Vitra Wears Red for Heart Health

Today, February 3rd is National Wear Red Day – a day to be mindful of the effect heart disease and stroke has on women in this country.  The terrifying statistic is that heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women every year.

Join with Vitra Health in honoring the American Heart Association with their “National Wear Red Day” campaign to raise awareness and bring us together in support of preventing heart disease and stroke among women.

Although these concerns are common among all Americans, different risk factors apply specifically to women. Here are some examples:

Estrogen

 Although it has been proven that estrogen ultimately lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke, sudden drops in this hormone due to hormonal imbalances, treatments, and menopause can, overall, increase the risk of these things.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a factor that must be considered when assessing the likelihood of heart disease and stroke among women because conditions such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, or a preexisting vascular concern that is exacerbated by pregnancy may all become risk factors.

 

Birth Control

Although side effects of contraceptives have been widely considered for decades and developers have been working on improving medication, oral contraceptives are still linked to a rise in blood pressure and blood clots. Older women and women who smoke are at a greater risk for these things in conjunction with birth control.

Vitra Health supports those who struggle with heart disease and stroke with a program funded through MassHealth that provides the financial assistance of a twice-monthly stipend and the support of a Care Team including a Registered Nurse and a Care Manager to those caring for loved ones. To learn more about how you can apply for this program and further support the ones you love, visit our website at www.vitrahealth.com or give us a call at 508-297-2022.

Connecting the Community to Great Services at Sturdy Memorial Hospital

We at Vitra Health were pleased to have the opportunity to sit down with a great group of Case Managers from Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro. We were very encouraged by their readiness to work with other professionals in the healthcare field with the intent of coordinating better care for those who rely upon their services. This coordination of care helps to create a more stable environment for patients and improves overall wellness.

 

A pillar among the Attleboro community for over 100 impressive years, Sturdy Memorial Hospital has a reputation for applying a personalized approach to the field of healthcare. It was wonderful to see the depth of Sturdy’s knowledge and awareness of the surrounding community and to recognize that they truly treat each patient as an individual. We are looking forward to coordinating with them in the future and congratulate them for their 100+ years of quality care.

Thanksgiving Event a Success!

Last week, on November 22nd, Vitra Health was proud to co-host a Thanksgiving event with Quincy Housing Authority. Members from both were present to pass out meals and offer a friendly and welcoming face to residents in celebration of the holiday. Full of fun, conversation, and great food, the event was a wonderful way for Vitra Health to introduce itself to the community and to learn more about the residents and staff of Quincy Housing so that we can better fit their needs.

This is one of the first events that we at Vitra Health have hosted alongside Quincy Housing Authority and we are excited for the prospect of many more. Plans for future events and workshops are intended to provide education and training on topics that residents and staff, alike, would find interesting and applicable. In addition, we are hoping that many events will be great places for residents to meet their neighbors, socialize, and learn about the different opportunities open to them.

We would love to thank the many wonderful Quincy Housing Authority residents that attended the event as well as the staff that helped to make it so successful. A very special “thank you” is reserved for the Quincy Sun that reported on the event (as seen above).

Why You Should Take a Daily Walk

Ok, I admit it. I put a lot of emphasis on exercise in these articles. But, at the end of the day, it’s for your own good. Exercise is more important for us than my English degree could ever mold into words. The awful truth is that I am not a huge exercise buff, myself. Why lace up my shoes and go for a jog in the cold when I could lounge around with a hot chocolate and a good movie, instead? Believe me. I understand. That’s why this article is about the power of a good walk. If you are able to walk, even if it is just around your living room – you’ll never believe just how good for you it can be.

