Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Free Shingles Vaccines Now!

by Emily Anderson

The Allegheny County Health Department is offering FREE Shingles vaccines to people age 50 or older who are uninsured or underinsured!

You can get the vaccine at the Health Department's Immunization Clinic, located at 3441 Forbes Avenue in Oakland. Supplies are limited, so call 412-578-8062 to make sure there are still some left before you show up.

You don't need an appointment, just show up during clinic hours which are:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9am-4pm
  • Wednesday, 1pm-8pm
Not sure what shingles is? If you've had chickenpox, that virus stays in the nerves in your body. Especially after age 50, that virus can act up again, causing a painful, blistering skin rash. If you've had chickenpox, even when you were a little baby, it could act up again as Shingles. The vaccine cuts the risk of getting Shingles in half, and even if you do get Shingles, it reduces the chances that the rash will be painful.

If you've already had Shingles, you can still get the vaccine! It can help prevent more occurrences of the rash and reduce the pain you experience. 

One of the things that can cause Shingles to act up is stress. Get some ideas for managing stress here!

Want to learn more about Shingles? Read here!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Research Roundup--July

by Emily Anderson

It's been a while since we've done a research update on this blog, but then this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette caught my eye.

As a professional and a person who values quality of life, I worried that this article would scare some people away from seeking palliative care. Today, we'll look at what palliative care is, what it can do from you, and what we can learn from the recent study.

What is Palliative Care?

Many people aren't familiar with what "palliative care" means, while others get it mixed up with hospice care. Several months ago, a friend of mine who has cancer was scheduled for a meeting with a palliative care doctor and called me in a panic because she thought she was dying and they hadn't told her! I reassured her that palliative care is all about living--and living well!

Palliative care is a type of holistic medical treatment that focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illness. If there is a long road to the cure or there is no cure for what's ailing you, palliative care helps make sure that you maintain some quality of life along the way. There is no time restriction on how long you can receive palliative care, and you don't need to be near the end of life to get it.

The Study

The study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Shannon Carson and colleagues was looking at ways to impact the stress and trauma families experience when a loved one is in intensive care at the hospital. They thought giving the family two meetings with a palliative care doctor  might help the family feel less overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed.

Carson and colleagues, though, found that the meetings did not change depression or anxiety among family members. Talking to a palliative care doctor, though, did increase the family's sense of trauma on average. In the setting of the ICU, talking to yet another doctor about the seriousness of the illness just made the experience more alarming.

This study does not indicate that getting ongoing palliative care is stressful for families. So what does it tell us? For families who have a loved one in the ICU, the experience is already so overwhelming that adding one more piece of information does not help. Instead, talking about managing the long-term effects of a problem while their loved one is still in bad shape is scary for families.

This study shows professionals that the ICU may not be the appropriate place to talk to families about palliative care. For some people it may be important to talk about, but for others it is just too much. Many families could benefit from getting palliative care, so we need to learn to introduce it in a way and in a place where families don't find it so alarming.

Should You Consider Palliative Care?

If you or your loved one has a serious illness (like cancer, heart failure, Alzheimer's or many others) and is experiencing pain, depression, anxiety, or other uncomfortable symptoms, palliative care can help! Palliative care is covered under many insurance plans, but double check yours.

Many doctors don't know about or feel uncomfortable suggesting that people seek out palliative care. As a result, you may need to bring it up with your doctor or talk to a palliative care organization yourself if you are interested in getting support to give your loved one a better quality of life.

Read here for more information on palliative care!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Get Smart--July

by Emily Anderson

While you're hunkered down in the AC this summer, take the opportunity to join some of these free classes:

Private Insurance Coverage Under the Medicare System

July 14th, Noon-3pm
1 Smithfield St, Pittsburgh

A key part of the Medicare system is the private insurance enhancements and supplements that help cover the costs that "traditional" Medicare does not cover. Hosted by APPRISE, this free workshop will look at the different kinds of private insurance you can get under the Medicare system, which includes Medigaps, Part C Advantage plans, Part D drug coverage, and employer sponsored coverage. The leaders will help look at the strengths and weaknesses of each option, along with how to choose the most effective coverage for yourself. Call Bill at (412) 661-1670 or email him  if you want to attend.

