Health and Wellness

What to do after a fall

Our bodies change with age. Our vision can get fuzzy, our muscles may get weaker, and our steps can get shorter. It’s a normal part of the aging process, no matter how fit and agile you may be. That’s why any American over 65 is at risk of joining the one in four older adults who experiences a fall each year.

If you’ve fallen, it’s important to take stock of any injuries you may have sustained and get up in a way that won’t hurt you further. Here are some direction from describing how to safely pick yourself back up after a fall:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Examine yourself for injuries—bruises, possible sprains, broken bones.
  3. If you are confident you haven’t broken any bones or experienced a serious injury, search for the nearest piece of sturdy furniture. (A chair would be ideal.)
  4. Roll onto your hands and knees, then crawl or pull yourself over to the piece of furniture.
  5. Get into a kneeling position and place your arms on a stable area of the piece of furniture (e.g. the seat of the chair).
  6. Bring one knee forward and place your foot on the floor.
  7. Using your arms and leg simultaneously, push yourself up and pivot your bottom around until you’re sitting on the piece of furniture.
  8. Stay sitting until you’re confident you can move around without hurting yourself or falling again.
  9. If you find that you are unable to get up after falling, stay calm and try to alert someone to your predicament. While you’re waiting for help, try to keep warm and move around slowly to avoid placing too much sustained pressure on any one area of your body.
  10. Notify your doctor that you’ve had a fall – this is the most important step!

If you’ve experienced a fall, you may feel the need to stay away from activities that could make you fall again. That’s a natural reaction. But decreasing your activity will make you weaker, thus increasing the likelihood you will fall again. It’s a vicious cycle.

The best way to stay on your feet and avoid a fall is to continually work on your balance. Healthline describes a number of exercises you could work into your daily routine. For example, standing on one leg for 30 seconds and then the other while brushing your teeth. Or standing up from an armless chair without holding on to anything.

Meth-Wick has exercise equipment and programs that are tailored to seniors — air resistance machines rather than weight machines and recumbent, step-through bicycles rather than traditional bikes. It’s just another way Meth-Wick is designed to help you live your best life.

WelTracs: Making Wellness a Priority

Shantel Phipps stays busy on Meth-Wick’s campus. As a Successful Aging Coordinator, she personally developed and now implements the health and wellness program WelTracs.

Once a new resident is accepted into independent living at Meth-Wick, the WelTracs journey begins. They fill out a resource analysis form as part of their admission and then participate in an assessment with Shantel.

“At Meth-Wick, we want our residents to live their best lives,” says Shantel. “WelTracs allows us to get to know residents right as they join our community. That way we can help them navigate all the resources available to them in their new home.”

The main purpose of WelTracs is to build a successful aging plan for each resident living independently at Meth-Wick. Shantel helps residents build their plans by discussing their wellness goals.

Meth-Wick is filled with wellness resources. Shantel helps residents sort through the classes, gym equipment, and outings to determine what aspects best support your plan. Rather than bouncing between classes and events, she matches programs with each resident’s needs and interests. This method supports a better range, quality and depth of our wellness services.

The program also serves an additional purpose for our staff. It allows us to personalize our wellness and recreation programming for our current residents by providing a database of their interests. We are able to make informed decisions about the classes we offer, the speakers we bring in, and the events we host.

WelTracs started three years ago and currently has 100% participation. Each year, Shantel meets with residents to review and update their goals. She makes clear that WelTracs doesn’t require residents to meet their goals, it simply provides them the resources to do so.

At Meth-Wick, wellness doesn’t just mean physical wellbeing. It’s a whole person wellness model, which emphasizes six dimensions: spiritual, physical, vocational, emotional, intellectual and social wellness. Many residents make traditional goals for physical wellness, like attending fitness classes and using the campus walking trail. But they also set goals for building strong relationships with their grandchildren, joining a book club, or staying committed to their volunteering.

