Hands Hero image

November Is National Family Caregivers Month

Depending on the source, there are anywhere from 40 million to 53 million family caregivers in the United States.

They are the reason November has been designated National Family Caregivers Month. It is an opportunity to honor the people who give their time to take care of elderly or disabled family members, friends, and neighbors who can’t care for themselves. It is unpaid, tiring, and often thankless work.

Many caregivers have their own jobs and lives, and experience conflicts between competing responsibilities. Caregiving has also been shown to take a toll on emotional, physical, and financial well-being. Nearly half of all caregivers are over 50 and they end up suffering a decline in their own physical and mental health. Coordinated support services can reduce caregiver depression, anxiety and stress, and lessen the need for costly institutional care.

Father And Daughter Image

Tips for Family Caregivers

Family caregivers are often forced into their situations because of circumstances. Institutional or professional in-home care is too costly, so a family member takes it upon themselves to do the work. It can lead to resentment and burnout so they should consider the following:

  1. Seek support from other caregivers. There are plenty of people dealing with the same situations.
  2. Take care of your own health, otherwise you can’t care for a loved one.
  3. Accept offers of help and make suggestions about ways people can help.
  4. Learn to effectively communicate with doctors.
  5. Take frequent breaks from the hard work of caregiving.
  6. Be alert for signs of depression and get the help you need.
  7. Be open to new technologies to help with caring for a loved one.
  8. Keep medical information organized and up to date.
  9. Keep legal documents organized.
  10. You are doing an extremely difficult job, so give yourself credit.

Keeping Seniors Healthy at Home

The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, was established by Medicare to help independent seniors with complex medical needs. The program helps participants avoid nursing homes and instead, receive the care and services necessary to help them stay safe, comfortable, and healthy living in their own home.

PACE offers care coordination, transportation, social services, and meals, all in a positive, comfortable environment. It’s health care that puts the focus on care, connecting seniors with peers in their community as well as the PACE staff who are committed to treating participants with dignity, respect, and compassion.

Since 1996, PACE has been an essential pillar of success for AltaMed. In fact, AltaMed was California’s first licensed and accredited PACE program. The AltaMed PACE program has grown to 11 centers, serving more than 4,000 seniors each year.

PACE is for independent seniors (55+) who may need assistance in performing activities of daily living but can still live in their homes and navigate their communities with the help of PACE services. Medicare-eligible seniors who live in the PACE service area are encouraged to apply.

To get started, click here or call: (855) 252-PACE or (855) 252-7223.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

Learn More

Man Holding his Knee

Don’t Let Arthritis Control Your Life

If you’ve ever seen an ad for an arthritis drug, it probably featured a middle-aged or older adult grasping their hands or a knee while in the middle of doing some activity like gardening or walking up steps.

This is because arthritis is a common condition affecting 58.5 million adults in the U.S. That’s nearly one-quarter of adults. More than half of those with arthritis (57.3%) are between 18 and 64 years old.

It can be painful and in some cases, even debilitating. But it can be controlled, and people manage to live healthy, active lives with the proper diet, exercise, and medication.

Woman Giving Herself a Hands Massage

Understanding Arthritis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define arthritis as the swelling of at least one joint. It can describe more than 100 conditions that affect joints, the tissue around a joint, and other connective tissue. The most common symptoms include joint pain and stiffness.

  • Osteoarthritis — This is the most common form of arthritis, occurring most frequently in the hands, hips, and knees.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis — Also called RA, this is an autoimmune disease. Your immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake.
  • Gout — This is a form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints. It can be extremely painful.
  • Fibromyalgia — This causes pain all over the body. It can also lead to sleep problems, fatigue, mental, and emotional distress.
  • Lupus — This is another autoimmune disease affecting numerous parts of the body because the immune system can’t tell the difference between healthy tissue or bacteria and viruses.
Mother and Daughter Doing Exercise

Living with Arthritis

You play an important role in managing your life with arthritis. One way is by learning all you can following diagnosis. It is also important to monitor when and where you feel pain. This will help you and your doctor develop a plan. Make sure to alert your doctor if your pain changes.

It is important to:

  • Keep moving — Do gentle stretching each day to take your joints through their full range of motion. 
  • Use good posture — Work with a physical therapist to learn how to sit, stand, and move correctly.
  • Know your limits — Don’t overwork yourself.
  • Manage your weight — Small, permanent changes and lead to gradual weight loss, which is important. Excess weight can cause added joint pain and complications.
  • Quit smoking — It stresses connective tissues which can cause arthritis pain.
Man Swimming

Choose the Right Activities

Movement is important to improving function, mood, and quality of life. At least 30 minutes of moderately-intense exercise a day is a good goal. However, you want to watch what you do. Walking, biking, and swimming are good activities as they don’t put increased stress on your joints.

There are some activities that you should avoid. They include:

  • Running
  • Jumping rope
  • Tennis
  • High-impact aerobics

Stay away from any activity that involves stressful, repetitive motions.

