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Making the Most of Your Doctor Visits

November 15th, 2017

Christine Stone, RN

Do you feel overwhelmed when you visit your doctor?  Do you forget what you wanted to ask about, or forget the names of your medications?   A lot of people feel rushed and get flustered at the appointments.  They forget what the doctor said or are confused by the instructions they were given.   Don’t despair!   There are things you can do to make every doctor visit count.

Prepare for the visit.  

  1. Write down a list of your questions. Things to consider are:  What is the reason for your visit?  Do you have a new medical problem, or is this a follow-up appointment?   Refer to your list during your time with the doctor to make sure all your questions are answered and nothing is overlooked.
  1. Don’t be shy or embarrassed to share all your symptoms or health concerns. The more the doctor knows, the better he/she can help.
  1. Write down the complete list of the medications you are taking – even medications prescribed by specialists. Be sure to include vitamins, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications.  

 
When you are at the appointment

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if there’s something you don’t understand. If you want to know why a medication is being prescribed, just ask.  You have the right to understand all decisions that affect your health.  
  1. Bring an adult family member or friend to the appointment. An extra set of ears can pick up on information that you might have missed.  It’s okay for that person to take notes while you talk with the doctor.
  1. Before leaving, get a recap of the appointment. Ask the doctor or nurse to repeat the instructions.  Write down what you need to remember.  Some offices now give a written summary of the appointment – make sure you understand the information on that summary. 
  1. Were you given prescriptions? Make sure you have the paper copy of the prescription before you leave your appointment.   Some offices now send prescriptions directly to your pharmacy.   If you still have questions about your prescriptions, the pharmacist is always a source of information. 

 
And while we’re talking about prescriptions –  ALWAYS use the same pharmacy – this will eliminate any chance of medication errors.

Brand Name Drugs vs Generic Drugs – Which is Better for You?

October 30th, 2017

By: Christine Stone, RN, BSN

If you watch TV you’ve probably seen all those commercials for drugs claiming to be the next best thing for any variety of medical conditions from diabetes to dementia to toe fungus. You name the disease, there’s probably a new medication being advertised. Yes, we are very fortunate to have new medications and therapies available to us. But the cost to develop, test, and advertise new drugs can run in the multi-millions of dollars, and are therefore, very expensive. And while name brand name drugs are effective, they can be very costly to you, the consumer, and may not be covered by your prescription plan. So what’s the answer? Generic Drugs.
If you’re like most people who take prescription medications, you know how costly those medications can be.
But should cost be the primary deciding factor when choosing a generic medication over a name brand medication? This is an important discussion to have with your healthcare providers. Let’s look at the differences.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully regulates the development and testing of new drugs. Once a drug has been tested and proven safe for humans, it is patented, manufactured and prescribed by physicians. The patent on new drugs is about 20 years. This prevents copycat (generic) drugs from being manufactured in any form or dosage. Once the patent has expired, other companies can legally manufacture generic versions of the drug. The FDA makes sure generic drugs have the same chemical structure as the name brand drug.

Are generic drugs as effective as brand name drugs? The answer is Yes and No.
Once a drug is more affordable, many more people will be taking the drug. This means that rare problems with the drug could emerge that were not evident when the drug was first tested. This is one main reason people are wary of generic drugs. There are also rare situations where a person’s body chemistry is different from that of the average person which alters the drug’s effectiveness for that person. In this case, the brand name medication is the better choice. For most people, the generic drug is perfectly acceptable.

In summary, talk with your health care providers when deciding the best medications for you. Don’t be shy about asking if you need the brand name drug. I have found that most providers are sensitive to patient costs and are very willing to order generic drugs. Remember – you always have the right to know and be informed about any medication or test being prescribed for you.

Six Causes of Bad Breath

September 27th, 2017

September 19th, 2017

Sumitted by: Christine Stone, RN

There are many reason for having bad breath and while most are innocuous and treatable, bad breath can be a sign of something more serious! According to the American Dental Association, 50% of adults have bad breath. Here are six causes of bad breath of which you should be aware.
1. Bacteria – There are hundreds of (good) bacteria that are normal in the human mouth. These bacteria help start the process of food digestion, but can also contribute to dental plaque formation. Without good dental hygiene these bacteria can cause bad breath.

