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Men, June means it’s time to take charge of your health!

young father and son

The month of June is Men’s Health Month and is dedicated to bringing awareness and providing education regarding all things health for the male population. With chronic disease and sedentary lifestyles on the rise, it is more important than ever to stay properly informed of how you can take steps to preserve your own health. Oftentimes, it can be as simple as making small changes to your daily routines that can prevent illness and preserve your quality of life in the long run.

Leading Health Concerns and Risk Factors

While men and women both share many of the same leading causes of death, studies have shown that men have a higher morbidity and mortality rate than women from coronary heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and cancer, four of the top ten leading causes of death in our country. Though many factors, including genetics, come into play with these diseases that are not always avoidable, many of the biggest risk factors are preventable, including smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, obesity, and high-risk behavior.

Statistics have identified men as being more likely to smoke, drink higher amounts of alcohol, partake in risky behaviors, and put off checkups and medical care, all of which put you in a much higher risk category for chronic disease. Recognizing the risk factors that are most at play for you and reducing their presence in your own life can have a monumental impact on the quality of your life.

statistics graphic

Health Issues Unique to Men

In addition to being at higher risk for universal health issues that can affect everyone, there are several health concerns that are unique to men. These include prostate cancer, benign prostate enlargement and low testosterone. Sometimes signs and symptoms don’t present themselves until it’s too late, and because men are more likely to skip the doctor visits, these diseases can go unnoticed for some time despite treatments being available. Regular checkups and screenings are imperative for men, as they can often identify disease early, even before symptoms occur, making it more likely that treatment will be successful.

Making the Change

Lifestyle changes can be hard but living with chronic disease that could have been prevented is the unfortunate alternative. When you’re ready to consider evaluating some of the risk factors for disease that exist in your own life, start by making a list. Once you’ve made a list, pick one to three things that you can change right away. The change can be as small as drinking one more cup of water each day to as big as hiring a personal trainer or nutrition coach!

Remember, a huge key to success is starting with something you know you will be able to stick to in order to build a strong habit. Reducing risk factors, improving your nutritional choices, and increasing your daily activity levels has a long list of benefits. These include better sleep, improved cognition, less weight gain, decreased levels of depression, and lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type-II diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s and several types of cancers. You have the ability to dictate your quality of life for the rest of your life, starting with the changes you make today.

Use this checklist below as a pocket guide to make sure you’re hitting your health goals and share with the men in your life!

References

Image 1 – https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/content.aspx?ID=10238

Image 2 – https://bppn.org/june-is-mens-health-month/

American Heart Association – https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults?gclid=CjwKCAjwyryUBhBSEiwAGN5OCPrs7yMioBQ6DkruGXplfE6urx91CVQEadSrYxoZHVUrPIkkmpOs0BoC6z8QAvD_BwE

CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/lcod/men/2016/all-races-origins/index.htm

National Library of Medicine – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756802/

My Health Finder – https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/doctor-visits/regular-checkups/men-take-charge-your-health

Cropped image of military service member holding PTSD block letters

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Awareness, Recognition, and Support

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Life is full of events that cause challenge, fear, or even sometimes pose a threat to us. Those serving in the military are even more susceptible than the general public to these events due to the high-stress, high-risk nature of their occupation. Often and commonly, individuals react to the situation at hand and are temporarily unsettled by these events before returning to normal daily living. In other cases, the event that is experienced can have long-lasting, life-altering negative effects and this is known as post-traumatic stress disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, as a disorder that develops in individuals who have experienced shocking, scary, or dangerous events who continue to feel stress or fear even after they are safe from the original event.

Signs and Symptoms

While it is common for individuals to be temporarily disrupted by a trauma, especially during combat, PTSD diagnosis is less common and requires an individual to experience symptoms for more than a month and in a great enough capacity to interfere with work and/or relationships. Symptoms are categorized into four subgroups: re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood symptoms. Below are some examples of each.

