Kristen Mauk

About Kristen Mauk

President/CEO - Senior Care Central, LLC

Kidney Stone versus Labor – And the Winner is?

I had always heard that kidney stones were the closest thing to labor pain and childbirth that a man could experience, but being a woman who had been through labor four times, I didn’t quite believe it or understand the comparison. That is, until the other day…

I was sitting at the computer writing and felt a pain like a muscle cramp in my right side. But, since I couldn’t recall having done anything strenuous the day before, I just figured I had been sitting too long in one spot. Moving around helped for a brief time until the pain returned, more intense and radiating from the right flank around my side and down to my groin. Hmmm….being a nurse I wondered what this could be so I tried the usual techniques as the pain intensified: Tylenol, the massage chair, walking, lying down, sitting up, and having the kids rub my back. Yikes, the pain that can only be described as an unrelenting, constant hurt of the greatest magnitude, a 12 on the pain scale of 1 – 10, which no positioning or over the counter pain medication can touch had me rolling on the floor and telling the kids to call Dad to come home from work now.

Yes, that was just the beginning of my kidney stone experience. In trying to explain the pain to my husband on the phone, he said I sounded so short of breath that he thought I was having a heart attack and called EMS. When they arrived, the pain had subsided and I was left to diagnose myself with a kidney stone, with which the paramedics agreed. But since the pain was completely gone, did I really need to go to the hospital and in an ambulance no less? On their recommendation, the answer was yes.

In the ER, the IV was started and a CAT scan done to confirm our suspicions. Having no history of kidney stones, I was surprised at this painful attack that came on with no warning at all.

The ER doctor came in to see us and said in a thick accent, “Well, you were right. In 5 – 7 days you will have a special delivery!” he laughed.

I glanced at my husband who had turned white and later told me he thought for a second, “you mean she’s having a baby?!” (which at 53 surely would have been some sort of miracle). My first thought was “5 – 7 days of this pain? Are you kidding me?” How will I survive?

Another painful bout came as I lay on the gurney, and four strong IV medications didn’t completely take away the pain. We were told the pain comes from the spasms of the ureter as the stone blocks the flow of urine and irritates the inflamed tissues. Who could imagine that a 2 mm stone the size of a grain of sand could cause so much discomfort? The word intractable pain had new meaning for me now and I wished I had been more sympathetic to people and patients with kidney stones.

They sent us home with a urine strainer and prescriptions for Flomax and a combination of anti-inflammatories and pain medications. Another attack in the car and all I could do was writhe in pain and pray for relief. My husband kept repeating, “I hope I never get one of those”. It is the type of pain that one would do almost anything to stop but that nothing relieves short of passing the stone.

As I took my pain pills, strained my urine, and drank copious amounts of water to help the delivery along, I had time to reflect on the age old debate of kidney stone pain being akin to labor and childbirth. Having some experience in the childbirth area, I still found no way to compare the two in terms of what hurts more, but here were my reflections:

Labor pains were more predictable and increased with intensity as you moved towards the goal of delivery. Kidney stone pain, on the other hand, was unpredictable and had the most intense pain with every bout.

Doctors can predict when the baby will be delivered by closeness of contractions, and examining cervical dilation and effacement. Kidney stone delivery is much less predictable.
If your baby is too big to be delivered vaginally or there are complications, a C-section can be performed. And if your kidney stone is too big to pass, you may have laser treatment to break up the stones or major surgery to retrieve them. Both can mean painful recoveries.

There are medications they can give you for labor and delivery. You can even get an epidural, which I never had, but am told they can make the experience much less painful. But the kidney stone pain didn’t seem to be completely obliterated by anything short of passing it.

In comparing types of pain, I guess I can see where men would say they come close to labor pain with a kidney stone, but 10 hours of back labor was equally as bad, and having your OB doctor turn your baby internally prior to a natural birth still rates as the #1 pain I have ever had (but at least it was over quickly).

And last, but most significantly, with labor and childbirth you expect and usually earn a wonderful, lasting, happy surprise at the end of the process, where you hold your newborn in your arms and experience the glory of motherhood, quickly forgetting the pain that was endured to have your bundle of joy. Whereas, at the end of your kidney stone passing, you collect a little grain of something that goes into a plastic container for the urologist to later analyze and you can’t believe how much that little devil hurt to get out. You may experience relief and joy at the passing, but there are lifestyle modifications to make to try to avoid it ever happening again, and still without the assurance that it can be prevented, so unlike the conception process. Who, having had one kidney stone, would ever make plans to have another?

