Prevention and detection keep seniors healthy: the 24th annual Senior Health Fair can help

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
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By North Hawaii Community Hospital staff

Teens might consider themselves immortal, but senior citizens know better.

Yet even as we age, many of us cruise through our daily routines as though our personal plans to live forever won’t be disturbed. Of course, we all really know better. Then, one day, we learn that we or someone we know is suddenly faced with the very real possibility of major medical intervention. Then we snap to attention and attempt to get as much information and help as possible.

We shouldn’t wait until it’s too late. While modern medicine has made quantum leaps and bounds in healthcare, the best medicine is still prevention and early detection. That’s one of the main messages of the 24th annual Senior Health Fair, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., May 20, at North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea. The event is free and tends to draw hundreds of North Hawaii senior citizens each year.

“We’re very aware many (North Hawaii) seniors rely on these health screenings for their yearly check-up,” said Laurie Edmondson, North Hawaii Community Hospital’s Senior Health Fair coordinator.

As many as 350 seniors aged 55 and older are expected to attend the Senior Health Fair, Edmondson said.

“We’ve been getting the word out to senior centers from Hawi to Honokaa,” she said.

The health fair is a perfect opportunity for North Hawaii senior citizens to receive free health screenings in a welcoming, hospitable environment.

The blood and hearing tests, eye and foot screenings, blood pressure tests, dental checks and more at the event are offered by community physicians, registered nurses, first-aid-trained County of Hawaii firemen and clinical technicians who generously donate their time and services to help keep seniors in the community healthy, Edmondson said.

Free blood tests for both men and women will measure levels of cholesterol and glucose; important indicators of heart disease and diabetes. Blood tests for men will also measure levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen) to check for possibly unrecognized prostate cancer.

Dental checks will look for signs of tooth and gum disease. Foot checks will look to see if a senior may already be suffering from diabetes and yet not know it; often, a cut or wound on the foot of a diabetic goes unnoticed until infection sets in. Some of these infections can be beyond serious – they can be life-threatening.

Two firefighters will administer blood pressure tests. Blood pressure that is higher than normal can be a powerful indicator of the risk of stroke or incipient heart disease.

Volunteers and health professionals also will be staffing advanced directive and Hospice care stations to address end-of-life issues. The lack of written instructions to family members when a patient is in a terminal coma, for example, can cause great stress within a family. Preparing beforehand is like writing a living will and is highly recommended.

An acupuncture and energy station also is scheduled as part of the holistic health movement embraced by North Hawaii Community Hospital.

This event is one of two annual events held by North Hawaii Community Hospital to help fulfill its mission, “to improve the health status of the people of North Hawaii by improving access to care and providing high quality services at a reasonable cost.”

Registration is from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Screenings are from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. A free lunch of Portuguese bean soup, rice, salad and a dessert follows from 12 to 2 p.m. For entertainment, enjoy music by Aoia and bingo to wind up the day.

The health fair is made possible by a $5,000 grant from the Richard Smart Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation. Volunteers are still needed to help set up tables before the health fair begins, as well as to take down the tables at the end of the day. Contact Edmondson at 881-4425 for more information or to volunteer.