Is it a Cold or the Flu? Understanding the Differences
It’s cold and flu season, and while both illnesses share some symptoms, it is the differences in their severity that can help you determine which one you have:
Fatigue - The flu usually hits with exhaustion that can last up to three weeks. You may feel tired when you have a cold, but you can generally carry on with your normal activities.
Fever - It’s rare to experience a fever with a cold, but it is a common flu symptom. Fevers with the flu can be high and persist for a few days.
Headache - While headaches occur rarely with colds, they are a common symptom of the flu.
Body aches - These are common with the flu and often severe, but they rarely occur with a cold.
Sore throat - A cold can include a sore throat but it is not a common flu symptom.
Tightness in the chest and/or cough - These symptoms tend to be mild to moderate with colds, but they can be severe with flu.
What to do if you suspect the flu
If you think you have the flu, contact your physician right away and ask if you should get an antiviral medication. They can help, but must be taken in the first couple of days to really be effective. Both colds and flu are caused by viruses so antibiotics are useless. See your physician if you have a high fever, experience difficulty breathing or if symptoms worsen.
Prevent the flu
It’s not too late to get a flu vaccine and they are widely available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older.
Understanding Congestive Heart Failure and How to Manage the Condition
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart cannot adequately pump oxygen through the body.
It is estimated that close to six million people in the United States have CHF and more than 650,000 are diagnosed each year.
CHF is caused by medical conditions or events that weaken the heart such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes and others.
Symptoms of CHF can vary in intensity and frequency and include:
While some of the conditions that cause CHF cannot be reversed, CHF can be controlled with treatments that can manage symptoms and lifestyle changes that can improve quality of life:
Less Daylight Can Lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression people experience at the same time of year, typically in the winter months. While the exact cause of SAD is unknown, many experts believe that what triggers this condition is the lack of exposure to sunlight.
Less daylight tends to interrupt the body’s natural clock (circadian rhythms) and disrupt wake/sleep cycles (in winter months, people tend to wake in the dark and darkness returns many hours before normal bedtimes). SAD is more common in people in northern regions where winter days are much shorter than those of other seasons.
As in other forms of depression, there are a range of symptoms associated with SAD that can vary in duration and severity. Common SAD symptoms include:
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms, evaluation by a physician is critical. While SAD is usually short-lived, people with depression of any kind should see a physician for treatment.
For mild cases of SAD, there are lifestyle changes that can help improve or alleviate symptoms:
Make efforts to engage in social activities. See friends as often as possible]]>
Having a diet of lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a minimum of sugar and processed foods is the healthiest avenue. A diet high in high fructose corn syrup may create brain fog and exacerbate dementia symptoms. Often patients have special dietary needs to be considered, such as: low fat and low sodium for heart patients, limited leafy greens for those on blood thinners, restricted carbs and sugar for diabetes, no sugar for cancer patients, etc. But food can be a huge comfort, especially to those who are homebound, living in an assisted living communities and whose worlds have shrunk down to little contact with the outside world. As we age, our tastebuds change and can become more sensitive to spicy foods. Sweets are often favorites for the elderly since sugar tastebuds remain strong.
How can a caring provider supply healthy meals and still provide comfort and enjoyment? The first step is communication with the senior. What are their favorite foods? What do they not enjoy eating? Are there food restrictions? Can your patient help with any of the prep work? Put together a basic list of proteins, veggies, fruits and treats, and design menus around that. Start a calendar with meals shown so your patient has something to look forward to and think about. Let your elderly patient look through cookbooks to choose meals they would enjoy.
Here are tips for making meals the highpoint of the day:
Home health care is both challenging and rewarding. With the right communication and planning, meals can easily become one of the most rewarding aspects.]]>
While coming down with a cold can certainly be an unpleasant experience, contracting influenza (flu) can make you feel miserable. For some, the flu is a serious illness and may lead to life-threatening complications.
