Alzheimer’s disease and other brain conditions and diseases continue to affect ever-greater numbers of people. And while scientists are making advances in treatments, the cure for these complex, devastating diseases is still uncertain.
But there are things you can do to protect your brain health. June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to check in on your own self-care and also to see how your patients are taking care of their brain health. African Americans and Latinos bear greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s than older whites, so it’s especially important for some minority populations to understand their increased risk.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is not a normal aging process that happens to everyone as they get older. People may have typical memory slips, but Alzheimer’s involves much more than just forgetting where you put your keys.
With early detection, Alzheimer’s treatment can begin earlier and hopefully slow the progression, but as of right now, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s.
Learn the Signs
There are warning signs for Alzheimer’s that will let you know you, a loved one, or a patient is struggling with more than a little memory loss. While it’s normal aging to forget someone’s name, it’s not normal aging to forget who the person is. Other things to consider are disruptive mood changes (more than irritability about the dog walker being late), poor self care, and severe confusion about where they are or even what year it is.
Know How to Protect Your Brain
Experts say what’s good for your heart is good for your brain. Take care of yourself by getting rest, eating nutritious foods, socializing with people you enjoy, staying hydrated, not smoking, drinking alcohol minimally, and keeping at a healthy weight and blood pressure. But there’s more you can also do. Keep your brain active. As a nurse, you’re days are hardly ever the same and that’s good for your brain. Check in with your patients to see if they are keeping their brains stimulated with anything from hobbies to social clubs to trying new puzzles, reading or listening to new books, or even listening to unfamiliar music.
Brain injury is serious and some of it is preventable. Wear a helmet while biking, skiing, skateboarding, rollerblading, for any extreme sports, or riding a motorcycle or ATV (and make sure family members and friends do the same). Always wear a seat belt in the car. Check your home for tripping dangers like loose carpets, items on the stairs, or things on the floors. Take care in winter weather for icy spots. Anything you can do to prevent brain injury is good for both your long-term and short-term brain health.
Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases are a real health threat to all aging Americans, so you have a right to be concerned. But there are promising therapies on the horizon and there are things you can do now to help protect yourself as much as is possible. Spread the word about brain health and chat about it with your patients to pass along a few tips.
There are lots of health tips that men and women can both benefit from. Getting enough sleep and exercise and eating a well-balanced diet are some good all-around health tips everyone can use. But the genders have some pretty diverse health challenges. For example, did you know men die, on average, five years sooner than women?
Whether you are a man looking into your own health concerns or a woman with men in her life, Men’s Health Week (June 12 to 18) is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year and comes right in the middle of Men’s Health Month. If you’re a nurse and a man, use this opportunity to talk to your male patients about the specific health problems men face and what to do to help prevent them or cope with them.
How can men make sure they are doing the best they can for their own health? Here are some pointers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and MensHealthMonth.org.
One of the best ways to stay healthy is to get regular screenings for diseases and conditions that can be detected and therefore treated, early. Get an annual checkup so you can stay on top of your blood sugar levels, your weight, your cholesterol, and your blood pressure. Get a colonoscopy if you’re past age 50— earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer or if you have certain conditions that could increase your risk. Be sure a prostate screening is part of your annual exam and examine your testicles at least every month to notice any changes or lumps and bumps. Check your skin regularly for new moles or those that seem to have changed size, shape, or color. If you notice any unusual changes on your body, bring it to the attention of your physician.
Play Hard, But Play Safe
Whatever your interest—biking, running, flying, rock climbing—make sure you practice basic safety rules. Use proper protective gear and equipment. If you’re swimming, go with someone. If you’re hiking or camping, let people know where you’ll be. Bring along extra provisions and proper weather gear. Basic safety considerations can go a long way toward keeping you healthy.
Men tend to let their social relationships slide when life gets busy. With work and family obligations, it’s tough to carve out time with friends. But social connections and solid friendships can help ward off many health problems including depression, heart disease, and even dementia.
Make Healthy Choices
All the basic health tips hold true because they work. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins. Ease up on meats, cheeses, butter, fried foods, and treats like full-fat ice cream. Get daily or near-daily exercise. Get enough sleep. Keep your vaccines up to date. Use protection during sex. Don’t smoke anything, ever. Drink alcohol in moderation. Wear sunscreen. Protect your heart health (and keep inflammation down) by keeping your stress under control. Find help for your stress if you can’t manage it on your own.
