About Kristen Mauk

President/CEO - Senior Care Central, LLC

Diabetes Risk Factors and Treatments

Diabetes mellitus type 2

Background

Diabetes mellitus is a common metabolic disorder that affects carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism. It is estimated that about 4.4 to 17.4% percent of adults in the United States have diabetes mellitus (Cory , Ussery-Hall, Griffin-Blake et al., 2010). It is estimated that 11.5 million women and 12.0 million men over the age of 60 have diabetes, but many do not know it. The Indian Health Service reported via the National Diabetes Survey of 2007 that of the 1.4 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives in the United States, 14.2% age 20 years or older have diagnosed diabetes. Rates vary by region, from 6.0% of Alaska Natives to 29.3% of the Native Americans in southern Arizona (CDC, 2007). There are two major types of diabetes, type 1 (T1DM) and type 2 ( T2DM). T1DM is characterized by autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, leading to a deficiency of insulin. New-onset of adult T1DM in older adults rarely happens; however, due to better treatment of T1DM, older adults who have been diagnosed at an earlier age are living longer. About 90% of older adults with diabetes have T2DM, which is often related to obesity. T2DM is characterized by hyperglycemia and insulin resistance; however, impaired insulin secretion may also be present. Diabetes mellitus is a major cause of disability and death in the United States, and is the seventh leading cause of death among older adults.

Risk Factors

The risk of diabetes increases with age (45 years and older). Other risk factors include family history, obesity, race (African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders), hypertension, less “good” cholesterol (less than 35 mg/dl), lack of exercise, having a history of delivering large babies (≥9 pounds), personal history of gestational diabetes, and pre-diabetes in men and women (Laberge, Edgren, & Frey, 2011). Type 2 is the most common type in older women (CDC, 2007). The risk of death from DM is significantly higher among older ¬Mexican American, African American, and Native American women when compared to Whites. The Centers for Disease Control CDC (2005) names obesity, weight gain, and physical inactivity as the major risk factors for DM among women.

Diagnosis

The most common presentation for older adults with T1DM is hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Older adults may not have the classical symptoms such as polydipsia, polyuria, polyphagia, and weight loss. Instead, they may have an atypical presentation (Halter Chang & Halter, et al., 2009). They may first present with falls, urinary incontinence, fatigue, or confusion. Because older adults may have T2DM for years before it is diagnosed, they often have macrovascualar and microvascular complications at the time of diagnosis, so evaluation of these should be considered at that time.

Treatment

Prevention is the best approach to care, which involves identifying those at risk and encouraging lifestyle change. Older adults with diabetes mellitus have a high risk for complications related to macrovascular disease, microvascular disease, and neuropathy. Macrovascular diseases include coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease, which can lead to amputation. Microvascular diseases are chronic kidney disease, which is the most common cause of end-stage renal disease, and diabetic retinopathy, that which can lead to blindness. Peripheral neuropathy presents as uncomfortable, painful sensations in the legs and feet that are difficult to treat. A lack of sensation may also be present and contribute to the risk of falls. There is no cure for peripheral neuropathy, and it tends to be a complication for which patients experience daily challenges trying to manage the symptoms. A combination of medication to address pain and interventions by a physical therapist seems to be the best current treatment.

Treatment is aimed at helping patients to achieve and maintain glycemic control to decrease risk of complications. The initial treatment approach is to work with the older adult to establish treatment goals aimed at reducing long-term complications. This often requires working within an interprofessional team. Aggressive treatment may be appropriate for most older adults; however the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is higher in older adults. Older adults with hypoglycemia may have an atypical presentation with acute onset of confusion, dizziness, and weakness instead of tremors or sweating. The best measure of good blood glucose management and controlled blood sugars is HgbA1c levels (glycosylated hemoglobin). This measure of hemoglobin provides insight into the previous 3 months of blood sugar control. If HgbA1c is elevated, it indicates that the blood sugar has been high over time. For most people, a HgbA1c ≤ 7% indicates optimal glycemic control; however, due to poor health outcomes, for frail older adults or those with a life expectancy ≤ 5 years this may not be the best, and a Hgb A1c of 8% might be more appropriate.

Management is successful when a balance is achieved among exercise, diet, and medications. Medications may be oral hypoglycemics or insulin injection. Insulin injection is used in T1DM and may be prescribed for T2DM because as the person ages, beta-cell function declines. If insulin is needed, it is important to consider if there are visual problems and or hand arthritis that limits the dexterity that is necessary to prepare and inject the medication. For some, a simple regimen, such as premeasured doses and easier injection systems (e.g.,insulin pens with easy-to-set dosages) is the best.

