Older Americans Who Neglect Oral Care Put Overall Health At Risk

June 19, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

 

Conscientious parents constantly remind their children to brush and floss, and routinely schedule dental checkups to make sure their teeth and gums are healthy – and staying that way.

But youngsters aren’t the only ones who who can use such reminders. Older Americans need to put a priority on their oral health as well, and research shows that as a group they aren’t doing so.

In fact, the statistics are grim. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost every single American over age 65 (96 percent) has had a cavity, and 20 percent have untreated tooth decay. Another 65 percent suffer from gum disease, an ailment that has been linked to a host of other problems, such as strokes, heart disease and diabetes.

“Anyone who thinks they can ease up on dental care as they age is making a big mistake,” says Dr. Harold Katz, a dentist, bacteriologist and developer of TheraBreath Healthy Gums Oral Rinse (www.therabreath.com).

“Not only do poor dental habits affect what’s going on in your mouth, they also affect your overall health.”

Some of the CDC’s findings that Katz says are troubling include:

  • Tooth loss. Nearly one in five adults aged 65 or older have lost all of their teeth. Complete tooth loss is twice as prevalent among adults aged 75 and older (26 percent) compared with adults aged 65 to 74 (13 percent).  The CDC points out that having missing teeth, or wearing dentures, can have a detrimental effect on nutrition. “It’s not surprising that people who have lost teeth, or wear denture, often are going to choose soft food they chew easily,” Katz says. “They will pass up fresh fruits and vegetables that are more nutritious, but are more difficult for them to eat.”
  • Oral cancer. Cancers of the mouth (oral and pharyngeal cancers) are primarily diagnosed in older adults; median age at diagnosis is 62 years. “That’s another reason it’s important for older people to have regular checkups,” Katz says. “Your dentist can check for signs of oral cancer during those visits.”
  • Dry mouth caused by medications. Most older Americans take both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, many of which can cause dry mouth. Reduced saliva flow increases the risk of cavities. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath, and also lubricates the mouth, making it easier to eat, swallow, speak and taste food. “Sometimes dry mouth might just cause mild discomfort,” Katz says. “At other times it can lead to significant oral disease that can compromise the person’s health, dietary intake and quality of life.”

“As  you age, proper oral care is just as important as ever,” Katz says. “It’s not something you want to ignore because your overall health is at stake.”

 

4 Common Retirement  Planning Mistakes

June 14, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness, Money

And How to Avoid Them

Constructing a smart retirement income plan isn’t easy. Throughout the working years there are many factors to consider, such as salary, expenses – monthly and unforeseen – debt and college for the kids, just to name a few. Read more

Where to Retire

June 14, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Feature Stories

And Things to Consider When Deciding

By Melissa Erickson

In addition to being a huge financial decision, retirement is not only a question of when, but where. Careful consideration and weighing all the factors are imperative to avoid a costly mistake. Read more

Better Sleep Can Prevent Cognitive Decline

June 11, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

Better Sleep Can Prevent Cognitive Decline

Psychiatrist and Sleep Expert Offers Tips on Sleep and Brain Health

By Dr. Alex Dimitriu

 

Menlo Park, CA, June 2018 – Sleep is as important to our health as good nutrition and regular exercise. Not getting enough sleep is detrimental to daytime functioning – to our mood, energy, concentration and reaction time – and over the long term, it contributes to obesity and the risk of serious illness. But according to psychiatrist and sleep specialist Dr. Alex Dimitriu, sleepless nights have implications well beyond making you sleepy the next day. “Some of the most exciting research in sleep science is studying the effects of sleep on the brain and what happens when you deprive your brain of restorative sleep,” he says. “New research suggests that sleeping less than seven to eight hours a night can be linked to memory loss, cognitive decline, and even Alzheimer’s disease.”

 

Our brains don’t sleep when we do.

