Saturday, February 27, 2016

Caregiving: Organize Support ASAP

Recently, I’ve been having the same conversation with a number of people about their role of caregiver and the toll it’s taking on them and their families. The newest research on the impact of caregiving, while not new, quantifies that those who provide “substantial help” as caregivers are roughly twice as likely to experience physical, financial and emotional difficulties as those who do not. JAMA Internal Medicine, Feb 15 

So how can this be reduced? One of the first steps is to recognize that the better organized you are, the easier it will be. There are people willing to help, but they need specific directions in that regard, such as when, where and what type of activity. Helpers can include family, friends, neighbors, church, co-workers, support group members and other people in your community. 

While I strongly advocate using the free on-line tool Lotsa Helping Hands to organize, some shy away from this approach because:
a) They think it’s going to be beyond their computer ability (it isn’t and you can get someone to help you with it) and/ or
b) Don’t have the time. This takes less than an hour to start and it will save you considerable time down the road. Again, someone other than you can do this. And/or
c) They don’t want to do anything their charge would be uncomfortable with. The older the person is, the more they may be hesitant about the Internet. 

The last item is a common problem among caregivers, who are often so concerned about the needs and wants of their charge they neglect their own. So be clear-Lotsa Helping Hands  is primarily for your benefit, as it allows you to share the incredible responsibility that comes with being a caregiver. Read the review from Caregiver Reviews for a better understanding of the site. 

Things to consider about setting up a Lotsa Helping Hands or another similar program:

• Co-administer the site with someone. 
• Setting up the site and checking it daily is a good task for a family or close friend that may not live near by but wants to help. Pick someone that you work well with.
• There are people that want to help but aren’t on-line. Pair them with someone that is a registered participant and willing to be responsible for entering tasks this individual will be doing and will remind them. 
• Be specific about the type of help you need. Use the Jobs Checklist from Sage Minder to get a better idea of what to ask for.
• Keeping volunteers involved can be significantly increased by: keeping them informed and letting them know they are valued and appreciated-a heartfelt thank you goes a long way. Depending on the nature of the person’s situation, a monthly update may be sufficient. For more critical situations, daily might be needed. 

Once you have a template of what the day to day needs might be and who is willing to help, be prepared for any and all changes-Volunteers can’t come through, your charge gets sicker and needs to be hospitalized, your immediate family has a crisis, work suddenly becomes more difficult etc. The beautiful of a site like Lotsa Helping Hands is that you can send one e-mail and let people know what’s going on. 

Other topics relating that may be of interest to care

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Take a Break: Celebrate Leap Year

It only happens but once every four years-an extra day in February, thereby making it a “leap year.” First introduced by Julius Caesar, we’ve been “leaping” for over 2,000 years.

There are various traditions associated with this extra day. Irish legend has it that St. Brigid stuck a deal with St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men every four years. In other parts of the world, if a man fails to accept a woman’s proposal on leap day he is expected to pay a penalty.

Try one or more of the following:

• If you have a friend whose birthday is on Feb. 29, celebrate it with style

• Download the printable frog maze and help the frog dine on flies 

• Learn more about famous people born on Feb. 29

• If you happened to be born on a Leap Day, join the Honor Society of Leap Year Babies 

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

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Journal Watch February 2016

• Patients not Prescribed Opioids Find More Improvements in Physical Function: Opioids such as morphine, codeine and Tylenol 3 can be effective for treating pain, however, a new University of Alberta study finds that patients with neuropathic pain taking opioids report no improvements in physical functioning compared to those who were not prescribed opioids. Pain Medicine 

Pain killers Don’t Ease Disability Due to Nerve Damage: Taking prescription narcotic painkillers doesn't improve movement or reduce disability in people with pain related to nerve damage, researchers have found. Pain Medicine 