Thorough evaluation of readiness to learn and of the ability of an older person to manage his or her medications must be done. Older adults who need to give themselves insulin injections may experience anxiety about learning this task. Demonstration, repetition, and practice are good techniques for the older age group. Adaptive devices such as magnifiers may help if the syringes are hard to read. A family member should also be taught to give the insulin to provide support and encouragement, although the older adult should be encouraged to remain independent in this skill if possible. Williams and Bond’s (2002) research suggested that programs that promote confidence in self-care abilities are likely to be effective for those with diabetes. A plan for times of sickness and the use of a glucometer to monitor blood sugars will also need to be addressed. Additionally, the dietician may be consulted to provide education for the patient and family on meal planning, calorie counting, carbohydrate counting, and nutrition. Many patients benefit from weight loss, so the nutritionist can assist with dietary planning in this regard also.

Due to the increased risk of infection and slow healing that result from diabetes, foot care is an essential component in teaching older adults to manage DM. Some experts believe that good preventive foot care would significantly reduce the incidence of amputation in the elderly. Older persons with DM should never go barefoot outside. Extremes in temperature should be avoided. Shoes should be well fitting and not rub. Socks should be changed regularly. Elders should be taught to inspect their feet daily, with a mirror if needed. Corns and ingrown toenails should be inspected and treated by a podiatrist, not by the patient. Older persons should see their podiatrist for a foot inspection at least yearly. Patients should be cautioned that even the smallest foot injury, such as a thorn or blister, can go unnoticed and unfelt—and often results in partial amputations that lead to a cascade of lower extremity problems.

For more information on living with Diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association:
http://www.diabetes.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.

By |2021-06-05T19:47:19-05:00June 16th, 2021|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Diabetes Risk Factors and Treatments

Pneumonia Information


According to the CDC (2010), chronic lower respiratory disease and pneumonia with influenza are the third and ninth leading causes of death, respectively, among older adults. Older adults 65 and older are more often affected by these disorders than younger adults, and the risk of death from pneumonia increases with age. In 2005, there were 651,000 hospital discharges of males diagnosed with pneumonia and 717,000 discharges of females, with greater than 62,000 deaths attributed to pneumonia (American Lung Association [ALA], 2008). The majority of these cases occurred in those age 65 and older, with the elderly having 5–10 times the risk of death from pneumonia as younger adults (Kennedy-Malone, Fletcher, & Plank, 2004).

Pneumonia is an infection of the lung that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or mycoplasmas. The two most common ways to get pneumonia are through inhalation of droplet particles carrying infectious germs and aspiration of secretions of the nose or mouth areas. Older adults are at higher risk for pneumonia and can get a more serious infection if they also have other chronic diseases such as COPD, heart failure, a suppressed immune system, cerebrovascular disease, and poor mobility (ALA, 2012). The incidence of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) among people age 65 and older is about 221.3 per 10,000 (ALA, 2008). Streptococcus is the most common bacterial cause, with about 50% of people with CAP requiring hospitalization (Weinberger, 2004). When hospitalized, older people are at risk for poor health outcomes, including respiratory failure requiring ventilator support, sepsis, and longer length of hospitalization, duration of antibiotic therapy and other supportive treatment (ALA, 2012).

Warning signs

The onset of bacterial pneumonia can be sudden or gradual; however, older adults may not present with the typical symptoms of chills, fever, chest pain, sweating, productive cough, or shortness of breath. Instead, they may have a sudden change in mental status (confusion/delirium). Cases of viral pneumonia account for about half of all types of pneumonia and tend to be less severe than bacterial pneumonia. Symptoms of viral pneumonia include fever, nonproductive hacking cough, muscle pain, weakness, and shortness of breath.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is made through chest x-ray, complete blood count, and/or sputum culture to determine the type and causal agents (if bacterial). A thorough history and physical that includes assessment of swallowing ability and eating (watch for coughing while eating) to evaluate for aspiration risk should be done. Crackles may be heard in the lungs through a stethoscope, and chest pain with shortness of breath may be present.

Treatment

Bacterial pneumonia can often be treated successfully when detected early, and viral pneumonia generally heals on its own (antibiotics are not effective if pneumonia is caused by a virus), though older adults may experience a greater risk of complications than younger adults. Oral antibiotics will significantly help most patients with bacterial pneumonia.

Aspiration pneumonia is caused by inhalation of a foreign material, such as fluids or food, into the lungs. This occurs more often in persons with impaired swallowing. For older adults receiving tube feedings, care must be taken to avoid having the person in a laying position during and immediately after tube feeding because aspiration can occur; it is important to note that tube feedings do not reduce the risk of aspiration. Having the head of the bed elevated or, even better, the person in a sitting position when eating or receiving nutrition through a feeding tube, helps to avoid the potential complication of pneumonia related to aspiration.

