Our Health Care Tips

Avoiding Hospital Readmission Part 2: Quality Care

Avoiding Hospital Readmission Part 2: Quality Care

This is part 2 in the series. Click here to read part 1 or part 3

Getting released from the hospital is an overwhelmingly intense feeling. You are flush with relief and hope; finally you are escaping the white-walled prison that has held you for who knows how many days. Physically and mentally, you are healing, and most likely getting stronger and healthier with each passing moment. Clarity and excitement rush through you as you exit through the hospital doors. But there is also the doubt, the worry that you may begin to decline and need to be readmitted. You are not certain if you will be able to receive the proper care at home. The fear weighs down on you, causing you stress and anxiety on what should be a happy day.HospitalHomeHealthCompare

Hospital readmissions can be a real problem for seniors. According to the Medicare Home Health Compare, 16 percent of our patients have to be readmitted to the hospital while under our care. While this is 1 percent under the Pennsylvania average of 17 percent and on par with the national average of 16 percent, it is still a number that is too high. In some cases, these readmissions are impossible to prevent, as a patient can suffer an emergency or simply not heal correctly. However, in many cases, the risk of being readmitted to the hospital can greatly be lowered through patient education, quality care, and advanced technology.

 

Quality Care

Nurses must also provide quality care to patients by constantly monitoring and evaluating their patients’ conditions. During each visit, a patient is completely re-evaluated to see how they are progressing. Wounds are measured, vital signs are recorded, and any change in bowel or urinary habits are marked down. Any deficiencies or deteriorations are immediately conveyed to the patient’s primary care doctor who can they make a decision about the patient’s plan of care. This form of nurse-doctor communication is an integral part of our care procedure and ensures the patient is getting the help they require.

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Each of our nurses undergoes an extensive two week training and orientation period before heading out into the field. This ensures they know exactly how to care for patients. Additionally, we only hire nurses with home health experience. It’s not that other nurses are bad, but it just ensures that our staff knows how to care for patients in the comfort of their home. The home environment is quite different from a hospital – and that’s usually a good thing.

We also have several office staff that help ease the transition from hospital to home. Our patient advocate acts as the voice of our patients, calling to make sure they are happy with their services and that everything is running smoothly. Our intake coordinators act as the liaison from hospital to home. They ensure the patient is matched with the best nurse or therapist for their needs. Additionally, they review the post-discharge instructions sent by the hospital and record any objectives or orders are accurately recorded in the patient’s chart. This is one of the ways we ensure the patient is adjusting well at home and not relapsing.

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How You Can Put a Stop to Elder Abuse

How You Can Put a Stop to Elder Abuse

You’ve heard of child abuse and spousal abuse… but have you heard of elder abuse? Unbeknownst to many people, elders are often exploited and neglected by their caretakers, nurses, or family members. It is estimated that seniors lose an estimated $2.6 billion annually due to financial abuse. However, elder abuse goes far beyond a simple loss of money. Many seniors are physically, emotionally, or sexually harmed, causing irrevocable damage to their mental state and dampening their quality of life.

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which means its time to bring this issue into the light. The purpose of this day is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. We’ve already talked about the signs of elder abuse in an earlier blog post, so now is a great time to talk about how to actually prevent elder abuse.

Take a stand against the abuse of elders by trying to put these tips into practice. Thanks for the National Center on Elder Abuse for providing this educational information in a PDF file.

