Your Heart Needs TLC Year-Round

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

February is a time to celebrate Valentine’s Day, love and American Heart Month. However, focusing on your heart and providing it some TLC is something to do year-round.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease (CVD)—including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure—is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. CVD is a leading cause of disability and heart disease is a major threat to senior health. The American Heart Association reports that approximately 83.6 million adults have at least one type of CVD. For those 60-79 years old, 70.2% of men and 70.9% of women have CVD.

While one in four deaths is due to heart disease, many CVD deaths could have been prevented through healthier habits and managing risk factors like:

  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes

Steps toward a healthy heart are a journey that requires lifestyle changes, determination and patience. Things that can help include:

  • Staying encouraged – every healthy choice makes a difference.
  • Asking for help—get friends and family involved; heart health is for everyone.
  • Rewarding yourself—decrease stress by discovering fun and new things to do.

Little changes add up; as Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Steps to Heart Disease Prevention

  • Get a regular check up from a health care professional. Know your numbers!
    High blood pressure often has no symptoms; so check it on a regular basis.
  • Know your family history—if heart disease runs in your family, be proactive about heart health.
  • Take your medicine.
  • Eat a healthy diet, including: plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; nuts like walnuts and almonds; and, limit saturated fats and foods containing cholesterol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly— Mayo Clinic recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • QUIT smoking.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Minimize stress in your life.

Find more Heart Health information at: OR


*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.



Touch Is the Language of Compassion

By Carol Combs, MSW, Oxford’s Memory Care Coordinator

Everyone needs tender loving care, and someone with dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease is no exception. In fact, because dementia robs people of language, non-verbal communication becomes even more important. Non- verbal communication is critical when dealing with dementia, and touch is a powerful way to connect with someone who is losing other avenues to communicate.

Tactile stimulation can help when language is failing. Anything individuals can touch, feel or manipulate with their hands helps fill the void left with loss of language. It is actually the brain that “feels”—so tactile stimulation is brain stimulation.

People with dementia don’t lose the capacity for human emotion or recognition of a caring touch, even in the late stages of the disease. A hug, handshake, pat on the arm, hand lotion massage or stroke of the hair can relay feelings of compassion and care. And of course, a smile is a universally understood expression!

Studies have identified the physical benefits of touch, including: lowering blood pressure, decreasing pain and heart rate, improving mood and lowering stress. Touch can also benefit those with dementia by calming them. Massaging the hands or handholding can reduce agitation; help ease the feelings of isolation, loneliness and boredom; and, encourage feelings of well-being.

We need to respect a person’s preferences for physical touch and explore ways to make contact that are comfortable to the individual. If someone is highly agitated, use caution in your approach, as the individual may not accept you entering his/her private space. However, while we do need to be respectful of someone’s comfort level, that should not stop us from finding ways to nurture those in our care.

“Love is not a memory—it’s a feeling in the heart and soul, never to be forgotten. This disease can take away almost everything, but not the love,” wrote Michele DeSocio in Living Proof that Alzheimer’s Can’t Steal Love.

Oxford Health Care offers numerous home care programs that can provide you the help, support and relief you need so you may enjoy time with your loved one and continue to care for them at home. If you have questions, our Care Coordinators will be happy to assist you.

Sources: Esther Heerema MSW,, American Massage Therapy Association