Kristen Mauk

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About Kristen Mauk

President/CEO - Senior Care Central, LLC

Be informed about Stroke

May is National Stroke Awareness month, so this is a good time to reflect on stroke prevention and treatment. 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 |2020-08-16T19:22:00-05:00September 19th, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Be informed about Stroke

Bladder Cancer Risk Factors and Treatment

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Background

This type of cancer occurs mainly in older adults, with an average age at diagnosis of 73 years, with 9 out of 10 cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in persons over age 55. The American Cancer Society (ACS)(2012) reported that over 73,000 cases were diagnosed in 2012 and that this diagnosis rate has been relatively stable over the last 20 years. Men are three times as likely to get cancer of the bladder as women (American Foundation for Urologic Disease, 2008) and the incidence increases with age.

Risk Factors

Risk factors include chronic bladder irritation and cigarette smoking, the latter contributing to over half of cases. Male gender and age are also risk factors.

Warning signs

The classic symptom of bladder cancer is painless hematuria (blood in the urine). Older adults may attribute the bleeding to hemorrhoids or other causes and feel that because there is no pain, it must not be serious.

Diagnosis

Assessment begins with a thorough history and physical. Diagnosis may involve several tests including an intravenous pyelogram (IVP), urinalysis, and cystoscopy (in which the physician visualizes the bladder structures through a flexible fiber-optic scope). This is a highly treatable type of cancer when caught early. In fact, the ACS (2012a ) estimates that there were more than 500,000 survivors of this cancer in 2012.

Treatment

Once diagnosed, treatment depends on the invasiveness of the cancer. Treatments for bladder cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy (ACS, 2012). Specifically, a transurethral resection (TUR) may involve burning superficial lesions through a scope. Bladder cancer may be slow to spread, and less invasive treatments may continue for years before the cancer becomes invasive or metastatic, if ever. Certainly chemotherapy, radiation, and immune (biological) therapy are other treatment options, depending on the extent of the cancer.

Immune/biological therapy includes Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) wash, an immune stimulant that triggers the body to inhibit tumor growth. BCG treatment can also be done after TUR to inhibit cancer cells from re-growing. Treatments are administered by a physician directly into the bladder through a catheter for 2 hours once per week for 6 or more weeks (Mayo Clinic, 2012a). The patient may be asked to lay on his/her stomach, back, and or sides throughout the procedure. The patient should drink plenty of fluids after the procedure and be sure to empty the bladder frequently. In addition, because the BCG contains live bacteria, the patient should be taught that any urine passed in the first six 6 hours after treatment needs to be treated with bleach: One cup of undiluted bleach should be placed into the toilet with the urine and allowed to sit for 15 minutes before flushing (Mayo Clinic, 2012a).

If the cancer begins to invade the bladder muscle, then removal of the bladder (cystectomy) is indicated to prevent the cancer from spreading. Additional diagnostic tests will be performed if this is suspected, including CT scan or MRI. Chemotherapy and/or radiation may be used in combination with surgery. When the cancerous bladder is removed, the person will have a urostomy, a stoma from which urine drains into a collection bag on the outside of the body, much like a colostomy does. Bleeding and infection are two major complications after surgery, regardless of type, whether a TUR or cystectomy is performed. Significant education of the patient related to intake/output, ostomy care, appliances, and the like is also indicated.

For more information on Bladder Cancer, visit National Cancer Institute at:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/bladder/

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 |2020-08-16T19:21:41-05:00September 17th, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Bladder Cancer Risk Factors and Treatment

Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Commonly known as shingles, herpes zoster is the reactivation of the varicella virus that causes chicken pox. Older persons may be infected with this latent virus after initial exposure to it in the form of chicken pox. The virus then lays dormant in the neurons until it is reactivated, often due to immunosuppression, when it appears in the form of painful vesicles or blisters along the sensory nerves. This reactivation tends to occur once in a lifetime, with repeat attacks occurring about 5% of the time (Flossos & Kostakou, 2006). Herpes zoster occurs in both men and women equally, with no specific ethnic variations, but is more common in the elderly.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing shingles are age over 55 years, stress, and a suppressed immune system. For many older women particularly, emotional or psychological stress can trigger recurrence.

Warning Signs

Signs and symptoms of herpes zoster include painful lesions that erupt on the sensory nerve path, usually beginning on the chest or face. They may appear as initially as a rash, looking much like chicken pox, often wrapping around the chest area in a band-like cluster. These weepy vesicles get pustular and crusty over several days, with healing occurring in 2-5 weeks (Kennedy-Malone et al., 2004; NINDS, 2013).

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually made by viewing the appearance of the lesions and a history of onset. A scraping will confirm some type of herpes virus. The most common complaint of those with herpes zoster is the painful blisters that usually subside in 3–5 weeks (NINDS, 2013). Postherpetic neuralgia, a complication of herpes zoster, may last 6–12 months after the lesions disappear and may involve the dermatome, thermal sensory deficits, allodynia (the perception of pain where pain should not be), and/or severe sensory loss, all of which can be very distressing for the patient (Flossos & Kostakou, 2006).

Prevention

Zostavax, a vaccine for shingles, has become available, and it is recommended for all persons age 60 or older who have already had the chicken pox. A person can still get shingles even after having the vaccine, but the symptoms and complications would be less severe. The vaccine has also been approved for persons age 50 – 59, and research has shown that receiving the vaccine significantly decreases the rate of shingles in the population (NINDS, 2013; PubMed Health 2012).

Treatment

Antiviral medications (such as Acyclovir) are used to treat shingles, but must be given within 48 hours of the eruption of the lesions. Topical ointments may help with pain and itching. Pain medications, particularly acetaminophen (Tylenol), are appropriate for pain management in older adults. If a fever is present, rest and drinking plenty of fluids is suggested. Persons with pain that lasts past 6 weeks after the skin lesions are gone and that is described as sharp, burning, or constant require re-evaluation by a physician. Postherpetic neuralgia may be a long-term complication lasting years (PubMed Health, 2012).

The person should be advised to seek medical attention as soon as he or she suspects shingles, in order to receive the best results from Acyclovir. The virus will run its course, but the person is contagious while vesicles are weepy. Persons should not have direct contact (even clothing) with pregnant women, people who have not had chicken pox, other elderly persons, or those with suppressed immune systems. The older person with shingles may experience concerns with pain management and feel a sense of isolation, particularly if they live alone. Arranging for a family member or friend who does not have a high risk of infection to check on the older person at home is advisable.

Visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS) for an informational page on Shingles at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/shingles/shingles.htm

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 |2020-08-16T19:20:36-05:00September 9th, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

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 |2020-08-16T19:17:24-05:00August 29th, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Be informed about Stroke

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 |2020-08-16T19:16:43-05:00August 26th, 2020|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Kidney Stone versus Labor – And the Winner is?
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