Category Archives: Health

Medicare Sign Ups October 15 – December 7, 2016

It’s that time of year again

For 2017 Medicare coverage, Open Enrollment begins for Medicare  in the fall of 2016, from October 15 to December 7.

People with Medicare can change their choice of health coverage (whether they receive that coverage through a private Medicare Advantage plan or traditional Medicare), and add, drop or change Medicare Part D drug coverage.

During this annual enrollment period (AEP) you can make changes to various aspects of your coverage.

  • You can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa.
  • You can also switch from one Medicare Advantageplan to another, or from one Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan to another.
  • And if you didn’t enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when you were first eligible, you can do so during the general open enrollment, although a late enrollment penalty may apply.

It’s very important that Medicare beneficiaries review their drug plan annually. Why? Because Medicare private drug plans can make changes each year; changes can include which pharmacies are in their networks as well as which drugs are covered and the costs.  Most people can only change their plans during the Fall Open Enrollment Period.

Find out whether medications you are taking will be covered on your plan next year. If your physician had to submit a prior authorization exception request and you need the same medication next year, call your plan to find out what you need to do to make sure that your plan continues covering your medication. Your physician may need to submit a new request and he may be able to do so before the end of the year to ensure that your coverage continues without interruption.

Now is the time to be asking questions! For more information visit

http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/the-medicare-annual-coordinated-election-period-has-begun/

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Learn the Ways To Prevent the Disease in Older Women

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual worldwide campaign organized by major breast cancer charities to raise awareness, offer support to those affected by breast cancer, and to encourage research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure.

Studies show that women in the U.S. who live to the age of 80 have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime. Data from the National Cancer Institute show that half of those diagnoses will occur in women aged 65 and older.

For women with a first-degree relative (sister, mother, or daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer, the risk is doubled, according to Breastcancer.org. The risk of developing breast cancer soars to five times higher than average for women with two first-degree relatives who have been diagnosed.

However, research indicates that at least 80 percent of breast cancers are caused by lifestyle or environmental factors—and not by a genetic predisposition that runs in families, says Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Scientists and medical practitioners have estimated that at least 25 percent of new breast cancer cases could be avoided if women maintained healthy lifestyle practices and understood risk factors. How can older women increase the odds that they will remain breast-cancer free—or that they will beat the disease if diagnosed?

Be physically active. Current guidelines recommend physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week, or 21 minutes a day. But recent studies have shown that postmenopausal women who exercise twice as much—300 minutes per week, or about 42 minutes a day—were much more successful at reducing fat levels linked to developing breast cancer in later life.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can boost the risk of developing many types of cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.

Don’t smoke. Smoking increases older women’s chances of acquiring health conditions that are the leading causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease, stroke, and at least 15 types of cancer, including breast cancer.

Avoid post-menopausal hormones. Contrary to medical advice women were given for years, recent studies have shown that post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should not be continued long term to prevent chronic diseases like osteoporosis and heart disease. While there is evidence that HRT may lower the risk of some diseases, studies show that both estrogen-only hormones and estrogen-plus-progestin hormones can increase breast cancer risk. Most doctors now advise women who do take post-menopausal hormones to continue the treatment for as short a time as possible. Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of post-menopausal hormones for you.

Get screened. Despite some controversy, studies show that breast cancer screening with mammography can help find cancer early—when it’s most treatable. For women who are age 55 and over, mammograms are recommended every other year, although women can choose to have them every year. Clinical breast exams and self-exams are no longer universally recommended as reliable methods for cancer detection, but women should be familiar with their breasts so they can notify a health care provider if they notice changes in how their breasts look or feel.

Know the risk factors. There are a number of breast cancer risk factors that women cannot control. Knowing which ones apply to you can help you understand your own risk. The following list of factors can increase a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer. (Keep in mind that most women who have one or more of these risk factors never develop breast cancer.)

  • Age 60 years or over
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • First menstrual period before age 12
  • Menopause at age 55 or over
  • First childbirth after age 35
  • No children
  • Tall height (5-foot-8 or taller)
  • Dense breasts
  • History of benign breast disease (like atypical hyperplasia)

Fall Prevention Awareness Week: September 22–29

This year’s theme is “Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016” 

Among adults over age 65, falls are the leading cause of death from injury, nonfatal injuries from accidents, and hospital admissions for trauma. To bring attention to this critical health and safety issue, the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence sponsors Fall Prevention Awareness Week during the first week of the fall/autumn season. This year, during the week of September 22–29, older adults, caregivers, and families are encouraged to learn about seniors’ fall risks and how to prevent falls in 2016 and the years ahead.

