Monday, September 15, 2014

 

Preventing falls helps with confidence, independence


Julie, an active 76-year-old female who lived alone, had just finished eating her breakfast and was bringing her plate and coffee cup back to the sink.  As she turned away from the table, the cup wobbled, startling Julie and she lost her balance and fell to the ground.

She was scared and her right hip was aching, although she could move all her limbs.  The plate and cup had shattered and was all over the floor.  Julie tried to get up, but she couldn’t and the phone was in the other room.  She began to cry.

One third of all people over 65 years old who live independently will fall this year.  In Connecticut alone, we will spend nearly $140 million annually on the treatment of falls and related injuries.  In the United States, over $20 billion will be spent this year for the treatment of falls and related injuries. In the year 2020, over $67 billion will be spent.  Currently, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults.

More importantly, the impact of a fall on an older person’s life is very significant.  Due to the psychological and physical impacts of a fall, many people take fewer trips to see family, fewer visits to see friends, pursue less participation in events in the community and suffer a loss of safe or comfortable mobility.

In other words, falls can greatly reduce a person’s quality of life.  Unfortunately, even if the fall did not result in an injury, the older person feels that falling is just a part of getting older and there is nothing they can do.

Julie began to settle down and was able to pull herself over to the kitchen chair.  After a few attempts, she was able to get herself up on the chair.  Her hip was still sore, but she could put weight on the leg without any severe pain.  She took a few deep breaths, stood up and made her way to the closet to get the broom.

Falls are not a normal consequence of aging.  Seniors should not accept that frequent losses of balance and falls are part of getting older.

Discussing a fall with family or a health-care professional is critical to recovery.  In fact, many of the reasons people fall can be treated or improved, but this begins by having a discussion with a healthcare professional and often by participating in physical and/or occupational therapy services focused on treating falls.

Therapy for the treatment of falls should be geared towards improving movement, strength, range of motion, reducing pain. Include a vestibular assessment and incorporate head movement with various activities.

Depending on the level of need, fall-related care can be done in the home or in outpatient clinics.  Even regular participation in simple exercise programs and walking groups can reduce the risk of falls.

Most importantly, losses of balance and falls should not be ignored.  Less than half of known falls are even reported to a health-care professional.  If your doctor knows you have fallen,  he or she can work with you to get the right services and care to help avoid future issues.

After the mess in the kitchen was cleaned up, Julie called her daughter and told her what happened.  They made an appointment to see her doctor and later received physical therapy for balance and gait.

Julie now takes daily walks around her neighborhood and has visited more of her friends recently than she had over the past few years.  She is happily living independently in her home.

Ross Davis, MSPT, MBA, is the director of Rehabilitation Services at VNA HealthCare, which, like Backus, is a member of the Hartford HealthCare network. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Mr. Davis or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org 


Monday, September 08, 2014

 

Kale is king for some


For several months, I have had an ongoing dialogue with my co-worker Jeff who just can’t understand my fondness for kale.  Everywhere you look there are recipes for kale.  It’s the featured new “wonder food” in gourmet magazines, health magazines, newspapers, and sports magazines.  He's not buying it. I tell him it’s called the “queen of greens.”  And for good reason.  Alison Lewis, writing for MindBodyGreen, touts some health benefits of kale:

•  Kale is low in calories, high in fiber and has zero fat. One cup of kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. It’s great for aiding in digestion and elimination with its great fiber content. It’s also filled with many nutrients, vitamins, folate and magnesium as well as those listed below.

•  It is high in iron. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef. Iron is essential for good health, such as the formation of hemoglobin and enzymes, transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, cell growth, proper liver function and more.

•  Kale is great for the cardiovascular system. Eating more kale can also help lower cholesterol levels.

•  It is high in Vitamin A. Vitamin A is great for your vision, your skin as well as helping to prevent lung and oral cavity cancers.

•  The vegetable has lots Vitamin C. This is very helpful for your immune system, your metabolism and your hydration.

•  Last, but not least, kale is high in calcium. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Vitamin C is also helpful to maintain cartilage and joint flexibility.

