Brighten Dark Winter Days – Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder and the Winter Blues

I was asking around the office this morning to see if anyone had any ideas about a blog topic I should write on today. One of the nurses said, “Write about Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s that time of year and I’m really noticing the winter blues myself.” This sounded familiar so I went back through our old blogs to see if I’d written on this topic before. Wouldn’t you know I wrote on this very topic exactly one year ago today! A sunny, warm beach is definitely on my mind and I find myself feeling very sluggish on a daily basis the last few weeks so I thought I would post the blog again to remind myself and all of you how to cope with the winter blues. [Read more...]

Giving Back

At one of our offices about a month ago, we were discussing what we wanted to do for a little office Christmas party. Normally, we draw a name from the hat and spend $15-$20 on that person, have a potluck lunch and then exchange those gifts. This year was a bit different. We got to thinking – as fun as it is to receive presents, there is nothing that we want for $20 that we can’t go out and buy on our own. There are, however, millions of people in this world who go without every single day and our $20 gift would mean the world to them. [Read more...]

Healthy Habits – Amidst the Christmas Season

We have come to that time of year! For each of us, some of our lives get busier, some slower, some wait patiently while some struggle to bear the excitement.  Nonetheless, food takes a huge role in family and friends gatherings during the holidays.  

Most of us recognize the old saying, “You are what you eat.” Why is eating a healthy diet so important? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “A healthy diet can reduce the risk of major chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and some cancers.” [Read more...]

National Home Care Month!

November is National Home Care Month. This month is a time when the home care community joins together to celebrate and raise awareness about the many individuals who make home care possible. From an array of health, therapeutic and social services delivered to patients in their homes, to the patients themselves whose courage and independence inspires us all – we work together to provide affordable, cost-effective, appropriate care in the comfort of the patient’s home.

Home care allows people to live independently, providing vital support for families while improving a patient’s quality of life. Generally speaking, individuals are most comfortable in their own homes. “Home,” whether that is in your family home, an apartment, assited living or relative’s home, it is where people experience the greatest sense of security, stability and belonging. Those receiving home care include the elderly and persons with disabilities, as well as chronically ill and post-acute care patients of all ages.

Home care is an increasingly effective option for treating and managing a growing range of acute and chronic health conditions (i.e. congestive heart failure, diabetes, recuperation after surgery) outside of traditionally defined health care settings. Home care results in shortening a person’s length of stay in a hospital or nursing home by providing post-acute care that would otherwise occur only in a hospital.

A health crisis our country is facing can be summed up in two numbers: 5 and 50. These numbers stand for the 5 percent of patients who account for 50 percent of rising health care costs. For the top 5 percent of Americans who suffer from multiple chronic conditions, home care is the cost-effective answer to keep them out of hospitals and in their homes.

As the baby boomers in America continue to age, home care is projected to grow exponentially. Nurses, home health aides and personal care aides are among the top five occupations projected to see the largest increase in jobs in the near future.

The home care nurse managing and treating chronic conditions, like diabetes or heart disease, helps oversee their client’s medications, check vital signs, monitor blood sugar levels and zero in on the most serious and oftentimes, most preventable health risk factors. In-home therapists help patients retain mobility and avoid injuries that could bring them back to the emergency room. Skilled home care agencies, made up of aides, nurses and therapists, help thousands of people with disabilities and medically frail or elderly patients avoid unnecessary or premature nursing home admissions and opt instead for the comfort of home.

We encourage you to join the growing number of passionate health care professionals that provide care and compassion and effectively work to provide high quality, cost-effective care at home!       

This blog was written by Little Falls RN Case Manager, Anne Janson.       

Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

If you have turned on the news at any time in the past few weeks, I’m sure you have heard stories about the fungal meningitis outbreak in the United States. The outbreak has been linked to five confirmed cases in Minnesota alone. So, what exactly is fungal meningitis and are you at risk?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Fungal meningitis occurs when the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord are infected with a fungus.” It is a very rare infection and can be life threatening; meningitis is normally caused by a bacteria or a virus instead of a fungus. In general, people with weak or compromised immune systems are at a much higher risk of contracting this form of meningitis.

Common symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea

Symptoms of the infection occurring from this outbreak have normally been showing up anywhere from one to four weeks after the steroid injection. However, there have been reports of symptoms appearing before and after that one to four week time period. This particular strain of fungal meningitis is progressing more gradually and slowly than other forms.

Are you at risk?