Wear Blue to Start the Conversation
The Friday before Father’s Day is traditionally a Wear Blue Day, when anyone concerned about men’s health can wear blue clothing or blue ribbon pins to show support of Men’s Health Month. You can also give a shout out on social media with #MensHealthMonth or #ShowUsYourBlue.
Spread the word about men’s health during the month of June. You never know what kind of lasting impact a few words of wisdom might have,
Summertime brings thoughts of slower days, languid days at the beach, and vacations filled with sunshine. Nurses don’t always get to match the ideal vision of a lazy summer, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t take advantage of this fleeting time of year.
Here are a few simple things to add to your summer 2017 bucket list..
Treat Your Feet
Your feet take a pounding – literally. Pamper them with a reflexology appointment, a pedicure, or just a good soak in bubbly warm water. Slather on peppermint foot lotion you stash in the fridge for extra relief. Spritz a cooling spray on your legs (make your own with water and essential oils). A barefoot walk on a sandy beach can also make your feet feel terrific.
Relax Your Neck
Your neck and shoulders probably feel like steel and nearly frozen in place with all the movement your day requires. Buy a heat pack you can warm up in the microwave or make your own with a long sock and some unhulled barley that you can pick up at the supermarket. At the end of a long day, it’s instant relaxation.
Be a Goof
Summer is made for letting loose a little. Skip with your kids, build a sandcastle at the beach, or rent kayaks and splash in the water for the day. Draw with sidewalk chalk. Have a picnic and bring hula hoops and a football to toss around.
Get Extra Sleep
A siesta is always refreshing and the restful effects can last for days. If you can spend extra time in bed in the morning or can hit the sheets a little earlier, you’ll boost your attention span, your mood, and your overall health.
Learn to Unwind
Nurses are never really off the job, so it’s sometimes tough to really relax. On those hot and humid days, grab a book or pop in some music and head to a cool spot. Be still and quiet and appreciate how different it feels from your typical work day.
Summertime food is special. Juicy fruits and plentiful veggies in all hues are at every corner farmer’s market. Pasta salads, potato salads, fresh salsa, and cold soups taste even better eaten outside. A flaming-hot grill waiting for all kinds of seafood, meats, and veggies (even watermelon can be grilled) can keep your kitchen cool and inspire you to try lighter foods. Take advantage of the bounty of summertime. And whenever you can, eat alfresco.
Don’t let the season go by without enjoying some quality time outdoors. Take a beach yoga class, walk with your friends or by yourself, take in an outdoor concert, watch fireworks, learn a new bike path, try a new swimming hole, or climb a mountain. Whatever you do, just being free of four walls is refreshing and inspiring.
What’s on your summer bucket list?
Nurses know all there is to know about how to get and stay healthy. They give patients the rundown on good cholesterol numbers, target weights, prime activity goals, and even how to keep stress at bay.
But nurses are also notorious for putting their own health at the bottom of their own to-do lists. With their drive and passion for caring for others, there’s often precious little time left over to devote to themselves. But a recent Kronos Incorporated survey revealed how tired nurses are despite being happy with their jobs. Four out of five nurses surveyed say they find it hard to “balance mind, body, and spirit.”
So as National Women’s Health Week kicks off (next month we will address men’s health issues!), here are a few short tips the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for staying healthy.
Have a Healthy Body
Staying in balance starts with keeping your body healthy. Do as much as you can to find what works for you to feed your body with healthy and nutrient-dense foods. Stay hydrated, even it it means just drinking water because you have to. Keep your body moving. As a nurse you might move all day, so just add in some stretches to stay limber and help prevent injury.
Get Well-Deserved Rest
It can’t be said enough: nurses need rest. And with the Kronos survey revealing an alarming amount of fatigued nurses (43 percent hide how tired they are from their managers), sleep is nothing to scrimp on. Get the rest you need however you can get it. If you can’t get the 7 to 9 hours a night that’s optimal (who really can do that?) then fit in a short nap or at least a rest time. Getting enough sleep helps prevent not just nurse burnout, but will prevent errors from overly sleepy nurses. That means your rest can save someone’s life.
Limit the Extras
So consider extra fat, sugar, and caffeine as special. A little is fine, but a lot is just a once-in-a-while thing. Limit or cut our alcohol and flat-out don’t smoke or use recreational or illegal drugs. Give your body a good foundation to build on
A big part of staying healthy, says the Office on Women’s Health, is to stay safe. So wear proper gear when you are skiing, rollerblading, or riding a bike or motorcycle. If you are in a car, wear a seatbelt and don’t text while driving. If you’re on a boat, wear a life preserver, and if you swim, make sure you aren’t alone.
