Dental Health & Diabetes

I have an appointment with the periodontist next month. I have to get my gums built-up before I get a permanent crown. Although I don’t have gum disease, it got me thinking about diabetes, as I had just read a study about the relation of gum disease and diabetes. Diabetes runs in my family. As I get older, I get more concerned about it and I try to take counteractive measures – exercise, low-sugar diet, and keep my weight low. Those precautions now include brushing my teeth twice a day and flossing – something I have always done, but now with more reason.

There are two types of gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. It causes gums to become red, swollen and to bleed easily. There is little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis can be reversed with professional treatment.

Periodontitis on the other hand is not reversible and is subsequent to gingivitis. The chronic inflammation that occurs in periodontitis causes gums to separate from teeth, forming pockets that become infected.

Studies have long shown that having elevated glucose levels can increase the likelihood you will develop periodontitis. On the flip side, more recent studies show that the opposite is true as well, having gum disease can increase the risk for diabetes.

Having diabetes is a major risk factor for developing periodontal disease, especially when blood glucose isn’t well controlled. One large study found about 60 percent of people with diabetes have some evidence of periodontal disease.

According to researchers at Marquette University, periodontitis raises levels of inflammation of the gums. The cause of this inflammation, cytokines, can produce an insulin resistance syndrome that eventually can lead to development of diabetes.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention states that about half of the U.S. population has gum disease – and for people over 65 that increases. There are some things you can do to help keep gum disease at bay.

Here are some tips

  • Brush and floss. The best way to prevent gum disease is to brush and floss regularly, but to get the best effects, you need to be sure you’re doing both correctly so you eliminate bacteria at the gum line and between teeth without harming the gums themselves. Check with your dentist or periodontist.
  • Have regular checkups. Seeing a periodontist regularly is critical for adults since a periodontist has been trained to identify the early signs of gum disease even before they cause symptoms.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking decreases circulation that helps keep gums healthy, and it’s also a primary contributor to gum disease.
  • Watch what you eat. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals is important to keep the gum tissue healthy so it can support your teeth and ward off disease. Avoiding sugary snacks is also important since the bacteria that cause gum disease thrive on sugar.
  • Chew sugar-free gum. When you can’t brush after a meal, chewing sugar-free gum can help promote the production of saliva so tiny food particles can be cleared away and your mouth’s healthy environment can be restored.

Keeping your gums healthy is just one way to fight against diabetes. No matter how you look at it, good dental care will improve your overall health. That is a good thing.

Take steps now to ensure your choices are honored later

About this time last year I wrote a column about the importance of having a written and signed health care proxy.

A health care proxy is a document (legal instrument) with which a patient (primary individual) appoints an agent to legally make health care decisions on behalf of the patient, when he or she is incapable of making and executing the health care decisions stipulated in the proxy.

I wanted to ask a person that I loved and trusted — who loved and respected me — to make these decisions for me, were I ever to be incapable. I called my oldest niece, Melyssa, who fits the description, and asked. She felt honored and said yes. We talked about getting together for dinner to discuss, and then she could sign the papers.

I’ve seen her a few times over the year at family gatherings, but I have not had further discussion with her beyond that first call.

I figure if I dropped the ball, there are others out there like me who thought putting together a legal health care plan was a good idea, but never got much further. So let’s review.

I started with what I think is the most difficult step — asking someone to take charge of my health care choices if I can’t — but I skipped the first step. According to nonprofit organization Honoring Choices Massachusetts (www.honoringchoicesmass.com), the first step is to explore.

It all begins with health care planning, which, according to the organization, is much more than legal documents. It is a lifetime of creating circumstances for everyday wellness, for engaging a medical team that provides person-centered care. Making that the basis of your health care planning helps with the creation of the legal documents.

The website helps you explore how to make care choices that best fit you. You should explore and understand all your legal rights and gather all your medical and health care information. Then — what I think is most important in this exploration step — reflect on your values and beliefs and how they inform the choices you will make. Then, talk in depth with trusted family members and friends.

