Boomer’s Blog

Boomer’s Blog2018-05-18T08:58:16-05:00

Dr. Mauk’s Boomer Blog

Each week, Dr. Kristen Mauk shares thoughts relevant to Baby Boomers that are aimed to educate and amuse.

Dr. Kristen L. Mauk, PhD, DNP, RN, CRRN, GCNS-BC, GNP-BC, FAAN

Guest Blog: Seniors and Broken Bones: The Long Road to Recovery



From a slight fracture to an arm to a full break in the shin or fractured hip, broken bones can be serious and result in months of therapy for recovery. When the injured person is a senior, the situation can be even more serious. They may be unable to remain in their own home and care for themselves, and in some cases, they are never able to return to their former level of independence.

Causes of Broken Bones

Falls are the main cause for broken bones in the elderly. They may also suffer a fracture due to a medical condition. It’s important to determine the cause so it can be prevented in the future and medical issues treated.
If the break occurs in either the legs or arms, hands or feet, the injury site may be placed in a cast and the limb immobilized. Some injuries are serious enough to require surgery. The patient may need pins or rods installed for the bones to stay in place until they heal.

Life After the Break

After the senior receives initial treatment for the break, the next step will to figure out care requirements. Depending on the location and severity of the break, the person may not be able to stay by themselves. They may have limited mobility and require assistance for daily tasks.
Even a minor break can sideline a senior more than someone younger. They may tire out easier, especially if the break requires them to move around on crutches.
An assisted living center is one option for seniors until their broken bones heal. Another option which might appeal more would be for them to hire an in-home caregiver. Even though family may want to help out, they have their own responsibilities. In certain situations, they may be able to be a paid family caregiver, which could ease the financial burden on the family and provide the assistance the senior needs until they’re back on their feet.

The Recovery Period

The senior will need to take certain steps to ensure their recovery is successful, and they can get back to their active lifestyle. This includes eating healthy, getting enough rest, and attending physical therapy and doctor appointments as recommended.
While enduring a broken bone for a senior can involve a lengthy recovery process, they can become independent once again with the right care.

By |May 15th, 2024|Categories: Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog|Comments Off on Guest Blog: Seniors and Broken Bones: The Long Road to Recovery

Why Companion Care is More Important than You Think

Many seniors admit that as they grow old, they prefer to settle down and stay rooted. Aging in place has its benefits, but some family members might be concerned about the state of their elderly loved ones in such cases. Concerns such as house chores, safety, and general isolation are a problem for these situations. In such cases, it may be time to consider companion care.

Companion care is a type of long-term care tailormade for seniors and tackles many of the challenges of living alone as an elderly person. Today, we’ll talk about the benefits provided by companion care, and why it’s so important for the elderly to have someone taking care of them.

Independence

A helping hand does not mean an elderly person becomes even more dependent. If anything, companionship actually enhances the feeling of independence. The fact is that as we grow old, we become less capable of doing self-sufficient activities such as driving or sports. Some family caregivers may also start losing their sense of freedom, as all their time becomes dedicated to their aging family.

A companion reduces all those worries. With a companion, the senior now has someone who can watch over them as they go about their daily life. They don’t have to be stuck at home because now, someone is  around to watch them. Family caregivers also lessen their stress because they share the responsibility with a professional. In turn, this makes the elderly family member feel less guilty.

Strong social bonds ensure that an elderly individual continues to be happy and active, even in the twilight of their life.

Companionship

Unsurprisingly, something called companion care provides this benefit in spades. Social connections are important in raising the self-esteem of the elderly. A companion lets your senior loved one enjoy the big and small things with a friendly companion.

It’s a minor benefit to some, but people severely underestimate how much having someone with you improves one’s mental health.  A companion assists your loved ones by teaching them important self-care rituals such as meditation, massage, and morning hygiene.

Validation

A lot of elderly people dread the fact that the world is passing them by. They operate under the false assumption that they are nothing but a burden, and for those suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s, this feeling is doubled in their moments of lucidity. The fear of being a burden only strengthens with every passing year.

A companion alleviates all those issues. In addition to helping the elderly’s quality of life, they also provide a comfortable presence for them. Depression in advanced age can be prevented by someone simply being in a home with the person. Companions communicating with your senior family member means they will always feel seen and heard.

