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Seven Ways to Prevent Bad Breath

July 25th, 2018

Seven Ways to Prevent Bad Breath
Submitted by Christine Stone, RN
LifeQuest Clinical Liaison

The causes of bad breath were detailed in a previous blog article. Here are a few tips to prevent bad breath recommended by the American Dental Association.

1. Brush and Floss – Meticulous care of your teeth is essential to control bacteria often associated with bad breath.
2. Keep Your Tongue Clean – Brush the tongue with your toothbrush or use a special tongue scraper to remove bacterial film. Don’t neglect this important step in your oral hygiene.
3. Mouthwash – Can provide a temporary fix to bad breath, but this is a little like “sweeping dirt under the rug.” Mouthwash is never a substitute for good oral hygiene. Mouthwash/mouth rinse can also contribute to dry mouth.
4. Clean Your Dentures – If you are a denture wearer, ALWAYS remove your dentures at night and clean/brush the inside of your mouth as well as the dentures themselves. It’s also recommended that you remove the dentures after each meal to remove odor-causing food debris.
5. Monitor Your Saliva – Saliva has antibacterial properties to help prevent tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath. If you suffer from dry mouth, try chewing sugar-free Xylitol gum. The very act of chewing helps stimulate salivary flow.
6. Quit Smoking – Smoking (and chewing tobacco) is one of the worst breath offenders. Giving up tobacco will improve your breath and your overall health.
7. Get Regular Dental Check Ups – Having your teeth professionally cleaned and your mouth examined by a dentist is the best way to rule out more serious causes of bad breath. Identifying the exact cause is key in selecting the right solution.

Safe Ways to Dispose of Unused Drugs

June 12th, 2018

By:  Christine Stone, RN, BSN

If you’re like most people, you probably have unused or expired medications in your closet.   What do you usually do with those medications?   Again, if you’re like most people, you probably just flush them down the toilet or pour them down the drain.  Easy enough, right?    Think again.  

Drugs can get into our water supply in a variety ways.   Households, hospitals, nursing homes, and even some pharmaceutical companies pour drugs down the drain.   Manufacturing companies regularly dump by-products into rivers and streams.  Farms and ranches give animals antibiotic and hormone-laced feed.    And ALL of these toxins are landing in our water supply.

Sewage and water treatment plants are able to remove harmful bacteria and some other impurities from our drinking water, but they are NOT equipped to filter out drugs.  As a result, some pharmaceutical pollution does wind up in our drinking water.   It’s possible that ingesting even very small amounts of these drugs could, over time, affect your health.   Pretty scary, right?

The drugs being poured down the drain are affecting the fish.   For example water sources polluted with hormones such as estrogen (birth control pills) are producing fish with both male and female characteristics.   This is having a negative impact on the fishes’ ability to reproduce.

New guidelines encourage responsible drug disposal for hospitals and nursing homes.   Companies are also under closer scrutiny of their use and disposal of chemicals.

What can YOU do?

  • Do not flush unused medicines or pour down the drain. Instead, throw medications into the trash.   Medications disposed of this way will be incinerated or buried in landfills.   Not ideal, but better than pouring down the drain.
  • Do not buy medications in bulk (large quantities).
  • Use your community’s drug take back program. Take back programs are organized by state and local government, and some private institutions including pharmacy chains. There are over 6,000 such locations around the United States.    These programs allow you to drop off your unused drugs for proper disposal.   I recommend that you first remove any personal identification from the medication containers.   In my community, drugs can be dropped off at the township building – no questions asked.  

In summary, we don’t know the full level of harm to humans from the current levels of drugs in our drinking water.  But why contribute to the likely pollution?    I urge you adopt the easy recommendations listed above.   It’s one of the many ways you can help your fellow man, and also a few fish!

When Is It Best To Not Be Too Social? – Staying Safe and Secure When Using Social Media

May 10th, 2018

Christine Stone, RN    Clinical Liaison

One statistic shows that 64 percent of folks over age 50 spend some time on the internet and

Facebook.    But beware!  There are cleverly devious people out there who are intent on separating you from your money and personal information.   As reported by a prominent social media security company, Fraud and “Phishing” scams have more than doubled in the past year!   How do these clever criminals do it?   Read on:

  1. Fake Freebies and Discounts. Scammers set up a bogus social media page that looks like those of legitimate companies.  They claim to offer free or very cheap products and services.   They collect your name, address, phone number, email address, credit card number, and other information to be used for identity theft or sold to other criminals on the black market.   You will never receive the so-called “free” item or service, but you can be sure your information will be used illegally.
  2. Contests and Surveys Swindles. In these schemes you are promised a prize for completing and online survey.   The crooks are able to search deeper for your personal information – including occupation, income, spending habits.
  3. Twitter Tricks.  Crooks add an extra character to a corporate name, creating a fake website.  If you’re not looking closely, the fake web site looks just like the real one. For example:  You receive a legitimate looking email from your bank asking you to login your account.  The scammer is closely monitoring for any responses.  A link to the fake website is provided.  You logon to that site and your account number and password is requested.   Once you’ve given over that information, you’ve essentially given the crook full access to your accounts.
  4. Live-Stream Lies. Some TV programs, sporting events and movies are “streamed”  online.   Free viewing is promised, but when you click on the link, a website will demand credit card information before viewing can start.  This is the lure of the “free trial” and “cancel at any time” trick.    Chances are you’ll never see the program, but don’t be surprised to see monthly charges on your credit card statement.
  5. Gossip. Your curiosity about a celebrity or sports star can get you into real trouble.  The celebrity name along with the terms “pictures” or ”videos” are used to lure you into checking on the links.  But before you can view the “scandalous” pictures you’ll have to provide your name and credit card information.

So what can you do to stay safe on the internet and other forms of social media?

  • Your best protection is to always use common sense. If it seems too good to be true – it is! 
  • Go directly to a manufacturer’s official website for free offers and special deals.
  • Be careful what you click on – especially “pop up” offers and other unsolicited emails.
  • Spend the money and install a quality internet security program on your computer that scans for viruses, malware, and prevents pop-up ads. Set it to run scans on a regular schedule. 

Finally, as they used to say on the TV show “Hill Street Blues” – Be safe out there.

Resources for the Caregivers of  People with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias

April 16th, 2018

Christine Stone, RN

Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Center:   alz.org/care

            This is always a good, first place to look for information.   Call 1-800-272-3900 for the 24 / 7 Helpline.   They can connect you to your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.

ALZConnected Social Networking Community:     alzconnected.org

            This is a free membership public forum for caregivers and people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia s.  Why join?     Connect with people who understand.   Post questions and offer solutions.   Create public  and private groups around a dedicated topic.

Purple Cities Alliance:       purple cities.org

            Lists “dementia-friendly” cities where city workers, police, shopkeepers and others are educated in how to effectively  interact with people with dementia.

Alzheimer’s / Dementia Hospital Wristband Project:    http://www.commonsensecaregiving.com/dementia-hospital-wristband-program.html

            Lists hospitals which are using purple wristbands to identify patients with dementia.  All staff and  physicians receive additional education on the disease basics and how to communicate kindly and effectively with persons with dementia.

Music & Memory:     musicandmemory.org

            It is well known that music is an effective way to reach people with dementia who otherwise seem  “unreachable.”  This website will guide you in making a customized “music playlist” for your loved one.

GreyMatters App:    greymatterstous.com  (“grey matters to us”)

            GreyMatters is a tablet application that aims to improve quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers. Through an interactive life storybook, paired with music and games, the app helps  patients and families preserve yesterday’s memories, as well as share today’s joyful moments

Alzheimer’s Speaks:   https://www.alzheimersspeaks.com/memory-cafes

            Alzheimer’s Speaks believes collaboration is the key to living a successful and purpose filled life with  dementia.  By working together, we can push both conventional and alternative efforts forward in search of answers. 

 Alzheimer’s Reading Room:   alzheimersreadingroom.com

            The goal of the Alzheimer’s Reading Room is to Educate and Empower Alzheimer’s caregivers, their families, and the entire Alzheimer’s community.

Recognizing Mental Health Problems in Older Persons

March 23rd, 2018

Christine Stone, RN

     Mental health problems are should NOT be an expected part of getting older.   Think about the stereotypes –  the sad nursing home resident, the anxious little old lady, the feisty old man.   There is nothing about being older that guarantees mental health problems or memory loss.  But we’ve been “conditioned” to believe poor mental health is an inevitable part of aging.

     The diagnoses of depression and dementia have become the new “normal” – a regular part of growing old.  When we view depression as normal, we tend to overlook its symptoms – it becomes something to be endured, tolerated, or untreatable – which is completely wrong.    In addition to Alzheimer’s Dementia, there are over 10 known types of dementia, some of which are treatable or even reversible.   For this article, we’ll focus on depression and delirium – both of which are completely treatable.