Re-experiencing

Avoidance

Arousal and Reactivity

Cognition and Mood

Treatment Options

Whether you recognize these signs or symptoms in a loved one or perhaps in your own behaviors, you are not alone and there are many treatment options available. Treatment by a mental health provider can open up the door to options such as medication or psychotherapy, or a combination of both. The medications that have been studied and utilized most extensively are antidepressant medications which help to mitigate anger, worry, sadness and numbness. Additional medications can be sought out and explored to help alleviate other symptoms such as trouble sleeping and nightmares. Psychotherapy, also referred to as “talk therapy”, can be done one-on-one or in a group setting. Along with specific and individualized therapy goals, treatment should aim to educate individuals about their triggers and symptoms and prepare them with strategies to manage them when they occur.

PTSD can be incredibly isolating and takes a toll on the lives of many individuals in our community. While it may be hard to imagine living without the symptoms, recovery is possible. In congruence with medication and therapy, there are steps you can take on your own to facilitate recovery. Exercise can be a useful tool to improve both physical and mental health, as it is proven to reduce stress and improve mood. A strong support system of family and friends, as well as the veteran community, can be key to recovery. Involving loved ones in your life and engaging in a community that can relate to your experience can help to alleviate the loneliness associated with PTSD. While working with your therapist to build skills to reduce symptoms, consider partaking in activities that previously sparked joy and interest.

Caring for someone with PTSD can take a serious toll on those providing support as well. If you are a family member, friend or loved one of someone with PTSD, it is imperative to

prioritize your health and seek care and support for yourself as well. Look into local support groups within your community or virtual platforms to connect with other individuals in similar positions and keep regular checkups with your doctor. Make sure to set aside time to sleep, exercise and eat while you are offering care. You are not alone in offering care; seek out professionals and encourage the individual you are caring for to get further treatment. The better you care for yourself, the better you will be able to offer support.

Looking to the Future

Research has been underway for years looking into both the mental and biological components of PTSD, and new research directions continue to develop as scientists acquire new information. A subgroup of research studies called clinical trials seek to study if new tests, prevention measures, or treatments are effective. While clinical trials are an excellent method to further scientific knowledge, individuals should be aware that new information is the goal and there is no guarantee of successful treatment. If you are interested in learning more about current clinical trials or being involved in one, you can visit clinicaltrials.gov for a current list of National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies being conducted across the country or visit the NIMH’s Clinical Trials webpage for information about partaking in a study.

Resources for Veterans and Caregivers

Seeking treatment can feel overwhelming and lonely initially, and it is important to know that there are many organizations that are in place to help you find the support you or your loved one may need.

If you are a veteran with PTSD, the Veterans Crisis Line is available to you and your loved ones. You do not need to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to access the 24/7, 365-day-a-year support that this line offers. Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1

If you are a caregiver for a friend, family member, or loved one dealing with PTSD, the VA offers caregiver support in the form of a helpline as well as a caregiver program. To visit the website, go to caregiver.va.gov or call the helpline to speak to someone directly. Caregiver Support: 855-260-3274

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations, abbreviated SAMHSA, has a free and confidential hotline for individuals and family members facing mental health and/or substance abuse disorders. This hotline is also referred to as the Treatment Referral Routing Service and provides referrals to treatment centers, support groups, and community-based programs. The hotline is free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year and is available in Spanish and English. SAMHSA hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Additionally, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has a Monday-Friday, 10am-10pm, ET. informational helpline as well as an email address, helpline@nami.org, to

provide support and resources to individuals in need. The NAMI is NOT a hotline, crisis line, or suicide prevention line. NAMI helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Thank you to our veterans and their community caregivers.

We see you, and we support you.

References

NIH – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd#part_2241 SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline https://www.caregiver.va.gov/Tips_by_Diagnosis/PTSD.asp https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

NAMI – https://www.nami.org/help Image – https://www.heroesmile.com/intersection-of-ptsd-and-veterans/

Elderly couple with dementia putting together a puzzle

Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month. This month, take time to discuss the importance of brain health with your friends, relatives, and elderly adults in your life—especially those who may be at risk for dementia and cognitive impairment. Taking steps to improve brain health early on can often reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.

What Is the Prevalence Of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans. As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder that destroys brain cells and causes the brain to shrink. It is most common among adults over the age of 65.

Memory loss is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s can also affect a person’s concentration, judgement, and decision-making ability, leading to problems with carrying out essential daily tasks like bathing, getting dressed, and cooking. Many people with Alzheimer’s often require hospice care so they can get help with performing these activities.

