Improve Your Health Literacy (November 12, 2015)
By Stacey Rupolo
Health literacy encompasses the ability to critically think about health information, complete basic math problems, fill out forms and interact with health care staff in order to make informed, comprehensive decisions about your health. Unfortunately, the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy found only 3 percent of adults over the age of 65 had proficient health literacy scores. And these literacy problems are not always clear cut or obvious. Their findings indicated:
- 71 percent of adults older than age 60 had difficulty in using print materials in prose form
- 80 percent had difficulty using documents such as forms or charts
- 68 percent had difficulty with quantitative tasks
This difficulty only gets worse for older adults with memory or cognitive problems. For some, it may be difficult or embarrassing to admit confusion about something as important and personal as health. For others, they may not be aware of what they don’t know. Although most of the literature around National Health Literacy Month is geared towards awareness for health care workers, there are tools to taking responsibility for knowledge about your health. If you are confused at doctor’s office, here are some suggestions for improving your health literacy:
- Repeat back the instructions in your doctor gives you in own words to make sure no miscommunication has occurred
- Ask questions! There is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to your health.
- Write down instructions and keep them posted where you can see them every day
- If verbal instructions don’t make sense, ask for pamphlets or written instructions
- If reading is difficult, have your doctor demonstrate instructions for you
- Document relevant symptoms or occurrences related to your health condition if it happens in between doctor appointments and bring it up at your next appointment so your doctor can have accurate information
- Bring along a family member if you’re feeling uneasy about an appointment or have any confusion about your diagnosis or treatment. They may be able to help you in understanding or think of questions that help you gain control of your health.
If no one is available attend appointment with you or a loved one, a ComForCare caregiver can help by providing transportation, taking notes, picking up prescriptions and making sure a doctor's follow-up instructions are followed.
If You Can Breathe, You Can Do Yoga (September 18, 2015)
September is national yoga month, so we are taking a look at how maintaining – or starting – a yoga practice can be a vital part of overall health. The numerous health benefits that can be gleaned from even a casual yoga practice can mean the difference between chronic pain or sustained mobility and health later in life. If practiced properly, yoga can:
- Reduce hypertension and back pain
- Help with depression and reduce anxiety
- Lower blood pressure, cholesterol and resting heart rates
- Reduce the risk of falling
What does a practice look like?
- Consistency and commitment: Set an intention for your practice. Develop a schedule or routine and stick to it! Even if you can only commit to three classes a week, you will not see any progress or reap the benefits of a consistent yoga practice if you only do one downward facing dog every month.
- Start small: Focusing on small parts of a pose helps you build a stable foundation to grow and learn within your practice. It is the only way strengthen your ability and to move onto more difficult and challenging poses. Things like toe and foot placement, the drawing together of your shoulder muscles or the alignment of your hips can have a major impact on your experience and expression of a pose.
- Don’t be afraid and don’t get discouraged: Growth may come slowly, but it will never come if you’re afraid of failing. Some poses may take a lifetime to master; some poses just aren’t meant for us to try. All of our bodies have different limitations, so honor your limits. And once you’ve culled that ability, don’t be afraid to (safely) push your limits!
Take advantage of National Yoga Month