Health and Wellness Fair focuses on the elderly

A free community Health and Wellness Fair, held recently in Land O’ Lakes,  focused on services that are available to the elderly, as they face changes in mind and body.

The Aug. 1 event was hosted by Keystone Place at Terra Bella, 2200 Livingston Road, which offers residential options for independent living, assisted living and memory care.

Bryan D’Onofrio spoke at the event on behalf of the North Tampa Behavioral Health Hospital. The Wesley Chapel facility serves people who are suffering from issues such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse, by providing in-patient and out-patient services – including a geriatrics unit.

Local organizations in the Tampa Bay area gathered at a Health and Wellness Fair held at Keystone Place at Terra Bella to inform the public about various services available to help the elderly. (Brian Fernandes)

Many of the elderly patients who are admitted are dealing with depression,  D’Onofrio noted.

“As we get older, things don’t work like they used to,” he said. “As those things hit us, we can suffer some depression.”

At the behavioral health hospital, patients engage with a psychiatrist, therapist, social workers and licensed mental-health counselors, to receive the right treatment.

Patients also partake in group therapy to keep social, and recreational therapy, such as board games, yoga and other exercises. They are encouraged to continue activities when released home, to help them stay positive, D’Onofrio said.

Bayada Home Health Care and Bluestone Physician Services also participated in the event.

These companies offer mobile services — providing medical care to residents in assisted living facilities, such as Keystone Place at Terra Bella in Land O’ Lakes.

Tyler Patrick, marketing manager at Bayada, said that the goal of this type of care is to help prevent the need for hospitalizations.

Patrick added that, “If you’ve got a resident that has a disease that’s becoming exacerbated, the doctor may want an RN (registered nurse) checking in on that resident two, three times a week to monitor [and] make sure the medications are working. Our nurses can come in and do that.”

Assisted living facilities also provide a safe and secure environment for those known to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Amanda Wood, a program manager at the Alzheimer’s Association, shared information that help individuals, or their loved ones, identify the disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association, offers this list of 10 early warning signs:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images
  • Difficulty with speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and difficulty retracing steps
  • Decreased or poor judgement
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood or personality

“One of the best things to do for noticing these signs, is to talk about it,” Wood said. “Go talk to your primary care physician.”

She emphasized the importance of initiating the conversation, whether it’s the individual exhibiting the signs, or a loved one witnessing them.

That person’s doctor can then refer them to a neurologist for further analysis.

An ongoing consistency in these signs may be a red flag that can differentiate them from usual memory loss, Wood said.

When a current or potential Alzheimer’s patient is living at home, it is also important to plan ahead for emergencies.

Teresa Haver, of the Alzheimer’s Family Organization, gave a demonstration on how the Wanderer’s Reunification Program is set up. This personalized kit can be useful in helping locate an Alzheimer’s patient gone missing.

Teresa Haver stood at the Alzheimer’s Family Organization booth and showed visitors one preparation technique – the Wanderer’s Reunification Program.

This is a free kit made up of sterilized equipment used in helping locate a missing patient.

“What you do is take the sterile pad and rub it on your loved one to get their scent, put it in the jar [and] seal it up,” Haver explained.

The jar is then placed on top of the refrigerator and is good for seven years.

Should the person go missing, the local sheriff’s department has already been trained to look for the jar on the fridge. Deputies then use blood hounds to search for the scent on the pad.

Haver also said the caregiver should familiarize themselves with the patient’s dominant hand, because they tend to wander in the direction of that hand.

She also recommended that a caregiver place an identification bracelet on the patient’s wrist and to have door locks that are higher than the patient’s reach.

Wood said there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are lifestyle choices that may help the brain age well.

Those include exercise, staying socially active, challenging the brain and a proper diet.

“Every time our heart beats, 25 percent of that blood goes to our brain,” Wood explained. “If we’re getting exercise, we’re getting more nutrient and oxygen-rich blood up to our brain.”

Exercise can include such things as walking up stairs and dancing, she noted.

Social activities, such as playing strategic games like chess, can help preoccupy and strengthen the mind, she said.

Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets are good alternatives, Wood noted.

These heart-healthy choices consist of nuts and grains, as well as foods high in protein and low in sodium.

The Rev. Virginia Walsh, of Unity North Tampa Church, also shared her knowledge at the health and wellness fair.

Proper nutrition can help lead to effective meditation practice, Walsh said.

Before doing a meditation session, participants should drink plenty of water.

They also should eat foods rich in protein, and stay clear of foods high in carbohydrates, processed sugar, flour and starches.

Walsh conducted a meditation class during the fair, offering participants tips they could apply at home.

“Meditation can help us think more clearly, be able to focus, and also has shown to often improve memory,” the reverend said. “Being mindful helps us to cope better with what happens in life.”

This in turn, produces more peace and may lead to a healthier brain, she said.

Published August 14, 2019

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