Kristen Mauk

About Kristen Mauk

President/CEO - Senior Care Central, LLC

Guest Blog: What is Assisted Living?


Assisted living is a long-term care facility that provides housing, support, health care, and most importantly, a sense of community to senior citizens. These facilities make it possible for the elderly to continue living on their own, with occasional assistance now and again. The benefits of living in an assisted living community are immeasurable for seniors and their families alike. Learn more about the multitude of benefits the elderly receive when they move into an assisted living facility.

  • Proper, Healthy Meals:  Daily meals are provided at assisted living facilities. This helps senior citizens to get the proper nutrition in their daily diet, and also lets family members feel assured that their loved ones are eating enough. Any and all dietary needs are taken into consideration. For instance, if a senior has diabetes, this is of course taken into consideration when creating their meal plan. The utmost care is used when serving seniors their meals at assisted living facilities.
  • Help with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living):  An assisted living facility will provide its residents with assistance completing a number of day-to-day tasks that one might not be able to do on their own. This includes dressing, eating, mobility, hygiene, bathing, toileting, using the phone, and personal shopping. Take, for example, patients with dementia or other types of memory loss who might find it difficult to remember doing the simplest of tasks. Assisted living facilities make it possible for these types of patients to continue living on their own with minimal help.
  • Medication Management:  This is perhaps the most important benefit of living in an assisted living community. More than 50% of senior citizens make a mistake when administering their own medication. This rate is shockingly high, and of a major concern due to potential life-threatening consequences. Assisted living staff not only ensure the right medications are being taken at the right times, but they also help to educate seniors on the importance of their medication.
  • Transportation:  Many seniors do not have the ability to drive anymore. In some cases, a senior simply no longer possess a car. Whatever the case may be, assisted living facilities handle any and all of the transportation necessary for senior citizens. Most of the time, transportation is needed for doctor’s visits. A senior who resides in an assisted living facility will have transportation to and from their appointments, as well as to activities outside of the facility, like shopping trips. When a family member can’t be there to take a senior citizen out and about, assisted living staff is.
  • Social Interaction:  Assisted living facilities are a great place for senior citizens to socialize. Like-minded individuals in similar situations are all around, and with plenty of activities to choose from, your loved one is sure to make a new friend or two. Many of the activities that take place at assisted living facilities are moderated by staff to ensure that healthy interactions are occurring at all times.

Assisted living may be the right choice for your aging loved one. Discuss this option with them, and share the numerous benefits that this type of facility can offer.


Byline: Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for Skyview Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a post acute rehabilitation and long-term care center in Croton-on-Hudson, NY.


By | 2018-03-19T13:36:22+00:00 March 19th, 2018|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Guest Blog: What is Assisted Living?

Alzheimer’s Disease

Elderly woman with medications

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia seen in older adults. An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages had Alzheimer’s disease in 2012. Nearly half (45%) of people over the age of 85 have AD. By 2050, the number of individuals age 65 and over with Alzheimer’s could range from 11 million to 16 million unless science finds a way to prevent or effectively treat the disease. One in eight older adults has AD, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States (Alzheimer’s Association, 2012). Those affected with AD may live from 3–20 years or more after diagnosis, making the life span with this disease highly variable.

Risk factors

Advanced age is the single most significant risk factor for AD (Alzheimer’s Association, 2012). More women than men have AD, but this is because women live longer than men, not because gender is a risk factor. Family history and heredity are also identified risk factors for AD, as are head trauma and poor cardiac health.

Warning Signs

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by progressive memory loss. The person affected by AD is gradually less able to remember new information and memory lapses begin to affect daily function. It is a terminal disease that over its course will eventually leave a person completely dependent upon others for care.


Initially, the clinical progression of the disease is slow with mild decline; however, deterioration increases the longer the person lives, with an average life span of 8 years after diagnosis (Cotter, 2002; Fletcher, Rapp, & Reichman, 2007). The underlying pathology is not clear, but a growth of plaques and fibrillary tangles, loss of synapses, and neuronal cell loss are key hallmarks of AD that interfere with normal cell growth and the ability of the brain to function. Absolutely definitive diagnosis is still through autopsy, although clinical guidelines make diagnosis easier than decades ago when less was known about the disease. Primary care physicians generally make the diagnosis through a thorough history, physical exam, cognitive testing, and labs. New criteria for diagnosis include staging the disorder and biomarkers (beta amyloid and tau in the cerebrospinal fluid and blood) (Alzheimer’s Association, 2012b). An MRI of the brain may be ordered to rule out other causes of symptoms.

