Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Cohabitating with a Friend or Lover? How to Have a Better Roommate Experience!

There are a number of reasons why an adult may decide to have a roommate or romantic partner move in with them. They may be in love and want to share their life with someone.  They may be worried about how to pay their monthly bills, especially after the loss of a spouse due to divorce or death. They might not wish to live alone, or wonder if they will be able to afford their house payments, rent, homeowner's association dues, utilities and other expenses on a single income.  Financial reasons, such as the risk of losing alimony or Social Security payments, may prevent them from deciding to get married, but they would still like to have a companion and the financial security of having someone to carry part of the financial burden.

House sharing has become a popular option among Baby Boomers and older retirees, particularly women.  According to AARP, approximately four million women over the age of 50 live in a home with at least one other woman in the same age group.  In 2010, it was estimated that 2.75 million senior couples were cohabitating, or living together in a romantic relationship without being married.  Regardless of why you are living with another adult, there are many advantages to the arrangement, and certain pitfalls you will want to avoid. 

Before we get into specifics, you may want to consider purchasing the book "Roommate Agreement: Designed to Assist You with Roommate Agreements to Make Life more Manageable." (Amazon link)  They describe it this way: "A Roommate Agreement journal is a place to record and keep track of the terms and conditions agreed upon by all roommates, as well as any updates or changes to the agreement. By regularly reviewing and updating the journal, roommates can ensure that their living arrangement is harmonious and fair for everyone involved." 

Of course, simply having a form to follow is not enough.  You also need to think about the specific things you want to be sure to include in your agreement.  

Advantages of Senior Roommates

When people decide to enter a house sharing arrangement, they can both benefit in several ways. It's important to keep these advantages in mind as you put your agreement in writing.

*  Financially, people supporting themselves on fixed incomes can live more comfortably if they share the cost of housing, utilities and other expenses.

*  The added security of having another person in the home can be one more advantage of having a roommate.  I know of a fireman who is frequently away from his home for days at a time when he is on duty.  As a result, he invited a police officer who works a regular schedule to be his roommate.  It helped them both out financially, and provided extra security when the fireman was on duty.

*  Socialization is an additional reason for finding a roommate.  It is easy for people to become isolated, lonely and depressed as they age.  People who live with an amicable friend or romantic partner will always have someone to talk to, eat with, and do other things with each other ... such as attending movies or traveling.

Is Having a Roommate Right for You?

Not everyone actually wants to have a another person living with them all the time.  You need to know yourself, and evaluate the home you will be sharing.  Will you have enough personal, private space?  Are you flexible?  Do you have a lot of allergies, health problems or food preferences which could make it difficult for you to live with other people? Before you even consider inviting another person into your home, you need to see if you, and they, are suitable for sharing a home.

What Guidelines Need to be Put in Writing?

If you are planning to live with another person, it may go better if the two of you put your expectations in writing and discuss them first.  Below are some issues your agreement may need to cover:

*  Decide in advance specifically how the expenses will be shared.  Will one person be the landlord and the other the tenant, or will everything be split right down the middle?  If that is the case, make sure you list all the expenses involved in living in the home, including utilities, insurance, homeowner's dues, taxes, lawn mowing, a house cleaner, etc. 

*  If this is a landlord / tenant agreement, you should order  "Room Rental Lease Agreement Forms Book," (Amazon link) so you can put your lease in writing. Many people rent out a room in their home, and they need a formal agreement to make that a successful arrangement which spells out the expectations. 

*  If this is a roommate situation, decide who will perform which household tasks and how often ... cleaning, cooking, dishes, yard work, pet care, etc.  If you plan to hire someone to handle some of those chores, reach an agreement on how that cost will be shared. 

*  Decide if the two of you are going to cook and eat together or if you will each be responsible for your own meals, purchasing your own food, preparing it, and cleaning up afterwards.

*  Reach an agreement about pets ... if they are allowed, what kind, how large, where they will be kept, etc.

*  Discuss adult children and grandchildren with each other.  You need to agree in advance whether or not they will be allowed to spend the night, how often, where they will sleep, and any concerns which either of you have.  I have known of couples who grew irritated when the adult children seemed to be around too often, walked into the home without calling in advance, helped themselves to food in the refrigerator, etc.  These familiarities should be dealt with before someone moves into a friend's home.