“Falls can take a serious toll on older adults’ quality of life and independence,” says leading gerontologist Jon Pynoos, Ph.D., co-director of the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, “and the risk for falls increases with age.”

Every 11 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury, says the National Council on Aging (NCOA). At the heart of the message behind Fall Prevention Awareness Week is the good news that falls are preventable.

The NCOA advises seniors to stay safe with these six tips.

Find a good balance and exercise program. Strive to build balance, strength, and flexibility. To find a program, contact your local Area Agency on Aging for referrals. Find aging resources in your area at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (http://www.n4a.org/). Choose a program you like and take a friend, caregiver, or family member.

Talk to your health care provider. Share your history of recent falls, and ask for an assessment of your falling risk.

Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Medication side effects and drug interactions can increase your risk of falling. Remember to take medications only as prescribed.

Get your vision and hearing checked yearly and update your eyeglasses. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping your balance and avoiding fall hazards.

Keep your home safe. Remove tripping hazards (loose area rugs, clutter in main walk-through areas, and wet floors in the kitchen and bathroom, for example), increase lighting in stairways and hallways, and install grab bars in the bathroom and railings on stairs.

Talk to family members. Enlist family members and caregivers’ support in taking simple steps to stay safe on your feet. Falls are not just a seniors’ issue.

Ways to Help Seniors Drink Enough Fluids on Hot Summer Days

Fun tips for staying hydrated in warmer weather  

To stay healthy, all humans need water to keep joints moving, protect organs and tissues, regulate body temperature, and overall make the body work better. On hot days, our bodies lose water more rapidly than usual. Also, senior adults have risk factors that can cause problems in the heat, including a reduced sense of thirst and decreased kidney functions, hindering the body’s ability to adapt to extreme temperatures or low hydration.

If you observe signs of confusion, dry mouth, slurred speech and altered behavior in your older adult, especially in warm weather, you might mistakenly attribute these symptoms to age, instead of the health-threatening effects of dehydration. 

Studies show that even a 2 percent reduction in body water weight (only 3 pounds on a 150-pound person) can lead to difficulties with short-term memory, attention spam and visual-motor tracking. For good health during the summer months, including optimal cognitive function, here are some fun tips for helping your senior loved ones stay well hydrated.

Infuse water with flavors. Add slices of lemons, limes, oranges, berries or cucumbers to pitchers of fresh water, and then refrigerate it. You’ll have a tasty, refreshing, natural beverage with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives. 

Include other fluids. All fluids contribute to hydration, including tea, coffee, juices, milk and soups (but excluding alcohol, which is very dehydrating). The amount of caffeine in tea and coffee does not discount the fluid in them, even if they have a slight diuretic effect, says a report by the National Research Council’s Food and Nutrition Board.

Get water from foods. Eat foods that naturally contain water. Research shows that only 70 to 80 percent of our daily hydration needs to come from water; 20 to 30 percent can come from foods. All whole fruits and vegetables contain water, but these contain the highest amounts:

  • 97% water: Cucumbers
  • 96% water: Celery
  • 95% water: Tomatoes, radishes
  • 93% water: Red, yellow, green bell peppers
  • 92% water: Cauliflower, watermelon
  • 91% water: Spinach, strawberries, broccoli
  • 90% water: Grapefruit

Provide a reusable water bottle. Avoid throwaway plastic water bottles that harm the environment—20 percent end up in landfills. Instead, buy a BPA-free refillable water bottle to help your senior adult keep track of his or her water intake each day. Try to make sure your loved one keeps the bottle nearby. With fluids right at hand, your senior is more likely to sip throughout the day.

Daily Dining is a Highlight at Senior Living Communities

ISL communities serve up superior dining experiences that prioritize healthy, delicious foods and enjoyable occasions to socialize

At any age, we all look forward to a good meal, and our expectations for healthy, delicious, and engaging dining choices are higher than ever. Residents at today’s senior living communities expect more when it comes to dining. To meet residents’ desire for better quality and variety, communities such as those we manage making the entire culinary experience more progressive. Gone are the days of cafeteria-type offerings. Today’s residents are served freshly prepared, homemade meals in a restaurant-style setting complete with extensive healthy menu choices, flexible meal times, resident input on menu planning, tableside service, and special events.