Like common colds, the flu is caused by a virus and is contagious. It is a respiratory illness that infects the lungs, nose and throat. Its symptoms include:
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Take steps to protect yourself and your family from the flu with these prevention measures and improve your odds of enjoying a flu-free year.
While there is no vaccination to protect ourselves from colds, there are vaccinations for flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year.”
The CDC recommends everyone, aged six months and older, be vaccinated, especially people in certain populations such as the very young, the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma or cardiovascular disorders. Consult your physician if you have questions about receiving a flu vaccination. Vaccines are available through physicians, pharmacies and local health departments.
Cleanliness is Critical!
Personal care and healthy habits are important to avoiding the flu. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially before eating. If you have small children, help them wash up and teach them how to do so properly to instill a lifelong habit. Use antibacterial wipes to disinfect commonly-touched items such as door knobs, faucets and shopping cart handles.
Take Care of Yourself!
Keep yourself in good general health by eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and seeing your physician for well checks and recommended health screenings.
Here’s where modern technology can come in handy. By using Skype or Facetime, friends and relatives at a distance can have interaction with the patient and the caregiver. Because patients tend to like routine, its helpful to have regularly scheduled visits this way, thereby providing something to look forward to. The elderly can be delighted with suddenly seeing children and grandchildren via computer. It doesn’t take the place of hugs and physical interaction, but it’s better than a phone call. Unscheduled video chats can be a nuisance if the patient isn’t feeling or looking their best at that moment; so try to schedule the times and remind the patient that the video chat is approaching. We all need things to look forward to!
If the patient can hear well enough, they can be left alone to have a conversation or video chat. Just as the caregiver sometimes needs to vent, so does the patient, believe it or not! Many times new caregivers don’t realize how difficult it is for the patient to relinquish so much of their freedom over their bodies, their activities and their homes. It can be a very humbling experience admitting that one needs help. In-home care can mean suddenly having others come into one’s home and basically take things over. This can be hard to swallow. Caretakers are wise to keep that in mind and be sensitive. Allowing private conversations with loved ones can help alleviate patient’s frustration.
Caregivers need love too! If a family member has taken on the responsibility for a loved one and you’re sitting on the sidelines; think about how best you can make their life easier and do it. When in doubt, ask!
How can long-distance loves ones assist the patient and the caregiver?
Think creatively to make things interesting, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are the primary caregiver. Remember that others DO want to help!
Ask yourself, “How old do I feel inside?” Most people will answer a much younger age than either their chronological age or the age the mirror reflects. People often identify with an age they felt most “themselves,” usually due to a milestone that imbued power and a real sense of self. How does this knowledge assist with caregiving? Remember that your loved one was not always elderly or disabled! Once they were in love, they may have held an important job or been in a war. They’ve had pets, great friendships and favorite songs.
Start the conversation with this in mind; then be sure to listen and focus on them. So often, elderly patients are not encouraged to speak much and they rely on family members to answer questions. Invite them to tell you their stories. It’s common for elderly patients, especially those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, to mentally travel back in time to happier days. They enjoy talking about past friends or events. Perhaps they loved to dance and they have a particular era of music they enjoy. Music is a great way to connect. Maybe they had a pet as a child that they’d love to tell you about. Did they attend college? Some of our patients have lived through remarkable historical times and would love to be asked about it. Don’t be shy about prompting memories if they seem open to the discussion. Try to keep subjects upbeat and help them find humor if possible. Don’t you love getting together with a friend and having a good laugh? I bet your loved one does too! Do that for them.
It’s been said that friends are the family we choose for ourselves. Sometimes family dynamics will get in the way of real conversation. If you are caring for a family member, try to keep that in mind if you’ve never asked these kinds of questions and are conversing in new areas. Don’t be surprised about what you might learn. If you are a paid caregiver, you may have a better chance at coaxing out info that can later be shared with family members. Some stories or events may even surprise the family. People with memory loss can benefit from the memory triggers particular questions can provide. A caregiver who can have these conversations is going to become a friend, and their visits will be anticipated happily. Ask the questions, and then be a good listener.
