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Heart Disease Is Different for Men and Women

At Home Care Scottsdale

Learn the differences in heart disease symptoms between men and women.

With the CDC reporting that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men, it’s important for all of us to understand how to recognize and prevent the condition – and surprisingly, this can vary widely between the two genders. The heart itself is, in fact, physically different based on gender, with women’s hearts comprised of thinner walls and smaller interior chambers, pumping blood faster and yet with less blood per pump than the hearts of men.

As a result, women’s heart disease risk factors differ from men’s in the following ways:

Heart Disease Risk Factors Specific to Women:

  • Endometriosis
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure developed during pregnancy
  • Polycystic ovary disease

Heart Disease Risk Factors for Both Men and Women:

  • Elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and/or blood sugar levels
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Family history

Women’s experience with heart disease and treatment/recovery differ as well. For instance, because heart disease in women often effects the smaller arteries, diagnosis through the typical means (angiogram) is less effective, as it shows blockages in the larger arteries only. In fact, it’s recommended that women who receive clear angiogram results but are still experiencing symptoms of heart disease see a cardiologist with a specialty in women’s heart health.

Heart attacks also differ between men and women. Consider the following:

  • A first heart attack usually occurs at a later age for women than men (on average, 70 for women and 66 for men)
  • A woman’s heart attack can include the additional symptoms of:
    • Sweating
    • Extreme fatigue
    • Pain in the back, neck or jaw
    • Shortness of breath
  • Women typically struggle with a more difficult recovery following a heart attack than men, requiring a longer hospital stay
  • Women are more likely to experience a subsequent heart attack

One thing that applies to both genders when it comes to heart health is prevention. Reduce your risk of heart disease and a heart attack by making the following lifestyle changes:

  • Quit (or never start) smoking
  • Ensure your diet includes plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and less processed foods, simple carbs, and animal products
  • Ensure that your blood pressure, blood lipid, blood sugar and weight are all within healthy levels
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day

For more heart health tips, call on Nightingale Homecare, providers of the highest quality at home care Scottsdale and the surrounding area has to offer. We can help with planning and preparing heart-healthy meals, encouraging an active lifestyle, ensuring medications are taken exactly as prescribed, and much more. Contact us any time at (602) 504-1555 and take the first step in improving heart health for yourself and the seniors you love!

The Link Between Chronic Pain and Depression

home care Paradise Valley Chronic pain is described as any persistent or intermittent pain that lasts more than three months. Depression is described as a psychological state that causes fatigue, appetite changes, sadness, lack of motivation, slowed response times, difficulty sleeping, feelings of helplessness and thoughts of suicide. Studies have revealed that up to 50% of patients suffering from chronic pain are also affected by severe depression.

It can be difficult to assess whether depression has led to chronic pain, or vice versa. Depression can frequently cause unexplained pain, such as back pain and headaches, and people who are experiencing chronic pain can develop increased stress or feelings of guilt and helplessness, often leading to a depressive state. These effects can create a cycle that is difficult to break. Those patients that have chronic pain-induced depression have a poorer prognosis than those suffering from chronic pain without depression. It seems pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens the symptoms of depression, and the resulting depression worsens the feelings of pain. Suffering from both conditions tends to promote their own severity.

One of the reasons depression and chronic pain are so intertwined is because of the way stress works on the body. Chronic pain turns on the “fight or flight” stress signals in the brain, preparing the body to fight off whatever is causing the pain. The nervous system is in a high state of alert, and eventually this wears the body down, leaving the person vulnerable to depression. Finding ways to deal with stress and cope with chronic pain can give you an edge in the battle against developing depression.

Chronic pain-induced depression can keep you from enjoying life, such as spending time with your children and grandchildren, engaging in hobbies, exercising and traveling. It can also lead to isolation, exacerbate other health conditions, and can be emotionally draining.  It can quickly lead you in a downward spiral, and without treatment and attention, can gravely affect your quality of life.

ASSEMBLING YOUR TEAM

Those patients suffering from chronic pain-induced depression benefit most when a team of professionals is involved in their care. This team may include a:

Physician: Thorough exams and evaluations are of primary importance in the diagnosis and treatment of pain and depression. Physicians may also include psychiatrists to help manage depression, and pain specialists to help manage the pain. When necessary, both pain and psychiatric medications may be prescribed.

Therapist: Anxious and negative thinking patterns can be alleviated during regular sessions with a trained therapist. Coping skills and behavioral therapy skills can be taught to reduce the symptoms of pain and depression. A therapist can also work with the patient’s family to help them understand this complex disease process.