OK, my coworker is still not convinced.  He’s not impressed with this remarkable list of health benefits.  If he thinks it doesn’t taste good, he won’t eat it.  I was up for the challenge. He didn’t like sautéed kale or tomato and kale salad, so maybe it was time to bring out the big guns.  My husband and I took him out to a restaurant in Putnam that serves kale chips as an appetizer.  They were tender, crunchy, melt-in-your mouth tasty.  Surprise: Jeff didn’t like them, so I was forced to eat the whole bowl.

Over the past year our community dietitian has developed several presentations designed to encourage school-aged kids to try new, healthy foods.  Teenagers pose the biggest challenge: fresh vegetables are hardly a match for pizza, burgers, fries and soda.  However, when I recently asked some teens to honestly tell me if these programs have changed their taste for vegetables, I was thrilled when two of them replied, “I really love kale now.”  One even said she looks for recipes to make it in different ways.

I told Jeff about these teen kale converts, but he just laughed.  I concede that he will never be the “king of kale,” but I will keep trying.  He doesn’t know what he’s missing!

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org 

Monday, September 01, 2014

 

Robin Williams’ suicide underscores a major problem


It has been several weeks, but many of us are still reeling from the tragic suicide of Robin Williams.  It’s difficult for us to comprehend that the entertainer who made us laugh heartily for decades could be suffering from depression so profound that he could find no other alternative to ease his pain than to take his own life.   None of us can know what someone else is experiencing in their own life.  It brings to mind the saying, “Don’t judge me until you have walked a mile in my shoes.”

Over one million people die by suicide every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that it is the 13th-leading cause of death worldwide and the National Safety Council rates it sixth in the United States. It is a leading cause of death among teenagers and adults under 35.

There are many common myths about suicide, including that talking about it may give someone the idea.  The opposite is true: bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly may be one of the most helpful things you can do.  It shows you care, and it may even save a life.

Rev. John Watson is credited with saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”  We all need to be mindful of this in our daily interactions.

World Suicide Prevention Day is Sept 10.  This awareness day is observed every year, in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides, with various activities around the world. 

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  This is a national resource that may be accessed by anyone. If the person is a veteran, press “1” to access the Veterans Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

For hearing and speech impaired with TTY equipment : 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org


Monday, August 25, 2014

 

‘Fat talk’ can lead to big problems


We’ve all done it. Heck, I caught myself doing it just the other day. For me, it always seems to come out when I’m trying on jeans. Or swimwear. Or just about anything that isn’t a burlap sack.

These should be the right size, but I can’t even get them on!  I am so FAT!

Followed by tears. Followed by shame spiral. Followed by trip to Dairy Queen. Jumbo double chocolate caramel butterscotch peanut butter Oreo M&M cheesecake blizzard with extra everything, please. 

Sound familiar? According to one study, an astonishing 93% of women engage in fat talk, with a third of those admitting to fat-talking on a regular basis.

Isn’t it odd that we are so careful about the words we say to others, but we are so harsh with ourselves? Many of us would not say the words we say to ourselves every day to our worst enemy.

Harmless as it may seem at the time, fat talk can hurt us more than we realize. For one, as evidenced by the aforementioned shame spiral, negative thoughts tend to lead to negative emotions which, for many of us, lead to emotional eating. We eat junk food in an attempt to fill the void and end up feeling lousier than ever. This causes more negative thoughts, and the cycle repeats. That’s one nasty Catch-22.

Second, the way we talk to ourselves is a reflection of how we see ourselves. This may surprise you, but our brains actually don’t know the difference between true reality and our perceived reality. In other words, if you think of yourself as overweight or unattractive you will project this self-image to the world and others will begin to see you the way you see yourself. This translates into a self-fulfilling prophecy that I, for one, would rather not fulfill.

And we are not the only ones hurt by our self-bashing talk. If you are a parent, you know just how much a child learns simply by watching you. When young people see you talking negatively to yourself often enough, they understand this as normal behavior and begin to model it, whether you are their parent or not. Is this what we want to teach our children?