You’ve got a plan for how to spend this chapter of your life and Meth-Wick has the right resources to keep you well. Learn more about what WelTracs can do for you by contacting our Successful Aging Coordinator Shantel Phipps today.

Important Exercise Habits for Seniors

Regular physical activity can prevent many common health problems faced by older adults, like high blood pressure, poor balance and obesity. If you’re not currently active, get together with your doctor and set some goals. Work the following habits into your exercise routine in order to achieve optimal health.

Aerobics are key

To start seeing health benefits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two options. Older adults should get 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week, like brisk walking and dance classes, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week, like jogging or running.

Work your muscles

Spend at least two days a week working all major muscle groups, including legs, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms. Choose muscle-strengthening exercises that will increase your strength and endurance.

Set a schedule

Not a morning person? Work out in the evenings. Don’t like going to the gym? Grab a friend and get walking on the campus trail system. In order to be disciplined in your workout routine, you have to set goals that are realistic for your lifestyle and ability level.

Make it fun

It’s easier to stick with a new habit if you’re having a good time. Sign up for dance classes, take the grandkids for a walk, or go bowling with friends. Anything that gets you moving and keeps you interested is good for your health.

How Meth-Wick can help

Meth-Wick promotes the six dimensions of wellness: spiritual, physical, vocational, emotional, intellectual and social wellness. Exercise is an important piece of the wellness puzzle, which is why we provide a wide range of wellness and recreation activities. All of our exercise programs and resources are tailored to the needs of older adults, including:

  • Senior-friendly equipment, researched and purchased by Meth-Wick staff
    • Treadmills with safety features that include extended rails and a monitor to shut off the machine if the user gets too close to the end of the treadmill
    • Recumbent bicycles that allow users to step through the bike to be seated rather than step over a bar that might cause a fall
    • NuStep recumbent steppers, specially designed for low impact, effective cardiovascular and strength benefits
    • Dual-functioning weight machines that use air resistance rather than weights for a safer and more effective workout.
  • Exercise room open to residents 24-hours a day
  • Warm water therapy pools used for exercise and injury or surgery recovery
  • Variety of exercise classes offered every weekday, including walking groups, dance exercises and water aerobics

No matter what kind of habits you are trying to make or break, we are here to help. Meth-Wick has Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists on staff to help determine and follow through on the right exercise plan you.

Are you seeing the right doctor?

A routine yearly exam is an integral part of preventive medicine. You can work with your doctor to identify problems before they develop further, which is especially important as you age. But are you seeing a doctor that fits your needs? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you trust your doctor?
  • Do you communicate well with each other?
  • Do you trust and communicate well with their staff?
  • Do they have experience with older adults and the health problems they typically face?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, it may be time to look for a new physician. Doctors know that different patients require diverse attention and care, so don’t feel guilty striking out in a new direction.

Whether you’re new in town or are simply looking for a different set of skills, here’s a few things the National Institute on Aging wants older adults to keep in mind.

  1. Set priorities

What matters to you? Good communication? Do you want a doctor who specializes in older adults? Do you need your doctor’s office to be near work or home? Do you want to be at a private practice or a larger hospital system? Decide which issues are most important for you and make a list of providers in the area that fit your search terms.

  1. Ask around

Good doctors have good reputations. Ask family and friends which doctor they see and what they like about them. Find out what your trusted confidants like about their doctor and ways they could improve. Conversely, find out if family and friends would put a red flag on any of the names on your list.

  1. Consider your health insurance

If you are part of a managed care plan like a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization, you’ll need to confirm your new doctor is in your network or risk paying “out-of-network” fees.

  1. Consult references

Make sure the names on your list are properly certified by checking the databases linked below. Call your local or state medical board as well to see if any of your finalists have a history of complaints from former patients.

