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Arthritis Pain Relief

Arthritis cannot be cured but that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate the severe pain & diminished quality of life it can cause. Movement was once thought to be bad for arthritic joints, but just the opposite is true. Exercise helps ease pain & stiffness. In fact, exercise can be crucial for increasing strength and flexibility,  reducing joint pain, and helping combat fatigue Here are a few tips to help relieve arthritis pain when it flares up in different areas of the body. Always check with your physician for the best treatment for your individual condition. Wrists & Hands Each hand contains 27 bones and each wrist 8 bones. Over time, arthritis causes people to lose cartilage – the connective tissue between joints. When the buffer between the bones is gone, the bones rub against each other, causing simple, everyday tasks to become painful. Wearing a wrist splint at night can help support joints while you sleep. Range of motion exercises can be done a few times each day to enhance strength & mobility. Clasp and unclasp your fingers, rotate your wrists, & touch the tips of each finger to your thumb. Google “hand arthritis exercises” for a wealth of examples. Feet According to the Arthritis Foundation, close to half of the people in their sixties and seventies suffer from arthritis foot pain. Our feet take a lot of abuse. The base of the big toe is a common site for arthritis pain. Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Low heels and good arch support will help ease pain. Stretch your Achilles tendon (the cord at the back of your heel) as...

Caregiving: Long Distance

Caregiving is often triggered by crisis.  It usually starts with a call or a visit. Phone conversations become repetitive and confusing. Mom calls to note that Dad has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. A sibling calls to note that Mom is not very steady on her feet. You arrive for your twice a year visit to find the house is not being kept up, bills are not getting paid and food is spoiling in the fridge. It is not uncommon for children to live far away from their parents. Suddenly an adult child is forced to handle a new role as a long-distance caregiver. Caregivers can take steps to help ease the stress of the task. Collecting valuable information on a loved one, assembling a support team, and staying in touch with the people involved are a few ways to take charge of the situation. Do your homework. Find out who you can count on to take care of mom on a regular basis, and who you can turn to for questions, support and help in an emergency. Start a file and try to keep all of the information in one place. Making regular visits is probably the best way to assess your parent’s condition, but you can ask other family members, friends, or paid caregivers to provide feedback for you. Research the services available in your area. Possibilities include: meal delivery, transportation, in-home care for personal needs, help with household chores, and medication monitoring. Assemble your care team. Think of all the people who may be able to help you monitor the situation or provide direct support. Those...

3 Tips for Better Eye Health

Older adults are more sensitive to eye problems as they age.  Following the three simple tips below can help seniors improve eye health & protect themselves from vision loss. Since we rely on our vision for even the most basic tasks, losing the ability to see the world around us can be frightening. As we age, it’s easy to believe deteriorating health is just part of life. But often we can slow down or even stop that process if we work to prevent common health problems. Here are three tips to fight poor vision and maintain healthy eyes no matter what your age! Tip # 1: Add fruits, nuts, and vegetables to main dishes. Vegetables to add: Bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and all dark green, leafy vegetables. Fruits to add: Grapefruit, strawberries, oranges, lemons, berries, cantaloupe Nuts/seeds to add: Sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts. Why these items? The foods listed above offer valuable nutrients that contribute to eye health. While most vegetables are high in vitamin A, citrus fruits contain a good amount of vitamin C.  Nuts contribute essential fatty acids, which are also important for eye health. These foods can easily be incorporated into any diet. Cut up bell peppers, carrots, and brussel sprouts to add to a salad with dark green romaine. Grab a handful of nuts or seeds for a snack. Add some of these food items to your weekly grocery list to always have fresh food on hand. Tip #2: Choose the right vitamins & supplements No one wants to swallow dozens of pills every morning. However, vitamins and...

Caregiving Changes are in the Air!

