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Pay attention to what our bodies are trying to tell us

Most of us do not like to admit to ourselves that we are getting older and that those advancing years mean we probably should not be doing all of the physical things we used to do. Or at the very least, we need to accept the fact that chores will simply take longer to accomplish. It takes me the better part of a week now to clean my house from top to bottom as I need to spread out the tasks by doing a few each day. I used to be able to accomplish the same amount on a single busy Saturday. My husband used to wait every autumn until all the leaves had been shed by our big maple tree in the backyard before he got out the rake. Now he does that annual task three times so the leaves are not so heavy. And he had to acknowledge that climbing up onto the garage roof to trim that same maple tree was no longer a good idea.

Like it or not, our advancing years bring with them more aches and pains and the increased potential for bigger health issues to develop. Do you find yourself noticing certain physical changes and wondering if they are something you need to pay closer attention to? I do. I do not want to become a “nervous Nellie” about every symptom, but should I worry about that tightness in my jaw that crops up from time to time or did I just “sleep crooked” as my mother used to say? I do not want to overreact nor do I want to ignore something I should be taking more seriously. So, when the article from the Very Well Mind website entitled “8 Signs You Should See a Doctor” hit my inbox, I paid attention. Written by Ashley Festa and medically reviewed by William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS on June 10 of this year, it offers some excellent information.

First, while some symptoms can be monitored over a period of time, do not ignore the following signs of a medical emergency. Get help immediately in the following situations: choking or other difficulty breathing: loss of consciousness or change in mental status; heart attack symptoms, such as pain, pressure or tightness in your chest, arms neck or jaw; shortness of breath; and sudden lightheadedness or dizziness. Also, seek help immediately if you sustain an injury to the head or spine, or if any other severe injury occurs. Pay attention to these stroke symptoms: sudden numbness, confusion, speech problems, trouble walking, or changes in your vision. Also, seek immediate help if you are having suicidal thoughts.

Second, an occasional upset stomach or heartburn are common, but when digestive symptoms last longer than two weeks, a doctor should evaluate you so schedule a visit if you are experiencing any of the following: frequent or worsening heartburn; vomiting blood, feeling full before eating very much; constipation, diarrhea, or bloody or black stool, or difficulty swallowing.

Third, when respiratory symptoms last longer than 10 days, check with your doctor to make sure you don’t have bronchitis, pneumonia, or something worse. Watch out for these persistent symptoms, especially if accompanied by a fever, muscle aches or fatigue: a cough that lasts a month or longer; wheezing or shortness of breath that doesn’t go away with resting; excessive mucus; or coughing up blood.

Fourth, be aware that cognitive changes occur as we age. Occasionally forgetting where we put our keys usually isn’t something to worry about — unless they show up in the refrigerator. And when forgetfulness begins to regularly affect our everyday lives, it’s time to see a doctor. Some signs for concern include: frequently forgetting things, such as appointments, important dates or belongings; difficulty concentrating or losing our train of thought; trouble making decisions, making plans, or understanding directions; showing poor judgment; and behavioral or personality changes.

Fifth, emotional and mental health symptoms can be signs of a medical condition, and they shouldn’t be ignored. Mental health symptoms to watch for include: anxiety or depression; irritability or other changes in mood; loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed; loss of appetite, and changes in sleep patterns.

Sixth, our vision definitely changes as we age. The first thing I noticed was that my arms were no longer long enough to hold price tags far enough away for me to read. A visit to my eye doctor confirmed that “the only thing wrong with my eyes was birthdays.” While some of us just need glasses, others may have more troublesome issues. In addition to pain in your eyes, if you experience any of these signs and symptoms, call your eye doctor: sudden flashes of light; seeing double images or experiencing cloudy, hazy or blurry vision may mean cataracts are forming; floaters in your eye or spots in your field of vision may mean imminent retinal tearing; dry eyes; loss of peripheral vision or sudden loss of vision in either eye; and seeing halos around lights or having sensitivity to light.