The Importance Of Early Screening

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that develops gradually over time. There is no designated screening test for Alzheimer’s, though your doctor can review your medical history and perform an evaluation to determine your risk.

Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

Maintaining optimal brain health is key to reducing your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If you are caring for Alzheimer’s patients, you can work with them to improve their brain health and reduce the severity of certain symptoms.

Eat Healthy, Nutritious Foods

Leafy greens, fatty fish, and almonds are some of the many foods that contribute to good brain health. Foods like these are loaded with nutrients, including vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, that are shown to boost brain health and delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. Eat a higher amount of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and nuts to improve your cognition.

Stay Social

Socializing with others on a regular basis can stimulate your memory and attention, strengthening neural networks to improve overall brain function. Being social can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, boosting the quality of life in people with Alzheimer’s. Go dancing, join book clubs, and attend social events at community centers. Many hospice care providers can help you find social activities geared toward older adults and seniors.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity offers a wide range of benefits for cognition and brain health. It improves your circulation and blood flow, boosting your memory and problem-solving ability. It can even help ward off anxiety and mood disorders, including depression. Schedule exercise into your daily schedule, even if it’s only a 10- to 15-minute walk. Better yet, join exercise classes for seniors, such as water aerobics and yoga.

Challenge Your Brain

Learning new skills and challenging your brain can lead to the formation of new connections between brain cells, which reduces your risk for cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s. Play board games with your relatives and other seniors in the community, or take classes that teach you a new language or how to cook a certain cuisine. You can even download and play brain games on your smartphone, such as Wordle, Lumosity, and Candy Crush.

Hospice Care With Springhill

Springhill Home Health and Hospice is a leading provider of home health and hospice services throughout Alabama—including hospice services for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Fill out our online form today to learn more about our services.

Senior woman walking on outdoor trail

5 Things To Do On National Senior Health and Fitness Day

Staying fit and healthy year-round is essential for a fulfilled lifestyle. But as people age, it becomes increasingly more difficult to remain active and feeling your best. ​​If you have been struggling with your health or fitness lately, then May 25th is the perfect day for you. This year, May 25th is National Senior Health and Fitness Day, and to kick off the celebration, here is a list of our favorite things you can do to improve your well-being on this inspiring day, and throughout the year.

Get Active Outside

As the weather starts to turn in May, now is the perfect time to dust off your walking shoes and get outside. For seniors, low-intensity activities are safer and easier to do on your own. They still promote increased heart health and strength while putting reduced pressure on your joints and muscles. Some activities can include walking to the park with your family, doing lawn work, or riding a bike. These are all great ways to get outside and get active, and the best thing is, seniors of all ages can enjoy them without pushing themselves to their limit. The bottom line is as long as you are getting outside and moving your body, you’re taking steps in the right direction to leading a healthier life.

Get Active Inside

We all know the weather can be very unpredictable at times, especially during the spring months. At times, it can go from rain to sunshine within the same hour. That’s okay because there are plenty of ways that you can still stay active indoors, no matter if you’re living independently or in a community living setting. For example, yoga and dancing are great options because they work all parts of the body, are low impact, and can be performed indoors. If you need something a bit more tangible to do, look into using resistance bands when doing some basic exercises. These bands are much safer than weights and will not take up nearly as much space.  While you might have to get a little more creative if you’re working with less space indoors, there are plenty of ways you can get your body moving inside even just by walking up and down the stairs. Your local gym or YMCA also may offer a dedicated space for activities such as swimming to get active while still staying indoors.

Schedule Your Health Screenings

Maintenance is key to living a long and healthy life. The best way to maintain your health is by staying on top of your regular health screenings. If you find yourself in the situation of not having been to the doctor in a while, now would be a great time to schedule an appointment. Keep in mind that your health goes beyond just your normal primary care. Scheduling a cleaning with your dentist, getting new prescription eyeglasses from your optometrist, and getting a head-to-toe skin check at your dermatologist are all commonly skipped areas of health maintenance. If you can’t remember the last time you addressed these areas of your health, use today to take that step in scheduling your health screening appointments so you can ensure you live the longest, healthiest life you can.