The clinical course of AD is divided into several stages, depending on the source consulted. In the early course of AD, the person may demonstrate a loss of short-term memory. This involves more than common memory loss, such as where the keys were put, and may involve safety concerns such as forgetting where one is going while driving. The inability to perform math calculations and to think abstractly may also be evident. In the middle or moderate phase, many bodily systems begin to decline. The person may become confused as to date, time, and place. Communication skills become impaired and personality changes may occur. As cognitive decline worsens, the person may forget the names of loved ones, even their spouse. Wandering behavior as well as emotional changes, screaming, delusions, hallucinations, suspiciousness, and depression are common. The person with AD is less able to care for her- or himself and personal hygiene suffers. In the most severe and final phase, the person becomes completely dependent upon others, experiences a severe decline in physical and functional health, loses communication skills, and is unable to control voluntary functions. Death eventually results from body systems shutting down and may be accompanied by an infectious process. Although there is no single test, and the diagnosis may be one of exclusion, early diagnosis is important to maximize function and quality of life for as long as possible. Persons experiencing recurring and progressing memory problems or difficulties with daily activities should seek professional assistance from their physician.


Treatment for AD is difficult. There are several medications (such as Aricept, Namenda, Razadyne, and Exelon) that may help symptoms (such as memory), but they do not slow the course of the disease. There is currently no cure; however, research continues to occur in pharmacology, nonpharmacology, and the use of stem cells to manage symptoms and perhaps one day eradicate the disease.

Treatment will focus on symptom management, particularly in the areas of behavior, safety, nutrition, and hygiene. Behavioral issues such as wandering and outbursts pose a constant challenge. Many long-term care facilities have special “memory care” units to care for Alzheimer’s patients from the early to late stages of the disease. These units provide great benefits such as consistent and educated caregivers with whom the patient or resident will be familiar, a safe and controlled environment, modified surroundings to accommodate wandering behaviors, and nursing care 24 hours a day. Additionally, nurses are present to manage medications and document outcomes of therapies. However, many family members wish to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible.

Thus, another important aspect of care in AD is care for the caregivers. Howcroft (2004) suggested that “support from carers is a key factor in the community care of people with dementia, but the role of the caregiver can be detrimental to the physical, mental, and financial health of a carer” (p. 31). She goes on to say that the caregivers of persons with AD would benefit from training in how to cope with behaviors that arise in these patients and how to cope with practical and legal issues that may occur.

Research has shown that ongoing skills are needed by family caregivers to deal with the progressive decline caused by AD. In fact, “a 63% greater risk of mortality was found among unpaid caregivers who characterized themselves as being emotionally or mentally strained by their role versus noncaregivers” (National Conference of Gerontological Nursing Practitioners & National Gerontological Nursing Association, 2008b, p. 4). Adapting to stress, working on time management, maximizing resources, and managing changing behavior were all skills caregivers needed to develop in order to successfully manage home care of their loved ones. When interventions and resources were not used by caregivers in the early stages of the care recipient’s AD, the risk of a healthy patient being institutionalized due to caregiver burden was higher (Miller, Rosenheck & Schneider, 2012). Caregivers needed not only to acquire knowledge and skills, but also to make emotional adjustments themselves to the ever-changing situation.

Such findings suggest that nurses should focus a good deal of time on educating caregivers of persons with AD to cope with, as Nancy Reagan put it, “the long good-bye.” Scientists continue to explore the causes of AD and hope in the near future to be able to isolate the gene that causes it. In the meantime, results from a fascinating longitudinal study (called the Nun study) on aging and AD, which used a group of nuns who donated their brains to be examined and autopsied after death, has suggested that there is a connection between early “idea density” and the emergence of AD in later life. That is, essays the nuns wrote upon entry to the convent were analyzed and correlated with those who developed AD. It was found that those with lower idea density (verbal and linguistic skills) in early life had a significantly greater chance of developing AD (Grossi, Buscema, Snowdon, & Antuono, 2007; Snowdon, 2004). The nun study has allowed researchers to examine hundreds of brains so far in nuns who died between 75 and 107 years of age and discover other important facts such as a relationship between stroke and the development of AD in certain individuals, and the role of folic acid in protecting against development of AD (Snowdon, 2004). Scientists from a number of fields continue to research the causes and possible treatments for AD and the Nun study project is continuing at the University of Minnesota. Snowdon’s research suggests that early education, particularly in verbal and cognitive skills, may protect persons from AD in later life.