Physical Therapist: A physical therapist can be invaluable in their instruction on exercise and muscle relaxation techniques to help improve mobility and reduce pain. The added benefit is that regular movement can help improve mood.

Other Health Professionals: Occupational therapists, nutritionists and acupuncturists can also help alleviate the symptoms of chronic pain-induced depression.

TREATMENT

Catching chronic pain and depression in its early stages can help you get your life back. Early treatment of chronic pain and/or depression can help fight this downward spiral.

Medications

Often, when patients present with chronic pain to their physician, they may be prescribed antidepressants, even if the patient’s mood seems fine. While this may seem odd, the use of low dose antidepressants for pain control is well-studied and has been a standard practice for many years. In low doses, antidepressants cause chemical changes in the brain that alter the way pain is perceived. Of course, another reason they are prescribed is that they can stop the cycle that leads to depression prior to it starting.

Standard analgesics are often prescribed to treat chronic pain. For severe chronic pain, opioids are the most effective medications. Several studies have found that opioids may help achieve antidepressant effects by regulating neurotransmitters; however, the use of opioids in chronic pain-induced depression has been controversial due to patients’ dependence and addiction to them. The long-term use of opioids (over 30 days) has actually been shown to increase the risk of depression. Be sure and thoroughly discuss their use and risks with your physician.

Talk Therapy

Also called psychological counseling or psychotherapy, talk therapy can be very effective in treating both depression and chronic pain by changing patterns of thinking and application of coping skills. Look for a therapist who applies Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which can provide real-life coping skills that are greatly beneficial to patients.

Stress-Reduction Techniques

Many patients suffering from chronic pain and depression find great relief from utilizing stress-reduction techniques. Many of these techniques are taught in therapy sessions, but many more can be learned on your own. Meditation and journaling can both be extremely helpful in coping with chronic pain and depression. Gentle physical activity such as yoga and tai chi are also very healing. Sometimes, just getting out into nature can help those suffering from chronic pain and depression.

Pain Rehabilitation Centers

In these centers, a team approach is provided to treat both the medical and psychiatric aspects of chronic pain-induced depression. These centers offer outpatient or inpatient programs and can provide immediate and long-term support when chronic pain and/or depression is severe. These programs are effective because they involve a combination of treatments. The Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center at the Mayo Clinic is one such program.

Peer Support

Many people suffering from chronic pain and depression find that support groups can be irreplaceable. Peer support groups offer emotional support through caring, encouragement, reassurance and avoidance of criticism. These groups can also offer information support in terms of advice, suggestions, problem-solving and dissemination of facts. The families of patients suffering from chronic pain often have a difficult time relating or understanding, and these groups provide an outlet where the patient is heard without judgment.

The PAINS Project is a great resource for finding more support.

If you are in crisis and need immediate emotional support:

  • Call your or your loved one’s health professional
  • Call 911 for emergency services
  • Go to the nearest hospital emergency room
  • 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) National Suicide Prevention Hotline
  • 1-800-442-HOPE (1-800-442-4673) Kristin Brooks Hope Center National Hotline
  • 1-877-Vet2Vet (1-877-838-2838) Veterans peer support line or chat online
  • 1-800-SUICIDA (1-800-784-2432) Spanish-speaking suicide hotline
  • IMALIVE.org (volunteers are trained and certified in crisis intervention)

If you think you might be suffering from depression in addition to chronic pain, be honest with your health care team and seek the support that will help you regain control over your mind, body and spirit. Nightingale Homecare, top providers of the best home care in Paradise Valley and the surrounding area have to offer, can serve as an invaluable resource to you as well, with a full range of customized skilled and non-medical in-home care services. Contact us for a free in-home consultation at (602) 504-1555to discover how we can help enhance joy, comfort, and overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Is Your Senior Loved One Struggling in These 5 Areas? If So, Home Care Can Help!

senior caregiver

Find out if your senior loved one can benefit from an in-home senior caregiver from Nightingale Homecare.