Step two is to make a plan. Consider the following five written plans (you can find these documents on www.healthychoicesmass.com).

  1. Health Care Proxy. Again, this is choosing someone to carry out your well-defined health care choices.
  2. Personal Directive. This is a living will. It provides the person you name in your Health Care Proxy with detailed instructions as to how you would like to be cared for. This is not a legal document in Massachusetts, so you want to choose someone who will respect your wishes, even if it is emotionally difficult for them to do so.
  3. Durable Power of Attorney. This is assigning a person you trust to handle your money. It does not have to be the same person you name in your Health Care Proxy.
  4. Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST). This document communicates your choices regarding life-sustaining treatments should you become seriously ill. You and your family do not complete this form unless you become seriously ill, but there is a sample document on the website.
  5. Comfort Care/Do Not Resuscitate Order (CC/DNR). This form indicates you do not want resuscitation efforts in the case your heart or breathing stops. It is completed by you or your health care agent should the circumstances for making this decision arise.

Make sure you connect. Talk with your health care team and family about your plan.

I am going to go back and start with step one. Then I will call my niece and make a date for that dinner conversation. I hope you will take these steps, too.

Sunset Cruise Fundraiser (2017)

Cape Ann Whale Watch's Hurricane II Buy Tickets Now Sponsor Event

SeniorCare’s 8th Annual Sunset Cruise, presented by Connected Home Care, will take place aboard Cape Ann Whale Watch’s HURRICANE II, departing from Rose’s Wharf, 415 Main Street, Gloucester, MA, Thursday, July 13, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. The evening includes a raffle, picnic lunch, cash bar, and dancing to the music of DJ Scottie Mac. Tickets are $30 per person and business sponsorship opportunities are available.

Event contact: Paula Curley 978-281-1750 or paula.curley@seniorcareinc.org


Cruise Sponsors:

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

I was working in Boston last week. On a cold sunny day, I went for a walk. As I walked down Tremont Street, I noticed a woman walking toward me and a man, walking faster, was coming up behind her. As he approached her he slowed his pace and said, “Hey baby, can I get your number?” She kept her head down and resolutely ignored him. As I glared at him in disbelief, he caught my eye, quickened his pace and moved on. I passed the woman, whose head was still tilted down, away from the side the man passed, staring at the ground. I’m still disturbed by the experience.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In the late ‘70s, women in England held night vigils, calling them “Take Back the Night.” The women were protesting the violence they encountered when they walked down the streets at night. The first “Take Back the Night” events in the United States occurred in 1978 in San Francisco and New York. In the late 1980s, April became the official Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Thirty-nine years later, it is still a concern that needs resolution. A culture of sexual violence still exists and, although women are by far the target of such an offense, men are not immune — 1 in 5 women have been a victim of rape sometime in their lives, and 1 in 71 men have been victims.

Age is also not a barrier to being a victim of sexual assault. As a matter of fact, according to a study first published in 1988, “When victims are older women, the sexual assault is likely to be particularly brutal and largely motivated by anger, a need for power, or sadistic intent.” Furthermore, other studies find that older women who are victims of sexual assault are living alone or in a care facility and often have cognitive/dementia issues.

That seems harsh to express, but awareness is key to making change.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s 2017 campaign for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is Engaging New Voices. The focus will be on involving coaches, faith leaders, parents, Greek life and bystanders in preventing sexual assault. Many groups know about sexual assault and believe it is a problem, but they don’t know how they can help.

Here are a couple things you can do to counteract the culture of sexual violence:

  1. Examine your belief system. Often times people question the victim, saying “What was she wearing?” Or “She shouldn’t have had those three drinks.” These questions perpetuate what is called “rape culture” and are not helpful. A woman could be walking naked down the middle of Roger Street. No one should assault her. Arrest her and bring her to safety, yes, but assault, no.
  2. Speak out. If you hear someone make an offensive joke or trivialize rape, don’t just walk away disgusted. If you feel safe, say something.

