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  • People With Chronic Health Conditions Have Increased Flu Risks

    People of all ages with chronic health conditions should get a flu shot every season, as soon as the vaccine is available in their community.

    The CDC urges the millions of Americans with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, stroke, or heart or lung disease to get a flu vaccine. A chronic health condition, even if it’s well managed, increases a person’s risk of serious illness from the flu. This could result in a sudden and costly trip to the hospital—or even death.

    “We have known for years that the flu is a serious disease, especially for people with certain chronic health conditions,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Last season, nearly 92 percent of adults hospitalized with flu had a long-term health condition, as did about 53 percent of children sent to the hospital.

    Health conditions that increase the risk of flu-related problems include:

    • Asthma and chronic lung disease

    • Brain and central nervous system conditions

    • Heart disease

    • Blood disorders

    • Diabetes, kidney and other endocrine and metabolic disorders

    • Liver disorders

    • Weakened immune system

    • People under 19 years old and on long-term aspirin therapy

    • Obesity

    The chronic conditions most reported for adults sent to the hospital with flu include heart disease (37 percent), metabolic disorders such as diabetes (36 percent), chronic lung diseases (26 percent) and asthma (21 percent). For children, the most frequent conditions (obesity not included) include asthma (20 percent), brain and nervous system disorders (13 percent) and chronic lung diseases other than asthma (6.3 percent).

    The flu can also make chronic health conditions worse. For example, people with asthma may be more likely to experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and if people with congestive heart failure get sick with the flu, their condition could become even worse.

    The message is clear: People with chronic health conditions should get a flu shot every season as soon as vaccine is available in their community. This season’s flu vaccine protects against the viruses most likely to cause the flu this year. Flu vaccines have been given for decades. They’re safe and can’t give you the flu. Close family members and caregivers also need to get vaccinated to reduce the risk of spreading the flu to those at high risk. People with chronic conditions should not get the nasal spray.

    Flu vaccine is offered in many locations. Use the vaccine finder to find flu vaccine near you. You may also find more information about flu and the vaccine by visiting the CDC online or calling 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

    Posted in Independent Living, Knowledge Center, Lifestyle, Wellness | Tagged , , , , ,

  • SGV Goes Hawaiian!

    On October 9, St. George Village residents and family members dined and danced the night away at a Hawaiian Luau. Guests were welcomed with leis and a warm “Aloha!” before enjoying Mai Tais during Hawaiian Happy Hour. The Hawaiian dinner buffet was followed by a performance of traditional hula dancing by representatives from the Kele’s Pacific Paradise troupe.

    Afterward, guests were invited to participate in hula dancing. The men even rolled up their pants legs, donned hula skirts and danced to the beat! It was a memorable evening of food, friendship and fun.

    Posted in Independent Living, Lifestyle, Residents Corner | Tagged , , ,

  • Promoting Improved Quality of Life for Older Georgians

    One of the highlights of the Summit was celebrating a declaration from Gov. Nathan Deal, designating September 26, 2013 as "Culture Change Day in Georgia."

    Fifteen St. George Village care partners and two of the community’s residents attended the 6th Annual Culture Change Summit on Sept. 26. The purpose of the Summit is to bring together interested parties for a discussion of how to effectively change the way people think about seniors and the aging process.

    Keynote speaker and a “Regulator turned Educator” Carmen Bowman spoke to conference attendees about her experience as a nursing home surveyor and discussed how to make senior care communities feel less institutional and more like home for residents.

    St. George Village was well represented, with care partners from Culinary, Dietary, Skilled Nursing (Treasures of Lakeview), Personal Care (The Springs), and Independent Living attending. SGV Social Worker Meredith Swinford participated in a Speakers Panel, where she shared the progress St. George Village has made on its Person-Centered Care journey.

    One of the highlights of the day was celebrating a declaration from Gov. Nathan Deal, designating September 26, 2013 as “Culture Change Day in Georgia.”

    Posted in Independent Living, Knowledge Center, Lifestyle, News, Partnerships, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

  • Fighting Alzheimer’s on Foot!

