Kristen Mauk

About Kristen Mauk

President/CEO - Senior Care Central, LLC

Peripheral Artery Disease

Background

Peripheral artery disease (PAD), the most common type of peripheral vascular disease (PVD), affects 8–12 million Americans, 12–20% of those over the age of 65, and could reach as many as 9.6 million Americans by the year 2050 (Cleveland Clinic, 2012).

Risk Factors/Warning Signs

The risk factors for PAD are the same as those for coronary heart disease (CHD), with diabetes and smoking being the greatest risk factors (AHA, 2005). Ac¬cord¬ing to the American Heart Association, only 25% of those older adults with PAD get treatment. PAD increases the risk of CHD, heart attack, and stroke.

Diagnosis

The most common symptoms of PAD are leg cramps that worsen when climbing stairs or walking, but dissipate with rest, commonly called intermittent claudication (IC). The majority of persons with PAD have no symptoms (AHA, 2005). PAD is a predictor of CHD and makes a person more at risk for heart attack and stroke. Left untreated, PAD may eventually lead to impaired function and decreased quality of life, even when no leg symptoms are present. In the most serious cases, PAD can lead to gangrene and amputation of a lower extremity.

Treatments

Most cases of PAD can be managed with lifestyle modifications such as those for heart-healthy living. This includes maintaining an appropriate weight, limiting salt intake, managing stress, engaging in physical activity as prescribed, quitting smoking, and eating a heart-healthy diet.
Patients with PAD should discuss their symptoms with both their healthcare provider and a physical therapist, because some patients find symptom relief through a combination of medical and therapy treatments (Aronow, 2007; Cleveland Clinic, 2012).

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.

For more information on PAD, visit NIH at:
www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pad/

 

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By |2023-12-22T12:16:06-05:00January 19th, 2024|News Posts|Comments Off on Peripheral Artery Disease

Thanksgiving is Good for Your Health

Close-up of Fresh Vegetables and Fruits

This time of year, many people pause to give thanks for the good things in their life, but did you know that giving thanks is good for your health?

Having an optimistic outlook on life and using positive coping skills to manage stress has been linked in numerous studies to a longer and happier life. One of the common themes among people over age 85 who report very good to excellent health (in spite of dealing with chronic illnesses) is just that – thinking positive. Norman Vincent Peale, in his famous book, “The Power of Positive Thinking” said:

The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.

But what if you are not naturally a positive thinker, but more of a “the glass is half empty” kind of person? The good news is that you can begin to change your thinking to improve your health. If you are not sure where to start, consider some of these suggestions as a place to begin:

Count your blessings. There is an old hymn that was sung when I was girl. When I felt down and discouraged, I would sing this song. It went like this:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed. When you are discouraged thinking all is lost. Count your many blessings every doubt will fly. Then you will be singing as the days go by. Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Count your many blessings. See what God has done.

Sometimes it helps to list what you are grateful for on paper. If you need a place to start, an excellent resource is the book “One Thousand Gifts: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces” by Ann VosKamp. Through a series of 60 short devotionals, the author walks you through a journey to greater appreciation and thankfulness for all that you have.

Learn to be content with what you have.  At the holidays, especially, it is easy to get caught up in thinking about what we wish we had and those things we don’t have. Try looking at it the other way- even in relationship to your health. For example, several years ago I had a catastrophic skiing accident, breaking my leg and tearing all of my knee ligaments. A subsequent blood clot complication meant that I couldn’t have surgery to repair the knee right away. After being in a wheelchair, on crutches, and in awful pain for months, with the help of countless hours of painful therapy and surgery a year later, I was finally able to walk almost normally again. Every day since then, when I am tempted to complain that I will never ski again, cannot kneel or squat, or do not have complete range of motion in that knee, I remind myself of those months when I couldn’t walk at all without help and how it felt to be completely dependent on others for everything. Each step I take, each walk in the sunshine, each little jaunt to the car, and the ability to ride a bicycle is a blessing. Every movement without pain is a bonus I never thought I would have again. Take time to recall when your situation was worse, and express joy that things are better than they were then.

Help others.  One of the best ways to stop feeling sorry for yourself and cultivate an attitude of gratitude is to serve others, especially those who are less fortunate than you. Volunteer to help serve food at the community Thanksgiving dinner or participate in Operation Christmas Child by making a shoebox for a boy or girl in a developing country who would otherwise have no gifts. Take food to your local food pantry. Mow the lawn or shovel snow for your widowed neighbor. Invite the single and lonely person to share Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Buy gifts through the Angel Tree Ministry for children of those in prison. Adopt a needy family. Even if you are homebound, you can encourage others by simple but meaningful tasks such as sending birthday or holiday cards to the people in your church or community group. A simple encouraging phone call can change a person’s day. By giving to others, you focus on positive parts of life and meaningful activities that in turn promote your positive mental health.

So, this Thanksgiving, push the pause button for a little while and take a moment to reflect on what you are grateful for. You may just find that Thanksgiving is good for your health.

 

By |2023-10-27T15:37:05-05:00November 26th, 2023|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Thanksgiving is Good for Your Health

A Mom for all Seasons

I have been fortunate to have a number of mothers in my life – by birth, marriage, or adoption. Each of these women has helped to shape my perspectives and  values in various ways during different seasons of life.  As Mother’s Day approaches, reflecting on the role that mothers play in our lives is a worthy exercise. So, here is my tribute to my mothers.