Sexual violence undermines strong communities, and we can all take a stand against it.

This coming Monday, April 10, Gloucester is having its own Take Back the Night event. “Reclaim the streets! Protest sexual violence” are the headlines on the poster announcing the event. The gathering will be at the Gloucester Police Station at 6 p.m. There will be a candle-lit procession to Gloucester City Hall.

Join Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, community leaders, and concerned citizens as they take to the streets for the fifth annual Take Back the Night Awareness Rally.

I hope to see you there as we Take Back the Night!

March Celebrates Meals on Wheels Across America

On March 22, 1972, President Nixon signed into law a measure that amended the Older Americans Act of 1965 and established a national nutrition program for seniors. For nearly 45 years, senior nutrition programs like SeniorCare’s Meals on Wheels program have delivered nutritious meals to seniors at risk of hunger and isolation in virtually every community across the country. Importantly, these programs also deliver friendly visits and help ensure our seniors are safe in their own homes, where they want to be.

In celebration of the March anniversary of the national nutrition program, Meals on Wheels programs nationwide celebrate “March for Meals” each year to increase awareness of the vital role home-delivered meals play in the lives of older Americans.

“March is a time for us all to rally around Meals on Wheels,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. “Our ability to meet the needs of vulnerable seniors lies in the willingness and generosity of businesses, government and concerned individuals of all ages to contribute in their own way. It not only makes economic sense to enable seniors to stay healthy and safe at home, but it improves the health and vibrancy of our communities and our nation at large.”

SeniorCare has spent the month of March this year raising funds for and awareness of Meals on Wheels. On March 10th, our 43rd annual Valentine’s Breakfast was held at the Gloucester House Restaurant. We were thrilled to greet old and new friends as we served a record number of guests at the breakfast.

In addition to the breakfast, throughout the month, community leaders have joined with SeniorCare to serve elders. State Senators Bruce Tarr and Joan Lovely and Representatives Jerry Parisella and Brad Hill joined with Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Beverly Mayor Mike Cahill, Ipswich Selectman William Craft, Cape Ann Chamber CEO Ken Riehl, Ipswich Rotarian Lisa Shanko, Rockport Rotarian Bob Gillis, and others to deliver meals to elders in their homes and serve at community lunches throughout the North Shore.

Why Meals on Wheels?

In Massachusetts, the senior population is approaching 1,300,000—approximately 19% of the total population. Roughly 11% of the seniors in our state struggle with hunger and 25% living in or near poverty. Over 25% live alone and are at risk of isolation issues.

Home delivered meals are nutritious and balanced, and are often a primary source of nutrition for the day. There are several studies proving the importance of nutrition in maintaining quality of life for seniors. According to Rosalyn Frontiera, Nutrition Director at SeniorCare, “Relationships between the drivers and people receiving meals is also very important. Our drivers look forward to greeting and having a quick chat during their deliveries. It’s a rewarding, two-way relationship.”

A recent study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and a study conducted by the Yale University School of Nursing suggest that social isolation and loneliness are associated with an increased risk of many health-related problems, including:

  • Cognitive decline and dementia
  • Death by suicide
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Catching the common cold
  • Falling
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Increases in systolic blood pressure
  • Re-hospitalization and institutionalization
  • Mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke
  • Malnutrition

Home delivered meals provide regular social interaction with the caring, committed driver who delivers the meal. Deliveries provide a point of social contact and an informal check on well-being.

Simply put—Meals on Wheels provides basic human needs of nutrition and social interaction at a fairly low cost. The benefits to meals recipients are many. The benefits to society are also significant.

March is Social Worker Month

March is Social Worker Month and March 21 is World Social Worker Day.

Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines Social Work as “any of various professional activities or methods concretely concerned with providing social services and especially with the investigation, treatment, and material aid of the economically, physically, mentally, or socially disadvantaged.”