  1.   Learn the signs of elder abuse and neglect.
  2.   Call or visit an elderly loved one and ask how he or she is doing.
  3.   Provide a respite break for a caregiver.
  4.   Ask your bank manager to train tellers on how to detect elder financial abuse.
  5.   Ask your doctor to ask you and all other senior patients about possible family violence in their lives.
  6.   Contact your local Adult Protective Services or Long-Term Care Ombudsman to learn how to support their work helping at-risk elders and adults with disabilities
  7.   Organize a “Respect Your Elders” essay or poster contest in your child’s school.
  8.   Ask your religious congregration’s leader to give a talk about elder abuse at a service or to put a message about elder abuse in the bulletin.
  9.   Volunteer to be a friendly visitor to a nursing home resident or to a homebound senior in your neighborhood.
  10.   Send a letter to your local paper, radio or TV station suggesting that they cover World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) or Grandparents Day in September
  11.   Dedicate your bikeathon/marathon/ other event to elder mistreatment awareness and prevention.
  12.   Join the Ageless Alliance. Ageless Alliance connects people of all ages, nationwide, who stand united for the dignity of older adults and for the elimination of elder abuse. You can join (it’s free) and get involved at agelessalliance.org.
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Nursing Assistants Week

Nursing Assistants Week

national nursing assistants week

Today marks the beginning of Nursing Assistants Week, a time to say thank you to all nursing assistants, paid caregivers, and home care aides. Nursing assistants help to care for patients and work closely with nurses and therapists to ensure the patient is safe and comfortable. While nursing assistants don’t necessarily provide medical care, they are a vital part of the healthcare team and help to make a difference in a patient’s recovery.

Our home care aides are compassionate, excellent listeners, supportive, dependable, and good-natured. Here are five more facts about nursing assistants to celebrate the occasion!

  1. The personal care aide and home health aide workforces are projected to grow by nearly 50 percent by 2022, making those two occupations the second and third fastest-growing in the country.
  2. The history of nursing assistants actually dates back to the time of World War I.  The American Red Cross created a program to train individuals to assist nurses during the war.   The program was referred to as the Volunteer Nurses’ Aide Service.
  3. Although most nursing assistants earn between $20,000-$30,000 per year, some earn more than $35,000 annually.  The state where a CNA is employed, their experience and additional skills and training are determining factors in the salary of a CNA.
  4. Home health aides held about 875,100 jobs in 2012. They work in a variety of settings.
  5. Congress passed the Omnibus Reconciliation Act in 1987 to ensure that well trained and skilled individuals were hired to work as nursing assistants in nursing care and other healthcare facilities that are Medicare and Medicaid Certified.

Thanks again to all of our hard-working home care aides! We appreciate your dedication to our patients and our mission.

 

 

 

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Avoiding Hospital Readmission Part 1: Patient Education

Avoiding Hospital Readmission Part 1: Patient Education

This is part 1 in the series. Click here to read part 2 or part 3

Getting released from the hospital is an overwhelmingly intense feeling. You are flush with relief and hope; finally you are escaping the white-walled prison that has held you for who knows how many days. Physically and mentally, you are healing, and most likely getting stronger and healthier with each passing moment. Clarity and excitement rush through you as you exit through the hospital doors. But there is also the doubt, the worry that you may begin to decline and need to be readmitted. You are not certain if you will be able to receive the proper care at home. The fear weighs down on you, causing you stress and anxiety on what should be a happy day.HospitalHomeHealthCompare

Hospital readmissions can be a real problem for seniors. According to the Medicare Home Health Compare, 16 percent of our patients have to be readmitted to the hospital while under our care. While this is 1 percent under the Pennsylvania average of 17 percent and on par with the national average of 16 percent, it is still a number that is too high. In some cases, these readmissions are impossible to prevent, as a patient can suffer an emergency or simply not heal correctly. However, in many cases, the risk of being readmitted to the hospital can greatly be lowered through patient education, quality care, and advanced technology.

 

Patient Education

It is imperative to educate the patient on their own condition. Being diagnosed with a new disease or having surgery can be quite terrifying. Our nurses are specially trained on how to educate patients on a number of common conditions, including CHF, COPD, wound care, diabetes, and general weakness. They inform patients on how to care for themselves, look for signs of deterioration in their condition, take medications, eat correctly, and understand procedures or treatments ordered by their physicians. If a patient has any question during any point of their care, it is the job of their nurse to find an answer.