Buddha is credited with the quote, “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.”

If this is true (and I believe it is), wouldn’t you rather become something beautiful and wise and powerful? I would.

We all have our down moments from time to time. Just do your best to recognize and reverse those damaging thoughts when you have them. And avoid department store fitting rooms at all costs.

Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Monday, August 11, 2014

 

How to talk to someone fighting cancer


Almost everyone knows at least one person who has been diagnosed with cancer.  It can be difficult to know what to say to that person when you see them, but this may be the time when that person needs your support and friendship most.  Here are some ideas and suggestions to consider:

•  Be a good listener. Don't feel as if you have to do all the talking. Sometimes cancer patients just need someone to listen to their thoughts, feelings and even their fears about the disease. Be ready and willing to listen whenever you're needed.

•  Be supportive. Offer your support, but don’t judge, give advice, or make light of their concerns.

•  Be positive.  Don’t tell stories about other people who have undergone cancer treatment if it resulted in a bad outcome.

•  It’s OK to just sit quietly and be there for the person.

Saying, “Call me if you need anything” really isn’t very helpful.   Greta Greer, MSW, LCSW, director of survivor programs for the American Cancer Society, offers this advice:  “Offer suggestions for specific things you are able to do such as prepare a meal, transport to appointments, pick up the kids, babysit, mow the lawn, etc. Also give some dates you are free to assist.”  

Remember that just because a person is battling cancer, they don’t need or want to think and talk about it constantly.  Being included in normal, everyday activities is welcome.  When I was a home care nurse I remember vividly a patient who was very weak from cancer treatment.  He insisted on sharing a joke, cartoon, or funny story at the start of every home visit.  It was his way of maintaining some control while sharing a light-hearted, funny moment.  

My good friend Claire is currently undergoing cancer treatment, so I asked her for some suggestions on communicating with sensitivity, since that is really what we are all trying to achieve.  She said she appreciated all the get well wishes from people, and those who said they were praying for her.  That boosted her spirits and was appreciated.  Cancer treatment can be overwhelming; it’s easy to get discouraged.  She cautioned people not to be negative.  For example, one person asked her what the mortality rate was for her type of cancer.  

A very thoughtful gesture two friends made was offer to help Claire pick out a wig, and also made suggestions of places to go look.  She felt that was a caring and sensitive thing to do.

One thing for which Claire was especially grateful was receiving cards, notes, and emails from people, just saying, “I’m thinking of you” or “sending positive thoughts your way, or “I’m still available to drive you to appointments.”  She contends it’s never too late to send a card, even weeks after surgery, or at intervals during the long months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The emotional boost the cards and notes bring is very welcome at any time.

These suggestions are by no means a comprehensive “how-to” guide for talking to someone with cancer, but they are food for thought.
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

 

Hot, humid weather impacts those with asthma


After the brutal winter we had this past year in New England, we all promised not to complain about the heat this summer — yet most have us have long abandoned that resolve. 
 
Poor air quality on these hot and humid summer days can make us all miserable, but for those with asthma, it can be perilous.
 
Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lung’s airways characterized by a cough, shortness of breath and wheezing, affecting 300 million people worldwide, including 22 million in the U.S.

Here are some ways everyone can cope with the extreme heat and humidity: 

•  Stay hydrated with water — avoid caffeinated tea and coffee, as well as alcohol.
•  Stay indoors with the doors and windows closed, and air conditioning on.  If you don’t have A/C, go to public buildings like shopping malls, libraries, community or senior centers, or a friend’s house.
•  Restrict strenuous exercise outdoors to early morning or evening hours.

Hot, humid and high pollen days present a particular challenge for people with asthma. Besides the above, asthmatics need to keep rescue inhalers and medications on hand when attacks occur. 

Most physicians give their patients a personalized asthma action plan, specifying how to manage their asthma when it worsens. That written plan should include information on when to seek emergency care.

I asked Backus Pulmonologist Setu Vora, MD, to share some advice for asthmatics.

