All about Cataract

Blurred objects.

Faded colors.

Double vision.

If you have or had a cataract, you’re probably familiar with these symptoms. You’re also in good company. More than half of all Americans experience a cataract by the time they reach 80 years old.

But what are cataracts? Despite, or maybe because of, its prevalence, many people don’t know much more about the condition other than that it affects the eyes. In this article, we bring you everything you need to know about cataracts.

What Is a Cataract?

Cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. The lens is situated behind the iris and pupil, and everything we see filters through it in a focused beam at retina. The retina receives the images and sends it along the optic nerve to the brain for interpretation.

The lens is made up of protein and water, and the protein is distributed perfectly to allow clear images and the full amount of light through to the retina.

Often, due to age or other factors, some of the proteins clump together and develop into a cataract. The cataract blocks some of the light coming through, affecting your vision. Cataracts vary in size; some are tiny areas of opacity, while others involve the entire lens and cause near-blindness.

Symptoms of Cataract

Cataracts develop very slowly, and you might not notice the symptoms at first. As the cloudiness increases, your vision will become blurry, and the glare from headlights at night will increase. You may notice colors seem less vibrant, and your night vision will deteriorate.

Treatment of Cataract

The changes in your vision will become more and more marked as the cataract develops. There is no way to slow your vision’s decline, but you can use visual aids to retain your sense of sight. Getting new glasses, increasing your home’s light, and using ant-glare sunglasses or magnifying lenses can all help you offset the cataract’s effects at first.

Eventually, your vision may get so bad that the only way to treat it is via surgery. In cataract surgery, the surgeon removes your clouded lens and replaces it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL).

The surgery is a simple and almost painless procedure that has very successful results. Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain vision of between 20/20 and 20/40.

Risk Factors and Prevention

We don’t know for sure what causes the changes to the lens, but age is definitely a part of it.

Here are some other known risk factors:

  • Exposure to UV radiation, from sunlight and other sources
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Prolonged use of steroids
  • Statin medication, used to reduce cholesterol
  • Previous eye injury
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Being very nearsighted
  • Family history

It’s unclear whether or not you can prevent a cataract from developing. Some studies do suggest certain nutrients can reduce your risk. For example, one study found higher intake of Vitamin E and other nutrients was associated with a drastically lower risk of cataract.

Most experts agree wearing sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection can also reduce your risk.

Since cataract most likely develops from a mix of several different factors, some of which are not changeable, there’s probably not much you can do to prevent cataract completely. Fortunately, the cataract removal procedure is safe and common, and the quality and selection of artificial lenses improve every year.

If you or someone you love has a cataract, explore your options today. There’s no reason to suffer in darkness when there’s a beautiful world waiting to be seen.




Original Medicare vs Medicare Advantage: A Two-Part Series

Which saves you more money, Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage?

The correct answer is, “it depends.” Both forms of medical coverage have unique costs and benefits.  You’ll make your choice based on different factors in your own situation, so there’s no definitive answer to the question.

In this article, we’ll explore Original Medicare, while next week we’ll talk about Medicare Advantage.

First, some definitions.

Original Medicare is, like its name suggests, Medicare in its Original form. Medicare is the federal health insurance program for seniors and certain younger people with disabilities. A small portion of every employee’s paycheck goes toward the Medicare tax, which funds the program. Under Original Medicare, seniors age 65 and older are automatically eligible for coverage in Part A and Part B. Part A covers inpatient services and Part B covers outpatient.

Medicare Advantage (MA) is a  private health plan that administers Medicare benefits. Private insurance companies contract with the federal government to provide these plans. MA plans must cover all the services Medicare covers, however they may have different rules, costs and restrictions on the services. In addition, many MA plans offer benefits beyond Original Medicare, such as dental and vision coverage.

Here’s a more detailed overview of each type of plan, and what you can expect to pay:

Original Medicare

On the face of it, Original Medicare looks cheaper than MA. If you or your spouse contributed to Social Security for at least 10 years, you get Part A free. Plus, the standard monthly premium for Part B is well below average for comparable private coverage.  The monthly premium will change based on your income and whether you’re receiving Social Security benefits at the same time.

