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Improvements for Independence

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Modifications to make your home more accessible

(Family Features) Being safe and comfortable at home is a large part of living well. Home modifications and repairs can help everyone, especially older adults and people with disabilities, maintain an independent lifestyle and prevent accidents.

Many older adults prefer to stay at home for as long as possible, but too often don’t think about whether their homes will meet their needs as they age. Making improvements for independence before they are needed is a good way to ensure that a home is ready for aging in place. Forward-thinking improvements may also help prevent falls, which often cause the need for long-term care.

Many changes, such as adding grab bars in bathrooms, can be done without a major redesign or full-blown renovation. Depending on your circumstance, it may also make sense to consider things like widening doorways and lowering countertop heights for someone who uses a wheelchair.

Here’s how you can get started:

Home assessment

Before making any changes, assess the entire home. This checklist can help identify areas that might need improvement. Everyone has different needs, but in general, a “no” answer may be cause for action.

  • Are exterior walkways and entrances well-lit?
  • Is there a step-free entrance to the home?
  • Are entrance doors easy to lock, unlock, open and close?
  • Does the main floor include a kitchen, bedroom and full bathroom?
  • Are doorways wide enough for someone using a wheelchair, walker or service animal?
  • Are hallways, staircases, bathrooms and the kitchen well-lit?
  • Is wall-to-wall carpeting secure and in good condition?
  • Are area rugs secured to the floor with grips?
  • Are walkways free from obstructions and hazards like cords and furniture?
  • Do stairways have sturdy handrails on both sides?
  • Can bathroom and kitchen cabinets be easily reached?
  • Is there a step-free shower entrance?
  • Are grab bars available in or near the shower and toilet?
  • Do showers have non-slip mats or adhesive strips?
  • Will smoke detectors provide visual as well as audio alerts?
  • Are telephones and emergency supplies easily accessible on all floors?

Cost and contractors

Minor improvements can cost between $150-$2,000, and major renovation costs vary depending on the job. However, many contractors offer reduced rates or sliding-scale fees based on income and ability to pay. Public and private financing options may also be available.

If hiring a professional, remember to get a written agreement with specific tasks, a timeline and cost estimate. Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured for the specific type of work.

More information about home modifications, including financial assistance, can be found at eldercare.gov.

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

September 6, 2017 |

A Closer Look at Dry Eye

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(Family Features) Dry eye is a common and progressive condition affecting millions of Americans that can prevent them from doing the things they love, whether that’s reading, watching movies or doing leisure activities like hiking or bike riding. Fortunately, dry eye symptoms can be treated with remedies such as over-the-counter eye drops.

Causes

Dry eye can be caused by a variety of factors. The first is the production of tears, which plays an important role in eye health by spreading across the cornea, keeping eyes lubricated and helping push away potentially harmful debris. Dry eye can occur when you don’t produce enough tears, or the tears you do produce either evaporate rapidly or are of poor quality.

Numerous demographic and environmental factors can also contribute to dry eye, as well as the use of digital devices, air conditioning, heat blowers and fans. Certain health conditions like diabetes, thyroid-associated diseases and immune system disorders can also play a role, along with extended contact lens use, refractive eye surgery and certain medications.

Symptoms

The symptoms of dry eye can run the gamut from being a minor inconvenience to having a major impact on your daily life and favorite activities. The five key symptoms of dry eye include: dryness, irritation, grittiness, burning and stinging. Other indications may include itchiness, tired eyes, blurred vision, excess tears and redness.

Treatment

One way to help restore moisture to the tear film and reduce the effects of dry eye is with a fast-acting, over-the-counter eye drop like Rohto Dry-Aid, formulated with LiquidshieldTM technology, which works on all three layers of the tear film to mimic a stable, natural tear, while providing soothing relief for up to 12 hours.

“Dry eye sufferers can enjoy their daily lives with Rohto Dry-Aid, which delivers all-day relief from irritating and distracting dry eye symptoms in a refreshing, non-blurring eye drop,” said Erick Estrada, Senior Director of Marketing at The Mentholatum Company, which makes Rohto Dry-Aid.

If your dry eye symptoms persist and you find yourself using lubricant eye drops several times a day, consult your eye doctor as this may be an indication you have chronic dry eye.

Learn more about dry eye and potential treatment options at rohtoeyedrops.com.

