6 Soothing Ways to Ease Stress

Feeling stressed out? Learn ways to calm the stress in your life.

Feeling stressed out? Most Americans do.

Not all stress is bad. A certain amount of stress enables executives to perform at their peak, but too much stress can be harmful. Stress is linked to chronic conditions, such as heart disease and depression.

The trick is to manage or control stress to keep it within healthy limits. If your stress meter is soaring, learn to relax. Here are some soothing ways to handle the stress in your life.

1. Breathe

Have you heard the expression, “take a breather”? Sometimes just five minutes of deep breathing is enough to ban stress.

Most people take shallow breaths that fill only part of the lungs. Deep breathing gets more oxygen into the lungs and can help calm the brain. Try these steps:

  • Sit or lie with one hand on your belly.
  • Breathe in through your nose, filling your lungs. Focus on making the hand on your belly rise
  • Breathe out through your mouth, trying to empty your lungs as much as you can. The hand on your belly should move in as your muscles tighten.
  • Continue these deep, slow breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth – making your belly rise and fall.

This simple, but powerful, exercise can be done almost anywhere. It can be combined with meditation or muscle relaxation.

2. Relax your muscles

Progressive muscle relaxation is another simple way to ease stress. Practicing it can help you become aware of when you are holding stress in your body. Relaxing your muscles can help your mind relax.

  • Lie down in a quiet place. Take a few minutes to breathe slowly and deeply.
  • When you feel relaxed, start with your right foot. Squeeze the muscles as tightly as you can. Hold while you count to 10
  • Relax your right foot. Take a few deep breaths./li>
  • Next, squeeze the muscles in your left foot while you count to 10
  • Relax and breathe.
  • Slowly work your way up your body (legs, belly, back, chest, arms, neck and face), squeezing and relaxing each group of muscles.

3. Say yes to yoga

Yoga is a system of exercises (called asanas) for gaining bodily or mental control and well-being. The philosophy is that the breath, the mind and the body are so closely linked that whatever you do to one will affect the other. In addition to easing stress, yoga can improve strength, balance and flexibility.

Yoga is a gentle form of exercise that is safe for most people when it’s practiced correctly. Consult a trained yoga teacher. Make sure you ask your doctor before you start any new activity.

4. Try tai chi

Tai chi is a series of postures that flow into one another through connecting transition moves. These slow, graceful and precise body movements are said to improve body awareness and enhance strength and coordination. At the same time, they are supposed to help the practitioner achieve inner peace. Like yoga, it is designed to enhance both physical and emotional well-being.

Tai chi is a low-impact aerobic activity, so you can chill out and burn some calories at the same time. Another advantage to tai chi is its low risk of injury.

Take a tai chi class or buy a book or instructional video. Once you learn how to do tai chi, you can practice almost anywhere.

5. Meditate

Meditation is a centuries-old spiritual practice that is also a powerful stress-buster. Here, you learn to relax while focusing on a word, a sound or your own breathing. It can have a deeply calming effect.

There are many different types of meditation. One type is mindfulness meditation. You can practice mindfulness while sitting in a quiet place or while walking. The key is to keep bringing your focus back to your breathing or your steps. When distractions come into your mind, observe them without judging and let them go. The technique is simple, but achieving the desired result takes practice.

6. Get a massage

In massage therapy, the hands (or sometimes forearms, elbows and feet) are used to manipulate the soft body tissues. A good massage is not only relaxing, but it may also have some real healing benefits. Some studies have shown that the kneading and pressing of muscles slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, improves blood circulation, relaxes muscles and helps reduce stress levels.

If you can’t fit in or afford a visit to a spa, ask your partner or friend for a neck, back or foot rub. Trading massages can be a relaxing way to reconnect after a stressful day.

Sprenger Healthcare offers a wide variety of compassionate, senior services. From independent living to skilled nursing care, we are here to support you at every step along your journey. If you would like to schedule a customized tour at one of our facilities, please contact us at: 800-772-1116 or visit www.sprengerhealthcare.com to explore all that we have to offer. 

Beating Depression as We Age

By: Barbara Baird and Jessica Slavik, The Nord Center

Whether it’s gardening or spending time with your grandchildren, your retirement years can be your chance to do the things you truly love. But what if you find that you are losing interest in the things that you once enjoyed? What if basic functions like eating, sleeping or just making it through your day start to feel like “too much”?