• Many Chronic Pain Sufferers May Overuse Nonprescription Painkillers: Many people with chronic pain ignore dosing instructions on over-the-counter pain medicines and put themselves at risk for an overdose, a new survey suggests. An overdose of these medicines can result in serious side effects, such as stomach bleeding, ulcers, liver damage and even death. American Gastroenterological Association 

Research finds no easy answers to use of drug screening for pain patients: Doctors who treat patients suffering from chronic pain face a quandary, according to research. Monitoring patients through urine drug screenings, part of the standard protocol to ensure patient safety, is associated with an increase in the odds that the patients won't return for future treatment. Pain Physician 

Smoking and Chronic Pain: Adding to the already length list of reasons not to smoke, researchers have connected smoking to worsening degenerative disc disease in the cervical spine. Association of Academic Physiatrists Annual Meeting 

How Meditation, Placebos and Virtual Help Power ‘Mind Over Body’: Fresh Air program with Jo Marchant on her book “Cure A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body.” She discusses everything from the placebo effect and what CAM activities-e.g. mindfulness-works and what doesn’t. NPR 

Meditation May Ease Pain, Anxiety from Breast Cancer Biopsy: Meditation and music may reduce pain, anxiety and fatigue associated with a breast cancer biopsy, a new study suggests. Journal of the American College of Radiology 

Tailored Acupuncture Lessens Pain Intensity in Chronic Pain: Nine weekly sessions of individually tailored acupuncture lessen perceived pain intensity, and improve functional capacity and quality of life, in people with the chronic pain condition, fibromyalgia, finds new research. Acupuncture in Medicine 

Warns of lead poisoning risk from cosmetic clay-Alikay Natural Bentonite Me Baby which is sold on-line and in retail stores, including Target.
• Zepatier approved for chronic hepatitis C genotypes 1 and 4

Exercise Regularly and Your Heart Will Thank You: Regular exercise is essential for keeping your heart healthy, and the more the better. The study authors examined recent research and found that even small amounts of exercise, including standing, can reduce the risk of heart disease. Even greater reductions in risk can be achieved with more exercise, the researchers said. But only half of American adults get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, the report authors noted. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 

• Fitness Could Raise Survival After First Heart Attack: Being in good shape may improve a person's chances of surviving a first heart attack, a new study indicates. The study also adds to evidence that regular exercise reduces the risk of heart attack and death from all causes. Mayo Clinic Proceedings

• Exercise has its limits for losing weight: Researchers have found, moderate exercise -- the equivalent of walking a couple miles per day -- may be the best way to burn extra calories. Beyond that, the body seems to adapt its metabolism so that calorie-burning plateaus, no matter how hard you work out. Current Biology 

• Exercise May Prevent Harmful Falls in Men: Regular exercise reduces older men's risk of serious injuries from falls, a new study finds. "The physical activity program was more effective in reducing the rate of serious fall injuries in men than in women.” Although the findings were mixed, they suggest that moderate exercise may help prevent serious falls, the leading cause of injury in people 70 and older.  BMJ 

Aerobic Fitness May Protect Liver Against Chronic Alcohol Use: Excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 80,000 deaths in the United States each year. Over time, excessive drinking can lead to several chronic conditions, such as fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. Now, a study shows that aerobic exercise may protect the liver against alcohol-related inflammation and injury. Biomolecules 

Sleepless Nights Might Raise Women’s Type 2 Diabetes Risk: Women who have chronic sleep problems may have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Harvard researchers report. Problems such as trouble falling or staying asleep, getting less than six hours of sleep, frequent snoring, sleep apnea or rotating shift work appear to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, the researchers said. They found that women who reported trouble falling or staying asleep all or most of the time had 45 percent greater odds of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia 

• No Clear Winner Seen Among Stop Smoking Aids: Using the nicotine patch, the drug Chantix, or a combination of the patch and lozenges all appear to work equally well when trying to stop smoking.  JAMA 

