World Cancer Day: 5 Tips for Early Detection and Prevention

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February 4th is world cancer day: a reminder for people of all ages to minimize the risk of cancer by improving healthy habits. Even though cancer is an increasing concern around the world, there are things you can do to reduce your risk.

Tips for Lowering Your Risk of Cancer

Today, we are sharing tips from the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control to help you make incremental changes that will decrease the risk of cancer:

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Did you know that obesity is linked with the development of cancer? Not only does it feel good to maintain a healthy weight, but losing weight is beneficial to avoid life-threatening diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Choose a healthy diet and maintain a consistent exercise routine to let go of the excess pounds.
  2. Sun Protection: The most common type of cancer in the United States is skin cancer. UV rays from the sun can damage the skin and lead to cancerous growth. Never use tanning beds and be careful when spending time outdoors. In the mid-day, look for shady areas, wear clothing that offers sun protection, and apply sunscreen every 60 – 90 minutes.
  3. Avoid Tobacco: Researchers estimate that 80 – 90% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking cigarettes. Additionally, the risk of many other types of cancer increases for smokers: throat, mouth, stomach, colon, bladder, cervix, kidney, liver, larynx (voice box), and more. Quit smoking to be proactive in avoiding a cancer diagnosis. Also, stay away from secondhand smoke whenever possible.
  4. Limit Alcohol: Links have been found between alcohol consumption and various types of cancers: voice box, mouth, throat, liver, and breast cancer. Minimize alcohol consumption or avoid it altogether.
  5. Vaccinations: Hepatitis C has been connected to the development of liver cancer. This disease causes inflammation in the liver, leading to cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer. An easy solution to prevent live cancer is to stay current with vaccinations to prevent Hep C.

Age is another factor that can affect the development of cancer. Everyone ages, so this factor can’t be avoided. But it is important to tap into resources that are available for assistance if you are facing cancer treatments in the later years of life. Our team at Windward Life Care is here to help you locate the best resources for your needs. Contact us to learn about the services that are available.

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Summer Heat Safety for Older Adults

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The heat can be uncomfortable for people of all ages, but older adults are prone to heat stress, which can be a dangerous situation if left untreated. As a result, seniors can experience several heat-related health problems when the weather warms up outside.

Whether you are caring for your own health or you are a caregiver for another adult, it is important that you are proactive to stay safe in the heat.

Why Older Adults are at Risk

Why is the risk higher for older adults? Often, seniors have medical conditions that affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Some chronic conditions can change the body’s response to heat.

Certain medications might have an impact on how the body sweats. For example, diuretics can increase the risk of dehydration due to water loss. Heart disease impacts the blood circulation, which makes it harder for the body to dissipate the heat.

Older adults’ sense of thirst also diminishes with the aging process. Feeling less thirsty, combined with some seniors’ difficulties with incontinence, can lead many people to avoid drinking water and other fluids. This increases their chances of becoming dehydrated which can lead to hospitalization.

Prevention is Important

Don’t wait for symptoms to occur before taking action against the heat. Being proactive is the best solution to prevent health complications:

  • Stay in an air-conditioned area as much as possible during the day.
  • Increase water consumption. Drink consistently throughout the day instead of waiting until you are thirsty.
  • Wear clothing that is loose-fitting and light in color.
  • If you are feeling warm, take a cool bath or shower to lower your body temperature.
  • Minimize physical activities, especially when you are spending time outside.
  • Use window coverings to keep the heat of the sun out of the room.
  • Turn on the air conditioner, even if it increases the utility bills; or, go to a public library, indoor mall or San Diego County-sponsored “Cool Zone.”
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can increase the risk of dehydration.

If you have an aging neighbor or family member, then it is smart to check in regularly to make sure they are staying cool. In the situation where the power is lost, it is essential to offer assistance to help the person get to a cooler place.

When to See a Doctor

Certain symptoms might indicate that it is necessary to see a doctor: strong or rapid pulse, feeling faint, confusion, increase in body temperature, or dry, flushed skin.

Whether you have questions about heat-related symptoms or you need assistance with other medical concerns, Windward Life Care is here to assist. We can help you find the right resources to match your needs. Call to learn about the services that we provide.