As your loved one ages, there may come a time when you question if he or she may benefit from the assistance of an in-home senior caregiver.  It will be important for you to be observant to the warning signs that care may be needed, as seniors are often hesitant to raise the subject of home care. Initiating home care services, however, will not only help maximize your loved one’s independence at home, it will also help him or her to maintain safety. Keep on the alert for the following indicators that your loved one may be in need of home care services:

  • Physical Changes: A decline in physical health can increase the risk of your loved one falling or suffering other serious injury. Look for changes such as difficulty walking, maintaining balance and unsteadiness. If your loved one appears to be in a frail condition, it can be dangerous for the senior to do even the simplest tasks, so home care may be necessary.
  • Inattention to Personal Hygiene: Those individuals who neglect personal hygiene may have a strong body odor, unkempt or unclean hair, obvious inattention to oral care or soiled clothing. While often elderly individuals would like to keep clean, it may have become too difficult to complete the daily tasks to do so. Having in-home care ensures that your loved one can safely maintain a regular hygiene schedule, which improves health and wellbeing.
  • Lack of Nourishment: Your loved one may have lost the ability to regularly prepare food at mealtimes due to lack of energy or other physical conditions. Getting to the grocery store to purchase fresh, healthy foods can be a challenge. You may notice the refrigerator and cupboards may not be stocked, or there may be many items that have passed their expiration date. Not eating properly can lead to lack of nourishment and dehydration, which causes cognitive issues, depression and other health concerns. In-home assistance can provide your loved one with help grocery shopping and preparing meals as well as providing a companion to sit down with at mealtimes, which will help make eating more appealing.
  • Inability to Manage Medications: Taking the prescribed dosage of medicine is essential to maintaining health, especially for elderly individuals with chronic or ongoing medical issues. Many times, seniors are prescribed a number of different medications with different dosage schedules. Prescriptions and dosages can easily become mixed up, which can lead to missing or overdosing on medications. When this happens, severe health problems can occur. In-home care ensures that your loved one stays on his or her prescribed medication schedule.
  • Lack of Household Upkeep: When visiting with your loved one, look for things such as stacks of dirty dishes and laundry, overflowing trashcans and appliances that have been left turned on. If the living spaces are dirty and more cluttered than the person would normally allow, this is a sign some extra help may be needed to keep up with the demands of managing a home. Home care assistance will ensure that your loved one’s living spaces are regularly cleaned and clutter-free.

If you notice any signs that your elder loved one may be having a hard time completing daily activities, including those not listed above, the help of an in-home senior caregiver could be the answer. Not only will this make your loved one’s life a lot easier, it will also bring you peace of mind knowing your loved one is well taken care of.

Take the first step in improving quality of life for your senior loved one by contacting Nightingale Homecare to request a free in-home consultation or to ask any questions about our professional in-home care services for seniors. Call us any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more and to see if our services are available in your area!

Don’t Forget: Memory Loss Causes that Aren’t Alzheimer’s

Phoenix live-in home health care When a senior loved one begins to show signs of memory loss, our first thought might immediately be whether he might be in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. After all, memory loss is one of the hallmark characteristics of the disease, and it’s becoming increasingly prevalent in our society.

Yet there are a number of conditions unrelated to Alzheimer’s that can cause memory loss as well. It’s important to rule out the following with your loved one’s physician when memory loss issues occur, in addition to checking for Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Delirium: The main difference between delirium and dementia is in the onset of symptoms. With delirium, mental changes such as memory loss and confusion, occur suddenly, while in Alzheimer’s, there’s a slow, gradual progression. If delirium is suspected, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Medication Side Effects: Certain medications can produce dementia-mimicking effects, including memory loss. Check with the doctor if your loved one is taking any of the following:
    • Sedatives
    • Anti-anxiety or anti-depressant meds
    • Antihistamines
    • Corticosteroids
    • Narcotics
    • Cardiovascular meds
    • Medications to treat Parkinson’s disease
  • Thyroid Disorder: Either too much or too little production of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) can result in cognitive problems.
  • Deficiency in Vitamin B12: Pernicious anemia, while rare, is caused by low levels of B12. Along with confusion and memory problems, other symptoms include fatigue, a yellow tint to the skin, headaches, numbness, shortness of breath, and difficulties with balance. If the physician determines this to be the problem, B12 injections started early can often reverse the symptoms.
  • Alcoholism: A particular condition in those with an alcohol addiction, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome can lead to confusion and memory deficiencies. Abstaining from alcohol may help to restore mental functionality.

Whatever the cause of your loved one’s memory problems, the Phoenix live-in home health care team at Nightingale Homecare can help. Our Connections Dementia Care Program provides seniors with the expertise of our highly skilled Alzheimer’s Whisperers®, who have been uniquely trained to effectively manage even the most challenging of dementia-related behaviors.

