Listening for the silent epidemic: Hepatitis C

It’s been called a silent epidemic, a woefully underdiagnosed disease with a whopping 40 percent mortality rate that only seems to be increasing with time.

Hepatitis C infections can cause chronic liver disease, liver cancer, a swollen abdomen, gastrointestinal bleeding, skin yellowing and fatigue. Yet many of the 4 million patients infected with Hepatitis C do not learn of their diagnosis for decades until they begin showing end-stage symptoms that are typically irreversible and difficult to manage and treat.

Why is this deadly disease not being diagnosed much earlier in its progression? The fact is that most people don’t get tested because they don’t realize they’re at risk. That means education and awareness are the most important weapons we have to stop Hepatitis C from inflicting this pain and suffering.

I sat down with Dr. Mohammad Alsolaiman, a gastroenterologist at Central Utah Clinic, to learn the key things we need to know to protect ourselves and our loved ones:

Older folks are at the highest risk
Alarmingly, it’s the baby boomer generation that comprises the vast majority of undiagnosed Hepatitis C patients — and yet they’re likely to not realize the need to be tested. Dr. Alsolaiman’s patients are always surprised to learn that many Hepatitis C infections occurred decades ago.

Undiagnosed Hepatitis C also comes at a very high price tag for society
Individuals who develop cirrhosis and end-stage liver cancer from Hepatitis C infection typically require a liver transplant, adding to an already overburdened list of patients waiting for a donor. And the cost of medical care for patients living with Hepatitis C is expected to nearly triple in just two decades, to $85 billion by 2027 if no intervention is undertaken.

There are many routes to infection
The leading risk factors for Hepatitis C are unprotected sex, drug use (including intra-nasal), blood transfusions prior to 1992, incarceration, tattoos, occupational exposure, and surgeries performed prior to the implementation of universal precautions. Patients who undergo hemodialysis or were born to an infected mother also are at risk.

Hepatitis C is fully curable in most of the patients
Unlike HIV infections, a Hepatitis C infection can be cured in most of the patients. In fact, even oral medication is an option, and newly available medications have made it possible to be free of the virus in 8-12 weeks. The success rate is more than 90 percent.

Hepatitis C drugs are far more advanced now
We’ve come a long way since the first Hepatitis C drug, Interferon, was introduced with a paltry 10 to 20 percent success rate with a very bad reputation for intolerable side effects. This has been replaced today with more powerful oral and effective drugs.

There’s no reason for people to suffer and die from a disease that is highly treatable when caught early. To find out more about Dr. Alsolaiman or to schedule an appointment to find out more, connect with Central Utah Clinic for information on services, locations, events and more.

This article was originally published in The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.

3 Things You Must Communicate to Families Taking Skilled Nursing Facility Tours

Take a look at this article on “3 Things You Must Communicate to Families Taking Skilled Nursing Facility Tours” by Amy Osmond Cook with quotes from our own Executive Director, Scott Hansen!

Find the article here!

Here are some future residents taking a tour of our facility.

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Seeing the signs: What to say when it’s time to take away the car keys

It’s an experience that Americans dread. As recent surveys by Caring.com and the National Safety Council indicate, most people would rather discuss funeral arrangements with their loved ones than taking away their driving privileges. But while this conversation is difficult, it is necessary for the safety of both your loved one and other drivers. I had the opportunity to interview Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com, to learn how to best have this conversation.

Build a case.

“A new survey on Caring.com reported that roughly 14 million Americans have been in a road incident caused by an elderly person,” Cohen stated. “It’s a difficult but necessary conversation that we need to have.”

Prepare for this conversation by keeping detailed records of traffic violations, minor accidents, and anything that causes you to worry. Watch for an increase in traffic tickets, getting lost on familiar routes in familiar areas, and getting into more fender benders.

You should also calculate the monetary savings that will benefit your loved one when he or she gives up driving, such the cost of gasoline, maintenance, car insurance, repairs and registration fees. Your approach should be caring, but it also needs to be thorough and specific.

Get support from other sources.