Eat A Healthy Meal

I’m sure you have heard the saying that “food is your fuel”. The food that you put into your body plays a major role in how you feel and operate on a daily basis. Don’t wait, start eating some healthy meals today! To begin, try and get your daily serving of greens, whole grains, and protein. While they are all important, eating an adequate amount of protein each day can help prevent the muscle breakdown that most seniors will face as they age. Another thing to keep in mind is the roles that certain foods have. For example, if you’re having a hard time with digestion, try eating more fiber as it helps food move through your digestion system. Lastly, staying away from processed foods and sugar as a whole can make a world of difference for your overall nutrition.

Meet With Your Friends/Family

Happiness is a foundational building block of your health, and don’t let anybody tell you anything different. Make time to visit with friends and family today; even if it’s only for a half-hour. Grab a coffee, eat lunch at your favorite local spot, or even invite company over. Not only does seeing your loved ones show that you care, but it also allows a space for happy memories to be created. In addition, being happy has been shown to fight stress, reduce blood pressure, and may even extend your lifespan. Take the opportunity to get out of the house, enjoy some great company, and reap the benefits that come along with it.

Springhill Home Care Thanks You

Even though Springhill Home Care acknowledges the importance of our seniors every day, National Senior Health and Fitness Day gives the larger population an opportunity to shed light on the importance of their health and wellbeing too. No matter what you do on this day, the memorable lesson is that you’re acting upon the matter and seizing the opportunity to better yourself.

We are looking forward to seeing how you participate this year. We hope you enjoy National Senior Health and Fitness Day 2022.

Person’s meditating hands in a grassy field

Importance of Self-Care In Grief

We all grieve differently, but one thing remains true for everyone: the importance of taking care of yourself. Whether you’ve found yourself in a state of just going through the motions or you’ve put all your focus on taking care of your loved ones, it can be easy to put your own needs on the back burner when facing the loss of a loved one.

However, it’s absolutely imperative that you take time to focus on yourself, too. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we are discussing the importance of self-care throughout the grieving process.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month dates all the way back to 1949 when the National Association for Mental Health (now known as Mental Health America) first organized the observance in the month of May to help raise awareness and lessen the stigma attached to mental illness.

For a long time, society looked at mental illness as being just one thing. There was always a negative stigma attached to the term, and people often thought of those living with a mental illness as having ‘gone mad’. However, that is simply not true. Over time, we’ve learned more about the many layers and types of mental illness.

Mental illness is the term used to describe mental health conditions that impact a person’s mood, thinking, and behavior. Common mental illnesses include:

How Grief Impacts Mental Health

Losing a loved one can be a traumatic experience. You may feel as though you lost a part of yourself and that your life will never be the same. While there is some truth to this, it’s important to remember that you are still here and must go on living your life.

“We don’t move on from grief. We move forward with it.

–          Nora McInerny

Feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, and hopelessness are all common throughout the grieving process. However, these feelings can sometimes develop into chronic grief which can in turn become a mental illness. In some cases, grief can lead to depression.

Symptoms of chronic grief can include:

How Self-Care Improves Mental Health

Self-care used to be thought of as bubble baths and pampering yourself, but there is much more to self-care. Just like the grieving process, self-care can look different for everyone. But the overall concept is to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

To take care of yourself physically is pretty simple: eat a well-balanced diet, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and practice healthy hygiene habits. However, taking care of yourself mentally is a little less cut and dry. This is where it really differs from person to person. To take care of yourself mentally and emotionally, you need to take time to do the things that make you feel good and happy. Hobbies are a good place to start when focusing on taking care of yourself mentally. Maybe you enjoy sitting outside and reading a good book, maybe you are an artist, maybe you enjoy taking long walks with your dog. Whatever it is that leaves you feeling happy and fulfilled, do it!

Research shows the more you practice self-care, the more confident, creative, and productive you are. This also leads to experiencing more joy, making better decisions, building stronger relationships, and communicating more effectively. Overall, you will be in a better frame of mind, making you a better version of yourself. This is not only good for you, but it’s also good for those who depend on you.