*  Discuss the same issues which could arise with friends and occasional visitors. Will they will be allowed to spend the night? How often will friends be able to just "hang out."  How often can each of you plan to entertain your friends in a book club, bridge group, or other social circle? If you do not want to be friends will all of your roommate's friends, you need to discuss that in advance.

*  If you are two casual friends who are living together, and not a romantic couple, be sure to discuss dating and whether your dates will be allowed to come for dinner, hang out in the home, or spend the night.  This could become very awkward.

*  Your agreement should cover personal habits such as smoking, drinking, drug use or any other behaviors which someone else might consider offensive.  Even allergies, such as an allergy to candles, perfumes, or certain products, should be discussed in advance.

*  If either of you have strong religious or political opinions which could be the source of arguments, you should consider whether that could be a problem if you decide to live with this person.  Be sure that neither person believes that eventually "the other person can be persuaded to change their opinions." 

*  Discuss other expectations you both may have such as entertaining friends, relying on each other to do the shopping, what time the house should be quiet, using earphones to watch TV, when you could each practice playing your musical instruments, etc.  If one person likes quiet and the other wants to play loud music or have frequent parties, will this cause friction?  If one person likes an evening cocktail, and the other person doesn't, will that be a problem?

*  Discuss healthcare preferences with each other, in the event of a medical emergency. You should know the name of each other's primary care doctor, the type of health insurance they have, medical conditions, etc.  Also make sure you both have contact information for relatives, employers, lawyers or other people who would need to be contacted in the event of an accident, death or serious illness.

* Decisions need to be made in advance regarding what will happen if one of the housemates becomes too ill or weak to continue to participate in an independent living arrangement.  If you are co-owners or both on a lease and one of the parties must enter a nursing home, what will happen? What is everyone's "Plan B?"

* Both parties need to have a clear will and trust, especially if this is a romantic relationship.  Both people need to know if any provisions will be made for them if one of the parties dies.  If you are the owner of a property, and have a romantic partner living with you, do you want that person to be able to remain in the home if you die first?  Do you want to make any other financial provisions for them?  This should be worked out long before the need arises, and adult children should be informed about whatever you decide, so they are prepared to go along with that decision. 

As you can see, there are a large number of issues to consider before you decide if you and another person should live together.  Everything should be put in writing after you have talked about it.  This will reduce confusion about what you both agreed to.  This will also make it easier for your adult children to know your plans.

House Sharing Websites

If you are interested in senior shared housing, you will want to do additional research.  Here are a few websites which can help you locate roommates.  I have not used any of them myself in order to find a roommate, but these are the sites which were specifically mentioned by AARP in an article:

In addition, if you are considering a home sharing arrangement with strangers or casual acquaintances, I strongly suggest that you proceed extremely cautiously, ask for personal references and get a background check.  You want to have as much information as possible about the people with whom you will be sharing a home.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

TIA Ministrokes Can Lead to a Major Stroke! Pay Attention to the Symptoms

Three years before he died, my husband had a major stroke while playing golf.  He was rushed to the hospital, treated quickly, and had minimal lasting effects from it.  However, we did not realize at the time that this would be the beginning of many more such events. Over the next few years, he suffered through a number of mini-strokes or TIAs.  In his case, they often took the form of losing his vision in one eye for a few minutes.  Because of other medical problems he had, the doctors were limited in the ways they could treat him, and they could not put him on blood thinners. After one of his mini-strokes, a year after that first major one, a surgeon cleared out his right carotid artery, although that was a dangerous surgery for my husband.

Meanwhile, all we could do was keep track of his blood pressure, limit the salt in his diet, and try to minimize the frequency of these mini-strokes.  We also attempted to learn everything we could about these small strokes.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), often referred to as a "ministroke," is a medical condition that demands immediate attention and understanding. While it may seem less severe than a full-blown stroke, TIAs should not be taken lightly. Let's explore what a TIA is, its symptoms, causes, and available treatments.

What is a TIA (Ministroke)?

A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), commonly called a "ministroke," occurs when there is a temporary disruption of blood flow to a part of the brain. Unlike a full-blown stroke, which frequently causes permanent brain damage, a TIA usually resolves itself within minutes to hours, leaving no lasting damage. Sometimes, people do not even realize they have had one. However, it is essential to recognize them, as they can often be a warning that a more severe stroke may be imminent.  Looking back, I have often wondered if we missed the signs of mini-strokes which might have occurred before my husband's major stroke.  He often complained of headaches, visions problems, and vertigo.  Could that have been the beginning?  I'll never know.

