Archive for March 2016

Five Early Warning Signs of Depression in Seniors

Posted on Mar 29, 2016

Senior couple with doctor

Depression in older adults can occur for a variety of reasons. It can stem from physical health problems, a lack of social interaction, grief or a number of other factors. For caregivers and loved ones, it's important to recognize the warning signs associated with depression and intervene as early as possible. Here are a few of the most common signs of depression in seniors. 


Most of us associate depression with extended periods of sadness, particularly when the cause of the sadness isn't evident. This sadness may be caused by an individual not feeling useful, or not having purpose. But, many seniors suffering from depression also report an absence of sadness. Instead, you should also watch for signs of low motivation, or a lack of energy. 


That lack of energy, or excessive fatigue, can be a serious problem. This fatigue can lead to exacerbated symptoms like a lack of exercise, and lack of interaction with others. Seniors who feel tired at all times may resist going outside, or attending family get togethers, which only further complicates their depression. This is a particularly important symptom to watch for in seniors because not only can it be a sign of depression, but also of a number of other illnesses and maladies that should be investigated by a doctor. 


Staying away from loved ones, and staying isolated, doesn't have to involve fatigue. In some cases, depression causes seniors to avoid social interactions for other reasons. Sometimes, for no clear reason at all. This can also come with feelings of anxiety, worry, or irritability. Staying isolated creates more problems, however, so it's generally important to get help that allows your loved one to resume activities they enjoy. 

Loss of appetite 

In many instances of senior depression, an individual will suddenly show little to no interest in food. Obviously, this leads to a lack of proper nutrition, which can cause a number of other health problems. This is often an early symptom of developing depression, so intervening at this phase could help to prevent further symptoms. In addition to enlisting the help of a professional, loss of appetite can be helped in the short term by encouraging your loved one to eat several smaller meals or snacks throughout the day, rather than three larger meals at traditional meal times. 

Irregular sleep

Sleep patterns can be a clear sign that a senior is struggling with depression, or other health issues. Depression, specifically, can impact an individual's sleep in different ways, however. For some, they experience a difficulty falling asleep, or wake up constantly throughout the night. For others, they sleep more, often oversleeping, or falling asleep during the day after long periods of rest at night. These irregular sleep patterns contribute to the other symptoms discussed here and warrant an appointment with a medical professional.  

These are just a few of the common symptoms that could indicate a senior is struggling with depression. 

At Cura-HPC, we offer assistance and care that helps to identify and prevent depression and other common issues that occur during end of life care. To learn more about palliative care and hospice care, contact us by calling 800-797-3839. 

Research Shows Link Between Exercise and Brain Aging

Posted on Mar 24, 2016

Seniors lifting weights

The link between exercise and cognitive decline has been well researched and documented. One recent study found that any amount of exercise can reduce an individual's risk of Alzheimer's disease by 50 percent. A similar study found that regular exercise for individuals in middle age and up was able to keep their brains healthier, particularly in areas of the brain linked to memory. The most recent study in this area was conducted at the University of Miami, Florida and researched how exercise impacted thinking skills in individuals over the age of 50. 

The Miami study, headed up by Dr. Clinton B. Wright, began with gathering data for 876 adults over the age of 50 with an average age of 71. None of these individuals had pre-existing cognitive issues. Initially, participants were surveyed to discover their exercise habits. 

About 90 percent of the participants reported engaging in no exercise, or light exercise, in the previous two weeks. Yoga or walking would be classified as light exercise for the purpose of this study. 

The remaining 10 percent reported engaging in activities like running or aerobics, which this study classified as moderate to high intensity exercise. 

After seven years, participants underwent MRIs for brain imaging, and took tests for memory and thinking. Similar tests were given again another five years later, 12 years after the initial survey. 

The findings of the cognitive testing drew a stark difference between those in the 'no exercise' group and those in the 'moderate exercise' group. When compared to those who regularly participated in at least moderate exercise, the individuals who did not exercise regularly aged about twice as fast. As the study puts it,

"Those who did light or no exercise demonstrated a decline in memory and thinking skills over a 5 year period that was comparable to 10 years of aging."

The research team then went to work to eliminate other factors that could be causing these results. Those factors included alcohol consumption, smoking status, body mass index and blood pressure. After accounting for these factors, the link to a lack of exercise and an increased rate of cognitive decline remained. 

