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Take Part in Your Healthcare

It’s normal to have questions and anxieties when facing any kind of health issue, whether it’s an illness, injury, surgery, recovery, etc. Every patient wants to receive the best care possible, but did you know that patients play a big role in the care that they receive? Inherent in any medical care is relationships — relationships between the patient and practitioners (physicians, therapists, nurses, etc.). When patients come prepared with the best knowledge of their symptoms, medical history, and current circumstances, the practitioners have a better understanding of their patients and can offer the best treatment plan.

So what does it mean to “come prepared”?

PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 1. MAKE A LIST

Time with practitioners is often limited, so by making a list of things you’d like to address you will make the most of that limited time. What symptom(s) is worrying you the most? Try to pinpoint when it started and anything that makes it better or worse. Avoid waiting until the practitioner is leaving the room to bring up another symptom or concern. Undivided attention is important in patient/practitioner communication.

PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 2. COMMUNICATE YOUR CONCERNS AND DESIRES

Patients will often hesitate to discuss financial or family concerns to practitioners. Health issues can be scary and it’s not easy to talk about them, even with your own doctors. Practitioners understand that medical problems and treatment are both financially and emotionally taxing. Don’t be afraid to communicate those concerns! Are you worried about how you will pay for your healthcare and prescriptions? There may be programs to help you. If your practitioner doesn’t immediately know the answer he/she will direct you to a staff member who can help. Does your family need help coping with the stress of your illness or recovery? Support groups and/or counseling can do that. Let your practitioners know you need it!

PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 3. ASK QUESTIONS

Don’t hesitate to ask, “What does that mean?” if a physician says something that goes over your head. If you don’t ask, the practitioner will assume you understand all that is being said. Ask about surgery risks, expected outcomes, prescribed medications and therapies. Tell your physician, therapist, nurse, etc. what you hear them saying. Make sure you’re all on the same page before anyone leaves the room. You might even think of questions in the middle of the grocery store or while watching TV — write them down and ask them at your next appointment.

Remember, you are an active participant in your own healthcare. You are an expert on your body, your circumstances, your life. Your doctors are experts at what they do but they need your expertise on YOU in order to provide the best healthcare.

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Winter Care Tips for Seniors