Additionally, our nurses take the time to educate the patient’s caregiver. In many cases, patients simply aren’t fit to care for themselves or may not remember everything their nurse tells them. Instructing the caregiver acts as a safety net against harm. When a patient is admitted to our services, they are provided with a “green booklet” that explains all of our services, how to contact us, as well as some of the rights they have as our patient. Both caregivers and patients can reference this book if they have questions about what they should be doing.

Another important aspect of patient education is home safety. This is especially important after coming home from the hospital, when patients may be weaker and less mobile than they are accustomed to. It is imperative to clear walkways of tripping hazards, such as loose rugs, electric cords, or other items. Patient falls are a major reason for hospital readmission. Our nurses instruct patients on how to modify their home to fit their needs, even if it is only until they are feeling better.

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Myths About Seniors and Exercising

Myths About Seniors and Exercising

Yesterday was National Senior Health and Fitness Day! If you forgot to celebrate (don’t worry, we did too), there is still time to talk about seniors and exercising. There are many common misconceptions about senior exercise. Many older people think exercise is a waste of time, or that it won’t help them at all, or that it might make them too sore to get around. They couldn’t be further from the truth! Staying fit is a vital part of maintaining health while aging and should never be overlooked. Here are a few common myths about senior fitness and why they are wrong.

1. Older people need to save their strength – they can’t waste it on exercising!

This is so very inaccurate! By “saving their strength,” seniors are really allowing their muscles to weaken and their endurance to decline. This eventually leads to a loss of independence, as ordinary tasks such as walking will become strenuous ordeals. Exercise may be tough at first and may make seniors extra tired, but it is worth it in the end.

2. I might hurt myself exercising!

Yes, it’s true – you COULD hurt yourself exercising. But so can people of all ages! Studies show that exercising actually decreases your chance of a fall because it helps to build strength, stamina, balance, and agility. Therefore, exercising makes you less likely to get hurt.

3.There’s no point to exercising – old age is inevitable.

Yes, there’s no escaping the fact that you are getting older. However, old age does not automatically equate to a weakened, decrepit state. Much of the lack of mobility and weakness that appears in the elderly actually comes about from inactivity – not simply because they’ve lived through another year. Exercise actually helps to make you look and feel younger, and can help lower your risk for a number of conditions common in elderly people, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart disease, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity.

4. I have to check with my doctor before exercising.

Excuses, excuses. This is the oldest one in the book. Obviously, if you have any serious medical conditions or haven’t been to your doctor in years, you should probably consult with him or her before beginning any strenuous programs. Otherwise, there is no reason you have to see your doctor first before beginning to work on your fitness.

5. I’m afraid I’ll have a heart attack or hurt my joints!

Whoa, calm down. Of course, these are possibilities – but they are unlikely, and the benefits of exercising far outweigh these risks. Exercising can improve your heart health and decrease your chance of a heart attack. Additionally, exercising has been shown to help with arthritis pain and joint function. So there.

6. I’m too sick/too old to start exercising. There’s no hope for me.

Stop with all the pessimism! It’s never to late to begin exercising. Start with light exercise, such as walking or other gentle activities. As for being too sick, many doctors agree that exercise can help prevent or lessen the symptoms of many common problems.

7. No, you don’t understand. I’m wheelchair bound! I can’t exercise!

Yes, you can! Stop with the excuses. You can lift hand weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics to help get yourself in shape. Who knows – after a few months of working out, you may no longer be attached to your wheelchair! Even those who are bedridden can find some kind of method to get an aerobic workout in.

If you’re at a loss as to how to begin an exercise program, don’t worry. Our physical therapists are pros at assisting elderly patients in finding an exercise program that is right for them. Talk to your physical therapist during their next visit to see what you can do to improve your fitness. Or, if you don’t have a physical therapist yet, talk to your home health nurse or doctor to see if it would be possible to start therapy services.

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Understanding the Different Parts of Medicare

Understanding the Different Parts of Medicare

Medicare makes it seemingly impossible to understand its coverage. With insurance spread out among four different parts, many people have no real idea what part they need or what parts they even have. It’s almost as if the different parts of Medicare are intended to be confusing on purpose.

