All posts by Angelo Antoline

Immunizations: Not Just for Children

Adults, take heed. The need for immunizations doesn’t end in childhood.

According to the National Public Health Information Coalition, tens of thousands of adults in the United States needlessly suffer, are hospitalized, and even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccinations every year.

Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, you may be at risk from other diseases based upon your age, lifestyle, occupation, travel destinations, medical conditions, or health. In addition, the protection from some vaccinations wears off over time.

Vaccinations can prevent serious diseases such as the flu, whooping cough, tetanus, shingles, and pneumococcal diseases. Immunizations can protect not only the person being vaccinated, but it also helps prevent the spread of diseases to others – especially those who are most vulnerable to serious complications. This includes young children, older adults, and adults with chronic conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and diabetes.

Some folks hesitate to get vaccinations because they are concerned about the safety of the vaccination or the side effects. But vaccinations are tested before licensing and monitored even after they are licensed to ensure ongoing safety. And usually side effects are mild and temporary – any serious or long-term side effects are rare.

Talk to your physician to see what immunizations are recommended for you.

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Scratches, Cuts and Scrapes…Oh My!

Whether the knife slipped while you were cutting vegetables, or your child fell off a bike…we’ve probably all dealt with our fair share of cuts, scrapes and scratches.

There can be risk of an infection any time the skin is broken. It’s always important to clean the site, apply an antibiotic cream, and cover it with gauze or a bandage if necessary. These steps should help prevent an infection because most infections occur when germs have gotten into the area where skin is broken. If a wound isn’t healing as expected, however, keep a close eye on it.

Here are a few warning signs that a wound may be infected, and that it’s time to contact a healthcare professional:

  • Wound becomes more painful instead of improving
  • Expanding redness around the cut or wound; the red area may feel warm or hot
  • Swelling or tenderness of the wound
  • Yellow or green pus, or other cloudy discharge from the wound
  • A red streak spreading from the wound
  • Fever
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What’s Long-Term Acute Care?

Most people who need inpatient hospital services are admitted to an “acute care” hospital for a relatively short amount of time. But patients with medically complex conditions may be referred to a long-term acute care hospital (LTACH) – which also is certified as an acute hospital – for continued are beyond their original hospital stays.

Long-term acute care hospitals are specialized hospitals that provide extended recovery time for patients.

Typically, patients who are referred to LTACHs may have medical conditions that are too complex to allow them to be transferred to lower levels of care. When patients get to an LTACH, they’re treated by a medical team who provides specialized critical and long-term care (including ventilator weaning if necessary) services, including 24-hour nursing care and daily physician management.

Long-term care can make a difference.

A study published in Medical Care showed that in most cases, medically complex and critically ill patients had better results at a long-term acute care hospital compared with similar patients in other care settings.

So don’t hesitate to discuss options with a physician or healthcare provider and ask for recommendations regarding long-term acute care hospitals. Do your research so you can choose the best facility for you or a family member.

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Diving into Summer

Summer is a fun time — and with a little patience and precaution, it can be kept that way.

When swimming this summer, think before you dive. Diving is one of the most preventable causes of spinal cord injuries there is. Yet more than 1,800 diving accidents occur every year that result in spinal cord injuries, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. The majority of these injuries result in paralysis of all four limbs.

Don’t let one summer-time diving decision change your whole life. Diving injuries can be prevented with a bit of precaution.
Here are a few tips:

  • Always enter water feet first.
  • Never dive head first into shallow water. More than 90 percent of diving accidents occur each year in 6 feet of water or less.
  • Never dive into water that doesn’t have a clear bottom such as a lake or ocean. Rocks, logs, sand bars or other objects could be hidden below the surface.
  • Never dive into an above-ground pool.
  • Make sure you can see the bottom of a body of water at its deepest point.
  • Check the shape and length of the water to be sure the diving area is large enough and deep enough for a dive.
  • Carefully inspect home pools and hotel pools. Many – even those fitted with diving boards – are unsafe for diving. The deep end may be too short, which means the diver could strike his or her head on the slope of the pool leading to the shallow end.
  • Obey “No Diving” signs.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before or during swimming or diving. It affects balance, coordination, and judgment.
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Nutrition Administration and Ventilator Weaning in Long-Term Acute Care

Ernest Health, which includes Advanced Care Hospital of Southern New Mexico, recently was recognized nationally for its work in nutrition management and administration for patients being weaned from ventilators in its long-term acute care hospitals (LTACHs).

The initiative, which was introduced and led by Cindy Tew, Ernest Health’s Director of Clinical Programs and Resources, and Anne Woodbury, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Utah Valley Specialty Hospital, won the 2017 Quality Achievement Award from the National Association of Long Term Hospitals.

“We wanted to see if we could track specific nutritional indicators that could positively influence patients being weaned from ventilators,” Tew says. In particular, the team wanted to find if the level of protein provided to a ventilated patient had any effect on the success of weaning the patient off the ventilator.