Late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans ages 65 and older. Many changes that occur as we age can lead to depression such as medical illnesses, the death of spouses or other loved ones, and retirement. The effects of depression can extend far beyond changes in mood. Depression can cause people to become less energetic, experience changes in sleep patterns, changes in their appetites, as well as a decline in physical health.

According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, depression is one of the major causes of a decline in the health-related quality of life for senior citizens. Depression in seniors is often overlooked because the symptoms may look like other diseases such as arthritis or dementia. As a senior, taking a proactive approach to your mental health can make the difference between aging, and aging well. The following strategies can help:

  • Keep Moving – Physical exercise is important to everyone’s health! Go for a walk or join a tai chi class. If you have physical limitations, try a chair workout.
  • Socialize – Stay connected with family and friends. You should also make an effort to meet new people – try joining a book club, taking a class, or volunteering. Dedicating quality time to social activities each week can reduce the likelihood of depression and generate a support group for when times get tough.
  • Use the Internet – If friends and family live too far away, the internet is a great way to keep in touch. A recent study shows that internet use among seniors can reduce the probability of depression by more than 30 percent! Being able to stay connected with loved ones and old friends helps fight off feelings of seclusion and promotes greater social interaction, even when it can’t be in person.
  • Get a Pet – Pets are great therapy option and research has proved taking care of a pet lowers agitation and depression. Pets also help seniors stay active and socially involved.
  • Play Games – Puzzles, crosswords, and games like Sudoku keep the brain stimulated. Cards are also a great way to get friends together.
  • Make Deeper Spiritual Connection– Religion and the community within can offer meaningful activities and support or a great place to volunteer.
  • Make a Difference– Volunteering is a great way to stay active and involved within your community. Finding a way to “do good” helps create a sense of purpose in life and also provides another opportunity to socialize.

There is great help available and many active ways to manage depression and to lift its cloud from your golden years. If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from depression, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider to make a treatment plan.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational What?

By: Chrissy Queen, OT

When a patient first arrives at a skilled nursing facility (SNF), they are seen by both a Physical Therapist (PT) and Occupational Therapist (OT). Everyone knows what PT is so the question becomes what exactly is OT? Occupational Therapy focuses on maximizing a patient’s level of independence with daily tasks (ADLs) using compensatory techniques, education on body mechanics and instruction on use of adaptive equipment or strategies as needed to complete a functional task. The goal of OT in a rehab setting is to return the patient to their prior level of independence so they can safely return home.

During their stay at a Skilled Nursing Facility, a patient will undergo many assessments of their ability to complete their bathing, dressing and toileting routines. The therapist will provide explanation and demonstration on use of adaptive equipment and techniques within the parameters of their specific diagnosis/rehab needs. The therapist will complete education on safe strategies for managing home tasks such as light meal preparation and laundry tasks.

Occupational therapists also work to improve strength and range of motion in the upper extremities. This can be an important component to recovery for patients who may need to rely on trunk and upper extremity support when they have an affected lower extremity. They also provide education on walker safety during ADL tasks during home management tasks. 

An Occupational Therapist also works to determine the best seating for a patient when in a SNF for rehab. Assessment of width of wheelchairs, types of armrests and leg rests needed and providing specialized cushions when appropriate are all areas an OT will address.

Family education is an important component of Occupational Therapy as well. An OT will provide direct hands on family and staff training on a patient’s ability to complete functional skills and on the level of assistance they will require if returning home.

Finally, prior to a patient returning home to their previous living arrangements, an Occupational Therapist can perform a home safety evaluation. This involves taking the patient to their home and assessing needs for modifications so the patient may safely return home. Recommendations will be made for any equipment needed within the home that will promote independence, safety and decreased risk of falls. Modifications to a patient’s home may include removal of throw rugs to reduce fall risk, installation of grab bars for security and moving of household furniture to prevent tripping hazards.

There are many ways an Occupational Therapist can influence and affect a patient’s rehab stay in a Skilled Nursing Facility. The goal is to return the patient to their prior level of function with daily tasks, prevent falls and optimize patient rate of success when returned home. After all Physical Therapy may get you up and walking but without skills learned in Occupational Therapy, you would be walking around with no clothes on.

Out With The Old In With The New: Renewing Our Minds In 2017

By: Danny Parsons, Sprenger Hospice Care

Out with the old in with the new… Wouldn’t it be so nice if it was that easy? Our bodies and minds have endured a great deal over the years.  Today I would encourage you to rest assure that all is not lost. Newness is in our grasps if we choose to embrace it.

