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Information & Caregiver Resource Corner

Remember to take care of yourself first during times of stress

As the holidays approach, so does stress, which can cause physical and emotional health issues. Taking care of you is very important.

Q: So what should I know about self-care?

A: First make sure to make time for you.

According to Counseling Psychologist Raphailia Michael, writing for Psych Central, “self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” Self-care activities build us up to better manage all aspects of our daily lives, and they are effective when they are a planned part of our daily and weekly routines.

Eating a healthy diet, staying active and exercising regularly, getting lots of rest, and seeing your doctor regularly can all help to ensure overall good health. Beyond these general habits, you may also find ways to take care of yourself that are more unique to your particular needs and reflect what you enjoy doing.

DinoDino Schnelle participated in a Healthy Living workshop through LifePath. He reports, "The goal-setting and expectations-management tools have been one of the most important things that I learned, and the exercise and diet tools continue to help me reclaim my life.”

Self-care for people with chronic health conditions

For someone who is experiencing chronic health issues that limit your activities and socialization, LifePath’s Healthy Living program could offer ways to manage your health. Workshops cover topics such as managing pain, diabetes, and general chronic diseases; balance and fitness; and healthy eating. These programs will help you maintain good health and stay active. Learn more about Healthy Living workshops.

Self-care for caregivers

As a caregiver, it is important to take care of yourself. If you’re not well-fueled, you won’t have resources in your tank to care for others.

At times you may feel isolated. It is important to remember you are not alone. You could join a support group in person or online or stay active by becoming a member at your local YMCA. It is important to take a break and spend time with friends.

LifePath’s Caregiver Program is available to help and inform you about what types of services are available to you and your loved one. Ask what types of caregiver respite might be available so you can refresh and renew. It is important to reach out for help as no one can do it alone.

Self-care for mental health

If you are experiencing feelings of overwhelming stress or anxiety, intense emotional situations or are having difficulty engaging in regular daily activities, LifePath’s Elder Mental Health Outreach Team can help with these problems that are impacting your emotional wellbeing. Our team can help make referrals and educate you about possible resources.

Most importantly, communicate to your primary care physician about what you are experiencing as this is key to getting good medical care. Your doctor can also make referrals for respite, in-home care, YMCA-sponsored programs, or counseling along with assessing your overall wellbeing both physically and emotionally.

Additional self-care resources

Call the Information and Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, or send us an email, for more information or click here for additional resources.

Remember, you’re not alone; help is out there.

What to know about diabetes

National Diabetes Awareness Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (CDC), “more than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, but one out of four of them don’t know they have it.” Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects how your body turns food into energy.  

Q: How do find out if I have diabetes?

A: Ask your primary care physician to test your blood sugar to find out if you have diabetes.

Testing is simple, and results are usually available quickly. The sooner you find out, the sooner you can start making healthy changes that will benefit you now and in the future.

Healthy Living diabetes self managementDiabetes Self-Management helps people better manage their diabetes by exploring together with peers topics like stress management, healthy eating, exercise, skin and foot care, preventing and delaying complications, monitoring blood sugar, preventing low blood sugar, strategies for sick days, dealing with depression and difficult emotions, and more. Learn more by contacting the Healthy Living Program at LifePath.

There are three main types of diabetes:  

Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).  

Type 1 diabetes 

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction that stops your body from making insulin. Type 1 diabetes often develops quickly. It’s usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. If you have Type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin every day to survive. Currently, no one knows how to prevent Type 1 diabetes.

Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes:
  • Family history
  • Age
Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is when your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. 

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes:
  • Have prediabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with Type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active less than three times a week
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)

You can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes with lifestyle changes such as losing weight (if you’re overweight), eating a healthier diet, and getting regular physical activity.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes.

Risk factor for gestational diabetes:
  • Had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
  • Have given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Are overweight
  • Are more than 25 years old
  • Have a family history of Type 2 diabetes
  • Have a hormone disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born but increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life. Before getting pregnant, women may be able to prevent gestational diabetes by losing weight (if overweight), eating a healthier diet, and getting regular physical activity.