Free Nicotine Patches by Mail May Help Smokers Quit:Helping smokers quit may be as easy as mailing them free nicotine-replacement patches, even in the absence of counseling or other support, a new Canadian study shows. JAMA Internal Medicine 

• Study Finds Stool Test Effective for Detecting Colon Cancer: Tests for blood in the stool can consistently detect colon cancer when used on an annual basis, and they are effective even in the second, third and fourth years of screening, a new study says. The researchers said these findings suggest that the stool test could be a reasonable screening alternative to colonoscopy -- currently considered the gold standard for colon cancer screening. Annals of Internal Medicine 

BPA Free plastic accelerates embryonic development, disrupts reproductive system: Companies advertise 'BPA-free' as a safer version of plastic products ranging from water bottles to sippy cups to toys. Yet a new study demonstrates that BPS, a common replacement for BPA, speeds up embryonic development and disrupts the reproductive system. The research is the first to examine the effects of BPA and BPS on key brain cells and genes that control organs involved in reproduction. Endocrinology

 • Frequent Monitoring May Keep Alcohol Offenders Sober: A South Dakota program that requires people involved in alcohol-linked crimes to stay away from booze and be closely monitored for drinking appears to reduce deaths, a new study finds. Offenders in the program must undergo breathalyzer tests twice a day or wear bracelets that continuously check for alcohol. Those who skip or fail the tests are immediately jailed for a short time, typically a day or two, the study authors said. RAND Corp 

National Smoking Bans Help Everyone Especially Non Smokers: A meta analysis of 77 studies in 21 countries, finds that national smoking bans appear to be reducing the health harms caused by secondhand smoke. Cochrane Library 

Weight Loss Surgery May Lengthen Older People’s Lives:Middle-aged and even older people seem to gain a survival boost from gastric bypass surgery. The study found no survival benefit for those under 35, which saw an increase in the number of "externally caused deaths,” including accidental injuries, assaults and suicides. The increase was more significant in women than in men. JAMA Surgery

• New Mental Challenges Can Sharpen Aging Brain: New mental challenges might help your mind stay sharp as you age, according to a small study of 39 older adults who were randomly assigned to high- or low-mental challenge groups or to a control group. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience 

Social Groups May Lengthen Retirees Lives: Staying socially active by joining book clubs or church groups may add years to your life after retirement, a new study suggests. BMJ Open 

Feeling Older Increases Risk of Hospitalization: People who feel older than their peers are more likely to be hospitalized as they age, regardless of their actual age or other demographic factors, according to research. APA 

Severe Gum Disease Increases Death: Severe gum disease increases the risk of death in chronic kidney disease patients, a new study suggests. The findings add to growing evidence that poor oral health is associated with other chronic diseases. Journal of Clinical Periodontology. 

• Sufficient Sleep, Exercise Linked to Lower Stroke Risk: Researchers found that among almost 300,000 U.S. adults, those who routinely slept seven to eight hours a night were 25 percent less likely to have a stroke, compared to people who got either less or more sleep. The highest stroke risk was seen among "long sleepers," who spent at least eight hours in bed each night. But short sleepers -- those who slept less than seven hours each night -- also showed an elevated risk. However, the findings don't prove that sufficient sleep can actually prevent strokes, only that there's a link between getting the right amount of sleep and stroke risk. there was a significantly lower stroke risk among people who got both a healthy amount of sleep and regular vigorous exercise -- meaning 30 to 60 minutes of high-intensity exercise, such as jogging, three to six times a week. In that group, less than 1.2 percent had ever suffered a stroke, versus about 3.1 percent of other adults. American Stroke Association annual meeting

• Eating More Healthy Fats May Extend Life: A new study contends that if people worldwide began to eat healthier fats, there might be more than a million fewer deaths from heart disease every year. While unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats) should be replaced with healthy fats (polyunsaturated fats)- fatty fish (such as salmon, herring, mackerel and trout), soybeans, tofu, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oils and seeds, and walnuts. Journal of the American Heart Association 