How can we experience a new us? No, I am not talking about surgery or some fad diet, but a renewing of our minds is what I have found to be the key. Ask yourself today; what it is that has been consuming most of your thoughts? It is normal to be concerned about something, but sometimes we can let it consume us. So many of us stress and worry about things we have little or no control over.

A renewing of our minds is not us simply pretending something isn’t taking place or that our current circumstances aren’t real. A renewing of the mind is getting our focus back to where it needs to be.

This New Year, let’s make it a point to focus more on the many things we can control and work on ways to make those changes happen.

We need to focus on the present and everything we still have available to us. So often we ponder on all the negatives in life, which could bring anyone down. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is plenty positives in our lives and many things to be grateful for.  

Renewing one’s mind is thinking that even though things might not be perfect, we still give our very best. We understand mistakes will be made, but we chose to learn from them and continue on life’s journey. Developing an attitude of gratitude will go a long way in this New Year.

I am reminded of the story of the little train that thought he could. It wasn’t something he did all at once. Inch by inch, little by little, he made his way up that steep hill. So will we if we don’t give up. That mountain that stands before us might seem impossible today but no one is saying you have to reach the top overnight. The excitement is found in the journey of the climb. Enjoy each new experience that comes your way; embrace the challenges that arise from time to time. Know that you can do it and reach down deep and find that inner strength that lies within; where our mind goes the body will follow.

Healthy Initiatives to Prevent Hearing loss & Diabetes

By: Renea Dutton, PT

The Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion develops initiatives and goals every decade to promote consumer wellness.  The 2020 initiative includes several targets, including being preventative services to help seek and identify illness at earlier stages or further prevent the illness from occurring.

Unfortunately, as illnesses progress so does the risk of co-morbid conditions.  With increased research, our understanding of the clear link between the primary disorder and potential secondary disorders can lead to a better diagnosis and treatment of subsequent conditions.

With advancing research, there is a growing awareness of a link between Type 2 diabetes and hearing loss, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).  The article “Hearing Loss & Diabetes” by Marilyn Enock (www.asha.org) indicates that 2% of adults aged 45 to 54 have a hearing loss disability, which steadily increases with age to nearly 25% of adults aged 65 to 74, and to half of those aged 75 years or older.  Individuals with diabetes were found to be twice as likely to develop hearing loss, which is thought to be related to a chemical change caused by elevated blood sugar levels.  The chemical change affects the nervous system’s ability to send typical sound signals to the brain, resulting in affected hearing.

Presbycusis is the type of hearing loss most commonly diagnosed in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.  This type of hearing loss is typically slow to progress and predominantly affects the individual’s ability to hear higher pitched sounds including a phone ringing or the voice of a female conversation partner.  Consequently, hearing loss can be a risk factor for social isolation and loneliness leading to a feeling of “missing out” on social gatherings or conversations.   

Fortunately, both risk of diabetes and hearing loss can be screened or tested relatively quickly.  Individuals with diabetes should consider consulting their physician to determine if a routine hearing screening or testing would be an appropriate healthy initiative in order to prevent hearing loss.

BPPV: Managing the Rocks in Your Head

by Tyler Sponaugle, DPT

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, better known as BPPV, or simply “Vertigo” amongst patient populations, is the most common disorder of the human vestibular system.  It is frequently described as an intense spinning sensation brought on by changes in head position1. As the word “benign” suggests, the condition in itself is not life threatening, but depending on the intensity of the spinning sensation, the condition can put a person at an extremely high risk for falls, which can lead to significant injury and hospitalization. Patients often describe the condition as “debilitating” or “terrifying” due to the rapid onset and intensity of symptoms that are brought on by seemingly simple motions such as rolling in bed, standing up/sitting down, or even looking up1. In most cases patients being affected are afraid to move due to fear of onset of symptoms. This article will provide information into the structure of the vestibular system and the specific mechanical problems that bring about an episode of BPPV. It will also describe known treatments for the condition and the steps someone afflicted with BPPV can take to identify key symptoms and seek necessary treatment.

The vestibular system is a sensory system responsible for providing information regarding the orientation of the body in space and is a primary contributor to coordinating movements necessary to maintain a sense of balance2. The entire vestibular system shares the space of the inner ear with the auditory system, and though it can sit comfortably on top a pencil eraser, the effect the vestibular system has on the way the human body moves and interacts with the surrounding environment is quite profound. There many unique structures and mechanisms at work in the vestibular system, which provide data to the brain regarding the body’s position in space. For the sake of brevity, this article will focus only on those structures that are directly involved in an episode of BPPV.

