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Home Care Services

Home care is care that allows a person with special needs to stay in their home. It might be for people who are getting older (aging in place). It could also be for people who are chronically ill, recovering from surgery, orhave a disability. Home care services include:

  • Personal care, such as help with bathing, washing your hair, or getting dressed
  • Household chores, such as cleaning, yard work, and laundry
  • Cooking for you in your home or delivering meals to you
  • Money management, such as help filling out forms and making sure that your bills are paid on time
  • Health care, such as having a home health aide come to your home or getting care from your provider through telehealth

You can get almost any type of help you want in your home. You have to pay for many of them. But some types of care and community services are free or donated. Sometimes government programs or your health insurance will help cover the cost of certain home care services.

NIH: National Institute on Aging

Alzheimer's Caregivers

A caregiver gives care to someone who needs help taking care of themselves. It can be rewarding. It may help to strengthen connections to a loved one. You may feel fulfillment from helping someone else. But sometimes caregiving can be stressful and even overwhelming. This can be especially true when caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease (AD).

AD is an illness that changes the brain. It causes people to lose the ability to remember, think, and use good judgment. They also have trouble taking care of themselves. Over time, as the disease gets worse, they will need more and more help. As a caregiver, it is important for you to learn about AD. You will want to know what happens to the person during the different stages of the disease. This can help you plan for the future, so that you will have all of the resources you will need to be able to take care of your loved one.

As a caregiver for someone with AD, your responsibilities can include:

  • Getting your loved one's health, legal, and financial affairs in order. If possible, include them in the planning while they can still make decisions. Later you will need to take over managing their finances and paying their bills.
  • Evaluating their house and making sure it's safe for their needs
  • Monitoring their ability to drive. You may want to hire a driving specialist who can test their driving skills. When it is no longer safe for your loved one to drive, you need to make sure that they stop.
  • Encouraging your loved one to get some physical activity. Exercising together may make it more fun for them.
  • Making sure that your loved one has a healthy diet
  • Helping with daily tasks like bathing, eating, or taking medicine
  • Doing housework and cooking
  • Running errands such as shopping for food and clothes
  • Driving them to appointments
  • Providing company and emotional support
  • Arranging medical care and making health decisions

As you care for your loved one with AD, don't ignore your own needs. Caregiving can be stressful, and you need to take care of your own physical and mental health.

At some point, you will not be able to do everything on your own. Make sure that you get help when you need it. There are many different services available, including:

  • Home care services
  • Adult day care services
  • Respite services, which provide short-term care for the person with AD
  • Federal and state government programs that can provide financial support and services
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Nursing homes, some of which have special memory care units for people with AD
  • Palliative and hospice care

You might consider hiring a geriatric care manager. They are specially trained professionals who can help you to find the right services for your needs.

NIH: National Institute on Aging

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia among older people. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities.

AD begins slowly. It first involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. People with AD may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or names of people they know. A related problem, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), causes more memory problems than normal for people of the same age. Many, but not all, people with MCI will develop AD.

In AD, over time, symptoms get worse. People may not recognize family members. They may have trouble speaking, reading or writing. They may forget how to brush their teeth or comb their hair. Later on, they may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, they need total care. This can cause great stress for family members who must care for them.

AD usually begins after age 60. The risk goes up as you get older. Your risk is also higher if a family member has had the disease.

No treatment can stop the disease. However, some drugs may help keep symptoms from getting worse for a limited time.

NIH: National Institute on Aging

Dementia

What is dementia?

Dementia is a loss of mental functions that is severe enough to affect your daily life and activities. These functions include:

  • Memory
  • Language skills
  • Visual perception (your ability to make sense of what you see)
  • Problem solving
  • Trouble with everyday tasks
  • The ability to focus and pay attention

It is normal to become a bit more forgetful as you age. But dementia is not a normal part of aging. It is a serious disorder which interferes with your daily life.

What are the types of dementia?

