Aging is a risk factor for many serious conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and most of the major causes of mortality in adults. In addition, there are two other age-related conditions that impact our quality of life, even though they do not directly cause death.
As we age, we tend to lose muscle, and it is also common for our bones to weaken, causing osteopenia or osteoporosis. The combination of weakened bones and loss of muscle mass make it far more likely for an older person to fall. And the most common way for a senior to lose their independence is through a fall.
Obviously, a fall can cause various degrees of damage. Someone who falls might sustain a relatively minor injury, like a bruise, or a far more serious injury, like a broken hip. In some instances, a fall might lead to radical damage, such as paraplegia, in which the entire lower part of the body becomes paralyzed.
Although paraplegia is a seemingly hopeless situation, a team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and the University of California, Los Angeles, have just devised a new strategy for helping paraplegics.
In a recent paper, published in the journal Nature Medicine, The researchers were able to implant an electrode in an individual's epidural space, the region that contains the spinal cord and cerebrospinal fluid.
The research reported the astounding success of a surgery performed by Dr. Kendall Lee, of the Mayo Clinic, on a paraplegic. Dr. Lee successfully implanted an electrode in the epidural space, connected to a pulse generator. The pulse generator itself was accessible wirelessly via an external controller; its settings were adjustable so that the patient could find the setting optimal settings for them.
After rehabilitation, the patient regained the ability to walk the length of a football field on his own, using a walker. He was also able to walk for a duration of 16 minutes with only slight assistance.
Although the patient's ability to walk only occurred while electronic stimulation to the spinal cord was on — meaning that complete paralysis resumed when the electronic stimulation was turned off — this medical experiment offers new hope for those suffering from paraplegia as well as new insights about the condition.
Principal investigator Dr. Lee explained the significance of this breakthrough, explaining, "This is teaching us that the networks of neurons below a spinal cord injury still can function after paralysis."
At the Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers, we can’t wait until we see paraplegics walk. In the meantime, we will offer them, and all the rest of our residents, the very best of care in the most appropriate and patient-centered environment. This means always listening to our residents and patients and respecting their capabilities, while helping them to achieve maximum functionality and independence. And always maintaining the highest professional and quality standards in our staff and our facilities. Our 25 years of excellent care have led to us being awarded a Best Nursing Homes award by US News & World Today, a 5-Star rating by USA Today, and an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, among many other awards.
Contact us by clicking here to see which of our three facilities will best meet your needs or the needs of your loved one.
In honor of Heart Health Month, Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers is pleased to present this important information about heart disease in women.
Marketing campaigns have dramatically increased awareness of breast cancer risk. However, what sometimes gets lost is that the biggest risk to women’s health is not breast cancer but heart disease.
In the US, 40,000 women die of breast cancer each year. But ten times as many women — 400,000— die each year of cardiovascular disease, an umbrella term that includes stroke and high blood pressure. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in the US for both men and women.
Heart disease is often thought of as a male problem; in fact, heart disease strikes men earlier than it strikes women. The average age for a first heart attack in a man is 66; in a woman it is 70.
But that does not mean that women are less likely than men to suffer the consequences of heart attacks. More women die of heart disease each year than men. And even at younger ages, heart disease is more deadly for a woman than it is for a man. A woman who has a heart attack when she is under 50 is twice as likely to die of it than a man who has a heart attack under 50.
Given the overall risk of heart disease, as well as its increased mortality rate in younger women, women need to increase their awareness of this disease.
The five biggest risk factors for heart disease are the same for both sexes: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, and family history of cardiovascular disease. However, according to the Harvard Medical School, some of these risks affect women differently than they do men.
High cholesterol In premenopausal women, estrogen helps protect against heart disease; it both increases their HDL and reduces their LDL cholesterol. However, after menopause this protection is gone, and, in fact, postmenopausal women tend to have higher levels of total cholesterol than men the same age.
Diabetes Female diabetics have a higher risk of heart disease than males. Although men typically develop heart disease at a younger age than women, diabetic women tend to develop heart disease at the same age as men.
