Glaucoma: The Silent Vision Stealer

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Glaucoma has been identified as one of the main causes of vision loss in the United States. This group of eye diseases results in optic nerve damage because of increased pressure in the eye. When the pressure goes up, the damaged optic nerve causes vision loss.

January is glaucoma awareness month, so it is a good chance for you to learn more about the disease and options to prevent serious eye problems

Know Your Risk Factors

The problem with glaucoma is that there are usually no warning signs that something is wrong. The change in vision is so gradual that the person doesn’t realize there is a problem until it is too late. Once the disease reaches advanced stages, there is nothing that can be done to reverse the damage. The only solution is to stop the progress to preserve the remaining eyesight.

How can you be proactive? It is important to know your risk factors. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, individuals most at risk include people who:

  • are over age 40
  • have family members with glaucoma
  • are of African or Hispanic heritage
  • have high eye pressure
  • are farsighted or nearsighted
  • have had an eye injury
  • have corneas that are thin in the center
  • have thinning of the optic nerve

have diabetesmigraines, poor blood circulation or other health problems affecting the whole body.

When to Call an Eye Doctor

You might be able to identify several signs of glaucoma, such as:

  • Tunnel vision
  • Patchy spots in the visual field
  • Severe headaches
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights, especially at night

Additionally, you need to stay consistent with eye exams with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. They will not only check your vision, but also test for a range of eye diseases, including glaucoma.  These appointments will help you identify the problems in the early stages, giving you the option to pursue a treatment plan to prevent or slow the vision loss.

Do you need assistance finding the right eye care professionals in your area? Windward Life Care is here to offer the assistance that you need. We recognize the importance of experienced, trustworthy medical professionals. So, our team will gladly support your efforts for prevention and health maintenance. Call today to learn more about the services that we can provide.

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Making the Most of the Holidays When a Loved One has Dementia by Lisa Mayfield and ALCA

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Celebrating the Holidays with Dementia

by Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC, Principal, Fellow Certified Care Manager

The holidays can often be a time filled with high expectations, requiring lots of energy and engagement in non-stop activities. For the individuals and families living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, it can be challenging and a time of high anxiety. Festivities can agitate, confuse, and overstimulate persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Meanwhile, caregivers can feel anxious, frustrated, and lonely.

To minimize the anxiety and encourage a happy holiday season for the entire family, a little advanced thought and planning can go a long way in ensuring everyone has a wonderful time. Remembering that the holidays, at their best, are a time for enjoying one another’s company and sharing gratitude for each other can make some advanced planning go a long way.

Here are some stress busters that have worked for other families and might prove successful for your celebrations:

  1. Let guests know what to expect before they arrive. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, it’s likely family and friends won’t notice any changes. The person with middle or late-stage dementia may have trouble following conversation or tend to repeat him- or herself. Family can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts. Make sure visitors understand that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disability and not the person. Understanding, acceptance and patience go a long way.
  2. Adjust expectations. The challenges of caregiving responsibilities combined with holiday expectations can take a toll. Invite family and friends to a conversation ahead of time. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine, or making modifications to plans to minimize holiday stress. The goal here is time together. Your loved one will enjoy the company of friends and family. Let their presence be their present!
  3. Be good to YOU! This is often the hardest step. But giving yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage is one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself. If you’ve always had a large group at your home, consider having only a few guests for a simple meal. Let others participate by having a potluck dinner or ask them to host at their home. This is the time to be especially gentle and kind with yourself. This is also a great time to practice saying “No” and pace yourself.
  4. Involve the person with dementia. Focus on activities, traditions and memories that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums. Involve the person in holiday preparation. As abilities allow, invite him or her to help you decorate, prepare food, set the table, wrap packages, or address holiday cards.
  5. Maintain a normal routine. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming overly stressful or confusing. Plan time for breaks and rest. Make sure to have favorites at the ready: holiday music, movies, clothing, and food. All these familiar favorites can bring comfort and build enjoyment into a holiday celebration.
  6. Use the buddy system. Plan ahead to have family and friends take turns being the buddy to your loved one. This is a great way to encourage one-on-one time as well as to shield the individual with dementia from distress. It also gives a break to the primary caregiver.
  7. Engage an Aging Life Care Professional®. Aging Life Care Professionals are the experts in aging well.  We understand dementia, aging, family systems, and the myriad of challenges and obstacles that families experience in caring for a loved one.  An Aging Life Care expert can help anticipate issues and address them before they happen, offering the options and wise counsel on how to navigate the holidays successfully. Our focus is on the well-being of the older adults in your life, while also helping you to care for yourself.  By engaging an Aging Life Care professional, you are working with someone who takes a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults. Visit the Aging Life Care Association website to locate an expert near you.

By setting realistic expectations, involving others, maintaining a routine, and keeping activities and traditions to a select few, you can ensure yourself, your loved one, and family and friends a low stress, memorable, and successful holiday season.

Author Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC, Principal, Fellow Certified Care Manager, founded Aging Wisdom® in 2003, recognizing early in her career that problem-solving and thoughtful, personalized care management were what most people needed, not therapy, to address the challenges and concerns of aging. When she discovered the Aging Life Care profession (AKA geriatric care management), she immersed her herself fully in the profession, and Aging Wisdom was born.

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Betsy Evatt wins the ALCA Western Region “Rose Kleiner Award”

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Our own Betsy Evatt, LCSW, CMC, Aging Life Care™ Manager, and Windward Life Care’s Director of Clinical Services won the Rose Kleiner Award this year. This prestigious award is given annually to a Western Chapter Aging Life Care Association

Betsy Evatt - Rose Klein Award

Congratulations, Betsy!

member who meets these criteria:

  • Spends a significant number of years in the field of care management.
  • Demonstrates commitment to the advancement of the field of care management, through professional contributions and leadership roles.
  • Promotes the ALCA and the Western Chapter. This requires a significant time commitment and active participation on both the regional and national levels.
  • Provides exemplary care management services adhering to the highest professional standards and ethics.
  • Shows a willingness to share information, and to provide collegial support and mentorship to others in the field.

