Kristen Mauk

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About Kristen Mauk

President/CEO - Senior Care Central, LLC

Guest Blog: Why The Golden Years Are the Best Years of Your Life

Portrait of a happy old couple sitting on quay by sea

For seniors, getting old is the new black. You can ask them yourself. Because according to a recent survey, 68% of seniors never feel offended for being treated like one, while 70.3% feel being called ‘old’ is hardly offensive. The truth is, getting old is blessing – not a curse.

For starters, age brings wisdom. By the time the grey hairs start popping up, you’ve had your fair share of experiences. You’ve likely travelled around a bit, held a few jobs, been through good and bad relationships, started a family, and made some life-changing decisions. But when it comes down it, you’re all the wiser for it. Going forward you can make better, more informed decisions, and even give your two cents to the younger generation.

As you mature, so too will your relationships. You’ll likely cut out the friendships that didn’t mean much, and work on the ones that do. Essentially, you’ll start seeking quality, not quantity, across all areas of your life – which isn’t a bad philosophy to live by. Plus, who said getting old isn’t fun?

Take LATA 65 for example, an art organisation in Portugal that’s destroying age stereotypes in the street art scene. By giving senior citizens the tools and knowledge to create their own stencils, the organisation’s goal is to connect the older and younger generations through art, as well as help the elderly get out and about to engage in contemporary culture.

But that’s just one example of how seniors are making the most of their retirement. What else are they getting up to?

How Aussies are living it up in their golden years

Gone are the days of knitting, card games and staying put. Seniors these days are proving to be one the most lively and radical bunch of seniors to date. According to the Golden Years Report, 85% of seniors consider themselves happy, while 80% are doing the things they really want to do.

In fact, most feel younger than they actually are. This can be attributed to being more physically active, learning new things, travelling to new places, having new experiences, being sociable, and having hobbies.

Seniors are also busting ‘old age’ stereotypes. For example, as technology becomes more prominent in our lives, Aussie seniors are no longer relying on others to show them the ropes. Instead, many are now technically savvy and spend plenty of time online. They also have no problem dressing like younger generations, speaking the same lingo (#YOLO), or even getting tattoos.

While they might not be huge spenders, today’s retirees are also spending more money than earlier generations. So instead of slowing down and disappearing modestly into retirement, they’re choosing to fork out just as much money (sometimes more) on their later lifestyles. And why not? Retirement isn’t an expiry date – it’s an excuse to live life to the fullest.

It’s safe to say, Australian seniors are reinventing the concept of ‘getting older’. They’re not confined to the activities and stereotypes usually associated with old age, and are instead open-minded, tech-savvy and progressive. They’re not just comfortable with the modern world, they’re enthusiastically making the most of it. So if there’s one take home message here, it’s this – there’s still plenty to look forward to.

By |2020-01-20T09:48:55-05:00January 24th, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Guest Blog: Why The Golden Years Are the Best Years of Your Life

Urinary Tract Infection

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Background

Urinary tract infections (UTIs), also called cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), are common among older adults and are more frequent in women. They are a primary cause of urinary incontinence and delirium. Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) are more common among older adults (Fakih et al., 2012) and is mainly attributed to the use of indwelling urinary catheters. Many indwelling catheters are thought to be unnecessary (Cochran, 2007) and one study noted that physicians were often not aware of the purpose for which their patients had a catheter inserted (Saint, Meddings, Calfee, Kowlaski, & Krein, 2009). UTIs have been show to increase morbidity and mortality, length of hospital stay, and cost of hospitalization (Kleinpell, Munro, & Giuliano, 2008). CAUTI is considered preventable and is not reimbursed by Medicare. Therefore, hospitals will largely assume the financial costs for preventable infections of this type.

Risk factors/Signs and symptoms

Several risk factors are associated with UTIs in general. These include being female, having an indwelling urinary catheter, the presence of urological diseases, and hormonal changes associated with menopause in women. Signs and symptoms of UTIs include urinary frequency and burning or stinging felt during voiding. Pain may be felt above the pubic bone, and a strong urge to void but with small amounts of urine expelled. The most significant risk factor for CAUTI is prolonged use of an indwelling catheter. In hospital-acquired UTIs, 75% are associated with the use of an indwelling catheter (CDC, 2012). In women, signs and symptoms of CAUTI may be more severe than those reported by women by patients in the community who do not have an indwelling catheter. Lethargy, malaise, onset or worsened fever, flank pain, and altered mental status have been associated with CAUTI (Hooton et al., 2010).

