The Magic of Water

“There’s plenty of water in the universe without life, but nowhere is there life without water.” ― Sylvia A. Earle

The summer season is one of cool breezes, longer days, outdoor events, trips to the beach, and time in the pool. As we inch closer and closer to summer months, we have an opportunity to celebrate our post-pandemic freedom and spend some much-needed time in the water. Although the pool is indoors at Kirby Pines, there tends to be an uptick in pool usage during summer months, no matter where you live. Time in the water … whether a pool, ocean, river, or lake, provides a sense of joy, laughter, and play, much like that from our childhood. 

Did you know that water has many known benefits for health and wellness? Hydrostatic pressure is pressure that is exerted by or existing within a liquid at rest with respect to adjacent bodies. When you are in a pool, that hydrostatic pressure compresses your skin, muscles, and joints, which can provide a wonderful cardiopulmonary workout, without adding stress or tension to your joints. The buoyancy and resistance of the water can help tone and build muscles while reducing pain. The natural viscosity forces you to move more slowly helping to rebuild muscle memory while also adding an overall sense of relaxation. The lighthearted atmosphere that water promotes is vital to the healing process for both body and mind. 

Kirby Pines has many water classes to choose from, such as Aerobics, Advanced Water Aerobics, and Men’s Water Aerobics. In addition, Functional Pathways is excited to announce the addition of water-based interventions as part of a comprehensive therapy care plan in a 1:1 setting. 

Some of these interventions include: 

  • Aqua Stretch (water based myofascial and manual treatment) 
  • Ai Chi (Tai Chi in water) 
  • How to Fall Safely (water-based) 
  • Stability, Mobility and Function (water-based) 

For more information on Functional Pathway’s aquatics programming and how it can benefit you, please contact our Therapy Team! At the very least, consider dipping your toes (and body) into the water for some quality time with family and friends this summer. 

By: Beth Reigart, Clinical Outcomes Specialist, Functional Pathways and Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

This Month Celebrate Better Hearing and Speech

As you may or may not know, May is Better Hearing and Speech Month! This provides us all with an opportunity to increase awareness about communication disorders and their respective treatments. Our speech, language, and hearing are what allow us to communicate with one another, learn more about the world we live in, and feel connected. When we struggle with our speech and language skills or our hearing, it makes everything else a little bit harder. That’s why this month is a great opportunity to talk about speech-language therapy and how it can benefit you, should you or anyone you know ever need it. 

Speech-language therapists are degreed and licensed professionals who can evaluate and treat patients for hearing, language, communication, and swallowing concerns. Their focus is on improving speech-language expression, comprehension, and oral motor skills for more accurate speech production. Another facet of speech-language therapy includes cognition. 

Cognition is something we can all work to improve daily. Studies show that brain games and activities can sharpen thinking skills. While some cognitive decline over time is normal, those who have cognitive stimulation tend to have better memory and attention. Just think of the adage: “use it or lose it!” These skills required to play brain games and cognitive activities include processing speed, planning skills, reaction time, decision making, and short-term memory. The brain is “plastic” and can continue to grow, develop, and make connections well into our lives, if we continue to challenge it!

Whether you participate in a group program, partner up with a friend, or work independently, it’s important to continuously give your mind different types of challenges and stimulation. Some ideas might include participating in the Bridge Group, Mahjong, or Game Play – it’s great to try things you haven’t done before, as that continues to engage the brain in different ways. Much like our muscles adapt to exercise, our brains adapt to cognitive tasks. 

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

Speech therapy can help with everything from the way we speak and swallow to the way we remember. Mia Fioranelli-Greer is a Speech-Language Pathologist for Functional Pathways and Kirby Pines. She was asked why she chose this field for her career. “When the ‘Dean of Undecided’ at Delta State University told me it was time to declare a major, I slightly panicked. How are you supposed to know what you want to be ‘when you grow up’ at 19 years old? I got busy and took some classes in a variety of fields, one of which was Speech-Language Pathology (SLP). After taking my first class in that field, I knew I had found my calling. Speech-Language Pathology has so many options for ages to treat, disorders to treat and most of all, helping people. As an SLP, you are required to get a master’s degree to be able to use your degree, so after graduating from Delta State University (Cleveland, MS) with a bachelor’s degree, I attended Valdosta State University (Valdosta, GA) and received my master’s degree. 