  1. Low-Impact Exercise – A lot of the stereotypical exercises that we do can be awful on our joints and as we age this becomes an even bigger concern. Age starts to naturally wear away at the cushioning our joints once enjoyed so it is very important (from the beginning, ideally) to opt for low-impact exercises like walking.
  2. Strengthens Your Brain – it’s true. In a recent study, seniors who walked 6 or more miles a week had less overall brain-shrinkage and lower occurrences of dementia.
  3. Tones Your Muscles – it can be a gradual change, but overtime, walking will begin to tone your leg, back, and abdominal muscles which will strengthen them and keep you more steady.
  4. Lowers Risk of Disease – the list of illnesses that are reduced or even prevented from walking is so long it could be its own article. Instead, I will just list a few: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, kidney disease, hypertension, increased circulation, obesity, arthritis, etc.
  5. Improves Your Mood – I know that it may be hard to motivate, that one more episode of the Great British Baking Show won’t hurt or you’re finally making time for that thing you’ve been meaning to get to. I know what you’re up to – you are procrastinating and it’s a chronic illness. But, believe it or not a nice walk will make you feel better. Go ahead. Try it. You might be surprised just how refreshed you feel.
  6. Boosts Your Immune System – yeah, that’s right. You thought the medical benefits were covered. You were wrong. There’s more. Walking once a day can help fend off normal flus and colds by boosting your immune system.
  7. It Gives You Time to Think – this is one of those benefits that most people don’t consider immediately. However, people who walk everyday often comment on how useful and reflective the time they spend walking is. Without a screen or the needs of others in front of your face, you can focus on things that need your attention, but you’ve neglected to give it.
  8. You Were Made for Movement – our caveman cousins didn’t evolve to sit in front of a computer screen all day. We were made to hunt and track and move across broad landscapes. Our behavior and culture may have changed but our evolution is still in our cells and it’s older than our technology. Move the way you were made to and your cells will thank you.

Walking may not seem like a lot of exercise. Compared to Olympians and marathon runners, what could a simple daily walk really do for us? The answer is “A LOT” and this list is just some of them. Once you commit to the walking life you’ll find a whole lot more, including a couple of personalized ones you never saw coming.

Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Help

Thanksgiving is so close that we can almost smell the turkey and many of our middles are stirring with a strange mix of excited nostalgia and restless nerves. We can’t wait to see the nice china that only makes an appearance once a year and to throw around the football which, without the tradition, we may never make time for. However, we are also wondering what our Uncle Paul is going to say after his third eggnog and if mom is ever going to let go of the frozen turkey incident. For those of us with aging parents, one of our more important concerns is noticing differences in our loved ones when we visit. Perhaps they have a harder time remembering to turn the oven off, they are struggling with their mobility, or they keep calling baby Kate her mother’s name. And while some of us would like to write this off as “dad being dad” and tease him for new grey hairs, it is important that we pay close attention to the wellness of our loved ones when we see them during the holidays.

Here are some things to keep an eye out for when you are with them this holiday season:

Uncleanliness – if the home is increasingly cluttered or dirty, your parent could be having difficulty with their eyesight or their mobility or their motivation, among a number of other reasons. If things have gotten worse, it can cause problems such as falls and illness.

Spoiled groceries – Thanksgiving can be a tricky time to notice this problem because, most likely, the fridge has been cleaned out to make way for an abundance of leftovers. However, it is still important to look out for and it is easily missed. Spoiled groceries left in the fridge can be sign of depression or forgetfulness or even simply a decline in their sense of smell. Whatever the reason, it can pose a dangerous threat because it can make them sick and serve as a sign for something more ominous.

Unexplained bruising – keep a sharp eye out for arms and legs to make sure there aren’t any injuries like scrapes, cuts, burns or bruises. These could be signs of any number of things from problems with mobility, forgetfulness, or even elder abuse.

Late payments – if your parent will let you take a look at their mail and their finances – great. But, more often than not, there will be a little resistance – especially if a problem is brewing. Without outright snooping, ask your parent if you can take a look through their recent mail and check to see if there are any letters of missed payments or final notices. If you are genuinely concerned about their finances – offer to look over things every once in a while and make sure they know it is judgement-free.

Personal hygiene – admittedly, this can be a sensitive topic. These can all be sensitive topics, but this one has an added degree of embarrassment, so be aware of the way you approach it. Good hygiene is essential for your loved one’s wellness. Teeth, foot, skin, and general cleanliness must not be neglected. Additionally, sudden drops in hygiene could be a sign that something more serious is going on.

Unexplained dents or scratches in car – if your elderly parent is still driving, there may be cause for concern, not only for their safety, but for the safety of others on the road. Changes in eyesight or concentration can make for a very dangerous driver. Giving up the keys can be hard for most as it signifies a change in their independence. However, for their safety and everyone else’s, make sure to address your concerns and be ready to make a firm decision about the future of their driving, if needed.

Low energy/lack of interest –  a lack of interest in things that used to make them happy, an increase in hours spent in front of mindless TV, no motivation to see loved ones or get breakfast with friends like they used to can be signs of depression – a diagnosis that is growing exponentially among the elderly. This is a very serious concern and should be dealt with properly. Speak to their doctor about what can be done and keep in mind that “sadness” does not automatically equal depression and vice versa. Depression takes many forms and while we constantly insist on equating the two, people who are genuinely suffering and could receive help are being missed because they don’t fit the profile, so many associate with this diagnosis.