Luckily, with a little bit of dedicated explanation, there is an easy way to understand exactly what the different parts of Medicare cover and which parts of Medicare are right for you. Currently, there are four Medicare plans – Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D. Each one covers a slightly different area of healthcare, so most people have a combination of the four. The Original Medicare plan offered by the government generally consists of Parts A and B. When adding Part C into the mix, this is known as a Medicare Advantage plan. Here’s a brief summary of each of the different parts of Medicare and how it affects your health insurance.

Different Parts of Medicare

Part A Part B Part C Part D
Coverage Inpatient stays in hospitals and skilled nursing facitilites Outpatient services such as doctor visits, therapy, and lab tests Inpatient and outpatient services, but offered through a private insurance company instead Prescription drug coverage
Cost  Free  $104.90 per month Monthly premium + $104.90 per month  Varies
Deductible $1,216  $147  Varies  Varies

Part A + Part B = Original Medicare

Part A + Part B + Part C = Medicare Advantage

Part A

Part A is the main part of all Medicare plans and you are automatically enrolled in it when you apply for Medicare. Generally, it is premium-free, as you already paid for it through your payroll taxes during your years of employment. Part A helps to cover all inpatient stays in hospitals or skilled nursing facilities. It can also cover home health services or hospice care if you meet certain qualifications. Generally, it covers 80 percent of inpatient costs after you meet the deductible (which was $1,216 in 2014).

Part B

Part B covers what is known as outpatient services, which are things like doctor visits, home health care, medical equipment, procedures, rehabilitation therapy, lab tests, X-rays, mental health services, blood, and ambulance services. Part B is an optional plan are you are not automatically enrolled in it. Many people continue to use their existing health insurance from their employer or spouse to cover these services. You must pay a monthly premium ($104.90 in 2014) as well as a yearly deductible ($147 in 2014) before coverage kicks in. Coverage for all the various services varies, so investigate what the cost of a specific visit or procedure will be before scheduling it. Do keep in mind that if you initially decline Part B but want to add it to your plan in a few years, you will pay a higher premium than you would have originally.

Part C

Part C is essentially a combination of Part A and Part B, but instead of being offered through Medicare directly, it is offered through a private insurance company. All Part C plans are approved by Medicare and must offer all of the same health care services as Original Medicare. To sign up for a Part C plan, you must first sign up for Part A and Part B, and then contact the private insurer to switch to Plan C.  The advantage of switching to a private insurance company is that they may cover additional services which are not covered under Original Medicare, such as hearing, vision, and dental services. Additionally, you may have smaller copays when visiting doctors, as well as a maximum yearly out-of-pocket amount. It is important to research these plans before switching over to one, as each one can be different. Each plan does have a monthly premium which you must pay. Do keep in mind that if you do decide to choose Part C, you will also still have to pay the premium for Part B (since you are required to have Part A and Part B to have Part C).

Part D

Part D is an optional plan that provides prescription drug benefits. It is an add-on service to Part A, Part B, and Part C plans. They are offered by private insurance companies that have been approved by Medicare and assist you in paying for prescription drugs. Every Part D plan includes a monthly premium which you must pay, though these rates vary. One problem with Part D is the doughnut hole. This is a coverage gap that happens when your prescriptions exceed a set cost ($2,840 in 2011) in a given year. Unfortunately, this means you have to pay full price for your prescriptions after you hit this amount.

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The Homebound, Social Senior: How to Keep in Touch

The Homebound, Social Senior: How to Keep in Touch

In celebration of Older Americans Month, we’ve decided to take a look at some ways in which seniors can stay connected with their friends and community as they age. The theme for this year’s celebration is Get into the Act, which is meant to encourage older adults to take charge of their health, engage in their neighborhood, and make a positive impact in the lives of others. Being homebound can make it rather difficult to achieve all of this… but not impossible! With a little help from a caregiver or family member, seniors can be just as socially active as they were when they were younger. Here are some tips to help the social senior in your life stay connected and in control of their daily interactions!