Mia Fioranelli-Greer
Speech Language Pathologist

After 20 years of working in a variety of settings and with a variety of ages, I started to get a little complacent. I was hungry to learn more and do more as an SLP. I was introduced to Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT). This type of therapy deals more specifically with swallowing, sucking, chewing, eating, breathing, lisps, tongue thrusts and tongue ties. I dove into the course, which took a year, and got my license and credentialing in Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD). The knowledge I have gained during this path of life has really helped me become more passionate about my career and look at new and exciting ways to assess and treat my patients. I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with some great clinicians and wonderful patients and Functional Pathways has allowed me to do so.”

Mia Fioranelli-Greer, M.Ed., CCC-SLP 

For more information on speech therapy and how it can benefit you, please contact the Functional Pathways Therapy Team.

What Exactly is Occupational Therapy

April is Occupational Therapy Month! But what IS Occupational Therapy (OT)? In simple terms, OT teaches you how to adapt. If your ability to perform your everyday responsibilities is ever impacted due to an illness or injury, occupational therapy can help. Those everyday responsibilities may have included going to work in earlier years, but now it may include attending exercise classes, venturing out on the walking trails, or participating in social events like the Lunch Bunch. OT is a branch of skilled therapy that helps people regain independence in all areas of their lives, and helps with barriers that impact a person’s emotional, social, and/or physical needs. So, even if you’re retired, occupational therapy can still be beneficial for you! 

OTs use their knowledge of the structure and function of the human body and the effects of illness and injury to increase your involvement in daily activities. OTs teach individuals how to manage stress and fatigue and prevent re-injury. They are also the experts in home safety and fall prevention and can advise on environmental modifications or improvements. 

During therapy sessions, OTs will also work with the wellness and activities department to determine the best programs after your therapy is completed. This may include specific exercise classes and events, personal training, home exercise programs, or a combination of these services. Therapy partners with other departments to ensure you are engaging in the most appropriate and effective exercises and programming possible. For example, if you were receiving occupational therapy for trouble with grip strength, after being discharged, your therapist may recommend you start attending Pinecone Painters or Hobby Pines Group to continue to challenge and focus on exercising your hand and grip strength. 

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

Music as Medicine

“The world’s most famous and popular language is music.”

Music is medicine. Music has been shown to boost the immune system, reduce stress, build self-confidence, improve learning, enhance physical exercise, reduce blood pressure, decrease heart rate, reduce anxiety, bring back memories, and manage moods, just to name a few of its benefits. Music has also been shown to help improve sleep quality, especially in older adults. 

So, why are there all these positive benefits? Dopamine is released when the brain hears comfortable music (think classical, not heavy metal). The body feels at ease and can begin to relax. We can then connect with positive memories, and we feel more peaceful and engaged with the world. 

I think it’s safe to say that most of us enjoy listening to music, and it’s common to listen to our favorite tunes as we drive, clean the house, or go for a walk. As we just learned, listening to music can have a much bigger impact than just helping to pass the time. 

Here are a few different ways to reap just a few of the benefits of music: 

Listen to New Music.

We tend to listen to the same music, or at least the same genre of music, that we did in our teens and 20s. New music challenges the brain in a way that old music doesn’t. It might not feel pleasurable at first, but unfamiliarity forces the brain to struggle to understand the new sound. Try listening to a different type of music than what you are used to or try listening to music your kids or grandkids enjoy. 

Turn on Ambient Noise for Creativity. 

If you have an important project you are working on or need to boost creativity, try listening to ambient noise (like white noise) instead. This can help to boost creativity. It sounds counterintuitive, but according to a Journal of Consumer Research study, a moderate noise volume makes processing more difficult, which in turn will promote abstract processing, which leads to higher creativity. When we struggle to process our thoughts, we turn to more creative ways to make sense of the world. 

Give Classical Music a Try. 

Classical music can improve visual attention. Studies have shown that those who listened to classical music showed better signs of visual attention than those who listened to white noise or silence. 

Move with the Music. 

Music helps us move. Throw on your favorite tunes the next time you exercise. It can help distract you, drown out any thoughts of fatigue or boredom, and even encourage you to speed up or go a little bit longer. Music clearly has a positive effect on both the brain and the body. You may find the addition of music can have a positive impact on your pain management, motivation, and mental clarity. Our therapy team at Kirby Pines can bring music into your rehabilitation experience. The next time you are sitting or working in silence, turn on your favorite radio station, ask Alexa to “play your favorite song” or pick a playlist from Spotify. There is an endless supply of musical options at your fingertips – take advantage and enjoy! For more information on the benefits of music or to learn more about music therapy and how it can benefit you, please contact the Functional Pathways Therapy Team. 

Where words fail, music speaks.