Where to cross-reference your list:

You can also make an appointment to talk with the doctors you are considering. Most will charge you for their time, but it’s a good exercise to determine if you could work well together. Ask them questions like:

  • Do you have many older patients?
  • How do you feel about involving my family in care decisions?
  • Can I call or email you or your staff when I have questions? Do you charge for telephone or email time?
  • What are your thoughts about complementary or alternative treatments?
  1. Make a decision

Did you have good rapport with the doctor? Did you feel listened to and comfortable asking questions? If you answered yes, then you’ve found the right person. Set up an appointment, have your patient history transferred to your new doctor’s office, and inform them of any medications you are currently taking.

Make sure your doctor is the right person to walk with you in every stage of life. As your needs change, be sure you have a doctor who makes you feel comfortable and heard.


Get Plenty of Sleep so Your Brain Can Take Out the Trash

While you’re powering down at the end of the day, your brain is blasting off like a rocket from the launch pad. Within minutes or sometimes even seconds of falling asleep, your brain starts along a well-established route.

It’s essential that your brain complete a sequence of tasks as you sleep so that you can be at peak performance while you’re awake. Sleep that is interrupted or too short does not allow the brain to finish its route. The short-term effects can include fatigue, poor decision-making and lack of alertness. In the long term, poor sleep will result in poor health. To understand how this is all interconnected, let’s take a look at the stages of sleep provided on the website of the National Sleep Foundation.

Stage I: An introduction to sleep

The first seven minutes of sleep are light, meaning you will easily awaken at a sound or movement, such as your dog jumping on the bed. This is the slow start that eases you into the next level of sleep.

Stage 2: Warming up the engine

While this stage is still on the light side compared to the later stages, the brain does busy itself with increased activity for a short duration before slowing down again. After that brief warm-up, it’s ready for some action.

According to an article on Scientific American website, the early stages of sleep are characterized by “large, slow brain waves, relaxed muscles and slow, deep breathing, which may help the brain and body to recuperate after a long day.”

Stage 3: Diving into the Deep

Your brain begins to dive into deeper sleep, making it less likely that you will awaken to the dog jumping or the faucet dripping. You continue into an even deeper level of sleep, when muscles and tissues are repaired, growth is stimulated, immune function is bolstered, and you are energized for the coming day.

Stage 4: Full speed ahead

You reach the next level of sleep, called REM (rapid eye movement), about 90 minutes after falling asleep. The Scientific American article describes REM sleep as “…bizarre…a dreamer’s brain becomes highly active while the body’s muscles are paralyzed, and breathing and heart rate become erratic.”

REM sleep is also when your brain takes out the trash, storing the important information of the day in your long-term memory and discarding the rest. That’s why an inadequate amount of sleep, especially on a regular basis, will impact your memory and ability to retain what you have learned.

The take-away

All sleep is not equal in quality. Short-term and long-term health is negatively affected if you are getting inadequate amounts of sleep or you are unable to make it through a sleep cycle without waking. For ideas on how to improve your sleep habits, read our blog, Sleeplessness spurs junk food eating.

Don’t forget that good sleep habits also apply to napping. The Sleep Foundation suggests you set your alarm to wake after 20 minutes, before reaching deeper sleep levels that will leave you feeling groggy. Or, if you have time, nap for 90 minutes, which will take you through a complete sleep cycle and have you waking refreshed.

All of us at Meth-Wick Community wish you good sleep and pleasant dreams!

Wisconsin researchers Americanize an Australian fall prevention program to increase its U.S. reach

Can a program that reduced falls among Australia’s older adults by 31 percent find widespread popularity in the U.S.? Although the Stepping On program was first introduced in North America in 2015, implementation of the evidence-based program has been limited in the U.S. A team of scientists set out to test implementation in three Wisconsin community settings with the purpose of modifying the program to make it more appealing to Americans.

The researchers share their discoveries and recommendations in an article published last month on the research-sharing website,

How Australia did it

The pilot program for Australia’s Stepping On fall prevention model was conducted with community-dwelling older adults who participated in a series of fall prevention classes led by an occupational therapist. This program included a three-month follow-up home visit to reinforce strategies taught in the class.