  1. Dry Mouth – is the absence of saliva in the mouth and can be caused by many medications, problems with the salivary glands, or simply from mouth breathing. Saliva has many anti-bacterial properties and without sufficient saliva bacteria can flourish in the mouth and cause odors.
  2. Gum Disease – Bacterial plaque causes gum disease. Bad breath can be one of the subtle warnings signs for gum disease.
  3. Food – Aromatic compounds in foods like onions and garlic are eliminated through the lungs, not the digestive tract! No matter how much you brush your teeth or use mouth wash these food will cause breath problems. In addition these compounds are eliminated through sweat glands. A double-whammy of bad smell!
  4. Smoking – Smoking causes bad breath as well as a whole host of other potentially serious health problems like gum disease and cancers (lungs, mouth, throat). Smoking also affects your ability to smell and taste.
  5. Medical Conditions – Bad breath can result from sinus problems, liver or kidney diseases, gastric reflux, or a host of other causes. In the absence of obvious causes see your doctor ASAP.

It’s important to have regular dental check ups and maintain good oral hygiene – brush and floss regularly.

Ticks!!!

September 27th, 2017

August 31st, 2017

Submitted by Christine Stone, RN     Clinical Liaison

To me, ticks seem more plentiful this year (20170 compared to past years.  Just thinking of them makes me feel itchy.  All I have to do is walk outside, and I find a tick on me.   Fortunately, the ticks had not yet attached to my skin.   I’ve done some reading on the subject of ticks, the diseases they can transmit to humans and animals, and some ways to prevent and treat tick bites.  Here’s a summary of my readings:

Ticks love to hide in grassy, wooded and leaf covered areas.  They crawl, rather than fly, or fall from trees.  By just walking across your lawn, ticks can land on you.  Not all ticks carry the dreaded Lyme disease, but there are a number of different diseases they can carry.   If ticks feed on infected mice, they can transmit the diseases to humans and animals.   When the tick attaches itself, it “salivates” into the human body – this makes me itchy

Always check yourself and for ticks when you come in from the outside – hair, under arms, groin, under your waistband.  Check your pets too.  If you find a tick on yourself or your pet, there are very specific ways to remove the insect.   Pay no attention to all those “folklore remedies” which recommend using peppermint oil, nail polish, petroleum jelly, apple cider vinegar, or heat.  They don’t work, and you’d be wasting precious time.   Instead, grab the tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, pull straight up with steady pressure.  Then thoroughly clean the area (and your hands) with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.   To get rid of the tick, flush it down the toilet, or place in a sealed plastic bag.

Other measures you can take to minimize ticks include:

  • Keep grass mowed, remove tall grass/brush and leaves so ticks don’t have dark, wet places to hide.
  • Use wood chips or mulch as a barrier around trees and bushes.
  • Spraying insecticides is probably the least environmentally-friendly option. Some communities offer neighborhood spraying.   Stay indoors when spraying is being done.
  • Rather than spraying, treat clothing with chemicals that kill or repel ticks such as DEET or permthrin. This can keep ticks from landing on you and biting.
  • Throw clothing in the dryer on high heat after coming inside.
  • When walking or hiking, wear light-colored clothing so the ticks can be easily seen. Stay in the middle of the trail
  • Check with your veterinarian for appropriate tick and flea treatment for your pet.

If you develop a rash or a fever, seek medical attention right away.   Early recognition and treatment can decrease the risk of serious complications later on.

Is Volunteering Right For You?

September 27th, 2017

August 10th, 2017

Submitted by Christine Stone, RN Clinical Liaison

Youngsters are not the only ones who can benefit from volunteering. Studies show that older people can greatly benefit from volunteer work. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 20 million older adults contributed in excess of three billion hours of community service between 2011 and 2013. And while there are many individual reasons to volunteer, the overall reason is the increased sense of purpose.

If you want to volunteer, but don’t know where to start, it’s important to find the right “fit.” Look for opportunities to best utilize your interests, skills and experience. Here are some things to consider when venturing into volunteerism.

