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According to the CDC, in a typical year, at least 1.7 million adults in America develop sepsis and nearly 270,000 Americans die as a result of it. So, what exactly is sepsis and who is at risk? In honor of Sepsis Awareness Month, we want to answer these important questions.
Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection and can be life-threatening. Your immune system works to protect you from infections and fight off any that occur, but it’s possible for it to have an overreactive response to infection.
Although a medical assessment by a healthcare professional is needed for a diagnosis, a patient who has sepsis may have one or more of the following symptoms:
There are three different stages of sepsis. Each has its own variation of symptoms a patient may experience. A patient can develop sepsis while they are still in the hospital recovering from a procedure, but that is not the only time/place it can develop. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Seeking treatment early on can be lifesaving.
The first stage is simply called sepsis. Symptoms a patient may experience in this stage are:
The second stage is severe sepsis which occurs when there is organ failure. The following are common symptoms of this stage:
The third and final stage is septic shock. In this stage, a patient will experience the symptoms of severe sepsis plus a very low blood pressure.
Anyone can get sepsis, but some people have a higher risk of infection. Those at higher risk include:
Adults who are aged 65 or older are reportedly 13 times more likely to be hospitalized with sepsis than those who are younger. Researchers believe our immune system becomes less effective at fighting off infection as we age, which means older people tend to contract more infections that become more severe. Since each infection we get presents a risk of getting sepsis, this puts older adults at a higher risk of developing sepsis.
Any type of infection can cause sepsis but the most common among older people are respiratory such as pneumonia. COVID-19 has also become a strong risk factor for sepsis among older adults. Sometimes it is difficult to spot an infection right away in people who are aging. If an older person becomes confused or starts to behave in an unusual manner, it could be a sign of infection.
Sepsis can quickly progress through the three stages and result in death if left untreated. Treatment includes:
The best way to prevent sepsis is to prevent an infection. You can do this by:
Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you or someone you love has an infection that is not getting better (or is getting worse), it is important to act fast. Get medical care immediately and ask your healthcare professional if the infection could lead to sepsis.
Recovery typically starts with rehabilitation in the hospital. This includes building your strength back up and receiving help with things like bathing, sitting up, standing, and walking. Upon returning home, it is normal to feel weak and fatigued and have difficulty sleeping. Some people also experience a loss of appetite which results in weight loss. To help keep the recovery process moving, you can rest and rebuild your strength, eat a balanced diet, and exercise if you are feeling up to it.
Some patients experience long-term effects of sepsis. These can include:
We’ve all heard how good yoga is for you, but have you ever thought about the benefits of yoga for hospice patients? Yoga is defined as a spiritual discipline that is widely practiced for health and relaxation that includes breath control, simple meditation, and specific bodily postures. All of these things can be used to help hospice patients and their families navigate through an emotionally stressful time.
Yoga is a combination of spiritual, mental, and physical practices that originated in ancient India approximately 5,000 years ago. It was originally practiced primarily to cultivate spiritual harmony and enlightenment.
It started to become more popular in the late 1800s as it spread west. New practitioners viewed it as a path to inner peace and better health. Then, we saw what is called the ‘Modern Yoga Renaissance’ in the 1920s where the physical practice of yoga dramatically changed. Prior to this point, it really only consisted of a few standing poses. Today, yoga has become a key component of holistic health.
Learn more about the history of yoga here.
When we think of yoga, we often think of poses like downward dog or child’s pose or even the more complex poses that turn a person into a pretzel. However, before you can learn to twist and turn and pose like that, you must focus on something you already know how to do. In fact, you do it all day, every day: breathe.
In yoga, breath control is referred to as pranayama [pränəˈyämə], and it is essential. There are several forms of pranayama that can be done from the seated position. One example of this is Adham Pranayama. It can be performed either sitting or lying down, whatever is most comfortable. The focus of Adham Pranayama is ‘belly breathing,’ or breathing deeply into your stomach.
So how do you do it, you ask. First, place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Breathe in and out. Focus on moving only your abdomen, instead of inflating your chest. It’s as simple as that. Practicing Adham Pranayama has several benefits, including reducing insomnia, providing oxygen to the body, and relieving stress.
There are many other forms of pranayama that can be done anywhere and in comfortable, seated positions. You can learn more about them here.