Keep a close eye out for all of these things while you are home enjoying the holiday and make note of anything that seems out of the ordinary. Consider your options to help your aging parent. Even if they are not ready for a change, now, things happen quickly and leave you scrambling at a very difficult time to figure out a safer situation for the ones you love. Look into options for in-home care or visiting nurses. Offer to attend their doctor’s appointments to gain better information and ensure they aren’t missed. Have a plan in place should they fall and injure themselves.

Also, keep in mind that if you are someone who sees your parents more than a sibling who lives further away, listen to what each other has to say. Sometimes, it is harder to see changes when you are there all the time to witness their evolution. A fresh pair of eyes can bring to light things that you may have missed. It is not your fault – it’s absolutely normal, but it important that everyone listen to each other and take things seriously so that your loved one can receive the best help.

How to Keep the Peace with Family Over the Holidays

We all want to enjoy ourselves over the holiday season. We all wish to put up our feet, throw down an eggnog, and appreciate good food and good company. However, for many of us “good company” is easier said than done. Feel-good family films that loop on television only make things worse by constantly showing us how things “should” be; the slightly-overbearing-but-only-out-of-the-goodness-of-her-own-warm-heart mother, the slightly-rough-around-the-edges-but-devoted- father, the adorably-devious-but-well-intentioned brother. You get the picture. The truth is usually never so viewer-friendly.

Here are a couple of great ways for you to keep the peace and enjoy time with the family:

Be Understanding – Yes, this one is painfully cheesy. It’s also much easier said than done and even though it can be a great first step and it sounds cliché – a lot of people don’t make a real effort towards it. Holidays and family gatherings are naturally stressful on everybody. It is a change in your routine, the weather, different obligations, and the whole thing is wreathed in expectation. Be kind. Be gentle. Be understanding.

Try Breathing – Another maddening cliché, sure. But this one has been proven to work. When you feel yourself beginning to get agitated or irritable or stressed or overwhelmed, try this simple trick: breathe in deeply for 4 seconds, hold this breath for 7 seconds, and release for 8 seconds. Try this three times in a row. The effects are immediate. You will begin to relax and things will seem easier to tackle than before.

What’s Important? – In the hubbub of gifts and activities and traditions and food, it can be hard to keep in mind the reasons we celebrate in the first place. The holidays are a time to enjoy ourselves whether it is with families, friends, or spent alone. They were not created with the intention of forced laughter and stress-eating. So, when you feel yourself start to lose it – keep in mind that if you are with family or friends it is because you love them. Forgive them for their flaws and remind yourself why you are happy they are in your life.

Take a Break – Loving your family doesn’t mean that you want to spend every second with them. That would be insanity. Taking a break to take a walk, do a little window shopping, or taking a ride to get yourself a coffee are little ways to break up the time and let go of any tensions beginning to rise.

Ask for What You Need – part of the reason that family gatherings become so saturated in stress is because many of us have a hard time confronting family (especially extended family) about the things that hurt or upset us. It takes courage to tell your Aunt that you didn’t like what she said about your sister, but it can be freeing. It can open pathways of communication and, yes, it can in some instances create more tension, but if you do it calmly and politely and without aggression, you can at least be proud of yourself that you were honest in advocating for yourself.

Keep Out the Controversies – So, I just told you to be honest and I meant it. But being honest about what you need from your loved ones and being aggressive about controversial topics are two different things. If you know that something is sensitive – don’t bring it up just cause you can’t chit chat about the weather again. Steer clear of things you think will put someone on the spot and for goodness sakes, don’t bring up the election – no matter what the discussion is bring positivity to the table and leave the accusations behind.

8 Wellness Apps You’ll Love

There are thousands and thousands of apps out there – fun ones, informative ones, interesting ones, ones that seem pointless, ones we can’t live without. Health and wellness is a topic that has taken the app world by storm – with countless options. So, how do we figure out what apps are worth our download? Below are 8 varied apps from improving social connections to monitoring a loved one, you might just find exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Shopwell – this app is designed to educate you on the foods you need in order to accomplish your nutritional goals. It is a great one to have when planning your meals and will point you in the right direction when it comes to your food choices.

Map My Run – whether it be a sprint, a light jog, or a slow, meandering walk – this app will track your progress so you can set goals for yourself and try to go a little bit further next time.

Pill Monitor – forgetting to take your medication can be dangerous. Using this app can help you to remember to take the medication you need.