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at:


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 | 2018-03-12T09:41:42+00:00 March 17th, 2018|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Alzheimer’s Disease

Guest Blog: What is Psoriasis?

Guest Blog: Lindsay Munden, DNP, RN, FNP-BC


Psoriasis is a lifelong disease that causes scaling and inflammation of the skin. The condition starts beneath the skin’s surface and is triggered by an overactive immune system, which causes skin cells to be over-produced and accumulate on the skin’s surface faster than normal. This process is called cell turnover, and in psoriasis may take a few days instead of weeks. This causes the formation of thick, red, itchy, flaky patches with silvery scales known as plaques. While any part of your body can be affected, psoriasis most often occurs on the elbows, knees, scalp, back, face, palms, and feet.


According to the American Academy of Dermatology (2015) about 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriasis. Anyone can get the disease, but it occurs more often in adults.

  • Age: Adult men and women are affected equally. The two peak ages at onset are during the late teens to early 20s and in the late 50s to early 60s.
  • Genetics: Psoriasis has a strong genetic influence, with one-third of patients with psoriasis reporting having a family member with the disease.
  • Environmental Factors: Trauma to normal skin, repeated friction, infections, stress, fatigue, warm humid climates, changes in weather that dry the skin, and certain medications may trigger psoriasis flare-ups.


The primary cause of psoriasis remains unknown. Research has indicated that psoriasis is caused by genetic influences and a dysfunction of the immune system. Although, psoriasis plaques may look contagious, you cannot get the condition from someone that has the disease.


Symptoms can range from mild to severe and are often recurring. Itchy, red, inflamed and dry scaly plaques distributed symmetrically over areas of bony prominences such as the elbows and knees are characteristic of the disease. The joints, nails and scalp may also be affected. As with other chronic conditions, symptoms may flare or worsen for a few months and then subside for a period of time.


Psoriasis may be hard to diagnose because it can be confused with other skin diseases. Usually your healthcare provider will make a diagnosis based on a thorough skin examination. Biopsy is seldom necessary because the clinical features of psoriasis are so distinctive. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form, but patients typically have one or more types.


The goal of therapy is to control the symptoms and clear the plaque lesions.

For mild to moderate psoriasis, topical medications (those applied directly to the skin) and phototherapy (light therapy) are the mainstays of treatment.  For severe psoriasis, systemic treatments are recommended. Sometimes, combining topical, light and systemic treatments leads to the best results.

Topical Medication Options:

  • Topical steroids are widely used because they help reduce inflammation. Generally, a very potent topical corticosteroid preparation is applied two to three times daily for 2 weeks and then decreased to a lesser potency for maintenance therapy long term.
  • Coal tar works by causing the skin to shed dead cells from its top layer and slow down the growth of new skin cells. This effect decreases scaling and dryness. Coal tar is applied once or twice daily and is not well favored due to the potential for staining of the clothes and skin.
  • Anthralin works by slowing down the production of skin cells. This type of medication is applied to the skin for a prescribed period of time and then rinsed away, with increased increments until the skin is healed which may take a couple of weeks.
  • Topical immunomodulators are medications which work by decreasing the body’s immune system to help slow down the growth of the psoriasis plaques.
  • Vitamin D3 derivatives regulate cell growth and decrease lymphocyte (cells which play a role in the regulation of the immune system) activity. The medicine comes in a form of an ointment which is typically applied twice daily.


Phototherapy with ultraviolet-B (UVB) light is effective in the treatment of psoriasis lesions. This type of treatment reduces DNA synthesis of skin cells. Phototherapy can produce symptom-free periods of up to 2-4 months. UVB therapy units are often available at dermatologist offices and the use of commercial tanning beds (with both UVA and UVB lights) is not recommended. Dermatologists may recommend consistent light therapy 3-5 days a week for 2 to 3 months.

Systemic Medications:

Systemic therapy is reserved for patients that have severe or incapacitating disease. These medications are prescribed by expert specialists such as dermatologists or rheumatologists because they have a risk for serious side effects.

More Information:

National Psoriasis Foundation

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

American Academy of Dermatology


By | 2018-03-12T09:40:26+00:00 March 14th, 2018|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Guest Blog: What is Psoriasis?
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