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

August 30, 2017 |

Why Everyone Should Plan for Long-Term Care

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(Family Features) Research suggests that most Americans turning age 65 will need some form of assistance with everyday activities, known as long-term care, as they grow older. The amount of care needed will depend on many variables, including overall health, cognitive functioning and home environment.

Age is a strong predictor of the need for help, and because women live longer on average, they are more likely than men to require long-term care. Factors such as a disability, injury or chronic illness also increase the chance that long-term care will be needed.

Three simple steps can help you start planning for care you may need as you age.

  1. Know what to expect

Most people know they should save for retirement, but many don’t know exactly what expenses to expect. An often overlooked area is long-term care, a broad set of supports for everyday tasks like dressing or eating. While most of this care is provided by family members and friends, sometimes older adults and their families get these services from providers like home health aides, area agencies on aging or residential providers such as assisted living or nursing homes.

Understanding long-term care is the first step in creating a plan. Key things to know include:

  • A person who lives alone is more likely to require long-term care than one who can rely on a spouse or partner for help with daily tasks.
  • Long-term care is expensive and represents a major uncovered risk to your retirement savings.
  • Medicare does not pay for long-term care services or supports with some minor exceptions. Neither does your employer-based health insurance or Medigap.
  • Most people prefer to receive long-term care at home; their odds of doing so may be improved by making home modifications to reduce the risk of falls.
  • Many Americans say they do not want to rely on their children for care, but a lack of planning for paid care often leads to exactly that result.
  1. It’s not just about you

A choice to plan or not plan will likely have a big impact on family and friends who may also be informal caregivers. Statistics show that most long-term care is provided by family members or other loved ones.

Take the time to make clear your preferences for what kind of help you value most and where you want to receive it. Family and friends will feel better knowing that you are thinking about your needs – and theirs – by planning for long-term care.

  1. Better active than reactive

Be proactive. Staying at home is great, especially if it has been modified to help you avoid an injury and continue to care for yourself. However, it won’t happen without taking steps to ensure you can get the supports you need at home. Start thinking about ways to maintain your independence, safety and care needs.

For more information and resources to develop a care plan, visit longtermcare.gov.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

August 23, 2017 |

Back-to-School Medical Musts

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(Family Features) It’s the time of year when school supply lists, new shoes and first-day photos are on every parent’s checklist. Back-to-school season is also the time when pre-teens should receive the tetanus-diphtheria-acelluar pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, the HPV vaccine and meningococcal vaccines to get the best protection from serious, sometimes deadly, diseases.

Protecting Your Child

In the United States, approximately 30,000 cancers caused by HPV are diagnosed each year. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with high-risk types of HPV. The virus also has been linked to five other types of cancer.

It is estimated that 79 million Americans are currently infected and that there are 14 million new HPV infections each year. Many people who are infected will never know it. However, there is a safe and effective tool to prevent this cancer burden – the HPV vaccine.

Cancer Prevention

The HPV vaccine prevents the nine types of HPV that cause 90 percent of all cervical cancers and pre-cancers, as well as most cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus and throat. It also helps prevent infection by the two types of HPV that cause most genital warts. However, the vaccine works only if given well before an infection occurs. That’s why, in part, the American Cancer Society recommends that boys and girls get the vaccine at ages 11-12 to achieve the best immune response and most complete coverage against cancer-causing strains of HPV.

Despite the power of the HPV vaccination to prevent cancers caused by HPV, in 2015, only 28 percent of boys and 42 percent of girls completed the series. Many boys and girls in the United States are not getting the HPV vaccine and are missing the protection it could provide.

More than 200 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been distributed worldwide, with more than 80 million doses in the U.S. Safety monitoring of the vaccine in 80 countries has revealed that most side effects were mild and similar to those seen with any other vaccine.

For more information, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org/hpv.

Bark For Life of DeKalb County, Blackburn Park, Atlanta, GA, June 9, 2012

HPV 101

  • HPV is short for human papilloma virus.
  • HPV’s are a large group of related viruses, each of which is given a number called an HPV type.
  • Most HPV types cause warts on skin of the arms, chests, hands and feet.
  • Genital HPV types are found on mucous membranes, such as the vagina, anus, mouth and throat, rather than on skin.
  • Cancers linked to HPV infection include: cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal, mouth and throat.
  • HPV is common. Most men and women who have ever had sex will get HPV at some point in their lives, but in most cases it goes away without treatment.
  • There is no treatment for HPV, but there are treatments for the cell changes that HPV can cause.
  • Most HPV infections that lead to cancer can be prevented with vaccines, and most cervical cancers can be prevented with regular screenings.