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

The Heart, Mind, Body Connection

February is, of course, Valentine’s Day! With that, comes chocolate, roses, candy, and all sorts of other heart-themed treats! It seems only fitting that February is also American Heart Month; a time when we can focus on heart healthy lifestyle choices and practices. I think we are all familiar with some of the things we can do to promote heart health – eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight – but did you know that thankfulness has also been shown to help your heart stay healthy?

The connection between our mind and bodies has been the topic of conversation for quite some time, and many forms of exercise, such as Yoga and Meditation, center around that connection. However, there is also a strong connection between the mind and the heart, and this connection has been the subject of recent studies, showing that a healthy heart may lower the risk of dementia and memory loss. Heart disease and dementia share several risk factors, so protecting the heart can also help protect the brain. Thankfulness and positive reactions can help foster heart health. Furthermore, if we can train our brains to turn negative thought processes around and focus on positive ones, we can have a greater positive impact on our heart and mental health.

So, we know thankfulness and gratitude are good for us, but how can we cultivate those positive thoughts? Just like many things, gratitude is a learned behavior, so we can train ourselves to be thankful!

Here are a few ways to start incorporating thankfulness into your lives:

Make it a Habit 

They say it takes 30 days to turn something into a habit. Say “thank you” whenever possible. From the minute you wake up in the morning until you climb back into bed at night, say “thanks” whenever possible. Take notice of all the opportunities to show your gratitude.

Keep a Journal

Create a “Thankfulness Journal” to keep track of all the things you are thankful for. Keeping a written note not only serves as a great reminder to be positive, but it helps reinforce that positivity! And you can choose to keep your journal in an actual journal, or on your smartphone so you can always keep it with you.

Be Present

It is very easy to get lost in “what’s next” and worry about what’s happening next. Instead, try and focus on the present. Enjoy the “now” and be thankful for the little things. Whether you’re enjoying a delicious meal, spending time with loved ones, or enjoying a lovely conversation, focus on being completely present in the moment and appreciate each experience. 

Try incorporating thankfulness into your lifestyle and help support that healthy mind, body, heart connection!

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

Keys to Successful Sleep

Retired couple sleeping

Sleep is an essential function and it’s how our mind and body recharge each day. It’s vital for our health, immune system, and mental function. Without adequate and restful sleep, the brain and body cannot function properly. The average adult requires somewhere between seven and nine hours, however some may function better with slightly more or slightly less sleep. 

Retired man happily wrapped in a blanket

Our internal “clock” regulates the sleep cycle, which controls when you feel tired, as well as when you feel refreshed and alert. This internal clock runs on a 24-hour cycle, commonly known as the circadian rhythm. During this cycle, your body temperature also has a pattern. The temperature pattern tends to peak around late afternoon and hit the lowest point (or when your body is the coolest) around 5 a.m. 

There are a lot of things that can impact a good nights’ sleep, such as stress, screen time, coffee intake, and evening light exposure. One controllable factor that may often be overlooked is temperature. The benefits of sleeping in cooler temps are due to your body’s core temperature. A cooling body temperature induces sleep, and keeping your body cool through the night has been shown to support better sleep patterns. 

Some things you can do to control your sleep temperature settings:

1. Check the thermostat. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep experts recommend keeping the room at 65 degrees. However, not everyone is the same. And, if you are currently sleeping in much warmer temperatures, it is not recommended to make a huge drop suddenly. Slowly decrease the bedroom temperature and see if it has a positive impact on your sleep.

2. Assess your bedding. Consider the type of sheets and blankets you have on the bed. Typically, cotton, bamboo, and linen are the best for keeping you cool. 

3. Pick your pajamas. Before climbing into bed, think about what you are wearing. Flannel pajamas may be super comfortable and cozy, but they are often too warm for sleeping. Consider wearing silk or cotton.

4. Avoid tight clothing. Wearing tight-fitting clothes to sleep will decrease the amount of airflow your body receives throughout the night, which can increase your body temperature. 

5. Use a fan. Fans are a great way to not only keep cool through the night, but they can also provide white noise, which is another great sleep aid. 

If you are struggling with getting enough restful rest at night, consider checking the temperature! While there are many different factors that can impact sleep, temperature is a relatively easy one to fix. Happy sleeping! 

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

Learning to Thrive During the Winter Months

Winter is quickly approaching, and with that comes colder temperatures, the move from outdoor to indoor activities, and the temptation to hibernate until springtime. What if, instead of backsliding on our health and wellness this winter, we THRIVE during these chilly months? Let’s take this opportunity to stay healthy and develop a new habit or two!

Last winter, we were not allowed to do much of anything, thanks to COVID. This winter things are looking a bit more “normal,” but winters still coincide with an increase in other viruses, such as the flu. It’s also a time where we see an increase in depression and a decline in mental health. Let’s look at some ways to keep your health in tip-top shape in the upcoming months. 