Smoking Female smokers are more likely than men who smoke to have heart attacks.
The bottom line: women need to take their cardiovascular health more seriously. By doing so, they can avoid falling prey to the Number One Killer of women today.
At the Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers, we offer the very best cardiac care in a patient-centered environment. This means following our residents’ health carefully, listening to them, and respecting their capabilities, while helping them to achieve maximum functionality and independence — and always maintaining the highest professional and quality standards in our staff and our facilities. Our 25 years of excellent care have led to us being awarded a Best Nursing Homes award by US News & World Today, a 5-Star rating by USA Today, and an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, among many other awards.
Contact us by clicking here to see which of our three facilities will best meet your needs or the needs of your loved one.
Diabetes causes a range of complications. Between one-third and one-half of diabetics will suffer from peripheral neuropathy, nerve damage that typically affects the feet and legs. Combined with the reduced circulation that is also a common complication of diabetes, even a minor foot issue can quickly become a medical emergency for a diabetic, one which could possibly require amputation. For this reason, diabetic foot care should be high on the list of diabetic self-care.
But there is good news. According to a study at the Regenstrief Institute for Health Care in Indianapolis, diabetics who practiced proper foot care can reduce their risk of serious foot problems by nearly 60%.
If you are diabetic, follow these 9 tips to make sure your feet get the care they need to keep them healthy.
If you have diabetes, these tips will keep you on your feet for years to come.
Regency post-acute, rehab and nursing centers are experts in helping diabetics live their best lives. We offer a full continuum of care, including exceptional short-term rehabilitation, sub-acute care, long-term nursing, a range of specialty programs and complex clinical services, hospice care and temporary respite care. Our compassionate, personalized approach, has established our long-standing and unparalleled reputation for excellence.
Call us by clicking here to see how we can help you or your loved one.
Winter is a magical time: cuddling up indoors with hot cocoa and marshmallows while the snow gently falls outside. But it can also be a dangerous time, especially for the seniors in your life. Winter presents challenges to all of us, but seniors living alone are particularly vulnerable.
Help them stay safe this winter by talking to them about these dangers and how to avoid them:
Anyone can slip and fall on icy sidewalks, but the repercussions are more dangerous — and often deadly —for older people. As you age, recovery from broken bones or head trauma gets harder, and the likelihood of complications grows dramatically. A fractured hip, for example, is a major injury for a senior, and often leads to deteriorating health and increasing illness.
Seniors should avoid going out alone in icy conditions. If you must venture outdoors, wear sturdy shoes with non-skid soles to provide good traction. Make sure to salt the area around your home, or have someone salt it for you. If you use a cane, check it for winter-readiness before winter weather sets in. This includes making sure the tip is not worn down, and that it fits well in your hand.
Shoveling snow, especially deep or frozen snow, is equivalent to intense exercise. Going out to shovel without preparing can be just as dangerous as launching an extreme workout without first warming up. Seniors should walk or jog in place for 5–10 minutes before beginning to shovel snow. Dressing in layers helps you stay warm at the beginning, and allows you to shed layers as the strenuous work warms you up. Make sure to take breaks often, going inside to warm up and let your heart rate settle. In addition, drinking enough water before and during the shoveling session is crucial. Dehydration can happen even in the winter, so make sure you stay hydrated.
Seniors are more susceptible to hypothermia than younger people, due to a variety of factors. Certain illnesses, reduced body fat, and slower circulation all contribute to the body’s decreased ability to stay warm. Indoors, keep the thermostat set no lower than 68˚F, with the ideal temperature falling around 70˚F. If your home is drafty or chilly, wear an extra sweater and thick socks.
Outdoors, make sure to bundle up warmly in layers. Wear a heavy coat, warm socks and gloves, and boots if conditions are snowy or slushy. Use earmuffs or a hat to keep your ears warm, and wrap a scarf around your mouth to protect your lungs.