Track Your Health
Keep track of things like your weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and any other important health numbers. Check your skin for changes, your breasts for lumps or noticeable changes, and keep your vaccines up to date.
Don’t Forget the Mind/Spirit Connection
Nurses especially need time that is quiet. Turn the radio off in the car or if you ride the subway, tune out with headphones set on ocean sounds or bird calls. Nurture your spirit with what makes you happy—friends, family, church, nature. Even thirty minutes of time to recharge, if it is meaningful and you really enjoy it, can have calming effects that last long into your work week.
Taking some time to find the balance between your mind, body, and spirit can keep you healthy, but will also make you a better nurse.
May 14 to 20 marks the American Health Care Association’s National Nursing Home Week to honor the many types of nursing care provided in these skilled nursing care facilities.
The 2017 theme, “The Spirit of America” highlights the bonds that bring together all the people in nursing homes—whether it’s staff, volunteers, families, wider community members, friends, or residents. Each person brings a different background, varied reasons for walking through the doors, and wide-ranging life experiences, but the community they form is like the American spirit so many of us treasure.
Since 1967, the AHCA has used National Nursing Home Association Week to celebrate these skilled nursing care facilities and the essential care they offer to elderly or disabled people. But, as anyone who has ever worked in or visited a nursing home facility knows, the care given here has a wide impact that expands to include the loved ones of residents and the larger community.
If you want to join in on celebrating this week or if you work in one of these facilities, check to see what’s being offered. If there are any events to honor the week in your local community or where you work, try to participate in some way.
If you can’t find anything going on, propose a way to mark the week by honoring the staff and visitors with flowers, food, or even a small reception where everyone can come together. With so many stories under one roof, there are bound to be common experiences to share and new stories and situations that everyone can learn about. And don’t forget the power of social media! Give a shout out on Twitter (#NNHW), Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram to let others know of the important work and caring that goes on in skilled nursing care facilities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of 2014, 1.4 million Americans lived in nursing home facilities. And with services ranging from long-term care to rehabilitative care to hospice care, the range of skills provided in these settings is extensive. Some people live in skilled nursing care facilities while others are only there for a short time to recover from illness or surgery. But all share in the same spirit of working closely and learning from each other.
According to the AHCA’s website, as “the nation’s largest association of long term and post-acute care providers, AHCA advocates for quality care and services for frail, elderly, and disabled Americans. Our members provide essential care to approximately one million individuals in over 13,400 not-for-profit and proprietary member facilities.”
If you work in a nursing home, celebrate all you and your colleagues do this week. And take the time to honor the residents and the people you care for. Sharing stories is often one of the best ways to learn about those around you.
Instead of ingesting sugary treats to celebrate National Nurses Week (May 6-12), consider pursuing activities to feed your spirit or mind instead.
1. If you are feeling artistic and need to relax, why not color?
There are several nurse coloring book pages you can download, draw and post to social media, thanks to the Madison School of Healthcare, where stories from nurses were turned into art. The pages cover familiar scenarios, from amusing night shift shenanigans to a heartfelt scene of chipping in for a patient. You can download all here. Want to share your work? Showcase your drawing on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtags #NursesWeek and #ColoringWithNurses.
2. If drawing is not your thing, consider a massage.
Here’s the rub: don’t wait for the weekend. Get a massage in the middle of the week. Sometimes you have to yield to whim! So instead of a second helping of cake to celebrate the fabulousness of being a nurse, imagine the sensation of your aches and stresses being kneaded away. Yes, put down the dessert and go ink in a well-deserved massage appointment.
3. Another way to treat yourself is to curl up with a book written by one of your hardworking peers.
Consider these offerings:
- Josephine Ensign, Catching Homelessness: A Nurse’s Story of Falling Through the Safety Net
- William Rosa (editor), Nurses as Leaders: Evolutionary Visions of Leadership
- Alexandra Robbins, The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital
- Lee Gutkind (editor), I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse
- James Kelly, Where Night is Day: The World of the ICU
- Laurie Barkin, The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit
- Cortney Davis, The Heart’s Truth: Essays on the Art of Nursing
- Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing: What it Is, and What it Is Not
Good nurses deserve a break. Make the time to show yourself some appreciation!