The winter season presents specific risks and challenges that can be exaggerated for older adults. We value the safety of our patients while they are with us and certainly once they go home. Because of this we believe that it’s important to be prepared for the risks that winter weather can bring. Here are seven safety tips to help mitigate those risks.
  1. Keep warm. Older adults are at a greater risk of developing hypothermia — a dangerous drop in body temperature — during cold weather. Aging lowers one’s ability to withstand longer periods of cold, even from just sitting in a colder than normal room. Certain conditions and medications can also affect a person’s ability to sense cold, making them especially vulnerable. Because of this, older people should keep indoor temps above 65 degrees and look for the warning signs of hypothermia – shivering, cold and pale or ashy skin, abnormal fatigue, sudden confusion, and/or slowed breathing and heart rate. If you notice these symptoms call 911 immediately.
  2. Avoid falls. While falls are a constant concern regardless of weather, seniors need to be especially vigilant in avoiding falls during the winter. Ice, snow, and mobility impeded by cold temperatures can wreak havoc on a normally safe environment. Given the particularly dangerous nature of falls in older adults, it is crucial for individuals and their loved ones to keep steps and walks clear of snow, ice, and other potential fall hazards. Be especially cautious when using canes, walkers, crutches, etc. on snow and ice.
  3. Watch for wintertime depression. It’s not uncommon for older adults to alter their social engagements during the winter months because of the cold and inclement weather. While this seems like a good idea in terms of limiting exposure to winter illnesses and avoiding fall risks, it can actually have a negative impact on one’s mental and emotional well-being. Staying active and finding alternative social outlets is a big factor in avoiding wintertime depression. If you have older family members who are at risk of becoming isolated, make an effort to visit, call, or arrange activities to keep their spirits high.
  4. Eat a varied diet. When it’s cold outside we’re less likely to get the sun exposure that we need for our bodies to produce Vitamin D, and we tend to eat a less varied diet. Eating foods with Vitamin D, like milk, grains, and certain seafood can help with this deficit. You might even talk with your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement.
  5. Prepare for emergencies. Winter storms can cause a variety of problems including long-lasting power outages and snowed- or iced-in conditions. It is essential to be prepared for such events before they occur. The CDC website has a wealth of information on preparing for extreme cold conditions. They have created a printable document – Extreme Cold Guide – that includes information for what to do before, during, and after a winter storm. Tips include storm preparation, safety checklists, and health information. This guide is a valuable clearinghouse for anyone preparing for winter weather. [1]
  6. Drive safely. While safe driving practices are always paramount, hazards can be exaggerated during inclement weather. It is important to know one’s limits when it comes to operating a vehicle. If you don’t feel comfortable driving in ice and snow, ask a friend or family member for a ride. Another concern on the road is emergency preparedness. Make sure you have supplies in your car to keep you safe in case of a stranding or accident. Warm blankets and clothes, food, a flashlight, and an ice scraper should be standard equipment in the car. Always travel with a cell phone and charger in case you have an emergency. Another way to avoid problems is to have your car winterized by a trusted professional.
  7. Maintain safe heating. It is vitally important to keep heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, etc. in good working order and free of clutter to avoid fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Beyond having these devices checked by a professional, you should have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure the detectors are properly installed on every floor and are in good working condition. Each bedroom and sleeping area should have its own smoke detector. [2]
By following these basic safety tips you and your loved ones can reduce the risk of serious problems this winter. Stay warm and be safe!
Resources:
  1. http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp
  2. http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/fire-and-safety-equipment/smoke-alarms
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Don’t Let Distractions Wreck Your Summer Vacation

Distracted driving is a growing – and dangerous – recurring event in the United States. Any activity from talking on a cell phone, looking at a GPS system, to eating or drinking while driving is a distraction and can endanger the driver, passengers, and bystanders. Probably the most alarming distraction of all is text messaging because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. Five seconds is the average time someone’s eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.

In 2013, around 424,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved a distracted driver, with more than 3,100 people being killed. A study through the National Institutes of Health found that drivers eat, reach for the phone, text, or otherwise take their eyes off the road about 10 percent of the time. “As a physician, I’ve seen the effects of distracted driving first-hand, including several orthopedic, spinal cord, and traumatic brain injuries,” says Dr. Ike Osuji, Medical Director of Mesquite Specialty Hospital, stating that more than half of traumatic brain injuries are caused by automobile accidents.

“A brain injury occurs when there is a blow or jolt to the head.” In a vehicle accident, this can occur when an airbag deploys or a person hits the windshield or steering wheel. All brain injuries are serious and can affect a person’s cognitive or physical abilities. They also can result in behavioral or emotional impairments as well.” A person who suffers a significant brain injury most likely will require critical care as well as rehabilitation to relearn basic skills, such as walking, talking or eating. “Our goal in helping these types of patients is to address the acute medical issues and improve an individual’s abilities to perform daily activities,” Osuji says, “It can be a long process that requires the specialized skills of a multidisciplinary medical team. And, while I’m glad that I’m part of a team at MSH that can help in the long-term recovery of these types of patients, I would rather see these types of injuries being prevented.” “It’s time to stop the epidemic of distracted driving,” Dr. Osuji says, “the simplest and most effective way to do this is to turn off your cell phone when you turn on the car ignition. Pay attention to the road instead. Let’s all be responsible drivers, and let’s save lives together.”