1. The Internet

We know, we know… technology is scary to seniors. The foreign, electronic buzz of a computer is nothing like the warm, comforting voice of a companion. However, with a little bit of tutoring, seniors can learn many valuable skills that can help connect them to others. Seniors can utilize video chat to connect with old friends, email to have a hearty correspondence with their loved ones, social media to follow the lives of their children and grandchildren, and even interactive games to keep their mind sharp. A social senior can virtually travel the world, all without leaving their armchair or bed. It does take some getting used to, but the internet is a priceless resource for when an older adult really needs someone to interact with.

2. Phone and Mail

Sure, making a phone call isn’t as good as seeing someone in person. However, it allows a senior to hear a friend’s voice – which is essential for keeping the mind sharp. Keeping up to date with friends and family over the phone is a simple way to keep a senior entertained and involved in life. Additionally, writing a letter to a companion is just as rewarding. It helps seniors to use the muscle in their arms and hands, which can give them better strength and coordination. Plus, it will give the senior something to look forward to – finding a fresh letter in the mailbox is such a great reward!

3. Interact with the Neighbors

Even if you can’t leave the house, there are still ways to meet new people. When was the last time you looked out of the window and gave a friendly wave to your next door neighbors? It’s great for seniors to create a relationship with the people that live near them for several reasons. First of all, it’s really easy to chat at any time! Even if the neighbor is in a hurry and doesn’t have time to gossip, the simple act of a friendly “hello” can brighten a lonely senior’s day. Secondly, if a senior is ever in trouble or injured, the neighbor will know immediately when something is wrong. If you don’t have any neighbors or they aren’t very friendly… why not try people watching? The world is filled with myriad people, and it’s interesting enough simply to observe them.

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4. Use Community Services

Many seniors don’t realize the wealth of services available to them! Many local organizations and businesses have options for homebound seniors. For example, many libraries have volunteers that deliver books and spend time reading with seniors. If a senior doesn’t feel like cooking, groups like Meals on Wheels deliver freshly made meals on a daily basis. Some schools even run programs where students can spend quality time with seniors. It all depends on the community that your senior lives in! Be sure to inquire at your local senior or community center for more information.

5. Volunteer

The problem many seniors face is simply feeling useless – unnecessary and a burden to society. Help them realize their social value by assisting them with a volunteer program. Even though they cannot leave the house, there are many ways for a senior to provide volunteer services. If they enjoy crafting, they can knit or crochet projects for hospital patients, nursing home patients, geriatric center, the Red Cross, or Meals on Wheels. Though your social senior won’t personally be delivering these items, the fact that something they made is being given to someone in need really boosts their spirits. More interactive volunteer options include starting a telephone reassurance program for other seniors, establishing a phone friend program at a local school, starting a penpal program, or creating a reminiscence club where seniors write down their memories and share them.

6. Adult Day Care Center

This is a spectacularly great option if your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia and really shouldn’t be left home alone all day. Senior care centers provide a safe, assisted environment where homebound seniors can socialize and participate in activities that keep them alert and engaged. They will be able to chat with people their own age, make friends, and feel invigorated by a change of environment. The assisted environment means you do not have to worry if your senior is getting the care they require – because they will. Plus, if your senior is up to it, centers usually provide some form of exercise, therapy, counseling, or education programs to heal the mind and body.

7. Home Health Aide

If all else fails, we are here to help! Our Gallagher Home Care division can send a home health aide to visit your senior for a set number of hours each week. We offer various companion services from highly trained home health aides. Each aide is carefully matched to your loved one’s requirements, personality, and preferences to ensure a quality match! Our loving caregivers will happily interact with your older adult, providing them with the social interaction they crave. They can also help with household tasks, such as preparation of meals, escorts to medical and personal appointments, light housekeeping, medication reminders, or transportation.

 

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The Difference Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

The Difference Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

If you’re like most people, you may not know the exact difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy. While they are both rehabilitative services that assist patients in regaining function, they go about this process through very different means. Generally speaking, physical therapy is intended to treat the source of a patient’s physical impairment. Occupational therapy, on the other hand, focuses on treating the impairment in action.