While it’s important to have the conversation directly with your loved one, it can be helpful to ask for support from other sources. Driving assessments can be used to confirm to your loved one that he or she should not be driving. Your religious adviser can help you handle this conversation in a compassionate, loving manner. In some cases, your loved one may listen to recommendations more easily when they come from an outside authority whom your loved one trusts rather than from a family member. As a last resort, you may ask your loved one’s physician to write a prescription stating, “No driving.”

Research and arrange alternative transportation.

Your loved one will undoubtedly find it difficult to give up independence, so the more you can do in advance to have alternative means of transportation available, the easier the transition will be.

A good transportation system will not only take a passenger from point A to point B but will also put your loved one in control of routes and final destinations. Also, the transportation system should maintain a senior’s sense of dignity and security.

“No one wants to be the one to take away Mom or Dad’s keys, but sometimes it can be crucial for their safety,” said Cohen. “Plus, many seniors would actually prefer to hear it from a family member than from a police officer on the road.”

Taking away the car keys is not a conversation anyone wants to have, but remembering to express your concerns firmly and honestly, inviting support from other sources that will provide additional love and support, and arranging alternative forms of transportation to best fit your loved one’s needs is a healthy approach to this transition.

This article was originally published on OCRegister.com. It has been republished here with permission.

The ‘juicy’ secrets and surprising benefits of juicing

As we get older, our bodies process food differently. We tend to have smaller appetites, chewing and swallowing can become more difficult, and preparing meals can become more of a challenge for a variety of reasons.

One trendy, healthy way to get added nutrients is through juicing. Whether you are a purist and press apples straight from the tree or rely on store-bought products to supplement your meals, juicing can be a healthy addition to your loved one’s dietary routine.

Eating whole fruits and vegetables is the best way to ingest nutrients as well as dietary fiber, but many older individuals are more likely to consume produce in inconspicuous liquid form. Best of all, vegetables like spinach, carrots, and kale can be incorporated into juice recipes without the consumer even tasting it. Flavors from the fruit you use typically overshadow those of the veggies.

If you struggle to get your loved one to fit produce into their diet, juicing is a healthy and palatable alternative. However, there are a few things to consider when choosing the healthiest juice possible.

Choose your ingredients wisely.

While there is no magical cure for all of the body’s aches and pains, natural nutrients in fruits and vegetables can be helpful in easing pain, reducing inflammation and bolstering immune system function. Certain varieties and combinations of produce can have both a targeted and overall beneficial effect on your body.

For instance, joint pain can be assuaged by juicing carrots, parsley, ginger, and leeks. Leeks and ginger are high in antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals that can help to reduce inflammation in the body. For a boost in immune and cardiac health, try a combination of pomegranate, orange, and garlic. Pomegranates lower cholesterol and blood pressure and increase the speed at which heart blockages (atherosclerosis) dissolve. With a little bit of research, you can find a healthy juice recipe for almost every ailment you can imagine.

Consider your juicing method.

There are a number of ways to produce your own nutrient-rich juices. Traditional or centrifugal processes use fast-spinning blades to pulverize produce. Heat and air are added during this process—two things that supposedly reduce the nutrients that actually make it into your glass.

Masticating or “cold-pressed” processes extract juice by pressing and grinding fruits and vegetables without adding heat. If you are looking for a ready-to-drink cold-pressed option, then brands like MUSE are a convenient way to reap the benefits without purchasing a machine and doing the work yourself.

Proponents of the raw food movement believe that cooking denatures important vitamins and minerals in food. It is true that some compounds like vitamin C are easily damaged by exposure to heat, air, and water. But, in some cases, cooking actually increases antioxidants and other beneficial components of certain fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, and carrots.

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish through juicing, it may not matter if your product is cold-pressed or made in a traditional machine.

Be careful not to juice everything.

Although most fruits and vegetables can be juiced, there are a few things to stay away from. This is especially important for seniors.

There is some disagreement over whether or not to peel fruits and vegetables before juicing, but it isn’t a black and white issue. Apples, grapes, cucumbers and even bananas can be processed and consumed without peeling. We waste a great source of nutrition by removing and discarding the skins and rinds of produce. However, there are a few items that are best consumed “naked.” Citrus fruits feature tough rinds that are still nutrient dense, but they also contain oils that can cause indigestion and stomach issues if consumed in large quantities. Try not to throw away the healthy white pith just underneath the rind, though. Mangos are best juiced without the skin as well since this part can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.

