Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Take a Break: Five Minute Art Breaks

While I’ve done a variety of ways to take art breaks, below are five sites where you can go online for five minutes or 5 hours to sketch, paint, rake or dribble sand  Bookmark and enjoy whenever you need a quick break. Fun way to make art inspired by Jackson Pollock

This is Sand: Your Pixels turn into sand and you can create amazing sand paintings 

Not interested in today’s activity? Check out the Take a Break Pinterest for lots of ideas.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Be Safer: Avoid Medical Errors

There has recently been considerable discussion about the fact that the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer, is medical error. Use the following “Be Safer” guide to help reduce your risks.

Be very clear with your provider about:
• Medications you might be taking, including over the counter pills, vitamins, and supplements. It’s helpful to write out this information and give it to your provider.
• Allergies, adverse reactions to medications
• Family health history
• Your past medical history
• A special diet plan you are on.

Prepare for appointments by writing down concerns, symptoms etc. If possible, e-mail them to the provider before your visit and definitely give a copy to them.

Enter information into your personal health notebook when:
• You see or talk to your medical provider, case manager or anyone else impacting your care.
• You receive test results
• Medications are prescribed, you have an allergic reaction or when you stop a medication. Be sure to include all over the counter medications, supplements and vitamins as part of your list of medications.
• You receive discharge summaries from hospitalizations and medical appointments.

In addition, ask for copies of your medical records so you can be sure that the information they have for you is accurate. Request a discharge summary of your hospitalization. Learn more at Managing Health Information: Yours/Theirs  

Seek second opinions: Many patients seek second opinions from specialists but are less likely to consider one for evaluating diagnostic test results, including radiology and pathology findings.

Advocates. Use them whenever possible. Learn more at Health Advocate-Who, What, When and Where. 

Filing a Prescription: A lot of errors occur because patients get the wrong medication, it’s inappropriately prescribed, or there are issues with dosing and/or how it’s to be taken.
• If you are given a prescription
-       Make sure you can read it.
-       If it’s going to be called in to the pharmacy, ask for the name of the medication and write it down. Because many pharmacies will give generic medications, be sure to ask for both the trade and generic names.
-       Know why you are being given the prescription and write down how you should be taking it and when.
-       Ask about side effects and what you should do if one occurs
-       Are there foods, other meds, supplements, activities, alcohol, which should be avoided while taking the medication? Be sure to remind your provider of your allergies

• When picking up a prescription:
-       Check all your prescriptions before you leave the pharmacy, or when you first receive them by mail.
-       Make sure the medication name matches the one given by your provider. 
-       If this is a prescription renewal, check for color, size and dosage.
-       If it doesn’t look like your previous prescriptions, talk to your pharmacist immediately.
-       If it’s a new prescription, check how you are to take the medication. Does this correspond to what your provider told you? If not, talk to the pharmacist and if need be, call your provider.
-       If you will be taking a liquid medication, ask the pharmacist for the best device to measure out the liquid.

Encourage Hand Washing: This is particularly important if you are in a hospital setting, where according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four patients get sick by just being there. Providers that are asked by patients  if they’ve washed their hands are more likely to do so.

Research Hospitals and Surgeons: Outcomes are better when choosing hospitals and surgeons who have the most experience treating the type of condition you have.

Other resources

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Take a Break: Sand Painting

Sand Painting on River Bank
This week’s take a break is inspired by having spent some time with a friend testing sand painting techniques that we want to use for our community Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) activities in November. Since it’s summer, it’s the perfect time to make a sand painting on a beach, riverbank or some place with lots of sand. In our case, we used a riverbank for our base and colored white sand I had left over from making Zen gardens.

Making the colored “sand”
While you can certainly purchase colored sand, it can be very expensive. Mixing sand with dry powdered tempera paint works really well. Put some sand in a jar, add the powder and shake. You don’t need a lot of the powder.

