joint replacement may have heart benefits

img_2123-002One thing seniors often worry about is joint issues, such as problems with the knee and hip.When issues do occur in these areas, they can have a significant and substantial impact on mobility. Joint replacement surgery often proves beneficial to many aging parents and others in terms of restoring mobility; now a recent study suggests that there may also be a positive impact in terms of heart health.

Joints: A joint is a place in the body at which two bones come together, such as the hip, the knee, the shoulder, etc. Although there can be numerous causes of damage to the joint, such as a sudden physical injury to the area, a more common cause of joint issues is arthritis. Common arthritis (or osteoarthritis) often causes a gradual wearing away or deterioration of the joint, resulting in pain, swelling, stiffness, etc.

The study: Conducted by a group of Canadian scientists, they took a retrospective look at data related to more than 2200 patients who were over 55 years of age, all of whom were diagnosed with osteoarthritis. When they took a look at many different aspects of the data, they found something that seems surprising: those subjects in the group who had a hip or knee replacement were 37% less likely to experience a significant heart problem or death than those who did not have the surgery.

It’s important to point out that this discovery is classified as a “link” between joint replacement surgery and cardiac issues; a definite cause and effect relationship has not been proved, but the data does suggest that there is some sort of connection.

Why should this be? In a way, it’s easy to understand why addressing osteoarthritis in aging parents and other seniors might have a heart benefit, if one first looks more closely at arthritis.

When a person develops arthritis, movement becomes more painful and more difficult; when the joints affected are the knee or the hip, which have a bigger impact on movement than pain in, say, the shoulder or fingers, a person is more likely to feel discomfort while walking, standing, swimming, running, etc. In other words, it is more likely to discourage the kinds of activities that keep a person physically fit. When a person becomes less active and more sedentary, that person is more likely to develop high blood pressure or diabetes, which are much more commonly associated with cardiac issues.

Does this study mean that a senior with severe arthritis in the knee should rush out and get it replaced? No, but it does mean that if the senior does not opt for replacement, he or she may want to take steps to ensure that they remain as physically engaged as possible and be aware of what they can do to control blood pressure and forestall the development of diabetes. As always, consulting with the doctor is the most important first step to take.

Written by: Dr. Nancy Oppenheimer-Marks, owner of Home Instead Senior Care Dallas – Central

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accompanying my elderly parents to their doctor visit

image2Most baby boomers today are finding themselves having to deal with their elderly parents and their various medical conditions. Not an easy undertaking as they also find themselves balancing their own families and careers.
I personally consider myself fortunate and blessed that at the age of 48, I have both my parents on earth with me. Also, that my daughter is able to have the amazing experience of a grandmother and grandfather.
Today was dad’s turn at the urologists. Over the years, dads most troublesome ailment has been dealing with the effects of kidney stones. Between three generations, a stone cottage could have been built in the little village of Greece called Korisos, Kastoria, where the stones derived from.
As the three of us sat around the conference room table awaiting Dr. Hall’s analysis of the latest development, Dad had already made up his mind that he is not going to have this stone removed. He wants to be buried with it. He thinks he can handle another few years with it. “After all there aren’t that many years left.” Mom’s only wish at this point is for dad to just stifle it.
The doctor’s assistant enters to ask various questions in order to prep Dr. Hall for what awaits him. Clearly she’s his apprentice, however, this makes mom impatient. Yes, mom has earned her doctorate in medicine throughout the years due to her first hand experience along with the wealth of knowledge that webmd has provided. Mom can diagnose any symptom and be able to tell you exactly what drug your doctor should be prescribing. Friends and neighbors know this. She is more than prepared for all doctor visits, from her alphabetized insurance cards to the list of all their medicines.
When the apprentice put up the X-ray of the non troubled kidney, mom made sure to let her know it was the wrong one. When she put up the correct one and circled the wrong image of the stone , mom corrected her on that too. She was wanting to physically attack this young apprentice for her lack of experience but my “death look” put mom in the corner.
Dr. Hall entered. He asked his questions about history, upon which he received three different answers. In fact, all his questions got three different answers. At the same time, Dad wanted to reminisce with Dr. Hall about his 1980 surgery which his predecessor, now deceased, Dr. Shapiro performed. Dad insisted upon showing him his scar and effortlessly removed his shirt.
Dr. Hall is a busy man and quickly concluded that dad does not urgently need surgery. This conclusion was not what we expected but we were thankful. Dad will continue to live with his stone, as is his wish. Mom will search webmd on how to resolve the issue herself since no one else knows how. I will continue to be grateful regardless of the added stress and worry. Afterall, what would be the alternative?

