Monday, September 28, 2015

Seven Myths About Physical Therapy

October is National Physical Therapy Month. Sponsored by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), this recognition event calls attention to the many ways physical therapy improves lives.
During National Physical Therapy Month last year, APTA shared some myths and facts about physical therapy to debunk misperceptions people might have about this transforming branch of the medical profession:
1. Myth: I need a physician’s referral to see a physical therapist.
Fact: The survey revealed 70% of people think a referral or prescription is required for evaluation by a physical therapist. However, all 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC) allow patients to be evaluated by a physical therapist without a physician’s prior referral.
2. Myth: Physical therapy is painful.
Fact: Physical therapists seek to minimize pain and discomfort—even if it is chronic or long-term. They work within your pain threshold to help you heal, and restore movement and function. The survey found that 71% of people who have never visited a physical therapist think physical therapy is painful. That percentage significantly decreased, however, among patients who had visited a physical therapist within the past year.
3. Myth: Physical therapy is only for injuries and accidents.
Fact: Physical therapists do a lot more than just stretch or strengthen weak muscles after an injury or surgery. As experts in the way the body moves, they are skilled at evaluating and diagnosing potential problems before they lead to more serious injuries or disabling conditions. Physical therapists help people of all ages and abilities reduce pain, improve or restore mobility, and stay active and fit throughout life.
4. Myth: Any health care professional can perform physical therapy.
Fact: Although the survey found that 42% of consumers are aware that physical therapy can be performed only by a licensed physical therapist, 37% still believe that other health care professionals can provide physical therapy. While physical therapists and other health care professionals may perform some treatments that seem similar, physical therapy can be provided only by licensed physical therapists.
5. Myth: Physical therapy isn’t covered by insurance.
Fact: Most insurance policies cover some form of physical therapy. Beyond insurance coverage, physical therapy has shown to reduce costs by helping people avoid unnecessary imaging scans, surgery, prescription drugs. Physical therapy can also lower costs by helping patients avoid falls or by addressing conditions before they become chronic.
6. Myth: Surgery is my only option.
Fact: In many cases, physical therapy has been shown to be as effective as surgery in treating a wide range of conditions—from rotator cuff tears and degenerative disk disease to meniscal tears and some forms of knee osteoarthritis. The study found that people who recently have seen a physical therapist know this to be true, with 79% believing that physical therapy can be a viable alternative to surgery.
7. Myth: I can do physical therapy myself.
Fact: The goal of physical therapy is to educate the patient on successful self-care. To accomplish this, however, the expert care and guidance of a licensed physical therapist is required. Your physical therapist’s specialized education and clinical expertise, combined with the latest available evidence and treatment techniques, are critical to evaluating and diagnosing your condition and developing an individualized plan of care.
“Commonly held misconceptions about physical therapy can become barriers to people seeking the potentially life-changing care of a physical therapist,” said APTA member Joseph Brence, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, COMT, DAC. “We hope that by challenging these myths with facts, consumers will recognize that physical therapists can help them optimize their movement and greatly improve their quality of life.”
Source: The American Physical Therapy Association ( Learn more about physical therapy on APTA’s consumer information website,

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fall is Here - Time for Your Vacation!

One of the benefits of being retired is the ability to get up and go anytime you want. This flexibility can be a real asset when planning a vacation. You can avoid summer crowds and heat, everywhere from a local destination to Yellowstone National Park to Europe – while saving some money by traveling at off-peak times of the year.
Fall is a great time to travel to most places around the world. You’ll still likely have good weather without the hordes of people that can sometimes ruin a visit to a beloved tourist destination. And, many hotels and other tourist-centric companies offer lower rates during these seasons.
Here are some other travel tips to make your vacation more enjoyable:
Pack light. Nothing ruins the freedom of traveling faster than being burdened by too much luggage. Most travelers realize that can get away with less “stuff” while traveling and, if they’ve forgotten something, they can usually buy it at their destination. A good rule of thumb is to make a list of everything you think you’ll need and then cut it in half. Remember that part of the fun of vacations is shopping and buying things you can’t find “just anywhere.” So if you suddenly need a special outfit, go out and buy it!
Fly right. If you’re flying, consider checking all your luggage, except for essentials you’ll need on the flight. This way, you don’t have to hassle with overhead compartments and lifting heaving luggage into a tight, cramped space. Also, book an aisle seat. Too little legroom can be particularly problematic for seniors, and an aisle seat allows you to get up and move or go to the restroom more easily.
Fill your prescriptions. Make sure you’ve got enough of your prescription medications to last you through the duration of your trip – and a little extra in case you get delayed on the way home. Getting a prescription filled at an out-of-town – or out-of-country – pharmacy can be more of a headache than you want on your vacation. Leave your medications in their original containers to avoid any questions or potential delays from Customs agents. If you wear eyeglasses, take an extra pair. If your glasses get lost or broken, you want to be able to actually see the things you made such an effort to visit!
Claim your age! Many services and attractions offer discounts to seniors – sometimes all it takes is showing your driver’s license. If you have an AARP card, take that as well. Always ask businesses if they offer a senior discount even if you don’t see anything posted. Not everybody advertises offered discounts, and you may be able to reap the rewards.
Consider buying travel insurance. While this makes sense for almost any traveler, seniors have even more reason to benefit. Travel insurance can cover everything from trip cancellations and delays to medical coverage. For instance, if Medicare is your only insurance coverage and you’re traveling outside the U.S., you won’t be covered for any medical expenses, with rare exception. If you get sick or become injured abroad, travel insurance can help pay for these expenses. Because travel insurance comes in varying levels, be sure and research your options carefully.