Congratulations, Betsy, on an award that is most deserved!

To learn more about Betsy, click here to read her bio.

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Managing Your Diabetes to Improve Your Overall Health

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According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year. With over 30 million people suffering from the disease in 2015, these numbers are rising every year.

November is American Diabetes Month, which is a great opportunity to learn more about the disease. Whether you have been diagnosed or you are at high risk for diabetes, some things can be done to manage your health.

Interesting Facts about Diabetes

An estimated 30% of people with diabetes are living with the illness without knowing that they have it. About 95% of these cases are type 2 diabetes, which can be prevented with lifestyle changes. Type 2 diabetes often starts without any symptoms and is not diagnosed until the disease process is well underway. So, it is important to implement healthy habits in the spirit of prevention.

People with diabetes have a high risk of developing heart disease, as well as Alzheimer’s dementia. Diabetes can also lead to blindness. Taking control of your health means that you can potentially avoid these complications.

Even though your risk of diabetes increases based on your family history or ethnicity, it doesn’t mean that you will necessary develop the disease. Genetics are considered less important than lifestyle and behavioral factors.

How to Reduce the Risk of Diabetes

Given the prevalence of diabetes, everyone should learn more about the disease to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Suggested prevention tips include:

  • Moderate weight loss, approximately 5% to 7% of body weight (just 10 lbs in a 200 lb individual).
  • Regular exercise 5 days a week (for 30 minutes)
  • Maintain a healthy diet with low-fat meals
  • Skip sugary drinks and other highly processed carbohydrates
  • Quit smoking

Your doctor can help you assess your risk for diabetes by testing your weight and blood sugar levels. Then, a personalized plan can be put together to help with prevention.

Putting Together a Personalized Health Plan

If you want to protect your health, then it is important that you work with an experienced medical team. At Windward Life Care, we will help you connect with the healthcare providers who will support your goals. Talk to us to learn more about the services that are available.

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Why Do You Need a Family Health Portrait?

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The Importance of Your Family Health History

Did you know that National Family Health History Day falls on Thanksgiving? This awareness day was declared by the Surgeon General in 2004. As we get closer to the holiday celebration, it is a great time to consider the information that you have about your family health portrait.

Why does it matter if you have information about the history of health in your family? Common diseases often run in families, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. If a doctor can trace the history of the disease in your family, then the information can be used for preventive treatments. Doctors will have a better chance of predicting the disorders that you might face. Then, you can take action to protect your health and avoid these diseases.

Not only can trends be identified for common health concerns, but doctors can use the information for other rare conditions as well. For example, a medical professional might look for the risk of sickle cell disease or cystic fibrosis.

Complete Family Medical History

If you want to gather a complete history of the medical conditions in your family, then it should include:

  • Records of your medical history
  • Records of your parents’ medical information
  • Details from 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-degree relatives: siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews
  • Ethnicity information

A complete medical history should include three generations, with as much information as possible.

How to Create Your Family Health Portrait

The Surgeon General has created an easy tool that can be used to compile your information. Click here to access My Family Health Portrait. You can enter the information, and then see details about your risk for specific health concerns.

The information gathered in this tool can be given to your healthcare provider. Make sure to save the information so that it can be updated as things change in the future.

Help Finding Medical Resources

It can be a challenge navigating the health care system. If you need someone to help, then you are welcome to talk to our team at Windward Life Care. We provide the tools and resources that you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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LGBT Caregivers – Resources and Support are Available

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals acting as caregivers share many of the same challenges as all family caregivers, but they also have some unique needs. A study conducted in 2015 by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that LGBT-identified caregivers make up 9% of the 34 million Americans providing unpaid care to adults over the age of 50.

According to the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, many caregivers in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities may not self-identify as “caregivers” even when providing everyday assistance to friends, partners, spouses or loved ones. This can prevent them from seeking support and resources.

LGBT caregivers typically have fewer social supports than other family caregivers, and they are more likely to care for individuals in their own age range. These conditions can lead to a greater risk of “burn-out,” including physical and mental health challenges. LGBT individuals already experience health disparities in comparison to the general population, so self-care is particularly important for LGBT family caregivers.

Resources for LGBT Family Caregivers

Advance directives such as a Power of Attorney for Healthcare are extremely important for everyone 18 and older, especially for LGBT individuals who may wish to designate a health care proxy or decision-maker who is not their next of kin. Putting these wishes in writing is crucial to ensure that patients’ wishes are respected in health care settings.

Most states, including California, have passed version of the CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act which mandates hospitals to ask each patient upon admission if they would like to designate someone as their caregiver. This does not have to be a spouse or biological family member. The hospital must notify the designated caregiver about the discharge plan, and provide discharge instruction to that person. LGBT individuals who are hospitalized should be aware of and exercise this right to choose their caregiver.

There are many avenues for LGBT family caregivers to obtain emotional support, such as through the SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline (1-888-234-SAGE); through local non-profit organizations providing counseling services like The Center in San Diego; and through local support groups for family caregivers such as those offered by Alzheimer’s San Diego and Southern Caregiver Resource Center.

Fortunately, many organizations serving older adults are doing a better job of creating welcoming environments for LGBT clients and their family caregivers, and asking appropriate questions to identify those caregivers who would benefit from additional help.

Windward Life Care’s clinical team is here to support LGBT family caregivers with professional consultation, resource connection, and respite services. Just call us to discuss how we can help.

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