Symptoms of diabetes

Be proactive and see your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the following diabetic symptoms:

  • Urinate a lot, often at night
  • Are very thirsty
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Are very hungry
  • Have blurry vision
  • Have numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Feel very tired
  • Have very dry skin
  • Have sores that heal slowly
  • Have more infections than usual

Things to remember if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes:  

  • Follow a healthy eating plan
  • Get physically active
  • Test your blood sugar
  • Take prescribed medications
  • Monitor your feetskin, and eyes to catch problems early
  • Get diabetes supplies and store them according to package directions
  • Manage stress and deal with daily diabetes care
Work with your doctor to manage your diabetes ABCs:
  • A — the A1C test, which measures average blood sugar over two to three months
  • B — blood pressure, the force of blood flow inside blood vessels
  • C — cholesterol, a group of blood fats that affect the risk of heart attack or stroke
  • s — stop smoking or don’t start

Talk with your doctor about what diabetes self-management education resources are available and to recommend a diabetes educator or nutritionist. You can also search the American Association of Diabetes Educators’ nationwide directory for a list of educators in your community. 

The Healthy Living Program at LifePath

Healthy Living can help you manage chronic health conditions like diabetes as well as learn ways to eat healthier, exercise more, and develop healthy habits. For more information, contact Healthy Living.

Remember that eating a healthy diet, being physically active, taking medications if prescribed and keeping healthcare appointments can help you stay on track. Here’s to managing your diabetes.

Be a friendly driver to pedestrians who are legally blind

October is White Cane Awareness Month

White Cane imageMonday, October 15, 2018, is White Cane Safety Day.President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized the first White Cane Safety Day in 1964 to raise awareness for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to use special care for people who are blind and carry a white cane.

Q: What is a white cane, and what should I know if I see a person using one?

A: According to the Braille Institute, “the white cane is a tool of independence for many people who are blind or severely visually impaired. It affords people who are legally blind the opportunity to travel safely and efficiently in the community.”

October 15, 2018, is White Cane Safety Day. All states and many other countries have White Cane laws, which allow pedestrians who are legally blind the right of way at street crossings.

Motorists can follow these guidelines to support white cane safety:
  • Don’t stop your car less than than five feet from the crosswalk line.
  • Don’t yell out, “It’s OK to cross.”
  • Don’t get impatient when waiting for a pedestrian who is visually impaired to cross. If the pedestrian places the long cane into the street, it usually indicates he or she will begin a street crossing. If the cane traveler takes a step back and pulls back the cane from the curb, it usually indicates the person will not be crossing at that time.
  • Don’t consider a “rolling” stop as a complete stop.
  • Don’t turn right on red without coming to a full stop and looking for pedestrians. The Right on Red Law requires drivers to come to a complete stop prior to making right turns.
  • Don’t fail to stop for pedestrians at all crosswalks whether or not there is a traffic signal or stop sign.
  • Don’t stop your car in the middle of the crosswalk.
  • Don’t pass another car, stopped, waiting for pedestrians to cross the street.
  • Don’t wave to pedestrians who are using a white cane or dog guide to indicate that you are waiting for them to cross. They may not be able to  see you.
  • Don’t honk!

Most people who are legally blind have some usable vision. When in doubt, ask if the person needs assistance. Do not grab the person, cane, or dog guide! Do not pet a dog guide. Most dog guides are working and should not be petted since it can be distracting for the dog.

Learn more on the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind website or from the Braille Institute.

What you need to know about pain

Sept 2018 ICRC Column pain awareness photo WEBThe Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop helps people build self-confidence to assume an active role in managing their chronic pain. The next workshop starts in October. Learn more by contacting the Healthy Living Program.September is Pain Awareness Month. Pain Awareness Month was developed to help increase awareness regarding pain and its effects and to educate people about treatments that are available to relieve pain. According to Johns Hopkins University, by understanding more about what causes pain, we can improve treatments to help relieve suffering.

Q: What do I need to know about pain and its effects?

A: It is important that you know that there are two types of pain:
  • Acute pain is usually a result of an injury, illness, surgery or inflammation. Acute pain generally is resolved within a short period of time (one to two weeks).
  • Chronic pain is pain that continues for months or even years.

Untreated pain can affect your quality of life.