The most common types of dementia are known as neurodegenerative disorders. These are diseases in which the cells of the brain stop working or die. They include:

  • Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of dementia among older people. People with Alzheimer's have plaques and tangles in their brain. These are abnormal buildups of different proteins. Beta-amyloid protein clumps up and forms plaques in between your brain cells. Tau protein builds up and forms tangles inside the nerve cells of your brain. There is also a loss of connection between nerve cells in the brain.
  • Lewy body dementia, which causes movement symptoms along with dementia. Lewy bodies are abnormal deposits of a protein in the brain.
  • Frontotemporal disorders, which cause changes to certain parts of the brain:
    • Changes in the frontal lobe lead to behavioral symptoms
    • Changes in the temporal lobe lead to language and emotional disorders
  • Vascular dementia, which involves changes to the brain's blood supply. It is often caused by a stroke or atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in the brain.
  • Mixed dementia, which is a combination of two or more types of dementia. For example, some people have both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.

Other conditions can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms, including:

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare brain disorder
  • Huntington's disease, an inherited, progressive brain disease
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), caused by repeated traumatic brain injury
  • HIV-associated dementia (HAD)
Who is at risk for dementia?

Certain factors can raise your risk for developing dementia, including:

  • Aging. This is the biggest risk factor for dementia.
  • Smoking
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Having close family members who have dementia
What are the symptoms of dementia?

The symptoms of dementia can vary, depending on which parts of the brain are affected. Often, forgetfulness is the first symptom. Dementia also causes problems with the ability to think, problem solve, and reason. For example, people with dementia may:

  • Get lost in a familiar neighborhood
  • Use unusual words to refer to familiar objects
  • Forget the name of a close family member or friend
  • Forget old memories
  • Need help doing tasks that they used to do by themselves

Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions and their personalities may change. They may become apathetic, meaning that they are no longer interested in normal daily activities or events. They may lose their inhibitions and stop caring about other peoples' feelings.

Certain types of dementia can also cause problems with balance and movement.

The stages of dementia range from mild to severe. In the mildest stage, it is just beginning to affect a person's functioning. In the most severe stage, the person is completely dependent on others for care.

How is dementia diagnosed?

Your health care provider may use many tools to make a diagnosis:

  • A medical history, which includes asking about your symptoms
  • A physical exam
  • Tests of your thinking, memory, and language abilities
  • Other tests, such as blood tests, genetic tests, and brain scans
  • A mental health evaluation to see whether a mental disorder is contributing to your symptoms
What are the treatments for dementia?

There is no cure for most types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body dementia. Treatments may help to maintain mental function longer, manage behavioral symptoms, and slow down the symptoms of disease. They may include:

  • Medicines may temporarily improve memory and thinking or slow down their decline. They only work in some people. Other medicines can treat symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and muscle stiffness. Some of these medicines can cause strong side effects in people with dementia. It is important to talk to your health care provider about which medicines will be safe for you.
  • Occupational therapy to help find ways to more easily do everyday activities
  • Speech therapy to help with swallowing difficulties and trouble speaking loudly and clearly
  • Mental health counseling to help people with dementia and their families learn how to manage difficult emotions and behaviors. It can also help them plan for the future.
  • Music or art therapy to reduce anxiety and improve well-being
Can dementia be prevented?

Researchers have not found a proven way to prevent dementia. Living a healthy lifestyle might influence some of your risk factors for dementia.

Heart Failure

What is heart failure?

Heart failure means that your heart can't pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet your body's needs. Heart failure doesn't mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop beating. But without enough blood flow, your organs may not work well, which can cause serious problems.

Heart failure can affect one or both sides of your heart:

  • With right-sided heart failure, your heart is too weak to pump enough blood to your lungs to get oxygen.
  • With left-sided heart failure, your heart can't pump enough oxygen-rich blood out to your body. This happens when the left side of your heart becomes either:
    • Too weak to pump enough blood.
    • Too thick or stiff to relax and fill with enough blood.

Left-sided heart failure is more common than right-sided heart failure.

What causes heart failure?

Heart failure can start suddenly after a medical condition or injury damages your heart muscle. But in most cases, heart failure develops slowly from long-term medical conditions.

Conditions that can cause heart failure include:

  • Arrhythmia (a problem with the rate or rhythm of your heartbeat)
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart defects or other types of heart diseases that you are born with
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Endocarditis
  • Heart attack
  • Heart valve diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • A blood clot in your lung
  • Diabetes
  • Certain severe lung diseases, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Obesity

Over time, left-sided heart failure can lead to right-sided heart failure.

Who is more likely to develop heart failure?