    The St. George Village Crusaders participated in the 2013 Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Atlantic Station on September 28, 2013. Together, St. George Village residents, their families, and SGV care partners raised over $6,300 for the Alzheimer’s Association.

    During the year, SGV holds two additional major fundraisers for the Alzheimer’s Association. Residents, their families and friends, and SGV staff can “Sponsor a Flag” in the annual Flag Display on Memorial Day weekend, in honor of or in memory of a loved one. And on Casual Fridays, care partners can make a $5 donation in exchange for the casual comfort of wearing jeans to work.

    To learn more about the mission to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease, visit the Alzheimer’s Association online.

     

    Posted in Independent Living, Knowledge Center, Partnerships, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

  • Home Testing For AFib Patients

    You can save time and trouble testing your blood at home.

    If you or someone you know is on blood thinners and tired of traveling to a clinic for a clotting time test, you may be relieved to learn about a much more convenient option: testing yourself at home, on your fingertip.

    Many people with atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat, known as “AFib”) or other conditions that can lead to blood clots have to be on lifelong treatment with anticoagulant medications such as Coumadin (warfarin) to help “thin” their blood. Since diet, stress and other factors make patients react differently to warfarin, they need to have their clotting time tested regularly. That can involve a lot of time and hassle to travel to a lab, clinic or doctor’s office.

    The easy alternative—testing less often than your doctor recommends—is not a good or safe option. Checking your clotting time at regular intervals allows your doctor to make sure you are on the right dose of warfarin: Too low and it might not effectively prevent clots; too high and your blood could get too thin. Both can lead to serious complications, such as a stroke or uncontrolled bleeding.

    So it’s essential to have a regularly scheduled test that measures the time it takes for your blood to clot (Prothrombin Time, often reported as an International Normalized Ratio; hence the moniker “PT/INR test”).

    The real question is: where?

    The traditional way to get a PT/INR test is to have your blood drawn at a clinic or doctor’s office and sent to a lab, which may take several days. Now, however, there’s Patient Self-Testing (PST). You can test at home, at work or wherever you happen to be, right on your fingertip. You simply prick your finger, place a drop of blood on a test strip and wait about a minute for a small handheld meter to give you the result.

    Your health care team will still be closely involved with your care and anticoagulation treatment. You call in your results or enter them online right after you test, and you make office visits as directed by your doctor to monitor your testing and make therapy adjustments.

    But PST offers so much more flexibility and convenience that it can make a world of difference in how you feel about testing. In one study, 77 percent of the warfarin patients preferred the convenience of self-testing over testing at a clinic.

    Studies also show that patients who self-test tend to test more often, so they stay in the proper therapeutic range longer than patients who are monitored less often by a doctor. The longer you stay in range, the lower your chances of having an adverse event, like a stroke or even death.

    If you’re considering PST for yourself or someone you care for, talk with your doctor to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your lifestyle. You should be motivated to test, physically able to perform the test (after training), and responsible to follow your doctor’s orders for how often to test and how to report your results.

    The next step will be for your doctor to write a prescription and connect you with a PST service provider that can supply the meter and the necessary face-to-face training from a certified professional. The provider can also help you with ordering supplies, reporting results and filing insurance paperwork, and can even send you gentle reminders to help you stay on your testing schedule and keep your therapy on track.

    The costs associated with self-testing may be reimbursable through Medicare or a private insurer, depending on your diagnosis and medical coverage.

    Research shows that nearly two out of three AFib patients who are not testing at home don’t even know it’s an option. So friends and family can be a big help by sharing this information. To request a PST patient information kit or to learn more about potential coverage for PST through Medicare or private insurance, call (888) 601-0229 or visit www.TestWithCoaguChek.com.

    Posted in Independent Living, Knowledge Center, Lifestyle, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , ,

  • How the Affordable Care Act Affects Your Tax Return

    New health care laws may affect your taxes but do-it-yourself tax programs can help.

