Saturday, July 22, 2017  

Health & Senior Living
Special Section  

Happy 50th Birthday: Have you scheduled your colonoscopy?
Understanding the importance of colonoscopy in preventing colon cancer.
At Riverside Tappahannock General Surgery and Gastroenterology, we share a common belief, supported by strong medical evidence; colonoscopy saves lives and prevents colon cancer.

Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they’re often referred to as colorectal cancers. Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women. Colorectal cancers arise from polyps in the colon. These mushroom-shaped growths are usually not cancerous. However, if not removed, they may develop into cancer overtime.

The good news is that the great majority of these polyps are discovered during colonoscopy screening and removed immediately.

Being screened as frequently as your doctor recommends (based on age and risk factors) also significantly increases the chances of successfully treating colon cancer, if discovered. When discovered early, colon cancer is usually treated surgically vs. with chemotherapy, which is much more extensive and requires a significantly longer recovery time.

Risk Factors for Colon Cancer Include:

  • Age. The risk of colon cancer increases as we age. Must people are diagnosed at 60-70 years of age, usually because they have developed symptoms. That’s why screening beginning at age 50 is highly recommended, or earlier if you have certain risk factors.
  • Colon polyps. Having a history of colon polyps in the past increases your risk of reoccurrence. Regular colonoscopy screenings are especially critical in this case.
  • Family History. If you have a relative, usually close, that has a history of colon cancer
  • Prior History of Colon Cancer. If you’ve been treated for colon cancer in the past, you may be at a higher risk of developing the cancer again. Regular colonoscopy screenings are especially critical in this case.
  • Smoking and alcohol. Evidence supports that smoking and heavy drinking are risk factors in developing colon cancer.
  • Diet. A diet high in red meat and low in vegetables, fruits, and fish increases your risk of colon cancer.

Other risk factors may include: race, physical inactivity and even geography. That’s why it’s extremely important that you work with your physician to provide a comprehensive medical history in order to develop an appropriate colonoscopy screening schedule.

The Procedure
Colonoscopy is done to find cancerous and precancerous lesions. A colonoscope is a thin flexible instrument with an integrated camera that is inserted into the rectum and moved throughout the colon. The physician views the images on a monitor and, if found, removes potentially cancerous polyps. Done under sedation, it usually takes about 15 minutes and patients have no recollection of the procedure. Recovery occurs the day of the procedure with a return to a regular diet the same day.

It’s the preparation prior to the procedure that’s often harder to deal with than the actual procedure itself. So that a clear image of the colon can be obtained, the bowels must be cleaned out prior to the test. Therefore, patients have to endure fasting and a series of laxatives. However, improvements with new medications are being made daily— making the preparation less offensive.

Colonoscopy is the most complete and effective test for finding polyps or cancer. It examines the entire colon. If polyps are found they can be removed immediately. The procedure can diagnose other diseases as well. The most effective screening comes before you have symptoms, when you feel well. If you’ve turned 50 or have risk factors for colon cancer, please schedule your colonoscopy today.

Submitted by the physicians of Riverside Tappahannock General Surgery and Gastroenterology: Reginald Mason, M.D., Board-Certified General Surgeon; Michael Francis, M.D., Board-Certified General Surgeon;Waring Trible, Jr., M.D., Board-Certified Gastroenterologist.

Is Your Health Passing the Test?
Chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, are among the most common, costly and preventable of all health problems in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fortunately, health screening tests are an easy way to detect these conditions early, so you can prevent symptoms from worsening. And, if you’re diagnosed with a condition, regular testing can help determine how well you’re managing the disease.
Knowing your healthy range is key. Strive for these numbers:

  • For total cholesterol, the CDC identifies healthy levels as below 200 mg/dL. When levels reach 240 mg/dL or higher, you become at high risk for heart disease.
  • For blood pressure, look for anything less than 120 over less than 80 mmHg, says the CDC. Levels above that indicate prehypertension, which can lead to chronic high blood pressure.
  • Blood glucose levels also should be checked if you are determined to be at risk for diabetes. Risk factors for diabetes include:

• Age 45 or older
• Overweight
• Family history of the disease
• High blood pressure
• Abnormal cholesterol readings
Both high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes . For people who’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, consistent blood glucose monitoring is critical to keeping diabetes in control and preventing further complications.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the basic goal for people with diabetes is a reading between 70 and 130 on an empty stomach, and less than 180 two hours after the start of a meal. If your blood sugar is too high for too long, you could be at risk for long-term complications.

Fortunately, at-home testing kits make it easier for people to know their healthy ranges, and some products are covered by insurance if you have to manage a chronic condition like diabetes.