The current outbreak of fungal meningitis is the result of contaminated steroids that were sold to 23 clinics around the U.S. by the drug producer, New England Compounding Center. Almost everyone affected by the contaminated drug has received steroid injections into their spine area. It is suspected that about 14,000 people have been exposed to the steroid The map below outlines the states that have reported cases of this infection with the number of cases in each of those states (as of today, Oct. 15, 2012). Also, as of today, there have been 15 deaths nationwide, due to this fungal meningitis outbreak.

Different types of fungal meningitis (not related to this outbreak) can be contracted as well. Taking certain medications that weaken your immune system, inhaling soil heavily contaminated with bird or bat droppings or inhaling fungal spores that contain decaying organic matter can all cause the infection. These contaminated soils are common in the Midwest.

Treatment:

Treatment can last for months, depending on the strength of your immune system. The strong anti-fungal medications are normally given through an IV.

If you have not received a steroid injection with the contaminated drug, you are not at risk for contracting fungal meningitis linked to this outbreak. It is not contagious so it does not spread from person to person. The investigation is ongoing so if you have any concerns at all, contact your primary doctor.

Alzheimer’s Disease – It’s Not Normal Aging

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Click here for an interactive tour of how Alzheimer’s affects the brain.

Alzheimer’s disease has 7 stages but not everyone will experience the same symptoms or progress at the same rate.  According to Mayo Clinic, the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease you may notice are increasing forgetfulness and mild confusion. Over time, the disease has a growing impact on your memory, your ability to speak and write coherently and your judgment and problem solving. If you have Alzheimer’s, you may be the first to notice that you’re having unusual difficulty remembering things and organizing your thoughts. However, you may not recognize that anything is wrong, even when changes are noticeable to your family members, close friends or co-workers.

Many times family will notice slight changes in cognitive and mental abilities that the person may not realize are happening. The family may notice their loved one having a difficult time counting change or remembering how to make a favorite recipe. It’s been said that you can see the difference between “old age” and Alzheimer’s disease: old age forgets where they put there keys, Alzheimer’s disease forgets what the keys are for. 

The Alzheimer’s Association provides a list of important points to remember about the disease:

  • Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, even though the greatest known risk factor is increasing age. (The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older). But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s (also known as younger-onset), which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.
  • Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.
  • Alzheimer’s has no cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with the disease and their caregivers. Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset and prevent it from developing.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or have noticed signs and symptoms according to this information given, please contact your primary doctor to discuss your options and try to delay the progression. If you are a family member caring for a loved one with this disease, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Associations is a wonderful resource!  They provide a 24/7 help line (800.272.3900), access to support groups, connect you with local resources and are always working toward a cure.

 

This blog post was written by the RN Branch Manager of our Little Falls office, Lyssa Mooney.

Walk to End Alzheimer’s

September is World Alzheimer’s Month and today, September 21st, is Alzheimer’s Action Day. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the nations largest event to raise money for research and support for this disease and Divine Home Care is participating in the Willmar Walk on Saturday, October 6th. In addition to raising funds, the Walk provides a wealth of information about the disease as well as resources for support and other ways to get involved and become an advocate.

What makes the Walk such a special experience is that everyone participating has been affected by the disease in some way. Just on our team alone, someone has lost their grandmother to Alzheimer’s, someone is currently the caregiver for her mom who has the disease, some of our nurses care for clients with memory loss and some of us who haven’t been directly impacted are participating to support those who have. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. We must join together to help find a cure.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2011, more than 39,000 teams participated in nearly 650 Walks across the country. They raised more than $47.2 million! You can click here to find a Walk in your area. You can help these numbers grow! The details for the Willmar, MN Walk are below:

Location: Robbins Island Park, N Hwy 71, Willmar, MN

Date and Time: October 6, 2012

  • 10:00 AM Registration
  • 11:00 AM Opening Ceremony
  • 11:30 AM 1.5 mile walk

Coordinator: Carol Thelen, 320.257.0699

It’s not too late to get involved! Contact Carol Thelen at the Alzheimer’s Association if you would like to join the Walk, if you need support or you have Alzheimer’s. You are not alone in this battle.

Walk to End Alzheimer’s Video

 

September is National Preparedness Month

This month we are reminded to plan and prepare for disasters.  The Department of Homeland Security and the Red Cross want us to be aware of simple steps we can take in our pledge to prepare

We have already seen a number of disasters this year, including tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and most recently, Hurricane Isaac.  It is important to plan in advance as your family may not be together when disaster strikes.  Things to discuss with your family would be how you plan to get to a safe place, how you will contact each other, how you will meet back up and what you will do in different “what if” situations.

Making a plan involves a few simple steps that you and your family can do together.  Here is a helpful list:

  • Have enough supplest to last at least 3 days.
  • Designate locations where you can meet your family and also, designate an out-of-area contact.
  • Create an emergency supply kit. Include at least 3 days worth of water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, prescription and non-prescription medicine, batteries, weather radio, soap, toilet paper, clothing and bedding.
  • Learn first aid, CPR and how to use an Automated External Defibrillator.
  • Learn how to turn off utilities in you home.  

