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(BPT) - Do the words “aging in place” and “home improvement” conjure images of institutional-looking grab bars in bathrooms and overhead kitchen lights that could illuminate an airport runway? Many people eschew certain types of home improvements for the same reason others refuse to wear hearing aids – the negative connotations of age.
Changes in mobility, vision, hearing and stability are a reality of growing older for many Americans. Certain types of home improvements can make your home safer and more comfortable as you age, allowing you to live there longer. From lovely skylights that fill rooms with vision-friendly natural light and fresh air to slip-resistant flooring in designer colors, those “aging in place” home improvements can be beautiful as well as functional.
Here are a handful of aging-in-place upgrades that shout “fabulous” instead of “fogey”:
In the kitchen
We all spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, and it’s the room where we also do the most work. Upgrades that improve your ability to reach important appliances, enhance vision and boost safety will help you use your kitchen more efficiently for as long as possible.
Age-related vision changes can necessitate increasing the amount of light in your kitchen. Task lights and under-cabinet lighting can focus illumination where you need it most, and hide discretely out of sight without disrupting the clean lines and unmarked beauty of kitchen cabinets.
Overhead lighting is also important, but rather than opting for industrial-type lights that may cause harsh glare, consider introducing natural light. Research published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology suggests that natural light may be better for aging eyes than artificial light. A skylight is an upscale, beautiful home improvement that can benefit boomers with natural light.
Skylights can also help improve indoor air quality. Most exposure to environmental pollution occurs by breathing indoor air, according to research by the Greenguard Environmental Institute. No leak solar powered fresh air skylights, like those made by Velux America, not only provide healthful natural light, they also provide passive ventilation to reduce fumes, humidity and stale air – improving overall indoor air quality.
You can increase a skylight’s energy efficiency with solar powered blinds. The complete daylighting system, plus installation, is eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. To learn more about these Energy Star-qualified skylights, visit www.veluxusa.com. The website offers a skylight planner app to show you exactly how skylights and blinds will look in your home, as well as a tax credit calculator to figure your savings.
In the bath
Falls are a leading cause of injuries that result in hospitalization of older people. Most falls in the home occur in the bathroom, so taking precautions in this much-used room makes sense. Like them or not, grab bars improve safety in the bathroom. Fortunately, bathroom fixture manufacturers seem to understand the need for products that blend safety and beauty. It’s now easy to find grab bars in a variety of attractive finishes and designs that complement your interior decor.
Lighting is also important in the bath, and a fresh air skylight can be beneficial in this room. Skylights provide natural light and passive ventilation while ensuring privacy in the bath. If your bathroom is on the ground floor, without direct roof access, you can still enjoy natural light by installing a Sun Tunnel tubular skylight.
Flooring is another opportunity to blend beauty and practicality in the bathroom. Replacing slick, traditional ceramic tiles with slip-resistant flooring such as stone, vinyl or textured ceramic tile, can be visually pleasing and safety-enhancing at the same time.
Outside the house
Navigating from the car to the front door can be fraught with peril for older folks, yet many people dislike the way certain assistive devices, like ramps, look in front of their home. If you’re not ready to add a ramp, a decorative railing for outdoor stairs is a great alternative. It’s easy to find good-looking options and virtually any home contractor can help you create a railing that meets your safety needs and meshes well with your home’s exterior design.
Outdoor lighting is also important for safety. Make sure walkways are well lit with low lamps that put illumination directly at your feet. New high-output solar lights are a great way to effectively light a path while minimizing energy costs. Finally, keep concrete sidewalks and brick pavements in good repair. Take care of uneven spots or loose pavers right away, to reduce the risk of falling outside.
(BPT) - As the population continues to age at an unprecedented rate, the concern about age-related eye disease comes more into focus.
According to the US Census Bureau, the population of adults over age 65 is expected to double by 2025, and the American Optometric Association (AOA) reports that the incidence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is expected to triple during the same time period.
In 2010, more than 10 million people were affected by AMD, and looking even further into the future, that number is expected to jump 150 percent by 2050, based on the National Eye Institute’s (NEI) Projections for AMD.
The leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 50, AMD damages the macula (center of the retina) and as the disease progresses, it blurs one’s central vision. AMD presents in two forms, wet and dry. Dry AMD is more common, and occurs when the visual cells in the macula slowly break down. Dry AMD that goes untreated can progress to wet AMD caused by the abnormal growth of blood vessels under the macula. Wet AMD is considered advanced AMD and can lead to rapid loss of central vision, which is typically more severe than the dry form.
The NEI recently released the results of AREDS 2 (Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2), a five-year, 4,203 patient study of people between 50 and 85 years of age with intermediate AMD in both eyes, or advanced AMD in one eye.
The objective of the AREDS 2 Study was to determine if the addition of Zeaxanthin, Lutein, and Omega 3’s to the original AREDS formula would further reduce the progression to advanced AMD. Numerous clinical studies suggest these nutrients protect vision.
The original AREDS study results were released in 2001, and revealed that high-dose antioxidant vitamins and minerals including Vitamins C and E, Beta-Carotene, Zinc, and Copper reduced the risk of progression to advanced AMD by 25 percent, and the risk of moderate vision loss by 19 percent.
By adding Zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin) and Lutein to the original AREDS nutrients, study results demonstrated that the progression to advanced AMD was reduced by 9 percent when compared with no lutein and zeaxanthin, and an 18 percent reduction in progression to advanced AMD in subjects who received the AREDS supplement with lutein and zeaxanthin versus the original AREDS supplement with beta carotene.
Another important take-away from the AREDS 2 Study, which applies to most Americans, was a 26 percent reduction in progression to advanced AMD for subjects with the lowest dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin. In the US, dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is typically less than 1 mg per day – well below the 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin in the AREDS 2 Study.
A superior photo-protector and antioxidant, Zeaxanthin protects the cones in the eye which are responsible for our central vision. Lutein, the other predominant macular pigment, protects the rods in the eye, which are responsible for our peripheral vision. Both of these macular pigments act like internal sunglasses to protect and enhance vision.
The AREDS 2 Study also included supplementation of the Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. While Omega-3s did not prove beneficial in slowing the progression to advanced AMD, DHA is a major component of the retina, and both EPA and DHA have been identified as important compounds to support eye health, heart health, and other organ systems.
Finally, in the original AREDS study, approximately two thirds of the subjects also took a multi-vitamin daily, and 90 percent of subjects in the AREDS 2 Study consumed a multi-vitamin. Multi-vitamins contain other essential ingredients that benefit eye and overall health.
The AREDS 2 Study demonstrates that AMD progression can be slowed through eye vitamin consumption, and many other clinical studies confirm that healthy macular pigment density protects and enhances vision. Eye vitamin brands like EyePromise feature optimal levels of these protective macular pigments along with other natural nutrients essential for ocular health.
Consult your Eye Care Professional about age-related eye disease and the importance of the new AREDS 2 Study.
(BPT) - When a person is in pain, he or she will seek options to attempt to reduce or eliminate the pain. For minor pains like headaches, muscle aches and small wounds, often over-the-counter drugs can help reduce suffering. But people with chronic pain may have to search for other solutions.
More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, at a cost of $600 billion a year in medical treatments and lost productivity, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report. As of Jan. 1, 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) started paying providers without formal training in pain medicine to diagnose and treat chronic pain.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) advises against receiving care from providers without training in treating chronic pain because patient safety can be seriously compromised. In addition to jeopardizing patient safety, untrained providers lower the quality of health care and can increase the risk for fraud and prescription drug abuse. Untrained providers lack the sufficient education and training needed to properly prescribe opioids, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Clifton Phillips, 44, of Bowie, Md., has pain throughout his body. He suffers from osteoarthritis, migraine headaches, a herniated disc and a pinched nerve in his lower back, which causes discomfort and burning in his foot. For three years Phillips worked through the pain before he sought help from an orthopedic doctor who prescribed opioid pain medications for him. However, Phillips soon became dependent upon the medication and suffered significant side effects.
Treatment of chronic pain is complex and can be associated with significant complications. This is due to the potential for severe side effects from some of the medications used to treat pain and the anatomy and delicate structure of the spine and nerves upon which many chronic pain interventions are performed. Knowing that he couldn’t sustain a successful lifestyle while taking the highly addictive opioid meds, Phillips looked for alternative treatment options through his neurologist who referred him to a highly trained anesthesiologist pain medicine physician.
“I encourage others suffering from chronic pain to do your due diligence, research your options and don’t be afraid to ask questions about treatments,” Phillips says. “I feel safe knowing a physician who specializes in pain not only safely administers my pain treatments, but also is able to diagnose and work with me to develop a customized and effective pain treatment plan.”
Specialized pain physicians have the education and training to accurately diagnose, evaluate and treat chronic pain patients using a comprehensive approach including medications and pain procedures. Treatments can range from medical management, physical therapy and psychological therapy, to interventional therapies and other alternative medical treatments. These therapies can be risky and require the skill of anesthesiologists or other physicians who possess the training and knowledge to provide safe, competent and appropriate care. These physicians complete a one-year multidisciplinary pain fellowship in addition to their post-doctoral training, according to ASA. A pain physician, like an anesthesiologist, is a patient’s best solution to finding a well-trained provider to treat chronic pain conditions, similar to what Phillips was experiencing.
Dr. John F. Dombrowski, an anesthesiologist pain medicine physician and executive director at the Washington Pain Center in Washington, D.C., began giving Phillips steroid injection therapy for a month. Today, Phillips is completely off opioid pain medications and reports the burning in his foot subsided, making him a happier person.
“I look forward to being more spontaneous and enjoying my life – I believe with these treatments, this could become a reality,” he says.
To learn more about pain treatment, visit physician-paincare.com.
(BPT) - Maintaining a good credit profile is important at all stages of life, even for baby boomers who may have paid off their mortgages and don’t anticipate the need for more big-ticket loans. But it’s important to remember credit scores are used for more than just borrowing money, and you never know when an opportunity or emergency might pop up where credit is needed.
To be sure, maintaining good credit can benefit everyone from vacation home shoppers to those seeking college tuition loans, and it can help you acquire financing in the event that you’d rather use credit than cash.
What can baby boomers do to maintain good credit scores or improve lower scores?
According to Barrett Burns, president and CEO of VantageScore Solutions, a credit score model developer, it’s a good idea to first check that you even have credit history.
“It’s actually quite common to have little or no credit history, especially if there’s a primary person who handles family financial decisions,” says Burns. “This can leave the other spouse without any credit history. Adding the spouse’s name to the utility bills, mortgage payments and credit card accounts can help them build credit history, which results in a credit score.”
Once a credit history is established, keep these tips in mind:
* Keep credit accounts active. As children leave the household and retirement looms on the horizon, many baby boomers seek to simplify their finances. What you might not realize is that closing old credit accounts with a positive credit history could negatively affect your credit score, especially if this process is done all at once. Keep the older accounts open, and use them for small purchases.
* Encourage financial independence. It’s a common trend for the baby boomer generation to assist their children and grandchildren financially, even helping purchase large-ticket items like tuition, homes and vehicles. Co-signing for a loan affects these generous baby boomers’ credit accounts as well as their childrens’, and the behavior of either can affect the credit scores of both. Before co-signing, consider the length of the loan’s terms and have confidence that payment obligations will always be met.
* Know how to protect your score, even in disasters. Natural disasters can happen at any time, and in any location. Baby boomers who are affected by a natural disaster can ask lenders to flag their accounts while they get their lives sorted out after the disaster. When lenders flag an account in this manner, the account is no longer used when your credit score is calculated. This can have both positive and negative effects. If you flag an account that has always been paid on time and managed wisely, then that account is likely normally having a positive impact to your score. When it’s flagged for a natural disaster then you lose that positive impact, and potentially risk lowering your credit score while it remains flagged. On the other hand, if the account has blemishes, those negative elements will be ignored while the account is flagged, temporarily boosting your score. Unlike other credit scoring models, the VantageScore model will include the flagged accounts if doing so will have a positive influence on the consumer’s score. This way a consumer can continue to benefit from the positive impact that account might provide for them.
* Review your credit files and your score. By checking to make sure your credit files are accurate and knowing your credit scores, you can make changes to your credit habits, improve your scores, or continue down the path of being a good credit manager. Every boomer should get a copy of his or her credit report annually from each of the national credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) at www.annualcreditreport.com and review them to be sure they are complete and accurate.
To test your knowledge about credit scores and find ways to make improvements in your credit history, visit www.CreditScoreQuiz.org, which was created by VantageScore Solutions along with its partner, Consumer Federation of America. The online quiz is also available in Spanish at www.creditscorequiz.org/Espanol.
You never know when you may need to have your credit score pulled so it’s a good idea to continue practicing good credit management habits even if you own your home and your car outright and don’t anticipate applying for a loan at any time in the future. For more information about credit scores, visit www.yourVantageScore.com.
Ups and downs in the current market and recent corporate and banking scandals have prompted many people to seek ways to have more control over their retirement funds. Self-directed IRAs allow consumers to use their knowledge and expertise to invest in assets beyond stocks, bonds and mutual funds. While self-directed IRAs provide a new way to grow retirement savings, they may not be the best option for everyone.