Lively – this app utilizes sensors that are placed around the home to ensure that meds are being taken, that movement is safe and consistent, and more. This app offers subtle tracking to protect one’s privacy while keeping them safe.

AARP Member Advantages Offer Finder – long title, but incredibly useful. AARP is a wonderful program offering a long list of benefits, but it’s hard to take advantage of those benefits if you aren’t even aware of what’s available to you. This app helps locate deals so you don’t have to waste time searching for them.

Bucketlist – this is a fun one and it can be a great family activity. Get together with your loved ones and have a discussion about some of the things each of you want to do in your life. Size doesn’t matter so dream big or think small and log them into the app. Try to help each other accomplish an item or two on the list and spend a little extra time together.

Eyereader– as our eyes age, it becomes very frustrating to attempt to read tiny print without our glasses. Eyereader is a great app that turns your phone into a magnifying glass. Menus, Terms of Agreements, articles, phonebooks – the world is your oyster when print is more accessible.

Skype – this app is one that is sure to bring people closer together. Maybe your family lives across the country, maybe they live right down the street but mobility or driving is limited. No matter how near or far the people you love may be, Skype can help bring everyone closer together with video calling. Plus, it is easy to use which means that kids, seniors, and everyone in-between will be able to take part.

The Importance of Fiber in a Senior Diet

Fiber is essential for every healthy diet. It can help to clear toxins, lower your cholesterol, and does wonders for your digestive system. Foods high in fiber are also healthy choices by default because most of them are low in calories and loaded with important vitamins. The problems that senior citizens face as their bodies age make additional fiber an important staple to their diet. It is recommended that seniors get between 20 and 30 grams of fiber per day.

Many health concerns are improved with added fiber. Heart disease and high blood pressure are lessened with a high fiber diet because of a decrease in cholesterol and an increase in healthy blood flow. The likelihoods of certain types of cancer is limited because of the increased health of the digestive track. Because foods high in fiber take longer to digest, glucose levels remain more level which is an enormous benefit for those with diabetes.

There are two types of fiber and understanding both is important when considering the benefits.

Soluble fiber: this type of fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance that clings to things like toxins, bile, and plaque and helps to clear them away.

Insoluble fiber: this type of fiber is very absorbent and it works to soak up water which cleans and maintains your digestive track.

Many foods high in fiber have both soluble and insoluble fiber. While insoluble works to soak up water, it is important to drink more when you eat foods high in this type of fiber to remain hydrated and to help it do its job.

 

Foods High in Fiber

 

Split Peas Lentils Black Beans
Lima Beans Artichokes Peas
Broccoli Brussel Sprouts Raspberries
Blackberries Avocados Pears
Bran Flakes Whole Wheat Pasta Pearled Barley
Oatmeal Coconut Figs
Okra Squash Turnips
Chickpeas Nuts Flax Seeds
Chia Seeds Quinoa Popcorn
Sweet Potato Apples Whole Grain Bread

 

When choosing the right sources of fiber, consider how difficult it will be to eat if you have soft teeth or dentures. Nuts are a great source of fiber and healthy fats, but cooked brown rice might be easier on some mouths. The trick to adding more fiber to your diet is to make some basic substitutions like whole grain bread instead of white or quinoa instead of white rice. If you are still struggling to get the right amount of fiber in each day, ask your doctor about a possible supplement.

Normal Signs of Aging or Dementia?

One of the difficulties that we may face as we age is that the normal symptoms that accompany our senior years can be easily misinterpreted. Different routines, health concerns, and changes in medications can all work to change our behavior which can complicate diagnosing us correctly. Oftentimes, families sit on either sides of the spectrum – either fearing for the worst or ignoring signs under the impression that things haven’t changed drastically. The varying speeds at which changes in health and behavior occur can have an enormous impact on the way conditions are viewed and, ultimately, handled.

Dementia is the number one psycho degenerative illness facing older Americans and, yet, it can be hard to recognize as many of its symptoms resemble normal aging in so many respects. In order to diagnose and treat dementia properly, we must be aware of the differences between the two.

Normal Aging Dementia
Difficulty recalling details of an event a year or more ago Difficulty recalling details of an event a few days or weeks ago
Forgetting random events sporadically Continually missing appointments or routine meetings
Concern about their own memory loss Concern from family and friends about memory loss
Occasionally misplacing items such as keys Constantly losing important items
Takes a little extra time to remember directions Gets lost in familiar places
 

Occasional difficulty thinking of a word

Often has difficulty thinking of a word or frequently replacing words to navigate memory lapses
Unable to recall the name of someone they’ve met Unable to recall the names of family members and friends

 

If any of the signs in the right column are familiar to you or someone you know, make an appointment to speak to a doctor about these concerns. A doctor will be able to make a more accurate assessment and identify particular risk factors or safety concerns. They may ask you a number of questions pertaining to memory and wellness in order to better understand your situation.