When you take time to take care of your whole self (physically, mentally, and emotionally), it will help you to process your feelings of grief in a healthier way.

How Hospice Can Help You in Your Grief Journey

Always remember that you do not have to face the journey of grief alone. Lean on friends and family to help you through. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings. Sometimes we feel the need to be strong for those around us. If this is the case and you would feel more comfortable talking to someone outside the family, lean on the support of your hospice bereavement team. Our kind, compassionate bereavement coordinators are always available to talk or just listen. Never hesitate to reach out.

If you or someone you love is struggling with their feelings of grief and would like to talk to one of our bereavement coordinators, please contact us at (251) 725-1268 (Mobile) or (251) 626-5895 (Baldwin County).

Collage of people

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

By: Anonymous

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month, a time to learn about and celebrate the rich histories and cultures of Americans from the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands. The AAPI population is remarkably diverse, with 24 million people tracing their roots to over 30 countries. Many different cultures mean many different beliefs and traditions regarding the passage from life to death.

Demographic research reveals that AAPI Americans are less likely to access hospice and palliative care than other groups. Asian Americans, for example, have been shown to use fewer end-of-life services. Studies attribute this to cultural beliefs, language barriers, attitudes about death, and family-centered decision-making. But good hospice and home care can meet these challenges.

Respecting Differences

We recognize that the AAPI community has diverse attitudes and practices surrounding illness, hospice, and death.

Although some AAPI practices are widely shared, such as respecting elders, using white and yellow colors, and burning incense, some practices vary. Chinese and Korean values can require the family to keep vigil by a dying loved one. The Chinese tradition, however, may maintain a hierarchy within the family structure, while the Korean tradition might maintain the division of genders. In other AAPI traditions, individuals, like expectant mothers, are discouraged from visiting someone at their end-stage of life for their own protection. In addition, some cultures place great value on a loved one being cared for in their own home at the end of their life.

Springhill Home Care understands that these spiritual practices can, and should be, honored. We’re here to accommodate by providing professional, competent, caring, in-home service that maintains sensitivity to these values. 

Personalized Care Informed by Cultural Respect

Care goes beyond medical support. We are prepared to and can help you and your family with the hospice and bereavement journey with sensitivity toward AAPI’s religious, spiritual, cultural, and personal beliefs. This respect extends beyond rites and rituals and into practical care. The Native Hawaiian belief that spiritual essence (mana) is in all parts of the body can, for example, influence feelings about organ donation or cremation. But awareness of this belief informs our good care for a Native Hawaiian in the end stage of life.

The AAPI population is growing. By 2050, AAPI will become nearly 10% of the total United States population. It’s important that they can get the end-of-life care they need. Our staff ensures that everyone in our care, their family, and their loved ones are treated with respect. 

Some Eastern philosophies view death as part of a cycle in which a loved one’s passage serves as a reminder to celebrate the miracle of life. Our team celebrates the lives of the people we care for, and what makes each of them unique. We’re proud to join this month’s celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. We invite interested AAPI Americans to learn about our hospice and in-home services, confident their culture and traditions will be honored.

Close up of hospital sign

On National Hospital Week and Every Week, We Thank You!

By: Anonymous

We invite all community members to join us to recognize National Hospital Week, May 8 to May 14, 2022. Here’s more about this yearly observance and how we honor it at Springhill Home Care.

What Is National Hospital Week?

National Hospital Week is observed every year during the week that includes May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Florence Nightingale is best known for founding modern professional nursing and demonstrating the importance of nurses and their roles in the healthcare community.

Established in 1953 by the American Hospital Association, National Hospital Week highlights and recognizes hospitals and healthcare workers and the many innovative ways they support their communities.

Thank You For All You Do

Our team understands how challenging and demanding the hospital setting can be. We want to thank physicians, nurses, social workers, discharge planners, aides, and all other clinical staff members who have supported and cared for our patients and communities over the past year, especially given the unique ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Your hard work, long hours, and dedication to your communities have helped improve the quality of care for thousands of people in need.

Partnering With Hospice Care

As a leading home health and hospice treatment provider, Springhill Home Care extends extra thanks to hospitals that partner with hospice providers. Your care and services have dramatically improved the quality of life for terminally ill patients and their families. In addition, you have given our team the opportunity to help these families save on hospital-related costs and deliver highly personalized care that helps them fulfill their loved ones’ final wishes.