Woman with Neck Pain

Don’t Get Discouraged

Feeling pain doing activities that you used to do on a regular basis can be discouraging. It is important not to let those feelings overwhelm you or lead to hopeless thoughts. That will make your pain worse.

Steps you can take include:

  • Relaxation therapy — Meditation, deep breathing, listening to music, or journaling are just some of the things you can do to help you relax and ease the pain.
  • Hot and cold therapy — Using heating pads, taking hot baths, or hot showers can help relieve pain temporarily. Don’t use heating pads more than 20 minutes at a time to avoid burning yourself. Ice packs can also relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Massage therapy — This can help to ease pain and stiffness temporarily. Make sure the therapist knows where arthritis affects you.
  • Talk therapy — Combined with behavior modification, this can help to identify and break self-defeating thoughts and activities.
  • Acupuncture — Some people find relief through treatment with a trained acupuncturist. It may take several weeks, however, before you notice improvement.

Find Help at AltaMed

If you have pain that you think may be arthritis, talk to your doctor sooner rather than later. If you catch it in the early stages, your doctor can suggest some simple lifestyle changes that can keep you moving and feeling healthy for years to come. If you don’t already have a doctor, find your nearest AltaMed location and give them a call.

How to Keep Your Vision Healthy

How to Keep Your Vision Healthy

Most of us have heard the phrase, “hindsight is 20/20.” Hindsight isn’t useful, however, when it comes to vision.

Thinking you should have done more to protect your eyesight doesn’t help if it becomes compromised because you took it for granted. There are some important things to know about protecting your vision. Let’s take a look.

Woman with Cell Phone in Low Light

Fact Versus Fiction

Eyesight may be the one sense most people fear losing. That’s probably why there are so many myths around eyesight, how to damage it, and ways to protect it. Let’s start by debunking some of those myths.

  • Eye exercises preserve your vision — The need for corrective lenses depends on the shape of your eyeball, family history, and the health of the eye tissue. There are no exercises that can affect any of that.
  • Vision gets worse from reading in dim light — Your eyes are more likely to get tired or strained but you won’t damage them. Shine a light on what you’re reading for best results.
  • Eat carrots for better eyesight — Carrots have vitamin A which is good for the eyes, but it’s not as good as fruits and dark green leafy vegetables rich in vitamin C and E.
  • Don’t constantly wear your glasses or contacts — Your vision might be blurry without them but wearing them all the time will not damage your vision. Your eyes might get tired or strained, but they won’t get damaged.
  • Constantly staring at screens is bad for your eyes — Once again, this will tire your eyes, but it won’t do any permanent damage. Blink regularly and rest your eyes every 20 minutes or so.
Healthy Salad with Lemon Water

Focus on Overall Health

If you keep yourself healthy with a good diet and plenty of exercise you have a better chance of protecting your vision. Staying active and eating right will reduce your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

  • Eat — Dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, and spinach. Salmon, tuna, and halibut are high in omega-3 fatty acids which is good for vision.
  • Move — You don’t have to run marathons or be a gym rat. Just be physically active enough to get your heart rate up on a regular basis.
  • Quit — Stop smoking. It doesn’t just hurt your lungs; it hurts your eyes. It increases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration which blurs vision as you age. It can also harm the optic nerve.
Couple With Glasses Embracing

Protect Them

Dirt, debris, chemicals, and sunlight can all damage your vision. That’s why it’s important to be very careful to keep harmful things from getting in your eyes.

  • Wear sunglasses — Look for sunglasses that block out 99% to 100% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
  • Wear protective lenses — Don’t just do this at work. Do it at home when working around the house. Bleach, detergents, and other cleaners can harm your eyes just like debris kicked up by your lawn mower or grass trimmer.
  • Wash up — Keep your hands clean, especially when putting contact lenses in or out of your eyes.
  • Rest them — Staring at screens or reading in the dark will tire your eyes. While you’re not doing permanent damage, you should listen to what your body is telling you.
Doctor Checking a Patient's Vision

Have Your Vision Checked

It’s important to visit your eye doctor on a regular basis, even if you have perfect vision and have never needed contacts or glasses. If you’re healthy, your vision is good, and you have no family history of eye disease, follow these age-appropriate guidelines for eye exams.

  • In your 20s and 30s — Every five to 10 years
  • From 40 to 54 — Every two to four years
  • From 55 to 64 — Every one to three years
  • When you’re 65 — Every one to two years

Take children for an eye exam before they turn three. It’s a good way to identify common eye conditions that could lead to learning problems.

Regular visits to the eye doctor can also help determine if a vision problem is the symptom of a more serious health issue. Blurry vision, for example, could be a symptom of diabetes. An experienced eye doctor can identify problems that might indicate cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, and autoimmune disorders.

AltaMed can help whether you just need your vision checked or your doctor recommends seeing a specialist. Call us at (888) 499-9303 to learn more or make an appointment.

November Is National Family Caregivers Month