely normal. You may have to take antibiotics for up to two years in order to prevent infection at your replacement site.
Want a detailed infographic that you can print and reference whenever you need to? Check out this helpful timeline that includes all of the different phases of recovery!
As people age, one of the most dangerous areas of the home becomes the bathroom. With slippery tile floors and sleek tubs, the potential for a deadly fall is greatly increased, especially for disabled or frail seniors. The shower in particular is a problem, as over two-thirds of bathroom injuries in seniors happen in or near the bathtub. One way to combat these pernicious problems is the use of a shower chair. A shower chair is just what it sounds like – a chair which seniors can sit in while showering. It is specifically designed to fit inside a tub and provide a stable and non-slip surface for the elderly to rest on.
Choosing a shower chair is not an easy feat. There are a variety of them available on the market, all with different features and selling points. It is important to consider all of these different factors before choosing the shower chair that is right for you.
1. Measure your tub
Unfortunately, there is no universal size standard for bathtubs, so its important to measure your tub to make sure the shower chair will fit in it. Also consider the overall size of the bathroom and whether or not you have a door on your shower. An overly large chair in a small bathroom will probably do more harm than good. Many chairs have adjustable legs, but often the base seat is not adjustable, so it’s important to determine if it is too wide or not. Follow this guide to determine the exact dimension of your tub.
2. Consider your needs
While the idea of a shower chair is basic enough, the actual usage of it can vary. Some people also use their shower chairs for aqua therapy, saving them the trouble of buying another device. Additionally, for those who have degenerative or unreversible physical damage, shower transfer benches can be incredibly useful. This allows users to enter the bathtub while remaining in a seated position. Lastly, consider how many people are using the tub. If the senior is not the only one using the bathroom, a foldable shower chair is very useful, as it can be removed and put away when needed.
3. Find your style
Choosing a shower chair doesn’t have to be all about necessity. Because the market is so large, there is room for individual preference as well. Shower chairs are typically available in teak or plastic, as these are durable materials that will stand up well when exposed to water. Some chairs offer other features, such as a splashguard to keep urine flowing into the toilet, head support to offer lateral side head comfort, and armrests for relaxing and maintaining balance. The choice is up to you.
4. Determine your height/weight
Not all shower chairs are intended for all users. Many have weight or height restrictions, so its important to find one that fits you. The typical chair holds a weight of 250 to 300 pounds, which should be sufficient for most users. However, there are specialized bariatric chairs that can support a weight of up to 500 pounds for larger users. As for height, most seats can be raised up or down to provide perfect positioning. To determine an exact fit, you may need to take your measurements and compare them to that of the chair.
If you’re still a bit confused about which shower chair is exactly right for you, don’t be afraid to ask us! Your occupational therapist or nurse can discuss your needs with you and offer a personalized recommendation. They may even be able to assist you in ordering equipment. And if you still feel uncomfortable getting in and out of the tub, you can request a home health aide to come and assist you during your shower. Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover the cost of shower chairs, so you will be responsible for paying for it on your own.
Eating a well-balanced and nutrient rich diet is a huge part of staying healthy. However, one aspect of a healthy diet that many people overlook is sodium intake. Adding salt to food helps to enhance its flavor, but too much of it can lead to health problems such as headaches, bloating, stroke, kidney problems, osteoporosis, or hypertension. Experts disagree on the exact amount of sodium we need each day, but their estimates range from 1500 mg to 2300 mg. Unfortunately, the average American gets around 3400 mg of salt each day, which equates to about 1 1/2 teaspoons.
Luckily, there is a solution to this problem by using herbs to season food instead of salt! More Herbs, Less Salt Day is a holiday intended to celebrate the use of fresh herbs instead of salt. Fresh herbs are easy to grow in your garden or in your home all year round. Growing your own plants ensures you always have access to herbs, eliminating the need to run to the store. Additionally, herb plants typically only need a small pot to grow in, fertilized soil, a location with sun, and water.
At a loss for which herbs to use and how to incorporate them in your diet? Here’s a short list to help of common herbs and their typical uses!
- Basil – This highly fragrant green herb has a bright, pungent, and peppery taste. It is used in many dishes, including salads, sandwiches, pasta, and pizzas.
- Black pepper – As the companion to salt, you probably know how to use black pepper. However, did you know that it has antioxidant properties and might even break down fat cells?
- Thyme – Thyme has a highly aromatic, slightly sweet, and pungent flavor. It has several varieties, including lemon and spicy orange. It often works well in roasted vegetables, chicken dishes, soups, sauces, and other meats.
- Dill – With an aromatic, sweet, and citrus flavor, dill is often paired with salmon, roasted carrots, or potatoes.
- Allspice – Allspice invokes a combination of fragrant spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg, juniper, and peppercorn. It’s used quite often in Caribbean and Latin cuisine in the form of vegetables, soups, and desserts.
- Chives – Chives have a flavor similar to onions are are often used on potatoes, soups, and meats.
- Cilantro – Used in Latin, Asian, and Indian dishes, cilantro has a strong and pungent flavor. Use it fresh or dried.
- Rosemary – Featuring a pine-like fragrance and pungent flavor, rosemary is often used in Mediterranean cooking in foods like breads, pork, and soup.
- Oregano – This is another extremely common herb with a strong, slightly spicy flavor. It is used most famously in pizza sauce, as well as vegetables and meats.