• Most US Restaurant Meals Exceed Recommended Calories: A new study reports that more than nine in 10 U.S. restaurants are serving meals that exceed the recommended calorie limit for a single meal. And that's just the entree. Drinks, appetizers and desserts weren't included. American, Chinese and Italian meals average around 1,500 calories, researchers say. Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 

Berries, Citrus Fruits Might Help Male Sexual Health: Iochemicals found in berries, citrus fruit and red wine might help men maintain healthy erections, a new nutrition study suggests. Foods rich in these flavonoids are associated with reduced risk of erectile dysfunction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 

Fiber-Rich Diet May Reduce Lung Disease: A diet rich in fiber may not only protect against diabetes and heart disease, it may reduce the risk of developing lung disease, according to new research. Fiber consumption was calculated based on the amount of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains participants recalled eating. Those whose diets included more than 17.5 grams of fiber a day were in the top quartile. American Thoracic Society 

• Barley Helps Improve Blood Sugar Levels, reduce appetite: Barley can rapidly improve people's health by reducing blood sugar levels and the risk for diabetes, a recent study shows. The secret lies in the special mixture of dietary fibers found in barley, which can also help reduce people's appetite and risk for cardiovascular disease. Lund University 

• Mediterranean Diet Plus Oil or Nuts Associated with Improved Cognitive Function: Supplementing the plant-based Mediterranean diet with antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts was associated with improved cognitive function in a study of older adults in Spain but the authors warn more investigation is needed, according to a new article. JAMA Internal Medicine 

• Cholesterol in Eggs May Not Hurt Heart Health: The once-maligned egg may not be a heartbreaker after all, new research suggests. Finnish researchers say that even carriers of a gene -- called APOE4 -- that increases sensitivity to dietary cholesterol don't seem to have anything to fear when it comes to the impact of eggs, or any other dietary cholesterol, on heart health. The findings followed the 20-year plus tracking of dietary habits among more than 1,000 middle-aged Finnish men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 

•Anesthesia after 40 Not Linked to Mental Decline: Receiving general anesthesia for surgery after age 40 doesn't appear to raise the risk for mild thinking and memory problems later in life, a new study finds. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 

• New IBS Drug Eases Stomach Pain and Diarrhea for Some:Viberzi for irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea seems to reduce symptoms for some patients for at least FDsix months, two clinical trials found. However the drug helps only about a third of patients. NEJM 

No Antibiotics for Common Respiratory Infections:According to the American College of Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control, antibiotics are not needed for adults who have the common cold, bronchitis, sore throat or sinus infections. Annals of Internal Medicine 

• High Dose Statins May Ease Macular Degeneration: High doses of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs -- medicines such as Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor -- may help people with the dry form of Macular Degeneration. It typically took a year to 18 months of treatment for these positive results to arise, the researchers reported. EBioMedicine 

Diabetes Drug May Help Prevent Second Stroke: The diabetes drug Actos (pioglitazone) appears to protect people who've already had a stroke from suffering a second stroke, a new study finds. NEJM 

Testosterone Therapy May Boost sex Drive in Men: Testosterone therapy may restore some sexual desire and function in older men whose natural hormone levels have declined, clinical trials suggest. However, the treatments didn't do much to improve vitality or physical function in men 65 or older, as many have believed. NEJM 

Anemia Drugs May Not Boost Kidney Patients Well Being: The pricey anemia drugs (erythropoietin-stimulating agents or ESAs) often given to people with chronic kidney disease may make no difference in how they feel day to day, a new research review confirms. Annals of Internal Medicine 

Heartburn Medications Might Raise Risk of Dementia: German researchers found that people 75 or older who regularly Proton Pump Inhibitors (Prilosex, Nexium and Prevacid) medications had a 44 percent increased risk of dementia compared with seniors not using the drugs. The study only found an association, however, and not a cause-and-effect link. JAMA 