These results are not meant to suggest that exercise cures cognitive impairment, or even stops it completely. This study only concludes that moderate to high intensity exercise in older adults often slows the rate of cognitive decline and delays the aging of the brain. And, as Dr. Wright notes, more research is needed to confirm these results. 

For the time being, it seems clear that regular exercise can be extremely beneficial for seniors and have lasting impacts on their mental and physical health. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing health issues, it may be a good time to explore care options. Call us at Cura HPC to learn more about our palliative care and hospice services now, before your need becomes dire. 

Inconsistencies In Medical Care For Seniors Found

Posted on Mar 16, 2016

Senior couple with physician

A recent study conducted by The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice set out to grade healthcare quality for seniors across the US. By comparing Medicare data for beneficiaries in different regions, the researchers discovered that where you live has a profound impact on the type of treatment your receive, and the quality of that treatment. Here is an overview of some of the key differences found when studying location and medical care for seniors. 

Though the study began by issuing a report card by region, the findings suggested wildly different levels of care from city to city, even in the same region. 

For seniors living in Manhattan, the average for time spent on doctor visits or in a hospital was 25 days per year. In Lebanon, New Hampshire, a city of about 14 thousand, that average dipped to less than 10 days per year. 

Of York, Pennsylvania seniors, about 73 percent used their primary care physician as their predominant healthcare provider and trusted them to coordinate their care. That's the highest such percentage in the nation, according to the study. The lowest, 42.6 percent, was found in Metarie, Louisiana. The national average came in at just under 57 percent. 

Those numbers are particularly important because research has also shown that when primary care physicians are more involved with care, patients benefit in a number of ways. Areas in this study with higher percentages of seniors using their primary care physician to coordinate their care tended to also have lower costs, higher quality, and lower rates of hospitalization. 

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare enrollees are entitled to a free preventative check-up each year. This can include personalized prevention planning, an assessment of the patient's functional ability, and a review of their risk factors for depression. In 2012, only 10.7 percent of Medicare beneficaries took advantage of this benefit. That includes a national low of just 1.2 percent in Meridian, Mississippi, and a national high of 26.1 percent of seniors in Clearwater, Florida. 

Typically, when a patient sees more clinicians, there's a higher risk of miscommunication, duplication of services, and misuse, or overuse of care. In most cases, the fewer medical professionals involved in treatment of a single individual, the better the quality of their care will be. That's obviously not always the case, and not realistic for every patient to limit their care to one or two clinicians, but for this study, a lower number of clinicians was regarded as the better option. The national average for seniors was 3.4 clinicians seen in a single year. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, patients saw nearly 5 clinicians annually on average. Meanwhile, in Bangor, Maine, patients visited 2.4 clinicians on average each year. 

In 2008, the US Preventative Services Task Force recommended that prostrate cancer screenings should not be done for males over the age of 75. The belief is that the harm outweighs the benefits. There are concerns over invasive follow up testing, treatments and their side effects, and the stress and worry false-positives can inflict. Partly due to these recommendations, by 2012, the national average for these screenings on males over 75 dropped to under 20 percent of the qualifying US population. It was as low as 9.9 percent in Casper, Wyoming, but in Miami, Florida, 30 percent of males over 75 were still being screened for prostate cancer. 

In a similar case, research has shown that feeding tubes don't prolong life or improve outcomes for patients with advanced dementia. Despite this, more than 14 percent of advanced dementia patients in Lake Charles, Louisiana received a feeding tube. That's far above the national average of 6 percent, and the lowest rate in the nation of 1.3 percent, found in Portland, Oregon. 

Experts interpret these findings as proof that, as seniors develop multiple ailments and illnesses, and more care is required, it becomes increasingly important to have a coordinating physician or medical professional to oversee comprehensive care in order to ensure that all care is coordinated correctly and successfully. This will also help ensure that current best practices become more wide spread and are used throughout the country, rather than sporadically in some areas. 

At Cura-HPC, we help coordinate palliative and hospice care for patients with life limiting illnesses. To learn more about our services, call us at (800)797-3839.  

Proper Nutrition Tips and Essential Nutrients For Seniors

Posted on Mar 09, 2016

Elderly couple drinking water

As we age, our nutritional needs change. By adapting, you help your body stay healthy and fight off diseases. Whether you yourself is facing this issue, or you're helping to care for an elderly relative, it's important to understand the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that seniors require. In some cases, older individuals need additional vitamins, while in other cases, they need to cut back on certain foods. Here's a look at the dietary needs of seniors. 


It's essential that we increase our calcium intake as we age, just as it's essential for children to get more calcium as they grow. Our bone system becomes more brittle over time, and the risk of serious injuries increases. Without the necessary intake of calcium, you run an increased risk of arthritis and osteoporosis. While it's recommended that individuals over the age of 55 get at least 1200 milligrams of calcium each day, it's also important where they get their calcium. Diversity is important, so you shouldn't only be relying on dairy products for calcium. You can also reach your daily requirement through leafy greens, soy, supplements, and many other foods and beverages. 

Omega 3 fatty acids

Your body requires these fats to function, but it doesn't produce them internally. So, it's vital that all of us get plenty of Omega 3s for a number of health benefits, including lowering your risk for arthritis, depression, Alzheimer's and dementia. Omega 3s are most commonly found in various types of fish, and as we age, it's important that we consume at least 3 servings of fish each week. Additionally, walnuts, flaxseed oil, and canola oil can supplement additional Omega 3s. 


There are a number of foods that are high in sodium, namely pre-packaged and processed foods. Sodium is also directly related to hypertension, and a number of other heart diseases. Because seniors already have an increased risk for these issues, it's important to decrease the amount of sodium in their diet before problems start. Of course, if an individual already has high blood pressure, sodium levels should be decreased regardless of their age. 


It may seem like a simple thing to stay hydrated, but many seniors experience serious health problems related to dehydration. As we age, our hydration requirements don't necessarily change much from when we're younger, but the potential risks involved with dehydration grow. Additionally, hydration isn't much of a concern for many, so it's easy to fail to make drinking water a priority. In addition to water, other liquids like soups, juices and teas, can help with hydration. Signs of dehydration in seniors to watch for include dizziness, headaches, rapid heart rate and confusion. When these symptoms appear, it's likely that serious dehydration has already occurred, which could require the use of an IV to regain fluids. 

If you're caring for an elderly relative, it's important for you to help them make care plans for the future. Contact us at Cura-HPC for answers to your questions about hospice and palliative care. 

4 Questions About Hospice Care From Patients and Families

Posted on Mar 02, 2016

Elderly couple and caregiver

The best time to start researching options for medical care is right now, before you or your loved one is in a dire situation where care is needed immediately. That allows you to carefully assess your choices, interview potential providers and physicians and make an informed decision. To help get you started, here are a few common questions we hear from families while they're learning about end of life care options like our hospice care services. 

Where do referrals for hospice care come from? 

A common misconception about hospice care is that patients need a physician's referral to begin care. In actuality, anyone involved in the patient's care can suggest that they begin hospice care. That includes family members, friends, clergy and other caregivers. The primary requirement for a patient to qualify for hospice care is that they've been diagnosed with a terminal illness. That diagnosis must come from a physician, and state that the life expectancy for the patient is six months or less. That does not mean the physician must then refer the patient to a hospice provider, however. It also doesn't mean the patient can only receive hospice care for six months. 

What is the cost of hospice care? 

The cost related to hospice care does not need to be a concern for most patients. Those with Medicare have the costs of care related to their illness completely covered. That includes hospice services, as well as prescription medication specifically for their diagnosis and its related symptoms, medical equipment and medical supplies. Those without Medicare are invited to consult with us at Cura-HPC to explore alternative options. 

Where is the hospice facility? 

This question stems from a misunderstanding of hospice care. Hospice isn't a physical location and there is no dedicated facility we use to administer care. That relates to one of the primary benefits of hospice services. Rather than having to be in a medical facility, most patients are able to stay in their own homes and have services and medical professionals come to them. This enhances the comfort of the patient as they stay in familiar surroundings, and often makes it easier for friends and family to visit and spend more time with them. It also provides the opportunity to provide additional, non-traditional care or allow patients to have experiences they wouldn't be able to from a hospital bed. 

Does starting hospice care mean you're giving up? 

This concern is often the primary reason a family or individual patient holds off on starting hospice services. They think that hospice care is only for those that are ready to die. While patients in hospice care have terminal illnesses, and hospice services are intended to provide end of life care, the benefits hospice provides improve the quality of life for patients. Rather than giving up, hospice gives patients an opportunity to fully live during the time they have remaining. Rather than spending that time in a haze created by prescription medicine, or in pain due to aggressive treatments, they're able to be conscious and alert, often pain free, and able to enjoy their loved ones and their favorite activities. 

If you have additional questions about hospice care, please contact us at Cura-HPC by calling 800-797-3839.