HPV Vaccine Facts and Fears

As a way to help protect children from getting cancer as they get older, the American Cancer Society recommends HPV vaccines as a safe and effective practice. However, there are myths and rumors surrounding the potentially life-saving vaccine.

The vaccine is safe.

While it may make some people dizzy and nauseated following injection, the vaccine rarely causes bad side effects. Instead, there may be common side effects like pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given.

The vaccine doesn’t cause fertility problems.

Research shows that HPV vaccines don’t cause fertility problems, and can actually help protect women from future fertility problems linked to cervical cancer.

The vaccine doesn’t contain harmful ingredients.

Some parents may worry about the presence of aluminum in the vaccine, but it’s a safe amount. Vaccines containing aluminum have been in use for years and used on more than 1 billion people.

The vaccine is for males and females.

While cervical cancer is one of the main cancers caused by HPV, the HPV vaccine is for both males and females. There are also cancers found in men that can be caused by HPV, including cancers of the anus, penis, throat and tongue.

Ages for Vaccination

To increase the chances of successful vaccination, the American Cancer Society recommends the following:

  • Routine HPV vaccination for girls and boys should start at ages 11-12. The vaccination series can be started as early as age 9.
  • HPV vaccination is also recommended for females 13-26 years old and males 13-21 years old who have not started the vaccines, or who have started but not completed the series. Males 22-26 years old may also be vaccinated. However, it is important for people 22-26 years old who have not started the vaccines or completed the series to know that the vaccination at older ages can be less effective in lowering cancer risk.
  • HPV vaccination is also recommended through age 26 for men who have sex with men and for people with weakened immune systems (including people with HIV), if they have not previously been vaccinated.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (doctor and patient)

 

 

August 16, 2017 |

5 Things to Consider When Buying a Mattress

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(Family Features) When it comes to buying a mattress, individual needs and preferences vary across the board. Just like there is no “one size fits all” for jeans, there is not one mattress for everyone. What might be comfortable and supportive for one person may not be the best fit for someone else.

Having a wide variety of options is key to picking out your new mattress because you can mix and match different levels of comfort with size and adjust your pick based on your sleeping position and surrounding factors. When choosing the mattress that’s best for you, consider these factors.

Size

The basic mattress sizes include twin, full, queen, king and California king. Choosing a size depends on the amount of space you have available, whether or not you share your bed with a significant other and personal preference. Think about your current sleeping situation and if you’re happy with the amount of space you have to sleep. If you’re fighting for space with your partner, it might be time to think about upgrading to a larger size. If your room is small and your bed is taking over the space, downsizing might be a good option.

Comfort Level

Mattresses come in all different levels of comfort ranging from firm to plush to pillow top as well as contoured and personalized. To provide a variety of comfort levels for mattress shoppers, Mattress Firm offers a Comfort by Color system that categorizes levels of comfort to help customers shop in their comfort zone.

“The Comfort by Color system makes it easy for customers to come into a store and immediately see which mattresses fall into the category they’re looking for,” Mattress Firm CEO Ken Murphy said. “Whether they’re looking for a pillow top or a firm mattress, the variety of options helps customers pick a bed that’s specifically tailored to their needs.”

Sleeping Position

Another important factor to consider when choosing a mattress is your sleep position. Knowing whether you are a front, back, stomach or side sleeper, or move around frequently throughout the night, will help you narrow down your options and choose a mattress that accommodates your needs. For example, side sleepers might get better sleep with a plush or pillow top mattress that supports the spine’s natural curve versus a mattress with a firmer comfort level.

Temperature

Temperature plays a role in how you sleep, and it’s not limited to hot summer temperatures. Heavy comforters, heat settings and even your mattress can affect the quality of your sleep. While pillow tops and traditional memory foam can make for a warmer night’s sleep, Serta’s iComfort mattresses contain cooling technology to help you sleep at a comfortable temperature all night long. If you naturally heat up in your sleep, cooling technology may be something to consider.

Pain

If you experience any sort of pain – especially while you sleep – your mattress can either help or hurt that pain. For example, if you have lower back pain, you may need a firmer mattress to help keep your back aligned. By identifying any pain you have and being transparent when shopping, you can find the right mattress to help alleviate discomfort and improve your sleep.

For more information, visit MattressFirm.com.