1. Wash your hands and sanitize your surroundings.

couple using blender

We have heard this a million times. But sometimes it’s good to have a friendly reminder. Remember to wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds. If you are unable to wash with soap and water, use hand sanitizer.

2. Bulk-up your immune system. 

An important part of staying healthy is keeping your immune system in check. Ways to do this are getting the appropriate vaccinations as needed, eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, getting adequate sleep, and staying active. If you are having a hard time getting enough fruits and vegetables throughout the day, try adding a smoothie! It’s a simple way to pack in a BUNCH of fruits and veggies.

3. Stay Active. 

Staying active will help promote bone and muscle health, improve sleep patterns, and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle. The stronger your body is in general, the stronger it will be to fight off illnesses. You can easily incorporate exercise into your daily routine (if you haven’t done so already) by doing exercises, like chair marches or leg kicks from your chair while you watch your favorite T.V. show.

4. Practice Your Balance! 

It’s important to practice your balance – as they say, “use it or lose it!” Working on your balance daily can help with your ability to catch yourself if you slip on the ice, preventing a potentially serious fall from occurring.

couple reading books

5. Make time to relax. 

This may sound counterintuitive but making time to unwind is just as important as staying active. Being rundown can compromise your immune system and leave you susceptible to viruses and infections. Activities to wind down can include Yoga, meditation, journaling, or reading a book.

6. Make connections. 

This could mean video chatting with your family or having a meal with a loved one. How you spend time and connect with others is up to you, but we are social creatures who NEED those physical connections. In addition, talking to someone else can also help with feelings of loneliness or depression.

three women walking outdoors in autumn

This winter, let’s focus on taking care of ourselves, rather than just “getting by.” Put your mental and physical health first and dive into the colder months head on! 

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

Fall prevention: a balancing act

The number of falls continue to rise in the aging population and some of these falls have serious consequences. Each year, millions of older adults experience a fall. And, according to the CDC, more than one out of every four older adults fall each year, but less than half tell their doctor about it. Skilled Nursing Facilities, Assisted, and Independent Living Communities all struggle to balance safety and the independence of their residents. Seniors value maintaining their freedom of movement around their communities and are frequently adverse to many safety measures that might be put into place to prevent a fall. 

How can you build safety into your life while still maintaining your independence?

Incorporate Exercise into your Daily Routine: Try adding just twenty minutes of progressive strengthening and balance activity into your daily routine. Kirby Pines offers several classes and equipment to stay active. Consider adding a balance and strength class at least two to three times per week to help prevent falls.

Mind Medications: There are many medications that can impact a person’s risk for a fall. Make sure you are aware of what medications you may be taking and how it could impact your balance. For example, sleeping pills and sedatives can cause dizziness, while hypertension medications can cause postural hypotension.

Modify Environment: Look at ways to make the environment you live in as safe as possible. Eliminate area rugs, reduce clutter, ensure clear paths to restroom, use grab bars, and ensure your furniture will not topple over if used to hold on to. 

Use Proper Lighting: Falls commonly occur in the middle of the night when someone gets up to use the restroom and falls because it is dark, and they cannot see properly. An easy solution is to Illuminate the path to the restroom. This can be done with nightlights, toilet lights, or even motion sensor lights.

Select Footwear: Proper footwear is essential in fall prevention. Shoes with a back on them, like tennis shoes, and shoes or socks with tread are recommended. Avoid shoes that you slip into, like clogs or slides, and make sure you shoe fits properly.

Use Recommended Walker or Cane: Assistive devices can be great aids for balance and fall prevention, but it is important that the device is fitted for you, as well as educating yourself on proper form and technique.

Try Our Yoga Class: Yoga can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis, which causes bones to become brittle or weak. It reduces stress and enhances balance, flexibility, mobility and strength. It may also help you get a good nights sleep along with alleviating aches and pains.

Functional Pathways’ Wellness Program and Skilled Therapy services has trained professionals and programs designed for helping Senior Living Communities reduce falls while maintaining seniors’ highest level of independence. 