For example, if a senior family member performs an accomplishment, such as succeeding at a difficult hobby or task, the companion is there to provide them with emotional support. Validation is a powerful thing because no person wants to feel alone.

Comfort

For the elderly, sudden change can be incredibly upsetting. Moving to a new place, their children leaving to start their own lives, and a plethora of other life stuff could be very detrimental to their mental state. Anxiety, fear, and depression are common for lonely senior citizens. Thus, most senior citizens prefer the comforts of settling down.

Companionship in a familiar place, such as a family home, leads to many benefits. Familiarity, comfort, and safety are only some of the benefits that come with staying in one place with a companion to care for them. Practically, it’s usually financially viable as there are no moving costs and also means they stay close to the friends they have made in the neighborhood.

Peace of Mind

Lots of family members may be concerned about leaving their elderly loved ones alone. Many senior adults do not like the idea that they make their children/younger family members feel “guilty” for leaving them. For the family who does choose to become caretakers, feelings of bitterness and depression may also ensue. Some cannot shoulder the anxiety of not having 100% of their time belong to them.

Hiring a companion fixes a lot of these issues. Some may balk at this idea as shoving responsibility of a loved one onto someone else, but that is simply untrue. Having your own free time is also important in caring for your loved one. They would not enjoy the idea of being your anchor (in the negative sense).

In addition, companions are trained exactly for this purpose. Certain things that you may struggle with are not a problem for a professional companion. They are trusted to give all of their focus to your loved one.

Conclusion

Companion care is a beneficial decision. The benefits above clearly outline why companion care should not be set aside as a “half-measure” in taking care of your elderly loved ones. Companions enhance your loved one’s life, and they are NOT a replacement for you. Make sure that you still visit your senior loved one regularly, and stay in contact with their companion for updates.

 

By |May 7th, 2024|Categories: Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Why Companion Care is More Important than You Think

Guest Blog: Managing Back Pain as You Age

Like other critical parts of the musculoskeletal system, the spine experiences some wear and tear over the decades. Does this mean back pain is inevitable as you get older? Not necessarily.

What Happens to Your Spine as You Age?
The spine itself is composed of a series of stacked bones called vertebrae. Small joints between each vertebra allow for the spine’s range of movement and little rubbery discs with jelly-like centers inside make sure bones don’t rub against one another (they also serve as the spine’s shock absorbers).

Over time, these disks can dry out, shrink, and wear away, causing the spine to compress. This is known as degenerative disc disease. Sometimes the space surrounding the spinal cord will start to narrow too; this is known as spinal stenosis. Arthritis and osteoporosis may also affect the spine as you age leading to joint degradation and even spinal fractures.

Any of these age-related conditions can contribute to back pain, especially when bones start rubbing against one another and nerves get pinched. The body may even go as far as to grow bone spurs in an effort to stabilize a degenerating spine.

Preventing and Managing Back Pain
So, is there anything older adults can do to prevent it or at least manage the pain and discomfort that comes with those types of conditions? Definitely.

Experts recommend taking actions to relieve some of the burden your spine bears during daily activity. This includes:

  • Exercising to strengthen your back and core to more properly support the spine
    Practicing good posture when sitting, using the computer, texting, etc.
    Wearing a back brace for added posture support and lumbar compression
    Eating a healthy diet rich with anti-inflammatory foods that help you maintain a healthy weight and combat systemic inflammation in they body – think fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean proteins
    Reducing stress on the back. This may mean utilizing lumbar cushions when driving, updating your mattress to better support your spine when sleeping, and avoiding activities which exacerbate your back pain

Additional Thoughts
Of course, it is also important to remember that acute back pain can also stem from something as simple as a muscle strain. Lifting something heavy, straining your arms and neck reaching for something in an awkward position, even sitting for a long period of time in an uncomfortable chair – any of these things can cause back pain and inflammation.

By |May 5th, 2024|Categories: Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Tags: , , , |Comments Off on Guest Blog: Managing Back Pain as You Age

Skin Cancer Warning Signs

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With summer upon us, we are happy to get out and enjoy the change from the long Indiana winter. However, prolonged exposure to that bright sunshine can have dire consequences for us as we age. The risk of skin cancer is higher in older adults, and the major risk factor is sun exposure. Although there are other less serious forms of skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell), malignant melanoma is the most dangerous kind, accounting for more than 8,700 deaths per year (American Cancer Society, 2013).