The primary structures of the vestibular system involved in an episode of BPPV include the utricle and the semicircular canals2. The utricle is a chamber in the inner ear lined with very sensitive hair cells. On top of these hair cells sit the proverbial “crystals” or “rocks” in your head. These rocks are made up of calcium carbonate and are essentially microscopic pieces of limestone referred to as Otoconia. The otoconia sit all together on top of the hair cells of the utricle, held together by a gel like substance. As the head accelerates or changes position, the otoconia move on top of the hair cells and create a shearing force on the hair cells, which in turn send a message to the brain alerting it of a change in position or acceleration3

The semicircular canals are a set of 3 fluid filled semicircular tubes that are responsible for perceiving rotation or angular acceleration of the head2. When the head is turned, it will cause the fluid to accelerate and bend a sensory receptor mass called the cupula which in turn sends a signal to the brain regarding the direction and intensity of the acceleration. They are oriented so that in a specific plane of motion will stimulate only one canal (i.e. spinning in a chair will stimulate the horizontal canal, a front flip or backflip will stimulate the anterior canal, and a cartwheel will stimulate the posterior canal.)

In a normal functioning vestibular system, the utricle and semicircular canals operate primarily independent of one another. They are, however, located in very close proximity to one another, separated by only a thin membrane. In a case of BPPV, this thin membrane breaks down, along with the gel that holds the otoconia in a mass. With the right positioning and movements, the loose otoconia can leak out of the utricle and into the semicircular canals.  The fluid in the semicircular canals has the consistency of honey or nectar and normally does not react to gravity3. When the loose otoconia, which are affected by gravity, leak into the canal, this causes a relative disruption and movement of fluid (think of dropping rocks into a well) that causes the cupula to send a false message to the brain that the head is moving. Since BPPV usually only affects one ear at a time, the false signal will not match the normalized signal of the opposite ear, or the visual input from the eyes. The discrepancy in signals causes brain to perceive a spinning sensation3. The brain then makes the eyes move in an attempt to keep them focused on the environment. These involuntary eye movements (or nystagmus) are what cause those individuals afflicted by BPPV to experience the hallmark “room spinning around me” sensation.

As stated previously, BPPV is the most common disorder of the vestibular system with occurrences in up to 2.4% of the population. It accounts for up to 20% of all cases in specialized dizziness clinics. It seems to be most prevalent in 50-70 year olds, but has been known to affect adults of all ages. Very rarely will BPPV affect children3.  In the majority of cases, there are no symptoms or precipitating factors leading up to onset1.  There have been increased associations of the disorder with certain triggering factors in recent research, including head trauma, history of migraines or inner ear infections, diabetes, osteoporosis, and prolonged bed rest2.

Treatment for BPPV

Any type of dizziness should be considered a serious medical symptom and should be evaluated by a physician. With that being said, there are a number of signs and symptoms that are unique to the dizziness experienced with BPPV. The primary symptom of BPPV is an intense feeling of the environment spinning around the individual that lasts for less than 1 minute. After the actual spinning subsides, the individual may experience a lingering feeling of nausea or imbalance up to several minutes. The symptoms are consistently brought on by quick changes in head position such as looking up, rolling over in bed, getting in/out of bed, bending over, or looking over one’s shoulder4. BPPV is not accompanied by hearing loss despite the proximity of the vestibular systems to the auditory system. There should not be any feeling of numbness or tingling, weakness, pain, or decreased coordination3.  It is important to note that BPPV is a transient disorder and often resolves on its own after several days. However, treatment provided by an appropriate healthcare professional is highly effective and fast acting.

It is important for a person experiencing a possible case of BPPV to make an appointment with their primary care physician (PCP), to receive a diagnosis of vertigo. The PCP may do some preliminary testing with head movements to assess for nystagmus (involuntary eye movements), but will likely refer the patient to a physical therapist (PT) with specialized training in treatment of vestibular disorders.

Upon seeking treatment for BPPV following referral from a PCP, a new patient will likely fill out a questionnaire or outcome measure to allow the PT to better understand what activities or movements bring on episodes of dizziness.  The pt. will then undergo a series of tests in sitting focused on eye movements to rule out any red flags such as stroke or other central vestibular dysfunctions. Vital signs will also be collected to ensure the dizziness episodes are not caused by changes in blood pressure.