Medicare 101 and Retiree Health Benefits

July 19th, 2-4pm
Rivers Club, 301 Grant St, Pittsburgh PA

This free seminar will cover Medicare parts A-D, along with important dates, tips for avoiding penalties, and things to consider when  making coverage decisions. Call American Healthcare Group at (412) 563-8800 to reserve a spot!

Complimentary Therapies in the Treatment of Esophageal Cancer

July 19th, 6:30-8pm
Good Grief Center, 2717 Murray Ave, Pittsburgh

Led by the medical director for the UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine, this interactive discussion will look at evidence-based complimentary therapies for esophageal cancer treatment and surgery. Call (412) 224-4700 to register by July 15th.

Better Choices, Better Health

Multiple times, multiple locations!

Sponsored by the United Way and presented by Familylinks affiliate Vintage, Inc., Better Choices, Better Health is based on the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, developed at Stanford University. It’s a six-week program for people dealing with chronic health conditions like diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and others. People with different conditions all attend the same classes; the program is aimed at dealing with any chronic condition, rather than giving tips for dealing with one specific problem. Learn about dealing with day-to-day challenges and medications, in addition to the benefits of good nutrition and exercise.

This program is free and held in more than 15 locations around Allegheny County throughout the fall and winter. Find a site near you and sign up by visiting the website here or calling Vintage at 412-361-5003.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

4 Ways to Support Independence

by Emily Anderson

Your loved one may have lived a free and brave life, but now the years are taking their toll and they rely on you more and more. How much and when to help is often a challenging question for caregivers, as you balance safety against your loved one's pride and the practicalities of everyday life. As we celebrate our liberty as a country, here are four ways that you can support your loved one's independence:

1. Be inconvenienced
Sometimes, caregivers do too much for their loved one because it is simply easier or faster. You write down the grocery list because you want to get all the items down before you forget one, or you whisk the trash out to the road yourself because you can do it faster instead of letting your loved one handle it. Over time, your loved one stops doing even the tasks they are capable of doing, leaving them feeling useless and you feeling overworked. Even if it takes longer or doesn't fit the flow of your day, let your loved one be responsible for any tasks they can still tackle.

2. Talk with, not over
If your loved one is in the room, include them in the conversation. This means directing comments and questions towards them and giving them ample time to respond if needed. Try not to talk about your loved one while they are sitting right there, or answer questions on their behalf unless it is truly needed. This is especially important to remember during doctor visits!

3. Plan to carry out their wishes
Well-meaning caregivers often tell their loved ones, "I value your input, please give me your opinions on how you want to live in the future." Notice though, that your loved one is not making the decisions in this statement, they are just offering "input." Instead, let your loved one take the lead by saying, "I want to know your wishes so I can make sure they are carried out." At some point you may need to make decisions for them, but as long as they are able to think clearly, commit to letting your loved one lead the way. The hardest part of this is carrying through with your loved one's wishes, even if you don't agree with the plan.

4. The right to make bad choices
One of the downsides of liberty is that people are free to make bad choices. Maybe you know that they would be happier if they visited a senior center, but your loved one doesn't want to go, or they want to eat three cookies and you say just one. These may be bad choices, but it is your loved one's right to mess things up if they want to. You can encourage and persuade them to change, but ultimately it is still their choice. With older adults, those bad choices can sometimes be unsafe to themselves or to the people around them. If you're loved one isn't at risk and is "just being stubborn," though, consider respecting their right to make choices--even bad ones.

Caregivers are in the tough position of trying to keep another person healthy and safe while also supporting their sense of independence and dignity. Some ways of supporting independence are easier than others. Including your loved one in a conversation might be easier than letting your loved one make choices that you don't think are ideal, for example. Remember, you have many chances to support your loved one's freedom and independence!