It’s important to note a self-directed IRA, such as plans offered by Ohio-based IRA custodian Equity Trust Company, is not a different type of IRA. Plans such as a traditional IRA or Roth IRA follow the same rules and guidelines set by the IRS, whether they are held at a custodian who can only hold “traditional” investments or a company such as Equity Trust Company, which can provide for clients who want traditional or alternative investments. In the end, it’s about determining the best plan for your needs and which investment options you should pursue.
Self-directed IRAs combine the power of tax-advantaged accounts with the freedom to invest in alternative assets. This allows investors to truly diversify their portfolios and potentially generate greater returns than typically seen with traditional investment options. While traditional IRA investments are primarily defined as publicly traded stocks, bonds or mutual funds, alternative investments can be loosely defined as "everything else" the IRS doesn’t list as prohibited.
Alternative investments can range from real estate, tax liens and shares of private equity to heavy equipment, windmills and even cattle. While these assets are sometimes considered “non-traditional,” they are simply investment opportunities many investors take advantage of every day.
The majority of self-directed IRA investors leverage their knowledge and careers that have made them successful and use that experience to grow their IRA savings. Investors with experience in buying property or engaging in private lending and investing can put their expertise to work in a self-directed IRA.
Since self-directed IRAs allow for a wide range of investment options, they can sometimes be targets for fraudulent schemes. It’s vital to understand that while IRAs are administered by custodians and fall under the tax code, you shouldn't make an assumption about the quality or legitimacy of assets. Not all custodians are permitted to evaluate assets or potential investments. Passive custodians, which often hold self-directed IRAs, do not sell investments or provide tax, legal or investment advice. The IRS can provide educational material, such as Publication 590 for IRAs, but does not endorse or review investments.
Equity Trust Company’s fraud awareness center helps give investors a starting point when it comes to watching out for con artist schemes, fraud and other scams. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, U.S. investors held around $94 billion in self-directed IRAs in 2011; given the size of these funds, investors should thoroughly investigate potential opportunities before making any investments.
A self-directed IRA requires a stronger hands-on approach, but the ability to diversify, potentially earn greater returns and invest in areas they have knowledge often lead investors to pursue this lesser-known option.
(BPT) - Baby boomer couples that have been married 25 years or more are divorcing at record rates, according to a recent study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green University in Ohio. While overall divorce rates peaked in the 1980s at around 50 percent, divorce among baby boomer couples 50 years or older has doubled over the last 20 years. In 1990, the study noted, 1 in 10 people who divorced were 50 years or older. Today, that figure is 1 in 4. And, if you’ve been married previously, the likelihood that your second or third marriage will end in divorce is 2.5 times greater than first-time marriages.
“Because of several high-profile splits of baby boomer couples in the news recently, most people would assume that infidelity is the leading cause of divorce among older Americans,” says Don Cosley, a divorce attorney with the Cosley Law Office in Chicago. “The reality is that lack of communication is often the deal breaker. Empty nesters wake up one day and realize they have nothing in common with their spouse. That’s because they haven’t kept up the communication in their marriages.”
Unlike a younger couple that divorces, when a couple that has been married for a long time breaks up, the impact can be dramatic for the couple and those around them, notes Cosley. The division of assets, health care issues, handling long-time friendships with other couples, and sharing the holidays with adult children are just some of the issues that come up in the dissolution of a long-time marriage.
If you’re over 50 and considering filing for divorce, or if you’re in the middle of a divorce, here are some tips from FindLaw.com, the nation’s leading website for free legal information:
* Prepare financially: Legal fees alone can range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands, depending upon how long you’ve been married, child custody and the size of the estate that needs to be divided. The cost alone of establishing a new household can double expenses overnight. If you foresee divorce in your future, it’s important to save to prepare for a new transition. Women should especially be concerned. According to the National Center of Health Statistics, it’s not uncommon for women to experience a 45 percent post-divorce drop in their standard of living.
* Seek professional help: Couples divorcing may just want to rip off the bandage and sever all ties as quickly as possible. However, immediately cashing out stock and bond investments, IRA accounts and selling your home or vacation property can cost both parties thousands in capital gains taxes. Consider consulting a certified divorce financial analyst to assist you in making wise decisions in separating assets, in conjunction with your divorce attorney.
* Retirement and Social Security: Couples that are retired and living off retirement assets face other complexities. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order, which is a separate court order determining the division of retirement assets, may be required. Older couples also need to face questions about survivor benefits if the other spouse dies. They should review special rules regarding Social Security benefits, such as entitlement to survivor benefits for couples that have been married for more than 10 years and are older than 62.
* Be cautious with social media: According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81 percent of U.S. divorce attorneys say they’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of divorce cases involving social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Family law attorneys warn baby boomers that some of these websites can be potential problem spots. Posts on social media sites are frequently being entered into evidence in divorce cases to document infidelities or spousal neglect.
* Consider your pets: You may think of your pets as if they were your own children, but the courts look at a pet as property. Because pet custody cases have increased dramatically over the past several years, divorce attorneys say if you want to avoid a judge making a decision about who gets the pet, it's best if the couple decides between themselves. Consider ownership, visitation rights and how veterinary bills will get divided. Otherwise, judges are most likely to award pets to the spouse who gets primary custody of the children.
* Health care insurance: One of the most complex aspects of divorce among older couples is health care insurance. In cases where one spouse is dependent on the other for health care insurance, some couples separate but do not go through with divorce because of the enormous costs of insurance, especially if one of the partners is suffering from a health issue such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases. Many insurance companies have strict rules related to divorce, so check your policies and consult an attorney.
To learn more about divorce law and find an attorney near you, visit FindLaw.com.
(BPT) - Every day, about 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. Not everyone will sign up, but it’s important to understand the importance of early choices when enrolling in Medicare for the first time.
You can enroll in Medicare three months before turning 65, the month you turn 65 or up to three months afterward.
“Turning 65 opens the door to Medicare eligibility, but it brings with it some complex choices,” says Paula Muschler, manager of the Allsup Medicare Advisor, a personalized Medicare plan selection service. “Choices seniors make at this time can impact their healthcare costs over the long term and their entire family.”
Muschler offers the following key steps for Medicare first-timers.
1. Take a look at your existing group health plan coverage and think about how it will coordinate with Medicare. Many people work past age 65. As a result, Medicare-eligible individuals who have health coverage through their employer or their spouse’s employer may be able to wait to enroll in Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient medical care. This is not true in every case, however. This option depends on other factors, such as the size of the employer and how soon you expect to retire after reaching 65. You may want to consider enrolling in Medicare Part A, which includes hospital coverage, even if you defer Part B.
2. Consider the options for first-time enrollment, keeping in mind your current health needs and financial resources. If you choose traditional Medicare, you have an average of 31 Medicare Part D prescription drug plans from which to choose. You can also choose from 10 standard Medigap policies for supplemental coverage, ranging from basic to comprehensive coverage. The price for these plans also can differ from one company to the next.
Adding to the complexity, Medigap plans are not required to accept you after your initial enrollment period. This is one reason first-time choices are crucial. Seniors evaluating Medicare Advantage plans over traditional Medicare also have an array of options - an average of 20 plans, depending on where you live. “We’ve been able to help Allsup customers find plans that cost less and match their specific healthcare needs,” Muschler says.
3. Follow Medicare enrollment rules to avoid costly mistakes. Penalties are in place for decisions related to Part B and Part D coverage. The late-enrollment penalty is 10 percent for each full 12-month period you could have been enrolled in Part B. Likewise, Part D imposes a penalty if you go for more than 63 days without coverage after enrolling in Part B.
“Your first-time Medicare plan choices also are more complicated if you have retirement dates, COBRA coverage or dependent coverage to consider,” Muschler says. “These are good reasons to contact a Medicare specialist, who can help answer the right questions and provide guidance to seniors so they make choices that match their situations.”
4. Understand how higher income and changes in your income affect Medicare costs. Higher-income beneficiaries pay higher premiums for Medicare Part B and prescription drug coverage. For Part B, the 2013 monthly premium is $104.90 for joint filers with income of $170,000 or below ($85,000 for single filers). However, the premium increases to between $146.90 and $335.70 for those with incomes above these thresholds. Likewise, higher-income beneficiaries can expect to pay from $11.60 to $66.40 more each month in prescription drug premiums.
The Social Security Administration uses IRS records when determining premiums. Social Security may reduce an individual’s income-related monthly premium with verification. “Social Security has specific requirements about how you can document changes in your income when you are requesting reduced Medicare premiums,” Muschler explains.
5. Review healthcare coverage for your spouse and dependents to determine how your choices may affect their coverage. If you are nearing Medicare eligibility, you can find yourself at a crossroads when it comes to providing healthcare for your entire family.
Some employers may continue to provide coverage to a worker’s family, or you may need to purchase COBRA coverage or private coverage for family members. “One early step is to talk with your benefits plan administrator to see what options you may have and then plan for your family,” Muschler says.
Seniors turning 65 have seven months during their initial enrollment period to make critical decisions. But you can begin evaluating your options earlier to be better prepared. For a free brochure on “Turning 65 and Medicare Enrollment” or for an evaluation of Medicare options, call an Allsup Medicare Advisor specialist at (866) 521-7655 or go to Medicare.Allsup.com.
(BPT) - For baby boomers and beyond, a lot has changed since they first received their drivers’ license, from car technology and traffic rules, to even road conditions. Many older drivers are taking a proactive approach to staying safe on the road. Most wear a seat belt – 77 percent of drivers age 65 and older according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and most obey the speed limit and avoid the road when conditions are bad. But a few surprising steps can help older drivers stay even safer.
Here are some top safety tips drivers age 50 and older should consider:
Enhance your exercise.
It’s no secret that exercise is an important part of aging well, but did you know that the benefits extend to safer driving? Exercise can enhance flexibility and range of motion for older drivers, according to recent research by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and MIT AgeLab.
How can fitness help you become a better driver? Drivers in the study who exercise regularly reported greater ease in turning their heads to see blind spots when changing lanes or backing up. The study also found that drivers who exercised were able to rotate their bodies further to scan the driving environment while making right hand turns and they were able to get into their cars more rapidly, demonstrating increased overall flexibility.
Exercise for your health, as well as your safety on the road. Try strength exercises like bicep curls and squats, range-of-motion exercises like back stretches and heel drops, flexibility exercises like shoulder stretches, and coordination exercises such as rotating leg kicks. More information on the connection between fitness and safe driving, including an exercise guide and informational video, can be downloaded at www.thehartford.com/lifetime.
Take a driver safety course.
The rules of the road are constantly changing. Even experienced drivers can benefit from brushing up on their skills. Taking a safe driving class is a simple way for older drivers to keep their skills sharp so they stay safe on the road.
One popular option is the AARP Driver Safety course. Available across the country in a classroom setting as well as online, the course serves as a refresher about the rules of the road and provides valuable tips about defensive driving techniques. AARP membership is not required and there is no test to pass. Plus, some states require insurance companies to provide a multi-year discount for those who complete the course. Consult your insurance agent for more details. Visit www.aarp.org/drive to learn more.
Prioritize your vision.
Driving well means seeing well, so it’s smart for older drivers to prioritize their vision needs. Starting at age 40, individuals are more likely to experience blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night and changes in color perception, according to the American Optometric Association. Start by scheduling an appointment with an optometrist who can examine your eyes for and medical conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration as well as provide you with a current prescription. When driving, always wear up-to-date prescription glasses with narrow side pieces that don’t block peripheral vision. Keep sunglasses in the vehicle as well, so bright days don’t deteriorate your visibility.
In addition to high-quality glasses, position yourself to see as much as possible in your car. Adjust the seat so that you are at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel, and can see at least three inches over the top of the steering wheel. Adjust rear and side mirrors appropriately to minimize blind spots. Keep headlight and window glass clean – dirt and grime can make the road appear hazy.
These little-known tips can help keep older drivers safer when behind the wheel. From taking a course to staying healthy, older adults can enjoy the freedom of the open road while keeping themselves and others safe.
(BPT) - Two recent clinical studies bring good news to the aging population. If you have lower back pain, burning pain or numbness in your legs you are probably one of the many people suffering with Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (LSS) – a condition affecting a vast majority of the over-60 age group – and this good news applies to you.
The condition is most often part of normal deterioration due to aging but can also be caused by osteoarthritis, bone spurs, bulging or herniated discs, or injury or trauma to the spine. It can be hereditary, too.
“It’s possible to have spinal stenosis while experiencing no symptoms at all, or the symptoms can appear slowly and then gradually worsen over time,” says Dr. Michael Perry, medical director of Laser Spine Institute.
The condition has been treated for years with invasive surgery which can be risky – especially for seniors – and not always successful.
The studies by Laser Spine Institute, published in the “Journal of Spine” in January 2013 and the “Journal of Orthopaedics” in March 2013, showed that minimally invasive surgeries are more successful than open back surgery at treating patients with LSS. The studies used real-life cases to prove that doing the procedure in an outpatient setting is a safe and effective option to treat even severe LSS conditions. The studies also found that minimally invasive surgery results in fewer risks, including lower complication rates, lesser rate of blood loss and a quicker recovery time.