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Care Services for Individuals in San Diego with Multiple Sclerosis

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Windward Life Care is proud to partner with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to provide care management services for individuals in San Diego living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The National MS Society provides telephone case management for the majority of individuals needing assistance via their MS Navigator program, but some clients who require in-person help are referred to the Edward M. Dowd Personal Advocate Program of the National MS Society. Through this generous program, care management services are provided at no cost to the client to help him or her achieve specific goals geared toward maximum independence.

Multiple Sclerosis: The Benefits of Care Management

How can a person living with Multiple Sclerosis benefit from care management? Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a progressive, degenerative disease that affects people of many ages and backgrounds with symptoms that can vary from person to person.  The symptoms range in both severity and onset, and can vary from week to week — even from day to day — making it difficult to predict the trajectory of the disease in a person’s life. People with MS frequently experience fatigue, as well as symptoms like vision difficulties, sensitivity to heat and cold, muscle pain and spasms, and cognitive changes. These symptoms can get in the way of a person with MS being able to organize their own affairs and advocate for themselves.

For these reasons, a Care Manager (CM) can be a valuable partner and advocate for a person living with Multiple Sclerosis. Care Managers can help by first listening to the client’s goals for their care and then creating a care plan to match the wishes and needs of the client. Care plan goals can address symptom management; social support; mental and emotional health; caregiving assistance; and government benefits and entitlements, among other goals. Although the client is the expert in their own lives, the CM is knowledgeable in community services which can support the client in achieving his or her goals with dignity and the utmost quality of life.

The Role of a Care Manager

One role a Care Manager can play in helping a person with Multiple Sclerosis it to be a healthcare advocate. A person with MS may find herself receiving health care in multiple settings including the hospital (acute care), rehabilitation center or nursing facility, and at home. When the person with MS is in a facility setting, the Care Manager can provide immediate support and advocacy, including confirming medical history, relaying medical treatment wishes to healthcare providers, as well as providing emotional support to the client and their family.

The Care Manager can also assist the person living with MS to evaluate different options for symptom management, as well as different healthcare providers, so he or she can make informed decisions about care.

As the care needs of a person with Multiple Sclerosis can increase over time, he or she may require additional in-home care, housing resources, or alternative placement options.  The Care Manager helps the client with MS navigate the sometimes overwhelming number of options available and  guides the client through the selection process, taking into account the available resources and support.

In addition to the “practical” supports offered by care management, people with MS benefit from the ongoing emotional support that Care Managers can provide. The unrelenting physiological changes caused by the disease, the hardships related to daily care, and the fear of the unknown can weigh heavily on the mind of the person living with Multiple Sclerosis.  A Care Manager provides support to the client and family and normalize their experience of coping with MS. If the client would benefit from more intensive support, the Care Manager can refer to a community mental health provider as needed for psychological and/or psychiatric services.

Should you or someone you know have a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, or for further information, you can contact Windward Life Care, or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s MS Navigators at 1-800-344-4867 or https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Helpful-Links/Contact-Us

Written by

Penelope Pongun, BSW

Aging Life Care Manager

Windward Life Care

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How to Reduce Medication Risks by Working With Senior Care Pharmacists

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Advances in the healthcare industry have uncovered treatments that can be used for most health concerns. As people grow old, it is common to use regular medications to help with the management of chronic conditions. Do you use prescriptions on a daily basis? Do you have a family member that uses medications regularly?

Older Adults and Medication Use

While the medications can be helpful, they aren’t effective if the patient doesn’t take the right pills. Aging adults often find it difficult to keep track of the dosages and frequency. Medications are more difficult to manage when a person is working with multiple doctors. The taking of multiple medications, known as polypharmacy, could result in serious side effects and drug interactions. The best solution is to talk to a Senior Care Pharmacist who can offer personalized recommendations.

What is a Senior Care Pharmacist?

A Senior Care Pharmacist is a healthcare professional who specializes in the management of medications and lifestyle for seniors. The interest of the patient is the highest priority, and the pharmacist works in concert with the prescribing physician to find the best solutions for the patient.

Medication Therapy Management (MTM) is an evaluation that can be used to determine the effectiveness of the medications. A Senior Care Pharmacist will put together a plan that outlines the most appropriate, safe, and effective use of prescribed medications. The goal is to ensure that the patient is using the drugs correctly, avoiding as many side effects and interactions as possible.

Working with a Senior Care Pharmacist

Why should you consider working with a Senior Care Pharmacist?

