Fighting an Increasing Suicide Rate Among Seniors

August 12, 2013

Seniors have a higher suicide rate compared to other age groups. Recent studies have shown that rates have increased from 1999 to 2010. According to a May 2013 report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate has increased 50 percent for men in their 50s. The number is even greater for women between the ages of 60 to 64, where suicides have increased 60 percent.

The reasons seniors are more vulnerable to suicide include: loneliness, illness, financial hardships as well as a lack of purpose. These reasons contribute to a major risk factor for suicide: Depression. Forming friendships and staying involved in social settings are crucial to prevent depression that could lead to suicide.

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(Seniors at Senior Community Centers are socializing and new friendships could be the reason to get out of bed in the morning.)

Here is a list of tips and resources that help combat depression:

  1. It is crucial that seniors stay active both physically and mentally. There are many options and resources available for seniors. Whether it’s joining a club, taking a fitness class, volunteering or socializing with other seniors; staying involved and active is key to lowering the risk of depression and suicide.
  2. Senior Community Centers offers services to help those seniors who are struggling. Along with congregate meal sites, Senior Community Centers offers classes to promote lifelong learning and health services. We have a case management team available to guide seniors who need referrals to get the assistance they need. Over the years, working collaboratively with other social service agencies in the region, we have developed strong relationships so we are able to properly refer and ultimately provide a lifeline for at-risk seniors.
  3. Ask for help. If you or someone you know finds themselves in a predicament where additional resources or a friendly voice to talk to are needed, please contact Carlos Ochoa-Mendez at Senior Community Centers at 619-487-0719. However, if you or someone you care about needs immediate help, call the San Diego County Crisis Hotline at 888-724-7240.

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The full article appeared in the Prime Monthly Magazine July 2013 Issue.


Conversations in Health Care – How Technology is Advancing Senior Care

August 2, 2013

West Health is a leader in innovative approaches to lowering health care cost and Senior Community Centers is a proud partner to work towards that common goal. As part of the West Health Institute IDEA Series, I served as a panelist to discuss how advances in technology could change health care for a rapidly growing senior population.

Read more here or click the picture below to watch a video of the discussion:

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Why Seniors are More Susceptible to Heat and How to Help

July 26, 2013

It’s been quite a hot summer so far. We skipped May Gray and June Gloom here in San Diego and Nurse Christine at Senior Community Centers has been busy educating our seniors how to beat the heat. “I tell seniors to drink plenty of water even if they are not thirsty and to stay cool by limiting exposure to the heat during peak hours.

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(Photo Credit: http://www.griswoldhomecare.com)

Heat waves and consistently high temperatures are dangerous for anyone but especially for older adults. Here is why:

  • The brain’s natural thermostat loses its sensitivity when getting older (especially at 80 and above).
  • Circulatory problems and medications interfere with the ability to regulate the body temperature.
  • The ability to sweat and the body’s natural cooling system may be lost with age.
  • The sense of thirst and craving water may also disappear over the years.
  • Being able to “take the heat” may be a generational demonstration of strength since older adults grew up without air conditioning.
Here is what you can do for yourself and for your elderly loved ones: 
  • Clothing: Wear light-colored, lightweight and breathable clothing and a hat to fend off the heat.
  • Go easy on your joints. Swimming is a great low-impact exercise and helps prevent overheating.
  • Exercise during early morning hours. It’s cooler outside and the air quality is better.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of water – preferably every 2 hours – and don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Add fruit to your water for flavor.
  • Protect your food. Take extra precautions to keep perishable food cool and use proper preparation guidelines when cooking to stay safe.
  • Keep blinds shut. Keep out the sun by lowering your blinds or curtains
  • Keep your fan on.  Open the window to create a draft. Moving air cools down your skin.
Most of all…
  • Call or visit friends, family and neighbors twice a day. If they start acting confused, have a headache, are dizzy or nauseous, then they’re showing signs of a heat stroke. Call for immediate medical help.
Can’t cool off at home? Visit the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center between 7 am and 4 pm M-F or from 8 am to 2 pm on Sat/Sun to socialize, take classes or have lunch. Or check the following website for designated cool zones in your area: County of San Diego Cool Zones.