Monday, September 21, 2015

U.S., China Share Caregiving Challenges

The economic situation in China has been making the headlines for the last few months. Not as frequently mentioned is another growing crisis in China that is in many respects similar to our challenges in the U.S.: the growing senior population and accompanying caregiver crunch.
When we think of elder care in that nation, most of us no doubt picture traditional values where elders are venerated, and cared for at home as their needs change. But China’s family structure and economic picture are changing. RAND Corporation recently released a study that takes a look at the present and future of aging in China. Many of the themes will be surprisingly familiar to family caregivers and senior support professionals in the U.S.:
Chinese seniors are living longer. According to the report, in 1950 the life expectancy in China was about 40 years. Today, the average is 70, and that is expected to rise. Just as in the U.S., there will be many more elderly citizens than in previous years—not only a greater overall number, but also a higher percentage of the population.
Though living longer, these elders face health challenges. In the U.S., researchers have sounded the alarm that while we’re living longer, we aren’t necessarily as healthy. The situation in China is trending in the same direction, say the study authors. More Chinese seniors are smoking, and the obesity rate is growing. Rising levels of urban pollution also threaten their health. Say the researchers, “Chinese citizens also are getting diagnosed and treated for common conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, conditions that just a few years ago they didn’t even realize they had. The silent killers are now being heard.”
The pool of caregivers is shrinking. This would seem to be a major and obvious factor in the changing face of caregiving in China, given the effects of the one-child policy. The report states that in 1950, the average Chinese woman had six children—six potential caregivers. The one-child policy has changed, but the authors still project less than replacement-level fertility. U.S. families, too, are dealing with a ratio shift as the large baby boom-era families gave way to smaller families with fewer caregiver siblings to choose from.
Long-distance caregiving challenges. In the U.S., millions of family caregivers scramble to care for their elderly loved ones from afar. In China, where seniors traditionally lived near their families, ongoing migration to cities from rural areas is beginning to cause a similar situation. At present, almost all seniors older than 75 live near or with a child, but for people now aged 55, the number drops. Study co-author Yaohui Zhao of Peking University says some seniors could be in effect stranded by the nation’s health insurance system: “Insurance pools are operated at the county level, and reimbursement for care decreases while co-payments increase for care received out of one’s home county. Such policies discourage older parents from following their children to new locations.”
Said study co-author James P. Smith, Chair in Labor Market and Demographic Studies at RAND, “There will not be a demographic fix to healthy aging in China, even if the one-child policy is relaxed, since fertility is unlikely to change much. Government policies need to focus on improving health behaviors, combatting pollution and allowing elderly parents to live with their adult children.” This study, based on data funded in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, shows that ongoing senior-care research collaboration between the U.S. and China makes a lot of sense.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on materials from the RAND Corporation. Read more about the study in the Journal of the Economics of Ageing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Target Your Healthy Weight This Fall