Symptoms of TIA

The symptoms of a TIA are similar to those of a stroke but are temporary and typically last for a short period, usually less than 24 hours. Common TIA symptoms include:

Sudden Weakness or Numbness: This may affect the face, arm, or leg, often on one side of the body.

Difficulty Speaking or Understanding Speech: TIAs can cause slurred speech or difficulty in finding the right words.

Loss of Coordination or Balance: Patients may experience unsteadiness or difficulty in walking.

Vision Problems: Blurred or double vision, sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, or difficulty seeing clearly may occur.

Severe Headache: A sudden, severe headache might develop in some cases.

My husband suffered from all four of the above symptoms, and they would happen suddenly, without warning.  Often they happened when we were simply relaxing, watching television together.  At other times, they happened when he was pushing himself to use his walker to get into a doctor's office.  Those events sometimes caused him to fall. 

If someone you love has had a stroke, there are ways you can help with their recovery.  To learn how, please read the book "Hope After Stroke."  It could improve their life ... and yours! (Ad)

Causes of TIA

The root cause of a TIA is a temporary disruption in blood flow to the brain, usually caused by one of the following factors:

Atherosclerosis: The buildup of fatty deposits (plaques) in the arteries can lead to narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the brain. This is what they believed was causing the mini-strokes which my husband experienced. 

Blood Clots: A blood clot can form and temporarily block an artery in the brain.

Emboli: Small clots or debris from elsewhere in the body can travel to the brain and block a blood vessel.

Vasospasm: Spasms in blood vessels can constrict and temporarily reduce blood flow to the brain.

Cardiovascular Conditions: Conditions like atrial fibrillation, heart valve disorders, and heart infections can increase the risk of blood clots, which can lead to TIAs.

If you think you or your loved one is at risk of a stroke, read the book "You Can Prevent a Stroke." (Ad) You want to do everything you can to prevent them.  A stroke not only makes life more difficult for the patient, but also for their caregivers.

Treatment and Prevention

Prompt medical attention is crucial when experiencing any type of stroke symptoms, including TIA symptoms. Even though the symptoms may resolve on their own, the underlying causes need to be addressed to prevent a full-blown stroke. Treatment options include:

Medications: Doctors may prescribe anti-platelet drugs (e.g., aspirin) or anticoagulants (blood thinners) to reduce the risk of blood clots.

Surgery: In some cases, surgical procedures such as carotid endarterectomy (to remove plaque from the carotid artery) or angioplasty (to open narrowed arteries) may be recommended.

Lifestyle Changes: 

Patients are often advised to make lifestyle changes such quitting smoking, adopting a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Medication for Underlying Conditions: Treating underlying conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol can help reduce the risk of future TIAs.


While TIA symptoms may be temporary, they should not be ignored. TIAs serve as crucial warning signs for potential future strokes, which can be debilitating or fatal. Seeking immediate medical attention, understanding the underlying causes, and adopting preventive measures can greatly reduce the risk of experiencing a full-blown stroke. In the face of TIA symptoms, quick action can make all the difference in preserving your health and well-being.  

Check out the sources at the end of this article to learn more about ministrokes.  In addition, talk to your health care provider about any symptoms you may have, no matter how minor they may be.

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Mayo Clinic: The Mayo Clinic website provides comprehensive and up-to-date information on TIA symptoms, causes, and treatment. You can find information at

American Stroke Association: The American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, offers valuable resources on strokes and TIAs. Visit their website at

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS): NINDS, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), provides detailed information on TIAs and related research. You can explore their content at

WebMD: WebMD is a reputable health information website that covers a wide range of medical topics, including TIAs. Their page on TIAs can be found here.

You Can Also Learn More from Your Healthcare Provider: Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional or neurologist for personalized information and guidance regarding your specific health condition and any recent developments in the field of stroke and TIA management.

Please verify the most current information from these sources or consult with a healthcare provider for the latest updates on TIA symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

If you are interested in learning more about saving money, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Monday, April 15, 2024

Expand Your Home and Welcome Family Members


With the high cost of housing in much of the United States (as well as other countries), many people are looking for ways to accommodate more family members in their existing properties.  Whether your new college graduate has returned home (but unhappy living in their childhood bedroom), or your aging parents are no longer able to live on their own, you may be wondering how you can find a way for multiple generations to live happily together in one house.  