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

August 9, 2017 |

Focus on Nutrition: 5 Ways to Add More Nutrients to Your Lifestyle

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(Family Features) A nutritious diet is crucial for overall health and well-being. While it’s OK to indulge from time to time, it’s important to make sure you’re providing your body with appropriate nourishment.

There are many ways to help you add more of the essential nutrients you need into everyday meals, including these nutritious ideas from CocoaVia.

Sneak in More Fruits and Vegetables.

You can bulk up the nutritional value of nearly any meal by incorporating fruits or vegetables directly into your recipes. Pureeing veggies is a good way to disguise textures or flavors you might typically avoid. For example, celery is a natural flavor enhancer for many types of broth soup. Adding finely pureed celery to the stock will add the flavor without the crunchy bits. You can also slip vegetables like spinach or carrots into smoothies, and depending on the base and fruit, you may never even taste them. Fresh, canned or frozen, fruit can give a boost of nutrition to dishes like oatmeal or pudding. You can also use purees (think applesauce) as a low-fat substitute for eggs and oil in baked goods like cake.

Go Frozen.

Fresh fruits and vegetables provide a wealth of essential vitamins and nutrients, but you may be surprised that their frozen counterparts do the same. Frozen foods are often perceived as less nutritious, but they can contain just as many nutrients as fresh produce. In fact, since freezing often involves picking the food at its peak and then quickly freezing it, freezing can actually help retain vitamins more efficiently than refrigeration or canning; frozen vegetables can actually hold on to nutrients longer than fresh produce and are a great alternative when seasonal fruits and vegetables are unavailable. In many cases, frozen veggies also make it easy to experiment with better-for-you meals because the cleaning and prep work is already done. You can try adding them to soups, stir-fries, casseroles and even pasta dishes.

Cook Quickly.

If you’ve historically shied away from cooked vegetables, you may find that proper preparation is the secret ingredient. Not only does overcooking veggies deplete their flavor, in most cases it also diminishes their nutritional value. Cook veggies lightly and quickly using methods like stir-frying or steaming to help retain water-soluble nutrients like vitamins B and C.

Get Saucy.

You may think of dishes covered in rich gravy or sauce as unhealthy, and in some cases, you would be right. However, it’s actually quite possible to create saucy dishes that taste terrific. Both tomato sauce and pesto add nutrients and can top pretty much anything, from pastas to grilled chicken. Tomato sauce contains lycopene, a bright plant pigment known as a carotenoid that has been linked to a range of health benefits. Pesto is traditionally made with healthy pine nuts and basil, but you can also get creative and prepare this light sauce alternative with options such as arugula, spinach and heart-healthy walnuts or pecans.

Consider Cocoa Flavanols.

Another option to consider adding to your diet is cocoa flavanols. These plant-based phytonutrients are found naturally in cocoa, and research supports that these flavanols work within your body to help maintain healthy blood flow. While chocolate, including dark chocolate and natural (non-alkalized) cocoa powder, can be sources of cocoa flavanols, they are often not a reliable source of cocoa flavanols. The way cocoa is handled matters in the retention of these phytonutrients. However, one easy way to add cocoa flavanols to your routine is by incorporating a daily cocoa extract supplement, such as CocoaVia, which contains the highest concentration available in a cocoa extract supplement today. The supplement can be added to the food or beverage of your choice, like a Chocolate-Chai Smoothie or coffee. Visit CocoaVia.com for more information about cocoa flavanols and ideas for adding them to your diet.

Chocolate-Chai Smoothie

Makes: 1 smoothie

 

1/2       cup boiling water

1          chai-flavored tea bag

1/2       cup fat-free milk

1          tablespoon honey

ice cubes

1          packet CocoaVia Unsweetened Dark Chocolate (or Sweetened Dark Chocolate) supplement

 

In measuring cup with pour spout, pour boiling water over tea bag. Let steep 5 minutes; remove tea bag.

Pour milk and tea into blender; add honey, a handful of ice and cocoa extract supplement. Cover and blend until smooth.

Nutritional information per serving: 130 calories; 1 g total fat; 50 mg sodium; 27 g carbohydrates; 1 g dietary fiber; 24 g sugar; 5 g protein; 375 mg cocoa flavanols.

The Truth About Chocolate

While there are many misconceptions about chocolate, especially when it comes to its health benefits, these facts from the experts at CocoaVia set the record straight on some of the most common chocolate myths.