“A sudden change in temperature can affect the inflammation in patients with asthma.  Hot, humid and hazy conditions make people's asthma worse. Stay indoors in air conditioning if you have severe asthma. Using your controller maintenance inhalers regularly keeps your asthma well controlled."

We have a few more weeks of typical New England summer weather. Before we know it, we will be complaining about the snowstorms and freezing temperatures of winter. 

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.or

Monday, July 21, 2014

 

Fighting the weekend food battles


It’s no secret that the people eat quite differently on the weekend as compared to their eating habits during the work week. There are a few reasons for this:
                 
We plan social gatherings on weekends, which present us with foods we wouldn’t normally eat — and opportunities to overindulge. Our schedules are not as rigid as they are during the week, so it can be more difficult to plan meals. We’re just glad to have survived a tough work week and want to reward ourselves.

It’s easy to see how these factors can work against our healthy eating efforts. However, understanding our challenges can help us overcome them. After all, knowing is half the battle (at least according to G.I. Joe…).

So how can we plan for success in the face of our obstacles? Well in this case, we can look ahead to any parties or gatherings we have on our weekend schedules and either commit to having a healthy and satisfying meal before the event, or even better, if you can bring a healthy dish to pass, you and everyone else in attendance will be guaranteed to have at least one healthy choice among the typical party fare — not to mention a conversation-starter. People always ask me about any dish I bring to a party (I can’t figure out why… probably my profession), but it invariably leads to an interesting discussion. Who knows? You may inspire someone to make healthier choices in their life.

When it comes to scheduling, I am just as guilty as the next person, because I rarely have a set meal plan on weekends. I get around this by making sure that I cook enough during the week to have leftovers for the weekend. This strategy helps you to be ready for anything because you don’t need to worry about taking the time to prepare a meal. Simply pull out some leftover chili, lettuce, cheese and salsa and you’ve got a healthy meal in minutes.

Finally, we come to the issue of reward. We all need to feel rewarded for our efforts, and it’s so easy to tell ourselves that we deserve those cookies or chips because we made it through a hard work week. However, I encourage you to break the cycle of using food as a reward because it almost always comes full circle and ends up in guilt rather than satisfaction. 

Instead, treat yourself in a different way. Go to a movie, go on a nature hike, have a massage or simply take a long, hot bubble bath. If you take a moment to think about the things that make you feel good, I know you will come up with a list of ways to recharge your emotional batteries in no time. I guarantee you will feel more rewarded, and you won’t have that nagging, guilty feeling afterward.

Now, as a realist, I understand that despite our best laid plans we are all bound to overindulge now and then. And that’s not always a bad thing. Life wouldn’t be worth living if we were always perfectly regimented. So when you do go a little overboard, just let it go and move forward. No sense beating yourself up. The world does enough of that for us.

Good luck, Weekend Warriors!

Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, July 14, 2014

 

Taking time for your own health is important


Nothing can take the place of healthy eating and physical activity. Nothing.

Instead of thinking in terms of “diets” you need to think in terms of lifestyle change. At its very core, weight loss comes down simply to the balance between how many calories you consume and how many calories you burn each day.

Fad diets often work temporarily because of a gimmick that helps you to severely restrict calories for a short time. However, because calories are so significantly restricted, these diets become very difficult to maintain over the long haul and you eventually return to your old eating habits. What’s worse is that you often regain even more weight than you initially lost because you squandered lean body mass (your body’s calorie-burning powerhouse) in your crash-dieting extremism. 

Perhaps instead of looking for a miracle diet, you should consider what is holding you back from eating well and exercising regularly. Family commitments? Lack of time? Poor motivation? Stress? An old pinky injury from back in ’82? (Believe me, I have heard them all.)
Once you have determined what your barriers are, ponder for a moment why you are letting them hold you back. Quite often, our barriers — at their heart — stem from the fact that we don’t feel our health is important enough to make a priority. We are busy at work, or we have to help our kids with their homework, or we must take our mother to her doctor’s appointment. We feel that these things take precedence over our own needs, and that taking time for ourselves is selfish.

