Monday, December 21, 2009

Neuropathy can make winter weather more perilous for older adults

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This time of year many children are waiting for Christmas, Santa, and snow. I love snow! There is something magical about those big, fluffy white designs flying through the cold air. Unfortunately for many folks, snow is dreaded instead of anticipated. They fear falling on snow covered sidewalks and steps due to their neuropathy, a nerve disorder that causes pain and numbness in the hands and feet. Neuropathy can be caused by traumatic injury, infection or metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

As a provider of services to older adults, I always worried about the uncovered hands and faces of our consumers suffering damage in the cold months. Neuropathy can cause pain but it also can steal the ability to feel pain caused by heat and cold.

According to the Neuropathy Association, peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common diseases in the U.S. with over 20 million Americans affected by it. There are over 100 known types of peripheral neuropathy, each with its own characteristics and causes. Peripheral neuropathy or “nerve damage” disrupts the body’s ability to communicate with its muscles, skin, joints or internal organs. The association describes neuropathy “like the body’s electrical wiring system breaking down, causing numbness, pain, weakness and poor coordination.” It can occur at any age, but is most common among adults 55 and older.

Neuropathy affects a variety of nerves, including:
  • Sensory nerves that receive feelings such as heat, pain or touch
  • Motor nerves that control how your muscles move
  • Autonomic nerves that control blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and bladder function
The condition shows itself differently from person to person. My intense, burning pain is in my left elbow which hurts but does not prevent me from doing any one task. The lesser pain in both my feet burns and tingles at times and has resulted in unflattering leg splits on the icy and snowy sidewalks. Others feel nothing in their feet; it's like having concrete blocks for feet, which causes them to lose their balance and coordination.

Some people have hands that tingle with pain all day and night while others have fingers that freeze (lock) into uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. Whatever the symptoms, cold temperatures and beautiful snowy days can make life difficult for those with this chronic condition.

So dress warmly, get plenty of Vitamin A and B-12 to protect your nerves, eat a nutritionally balanced diet, and control your blood sugars as preventative measures for peripheral neuropathy. Then get outside and enjoy the miracle of snow!

If you want to learn more about peripheral neuropathy go to the following sites:

Helen Dillon
Helen Dillon
Project Director

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adult day centers serve two purposes

I'm not sure when I first became familiar with the concept of adult day centers. I think it was before I came to work at the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community. The way I viewed these centers then was as "day care for adults."

Oh, how much I had to learn! Over the four years that I've worked at CAC, I've come to understand that adult day centers are not about glorified babysitting for the senior set. Most of my education on the matter has come through Joy's House, an adult day center on the north side of Indianapolis. I've been familiar with Joy's House since the early days when they occupied a small former farmhouse in a now urban area of the city.

JH1

Recently, I was pleased to have the opportunity to tour their newly expanded and renovated building. During that tour, what I've come to know about adult day services was reinforced. These services serve both adults in need of care for a few hours during the day (many who are older, though not all) as well as their caregivers.

Guests (as the folks at Joy's House refer to them) of adult day services receive:
  • Care and supervision
  • Opportunities to socialize with others
  • Genuine love, compassion and respect from staff
  • Opportunities to participate in activities including gardening, art, music, games and more
  • Meals and snacks
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Caregivers who trust their loved ones to the adult day service receive:
  • Respite -- a chance to take a break from caregiving responsibilities to work or pursue other activities
  • Support from staff who understand the demands caregiving places upon people
  • Opportunities to share the joys that also come with caregiving
  • Resources that may range from meal prep services to personal care services to libraries of information
I'm sure there is much more that adult day centers have to offer. But I think that's a pretty good list from an outsider's perspective.

As our population continues to age and our older adults choose to age in place, I think adult day centers will continue to play an even greater role. If you haven't been to visit an adult day center, find one near you to learn more. Perhaps you're considering care for a loved one. Maybe you have a few hours a month that you'd like to spend volunteering. I hope what you'll find upon visiting is a place that makes you think to yourself, "wow, they are really doing good here!"

For more information on this type of care, visit the National Adult Day Services Association's website.

Thanks to Joy's House for sharing the pictures in this post.

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Amy Magan
Communications Manager

Thursday, December 10, 2009

AoA offers webinar on consumer direction in aging programs

The U.S. Administration on will host a Community Living Programming Webinar on Tuesday, December 15 from 3:00 - 4:00pm EST.

"Adding and Sustaining Consumer Direction in Aging Network Programs: Challenges, Insights, and Successes" is available to all aging network administrators and staff. It provides a brief overview of consumer direction: comparisons to traditional services and research results; however, the majority of the content focuses on the implementation of consumer direction in current community living programs.

A panel of AAA administrators and staff will discuss their experiences with consumer direction, common challenges and solutions, and the current status of their programs. The webinar will also tour helpful websites and electronic resources. A comprehensive resource guide filled with additional tools and detailed information is available to accompany the webinar.

To sign up for the webinar, click here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This is how we do it

Judging one another is natural. I learned this from watching Desperate Housewives (DH). For those of you TV dramedy neophytes, like I was pre-DH, this is a television drama that is cleverly written and masterfully executed, depicting the twists and turns that occur in the day-to-day life experiences of a group of women in a fictional suburban neighborhood called, “Wisteria Lane.” My pre-DH judgment about such programming was that it was a waste of time and the mind. However, I watched several episodes that were specifically recommended by a friend and quickly became a fan of those inhabitants of Wisteria Lane.

Judging one another is natural. I learned that from reading articles about DNA that indicate that we are “hard-wired” to judge one another by the genes we inherit that carry bits of our ancestors’ experiences to help us adapt and survive better based on what they learned in their lifetimes. Being a good judge can keep you alive, help you enjoy greater longevity and health, and ensure there is indeed a next generation to carry on the human race.

And so, this is how we do it—just fill in the blanks, “She/he is too…(tall/short, fat/skinny, pretty/ugly, rich/poor, smart/dumb, simple/pretentious, sloppy/neat, sweet/mean, pure/nasty, young/old, sexy/unappealing)…you get the idea. The problem is that we rarely use our judgment genes for survival any longer. Instead, all of these adjectives separate us from the “other” in a way that does harm to our emotional well-being as individuals and erodes the connections that are essential for our survival as a human and humane community.

Mrs. McCluskey

Initially I watched the three specific episodes (#602, #604, #605) of Desperate Housewives because I was told that there was negative feedback in online forums about episodes involving one of the characters, Mrs. McCluskey, played by actress Kathryn Joosten. She is an older woman who falls in love with an older man and those episodes included depictions of that developing relationship, including their physical involvement with each other.

Why did people express negative judgments about that particular relationship when there were many, many other issues of interest on Desperate Housewives? Falling in love is a good thing, right? We celebrate it, build holidays around it, and spend a lot of money supporting it. This is how we do it. Oh right, unless the persons involved are too OLD.

Judging one another is natural, but when it leads to discrimination and prejudice it no longer serves a valuable biological purpose. On the contrary, it hurts everyone involved. Getting older should not make us feel desperate or bring judgment upon us, when it is in fact such a great achievement.

I applaud all of the Mrs. McCluskey’s of the world who don’t accept the limitations of others who judge them based upon their age.



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Tamara Wolske, MS
Academic Program Director