If you accompany your parents to their doctor appointments, also, please leave a comment below where it says, “leave a reply”.

If you would like to share your own story about going to the doctor, do so here.

top spying on my dear grandma

grandmaMy grandma is 85 years old. Her name is Carol. My mom and dad named me after her and that’s what I’m really proud of. Even when the time comes that she is not here, all the best she had will stay with me:  my granny’s name: her kindness, tenderness, her love and her charming sense of humor. When I feel bad or lonely I remember my grandma singing to me before going to sleep. That’s why I’ll never leave her and will always take care about her. She lives alone in Denver and I try to visit her often. Every minute spent together is worth more than gold to me. Though she started feeling worse lately, granny always says she’s fine when I call her. I can see how it becomes harder for her to walk, even to sit for a long time. Her eyesight and hearing are getting worse as well. She refuses however, when we offer her to live with me and my parents in NY. I suggested staying at her place and living together but she also refused. She doesn’t want all of us to bother. My granny is a very strong person. I used to worry about her and sometimes cannot sit still when I can’t get her on the phone. What if something happened? That’s why I found this way to take care of her while I’m away. Of course, it’s far from the ideal but still its helpful. And that’s what I want to share with you. A month ago my grandma had her birthday. I gave her a gift – a smartphone. She laughed a lot when opened a box and saw that weird thing. She told she didn’t know how to use it, she didn’t need it and so on. But a few days later, with my assistance, she came to know all the ins and outs. What is this all about you may wonder? The point is that I set up a special program, namely <a href=”” target=”_blank”>TopSpy</a>, on her cell which allows me to know where my granny is, for how long she didn’t use her phone, to hear and record her surroundings (I can run the program at any time and hear her snoring, singing or watching TV). From her side she can reach me at any moment she wants to talk or hear my voice. It really helps me, at least, not to worry so much. Sure, someone may accuse me of spying. But that’s Ok. And it’s absolutely legal also. When it comes to my granny’s health and safety, I’m ready to do everything, whatever it takes.

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having “the talk” with your elders

We recently went to visit my 93 year old father-in-law in Idaho, where my husband’s family lives.  Prior to our visit, one of my husband’s four siblings called to say that when we came into town, it was time for all of us to sit down with Dad and have “the talk”.  Dad has been living on his own since his wife passed away twelve years ago and is still driving during the daylight hours.  His health isn’t bad, but he has trouble hearing (and won’t consider hearing aids), arthritis that making it increasingly difficult for him to walk, deteriorating driving skills and is increasingly unable to deal with the small, but constant little annoyances that come with having to do your own upkeep of an aging home.   We also weren’t clear on how well he was eating.  None of us were sure how to broach the subject, but it felt like it was time for Dad to consider living in a retirement home.

We nervously set a “date” when we were all having dinner together at my husband’s sister’s home.  One sibling was designated as the initial spokesperson, and by dinner time all us of were stressed to the max.

My sister-in-law was very composed when she brought up the subject and voiced our concern.  She was careful not to sound like we were railroading him, but rather that we wanted him to know that we loved him and wanted to know his thoughts on how he was coping with living alone at this point in his life.  Much to all of our surprise, he calmly agreed that it might be time to start looking at a retirement community.  He even joked that perhaps he could get together a poker game there, as he had lost so many friends that it was hard to get enough players right now.

I know that we were lucky – other friends that I have spoken to have had similar situations that didn’t go nearly as well.  Perhaps Dad just needed help in making that hard decision.  He actually seemed relived afterwards.

What has been other’s experience after having “the talk”?  Now that we’ve had it, what should our next move be?  Should one of my husband’s siblings take him to visit a multitude of retirement homes or should they try to narrow it down to a couple?  What do we do in the meantime about his driving and such?  How do we handle the move itself?  How do you decide what moves with him and what to do with the rest?

If you would like to share your own story, do so here.

emotional toll of downsizing my elderly mom

photoAssessing an aging parent’s most treasured possessions: Our family is in the process of the ultimate (and probably the last) downsize – moving my mom into a nursing home. Over the last four years, we have consolidated my parent’s possessions two other times: first, when we moved them from their town home to independent living and then from independent to assisted. They left most of the decision making up to me as to what was going with them, with the exception of a few key items that included my Mom’s curio cabinet full of collectibles. In the interim, my Dad has passed away, so there are some small reminders that she treasures like his bathrobe and slippers.