What is spinal stenosis?
Spinal stenosis occurs in the spinal column, where the spinal cord, nerve roots and vertebrae are located. Over time, the spinal canal may become constricted or narrowed. This puts pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots, causing pain, numbness or weakness in the legs. The lumbar region is the lower part of the spine, and is the most common area where spinal stenosis happens.
Dr. Perry provides some guidance on how to maintain a healthier spine and possibly prevent the onset of conditions like spinal stenosis. Some of his recommendations include exercising and stretching regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, using proper posture and lifting techniques, as well as ensuring correct body postures are used while sleeping and driving. Additionally, adequate rest, anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy may ease your symptoms.
If you’ve tried all these and still have severe, limiting pain that is interfering with daily activities, it may be time to explore surgery.
Surgical options for spinal stenosis
In the past, a surgeon typically performed open back surgery, called a laminectomy (or decompression), which removes the bone, bone spurs and ligaments that are compressing the nerves. The doctor makes a single, large incision to access your spine.
According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, elderly patients, those with multiple medical problems and others, have higher rates of complications from this type of surgery. There could be nerve injury, blood clots, return of symptoms and more. A several-day hospital stay is usually required.
Additionally, a 2010 study published by the American Medical Association found that these invasive surgeries resulted in a high rate of life-threatening complications, and patients were often re-hospitalized within 30 days.
A less invasive surgery is gaining popularity. Minimally invasive spine surgery using endoscopic techniques – sometimes as outpatient surgery – is becoming more common. In this procedure, small incisions are used and recovery is often quicker, with less injury to the surrounding soft tissues. Dr. Perry says that most surgeons and medical practices are moving toward these minimally invasive techniques because patients are requesting them.
“Patients are concerned about the more invasive surgery, both its risks and potential outcomes,” he says. “At Laser Spine Institute, we make smaller incisions, have a lower infection rate and a quicker recovery. Our surgical complications are generally very low compared to open back surgery. Our surgeons have been regularly performing these procedures for eight years and are very familiar with the technique.”
The surgeons at Laser Spine Institute are industry leaders in this type of procedure. Laser Spine Institute has regional surgical centers in Tampa, Fla., Scottsdale, Ariz., Philadelphia and Oklahoma City. For a free MRI review and information about Laser Spine Institute procedures, visit www.LaserSpineInstitute.com, or call toll free (866) 249-1627.
(BPT) - Decongestant, check. Sunscreen, check. Antacids, check. So you’re going on vacation and your bag is well-stocked with remedies for every illness that could possibly derail your good time – from sunburn to an upset stomach. While you’re taking steps to preserve your good health on vacation, don’t overlook the body part that will carry you through all that fun: your feet.
“Foot health is especially important for travelers,” says Dr. Joseph Caporusso, a podiatrist and president of the American Podiatric Medical Association. “If your feet hurt or you sustain an ankle injury, your whole vacation can be ruined. Plus, poor foot health can have a long-term detrimental effect on your overall well-being.”
The approach of warm weather means more Americans will be planning their spring and summer getaways. Before you step out on vacation, APMA offers a few foot health tips for travelers:
On the way
Whether you’re flying or driving to your destination, proper footwear is important. Knowing you’ll have to remove your shoes to pass through airport security screening may tempt you to travel in flip-flops or other footwear that’s easy to slip off. But travelers should not forego safety and support for convenience.
“Flip-flops are never a great walking shoe, and if you have to walk long distances from gate to gate or from your gate to ground transportation, or if you have to hurry, flip-flops could lead to problems,” Caporusso says.
What’s more, flip-flops mean you’ll be barefoot when you step through security – and that can leave your feet exposed to injury from sharp edges, uneven surfaces and germs. If shoes with laces will be too inconvenient for security lines, choose comfortable slip-ons that provide a thick, stable sole. And always wear socks through security.
Drivers also need to be aware of proper footwear on the road. Choose comfortable footwear that minimizes the risk of your foot slipping off a pedal. Never kick off your shoes while driving either; a shoe lodged under the brake pedal could interfere with your ability to stop quickly in an emergency.
On the beach
For many Americans, spring and summer vacations mean time spent on the beach. Whether you’re relaxing in a lounge chair, walking on hot sand or frolicking in the surf, it’s important to protect your feet from the singular risks of beach time.
Since most people wear flip-flops or sandals on the beach, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your feet. Be sure to cover the tops of your feet, the front of your ankles, and even the soles. Limit the amount of walking you do in bare feet; walking in no shoes at all increases your exposure to sunburn, plantar warts, athlete’s foot, ringworm, other infections and even injury. Never walk barefoot in pool areas or locker rooms.
Always pack an extra pair of sneakers or water shoes so that if your shoes get wet you can have a dry pair. Wearing wet shoes for prolonged periods may lead to bacteria or fungal growth.
On the move
Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, injuries happen. Wherever your vacation takes you, it pays to pack a foot care bag so that you’ll be prepared to treat minor problems that can quickly evolve into major vacation setbacks. Your bag should include:
* Sterile bandages for covering minor cuts and scrapes.
* Antibiotic cream to treat minor skin injuries.
* Emollient-enriched moisturizer to keep feet hydrated.
* Blister pads or moleskins to prevent blisters and protect sore feet if blisters do form.
* An anti-inflammatory pain reliever like Motrin or Advil to ease tired, swollen feet.
* Nail clippers.
* Emery board in case of broken nails or rough edges.
* Sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
* Aloe vera or a similar cream to relieve sunburn.
In case of a serious problem, seek the aid of a podiatrist – doctors who are specially trained to diagnose and treat ailments of the feet and lower extremities. You can find a podiatrist in your area by visiting APMA’s website, www.apma.org.
“No one wants to spend their vacation with sore feet – or worse yet, at the doctor’s office,” Caporusso says. “Taking care of your feet while traveling can help ensure your vacation stays on track and the only things you bring home are great memories and souvenirs.”
(BPT) - Whether a patient faces a simple health problem, such as a head cold, or one as complex as Alzheimer’s disease, relieving the symptoms is often as important as resolving the issue itself. Yet for the more than 5 million Americans affected by Alzheimer’s, treating the symptoms is even more vital.
Some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s include memory loss that disrupts daily life, mood and personality changes, and difficulty solving otherwise simple daily tasks.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Of the top 10 causes of death, it is the only one for which there is no cure or preventive measure. However, research suggests that addressing one early facet of the disease – decreased blood sugar in brain cells, also known as diminished cerebral glucose metabolism (DCGM) – may help relieve symptoms for certain people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.
In a healthy brain, glucose is the primary energy source. A brain affected by Alzheimer’s doesn’t process glucose into energy as efficiently as a healthy brain.
“Unlike other cells in the body that can metabolize fats as fuel, brain cells rely on glucose (sugar) for their primary energy source,” says Dr. Richard S. Isaacson, associate professor of clinical neurology and vice chair of education at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. "One aspect of Alzheimer’s is that it hinders the brain’s ability to use glucose, and this significantly affects brain function.”
“DCGM is an early feature of Alzheimer’s disease, represented by region-specific declines in brain glucose – or energy – metabolism,” Isaacson says. “DCGM correlates with both the cognitive decline and the pathology associated with Alzheimer’s. Research suggests that addressing DCGM may help mitigate symptoms for some patients.”
Providing brain cells with an alternative energy source may help ease the effects of DCGM, while enhancing memory and cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. One prescription-only medical food aims at helping Alzheimer’s patients by addressing DCGM – Axona by Accera, Inc.
The easy-to-mix, once-daily drink is currently the only prescription therapy for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s that addresses the link between the brain’s inability to process and use glucose with the degenerative symptoms of Alzheimer’s by providing the brain with an alternative energy source. The liver digests and metabolizes Axona to produce the naturally occurring compounds – ketones– that the brain can use as an alternative energy source. Patients or caregivers mix the powder with other liquids or foods and take it once a day in conjunction with commonly prescribed Alzheimer’s medications.
“More research is necessary to determine the exact reasons why DCGM can have profound effects on cognition over the long term,” Isaacson says. “When blood glucose drops rapidly, significant decline in cognitive function occurs and may be accompanied by confusion, coma and even brain death.”
While Axona is not a cure for Alzheimer’s, it can help some patients mitigate the symptoms of the disease. Doctors and caregivers of patients using Axona have reported patients appear more alert and engaged in daily activities and conversations. “If you or a family member experience symptoms such as poor short-term memory, changes in behavior and difficulty with language, see your doctor for a full evaluation,” says Isaacson.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, visit www.alz.org, the website of the Alzheimer’s Association. For more information on DCGM and Axona, visit www.about-axona.com.
(BPT) - People insure their homes, their cars and even their vacations without giving it a second thought. But many do not think about insuring their most important asset – their income – from a disability caused by illness or injury. And it’s not just income during working years that is at risk. A disability can also put a serious dent in your ability to enjoy retirement.
That can happen in two ways, according to Sandy Botcher, vice president of disability income insurance at Northwestern Mutual. “When a family loses its usual source of income due to a disability, sometimes the only alternative is to dip into retirement savings to cover normal household expenses,” she says. “And even if you don’t have to take money out of savings to replace income, the other consequence of a disability is that it decreases your potential to contribute to your retirement plan.”
Botcher adds that from the moment you start working until the day you retire, your ability to earn an income is your most important financial asset.
Consider this example: A $60,000 annual salary results in $2.4 million earned over a 40-year career, and that doesn't take into account inflation, salary increases, or the long-term growth potential of money invested in retirement saving vehicles along the way. If a disability prevents the individual from earning this income, or requires him to access a portion of what’s already been saved (often with a tax penalty), it can have devastating impact on retirement dreams.
Recent research demonstrates the need to prepare for the unexpected. Over the past three years, 22 percent of Americans had dipped into retirement savings and 22 percent had stopped or reduced their savings contributions, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2013 Planning and Progress Study. More than half of those surveyed say unexpected expenses are to blame. Yet 23 percent of respondents say they want to be more cautious with their money, and feel they have a lot of catching up to do.
“The Great Recession has reminded us that we cannot afford to lose our incomes,” says Botcher. “But we also need to remember that our chances of losing our incomes are determined by more than just our employers’ viability or our career success.”
In the minds of consumers, few things seem more unexpected than a disability. Yet the Social Security Administration reports that about one in four 20 year olds today will become disabled before retirement.
One way to prepare for the possibility of being unable to work is disability income (DI) insurance, designed to help pay living expenses, maintain lifestyle needs and preserve assets accumulated for retirement and other purposes. Many employees think that coverage they get through their employer’s group disability policy is enough. They should think again.
Group DI typically has a cap at 60 percent of salary; other forms of compensation like bonuses or commissions may not be covered. In addition, the benefits are taxable. So, if earning less than two-thirds of one’s current salary would make it difficult to make ends meet as well as work toward goals like continuing to fund retirement, it’s important that another option be considered to bridge the gap.
That option is an individual DI insurance policy. Premiums for individual DI policies are paid after taxes, so the benefits are not taxed, and the policies are portable.
“We can’t forget that the source of a retirement program is the ability to work. Having individual disability income insurance is a way to address one of the key risks to achieving your retirement goals,” Botcher says.
(BPT) - Fresh packets of seeds, the dirt between your fingers, and the smell of freshly churned earth – gardening season has officially begun. Whether you’re a seasoned green thumb or a newbie to home planting, gardening is a great activity that provides both physical and mental health benefits.
Enthusiasm for gardening is high. Nearly half (49 percent) of American homeowners have gardened in the last 12 months, or 164 million people, as stated in a 2012 report on GreenhouseManagement.com.
In addition to burning calories while enjoying the peacefulness of Mother Nature, gardening also rewards you with fresh fruits and vegetables that help cut your grocery bill. But one unwelcome part of taking up gardening as a hobby is the potential for strain and injury.
To get the most out of your time gardening, consider these tips for avoiding physical discomfort:
1. Start with a few stretches
You wouldn’t go for a jog or attend a workout class without warming up, so why would you garden without taking a few moments to stretch first? Before grabbing your tools and heading to your yard, spend five or 10 minutes doing stretches focusing on your arms, legs, back and neck. You’ll be moving and turning a lot, so be sure to stretch and loosen muscles to avoid strain when you’re out tending your garden.
2. Avoid bending and lifting the wrong way
Chronic back pain is an issue for many Americans both young and old. Just because you have back issues doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy gardening. Consider installing raised garden beds, which allow you to garden without having to bend over. Additionally, container gardens can be placed on tables or deck railings for easy access. If you don’t suffer from back pain, avoid back injury by bending and lifting the right way. Remember to maintain good posture, minimize quick twisting motions, bend at the hips and knees only, lift items in a slow and controlled manner, and enlist help if necessary.
3. Protect hands and wrists
Gardening can be physically demanding, and the repetitive motions of weeding, hoeing, raking or shoveling can be problematic for the hands and wrists, particularly if you suffer from arthritis. Minimize irritation by wearing a supportive glove, like Imak arthritis gloves, commended by the Arthritis Foundation for Ease-of-Use. These specially designed gloves provide mild compression that helps increase circulation, which ultimately reduces pain and promotes healing. Washable and made from breathable cotton, the gloves are great for the garden enthusiast. Plus the extra protection helps gardeners avoid painful blisters.