During waking hours, the brain is bombarded with more stimuli than it can process. When we go to sleep, the brain goes to work, making order out of chaos and archiving memories for later retrieval. It does this by strengthening critical neural connections, discarding unimportant ones, and solidifying new memories.

 

“We’ve all noticed, and research has confirmed that ‘sleeping on it’ helps us recall a newly learned task,” says Dr. Dimitriu. “This explains why people suffering memory deficits can recall a name from forty years ago but not what they had for lunch yesterday. Their brains have become less efficient at making new connections and storing new memories. Better sleep may improve this key brain function.”

 

As with every organ in the body that converts fuel into energy, the brain produces waste that accumulates during waking hours and is cleared out while we sleep. There is more space between brain cells while we’re asleep, making it easier for cerebrospinal fluid to flush out toxins. Researchers are just beginning to understand this cleansing process – called the glymphatic system – but it appears that the more waste that’s littering the brain, the easier it is for degenerative diseases to take hold. Among these waste products is beta-amyloid, the toxic protein best known for its presence in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The glymphatic system, which becomes less efficient as we age, does its work while we sleep, raising the possibility that better sleep can improve the processes that flush beta-amyloid and other toxins from the brain.

 

Older adults with dementia suffer sleep disturbances that have generally been considered a consequence of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Now researchers are looking into whether sleep problems might themselves be a risk factor for cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. In a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health, it was found that losing just one night of sleep led to an immediate increase in beta-amyloid in the brain. These beta-amyloid proteins clump together to form the amyloid plaques that impair communication between neurons and are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Dimitriu notes: “While previous studies have shown that sleep deprivation elevates the level of beta-amyloid proteins in the brains of mice, this is one of the first to show that sleep may play an important role in clearing beta-amyloid in the human brain. This is an important step in helping us understand the pathology of Alzheimer’s and potentially how to prevent it.”

 

Reversing cognitive decline

“We are seeing more and more evidence that sleep plays a critical role in maintaining brain function as we age,” Dr. Dimitriu continues. “The question of reversing cognitive decline by improving sleep is another interesting avenue for investigation.” A 2014 study tested a novel therapeutic program for reducing mild cognitive impairment based on the idea that clinical trials in pursuit of a “magic bullet” drug have yielded little but that a combination of therapies that address multiple targets in the underlying pathology of Alzheimer’s might have an additive or synergistic effect. The program included life style changes, including sleep optimization, as well as a regimen of medication and supplements designed to optimize metabolic factors implicated in Alzheimer’s, correct imbalances, reduce beta-amyloid, and more. “The study was small but showed impressive results,” says Dr. Dimitriu. “Clearly this combination approach shows promise.”

 

Improving sleep

Everyone has trouble falling asleep occasionally. For most of the millions of Americans who regularly struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep, improving sleep habits can restore a restful night’s sleep. Dr, Dimitriu makes these recommendations:

 

·        Don’t eat a heavy meal or drink a lot of liquid close to bedtime. Reduce or eliminate stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine during the day and alcohol in the evening.

·        Exercise regularly – but early in the day, not within several hours of bedtime.

·        Stick to a sleep schedule, going to bed and waking at the same time each day, including weekends. Avoid naps or limit them to 30 minutes; don’t nap after 3:00pm.

·        Keep your room cooler than during the day. Use a fan or noise machine to mask distracting sounds. Try room-darkening shades if morning light wakes you too early.

·        Take about 30 minutes to wind down before going to bed. Do something relaxing, like reading or listening to quiet music. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, do something relaxing for 20 minutes, or until you feel sleepy.

·        Sleeping on your side, particularly on your left side, may improve circulation while you sleep.

·        Don’t use a computer, tablet or smart phone right before going to bed! The light from the screen stimulates the brain and makes it hard to fall asleep.

 

“We’ve long known that sleep is important for overall health and especially for brain function,” Dr. Dimitriu concludes. “Now, as we uncover the mechanisms at work, we have the opportunity to make great strides in preventing and treating cognitive decline and degenerative disease.”