As we age and our skin becomes more fragile, sun exposure can take its toll. You can be proactive in preventing skin cancer by following some simple tips:
Wear sunscreen when out in the sun and choose SPF 15 or higher every day, but choose SPF 30 with a waterproof barrier for long exposure. Avoid tanning booths. Wear clothing and hats that protect you from exposure. Ask your primary care provider to perform a skin check with your yearly physical, or visit your dermatologist if you have concerns. Know your own skin and check it regularly using the ABCDE method. Report any suspicious lesions to your doctor right away for follow-up.

The ABCDE method can help us 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)
The good news is that even the most serious kind of skin cancer can be nearly 100% curable when detected early.

So, enjoy the sun, but be sun smart as well!

By |May 3rd, 2024|Categories: Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Skin Cancer Warning Signs

Guest Blog: Strategies for fostering cooperation when caring for the elderly

When caring for the elderly, it can be tempting to feel as though you’re always in charge, and this can lead to treating those in your care like children. This can make what is already a difficult time even more so, as the elderly in your care will gradually feel as though they are losing any of the agencies they once had. Rather than approach care as though you lead, and they follow, why not tries an alternative view – a strategy based on cooperation.

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It can be difficult to foster cooperation whilst caring for the elderly – many people are resentful of having to rely on someone else for help, and can actively reject what little you aim to do for them. No matter where you work or where your elderly relatives may be in care – whether it’s somewhere like Forest Healthcare or a simple food run once a week – it can be difficult work. There are some strategies you can use to deal with this, however.

Take an Interest

Firstly, take an active interest in those in your care. Get to know them as people. Remembering a couple of small details – whether it’s that their son is on holiday, or that they’re writing a letter to a cousin – and making the effort to ask about them will go a long way towards creating a sense of cooperation. If you’re treating them as an equal to you, and taking an interest in their life, then you are no longer some aloof figure, but a potential confidante. It doesn’t have to be a friendship by any means – but getting to know them as more than just one of many older people you help on a daily basis can go a long way.

Validate Them

Never make them feel stupid, or as though something you’ve discussed is irrelevant. Whilst some things the elderly people in your care might think desire or discuss may seem strange, it’s important to remember the huge difference in life experiences you’ve had. For instance, if they bring up something that’s bothering them that you might consider minor, treat it with the respect they deserve. Allowing the people in your care to remain autonomous is a vital step towards a working partnership.

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Expect Resistance

You will be resisted. This is just a fact, and the sooner you accept it, the easier it is to deal with. Rather than being surprised and allowing you to get annoyed about it, treat it as what it is – just one step in a larger process? Try to figure out the root causes of the resistance – is it coming from a place of fear, perhaps of medical intervention? Or perhaps it’s resentment at their inability to do something themselves. Each person will be different, and treating resistance on an individual basis will make it easier to deal with in the long run.

Use ‘Trial Runs’

Imposing a particular routine, or type of medical care, on an elderly person can lead to them feeling as though they have no control. Instead, try to make use of trial runs – set a length of time for them to try something, and then meet to discuss it. This way they can make active, informed decisions about their own care – and you’ll often find that, given this opportunity, they’ll be happy to go along with what you suggested in the first place!

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In general, what caring for the elderly mostly comes down to is remembering how things are from their point of view. To them, a move into care – no matter how great the care! – is a move away from independence, towards a more constructive way of life. In order to work towards cooperation, the best methods involve validating these feelings, acknowledging the difficulties, and trying to work around them. Therefore, anything that increases the autonomy and agency of those in your care is a great place to start. If you’re based somewhere like Forest Healthcare, then those decisions will be in your hands most of the day, but even in smaller, less frequent contact based care, it’s worth employing. If anything, the sooner you start working towards a cooperative strategy, the easier it will be for both of you in the long run.

 

 

 

 

 

By |April 17th, 2024|Categories: Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Guest Blog: Strategies for fostering cooperation when caring for the elderly

Silversneakers: How Medicare’s Chic Fitness App Can Keep You Active

Fitness apps like Peloton and Nike Training Club are in vogue right now, offering live classes with personal trainers, on-demand workout videos, and access to workshops and support groups right from your phone, all for the price of a streaming subscription. It’s a workout revolution, but for many seniors it can be a bit too intense.