When recovering from pneumonia, one should get plenty of rest and take adequate fluids to help loosen secretions (with accommodations made to support the added need to urinate due to the increased fluid intake, a common reason why older adults may not drink adequate fluids). Tylenol or aspirin (if not contraindicated by other conditions) can be taken to manage fever as well as aches and pains. Exposure to others with contagious respiratory conditions should be avoided. Respiratory complications are often what lead to death in the older adults, so they should be cautioned to report any changes in respiratory status such as increased shortness of breath, high fever, or any other symptoms that do not improve. It is important to follow up with the physician or nurse practitioner and get a chest x-ray if ordered, since symptoms may improve with treatment before the pneumonia is actually completely gone.

Prevention of pneumonia is always best. Adults over the age of 65 are advised to get a pneumonia vaccine. Persons younger than age 65 who have higher risk (those with respiratory problems or persons in nursing homes) should get the vaccination. A yearly flu vaccine is also recommended for older adults, because pneumonia is a common complication of influenza in this age group. Medicare will cover these vaccines for older persons.

By |2021-06-05T19:46:32-05:00June 13th, 2021|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Pneumonia Information

Be informed about Stroke

Consider these facts about stroke from the American Stroke Association (2013): Be informed about stroke.

• Nearly 800,000 Americans annually suffer a new or recurrent stroke.
• A stroke occurs about once every 40 seconds. About every 4 minutes, someone dies of a stroke.
• Stroke is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 137,000 people a year.
• Risk of stroke death is higher for African American males and females than for whites. Females have a higher rate of death from stroke than males.
• In 2010, Americans paid about $73.7 billion for stroke-related medical costs and disability.

Stroke is simply defined as an interruption of the blood supply to the brain. It is most often caused by a clot that either originated in the brain or traveled from another part of the body. Warning signs of stroke include (National Stroke Association, 2013):
• Sudden weakness or paralysis, usually on one side of the body
• Sudden confusion, speaking or understanding
• Sudden changes in vision
• Sudden dizziness, incoordination, or trouble walking
• Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you or someone you love experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Do not delay. New medical treatments may be able to reverse the effects of stroke, but time is critical. Note the time that the symptoms started so that you can inform the medical professionals who are providing treatment.
The effects of stroke depend on the area of the brain that is damaged. Some common results of stroke are weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, difficulty walking or dressing oneself, aphasia, trouble eating or swallowing, bowel and bladder changes, cognitive changes such as memory problems, and emotional issues such as depression and mood swings. Stroke affects the entire family, so be sure to seek out resources and support in your community if a stroke has touched your family.

For stroke survivors, treatment in an acute rehabilitation facility with an interdisciplinary team approach is highly recommended and results in more positive outcomes. The rehabilitation team works together with the survivor and family to accomplish personal goals and achieve the highest level of function possible. Although some of the effects of stroke may be long-lasting or permanent, there is hope of continued progress and good quality of life after stroke.

By |2021-06-05T19:43:06-05:00June 7th, 2021|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Be informed about Stroke

Skin Cancer in Older Adults

bigstock-Patient-listening-to-doctor-ex-27196190

Background

There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell, and malignant melanoma (MM). Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer, accounting for 65–85% of cases (Kennedy-Malone et al., 2000). According to the American Cancer Society (2013), more than 3.5 million cases of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed every year. Squamous cell carcinoma is more common in African Americans and is also less serious than malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma accounts for only 3% of all skin cancers, but it is responsible for the majority of deaths from skin cancer. Older adults are 10 times more likely to get MM than adults under age 40 (Johnson & Taylor, 2012). About 8,420 people were estimated to die from malignant melanoma in 2008. The American Cancer Society (2013) estimated that in 2013 there would be over 76,000 new cases of malignant melanoma in the United States.

Risk Factors

Older adults are more susceptible to skin cancers because of a variety of factors. These include exposure to carcinogens over time (such as through sunburn or tanning booths) and immunosenescence, or a decline in immune function. Family history of skin cancers, multiple moles (more than 100), and pale skin also put a person at higher risk. The major risk factor for all types of skin cancer is sun exposure.

