Alzheimer’s Awareness

Posted on: January 28, 2015,  Posted in: Alzheimer’s Awareness

Alzheimer’s Awareness

By Rebecca Bailey, RN

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Later, in 1994 he would be diagnosed with the disease himself. At that time around 2 million Americans suffered from the disease. The numbers today are much higher, with approximately 5.4 million Americans living with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. It is the sixth leading cause of death in our country – approximately 500,000 per year.

Alzheimer's Disease

Information for travel nurses about Alzheimer’s Disease.

Slight alterations within a gene can lead to abnormal proteins being created. Over time, these proteins build up and lead to Alzheimer’s. Early onset Alzheimer’s has a strong genetic component, while later onset has a less clear family history. People can’t control their genetics; however there are modifiable risk factors that include hypertension, diabetes, and diet and exercise. Diet and exercise can directly and indirectly affect the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Many contributing factors can be improved and even prevented through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Additionally, researchers believe a diet rich in antioxidants could not only slow the decline of brain disease, but possibly improve function after the onset. Studies are underway to determine if exercise can improve learning and memory. Yet another reason for Diabetic patients to keep their blood sugar under control is that insulin resistance has a strong link to how the body and the brain age. Insulin resistance leads directly to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, small vessel strokes, and diabetes. All of these, as previously mentioned, contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Now, coming full circle, the best safeguard against insulin resistance is exercise and a healthy diet.

Current treatment involves medications used to help memory temporarily. These do nothing to treat the root cause of the disease. However, research is ongoing and new drugs in development will aim to modify the actual disease process, attempting to slow or even stop the progression. Further, researchers are currently conducting testing on a possible nasal vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease. This involves successfully removing beta – amyloid proteins (thought to be one of the causes of the disease) in the brains of mice. Like other vaccines, this could feasibly use the body’s own immune system to eliminate the proteins that cause Alzheimer’s, preventing the progression of the disease.

What can nurses do? First let’s discuss caring for the patient. A hospital setting can be unsettling for anyone, but especially when dementia is involved. Increased confusion and anxiety are common in Alzheimer’s patients. In a best case scenario, a family member or friend would be by the patient’s bedside throughout their hospital stay. Obviously, this isn’t always possible. The National Institutes of Health have published a great list of tips when communicating and caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s. These include not using the intercom to communicate since it may make the patient fearful, and using short sentences, with concrete language. Also, we should allow plenty of time for the patient to answer our questions. NIH says at least 20 seconds. They suggest “hiding” tubes such as IVs (place a gauze wrap over the IV site), NG tubes (tape to the side of the face and run tube behind the ear), and Foley catheters (have the patient wear undergarments to decrease access to the catheter.)

Communities all over the nation are participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Find a walk near you at the Alzheimer’s Association website and join the effort to fund research, care and ultimately end this devastating disease. If you are interested in learning more, much of the information in this article regarding research came from an HBO documentary called The Alzheimer’s Project. The research is fascinating and goes much deeper than I am able to include in a short article.

 

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American Diabetes

Posted on: January 28, 2015,  Posted in: American Diabetes

American Diabetes

By: Rebecca Bailey, RN

The mission of the American Diabetes Association is “To prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.” The month of November has been set aside as American Diabetes Month. The purpose being to raise awareness for the disease that affects over 30 million Americans with even more (about 86 million) being considered prediabetic and at high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Why raise awareness? Complications of Diabetes, particularly when blood sugar is poorly controlled are far reaching to every body system. It’s the leading cause of kidney failure. Diabetic patients account for 60% of non traumatic lower limb amputations. It is the leading cause of new cases of blindness, and diabetics are at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s no wonder we need to be vigilant to educate our patients on how to control their sugar, and let our patients who are at risk know what they can do to prevent and or minimize their chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Check out Diabetes Pro for education topics for our diabetic patients and standards of care.

Diabetes

Information for travel nurses about American Diabetes.

My Health Advisor has a great tool to determine risk, and even show how changing just one risk factor can alter one’s risk. I put my numbers in from my recent physical and thankfully, my risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes is low; less than 3 %. However, my HDL (good) cholesterol is a bit low which is a high risk factor and I knew I need to increase my cardiovascular exercise to increase that number. I did not know, however that it was a risk factor for diabetes. Other risk factors include weight (mine puts me at moderate risk), blood pressure, and triglycerides along with the obvious fasting blood sugar. Go look at your risk at My Health Advisor, and use the resource with patients who might be concerned.

So far, I’ve only talked about Type 2 Diabetes. Largely because it is so linked to lifestyle and I see its repercussions almost every day I work on my surgical floor. However, let’s not forget about
Type 1 Diabetes. Usually diagnosed in childhood, this form of diabetes only accounts for 5 percent of all cases. The pancreas simply does not make insulin. The risk for uncontrolled blood sugar is the same as for a Type 2 Diabetic. Like type 2 Diabetes, regular blood glucose checks are necessary. Treatment is balancing food with insulin injections to achieve ideal blood glucose levels. Having a child with Type 1 Diabetes is a challenge for the whole family, but with proper management it can be controlled and the child can live a healthy life.

Here are some ways to get involved in this year’s American Diabetes Month. First look over the American Diabetes Association website. Here you will find places to donate, you can sign up to do surveys and send 50 cents to the American Diabetes Association with each completed survey. Each one takes only a few minutes, so it’s a great use of a few minutes of down time. Or you can donate when you check out at any Walgreen’s location for the entire month of November. Do you shop Amazon? Instead, go to Amazon Smile and select the American Diabetes Association as your charity. Same Amazon, and same prices, but your charity will receive 0.5% of your purchase amount.

 

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