Since the cause of BPPV is mechanical in nature, so is the treatment. The physical therapist will guide the patient through a variety of very specific positioning maneuvers (performed with patient laying on a mat table or plinth) in an attempt to reproduce a spinning sensation and to observe the subsequent nystagmus that presents with it. The clinic will likely have a specialized pair of goggles that will be placed on the patient and will assist the therapist in observing eye movements. Based upon the maneuver that stimulated dizziness and the direction of the nystagmus observed, the therapist will be able to pinpoint which canal the otoconia have drifted into.

Once the appropriate canal has been identified, the therapist will guide the patient through a series of maneuvers directed at guiding the otoconia back into the utricle by simply utilizing appropriate positioning and the effects of gravity. At each position, the patient may experience symptoms such as nausea or dizziness, once the symptoms subside, the therapist will wait 30 seconds before moving on to the next position3.   This indicates that the otoconia have collected/settled in a specific portion of the affected canal and can be maneuvered with minimal residual debris. At the end of the treatment maneuver, the otoconia should be out of the canal and the patient will feel symptom free. A follow up appointment may be scheduled if symptoms persist or to ensure there is no immediate recurrence. When performed correctly, positioning maneuvers are 90% effective in resolving cases of BPPV within 2 visits or treatment sessions.

Due to the orientation of the canals to the utricle, 85% of BPPV cases involve the posterior semicircular canal primarily diagnosed via Dix-Hallpike maneuver4. This is evidenced by the therapist observing a nystagmus that beats upward and has a rotational component towards the affected side. Primary treatment is via the Epley maneuver

Lateral canal involvement is noted in 5-12% of BPPV cases1. It is known for producing a more intense spinning sensation and is often accompanied by nausea. It is primarily triggered by rolling over in bed. Diagnosed with sit to supine and rolling L and R tests4. Nystagmus will be purely horizontal and more intense toward the affected ear. Treatment in uncomplicated cases will be via a 270 or 360 degree barbecue roll.

Though there are several other possible causes of BPPV including anterior canal involvement and cupulolithiasis, occurrences are rare and explanation is beyond the scope of the article.

In conclusion, BPPV is a fairly common vestibular disorder that presents with intense, room spinning dizziness. Though it is benign in nature, in can lead to increased fall risk and is very debilitating at onset.  BPPV is caused by a rather unique mechanical failure of the inner ear and will likely require a physician visit. Treatment of BPPV is highly effective and fast acting when performed by an appropriate healthcare professional.

Works Cited
1. Parnes, Lorne S., Sumit K. Agrawal, and Jason Atlas. “Diagnosis and management of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).” Canadian Medical Association Journal 169.7 (2003): 681-693.
2.Goodman, Catherine C., and Kenda S. Fuller. Pathology: implications for the physical therapist. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2014.
3.http://vestibular.org/understanding-vestibular-disorders/types-vestibular-disorders/benign-paroxysmal-positional-vertigo Accessed 4/14/16.
4.Hornibrook, Jeremy. “Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): history, pathophysiology, office treatment and future directions.” International journal of otolaryngology 2011 (2011).

Help Your Body Age Healthy With Yoga

Exercise is a key component when it comes to healthy aging. One form of exercise that has become more popular among older adults is yoga. Yoga is a low-impact exercise that can benefit both your physical and mental health.

Here are some of the health benefits it may offer you:

Low impact: As mentioned, yoga is a low-impact exercise. This is beneficial to older adults, as it offers range of motion without putting too much strain on your body. Finding a physical exercise can be difficult for older adults with limitations. Yoga can be a great solution people with joint pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, asthma and more!

Improve balance: Yoga is a great activity for improving strength and balance. This type of exercise is meant to create a sense of body awareness, which can help prevent falls. Since falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults, this can be a huge benefit.

Sharpen your mind: This exercise routine puts a strong focus on concentration by encouraging you to clear your mind and calm your senses. By removing all of the outside noise from your head, you can learn to focus and help your mind perform better.

Keep off excess weight: It is always important to maintain a healthy weight no matter what age you are. This is done with proper diet and physical exercise. Incorporating yoga into your daily routine is a great way to shed and keep off excess weight, which can help improve your overall heath.