There’s nothing cozier than turning up the heat on a freezing winter evening. But if you use any type of gas heating system, you must have a carbon monoxide detector installed. Test your carbon monoxide detector periodically to ensure it’s active. A model that plugs into an outlet with a battery backup is a good idea for seniors who may forget to check the batteries.
If your carbon monoxide alarm goes off, call the fire department and leave the house immediately.
If you are using any sort of electrical heater or blanket, read the instructions carefully. Some of these products will overheat and cause a fire when kept on for a long time. Newer electric blankets come with built-in sensors to prevent overheating and fires, but older models—generally manufactured before 2001—do not have these safety mechanisms.
Keep clothing and fabrics away from any heating elements or open flames, and use caution around any heating source.
While you should always be prepared for blackouts, you need to be extra-prepared during the winter. Save a stash of warm blankets and sweaters in an easy-to reach place to keep yourself warm if you lose power during a winter storm. Make sure you have flashlights easily accessible and non-perishable food to sustain you while the power is out.
During the winter months, seniors are less likely to leave home. The resulting social isolation, together with reduced Vitamin D, can cause loneliness and depression in many elderly people. Be there for your loved one, drop by to visit, and call them on the phone daily. Consider arranging a rotation of friends and relatives to visit during the cold winter months to alleviate some of the loneliness.
If you feel your loved one is not safe alone during the winter, it may be time to consider alternative options, such as a home-health aide or an assisted living facility.
To read more about staying safe through the cold winter months, check out Regency Nursing and Rehab's winter safety pamphlet here.
The holiday season is a festive time, filled with traditions and warm times spent with family and friends. But for many seniors, this joyous time of year can be spoiled by feelings of sadness. Thinking about how quickly time is passing, frustration at not being able to carry on traditions that had always been a part of their holidays, or remembering loved ones that are no longer with them can all contribute to the holiday blues.
Seasonal blues should be taken just as seriously as any other mood disorder. While some melancholy around the holiday season is normal for seniors, outside help may be necessary if the symptoms don’t go away on their own. Keep an eye out for some of these common symptoms of depression:
Try some of these tips for battling the blues and making the most of your holiday season:
The holidays are a time of family togetherness. Regardless of political, cultural, or religious ideology, caring people put aside their differences to spend time with their family and loved ones.
One of the biggest concerns people have before holiday parties is making conversation with family members. If you have a relative who aggresively brings politics into every conversation, for example, you might feel uncomfortable talking with them. But since this isn't a politics blog, that's not what we're going to talk about today.
If you'll be spending some time with an elderly loved one in the next few weeks, you may be feeling some anxiety about it. Many elderly people become less communicative then they've been in the past, or maybe they've never been chatty. They may have the beginnings of dementia, or advanced hearing loss, making it hard to hold a conversation with them.
Assuming your loved one is intellectually aware and able to talk, here are some great conversation starters to enhance your holidays—or any day:
Asking these questions, listening to the responses, and thoughtfully responding is the greatest gift you can give to your elderly loved one. In addition, it will take care of those holiday worries about long awkward silences between you and your elderly loved one.
Around 100 million American adults suffer from chronic pain. They spend up to billions of dollars in medical treatment and pain relief measures, not to mention the cost of the emotional and mental burden of waking up every morning to another day of constant pain.
There is one method of pain management that is not only basically free, but also provides many other benefits to your physical, emotional, and mental health. And that method is exercising.
It may seem counterintuitive at first—doesn't exercising actually cause pain, especially when you overdo it? But the fact is, the right exercises can reduce or completely eliminate your pain over a period of time.
Let's start this section by reiterating that any new exercise routine—especially when you're in chronic pain—should first be discussed with and cleared by your doctor. Some exercises can cause more harm than good when done incorrectly or too frequently, so make sure your doctor has approved your new routine. You might also want to consider working with a physical therapist or personal trainer who specializes in seniors and pain relief. They can help you get the most out of your pain management routine.