Here are some starters:
How old are you on the inside?
What has been the favorite time of your life so far?
What’s your favorite song?
What was your favorite pet?
What was your wedding day like?
Who was your best friend in high school?
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
What are you most proud of in your life?
Hope these questions stimulate some fantastic conversations.]]>
The large assortment of products and devices are diverse in purpose ranging from a lightweight Telestick (which I call a ‘reacher’) to more high-tech items such as a wonderful personal computer (you have to see it to believe it) and a variety of electronic medication reminders and monitoring systems.
The ‘reacher’ that I bought is a lightweight piece that has two stems that extend out to reach and pick up everyday items you may have dropped or placed away from yourself, like a set of keys. One ‘arm’ has a solid but gummy disk and the other has both a magnet and a hook. I keep one in the car, which I use to reach things so I don’t have to be a contortionist when getting something from the back seat or on the passenger side floor. (Not while in motion of course.) My Mom uses hers to reach across her desk and drag over objects or papers as she sometimes has trouble getting up to do so. It also helps us reach out gracefully and pick things up rather than doing the ‘desk-to-chair-to-floor’ walk which can sometimes lead to a fall.
She also has some some neat, waterproof ‘sleeves’ that cover the arm or leg for water protection if you have bandages, or a cast or stitches after surgery. I wish I had known about that when my husband fractured his ankle a few months ago. I was pretty tired of tying that old green trash bag around his calf.
My friend also mentioned a few other useful tools of which I had not heard. One is a weighted pen. I asked her why someone would need a weighted pen. In her always calm way, she explained to me that people with Parkinson’s, for example, often have shaky hands and are distressed that they can no longer write legibly. This takes away their ability to write birthday cards to their grandchildren, sign important documents, or jot down a shopping list. The weight of the pen holds the hand and wrist steady so they no longer have to give up these meaningful tasks.
Another item is a buttoning hook. My friend told me of a couple who came in to see her. The husband had begun to lose some of his fine motor skills and had trouble buttoning up his shirts in the morning. He felt dependent on her and she was tired of having to plan her morning around this task (c’mon, many of us can relate). So, the button-hook created a win-win situation. He remained independent, and she was no longer late for her yoga class!
I just purchased a ‘swivel seat’ for the car. It is a cloth-coated soft disk that you simply place on your seat and you sit on it. It easily swivels to help you get in and out of the car (and it makes me a little taller in the saddle). When I am having bad back days, I throw it in my car and it helps to give those muscles a rest. I plan to bring it with me the next time I go to see my Mom. I think it will help her more comfortably drive her new car. If she doesn’t like it, I’ll keep it. If she does, I guess I am going back to Prism to buy one for myself!
In conjunction with the North and Central Florida chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, ComForcare continues to train our caregivers (Home Health Aides and Certified Nurse Assistants) on the latest information and techniques to successfully work with clients with dementia. This allows our clients to remain as independent as possible and stay at home for as long as possible. This is a dream come true for many families, especially for couples so that they may remain together in the home. Call us for more information.
In addition to providing unparalleled care in the home, we are available to professionals and community groups to speak about Caring for a Loved One at Home; Transitions of Care: Preventing Hospital Readmission; Dementia and You – How You and Your Family Can Cope and Thrive; Stress Management – The Key to Maintaining Your Health and Well-being; and a number of other topics.
It is important to have a good sense of humor throughout your life not only so people will like being around you (being social has also been shown to extend your life), but because it can help you stay healthy and has physical, mental, and social benefits. Many of us are trying to find the magic potion or perfect workout but what if we had it with us all along?
According to Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D., “Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.” Humor can lift you up and make you feel like you can do more while helping you feel focused and alert.
Seniors enjoy all sorts of benefits from laughing and embracing their sense of humor. Mentally it can add joy to your life, ease anxiety, improve your mood, and enhance your resilience. Socially it strengthens relationships, attracts others, helps reduce arguments and conflicts, and promotes bonding. So the next time you are visiting your parents, grandparents, or friends make sure you have a few laughs!