If you don’t want to purchase tempera powder, make your own by taking sidewalk chalk-Dollar Store always has lots of it- and using one of these techniques:
• Place the chalk in a zip locked plastic bag and smash with a hammer or other hard object. You can end up with lumps with this process. These can be removed by using a mortar and pestle or, if you have a blender for non-food uses, grind away.
• Use a grater. Betty Crocker makes one that has a trap to catch the shavings and it’s available at places like the Dollar Store. Use the smallest holes. This will produce a much finer product with no clumps.

The chalk powder can be used in place of the colored sand or you can try coloring sand with it. Mix several of the powdered chalks together to create new colors.

Sugar and salt can both be dyed. Put food color and sugar/salt in a plastic zip lock bag and smush until you get the desired shade. These will need to dry before use, so be sure to allow drying time before first use.

Holi or colored powder can also be used in place of sand. Check out How to Make Colored Powder  It’s made with cornstarch and food coloring. Does include a number of steps but your final product will be completely safe.

Work surface
While you can always work on dirt, the floor or even a table, it’s nice to have a firm bed of wet sand. If the tide has just gone out, you’ll have prepared bed of sand, otherwise mix some water with the sand and pack it down. If you are doing this at home, use an old picture frame, Styrofoam tray (the kind meat comes in) or whatever else you have on hand, and pack in the wet sand. If you want to preserve your painting, put a layer of white glue (e.g. Elmer’s) down on stiff paper and add the sand. Work section by section.

Draw your design with a stick, handle, paintbrush or whatever you have on hand. You can also use stencils, keeping in mind that the more open they are the better. The sand needs to be able to fit easily through the opening and lift off without disturbing the design.

Pouring the sand
Using your hands is fine, recognizing that you’ll need to wash between colors. Small sieves, strainers and plastic spoons also work well. Again the Dollar Store is a good place to pick these items up for cheap.

Videos of Sand Painting

Not interested in today’s activity? Check out the Take a Break Pinterest for lots of Take a Break ideas. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Journal Watch: July 2014

Long-term care must be improved to aid rising numbers with dementia, study finds: As millions of Americans struggle to help loved ones with dementia, policymakers should consider more ways to improve long-term services and supports for the soaring numbers of people with the debilitating condition and their caregivers, a new RAND Corporation study says -- and it offers possible ways to do so. 

Adults with Type 2 diabetes achieve better blood glucose control two years after undergoing laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy than do patients who receive standard medical diabetes care without this weight loss surgery, a new study finds. The results were presented Monday at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago.

• Choose the Right Medical Alert System: Consumer Reports provides a guide in purchasing a medical alert system based on technology, price and need. July 2014

• Sleeping Pills for Insomnia: Which ones work? According to Consumer Reports, Studies have found that improving your sleep habits and making other changes like doing relaxation training, setting and sticking to consistent bedtimes and wake-up times, regular exercise, quitting smoking, cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, keeping your bedroom quiet and dark, and not watching TV or using computers in bed can relieve insomnia. If those don’t seem to help and you and your doctor decide a prescription sedative is an option to try, our analysis of the newer drugs led us to recommend generic zolpidem as a Best Buy. This is the less expensive, generic version of the drug Ambien. Seven pills cost $16 to $17, depending on the dose and where you buy it. 

• ERs, the Busier, the Better: Surviving a life-threatening illness or injury may be more likely if you're treated at a busy emergency department instead of one that handles fewer patients, a new study finds. Annals of Emergency Medicine 7/17/14 

• Polyphenois Could Yield Small Benefit for People with PAD: Polyphenols -- compounds found in cocoa and other foods -- may help people with peripheral artery disease walk a little longer and farther before pain sets in. More research is needed to see whether long-term use of these compounds in dark chocolate can improve circulation and aid patients. Journal of the American Heart Association 

Chronic Migraines Affect the Whole Family: When a spouse, partner or parent has chronic migraines, the whole family suffers, a new web study found. Almost 75 percent of chronic migraine sufferers in the study said they thought they would be better spouses if they didn't have chronic migraines. And almost 60 percent said they felt they would be better parents without the illness. Presentation at American Headache Society, Los Angeles, Calif. 