4. Protect the skin from the sun
One of the best parts of gardening is you get to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, but that can mean extended time in the sun so it’s important to protect your skin. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and light cotton clothing that covers exposed skin are good first steps. Always apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum lotion that is SPF 30 or higher at least 15 minutes prior to going outside, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
These simple tips will help position you for a full season of gardening delights. Without injury or other physical irritations, you’ll be able to savor the fruits of your labor in the beauty of the warm weather.
(BPT) - Does this sound familiar? You tell your spouse all about the aggravating thing that happened at work today. He or she seems to be nodding in agreement, until you ask what you should do about the situation. Your spouse’s response? “Um – could you repeat that?”
Beyond the emotional impact hearing loss has on you, there is the toll it takes on others in your life. Those who care about you would probably make allowances for your hearing loss, but if they don’t know it’s an issue, your seeming inattention quickly becomes grating.
By trying to hide your condition, you only succeed in making family members not want to talk to you anymore. This can quickly escalate to your spouse making important decisions without your input, extended family not inviting you to events, and children not calling. Soon you may find yourself alone in an increasingly silent world.
Ask yourself the following to learn if you should be concerned:
* Are you getting fewer invitations to go to family events?
* Do your children go to their other parent for advice?
* Does your spouse seem aggravated with you frequently for seemingly no reason?
* Are you being passed up for promotions, raises or other kudos at work?
* Does your family complain about the volume level of your TV?
* Have you stopped participating in the sports and hobbies you used to enjoy?
If so, it may be time to get your hearing checked. If you already know you aren’t hearing as well as you used to, then it is probably time to buy a pair of hearing aids.
The first step is to contact a hearing care professional who can assess your hearing loss and make recommendations for treatment.
If you have hearing loss, you will probably be advised to purchase hearing aids. The good news is the advances in hearing aid technology will surprise you. Be sure to ask your hearing care professional about the latest options, such as:
* Virtually invisible hearing aids so that no one but you and those closest to you will know why your hearing has vastly improved.
* Robust waterproof, dustproof, shock-resistant hearing aids (like Siemens Aquaris (R)) that let you fully participate in sports and other events with family and friends.
* Remote controls and streamers for hearing aids that let you control the volume and listen to TV and audio devices without disturbing other listeners.
Once you can hear everyone, family, friends and business associates will no doubt welcome you back as an active and engaged participant in their lives.
(BPT) - Imagine what it’s like to slowly lose your vision over time - until one day you no longer can read, see the faces of loved ones or participate in your favorite hobbies. While most people accept achy joints or muscle weakness as part of the aging process, eyesight is a critical factor in maintaining a high quality of life and independence.
Severe vision loss is a reality for people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease of the retina that affects more than 9.1 million people in the United States. What is it like to have AMD? The disease robs people of their central vision and leaves only what they can see in their peripheral vision, making it incredibly difficult to use vision for even the simplest activities. AMD’s most advanced form – end-stage AMD – is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and legal blindness in people age 60 and older.
For retired entrepreneur, Willis “James” Hindman, 77, of Westminster, Md., the losses he faced from end-stage AMD were both physical and emotional. Hindman’s passions are his family, friends and the horses that he raises on his farm. AMD destroyed his vision to the point where he couldn't see people’s faces or watch his race horses cross the finish line. He felt he was a prisoner of his own limitations and quickly became depressed.
Hindman isn’t alone; as the baby boomer population continues to grow, the occurrence of AMD is likely to grow with it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the baby boomer population will increase to 72 million by 2030, placing roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population at risk for AMD.
At this time, there is no cure for AMD and no way to reverse its effects, although there are advanced treatments, including medication injections, laser surgery, and what is most recently getting attention, an FDA-approved telescope implant, that has been clinically demonstrated to improve vision and quality of life for patients living with this debilitating disease.
“The telescope implant surgical procedure removes the eye’s natural lens, and replaces it with a tiny telescope, about the size of a pea,” explains Dr. Mark Mannis, Professor and Chair at University of California, Davis Department of Ophthalmology. “It may sound like science fiction, but it is available to patients today. The telescope is implanted in one eye to improve central vision, something no other surgery can do for patients with AMD. The other eye will continue to provide peripheral vision, which is important to maintain orientation and balance.”
The telescope implant is integral to a new patient care program, CentraSight. The CentraSight treatment program has been designed to help patients see the things that are important to them, regain independence and re-engage in everyday activities. The program uses a multispecialty eye and vision care team to follow the necessary steps for proper diagnosis, surgical evaluation, and postoperative care.
While the telescope implant does not fully restore vision to its pre-AMD level, it will help the patient enjoy better sight and quality of life following an individualized rehabilitation process, where the patient learns exactly how to use the new telescope implant vision for everyday activities. Hindman had his surgery in December 2012 and today feels he has “a new lease on life.” Working with his low-vision occupational therapist, he practices strengthening his eye with standard vision exercises, but also incorporates personalized, fun activities, like watching his fishing lure bob in the water.
Now Hindman also watches football from across the room, walks to his local office without counting steps and, most gratifyingly, sees the faces of his loved ones, including his horses.
The telescope implant is available at more than 50 CentraSight treatment centers nationwide. Of note, the telescope implant is also Medicare eligible, making it within reach of most seniors. To be considered potential candidates, patients must:
1. Have irreversible, end-stage AMD resulting from either dry or wet AMD 2. No longer be a candidate for drug treatment of your AMD 3. Have not had cataract surgery in the eye in which the telescope will be implanted 4. Meet age, vision and corneal health requirements
“After learning how to use the telescope, patients may enjoy better sight so they can do the things they love again like reading, knitting, gardening, walking outside and simply recognizing the faces of family and friends,” says Dr. Mannis.
Patients can talk to their ophthalmologist to see if this procedure is right for them. Visit www.CentraSight.com or call toll-free 877-99-SIGHT (1-877-947-4448) to determine if you or a loved one suffering from AMD is a potential candidate for the procedure.
(BPT) - For millions of Americans, the battle against heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions goes on year round. About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women.
However, despite the grim realities of heart disease, the steps to achieve better heart health can be simple. Experts agree that heart disease can be both preventable and controllable with the appropriate lifestyle changes.
Registered dietician Elizabeth Somer, author of “Eat Your Way to Sexy” believes there are clear steps a person can take to turn around his or her heart health.
“Many people with heart disease may be able to improve their heart health by making a few changes to what they eat, how much they move and their lifestyle,” Somer says. “There are four key things to think about for heart health: keep your blood fat levels down, keep your blood pressure in check, promote healthy blood flow and circulation, and keep inflammation down.”
Here are five simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and improve your overall health.
1. Take control of cholesterol with oat fiber: Numerous studies spanning a decade or more of research support the claim that dietary fiber from whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of heart disease. The fiber in oats is a soluble fiber called beta glucan. This fiber works by flushing cholesterol out of the system. Additionally, fiber-rich foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories and so may help with weight management.
2. Better your blood pressure: Nearly one-third of all American adults have high blood pressure and more than half of them don’t have it under control, according to the CDC. The risks that accompany uncontrolled high blood pressure are serious. However, taking easy steps will lower that risk. Exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight, in addition to eating a low-sodium diet, can all contribute to a healthier blood pressure. Also, if you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you have more than twice the risk of a heart attack than people who’ve never smoked.
3. Keep your blood flowing: Products are now available that provide a natural way to help promote healthy blood flow by supporting normal platelet function. A tomato-based concentrate made from select Mediterranean tomatoes called Fruitflow is a natural, healthy and safe ingredient that has been proven through clinical research to keep platelets smooth, thereby promoting healthy blood flow. Try products with this ingredient like Langers Tomato Juice Plus or L&A Tomato Juice with Fruitflow as healthy daily beverage choices.
4. Decrease inflammation: Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA may help reduce inflammation and may also help lower risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease. Load up on heart-healthy foods like colorful fruits and vegetables, salmon, mackerel, nuts and foods fortified with EPA/DHA Omega-3 fatty acids such as certain milks, snacks and even cooking oils.
5. Shed the layers: It’s nothing new. We know that being overweight puts us at risk for numerous health problems, including an increased risk of both heart disease and stroke. The change in seasons can serve as the perfect springboard into a new exercise routine. Take advantage of extended daylight hours by sneaking a sweat session into your evening routine and take control of your diet, making sure to cut back on foods with saturated and trans fats.
(BPT) - Each year, millions of Americans seek hospital care to treat a wide range of medical problems – from accidental injuries to chronic or life-threatening illnesses. While the majority of patients have positive outcomes, it is imperative to remember patient safety should be a top priority for everyone.
In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes patient safety is a serious global public health issue. Even in developed countries such as the United States, as many as one in 10 patients may be harmed while hospitalized. Injury rates are even higher in developing countries, making patient safety a high priority around the world.
You can take steps to help ensure your safety whether in the hospital for a planned or unexpected circumstance. Here are three things to keep in mind to make your hospital stay as safe as possible:
Reduce infection risks:
Hospital infections are a top concern, especially for surgical patients. According to WHO, hand hygiene is the single most important measure to reduce health-care-related infections. Patients should keep hand sanitizer at their bedside and use it often. Additionally, the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) recommends:
* Reminding your care team about hand-washing before any direct interaction.
* Keeping an eye on intravenous catheters and wound dressings, and notifying your health care provider right away if something looks wrong.
* Taking charge of health problems such as diabetes, excess weight and smoking, which can increase infection risk in the hospital.
* Following doctors’ directions about breathing treatments to avoid lung infections.
Over the past century, anesthesiologists have advanced patient safety through innovative research, science and technology advancements. Whether in the operating room, procedure room, intensive care unit or pain clinic, anesthesiologists are committed to patient safety. Today, anesthesia-related fatalities only occur in less than one in every 200,000 procedures.
To help ensure the highest quality and safest care, anesthesiologists lead Anesthesia Care Teams to supervise non-physician providers during the administration of anesthesia to make critical life decisions when there are only seconds to make them. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), anesthesiologists have more than 10,000 hours of related medical training and education to diagnose, treat and respond to any medical complications that may occur.
In addition to making sure a physician supervises your anesthesia care, it is important to follow all pre-operative instructions from your doctors and get plenty of rest before surgery. Also, be sure your anesthesiologist is aware of your prior anesthesia history and any medications you take. For more information about anesthesia and preparing for surgery, please visit LifelinetoModernMedicine.com.
Be aware of setbacks:
While unpredictable progress in recovery is not unusual, it’s important to minimize the risk of avoidable setbacks such as falls and readmissions.
Tumbles are a major concern for the elderly, but even younger patients are at risk of falling in the hospital. NPSF often points to research indicating more than 500,000 falls occur in U.S. hospitals each year, causing 150,000 injuries. Muscle weakness, medication-related impairment and age can increase a patient’s risk of falling. Follow your physician’s directions and the hospital’s procedures for surer footing.
Before you leave the hospital, make sure you understand the doctor’s after-care instructions to reduce your risk of readmission. Bring any questions or suspicions of complications to follow-up appointments to help your physician assess your recovery.
Health care is incredibly intricate and complex, and while medical science has made great strides for patient safety, patients need to play an active role in their care. With diligent research and advocacy for their own health, patients’ collaboration with their care team can make them informed and, most importantly, safe.
(BPT) - The prevalence of diabetes continues to increase significantly, and is expected to affect 53.1 million Americans by 2025, an increase of 64 percent from 2010. One of the most common complications of diabetes is diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), a form of nerve damage. More than one in five people with diabetes experiences painful DPN, also known as diabetic nerve pain, as a direct result of this nerve damage. But despite its prevalence, there are many people who go untreated and do not realize the pain they are feeling is related to their diabetes.
Dorothy is one of the millions of Americans who has diabetic nerve pain. Dorothy was a nurse in the obstetrics and gynecology department of her local hospital for more than 30 years, but her diabetic nerve pain made it difficult for her to continue working with patients. “I had so much pain that I had to get off my feet and moved into a desk role instead of regularly seeing patients, which was a tough sacrifice to make,” she says. “Driving also became difficult for me since the diabetic nerve pain made my feet numb and I couldn’t feel the accelerator. Now, I have hand controls in my car, which enables me to drive and have some independence.”
Diabetic nerve pain can include the following common symptoms: burning or shooting pain, pins and needles, stabbing or jabbing pain, painful tingling, numbness or insensitivity to pain or temperature, and extreme sensitivity to touch, even light touch. These symptoms may go unmentioned during a doctor visit since many people are unaware of the connection of this pain to their diabetes.
For most people like Dorothy, diabetic nerve pain affects the feet, and is sometimes referred to as a sock pattern, as symptoms may be felt at the tips of the toes and then move along through the feet. It can also progress to other extremities, including people’s fingers and hands. “At first, my feet just felt numb. I had a burning and tingling sensation that progressed to a horrible, stabbing pain. It got so bad I felt like I was walking on glass and I couldn't even stand to have sheets over my feet at night,” Dorothy says.