     The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identify depression as a real and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging.  Older people who are depressed are often misdiagnosed and inadequately treated.  It has been suggested that as many as 6.5 percent out of 35 million older Americans are depressed.   That’s 1 in 5 seniors living with this treatable condition.   So, whether they’re living in a nursing home or in the community, depression is not normal.

     Depression in seniors can occur when chronic illnesses create distressing symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and memory loss.  Inadequate treatment of these symptoms can lead to depression.   Generational  beliefs that depression is “taboo” make many seniors reluctant to report feelings of depression to health care practitioners.  

Is it depression or delirium?

     Infections, acute illnesses and/or physical injury can cause sudden and usually reversible changes in a person’s mental status.   The otherwise alert and oriented person becomes confused – doesn’t recognize family or close friends, doesn’t know where they are, sees or hears things that aren’t there.   The person experiencing these symptoms is usually completely unaware of their confusion or irrational behavior.   This is delirium – and it usually resolves when the infection or injury is adequately treated.

    Onset of the symptoms of depression can be very subtle, and may not be noticed in the day to day routines.   Often, it isn’t until depression is quite severe that it is realized how impaired or isolated the elderly person has become.   Things that used to bring pleasure are neglected or avoided, or there are changes in appetite, weight and sleep patterns.   There might be feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.   Sometimes depression is “situational”  – related to a loss or an acute illness –  is considered normal and will resolve with appropriate treatment (talk-therapy).   When the symptoms last longer than 6 months, or impact daily life –  it’s time to talk with your doctor.   Medication therapy alone, or in combination with psychotherapy, are extremely effective treatments for depression.  Your doctor may also order some routine lab tests to make sure there is no medical reason for your depression.

    If you think you or your loved one might have depression – call your doctor.  Once a diagnosis is made and treatment has started, improvement can be seen in as little as two weeks.     Isn’t that worth feeling better and the improvement in the quality of life?

Ways to Stay Safe and Secure When Using Social Media

March 9th, 2018

Christine Stone, RN

If you use a computer or a Smart phone, you might also be using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Texting.  It’s a great way to share messages and photos with family, grandkids and friends.  But BEWARE!  There are a lot of scams and fraudulent activity associated with social media.  Criminals will try to get your personal information, login credentials, or credit card numbers.  Here are a few of the ways these clever criminals will try to separate you from your money.

Fake Freebie and Discounts.   Scammers set up fake social media accounts that look like legitimate companies.  They’ll offer free or very inexpensive products and services.   Their mission:  collect your name, email address phone & credit card numbers, and other pertinent information.  The information will be used for identity theft or will be sold to other crooks on the black market.  Think about those messages you’ve received from an attorney representing a widow in Africa, offering you 50% of her inheritance if you just send $5,000.   Really?  I know there’s a sucker born every day.  But don’t YOU be that sucker!  

Other ways they try to get your money is to require you to pay the shipping and handling on the so-called freebie gift.  You’ll pay the shipping & handling fees and never receive anything.

Celebrity Gossip Sites.  Websites associated with a celebrity’s name will lure you in offering “censored”, or “x-rated” videos or photos.   By clicking on these tantalizing tidbits you are unknowingly linked to a website which will ask for your credit card information.  Worse yet, they will have YOUR email address or phone number from which they can hack into your email accounts.

Contests & Surveys.   In these schemes, the crooks will ask you to complete an online survey.   Their goal is to get more and more information about you:  your interests, your occupation, your income and spending habits.

Other Twitter Tricks.    You receive what looks to be a legitimate email from your bank.  In actuality, the fake website  has a similar, but slightly different web address.   Once you click on the web link and enter your login and password information, you’ve given the crooks access to ALL of your account information, plus now they have your login and password for the future access to your accounts.

Over-Sharing.    It’s great to share good news with family and friends.  But don’t brag about your new jewelry, your new 70-inch flat screen TV, or your plans to be away on vacation.   Anyone who happens to be illegally monitoring your account (or your recipient’s account) will know everything about you.  If they also happen to have your address, you could be the target of burglary.

What Can You Do To Prevent Being Victim of a Cyber Hack?  

  • Your best protection is common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • NEVER, EVER give your credit card information, social security or bank account numbers on the internet or smart phone.
  • If you need to contact your bank or any other company, NEVER click on the link they send you.  This may take you to one of those fake /imposter sites.   Instead, directly enter the web address you’re your internet browser.   It might seem like a lot of effort, but this is the safest way to be sure your email is getting to its intended recipient.
  • Don’t be fooled the promise of FREE. Remember the saying “There’s no free lunch?”   Well, it’s true!  Anyone who is contacting you

Is There a Way to Stop Those Annoying, Unwanted Phone Calls?