Diagnosis

A thorough assessment should be done of the patient’s urinary output, including amounts, color, odor, appearance, frequency of voiding, urgency, and episodes of incontinence. A urine specimen should be obtained if UTI is suspected. Laboratory results will show the type of organism causing the infection, and the sensitivity will tell what medication the organism is susceptible to. These results should be reported promptly to the physician or nurse practitioner caring for the patient and so that a diagnosis and treatment plan can be made.

Treatments

Prevention of UTIs is considered a primary nursing strategy. Elderly female patients can be instructed to make lifestyle modifications such as: increasing their fluid intake; emptying the bladder after sexual intercourse; practicing good perineal hygiene, including wiping front to back after toileting; getting enough sleep; and avoiding stress (PubMed Health, 2011). Although many of these common sense strategies are recommended by primary care providers, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support some of them. Many UTIs will clear up on their own, particularly if the person increases oral fluid intake during early symptoms. However, with many older adults, antibiotic treatment may be needed. In general, a course of three 3 days for healthy adults is thought to be sufficient, but for more resistant bacteria, a longer course more than five 5 days may be needed (PubMed Health, 2011). For those with repeated or chronic UTIs, a low dose of antibiotics taken for 6– 12 months may be indicated (Hooton et al., 2010). If the underlying cause is CAUTI, treatment will be more aggressive. Monitor the patient’s temperature at least every 24 hours (Carpenito, 2013). Encourage fluids. Evaluate the necessity of continuing an indwelling catheter if one is in place.

Alternatives to indwelling catheters should be considered for appropriate patients. Intermittent catheterization, if appropriate, is preferred over indwelling catheter use, especially for long- term maintenance of bladder management (CDC, 2009; Hooton et al., 2010). Condom catheters may be an appropriate choice for some males. If an indwelling urinary catheter is necessary, the catheter should be removed as soon as possible, per the physician or nurse practitioner’s orders, to reduce the risk of CAUTI.

Adapted from Mauk, K. L., Hanson, P., & Hain, D. (2014). Review of the management of common illnesses, diseases, or health conditions. In K. L. Mauk’s (Ed.) Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Used with permission.

 

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By |2020-01-20T09:48:22-05:00January 22nd, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Urinary Tract Infection

What is COPD?

Background

COPD Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of diseases resulting in airflow obstruction due to smoking, environmental exposures, and genetics. However, smoking is clearly the most common cause of COPD. The two disorders most commonly included under the umbrella of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Although the disease mechanisms contributing to airflow obstruction is different in these two disorders, most patients demonstrate features of both emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

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In 2008, the CDC recently released a report naming COPD as the third leading cause of death in the United States (National Vital Statistics Reports [NVVS], 2010). There are more than 12 million people in the United States U.S. diagnosed with COPD. However, due to the under diagnosis of the disease, only estimations of the prevalence of COPD are available, which suggest that approximately 24 million people are living with COPD (ALA, 2012). Slightly more females than males are affected, with female smokers having a 13 times greater chance of death from COPD than nonsmoking females (ALA, 2004).

 

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a common COPD among older adults. It results from recurrent inflammation and mucus production in the bronchial tubes. Repeated infections produce blockage from mucus and eventual scarring that restricts airflow. The American Lung Association (2012) stated that about 8.5 million Americans had been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis as of 2005. Females are twice as likely as males to have this problem.

Emphysema

Emphysema results when the alveoli in the lungs are irreversibly destroyed. As the lungs lose elasticity, air becomes trapped in the alveolar sacs, resulting in carbon dioxide retention and impaired gas exchange. More males than females are affected with emphysema, and most (91%) of the 3.8 million Americans with this disease are over the age of 45 (ALA, 2004).

Risk Factors

The major risk factor for COPD is smoking, which causes 80–90% of COPD deaths. Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency is a rare cause of COPD, but can be ruled out through blood tests. Although “COPD is almost 100% preventable by avoidance of smoking” (Kennedy-Malone et al., 2003), environmental factors play a strong role in the incidence of COPD. Approximately 19.2% of people with COPD can link the cause to work exposure, and 31.7% have never smoked (ALA, 2008).
Warning Signs

The signs and symptoms of chronic bronchitis include increased mucus production, shortness of breath, wheezing, decreased breath sounds, and chronic productive cough. Chronic bronchitis can lead to emphysema. Signs and symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance, and cough.