Yoga can easily be adapted to fit the needs and ability of the person doing it. Plus, it can be done anywhere- from a yoga studio to the comfort of your own home, even from your bed! Not to mention the benefits of mindful breathing. This can be an incredibly difficult time for patients and their loved ones. Taking time to truly focus on your breathing can provide a break in the stress and anxiety you may be feeling. Plus, it can be done together, helping to reduce everyone’s stress while also creating peaceful memories you’ll have forever.
Watching someone you love suffer from Alzheimer’s or another memory debilitating illness is incredibly difficult, and it can be even more challenging to decide when it’s time to consider hospice care. Our latest video discusses the following five signs that indicate it may be time for hospice for an Alzheimer’s patient.
The Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) Scale is a tool used to determine if changes in a patient’s condition are related to Alzheimer’s disease or another condition. If due to Alzheimer’s, the changes will occur in sequential order. Alzheimer’s disease-related changes do not skip FAST stages.
This means a person is no longer able to get around on their own. For example, they require assistance getting from room to room.
Without assistance, you may notice they put their shoes on the wrong feet or their day-time ‘street’ clothes on over their pajamas. They are also unable to bathe without assistance.
This includes urinary or fecal incontinence or both.
This may begin as the patient only saying 5-6 words per day and gradually reduce to only speaking one word clearly until they can no longer speak or communicate at all. This will also include the inability to smile.
Hospice care is for patients with a life limiting illness and a life expectancy of six months or less. The main focus is to manage pain and symptoms and ultimately keep the patient comfortable. When you choose hospice for your loved one, their care team can help you to understand what to expect in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. They will also provide support to you and the rest of your family throughout the end-of-life process.
If you would like more information on hospice care for Alzheimer’s patients, please contact us. We are here to answer any questions you may have.
As Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month continues, we want to discuss a very important topic- communication and Alzheimer’s. As the disease progresses, a person’s ability to communicate gradually diminishes. Changes in communication vary from person to person, but there are several common issues you can expect to see, including difficulty finding the right words and organizing words logically.
If someone you love is living with the disease, you know it can be challenging at times to communicate with them. The video above discusses the following ten tips for effectively communicating with your loved one.
In addition to these tips, there are steps you can take to help make communication easier, including:
You also want to encourage the person to communicate with you. You can do this by doing things like holding their hand while you talk and showing a warm, loving manner. It is also important to be patient with angry outbursts and remember that it is just the illness talking.
Since the disease is being diagnosed at earlier stages, many people are aware of how it is impacting their memory. This can make communication even more sensitive because they may become frustrated when they are aware of the memory loss. Here are some tips for how to help someone who knows they have memory problems.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease and how it impacts communication, visit the links or reach out to the contacts below:
** NIA Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
** Family Caregiver Alliance
** Alzheimer’s Association
A 2020 Gallup study observed Americans’ identification as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), by generation. The findings report that only 1.3% of the Traditionalist generation (born before 1946) and 2.0% of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) identify as LGBT. This number increases dramatically over the generations, reaching 15.9% for Generation Z (born 1997-2002). The question is – does the higher percentage of younger Americans reflect a true shift in sexual orientation? Or is it simply reflecting a greater willingness to identify as LGBT?
Although those who make up the younger generations were born into a world where huge progress has been made in the gay rights movement, the older generations of the LGBTQ community experienced much less accepting times. It wasn’t until 1961 that Illinois became the first state in the United States to get rid of its sodomy law. It then took another ten years before 20 more states followed their lead. So even though Traditionalists and Baby Boomers were around to witness the progress that has been made, many may still have the mindset that society will not accept them for who they are.
It is this fear of discrimination that may play a part in their hesitation to seek the help and support they need as they near the end of their life. As a result, the LGBTQ community has been historically underserved by hospice. A 2011 study reported that 20% of LGBTQ seniors that were surveyed did not even reveal their sexual orientation to their primary physician for fear of discrimination. Beyond hospice services for the patient, their grieving partner often misses out on bereavement support as they care for their partner in their final months and days.
Hospices are now working harder than ever to understand the specific needs of the aging LGBTQ community and to do all they can to accommodate those needs. The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is a resource center focused on improving the quality of services and support offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender older adults. Their website includes resources that cover a variety of topics, including end of life decisions. You can also use the interactive map to find resources in your area.
No one should miss out on the benefits of hospice care for any reason, especially for fear of discrimination.