While Original Medicare’s premiums certainly are low, they don’t present a full picture of the costs you’ll encounter. Medicare has a high cost-sharing ratio that can leave you with thousands of dollars of medical bills. Here’s what you have to pay with Original Medicare:

  • Deductible

    Medicare starts covering your medical bills after you meet your annual deductible. The Part B deductible is relatively low, just $183 for 2018. The Part A deductible is higher at $1340 per benefit period. (The benefit period ends when you haven’t gotten inpatient care for 60 days in a row, so you can have a few benefit periods in one year.)

  • Part A Coinsurance

    Part A covers inpatient hospital stays at 100% for the first 60 days once you meet your deductible. It covers 100% of skilled nursing care for the first 20 days. After the first 60 and 20 days respectively, there is a coinsurance per day. After 100 days of inpatient care, Part A coverage ends.

  • Part B Coinsurance

    Part B covers 80% of services, leaving the 20% coinsurance for you. Unlike most private insurance plans, there is no yearly limit on your out-of-pocket expenses, so expenses can add up after a while.

  • Non-covered Services

    Some medical expenses aren’t covered by Medicare at all. These include most prescription drugs, dental care, and vision care.

For some relief from the never-ending coinsurance payment, many Medicare beneficiaries opt to also take out a Medigap plan. Medigap plans are standardized supplemental plans that cover a lot of the out-of-pocket costs. The most popular plans in New Jersey average $100-$150, but you can get a plan for as low as $60 a month.

The other alternative to Medicare’s high out-of-pocket cost is enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan. Look out for our blog post next week where we’ll discuss the pros and cons of Medicare Advantage.

Happy National Skilled Nursing Care Week!

Starting with Mother’s Day, we’ve kicked off our celebration of National Skilled Nursing Care Week here at Regency Nursing. The week-long observance, established by the American Health Care Association, provides an opportunity to recognize the role of skilled nursing care centers in caring for America’s seniors and individuals with disabilities.

American Health Care Association NSNCW logo

This year, the theme for NSNCW is “Celebrating Life’s Stories.” According to AHCA’s announcement, the theme pays tribute to life’s most significant events, relationships and experiences that form the backdrop of each of our unique perspectives. Our residents, families, and staff are encouraged to share their stories with each other. Sharing these narratives will cultivate understanding, love, and acceptance in our community.

How to Celebrate #NSNCW

Do you have a parent, friend, grandparent, or other loved one in a skilled nursing facility? Visit them this week and acknowledge their care providers. Listen to your loved one’s stories, to the staff members, to the other residents. And share your own stories. Your memories and perspective are unique and will contribute to the wonderful sense of community at Regency Nursing.

We shared tips in a previous post about listening and recording your loved one’s stories. If you haven’t yet, try to record—or even just listen to—at least one story this week. Your elderly parent or grandparent won’t be around forever, so take advantage of this special week to hear more about them and their history.

If your loved one has dementia and can’t communicate, you can still have a meaningful visit. Read our post about maximizing your visit with a patient in advanced dementia here. Some of the advice we offered in that post included a suggestion to touch the patient a lot—with hugs, massage, or petting—and to take a stroll in the sunshine.

And don’t forget, make sure to laugh. When you share stories, you build a bond—and that bond is strengthened with laughter. Keep your stories and memories lighthearted and upbeat as you celebrate National Skilled Nursing Care Week.



Silent Heart Attacks: Know the Risks

Do you know the signs of a heart attack? I’m guessing you do; the American Heart Association has done an admirable job raising awareness about heart health. We all know heart attacks usually come with chest pain or discomfort that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. Other symptoms include upper body pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, and nausea.

But did you know that you could also have  heart attack and not know it? That’s what a silent heart attack is. And like its name suggests, it comes with mild or no symptoms. You might think you have lingering indigestion, the flu, or passing nausea. Often you won’t even know you had a heart attack until a medical test for an unrelated reason reveals heart damage.

