By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
History taking is an essential tool for physicians to make a diagnosis; they would go into your current physical conditions, the onset of symptoms, your working environment and genetic background if appropriate. All of you have this experience with your own doctor. Therefore, during a doctor’s visit, you will find out your health status. What I am going to present to you this week are questions on the five topics that could allow you to do an examination of your health status. Hopefully by questioning yourself on these five topics, you would be able to identify possible health needs and seek advice from your primary care providers. These are simple questions but are evidence based. In another word, there are scientific data behind these questions. I got these questions from friend sharing this simple tool. They were meant for seniors 60 and over. But I thought even the younger folks could benefit from these simple questions: Here you go:
- Bathing: Most of us usually take daily bath. Some physicians noted that seniors who had health issues were taking baths less and less. The reason behind this change in behavior is the fear of slipping or falling during a bath. With aging, their balance and muscle strength are weakening. Therefore if you notice that the seniors in your house are taking less baths, pay attention to the possible risk of falls. Perhaps address the environmental safety of the bathroom set up.
- Appetite: this is a very common signal of onset of illness. When you notice that it is harder and harder to eat your meal, you might want to examine the cause. Do you have an underlying condition that affects your food intake? Do you have problem swallowing? Or do you have dental issues that impact on your chewing and texture of the food? Your baseline should be enjoying 3 meals and maintain an appropriate weight for your age.
- Constipation/incontinency: being regular with your bowel indicates good health. Do you have digestive issues that affect your metabolism of food? I remember being put on one week of steroid therapy for possible inflammation of the shoulder. Within 24 hours I became constipated. That was from the steroid medication. Other reasons could signal gastrointestinal or digestive issues. So if you have a change in your bowel habit, you need to pay attention and find the root cause. Urinary incontinency for seniors might imply many problems; enlarged prostate gland for male, weak bladder, kidney problem or even dementia. Time to make an appointment with your primary care provider!
- Exercise: maintaining an exercise routine is part of healthy living. If you find yourself doing less exercise due to fatigue or decrease in muscle strength, you might need to identify if this is a health problem. A healthy regimen for most of us should include exercise activities.
- Sleep: within the last 20 years, there were focused attentions on how sleep improved our bodily functions. Data suggested that during sleep our hormonal systems are regulated, we are physically re-charged with energy, and our mind seems to be refreshed with a good night sleep. There are still many unknown benefits that researchers are finding. To me, it is a no brainer that insomnia is harmful to your health; as an example, think about not able to concentrate if you drive, if it also indicative of your mental status as well. When I am stressed, my quality of sleep is the first to be affected.
To summarize: bathing, appetite, constipation/incontinency, exercise, and sleep are pretty good indexes of your health. These are simple, every day activities. If our body is working, these daily functions should not be affected. Nothing is going to replace the annual physical exam from your physician. This little self-examination exercise is just your starter to pay attention to your body.
Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: examine the above 5 functions and see if you are okay?
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