The Healthy Geezer
Q. I have a neighbor, a woman in her eighties. I think someone is hurting her. It might be her daughter. I don’t know what I should do about this.
Recently, the U.S. Administration on Aging found that more than a half-million people over the age of 60 are abused or neglected each year.
About 90 percent of abusers are related to the victims. People older than 80 years suffer abuse and neglect two to three times their proportion of the senior population.
Almost four times as many new incidents of abuse, neglect, and/or self-neglect were not reported as those that were reported and substantiated by public authorities.
All 50 states have elder-abuse prevention laws and have set up reporting systems. Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies investigate reports of suspected elder abuse. To report elder abuse, contact your APS office. You can find the telephone numbers at the Web site operated by the National Adult Protective Services Association. Go to http://www.apsnetwork.org/.
The APS agency keeps calls confidential. If the agency decides there may be a law violation, it assigns a caseworker to investigate. If the victim needs crisis intervention, services are available. If elder abuse is not substantiated, most APS agencies will work with other community agencies to get necessary social and health services.
The senior has the right to refuse services offered by APS. The APS agency provides services only if the senior agrees or has been declared incapacitated by the court and a guardian has been appointed.
What is elder abuse? It can take a variety of forms: physical, sexual, emotional, and financial. Neglect of an older person also is within the umbrella of elder abuse.
One of the most common types of elder abuse is self-neglect. This often occurs in older adults who have declining health, are isolated or depressed, or who abuse drugs or alcohol.
If you’re concerned an older adult might need help, these are symptoms to look for:
- Physical injury such as a bruise, cut, burn, rope mark, sprain, or broken bone.
- Refusal of the caregiver to allow you to visit the older person alone.
- Indications of dehydration, malnourishment, weight loss, and poor hygiene.
- Negative behavior such as agitation, withdrawal, expressions of fear or apathy.
- Unexplained changes in finances.
Flexibility: Why it is key to overall fitness and why so many ignore it
Visit most gyms and you will probably notice most gym users spend the majority of their time on machines for cardio or resistance training, which is good.
Most of these same people will pay very little attention to stretching. Perhaps the only exception is those gym users that regularly attend yoga or Pilate’s classes, who have observed their own flexibility increase the more they focus on it, and as a result, it is highly likely their gym/sports performance has increased, too. Generally though, the overall importance of stretching seems too unimportant in today’s society.
I very often have to grin when I see gym users hold a “stretch” for a few seconds and believe that should be enough. Maybe this is better than doing nothing, but not a lot!
Slouching at a desk all day is one of the worst things we can do with our bodies. Unfortunately, that affects our posture and ends in our muscles becoming shorter and stiffening up over our lifetime.
So stretching ought to not just be something society perceives that elite athletes should be performing, but something we should all be doing, regardless of our present activity level (unless your doctor instructs you not to for some reason).
Flexibility is often defined into two groups—static and dynamic. Stretching a muscle for a short period of time is referred to as static. This can also be called passive stretching. The other type, defined as dynamic, is stretching involving movement of the muscle gradually, increasing range, speed, or both.
The benefits of stretching include:
- Improves your posture
- Reduced muscle tension
- Circulation of blood in your body is increased
- Reduced muscle soreness
- Helps prevent injury during exercise
- Muscle definition is improved
You can do stretching literally anywhere with no equipment; just ensure you wear something on your feet if you are stretching on a shiny floor. Many of you reading this may say you have no time for stretching, but you can take care of it whilst you watch your favorite television show. Some people I know pass their evenings watching TV in yoga positions! Using the time they already have, they get two things done at the same time.
You should try to warm-up prior to stretching. If you watch a yoga class, they often start with poses to get the blood flowing a little. It is, after all, much easier to stretch a warm muscle than a stone cold and stiff one. Should you be stretching at home, some simple moves—for example, lunges—will help get your muscles warm.
Classes are not necessarily for everybody, so I will explain some simple stretches below. I suggest going onto YouTube and entering a search for stretching or something similar—there are some great videos on there. I strongly recommend you put together your own routine, which will help you stay focused. If it has been many years since you have done any stretching, progress might be slow, but please persist with doing a regular routine. We are all new to some things in life and, as a result, might not be a natural at it straightaway, but please stick with it.
For your shoulders and upper back:
- Floor slides. Lie on the floor with your knees bent to about 45 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Place your arms with a 90-degree bend in each, so they are in line with your shoulder and flat on the floor. Now, move your arms above your head, BUT keep your arms flat on the floor. This is a good stretch for your shoulders.
- Lie on your back, bring both knees up and toward your chest. Place your hands behind the knees and gently pull both legs toward your chest, stretching your back muscles. Hold this stretch until you notice the tension in your back muscles starting to ease.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Pivoting at the waist, gradually reach your hands forward and grab your legs and feet. It is very important with this one NOT to round your shoulders.
