Dr. Mauk’s Boomer Blog
Each week, Dr. Mauk shares thoughts relevant to Baby Boomers that are aimed to educate and amuse.
Fall is a time of beautiful colors and crisp, fresh air, especially in places like the Western slope in Colorado. There are many simple family activities you can do with children and grandchildren to take advantage of this time of year, from Halloween tricks and treats to Thanksgiving traditions. Here are some that our family enjoys.
There’s nothing like picking apples straight off the tree. Besides the amazement that a good fruit-bearing tree could actually feed a family all year with delicious fruit (provided you do the work of canning and freezing), you have the satisfaction of knowing right where the apples came from. No processing or waiting to see them in the grocery store. That is as healthy and fresh as it can get! Have the kids and grandkids help. Use laundry baskets to collect the apples, then take them home and wash thoroughly to remove any dirt or pesticides. Shine them up with a clean kitchen towel and store in the refrigerator to make them last longer. If you live in a cooperative climate, think about planting your own fruit trees. This year, one of our apple trees bore more than a thousand apples, and we picked them by hand, put them in cute bowls with scary spider rings and ribbons, then gave them to family members and friends. We had still plenty to eat, make pies and applesauce with, and experienced the joy of sharing with others.
Organize a costume exchange
A lovely tradition at some churches is the annual costume exchange. Throughout October, the church gathers donations of gently used costumes from willing donors. Flyers are distributed in the community to advertise free costumes on a Saturday at the church for any who needs one. The women of the church bake cookies and have special treats available for that day. People from the town who might not be able to afford costumes for their kids visit as a family and get costumes free of charge while enjoying a time of neighborly fellowship.
Whether you have small children, teens, or grandkids, visiting the pumpkin patch is a treat. Some local farms will offer hay rides out to the field for everyone to find their perfect pumpkin. Have apple cider and donuts afterwards. For older kids, try a challenging corn maze at night with flashlights and glow rings. At home, decorate pumpkins by carving (but be careful to supervise – those carving knives are sharp), coloring, painting, gluing with felt designs, or other age-appropriate items. Display your creations in the window or on the porch for others to enjoy.
Share homemade baked goods
Around Thanksgiving time, many communities offer a complete turkey dinner for the homeless or those in need. Other towns provide a lunch for anyone who wishes to come and be part of a larger feast on Thanksgiving day. In some cases, cookies are taken to those who are in prison to brighten their day. To make such ventures a success, the sponsors often ask community members to bake pies or other baked goods. This is an excellent opportunity for children to learn to give to others who may be less fortunate. The entire family can be involved in baking and sharing with others in the spirit of being thankful.
Visit a special place to look at the changing colors
Chances are, there is a special place near you that has especially vibrant Fall colors. Certain parts of Colorado attract people from miles around for picture-taking of our aspen and other trees at the peak of the season. A drive through the mountains or hills can be quality family time. Stop and take early senior-pictures of your graduates or a family portrait for a Thanksgiving or Christmas card. Post your pics on FaceBook for friends and family to enjoy or make a Fall scrapbook to preserve the memories.
There are many ways to celebrate our gratefulness for all that God has given us. No matter how you participate in the wonder of the Fall season, be sure to stop and take time to breathe in the beauty of our great country.
According to the CDC, nearly 800,000 persons in the United States have a stroke each year. This is about one every 4 minutes, resulting in over 130,000 deaths annually. Stroke is simply defined as an interruption to the blood supply to the brain and is caused by a clot or hemorrhage. It can be a devastating problem for survivors, resulting in changes in mobility, cognition, speech, swallowing, bowel and bladder, self-care, and general functioning to varying degrees. Some people recover completely after a stroke, but others experience lifelong challenges.
The good news is that there is hope and quality of life after stroke. In my research with stroke survivors, I discovered 6 phases that survivors reported as they made the journey through rehabilitation towards recovery. These steps can be used to see where a person is in the recovery process, help us understand how they may be feeling, and help guide the way we interact with them.
Agonizing: In this first phase of the process, stroke survivors are in shock over what has happened to them. They can’t believe it, and may even deny the warning signs of stroke. The important task during this time is survival from the stroke itself. Call 911 if you see the warning signs of facial droop, arm weakness, or speech difficulties.
Fantasizing: In the second phase of the stroke process, the survivor may believe that the symptoms will all go away. Life will return to normal, and there is a sense of the problem being unreal. Time takes on a different meaning. The way to help is to gently help them recognize reality, and without taking away hope for recovery.
Realizing: This is the most important phase that signals a turn in the recovery process. This is when the survivor realizes that he/she may not fully recover from the effects of the stroke and that there is work to be done to rehabilitate and reclaim life. Common feelings during this phase of realizing are anger and depression. The way to help is to encourage the person to actively engage in rehabilitation. The real work of recovery is just beginning.