There are dozens of brands and styles to choose from when it comes to at-home testing kits. Your doctor or pharmacist can help determine the one that’s best for you. If you have trouble reading small numbers, for example, you’ll need a meter with a large display. Your pharmacist also can identify ways to save on testing products, such as by using generic test strips.

Seniors: How to Live Independently and Safely
Retirement is a great time to enjoy life—especially in your own home. But if you—or your parents—are starting to slow down, suffering from occasional imbalance or are having difficulty living safely in your home, it could limit your independence, and potentially cause you harm.

Falling is the leading cause of injury and death among people 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And if you look around your home, or your loved-one’s home, you probably can find many tripping hazards, increasing the risk of a fall.

Here are some tips you can follow to help yourself or your loved one continue to live independently in their own home or a senior housing facility.

  • Incorporate walk-in showers in your bathrooms, so you don’t have to climb over the edge of a tub. Premier Care in Bathing Inspire Walk-in Shower or Refresh Walk-in Shower have Delta brand shower heads, shower chairs in case you need to sit down, secure hand rails and leak-free construction.
  • Install telephones in every room, and have a cell phone always charged and accessible. Communication is important, and having a phone easily accessible can determine how swiftly help arrives in an emergency like a fall.
  • Switch under-counter shelves into pull-out drawers, so you or your loved one don’t have to get down on your hands and knees to find something at the rear of the cabinet. This not only helps prevent falls, but also prevents strains on the body from bending over.
  • Install as much extra lighting as you can around the house. This includes nightlights and extra light switches at all door entrances so nobody ends up stumbling around in the dark.
  • Create safe walking passages. If loose rugs are lying around, consider removing them. Check to see if any of the flooring in your house is slippery. You might want to consider installing carpet—not only to get rid of the slippery floor, but also to keep feet warmer as well. Also, review the layout of each room. Keep entrances clear of lamps or furniture so someone doesn’t accidently become bruised from bumping into them, or tripping and falling to the floor.

Aging in place isn’t overly difficult, and you can keep yourself or your loved one safe, and living in comfort with some of these tips.

Living Longer in Retirement
Retirement is the ideal time for new hobbies, volunteer opportunities, lifelong learning courses, travel, and just about anything else you can fit into your day. After decades of the daily grind, retirement is the time to enjoy the finer things in life, while spending more time with the people you want to be around.

For many seniors, retirement is about having fun, making up for lost time and personal fulfillment. With children grown and no job to report to, daily responsibilities are decreased—well, except for traditional home ownership chores. And those can be quite a burden, especially for older people.

The grass and weeds keep growing, appliances break down, roofs leak, dust settles, and everything that can go wrong in a home eventually will. Not to mention that the empty nest probably has way more space than the older person or couple needs. All this weighs heavy on retired seniors’ minds and takes a toll on their physical and mental wellness. Often, adult children have to share in the household responsibilities, even when they don’t want to, in order to keep things running safely and smoothly for their parents.

To ease their burdens of home ownership, more seniors than ever are moving to maintenance-free Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs).

A More Active Lifestyle
Continuing Care Retirement Com­munities are licensed by the Virginia Bureau of Insurance for people 60 and older who want an active lifestyle today along with the guarantee that their future health care needs will be met in the community.

Examples of area CCRCs include Williamsburg Landing, Windsor Meade and Patriots Colony—all located in Williamsburg; Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury in Irvington; Sanders Retirement Village in Gloucester; The Chesapeake and Warwick Forest—both in Newport News; and Covenant Woods in Hanover County.

These CCRCs—unlike 55+ Active Adult communities—offer assisted living, short-term rehabilitation and traditional nursing care on their campuses, ensuring that residents wouldn’t have to leave the community if their health needs increased.

Barbara and Tony Auby have lived on the Virginia Peninsula for 46 years and are deeply ensconced in the community. However, their large, two-story house was getting to be a bit much to care for so their daughter suggested it was time for a change. They decided last fall to move to Warwick Forest, a CCRC sponsored by Riverside Health System.

“We really like it here,” says Mr. Auby. “We don’t have a lot to take care of, and we’re still active in the community. In fact, it seems we’re always on the go.”

Mr. Auby was a choral director in the Newport News school system for 30 years. Today, he and Barbara continue to perform with the Virginia Chorale Society. They find they have more time for musical activities and involvement because all of the usual home ownership responsibilities are handled for them.

“I compare it to being on a cruise ship,” the retired musician chuckles. “You can go eat anytime you want. We have weekly housekeeping service. We come and go as we like.”