 

Alex Dimitriu, MD, is double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and is the founder of the Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine Center in Menlo Park, CA. 

Increasing our awareness of stroke

May 31, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

By Matthew Sullivan, M.D.

 

National Stroke Awareness Month may be behind us, but work is always needed to combat one of the deadliest diseases on earth. We have all likely experienced the devastating effects of a stroke in either the life of a family member or in someone close to us. As a physician, I see the consequences of this terrible disease every day. There are many ways to work to reduce the impact of stroke in our community and as with any significant public health threat, it starts with all of us refreshing a few key pieces of knowledge.

 

Sometimes known as a cardiovascular accident (CVA), a stroke is actually a decrease in the blood flow to an area of the brain. This can happen in one of two ways—a blockage of blood flow within an artery (an ischemic stroke, the most common form) or by leakage of blood from a damaged blood vessel (a hemorrhagic stroke, less common).

 

Brain cell death due to decreased oxygen occurs within minutes and results of this can be catastrophic. In the United States, stroke is the leading cause of significant disability and is the fifth leading cause of death. It is the second leading cause of death worldwide. The numbers surrounding this disease are fairly staggering from both a personal and public health point of view, but the good news is that many strokes and their tragic outcomes can be prevented.

 

There are risk factors we cannot change, such as our age, race, gender and family history. Importantly, age is the biggest factor as chances of a stroke double in each sequential decade after age 55. Women are actually at greater stroke risk than men overall—each year, strokes kill twice as many women as breast cancer. More men have strokes prior to the age of 75 (three-quarters of all strokes happen after this age). Black and Hispanic men are also at increased risk.

 

Despite some risks that we are stuck with, there are modifiable risk factors as well. This means everyone has the ability to reduce their risk of having a stroke. Quitting smoking, eating healthier (the Mediterranean diet), increasing exercise, controlling high blood pressure, losing weight, improving your cholesterol, cutting alcohol intake, treating atrial fibrillation and controlling your blood sugars if you are a diabetic all top the list. While these things may look fairly simple, they are some of the most difficult behavior changes I talk about with my patients.

 

Change and motivation for change happen in different ways for all of us. If some of these things seem like too great a task to take on, try setting a small, achievable goal at first and slowly building from there. When in doubt about how to improve your own risk, you can (and should) talk to your primary care provider. Even a seemingly small behavior or behavior change can have a large impact. Consider that:

 

  • Smoking even one cigarette a day increases the risk of stroke by 30 percent;
  • Reducing blood pressure to healthy levels can reduce your risk by 40 percent;
  • Increased physical activity (even by walking more) can reduce risk by 25 percent.

 

Preventing a stroke is the best possible outcome. Sometimes we find ourselves in less than ideal circumstances. If a stroke does happen, the speed at which you get medical attention is key to preventing some of its worst effects. A good way to remember the signs of stroke is to “act F.A.S.T. ” This stands for:

 

  • F ace – check for drooping and asymmetry;
  • A rm – check for weakness and numbness;
  • S peech – listen for difficulty speaking;
  • T ime – call 911 and get medical help as soon as possible (time equals brain).

 

When you suspect that you or someone you love is having a stroke, don’t wait—get medical attention immediately.

 

Stroke is one of the most common and catastrophic diseases we face. I’m writing because I’ve seen how devastating the results of stroke can be, yet there are real, concrete steps we can all take to reduce that risk. By remembering to “act F.A.S.T.,” we can get timely treatment which may prevent a devastating outcome. By making a lifestyle change (or two), we can avoid a stroke entirely. Small changes can truly make a big difference.

 

Learn more at stroke.org and strokeassociation.org.