Blending: These last 3 phases in the process of stroke recovery may be occurring at much the same time. This is where the real work of adaptation to life after stroke begins. The survivor begins to blend his “old life” before stroke with his new life as a stroke survivor. He/she may start to engage in former activities even if it requires adaptations to be made. He/she will be actively engaged in therapy and finding new ways to do things. The way to help is to promote education. This is a time when survivors are most ready to learn how to adjust to life after stroke. Listen to your rehab nurses, therapists, and physician. Be active in the recovery process.
Framing: During this phase, the individual wants to know what caused the stroke. Whereas in the Agonizing phase they were asking “why me?”, now they need to the answer to “what was the cause?” Stroke can be a recurring disorder, so to stop a subsequent stroke, it is important to know the cause. Interestingly, if the physician has not given the survivor a cause for the first stroke, patients often make up a cause that may not be accurate. Help the survivor to learn from the health care provider what the cause of his/her own stroke was. Then steps can be taken to control those risk factors.
Owning: In this final phase of stroke recovery, the survivor has achieved positive adaptation to the stroke event and aftermath. The survivor has accomplished the needed grief work over the losses resulting from the stroke. He/she has realized that the effects may not go away and has made positive adjustments to his/her life in order to go on. Survivors in this phase have blended their old life with the new life after stroke and feel better about their quality of life. While they still may revisit the emotions of the prior phases at times, they have accepted life as a survivor of stroke and made good adjustments to any changes that resulted. They feel that they have a more positive outlook on life. At this point, survivors can use their experience to help others cope with life after stroke.
For more information about stroke recovery, visit www.seniorcarecentral.net and view Dr. Mauk’s model for stroke recovery.
Pets Provide Significant Health Benefits By Rachel Blankmeyer, DVM
Some of our closest companions, especially as we age, are our four-legged friends. The human-animal bond provides many benefits to people who may otherwise be isolated due to emotional, behavioral, or physical problems. Research shows several health benefits of pet ownership for older adults, including lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels. A study by Friedmann & Thomas in 1995 showed that pet ownership actually resulted in increased survival rates after a heart attack. Other studies have shown that pets may provide social support similar to that of a family member for older adults. Consider additional general health benefits such as weight control and stress reduction, and pet ownership seems like a win-win situation!
You may have heard of the Alzheimer’s patient study performed by Edwards & Beck in 2002, where persons with Alzheimer’s disease observed a facility fish tank and demonstrated improved relaxation, alertness, and eating habits. This is a huge deal for patients dealing with dementia because at least 50% experience weight loss, increasing the mortality rate and progression of disease. Stroke survivors may also specifically benefit from animal companionship through improved communication, dexterity, mobility and balance. As a veterinarian, I may be biased, but the facts don’t lie: animals help all of us have a more active daily life, and can enrich our lives emotionally! So, consider the cost-benefit ratio:
Hearing loss can have a profound effect on a person and their quality of life. Hearing loss can lead to a withdrawal from social situations, signs of depression and other effects on the health of an individual. Therefore, it is imperative that any loss in hearing be treated as soon as possible. In order for hearing loss to be treated, an individual must recognize that a loss of hearing has occurred. Some hearing loss can have a gradual onset, so the person with the hearing loss may not be fully aware that treatment is needed.
According to the National Academy on an Aging Society, millions of Americans suffer from hearing loss. Those suffering from hearing loss range in symptoms from very mild to severe or near total hearing loss. Of these, 43 percent are those individuals aged 65 and older. However, hearing loss can affect all ages with some 5 percent of children having some form of hearing loss. The causes of specific hearing loss are varied, with some created due to occupational stress, or life choices, or those brought about because of aging.
Audiologists and hearing aid specialists at Hearinglife.com lists the types of hearing loss as:
- Conductive Hearing Loss
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss
- Mixed Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is a result of some form of obstruction in the ear. This type can be temporary and usually corrected via medical procedure and occasionally the application of a mechanical aid.
Sensorineural hearing loss is damage or some other issue affecting the auditory nerve or inner ear. This category encompasses hearing loss due to aging or disease. Correction usually involves the application of assisted hearing devices as this loss is usually permanent.
Mixed hearing loss is attributed to directed sound at excessive volume, such as that found in headphones and in occupational settings. Corrective measures also require the use of a mechanical or assisted hearing device. Based on statistics performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mixed hearing loss is a widespread concern affecting over 22 million Americans each year. As suggested by the professionals for Kaiser Permanente Health System, they symptoms of hearing loss appear as:
- Muffled Hearing
- Requiring Higher Than Normal Volumes
- Frequently Misunderstanding Spoken Words
- Ringing or Pain in the Ear or Fluid Leakage
- Off Balance or Feeling of Spinning
Any of these, and potentially other symptoms, can occur with hearing loss. Even before hearing loss is suspected, it is generally accepted that hearing should be tested regularly in order to quickly diagnose and treat any hearing loss before it becomes significant to the detriment of the individual and their quality of life.