Here are some facts about pain and its effects:
  • Pain affects more people than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
  • Workers lose on average of 4.6 hours per week of productivity due to pain.
  • An estimated 20 percent of adults report that their sleep is interrupted by pain or discomfort a few nights a week or more
  • 80 percent of people will experience back pain at some point
  • Back pain is the number one reason people visit their family doctors
  • 83 million people indicate that pain affects basic functioning in their everyday lives
  • Pain is a warning sign that indicates a problem that needs attention
  • Living with pain can be debilitating and adversely affect everyday life
Medication is not the only way to manage pain!

There are many pain intervention and management options available that do not rely solely on prescription opiates. Seek the advice and assistance of your primary care physician to find a pain specialist right for you.

The Healthy Living Program at LifePath can help you manage chronic health conditions and pain management as well as learn ways to eat healthier, exercise more, and develop healthy habits. There is even a workshop series specifically for chronic pain. For more information, contact the Healthy Living Program.

Safe driving resources for folks who are getting older

Although getting older doesn’t mean your driving ability will get worse, it’s important to be aware of how age-related factors and health conditions may affect your driving skills.

Q: How might my age affect my ability to drive?

A: According to AAA, the automotive motor club association things that might affect your driving safety as you age include:
  • Physical changes: such as mobility, alertness, coordination, and response times.
  • Vision changes: such as the way your eyes focus, can have an impact on driving safety.
  • Hearing changes: Inability to hear ambulance or police sirens, car horns, motorists, or pedestrians could have an impact on driving safety.
  • Cognitive problems: According to AAA, our ability to process information tends to slow down as we get older. People with certain conditions like dementia might not be able to react appropriately to traffic situations and might not react properly to traffic signs and pavement markings.
  • Medications: Some prescription drugs may have side effects, such as drowsiness, that make driving dangerous. Read the labels carefully.
Be proactive:

Schedule regular appointments with your physician to monitor pain or stiffness in your joints, any chronic conditions, fatigue, and stress. In addition to visiting your physician for general health checkups, vision and hearing screenings also need to be performed regularly.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are out on the road:
  • August 2018 ICRC Driving photo WEBThough safe driving may become more challenging with age, there are many adjustments you can make to better ensure the safety of your vehicle and those around you.If you wear glasses or contact lenses, ALWAYS have them while driving.
  • Be aware of conditions that might be affecting your vision, such as:
    • Cataracts
    • Glaucoma
    • Macular degeneration
  • If you feel like your vision is worsening, consult with your optometrist.
  • Recognize signs of trouble seeing at night.
  • If you have problems hearing other vehicles or emergency sirens when you drive, consult an audiologist.
  • Keep the noise inside the vehicle to a minimum.
It's important to be aware of any limitations that you find yourself up against, so that you can make necessary adjustments to ensure safety for yourself and those around you.

Some of these adjustments can include the following:

  • Increase your following distance.
  • Use the brakes early.
  • Avoid busy areas.
  • Try to anticipate rather than react.
  • Keep the steering wheel at a comfortable distance from your chest.
  • Raise the height of the seat so that your eyes are above the steering wheel.
  • Move your side mirrors to avoid blind spots.
  • Raise or lower the headrest so that it is directly behind your head.

There are certain times when senior drivers will be more at risk. For this reason, try to avoid driving in inclement weather, at night, or during rush hour when possible.

Brushing up on your driving skills is one way to help you stay safe while driving.

Consider taking a mature driver safety course. AAA’s “Roadwise Driver” is a course to help you with:

  • Extending your safe driving career
  • Distractions, drowsiness, aggressive driving & road rage
  • Managing visibility, time & space
  • Alcohol & medications
  • Comfort & safety tips
Finally, be prepared for the unexpected.

If you have the right items in your emergency roadside kit, such as reflective triangles, you can safely deal with any problems that arise. A basic roadside emergency kit should include some of the following items:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flares or triangle reflectors
  • A quart or more of motor oil
  • A gallon of coolant
  • First-aid kit
  • Blanket or space blanket
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, pocket knife
  • A can of tire inflator and sealant
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Paper towels
  • Spray bottle with washer fluid
  • Ice scraper
  • Pen and paper
  • Granola or energy bars
  • Bottled water

Learn more safe driving tips online at SeniorDriving.AAA.com.