Many of us go on a diet as summer approaches. Swimsuits alone are a good motivator to shed some fat. On the other hand, there are all those picnics, barbecues and vacation fare…many of us step on the scale come September only to find that we didn’t lose an ounce, and perhaps picked up a few pounds as well.
But fall can be a great time to focus on attaining a healthy weight. The cooler temperatures and colorful leaves make our daily walk a little more pleasant. And then there are the looming holidays with their traditional opportunities to overindulge—if we get a head start on our healthy eating plan, we’re more likely to keep it up when Halloween candy, turkey gravy and Christmas candy tempt us.
Even though you’ve put your swimsuit away, there are plenty of other reasons to work toward a healthy weight. If you need a little extra motivation, check out these medically documented benefits:
You’ll lower your risk for many diseases. Obesity increases your risk for numerous diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, certain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease. Losing weight can, in many cases, immediately reduce your risk for these diseases.
You’ll lower your risk of injury. Not only does carrying extra pounds increase your risk of disease, but it also nearly doubles your risk of injury—everything from falling to overexertion.
You’ll save money. If you eat less, you’ll probably spend less on food. That’s the first, most obvious way you save money by dropping a few pant sizes. But it can save you money in numerous other ways. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person who’s obese has medical costs $1,429 higher per year than someone who maintains a healthy weight. And obesity can increase the cost of both health and life insurance.
Your memory may improve. Numerous studies show that being overweight can be bad for our memory. A recent study compared the memory of a group of obese people and a second group that had gastric bypass surgery. After 12 weeks, both groups took a set of memory tests, similar to ones taken before the study began. The surgery patients, who lost an average of 50 pounds, showed improvement in a number of cognitive abilities, including memory. Those who had not had the surgery showed a mild decline in memory. Additionally, obesity has been shown to be one of the risk factors in developing Alzheimer’s disease.
You’ll sleep better. Obesity raises the risk of sleep disorders, including apnea, one of the most serious. The loss of restful sleep leads to the production of more of a hormone that makes you hungry. The hungrier you are, the more you eat, which, in turn, decreases your chance of having a good night’s sleep—a vicious circle. By losing weight, you’ll sleep better and be less hungry. If you’re less hungry, you’ll eat less. If you eat less, you may lose weight. Turn a vicious circle into a virtuous circle.
You’ll have more energy. Those extra pounds make it harder for your heart to get blood to every part of your body and for your body to move extra pounds from Point A to Point B. Just imagine having to carry a 30-pound sack of flour around all day to understand the effect. Shedding those pounds means your body has to work less hard, freeing up all kinds of energy—to play ball with the grandkids, to exercise more, to do whatever your heart desires!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

AARP Launches Free Educational Resource to Get Seniors Online

You have probably heard about the “digital divide”—the line between the technology communication haves and haves nots. Today, more seniors are using the internet and social media than ever before, but this population group still lags behind others, and this can mean that older adults are out of the loop when it comes to social connections and staying plugged in to today’s culture. How sad is it at family gatherings when everyone but Grandpa has seen all the year’s family photos on Facebook!
For some seniors, the cost of computers and smartphones is the barrier to adopting these modern technologies. But for most, a lack of knowledge is what stands in their way. Computers and the Internet can be very intimidating to those not raised with a monitor under their nose! Family members try to help, but just because you’re a great family caregiver doesn’t mean you have great digital pedagogical skills!
AARP has long recognized the value—and challenges—of digital literacy for older adults. Last year they launched a series of hands-on workshops in select cities through their AARP TEK program. AARP TEK (the “TEK” stands for Technology Education and Knowledge) participants learned skills to help them take advantage of technology for personal and professional goals.
Now, AARP has put AARP TEK online. Visit the AARP TEK Academy at to take advantage of these resources from your own home computer, smartphone or tablet. “With 37 million Americans not online, AARP TEK Academy is for anyone who wants to get the most out of their mobile devices, stay safe online and pursue online adult learning for professional development, healthy living, online money management, entertainment and much more,” said AARP Interim Vice President Anne Jacoby. “We have had strong success at our face-to-face TEK workshops in cities across the country as adults share stories of being able to stay in touch with family via social media, use technology to expand their business and learn new skills for job searches.”
The website includes a selection of easy-to-understand videos on topics such as social media, online safety, smartphones and other devices. While the tutorials are targeted for the over-50 population, younger people also will no doubt find helpful—and free—information on the site.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on information from the AARP ( and the AARP TEK Academy program (

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Around the World and On Your Own Street: The Impact of Dementia