Many of our patients use our physical and occupational therapy services, with some patients even using both! Just because you are receiving therapy from one, does not mean you can’t receive therapy from the other. Physical and occupational therapy work hand-in-hand with each other to help the patient achieve their highest rehabilitative potential.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists tend to focus on treating the effects of a disability rather than the source. It is their job to help a person learn to optimize their life after an injury or physical impairment. The main focus of treatment for OT is activities of daily living. Anything that a person does on a regular basis can be considering an activity of daily living, such as dressing, cooking, bathing, using the bathroom, or writing. The ultimate goal for occupational therapy is to enable the patient to live an independent and successful life in spite of their disabilities.

In order to achieve this, therapists use treatments that include stretching, therapeutic exercise, hand strengthening, manual dexterity practice, and caregiver training. Generally, they focus on the upper body and focus on the smaller muscles that people need to complete daily activities. An occupational therapist can recommend adaptive equipment that will help people live normally, such as reachers, dressing aids, specialized dishes and utensils, and splints for positioning. Generally, occupational therapy is recommended for people who have sudden mental and physical impairments, developmental disabilities, stroke, arthritis, or injury.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists take the approach of trying to repair or treat the impairment that is limiting a patient. Their job is to evaluate and diagnose an injury while coming up with a plan to treat the disability. They will actually try to heal the injured tissues and structures while reducing pain and increasing functional ability.

PT focuses on movement and helping a patient become mobile once again. Treatment includes stretching, therapeutic exercise, balance training, functional mobility training, gait training, and caregiver training. Typically, physical therapy focuses on the larger muscle groups that contribute to reaching, standing, and balance. It usually takes more of a focus on the lower body, but can include the arms and the back. Physical therapists can also recommend assistive devices, such as shower chairs, braces, walkers, canes, wheelchairs, and standers. Following a home exercise plan is essential for completing physical therapy rehabilitation. The most common reasons for needing PT are injury, back pain, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis.

Occupational Therapy

Physical Therapy

  • Helps people with activities of daily living
  • Teaches patients how to work around their disabilities
  • Makes recommendations about adaptive equipment
  • Goal is to increase independence
  • Diagnoses and treats problems that restrict movement and cause pain
  • Uses exercise and stretching to ease pain, boost mobility, and increase muscle strength
  • Makes recommendations for assistive equipment
  • Goal is to help heal the disability and increase mobility

Examples

To sum up, let’s look at a few examples of injuries and see how physical therapists and occupational therapists would assist. Imagine a patient who has just had a knee replacement. It is the job of the PT to assign different exercises to improve mobility and ease pain and stiffness. The OT, on the other hand, will help the patient adapt to using a wheelchair and then move on to helping the patient use the stairs with the new knee. Another example is a patient who has muscle weakness and cannot stand for a long time. A PT will work on helping the patient stand and practice balance, while the OT will teach the patient how to perform hygiene tasks without being able to stand the whole time.

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How to Tell if Your Mole is Cancerous

How to Tell if Your Mole is Cancerous

Now that the sun has come out of its hibernation, it’s time to start being aware of how it can affect your skin. While the sun may feel amazing and is crucial for your body, too much of it can lead to severe problems such as skin cancer. Since May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month there’s no better time than now to start examining that mole to see if it is cancerous.

Many skin cancers emerge from existing moles or in the form of new moles, so it is important to constantly monitor your skin. Skin cancer and melanomas sound scary, but they are actually quite treatable if caught early enough.

Remember, only a doctor can diagnose your mole as cancerous! If you have any doubts or are afraid to go to the doctor, ask your home health nurse for more information. He or she can examine the area in question and recommend what you should do. If necessary, your nurse can help you get in contact with a dermatologist. Our nurses are trained in recognizing signs of skin cancer and may be able to help alleviate your fears.