    In addition to significant health insurance changes, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 included tax law changes. Several of those changes will impact 2013 federal tax returns, due April 15, 2014.

    “Online tax preparation solutions like TaxACT will cover all the tax implications of the Affordable Care Act plus hundreds of other tax law changes,” said TaxACT spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. “All you have to do is answer simple questions. The program does the math and completes the tax forms for you.”

    The tax law changes in the health care act, also known as “Obamacare,” for 2013 returns include:

    • Reporting health insurance premiums, flexible spending beyond payroll deductions and other premiums paid by employees and their employers. “Simply enter the amount in Box 12 with Code DD on your Form W-2 when prompted by the tax program,” said Dolmage. “You’re providing information only; it won’t change your taxable income.”

    • Higher threshold for deducting medical expenses. The threshold for itemizing medical expenses increases to 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). The threshold for taxpayers age 65 and older remains at 7.5 percent. Tax software will calculate the deduction based on medical ex­penses entered.

    • 3.8 percent tax on net investment income. Individuals and heads of household with an AGI of $200,000+, married couples filing separately with an AGI of $125,000+, and couples filing jointly with an AGI of $250,000+ must pay the tax. Answer a few questions about investment income and your tax program will do the rest.

    • Additional 0.9 percent Medi­care tax on wages and compensation in excess of $200,000. Taxpayers in those same AGI ranges are subject to the additional Medicare tax. It’s automatically withheld from employee wages, with the total amount provided in Box 6 of Form W-2. The tax is calculated for business owners or self-employed using figures on Schedule SE.

    The health insurance requirement begins to have implications on 2014 income tax returns (due April 2015). If you have health insurance, your online tax solution will guide you through the simple process of reporting it on your tax return. If you don’t have health insurance for a total of three or more months in 2014, you may pay a penalty that’s reported and calculated on your return. Tax programs will calculate the amount based on the number of uninsured individuals in your household and household income.

    Uninsured individuals can shop and apply for health insurance through online “marketplaces,” also called “exchanges,” starting October 1, 2013. States will have their own marketplaces, use the federal government’s Health Insurance Marketplace, or have a hybrid of the two. Enrollment closes March 31, 2014.

    If you don’t have access to minimum required employer-provided insurance and purchase insurance through a marketplace, you may qualify for a tax credit. The money can be used to pay for out-of-pocket expenses such as de­duc­tibles, co-payments and co-insurance. Eligibility and amounts are based on the cost of marketplace premiums and your household size and income. The credit will be paid directly to the health insurance company. If you elect to receive a lesser credit or no credit at all, you can claim the refundable credit on your 2014 tax return.

    Whether you have a simple or complex situation, TaxACT makes it easy to navigate the tax implications of the Affordable Care Act anytime, anywhere. Prepare, print and e-file your federal taxes free at www.taxact.com/afford able-care-act. Visit the Health Insurance Marketplace for information about insurance op­tions.

     

    Posted in Independent Living, Knowledge Center, Lifestyle, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

  • The Empowerment of Restored Hearing

    Audrey Hall, pictured here with her daughter, Cindy Grey, says that hearing aids have restored her ability to communicate with friends and family.

    Audrey Hall says that her children are to thank for her ability to hear these days.

    “The kids were wonderful — they made me do it!” she laughs. But Audrey has no regrets when she talkes about the hearing devices that allow her to once again actively participate in the world around her.

    Audrey found herself in a growing number of situations where she could not hear, such as being at a meal in the dining room with friends. And her children finally convinced her that she was missing out on a lot by not being able to hear.

    “Being able to communicate is so important,” says Audrey’s daughter, Cindy Grey, who took her mother to be evaluated by an audiologist.

    Audrey was fitted with Lyric® extended wear hearing aids. Placed deep in the ear canal where they are virtually invisible to others, the devices are worn 24 hours a day for months at a time, even during activities like showering, exercising and sleeping. This type of device works well for Audrey, who also has macular degeneration, which is responsible for her declining vision.