It isn’t! The truth is, the only way to be genuinely successful in losing weight and keeping it off is to start by loving yourself enough to put a priority on your own basic needs. And they are needs — make no mistake. 

We all need to eat well and be physically active if we are to be our best selves. Once we begin to view these things as non-negotiable necessities, we start to find ways to blast through the barriers.

We take a 15-minute walk on our break time instead of obsessing over emails — they will still be there in 15 minutes and the fresh air will probably help you to better concentrate on them when you get back anyway. We set up a schedule for helping our kids with their homework and let them do more of it on their own – after all, we want to teach them to be self-reliant don’t we? We double the recipe for what we are cooking the day before our mother’s appointment so that we have a healthy meal waiting for us when we get home later that evening. 

A focused mind is a powerful thing, indeed. So put your focus on health and you will see the obstacles that you once thought insurmountable become mere pebbles in the road. We are here for such a short time and each breath is such a precious gift. Don’t settle for poor health or even feeling just “OK.” True wellness affords us the chance to fully enjoy life and realize our own potential.

When you think about it, don’t you deserve that?

Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, July 07, 2014

 

Stop bullying now before major consequences occur


Bullying has been in the news so much lately it seems to be an epidemic.  Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.

According to the website StopBullying.gov, there are different forms of bullying:

•    Verbal bullying: This can include name-calling, teasing, instilling fear and shame.
•    Social bullying: Starting or spreading lies and false rumors, and/or breaking up friends and intentionally excluding others from activities.
•    Physical bullying: This form of bullying can involve hitting, shoving, punching, being forced to do things and other acts that can lead to intentional harm to others.
•    Racial harassment: Occurs when behaviors are associated to skin color, race and cultural background.
•    Sexual harassment: Involves unwanted behaviors linked to gender or sexual orientation.
•    Cyber–bullying: The use of digital technology involving the internet, texting, by email and other technological means to cause harm to others.

Unfortunately, the consequences of bullying have been well-documented — both short term and long term.Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. They are more likely to suffer:

•    Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
•    Health complaints like headaches, stomach aches, and even nausea.
•    Decreased academic achievement — GPA and standardized test scores — and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school. 

A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. Increasingly, we have seen in the news that many of the perpetrators of recent school shootings had been victims of bullying, and just reached a breaking point. 

What can be done?  Adults should respond quickly and decisively when bullying occurs.  The most important thing is to stop it on the spot. Make sure everyone is safe. Stay calm, and separate the kids involved.  Support those who are bullied, and those who were witnesses.  Don’t assume kids can deal with the situation without adult help. 

If a crime has been committed, or there is a weapon involved, call 911. And probably most important, seek mental health resources or counseling for all involved, as appropriate.  Bullying is a pervasive problem in our society, and we must all do our part to curb and stop it.   As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Knowing what's right doesn't mean much unless you do what's right.” 


Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Thursday, July 03, 2014

 

Follow safety precautions this Fourth of July


Nothing says “celebration” like fireworks on the Fourth of July.  It’s one summer event that people of every age look forward to each year.  Many communities host fireworks displays, open to the public, conducted by trained professionals.  The chaos and crowds are all part of the excitement.

I was talking about summer activities with my friend and colleague Jill Schaff, RN, Backus Trauma Program Coordinator.  She mentioned how she dreads the inevitable stream of people with traumatic injuries that will present in the Emergency Department around the Fourth of July.  

Most of them, usually children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, consumer fireworks include sparklers and firecrackers.  The tip of a sparkler burns at a temperature of more than 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns.  To put this in perspective, water boils at 212 degrees, cakes bake at 350 degrees and glass melts at 900 degrees. 

Few people understand the associated risks of consumer fireworks — devastating burns, other injuries like finger amputations, fires and even death. Despite the dangers, they are not illegal. 

Well, now that’s the bad news.  The good news is we can all still enjoy the holiday by leaving fireworks to the professionals. 

Call your local town hall to inquire if and when a public fireworks display is scheduled. For those in the Norwich area, the July 4 Extravaganza 2014 will be held at the Marina at American Wharf, 1 American Way, on Saturday, July 5, from 7-10 p.m.  Family fun and children’s activities will include bounce houses, face painting, local bands, food vendors and most important of all, a huge fireworks display. 