  1. Know your schedule. Write down your known commitments and daily schedule. Use this to determine how much free time you have to volunteer. Some volunteer opportunities have greater time requirements than others.
    2. Consider your experience. Remember that you have a lifetime of knowledge to offer. Sharing the experience from your professional life can provide a sense of purpose that will make you feel like you’re still actively involved in your industry.
    3. Consider all the possible volunteer opportunities. Volunteers offer their time because they have a passion to help others – and that can be given in many different ways.
    4. Leave time for the rest of your life. Volunteering is a selfless act and oftend the backbone of charitable organizations. You need to leave time for the rest of your life as well. Leave time for your own hobbies and personal interests. Don’t over-extend yourself to the point where you (or your family) resents your volunteerism.

Finding the right volunteer opportunity can make all the difference for older men and women who want to give back to their communities.

Ideas for Easier Everyday Living with Arthritis

September 27th, 2017

August 1st, 2017

Submitted by Christine Stone, RN Clinical Liaison – LifeQuest Nursing Center

Living every day with the aches and pains of arthritis can be challenging. The tasks you used to do easily and without second thought now seem impossible or may make you avoid activities altogether. If your pain is unbearable, always notify your healthcare practitioner. But here are a few ideas to make living with arthritis easier.
1. Plant a portable garden or a raised-bed garden. If you want to grow small patches of flowers, herbs or veggies, make it easier by planting them in a bucket with a handle or in a small pot. Consider placing the pots on small tables with wheels – at knee height. The benefit? No more bending! In addition you’ll be able move the pots around to sun or shade as needed.
2. Replace doorknobs with handles. There are lever-style adapters that fit over doorknobs if you don’t want to get into complete doorknob replacement. Handles or lever let your elbow and forearm to all the work rather than your hand, wrist, and fingers.
3. Buy cooking pots with two handles. Using two handles distributes the weight more evenly between your hands and wrists.
4. Sleep better by using pillows. Place pillows under or between your knees to help relieve pressure. Special cervical (chiropractic) pillows can help for arthritis of the neck. Some people will place 6-8 inch blocks under the head of the bead to relieve arthritis in the spine. This may also help with symptoms of gastric reflux (heartburn). Just make sure you’re able to safely get in and out of the bed if you raise the head a few inches.
5. Worry-free walking & hiking. Invest in a good pair of rubber-soled shoes which provide a firm grip and secure traction. Walk on the grass if the gravel is wet. Walking in sand can be hard on the feet and ankles. Consider using (lightweight) trekking poles to keep you balanced and stable. Remember – it’s better make these easy adjustments and to give up walking altogether.
6. Love to knit? Rather than metal knitting needles, use birch or bamboo needles – they’re lighter and warmer. Consider using wool or wool blend yarn rather than cotton or other yarn fibers. Wool / wool blends are lighter, more pliable and easier to work with.

How to Spot a Stroke

September 27th, 2017

July 14th, 2017

Submitted by: Christine Stone, RN Clinical Liaison

It cannot be overstated enough – every minute counts when someone is having a stroke. There is, however, an easy way to learn and remember the early warning signs of a stroke. Use the acronym “BEFAST.” If one or more of the symptoms is present – seek immediate medical attention. The sooner treatment is started the greater the chance of minimizing permanent neurological damage.

Balance     Loss of balance, dizziness or headache.
Eyes           Blurred vision, loss of vision in one or both eyes.
Face           One side of the face is drooping. Try to smile – if the face looks “lopsided.”
Arms         Arm or leg weakness or numbness. Feeling “uncoordinated.”
Speech      Slurred speech, difficulty speaking or understanding what is being said to you.
Time         Time to call 911 immediately for an ambulance. Never drive yourself to the
                  hospital.

Adopting a Dog or Cat Later in Life

September 27th, 2017

July 5th, 2017

Submitted by:     Christine Stone, RN   Clinical Liaison LifeQuest (and cat lover) 

I LOVE my cat. I can’t imagine living without a cat (pet) – – their companionship and unconditional love is irreplaceable.

It’s not uncommon for seniors to feel lonely or depressed when they retire. Their children have moved away or they’ve lost a spouse or close friends.   The American Humane Society states studies show pets help seniors overcome loneliness and depression by providing affection, company and entertainment.   Pets also provide much-needed mental and stimulation, and pets can also help their owners to remain physically active.

