Quality Home Health Care

Essential Facts About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects physical movement and eventually cognitive function. It has been linked to low dopamine levels in the brain. The disease develops on a gradual basis, and often begins with a hand tremor that is almost undetectable at first. Parkinson's Disease awarenessHowever, even though shaking and tremors are the most recognized sign of the disorder, in many cases it also causes a slowing of movement and stiffness in the muscles. The disease typically begins in middle or late life, and it rarely afflicts young adults. The average age of initial manifestation is 65, and the risk for developing Parkinson’s increases with age.

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is not yet known and is not considered hereditary, but having a close relative with Parkinson’s may slightly increase the chance of developing it after age 60. For reasons unknown, men are at a higher risk for Parkinson’s disease than women. The sooner treatment is sought, the better the chances of delaying the progression of the disease.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary considerably from one individual to the next. Early symptoms are often mild and typically go unnoticed and are sometimes misdiagnosed. Initial symptoms usually occur on only one side of the body, and even after both sides are affected, the side where the symptoms first manifested usually remains the worst.

In addition to shaking and tremors, something referred to as a “pill rolling tremor” is quite common. This is a back-and-forth rubbing of the forefinger and thumb and typically occurs when the hand is at rest.

Over time, the ability to move fast is lost, which makes simple tasks time-consuming and difficult. A person may be unable to stand up quickly, and his or her steps may become shorter and stilted. Some patients described this symptom as feeling like their feet are anchored to the floor.

In a variation of the disease called Rigid Parkinson’s, muscle stiffness may be the first symptom to manifest. This sometimes leads to a longer period between initial symptoms and diagnosis, as there are a high number of causes for muscle stiffness, most of which are much more common than Parkinson’s disease.

Impaired balance and posture is common among Parkinson’s patients, as well. A stooped posture eventually emerges, and it is usually at this point that the “Parkinson’s shuffle” manifests. As its name implies, the person appears to be shuffling his or her feet across the floor, rather than the normal tandem gait that is seen in healthy individuals. Stiffly hanging arms rather than a normal swing is another common sign of the disease.

Often, a masked expression appears, which is noticeable to others. Speech problems occur as well, and these may manifest as stilted talking, slurred speech, or even speaking in a jumbled fashion. Handwriting may appear particularly small and writing may have a distinct wavy appearance. Additional symptoms are listed below which almost always worsen over time:

• Difficulty swallowing
• Depression
• Difficulty thinking and reasoning
• Constipation
• Fatigue
• Bladder problems such as difficulty urinating.
• Changes in blood pressure
• Muscle and joint pain
• Sexual dysfunction

Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease; however, symptoms can be controlled or reduced by specific drugs. In certain cases of advanced Parkinson’s, surgery may be recommended.

Medications

The medications prescribed for Parkinson’s disease were developed to increase dopamine, as dopamine deficiencies play a major role in the development of the disease. Significant improvement is seen in most patients shortly after beginning treatment. Below are the most common drugs prescribed for Parkinson’s:

• Carbidopa-levodopa

• Duopa

• Dopamine agonists

• MAO-B inhibitors

• Catechol-O-methyltransferase

• Tolcapone (Tasmar)

• Anticholinergics

• Amantadine

Surgery

In cases of advanced Parkinson’s disease, treatment may include surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation–DBS. This is considered one of the newest treatments for the disorder and has had good outcomes regarding lessening the severity and frequency of symptoms. During the procedure, surgeons implant electrodes into a specific area of the brain and a generator implanted near the collarbone sends impulses to the electrodes which then travel to the brain. Sustained relief from symptoms is often experienced by those who undergo this surgery, although it does not completely stop the progression of the disease.

Occupational Therapy

Some doctors also recommend occupational therapy. Physical therapists offer a wealth of advice to make life easier for Parkinson’s patients. Such therapy is typically focused on stretching, balancing and tips on how to avoid falls, which is of vital importance. Speech language pathologists are sometimes consulted as well, who can suggest exercises to improve speech problems. Although Parkinson’s cannot be cured, the appropriate treatment is available. Therefore, anyone experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease should contact a medical professional for evaluation.