The Culinary Directors at our ISL communities are fully engaged in providing a restaurant dining experience. This includes offering a wide variety of menu items and preparations, specials of the day, and alternative menus. Some residents want grilled fish, some baked, poached or even sushi—we offer all those choices. In addition, we look at seasonal varieties of foods. In the fall there is more squash and pumpkin on the menu; in the spring and summer, fresh fruits. Local produce is always highlighted.

Local and Regional Foods. Whenever possible local and regional foods are sourced from local and regional suppliers to provide the freshest products available. In addition, ISL participates whenever possible in the “farm to table” experience. Residents are  served regional favorites that appeal to the community, and meals incorporate in-season foods that are common to the area.

Specialty Menus and Thoughtful Preparation. To help seniors maintain healthy diets according to their needs, specialty provisions are offered, such as gluten free, allergy specific, low sodium, low sugar, low fat, low carb, low cholesterol, as well as pureed foods. Religious and cultural restrictions are also taken into account. To ensure great taste as well as freshness, authenticity, and health benefits, communities often use locally grown herbs, assorted spices, and other healthful substitutes to create delicious and nutritious offerings.

Social Dining Experiences. The dining experience does more than feed a hungry resident, it feeds the mind and soul when enjoyed in a communal setting. Many ISL communities stress the social aspect of dining and take it to another level. They offer special themed dining events that take dining to a new level, events that residents look forward to. “Our goal is to transport our residents to a destination dining place, to create an event complete with decorations, entertainment, activities, and, of course, delicious food. For example if we are doing a Hawaiian theme residents may enjoy a roasted pig, hula dancing and tropical drinks as just part of the experience,” adds Zeug.

Varied Menu Selections. Today’s residents want a variety of selections to choose from any time of day. No longer is it acceptable to only have a few menu choices. Now ISL communities provide full-service restaurant-style dining programs that rely on residents’ input on menu offerings, including food choices and preparation. Communities have culinary committees comprising groups of residents who offer advice on menus, and sometimes use residents’ recipes and food-preparation tips. Community dining staff members are innovative in menu selection and customizing offerings for their residents.

Flexible Dining Schedules. The dining experience no matter what time of day is a significant contributor to resident satisfaction in senior living communities. Many senior communities offer flexible mealtimes so that residents can choose a routine that fits their preferences and lifestyles. Those communities that don’t offer all-day dining often make fresh, well-prepared snacks throughout the day. Many communities have more than one location for dining, offering a fine dining area as well as casual dining locations within the community.

At ISL communities, we are creating new and exciting dining experiences for our residents. We strive to provide culinary experiences that residents not only look forward to but also enjoy. Our directors are present in the dining rooms, our chefs ask for residents input, and staff are always seeking new ways to improve our dining programs to best fit residents’ needs and preferences.

Bon Appetite!

Ways to Help Seniors at Visits to the Doctor

Going alone to a doctor’s appointment can be stressful at any age, but older adults often feel especially intimidated. Having a loved one come along as a healthcare advocate during a doctor’s visit can help seniors get better care. As an advocate, you can provide moral support as well as help seniors talk about sensitive health issues, ask questions, take notes, and, if needed, coordinate care if multiple doctors or specialists are involved.

Here are some sensible ways to help make a senior’s visit to the doctor more productive and less intimidating.

Prepare for the visit. Make a list of all current medications, including prescriptions and any over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins and herbal supplements. In the days before the visit, start talking to your older adult about how they’re feeling and whether they have bothersome symptoms. Make a list of questions for the doctor, and any issues your senior wants to mention.

Take notes during the visit. It’s a challenge for anyone to understand and retain all the doctor’s information given during a visit—especially for seniors with memory loss, hearing impairment, and feelings of being confused and overwhelmed. Write down what the doctor says so you and your older adult can understand (and later remember) diagnoses, treatment recommendations, and medical decisions.