Warning Signs

The ABCDE method can help people remember the warning signs of skin cancer:
A = Asymmetry (if a line is drawn down the middle of the lesion, the two sides do not match)
B = Border (the borders of the lesion tend to be irregular)
C = Color (a variety of colors is present; the lesion is not uniform in color)
D = Diameter (MM lesions are usually larger)
E = Evolving (note any changes in shape or size, or any bleeding)

Diagnosis

Annual physical examinations should include inspection of the skin for lesions. Older adults should be taught to report any suspicious areas on their skin to the physician. Persons should particularly look for changes in shape, color, and whether a lesion is raised or bleeds.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common kind of skin cancer. It is often found on the head or face, or other areas exposed to the sun. Although there are different forms of BCC, the nodular type is most common, and appears as a raised, firm, papule that is pearly or shiny with a rolled edge. (Johnson & Taylor, 2012). Patients often complain that these lesions bleed and scab easily. When treated early, it is easily removed through surgery and is not life threatening, though it is often recurring.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) also appears as lesion on areas of the body exposed to the sun, or from other trauma such as radiation. HPV is a risk factor of SCC, and metastasis is more common than with BCC. The lesions of SCC appear scaly, pink, and thicker than BCC. Their borders may be more irregular and the lesions may look more like an ulceration.

Malignant Melanoma

Malignant melanoma MM has a more distinctive appearance than other types of skin cancer. The areas appear asymmetric with irregular borders, a variety of colors (including black, purplish, and pink), and size greater than 6 mm. Malignant melanoma MM is often identified with the ABCDE method and MM accounts for the vast majority of deaths from skin cancer. The good news is that MM is almost always curable when found early. A skin check should be part of an older person’s yearly physical.

Treatment

The best treatment for skin cancer in the elderly is prevention. All older persons, especially those with fair skin who are prone to sunburn, should wear sunblock and protective clothing. Most skin cancers, when treated early, have a good prognosis.

All skin lesions larger than 6 mm, or those with any of the ABCDE signs, should be referred for biopsy. There are many nonsurgical interventions. These include cryotherapy, radiotherapy (for superficial BCC or SCC), electrodessication and curettage, and topical treatments. Topical treatments are generally not as effective as more aggressive interventions, but research is ongoing in this area.

The prognosis for MM depends on the extent and staging of the tumor, but when caught very early, the cure rate is nearly 100%. Malignant melanoma MM presenting in older adults is often more advanced and aggressive. Malignant melanoma MM metastases sites are typically the lymph nodes, liver, lung, and brain (Johnson & Taylor, 2012). Surgical treatment is required in malignant melanoma, with chemotherapy and radiation. Adjuvant treatments for MM are also often used.

For more information on Skin Cancer, visit the American Cancer Society at:
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/detailedguide/

 

Save

Save

By |2021-05-24T11:47:55-05:00May 27th, 2021|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Skin Cancer in Older Adults

End of Life: Palliative Care and Hospice

Kris Mauk2_print

The human survival instinct is strong and our spirits are made to embrace life. But what happens when your loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness that has no cure? How do you reconcile the certain death of your spouse, parent, or child? Where can you turn when death is close or imminent?

We are fortunate to live in a society that supports excellent care for those who are coming towards the end of their life. As difficult as this journey is for persons and their family members, the appropriate level of service can provide the needed care and comfort to make the end of life a time of peace and reflection rather than pain and suffering.

Two major services are readily available to bring comfort and promote quality of life even until the end of life. These are palliative care and hospice.

Palliative care is a consultative service for those with life-limiting illnesses who may not yet meet the criteria for hospice or who do not wish to enter hospice yet. The focus of palliative care is comfort and symptom management, but patients may still continue treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, dialysis, home health, or other therapy.  Palliative services can be provided in the acute hospital setting, in the home, or in a long-term care facility. A new program called PRIME (Progressive Illness Management Expertise) by AseraCare, focuses on symptom management, goals of care planning, medication management, and transition management. PRIME provides palliative care through nurse practitioners and social workers who coordinate care with your regular medical providers. For persons with serious chronic illnesses who experience recurring rehospitalizations, palliative care management can provide care coordination and smooth transitions to other settings, including hospice, at the appropriate time.

Hospice is a supportive and comprehensive service for those who are dying. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization states that the foundation of hospice and palliative care is the belief that “each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so”. Generally, to qualify for hospice a patient is expected to live 6 months or less. Hospice uses an interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, home health aides, chaplains, bereavement counselors, trained volunteers and others to provide comfort and support to the dying patient and family. These services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private and commercial insurances. Hospice care can be provided wherever a patient lives, with 24-hour on-call availability.

End of life decisions are often difficult for families to discuss, but palliative care and hospice programs provide the help that is needed to have these conversations. Their aim is to help provide quality of life until death, helping people “live until they die”. If your loved one may qualify for assistance, don’t delay in seeking this support. It may be the best way you can help your family member have a peaceful end of life.

 

 

 

 

 

By |2021-04-17T17:09:28-05:00April 19th, 2021|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on End of Life: Palliative Care and Hospice