We look forward to continuing our relationships with hospitals that partner with hospice treatment providers and are confident that together we can handle any unforeseen challenges that may come our way. In honor of National Hospital Week, thank you.

Elderly stroke patient and their caregiver

Hospice Eligibility for Stroke Patients

Some of the most common misconceptions about hospice care involve when it’s appropriate for a patient to elect hospice services and what diagnoses qualify a patient for hospice. People often assume hospice is only for cancer patients, but that is simply not true. You may be surprised to learn that stroke patients also qualify for hospice services.

What is a Stroke?

Strokes are the number five cause of death and a leading cause if disability in the United States. A stroke is defined as a disease that impacts the arteries leading to and within the brain. It occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or ruptures. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, causing it and brain cells to die.

Stroke Warning Signs

The American Stroke Association uses F.A.S.T to help us identify warning signs of a stroke.

F = Face Drooping

If one side of the face is drooping or numb, this can be a common sign of a stroke. One way to help to determine this is by asking the person to smile. If their smile is uneven, that is an indication of face drooping caused by a stroke.

A = Arm Weakness

Another sign can be if one arm feels weak or numb. Ask the person to raise both their arms. If one arm drifts downward, it could be a sign of a stroke.

S = Speech Difficulty

Slurred speech is a third sign of a stroke.

T = Time to Call 911

If someone is showing these three warning signs of a stroke, call 911 immediately.

Other Signs and Symptoms

Other signs and symptoms of a stroke can include:

Stroke Risk Factors

Given the danger of strokes, it’s important to understand the different risk factors, including both those within and out of your control.

Risk Factors You Can Control

Some risk factors of stroke are within your control. These can include:

Risk Factors Beyond Your Control

As with anything else, some stroke risk factors are beyond your control. These can include:

Hospice Qualifiers

Hospice can benefit patients who are in the terminal stages of a stroke. The following criteria could be indicators that it may be a good time to consider the additional support of hospice.

If you are still unsure if your loved one qualifies for hospice, or if you have any questions about hospice for stroke patients, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Senior woman drinking water with shaking hands

Parkinson’s Awareness

By: Dr. Laura Mantine

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells within the brain. The loss of dopamine causes symptoms like stiffness, slow movements, balance problems, and depression. There are certain specific motor symptoms that accompany Parkinson’s disease. A resting tremor happens when a body part, usually a hand or foot, shakes slightly when a person is not using it. Bradykinesia is when movements are extremely slow, and patients may have freezing episodes which are temporary, involuntary periods where a person is unable to move. A PD patient may also experience changes in speech, smaller handwriting due to difficulties performing repetitive motions, and a “masked” face due to a loss of facial expression. Patients are also at an increased risk of falls from a combination of poor balance and severe stiffness. A PD patient may develop difficulty swallowing which can lead to weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, and pneumonia.

There are also non-motor symptoms that are present in Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s dementia is a significant, permanent decline in attention, memory, and problem-solving that impairs daily life. A patient may develop hallucinations or delusions throughout their disease course which can lead to increased caregiver stress. Patients may also suffer from severe constipation, urinary problems, and sleep disorders that affect their quality of life.

A Progressive Disease

As a progressive disease, Parkinson’s disease symptoms will slowly worsen over time. While PD affects people in unique ways, there are typical patterns of progression, defined by five stages. In stage 1 and stage 2 of Parkinson’s, patients may experience mild shaking and stiffness. As the disease advances into stages 3 and 4, loss of balance and slowness of movement begin to impair daily functioning. Stage 5 is the final, most debilitating stage of PD. In this stage, patients are wheelchair- or bedbound and require 24-hour nursing care. Patients are said to have end-stage Parkinson’s disease at stages 4 and 5 of the disease. In end-stage Parkinson’s disease, symptoms are so severe that medication stops working well, and patients require full-time caregiver assistance. Eventually, end-stage PD patients become candidates for hospice care, a service that focuses on easing symptoms and improving comfort at the end of life.