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Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Reduce Your Chances of Getting Cancer

Reduce Cancer Risks with a Healthier Lifestyle

It is impossible to guarantee that you will never develop cancer. elderly couple with healthy lifestyle reduces risk of cancerHowever, you can significantly reduce your risk with simple lifestyle changes.

Limit Or Avoid Alcohol

When you drink excessively, you increase your risk of cancer. Studies show even moderate drinking can increase the risk. Women should never have more than one drink per day, and men should not have more than two. You may be able to prevent cancers related to alcohol by not drinking at all.

Make Smart Choices In Your Sex Life

Most people have only heard of human papillomavirus during the last few years. This virus can cause cervical cancer, but it can also cause other cancers in men as well as women.

As the virus can be transmitted through sexual contact, practice safe sex. You can choose between a monogamous relationship with your lifelong partner, or use condoms every time you have sexual relations.

Avoid Tobacco Products

It is extremely difficult to quit smoking, even when you know the risks. Lung cancer is not the only cancer connected to smoking. The carcinogens can cause other types of cancer, too.

The risks are not limited to cigarettes. You also increase your risk of cancer if you smoke cigars or use smoke-free tobacco products. If you cannot easily give up your habit, ask your doctor for advice.

Protect Yourself From UV Rays

The most common cause of skin cancer is too much exposure to ultraviolet rays. Prevention can be easy if you take it seriously. Limit your exposure to direct sunlight, and use a good sunblock whenever you are outdoors. Avoid tanning booths, tanning salons, and sunlamps.

You can also reduce your risk of skin cancer by monitoring your skin for changes. If you notice changes in moles, or skin discolorations that were not present before, report it to your doctor immediately.

Exercise Every Day

Moderate exercise on a daily basis can decrease your risk of cancer, including colon cancer and lung cancer. Choose an activity you enjoy, and do it every day.

Make Changes In Your Diet

Foods that contain antioxidants can reduce your cancer risk by keeping your cells healthy. Berries and cruciferous vegetables should be in your daily diet.

Your risk of lung cancer can be reduced with certain superfoods. Apples, garlic, red peppers, fish, spinach, and green tea are some examples.

Exercise moderation if you eat processed meats and red meats. Choose healthier products for your daily protein.

Know Your Environmental Risks

It may be impossible to eliminate environmental risks entirely, but knowing the risks in your environment can help you make changes. Purchase a test kit to test the levels of radon in your home. If the level is high, the problem can be corrected. Everyone in your household can have a lower risk of lung cancer.

Second, learn about environmental risks at your workplace. You may have an increased risk of cancer if you are exposed to certain chemicals, dust, or fumes at work.

Third, choose chemical-free products for your home and personal use. Toxic chemicals can be found in products ranging from cleaning supplies to personal grooming products and cosmetics.

Chemical-free products can reduce your own cancer risk and keep others in your home environment healthy, too. You can also consider the benefits outside your home and family. If you use toxic chemicals, residue that is rinsed away ends up in the waterways, soil, and land. When you choose natural products, it is the eco-friendly choice.

Avoid Sleep Deprivation

When you sleep, your body heals. While this is important for every part of your body, it helps your cells stay healthy. A full night’s sleep every night can reduce your risk of cancer.

Maintain Your Ideal Weight

Obesity can lead to many health risks, including cancer. A balanced diet and daily exercise can help you achieve and maintain your ideal weight. If you are having difficulty losing weight, ask your physician for advice. He can recommend a healthy approach to weight loss.

Know Your Family’s Medical History

If cancer runs in your family, discuss it with your doctor. He may advise tests, monitoring, or additional changes so your risks can be reduced.

These lifestyle changes can help you prevent cancer. You can enjoy a healthier life.

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What Seniors Need to Know About Health Care Decisions

As you grow older, it is time to think seriously about health care decisions. senior man with advance directive in hositialThe wisest step seniors can take is to prepare for their future health care by considering some important legal issues.

What Is A Durable Power Of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney for health care is also referred to as a health care proxy. When you appoint someone to this position, he will have the authority to make health care decisions in your behalf. If your illness is to the extent that you cannot make your own decisions, your proxy will be able to speak for you.

Complications can arise if you do not have a health care proxy. If you have not granted anyone this authority, the decisions may be up to your health care providers. If this occurs, your doctor may not know your wishes, or he may ignore your wishes and do what he feels is best.