“Mechanical ventilation is a life-saving procedure that’s used to support patients who are recovering from critical illnesses or injuries,” Woodbury explains. “Patients who require prolonged mechanical ventilation need specialized medical assistance in healing and weaning from ventilator dependence, and nutrition plays a critical role in this.”

A team of Ernest Health dietitians led by Tew and Woodbury created a nutritional tracking form to collect data from its LTACH hospitals to monitor tube feeding tolerance and nutrition administration. That data was collected from patients who had been on a ventilator longer than 96 hours and were in respiratory failure.

After two years of collecting data from 204 patients, the team found more successful ventilator weaning results when a patient could tolerate 1.6-2.0 grams of protein each day.

“Data of this nature has never been recorded before, so we’re optimistic about the potential impact of our findings,” Tew says. “These are promising results not only for our patients, but for other post-acute hospitals to consider for their patients as well.”

Ernest Health’s LTACH hospitals will continue to collect data and measure protein intake values to substantiate significance with a larger data pool of patients being weaned from ventilators. The intent is to publish the results in the future for other post-acute hospitals to consider.

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Don’t Let Driving Distractions Wreck Your Summer Vacation

Distracted driving is a growing – and dangerous – recurring event in the United States. Distracted driving is any activity that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off driving.

A study through the National Institutes of Health found that drivers eat, reach for the phone, text, or otherwise take their eyes off the road about 10 percent of the time. This behavior can endanger the drivers, passengers and bystanders.

Distracted driving can include a myriad of activities, including:

  • Texting
  • Talking on a cell phone
  • Looking at a GPS system
  • Eating or drinking
  • Grooming
  • Talking to passengers
  • Adjusting the radio
  • Reaching for items elsewhere in the car

Probably the most alarming distraction of all is text messaging because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. Five seconds is the average time someone’s eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.

With summer vacations in full swing, many of us will be driving to our destinations. Let’s remove our distractions and pay attention to road. The simplest and most effective way to do this is to turn off your cell phone when you turn on the car ignition. It’s simple.

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Communicating with a Family Member in Critical Care

Sometimes it’s hard enough to say what we mean. So what do we do if we have a family member in critical care? Rest assured, communicating is an important part of the healing process for your loved one as well as your family.

Here are 5 tips to help you out:

  1. Even if your loved one is on a ventilator, he or she will most likely be able to hear you. Speak in a calm, clear manner in a normal tone of voice. There’s no need to speak loudly. Read your family member a favorite poem, book, or prayer. If the staff says it’s OK, you could even play some music.
  2. Use short, positive statements. Reassure your loved one that you’re there, and that everyone is taking good care of him or her. Help orient your family member to the surroundings by sharing the date, day of week and time of day. Help describe the noises in the room.
  3. It’s OK to acknowledge that your family member may be experiencing discomfort. You can help by explaining what is going on, “That tube is helping you breath.” Remind your loved one that this is just temporary and helping him or her to get better.
  4. Don’t ask questions that can’t be answered. Make it simple. Suggesting hand gestures to communicate may be helpful. For example, a thumbs up or thumbs could indicate pain level. A small dry erase board may also be helpful in communicating as well. You could write words that your family member could point to, or possibly your loved one can write a few words as well.
  5. Human touch goes a long way. Ask the hospital staff first, but holding a hand or touching your family member gently is a great way to express your love and concern.

If you’re unsure about the best way to communicate, don’t hesitate to ask a member of the hospital staff for help. If one way doesn’t seem to be working, there likely will be another way that can be more effective.

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6 Things to Expect When Your Loved One is in Critical Care

It’s difficult to imagine a loved one being ill or injured enough to require critical care. But being prepared for what to expect can help you manage the situation.
Here are 6 important things to know:

  1. You have an experienced team on your side. The hospital staff that’s caring for your loved one is highly trained and prepared to treat the sickest – and most medically complex – patients. From the physicians and nurses to the respiratory therapists and dietitians – they all are specially trained to care for your loved one.
  2. The tubes and equipment in a critical care unit can be intimidating. But, they all have a role and purpose in providing your loved one with the intensive healthcare that he or she needs. The healthcare team will be able to explain the role of any equipment to help you better understand what it happening.
  3. Information overload can – and most likely will – occur. Everything will be new to you from the equipment and noises to the procedures and health professionals. Take a deep breath. Once you get your bearings, think of how you can best keep track of information. Write in a notebook. Keep notes on your phone. Jot down items like key information, questions you want to ask, purpose of treatments, and names of hospital personnel.
  4. Expect peaks and valleys. Critical care can be a bumpy ride. Some days will be better than others. As much as possible, try to be patient and keep perspective.
  5. Talk to your loved one. Communicating with your loved one is important for not only him or her, but for your entire family. Often patients can hear while in critical care. Speak calmly and clearly, and make short, positive statements. Hold your loved ones hand or touch them gently if a member of the healthcare team says it’s OK.
  6. Take care of yourself. It may be a long road to your loved one’s recovery, so be sure to take time to do things like sleep, eat, and shower. Don’t be afraid to leave the room for a bit. The healthcare team will be there 24/7 to provide care.
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