The face of caregiving in NE Wisconsin is undergoing some big changes this summer.   The implementation of Family Care is moving case management and funding from the counties to Managed Care Organizations (MCO).  This move has created a flurry of activity as adults currently being served through county waiver programs are interviewed through the Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC), select a MCO, and get re-assessed for specific services.  Others are choosing IRIS – a self-directed program that essentially allows an individual to be his or her own case manager and care-worker employer. County Case Managers are finding new positions within the MCOs, ADRCs and IRIS.  (How’s that for a little alphabet soup?)  All the new acronyms are confusing enough, but the choices for the person needing care can seem somewhat overwhelming.  It’s good to see so many of the county Case Managers landing jobs in the new system.  Familiar faces will help to ease the transition for concerned clients. The first task of the counties, MCOs and IRIS is to transition existing clients to Family Care/IRIS.  October 1, 2015 is the target date for having everyone interviewed, re-assessed and authorized for services.  At that time, the county ADRCs will begin addressing the list of those waiting to receive services.   The goal is to eliminate the waiting lists and get services to those in need in a more timely manner. Hopefully, the transition will go smoothly and clients will see little, if any, disruption to their services.  While some people may see an increase in services provided and others a decrease, there will be an effort to be sure...

Preventing Falls

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, each year over two million older adults are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries; one in every three individuals age 65 or older falls. Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults, resulting in everything from bruises, cuts & sprains to head injuries and even death. Most fractures are the result of a fall. Even if the fall does not result in physical injury, it may leave the individual with a fear of falling, which may cause him or her to restrict activity level. Less activity means a gradual weakening of muscle and bone, creating a loss of physical fitness, which is more likely to result in falling and injury. The good news is that there are several things you can do to prevent falls and limit the likelihood of injury in case you do fall. 1. The number one item is exercise. Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. And with stronger bone & muscle, a potential fall is likely to cause less damage. With your doctor’s OK, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi — a gentle exercise that involves slow, graceful movements. These activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility 2. Wear sensible shoes with non-skid soles and avoid walking around in your stocking feet. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. 3. Some medications—or combinations of medicines—can have side effects that cause dizziness or drowsiness which may make falling more likely. Be sure...

The Need for Respite

The kids see the need; friends and neighbors see the need, but dad isn’t seeing it at all.   Mom has Alzheimer’s disease and Dad is running himself ragged to care for her. The out-of-town family members urge him to get help, but he refuses assistance, wanting to honor his vow to be with her “in sickness and health”. Dad’s health is rapidly declining and Mom is struggling to do all the household chores while meeting his increased needs. The daughters see the strain on Mom, and Mom is receptive to help. But even though Mom’s health is starting to suffer, Dad remains oblivious. He believes that because his wife has always coped, she always will. A son moves back home to care for an aging parent and tries to provide 24/7 care on his own, because “Mom did that for me when I was a child.” His friends have fallen away leaving him isolated, lonely & depressed. Sleep deprivation, irregular eating habits, lack of regular exercise, loss of social contacts and constant worry all take their toll. Statistics show that around 30% of caregivers will die before the person for whom they are caring. Caregivers exhaust themselves, neglecting their own health and well-being. While easier said than done, those witnessing the caregiver burn out need to make a case for respite care.   The caregiver needs an advocate to step in and support giving the caregiver a break. That break can come from other family members or friends, or from a hired caregiver.   Respite can quite literally be a life saver. Having personal time every day would be ideal, but...

Kindness Matters

“But will they be kind?” This question was posed by a very independent elderly woman who was new to being cared for. A recent health incident left her unable to shower without assistance. A normally fastidious individual, she was yearning for a real shower – not a sponge bath.   And it was important to her that her caregiver be kind. It is difficult enough to bring a complete stranger into one’s home. Harder still to have that stranger assist with the most personal of tasks. Accepting all of this would be so much easier if the caregiver could be a kind person. Her request was hardly frivolous. In truth, those who become caregivers do not enter this field for the great salaries and benefits or for public accolades. Simply put, good caregivers care. Caregivers often become the link to the community for those who are elderly or have disabilities. They communicate with family members or case managers to report any changes that may signal a need for different kinds of assistance. In-home caregivers often run errands or provide transportation for seniors who are no longer driving. Caregivers are strong advocates for their clients, helping to locate the necessary resources to keep individuals as independent as possible for as long as possible.   And yes, caregivers are...