The program was simple and effective but it wasn’t gaining popularity in the U.S. Could a new Americanized method maintain the effectiveness of the program? The Wisconsin researchers planned to find out.

Mixing it up

The U.S. study used a mixture of methods to evaluate the Australian program’s model: rural and urban host sites; program leaders who were health professionals and those with no health background; and a combination of three-month follow-up phone calls and in-home visits. Fall prevention classes remained the hub of the program, with a mix of surveys and interviews completed by site managers, leaders, guest experts and participants.

The three community sites that hosted the U.S. classes were an independent living community, a parks and recreation center, and a rural site hosted by a parish nurse program.

Four questions were used to guide research:

  1. Who can serve as a Stepping On leader? Requiring the leadership of health professionals could encumber the program’s U.S. implementation.
  2. Are there differences in program implementation at different sites that would be barriers to the program’s adoption? The Australian program advocates using public venues that are easily accessible; the U.S. research team sought to challenge that approach.
  3. Are there differences in the success of implementation at urban versus rural sites? U.S. researchers needed to answer that question on their own, since participants in the Australian program were at one urban location.
  4. Can a phone call be substituted for a home visit in resource-strapped rural areas? The Australian program used home visits to reinforce fall prevention concepts and strategies, including exercise.

Fine-tuning the Australian model

At the conclusion of their study, the U.S. researchers were able to offer a number of evidence-based recommendations:

  • Prerequisite for leaders should be expanded to include non-health care professionals, especially social workers and others who have experience working with older adults. While both health care and non-health care Step On leaders scored well in most areas of their class presentation and supervision, the non-professionals failed to emphasis the connection between exercises and falls prevention. This can be addressed by emphasis the link during training sessions for leaders.
  • Both rural and urban venues attracted participants within a five-minute radius of their venue and saw more participants in their second series of classes, after news about the class spread.
  • A phone call can be used in lieu of a home visit. While a one-year follow-up showed comparable positive results for both methods, the home visit had better short-term results.

The take-away

The study’s findings have been included in the U.S. edition of the Stepping On training program and guide for sites in the U.S. Although the Wisconsin study showed that public venues are the best suited to successfully adopt the program, all of us who advocate for the safety of older adults can learn from its strategies. We at Meth-Wick are currently conducting our own fall prevention research. Keep an eye on the blog over the next few months to see what our findings revealed.


Sleeplessness spurs junk food eating

Poor sleep habits lead to poor food choices, which can result in weight gain or at the very least, daily fatigue. And let’s face it; there is nothing worse than being too tired to do the things we enjoy! To help you stay at the top of your game, we rounded up plenty of information on the connection between sleeping well and eating well. Hopefully this will put you to sleep!

Poor sleep = poor nutrition

According to an August 2013 article on the University of California Berkeley website, the brains of sleep deprived people undergo changes that may predispose them to eating junk food.

Berkeley researchers scanned the brains of 23 subjects after a good night’s sleep and after a sleepless night. The sleep-deprived brain showed less activity in the area related to complex decision making and more activity in areas that control response to rewards.

What they did

Researchers measured brain activity as participants were shown a series of food choices ranging from healthy (strawberries, apples and carrots) to unhealthy (donuts, burgers and pizza). Most participants chose unhealthy food after a sleepless night.

What they found

While earlier studies have linked sleep deprivation with appetite increase, the Berkeley research reveals specifics about the connection. “What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” said Matthew Walker, the study’s senior author and a Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience.

What you can do

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep to give the body enough time to recharge and feel rested. There are, however, “short sleepers” who need less than this. For those people, five or six hours may leave them refreshed and good to go. Others may need nine, ten or even twelve hours. These are known as “long sleepers” who need more hours in order to function at their best.

NSF emphasizes the importance of making a good night’s sleep a priority. Here are their tips on how to sleep well.

  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
  • Turn off electronics (phone, tablet, TV) in the bedroom.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.

