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Tag Archive: older people

  • 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 , , , , ,

  • 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 , , , , , ,

  • “Grape” Ideas For More Healthful Eating

    Cooking and baking with 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes is easy, delicious and healthful.

    A delightful way to enjoy wholesome eating can start with your packing your plate with produce, including a dynamite little fruit—the Concord grape. Concord grapes are bold in taste and pack quite a nutritious punch. They can be enjoyed as 100% grape juice or in simple, healthy and flavor-packed recipes.

    Thanks to the Concord grape, 100% grape juice can help support a healthy heart. According to Alton Brown, spokesperson for Welch’s and Food Network star, food historian and scientist, “Welch’s presses the entire Concord grape, skin, seed, pulp and all, and that releases heart-healthy plant nutrients called polyphenols.”

    Many of the polyphenols in Concord grapes are the same as those found in wine. In fact, you can even use 100% grape juice instead of sweet wine in a variety of recipes.

    There are many ways to get your share of the goodness of Concord grapes. 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes can be enjoyed in a glass as a nutritious beverage and can easily be incorporated into recipes for desserts, low-fat salad dressings, marinades and more. This tasty ingredient may not only enhance the flavor of your favorite dishes, it can add a boost of heart-healthy purple fruit to your day.

    Here’s one easy (and delicious) way to add this one-of-a-kind fruit to your menu:

    Poached Pears in Grape Juice

    1-½ cups Welch’s 100% Grape Juice made with Concord grapes

    2 cinnamon sticks

    2 strips of orange rind

    4 pears, peeled with stems remaining

    • In a medium saucepan, bring grape juice, cinnamon and orange rind to a boil.

    • Place pears standing in saucepan and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

    • Turn or spoon juice over pears as they simmer. Remove pears and let cool.

    • Reduce sauce by boiling down to about 1⁄3 cup.

    • Spoon sauce over pears and keep chilled.

    • Serve pears by themselves or with light whipped cream.

    You can find more facts, tips and recipes to share the goodness of Concord grapes with your family at www.welchs.com.

    (Courtesy of Welch’s)

    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 , , , , , , , , , ,

  • 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 , , , , , ,

  • 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 , , , , , ,

  • Avoid Financial Exploitation With These Tips

    Older Americans should know that while financial abuse is believed to cost seniors an estimated $3 billion annually, you can help prevent it and protect yourself.

    Signs To Watch For

    • You, family, friends or your bank notice financial activity you don’t recall, that is not consistent with your financial history or that is beyond your means.

    • Your caregiver or beneficiary refuses to use your funds for necessary care and treatment or is threatening to place you in a long-term care facility unless you give him or her control of your finances.

    • It appears that food or medication has been manipulated or withheld so you become weak and compliant.

    Steps You Can Take

    • If you feel threatened and believe you are in immediate danger, contact law enforcement.

    • Talk with family members, friends and trusted professionals to plan your financial future. If managing your daily finances is difficult, consider engaging a money manager.

    • Talk with a lawyer about creating a durable power of attorney for asset management, a revocable or living will, trust and health care advance directives.

    • Never send anyone personal information to collect a prize or reward.

    • Don’t be pressured or intimidated into quick decisions by a salesperson or contractor.

    • Don’t sign any documents you don’t completely understand without first talking it over with an attorney or a family member you trust.

    • Never provide personal information (Social Security, credit card, ATM PIN number) over the phone unless you placed the call and know with whom you are speaking.

    • Tear up or shred credit card receipts, bank statements, solicitations and financial records before disposing of them.

    • If you hire someone to help you in your home, be sure that person has been properly screened, with criminal background checks completed.

    • If you suspect you or someone you know is being exploited, call (800) 677-1116 to get connected with the state Adult Protective Services or other appropriate aging resource.

    For more information on financial exploitation, you can request a free brochure from the Eldercare Locator, “Protect Your Pocketbook: Tips to Avoid Financial Exploitation.” Call (800) 677-1116; the brochure can also be downloaded at www.eldercare.gov. The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging and is administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a).

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

  • Eat Safer…and Ward Off Tummy Troubles

    Thoroughly rinsing fresh produce before eating it is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick.

    It’s been making headlines across the country this week: the norovirus, first spotted in Australia, is now sweeping the U.S. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), contaminated food is one of the primary culprits in spreading the virus.

    Did you know that 76 million people get sick from food borne illnesses in the United States every year? As we age, our bodies change – including our immune systems — making older people more susceptible to food borne illness and food poisoning.

    The good news is there are many things seniors — and people of any age — can do to prevent the spread of illnesses such as norovirus and food poisoning:

    • Practice good hygiene, especially before handling food. Washing your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water is one of the best ways to ward off viral germs. Hand sanitizers, while not quite as effective as actual hand-washing, are helpful and can be easily stored in your car or purse.

    • Thoroughly rinse and dry fresh produce before consuming.

    • If you are ill, don’t prepare food for others.

    • Don’t consume any raw or undercooked shellfish.

    And here are some food safety tips to keep in mind when dining out in restaurants:

    • Ask questions about the way the food is prepared.

    • Ask whether or not food contains uncooked ingredients, such as eggs, poultry or fish.

    • Ask the server or chef if the food has been cooked to a safe minimum temperature.

    • Avoid buffets, which may contain undercooked foods or have foods that have been at room temperature too long.

    • Observe your food when it is served; if it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t!

    • If you get a “doggy bag”, refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours after purchase.

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