Aside from aging and dementia, there are other factors that could be contributing to memory loss that are important to consider, as well. These include things like depression, dehydration, alcohol abuse, vitamin deficiency, etc. Make sure to be as thorough and honest as possible when meeting with a doctor and, if possible, bring a loved one with you. Having an extra pair of ears is always a good idea, especially if you are concerned you may miss something or be unable to remember it after the appointment.

A Few Unexpected Ways to Prevent Falls

Falls are a serious concern, especially among the elderly because injuries from a fall can be so much more severe. This issue has gotten more attention in recent years and you may have already heard some basic tips for preventing these accidents. Here are a few more ways to ensure that homes are safe and falls are prevented as much as possible:

Exercise – For some, this may seem counter-intuitive. Fear of falling sometimes stops us from being active. We try to remain stationary so that the likelihood of falling is limited. However, the right exercises are some of the best ways to prevent accidents. Remember to always start small and to never push yourself too much. Begin by holding onto a railing or table as you stand on one leg for 15 seconds before switching to the next. Next, try to stand on your tip toes for 15 seconds or keep both feet on the floor and bend your knees gently and hold for 15 seconds to strengthen your thighs. Work on increasing how many seconds you can hold these exercises.

Change your footwear – If your cold toes are still at the mercy of slippers, keep in mind that their name isn’t leading you astray. Soft shoes, slippers, and socks are dangerous because they don’t have the friction that is needed to prevent falls. Stick to shoes with lower heels and good grips to ensure your feet are firmly planted.

Clear pathways – Cluttered homes are a major contributing factor to the number of falls that happen each year. We all know how it happens – your mother just HAS to keep the 4 different sets of plates still in boxes that she got for a great deal, your father doesn’t want to make waves by telling your brother he needs to clean up his kid’s toys, cleaning is daunting and things always get in the way, these situations are really common. They are also the reason that falls happen, hips break, and people get sick. It can be a difficult task, but it’s an important one. Don’t be afraid to stand up to family to advocate for what needs to get done. Attend an organizational workshop if you think it will help. Encourage your loved ones to keep spaces clear for their own safety.

Use carpet runners – Once pathways have been cleared and things are more organized, it might be time to invest in some carpet runners. They will add traction to high-traffic areas of the home so that moving from place to place is safer. They are great for hardwood or tiled areas that can be slippery. However, they can also increase the traction of a carpeted area depending on the type you get. If you are adding them to a slick surface like hardwood or tile, don’t forget to secure them with rug grippers so that they don’t slide around.

Invest in lighting – Lighting can be an enormous help when making a home safer for someone who is a fall risk. Well-lit areas are easier to move about and can help those with vision impairments. Consider using motion-sensors so that no one has to worry about finding a switch in the dark. One easy change is to always keep a flashlight near the bed to make things easier in the middle of the night.

Use cordless phone – Upgrade from the old-fashioned phones with a cord to something that is more portable. Phones with a clip are great to keep on someone’s person in case of emergency so that it is easily accessible. However, keep in mind that if someone is transitioning from a corded phone to a cordless phone – they may forget that the handsets need to charge. It may be best to keep one corded phone in the house in case the handset’s batteries die accidentally.

Install handles – Most people think of the bathroom when they consider installing handles and it’s a great place to do so – particularly by the toilet or in the shower. However, get creative when it comes to placement. Handles can run along the length of a hallway or by the front door or beside a favorite chair to help someone lower themselves into it. Pay attention to the most appropriate spots and consider options that don’t immediately spring to mind.

Use a caregiver – Having a caregiver come into the home to help with bathing, dressing, transportation, running errands, and companionship, among other tasks, can seriously decrease the likelihood of a fall. The assistance will help with stability and the supervision will ensure that any accidents are immediately reported and taken care of so that situations aren’t made worse. There are some government programs that provide caregiver services and additional options for those who do not qualify. To learn more, click the link below.

Talk to your doctor – The best defense against falls is usually by talking to your doctor. Sharing your medical history and the current medications you’re on can help them determine whether or not you are a fall risk and they can provide you with information on how to prevent them, as well. Be sure to keep up with regular eye and hearing exams, as problems in these areas can lead to falls.

 

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