The NIH Senior Health reports that one in three people over the age of 65 experience a fall each year. Because of the non-porous, easy clean surfaces, more than 80% of these falls happen in the bathroom. The proper equipment will help to keep everyone safer. Be sure to check your loved one’s for the following:
Grab Bars. One of the simplest solutions to preventing bathroom falls is to install grab bars. Choose bars that have a grip-like surface and contrast to the color of the shower, so they are easily visible. Anchor these bars to the studs behind the wall for the best support. Have your loved one step into the tub and show you where the best place to install a safety bar is located. Adding a grab bar next to the toilet is another simple way to prevent falls.
Non-Skid Surfaces. Placing a non-skid floor mat in front of the shower and sink soaks up excess water and prevents slips. Adding a non-skid shower mat to the bathtub will prevent your loved one from sliding on the slippery tub surface when bathing. For additional safety, place non-skid adhesive strips around the sink and vanity area.
Raised Toilet Seat. Adding a raised toilet seat prevents your loved one from losing her balance and falling while trying to sit on the toilet or get up. It is also helpful for those who are losing strength.
Lighting. Many seniors lose depth perception, having brighter lighting will help your senior to judge distances better, such as stepping into the bathtub. Adding motion lights on the path to the bathroom, as well as in the bathroom, will help your loved one to see where she is walking. Having plenty of lighting will help your loved one to locate toiletry items quicker and easier as well.
Declutter. Because many older people end up needing to use a walker or cane, it is important to make sure walking paths are clean and clutter-free. It is important to keep items such as towels off the floor and out of the way as much as possible. The less items your loved one can get hooked on, the safer the home will be.
Preventing a fall from happening is ideal. However, there are times when accidents happen. Consider getting your loved one a medical alert system as an additional layer of safety. The best systems offer waterproof pendants, so they can be worn while bathing. If your loved one does fall, she can press the button and get help immediately, which may save her life.
Running a marathon is one of the toughest things that you can do. Doing the full 26.2 miles requires grit, determination and a bit of luck. Luck in the sense that it reaches a point along the marathon whereby your will to run is gone and all you can do is hope that your body doesn’t give in. You require a lot of energy to run a marathon but the fact that it is a competitive event makes it difficult for stop and snack up. You, therefore, have to do with the food reserves stored in your body. The problem with this, however, is that the body can only store a limited amount of food reserves. This reserve is depleted way before you complete the marathon and it is at this point that the “wall” appears.
To provide you with the energy to run, food is broken down to supply you with this energy. The primary food item that broken down to generate energy is carbohydrates since it requires very little oxygen to do so. When you are running, you let in very little oxygen into the blood stream and that is why carbohydrates are broken down first. The body can hold about 2000 calories of carbohydrates at any given time and this reserve can only last up to the 20th mile. From this point, the body turns to the fat deposits in the body for energy generation. Breaking down fats to produce energy generates a lot of waste products and this contaminates your interior. It also requires a lot of oxygen but since you are not taking in enough air, the body resorts to burning your muscles to generate the needed oxygen. This has the effect of making you feel like you are pulling a heavy load with your feet. Since your body is concentrating on generating energy, your focus shifts from running to this activity. You, therefore, find it difficult to concentrate on running and those who are not of strong will find it easy to give up.
Marathon caring and ‘The Wall”.
Aging brings with it a lot of challenges and at some stage in life, we would be expected to take care of our loved ones. It could be our parents, grandparents or other family members. Most would think that it will only be for a short period of time but the truth is that it usually stretches several years and this is what makes it a marathon. Taking care of another person is very challenging and it will overwhelm even those claiming to be strong willed. It requires that you feed, clothe as well as clean up the person under your care. You are in charge of their medication as well and this means that you have to monitor their pills to make sure they never run out. See how overwhelming that can be?
When compared to a marathon, all these responsibilities represent the various stages of a marathon. It is easier at the beginning since you are all psyched up and full of energy. It gets difficult with time as your ‘energy reserves’ are depleted and your enthusiasm fades. At this point, it is only a matter of time before you ‘hit the wall’.
The wall of a marathon caregiver.
The wall to a marathon caregiver represents that point when you see your dependent as a burden. This is that point when you are no longer excited to see those in your care. The wall is a very difficult point since it could see you neglect those in your care.
Keeping the wall at bay.
There are a few things that you can do to keep the way at bay. The first thing is to understand the course and this entails understanding your dependents better. If they have any illnesses, get to understand them as this will make it easy for you to manage them. Learn how to take care of old people and you can do that by checking out care homes near me. This will make you a better care giver and better equipment to avoid the wall.