Even as someone who worked in the medical profession for so many years, Dorothy did not realize that the pain she was feeling was different from other types of pain, such as a muscle ache or sprained ankle. She assumed her pain was a result of her working on her feet on a daily basis for so many years. It wasn’t until eight years later, after cycling through a number of doctors, that Dorothy received the correct diagnosis of diabetic nerve pain. “After talking to my doctor, I found a treatment that’s helped me manage my diabetic nerve pain,” says Dorothy.
The pain Dorothy felt may be similar to the experiences of many other Americans who also have diabetic nerve pain. According to results from an online survey of people living with Type I and II diabetes who experienced symptoms of diabetic nerve pain and characterized their pain as seven or higher on a scale of zero to 10, their pain is frequent and intense. Of those, 67 percent reported experiencing symptoms most or all of the time and nearly half said their symptoms were always painful.
Nerve damage due to diabetes is not reversible, but it is important for people to know there are management plans available for diabetic nerve pain. If you think you might have diabetic nerve pain, now’s the time to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Make sure your doctor knows that your pain is the reason for your visit. For more information about diabetic nerve pain, visit www.DiabetesPainHelp.com.
(BPT) - For the estimated 3.2 million Americans living with chronic hepatitis C, talking to a physician about treatment options for the disease now is an important first step. Untreated chronic hepatitis C may lead to serious health consequences, including cirrhosis - or permanent scarring of the liver - liver failure and liver cancer.
Following a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis C, a patient should ask their physician whether the liver is already damaged and whether they should begin treatment. The long-term consequences of not treating chronic hepatitis C may increase over time. The longer a patient waits to get treated for chronic hepatitis C, the more likely they are to experience severe liver damage that may make it more difficult to treat the infection.
“Guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocate testing baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965 for chronic hepatitis C today,” says Dr. Eirum Chaudri, executive director of medical affairs at Merck. “As liver damage progresses, the likelihood of responding to treatment decreases; so testing is critical to disease identification and management.”
Anyone can be infected with chronic hepatitis C, but certain populations are more at risk than others including baby boomers, veterans and Hispanic-Americans. Given that these populations are at greater risk for the disease, it is important that they consider getting tested for hepatitis C. Testing for hepatitis C can be done with a blood test.
Patients with chronic hepatitis C should feel comfortable discussing their condition with their physician, including their treatment options. Healthcare providers are the best source of information about your medical condition.
Merck and the American Liver Foundation are teaming up to urge Americans to take action and learn more about chronic hepatitis C today. Visit www liverfoundation.org to learn more.
(BPT) - American women spend more time taking care of their families, homes and jobs than themselves. With so much time invested in caring for others, women can overlook the importance of their own health. Yet, neglecting their own health needs can make it much harder for women to also take care of those they love.
Women who consider themselves generally in good health and who are very busy may be less inclined to stay on schedule with important health checks. If putting off a doctor’s visit doesn’t seem like that big a deal, consider these women’s health statistics:
* A full-time working mom spends more than 10 hours a day on household activities, taking care of children and working outside the home, and just 2.3 hours on “me time” of leisure activities or sports, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s American Time Use Survey.
* Fifty-six percent of mothers say it’s “very difficult” to achieve a work-life balance, according to Pew Research.
* More than 14 percent of American women age 18 and older are in fair or poor health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
National Women’s Health Week is May 12 to 18, but taking care of your own health should be a year-round pursuit. Here are four health checks every woman should have, and if it’s been a while (or never) since you had one, schedule a doctor’s visit right away:
* Annual physical – Kids get a checkup every year, and so do senior citizens. You should, too. No matter what your age or relative level of health, it’s important to see your family doctor at least once a year for a complete physical that includes blood pressure screening and a blood test that will check for diabetes, high cholesterol and other problems. This checkup can help your doctor spot any problems, provide you with guidance toward your weight and health goals, and give you peace of mind when everything checks out just fine.
* Skin check – Skin cancer rates have been rising for years, and now one in every five Americans will get skin cancer, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s also one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer, if caught early. In addition to performing regular self-checks, it’s important to have your skin thoroughly checked by a professional, too. Ask your physician to include a skin check as part of your annual physical, or schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.
* Reproductive health – From fertility questions and cancer screenings, to heavy periods and uterine fibroids, women can face many reproductive health issues. It’s important for women of every age to monitor the health of reproductive organs, so be sure to see your gynecologist once a year. He or she can also tell you what tests you should have to monitor your health, such as an annual pap smear or mammogram. Visit “Change the Cycle” to learn more.
* Mental/emotional well-being – Just as you take care of your own physical health and the mental health of your family members, it’s important to take care of your own emotional well-being. There’s nothing wrong with finding some “me-time” for yourself every day. In fact, it’s vital. Numerous studies show that happy, relaxed people are healthier than their stressed, tired, unhappy peers. Whether your mental health regimen includes meditation, a pedicure or 15 minutes with a good book, set aside time each day to do something that makes you relaxed and happy.
(BPT) - Baby boomers are a smart group when it comes to home updates. While embracing life today, they fully recognize that in the future, their homes may need upgrades to help them live well and stay safe. The bathroom naturally gets the most attention and for good reason – it’s one of the most frequently used rooms in a home and also one with many hazards. Baby boomers are turning towards safer bathing options to support their changing lifestyle including walk-in baths, handicap accessible showers, and other supportive furnishings.
“Baby boomers value being able to live out their golden years to the fullest, and aging in place is a key component of that,” says Jim Quinn, installation manager for Premier Care in Bathing. “They are being proactive about making bathroom upgrades now so they can enjoy the benefits for many years to come.”
Quinn has helped countless people update their bathrooms to add modern style and comfort so they can age in their current home safely. Here are his top recommendations when upgrading your bathroom while keeping health, comfort and safety in mind.
1. Safe flooring
Cold, slick bathroom floors can be a major slipping hazard. When renovating a bathroom space, it’s wise to evaluate the flooring and, if necessary, replace it with an option that is both comfortable and safe. Some people choose to carpet the bathroom because it is warmer and eliminates the slip hazards of traditional hardwood or ceramic flooring, as well as the tripping hazards of rugs. Another option is slip-resistant, textured vinyl. Keep feet comfortable and add an upscale element to your bathroom by incorporating radiant heat underneath.
2. Walk-in bath
Water and heat therapy can be ideal for arthritis and other aches associated with aging, making a bathtub an asset in a home. But as people age, it can be physically difficult to use a traditional bathtub. That’s why a walk-in tub is a wise investment. Receiving the Ease-Of-Use Commendation from the Arthritis Foundation, walk-in-tubs from Premier Care in Bathing provide baby boomers and seniors with an easy-to-use alternative. The most popular model – the Sanctuary – fits in a traditional bathtub space and has a wide, low-level entry, slip-resistant seat and backrest, temperature-controlled hot water, and a Hydrovescent therapy option. Other walk-in tub options may be ideal based on individual needs.
3. Replace dated hardware
Bathroom drawer handles and knobs are often small and can be difficult to grab with limited dexterity. Add modern style to your bathroom by replacing your existing hardware and accessories with stylish new options that are also easy to grip. Explore hardware options that are large and simple to grab. New hardware is a quick, affordable upgrade that makes a bathroom easy to use for people of all ages while enhancing interior design. While you’re upgrading the hardware elements, consider installing grab bars in key locations in the room, such as around the toilet or shower.
4. Update lighting
Any interior designer will tell you that lighting is a key element of a home’s style as well as functionality. In the bathroom, lighting is particularly important because it also adds an element of safety. Aging eyes need quality light to see well – so be sure to incorporate task and ambient lighting into your bathroom renovations. Baby boomers often add a dimmer that adjusts bathroom lighting so it can be fully on when showering or getting ready for the day, and then dimmed softly for easy access at night or during long soaks in the walk-in tub.
“These types of updates are wise investments for baby boomers. They often increase the overall value of a home while also giving the homeowners the peace of mind that they’ll be able to enjoy the space well into the future,” concludes Quinn. For a free brochure including more information about walk-in bathtubs and other solutions for making living at home more convenient, visit premiercarebathing.com/saferbathing, or call 888-378-7953.
(BPT) - Numerous factors impact a senior’s ability to live independently, such as health and memory problems, mobility issues, and care coordination concerns. Often overlooked is the fact that one quarter of all nursing home admissions are the result of poor medication adherence.
Representing a loss of independence, being placed in a nursing home is a difficult milestone for both seniors and their families. It is also costly for seniors, their families and the health care system. The cost of a single room in a nursing home averages more than $200 per day and close to $200 billion for all Americans annually. About 62 percent of this cost in the United States is assumed by public, taxpayer-financed sources such as Medicaid and Medicare.
Almost half of seniors aged 65 and older take at least five different prescription drugs regularly, and one in four take between 10 and 19 pills each day according to data compiled by Kelton Research. In addition, more than half of seniors admit to not taking their medications as directed, and the adherence rate decreases as the number of daily medications prescribed increases.
“For seniors, taking one pill a day is manageable, however the complexity of taking multiple medications each with its own set of instructions, represents a real challenge that impacts their health and independence, says Ian Salditch, CEO of Medicine-On-Time. “However, the difficulties associated with taking multiple medications can effectively be addressed through customized prescription packaging.”
Salditch’s company developed Medicine-On-Time, where local pharmacists sort and organize medications into personalized pill cups labeled with the day, date and time to take them. Pharmacists provide all the pill cups to the patient organized into colorful calendar cards. It’s convenient, easy-to-use and, most importantly, proven effective to help people maintain independence and enjoy better health. A study released in the American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy found that seniors using Medicine-On-Time were 66 percent less likely to be admitted to a nursing home.
“It is an all too familiar process - adult children sorting their parents’ medications into pill boxes,” Salditch says. “Medicine-On-Time puts this process in the hands of licensed pharmacists and in doing so helps to ensure safety and accuracy, helping seniors maintain their independence and their quality of life.”Believe it or not, research conducted by Prince Market Research shows that seniors fear moving into a nursing home and losing their independence more than they fear death. The same study found that baby boomer children of seniors also fear for their parents, particularly their parents' emotional and physical well-being should they have to enter a nursing home.
Free trials and a tool to find the closest pharmacy offering the Medicine-On-Time service can be found at sortmymeds.com. Additional information on Medicine-On-Time can be found at www.Medicine-On-Time.com.
(BPT) - If you experience a constant ringing in your ears that’s bothersome at best and debilitating at worst, you are far from alone. Tinnitus affects roughly one in five Americans and about 16 million people have serious tinnitus that requires medical attention. It’s also the most common disability for military veterans, since it can be caused by extended exposure to loud noise.
While tinnitus is a common condition, it’s one that can affect each person differently. While the general description involves a ringing in the ears audible only to the person with tinnitus, sufferers also report hearing a hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring or chirping sound. It also varies in severity – merely an unwelcome distraction for some but completely debilitating for others.
Those who have tinnitus often report trouble sleeping, an inability to concentrate or complete tasks and changes in cognitive ability. If left untreated, tinnitus can lead to extreme stress for sufferers, and can present challenges both at work and at home.
No cure, but treatment available
Tinnitus is often related to hearing loss, although it can also be associated with earwax, head injuries, medications and other conditions. Much like hearing loss, there’s no known cure for tinnitus, but there are treatments available.
Counseling and sound therapy are often used to provide relief for those with tinnitus, and the hearing aid industry has also recently developed products than can help alleviate the problems caused by tinnitus. For example, Xino Tinnitus from Starkey is an innovative, nearly invisible, behind-the-ear device that provides relief for tinnitus sufferers.
The device has adjustable features designed to allow the wearer to experience a maximum level of relief, including volume and memory controls that can be controlled with the touch of a finger. The device can help offset the irritating sounds and thus many of the problems caused by tinnitus. This device can also be used as a hearing aid for tinnitus sufferers who also have a hearing loss and could benefit from amplification. More information can be found at www.starkey.com.
What to do if you think you have tinnitus
Tinnitus is a condition that can often be treated by a hearing care professional, although certain conditions might require medical treatment from a physician or ENT. A specialist can help you develop a treatment plan and determine if a tinnitus treatment device can help alleviate your symptoms.
If you’re suffering from tinnitus, the time to get help is now. While there is no cure for tinnitus, the right treatment methods can help you manage your condition and prevent it from reaching a debilitating level. Visit www.tinnitushearing.com to learn more about this condition and find a hearing care professional near you.
(BPT) - Staying socially active and engaged with friends and family is important as people age, and hearing well is crucial to making that happen. New research shows that hearing loss is associated not only with a range of physical problems, but also mental health problems such as social isolation and even dementia.
That important connection warrants greater attention during May, which serves as both Better Hearing and Mental Health Month. When a person cannot hear well, activities they used to enjoy – meals with friends, social events and worship services – become challenges. People can then become frustrated, skip social opportunities and potentially become socially isolated, which increases the risk of mental health issues. By contrast, people who seek treatment for hearing loss report significant improvements in relationships, self-esteem, overall quality of life, mental health and safety.
Studies show that people wait an average of seven years before getting their hearing checked and treated, which often means they may miss out on important life events with friends and family as their hearing worsens.
Hearing is similar to a muscle; if you don’t use it, you could lose it. When hearing loss is left untreated, the nerves that carry sound from the ear to the brain can atrophy. The longer this occurs, the harder it is for people to understand speech, and treatment can becomes less effective.