There are many more choices available today than in the past.  In fact, some home builders are building new homes which contain a private apartment with a separate entrance for other additional relatives. I have a friend who moved into her own separate apartment in her adult daughter's home, and it has worked out well. She loves having a separate life, while being close to her daughter and grandchildren. However, if you do not want to sell your current home and move to a new location, how can you make the best use of the home and property you currently own?  Here are some ideas to get you started.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

Many cities have now altered their zoning laws to allow people to build an accessory dwelling unit on a single family lot.  This has resulted in a new industry of "tiny homes" which even be purchased on sites like Amazon or from companies like Home Depot, although you have to arrange to have someone pour a slab or build a foundation, in advance, and then finish out the interior.  

Some people who are skilled at do-it-yourself work, can finish out the structures on their own.  However, most of us will need to hire a contractor to finish these buildings, including hooking up the plumbing and electricity.  

These small, backyard homes, sometimes called "granny flats" can be the perfect solution for a young adult who has returned home, or for an older family member who wants to live close to the family, but cannot afford to buy a home in the same neighborhood.  Depending on the size and amenities, they can be built and finished for about $60,000 to $250,000.

Creating a Guest Suite Inside Your Current Home

If you do not have a backyard large enough to accommodate an additional housing unit, you may be able to carve out an apartment inside your existing home.  For example, do you have an unused bedroom, dining room or formal living room next to a bedroom with a bath?  With a little redesigning, you could convert this combination into a nice little private apartment inside your current home.  Add a separate entrance and a little kitchenette, and everyone could have both the independence and the privacy they want, at an affordable price.  Many such conversions can be done for under $25,000 to $30,000, depending on how elaborate they are. 

Garage Conversions into Housing Units

If your zoning laws permit it, you may be able to convert a garage into a secondary housing unit.  This is more likely to be allowed if the garage is detached.  However, in some circumstances, even an attached garage might be converted into a cozy 300 sq. foot apartment for a family member.  Since a garage already has easy access to electricity, and plumbing is probably not too far away, the conversion could be less complicated than building an entirely new building.  The amount you spend depends on the current condition of the garage, and how fancy you wish to make it.  However, it can be a convenient way to accommodate additional family members. 

Basement Conversions

Even when I was a young woman living in the Midwest in the 1960s and 1970s, many parents set up space in their finished basement for an adult child to have their own space.  This choice is better suited to young adults, because of the stairs.  However, a healthy older person might also be able to navigate a staircase.  If the basement has an outdoor entrance, this can be particularly appealing, since it will allow for them to come and go, or entertain friends, without the need to walk through the main living area upstairs.  This is a great solution for a young adult who is just starting out and trying to save money for their own place.  In addition, many families have already finished out at least part of their basement, plus the electricity and plumbing is already available, and it may take very little effort to turn the space into a cozy apartment. 

Get Professional Design and Construction Help

Once you realize that it is possible to carve out some unused space within your home, garage, basement, or backyard for a separate apartment or housing unit, it is smart to get some professional help.  You will want to maximize the space, give everyone a sense of privacy, and make sure the new housing unit has safety features, especially if it is going to accommodate someone who is aging.  Ask about things like grab bars in the shower, or a walk-in bathtub.  You may want to have an intercom system between the two housing units, or a fall alert system.  The safer the new housing unit is, the more comfortable everyone will be. 

Include Study Area or Workspace

In addition to making sure that your new living quarters have space for cooking, eating, sleeping and watching television, make sure it also includes a small office space for studying or working.  Many people are able to work from home today.  Even if they do not officially work at home, almost everyone needs access to WiFi and plenty of electrical outlets for their computer and charging all their electronic devices. Whether the space is intended for a young adult starting out in life, or a senior citizen, it is important to make sure their living quarters have everything they need, including a workspace.  If you can accommodate a favorite hobby, or space for plants, a pet, or other activities, they will be even happier and more comfortable during the time they live there.

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Friday, March 29, 2024

Dangerous Healthcare Aide Shortages in Private Homes and Skilled Nursing Homes

 About two years before my husband died of kidney disease, he reached the point in his health decline where we decided to hire an aide to help him.  It took four tries before we found an aide who met our needs and our schedule ... someone who could take care of my husband's personal needs, and also drive him to his many medical appointments.  One of the reasons it was so difficult was because there is such a serious shortage of healthcare aides, not just in our area but across the country. 