There are three main types of exercises, and each of them can provide different forms of pain relief. These are:
These exercises are often called "cardio" or "aerobic" exercises. These are activities that get your heart pumping at speeds close to its upper limits. The two easiest and low cost cardio workouts are walking and swimming. Walking for half an hour a day, three to five days a week, can help with pain relief, as well as increase your endurance and heart health. Aerobic exercise like walking can also increase production of endorphins, the hormones that boosts your mental health and decreases sensitivity to pain.
Swimming also provides those physiological and psychological improvements, with the added benefit of being accessible for seniors with mobility problems. Swimming is very relaxing, and doesn't put as much stress on your muscles and joints.
Workouts that focus on strengthening can relieve tension and stiffness in the lower back or neck. Stretching can also help you retain balance and muscle flexibility, reducing falls. Here's a simple and quick stretching exercise anyone can do, that can provide great long-term benefits:
Building strength can help you maintain a good posture and reduce strain on your joints and muscles. In the long run, it can go a long way in reducing pain. By doing strengthening exercises, you get the added benefit of reducing your chance of falls and injuries.
Strength exercises are workouts that build strength. These include push-ups, squats, weight traning, and the like. Many of these exercises aren't appropriate for seniors dealing with severe chronic pain, so speak with your doctor about what you should and shouldn't do.
Working with a physical therapist can also ensure you maximize exercise for pain relief in a safe and reliable way. At Regency Nursing, our top-notch physical therapists are experts in senior chronic pain, and which exercise routines are best suited to combat it.
To read more about the benefits of exercising for seniors, check out this article from our other blog: Senior Fitness Guide by Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation
Clinical trials are a form of medical research involving people instead of lab animals. They're the most effective way to evaluate how well a new medical intervention works. The scientists in any new medical breakthrough have to prove their treatment's safety and efficacy in laboratory tests before Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will approve a clinical trial.
On the last day of November and National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, I'm going to squeeze in one more article about Azlheimer's disease, and talk about the importance of clinical trials in finding new treatments and possible cures for Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is fatal in 100 percent of cases, and there is currently no cure. While a lot of research has been done, and we know a whole lot more about the disease than we did 20 years ago, we're still missing the crucial piece: a cure for Alzheimer's Disease.
The Alzheimer's Association has the ambitious goal of no less than ending Alzheimer's. To further that goal, they sponsor dozens of studies and trials every year. Here's what the Alzheimer's Association has to say about clinical trials:
"Without clinical trials, there can be no better treatments, no prevention and no cure for Alzheimer's disease. Scientists work constantly to find enhanced ways to treat diseases, but improved treatments can never become a reality without testing in clinical trials with human volunteers."
Clinical trials are not merely shooting in the dark to find an effective treatment or cure. The FDA only approves a clinical trial to begin recruiting participants when the researchers have shown strong evidence that their new therapy will be at least as effective as the currently available treatments. The scientists also subject their new treatment to rigorous safety tests to make sure it is safe for trial on people.
Every clinical study, even if it fails, advances our knowledge of the disease, its causes, and future cure.
If you or your loved one has Alzheimer's disease, you may be leery about the idea of joining a clinical trial. You're concerned about undergoing treatment that might not work, and you're even more worried about possible side effects.
There are benefits and risks of participating in any clinical trial, and the known risks will be clearly spelled out in the trial's information packet.
Here are some benefits of participating in a clinical trial:
Clinical trials definitely do have risks associated with them. Here are some risks you should be aware of, brought to us by the National Institue on Aging:
If you're unsure about joining a specific Alzheimer's clinical trial, speak with your doctor for a full examination of the risks and benefits.
Most of us have been there. We’ve misplaced our car keys, or forgotten the name of the new receptionist at the doctor’s office.
Sometimes we laugh it off as “senior moments,” while other times we panic and assume it’s the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and we’re just going to get worse.
Hopefully, this article will help you understand when a memory lapse is just a momentary issue, and when it’s cause for concern.