Hospice Eligibility

There are no formal PD eligibility guidelines for determining when a hospice referral should be made, and there is no definite timeline when it comes to the final stages of Parkinson’s disease. However, hospice care is available to patients who are expected to live six months or less. Doctors and hospice agencies will consider factors relevant to PD like a patient’s history of falls, hospitalizations, withdrawal from activities, inability to perform self-care, and lack of benefit from medication. There are very general hospice guidelines intended to cover a broad-spectrum of neurological disorders. The guidelines for neurological illnesses state that patients must meet one of the following to be eligible for hospice: critically impaired breathing or rapid disease progression in the past year.

Critically impaired breathing is unlikely to be applicable in Parkinson’s disease. Primary respiratory problems are not typical in advanced PD. The second criterion, evidence of rapid disease progression in the prior year, tends to be more useful for patients with end-stage PD. A rapid disease progression means that patients are bedridden, have unintelligible speech, require a modified diet, and need major assistance with activities of daily living. Nutritional impairment is common in end-stage PD. Patients are unable to maintain sufficient oral intake and experience weight loss and dehydration. Life-threatening complications that may occur in end-stage PD include recurrent aspiration pneumonia and pressure ulcers of the skin.

Hospice for Parkinson’s Patients

Hospice care is an extra layer of support to help care for loved ones with end-stage Parkinson’s disease. The goal of hospice care is to optimize comfort and ease physical, emotional, and mental suffering during the dying process. Members of a hospice care team include a doctor, nurse, social worker, and home health aide. Most patients with PD die from the same diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, that others do. As such, hospice care may be considered even before a patient with PD reaches the end stages of their disease. Deciding when it is time to enter hospice care can be a difficult decision for a person and their loved ones. However, being admitted to hospice can ensure a person and their caregivers have access to a variety of services that are needed.

References:

“Eligibility for End-Stage Parkinson’s Disease Hospice Care.” By Colleen Doherty, MD. Published on October 24, 2021. Medically reviewed by Isaac O. Opole, MD, PhD. https://www.verywellhealth.com.

“The Role of Hospice in Parkinson’s.” Parkinson’s Foundation. 2018. https://www.parkinson.org.

Young woman consoling elderly loved one

April Is Bereaved Spouses Awareness Month

By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC

Losing a loved one to a terminal illness is one of the most painful experiences you can go through. The loss of a spouse or partner is traumatic for many people, and the grief journey can feel overwhelming, confusing, and painful. However, each person grieves and works through the grieving process at their own pace and in their own way. If you are grieving the loss of a partner or spouse, you are not alone. The month of April is Bereaved Spouses Awareness Month, observed since 2008. Bereaved Spouses Awareness Month provides support and resources for bereaved spouses.

The difficulty of losing a spouse is followed by a grieving process that can be challenging for many people. Grief is a process and includes many different types of symptoms, some more severe than others. Feelings such as shock, sadness, numbness, and even guilt can occur after losing a spouse. Your experiences of grief may be different than others, and it is dependent upon factors specific to you. Grief can present as intense emotions and can also present in behaviors.

For example, bereaved spouses may experience:

How Hospice Care Can Help 

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and support and help are available to you. An available resource along your journey of bereavement is hospice care. Hospice can help spouses prepare for the impending loss of a loved one. The hospice’s bereavement team can also help spouses after a patient passes. The mission of hospice care is to deliver compassionate, quality care to individuals with terminal illnesses and support the families through the caregiving phase and bereavement process.

Many spouses spend a significant amount of time and energy caring for and tending to their ill partners. But unfortunately, they may overlook their own needs and feelings during this time. Utilizing the hospice team as a source of support can help spouses tend to their emotions and needs when it is difficult.

If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one, it is vital to get the help and support you need. First, talk to a trusted family member or friend about what you’re going through. Loved ones can be strong sources of validation, support, and compassion. You can also talk to your doctor if you notice a change in behavior and mood or if you are having difficulty performing the normal activities of daily living, such as showering regularly and eating. Your doctor may be able to provide you with medication and can also provide you with referrals to a grief counselor or support group near you.

Sources:

  1. Mourning the Death of a Spouse | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)
  2. Missed Opportunity: Hospice Care and the Family – PMC (nih.gov)

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