Living Longer in CCRCs
The challenging part for many retirement community providers is convincing seniors to move before they feel they are ready to give up their home. Those among the older generation of seniors —often called “The Silent Generation,” which encompasses those in their 70s and 80s today—has typically lived in their current homes for 40+ years and they are often afraid to give them up. In contrast, “Baby Boomers” are much more accepting of retirement community living because they are not as connected to the bricks and mortar. Most Boomers lived in several homes in their adult lives, as they upgraded their lifestyles, so another move is easily managed if it’s viewed to have positive results.

Regardless of generation, there is clearly a benefit to moving earlier to a CCRC—a longer, healthier life. Research by Duke University shows that those who move to Continuing Care Retirement Communities enjoy seven healthier retirement years, on average. Another study—conducted by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA)—reports that residents of CCRCs live an average of 15% longer in their retirement years.

The amenities provided in CCRCs enhance residents’ lives and ensure a healthier and safer lifestyle. For example, around-the-clock staffing ensures safety, security and fast emergency response; convenient on-site dining and nutrition counseling helps residents maintain healthy weight; wellness and fitness amenities offer opportunities to improve balance and heart health, and maintenance services means residents aren’t engaged in risky activities such as climbing ladders or pushing lawnmowers. Constant social interaction among residents improves overall mental health and attitude. But possibly the most important benefit is the peace of mind that comes from knowing their future health care needs will be met on the CCRC campus.

Dudley and Peggy Orr moved in 2003 from the Shenandoah Valley to Patriots Colony at Williamsburg, a CCRC for retired and former military officers, retired federal civil employees, and their spouses. The couple is extremely active today, participating in the Patriots Colony Chorus, walkers group, Williamsburg Lions Clubs, Residential Council, and both especially enjoy the Christopher Wren Lifelong Learning Center at the College of William & Mary.

“All the people were very friendly when we came to visit,” says Mrs. Orr. “We were surprised at the overall friendliness of everyone here and how easy it was to meet people. It was a very smooth transition.”

The continuing care option was one of the primary reasons the Orrs considered a CCRC. They didn’t want to be a burden on their kids, and knew if they eventually needed care, they wouldn’t have to relocate; they could remain a part of their community.

“A lot of people think you need to wait until you’re 80. I tell people, ‘sooner is better than later and later is sooner than you think.’ One advantage of coming at a younger age is to be a part of an active community and really get to
know people.”

The Orrs, like the Aubys are enjoying the opportunities that come with CCRC living. For retired seniors considering a move to a retirement community, Mr. Auby offers this advice: “There are a lot of retirement communities out there. Pick the one that suits you best.”

about the author
Jim Janicki is a former national consultant on senior living who now works with Riverside Health System. For more information about Riverside’s CCRCs, visit warwickforest.com or patriotscolony.org.
Caregivers: Making the Transition from Hospital to Home Easier
Coming home from the hospital or other care setting after an illness or surgery can be worrisome for both patients and the friends and family members who care for them. Planning ahead can make the process much easier. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has advice that is useful to the millions of Americans who are actively involved in caregiving. Through its caregiver initiative, Ask Medicare, CMS recommends the following steps to prepare for a transition:

  • Plan ahead: You can, and should, start thinking about the discharge process well in advance, even as early as at the time of admission. CMS has a helpful checklist of key points in its “Planning for Your Discharge” guide, available at the “Medicare Basics” link on the home page of the Ask Medicare website at www.medicare.gov/caregivers. This checklist will help you prepare for the next steps in care.
  • Get ready for new responsibilities: Talk to hospital staff about what you will need to do at home, who will show you how to properly carry out any new tasks you will be taking on, such as administering medication, using medical equipment, changing bandages or giving shots.
  • Make needed changes to your home: You might need to rearrange your home to have room for items such as a hospital bed, walker or a wheelchair. You might need to consider installing a ramp in place of stairs—be sure to ask the hospital staff what will be needed. You should also remove area rugs and other items that may cause falls and group electrical cords together with ties or clips to keep them clear of high-traffic areas.
  • Prepare for extra costs: The person you are caring for may need new medical services or medicines after coming home. Medicare may cover some of these costs, but not all. You can learn about services and care that are covered by Medicare at the “Help With Billing” and “Is It Covered?” links at the Ask Medicare home page.
  • Keep a list of key contacts: Put contact information for doctors, pharmacists, home care agency staff and others involved in the care process where you can easily find them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help: If you’re overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to ask a friend or family member to lend a hand. If paid home health services are needed, you can learn more about home health services in the “Medicare and Home Health Care” booklet, which is also accessible at the Ask Medicare home page.

    It’s also important to keep a file of resources on hand and to bookmark useful web sites, including Ask Medicare, the United Hospital Fund’s “Next Step in Care” initiative at www.nextstepincare.org and AARP’s caregiving site at www.aarp.org/caregivers. More information can be accessed through www.healthcare.gov, a new web portal offered by the Department of Health and Human Services.