January 17th, 2018

By:   Christine Stone

Is it just me, or are those annoying marketing junk calls and telephone scam calls getting worse?  It used to be that I only received those calls on my house phone.  But lately, I’ve been getting unwanted calls and text messages on my cell phone.   

Yes, they’re really a nuisance, and you will never be able to completely eliminate these annoying time-wasters.  But the good news is: there are measures you can take to reduce unwanted marketing calls.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives upwards of 300,000 complaints per month from consumers reporting unwanted live and pre-recorded calls.   If you didn’t already know – – it is illegal to make telemarketing calls to consumers who have not given their consent to receive such calls.  Unfortunately telemarketers simply ignore the law and/or bet the regulators will not come after them.    Telemarketers are very clever – – they can mask their phone number or change their phone number as often as every hour – – making it difficult to trace calls or track them down.   And while many telephone companies provide some level of call blocking, it’s up to the consumer to create their own “call block list.”

Signing up for the “Do Not Call Registry” will give some level of blocking unwanted calls, but it’s not fool-proof.  The “National Do Not Call Registry” (NDNCR) can be accessed at https://www.donotcall.gov/.  But it can take up to 30 days to take effect.    And to add insult to injury, some telephone scammers call claiming to be from the National Do Not Call Registry.   Be aware that the NDNCR does NOT call consumers directly.  So do not respond to these calls.

Keep in mind that charities, not-for-profits, political organizations, legitimate telephone surveys, and debt collectors are still permitted to make “unsolicited” calls.   They can (and will) continue to call you despite placing your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.

Also keep in mind that it is illegal to call you before 9 am or after 9 pm.

Here are a few other steps you can take to minimize marketing calls and robocalls.  If you don’t have a computer, ask a trusted relative or friend to help you.   Follow the computer links for the following services:

  • nomorobo.com is a FREE service that is easy to set up, allows legitimate robocalls to get through, and is approved by the Federal Trade Commission.   If you find you no longer like service, it’s easy to turn off.
  • EndRoboCalls.org allows you to sign a petition pressuring the big telephone companies to provide free tools to block robocalls for their customers.  This service is from the publishers of Consumer Reports magazine and very trustworthy.
  •  https://www.donotcall.gov/ will give you access to the Federal Trade Commission and the Do Not Call Registry.

Telemarketers and telephone scam artists will always find new and clever ways to call and scam us.  There are a few easy things we can do to protect ourselves and stay one step ahead of these phone con artists.

Quite simply put:  NEVER, EVER GIVE OUT PERSONAL OR FINANCIAL INFORMATION OVER THE PHONE.

  • Don’t EVER give out your credit card information or debit card PIN number. Once the con artists have your information they can use your credit/debit card for their own purchases.  They can also sell your credit/debit card information to other scammers.
  • Don’t EVER share personal or financial information such as social security number, bank/checking account number.

Remember: 

Your bank will never call you asking for this information.  

The IRS will never call you asking for this information.

  • Don’t be fooled or made afraid by the threat of sending the police to your house. Banks and the IRS simply do not do this.
  • Don’t be lured in by the offer of a credit card at a ridiculously low interest rate. The scammer will get your personal information and start charging to your account.
  • Don’t respond to anyone calling you claiming to be your son / daughter / grandchild….etc. and asking for money.
  • If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from a non-profit organization, ask them to mail information to you. If they don’t already have your address, hang up.
  • Be skeptical of all unsolicited sales calls that are pre-recorded. Never return calls from these pre-recorded solicitations.  They may be trying to access your phone number and use it to make calls and commit other frauds using your name.
  • Have your phone number placed on the Do Not Call lists – Do it TODAY.

Don’t Be a Victim of a Telephone Scam

December 6th, 2017

By: Christine Stone, RN, BSN

Telephone scam “artists” can be hundreds or thousands of miles away, yet they still manage to accomplish the same feat.   All they need is a telephone to make calls targeting naive or inexperienced people, and make off with their hard-earned money or life savings.

You, like many citizens, probably receive multiple unsolicited calls per day from would-be charities or collection agencies.   These calls annoying and interrupt our home routines. Often a stern voice on the other end of the line is informing you of a “final notice” and  instructing you to “press the number “1” to get started.”   If you’re gullible enough to press “1” you’ll be connected to another stern voice asking for specific information about your credit cards and bank accounts. 

Some of these callers falsely claim to be endorsed by reputable organizations such as AARP, Catholic Charities or The American Red Cross.  Or they may claim to be a service technician with a Microsoft Windows computer company or a medical alert company.   Some scammers pretend to be calling on behalf of a child or grandchild in trouble and needing money.  