 

Editor’s note: Matthew Sullivan, M.D. , is a family medicine physician on staff at Green Mountain Family Practice in Northfield. You can reach him at 802-485-4161 or matthew.sullivan@cvmc.org

Keene Medical Products Commits to Continued Partnership with Vermont Medicaid

May 29, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness, News

The Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA) and Keene Medical Products announced today that the medical equipment provider will remain a full member of the Vermont Medicaid provider network. Keene will continue to fulfill all categories of service to Vermonters, erasing a late April decision by the company to withdraw from the market effective June 1st.

 

Keene is an important source of medical equipment for the state’s health care providers and Medicaid members. Today’s announcement means that Vermont health care providers and members who use Keene products – including hospital beds, walkers, commodes, ostomy and enteral nutrition – can continue to count on those products and do not have to switch to a new equipment provider.

 

“On behalf of our more than 160,000 members, and especially the 4,000 that use Keene products, I thank Keene for their continued collaboration,” said DVHA Commissioner Cory Gustafson. “We are grateful that our members can focus on getting the care they need and avoid changes and disruptions.”

 

“We are committed to our Vermont customers, including those who receive coverage through Medicaid and Dr. Dynasaur,” said Keene CEO Kurt Filiault. “Our dialogue with DVHA over the last few weeks has been positive and given us confidence that our business model can continue to succeed.”

 

At issue was a recent change in Medicaid reimbursement rates made to align with changes in federal law. DVHA consulted with the Home Medical Equipment and Services Association of New England (HOMES) and its members prior to the change and has been in frequent communication with the association and its network to address implementation concerns. DVHA continues to make adjustments to ensure the new fee schedule balances the State’s commitment to its Medicaid members and Vermont taxpayers. DME companies can use the State’s Global Commitment Register (http://dvha.vermont.gov/global-commitment-to-health/global-commitment-register) to track additional changes.

 

DVHA and Keene are also collaborating on an outreach plan, notifying members by phone and mail that Keene’s services will continue, that they can disregard the company’s previous letter, and that they will not be required to switch to a different DME provider in the Vermont Medicaid network.

Today’s announcement was welcomed by Vermont’s hospitals and medical providers. “We are pleased that DVHA and Keene reached this agreement,” North Country Hospital Interim CEO Tom Frank said. “High quality rural health care relies on access to durable medical equipment, and a robust provider network is the key to providing that access. Keene is an important member of that network, so we’re relieved that this collaboration will continue.”

 

About DVHA and Keene

The Department of Vermont Health Access is Vermont’s Medicaid agency and is charged with improving the health and well-being of Vermonters by providing access to quality healthcare, cost effectively.

 

Keene Medical Products is a family-owned company with over 150 staff who focus on northern New England, providing outstanding customer service and the highest quality products at competitive prices.

 

 

 

Age Well and Lindley Food Service Partner to Deliver Meals on Wheels to Northwestern Vermont

May 17, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Food, News

Age Well (formerly the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging), Vermont’s largest Meals on Wheels provider, has entered into a partnership with Lindley Food Service to support the growing demand and changing environment of Meals on Wheels.  Under the current model, Age Well oversees fourteen different food vendors across Northwestern Vermont.  “With this many unique vendors, it’s difficult to provide consistent quality control and food variety for the nearly 1,500 people we serve,” stated Age Well Nutrition Director, Chris Moldovan. “Achieving the highest quality of care for aging Vermonters requires we find a way to improve our nutrition program and food production model.”

 

With 25 years of experience providing quality meals for programs throughout the northeast, Lindley has been a vendor for Age Well’s Addison County meal programs for over two decades.  This transition emerged from a three-year process that involved a consultant, focus groups, social service providers, food program coordinators, and other community members. The goals for all stakeholders in this process were the same: expand options and improve quality for home-delivered meals, ensure food safety, provide consistent training and background checks forvolunteers, and meet the dietary, religious and cultural needs of those served.