We work hard to ensure that each senior in our care receives the services needed to enable the highest possible level of functionality, dignity, and independence at all times, through a full range of care that can include, as needed, skilled nursing, physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy, companionship and non-medical caregiving, and so much more.

Whether the need is for just a few hours each week of respite care, or full-time, live-in home health care services (or anything in between), families know they can trust Nightingale Homecare for the professional home care services their senior loved ones need to achieve the highest possible quality of life. Serving Phoenix and the surrounding areas, contact us to learn more at (602) 504-1555.

Causes and Calming Techniques for Alzheimer’s Aggression

Phoenix live-in home health care Among the many challenging behaviors the caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients may experience, those of aggression and agitation may be the most upsetting and scary. Although it can be difficult to cope with, it is often helpful for caregivers to understand that the person with Alzheimer’s is not behaving this way on purpose, and that there are ways to help identify the cause and manage these behaviors.

Aggressive and agitated behaviors may exhibit physically or verbally and can come on suddenly, with no obvious reason. Due to the loss of cognitive function, those with dementia are unable to articulate or adequately identify their discomfort or frustration, and instead attempt to communicate with agitation or aggression. Some likely causes of this behavior may be physical discomfort, poor communication, or environmental factors, but whatever the cause, when caregivers are prepared, they can more easily identify the precipitating events, and work towards managing the behavior.

Possible Causes of Aggression

  • Physical discomfort or pain
  • Thirst or hunger
  • Incontinence or soiled underwear
  • Depression or loneliness
  • Too much noise or confusion
  • Inadequate sleep or rest
  • Sudden change in place or routine
  • New or multiple people in the environment
  • Pressure to complete a task
  • Frustration with not remembering
  • Too many questions or instructions aimed at the patient
  • Medication reaction or interaction

Ways to Respond

When you begin to notice signs your loved one is feeling agitated, like pacing, restlessness, sleeplessness or yelling, here are some ways you can respond to the behavior before it escalates:

  • Try to identify the cause; think back to what occurred right before the agitation. Try to rule out pain as the cause as soon as possible.
  • Focus on feelings, not the patient’s words, when you communicate. Look for the feelings behind the words.
  • Reassure the patient while listening and speaking calmly to address concerns and frustrations.
  • Keep a routine as much as possible, while building periods of activities and quiet time into the day.
  • Keep the house filled with familiar objects, pictures and keepsakes which can help the patient to feel secure.
  • Limit clutter, noise and unfamiliar people.
  • Minimize distractions. Assess the patient’s surroundings and adapt them to avoid similar reactions in the future.
  • Slow down your movements and relax around the patient; do not get upset. Be positive and reassuring.
  • Shift the focus to another activity. Try using music, massage or exercise to help soothe the patient.
  • Take a break. If the patient is in a safe place and you are able to walk away and take a deep breath and a moment for yourself, do it.

Physically Violent Behaviors

When you are a caregiver on the receiving end of an outburst or physically aggressive behavior, your safety as well as that of the patients are top priority. When violent aggression is directed at you, keep a safe distance, putting a large piece of furniture between you and the patient. Continue to remain calm and speak in a soft, slow tone, using reassurance. If it is necessary to protect yourself and the patient from hurting himself or herself, or another person, call 911.

If you do call, be sure and notify responders that the person has dementia which causes him or her to act aggressively.
If you are unable to find the cause of agitation, it is occurring more frequently, or you need more solutions for the behaviors, get help from the senior’s physician or health practitioner. A medical exam to discover the reasons behind the agitation and aggression may be in order. Ask the senior’s health practitioner if he or she recommends a medication to prevent or reduce the behavior.

Take Time for You

Being a caregiver for a patient with Alzheimer’s can be challenging in the best of times, but when your loved one has moments of aggressive behavior, it can be highly stressful. In the aftermath of these moments, do not overlook your own health, and the need to retreat, reflect and decompress. Such self-care time will give you a chance to refuel and continue to provide the important work you do for your loved one.

Nightingale Homecare is always on hand to provide trusted and highly specialized care for those with dementia, allowing family members to take a much-needed break. Our Dementia Connections Care Program offers a unique approach to better managing the unique challenges of Alzheimer’s through certified Alzheimer’s Whisperers® who not only work to make life as comfortable as possible for the person with dementia, but provide training to family members so they can apply the same strategies themselves.

Contact Nightingale Homecare, top providers of professional in home care Paradise Valley, AZ seniors need, any time by calling (602) 504-1555 to schedule a free in-home consultation to learn more, or to request additional resources related to effective care for those with dementia.