You should put careful thought into choosing a health care proxy. While you should reasonably assume the person will be available if his assistance is needed, you also need to know he will abide by your wishes. Before you prepare this document, discuss every aspect of your health care with the person you are considering. You need to know he will respect your decisions, even if he does not agree with them.

Most seniors choose close family members as their durable power of attorney. However, this is not a requirement. If you are not sure a family member will carry out your wishes, or if you have no close relatives, you can appoint a friend, your minister or priest, or any other adult you feel is appropriate.

What Is A Living Will?

A living will covers your end-of-life decisions. Its purpose is limited.

If you become ill or injured to the extent that death is in the foreseeable future, a living will informs your health care providers of your wishes regarding treatment. As examples, you may want your life to be extended as long as possible, even if you are in a coma, or you may object to life-extending procedures such as feeding tubes or breathing tubes.

Whether you want every procedure possible, or a do-not-resuscitate order, your wishes will be clearly stated in a living will.

What Is An Advance Directive?

While an advance directive includes your end-of-life decisions, it covers more information regarding your future health care. You do not have to be near death for an advance directive to come into effect. It can make your wishes clear to the health care providers if you are too ill to communicate.

The advance directive will let health care providers know what you do and do not want regarding medical treatment. Your health care proxy should also be named on your directive. As the directive covers your end-of-life decisions as well as your future health care decisions, you do not necessarily need a living will if you have an advance directive.

For Seniors Making Health Care Decisions

If you are uncomfortable with these topics, it is easy to make mistakes. While living wills and advance directives are often available in hospitals, you do not have to use the forms provided by your hospital. Although forms are available online, they may not be exactly what you want.

As advance directives and living wills are legal documents, consider asking your attorney for assistance. Your lawyer can prepare the documents to meet your specifications. Your lawyer can also help you find witnesses to make the documents legal and valid.

Both living wills and advance directives must be honored by health care providers. If the provider in charge of your care does not agree with or approve of your decision, he is obligated to turn your care over to a provider who will abide by it.

Do not allow anyone to pressure you into naming them as your health care proxy. This is a decision you need to make for yourself. You do not have to appoint a family member if you believe someone else would be more reliable.

The best time to address these issues is when you are reasonably healthy and sound of mind. This can greatly reduce your risk of someone attempting to override your decisions when you cannot speak on your own behalf.

Your future health care decisions and end-of-life decisions should not be anyone’s decisions but your own. When you have an attorney to assist you with these documents, they will be completely binding by law. You will be able to update or revise the documents any time you choose, but no one will be able to ignore or override your decisions even if you are at the end of your life or severely incapacitated. With these documents, and a suitable health care proxy, you can have peace of mind.

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Everything You Need to Know About Shingles

What is Shingles?

Shingles is a type of painful skin rash that is caused by the varicella zoster virus. It may also be referred to as herpes zoster. ShinglesThis virus is often found in the nerves of the spine.

How Did I Get Shingles?

Shingles occurs when the chickenpox virus is reactivated inside your body. Once you recover from your first bout of chickenpox, the virus is essentially dormant, or asleep, in your nerve roots. In some people, the virus stays in this dormant condition for a lifetime.

However, in others the virus may be awoken again when stress, disease or the aging process leaves your immune system mire vulnerable. Certain medications have also been known to trigger the awakening of the virus. However, no one knows yet why this occurs. It is important to know that once the virus does become active again, it can only return as shingles… not chickenpox.

How Common is Shingles?

Each year, there are more than 200,000 cases of shingles in the US alone. Only about 5% of shingles cases as attributed to children.

Although the condition is very common, shingles is also very painful, producing a painful, red rash that may appear on the trunk of the body. These blisters often form in stripes or bands, a distinctive feature of the virus. The pain that occurs from these blisters can continue after the rash has faded. This is referred to as postherpetic neuralgia. There are medications that can help to ease the nerve pain associated with shingles.

What Treatments are Available?

Antiviral medications are often used to combat shingles and may shorten the length of the blister phase. As stated above, pain relief measures may also be taken if needed.

Is Shingles Contagious?