My first mother is the one who gave me life. I like to think of this as the Spring of my life. Mom Phyllis raised me until the age of 9 years. She tended to the scrapes and cuts, helped to mold my personality, hand-made my clothes, and made life an adventure, all whilst being the wife of a busy doctor who was studying to be a pediatric surgeon. Thank you, Mom, for treasuring my childhood.

bells

When my parents got divorced, a second mother entered the Summer of my life. Mom Kay took three confused and fragile children under her wings as a young step-mother in her early 20’s. She nurtured us as if we were her own. She helped me navigate the difficult teenage years and transition into young adulthood, listening to countless stories of puppy love, crushed hearts, and future dreams. Mom brought faith and light into a home that had been shattered by divorce. She has given me an example of a loving and faithful wife to my father for 45 years. Thank you, Mom, for preserving my spirit and encouraging my faith in God.

In college, I attended a little Baptist church where they had a program in which families could “adopt” a college student. Through a round-about way, I was adopted by Marvin and Patsy Bell. Grandma Bell, as my children later called her, saw me through my first 17-year  marriage, a painful divorce, and was a second mother to many other young women like me. She has been a faithful friend and mentor for more than 38 years. Ma Bell stood in the place of the mothers who couldn’t be with me during some of the coldest and darkest Winters of life. She attended countless school programs for my kids and never forgets a birthday to this day. Thank you, Ma, for giving me the example of the kind of Grandmother I want to be.

Lastly, when I remarried to my current husband, Jim, I gained a wonderful mother-in-law. Gracie is true to her name. She has a loving and nonjudgmental spirit. She always thinks the best of people and is kind and gentle.  In the Fall of my life, she embraced me as a daughter and is always ready to help in times of need.  Thank you, Mom Mauk, for showing me what unconditional love looks like.

All of us have mothers in our lives that we need to thank. So, this Mother’s Day, purpose to give a special blessing to those women who have so influenced your life. Without them, our days would be less rich and the journey much lonelier. Celebrate those who have traversed the seasons of life with you!

By |2023-10-27T15:36:05-05:00November 22nd, 2023|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on A Mom for all Seasons

Sometimes We Just Need a Little Grace

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This is my dog. Her name is Grace. We fondly call her Gracie.

Gracie is a miniature pinscher, born just over 9 years ago, the last of a six-puppy litter. She was barely 3 inches long at birth and a third the size of the other puppies. We doubted she would survive. Her mother rejected her and tried to throw her out of “the nest” because she was different than the other puppies.

But my children and I believed in Gracie’s survival. We fed her by hand with an eyedropper as we cradled her in our palms, and we gave her the love and nurture she didn’t get from her own family of dogs. I had to lay her mother on my lap so that Gracie could be nursed apart from the others. When she was too weak to nurse, the kids and I took shifts to feed her around the clock and speak encouraging words of survival to her. Soon she became the strongest and most dominant of the pack, although still the smallest. She could fend off her five littermates from the food bowl with a fierce growl and scary glance. And Gracie repaid our faith in her will to live by returning the care and comfort she received from us with a lifetime of love and companionship.

Now that she is an older adult dog, she shows those signs of aging that we all do: gray hair, hearing loss, cataracts, stiff joints, and some excess weight around the middle. But like so many of us Baby Boomer humans, Gracie has the heart and soul of her younger years. She will still chase a chipmunk, but no longer catches it. She can still jump around with excitement, but then promptly falls asleep on the couch. Even in her old age, she continues to teach us about another kind of grace.

When I return from a business trip, Gracie is the first to greet me. Long before my husband or kids make it to the door, she hears my footsteps and comes running. You would think I was the most important person on earth as she jumps and whines and licks me, climbing in my lap for some affection. She makes me feel like a queen. It doesn’t matter to Gracie if I am in a grumpy mood, if I’m overweight, or if my hair is gray. She doesn’t care if I’m smart or not, or if others find me attractive. I am her person! She loves me the same in the morning, noon, or night and she never holds a grudge. In fact, I think that my dog seems to know more about unconditional love than many people do. She doesn’t hold my faults against me and she loves me just the way I am. She always shows it no matter what else has happened in the day. Gracie is the one at my feet in every room of the house. She sleeps next to me when I watch TV. She follows me everywhere. She is always at the door to protect me from strangers. She would give her life for mine in an instant if she could, and without a thought for herself. I sometimes find myself wishing that I had her strength of character.

It is a wonder to me that an ordinary, common, little runt of a dog without the powers of human reasoning could possess qualities that we so seldom see in people. The judgment and unforgiveness of others, sometimes even among our own families, is outshone by the loyalty and companionship that little Grace gives me every day.

So, maybe today we can learn a lesson from the simplest of God’s creatures. Show your enthusiasm for life and each other. Be a loyal companion. Take time to show affection. Miss each other terribly when you are apart. Be happy when you are together again. Forget past mistakes and harsh words. Practice forgiveness. And above all, love unconditionally.

By |2023-09-30T17:21:58-05:00October 30th, 2023|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Sometimes We Just Need a Little Grace

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 |2023-09-30T17:19:47-05:00October 16th, 2023|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Shingles (Herpes Zoster)