June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

The Alzheimer’s Association has designated June as “Azheimer’s and Brain  Awareness Month.” They invite you to “go purple” to raise awareness about the debilitating brain disease known as Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is caused by plaque buildup in the brain, and it leads to progressive mental deterioration. Symptoms develop slowly and get worse over time, until the patient requires full-time care.

Regency Nursing: A Leader in Alzheimer’s care

Here at Regency Nursing, we’re the experts in New Jersey dementia and Alzheimer’s care. Living with Alzheimer’s can be a frightening experience for a person whose sense of self and security is slowly eroding. We treat  each dementia patient with compassion and love—as if they were our own family members. At Regency Nursing, you can be sure your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will be cared for in a safe, warm environment.

Today we join in the Alzheimer’s Association’s efforts to raise awareness about this crippling disease. Very often, seniors brush off early Alzheimer’s warning signs as just “normal aging.” By the time the disease advances to the point where symptoms are very obvious, it’s often too late to slow the progression. On the other hand, when we catch Alzheimer’s early, it’s often possible to slow the rate of further decline.

Another benefit to getting an early diagnosis is the sense of empowerment it provides. A senior who is still mostly cognitively healthy may feel scared and powerless when she’s first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s a major hidden benefit. She can participate in—or even lead—her own legal, financial, and long-term care planning. There’s time for her to express her wishes to her family, sign a POA enabling a loved one to make decisions when she no longer can, and draft a living will. For resources and support after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.

Alzheimer’s Warning Signs

Here are some common red flags that say you may be facing Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Planning and problem-solving challenges
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble with visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and trouble retracing steps
  • Decreased or poor judgement
  • Withdrawing from normal activities
  • Changes in mood or personality

Early diagnosis is key when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. For more information about these warning signs, see the Alzheimer’s Association‘s information page.

White Coat Hypertension: It’s Real

doctor taking elderly woman's blood pressure

Does going to the doctor stress you out? Does it stress you out enough to cause your blood pressure to shoot up? If so, you have “white coat” hypertension—a real medical condition where your blood pressure is abnormally high at the doctor’s office. Up to 30 percent of Americans display this syndrome, sometimes resulting in a misdiagnosis of hypertension.

White Coat Syndrome: How is it Diagnosed?

If you have high blood pressure at the doctor’s office, you may want to be tested for white coat hypertension. Your doctor will suggest you come back for a second reading. If at the second reading your blood pressure is also high, your doctor may recommend you check your blood pressure out of the office. You’ll use either a home monitor or an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. An ABPM is a device worn by the patient for 24 hours that measures their blood pressure at various times throughout the day. Your doctor will then compare the readings with the in-office readings.

If your blood pressure is normal all of the time except when you’re at the clinic, you will receive the white coat diagnosis.

White Coat Syndrome: No Big Deal?

You’d be forgiven for thinking white coat hypertension isn’t a big deal. After all, your blood pressure is normal most of the time. However, new data says that’s not the case.  According to a new study, the risk of death is nearly twice as high for patients with white coat hypertension, compared to patients with normal blood pressure.

White Coat Syndrome: How to Treat?

If you have white coat syndrome, the best thing to do is to take your blood pressure regularly at home. If your blood pressure increases from going to the doctor’s office, it’s likely to increase from many other stressors as well. Monitoring your blood pressure at home—with your doctor’s guidance—will provide a lot of insight into what affects your blood pressure. It will also help alert you and your doctor if you become truly hypertensive.

In general, a good way to keep your blood pressure down is to practice stress-relief techniques, particularly before an appointment. Read my article about reducing stress for some great ways to prepare for your next doctor’s visit.


Area Hospitals Earn Superior Grades

We at Regency Nursing are thrilled to report that our local hospitals have by and large earned A’s on their safety report card in April 2018. The report was released by Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades, an initiative to improve health care in hospitals nation-wide.

Our area hospitals are important partners in our residents’ health care, and it’s great to know we have these quality facilities close by. We salute the top-graded hospitals, and their commitment to safety, and we wish them continued success in excellent patient care.

About the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades

The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care, began assigning grades to hospitals in 2012. They issue a report twice a year—in April and October—grading each hospital on an A–F scale. The Spring 2018 grades came out this morning, and 22 hospitals in New Jersey earned an A.

An A means the hospital is above average in most areas of patient care and outcomes. The grade does not measure doctors’ care; rather, it tells you how safe the hospital’s staff will keep you or your loved one. Leapfrog’s criteria include doctor and nurse staffing ratios, the number of post-surgical infections, and the rate of blood clots.

Some hospital officials maintain that Leapfrog’s methodology is too simplistic and doesn’t take the most up-to-date information into account. However, the report has become a valuable tool in educating the public and raising awareness about hospital safety.

While the survey downgraded New Jersey’s overall ranking to 17th from 11th place, we are still home to many top-ranked hospitals in patient safety.

Which hospitals earned an A

Bayshore Medical Center in Holdmel, just two miles from Regency Park, made the grade, as did Riverview Medical Center slightly farther away.