The demand for healthcare services has risen as the population has gotten older and healthcare needs have become more complex. This has resulted in a shortage of healthcare aides in both homecare settings and skilled nursing facilities. The problem has become so severe that a June, 2022 survey of 759 nursing home providers by the American Health Care Association showed that 60% of them have had to limit new admissions because of staffing shortages. They are competing against companies such as fast food restaurants, and stores like Target and Walmart for the same pool of employees.  It is hard to attract employees because many young people would rather not work with the sick, elderly and dying.

This is especially unfortunate because healthcare aides play a vital role in providing essential care and support to individuals with physical or cognitive limitations.  This is a serious problem for people who do not have a spouse or other relative who is able to help care for them.  I do not think I could have handled all my husband's physical needs without our aide.  Many other sick and elderly caregivers feel the same way.  What is causing this shortage of healthcare aides, and what are some of the possible solutions?

Causes of Healthcare Aide Shortages: 

Aging Population: The aging population is the major reason for our shortage of healthcare aides. We simply do not have enough young people to handle all the jobs expected of them, and most of them prefer to go into better paying occupations when they can. At the same time, Americans are living longer and the demand for long-term care services, including home care and skilled nursing facilities, has increased significantly. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to reach 98 million by 2060, nearly doubling the current 2024 population in this age group. 

High Turnover Rates: The healthcare aide profession often experiences high turnover rates. Factors such as physically demanding work, low wages, and limited career advancement opportunities contribute to this issue. Many healthcare aides find it challenging to sustain their careers over the long term, leading to increased vacancies and understaffing.  I understand this problem.  Our current aide works for us five hours a day, three to four days a week, but he also works nights several times a week in a skilled nursing facility.  He is forty years old.  How long will he be able to maintain a schedule like that?  If a better opportunity becomes available to him, he is certain to take it. 

Inadequate Training and Education: Inadequate training programs and limited educational opportunities also contribute to healthcare aide shortages. The lack of standardized training programs in different regions of the country reduces the availability of qualified healthcare aides.  Many people do not want to pay to take the necessary basic classes to become a healthcare aide, when they can start work immediately at a department store or fast food restaurant without spending their own money to get trained.

The Emotional Toll on Caregivers: When my husband died, our caregiver told one of our daughters that he did not think he could ever take on another private patient.  In the nearly two years that he worked with my husband, they had become very attached to each other. He would take my husband to Starbucks for a treat.  Sometimes, he would take him for a drive along the beach.  Our caregiver lost more than a part-time job when my husband died.  He lost a friend.  It was as devastating for him as it was for our family.

As a result of these problems, some people resort to hiring poorly trained or untrained aides, often just an unemployed friend who knows nothing about caregiving.  This may be OK if the patient only needs someone to watch over them, help them dress, or fix their lunch.  However, in an emergency, you need to be certain they will know what to do.  You need to be sure they know CPR, how to take someone's blood pressure, keep track of medications, bath them, keep the patient from falling, be able to transfer them to a wheelchair, and when to call 9-1-1 when something seems wrong.  For that, you need a trained healthcare aide, and they can be difficult to find.

Consequences of Healthcare Aide Shortages: 

Decreased Quality of Care: The national shortage of healthcare aides can result in a lower quality of care for patients who need assistance, either at home or in a skilled nursing facility. With inadequate staffing levels, healthcare providers such as skilled nursing homes may struggle to meet the needs of their patients or residents, leading to compromised care and reduced patient satisfaction. While my husband has me, our daughters, and his aide to provide him with the care he needs, skilled nursing homes may have one aide who works with several different people.  When they are short-handed, or a caregiver becomes ill and cannot show up to work, it creates a problem for all these patients.

Increased Workload for Existing Staff: Staff shortages place an additional burden on the existing healthcare aides and other staff members, leading to increased workload and stress. Overworked healthcare providers may become more prone to burnout, potentially compromising their own well-being and job performance. They may also be more likely to leave their jobs, which will only make the staff shortages worse.

Higher Healthcare Costs: The shortage of healthcare aides may eventually drive up healthcare costs, because the higher demand for services can result in higher costs for both home care and skilled nursing services as they both compete for the same workers. This can increase the financial strain on individuals, families, and the healthcare system as a whole. 