Sarah Lorentz, PharmD, APh, Director of MTM Services at UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, explains. “Studies have shown that although people over 65 years old make up 15% of the population, they account for over 49% of hospital readmissions due to medication side effects.  Pharmacists are trained healthcare professionals who can help prevent hospital readmissions, especially in the senior citizen population, by reducing polypharmacy and ensuring that older adults are taking the safest, most effective medication therapy,” says Dr. Lorentz.

At Windward Life Care, our team is focused on the health resources that can improve your lifestyle. We are proud to partner with UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy, giving our clients access to the services that are available from a Senior Care Pharmacist. Contact us to learn more about the services that are offered.

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A Growing Problem: Substance Abuse in Older Adults

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According to the US Census Bureau, it is estimated that there will be over 72 million people over the age of 65 by the year 2030. Not only is the large Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age, but medical advances are increasing the average lifespan of people in the United States.

Older Adults and the Risk of Substance Abuse

As the population of older adults expands, so do  concerns for their health. Historically, there haven’t been high rates of substance abuse in this age group, though it is thought that past rates may have been under-reported. Research is showing substance abuse to be a growing public health concern for people 65 and older. It is now estimated that more than a million people past retirement age abuse alcohol, drugs, or both. As a result, many families are facing the challenges of caring for an aging parent while managing substance abuse issues at the same time.

Why is Substance Abuse a Growing Concern?

The numbers vary depending on the reports that you read. But, there is no question that the incidence of substance abuse is growing in all age groups, including older adults. What is causing the increased risk?

One potential cause lies in the change in attitudes about the use of drugs and alcohol. For example, Baby Boomers have had more exposure to illicit drugs in their lifetimes and thus may normalize the use of substances that past generations have avoided. Unfortunately, this may also increase the Baby Boomers’ likelihood of experiencing the negative effects of drug use such as health issues, family issues, and overdose.

Another issue is that the use of prescriptions is growing in the United States, and some of these medications can lead to addiction. It is common for people to look for a “cure” in medications, resulting in an increase in drug use. Older adults suffer more physical ailments than younger adults, and tend to use more prescription medications. These can interact with each other in a harmful way, as well as produce negative effects with mixed with alcohol and illicit drugs. Older adults also metabolize certain substances like alcohol, more slowly, making them more susceptible to intoxication. This can lead to falls and injury.

Finally, older adults face life changes that can lead to increased use of substances, such as the death of a spouse or partner; loss of independence; and social isolation.

Professional Assistance for Substance Abuse Problems

Older adults can benefit from treatment, so family members and professionals should not be afraid to bring up their concerns. If you suspect that a family member is struggling with an addiction, then it is essential to find the right treatment program. Talk to us at Windward Life Care, and we will support you in finding the services that best meet the needs of your family.

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Heart Health for Men: Four Ways to Keep Your Ticker Ticking

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February is a time when people often discuss matters of the heart. Instead of only focusing on relationships this month, it might be a good opportunity to learn more about cardiovascular health as well. Your daily choices play a big role in heart health, and these lifestyle habits might be the life-or-death choices that impact your cardiovascular system.

Heart disease is the number one killer of men. As men go through the aging process, it is necessary to make cardiovascular health a higher priority. Not only do you need to learn more about heart disease, but you also need to watch for symptoms that could indicate a need for medical care.

Tips to Protect Your Heart

You can manage your risk of heart disease by implementing a few important health tips:

  • Increase Fiber Intake: Instead of loading your plate with processed carbohydrates, fill up with high-fiber foods. Enjoy whole grains, vegetables, and fruit to reduce your risk of heart disease and manage your blood sugar levels at the same time.
  • Cut Back on Saturated Fat: There is a reason why saturated fat has earned a bad reputation. These “unhealthy fats” play a role in the development of heart disease. Limit your fat consumption to 20 – 35 percent of your caloric intake, and focus most of those calories on unsaturated fats. These fats come from almonds, walnuts, avocados, and olive oil.
  • Boost Your Heart Rate: Regular exercise is important to get your blood pumping and strengthen your heart. It is best to start a new exercise plan under the supervision of a doctor. Start with basic exercises, then increase the intensity and duration over time.
  • Maintain Preventive Care: You still need to visit the doctor, even if you aren’t feeling sick. Men don’t go to the doctor for annual checkups as often as women. But, these appointments are essential to check heart health by measuring blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Stay consistent with regular checkups with your doctor.

Following these tips will not only reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, but they will help to improve your overall health. If you need help finding the right medical services, then you are invited to talk to our team at Windward Life Care for more information.

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