Other important things to discuss and consider:

  1. “What if” questions. “If this happens… what are we going to do?”
  2. Your plan will have to be tailored to everyone in your family depending on their age and abilities.
  3. Do you have a plan for your pets?
  4. You can sign up to get monthly preparedness tips from FEMA by texting PREPARE to 43362

Disaster can strike at any time and being prepared is a family’s best defense. Click here to access your own Family Emergency Plan that FEMA has created for you to fill out and keep a copy of in your emergency kit.

This blog was written by Litchfield RN Case Manager, Becky Macik.

 

Immunization Awareness – Get Your Shots!

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). It is the perfect time to remind people to get up to date with their immunizations (or vaccinations) with school starting and flu season just around the corner. An immunization is a way to trigger your immune system to build protection against a certain disease or pathogen.  People of all ages need to be up to date with their vaccinations to help maintain their health.  I will focus on adult immunizations and flu shots in this post. The CDC website offers great material to educate people more thoroughly on immunizations and when to get them. It also includes an immunization schedule for adults and children.

Many people think that immunizations are only for children. That is not the case. Adults need immunizations as well. Some vaccines that are common for adults are the flu shot, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap), Shingles (60 and older), pneumococcal disease (65 and older) and hepatitis B for diabetic individuals or people who may be at risk for hepatitis B. This is not an inclusive list. You should talk with your doctor to see which immunizations would be right for you. You should also review your current immunization status before you travel. Make an appointment with your doctor 4 to 6 weeks before your trip so he/she can go over all of the vaccines that are required and recommended. You can contact your local clinic to see your current immunization record.

You should get a flu shot every year to stay current. The flu shot protects against 3 types of influenza: H3N2 virus, influenza B and H1N1. The flu shot is approved for kids and adults 6 months of age and older. If you are 65 and older you have a higher risk of serious complications related to the flu. People with other health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and asthma have a greater risk of complications from the flu. Flu season is considered October through May. You also should not procrastinate getting your flu shot. Immunity will set in about 2 weeks after you receive your immunization. But remember, just because you get an immunization does not guarantee that you will not get the flu. It just greatly reduces your chances.

 

The author of this blog post is Amanda Braness, RN Case Manager in our Willmar office.

Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is a disease that causes vision loss. It destroys your central vision, which is needed to see things sharp and clearly. There are two kinds of macular degeneration:

  1. Dry macular degeneration: causes vision loss in your central vision. It is a deterioration of the macula (part of the eye that lets you see fine details).
  2. Wet macular degeneration: swelling caused by leaky blood vessels in back of the eye.

Of the two, dry macular degeneration is more common and vision loss is usually gradual. According to the Mayo Clinic, the wet form always begins as the dry form and it isn ‘t known what causes the change.

Having clear central vision is essential to read small print, thread a needle, drive and recognize faces clearly. Take a look at the picture to the right – this is what it looks like to lose that part of your vision. You are still able to see the numbers on the clock but not the hands in the middle pointing to the time. Generally, people with macular degeneration can still use their peripheral (or side) vision.

This disease progresses at different rates for everyone – some people hardly notice a chance in their vision while others experience vision loss very quickly.

Some symptoms of both forms include:

  • Decrease in the brightness of colors
  • Need brighter lights to see things up close
  • Increased blurring of printed words
  • Trouble recognizing faces
  • Loss of central vision

There are several factors that can increase your risk of getting macular degeneration:

  • Natural aging process (most common in people over 60)
  • Family history 
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Routine eye exams can detect the disease before it causes vision loss and treatment can slow the progression of the disease if it’s caught early. However, there is no known way to restore vision once it is gone. If you have experienced any or all of these symptoms , call your eye doctor to set up an appointment. Tell the doctor that you have had these symptoms and would like to be tested for macular degeneration. The test the doctor will do what is called the Amsler grid test. Click here to learn more about this test and how to perform it at home.

If you are diagnosed with macular degeneration, it is important to remember there are things you can do to slow down the progression of the disease.

  • Start taking or increase vitamin intake
  • Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Choose healthy unsaturated fats
  • Eat whole grains 
  • Add fish to your diet 
  • Telescopic lens implant

For more advanced wet macular degeneration, there are other treatments such as medication, laser therapy or photodynamic therapy to destroy leaky blood vessels and slow down vision loss.

There may come a time when you must adapt your lifestyle to your changing vision. The Mayo Clinic has some great recommendations for this.