A silent heart attack can hit anyone at any time, but certain conditions can put you at higher risk.

Risk Factors for Silent Heart Attacks

A silent heart attack is not much different from a regular, “loud” heart attack. The risk factors are the same: smoking and tobacco use, family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of exercise, and obesity.

And while the effects of silent heart attacks are usually mild, it leaves you at a much greater risk of having another heart attack. The subsequent heart attack can be fatal, or cause serious complications such as heart failure.

An Extra Risk for Silent Heart Attacks: Type 2 Diabetes

As I wrote in a previous article, a common complication of diabetes is diabetic neuropathy. Neuropathy is a condition involving damaged nerves. More than half of all diabetics develop some form of neuropathy. It usually causes numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, but in more severe cases, it can affect nerves all over the body.

When the disease causes damage to nerves leading to your heart, any sensations in that area will be muted. A heart attack that should cause terrible chest discomfort may instead feel like a slight twinge of heartburn. You may not notice anything unusual, chalking up any slight discomfort to normal aging. However, it’s a real heart attack and the damage can be serious.

One way to protect yourself from having a neuropathy-related silent heart attack is to monitor yourself carefully for nerve damage. If you catch the damage early, you may be able to slow it down with medication. Some signs of neuropathy are:

  • Difficulty exercising
  • Dizziness or fainting when you stand up
  • Frequent accidents or incontinence
  • A lower sex drive
  • Sweating excessively
  • Digestion problems

If you are having one or a combination of these problems for longer than one or two weeks, talk to your doctor about the possibility of neuropathy.

Symptoms of Silent Heart Attacks

Some people will not have any symptoms at all, and may never know they had a heart attack. In many cases, there are mild, short-lived symptoms that are easy to dismiss. You may feel slight pain or pressure in the center of your chest. Lasting indigestion, breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling light-headed or tired for no reason, shortness of breath, and heartburn are also signs of a heart attack. Women in particular may feel pain in the jaw, neck, or left arm.

After a silent heart attack, you may feel very tired or have heartburn for a prolonged period. You might notice swelling in your legs or sudden difficulty breathing. If something feels different, check with your doctor right away or call 911.

Spring is Here

crocus flower coming up in the snow

Today, March 20, 2018, is the first day of spring. Yes, really. It certainly doesn’t feel like it, with plunging temperatures and a winter storm warning in effect in New Jersey, but the first day of spring it is. And while right now it looks like it will never happen, the weather will eventually warm up and spring will finally be here.

Spring arrives with flowers, bugs, sun showers…. and health benefits. Here are 3 health benefits to seize this spring:

More Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that nearly all of us are deficient in. Too little vitamin D means calcium doesn’t get absorbed properly, which in turn results in brittle and weakened bones. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to different types of cancers, heart disease, depression, and weight gain. The vitamin assists in regulating the immune system and other body and cell functions.

While we can get vitamin D from nutrition supplements, the best way to get it is for your body to manufacture it itself from sunlight. Sun exposure—particularly UV-B rays—causes the body to develop vitamin D. Experts say fair-skinned people need just 10 minutes in the sun to produce 10,000 international units of vitamin D. More than that would be unsafe without sunscreen.

Make sure to spend time outside when the weather turns sunny. Regency Nursing’s facilities have beautiful gardens and patios to enjoy the bright spring and summer sun.

Increased Exercise

It’s so much more enjoyable to exercise out in the fresh air. And once that fresh air warms up, there’s an extra incentive to exercise. Exercising regularly offers so many health benefits, and when you jog or bicycle outdoors it brings your work out to a whole new level.

When you exercise outdoors, make sure to practice exercise safety—drink regularly and wear a wide-brimmed hat to avoid overheating. Wear well-fitting sneakers and make sure your laces are not in the way. And of course, check with your doctor before starting a new workout.