It is not possible to catch shingles from a person who is infected with shingles. It is, however, possible that someone who has not had the chickenpox virus or the chickenpox vaccine to catch the virus that caused the shingles. If a person exposed to someone with shingles does catch the virus, it will appear as chickenpox.

What are the Symptoms of Shingles?

In some patients, shingles may begin as a headache and/or sensitivity to light. One or more of the following symptoms may show up over time:

– Fatigue
– Pain on the skin
– Burning sensation
– Itching
– Red, Blister-like rash spread out in a line
– Scabbing and/or redness

Is Shingles Dangerous?

Though not typically considered dangerous, certain groups may be more likely to experience shingles and have a harder time recovering. These groups include those with weakened immune systems, patients who have or have had cancer, transplant patients, HIV/AIDS patients and those who have had radiation therapy for cancer. If you fall into one of these groups, your doctor will work carefully with you to ensure a good prognosis.

What Should I Do If I Think I May Have Shingles?

If you suspect that you may have shingles, contact your doctor for an appointment. The sooner you get to the office, the quicker your doctor can help you shorten the length of time you are affected by shingles and the sooner you can begin to get your pain under control.

Is There Anything Else I Can Do?

The best thing you can do to fight shingles once you have visited your doctor is simply to be a good patient. Be sure to follow up with your doctor, letting them know of any changes in your condition and keep to their instructions laid out for your treatment plan. This will ensure that you heal as quickly as possible.

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What You Should Know About Osteoporosis & Seniors

Osteoporosis is common in elderly persons. While it is more common in women, senior men can develop it, too. Some information can help you live and cope with this condition.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones have become weaker and less dense than they were in the past.  osteoporosisAging is the main risk factor for developing osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis itself generally does not cause pain. This is one factor that makes it different from rheumatoid arthritis. However, while pain is rarely an issue, the risks associated with osteoporosis can make the condition dangerous.

Bones that are not as strong and dense are prone to fractures. You are more likely to suffer from broken bones when you have this condition. While broken bones in the elderly can take a longer time to heal, a senior citizen who experiences broken bones can have other complications. A common example is developing pneumonia because you cannot easily move about when you have a broken bone.

A second issue connected to osteoporosis is a spinal deformity. This condition, known as kyphosis, can affect your mobility and is often painful.

Healthier Bones Mass Through Diet

There are a number of ways dietary changes can affect your bones.

Milk enriched with Vitamin D can increase bone strength, density, and health. The Vitamin D is especially important if you do not have enough exposure to natural sunlight.

A nutritious diet that is plentiful in vitamins and minerals can increase bone health. Vitamins C, E, K, and A, as well as iron, zinc, and magnesium, should be in your daily diet.

Choose fresh, whole foods over processed foods. While processed foods are unhealthy in general, they usually contain too much sodium. Avoid adding salt to your meals.

You can also increase bone health by not smoking, and not consuming too much alcohol. Ask your doctor for advice if you cannot easily give up these habits.

Osteoporosis And Exercise

Bone loss can be increased by immobilization. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, you need to become more active. You should not attempt to take on strenuous exercise if you are not accustomed to it. For most seniors, moderate exercise every day should be the goal.

Exercise will keep your bones as healthy as possible. It is good for your general health and your state of mind, too.

Decreasing The Risks Of Fractures

Falling is the most common way seniors with osteoporosis develop fractures. You can take some steps to decrease this risk.

Flooring in your home should be secure. If possible, carpeting throughout your house or apartment is the best option. It is easy to slip and fall on tile floors, and to trip over rugs that are not secured to the floor.

If you have a stairway in your home, carpeting is ideal. Stairways should be well-lighted. Lighting strips are a safe alternative to light bulbs that must be turned off and on with a string or chain.

Falling in the bathroom can be a problem. You can reduce this risk by keeping all surfaces in your bathroom dry. You can also ask someone to attach railings around your toilet, bathtub, and shower.

Your home should always be free from clutter, and you should have appropriate lighting in every room.

Living With Osteoporosis

Whether you are male or female, a young senior or elderly, these tips can help you stay healthy. You can avoid falling, and reduce your risk of dangerous fractures.

An overall healthy lifestyle can make it easier to cope with osteoporosis. It does not have to be a serious problem in your life.

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