    “The Lyric hearing aids are wonderful for someone who can’t see well and would have trouble replacing batteries in another type of hearing aid,” she explains. “I never take these out of my ears.”

    Audrey has enjoyed her Lyric hearing aids for the past two years. She goes in to the audiologist’s office about every three months for replacements, but doesn’t have the daily hassle of remembering to put her hearing aids in, nor does she have to worry about replacing the batteries.

    With a family that includes her two children, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren as well as a host of friends at St. George Village, Audrey is pleased to be able to communicate and enjoy hearing them again.

    “I can’t say enough [good things] about my hearing aids,” says Audrey. “You just get to the point where you have to hear.”

    If you believe you have hearing loss, consult an audiologist. Audiologists hold graduate or
    doctorate degrees from accredited universities, are licensed, and are trained to detect, diagnose, manage and nonmedically treat hearing disorders.

    To learn more about Lyric Extended Wear Hearing Aids, call 1.866.964.8450 or visit Lyric.

    Posted in Knowledge Center, Lifestyle, Residents Corner, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

  • Improving Relationships by Aiding Communication

    What did you say? Can you repeat that, please? Hearing loss makes communication a challenge, which, unfortunately, may put relationships in peril. Feelings of anger, frustration and resentment are often experienced by those suffering from hearing loss, as well as by spouses, family members and friends who are constantly barraged with requests to repeat themselves or talk louder.

    With millions of people affected by hearing loss, according to the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), there are, no doubt, a significant number of relationships suffering from a lack of communication. And while the best way to treat hearing loss is with a hearing aid, the AAA also cites that only one out of every five adults who needs a hearing aid actually wears one.

    Do you or someone you know show any of the signs below? Hearing loss could be affecting your relationships:
    • Your hearing is muffled and you ask your family members or friends to repeat constantly.
    • Your other half is covering his or her ears because the TV is too loud and you still can’t hear it.
    • You have difficulty understanding what your partner is saying in public spaces.
    • When there are competing voices or background noise, you cannot distinguish the specific words.
    • You have begun avoiding conversation and social interaction.

    All of the above situations can cause depression and isolation. A good course of action to pursue is a hearing test and trying a hearing aid to be sure the depression is not hearing-related.

    For more information on hearing loss, try these online resources:
    www.mdhearingaid.com
    www.nihseniorhealth/gov/hearingloss
    www.hearingloss.org

    Posted in Independent Living, Knowledge Center, Lifestyle, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , ,

  • There’s No Age Limit on Staying Active and Loving Life

    Active and loving life in her 90s, Mary Shern’s career includes an acting stint on radio soaps, a long career in real estate and authoring several books.

    “I like the companionship. You always feel like you have friends here,” says Mary Shern, who moved to St. George Village in 2006. “It reminds me a little bit of living in the dorm in college — you can borrow whatever you need!”

    That youthful college spirit is still quite evident in Mary’s vivacious, enthusiastic personality. The nonagenarian makes use of SGV’s indoor pool as often as possible, serves on the community’s food committee, has produced a couple of the Villagers shows and participates in the Great Decisions program…and also has just completed a soon-to-be-published book on the subject of being 90!

    Mary’s life is a testament to the term “active aging.” Growing up in New York, she began working when she was just a teen.

    “I started out in show biz, acting on radio soap operas. My first role was on the show, ‘Pepper Young’s Family’ — Burgess Meredith was Pepper! Later, I had a role on ‘When a Girl Marries,’” she says. “Then, I did an interview show for a while and years later, when I was living in Hawaii, I had a real estate show on Sunday afternoons called ‘The House Detective.’”

    It was in New York as a young woman that Mary met and married her husband, a real estate developer…and that led to her second career as a realtor and a side job as an author.
    “I was a real estate broker with my own company, teaching the business to agents who needed their licenses. I had my own style of teaching, so I wrote my own textbooks,” she explains. “I published three of those.”

    She also wrote a novel that she says was “just happenstance. The Women’s Real Estate Association wanted me to write about how a housewife could get into the real estate business once her children were in school.”