Now that’s a celebration. Wishing a happy and safe Fourth of July to all! 

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, June 23, 2014

 

Managing loss and grief


When we experience a loss, grief is the natural and healthy response.  It’s the emotional suffering we feel when something or someone we love is taken away.  Most people associate grief with the death of a loved one. However, any loss can cause grief, including divorce or relationship breakup, loss of health, loss of a job, loss of financial stability, death of a pet, loss of a cherished dream, or even selling the family home.  The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is a psychiatrist who defined five stages of grief in 1969.  She first introduced them in her book, On Death and Dying, but the stages of grief have been applied to those experiencing other types of loss in life.  

The five stages of grief are:

•  Denial – Our first reaction can be one of shock and disbelief:  “This can’t be happening.”
•  Anger – The tendency to lash out in anger at who we think is to blame.
•  Bargaining – “If you take this problem away, I promise to_____________.”
•  Depression – “I’m too sorrowful to function right now.”
•  Acceptance – Finally, a feeling of peace with what has happened.

Each person’s path is unique.  It is common to vacillate between stages. It can be an emotional roller coaster.  For example, when a good friend of mine was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I experienced the stages in different order, and sometimes got “stuck” in the anger stage, asking “Why is this happening to such a good person?”   It’s also common to feel anger with the sudden loss of a job or foreclosure of a home.

So what can we do to help us cope?   Melinda Smith and Jeanne Segal, writing for an on-line information service at www.HelpGuide.org,   have authored an excellent article entitled “Coping with Grief and Loss.”   They explain that the single most important factor in healing from loss is having the support of other people.  Sharing our feelings with others makes the burden of grief easier to carry.  Even people who pride themselves on being independent and self-reliant need to accept help.  Sometimes we can join a support group and derive comfort from others going through the same experience.  Some of us can draw solace from our faith, or talk to a therapist.

Second, it is more important than ever to take care of oneself when grieving.  Looking after our physical health is paramount.  Stress can be better managed by getting enough sleep, eating right, and getting exercise.  It’s easy to turn to drugs or alcohol to try to escape or numb the pain, but that may only  compound the problem.

Third, keep in mind that everyone copes with loss in different ways, and don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, or to “get over it.” There is no right or wrong way to grieve a loss.  Healing from emotional and psychological trauma takes time and patience.

If someone feels that the loss and grief has become too overwhelming, counseling should be sought. Unresolved, complicated grief can result in significant emotional damage, life-threatening health problems, and even suicide.  Dial 211 in CT or go online to www.211CT.org to get referrals for appropriate mental health counseling.  

I wanted to end this column on a positive note, so I called my friend and colleague Amy Dunion, RN, of the Backus Center for Healthcare Integration and asked for some positive words of advice.  Amy said we always need to be mindful about the importance of others no matter what stage of grieving we are in.  She offered this quote from Mother Teresa: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Monday, June 09, 2014

 

Stress is unavoidable, but you can manage it


Let’s face it: stress is a constant in our lives and cannot be avoided. So, stress management is the key, not stress elimination.  Here are several ways to help us manage stress in our daily life.

•  Cut down on unnecessary responsibilities and avoid over-scheduling.  It takes practice, but saying “No” to extra projects and social activities won’t result in the end of the world. 

•  Get away from the noise.  Wear earplugs. Everybody needs at least 15 minutes a day of quiet time – away from worries, phones, and noise. 

•  Exercise.  We are all well aware that exercise is essential for health.  Whether it is gardening, swimming, hiking, Zumba, Jazzercise, gym workouts, or brisk walking, 30 minutes of active movement a day is really optimal.

•  Learn relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. Simply sitting quietly and listening to soft music can have a calming effect.

•  Make time for leisure activities.  Every day, do something you really enjoy.   

•  Get a massage.  I was not really a fan of massages until my friend became a massage therapist opened a studio, and offered some discounted sessions.  Now, it is my favorite gift to myself, family and friends.