How to Create a Safe Workplace to Prevent Unnecessary Injuries

July 16, 2013

As our work force begins to age and continues working past traditional retirement age, it is important for businesses, caregivers and families to take precautions to ensure safe environments. […] The average slip or fall costs a business about $28,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Many of these injuries result from hazards that are easy to overlook and equally simple to prevent.

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(Photo credit: http://www.comfortkeeperschaddsford.com)

Here are 4 ways to create a safe work environment and prevent falls:

  1. Reduce wet or slippery surfaces. Accidents on walking surfaces usually occur in parking lots, sidewalks, prep areas and showers. Make sure to keep parking lots and sidewalks free of trash. Use mats to absorb moisture in entrances, prep areas, and locker and shower rooms. Also, make sure grab bars are well anchored to walls and placed at the appropriate height. If possible, install railings on all outdoor stairs, pathways and decks, as well as potentially slippery areas that have textured surfaces.
  2. Keep walkways in common areas free of obstacles. Make sure doorways, stairs and hallways are kept clear. All exposed cords should be moved along the wall and taped. Rugs, carpets and mats should be taped or tacked down.
  3. Maintain proper lighting. Lighting should not be too dim or direct. Light switches should be accessible at the top and bottom stairs. Install night lights in bathrooms and hallways. Pay special attention to indoor and outdoor entrances.
  4. Stay organized. Organized work areas make it easier to find items or reach high places without the risk of falling. For example, items that are used often should be either at waist level or on low shelves. If you need to reach for something, a stepladder should be used rather than a chair, bucket or box. Mailboxes should be at an accessible level. […]

When was the last time you gave your home or business a thorough safety check? Here is a checklist for general fall prevention.

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The full article Create Safe Workplaces through Simple Prevention was first published in the San Diego Daily Transcript July 2013 issue.


Cultural Competency: A Closer Look at San Diego’s Asian American Senior Population

July 12, 2013

The number of Asian seniors who benefit from our culturally competent services is growing. I am happy to announce that as of July 1, our Mandarin-speaking supportive services case manager Maggie will be available to serve our seniors full-time from Monday through Friday.

25% of the seniors we support at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center are Asian and of that, 14% are Chinese.

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(At Senior Community Centers’ Chinese New Year Celebration)

Working with culturally diverse seniors is very rewarding and can be challenging at the same time, especially when it comes to something as important as addressing healthcare needs that could prevent seniors from living healthy and independent lives.

According a recent cultural competency workshop by Yawen Li, PhD, Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work at San Diego State University, Asian health beliefs attribute illness to karma or curses. Combined with strong superstitions and putting a lot of power into alternative healing methods, Western medicine may be the very last resort to get help. While respecting the beliefs of Asian cultures, our support services team is ready help in a culturally competent way.

Since inception of the Chinese Outreach Program in 2011, our Mandarin-speaking case manager has conducted over 1,000 visits helping nearly 200 clients. The resolution rate for medical issues is over 90%. 

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(Maggie and a senior at the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center)

Our success rate is in part due to our collaborative partnerships, ongoing cultural competency training and dedicated staff members like Maggie. The following list shows ways to bridge some of the cultural differences between Asian American traditions and Western habits:

  • Be aware of differences among Asian American ethnicities
  • Avoid using stereotypes as portrayed in US media
  • Be aware of non-verbal cues as Asian Americans can be very sensitive to non-verbal communication (lack of eye contact implies not being respectful or not paying attention)
  • Use a title instead of calling by direct name
  • Work closely with family members that were identified by the senior as  the representative of the family
  • Be considerate of the high respect for authority figures within extended family and that the behavior or achievements of one person reflects on the entire family
  • Be aware that mental illness is seen as having “a bad gene” and is highly stigmatized
  • Explain problems and treatment alternatives clearly and be ready to have recommendations
  • Make sure the senior and family members understand what you are trying to communicate; nodding heads may just signify paying respect rather than understanding
  • Western cultures focus on self-expression through language while eastern cultures focus on affect and non-verbal expression
  • Language may not accommodate all that the individual thinks and feels

We are happy to have Maggie on our team full-time to help bridge some of the cultural differences to help seniors in need live a healthy and independent life. Find out here how you can support the Chinese Outreach and Case Management Program.




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