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Sandra Ruka, RN MSN and Sharon Malenfant: Home Care Matters: Volunteering – A prescription for healthy aging

It seems intuitive that volunteering is good for us and others, but a growing body of evidence is confirming that sentiment – and more. Studies show that people who donate their time feel more socially connected and less lonely or depressed. However, the latest research suggests that volunteering likely has positive implications that go beyond mental health.
People who volunteer might also be rewarded with better physical health — including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. A recent study from Carnegie Mellon University, published in Psychology and Aging, reported that adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.
It’s impossible to prove that volunteering was directly responsible for the lower blood pressure readings, but the results are in line with other findings on the topic. According to “Today’s Research on Aging” (August 2011), there appear to be many health benefits potentially attributable to volunteering.
• Improved Self-Reported Health. Volunteers tend to have a higher sense of self-esteem and personal control, both of which are associated with the adoption of good health behaviors. For some older adults, volunteering can provide a distraction from their own physical or personal problems, encouraging a more positive attitude about their health.
• Increased Physical Functioning. Many older adults develop arthritis and other health problems that limit their abilities to perform everyday basic tasks. Regular physical activity can slow or reverse physical decline by increasing cardiovascular health and improving flexibility and strength. Volunteering often involves some level of physical activity which can help maintain or improve physical functioning.
• Better Cognitive Functioning. While many older people remain mentally alert, others see a decline in cognitive function that includes memory loss and difficulty organizing daily activities. The mental stimulation created by planning and carrying out various volunteer responsibilities can help to slow or offset this decline.
• Reduced Symptoms of Depression. Volunteering increases psychological well-being in part because it leads people to feel that they have an important role in their community. The increased social interaction as well as the feeling of “mattering” helps prevent or reduce depression in older adults.
• Longer Lives. Several studies have demonstrated that volunteering is associated with lower mortality rates and longer life expectancy. One study found that volunteers age 65 or older had lower mortality than non-volunteers over a follow-up period of seven years. Another found that volunteering at least up to 100 hours a year led to better health and lower mortality.
The real key to achieving healthy aging benefits from volunteering appears to be “doing it for the right reasons.” A 2012 study in the journal Health Psychology found that participants who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. In other words, they had to be volunteering to help others — not to make themselves feel better.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle summed up the purpose of life this way — “To serve others and do good.” If recent research is any indication, serving others might also be the essential ingredient for long life and good health.
We are looking for volunteers of all ages for our hospice program. Many opportunities are available including direct client support at home and at the Merriman House, help with fundraising and special events, office tasks and more. For information, contact Julie Lanoie, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, at (603) 356-7006 or (800) 499-4171.
Home Care Matters is a bi-weekly column sharing information on healthy aging issues, written by Sandra Ruka, RN MSN and Sharon Malenfant, MS APR for Visiting Nurse, Home Care & Hospice of Carroll County and Western Maine.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 03:51

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Brian Irwin: Dialysis


Our kidneys are amazing structures.  Through a complicated system of tubes, arteries, veins and tissue, they can efficiently filter almost all the waste products of metabolism from our bloodstream.  While this is their primary function, the kidneys also help regulate blood pressure, bone density and the production of our red blood cells, without which we could not generate enough oxygen-carrying cells to survive.
But our beans (a colloquial term for kidneys) can get in trouble.  The intake of certain medications (too much ibuprofen), dehydration and a myriad of other culprits can damage the kidneys, rendering them useless to filter our blood.  Without that filtration our electrolytes are thrown out of balance, which can arrest normal neurologic or heart function.
Fortunately there is a stopgap measure for patients with kidney failure: dialysis.  Obviously mechanized filtration of our blood with a machine, a dialyzer, is an imperfect solution for dealing with kidney failure, but the fact remains that it’s a lifesaving option, one that can help those with permanent kidney damage get by until a transplant is an option (if it’s an option).  Dialysis can also help patients with more sudden-onset, possibly temporary kidney damage maintain normal function until their kidneys recover.
Understanding the concept of dialysis mandates an understanding of diffusion and filtration.  If you place a membrane that’s porous (microscopic pores) into a vessel and seal it such that it separates the two sides of water, that somewhat replicates the kidney function in a very simple sense. Now if you dissolve material (like salt) into one side and wait, the salt will eventually seep through the pores and into the other side, eventually to the end that the concentration of salt will be equal in both portions of water.
Now, into one side stir in something like sand.  Assume that the pores are quite small (microscopic), the sand will not diffuse to the other side, as their large grain size traps them in the half of the vessel into which you poured them.  In essence, this is how dialysis works.  It sets up a semi-permeable membrane between your blood (which is delivered through a port, sort of a permanent IV) and a clear dialysis solution.  As your blood passes the membrane waste products diffuse out of your blood and into the other fluid.  But, larger structures like critical proteins and blood cells can’t fit through the pores in the membrane, so they stay in your bloodstream.
It’s a very impressive medical technique.  Although I’m focusing on only one specific form of dialysis, it’s important to know there are other forms of the dialysis out there.  Some use your abdomen as a filtration reservoir; others use pressure to press waste products from the blood.
Dialysis has saved the lives of many patients, and although it’s a committing, inconvenient burden that often requires extensive travel, if you need , dialysis can keep you feeling well and add years to your life.

