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The face of COVID-19 has changed much of the world we know, and as people across the city look to adjust to the many new normals, Chattanooga is home to a host of great professionals to that are ready to help, whatever the need.

As aging loved ones are among some of the most vulnerable during this time, their care cannot go overlooked. The ability to walk is vital to our sense of self-reliance, but age inevitably affects our mobility and makes most activities of daily living more challenging to perform. Unable to get around as well as they did for most of their lives, seniors can start to feel isolated and depressed, but the good news is that they do have options to restore quality of life.

Kenny Higdon, owner of 5 Star Home Care, said that with a helping hand, a senior can continue normal daily routines to some extent.  His company offers professional, comprehensive home care to people who need help performing such day-to-day activities as bathing, dressing, doing laundry, light housekeeping, meal preparation, and transportation. 5 Star helps seniors with mobility issues, as well as those of all ages who are living with a disability or recovering from an injury or illness.

Experts say mobility problems are defined as trouble climbing 10 steps or walking a quarter of a mile. If this applies to a loved one, it's important to talk to his or her doctor so the cause can be pinpointed and remedies considered.

Higdon started 5 Star Home Care in 2007 after his own mother experienced difficulty finding someone the family could trust to care for his grandmother and took on the responsibility herself at great sacrifice. 5 Star Home is one of the few agencies who are locally owned and operated as most are franchises of larger corporations based outside of town. 

Families who are concerned about the health and safety of their loved one as the result of immobility of frailty should call or visit www.5starHomeCare.com.  In Chattanooga and surrounding areas call 423-893-8181.  In middle Tennessee, call 931-474-7823.

If you're facing kidney disease of any kind, especially during this pandemic, it can be difficult knowing where to turn and what to expect, but Chattanooga Kidney Centers offers a variety of services and strives to help ease patients' minds and meet their needs.

"We are committed to providing excellent care and support to all our patients through the latest patient care technology and continuous quality improvement with a focus on superior customer service in a safe, affirming environment," reads the company's mission statement on their website, and once you step inside of their six locations you can see it's true.

Services provided by all of the Chattanooga Kidney Centers located in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and North Georgia include:

-Staff assisted in center hemodialysis.

-Transient dialysis services.

-Evaluation, teaching, and support for home peritoneal dialysis (KCMR and KCC facilities only).

-Back-Up dialysis for home dialysis patients.

-Ongoing patient education in all aspects of ESRD therapy and treatment options.

-Ongoing social services and referrals to appropriate community resources.

-Dietary evaluations and counseling.

-Referrals to transplant programs for those patients interested and considered medically suitable by the medical director.

The process with Chattanooga Kidney Center begins with a referral from your doctor or an initial consultation on the part of the patient. From there, your team will work with you to meet needs in one of the offices or at home, whichever your situation warrants.

Chattanooga Kidney Center's staff is also available to help with transient services so that patients can still travel and not have to worry about their needed care. Team members work to help answer your dialysis travel questions, including insurance coverage for treatments; locate a dialysis facility closest to your destination; and above all make your treatment reservations for you.

For those who are new to dialysis, Chattanooga Kidney Center also offers a host of resources to help you on your journey with any additional questions you and your family may have. To learn more, visit ckcdialysis.com to read on or set up a consultation.

And of course, emergency situations are still happening as well. Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Worldwide, nearly 6 million die from a stroke and another 5 million are left permanently disabled every year. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to get care as soon as possible to improve your chance of survival and avoid permanent disability. People's day-to-day activities have drastically changed to safeguard themselves from the virus, but there is one thing people should not avoid due to the COVID-19 virus – calling 911 for a medical emergency such as a stroke.

"If you suddenly can't feel or move an arm or a leg, lose vision completely in one eye, or lose the ability to talk or understand speech, you're likely experiencing a stroke. Facial changes like a drooping eye or mouth and smiles that are irregular are also common signs," says Charles Joels, MD, vascular surgeon with University Surgical Associates (USA). "People experience a range of symptoms at different levels of severity. Sometimes the symptoms only last a short time – even as short as 20 seconds – but you should still seek help immediately even if the symptoms subside quickly."

Treatment options for carotid artery disease depend upon the severity of the overall patient condition and symptoms. The gold standard for treating a blocked carotid artery is a carotid endarterectomy. This open surgical procedure removes plaque from inside the carotid artery in order to restore normal blood flow to the brain. The surgeon makes an incision on the neck to access the affected artery, opens the artery and removes the plaque. The surgeon closes the artery and the incision in the neck using stitches.

"Amazingly, even with an open procedure, it's typically a one-night stay in the hospital where patients are monitored closely. Those who are doing well go home the next day, and if they haven't been limited by a stroke itself, are back to normal activities in a few weeks," shares Dr. Joels. "It's important to remember that there are many health conditions, including stroke, where delaying treatment may result in increased risk of death or debilitation. Getting the care needed to address stroke risk is important to increase the chance of getting better sooner – and limiting the potential for long term health damage."

To schedule an appointment with one of USA's board-certified vascular surgeons, call 423.267.0466. Learn more at universitysurgical.com

Keeping contact with friends and family is critical part of our support system at any time in life, and for those who've faced loss, grief support, especially, cannot be overlooked. And during this uncharted territory of COVID-19, it may be even more important than ever, and thanks to the online offerings provided by Alleo Health's Hospice of Chattanooga, people don't have to lose that lifeline.

"We have a host of support groups year-round that meet regularly, and we've moved those to virtual meetings to help people continue their grief journeys," said Lily Quinn, Strategic Communications Officer.