Although the definition above is technically correct, there are many forms of social work, so such a simple and concrete definition does nearly explain the magnitude of the work done by these often highly educated workers.
Social work is a vast discipline that encompasses many therapeutic methods and can range from helping one person, to helping to improve communities around the world. For example a social worker can be working to support humanitarian rescue missions, helping families gain access to government assistance, or counseling those who are near death and their loved ones. A simple social work definition does not do justice to the many ways that social work touches the lives of people every day. The one thing social workers have in common however, is that they strive to better the lives of people, whether at the individual, family, group or societal level.

Social workers are not highly compensated by salary, but the satisfaction they get from helping others live better and more peaceful lives is significant and often motivates them every day.

Here are a few other reasons people become social workers:

They are never bored
In social work, every day is completely different. While they may try and plan meticulously, a social worker can be guaranteed that there will be several unexpected challenges to deal with each week.

It challenges people in ways few other careers do
Social work is incredibly emotionally challenging. The stories social workers hear and sights they see may just take your breath away. The highs and the lows are incomparable. It is so easy to grow attached to the people you support and their successes and failures feel like your successes and failures. Learning to manage these vicarious emotions is an important aspect of the job.

People learn things about themselves they may not otherwise have learned
The situations that social workers face are unique and often extreme. They find out quickly if they are good at dealing with people with aggressive behavior, or people with depression. They often learn the lesson of loss over and over again, be it from a patient that dies by suicide or an elderly client who passes away peacefully as they hold his/her hand.

They get to be the person who changes someone’s life for the better
They may not get a thank you card every day, or even every year, but when they do occasionally get a thank you from a client or family member for helping a person overcome the difficulties one can experience in life, they are fueled by hope. Who doesn’t like to know that you helped another person in some small (or sometimes big) way?

Being a social worker is not an easy job. There are more than 650,000 people who hold a social worker degree across the United States. Each day they wake with the hope, inspiration, and courage to connect with other people in a way that lives can change. Go out of your way today to thank a social worker.

Thank YOU for Supporting Meals on Wheels (1)

THANK YOU to everyone for this morning’s wonderful Meals on Wheels Breakfast! Thank you to our sponsors, to our volunteers, and to everyone who took time out of their morning to join us for breakfast.

In particular, a giant THANK YOU to Dotty, Lennie & Mike Linquata and the wonderful staff at The Gloucester House. Thank you for your generosity, for your hospitality and for your delicious fish cakes!

(Click on an image in order to view full gallery of images.  Additional pictures available in Gallery #2 & Gallery #3.)

 

 

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

I turned 50 years old last August. I received two memorable items in the mail around that time: an invitation to join AARP and a letter from my doctor telling me I needed to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. I did join AARP, because who doesn’t like discounts? And, although I put it off a few months, I made a colonoscopy appointment, which ironically was scheduled for the first week of March 2017.

Colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). He or she uses a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the colon. A colonoscopy helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people ages 50 and older. African-Americans, however, have a greater risk of colon cancer than people of other races.

The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50. There are often no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer — that’s why it’s so important to get screened.

It is suggested that everyone 50 years and over get regular screenings for colon cancer. There are risk factors other than age, however, that may increase your chances of getting colon cancer.

Factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include:

  • You already had colon cancer or adenomatous polyps.
  • You have chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
  • Genetic syndromes have passed through generations of your family. These syndromes include familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, which is also known as Lynch syndrome.
  • You have a parent, sibling or child with the disease. If more than one family member has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater.
  • You have a diet low in fiber and high in fat and calories. Research in this area has had mixed results. Some studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer in people who eat diets high in red meat and processed meat.
  • You are inactive. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
  • You have diabetes and insulin resistance.
  • You are obese.
  • You smoke.
  • You drink lots of alcohol.

It is estimated that if everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, 6 out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. I did have this screening done last week. I followed the directions that were sent with my appointment confirmation. It was not the most pleasant experience, nor was it as bad as I imagined it would be.