Here are four tips for better hearing health:
1. Talk to your doctor and schedule a hearing test. Common signs of hearing loss include turning up the volume on the TV or radio to levels that others find too loud, having trouble hearing people on the phone, and difficulty following conversations in noisy environments.
2. Limit exposure to loud noises. People should limit their exposure to loud sounds, such as music, lawn mowers or motorcycles, to no more than 20 minutes at a time. Consider wearing hearing protection when attending concerts or sporting events. Studies have shown that consistent exposure to loud sounds above 100 decibels, as compared to a normal conversation of 60 decibels, can permanently affect hearing.
3. Use effective communication strategies. People with hearing loss should use effective communication strategies and choose settings that are “hearing friendly.” For example, people with hearing loss should opt for restaurants that are relatively quiet and go at times that are less busy. Another strategy is to select a table along a wall or in a corner, which will reduce background noise. During conversations, watch lip movements, facial expressions and body language, all of which give important information about the speaker’s message.
4. Engage with family and friends. Hearing loss affects individuals, their families and their friends. It is important to discuss hearing loss together, providing support and encouragement for people experiencing hearing loss. When speaking with someone with hearing loss, make sure you face them and avoid covering your mouth while speaking. Also, it is important to avoid speaking too quickly.
For the 48 million Americans with hearing loss, now is the ideal time for treatment. For others, following the above tips can help people maintain their hearing health and help those with hearing loss live fuller, healthier lives. For more information about hearing loss, visit hihealthinnovations.com or hearingloss.org.
(BPT) - Many U.S. military veterans like retired Air Force Technical Sergeant David Masters of Omaha, Neb. have bravely fought for their country only to return home to wage another battle against Lou Gehrig’s Disease. No one knows why, but veterans are twice as likely to develop this fatal disease, clinically known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Lou Gehrig’s Disease cut Masters’ military career short when he was just 32. Following a deployment in Saudi Arabia, Masters first began experiencing unusual muscle weakness in his right arm during a deployment in Kuwait.
“This was devastating for someone who was an amateur body builder, handpicked physical training leader, and overall health and fitness enthusiast,” recalls Masters.
There is no known cure and just one drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which only modestly extends survival.
“ALS is a frightening and fatal disease that slowly paralyzes the body, robbing it of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe, while the mind remains sharp and alert,” says Jane H. Gilbert, president and CEO of The ALS Association - the only national nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting Lou Gehrig’s disease on every front.
“Above all, veterans need to know that they do not have to battle ALS alone,” says Gilbert. “While we are working tirelessly to find a cure and answers for our men and women in uniform, the fact remains that veterans and their families too often are not aware of the abundance of aid and support that is available to them.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes ALS as a service-connected disease and provides financial and medical support to those with at least 90 continuous days of military service. Veterans with questions concerning their service benefits are encouraged to visit www.alsa.org/als-care/veterans/faqs-new-veterans.html.
Services sometimes vary, but most chapters of The ALS Association loan a range of medical equipment to people with ALS, including lift devices, wheelchairs and digital communication tools. In addition, ALS Association chapters lead support groups and offer respite programs for family caregivers. A listing of local chapters can be found at www.alsa.org/community/chapters/.
Masters now has three young children and relies more and more on his wife for his daily care. He struggles to cope with his loss of freedom and knowing that one day he will no longer be able to hug his children or to speak the words, “I love you” to his family.
Like so many other veterans living with ALS, Masters is holding onto hope for a cure and to one day know why he and his fellow service members of all generations must bear this health burden. Regardless of the uniform they wear and whether they served during a time of war or peace, simply being a veteran is a known risk factor for developing ALS.
“One day, the promise of research will prevail and ALS will no longer be among the list of sacrifices our military veterans will be forced to face,” says Gilbert. “Until then, we are working to do everything possible to ease the burden of ALS for America’s military families.”
(BPT) - If you’ve ever felt sick or battled a bug, you may have asked your doctor for an antibiotic. Ever since the advent of these wonder drugs, these medications have one common goal: fight bacteria in the body to help maintain a healthy immune system. As new medical breakthroughs emerge, the role of antibiotics has also evolved and helped patients dealing with anything from ear infections to serious lung infections like pneumonia.
However, antibiotics are not foolproof. Bacteria, when exposed to antibiotic drugs, can learn how to resist them. These resistant bacteria are known as superbugs, which are harder for antibiotics to kill.
Recently, superbugs have become a greater and far more serious concern. In March 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning about a new class of superbugs called Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which can cause dangerous infections that can get into the bloodstream – and kill up to 50 percent of people when they do.
So what can you do about it?
“The best way to keep yourself healthy is to be proactive,” says Steve Kennedy, director of infusion pharmacy services at Walgreens Infusion Services. “While there’s no foolproof way to ensure you don’t get a superbug infection, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.”
To reduce your risk for CRE and other superbug infections, the CDC suggests taking the following actions:
* Be diligent about hand washing. Keeping your hands clean reduces the transfer of bacteria, so this is an easy first step to take to help prevent infections. If you change wound dressings or bandages or handle medical devices, it’s extra important to keep your hands clean.
* Take prescriptions as directed. If your doctor has prescribed oral antibiotics, follow the doctor’s instructions on how long to take them. These instructions typically include that you should not skip doses or stop the course of treatment early. In addition, the CDC recommends that if you have leftover pills after you’ve completed your course of antibiotics, you should not save them or share them with anyone else. Instead, dispose of them in a safe and effective manner.
* Be a critical consumer. The CDC urges patients not to take antibiotics unless their doctors think they really need them. One of the best ways to keep antibiotics working – and to keep superbugs from getting worse – is to ensure they’re used only when needed. Remember that antibiotics do not work when you have a virus (like a cold or the flu), and sometimes infections caused by bacteria can clear up on their own. Patients should discuss with their doctors whether they really need prescriptions and avoid taking antibiotics if they are not necessary.
* When possible, keep your hospital stay as short as possible or stay out of the hospital. Hospitals are life-saving institutions, but they also concentrate a lot of sick people in one place. This can increase your risk of catching a superbug. In many cases, therapy provided in the hospital can be given in a different and oftentimes more convenient setting, like a non-hospital medical center or even in your home. Patients should ask their doctors if their hospital-based therapy can be provided somewhere else. For example, if you are on clinical nutrition support (receiving food through a feeding tube or an IV), your therapy could be provided at home through a home health services provider. Of course, patients should follow their doctors’ orders and seek treatment at whichever facility their doctors suggest. However, if doctors believe home health care is the best option, Walgreens Infusion Services, which offers home infusion in all 50 states, may be able to provide the necessary services to patients.
* Be proactive with your health care providers. No matter where you’re receiving medical care, make sure all those who help care for you (from doctors to nurses to family members) wash their hands before they touch you. Soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub will do the trick.
For more information about CRE and other superbugs, visit www.cdc.gov/HAI/organisms/cre.
(BPT) - We feel our best when we do our best. At the top of our game is where we all want to be. This is as true in the workplace as it is on the basketball court. But to stay at the top of your game at work and in life, you need to stay primed – ready for that next big play. It requires staying alert; keeping your skills sharp; and hearing your best. That’s right – hearing your best.
Listening doesn’t typically come to mind as a highly coveted job skill. But the truth is, listening is one of the top skills employers look for in those being promoted, according to the International Listening Association. Both business practitioners and academics identify listening as one of the most important skills for an effective professional. Individual performance in an organization directly relates to listening ability or perceived listening effectiveness. And good listening skills are even tied to effective leadership.
So if being at the top of your game – especially on the job – is what you’re after, pay attention to your hearing. Hearing your best is the first step to good listening skills. And good listening skills help pave the way to success.
For those with hearing loss: Be encouraged. Today’s modern, sleek, and virtually invisible hearing aids can help the vast majority of people with hearing loss. In fact, the days of letting unaddressed hearing loss stand in your way are long gone – and good riddance to them! Hearing aids, other forms of amplification, and even modest workspace accommodations enable almost everyone to hear their best so they can do well on the job. Today’s hearing aids are digital, wireless, and can be as discreet or as stylized as you choose. They allow you to hear from all directions and in all sorts of sound environments so you can more easily discern what people are saying.
So whether you’re a mechanic, a plumber, a nurse, a teacher, a C-suite executive, a police officer, a customer service representative, an attorney, or in any line of work, there are hearing-aid technologies and other approaches to dealing with hearing loss that can help. And remember: You are not alone. Roughly 60 percent of Americans with hearing loss are in the workforce overcoming the very same challenges you are.
Research shows that hearing aids really do help. A study by the Better Hearing Institute found that using hearing aids reduced the risk of income loss by 90-to-100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65-to-77 percent for those with severe to moderate hearing loss. What’s more, people with hearing loss who use hearing aids are nearly twice as likely to be employed as their peers who do not use hearing aids. And eight out of 10 hearing aid users say they’re satisfied with the changes that have occurred in their lives specifically due to their hearing aids. From how they feel about themselves to positive changes in their work lives, relationships and other social interactions, hearing aid users are benefiting from today’s technology.
Face it. You’ve got too much game in you to slow down now. So play at the top of your game. Stay at the top of your game. Make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional and learn how you can hear your best today.
To take a free, quick and confidential online hearing check to determine if you need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional, visit www.hearingcheck.org. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.BetterHearing.org. Download "Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids" - a step-by-step breakdown of what to expect, ask and look for when visiting a hearing healthcare professional and purchasing a hearing aid - at www.BetterHearing.org under publications.
(BPT) - Parents often use the adage “You are what you eat!” to encourage children to make healthy food choices, but the saying is equally true for mature adults. Providing your body with a variety of nutrients lets you feel your best, and may even prevent disease and help you live longer.
Allison Tannis is a nutritionist, author and professional consultant. She believes that aging well means eating well. She recommends these five super nutrients to help baby boomers and older adults age well and stay healthy.
“It can be hard to see fat as healthy, but omega-3 fatty acids are potentially one of the most important nutrients for our health,” says Tannis. “Omega-3 fatty acids are vital to the maintenance and function of our eyes, brain and nervous system – parts of us that start to weaken with increasing age. In addition, these healthy fats have great ability to fight inflammation that is the cause of painful joints, cardiovascular disease and even wrinkles.”
How can you get your daily dose of 1 to 2 grams of omega-3s, as recommended by the American Heart Association? Wild-caught fish like salmon, sardines and Arctic char are good sources of omega-3s. Plant sources of omega-3s include flax, chia and hemp. It can be difficult to get enough omega-3s from food sources, so supplements are a good alternative.
“Every morning I wake with the best intentions of eating healthy, but then life can get in the way,” Tannis says. “Using daily supplements ensures my body gets all of the essential nutrients it needs to be at its best. I take Nordic Naturals fish oils, available in liquids, soft gels and even an effervescent drink.”
2. Vitamin D
“Vitamin D is really only available to us from the sun,” explains Tannis. “Sure, there are foods such as milk and orange juice that have added vitamin D. For some, these foods are a great choice, but for others, it can be hard to ensure you're getting enough of this essential vitamin through fortified foods.”
Older people are prone to vitamin D deficiency, and therefore, may experience muscle weakness or impaired intestinal absorption. Tannis suggests that everyone, no matter their age, consider a vitamin D supplement if diet and sun exposure aren’t adequate. From tasteless liquid drops to pills that combine multiple nutrients, there are a variety of options for vitamin D supplementation.
“Probiotics fight inflammation, promote digestive health and much more,” says Tannis. “With age, there is a decrease in the most prominent probiotic in the colon, Bifidobacteria, leaving the colon prone to inflammation, which increases the risk of disease and discomfort.”
Foods like kefir and yogurt are common sources of probiotics, but often it’s not enough to get the full benefits. Probiotic supplements are a great way to maintain and rebuild probiotic levels in your digestive tract. “Seek out one with lots of different probiotic species,” recommends Tannis. “You've got hundreds of kinds of probiotics in you. Each probiotic offers its own unique health benefits to your body, so having lots of different kinds in your system can help your body be at its best.”
4. Green foods
“Greens are packed with more nutrients per bite than almost anything else on your plate. They are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and more,” says Tannis.
What green foods are the best?
“The best greens to eat are the ones you like – you don't have to hate your food. Love your food! Choose some greens that you enjoy and then, once a week, try something outside your comfort zone,” Tannis suggests. “If you simply can't stomach enough greens, there are plenty of powders available, from simple single ingredient products to complex formulas.”
No matter what your age, eating a balanced diet provides your body with plenty of nutrients. “Try to ensure that at some point each day you enjoy foods from each color of the rainbow, and artificial coloring doesn't count,” says Tannis.
Taking a multivitamin is one way to ensure your body has the minimum amounts of the essential nutrients it needs each day to function properly. If you are considering a multivitamin, look for one that is designed for your age, activity level and gender.
“Food hasn't changed, even though it feels that everyone is telling you something new about it,” says Tannis. “Enjoy a well-balanced diet, rich in colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains and fish. Nutrition really can be easy to swallow.”
(BPT) - Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are aging differently than any generation in U.S. history. Today, older Americans remain more active later in life, working longer and engaging in hobbies and recreational activities.