 

  1. Chocolate contains powerful antioxidants.

Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, does contain cocoa flavanols, phytonutrients which numerous scientific studies have demonstrated have a positive impact on health. However, cocoa flavanols are not antioxidants. While not antioxidants, cocoa flavanols have been shown to have positive effects on health that are linked to their ability to support the health and function of your blood vessels.

  1. Chocolate is good for your heart.

Chocolate can be part of a healthy diet, but it is not a health food. Even if chocolate is high in cocoa flavanols, the calories, fat and sugar leave it best-suited as an occasional indulgence.

  1. Chocolate containing 70 percent cacao or greater is good for you.

The percentage of cacao is not a reliable indicator of a product’s cocoa flavanol content. Unfortunately, there is also no way of knowing exactly how many cocoa flavanols are in a conventional chocolate product because traditional cocoa processing, which includes fermenting, drying and roasting of beans, destroys many of the flavanols naturally present in the cocoa bean.

  1. Chocolate is high in caffeine.

Chocolate does contain caffeine, but an average 1-ounce serving of dark chocolate contains less than half the amount of caffeine found in an average cup of black tea. The amount of caffeine in chocolate is in proportion to the percentage of cacao in the product, meaning milk chocolate contains less caffeine than semi-sweet or dark chocolate.

 

Content courtesy of CocoaVia

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (man and woman in kitchen)

August 2, 2017 |

5 Essential Skincare Tips for Baby

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(Family Features) When it comes to parenting, there’s no one-child-fits-all handbook. There are times when caring for a little one can be a far cry from the snuggles and smiles that make it all worthwhile.

Healthy skin is critical to a baby’s long-term health and happiness, and it can impact both baby and family quality of life. Caring for a baby’s skin from birth helps avoid skin conditions such as diaper rashes, eczema and other irritations, which are often the source of many sleepless nights.

With these simple tips from the baby and child skin care experts at Mustela, having a happy, healthy baby isn’t as challenging as it may seem.

Diaper changing

Aside from the obvious odor-reducing reasons, prompt diaper changes are an important part of keeping your baby healthy. A soiled diaper may be uncomfortable, but even more importantly, it’s a breeding ground for bacteria and skin irritation. Keep diaper cream on-hand to treat any irritations that arise and use it on a regular basis to prevent future outbreaks.

Protecting baby’s skin

Research has shown that a baby’s skin is extremely fragile during the first two years of life, which is when the skin is developing its protective barrier. To help protect and maintain those precious cells that are responsible for a lifetime of healthy skin, Mustela’s baby skin care products are formulated with Avocado Perseose, a patented natural ingredient, which protects the natural cellular richness of the skin. Keep baby’s skin healthy by moisturizing daily with a lotion such as one from Mustela’s four baby lines, which are formulated with natural ingredients to meet the needs of normal, dry, eczema-prone and very sensitive skin types.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap can cause crusty, yellow patches to form on your baby’s head that can be a bit unsettling and unsightly, but with a little extra care they can be easily eliminated. The key to keeping your baby’s scalp healthy is to prevent cradle cap from the beginning rather than just treat the symptoms. Look for a baby shampoo designed for cradle cap that allows you to massage the scalp and a soft brush to use after bath time to keep your baby’s head clean.

Bath time

Bath time is a great opportunity for parents to bond with their baby, even while taking care of necessary business. For some babies, the water can be scary, so be sure to use a cheerful, reassuring tone to soothe nerves. Also ensure your baby is well supported, not only for safety, but for an added sense of security. Though you may think you need to bathe your baby daily, many pediatricians recommend bathing 2-3 times a week to keep skin from becoming dehydrated and protect natural moisture levels. Using a baby micellar water is an easy way to keep skin clean between baths and on-the-go without stripping it of natural protective oils.

Sun protection

Without proper care, harmful sun rays and radiation can affect your child’s skin not only now but also in the long-term. Limiting time outside, using sun-blocking shades and applying sunscreen can all help mitigate the risks. Look for sunscreen that is formulated for babies as it can better protect from sun damage without irritating their delicate skin. Consult your pediatrician before using sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months. Also, remember perspiration and water can reduce sunscreen’s effectiveness and reapplying at least every two hours offers continuous protection.

Find more ways to care for your baby at MustelaUSA.com.

 

Photo courtesy of Isobel Benesch, @Belandbeau

July 26, 2017 |
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