Currently, I am in an emotional knot! I am completely distraught with the responsibilty of moving my mother into a tiny space. WHAT CAN SHE BRING? There are two facets to this question, pragmatic and emotional. As I have mentioned, there is only one item in question. My mother’s treasured momentos sit in a curio cabinet that I know would bring her great comfort. I have been strongly advised, however, by the nursing home staff, that to bring such valuables would be a mistake. How do I tell this to my mother? How can we protect them if we decide to go against their advice?

Bigger problem: what can I bring to help my mother emotionally feel good other than this cabinet? How can I build an environment in a cell sized space that will bring her joy? HELP! Has anyone else had to do this??? ANY IDEAS, please share.I would love to hear how others have handled this situation!

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getting help finding the right caregiver

I live in California and have parents who are getting older now. Things are unfortunately starting to go downhill. I work full time and have a generally busy lifestyle and wasn’t able to be there to care for them. My father was slowing slipping into dementia and it was getting harder to ensure that they were safe while I was away.

The last thing I wanted to do was put them in a home, as I knew it would crush their spirits even further.  I went on a search to find alternate in-home care options. I went through a couple of different services but wasn’t really happy with any of them – then I saw an ad online for this company Helpio – they offer in-home care services for practically everything. In addition, all their staff is well trained. I can set everything up from my phone and they even offer 8 hours of free care!

I’m not sure if they still offer the 8 hours of free care but you can sign up for it here: It is a service that has been of great help to me.

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caregiver burnout: 7 tips that help

173-002Caregiving can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed! Caring for a loved one is a challenge, especially while working full time. Remember, in order to provide care you must take care of yourself. Here’s a list of tips to offer relief from stress:

  • Increase your support system. Have a team of people in place to assist with caregiving responsibilities. Your family, people from church, and formal caregivers are places to start.
  • Learn to say no. You are not the only person who can provide whatever is needed. Things will go on without you.
  • Join support groups. Learn from other people’s experience in caregiving. Discover that you are not alone there’s many people going through similar circumstances.
  • Minimum of twice a month set aside time to unwind. Go shopping, have a spa day, mediate, whatever you do to relax. These special times can give you something to look forward to when a bad day occurs. submitted by: Cassandra Hill, M.A. Gerontology

Make a comment below to Cassandra or if you have a tip of your own submit it here.

making sure mom’s life matters: the story in between

elderly womanThis morning I sat in the outdoor courtyard of Mom’s assisted living home, listening to the sparrows calling to one another and the grasshoppers buzzing, as the sun rose over the rooftop and woke up the hibiscus. Coffee in hand, I had just come from the hospital, trying to sort through my thoughts and feelings.

Her doctor had just told me it was time to put Mom on hospice.

This wasn’t a shock. Still, there was something hard and cold and definitive about the word hospice. The end was now becoming real. My reaction bounced from graceful acceptance to profound sadness, and from certainty that a conspiracy theory existed in the medical community against Mom to contemplating the overall meaning of life.

As writers, we’re taught that the beginning and ending of a story must be both meaningful and memorable, or else the story in between doesn’t matter. But how can this be, if fiction is meant to be reflective of real life, to help us better understand real life? Few of us remember our births, and it remains to be seen whether we’ll remember our deaths, so does that mean that our life stories in between those bookends may not matter? I think not.

I once gave Mom a framed print that said, “A Girl’s Best Friend is Her Mother.” I was a new parent at the time, and at that phase in my life, she indeed was my best friend, always happy to hear my voice calling, always willing to listen without doling out advice. She made me feel like a valuable person in a way that others didn’t or couldn’t.

And yet, there was always a thin wall between us; we were two very different people, and there was something unnamable that prevented her from completely understanding who I was. I suspect she saw that wall, too. And as we’ve both grown older, that wall has thickened like plaque in our arteries. Now that Loss is about to come calling, memories of our friendship and regrets about the wall are competing for my attention.

In “Escape from Spiderhead,” (Tenth of December, George Saunders) a dying character says that his only regret “was Mom. I hoped someday, in some better place, I’d get a chance to explain it to her, and maybe she’d be proud of me, one last time, after all these years.” Wow, I can relate. The arrival of hospice means the loss of my relationship with Mom is near, and my chances for getting her to understand me better¾to be proud of me¾are dissipating.

And yet, in these final days, I know what I have to do: worry less about the wall, concentrate more on the friendship, because that will be the key, I think, to making sure the story of Mom’s life will continue to matter.

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer is the author of The Damnable Legacy of A Minister’s Wife, and her short work can be found in The New York Times and other publications. When she’s not writing or visiting her mom, she teaches therapeutic and wellness writing.