It is estimated that by 2030, nearly one in five adults will be 65 and older. In 2050, this group is projected to reach 88 million – more than double the 40 million in 2010. This will lead to a significant increase in older adults driving vehicles for both necessity and pleasure. Unfortunately vision, cognitive skills and motor functions decline as we age.
As many as 5,288 people age 65 and older were killed and 187,000 were injured in traffic accidents, according to 2009 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That group accounted for 16 percent of all traffic deaths and 8 percent of the injured, but accounted for only 13 percent of the population. As the 65 and over demographic increases to 20 percent of the population in 2030, the number of accidents and fatalities among this group is expected to increase.
Most states have minimum vision requirements to possess a driver’s license. A 2006 Vision Council report indicates that the 10 states with the highest rate of fatal crashes include four that require no vision screening for license renewal and four that only require vision screenings at intervals of eight or more years. The Vision Council also reported that only 20 states require more frequent vision screenings for older drivers.
Importantly, there are proactive measures seniors can take to preserve and enhance their vision. Many clinical research studies have demonstrated that older drivers can improve their vision by eating foods rich in the nutrients zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin) and lutein or taking eye vitamins containing these nutrients. These nutrients create a protective film in the back of the eye known as, “macular pigment” to protect and improve vision. These nutrients have been scientifically proven to enhance driving vision and driver confidence. Your eye care professional and the American Optometric Association website are excellent sources of information regarding nutrition and eye health.
Glare is a common complaint among older drivers, particularly at night. When a driver is “blinded” by an oncoming car’s lights, they are literally “driving blind” for a period of time until vision recovers. Imagine driving at 60 mph with your eyes closed for five seconds. You would travel 440 feet during that five second period - the equivalent of one and a half football fields. Studies have demonstrated that recovery time from bright light-induced glare can be reduced by as much as five seconds by increasing macular pigment density through zeaxanthin and lutein supplementation.
Dense or thick MPOD (Macular Pigment Optical Density) can reduce uncomfortable and dangerous glare caused by oncoming headlights, street lights, and traffic lights; enhance contrast sensitivity to help drivers see pedestrians, vehicles, and other objects; and help diminish discomfort or sensitivity to bright sunlight.
While lutein is commonly available in the average diet from dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli, dietary zeaxanthin is scarce in the average U.S. daily diet. Corn, orange peppers, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and eggs contain low quantities of zeaxanthin, which means one would have to eat approximately 20 ears of corn to obtain the daily recommended amount of dietary zeaxanthin associated with healthy macular pigment.
Eye vitamins like EyePromise are doctor recommended, proven and guaranteed to increase macular pigment. The dietary zeaxanthin contained in EyePromise eye vitamin formulas is derived from unique orange paprika peppers, a natural botanical source rich in this important nutrient.
Many Optometrists and Ophthalmologists offer MPOD (Macular Pigment Optical Density) measurement through a simple, fast, and inexpensive exam. Contact your eye care professional about having your macular pigment measured, and increasing your MPOD if needed.
Driving safety is important at any age, but as our population ages at an unprecedented pace, proactively taking care of your vision is vital to safety and independence.
(BPT) - It’s no secret that today’s hearing aids are light years ahead of the hearing aids made just a decade ago. In fact, in size, shape, and technological advances, the changes in hearing aids have been nothing short of amazing. For example, new micro-processor technology has allowed hearing aids to be so tiny, they can sit on a fingertip; and at the same time, provide a remarkably natural-sounding hearing experience. So, people who need a little hearing help can get it “invisibly” and comfortably.
Another huge advancement in hearing aids is the adoption of wireless technology, which includes the category of Wi-Fi. Hearing aids are not just jumping on the wireless bandwagon; they’re actually leading the way. Wireless communication is the technology that lets consumers connect with the Internet from their computers and tablets, without wires. Wireless headphones let individuals listen to music being streamed from a computer, iPod(R) or MP3 player, wire-free. Wireless printers let you print from a computer without a physical connection, and wireless car starters can start a car from many feet away, with the touch of a button.
This is the same wireless technology that today’s most advanced hearing aids use to give hearing aid wearers many exciting new innovations.
For instance, hearing aid wearers now have the freedom to adjust their hearing aids using their iPhone(R) or Android(TM) phone as a discreet remote control. Beltone offers a free app called SmartRemote. When paired with Beltone’s Direct Phone Link 2 accessory, SmartRemote lets an individual use their phone to adjust the hearing aid volume in one or both ears, change listening settings to match their current environment, reduce background noise during a phone conversation, and much more. A person can make these adjustments with the swipe of a finger - with no one the wiser.
Direct Phone Link 2 also uses wireless technology to give hearing aid users a superb phone call experience on their iPhone(R) or Android(TM) device. With Direct Phone Link 2, a hearing aid wearer hears the phone ring in their hearing aids, even if the phone is stowed away in a pocket, purse or briefcase. They simply press a button on their Direct Phone Link 2 (worn on a shirt or lapel), to start the conversation.
Because the sound signal streams from the phone directly into the hearing aids, it’s exceptionally clear and clean. Also, because sound enters devices that have been carefully programmed for a person’s specific hearing needs, the listening experience is tailored just for them. And, people can listen to the conversation in both ears, instead of just one, if they prefer.
Another wireless advantage hearing aid users really appreciate - phone conversations can be hands-free. People with hearing loss can stay legal in places that ban holding a phone while driving. It’s also easier to multi-task during a phone call when both hands are free.
Through the use of wireless technology,hearing-aided people can now enjoy TV, stereo, PCs and other audio sources in a whole new way. When watching TV or listening to music, sound can stream from the source directly into the hearing aids. Volume can be adjusted to a comfortable level for the hearing-aided person, without affecting what others hear. And, because relay neck-loops aren’t needed, the individual can walk around the room and converse with companions - and still clearly hear the audio.
Another innovation made possible by wireless technology is a clever hearing aid accessory that helps users hear very precisely in environments such as lectures, meetings, noisy restaurants, or airports. A small, portable device is worn by someone the hearing-aided person wants to hear. The device picks up the non-hearing-aided person’s voice and streams it into the hearing aid wearer’s instruments, in real time.
This device can also be placed in front of a television at a friend's house, for example. It then streams sound directly into a person’s hearing aids, so they can hear clearly at whatever volume is comfortable for others.
Hearing aids have never been smaller in size, or better at providing a natural listening experience. And, upgrades in hearing aid technology will continue to evolve, allowing people with hearing loss to find a solution that works for their lives, and lets them hear with confidence.
Does someone you know have difficulty hearing? Learn more at www.beltone.com.
iPhone is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Android is a trademark of Google Inc.
(BPT) - More than 1 million Americans have a lifelong, or chronic, infection of hepatitis B. This includes one out of every 12 Asian Americans. If you or your parents were born in Asia or the Pacific Islands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you get tested for hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B is common in many parts of the world and spreads easily. Many people with chronic hepatitis B got the virus as infants or young children when they came into contact with blood or other body fluids of someone with the virus.
“Asian American and Pacific Islanders make up 5 percent of the total population in the United States, but account for more than 50 percent of Americans living with chronic hepatitis B,” says Joan Block, executive director of the Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF) and co-chair of Hep B United, a national campaign to address and eliminate hepatitis B. “Testing for hepatitis B could save your life.”
Here are five reasons why you should get tested for hepatitis B:
1. Hepatitis B is serious
In the United States, chronic hepatitis B infection results in thousands of deaths per year. If left untreated, up to 25 percent of people with hepatitis B develop serious liver problems such as cirrhosis and even liver cancer. Liver cancer caused by the hepatitis B virus is a leading cause of cancer deaths among Asian Americans.
2. Two out of three Asian Americans with hepatitis B don’t know they are infected
People can live with hepatitis B without having any symptoms or feeling sick. Often, people don’t know they have hepatitis B until they have been tested.
“A staggering two out of three Asian Americans living with chronic hepatitis B do not know they are infected,” says Block. “Getting a simple blood test is the only way to know if you have been infected with the virus.”
3. Treatments can be lifesaving
Testing can help some people find out if they have hepatitis B in time to benefit from medical care and treatments that can save their lives. For many, treatments can help prevent serious liver damage.
“Because of the high rate of infection among Asian Americans, testing among this population is critical to identify people living with chronic hepatitis B and help them access lifesaving medical care,” says Jeffrey Caballero, executive director of the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) and co-chair of Hep B United.
4. The vaccine can protect people who have not been infected with hepatitis B
The hepatitis B vaccine is effective and can prevent many people from getting hepatitis B. People who get tested and do not have hepatitis B can get the hepatitis B vaccine. This protects them from getting the virus.
However, the vaccine cannot help people who already have hepatitis B. Many people with chronic hepatitis B were infected as infants or young children, before the hepatitis B vaccine was widely available. Hepatitis B spreads easily through blood or other body fluids, from someone who has hepatitis B, such as from an infected mother to her baby at birth. Today, the CDC recommends the hepatitis B vaccine for all babies born in the United States, as well as anyone else at risk for hepatitis B.
5. People who have hepatitis B can help protect their family
People who get tested and find out they have hepatitis B can encourage hepatitis B testing for family members and anyone living with them. Vaccinating family members who do not have hepatitis B can prevent further spread of the virus.
“Testing can also help identify other people, such as family members or sexual partners, who may be at risk for getting the disease,” says Caballero. “Remember, loving your family starts with caring for yourself, so talk to your doctor about getting tested for hepatitis B.”
(BPT) - Staying safely in their own home as they grow older is a major concern for many Americans. In a 2012 survey by AARP, 70 percent of surveyed members said they were “extremely or very concerned about aging in place.” Even if you maintain an active lifestyle and good health, growing older often requires you to manage changes in mobility, vision and accessibility.
The bathroom is both one of the most important and riskiest rooms in the house for people aging in place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says falling in the bathroom can be particularly harmful for older people, and encourages homeowners to take steps to reduce the risk of falling in the bathroom. If you plan to live independently at home for as long as possible, making a few simple changes in the bathroom can help you do so more comfortably and safely.
Here are a handful of cost-effective changes that can help facilitate aging in place:
* Raise fixtures – Increasing the height of key fixtures such as the toilet and sink can provide greater comfort and ease of use for people with mobility challenges. Replacing a standard-height toilet with one 16 to 17 inches high is an easy, affordable task. While most standard toilets are 14 or 15 inches tall, the extra two to three inches of height can make a big difference for anyone with mobility issues. The Champion 4 Right Height toilet from American Standard provides a comfortable 16 1/2-inch ADA-compliant height, plus powerful, clog-free flushing performance.
* Replace older faucets – Conventional two-handle faucets can be difficult to manage for people with arthritis or decreased flexibility of the hands. Lever-style faucets are a good option for convenient ease of use. Single-handle styles are another easy to operate alternative. For single handle sink and shower faucets, be sure to ask for styles that have a hot limit safety stop to restrict how far the handle can be pushed toward the hot side. For the shower, a thermostatic mixing valve that allows the temperature to be preselected to avoid scalding is another critical feature.
* Secure your bathing environment – To minimize the risk of falls, install grab bars in showers, above tubs and around the toilet to help provide stability. Consider a walk-in tub or shower to enhance safety, or add a seat to shower enclosures. The American Standard Walk-in Bathtub offers accessible, and enjoyable, bathing with a built-in comfort seat and deep soaking dimensions. In the main part of the bathroom, remove area rugs that may pose a tripping hazard. Consider replacing slick surfaces like smooth ceramic tile with slip-resistant flooring that provides a gripping texture, such as textured vinyl or tile.
* Look at lighting – Vision changes are a reality of aging for most people. Bathroom lighting should provide ample illumination while minimizing glare and shadows that can hinder depth perception. Invest in both overhead lighting and task lighting in areas where you groom. Waterproof lighting over showers and bath tubs can enhance visibility and safety when climbing in or out of bathing areas. Natural light can also boost safety and mood. Consider installing a skylight (tubular skylights can bring natural light to lower level bathrooms) or replacing traditional window panes with options that provide privacy without blocking light, such as glass blocks or frosted glass.
Transforming your bathroom into a safe haven with stylish, accessible design solutions can help support changing needs as you age.
(BPT) - From dry eye to age-related eye diseases, research shows that nutrition plays a critical role in maintaining the health of our eyes. Caring for eyes includes looking carefully at what you eat.
Thirty million (or one out of four) Americans age 40 and older suffer from some level of vision loss. Yet only 30 percent of Americans indicate they incorporate specific foods or supplements into their diet to help improve eye health and vision, according to the American Optometric Association’s American Eye-Q survey, which assesses public knowledge and understanding of a wide range of issues related to eye and visual health.
Six nutrients – antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin; essential fatty acids; vitamins C and E; and the mineral zinc – have been identified as helping to protect eyesight and promote eye health. Since the body doesn’t make these nutrients naturally, it’s important to incorporate them into a daily diet and, in some cases, supplement with vitamins.
Consuming a variety of the following foods can help protect your eyes for the future:
1. Lutein and zeaxanthin: To help reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), eat one cup of colorful fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, green beans, peas, oranges and tangerines four times a week.