Seniors who adopt pets may also feel a sense of purpose (the “need to be needed”) when helping animals who might not have anywhere to live. This is particularly true with older companion animals which may not appeal to younger families with children. Mature pets are a great fit for seniors.   Adult pets may already be housetrained or litter box trained.

A dog or a cat? Which to choose?

Nothing against dogs, but a cat may be a better fit to a senior’s lifestyle. Cats are usually less active and don’t need to be walked or played with as much as dogs.   Cats are often content to spend hours sleeping on their owner’s lap.   I joke that my cat “sleeps 23 hours per day.” This is probably an exaggeration – but not by much!   Small dogs that can be active in the house might be a good choice – especially for seniors with mobility issues. Keep in mind that a larger dog would need to be walked and exercised several time a day. Small dogs and cats are easily transported to and from the veterinarian,

Other considerations:

Seniors who frequently travel or have medical care issues that require them to be away from home for extended periods of time should carefully weigh the benefits of adopting a pet.   It’s a good idea to have a pet care “back up plan.” Make sure a child, friend or neighbor knows about the pet and has a key to the house or apartment.

Also make sure there’s adequate money to care for the pet – food (and cat litter), medicines and vaccinations, veterinary bills.

Pets and companion animals bring joy to their owners – no matter what age. Careful choice of your pet will certainly bring years of happiness to you and your chosen “best friend.”

Driving at Night

September 27th, 2017

May 31st, 2017

Driving at Night – Some Solutions and Suggestions
Christine Stone, RN

Clinical Liaison, LifeQuest
Does it seem like driving at night is getting harder and harder?   The problem may NOT just be with your eyes.
Yes, older eyes need more illumination to see. It can take up to 10 minutes longer than younger eyes to recover from the so-called “bleaching effect” caused by the headlights of oncoming vehicles.
Rather than limiting your nighttime driving, some solutions and suggestions include:

  • Asking your optometrist about night driving glasses. These will help reduce glare and increase contrast.
  • When cars approach, get to the far right and look at the lines in the road, rather than at the oncoming headlights.
  • Have your mechanic check the headlights on your car. Most standard car headlights fail to adequately illuminate to road ahead of you.   The plastic cover on the headlights could be foggy or scratched. This could interfere with the headlight clarity.
  • Don’t hesitate to use your high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic.  

Carbon Monoxide – The Invisible Killer

September 27th, 2017

Christine Stone, RN May 3, 2017
Clinical Liaison for Lifequest Nursing Home

Carbon Monoxide – also known as CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas that is impossible to detect without specialized equipment. For that reason, it’s been called “The Invisible Killer.”   About 400 people die each year from CO2 poisoning. Another 200,000 people are sickened and require hospital treatment.

CO2 can be produced by fuel-powered devices in the home – like stoves, furnaces, water heaters, dryers, broilers, and lanterns, wood-burning stoves, charcoal grills, and generators.   Ask yourself: do you have any of these in your home or apartment? If your answer is “Yes”, then please read on.

The reason CO2 is so dangerous is that it replaces oxygen in your blood.   When you breathe in CO2 in an enclosed or poorly ventilated space, your body becomes “starved” for oxygen in less than three minutes.   Cells will begin to die, and permanent damage begins.

This all sounds very dire, but there is an easy, relatively inexpensive solution.   Much like a smoke detector, the CO2 detector sounds an alarm when unsafe levels of the gas are detected. CO2 detectors can be battery operated or can connect directly into electric outlets.   In many states and counties, CO2 detectors are required by law, and should be placed on each level of the home (including basement, attic, garage and other work rooms). At minimum, there should be a CO2 detector placed outside each bedroom.

Other steps to keep your family safe include:

  • Check the CO2 detectors monthly to make sure they’re working and have functional batteries. Keep an extra supply of fresh batteries on hand.
  • When using the fireplace, keep the damper wide open and keep it open until the ashes have completely cooled.
  • Never use your gas stove or oven to heat a room.
  • Never use a portable generator inside the house. Generators should be kept outside at least 20 feet from the house.
  • Never use a charcoal or propane grill inside the house.

Know the signs and symptoms of carbon dioxide poisoning:

  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion

If you suspect that you or a family member has CO2 poisoning – immediately go outside for fresh air and then call 911.