  Helping with Health Care Takes Heavy Toll on Caregivers: Millions of family and friends who help older, disabled adults manage medications and navigate the health system may be sacrificing their own well-being, a new study suggests. Caregivers who provided "substantial help" with health care in these settings were roughly twice as likely to experience physical, financial and emotional difficulties as those who did not provide that help, the study found. JAMA Internal Medicine 

Post Stroke Caregiving at Home Tops $11,000 per year: Paying bills, shopping and traveling to and from doctor's visits adds up, say researchers who found the true cost of post-stroke home care services for American seniors is much higher than previously estimated. Stroke survivors received about 10 more hours of caregiving from family or friends compared to seniors who had not had a stroke, the study found. American Stroke Association 

• Stroke Camp Helps Caregivers: A two-and-a-half day camp for stroke survivors and their caregivers, staffed by health care providers and therapists, provides caregivers with an emotional and physical break, support from others in the same situation and learning sessions. Sixty-seven caregivers who attended the Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp from 2009 to 2015 completed surveys afterwards. Eighty percent said their role as a stroke patient caregiver affected their life and work. After attending the stroke camp, 79 percent of the caregivers said they felt less alone, 77 percent said it "recharged" them, and 58 percent said they learned new things, according to the study. American Stroke Association 

• Lyme Causing Ticks Expand Their Range in US: Ticks that transmit Lyme disease are now found in nearly half of all counties in the United States, a much broader swath than was seen in the late 1990s, researchers report. Journal of Medical Entomology 

Causes of Gulf War Illness Pinpointed: Exposure to pesticides and taking pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills, which were meant to protect troops against the effects of nerve gas, appear to be the cause of Gulf War illness in U.S. veterans, a new analysis states. There's also evidence of a connection between Gulf War illness and exposure to the nerve gas agents sarin and cyclosarin, and to oil well fire emissions. Cortex 

• Study May Offer Answers for Treating Depression in Alcoholics: A new study is offering a glimmer of hope to alcoholics who find it hard to remain sober because their abstinence is hounded by stubborn, difficult-to-treat depression. Neuropsychopharmacology 

US Dementia Rates Seem to be Falling: More than 5,000 people followed for almost 40 years starting in the mid-1970s experienced an average 20 percent reduction in their risk of developing dementia, the researchers said. At the same time, the average age at which the participants fell prey to dementia rose, from about 80 in the late 1970s to age 85 in more recent years. Education and heart health appear to have contributed to the decline in dementia cases, the study found. NEJM 

• Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Still Poorly Understood: More than $500 million in U.S. government-funded research on Gulf War veterans was conducted between 1994 and 2014, producing many results. But there has been little overall progress in understanding the health effects of serving in that war, according to an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-sponsored study said Gulf War veterans appear to be at increased risk for Gulf War illness, chronic fatigue syndrome, digestive disorders, and such mental health conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. The review also found evidence of a link between Gulf War deployment and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), fibromyalgia chronic pain and sexual problems. Institute of Medicine 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Take a Break: Celebrate the Harlem Renaissance

It’s Black History month, and what better way to celebrate than with the Harlem Renaissance. This was the name given to the incredible burst of cultural, social and artistic activity that happened between the end of WWI and the middle of the 1930s. Harlem was the Mecca for black artists, photographers, musicians, poets, writers and many others.  

• Read The Crisis founded in 1910 by W. E. B. Du Bois, who edited the early volumes. It was originally subtitled "A Record of the Darker Races". 

• Enjoy the art of Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden

• Musicians, such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway defined the period, along with places like the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater.  Check out the Ken Burns documentary Jazz for a variety of clips of artists and venues.

• Zora Neil Hurston is one of my favorite writers from this era. If you’ve never read one of her books, you’re in for a treat. Her expressions are spot on-“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots-“. “Love is like the sea. It's a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it's different with every shore.” “Bitterness is the coward's revenge on the world for having been hurt.” 

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