Here are the top 5 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease:
Forgetfulness is a normal part of aging, but when it becomes so frequent or so severe that it disrupts daily life, that’s a sign that something is wrong.
Forgetting important dates or events like your birth date or Thanksgiving Day is one troubling sign. Other common early signs of Alzheimer’s are forgetting recently acquired information and constantly needing things to be repeated.
Don’t worry: forgetting a name or an appointment from time to time is normal and expected, as long as you remember it later.
Your loved one can’t follow a familiar recipe anymore, or is losing track of their regular bills? If they’ve previously managed these tasks just fine, this may be an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Monitor their ability to concentrate, work with numbers, and follow a plan to a successful conclusion. If they continue to have difficulty, take them for an evaluation.
Don’t worry: making a mistake when you’re balancing your checkbook every now and then is not a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease causes intense confusion as it progresses. Early signs are losing track of dates and seasons, as well as the passage of time. It’s concerning if your loved one doesn’t understand when you tell them something will happen “in two weeks.”
Don’t worry: it’s normal to sometimes forget what day of the week it is and need to count backward to remember.
Usually when people misplace something, they can retrace their steps to find it. If you can no longer do that, or you find yourself putting things away in inappropriate places, you should get evaluated for dementia. This can happen more and more frequently as time passes.
Don’t worry: we all tend to misplace things when we’re distracted, and as long as you can find them most of the time, you’re okay.
As daily life gets harder and once familiar tasks and hobbies become more difficult to keep up with, many people with early Alzheimer’s start withdrawing from the people and things they used to enjoy. They may or may not suspect why keeping up with life has suddenly become so difficult, so fear and/or depression may also play a part.
Changing moods and personalities is also an Alzheimer’s symptom, and can accelerate social withdrawal.
Don’t worry: sometimes feeling like you need a break from family or social obligations is normal, and not a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
If you notice these signs of Alzheimer’s in an elderly loved one, or you’re experiencing them yourself, go for a medical examination immediately.
Keep in mind that lack of sleep, stress, and some illnesses can also cause these symptoms. If you are under age 65 and find yourself constantly forgetting important information, misplacing items, and making mistakes, rule out the other possible causes.
Ask yourself: Are you not sleeping enough? Are you under a lot of stress? Have you been feeling sick lately? Are you taking any medications that are known to cause dementia-like symptoms?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these, first try resolving those problems and see if your symptoms go away.
If you’re ever unsure about your symptoms, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
To continue our coverage of Alzheimer's disease this month, we're going to talk about the risk factors of the disease.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, however there are medications available to reduce symptoms. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can start these treatments and maintain your quality of life for as long as possible. Knowing you're at risk and keeping an eye out for the first symptoms can help you get a diagnosis early on. That gives you time to try the different available treatments, get your affairs in order, and make more memories with your loved one.
Are you at higher risk of Alzheimers' disease? Read on to find out.
The first two risk factors are not really something you can control, and they're the two factors that are the most certain. They are:
Current Alzheimer's research indicates that Alzheimer's disease is caused by a mix of genes and other risk factors. These include:
As you can see, there is a strong vascular connection to Alzheimer's disease. That's because the brain has a rich network of blood vessels that nourish our brain cells to keep our most vital organ going. Clearly, the best way to elminate this risk factor is to keep your cardiovascular system as healthy as possible. This involves maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Speak to your doctor for specific guidance based on your health and situation.
You may have heard that aluminum exposure can cause Alzheimer's disease. This is a theory that emerged in the late 1960s as a possible cause of the disease. Studies on the subject have not found any connection between everyday aluminum exposure and Alzheimer's disease, so you can use your aluminum pans without any risk!
Remember that having all the risk factors does not mean you will develop a disease, nor does having none of the risk factors (except age) protect you from Alzheimer's disease. Risk factors just tell you that you have a higher chance of a specific disease, so you can try to reduce those factors you can actually change, and stay vigilent about signs and symptoms.
In our next post, we'll talk about the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease—and what's just a part of normal aging.