    Mary lived in Hawaii for 18 years before moving to Atlanta, where two of her children live, and where she continued working in real estate.

    “At that time, the market in Atlanta was still pretty good,” she says. “I ran a real estate school and did a lot of speaking engagements and traveling.”

    Finally, at the age of 90, Mary decided to retire. But that didn’t mean she retired to an easy chair. She wrote an autobiography just for her family, and then moved on to write the new book in progress.

    “The books weren’t a big part of my career; they were more like an ancillary occupation at the time. But writing did become a kind of compulsion for me,” she laughs. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll do it, though.”

    Posted in Independent Living, Lifestyle, Residents Corner | Tagged , , , , ,

  • Important Medication Tips For Seniors

    Should you be taking the medications you’re taking? If you’re 65 or older, that’s an important question to ask yourself and your healthcare provider. Why? Because some commonly prescribed medications can actually be harmful for older adults.

    As you get older, your body changes. These changes can in­crease the chances that you might have side effects from certain drugs. For example, your liver or kidneys may not function quite as well as when you were younger, so your body can’t pro­cess medications in the same way. This can lead to a build-up of the drug in your system, which can increase the risk of side effects such as falls, a drop in blood pressure or heart rate, drowsiness, or confusion.

    Many older adults have two or more health problems that require multiple medications and treatments. Because of this, older adults are more likely to experience potentially harmful interactions between their prescriptions. In fact, every year, one in three adults 65 and older has one or more harmful reactions to medications they are taking.

    “Older adults and their caregivers need to take an active role in managing their medications,” says Cathy Alessi, M.D., a physician who specializes in the care of older adults and is the president of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS). “They need to ask questions of their doctor, nurse, physician assistant, or pharmacist, and read the information that comes with their medications. All medications have side effects, even those sold over-the-counter. That’s why patients should discuss the risks and benefits of any medication with their healthcare pro­vider before deciding which ones are right for them.”

    What should you do to lower your odds of having harmful medication side effects or drug interactions? Here are five tips from the American Geriatrics Society:

    1. Bring a list of all the medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter drugs you’re taking to every medical appointment. The list should include the dosages you take and how often you take them. Be sure your emergency contact person or caregiver has an up-to-date copy of the list.

    2. If you notice a new health problem or symptom after starting a new medication, you may be having a harmful drug reaction. Tell your healthcare provider right away. If you have a serious reaction, such as difficulty breathing or swelling in your throat, call 911 and go to the emergency room immediately.

    3. Fill your prescriptions at the same pharmacy and get to know your local pharmacist. Your pharmacist’s job is to be aware of all the medications you’re taking. Most pharmacies use computer systems that alert the pharmacist to possible drug interactions.

    4. Once or twice a year, ask your primary healthcare provider to review your list of medications, supplements, and vitamins. Ask whether you still need to take each one, and at its current dose. There may be times when your provider will decide to stop some of your medications or adjust the doses. Just remember, though, that you should never change the dose or stop taking any medication without first consulting your provider.

    5. Whenever a healthcare professional prescribes a new medication, changes a dosage, or stops prescribing a drug you’ve been prescribed, ask for an explanation. It’s important that you understand these changes in your care.

    To help healthcare providers care for older adults who take multiple medications, the AGS has published a list of medications that may cause harmful side effects in older people when taken alone or in combination. In the healthcare industry this list is known as the “Beers List,” or “Beers Criteria,” and is named after the late Dr. Mark Beers, a geriatric medicine specialist who originated the list in 1991.

    For more information about how to safely manage your medications, visit www.healthinaging.org, the website of the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging.

    Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider About Your Medications:

    • Why are you prescribing this particular medication?

    • Are there other medications that might be safer or more ­effective?

    • What are the potential side effects? Which ones are serious enough to call you or 911?

    • How will I know if the medication is working?

    • Does this medication interact with any other drugs I’m taking?

    • Are there any dietary restrictions I should follow?

    Posted in Independent Living, Knowledge Center, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , ,