The ABCs of Health
All year long in this Living Well column we’ve brought you expert voices on pertinent topics throughout the health care field.
This month we recap with ABCs of Health, brought to you by our panel of local experts:
Dr. KJ Williams,
Carla Durst, RN administrator,
All Saints Assisted Living and Memory Care
Dr. Michael Shapiro,
Anderson & Shapiro Eye Care
Dr. Jeremy Bufford, allergist, Meriter
Dr. Richard Parfitt,
Parfitt Facial Cosmetic Surgery Center
Tom Moreland, CEO,
St. Jude Hospice
Carmela Mulroe, activities director,
St. Mary’s Care Center
Drs. David Olive and Elizabeth Pritts, Wisconsin Fertility Institute
Environmental and food allergens in particular may come on suddenly, despite lifelong exposure without incident. “People self-diagnose allergies far too often, leading to unnecessary avoidance,” says Meriter’s Jeremy Bufford. “If you suspect allergies, request a formal allergy evaluation from a board-certified allergist.”
At Wisconsin Fertility Institute, sixty- to ninety-minute new-patient consultations supplemented by extensive pre-visit online evaluations ensure that your care plan is perfectly tailored to you, and fertility options go far beyond IVF treatments. “Our goal is not to maximize our statistics, but to treat each of the patients to the best of our ability,” says David Olive.
Often people need help navigating the health care system and managing their illness, yet they’re not eligible for hospice. With the new Agrace Care Navigation program, those with chronic illnesses such as congestive heart failure, dementia or MS get help with coordinating medical appointments, communicating with doctors and twenty-four-hour nurse phone support.
D—Dreams Take Flight
People who live long lives should continue to dream. At St. Mary’s Care Center, the “Dreams Take Flight” program helps residents do just that. (Partnering with UW’s Hoofers, SMCC fulfilled one woman’s desire to sail, for example.) “Our goal is to make sure we create opportunities for vibrant individuals to be the whole person they are.”
Get an eye exam every one to two years, more frequently if you have family history of eye disease. Don’t fret about cataracts (a clouding of your lens); we’ve come a long way. “I don’t even view cataracts as a disease anymore because if you live long enough, you’ll get them,” says Michael Shapiro. “I operate on Tuesday, they’re on the golf course on Thursday.”
F—Facial Plastic Surgery
“Surgical procedures alone do not improve some skin problems, and nonsurgical skin treatments do not address the youthful contours of the face beyond a certain age,” says Richard Parfitt. “A combination of both gives the best results.” Parfitt performs facelifts, eyelid surgery, injectibles, laser and light treatments, chemical peels and more.
G—Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology
Wisconsin Fertility Institute is also an international center for Asherman syndrome, or scar tissue within the uterus. Olive and Elizabeth Pritts specialize in patients with endometriosis, fibroids, chronic pelvic pain and anomalies of the vagina, cervix and uterus. “Even some gynecologists aren’t aware there are corrective measures for some of these conditions.”
Hospice is increasingly embraced as an essential end-of-life tool, and for most the cost is covered, freeing up families to make choices based on individual needs. Anyone with a prognosis of six months or less is eligible, and care is “healing-focused rather than cure-focused,” says St. Jude’s Tom Moreland.
I—Insurance and Hospice Care
“When people see our beautiful facility they sometimes imagine hospice is beyond their financial reach,” says Agrace’s KJ Williams. “Whether here or in your own home, hospice is paid for by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances. And the community-supported Agrace HospiceCare Foundation ensures that no one is turned away for inability to pay.”
Pulmonary care is often overlooked in hospice because the decision to shift from chronic to terminal diagnosis is difficult. St. Jude Hospice now offers the Hospice Pulmonary Program, providing education and visits from a respiratory therapist. “We keep them out of the hospital and safe at home without air hunger and pain, and with their family,” says Moreland.
K—Know the Difference between Allergies and Ailments
Bufford says seasonal allergies are often mistaken for the common cold, but allergies last several weeks and do not make you feverish. Skin rashes may actually be allergic reactions; chronic dry, scaly or itchy skin may indicate allergic contact dermatitis triggered by metals, fragrances, rubbers or chemicals.
L—Living to 100
As St. Mary’s Hospital turns one hundred, staff can’t help reflecting on the healthy habits of the centenarians in their care. What are the shared traits of those who live long, fulfilling lives? Sign up for “Living to 100,” a free presentation at St. Mary’s Hospital on September 11 at
6 p.m. (stmarysmadison.com/100years).
Some of the most prevalent aging-related diseases and conditions are related to memory, including Alzheimer’s and other dementias. “Look for an assisted living facility that offers specialized memory care services,” says All Saints’ Carla Durst, “and ask them what makes their programs special.”
N—Nutrition and Vision
“Blueberries, spinach, broccoli and green tea,” says Shapiro. “Good for the whole body, optimal for the eyes.” Key nutrients are lutein (leafy greens); vitamins C, E and A (citrus, tomatoes, bananas); zinc (red meat, poultry, oysters); beta carotenes (sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens) and DHA/EPA (fish and fish oil).
Despite infomercial claims, aging is inevitable; at All Saints, the focus is on “optimal aging.” When choosing an assisted living facility, “Try to look past the glitz and glimmer and focus on the health care provided,” says Durst, who recommends registered nurses available twenty-four hours a day and a lively social calendar as key starting places.
“We see a trend in those that live to be one hundred,” says St. Mary’s Care Center’s Mulroe. “People gravitate toward them.” Health setbacks happen, but people who look beyond the setbacks fare the best. In addition to eating well and exercising, they have an inner drive, stay social, think of others and cultivate hobbies.
If you’re considering plastic surgery, view dozens of before-and-after photos. Ask about a facility’s infection rate and what type of anesthesia is used. “For facial plastic surgery, general anesthesia is not only unnecessary, it adds a quantum increase in risk,” says Parfitt, advising patients to wait two years before trying any new technique. “Worthless surgical techniques and nonsurgical treatments come and go every year.”
“Often the media highlights a seventy-five-year-old marathoner and that’s nice, but that’s not the majority,” says St. Mary’s Mulroe. “If a resident learns how to knit or paint, that opens up a new avenue and life becomes more meaningful. And the capability of living closer to one hundred becomes a reality.”
S—Spirituality and Bioethics
Some want religion kept separate from health care, but for many Catholics, the opposite is not only true, it’s a critical fusion. St. Jude Hospice just received a formal canon decree from Bishop Robert Morlino so Catholic patients can rest assured that their end-of-life plans will align with their beliefs.
Superior care results when experts gather to focus on an individual person. At Agrace HospiceCare, each patient is assigned a team of care providers made up of medical professionals, social workers, grief counselors and chaplains. They also have access to companionship from volunteers and complementary therapies such as massage and nutritional consultation.
U—UV Eye Protection
UV rays are as harmful to eyes as to skin, increasing cataract formation and speeding macular degeneration. Shapiro says when you’re outside, even on cloudy days, wear UV-rated sunglasses. Regular eyeglasses may be fitted with clear UV filters, and newer contact lenses and cataract implants also contain UV filters.
W—Waiting and Fertility
“A lot of people think you have to wait a year to be classified as infertile,” says Wisconsin Fertility’s Pritts. “That’s not true if you’ve got an obvious problem, such as stopped periods or chemotherapy treatments.” If you’re having difficulty getting pregnant, seek out a physician for preconception counseling and pin down a plan.
X—Exposure to Sun
Protect with physical blocks and sunscreen, but if skin is already damaged, a prescriptive exfoliant and tretinoin (Retin-A) topical cream, lotion or gel will make it look and act younger. “A good prescriptive skin lightener with hydroquinone 4% will also prevent age spots and other pigmentation problems,” says Parfitt.
“Seniors and their families sometimes think assisted living is the end of the road,” says All Saints’ Durst. “That shouldn’t be farther from the truth if done correctly.” Don’t give up the right to live with independence, choice and dignity; look for a facility that offers new friends, delicious food, engaging social opportunities and round-the-clock care.
Z—Buzzing Bees and Other Allergens
Avoid your allergic triggers. Pets, dust mites, molds, pollens, food allergens, stinging insects and drugs are all culprits. “People and allergens can coexist as long as people obtain the proper diagnosis, recognize and respect their allergic triggers and practice avoidance measures,” says Bufford.