2. Essential fatty acids: Studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids such as flax or fleshy fish like tuna, salmon, or herring, whole grain foods, lean meats and eggs may help protect against AMD and dry eye.
3. Vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables, including oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, green peppers and tomatoes, can help minimize the risk of cataracts and AMD.
4. Vitamin E: Vegetable oils, such as safflower or corn oil, almonds, pecans, sweet potatoes, and sunflower seeds are powerful antioxidants that can slow the progression of AMD and cataract formation.
5. Zinc: A deficiency of zinc can result in poor night vision and lead to cataracts; therefore, consuming red meat, poultry, liver, shellfish, milk, baked beans, and whole grains on a daily basis is important.
It’s also important to remember that all foods are not created equal in their nutritional value. The Eye-Q survey also showed that nearly half of all Americans (49 percent) still believe carrots are the best food for eye health. While carrots do contain nutritional value by supplying beta-carotene, which is essential for night vision, spinach and other dark, leafy greens are the healthiest foods for eyes because they naturally contain large amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin.
The AOA encourages consumers to make small dietary changes in order to experience a big impact with vision. Another good way to monitor eye health and maintain good vision is by scheduling yearly, comprehensive eye exams with an eye doctor. For a list of quick and simple recipes that promote healthy eye sight and vision or to find an optometrist in your area, visit www.AOA.org.
(BPT) - Do you dream of the day you can retire, but aren't sure how to get there? You're not alone. Many people find it easier to avoid reality when it comes to planning for retirement.
"That can lead to big mistakes in their retirement income planning," says Zachary Gipson, vice president of retirement and wealth planning at USAA.
Here's a look at five common myths that could derail your expectations for income when you retire.
Myth 1: You won't be around long enough to go through your money
The reality: Life expectancies are at record highs in the United States, so it's important to acknowledge that you or a family member may spend as many years in retirement as you did working. According to a 2010 report by the National Academy of Social Insurance, for a 65-year-old married couple, there's a 48 percent chance that one spouse will live to age 90.
To help stretch your money, consider incorporating immediate and deferred annuities into your planning. Created to provide guaranteed, lifelong income in retirement, they can also offer guaranteed growth while you're saving for it, Gipson explains.
A long retirement extends your exposure to one of financial planning's most subtle enemies: inflation. As you invest, it's important to seek a mix of assets that guard against the declining value of the dollar and that is in line with your risk tolerance and goals.
Myth 2: You should get out of stocks when you retire
The reality: Stocks can help provide the long-term growth you need to make your assets last longer since your retirement could span several decades.
You've probably heard you should reduce your investment risk as you age. But with traditional pensions being replaced by 401(k) plans, you're wholly responsible for making asset allocation decisions. As Gipson puts it, "Everyone now has to be a pension fund manager with their own money, and most people just aren't equipped to do that."
Gipson agrees with the notion of dampening portfolio risk at retirement, but that doesn't mean getting rid of stocks entirely. Rather, regularly reviewing, and if necessary, rebalancing your portfolio based on your risk tolerance can lock in gains from strong-performing asset classes and allow you to buy those that underperform at cheaper prices.
Myth 3: You can just keep working
The reality: Counting on being able to work as long as you want is dangerous, Gipson says. Employers are feeling pressure to cut costs, and with high unemployment, finding work is always a challenge. A disability also could force you to stop working prematurely.
Many people think they can simply work longer if they don't have enough money to retire. According to a recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 74percent of workers plan to work at least part time during their retirement years, and Schaffer notes working in retirement has become a necessity for many.
Good planning doesn't rely on good fortune. Rather, your plan should both keep you from having to work the rest of your life and deal with the consequences of unexpected surprises that prevent you from earning a paycheck.
Myth 4: An inheritance will bail you out
The reality: You may be hoping for an inheritance as a potential retirement boost. But hope is not a strategy, and counting on an inheritance can create big problems if it doesn't come through.
Many people who expect to inherit money never do so, Gipson says. And even for those who do inherit money, it's often too little or comes too late to make a difference in their retirement planning, he adds. The safer thing to do is to treat an inheritance as an unexpected bonus rather than relying on it.
Myth 5: Your taxes will be lower in retirement.
The reality: Big government deficits make future tax increases much more likely. Also, taking money out of retirement accounts, such as traditional IRAs and 401(k)s, creates taxable income that can push you into higher tax brackets.
One suggestion Gipson offers is to consider converting part of your eligible retirement assets to a Roth IRA. By doing so, you'll pay taxes now, but you'll create a tax-free pool of money to tap in retirement. Diversifying with both Roth and traditional IRAs is a possible way to handle future tax uncertainty.
(BPT) - More baby boomers and older adults are taking a proactive approach to heart health. Living a heart-healthy lifestyle in your golden years and dealing with any type of diagnosis head-on is the smart way to keep your heart pumping strong for many years to come. Following these five easy steps can help you take control.
1. Exercise your heart by staying active.Increasing your heart rate through daily exercise can help keep your heart healthy and help you live longer. Good heart-healthy activities include walking, swimming and bicycling. Stay motivated by exercising with a friend.
2. Eat heart-healthy foods.Fresh fruits and vegetables are fantastic for heart health – make it your goal to eat a variety of colors every day. Whole grains and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are good choices also.
3. Consult your doctor about heart-healthy supplements. As we age, sometimes our bodies can’t absorb vitamins and minerals as well as when we were younger. Many people take vitamin D and a low-dose aspirin daily once they hit their 50s or 60s. Ask your doctor for recommendations.
4. Schedule your annual physical. An annual physical is the cornerstone of preventative care. At your appointment, make sure you get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Have your doctor explain what those numbers mean for you.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. No matter what, when it comes to the health of your heart, ask questions. If you are diagnosed with a slow heartbeat and need a pacemaker, talk with your doctor about your options and determine if a pacemaker that is approved for use in an MRI may be right for you.
Marilyn Rose of Richardson, Texas, ate healthy, exercised regularly and scheduled yearly physicals, but at age 80 she frequently felt tired and short of breath. Rose was scheduled for an echocardiogram, a heart test that allows the doctor to see the movement of the heart, and it was then that she learned she had a condition called bradycardia, or a slow heartbeat. Rose needed a pacemaker to help her live a full life, but she learned that historically, pacemakers have not been approved in the U.S. for use with MRIs. She was concerned – she knew at her age the likelihood that she might need an MRI at some point was high.
After talking with her doctor and asking plenty of questions, Rose learned that the FDA had approved the first pacemaker that was fit for use in the MRI environment. Today, after getting her pacemaker, she’s feeling great and is back to her regular life, swimming, knitting and playing with her five grandkids. Her friends call her the “Energizer bunny,” and with her pacemaker she says she feels better than she did before. For Rose, asking the right questions made a life-changing difference.
Rose’s story is just one example of how the decisions you make today can impact your health tomorrow. She is now part of an educational campaign called “Join the Pace Makers,” because she wants to share her experience and help inform others about heart health and their options when it comes to choosing a pacemaker.
Whether you want to take on your golden years with a heart-healthy outlook, or you are a child of aging parents and you want them to live a long, full life, these tips can help you reach your goals. If you know someone who needs a pacemaker, you have an opportunity to make a difference. Learn more and become a Pace Maker at www.JoinThePaceMakers.com.
(BPT) - If you’re just entering retirement, chances are you have many years of good health and independence ahead. But the normal aging process still brings limitations that we all need to prepare for - such as slower reaction times and declining vision - which can lead to accidents and injuries.
Many accidents are preventable though, and you can take simple measures to enhance your safety as you age.
In your home
Falls are one of the greatest age-related risks inside the home. One in three adults older than 65 falls each year, and the risk of injury rises with age, according to the National Safety Council. Many falls are caused by hazards that are easy to avoid if you know what to look for.
To prevent tripping, eliminate clutter on floors, remove throw rugs or tack them down with double-sided tape, and make sure electrical and phone cords are kept out of the way. You might need to rearrange some of your furniture as well, to ensure that there are unobstructed pathways into and out of every room.
In the bathroom, use a nonslip rubber mat or stick nonslip adhesive strips to the bottom of the bathtub or shower. You may also want to consider installing grab bars. Keep a night light on in the bathroom at night, and remove any obstacles in the path from the bedroom to the bathroom.
If your house has stairs, make sure they have good lighting (with light switches at both the top and bottom of the staircase) and sturdy handrails (preferably on both sides). Attaching nonslip rubber treads is a good idea if the steps are potentially slippery.
The kitchen presents a slightly different set of potential hazards. To reduce the risk that you’ll cut or burn yourself, make sure there is bright, nonglare lighting over all food preparation areas. Also, it’s better to store sharp knives in a knife block or rack rather than loose in a drawer. And make sure any hazardous substances (such as cleaning supplies) are well marked and stored in a place where they’re unlikely to be misidentified or come in contact with food.
To make your yard safer, replace or repair any broken or loose paving stones and clear the walkways of overgrown branches or any other potential tripping hazards. Make sure all handrails are firm and secure. Mark the edges of steps with reflective tape and check that there is enough light to see obstacles at night.
You might want to consider a timer or motion-detector light near the front door so you don’t have to fumble with your keys in the dark. And, just in case, make sure your house number is visible and lighted so emergency personnel can find it quickly.
In the car
To increase your safety on the road, have your vision and hearing checked every year, and, if you need them, wear your glasses or hearing aid when driving. Know your limitations and avoid situations that make you uncomfortable - for example, you may decide to avoid driving at night or on extremely busy roads.
Have your car checked regularly by a trusted mechanic to make sure it stays in good working order, and keep a cellphone with you so you’re prepared in case of an emergency, which can’t be emphasized enough. It’s good to have a cellphone on hand for any type of emergency - not just in the car. In a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of respondents who owned cellphones said that in the past 30 days they had found themselves in an emergency situation in which having their phone with them helped.
Knowing that you can call for help at any time provides great peace of mind, and a cellphone doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Consumer Cellular (www.consumercellular.com), the exclusive wireless provider for AARP members, is one carrier that provides no-contract, cost-effective wireless service and cellphones. Their senior-friendly Doro PhoneEasy 618 is an easy-to-use feature phone with a one-touch emergency button and a feature to store all your I.C.E. (in case of emergency) information.
Most accidents don’t just happen. If you follow these simple safety tips, you’ll decrease your risk of injury - and increase your chances of enjoying a long, happy retirement in the comfort of your own home.
(BPT) - When it comes to startling health statistics, here are several you may not have heard: 36 million American have a hearing loss, yet only one out of every four people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wears one, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Information Center on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Millions of Americans “miss or misunderstand” much of everyday conversation.
“People who experience hearing loss are often like Joni Mitchell’s song ‘Big Yellow Taxi,’ ” says Dr. Kathy Landau Goodman, chair of the Audiology Awareness Campaign. “ ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’ We often take our hearing for granted until we have difficulty hearing and communicating with our family, friends and coworkers. Yet searching for a quality, cost-effective solution can be confusing.”
The first step for finding the right hearing aid is to see an audiologist. Audiologists hold doctoral degrees and are uniquely qualified to evaluate hearing loss and communication needs such as hearing in noisy environments like restaurants, in business meetings, church services, lectures, or just listening to the TV or an iPod. An audiologist can prescribe, program, fit and customize a hearing aid’s high tech capabilities to improve your listening and communication experiences.
“Today’s hearing aids are quite amazing,” Goodman says. “They are natural sounding, fashionable and they work. There is no reason you should miss out on what could be the most important conversation of your life. Consumers have numerous options for purchasing hearing aids, and an audiologist can help you find the right solution for your communication challenges.”
No best model or brand
Finding the right hearing aid is not about the model or brand – or even price. While it may not be necessary to pay a lot to find the hearing technology that works well for you, keep in mind that rock-bottom-prices often come with poorer quality. It is not just about a product--being fitted with hearing aids is a process.
Modern hearing aids are sophisticated high-tech digital devices, with capabilities and options that vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Every ear is unique. Every brain deciphers sound differently. There is no “one size fits all.” What works for your friend may not work for you. It’s important to work with an audiologist that can help you select and optimize the hearing aids to meet your needs.
Finding the right hearing professional
Having a hearing test and getting fitted for hearing aids are the next steps, but it’s also important to get counseling on how to use your hearing aids most effectively in different listening situations. You’ll need adjustments to get the settings just right, and audiologists can manage this for you. Remember, an audiologist who carries several brands is more likely to help you find the best hearing aids for your communication needs. Your audiologist should have:
* Well-established credentials and all applicable licenses.
* Satisfied clients who are willing to give a recommendation.
* Courteous support staff.
* Convenient office hours.
* A convenient location.
* Multiple brands of hearing aids.
* Hearing assistive technologies such as listening devices for phones or televisions.
* Services beyond the sale of hearing aids, such as communication training and auditory training.
The nonprofit Audiology Awareness Campaign, which provides the public with information on hearing loss, is sponsoring the sixth annual “Listen Up America Week, National Hearing Screening Week” May 13 to 17, 2013. In communities throughout the country, audiologists will offer free hearing screenings. Call (888) 833-EARS (3277) or visit www.audiologyawareness.com to find an audiologist in your area.
Council on Aging
Jan 2012 Newsletter & Calender