One easy way to remember the signs of melanoma is the acronym ABCDE. Here are a few tips for you to determine whether or not your mole is cancerous:

A – Asymmetry

melanoma

skincancer.org

Normal moles should be mostly symmetrical, meaning that if you divide the mole in half, both sides look similar. If you notice that your mole is not symmetrical, it may be a sign of melanoma.

B – Border

melanoma

skincancer.org

A normal mole should have a smooth, even border. Melanomas tend to have a jagged edge and look very uneven.

C – Color

melanoma

skincancer.org

Normal moles are generally a solid brown color without any variations or different colored areas. Melanomas, however, can have a variety of colors throughout the mole, including brown, tan, black, red, white, or blue.

D – Diameter

melanoma

skincancer.org

Normal moles don’t usually get too large, staying smaller than the diameter of an eraser on a pencil (about 1/4″). Melanomas can begin small but usually grow in size and are typically larger than a pencil eraser.

E – Evolving

melanoma

skincancer.org

Normal moles typically don’t change too much over time. Melanomas usually evolve, which is how all of these signs become noticeable. Other changes that can occur include size, shape, color, elevation, bleeding, itching, or crusting.

When examining your skin for cancerous moles, use a full-length mirror to assist you. Begin either at the top or bottom of your body, and be sure to check crevices between toes and fingers, as well as behind your knees and groin. Keep track of any moles you already have so that you can know if they begin to change over time. Taking photos or measurements helps to verify any changes that occur. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends performing a head-to-toe examination of yourself at least once a month. Your nurse or home health aide can assist you in this examination – just ask!

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Preventing Falls in the Home: Exercises

Preventing Falls in the Home: Exercises

Part 2 in a series. Click here to read part 1 on Home Modifications and part 3 on Medications.

Many seniors become more sedentary as they get older. Whether it’s due to arthritis, lack of energy, or retirement, this change in lifestyle can have drastic consequences, falls being one of them. Being less active leads to a decrease in physical strength and coordination, which is one of the main causes of falls. By following a regular exercise routine, seniors can drastically decrease their chances of falling and improve their independence.

An “exercise routine” does not mean a senior needs to hit the gym and start lifting weights. Balance and flexibility are just as important as physical strength for fall prevention. These often overlooked areas provide stability when walking. Seniors who perform balance exercises are more likely to stay upright, maintain their equilibrium, anticipate obstacles, and react appropriately when caught off-guard.

The important thing is that seniors get 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week. This can be broken up into two 15 minute sessions throughout the day if 30 full minutes at a time is too daunting. Try enjoyable activities that will not be a burden to complete, such as Tai Chi, water exercises, walking, yoga, or stretching. Many of these have the added benefits of socializing with others.

Always consult with your physical therapist or occupational therapist before beginning a new routine. Be sure to ask if any of the following exercises could work to help you prevent falling.

Exercises for Fall Prevention

Half Squats

Instead of a full squat, simply bend your knees as far as you can go. Once you bend slightly, straighten your legs while keeping your feet flat on the floor.

Heel Lifts

While standing, slowly shift your weight onto your toes, letting your heels lift in the air. Lower them back to the floor and center your balance.

Toe Lifts

Shift your weight back onto your heels so that your toes come off of the floor. Slowly roll back to center, keeping your hips straight as possible.

Single Limb Stance

Using a chair for balance, lift one leg so that you are balancing on the other. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch to the other leg.

Knee Raises

A bit more advanced than the single limb stance, this time try lifting a knee to hip level and holding it for five seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

Side Leg Raise

Slowly lift one leg out sideways, holding it for five seconds. Repeat on the other side. Once this becomes easy, try sideways walking for a few strides.

Stepping Up

While holding onto a rail, go up and down a single step. Practice leading with the other foot and repeat several times.

Standing Feet Together

Stand at attention with good posture, feet together. Focus on maintaining balance for 10 seconds and try to keep swaying to a minimum.

Sit to Stand

From a sitting position, stand up slowly, keeping your knees slightly apart. For increased difficulty, cross your arms in front of your chest. Lower yourself back into the chair slowly, and repeat.

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