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Having a Heart-to-Heart with your Doctor

When it comes to matters of the heart, the silent treatment is never an effective cure. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 600,000 people dying from it every year. “Heart disease can refer to many types of conditions, but the most common is coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack,” says Dr. Ike Osuji, Medical Director of Mesquite Specialty Hospital. “Anyone can develop heart disease. This happens when a substance called plaque builds up in your arteries, which then narrow over time and limit the blood flow to your heart.” Behaviors such as smoking, unhealthy eating and not getting enough exercise all are factors that contribute to a person’s risk of heart disease. High cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes also are risk factors.

“To be heart-healthy, it’s important that you talk openly and frankly with your doctor about preventing or treating these medical conditions,” Osuji says. “I know that speaking up may be difficult for some patients, but I can’t stress enough that miscommunication – or no communication – between you and your physician can hurt your health. Many people may not feel comfortable asking questions of their physician for a variety of reasons, be it embarrassment, nervousness, lack of knowledge or because their physician may appear to be rushed for time or uses a lot of technical language that’s hard to understand.

“I think I can talk for the majority of my colleagues when I say that as physicians, we strive to create environments that our patients feel comfortable in,” Osuji says. “We appreciate when issues are discussed and we can work together as a team with our patients. The more we can understand about our patients, the more we can help them reach optimal health.”

Dr. Osuji says when it comes to heart health, open communication is key. Taking part in decisions about your treatment, following the treatment plan that you and your doctor agree on, watching for problems, and becoming actively involved in solving them can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. “It’s not just about listening to what you’re told, it’s about asking the right questions and raising appropriate concerns so we can get the best results together,” Osuji says. “When a patient engages with their physician and obtains quality information about prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, it helps ensure safety, prevent errors, and improve health.” Dr. Osuji, offers the following tips in talking to your physician:

  • Ask questions, especially to ensure that you’re following your doctor’s advice and taking your medication correctly. If you don’t understand something, keep asking until you do.
  • Before you come to your medical visit, write down questions or concerns. This way, you will remember the most important items that you need to discuss.
  • Also, write down the answers. You may receive a lot of information that could be hard to remember. Take a pad of paper and pen and write down your physician’s answers so you’ll be able to review them when you get home.
  • Ask your physician about the best way to contact him or her if you have an urgent question after the visit.
  • Become an informed consumer. Do a bit of research on your own through reliable sources that your doctor will respect when forming your questions. For heart health and stroke information, consider the Heart Association’s website, or a government site such as National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • If you’re still afraid to speak up, take a spouse or loved one with you who can help you ask your questions. Often times, asking questions can be a major change for someone who isn’t used to raising concerns, so don’t be afraid to take along support if you need it.
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Personal Commitments Improve Patient Care

Carla Bledsole, DON for Mesquite Specialty Hospital, recalls many long nights studying as a nursing student. “When I selected nursing as my major, I knew the classwork would be intense,” she says. “But it didn’t intimidate me. I was entering a field where people’s lives literally depended on me, and that’s a sobering responsibility. I knew it was my job to learn as much as I could to help my future patients. The more I could learn, the better nurse I’d be.”

After 11 years in the profession, Carla still feels the same way. Like many of her colleagues, Carla values the importance of staying abreast of the latest medical developments, techniques, and treatments in her field through professional continuing education. “I have to keep up with the latest medical treatments and techniques so I can assist my nurses in providing the best care possible to the patients we care for,” she says. “I’m committed to lifelong learning in my field – both what’s mandatorily required, and what I can add to it voluntarily.” In addition to the continuing education Carla participates to maintain her state nursing license. “Continuing education among our healthcare team – through specialized classes or certifications – is highly encouraged and supported at the hospital because it’s essential in providing high quality care to our patients,” says Dr. Ike Osuji Medical Director. “As a physician, therapist, nurse or other healthcare professional, we all need to stay abreast of latest medical developments for our patients’ sakes. We’re responsible and accountable for their recoveries and healing, and we take that responsibility extremely seriously. By continuing to grow and specialize in our knowledge, we can provide the latest care with confidence so our patients get the best results.”

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