Potential Solutions

Increased Training Opportunities: One way to solve this problem is by expanding affordable, convenient training programs for healthcare aides. State and federal governments and healthcare organizations should work together to develop standardized training programs and increase funding for education in this field so that the necessary training is free and easy to obtain. Then, people who are interested in becoming healthcare aides can learn the skills they need to meet the growing demand.  

Improved Pay and Benefits: Offering competitive wages and benefits to healthcare aides would enhance their job satisfaction and help keep them working in the field. Adequate pay would attract more people to pursue careers in this field and encourage the existing healthcare aides to stay in their jobs. In addition, skilled nursing facilities need to provide opportunities for career advancement, such as helping their workers obtain more education and specialized certifications, including working towards becoming vocational nurses.  This would make the aides more useful to the facilities where they work, and help ease shortages in other healthcare positions. 

Seek Young, Healthy Immigrants Who are Interested in Healthcare Careers:  Another option is to recruit immigrants from other countries who are interested in being trained and working in this field. Currently, 28% of U.S. doctors and surgeons, and 24% of U.S. nurses and home health aides are immigrants.  This number may need to be expanded in order to provide enough caregivers for our aging population.  We may need to actively solicit and recruit caregivers in foreign countries. Our caregiver was from the Philippines, and he was very compassionate and good at his job.

Utilizing Technology and Automation: Although many Baby Boomers and older Americans will groan and resist this suggestion, it could be helpful if more healthcare facilities and patients would embrace technological advances, such as assistive devices and remote monitoring systems.  Automation can streamline many tasks, and allow healthcare aides to focus more on direct patient care. 

Using technology in homes and skilled nursing facilities would also increase efficiency and improve the quality of the care provided, potentially reducing the need for additional staffing.  One example of this is giving patients a fall monitor they can wear.  My husband wore one whenever I left the house if he was going to be left home alone.  I would be alerted if he fell, and the device automatically would call 9-1-1, unless he was conscious and pushed a button to stop the alarm. This brought us both peace of mind. 

Other types of technology include using Tiles or Apple tags on the belongings of senior citizens, so they can quickly be found if they wander away from their home or skilled nursing facility.  Door alarms can also notify workers if an outside door is opened unexpectedly.   Technology can make it easier for a senior citizen to be taken care of at home, or for one healthcare aide to supervise more patients in a facility at the same time.

By implementing these potential solutions, we can ensure adequate staffing levels, enhance the quality of care provided, and meet the growing healthcare needs of our aging population. 

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive one weekly email containing the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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U.S. Census Bureau. (2018). Older People Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). The Burden of Chronic Diseases and Their Risk Factors: National and State Perspectives. 
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Buerhaus, P. I., et al. (2020). The U.S. Nursing Workforce: Trends in Supply and Education. Health Affairs, 39(8), 1345–1352.
Stimpfel, A. W., et al. (2019). A Multistate Examination of Nurse Staffing Levels, Nurse Workforce Composition, and Hospital-Acquired Conditions. Medical Care, 57(5), 372–379.
Hsiao, C. J., et al. (2014). Costs Associated with Health Care–Associated Infections in Veterans Affairs Hospitals. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(5), 770–776.
Institute of Medicine. (2011). The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. National Academies Press.
Stone, R. (2019). Expanding and Strengthening the Direct Care Workforce for the Elder Boom. Journal of Aging & Social Policy, 31(5), 430–450.
Hwang, J., et al. (2019). The Benefits of Health Information Exchange: An Updated Systematic Review. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 26(10), 1087–1092.
Applebaum, R., et al. (2012). Nurse Burnout and Patient Safety Outcomes: Nurse Safety Perceptions Matter. American Journal of Infection Control, 40(6), 596–603.
Oldenburg, Ann (2022) Worker Shortage Crisis Hits Home, AARP Bulletin, November 2022

Friday, March 15, 2024

How to Research Health Symptoms and Treatments

You may want to research a knee replacement
or other medical problem you have.

Whenever our doctors tell my husband or me about a new health problem, the first thing we do is ask the doctor to give us as much information about it as possible. However, in a short office visit, we are limited in the amount of time they can spend with us, and we do not always remember everything they tell us.  Occasionally, they will have a brochure which contains additional information.  

In most cases, we leave the doctor's office unsatisfied with what we have learned.  That's when we turn to the internet.  Unfortunately, the internet is full of both correct and incorrect information about nearly every health condition imaginable.  Relying solely on the internet is a little like relying solely on your GPS, and ending up driving into a river or lake.  Sometimes the information you get on the internet is wrong, and it can even kill you!