Relieve anxiety and depression: Yoga has been known to also help with anxiety and depression. Yoga can also help lower blood pressure and heart rate, which can help with symptoms that come from anxiety. It is also a way of relaxing, exercising, meditation and socialization, which can help fight depression.

As you can see, yoga offers benefits through mind and body for people of all ages. Before you start a new exercise routine, it is important to consult your doctor. If you are an older adult, you may want to look for beginners classes. Some studios even offer classes tailored to older adults. Remember to never push yourself further than your body can handle.

Prevent Mosquito-Borne Illnesses This Summer

By: Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging (WRAAA)

Mosquitoes are more than just summertime pests – many carry viruses and bacteria that can cause serious illness. Older adults are no more likely than younger people to be bitten by mosquitoes, but they are at higher risk for complications from mosquito-borne illnesses. You can minimize your risk by protecting yourself from mosquito bites and taking steps to control mosquitoes outside and inside your home.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites:

  • Minimize time outdoors during peak time for mosquitoes (from dawn until dusk), and be mindful that mosquitoes can bite at any time of the day or night.
  • While outdoors, use an insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol.
  • Follow insect repellent product label instructions and reapply as directed.
  • Apply sunscreen first if you are also using sunscreen with insect repellent.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors, if possible, during peak mosquito times.

Control mosquitoes outside your home:

  • Eliminate breeding sites. Mosquitoes breed in water. Look for any items around your home that can hold rain water (e.g., buckets, rain barrels, bird baths, tires, planters and puddles);
    • If possible, remove these from your property, cover them or move them to where they won’t catch water.
    • If removal is not possible, empty any water at least once a week and scrub the sides of the containers to remove potential mosquito egg deposits.
  • Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.
  • Use an outdoor flying insect spray in dark humid areas where mosquitoes rest, like under patio furniture, or in the carport or garage; always follow label instructions.
  • Repair cracks or gaps in septic tanks and cover open vent or plumbing pipes using wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.

Control mosquitoes inside your home:

  • Keep doors and windows closed or covered with screens as much as possible.
  • Check window and door screens and repair or replace any that are worn, torn or have mesh larger than an adult mosquito.
  • Empty and clean household items that hold water (vases and flowerpot saucers) at least weekly.
  • Use an indoor flying insect fogger or indoor insect spray to kill mosquitoes and treat areas where they rest; follow label instructions and reapply as directed.

No single strategy will help you avoid every mosquito bite, but a combination of the steps above will greatly reduce your risk of a bite and related illness. If you experience flu like symptoms, especially if you have been exposed to mosquitoes, talk to your doctor.

Have a Safe, Not Sorry Summer

By Dr. Jim Collins

Summer is finally here and with it comes lots of fun, outdoor activities, and some of our favorite foods. The days will be longer, warmer and many of us will want to be outdoors as much as possible. While there are great times ahead, summer also brings a few dangers, especially to people over 65 years of age. Some older adults can experience heat exhaustion, dehydration and foodborne illnesses. Here are some tips to enjoy the summer and remain safe.

Protect Yourself from Heat-Related Illness

Hyperthermia refers to a group of heat-related conditions such as heat stress, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Annually, thousands of people experience these conditions, but they could be avoided altogether. Older adults are especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses because the aging body cannot compensate for the heat and cool itself down. Older adults run a higher risk of hyperthermia due to being overweight, having poor circulation or high blood pressure.

There are many ways to protect yourself from heat-related illnesses. Stay inside air-conditioned places during extreme heat. Limit your exposure to the sun and get rest inside cool and comfortable places. The sun is hottest between 10am and 2pm, so stay inside during these peak hours. Wear light, loose-fitting clothes, wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. Always drink extra fluids during hot weather and limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you would normally consume. Sunscreen, especially SPF 30 or higher is recommended.

Enjoy Summer Activities Safely

The summer is a great time for gardening, swimming, walking, golfing, and going on short or longer trips. Studies show that older adults who remain active have higher life satisfaction than those who do not. Remaining active is also a great way to prevent or treat depression and loneliness.

To better ensure safety during the summer, talk to your doctor to make sure you are in good shape to handle physical activities. Any physical activity is better than none, so to improve cardiovascular health, go for walks, try biking, hiking, yoga, and watch your emotional state go from good to great! Keep an eye on community programs that may be interesting such as museum exhibits, gardening clubs, farmer’s markets, or outdoor symphonies. Summer is also a great time to volunteer and help children and animals in your community. In addition, since many younger people prefer not to attend college classes in the summer, you may want to take a couple courses yourself while there are fewer people on campus and more parking spaces.

