Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

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Healthy living can help you age well and maintain your mental agility, physical strength, and overall vitality. It's never too late to begin taking better care of yourself. We offer resources and information especially for older adults.


As people age, emotional health and well-being continue to be just as important as physical health. Over time, we accumulate life experiences and memories, some sweet and others perhaps not so sweet. Though we cannot change past experiences, we can change how we think about them. Responding to life events with resilience and hope – as well as reaching out for emotional support – can help lead to emotional fulfillment.

If you find yourself feeling down or empty (or you are caring for someone who is feeling this way), you could be at risk for depression. There are steps you can take to improve your emotional health. Spending time on activities that improve your memory contributes to your emotional vitality. Involvement with others in activities or classes is enriching and contributes to good mental health. Recognizing the signs of stress and emotional or mental weariness, and knowing how to ask for help when you need it, will help you achieve and maintain mental health and emotional vitality. 

Preventing or Treating Depression

Are you a senior who feels down or empty? You could be at risk for depression. Depression is not a normal part of aging. Depression is a medical condition that can affect the way you think and feel. Depression in older adults is sometimes missed altogether or dismissed as grumpiness or irritability. Confusion, inattention, or memory problems caused by depression can sometimes look like Alzheimer's disease or other brain disorders. Nearly 80 percent of people who are depressed can be successfully treated.

If you think you are experiencing 4 or more symptoms of depression for more than 2 weeks, let me know and we can talk about ways to help you. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, tearful, or down
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Appetite changes and weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Feeling worthless and excessively guilty
  • Having less energy or constantly feeling tired
  • Feeling like life isn't worth living
  • Having suicidal thoughts

Mood changes and signs of depression can also be caused by medications taken for chronic diseases such as hypertension or heart disease. Depression is more common in those who have other chronic diseases such as diabetes, and being depressed can make these diseases worse. People who are depressed often lose their motivation to take needed medications for chronic diseases. Once correctly diagnosed and treated, however, depression improves for most people.

Self-care for depression

No matter how depressed you are, you can recover. Helping yourself is an important part of the treatment for depression. Here are several things you can do to feel better:

  • Set a daily schedule for sleeping, eating, personal hygiene, or other important activities.
  • Increase your involvement in activities that are pleasurable for you, such as reading or spending time with friends.
  • Get moving. Regular exercise is good for you. Even just a little exercise, such as 10 to 15 minutes of walking per day, can help regain energy, reduce tension, and improve your mood. 
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs as they can make depression worse and interfere with medications.
  • Take time to relax by learning techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
  • Practice assertiveness. Ask for what you need and get help.
  • Avoid isolation. Meaningful contact with others can relieve loneliness.

Keep a chart or a diary of your self-care activities and check in with a friend who can keep track of your improvement.

Getting care for depression when you need it

Treatment for depression can begin only when you accept that help is needed. Ideas about depression have changed dramatically, and there is no shame in reaching out for help. In fact, you might be surprised to find that asking for help and getting treatment can inspire other loved ones or friends who may also benefit from treatment.

Some people feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness or that a depressed person should just be able to "snap out of it." Depression is an illness just like heart disease. You cannot "snap out of it." Left untreated, serious depression can cause tremendous suffering. Treatment includes counseling, medication, and self-care. Professional treatment at Kaiser Permanente can be obtained from the Department of Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry, or Mental Health. 

Suicide rates are highest for people over age 65. If you or a loved one is expressing thoughts of suicide, take it seriously and contact the Department of Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry, or Mental Health immediately or call 911.

Additional References:

Managing Stress

As you age, causes of stress may differ from when you were younger. You may be caring for someone who is seriously ill, experiencing financial stress, or finding yourself raising grandchildren. It is important to be able to manage your stress in order to stay healthy. It is normal to experience some level of stress. Stress can help you get tasks completed or win a competition. When you feel stress, your body responds to help you complete the task. Your heart rate increases, and you feel like you have more energy. However, when stress is ongoing, it can become a problem. You may find it difficult to sleep or have headaches. Being able to identify what is causing your stress is the first step. 

It is very important to develop healthy ways of managing stress. Moderate exercise such as walking or relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation may help.

Improving Your Memory

Our brains collect a lot of information over a lifetime, and as we age, we experience a slowing down of brain functions that relate to memory. We need ways to retrieve the information as well as allow for new information to be added and stored in our memory. Taking good care of your ability to remember well includes:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Eating whole grains and colorful vegetables
  • Drinking enough water
  • Managing stress
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Getting enough sleep

Learning new things and stretching your brain are also ways to improve your memory. Keep your mind active. Read books, newspapers, and computer articles to help with remembering words. Do word or math puzzles or play board and card games to stimulate your brain. Play computer games that challenge your memory. Challenge yourself to do a routine activity in a different way, such as brushing your teeth using the opposite hand.

Basic organizational skills also help with memory. Place your keys or wallet in the same location each day so that you can easily find them. Keep a calendar or appointment book for your appointments so that you can manage your daily schedule. Set alarms to remind yourself of times when you need to take medication or time your medicines with a favorite TV program so that it will be easier to remember.

Additional References:

Managing Anxiety

It is normal to feel anxious, worried, or fearful from time to time. A normal amount of anxiety helps us stay focused, gives us some extra energy to meet challenges (speak in public, take a test), and motivates us to do tasks (clean the house to receive guests). However, if you imagine things are worse than they really are, feel overwhelmed by worry and fear, or have difficulty letting go of fear, in ways that  interfere with your daily life, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety affects your ability to express your creativity or function well in relationships because it affects the part of your brain that helps control how you communicate. Anxiety may be a symptom of another condition such as depression. Getting help for depression can also help reduce anxiety.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Breathlessness or rapid heartbeat
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Feeling jumpy
  • Muscle tension, aches, or soreness
  • Sleep problems, such as the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, early waking, or not feeling rested when you wake up
  • Worrying too much
  • Feeling something bad is about to happen
Self-care for anxiety

Acknowledging to yourself and your loved ones that you suffer from anxiety is the first step. Learning calming techniques such as stress management, relaxation breathing, and meditation can be helpful. Moderate exercise will also help you to reduce your anxiety. Avoid caffeine, other stimulants, and certain over-the-counter cough medications that can aggravate anxiety symptoms. Consider joining a self-help or support group where you can participate with others in using techniques to manage your anxiety.

Getting care when you need it

Treatment for anxiety can begin only when you accept that help is needed. Many people feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed with the subject of anxiety, but there is no shame in reaching out for help. In fact, you might be surprised to find that asking for help and getting treatment can inspire other loved ones or friends who may also benefit from treatment.

Some people feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. However, being treated for anxiety can help you prevent other health problems. Left untreated, severe anxiety can lead to panic attacks and phobias. Treatment includes counseling, medication, and self-care. Professional treatment at Kaiser Permanente can be obtained from the Department of Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry, or Mental Health.

Additional References:

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If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

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