If your best efforts at restful sleep are failing, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor. With growing evidence that shows good sleep equals good health, it’s important to make this a priority. Getting enough sleep is essential to living your best life.

10 tips for healthy grocery shopping

We’ve all entered the grocery store armed with a shopping list and an intention to buy only healthy foods. After all, how can we eat healthy and feel healthy if we buy unhealthy?

Although whole foods are the healthiest choice, we live in the real world. Packaged foods are convenient and cost less, which is why most of us include them on our grocery list. But buying processed foods is not synonymous with unhealthy food. It’s all about being an informed shopper. To that end, we want to share an article to help you navigate the food aisles.

Food labels tell the story

The Reader’s Digest website offers “10 Secrets for Healthier Grocery Shopping.”

  1. Look for short ingredient lists on packaged foods. Long lists include sugar and chemical additives. Put the long-list items back on the shelf.
  2. Think twice about “no cholesterol” claims. Cholesterol is found in animal products (milk, meat, etc.). Despite this fact, the packaging on many non-animal products, such as cereals, makes it sound as though the manufacturer made the product cholesterol free for the customer’s benefit.
  3. Know the meaning of “organic.” A company has to jump through a lot of hoops set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before it can use “organic” on its label. Certified organic means a food has been grown free of genetically modified seeds, chemicals made from chemicals or sewage sludge, chemical pesticides or herbicides, and irradiation.
  4. Be suspicious of “natural” labels. Unlike “organic” companies, those who sell foods under a “natural” label are not subject to inspections as a condition of using the label.
  5. Be wary of serving size. The “nutrition facts” listed on packaging is often misleading. You need to look at serving size and servings per container to have an accurate picture of calories. While you may think at first a candy bar has 100 calories, careful reading will show “2 servings,” which means the entire candy bar is 200 calories.
  6. Take a calculator on your shopping trip for an easy way to compare nutrition facts, price per unit, etc.
  7. ­Know the “whole” story. Companies want to take advantage of the fact that health-conscious consumers are looking for whole grain products. Read the label to be sure you are buying whole wheat or whole grain.
  8. When choosing a cereal, rely on your common sense, not the box hype. Look for a whole grain as the first ingredient and one without sugar, if possible. If you prefer a sweetened cereal, it is best if you add the sugar yourself to control the amount.
  9. Don’t get soaked by watered-down foods. With the exception of soup, you wouldn’t expect water to be the first ingredient on a product’s ingredient list. Yet it is found on many labels, followed by a long list of additives to give it flavor and texture.
  10. Crack the MSG code. Monosodium glutamate has been identified as causing headaches in some people. If you are concerned about MSG, be aware that it may appear later in an ingredient list, or it may be listed as hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast or sodium caseinate.

Comparison shopping alternative

If you are the type who prefers to do your “leg work” sitting down, you can compare food items online at home or on one of the computers in Meth-Wick’s computer lab. Many product ingredient lists, nutrition facts or actual images of the product package can be found online.

From all of us at Meth-Wick, happy healthy shopping!

Mother Nature is a darn good therapist

The University of Washington’s College of the Environment (UWCE) is on a mission to prove that green space is a valuable currency for human health. On its website, “Green Cities: Good Health,” the college provides scientific evidence of a relationship between urban forestry and green spaces and the health of people who live in those areas.

We’ll give you an overview of the impressive findings discussed on the website, but also recommend that you pay it a visit when the next rainy day has you looking for an indoor activity.

Green cures the blues

In explaining the rationale behind its website, the college wrote, “Nearly 40 years of research shows that the experience of nature is profoundly important to human functioning, health, and well-being.” That is very good news for the 80 percent of U.S. citizens and 50 percent of the world population that live in urban areas.

