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Calm middle-aged woman sitting in padmasana with eyes closed. Mature female holding hands pressed together in namaste and doing breathing exercises. Meditation and yoga idea

Benefits of Yoga for Hospice Patients

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.

A brief history of yoga

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.

What yoga looks like for hospice patients

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.

Why hospice patients should consider yoga

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.

Interior room nursing home, corridor in the hospital wards, furniture for people with disabilities

LGBTQ Aging

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.

Resources for the Aging LGBTQ Community

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.

Happy Pride Month!

June is…

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. This month-long celebration provides the opportunity to focus on raising awareness for the 50 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. It causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of these ten signs and symptoms:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

Visit the website for the Alzheimer’s Association for more information on these signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for.

Take Action

There are several ways to get involved in Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month! On June 20th, join the cause by celebrating ‘The Longest Day’ through a fundraising activity of your choice! There are a variety of ways to get involved, including virtually and in-person.

So put on your purple gear, share your story of why you go purple, and join the fight to #EndAlz!

Soak Up the Sun…Safely

Summer is just around the corner, which mean barbeques, swimming, and SUN! And while most of us enjoy getting outside and soaking up a little Vitamin D, it is important to remember to be safe when heading outside into the sun. Per the American Academy of Dermatology Association, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and unprotected UV exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.

With that being said, it is important to follow these three steps to protect your skin:

  • Seek shade: Remember, the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10AM and 2PM
  • Wear sun-protective clothing: Sunglasses and hats are key!
  • Apply sunscreen: Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 30

Signs of Skin Cancer

Finding skin cancer early, before it has spread, makes it much easier to treat. If you know what to look for, you can often spot warning signs early on. Doctors recommend checking your own skin about once a month using a full-length mirror in a well-lit room. You can also use a hand mirror to check areas that are harder to see.

Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, while basal and squamous cell skin cancers are more common but are usually very treatable. The American Cancer Society’s website discusses these types of skin cancers and what to look out for.

Melanoma

Use the “ABCDE” rule to look for some of the common signs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry – one part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other
  • Border – the edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred
  • Color – the color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue
  • Diameter – the spot is larger than ¼ inch across (although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this)
  • Evolving – the mole is changing in size, shape, or color

Basal Cell Carcinomas

These types of skin cancers typically grow on parts of the body that get the most sun, such as the face, head, and neck. However, they can still show up anywhere. Here is what you should look for:

  • Flat, firm, pale, or yellow areas (similar to a scar)
  • Raised reddish patches, might be itchy
  • Small shiny, pearly bumps that are pink or red
  • Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in the center, which might have abnormal blood vessels spreading out like the spokes of a wheel
  • Open sores that may have oozing or crusted areas and do not heal, or heal and then come back

Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Similarly to basal cell carcinomas, these typically grow on the parts of the body that get the most sun but can appear anywhere. You should look for:

  • Rough or scaly red patches, which may crust or bleed
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
  • Open sores that may have oozing or crusted areas and do not heal, or heal and then come back
  • Wart-like growths

Talk to Your Doctor

Although these are good examples of what to look for, some skin cancers may look different than these descriptions. It is important to talk to your doctor about anything you are concerned about, such as new spots and other skin changes.

Better Hearing and Speech Month Facts

Each year, Better Hearing and Speech Month in May provides an opportunity to raise awareness about communication disorders and other hearing and speech problems. The event also serves as a reminder to people to get their hearing checked. Early identification and intervention is very important, and getting your hearing checked is the first step!

According to the CDC’s website, the World Health Organization’s first World Report on Hearing found that:

  • Noise is acknowledged as an important public health issue and a top environmental risk faced by the world today
  • Over 50% of people aged 12-35 years listen to music via personal audio devices at volumes that pose a risk to their hearing
  • Keeping the volume below 60% is a general rule of thumb for safety
  • You should consider using noise cancelling earphones or headphones rather than turning the volume up
  • Listening through personal audio devices should not exceed 80dB for adults or 75 dB for sensitive users, such as children, for 40 hours per week

Building Connections

“Building Connections” is the theme for 2021! You can find a variety of resources, broken down by week, on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s website. Week 4’s focus is “Summer Skill Building, Hearing Protection for School-Aged Children.” Below are some examples of the resources available. Be sure to check out the ASHA’s website for more!

Early Identification

And remember to get your hearing checked as a first step in addressing any potential issues. Early identification is important!

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