I hope this article has been of use to you and that you will come up with your own stretching routine.
A healthy relationship with stress
—Richard N. Waldman, M.D.
Stress is your body’s natural response to demand or pressure. While periodic stress is normal and can be good for you—helping you to act quickly, overcome challenges, and boost your immunity—ongoing stress can lead to a number of health problems.
Unfortunately, being “stressed out” is a feeling that many Americans are all too familiar with. During the holiday season, it’s easy for the everyday stressors such as work, family obligations, and the poor economy to seem amplified.
Stressors are everywhere. Traffic congestion, arguing with your partner, losing your job, divorce, the death of a loved one, personal illness or injury, being a caregiver, and major life changes such as getting married, having a baby, or moving to a new city—all are common sources of stress.
When exposed to a stressor, your body releases a surge of hormones that causes your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow, which, in turn, raises your blood pressure. Though temporary, stress-related spikes in blood pressure may be damaging to blood vessels if they occur too often and can lead to long-term high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Every person has a different reaction to stress. Some people experience physical, mental, or emotional symptoms which may include headaches, fatigue, insomnia, stomach problems, anxiety, depression, irritability, crying spells, forgetfulness, poor concentration, low productivity, and confusion. Others may isolate themselves socially, feel lonely, lash out, have a lowered sex drive, or make less contact with friends. Negative habits that some use to handle stress, such as overeating, smoking, or alcohol or substance abuse, can also lead to obesity, addiction, and other serious health problems.
The way you cope with stressful events may be the key to avoiding long-term damage and improving your overall wellness. Try to identify the events or occurrences that make you feel stressed and who or what in your life they are related to (e.g., family, friends, work, traffic). Take note of the physical and emotional changes—such as muscle tension, headache, or problems with decision making—that occur when you are under pressure, and use them to gauge your stress level. Plan healthy ways of dealing with stress—take a walk, breathe deeply, practice yoga or meditation, listen to music, or connect with a friend—and apply them when you start to feel stressed or anticipate a stressful situation.
If you feel overwhelmed by stress, your doctor can provide you with further information on counseling and stress management techniques.
For more information, go to www.apa.org/topics/stress/index.aspx.
Health care reforms kick into gear
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) President Obama signed on March 23, 2010, set in motion a wide range of health care reforms. Although many of its more sweeping changes won’t be fully activated until 2014, several key elements already went live, effective September 23, 2010.
If you have employer-provided health insurance that runs on a calendar year, this means those new features will finally kick in on January 1, 2011. If you have individual coverage, you may have already seen the changes, but if your plan’s fiscal year starts later, you may have to wait awhile longer.
Here are a few noteworthy changes:
- Extended child coverage. If your medical plan offers dependent coverage, your children may now remain on—or return to—your plan until their 26th birthdays, regardless of where they live or their dependent, income, or marriage status. You will be responsible for paying the additional premium at the plan’s already established family or per-child rate.
One notable exception: If your plan is “grandfathered” (i.e., already existed on March 23, 2010), the carrier has the right, until 2014, to deny such coverage if your child has other employer-sponsored coverage. However, plans lose their grandfathered status if they significantly cut benefits or increase out-of-pocket expenses.
- Preexisting conditions for children. Medical plans can no longer deny coverage to children under age 19 because of preexisting health conditions, unless you have an individually purchased, grandfathered plan. The same provision will go into effect for adults in 2014.
Some insurers have threatened to stop offering individual child policies altogether as a way to avoid having to cover seriously ill children, so double check with your carrier.
- Rescinding coverage prohibited. Plans can no longer cancel coverage if you become sick or you made minor or inadvertent mistakes on your application that only later came to light. However, deliberate fraud, such as falsely claiming a dependent, can still result in cancellation.
- No more lifetime limits. Nongrandfathered plans can no longer cut off benefits when you reach a lifetime maximum. In addition, annual coverage limits for nongrandfathered plans have begun phasing out and will be completely banned starting January 1, 2014. Important note: Several companies that offer limited-benefit coverage to low-wage workers who otherwise couldn’t afford coverage recently won a one-year exemption from the annual coverage limit. Ask your employer’s insurance department if you’re unsure about your plan.
- New coverage for the uninsured. If you’ve been refused insurance because of preexisting medical conditions, you now may be eligible to buy coverage through a new “high-risk pool” program. Although it’s a federal program, many states have chosen to run their own plans, with widely varying costs and benefits. A few details:
* You must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.
* You must have been without health insurance for at least six months before you can apply.
* You must have a qualifying, preexisting condition and show proof that an insurance company has denied or excluded coverage because of it.
Go to https://www.pcip.gov/ for information and to apply online, or call the state department of insurance. AARP also has a thorough discussion about how the program works.
These are only a few of the many health care changes unfolding over the next few years. To learn more, visit the government’s HealthCare.gov Web site.