Malnutrition is a health threat that’s rarely diagnosed

Malnutrition is a health threat that’s rarely diagnosed

As if being admitted to the hospital isn’t challenging enough, there’s often an additional underlying and undiagnosed condition occurring in one-third of seniors who are admitted: undernourishment.

Statistically, it is estimated that 1 in 3 adult patients age 60 and older are malnourished.

Why is it then that in a study of 6 million adult hospitalizations, only 5 percent of the patients received a medical diagnosis of malnutrition?

Studies over the past three decades have shown that a patient’s nutritional status appears to be overlooked or not considered a medical priority.

Many seniors struggle after hospital stay

Many seniors struggle after hospital stay

Five years ago, I could not comprehend how my father’s two-day stay in the hospital resulted in a three-week stay in a skilled-nursing facility and a permanent decline in his functional abilities.

My father had Parkinson’s. At the time, he also had a form of low blood pressure that occurs when you stand up from a sitting or a lying-down position. It can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded.

The condition can even cause you to faint, which was what happened to my father and what precipitated the hospital stay.

My mother called 911 and my father was taken by ambulance to the emergency room and later admitted for observation.

Before his hospitalization my father could walk with a walker, he could assist if someone helped him off the toilet, he could feed himself and he was cognitively fit.

After two days in a hospital bed, 

Are we facing a loneliness epidemic?

Are we facing a loneliness epidemic?

Joanie and her husband lived a full life, busy careers and wonderful vacation trips after retirement.

Today, Joanie sits silently, alone in front of her television, eating her dinner.

Joanie’s life partner died five years ago at the age of 74, and now that he’s gone, a week can go by without her connecting with a single human being.

Hearing-impaired, she has settled into a life of seclusion.

Joanie possesses the financial net worth to enjoy life, activities, trips, outings and events, but what she lacks is a social network. She is one of millions of seniors suffering from social isolation.

AARP estimates that more than 8 million older adults are affected by this trend.

Socially connected seniors are those who have relationships present in their lives, who have friends or family they can rely on and who are satisfied with those relationships.

Are we taking too many pills?

Are we taking too many pills?

I recently assisted in moderating a local research study of individuals who took six or more prescription medications a day.

Some participants spoke of needing to take pills with food, while others needed to take their medication on an empty stomach. Some were required to split their pills, and some needed to modify their dosage daily depending on their health condition.

Still others spoke of changing pill shape, size and even form as their pharmacy changed generic providers.

To an observer like me, the process of scheduling and taking all these medications was complicated and involved, even though almost all study participants had adjusted to their regimen.

One person said they take 44 pills per day. Another carried in his wallet a long list of all the medications he was required to take daily, just so he could remember all of them and what they’re for.

Like it or not, we are a society of pill takers.

New Medicare cards safer to carry

New Medicare cards safer to carry

The average American visits a doctor four times a year.

Seniors visit a doctor nearly twice that much.

At each doctor visit we are asked to show our identification and our insurance card. For most adults 65 and over, that is their Medicare card.

It’s always been a catch-22. Seniors need to show their Medicare card at the doctor’s office and at the hospital, but they’re cautioned against carrying it with them because it contains their Social Security number.

Self-neglect: a growing problem

Self-neglect: a growing problem

Imagine your longtime neighbor is an elderly gentleman who lives alone. He’s been in and out of the hospital over the last few months. He rarely sees his only child, a son who lives on the other side of the country.

You pay your neighbor a social call upon his recent return from a hospital stay.

When he doesn’t answer the door, you peer into the window and are alarmed to see he’s on the floor and not responding to you as you call his name. You call 911.

Paramedics arrive. You stay to answer any questions you can. As you stand by, you hear that your neighbor hasn’t let the home health agency personnel in for their nursing care visits to monitor his health. And he hasn’t eaten the Meals on Wheels food that had been delivered.

Life is never the same after suffering a stroke

Life is never the same after suffering a stroke

A widow with no children, Linda has volunteered for Senior Concerns’ Bargain Boutique and Thrift Shop for the past three years. On Jan. 17, her life changed dramatically.

Scheduled to work at the boutique that day, Linda did not show up for her shift. Concerned, Karina, the boutique manager, called Linda at home. There was no answer.

Karina began to worry. She discussed the situation with boutique volunteer and Senior Concerns’ staff member Denise. They knew Linda lived alone with her St. Bernard, Cooper. Both women called and called but got no response.

After almost two days of trying, they found one of Linda’s neighbors, who had a key to her house. The neighbor 

Living with Parkinson’s

Living with Parkinson’s

I distinctly remember the day I realized my father had something wrong with him.

It was 1992, and my husband and I had recently moved to California. My parents came for their first visit to see us from their home in Cape Cod.

One day on our way to lunch, my mother and I were walking behind my husband and my father, who were chatting about golf.

I noticed my father was holding his right hand in a fist and that he seemed, ever so slightly, to be walking with a different gait. I asked my mother if she had noticed this and she said yes.

We mentioned it to my father, who agreed to see a doctor upon his return home.

He did, and although his general physician did not make a formal diagnosis at the time, he suggested a number of things my father’s symptoms could mean. He recommended my father make an appointment with a neurologist.

My father told me later that as he and my mother entered the neurologist’s office the following week, the neurologist immediately said to my him, “I am pretty sure you have Parkinson’s disease.”

It was quite a shock for them to hear and, of course, it was a life-changing diagnosis.

Solutions to decline of senses continue to be developed

Solutions to decline of senses continue to be developed

We humans tend to take our senses for granted—until they stop working as well as they had in the past. It’s a well-known fact of life that our senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) all decline as we age.

Our vision, especially, tends to get worse with age. We may be less able to tolerate glare. Cataracts, which can make vision fuzzy, are relatively common and usually occur later in life.

Dry eyes are also a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.

Hearing loss in both ears increases with age, beginning between ages 40 and 50.

Our sense of taste becomes less sharp. The number of taste buds decreases, and each remaining taste bud begins to shrink. Reduced flow of saliva may also lead to diminished taste.

Having a healthy fear of the flu

Having a healthy fear of the flu

It had been a long time since I’d been around someone with the actual flu, but over the New Year’s holiday two of my friends came down with the virus.

Now I can clearly see I hadn’t given the flu enough respect.

One friend is a working mom with two children under the age of 8. The other is a working single 50-something woman with two pets. The working mom got the flu shot; the single gal did not.

Both of them were very sick, and even though they went to urgent care and were prescribed Tamiflu (or its generic version), both were down for the count for a good seven days and neither could complete a full day of work on their first day back.

It reminded me how glad I am that I get my flu shot each year and how lucky I was not to have caught the flu from them.

I accompanied one of my friends to her urgent care visit as she was unable to drive.

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