NCCAM Guide to Cancer Prevention and Treatment: Cancer information including the status of research on mind and body practices and dietary supplements and sources for additional information. 

NCCAM Clinical Digest- Mind and Body Practices for Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia syndrome is a common and chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain, diffuse tenderness, fatigue, and a number of other symptoms that can interfere with a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. This issue of the digest provides a summary of the science of several complementary mind and body approaches often included in treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms. 

 St. John's wort can cause dangerous interactions with many common medications: St. John's wort is the most frequently used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment in the U.S. for depression and similar psychiatric disorders. The many commonly prescribed medications that St. John's wort can interact with—sometimes with serious consequences such as serotonin syndrome or heart disease—are reviewed in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 

•  Approves Inhaled Diabetes Medication: The drug, Afrezza, "is a new treatment option for patients with diabetes requiring mealtime insulin. 

• Daily low-dose Aspirin May Help Ward off Pancreatic Cancer: People who take low-dose aspirin for more than 10 years might be reducing their risk for pancreatic cancer, a new study suggests. Even taking a daily aspirin for just three years lowered the chances of the deadly cancer by 48 percent, the researchers said. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 

• Fruits,Veggies Not a Magic Bullet for Weight Loss: Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is often recommended as a way to lose weight, but doing so may not help you shed excess pounds, according to researchers. They reviewed data from more than seven studies that examined how increased fruit and vegetable consumption affected weight loss. American Journal of Nutrition 6/25/14 

 Study of seniors shows decreased knee-hip pain and increased ability to walk among those who dance: The research involved 34 seniors, average age 80, who all had pain or stiffness in their knees or hips as a result mainly of arthritis. The participants -- mostly women -- were assigned to a group that danced for 45 minutes up to two times a week for 12 weeks or to a control group that did not dance. By the end of the 12 weeks, those who danced had less pain in their knees and hips and were able to walk faster, said Jean Krampe, an assistant professor of nursing at Saint Louis University and lead author of the study. Geriatric Nursing 

Healthy Lifestyle May Deflect Dementia: Seniors at risk for dementia may help safeguard their memory and ability to think by adopting a healthier lifestyle, a new study from Finland suggests. Older people who began eating right, exercising, playing "brain games" and socializing more often performed better on memory and problem-solving tests than people who maintained their habits, the researchers said. AA Conference 

 Do Vitamins Work? Risk and benefits of seven top-selling supplements from Consumer Reports 

Niacin Doesn’t Reduce Heart Problems, May Create Some: Niacin, a commonly used cholesterol treatment, doesn't reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke in people with hardened arteries. What's more, the drug appears to have dangerous side effects, including a potential increased risk of death, according to new research. New England Journal of Medicine 7/17/14 

• Vitamin B No Help for Alzhemier’s: Taking B vitamins does not slow age-related mental decline or prevent Alzheimer's disease, a new review says. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 

• Liver Dangers from Herbal Supplements, Over the counter and prescription drugs: New clinical guidelines on the diagnosis and management of idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury (DILI) have now been released. DILI is a rare adverse drug reaction, challenging to diagnose, and can lead to jaundice, liver failure and even death. The frequency of DILI incidence is increasing, as the use of herbal and dietary supplements has drastically increased over the last 10 years. The American Journal of Gastroenterolgy, July 2014 

• Fish Oil Supplements Reduce Incidence of Cognitive Decline, May Improve Memory Function: Regular use of fish oil supplements (FOS) was associated with a significant reduction in cognitive decline and brain atrophy in older adults, a study has found. The study examined the relationship between FOS use during the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative and indicators of cognitive decline. Alzheimer's & Dementia

• Half of All Americans Have a Chronic Disease: Half of all adults in the US have at least one chronic condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity, and a quarter have more than two or more conditions, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in The Lancet. 

• Medical Mistakes are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the US: Preventable medical errors in hospitals are the third leading cause of death in the United States, a Senate panel was told today. Only heart disease and cancer kill more Americans.