Remember, the IRS never calls citizens informing them of overdue taxes and they will not  send the police or sheriff to your home.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

According to the FTC, there are certain guidelines that should always be followed when receiving telephone calls from strangers.

  1. Be skeptical of any unsolicited sales calls that are pre-recorded.
  2. Never give out you social security number, credit card number, or bank account number.
  3. Never give out your passwords or PIN numbers.
  4. Never agree to send money or wire money to anyone.
  5. There is no such thing as a “one time offer.” Never allow yourself to be pressured into making a commitment over the phone.

 
The skill and talent of telephone scam artists continues to grow every year.   There is no limit to the range and depth of the possible scams.  By being aware, alert and following the simple guidelines listed above you will be able to protect yourself from these clever theives.

Making the Most of Your Doctor Visits

November 15th, 2017

Christine Stone, RN

Do you feel overwhelmed when you visit your doctor?  Do you forget what you wanted to ask about, or forget the names of your medications?   A lot of people feel rushed and get flustered at the appointments.  They forget what the doctor said or are confused by the instructions they were given.   Don’t despair!   There are things you can do to make every doctor visit count.

Prepare for the visit.  

  1. Write down a list of your questions. Things to consider are:  What is the reason for your visit?  Do you have a new medical problem, or is this a follow-up appointment?   Refer to your list during your time with the doctor to make sure all your questions are answered and nothing is overlooked.
  1. Don’t be shy or embarrassed to share all your symptoms or health concerns. The more the doctor knows, the better he/she can help.
  1. Write down the complete list of the medications you are taking – even medications prescribed by specialists. Be sure to include vitamins, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications.  

 
When you are at the appointment

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if there’s something you don’t understand. If you want to know why a medication is being prescribed, just ask.  You have the right to understand all decisions that affect your health.  
  1. Bring an adult family member or friend to the appointment. An extra set of ears can pick up on information that you might have missed.  It’s okay for that person to take notes while you talk with the doctor.
  1. Before leaving, get a recap of the appointment. Ask the doctor or nurse to repeat the instructions.  Write down what you need to remember.  Some offices now give a written summary of the appointment – make sure you understand the information on that summary. 
  1. Were you given prescriptions? Make sure you have the paper copy of the prescription before you leave your appointment.   Some offices now send prescriptions directly to your pharmacy.   If you still have questions about your prescriptions, the pharmacist is always a source of information. 

 
And while we’re talking about prescriptions –  ALWAYS use the same pharmacy – this will eliminate any chance of medication errors.

 

 

Brand Name Drugs vs Generic Drugs – Which is Better for You?

October 30th, 2017

By: Christine Stone, RN, BSN

If you watch TV you’ve probably seen all those commercials for drugs claiming to be the next best thing for any variety of medical conditions from diabetes to dementia to toe fungus. You name the disease, there’s probably a new medication being advertised. Yes, we are very fortunate to have new medications and therapies available to us. But the cost to develop, test, and advertise new drugs can run in the multi-millions of dollars, and are therefore, very expensive. And while name brand name drugs are effective, they can be very costly to you, the consumer, and may not be covered by your prescription plan. So what’s the answer? Generic Drugs.
If you’re like most people who take prescription medications, you know how costly those medications can be.
But should cost be the primary deciding factor when choosing a generic medication over a name brand medication? This is an important discussion to have with your healthcare providers. Let’s look at the differences.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully regulates the development and testing of new drugs. Once a drug has been tested and proven safe for humans, it is patented, manufactured and prescribed by physicians. The patent on new drugs is about 20 years. This prevents copycat (generic) drugs from being manufactured in any form or dosage. Once the patent has expired, other companies can legally manufacture generic versions of the drug. The FDA makes sure generic drugs have the same chemical structure as the name brand drug.

Are generic drugs as effective as brand name drugs? The answer is Yes and No.
Once a drug is more affordable, many more people will be taking the drug. This means that rare problems with the drug could emerge that were not evident when the drug was first tested. This is one main reason people are wary of generic drugs. There are also rare situations where a person’s body chemistry is different from that of the average person which alters the drug’s effectiveness for that person. In this case, the brand name medication is the better choice. For most people, the generic drug is perfectly acceptable.

In summary, talk with your health care providers when deciding the best medications for you. Don’t be shy about asking if you need the brand name drug. I have found that most providers are sensitive to patient costs and are very willing to order generic drugs. Remember – you always have the right to know and be informed about any medication or test being prescribed for you.