Summer Foods and Eating Wisely

Far too many people become sick annually due to eating contaminated foods that have sat out in the heat for too long. Bacteria and viruses can make us very ill and cause death. Symptoms of food poisoning can occur within 24 hours or even days or weeks later. Symptoms of food poisoning include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea.

Tips to avoid food poisoning include washing your hands before and after you handle food. Scrub your hands with soap for at least 20-30 seconds with warm, soapy water and rinse. Use a food thermometer to ensure that cooked foods reach safe temperatures. Hamburgers should be 160 degrees, steaks 145 degrees, chicken 165 degrees and fish should be cooked to 145 degrees.

Never place cooked food on a plate that previously had raw foods like meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. Always use clean and sanitized utensils, plates and cookware. Don’t allow raw meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Be sure to scrub out your cooler before filling it with ice.

Although summer is full of fun, activities, and outdoor living, it can also bring many dangers that can be easily avoided. To maximize your summer, stay cool, limit direct sun exposure and wear sunscreen. Get some exercise, but be careful and consult your doctor before adding too much physical activity to your daily routine. Get out and volunteer. Eat, drink and enjoy all that summer brings, but do it carefully and safely. Have a wonderful summer! 

Exercise, Balance Training and Fall Prevention for Seniors

By: Shelia Kries, PT

As the older adult population ages, physiological changes occur and the probability of falls increases that may result in negative outcomes. These outcomes span from pain, fear, isolation, to a decreased quality of life, high monetary costs, loss of mobility and loss of independence. The Otego fall prevention approach is an evidenced based program that has been developed to address the many variances that affect our aging population.

When it comes to falls, prevention is best. By identifying factors that contribute to falls and research based programs, we are able to develop and delay the effects of aging. We know that age associated functional declines in muscle strength and the sensory systems, in addition to several other issues, contribute to reductions in balance that may increase fall risks.

The aging population can “manage” some of the common problems that accompany age.  Exercise, along with nutrition and staying educated on side effects of prescribed medications, play a crucial role in this prevention process. This article’s primary focus is the rehabilitative aspect of fall prevention.

Once a risk has been identified through testing, further attention to be considered includes: range of motion, strength, proprioception, pain and posture.  A licensed therapist can develop a prescribed balance and exercise training program that addresses postural stability impairments as well as training programs for performance enhancement. A good understanding of balance, postural stability and sensorimotor training (SMT) is necessary for success. Effectiveness is also dependent on the ability to identify the deficits and develop a program that addresses these deficits.

The Sensorimotor Training approach addresses both static and dynamic components of balance as well as the multitude of systems that control balance in order to train effective strategies and elicit automatic postural responses in order to promote postural stability. This program is adapted for the aging population and utilizes trained Therapy staff to provide this program.

While balance is a commonly used term to describe the ability to maintain an upright position, “postural stability” is a more specific description of the overall aging balance. Postural stability can be defined as the ability of an individual to maintain their center of gravity (COG) within the base of support (BOS). Other areas that are contributory include the many complex physiologic and neurological processes that contribute and control postural stability. This is where the sensorimotor system has an affect on balance in this population. A good understanding of both areas of the musculoskeletal system along with the input from the central nervous system is essential in development and implementation of any balance recovery program.

Normal balance requires use of righting reactions, which require normal proprioception, range of motion, strength, and use of ankle, step and hip strategies. Therefore the treatment focus is on strength, flexibility, balance and reaction times, as these are considered modifiable risk factors for fall prevention. Research has shown that adults, even in the 90’s can improve in each of these areas with training.

The progression of this program has shown the best outcomes when a patient advances through three phases of SMT: Static, dynamic and functional. With in each stage individuals complete the task/exercise (1) different postures, (2) progressive BOS, (3) challenges to the center of gravity. The success of this type of training is based on several factors of addressing core areas, which includes the base of support, ankle strength, proprioception moving up to the pelvis region/posture. The main goal of SMT is to increase muscle reaction and tissue endurance rather than total joint strength. Instead of focusing on strength, the focus is placed on restoring the automatic reflexive stabilization for dynamic balance. The training outcome between normal strength training and SMT, notes that SMT showed improved objective testing scores.

We encourage you to further explore specifics of Sensorimotor training, and the Otega Exercise program to further educate and utilize these methods in reducing the falls in the aging population.