Pain Management and Massage Therapy

A growing body of research shows massage therapy can be an effective part of pain relief and management. This research data, and the experience of physicians, massage therapists, and patients should encourage pain specialists to consider incorporating massage therapy into their pain management programs. Some base findings about the value of massage therapy for pain relief have included the following:

  1. According to Cherkin, Eisenberg, et. al. in the April 2001 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, massage is effective for providing long-lasting relief for patients suffering from chronic low back pain.
  2. Data collected nearly 10 years ago indicates that therapeutic massage promotes relaxation and alleviates the perception of pain and anxiety in hospitalized cancer patients. Recent studies have confirmed the findings and others indicate positive effects for massage in decreasing pain intensity among cancer patients.
  3. In 1990, Jensen et al. published data indicating that massage was better than cold pack treatment of post-traumatic headaches. The October 2002 issue of the American Journal of Public Health reports that new research by Quinn, Chandler and Moraska showed muscle-specific massage therapy is effective for reducing the incidence of chronic tension headaches.
  4. A pilot study in 2000, conducted by Gregory P. Fontana, MD at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, found that massage reduces pain and muscle spasms in patients who have multiple incisions. When surveyed, 95 percent of patients felt that massage therapy was a crucial part of their hospital experience, while need for medications dropped on the days, they received a massage.

The effectiveness of massage lies in a simple and direct strategy: working from the external, outer mechanisms of pain to the primary, root cause. Massage therapists utilize a holistic approach, focusing on the entire body system and its relationship to soft tissue — their care is not focused pain site specific.

Another benefit of massage therapy — from a patient perspective — is that it helps patients become more aware of their bodies and better familiarize them with the pain they experience. The massage therapist not only helps relieve muscle and other soft tissue pain, but also has an impact on the patient by virtue of human touch. This is especially pronounced for women facing mastectomies and dealing with the outcomes of that surgery. While women directly benefit from various forms of massage that focus on lymph drainage and muscle pain, massage also helps them feel comfortable once again with their bodies, improves their confidence and allows them to better deal with pain.

Although more research is needed to confirm the optimal uses of massage, the potential for a positive impact on patients with acute or chronic pain is clear. As it stands, enough research exists to encourage pain management specialists and massage therapists to forge professional relationships. These pain management relationships should exist in the hospital, in clinics, in private practice offices and in-home care. 

Nutrition Education For Diabetes

couple buying healthy food

Are you over the age of 65 and have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes? If yes, you should implement modifications to your diet daily to decrease its effect on your body. Even minor dietary changes can help in reducing your diabetes risk.

The first step in the prevention is to understand how today’s food choices can impact your blood sugar and metabolism. Foods should not be classified as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but on the types and amount of food you are consuming. Sometimes we take in certain foods in excess, foods that should only be thought of as “sometimes” foods. “Sometimes” foods and beverages are highly processed, refined, and sugary. You should limit these types of foods and only consume them for occasional enjoyment. Eating foods such as vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins with the occasional splurge of “sometimes” foods can help you understand how foods affect blood sugar levels

The Facts

  • Almost 1/3 of adults over the age of 65 in the U.S. have diabetes, with 50% of that 1/3 being undiagnosed.
  • An additional 1/3 of adults have pre-diabetes.
  • Aging adults are especially at risk for poor nutrition caused by bad eating habits, loss of appetite, and decreased access to healthy foods because of time, money, or limited mobility.
  • The best way to manage diabetes is to self-manage.

Diabetes To Do List

  • Start by having a conversation with your physician to learn everything you can about diabetes and preparing a diet that will control your blood sugar.
  • Talk with your community Dietitian to review your current dietary choices and set-up a meal planning process.
  • Plan every meal the day or two before.
  • Ensure that your planned meal fits into your nutritional goals.
  • Try not to make last-minute meal choices that do not include the goals you have set for yourself.
  • Make one or two dietary modifications and set obtainable goals for yourself. An example might be to stop eating cookies or cake unless it’s a special occasion.
  • Review your goals regularly with your physician and community Dietitian and add new goals as you attain the ones you have set.
  • Ensure you are taking care of your feet and skin:
  • Inspect your feet every day. Look for cuts, blisters, calluses, red spots, swelling, or any other abnormal issues. Use a mirror to see the bottoms of your feet. If you have difficulty seeing all areas of your feet, ask for assistance from staff or family.
  1. Protect your feet by washing them every day. Use a mild soap with warm water and thoroughly dry. Use lotion instead of powder to keep the skin smooth and moisturized to prevent cracks or fissures. Avoid the use of lotions between toes; It can create a moist breeding ground for bacteria and lead to wounds that are difficult to heal.
  2. Prevent elevated blood sugars, which can lead to a loss of sensation to your feet, leading to uncared for wounds. Report any findings of abnormalities immediately to your health care provider.

Healthy Foods to Control Your Blood Sugar

  • Almonds
  • Beans
  • Citrus Fruit
  • Fish and Shellfish
  • Oat Bran
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Kale
  • Peanut Butter
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Eggs
  • Lentils
  • Yogurt
healthy food