Ask for a medication review. At least once a year, ask the doctor to make sure whether all the senior’s medications are being taken properly, working well together, and are still needed. Here’s where your list of all your older adult’s current medications (prescription, over the counter, and vitamins and supplements) will prove invaluable.

Help manage your senior’s entire medical team. Many older adults see multiple doctors or specialists to manage all their health issues. Often, though, these doctors, nurses, and technicians may not communicate with each other. Help your senior keep track of what each health professional says, recommends, and prescribes. Share the information with all members of the medical team. Doing so will help ensure treatments don’t conflict and cause undesirable drug interactions.

Great News! New Study Shows Retirement Is Good for Your Health

People become more active, sleep better, and reduce their sitting time when they retire, says a new study published in March 2016 by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study, “Retirement—A Transition to a Healthier Lifestyle?,” followed the lifestyle behaviors of more than 25,000 adults age 45-plus for about three years, tracking such factors as physical activity, diet, sedentary behavior, alcohol use, and sleep patterns.

“Our research revealed that retirement was associated with positive lifestyle changes,” said lead researcher Dr. Melody Ding, senior research fellow at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health. “Compared with people who were still working, retirees had increased physically activity levels, reduced sitting time, were less likely to smoke, and had healthier sleep patterns.

Dr. Ding said that a major life change like retirement creates an opportunity to make positive lifestyle modifications—to set aside negative routines and develop new, healthier behaviors.

Study data showed that retirees:

  • Increased physical activity by 93 minutes a week
  • Decreased sedentary time by 67 minutes per day
  • Increased sleep by 11 minutes per day
  • Decreased smoking (50 percent of female retirees quit smoking)

The differences were significant even after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, urban/rural residence, marital status, and education.

Dr. Ding said retirement gave people more time to pursue healthier lifestyles. “The lifestyle changes were most pronounced in people who retire after working full-time,” she said. “When people are working and commuting, it eats a lot of time out of their day. When they retire, they have time to be physically active and sleep more.”

In terms of sedentary time, researchers found that the largest reduction in sitting time occurred in people who lived in urban areas and had higher levels of education.

These findings include everyone in the study who retired. When researchers looked closer, they found that those whose health was not the prime reason for quitting work made the most dramatically positive lifestyle change—but those who retired for health reasons still improved their health habits quite a bit.

Dr. Ding said she hopes the research will encourage people to think positively about retirement.

The new research suggests that retiring as soon as you’re financially, physically, and emotionally able will likely lead to a healthier and happier time of your life.

April Is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

Help raise awareness this month and all year long 

More than 1 million people in the U.S. have Parkinson’s disease, says the National Parkinson Foundation, and as many as 60,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects one in 100 people over age 60. While the average age at onset is 60, some people are diagnosed at 40 or younger.

Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Some of these dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As the disease progresses, the brain produces less and less dopamine, and the person loses the ability to control movement.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s

Symptoms vary from person to person, according to a variety of factors, including age of onset and disease progression, but primary motor signs include the following:

  • Tremor or the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • Slowness of movement
  • Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • Instability of posture or impaired balance and coordination

Medications and Treatments

Many medications and treatments are available to help treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s, but there are none yet that reverse the effects of the disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors may also suggest lifestyle changes, especially ongoing aerobic exercise. Physical therapy that focuses on balance and stretching may also be effective. Speech-language pathologists may help improve speech difficulties. In later cases, surgical procedures such as deep brain stimulation may be recommended.

Living Well with Parkinson’s

After a diagnosis of Parkinson’s each person’s journey is different, but the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation recommends these common strategies for maintaining a high quality of daily living with Parkinson’s:

Manage nutrition and medications. Find routines and treatments that work best for you and follow them consistently.

Pursue activities that are important to you. Keep doing activities you love to do, and you may alleviate your symptoms and boost your mental well being. Painting, tai chi, yoga, exercise—keeping up with these favorite activities may help you take charge of your life with Parkinson’s.

Connect with the Parkinson’s community. Become better informed about Parkinson’s, and meet other people who are living with the disease.

Get involved with advocacy groups, clinical trials, support groups and educational conferences. Be both a benefactor and a participant in the Parkinson’s community and the community at large.

Plan ahead to adapt to the disease on your own terms. Make a priority of living well at home and at work as the disease changes by using assistive technologies and seeking the expertise of professionals such as occupational therapists, speech therapists and nutritionists wen needed.