Diagnosis

Persons with COPD often experience a decrease in quality of life as the disease progresses. The shortness of breath so characteristic of these diseases impairs the ability to work and do usual activities. According to a survey by the American Lung Association, “half of all COPD patients (51%) say their condition limits their ability to work [and] . . .” and “. . . limits them in normal physical exertion (70%), household chores (56%), social activities (53%), sleeping (50%), and family activities (46%)” (2004, p. 3). Diagnosis is made through pulmonary function and other tests, and a thorough history and physical.

Treatments

Although there are no easy cures for COPD, older adults can take several measures to improve their quality of life by controlling symptoms and minimizing complications. These include lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation, medications (see below), oxygen therapy, and pulmonary rehabilitation. Older adults should have influenza and pneumonia vaccinations (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, [NHLBI], 2010). Oxygen therapy may be required for some people.

Medications are used to help control symptoms, but they do not change the downward trajectory of COPD that occurs over time as lung function worsens. Typical medications given regularly include bronchodilators through oral or inhaled routes. Antibiotics may be given to fight infections and systemic steroids for acute exacerbations.

In extreme cases, lung transplantation may be indicated. Older persons with severely impaired lung function related to emphysema may be at higher risk of death from these procedures and have poorer outcomes.
Reducing factors that contribute to symptoms, use of medication usages, alternating rest and activity, energy conservation, stress management, relaxation, and the role of supplemental oxygen should all be addressed. Many older adults with COPD find it helpful to join a support group for those who are living with similar problems.

For more information on COPD, visit the American Lung Association:
http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/resources/facts-figures/COPD-Fact-Sheet.html

Adapted from Mauk, K. L., Hanson, P., & Hain, D. (2014). Review of the management of common illnesses, diseases, or health conditions. In K. L.
Mauk’s (Ed.) Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Used with permission.

By |2020-01-20T09:48:05-05:00January 21st, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on What is COPD?

My not-bucket List

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Some people, when they get to be my age, make a bucket list – that is, those activities they would like to do before they die. Well, I decided to make a list of the things I don’t ever care to do and am happy that I haven’t done…so here is my short not-bucket list:

Go sky diving. While this might be one many people’s bucket list, I have no desire to go skydiving. I just can’t imagine that the euphoria at having survived jumping out of plane and relying on a parachute for my life would ever override the sheer terror of the falling feeling. In fact, I would probably have a heart attack and die of fright on the way down.

Own a snake. I hate snakes and would never call one a pet. I would always be worried that it would escape and I would find it in my shoes one day all dried up, or worse yet, that it would curl up in the shower or hide in my closet. A big snake might eat my little dog or cat. Snakes seem like tricky creatures that would give me nightmares. Nope, no snakes for me.

Smoke a cigarette. No, I have never smoked a cigarette. In fact, when I was about 8 years old and my Dad was once smoking a cigar, which he did only occasionally (being more of a pipe man himself), I wanted to be like him and try a smoke. Dad said okay, and told me to take a big deep breath to inhale that delicious cigar smoke. As you might imagine, the fitful coughing after that one drag, combined with his laughter, cured me of ever wanting to smoke anything – thus Dad’s lesson. He did, however, teach me great technique in stuffing his pipe, though not smoking one!

Go bungee jumping. Even if we set aside all the health hazards of having your hips and knees nearly yanked out of their sockets, your pelvis twisted and jolted, or the risks of having a stroke from all the blood rushing to your brain as you hang upside down, this is not appealing at all to me. Those with hiatal hernias or GERD should not put this on their bucket list. Similar to my feelings about sky diving, I just would not trust that the bungee cord would be strong enough or short enough to make it worth the thrill. Even with a go-pro camera to record the event, I’m sure that my screaming would overshadow any future comedic home movies that would come from it.

Get drunk.  I can’t see the attraction of getting drunk and not remembering what you did the night before. I guess that it makes for funny big screen movies, but vomiting all over the carpet and having to clean it up the next day when sober just doesn’t make it onto my list of anything remotely resembling fun. Besides, if I ever got inebriated, I would probably be found dancing on a table in a nightclub, make the evening news, and embarrass my kids to death.

