Malnutrition is a health threat that’s rarely diagnosed

Malnutrition is a health threat that’s rarely diagnosed

As if being admitted to the hospital isn’t challenging enough, there’s often an additional underlying and undiagnosed condition occurring in one-third of seniors who are admitted: undernourishment.

Statistically, it is estimated that 1 in 3 adult patients age 60 and older are malnourished.

Why is it then that in a study of 6 million adult hospitalizations, only 5 percent of the patients received a medical diagnosis of malnutrition?

Studies over the past three decades have shown that a patient’s nutritional status appears to be overlooked or not considered a medical priority.

Many seniors struggle after hospital stay

Many seniors struggle after hospital stay

Five years ago, I could not comprehend how my father’s two-day stay in the hospital resulted in a three-week stay in a skilled-nursing facility and a permanent decline in his functional abilities.

My father had Parkinson’s. At the time, he also had a form of low blood pressure that occurs when you stand up from a sitting or a lying-down position. It can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded.

The condition can even cause you to faint, which was what happened to my father and what precipitated the hospital stay.

My mother called 911 and my father was taken by ambulance to the emergency room and later admitted for observation.

Before his hospitalization my father could walk with a walker, he could assist if someone helped him off the toilet, he could feed himself and he was cognitively fit.

After two days in a hospital bed, 

Meditation by kayak

Meditation by kayak

I’ve recently rediscovered my enthusiasm for kayaking.

In the past, I kayaked on a pond in Cape Cod, on the Charles River in Boston and on Westlake Lake.

Those excursions were journeys of calm exploration.

I’ve also kayaked in the ocean in Santa Barbara and near the Channel Islands.

Those treks, on the other hand, were stress-filled, water-soaked battles with the currents.

If I were seeking a good physical workout, ocean kayaking would be my choice, but what I really enjoy about kayaking is how meditative it can be for me.

After my often inelegant entry into the kayak, as I dip my paddle into the water, I’m immediately filled with a sense of contentment. The act of kayaking is nourishing and healing to my soul.

I am with nature, surrounded by trees, water, birds, clouds, the sun and the sky. I am using my arms to power myself, doing something good with my body. My mind is quiet, and I am present in the moment.

Consider seniors in new construction

Consider seniors in new construction

With an eye toward a potential future project, Many Mansions and the Area Housing Authority of the County of Ventura paid a visit to Senior Concerns to gather suggestions for features seniors would want to see in a new complex of independent senior apartments.

We were delighted to know that a builder had an interest in what seniors would want in a living situation, rather than just constructing the most affordable and routine set of apartments.

Features that came easily to mind include elevators, trash chutes, dishwashers and Wi-Fi.

Universal Design elements such as walk-in showers, raised toilets, and windows and doors that can easily be opened, closed and locked should also be incorporated.

Other ideas on our list:

Apartments that are affordable for most seniors.

A circular pickup and dropoff area with a bench and lighting for those who plan to ride with someone else or use Dial-ARide.

Front doors to the building that open automatically when a person nears the entrance.

Simple outing makes for significant milestone

Simple outing makes for significant milestone

It’s been four months since my father passed. My first visit home since then is for his celebration of life.

There are almost 100 guests coming to an afternoon event in my mother’s backyard garden. My sisters, mother and I have been preparing for months.

It’s a Cape Cod-themed event, complete with mini lobster rolls. My parents spent their honeymoon on the Cape and 20 years of their retired life. It was “their place” that brought them tranquility and joy.

I came back home a few days early to help with preparations. We cleared the patio, washed the pollen from the windows and made sure the landscaping was as perfect as nature would have it.

In the afternoon, we shared with each other what we planned to wear. My mother showed me her new blouse. It was a lovely cornflower blue, perfect with her silver-white hair.

I said an ocean-blue-and-green beach-glass necklace would be the perfect accompaniment and fit with the Cape Cod theme. My mother thought she knew just the place to find one.

Are we facing a loneliness epidemic?

Are we facing a loneliness epidemic?

Joanie and her husband lived a full life, busy careers and wonderful vacation trips after retirement.

Today, Joanie sits silently, alone in front of her television, eating her dinner.

Joanie’s life partner died five years ago at the age of 74, and now that he’s gone, a week can go by without her connecting with a single human being.

Hearing-impaired, she has settled into a life of seclusion.

Joanie possesses the financial net worth to enjoy life, activities, trips, outings and events, but what she lacks is a social network. She is one of millions of seniors suffering from social isolation.

AARP estimates that more than 8 million older adults are affected by this trend.

Socially connected seniors are those who have relationships present in their lives, who have friends or family they can rely on and who are satisfied with those relationships.

New advancements benefit seniors

New advancements benefit seniors

Periodically I come across a new product or service that may be of interest to readers. Here are four to consider:

Latest shingles vaccine. On the nightly news recently I heard about a new, more effective shingles vaccine. I plan to talk to my doctor about it at my physical this month.

Shingrix, approved by the FDA in October 2017, is more than 90 percent effective at preventing shingles, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The old vaccine’s success rate was 51 percent.

The CDC recommends that healthy adults ages 50 and older get the Shingrix vaccine. This includes individuals who had the earlier shingles vaccine and those who’ve had a prior case of shingles.

Two doses two to six months apart are required to ensure longterm protection.

The vaccine is available now, but it’s in limited supply.

There are a few contraindications to getting the vaccine, so be sure to talk with your doctor.

Are we taking too many pills?

Are we taking too many pills?

I recently assisted in moderating a local research study of individuals who took six or more prescription medications a day.

Some participants spoke of needing to take pills with food, while others needed to take their medication on an empty stomach. Some were required to split their pills, and some needed to modify their dosage daily depending on their health condition.

Still others spoke of changing pill shape, size and even form as their pharmacy changed generic providers.

To an observer like me, the process of scheduling and taking all these medications was complicated and involved, even though almost all study participants had adjusted to their regimen.

One person said they take 44 pills per day. Another carried in his wallet a long list of all the medications he was required to take daily, just so he could remember all of them and what they’re for.

Like it or not, we are a society of pill takers.

Why do we volunteer?

Why do we volunteer?

In almost every case, those who volunteer express a desire to give what they’re capable of to a cause that is meaningful to them—and to make a difference along the way.

The process of connecting a volunteer to the opportunity that fits them best has always been fascinating to me. With scores of possibilities available in every community, how does one choose where to offer their time and talents?

There are plenty of reasons or situations that motivate a person to lend a helping hand: school or civic group requirements, kids in school/empty nesters/newly retired with time on their hands, a friend’s experience or a professional-development opportunity, among others.

There’s also an important self-motivated aspect: Volunteers (consciously or unconsciously) want to get something out of their experience.

We’ve all heard the refrain that volunteers receive more than they give. But what exactly are they receiving?

Cleaning can help with stress

Cleaning can help with stress

My mother has become a cleaning and organizing machine. Ever since my father died she has been cleaning closets, purging files, organizing shelves and rearranging furniture.

The fact is, her home has always been immaculate. My sisters and I joke that we could eat off the floor.

For years my mother has systematically pared down her possessions by giving stuff to others, selling items at yard sales and donating to charity. And my mother’s organizational skills rival those of Martha Stewart.

So why this sudden extra energetic spurt of tidiness?

I think several things are at work (besides my mother).

Whether it is a conscious thing or not, I suspect that my mother is feeling a level of anxiety as a new widow. A spouse’s death can trigger stress.

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