•  Create order out of chaos. This is my husband’s favorite tip, and one that I find to be my biggest challenge. Organize your home and workspace so that you always know exactly where things are.  Put things away where they belong and you won’t have to go through the stress of losing things and trying frantically to find them.

•  Have an optimistic view of the world.  The Texas Woman’s University Counseling Center suggests, “Believe that most people are doing the best they can.”  For every one thing that goes wrong, there are probably 50 or 100 blessings.  All we have to do is count them!

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, June 02, 2014

 

Having your own doctor is the first step to good health

 
What happens when you get sick and don’t have a primary care provider?  Either you ignore the problem or go to the hospital emergency room for an illness that doesn’t really require emergency care.  Neither is a good choice for optimal health.   Here are some reasons to have a primary care provider (PCP).

Preventative  care: One of the most important functions of a PCP is providing preventative care, whether it is timely screenings, blood tests, or vaccinations. It’s certainly better to discover, diagnose and treat for hypertension before presenting to the ER with a stroke.

Coordination of care:  Many of us see specialists for different health issues.  The PCP can coordinate information between healthcare providers and avoid duplication of testing.  
 
Fewer trips to the ER: PCPs can call in a prescription or answer questions over the phone, reducing unnecessary trips to the hospital.

Discussing uncomfortable subjects:  When you are established with a PCP you hopefully build a rapport, and it becomes easier to discuss sensitive subjects like anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug overuse, or sexuality-related problems.  

Dr. Ramindra Walia, Chief Medical Officer at United Community & Family Services and a member of the Backus Medical Staff, offers these tips to optimize your relationship with health care providers:  

Prepare for your visit by writing down a list of concerns or questions and bringing it to the appointment. To make the visit more streamlined and satisfactory, prioritize so the most urgent problems can be addressed first.

Don’t keep secrets from your PCP.  It puts you and your PCP at a disadvantage and could actually be harmful.  Be honest in reporting symptoms and habits.  Good communication is key to successful health care. 

After all, shouldn’t being healthy — and staying that way — be everyone’s goal?

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

 

Filling the medicine cabinet for summertime


Summer is nearly here, and we all need to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.   Summertime sports and activities can sometimes result in minor health problems and injuries.  Be prepared by keeping your medicine cabinet well-stocked. Essential items should include:

•  Bandages: for scrapes, cuts, burns or sprains you should have a supply of band-aids, gauze, stretch bandages and first aid tape.
•  Topical antibiotic: Wounds should be cleaned as soon as possible to prevent infection. I suggest cleansing with soap and water first, rinsing well with water, and then apply antiseptic ointment like Bacitracin and a band-aid.
•  Aspirin: For pain, inflammation and fever relief.  Don’t forget that chewing an aspirin at the start of a possible heart attack can save a life.
•  Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Unlike aspirin, Tylenol is absorbed through the liver and as such can be taken on an empty stomach.  Relieves pain fast.
•  Thermometer:  A fever should be monitored closely.  Should a temperature rise above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, a doctor should be consulted.
•  Antacid: To relieve upset stomachs.
•  Anti-diarrhea medicine:  Diarrhea can be potentially dangerous.  Consult a doctor should this condition last for more than two days.
•  Sunscreen: Preferably a cream with SPF 30 or higher.  Sunscreen will protect the skin and prevent sun burn.  Re-apply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
•  Hydrocortisone cream:  Brings relief to itchy skin due to insect bites or poison ivy.  Also brings pain relief after sunburn.
•  Calamine lotion: For rashes, poison ivy or poison oak.
•  Cold/ice packs are good to have handy.  I always made homemade ice packs by filling a surgical glove with ice chips and tying the wrist in a knot.  Ice brings relief to sore muscles.  Apply to sore area for twenty minutes, take off for twenty, then repeat.  Apply directly on the skin for sunburn or first degree burns.
•  Tweezers: to remove splinters and ticks.
•  Scissors:  to cut bandages.