Better Mental Health

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a seasons-related depression that causes weight gain, tiredness, and irritability in the winter months. Even if you don’t have SAD, you still might have been experiencing the winter blues. In the winter we tend to “hibernate”—we stay indoors and don’t socialize as much. Now with spring coming, you can get out and enjoy nature’s rebirth.

2018: The Year of the Flu?

This winter is shaping up to be pretty tough on all of us. The weather has been more extreme, and, unfortunately, so has the flu virus. The CDC says flu activity is widespread in all U.S. states except Hawaii, and the projections put the season continuing until May.

Hospitals in NJ are seeing huge increases in flu cases as compared to last year. Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel reported a 187% increase in flu patients this year. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick also confirmed an upsurge in flu admissions in January.

Part of the problem is that the flu strains active this year are particularly aggressive, and the vaccines are less effective than normal. Still, the CDC advises that if you haven’t gotten the vaccine yet, it’s not too late to get it now. This flu season is one of the worst in recent history, and getting the vaccine will offer you an extra level of protection.

Feeling under the weather and not sure if it’s the flu? Here’s a neat little chart from the CDC comparing the symptoms for the common cold and the flu:

chart showing the difference between cold and flu symptoms
Credit: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Regency Nursing in New Jersey – Perfect Care!

precision and excellence!
precision and excellence!

With the change in the time clock, I left my house at 6:10 am yesterday, to meet with some friends in New York City’s Central Park for a 13.1 mile run (Half Marathon distance).

The sun hadn’t come up yet and the air was cool and crisp. It was the perfect running weather. We saw few other runners who braved the loss of an hour’s sleep to go out for their constitutional.

Then, I actually heard the hissing sound before I saw it. An entire phalanx of bicyclists sped past me in the biker lane as part of a 24 mile bicycle race going on in the park at this early hour!

It was absolutely beautiful to watch the multitudes of bikers all working together as a team in perfect sync with each other, their wheels barely inches apart and cycling at incredible speeds.

One slip up, one biker taking a curve at an imprecise angle, would result in a catastrophic crash with significant injuries or worse.

Then I thought of our program at Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation centers and realized that we are not at all different from those bikers.

We have a robust program of compassionate care with many different departments (nursing, recreation, housekeeping, maintenance, social work, admissions, administration etc.) all working together in perfect harmony like a well oiled machine!

Each ‘cog’ in our ‘wheel of care’, must work with precise dedication and in perfect collaboration with every department, so as to provide the exceptional care which we have become famous for!

This realization was cause for tremendous pride and exhilaration!

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.

Skilled Nursing in New Jersey For Alzheimer’s Patients

Regency Nursing & Rehabilitation Centers and Facilities in New Jersey, has garnered a well deserved reputation for the compassionate and dedicated treatment of their Alzheimer patients. Regency combines a holistic and rigorous approach to care, while infusing love and laughter into the lives of their patients and residents!  

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Regency Nursing - Where The Caring Comes To Life!
Regency Nursing – Where The Caring Comes To Life!

Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks brain cells and results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior. Scientists are still not certain what causes Alzheimer’s. Family history and age have been identified as potential factors, however it is likely that a number of things contribute to it. Although there is no known cure for the disease, each year researchers are uncovering more clues and developing treatment options.

Medication and non-drug therapies are available to reduce some behavioral symptoms such as depression, sleeplessness and agitation.

Skilled Nursing Care for People with Alzheimer’s

A skilled nursing setting, provides the Alzheimer patient with compassionate and quality medical care. Resident rooms may be private or shared and some settings may have special units or wings that cater exclusively for persons with dementia. The number of staff to resident ratio will be different from place to place, as will the knowledge and training of staff in caring for a perosn with the disease. Regulated and licensed by the state and/or federal government, most skilled nursing facilities provide specific structured activities programs for their Alzheimer patients.

Upon admission into a skilled nursing home, the Alzheimer patient will be assessed. While encouraged to function at maximum abilities, they will not be expected to perform skills that they are no longer capable of. Settings of this type are appropriate for people with middle, late and end stages of the disease.