What Happens As We Age – How we break down and get put back together again.

Janie Williams of Cornerstone Healthcare Services will be the first presenter in our Aging 101 series. She has worked in the Long Term Care industry for about 20 years, managing independent living, assisted living, nursing homes, and memory care facilities. Janie is a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator and Certified as an Assisted Living Manager. She has a passion for helping people who find themselves in need of these types of services.

I recently spoke with Janie about how we age, what can we do to put ourselves in the best position to age well, and what types of services were available to help us when things don’t go so well. I started by asking her what we could do to get ourselves in the best shape to head into our later years, and she had quite a detailed answer.

Breaking down as we age can happen in two paths – an acute illness, or an injury. Both can be prepared for by being as healthy as possible before an illness or injury. We need to be in a preventative mode – working to build ourselves up with a proper diet, exercise, and, if necessary, medication.

Type 2 Diabetes is one of the worst illnesses for those in long term care. Managing that will go a long way towards keeping you healthy. Controlling your cholesterol is important for cardiac health. Another thing Janie mentioned was proper skincare, which I found surprising when I first heard someone mention this. Still, once Janie explained why it made better sense.

Our skin is our largest organ and a barrier that protects us from infection. If we are frail from disease and get wounded, we are opening ourselves up to an infection that could be difficult to treat or make our other issues such as diabetes, heart disease, or respiratory problems worse. Once an infection takes place, being sedentary or not eating well could cause our problems to snowball. We could be looking at multiple issues that need fixing instead of just one.

As we have been told for decades, we need to be fit & healthy, we need to pay attention to our diet, our lifestyle choices, and keep our brains active, but what happens if life throws a monkey wrench into the mix? Maybe we were fit and healthy, or perhaps we were going to get started ‘real soon now,’ but instead, an acute illness or a fall occurs. What happens then?

Everyone’s worst fear is “Going into the Home.” But did you know nursing homes can serve another purpose? If someone needs a nursing home level of care, the goal is to assist them with the care they need, then discharge them to their previous level of function. This could be their own home or an assisted living facility, etc. In other words, giving them rehabilitation so that they do not need a higher level of care than they did before.

Sometimes returning to our previous level of function is not possible, and we need continuing assistance. Home Healthcare can work with us to provide services we need once we are released from a nursing home. Cornerstone works to make this transition seamless so that the residents have a plan of care in place that they can work with before going home or to another level of care facility.

When health or disability affects us, it doesn’t always just take a toll on our body, but could also affect our mind. It is hard at times to deal with a long illness, the loss of being able to do something we once did, or pain that may now be part of our lives. As soon as depression enters the picture, it is often possible to see a decline in a person’s health as well. We don’t always recognize depression in others, and we often try to hide it in ourselves. Symptoms of depression could include not eating or sleeping, not participating in activities we once enjoyed, not taking care of healthcare needs, or avoiding getting out of bed. Toss in dementia, and there are even more problems to deal with.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are limited in how they can deal with mental health issues. Your doctor or counselor would be the first line care person to address these issues with the long term care facility assisting as necessary with medications, physical needs care, and activities to stimulate interests. Alzheimer’s & Dementia residents may need a Memory Care locked unit, while others could be in a Wander Guard system that alerts should the resident wander off. More severe mental health issues are handled at other special care medical centers. The same goes for drug and alcohol addictions. Nursing homes are not set up as detox treatment centers. A patient that has detoxed to a certain level, but still needs physical care assistance, can be treated in a nursing home and released as their situation improves.

There is a lot to learn about how we break down and get put back together as we age. Janie says her heart is full of compassion, and she wants to help people navigate through the steps of aging to the best of their ability. It’s a difficult road to travel, with all the different stops you have to get off and on. She would like to present information so that you can gain the knowledge that you might not use now but could find useful in the future. Please join us on March 3rd, from 1:30-3:30pm, at The HUB for her Aging 101 presentation.

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