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. Each year, Alzheimer’s Disease International ( issues a report to raise awareness of the disease and its impact on families. According to this year’s report, the cost of dementia care has increased by 35 percent in just five years. Says the report, “If global dementia care were a country, it would be the 18th largest economy in the world, and would exceed the market values of companies such as Apple (US $742 billion) and Google (US $368 billion).”
Dementia care burdens nations, communities and, especially, people with dementia and their families. Indeed, a recent survey conducted by University of Buffalo researchers found that most people with dementia and those caring for them would rather see money spent on care and support than on research for a cure.
During the recent White House Conference on Aging, a new initiative was unveiled that aims to help the 5 million Americans who are now living with Alzheimer’s, and the many millions more expected to follow. The Dementia Friendly America Initiative ( aims to foster cities, counties, businesses and states that are “informed, safe and respectful of individuals with dementia and their families” and “provide supportive options and foster quality of life.”
“Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can be devastating to American families, but we are not powerless to support those living with the disease, their caregivers and loved ones,” said Senator Bill Frist, national spokesperson for Dementia Friendly America. “Starting in these communities, we’re building a nationwide effort to educate Americans about dementia, equip business owners and first responders to recognize and assist those with memory loss, and empower people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to engage independently and safely in community life for as long as possible.”
Currently, the communities include Tempe, AZ; Santa Clara County, CA; Denver, CO; Prince George’s County, MD; Knoxville, TN; and the state of West Virginia. Working with businesses, faith communities, health care organizations and other entities, these communities have the goals of:
  • Raising awareness about dementia and transforming attitudes
  • Having supportive options that foster quality of life
  • Supporting caregivers and families touched by the disease
  • Promoting meaningful participation in community life
  • Reaching those who are underserved
“Becoming dementia friendly must be a priority for all of our hometowns in order to remove stigma, enable people with Alzheimer’s to come out of the shadows and engage in their communities, and help families effectively manage all that comes with the critical task of caregiving,” said George Vradenburg, founder of USAgainstAlzheimer’s, a major catalyst behind the inception of the new initiative. “This hometown Dementia Friendly America initiative sends a message to American families experiencing dementia: ‘You are not alone, we are your neighbors, we care about you, and we want to help’.”
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on materials from Dementia Friendly America andAlzheimer’s Disease International.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Worried About Memory Lapses?

You need three ingredients for a recipe, so you dash to the grocery store—but once you’re there, you can’t remember one of the items you came for.
You go to a wedding reception, and even though you’ve met the bride’s mother before, you can’t remember her name.
You say aloud, “Where are my glasses, I’ve looked everywhere!” and your spouse points out that you’ve rested them on top of your head.
Memory lapses like these can worry us, especially as we grow older. But for the most part, these little slips are the result of perfectly normal changes of aging. Neurologists tell us that some thinking and memory skills drop off even by middle age, so we probably won’t beat a college student at, say, a game where we have to remember long strings of numbers. On the other hand, some of the qualities that are collectively known as “wisdom” continue to develop and flourish as we enter our seventh, eighth, even ninth and tenth decades.
It is true that certain conditions that become more common with age affect our memory and thinking. These include Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia and dementia resulting from a stroke or series of strokes. It’s important that these conditions be diagnosed early to allow for the best possible treatment, and so patients and their families can plan for the changes to follow.
Worrying about our memory can even, itself, affect our memory! Stress is a notorious memory inhibitor. And if we have a parent or other family member who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of memory loss, this might make us even more sensitized to any lapses in our own memory.
To help consumers sort out the difference between ordinary mild forgetfulness and signs that should be reported to the doctor, the National Institutes of Health recently shared some information:
What is mild forgetfulness?
Some of us do get more forgetful as we age. It may take longer to learn new things, call up certain words, or find our glasses. These are often signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems.
If you’re worried about being forgetful, see your doctor and describe what’s bothering you. Be sure to make a follow-up appointment to check your memory in the next six months or year. If you’re afraid you’ll forget, ask a family member, friend, or the doctor’s office to remind you.
What can I do about mild forgetfulness?
You can do many things to help keep your memory sharp and stay alert. Here are some helpful ideas:
  • Learn a new skill.
  • Volunteer in your community, at a school, or at your place of worship.
  • Spend time with friends and family.
  • Use memory tools—to-do lists, reminder notes, big calendars.
  • Put your wallet or purse, keys and glasses in the same place each day.
  • Get lots of rest.
  • Exercise and eat well.
  • Don’t drink a lot of alcohol.
  • Get help if you feel depressed for weeks at a time.
What is a serious memory problem?
Serious memory problems make everyday things hard to do. You may find it hard to drive, shop, or even talk with a friend. Signs of serious memory problems may include:
  • asking the same questions over and over again
  • getting lost in places you know well
  • not being able to follow directions
  • becoming increasingly confused about time, people, and places
  • not taking care of yourself—eating poorly, not bathing, or being unsafe
What can I do if I’m worried about my memory?
See your doctor. If your doctor thinks your memory problems are serious, you may need a complete health checkup. The doctor will review your medicines and may test your blood and urine, as well as checking your memory, problem solving, counting, and language skills.
The doctor also may suggest a brain scan to show the normal and problem areas in the brain. Once the cause of the problem is discovered, you can ask what treatment might be best for you.
See your doctor if you are worried about your memory. It’s important to find out what is causing your memory problems.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise with materials from MedlinePlus, a publication of the National Institutes of Health. For more information, read “Read Forgetfulness: Knowing When to Ask for Help”  to learn more about the causes of memory loss, including treatable conditions.