How to Help Seniors Prevent Falling

Older adults have an alarmingly high chance of falling inside and outside the home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of 3 people age 65 and older falls each year. After age 80, that increases to a 1 in 2 chance. That means your senior adult has a 33 percent to 50 percent chance of falling this year.

Physical Changes that Increase the Risk of Falls 

  • Age-related muscle loss lessens strength and weakens bones.
  • Aging bodies and medications make balance more difficult.
  • Worsening vision impairs seniors’ ability to stay upright and clearly see what’s nearby.
  • Diminished flexibility, especially in hips, knees, and ankles, can cause to falls.
  • Lower endurance (how long you can stand and walk with tiring) raises fall risk.
  • Lower strength, balance, and flexibility make seniors feel less confidence in their walking ability.

Falls can be devastating to seniors’ health in the short term and long term. In older adults, falls can cause hip fractures and head injuries. They’re the leading cause of death from injury, because of traumatic brain injury.

Even if a fall is not life threatening, seniors can face long-term consequences because their bodies are less able to recover fully. Overall health can worsen and care needs increase, sometimes leading to extended stays in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities.

The good news is that falls do not have to become an inevitable rite of passage with aging. The chances of falling can be substantially lessened with small modifications around the home.

Steps Toward Preventing Falls

  • Area rugs are a major trip hazard. Tape them down or consider getting rid of them.
  • Declutter the house, especially the main walk-through areas. Clutter tends to pile up quickly, but try to keep shoes, newspapers, books, and clothing out of the path of seniors.
  • Hallways and stairways should be well lit. Seniors tend to make more frequent trips to the bathroom, especially at night. Light up hallways leading to the bathroom. Make sure the steps on the stairwell are well-lit for easier navigation in the dark.
  • The kitchen and the bathroom often have wet floors. Add nonslip mats in the kitchen and bathroom, near the sinks and bathtub or shower to greatly reduce falls on slippery surfaces. Apply stick-on nonslip strips to tub and shower floors.
  • Consider adding safety supports. Add an additional railing on the stairs or install grab bars in the bathroom.
  • In the bedroom and kitchen, move frequently used items down from high shelves. Put them within easy arm’s reach.

March Is National Nutrition Month

March is the perfect time of year to observe National Nutrition Month®—because many of us who made New Year’s resolutions to choose healthier foods might need extra encouragement right now. Sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Nutrition Month encourages all Americans to make informed food choices and establish sound eating and exercise habits. The theme for 2016 is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” emphasizing the importance of developing mindful eating patterns that incorporate nutritious and flavorful foods into your habits and family traditions. This theme is right in line with ISL’s signature “Dining by Design” program.

The dining experience at our communities features delicious food, great conversation, and an inviting atmosphere. ISL’s signature “Dining by Design” program was developed to enhance social interaction, proper nutrition, and overall resident well-being. Integral Senior Living won the Assisted Living Federation of America’s (ALFA) prestigious “Best of the Best” award for its dining program, enabling communities to offer one of the best culinary practices in senior living.

Essential to Dining by Design are:

  • Chef-prepared meals
  • Signature dishes served with well-rounded food choices
  • Restaurant-style ordering and service
  • Resident involvement in meal planning

Following mindful eating patterns doesn’t mean you need to turn away from the foods you and your family love, or ignore long-established family traditions. In fact there are ways to enjoy delicious foods and revel in traditions without overindulging.

Eat slowly. We often rush through our meals—either because we feel our lives are too busy, or eating has become mundane, a routine to be gotten through.

It is suggested to eat one bite at a time. Stop and take time between bites. Eating slowly not only allows you to enjoy your food, but it can also help you eat less by giving your stomach time to tell your brain that you are full.

Pay attention to flavors. Try to savor the overall eating experience—the different flavors, spices, and textures. Notice how different foods complement each other. If you’re a cook, experiment with subtle variations of favorite recipes.

Take a look at your eating patterns. Mindful eating includes observing not only which foods you eat, but where and when you eat, and how much. Notice when you snack, and why. Do you eat in your work space, in your bedroom, or in front of the TV? Think about finding a quiet place where you feel comfortable, away from other distractions, where you can eat slowly and mindfully, and savor the eating experience instead of multitasking through it.