Get a kidney stone.  I have already had one kidney stone and they are definitely not fun. I don’t care to have another, so I drink plenty of water throughout the day. It is true what they say, that the pain can be excruciating and intractable. Kidneys stones should be on the “avoid at all costs” list of everyone.

So, what’s on your not bucket list?

By |2020-01-18T10:06:29-05:00January 18th, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on My not-bucket List

Tuberculosis (TB)

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Background

Tuberculosis (TB), caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is a contagious infection that involves the lungs but can attack any part of the body. Primary TB is caused by inhalation of air droplets from an infected person through coughing, sneezing, laughing, or other activities in which particles become airborne (NCBI, 2011).

Risk Factors

Older adults and immunocompromised persons are at the greatest risk. According to the CDC’s and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report [MMWR] (2012), the incidence of TB in 2011 has declined by 6.4% since 2010. There are a reported 3.4 cases per 100,000 populations in the United States, which translates to about 10,521 new TB cases in 2011. However, data continues to point to a trend of foreign-born or racial/ethnic minorities being disproportionately affected by TB compared to U.S.- born persons. This gap is continuing to widen despite an overall decreased number of cases in both groups (MMWR, 2012). The AIDS epidemic has contributed to the spread of TB, particularly in less developed countries; this may be due to the suppression of the immune system that is associated with AIDS.
Nursing home residents are considered an at-risk group due to the typically higher rates found in this population. General guidelines from the Advisory Committee for Elimination of Tuberculosis (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 1990) set a concrete strategy for prevention and management of TB in nursing homes to decrease the spread among this institutionalized and vulnerable population. Thus, older adults who may be discharged from acute care facilities to a nursing home will generally undergo TB skin testing prior to discharge.

Warning Signs

The CDC (2013) lists the following signs and symptoms of TB:
• A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
• Pain in the chest
• Coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)
• Weakness or fatigue
• Weight loss
• No appetite
• Chills
• Fever
• Sweating at night

A person can be infected with TB and have no symptoms. This means they may have a positive skin test, but cannot spread the disease. Such a person can develop TB later if left untreated. Those with active TB can spread the disease to others and should be treated by a physician or other health care provider.
Screening for TB is simple and can be done at the local health department, clinic, or doctor’s office. A Mantoux test is an intradermal injection that is read for results in 48–72 hours after administration. A result of 11 mm or greater of induration (not redness, but swelling) is considered a positive result. It is recommended that older adults undergo a two-step screening wherein the test is given again, because there are many false results in older adults. A positive TB skin test should be followed up with a chest Xx-ray to rule out active disease.
It must be noted that persons who received a vaccine for TB may have a positive reaction. A TB vaccine is commonly given in many countries outside the United States.

Diagnosis

For older adults born in the United States, a positive skin test may prompt the health care provider to initiate preventative treatment. The medication isoniazid (INH) is generally given to kill the TB bacteria. Treatment with INH often lasts at least 6 months. Few adults have side effects from the medication, but those that are possible include nausea, vomiting, jaundice, fever, abdominal pain, and decreased appetite. Patients taking INH should be cautioned not to drink alcohol while on the medication.

Treatments

Patients with active TB can be cured, but the medication regimen is complex, with several different drugs taken in combination. Caution should be taken to avoid spread of the disease. This generally means isolation for patients in the hospital with active TB. In 1998, the FDA approved a new medication, rifapentine (Priftin), to be used with other drugs for TB. Medications should be strictly taken for the entire period of time (many months) to kill all of the bacteria. Older adults may need assistance with keeping track of these medications; evaluation of medication management should be included in the assessment. The use of a medication box set up by another competent and informed family member to ensure compliance with the medication regimen may be helpful, because it can be overwhelming for some persons. Adequate rest, nutrition, and hydration, as well as breathing exercises, may help with combating the effects of TB. Since over half of all patients with actively diagnosed TB have come to the United States from other countries, language may be a barrier. Education requires understanding and may necessitate an interpreter to ensure understanding of the complex regimens required to eradicate the bacteria.

Adapted from Mauk, K. L., Hanson, P., & Hain, D. (2014). Review of the management of common illnesses, diseases, or health conditions. In K. L. Mauk’s (Ed.) Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Used with permission.

 

By |2020-01-11T10:16:23-05:00January 12th, 2020|News Posts|Comments Off on Tuberculosis (TB)