Heart failure can happen at any age. It happens to both men and women, but men often develop it at a younger age than women. Your chance of developing heart failure increases if:

  • You're 65 years old or older. Aging can weaken and stiffen your heart muscle.
  • Your family health history includes relatives who have or have had heart failure.
  • You have changes in your genes that affect your heart tissue.
  • You have habits that can harm your heart, including:
    • Smoking
    • Eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium (salt)
    • Having an inactive lifestyle
    • Alcohol use disorder (AUD)
    • Illegal drug use
  • You have other medical conditions that can affect your heart, including:
    • Any heart or blood vessel conditions, including high blood pressure
    • Serious lung diseases
    • Infection, such as HIV or COVID-19
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Sleep apnea
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Anemia
    • Iron overload disease
    • Cancer treatments that can harm your heart, such as radiation and chemotherapy
  • You are African American. African Americans are more likely to develop heart failure and have more serious cases at younger ages than people of other races. Factors such as stigma, discrimination, income, education, and geographic region can also affect their risk of heart failure.
What are the symptoms of heart failure?

The symptoms of heart failure depend on which side of your heart is affected and how serious your condition has become. Most symptoms are caused by reduced blood flow to your organs and fluid buildup in your body.

Fluid buildup happens because the flow of blood through your heart is too slow. As a result, blood backs up in the vessels that return the blood to your heart. Fluid may leak from the blood vessels and collect in the tissues of your body, causing swelling (edema) and other problems.

Symptoms of heart failure may include:

  • Feeling short of breath (like you can't get enough air) when you do things like climbing stairs. This may be one of the first symptoms you notice.
  • Fatigue or weakness even after rest.
  • Coughing.
  • Swelling and weight gain from fluid in your ankles, lower legs, or abdomen (belly).
  • Difficulty sleeping when lying flat.
  • Nausea and loss of appetite.
  • Swelling in the veins of your neck.
  • Needing to urinate (pee) often.

At first you may have no symptoms or mild symptoms. As the disease gets worse, your symptoms will usually bother you more.

What other problems does heart failure cause?

Fluid buildup and reduced blood flow to your organs can lead to serious problems, including:

  • Breathing problems from fluid in and around your lungs (also called congestive heart failure)
  • Kidney or liver damage including cirrhosis
  • Malnutrition if fluid buildup makes eating uncomfortable or if your stomach doesn't get enough blood flow to digest food properly
  • Other heart conditions, such as irregular heartbeat and sudden cardiac arrest
  • Pulmonary hypertension
How is heart failure diagnosed?

To find out if you have heart failure, your doctor will:

  • Ask about your medical history, including your symptoms
  • Ask about your family health history, including relatives who have had heart failure
  • Do a physical exam
  • Will likely order heart tests and blood tests, including a brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) test

In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist (a doctor who specializes in heart diseases) for tests, diagnosis, and care.

What are the treatments for heart failure?

Your treatment will depend on the type of heart failure you have and how serious it is. There's no cure for heart failure. But treatment can help you live longer with fewer symptoms.

Even with treatment, heart failure usually gets worse over time, so you'll likely need treatment for the rest of your life.

Most treatment plans include:

  • Taking medicine
  • Eating less sodium and drinking less liquid to control fluid buildup
  • Making other changes, such as quitting smoking, managing stress, and getting as much physical activity as your health care provider recommends
  • Treating any conditions that may make heart failure worse

You may need heart surgery if:

  • You have a congenital heart defect or damage to your heart that can be fixed.
  • The left side of your heart is getting weaker and putting a device in your chest could help. Devices include:
    • An implantable cardioverter defibrillator.
    • A biventricular pacemaker (cardiac resynchronization therapy).
    • A mechanical heart pump (a ventricular assist device (VAD) or a total artificial heart).
  • Your heart doctor recommends a heart transplant because your heart failure is life-threatening and nothing else is helping.

As part of your treatment, you'll need to pay close attention to your symptoms, because heart failure can worsen suddenly. Your provider may suggest a cardiac rehabilitation program to help you learn how to manage your condition.

Can heart failure be prevented?

You may be able to prevent or delay heart failure if you:

  • Work with your provider to manage any health conditions that increase your risk of developing heart failure
  • Make healthy changes in your eating, exercise, and other daily habits to help prevent heart disease

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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