Seventh, if you have a surgical procedure, follow the discharge instructions carefully and pay close attention to any unusual symptoms that may arise. Most surgeries come with the risk of some complications as you recover. Some complications are rare, while others are more common; some are minor, while others are serious. If you experience any of these postoperative symptoms, call your doctor: bleeding that won’t stop; infection, which often comes with fever; swelling, redness or pain; trouble breathing or difficulty urinating; and an allergic reaction to anesthesia.

And eighth, when you experience symptoms that won’t go away, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor to make sure nothing more serious is going on. Some of these symptoms include: a persistent fever higher than 103 degrees; sudden and unexplained weight loss can be a symptom of numerous diseases; back pain, especially if it doesn’t improve with heat or ice, or if other symptoms such as swelling or fever are also present; and heart palpitations.

Our bodies are complicated machinery and deserve the same level of attention as our furnace, lawn mower and automobile. Preventive maintenance is the best way to keep us running well into the future. Paying attention to how we are feeling and taking seriously any changes that do not go away are good practices to adopt as we age. One thing that I heard a lot during my career at our hospital was, “early detection is the best prevention.” When in doubt, get things checked out — early — when you have the most, and least invasive, options for correcting the problem. A little extra vigilance now will help us all live longer, healthier, and more comfortable lives.

NURSING HOMES

The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus are not being published to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts.

Group games are being substituted with individualized activities residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways.

YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers also have been closed to any center-based activity. Until they re-open, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. While some have reopened with limited seating, meals do continue to be delivered.

Some centers also are preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers who are either preparing takeout or providing home-delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers listed here.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Pepper steak, rice, cauliflower;

Wednesday: Barbecue pork sandwich on a bun, baked beans;

Thursday: Pasties, mixed vegetables, coleslaw.

Note: All meals served with milk, bread and butter, fruit and dessert

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Breaded pork chop, baked potato, vegetable blend;

Tuesday: Smoked sausage, parsley potatoes, baked beans;

Wednesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread, green beans;

Thursday: Chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk or juice and fruit.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Au gratin potatoes with ham, cauliflower, dinner roll;

Tuesday: Cheese omelet, oatmeal, spiced peaches, English muffin;

Wednesday: Smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes, carrots;

Thursday: Beef stew, biscuit, side salad with dressing;

Friday: Chicken sandwich, chips, baked beans.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk, juice or no beverage

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Breakfast bake, fried apples, biscuits;

Tuesday: Lasagna roll-up, garlic bread, green beans;

Wednesday: Salisbury steak, mashed potato, gravy, carrots.

Note: All meals served with skim milk or juice

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Sub sandwich with lettuce and tomato, butter beans, macaroni and cheese, fruit;

Tuesday: Stuffed pepper casserole, carrots, garlic bread, fruit;

Wednesday: “Deer Camp” pasties, coleslaw, bananas, brownies;

Thursday: Hamburger soup, spinach salad, bread sticks, apple slices, pumpkin blondies;

Friday: Smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes, broccoli, fruit.

Note: All meals served with whole-grain bread and butter and milk

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Now open with limited seating 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Home-delivered and/or takeout only on Thursdays. Menu for week —

No menu available this month.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick up – those picking up must call ahead and wear a mask. Menu for the week —

Monday: Finnish pancake, sausage, strawberries, hash browns, muffin, fruit, juice;

Tuesday: Chicken pot pie, mixed vegetables, biscuit, fruit, juice, dessert;

Wednesday: Philly steak and cheese on a hoagie bun, French fries, squash, fruit, juice, dessert;

Thursday: Lasagna, winter blend vegetables, garlic bread, fruit, juice, dessert.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Ham, roasted potatoes, mixed vegetables, beets, fruit

Wednesday: Beef stroganoff, noodles, broccoli, bread, fruit

Thursday: Chicken noodle soup, grilled cheese, salad, bread, fruit.

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