It is not only the elderly or home health care patients that can benefit from laughter. Here are a few reasons to have a good laugh everyday:
Laughter is a natural part of life and exists in you since you were born. Sometimes we can forget how good it feels to laugh and we have to remind ourselves to take time and incorporate humor and laughter into our everyday lives. When someone close to us is sick, getting older or needs home health care it can be difficult to smile and laugh but it is important for both of you that you keep your sense of humor and look at the lighter side of the situation and life in general.
Next week we will look at taking yourself less seriously and how to use humor to overcome difficult challenges in your life.]]>
ComForcare was recently awarded a $3,500 corporate wellness grant to work with nationally-recognized Health Designs in Ponte Vedra to create and implement a wellness program for the staff of ComForcare. Thirty volunteers – both administrative and field staff – have started a year-long journey to wellness by engaging in activities to promote health and wellness and improve overall health status in the company.
Anita Leverett, Operations Director said:
“With our home health aides and certified nurse assists helping people in their homes, it is a challenge to build a cohesive program but we are doing it. By having team captains to communicate the program and be a resource for the field staff, we are committed to showing overall improvement in weight management, blood pressure and diabetes control. We are excited and fired up to be the healthiest work force we can be!”
Staying Active with Arthritis
Exercise Can Alleviate Symptoms
There are two common types of adult arthritis:
Osteoarthritis – the most common form in which joint cartilage breaks down.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) - an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints.
Arthritis symptoms often include joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Treatment plans may include medication, physical therapy and exercise.
Exercise can be helpful in controlling arthritis pain and stiffness and improving muscle strength, mobility and range of motion. It also helps with weight control and stress reduction.
Walking, swimming and programs that focus on balance and gentle stretching such as yoga and tai chi are effective forms of exercise that are easy on the joints.
Walking requires just comfortable clothing and supportive shoes. It can be done outdoors when the weather permits and indoors at a gym or shopping mall in inclement weather.
Yoga and tai chi also only require something comfortable to wear and shoes are usually optional. Many community centers offer affordable classes or these exercises can be done at home with a DVD.
Most communities have a public pool where people can swim laps or take aqua aerobics classes. Most large fitness centers have pools too. Of course, before starting any exercise routine, everyone with a chronic illness or condition should have it approved by their physician.
There is more information about ComForcare’s most recent partnership with Concorde Career Institute in the press release below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Concorde Career Institute (www.concorde.edu) has entered into a partnership with ComForcare Senior Services in Jacksonville (www.comforcarejax.com) to employ graduates of the career institute, even in this tough economy.
ComForcare, a fully licensed, private duty home health agency in the greater Jacksonville area, serves adults from age 18 to 118 with bathing, dressing, medication management, dementia care, transportation and homemaking and companionship enabling people to stay independent longer and maintain a high quality lifestyle.
Concorde, dedicated to educating Jacksonville’s health care workforce, has a beautiful new campus off of Salisbury Road and has been preparing the Jacksonville community for healthcare careers for over 40 years, with students enrolled in a variety of specialized healthcare programs.
Many of Concorde’s students becoming Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, and Medical Assistants already have their Certified Nurse Assistant license and are gaining more knowledge to move up in their careers. ComForcare and Concorde have found a way to not only provide the highest-trained CNAs in the area but to also provide flexible schedules while going to school.
In addition, due to their state-of-the-art training labs, ComForcare conducts hands-on skills assessments of all applicants on the Concorde campus which best simulates what happens in the home including ambulation and fall prevention, transferring, and supporting someone using a cane, walker or a wheelchair.
“Partnering with Concorde has been mutually beneficial. ComForcare can hire qualified and dedicated health care workers and assist the local economy by employing Concorde graduates. As a strong source of qualified candidates, we find that their students, many of whom have years of professional experience, are highly-skilled, highly-motivated and passionate health care professionals seeking to better themselves and become the best provider that they can be.”
For more information on this unique partnership, please call Jill Metlin, 904-339-4885.]]>