Dr. Brian Irwin is a family physician at Tamworth Family Medicine, a division of Huggins Hospital.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 03:51

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Bridgton Hospital announces its 2014 HEROES

During a recent ceremony at Bridgton Hospital, administration, management and employees paid tribute to five fellow employees that have consistently performed above expectations while also making significant contributions to their communities.

The HEROES (Healthcare Employees Reaching Out with Exceptional Service) Award was established several years ago by the Central Maine Medical Family to acknowledge outstanding employees at Central Maine Medical Center, Bridgton Hospital and Rumford Hospital. The awards are presented annually. Bridgton Hospital announced its roster of HEROES in July.

"The HEROES Award recognizes staff members who demonstrate the Central Maine Medical Family mission by providing, with expertise, commitment and compassion, exceptional healthcare services in a safe and trustful environment," said David Frum, President of Bridgton and Rumford Hospitals. To be recognized as one of the organization's HEROES, an employee must be nominated by a fellow employee through a formal review process.

During the seventh annual celebration, Eric Gerchman, M.D., Sean McCabe, Claire Meserve , and Jill Sawyer were honored for their compassion, citizenship, integrity, service, excellence and commitment. The HEROES were feted with an afternoon social and received glass trophies. Their names will be added to a slate plaque beside the main entrance of the hospital.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 03:37

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"Diabetes Self-Management" is the subject of a training class series set for August at Bridgton Hospital.

Thursday, August 14 – 8-11 a.m. — Karen Bogdan, Occupational Therapist, will discuss the importance of daily exercise, how it can help improve blood sugars, decrease weight, and improve overall well-being. Karen will give participants an exercise Theraband and instructions for using it. This class is fun & will motivate you to get moving!

Elaine Drew RN, BSN, CDE, will discuss diabetes mellitus, disease process and treatment options, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), and diabetic ketoacidosis (dangerously high blood sugar).

Monday, August 18 – 8-11 a.m. — Learn about medications to control diabetes; sick day management; lab tests and new research; signs, symptoms and treatment of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar); and the importance of proper foot care.

Friday, August 22 – 9-11 a.m. — Linda Russell, MA, RD/LD, CDE, Registered Dietitian, will discuss meal plans and diabetes, and review carbohydrate counting.

Pre-registration, referrals, and a dietary consult are required. To register for this class series, call Bridgton Hospital Diabetes Clinic at 207-647-6064. Participants will receive course book after pre-registering. All classes will be held in the Bridgton Hospital boardroom, 10 Hospital Drive, Bridgton.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 04:44

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SeniorsPlus, the Area Agency on Aging, will be at the Fryeburg Public Library July 28

FRYEBURG — SeniorsPlus, the Area Agency on Aging, will be at the Fryeburg Public Library, July 28 from 1 to 4 p.m. Officials will be on hand to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

All events are FREE and open to the public. For further information and to make an appointment call SeniorsPlus at 1-800-427-1241.

SeniorsPlus is a private non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to enrich the lives of seniors and adults with disabilities. SeniorsPlus believes in supporting the independence, dignity and quality of life of those we serve. It serves as the local Area Agency on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Center for Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford Counties, and provides a network of support, information, services and resources for older adults and adults with disabilities and their families. For more information, visit www.seniorsplus.org or call 207-795-4010 or 1-800-427-1241.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 04:41

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