Many people like to add leafy greens like kale and spinach to their fruit juices and smoothies, but there are a few varieties that must be avoided or approached with caution. Rhubarb greens can be harmful and release toxic substances, so keep these out of your juicer. Carrot greens have received a bad reputation, but they are not actually poisonous. Some people may have a sensitivity to this part of the vegetable, so if you aren’t sure whether you or a loved one might have a reaction, then it is best to steer clear of them.

Purchase your produce wisely.

When juicing or making smoothies, especially when using whole ingredients with skins and greens intact, it is wise to opt for organic produce. Although fruit and vegetable peels are great sources of concentrated nutrients, pesticides tend to accumulate in the peels of conventionally produced fruits and vegetables and even on the green tops of root vegetables.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has pioneered a “Dirty Dozen” list that ranks produce items according to the amount of pesticide residue they contain. Apples happen to top the list as the worst offender, which is a shame since apple peels are extremely beneficial. If you plan to use conventional produce, be sure to thoroughly wash, and even peel certain items. Pesticides and insecticides can remain even if you take these precautions, so carefully consider purchasing at least some ingredients in organic form.

As we age, it’s even harder to treat your body right and get the nutrients you need, but diet has a significant impact on overall health and the proper function of the body. Juices can be used as a natural dietary supplement in lieu of processed vitamin capsules and tablets, or you can craft your own produce combinations to help improve specific areas of your health.

Achieving proper nutrition through real foods is better than opting for meal replacement shakes and pills, but it is important to approach juicing with common sense and do your research or consult with a physician or nutritionist if you have any questions.

This article was originally published on agingcare.com. It has been republished here with permission.

5 Fun activities to share with your loved one in a nursing home

It’s Sunday afternoon and you’re getting ready to visit your grandma at her nursing facility, but you are at a loss of how the two of you can spend fun, quality time together. What are some things you can do that both of you will enjoy? This time is precious and it’s important to make the most of it. Below is a list of different creative activities you and your loved one can do while they are in a nursing facility.

Crafts

Whether or not you’re a creative person, simple crafts can be a fun way to add some color to your time together. Crafts you and your loved one can do range from making holiday decorations to scrapbooking and even painting.

Mark Walker, director of therapy at Orem Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing, says their staff enjoys providing seasonal and holiday-oriented craft projects for their residents.

“We just finished doing a Valentine’s project where we cut out hearts and placed them all over the facility.” Not only are these activities fun, but they can also help your loved one’s cognitive and motor skills.

Hand massages

Some nursing facilities, such as Provo Rehabilitation & Nursing, offer hand massages as one of their regular activities. You can give your own loved one a hand massage or manicure as a way to rejuvenate and relax them. Regular touch also communications multiple positive emotions that can create a deeper connection. Try using essential oils or hand lotion in their favorite scent.

Make connections (phone call, storytelling)

Use your time together to share and collect memories and stories. Chances are your loved one has some great stories from growing up that you haven’t heard yet. Once they are gone, those stories may be lost forever. Take the time to ask them about their life and favorite memories. Consider journaling or recording these conversations so you can keep them for years to come.

Entertainment

Another way to bond with your loved one is to find a mutual love of some sort of entertainment and enjoy it together. Whether it’s reading a book, playing a board game, listening to music, or watching a favorite movie, entertainment is the perfect way to spend an afternoon with each other. Many facilities, such as Orem Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing, provide different types of media that you can enjoy together. Consider inviting your loved one’s friends at the nursing facility to enjoy with you.

“Usually our biggest focus is on hobbies that our residents do at home,” said Walker. “We often start up a bowling session, which is great for balance and upper body strength, and the Wii gaming system is an excellent tool. We like the Wii Fit Program because it encourages standing balance and weight shifting activities.”

Outings

While you may have to take a few precautions, going out or exercising can be a fun way to spend time with your loved one. You can garden, go out to lunch, see a play, walk to the park, or even stretch outside. The fresh air and quality time is sure to make for a wonderful day together.

If you’re not sure what to do with your loved one who’s staying in a nursing facility, try one of these activities. Remember, the important thing is that you make the most of your time together.

This article was originally published on The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.