Finding Reputable Medical Sources

The AARP Bulletin in May, 2020 listed several sources that are reliable and based on documented research and medical standards.  These include:

National Institute on Aging at

American Geriatric Society at

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

National Institutes of Health at

American Academy of Family Physicians at

Mayo Clinic at

I have also found it useful to use the website from the hospital or doctor's practice in my HMO.  This is especially important if I want to know what to expect when they treat my illness.  This is where I can find answers to questions such as the types of treatment I can expect, how long the treatment will take, and the normal length of hospital stays and physical therapy.  At the very least, the sites are a good place to start when asking specific questions of my doctor. 

In addition to the other sites mentioned above, I also like to review medical information at:

WebMD at

The Cleveland Clinic at

You will also want to check the information on the national organizations for your particular health problem, such as the National Kidney Foundation or the American Heart Association.  These websites often contain the most current information about their particular health topic, including recently approved medications.

When You Should Be Skeptical of So-Called Medical Sites

When it comes to researching health symptoms and treatments, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it's important to understand that not all sources of information are created equal. Some sources may be more reliable and trustworthy than others, and it's crucial to be able to differentiate between the two.

If you type the name of your illness or your symptoms into a search engine, the top searches will be for sponsored or advertised sites.  The companies have paid large amounts of money to be placed at the top of your search page.  They may represent an advocacy group which is pushing a particular agenda.  They may be promoting products or treatments which are dangerous, risky or not backed by scientific research.  It is far better to rely on trustworthy sources and avoid these questionable sites.

Another factor to consider is the funding source of the research. Some studies may be funded by companies or organizations with a vested interest in the outcome, which could bias the results. It's important to be aware of any potential conflicts of interest and to look for studies which are independently funded.

How to Find Trustworthy Medical Sites

One of the most important things you can do when researching health symptoms and treatments is to consult reputable sources of information. This might include medical journals, academic studies, and professional medical organizations. These sources are likely to provide accurate, up-to-date information on the latest research and best practices in the field.

Not all websites or articles are created equal, and some may contain misleading or false information. When evaluating a source, consider the author's credentials, the date of publication, and whether the information is based on scientific evidence.

One of the best places to start your research is with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH is the largest biomedical research agency in the world, and it is responsible for funding and conducting research on a wide range of health topics. Their website, PubMed, is a database of more than 32 million citations for biomedical literature, making it an excellent resource for finding scholarly articles and studies on various health conditions and treatments. PubMed is a free resource and can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

Another great resource is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is a national public health institute that is dedicated to protecting and promoting public health in the United States. Their website is a wealth of information on a variety of health topics, including infectious diseases, chronic conditions, and injury prevention. The CDC also provides guidance on vaccines, screenings, and other preventive measures.

What Medical Treatment is Right for You?

When researching health symptoms and treatments, it's important to keep in mind that not all treatments will work for everyone. The effectiveness of a treatment can depend on a variety of factors, including the individual's age, overall health, and medical history. It's also important to note that some treatments may have side effects or risks, which should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

The "miracle" drug or treatment you read about online might not work for you.  Nearly all drugs and treatments have side effects, and your other medical problems may cause them to be too dangerous for you.  The older you are, the more likely this is to be true.  

Your Doctor is an Excellent Resource

Finally, after getting a diagnosis and doing your research, reach out to your doctor.  Make a list of questions you have and get answers from the person who will actually be treating you for your health problem.  Sample questions might include:

How will my condition be treated?
If that treatment doesn't work, what others might be tried?
Should I consider applying to be in a trial?
Is there a reason why alternative treatments are not being considered?
What can I do to improve my outcome ... diet, supplements, exercise programs, etc?

By the time you have done your research and received answers to you questions, you should have a good idea what to expect in the coming weeks and months while dealing with a new health diagnosis.

Sometimes, no matter what you learn and how much information you get, you are still frustrated with your health problems.  It is OK to feel disappointed when you think your body has let you down.  

Try to fight back with a positive attitude.  Get counseling if necessary.  Sign up for meditation or yoga classes.  Practice deep breathing.  All these things will help you get through the hard days.

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Photo credits: Knee x-ray and the author's Etsy store.


National Institutes of Health. (2021). PubMed.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). About CDC.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021). Finding and Evaluating Online Resources.

AARP Bulletin, May 2023, "Health research Safety Tips"