Groups are offered and geared for both adults and children to help meet the unique needs of each demographic.

For those unfamiliar with the various groups offered, a brief list is below:

-Brave New World: Virtual support groups for those who have lost a spouse/partner, Wednesdays from 2-3:30 p.m. ET

-Healing Hearts Family Night: Virtual support groups for children who have experienced the death of a loved one, meets the first and third Thursdays of the month from 6-7 p.m. EST.

-Weekly Facebook Lives with the Grief Support team – Thursdays at 4 p.m. on the Hospice of Chattanooga Facebook page

-Juggling Act: Navigating parenting through grief and COVID-19, with scheduled sessions: June 10, 17 from 11 a.m. to noon. This group looks at not only grief but also all the changes of our current time and culture resulting from COVID-19 including validating, normalizing, and educating people so they feel less fragmented with all that's happening around them.

-Creativity through Grief and Stress: creative ways to express feelings surrounding COVID-19, with scheduled sessions: June 11, 18 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. This group in particular provides an outlet for those who thrive on different modalities of creating to manage grief, as opposed to those who are very verbal.

-Living with Grief: exploring stages of grief for any adult who has experienced the death of a loved one with scheduled sessions: June 16, 23 from 5:30-7 p.m. This session is more of a psycho-educational support group that looks through all the stages whether you've loss of a spouse, parent, an adult child, or a combination of losses.

Alleo Health also offers a very valuable online resources page on the Hospice of Chattanooga's website under their blog, along with virtual in-services for facilities and physicians to stay up to date on all their offerings, protocols, and continued education.

Those who wish to be added to a support group can contact Susan Latta at 423-805-7112 or susan_latta@hospiceofchattanooga.org.

Good oral and dental hygiene is important in helping to prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease—and overall, just maintaining a healthy smile and teeth. However, recent studies are also showing that keeping your mouth and teeth healthy can also help keep other medical conditions at bay. And, in turn, not keeping up with your oral care can play into serious medical problems.

Drs. Robert and Mandy Shearer at Soddy Smiles are sharing some important points with patients on just how their mouth can be a big factor in staying healthy on the whole.

"Your mouth can be an important window to what else is going on inside you," said Dr. Mandy. "There are many conditions that can start with oral signs and symptoms, and keeping up with regular dental care and hygiene is your first line of defense."

If you don't brush and floss regularly to keep your teeth clean, plaque, a natural occurrence of bacteria in the mouth, can build up along the gumline and make an environment for additional bacteria to build up in the spaces between your gums and teeth, Dr. Robert noted.

"This is known as gingivitis, and if left without care or diagnosis, it can cause more serious infections called periodontitis, or trench mouth," he shared.

In addition, while bacteria from the mouth don't typically enter the bloodstream, invasive dental treatments — sometimes even just routine brushing and flossing if you have gum disease — can make a port of entry.

Also medications or treatments that lower or slow saliva flow and antibiotics that disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in the mouth can also compromise your normal defenses, allowing these bacteria to enter your bloodstream, so those are more reasons to keep up with proper care and checkups at your dentist.

For those dealing with diabetes, oral health and hygiene is especially important because diabetes lowers the body's ability to fight off infections (something that's especially hot right now with current pandemic).

"Those elevated blood sugars also bring a greater risk of developing gum disease," said Dr. Robert. "And in turn, gum disease often makes it harder to keep your blood sugar levels closer to normal."

If you're concerned about your oral health affecting your body and vice versa, contact the team at Soddy Daisy Smiles for an appointment today to come with a treatment plan that meets your needs. They can be reached at 423-332-5725.

The world has changed significantly in a short period of time as COVID-19 has touched people's lives in various ways. Additionally, many have been affected by severe weather in the Chattanooga area.

Dr. Megan Johnson, audiologist and founder of Johnson Audiology, noted, "In these difficult times, healthy hearing is a must as we all seek to establish our new normal and stay informed and connected. At Johnson Audiology, we remain committed to helping people engage with their world through hearing, especially during emergencies."

As we all seek to adapt to global and local stressors and struggles, maintaining healthy hearing is challenging but critical. Here are some tips for success.

During times of crisis, it is paramount to hear. Consider this. Do you want to miss that crucial broadcast across your weather radio telling you to get to your safe place or not hear that essential instruction from your doctor if you are admitted to the hospital? In critical times, hearing could be a matter of life or death. If you have been putting off getting a hearing test, resolve now to make an appointment and begin your journey on the road to healthy hearing. For those who already have hearing aids, getting your hearing periodically re-tested helps monitor any changes in your hearing and allows you to get the most out of your hearing aids in case a programming adjustment is needed because your hearing has changed.

"Very early on in the COVID-19 crisis, Johnson Audiology began offering the option for curbside service for routine appointments like repairs and clean and checks or when a patient simply needed to pick up hearing aid supplies like batteries or wax traps. We continue to offer that option as our patients venture out. Our patients can stay in their vehicles, and our staff members come to them, determine their needs and meet those without the patient ever leaving the car," Dr. Johnson said. For in-office appointments, Johnson Audiology has social distancing measures in place by limiting the number of people in the office at any given time. All staff are wearing face masks as are patients, and the offices are being thoroughly disinfected between patients. This month, Johnson Audiology also is unveiling, new technology that allows your audiologist to conduct a diagnostic hearing test outside the office, for instance, in a patient's car or in their home setting.

For more information, contact the team at Johnson Audiology to schedule a consultation or appointment at 423-710-1432 or visit johnsonaudiology.com.

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