Some apps rely heavily on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a workout style designed for the high-energy professional with only thirty minutes to spare. Others push expensive equipment like exercise bikes, treadmills, and fitness trackers. Most notably, nearly all of them are focused on the fitness goals of the younger generation: shedding extra pounds and getting toned and sexy.

A senior, however, has much different fitness goals. Yes, losing weight and improving your physique can be a wonderful goal at any age, but many seniors approach exercise as a way to stave off the effects of aging. Low-intensity exercise can bolster your independence by improving balance and preserving mobility, preventing dangerous falls. A good fitness program can help prevent heart disease, bolster your energy, boost your confidence, and improve your quality of life. The issue is finding one. Depending on your Medicare plan, you may already be eligible for one of the most comprehensive fitness plans on the market, all at no cost to you.

SilverSneakers offers all of the allure of those chic fitness apps in a senior-focused package. Not only can you access on-demand workouts as easily as clicking a YouTube video, but you also get access to a plethora of in-person benefits, including access to gyms and fitness facilities.

How does SilverSneakers work?

SilverSneakers is a perk offered through select Medicare Advantage plans.  Medicare Advantage is a private alternative to Medicare Parts A and B, also known as Original Medicare, that combines hospital and medical insurance with benefits Medicare doesn’t usually offer, like vision or dental care. In exchange for committing to a specific insurance network, you can get lower premiums, reduced cost-sharing obligations, and perks like grocery cards and meal delivery. SilverSneakers is just one of many benefits these private insurers offer seniors, and it’s undoubtedly one of the more enticing.

When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes SilverSneakers, you’ll be directed to download their app. This app, which is available on iOS and Android, includes live and on-demand classes covering various fitness topics. Their classic courses focus on improving balance, strength, and endurance, and are designed for seniors looking to improve their mobility and independence. If that’s not enough of a challenge, they also offer yoga, pilates, Zumba, tai chi, and strength training, among others. They also cover wellness-related topics like nutrition, mindfulness, and meditation.

What helps SilverSneakers stand out over the competition are their in-person offerings. Membership in SilverSneakers includes access to over 15,000 fitness locations, including national chains like Planet Fitness.

Typically, this includes access to all of that location’s amenities, including equipment, pools, hot tubs, saunas, and any nutritional counseling they may offer. SilverSneakers also coordinates in-person courses through their app, allowing you to find local classes and programs that interest you. The plan is 100 percent customizable: you can go to any participating fitness center, take any courses you like, and focus on the benefits you want. Only want to do yoga? No problem. Don’t want to leave the house? You don’t need to. Only interested in your gym’s hot tubs and saunas? You do you.

Because it’s part of your Medicare Advantage plan, you’re under no obligations or pressure to use it, and you’re not necessarily wasting money by skipping a gym visit. It’s just one part of your whole healthcare package, and it’s up to you to fit it into your lifestyle and fitness journey.

What’s the Catch?

If all of this sounds too good to be true, that’s because there are a few caveats that come with any Medicare Advantage plan, and with SilverSneakers in particular.

Private insurers offer Medicare Advantage, which means you’re bound to that insurer’s network. Unlike Original Medicare, which is accepted practically everywhere in the country, Medicare Advantage is usually only accepted by in-network providers. Some plans allow limited out-of-network services, but for the most part, you’ll need to stick with a more limited pool of doctors and specialists.

These plans are also limited to specific regions, meaning SilverSneakers may not be available in your area. Even if it is, there is also the risk of losing your benefits if you spend a significant amount of time away from your coverage area. While Medicare Advantage always offers the same benefits as Original Medicare, the limited network might be a deal breaker for some.

SilverSneakers is one of the best fitness programs available to seniors, and with no-cost access to fitness centers across the country, it has a major edge over the competition. However, it’s still important to be informed.

Speak with a licensed insurance agent, such as those available at MedicareInsurance.com, before enrolling in Medicare Advantage to ensure that your chosen plan meets your healthcare needs. Be sure to consult a doctor before beginning a diet or exercise program and read the privacy policy before enrolling in any online service.

By |April 15th, 2024|Categories: Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Tags: , |Comments Off on Silversneakers: How Medicare’s Chic Fitness App Can Keep You Active