Fortunately, my stone did not take 7 days to pass and was gleefully collected in a matter of hours.

So, my answer to the question of which is more painful, a kidney stone or labor and delivery, is a simple one: they cannot be compared. It’s like apples and oranges. Different types of pain, but both extremely intense, though the kidney stone is much more unpleasant because the outcome is not a lasting joy for the rest of your life. Since every person experiences pain differently, no one could really answer this question anyway because pain is a subjective experience.

For me, given the choice between labor and a kidney stone, I pick labor. Childbirth is definitely more fun and with rewards that last a lifetime.

By | 2017-05-02T16:06:21+00:00 May 2nd, 2017|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Kidney Stone versus Labor – And the Winner is?

Five tips for Grandparents to stay connected with family

bigstock-grandma-with-your-grandson-12149147

With the birth of my daughter’s second child, I began to reflect on the important role that grandparents can play in the lives of their grandchildren. Here are five essential tips for older adults who want to have a lasting influence in the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Visit often.  For those of us fortunate enough to live near our children and grandchildren, it is easy to see them often. Grandparents may even be the caregivers while parents are working. Visits don’t always have to be planned. Sometimes the best family time is a spontaneous invitation to dinner and a movie. However, sometimes distance can prevent regular visits. Some grandparents make it a goal to see their distant grandchildren once every 6 weeks or every few months. Be sure to take advantage of technology for your time together. Set a regular time to Skype or do Face-time. Don’t miss out on the subtle changes in those early years while babies are growing. Exchanging pictures may help, but they don’t replace the in-person experience. You may even think of relocating to be closer to family. For older grandchildren, be sure to have their cellphone number. Text them often and exchange pictures to stay involved in their lives and let them know you are available to them. Even small connections throughout the week (but without being annoying to teenagers of course) can make a difference in your relationship with your grandchildren.

Offer to help in practical ways. Working parents with young children will need a break at times. Ask how you can best help. Offer to keep the children for an overnight while mom and dad have a special dinner or weekend getaway. Many grandparents like to take their grandchildren on trips without the parents. Places like amusement parks, the zoo, or day trips to the water park or national forest all provide good diversion and quality time with Grandma and Grandpa while giving parents a rest. For even more quality time, take the older grandchildren on a cruise, camping in the mountains, or to a resort without their parents. For the mom with a newborn, take meals to the house (if you live close), do her grocery shopping or laundry, or send her a new bathrobe to show you are thinking of her. A favorite role model of mine sends the grandchildren a “baby shower in a box” with all sorts of goodies when she can’t be present due to distance or health concerns.

Plan special activities. Special activities need not be expensive. This could mean a trip to the park with Grandma or a special morning walk each week with Grandpa. My father used to take every grandson on a bow-hunting trip when they turned 12 years old. This was a rite of passage for every boy in the family. Grandpa would mount their first deer head for them and buy them a special hunting knife to commemorate the occasion. The girls in the family would take a trip to a Disney resort while the men were hunting. Grandchildren remember these events forever.

Attend special events. How fortunate are the kids whose grandparents are able to attend basketball and volleyball games, swimming tournaments, and Grandparent’s Day at school! Take advantage of being able to attend those dance recitals and school plays. If you live far, plan your visits to be able to attend some significant events like graduations, wedding showers, or school performances. This makes lasting memories with your family.

Be a constant in their lives. My parents divorced when I was 9 years old, and my paternal grandparents were the one constant in my life at that time. When a child’s world is jolted by change, grandparents can be that steadying influence that doesn’t change. They provide stability and security in an unsteady world for a child. The most important thing to remember is to be there. You don’t have to be the all-star parent or grandparent, but your children will remember that you were there for them when it counted the most.

By | 2017-04-26T15:55:14+00:00 April 19th, 2017|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Five tips for Grandparents to stay connected with family

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.

Diagnosis

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

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: http://www.alz.org/

 

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.

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By | 2017-04-07T12:24:51+00:00 April 8th, 2017|News Posts|Comments Off on Alzheimer’s Disease
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