Regency Gardens in Wayne has five A-rated hospitals within a 20 mile radius: Hackensack University Medical Center, Clara Maass Medical Center, Holy Name Medical Center, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, and The Valley Hospital. Of note, Saint Barnabas—also around 20 miles from Regency Grande in Dover—earned an A on every single report card since Leapfrog started issuing them in 2012. They are the only hospital in New Jersey with this distinction.

Morristown Memorial Hospital, just 12 miles from Regency Grande, also made it to the top 22. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, while not earning an A in the Leapfrog survey, landed near the top with a B grade. That means it’s average in some areas, and above average in others.

Here are New Jersey’s top 22 hospitals, listed in alphabetical order:


It’s Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a long-lasting autoimmune disease that causes degeneration throughout the body. It happens when your immune system attacks the myelin sheath, the fatty material protecting your nerve fibers. Your nerves become damaged without this protective layer, and they don’t work as they should.

MS affects everybody differently. Some people have mild symptoms that don’t require treatment, while others will be confined to a wheelchair. It’s also often a degenerative disease, which means it gets worse as time passes. Here we’ll talk about the basics of MS—the early signs, common symptoms, and basic treatments.

Multiple Sclerosis: Early Signs

The first symptoms tend to show up between the ages of 20 and 40. Sometimes symptoms will flare up periodically and then die down, while others linger long-term. MS presents differently in every person; some have a single symptom and then go for years without any other problems, while others will experience a rapid progression of the disease in a matter of weeks.

In many cases, the first sign of MS is called a “clinically isolated syndrome.” As its name suggests, CIS is an isolated neurological episode where your immune system attacks the myelin sheath. It causes nerve damage that results in temporary symptoms of MS. This often presents as optic neuritis—blurry vision, eye pain—or numbness and tingling to the legs. You may also feel something like an electric shock when you move your head or neck.

Having CIS does not mean you will develop MS, but if it happens a few times, your doctor will order an MRI to check for nerve damage and diagnose MS.

Multiple Sclerosis: Symptoms

Ongoing myelin and nerve damage will cause a range of symptoms all over the body. These symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination and trouble emptying your bladder
  • Bowel problems and onstipation.
  • Difficulty walking and keeping your balance
  • Clumsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Double vision
  • Muscle spasms, particularly in the legs
  • Slurred or nasal speech
  • Cognitive difficulty or fuzzy memory
  • Tremors
  • Skin sensations such as severe itching, burning, or stabbing pains

These symptoms present with varying degrees of severity, and in many cases some won’t appear at all. For people with progressive MS, the symptoms may be mild at first, and become worse and worse over the subsequent months and years.

Most people with MS can effectively manage their symptoms and continue living fully and happily.

Multiple Sclerosis: Treatment

There is no cure for MS; we aren’t even sure what triggers it in the first place. However, there are many medicines that help prevent nerve damage and slow the disease’s progression. Your lifestyle choices—such as exercise and stress relief—can also play a big part in managing your symptoms.

There are several types of medications and treatments available. Some, such as disease-modifying drugs and steroids, are used to prevent relapses. Others are prescribed to help you manage your symptoms. Different drugs help fight fatigue, relax your muscles, control your bladder, give some pain relief, and ease muscle spasms. Some forms of MS, especially severe and progressive MS, may respond well to a plasma exchange. This is a process that involves removing your diseased plasma and replacing it with a healthier version. 

There are many non-medical ways to manage symptoms as well. If you suffer from constipation, increasing fiber to your diet can help. Swimming is excellent for easing stiff muscles. Low-impact exercises like tai chi and yoga can also help manage symptoms. Certain foods are also beneficial for people with MS. These include turmeric—a bright yellow spice common in Indian cuisine,  fruits and vegetables, ginger, green tea, salmon, legumes, and whole grains. Vitamin D is also an important part of diet.

Living with a chronic illness is tough, and it’s natural to feel anxious or depressed. Exercise is a natural mood-booster, so try a light workout or other stress relief techniques. You may want to meet with a counselor to help you process your feelings, or speak with your doctor about taking an antidepressant.

Remember, if you have MS, you’re not alone. Visit the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America’s website for more information and resources.

Laughter: The Best Medicine?

smiley face showing thumbs upIt’s an oft-repeated line: “Laughter is the best medicine.” But is it trite or true?  We did the research for you, and here are the results:

Laughing makes you feel good

The act of laughing stimulates the reward center of the brain. This triggers the release of chemicals, such as endorphins and dopamine, that make you feel good. These are the same chemicals that cause the “high” feeling people get from drugs. By laughing, you get a natural high with none of the awful side effects illicit street drugs would give you. Have you ever laughed so hard you forgot you were in pain? That was caused by the extra endorphins your laughing created. Endorphins promote feelings of well-being and contentment.

A good chortle can also lower stress hormones and raise your serotonin levels. Serotonin is an important brain chemical that helps fight depression, so if you’re feeling sad, find something to laugh about.

Laughing makes your body feel well, too

Laughter also relaxes the whole body, and relieves physical tension. After a hearty chuckle, your muscles can stay relaxed for up to 45 minutes. As mentioned above, it decreases your stress hormones, thereby boosting your immune system. A stronger immune system improves your protection against disease. Some studies also show that laughter reduces inflammation throughout the body.