 

Lindley will begin preparing chilled meals for Age Well’s entire four county region (Addison, Chittenden, Grand Isle and Franklin County), beginning in early July. Meals will continue to be delivered by the nearly 400 dedicated volunteers who provide a meal, safety check and friendly visit to seniors who struggle with hunger and may be isolated and living alone. “Chilled meals will be prepared by Lindley and delivered in place of the old-style heated meals,” said Moldovan.  “This change will provide a number of benefits for our clients; the flexibility to reheat or freeze their meals and eat them at a time that best suits them.  Another reason for changing from heated meals to a chilled meals model was our need to enhance food safety, nutritional benefits, and level the playing field in terms of food quality” explained Moldovan.

 

Lindley will assist with menu planning, customized delivery schedules, and create special menus overseen by a Registered Dietitian.  This will enable Age Well to provide therapeutic, medically tailored and culturally appropriate meals and ensure that we are meeting the needs of those with chronic conditions and our increasingly diverse population.  With the chilled meals also comes brand new packaging, which will be clearly labelled and specifically designed to reheat easily and safely.  The use of chilled meals is now considered best practice for Meals on Wheels programs across the country.  By moving to this model and partnering with one vendor, Age Well is taking the necessary steps to ensure consistent quality of our meals, meet a broader range of nutritional needs, and continue to combat the three of the biggest threats of aging: hunger, isolation and loss of independence.

 

For more informationwww.agewellvt.org

3 Ways To Help A Loved One Receive Proper Nursing Home Care

December 20, 2017  
Filed under Aging Parents

Elderly It’s an almost weekly occurrence across the country. Nursing homes face lawsuits over patients who develop severe bedsores that in some cases lead to death.

One week it’s a now-closed nursing home in California dealing with its third such lawsuit. Another week it’s a New Jersey nursing home sued by the family of a woman who died after reportedly suffering from a bedsore that wasn’t properly monitored and cared for. Read more

How To Protect Yourself From Holiday Season Charity Scams

December 18, 2017  
Filed under Aging Parents, Money

By Justin Lavelle
The holiday season is a time for giving and most charities are working double time to get a piece of the donation pie. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also a prime time for scam artists to get to work and separate you from your hard Read more

 Coping with the Holidays when Experiencing Grief

December 18, 2017  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

Now that the holiday season has begun, it’s important to recognize that there are many who may not feel particularly festive. After losing a loved one, it can be hard to imagine entering the holiday season when there is someone missing. Maryellen Corliss, director of BAYADA Hospice in Burlington, offers the following tips:

 

  • Know that it’s ok to do things differently. Some people may find comfort in following family traditions. Others may find the thought of following those traditions without their loved one too painful. Both approaches are completely valid. Since different family members may fall into different categories, it’s important to have open communication and be respectful of each other’s points of view during this time of difficulty and transition.
  • Have a plan. Difficult situations can be made more challenging when they catch you off-guard. Even though it still will not be easy, if you know what to expect, you have the opportunity to prepare emotionally. Once you have made a decision, do not create emotional unrest by second-guessing yourself.
  • Ask for help. There are people who want to support you but don’t know what you need. Here are some situations where you can provide concrete ways for friends to step in:
    • You want to have a tree, but need someone else to be the one to decorate it.
    • You could use another set of hands to help bake cookies with the kids.
    • You have decided to make a dish, or possibly the main meal, for the holiday dinner, but would prefer someone else deal with the crowds at the grocery store.
  • Determine what is: a) Need to do b) Nice to do and c) Nuts to do. For example, you need to eat dinner; it would be nice to have dinner at a family member’s house; it would be nuts to host a five course meal for 30 people. Focus on the “need to do” and if you feel comfortable, sprinkle in a few things that are “nice to do.” Do not attempt the “nuts to do.”
  • Take care of yourself. You will need your rest to help you cope with the physically and emotionally draining times. Your body and mind can also function better through exercising and eating a balanced diet.

 

 

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