Here are a few of the many compelling examples of how green is good for what ails you:

  • Dementia patients who have access to gardens are less likely to display aggression or experience injuries, sleep better, and are less agitated.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D) symptoms in children can be reduced through play activities in green settings. This “green time” can be an effective supplement to medicine and behavioral treatments.
  • Neuroscientists discovered that the constant stimuli of city life can cause the brain to suffer memory loss and reduced self-control. Even brief glimpses of nature can give the urban-dwelling brain a respite from complex thinking.
  • Viewing nature can ease pain and encourage healing.
  • Having plants within eyesight of workstations has been reported to improve employee morale, decrease absenteeism and increase work efficiency. 

A second green champion

Five states away, a research lab shares UWCE’s commitment to educating the public, businesses and governments on the importance of embracing nature. The Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign focuses on the relationship between human health and green space.

The website provides downloadable reports on many research studies. One seemed especially intriguing: “Ecological restoration volunteers: the benefits of participation.” While most studies by the laboratory evaluate the positive benefits of viewing plants, this study discusses what happened when volunteers worked to restore natural vegetation.

Mother Nature as therapist
The study evaluated the satisfaction reported by volunteers who restored prairie in the Chicago area. Almost all natural prairies in the central U.S. have been devoured by farming and urban development. Without the work of restoration volunteers, native habitats would be lost forever. Volunteers reported satisfaction in making a difference and accomplishing something important. There was also a feeling of community, because restoring natural habitat is an intense and coordinated group effort.

We encourage you to visit these two websites for inspiration and information, as both universities post research results on a continuing basis. For inspiration closer to home, just throw open the curtains and enjoy Meth-Wick’s beautiful view, or lace up the walking shoes and hit our campus trail.

How you live may be more influential than genes in determining lifespan and health

Telomeres, the part of chromosomes that affects aging, has been used by the media a lot recently. Its popularity will continue to grow thanks to a research study by the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute. An article on UCSF’s website reports that lifestyle changes may result in longer telomeres.

The findings are a life changer

According to the UCSF article, this was the first controlled study to indicate that intervention—in this case, changes in diet, exercise, stress management and social support—has the potential to lengthen telomeres over time.

Why is this important? The DNA and protein in telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes. As telomeres become shorter, the cells age and die faster. Shorter telomeres are associated with aging-related illnesses, including cancer, stroke, some forms of dementia, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes.

“So often people think ‘Oh, I have bad genes, there’s nothing I can do about it,’” the study’s lead author, Dean Ornish, UCSF clinical professor of medicine, said. “But these findings indicate that telomeres may lengthen to the degree that people change how they live. Research indicates that longer telomeres are associated with fewer illnesses and longer life.”

While additional studies are already being pursued, the early findings are enough to make our hearts flutter with excitement. After all, who among us wouldn’t like to extend our life and enhance our enjoyment of it?

Research methods and results

Researchers followed 35 men with early-stage prostate cancer over five years to determine if comprehensive lifestyle changes could affect telomeres. The patients were closely monitored through screenings and biopsies.

Ten of the patients underwent the following changes:

  • Plant-based diet high in fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains, and low in fat and refined carbohydrates
  • Moderate exercise (walking 30 minutes a day, six days a week)
  • Stress reduction (yoga-based stretching, breathing, meditation)
  • Weekly group support that included moderate exercise, stress management training, and counseling

The remaining 25 study participants did not make lifestyle changes. By the end of the study, the patients who made lifestyle changes showed a “significant” increase in telomere length of 10 percent. In comparison, telomeres of men in the control group had shortened by three percent at the end of the study.

Interpreting the findings

Researchers believe their study results can be applied beyond men with prostate cancer to the general population. That’s because they looked at telomeres in patients’ blood rather than their prostate tissue.

Peter R. Carroll, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Urology and co-senior author of the study, said their findings, although groundbreaking, need to be confirmed with larger studies.

“Telomere shortening increases the risk of a wide variety of chronic diseases,” Carroll said. “We believe that increases in telomere length may help to prevent these conditions and perhaps even lengthen lifespan.”