Laughter even improves your heart function! It causes the tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels to expand, increasing your flood flow. This can help prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. As an aside, stress causes the tissue to constrict, reducing your blood flow. Another benefit is that after you laugh , you’re forced to take deep breaths. That moves more oxygen through your blood, further relaxing you.

Laughing also burns calories, and provides a light workout for your heart, lungs, and diaphragm. While you can’t forego the benefits of a proper workout, a daily giggle can burn enough calories to lose around three pounds a year.

Laughing gives you many other benefits

There are many social benefits to laughter. It helps strengthen relationships and attracts others to us. Everyone loves happy people, and laughter is the best indication of happiness. It also promotes teamwork and group bonding. Many public speakers will incorporate jokes into their speeches, in order to get their audience to bond through laughing.

Hilarity and humor helps deescalate tension in conflict situations. If two people who are in conflict can find something funny to giggle about, they can also find a peaceful resolution to the issue.

Are there any downsides to laughing?

Is laughing contraindicated for people with certain medical conditions? Can you actually die laughing?

"When you laugh, your blood vessels dilate. I'd rather dilate than early."
Photo Credit: http://www.laughteryoga-australia.org

Not really, experts say. Dr. William Fry, professor emeritus at Standford University, has intensively studied the health benefits of laughter. He says, “The incidence of heart attacks suffered while laughing is surprisingly low.”

Of course, it’s important to avoid extremely intense or forced laughter. You want your giggling to be natural and fun, because at a certain point your body will stop producing feel-good hormones and very quickly descend into distress.

How to incorporate laughter into your medical care

Laughter can not replace medical care. But as we noted above, there is a wealth of evidence that a good giggle can help you stay healthier, heal faster, and manage pain. Here are some ways to use laughter as a health aide:

  • Hang funny quotes or comic strips in the rooms you spend the most time in. If you or your loved one are in a nursing home, hang funny signs around the room.
  • Encourage joke sharing and laughing between you and your medical providers.
  • Read good-quality joke books or comics like Garfield.
  • You can also listen to good comedy routines, especially if you can’t read due to visual impairment.
  • Watch hilarious clips online.
  • Practice smiling. Smiling has its own benefits, and also gets you warmed up to laugh.
  • Spend time with funny people who make you chuckle. Children are especially good at laughing and making us laugh.
  • Try a laughter club—where people get together just to laugh.
  • Laugh at yourself. We tend to take ourselves too seriously, which can create a lot of pressure. Laughing at yourself will allow you to be more authentic.
  • Find the funny in every situation. Especially in stressful situations, finding the funny side can relieve a lot of tension.

Have a pleasant, laughter-filled weekend!

Regency Nursing Excels in Key Areas, According To Study

This past April 11, there was a webinar hosted by the American HealthCare association, whereby they identified seven elements which are common to the experience of every satisfied nursing facility customer.

The webinar leaders Stan and Chris Magleby (founder and CEO of Pinnacle quality insight) are no strangers to surveys, having conducted over 500,000 customer satisfaction phone surveys since 1996.

Their findings lend further credence to the growing stellar reputation of the Regency Nursing & Rehab facilities in New Jersey, as being amongst the finest skilled care providers in the country.

The seven identified elements are as follows:

  1. Treat everyone with importance. This encompasses everything from knowing a patient and/or resident’s name, to being genuinely interested in their care plan and welfare. At Regency Nursing facilities in New Jersey, we take exceptional pride in our unsurpassed commitment to the welfare of our patients and residents and we are on a first name basis with every one of them and their extended families.
  2. Explain what you will do, are doing, what you did and what you expect to do. Be proactive about involving the patient in his or her care plan. This includes everything from a Certified Nurse Assistant explaining why she is leaving a pitcher of water in the room, to explaining the more esoteric nuances of the patient’s Medicare coverage benefits.
  3. Exceed expectations. It’s no longer enough to be “good,” Magelby says. Consumers expect to get good care in a clean facility with good food. “We are looking for wow moments,” which can be a “long process of consistent behavior,” he says.
  4. Lose wait. Don’t keep people waiting long for call buttons to be answered, food to be delivered to their table, rooms to be prepared for admission, or phone inquiries to be picked up.
  5. Make lemonade from lemons. When negative things happen, look for the silver lining and the inevitable lessons to be learned and transform those experiences into something positive.
  6. Bragging right. Do not promote what you cannot deliver upon, but be extremely proud to highlight that which you excel in. At Regency Nursing & Rehab facilities, we are always proud to point to our many varied accomplishments, but we never rest upon our laurels and always seek to grow in new areas and tackle new frontiers.
  7. Invest in employees. Respect their need for the knowledge necessary to do their job, respect their feelings, respect their desire to have an impact and respect their workspace and time. At Regency Nursing & Rehab facilities, our employees are our biggest asset and we treat each and every one of them with the highest level of respect and appreciation for their work. The level of trust and support which we impart to our employee’s, is manifest and evident in the huge degree of motivation and compassion which they bring to their work. In the final analysis, the biggest beneficiaries of this exceptional dynamic are the patients and residents themselves.