Keep a printed list of emergency numbers on the inside of your medicine cabinet.  On this list, include the number of your doctor, your veterinarian and the poison control center.  Print this list in a large font so that anyone can read it without having to look for glasses first.

With a well-stocked medicine cabinet, you will be prepared for everything an active summer has in store.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Monday, May 19, 2014

 

Make safety at home a priority


My friend and nurse colleague Gillian Mosier, RN, MSN, is the Backus Trauma Program coordinator.  I recently asked her thoughts about the most prevalent safety issue she encounters.  Her answer shouldn’t have surprised me.  She said about 60% of all trauma cases presenting in the Emergency Department are injuries resulting from accidental falls.  It’s disheartening to see so much pain and suffering when most accidents are preventable. 

Many scenarios can cause a fall.  For older folks, eyesight, hearing and reflexes might not be as sharp as they were when were younger.  Diabetes or heart disease can cause balance problems and numbness of hands and feet.  Some medications can cause drowsiness or dizziness.  Discuss these issues with your primary care provider. 

Regardless of age, making our homes safe should be a priority for all of us.

On the stairs or in the hallway:
•  Keep pathways free of clutter, and never leave anything on the stairs.
•  Install handrails on the stairs, tightly fastened.
•  Use the handrails going up or down stairs.
•  If carrying something, hold the item in one hand and use the handrail with the other.
•  Don’t let what you’re carrying block your view of the steps.
•  Don’t go up or down the stairs in socks or high heels, where you can easily slip.
•  Make sure there is adequate lighting in hallways, and a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairway.

In the bathroom:
•  There should be a secure hand rail or place to grab when getting in and out of the tub or shower. This is true for people of any age.  When my son was three years old, he slipped and fell coming out of the bathtub even though I was right there with him.  He still has the scar on his chin to prove it. 
•  Place non-skid mats in the shower and on bathroom floors.

In all living areas:  
•  Keep electric cords near walls and away from walkways.
•  Don’t stand on a chair or table to reach something that is too high. 
•  Tack down all carpets and large areas rugs firmly to the floor.
•  And my personal pet peeve:  Get rid of throw rugs or small area rugs.  When I was a home care nurse I called them “hip-breakers.”

Falls can’t always be prevented, but if we follow these safety basics we can make our homes a safer place.  Some of these tips are very easy fixes, yet are often overlooked.  Let’s strive to be more accident-free.  Let’s keep my friend and nurse colleague Gillian happy by making her acquaintance in a local restaurant instead of in the Emergency Department.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, May 05, 2014

 

Treat mental health illness, stop the stigma


May is Mental Health Awareness month. Many people feel that mental illness is rare and happens to “someone else,” but the truth of the matter is mental illness is widespread and common.  

It is estimated that 54 million people in the United States suffer from some degree of mental illness.  People commonly struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, or other mental illnesses.   The good news is that with treatment and support services, recovery is possible. 

The impact of mental illness on the family can be severe.  Even when family members are accepting and supportive of a loved one with mental illness, they are often reluctant to discuss it with others for fear of negative reactions.  After all, myths and misconception still surround mental illness. For many, even their closest friends may not understand. 

For example, a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and when she told co-workers, they were all supportive and understanding. However, when another friend confided in co-workers that his brother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, they said little and implied that something must be very wrong in his family to cause this illness. 

Many of these issues will be discussed at an upcoming mental health community forum, sponsored by Backus and Windham hospitals on Friday, May 16, from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Hartford HealthCare East System Support Office, 11 Stott Ave. in Norwich. The panel forum, Can’t Keep It To Ourselves – A Community Dialogue on Mental Illness will feature acclaimed author and mental health advocate Wally Lamb.  Pre-registration is required by calling 860-892-6900.    

Join us as we take the opportunity to hear stories, ask questions of the experts, and work to combat the stigma associated with mental illness.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Monday, April 14, 2014

 

Just say “Ahhh”


All you have to do is say, “Ahhh” — it’s that simple to get checked at a screening during Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, which is observed April 20-26.

Oral, head, and neck cancer is a broad term that includes malignant tumors occurring in the mouth or oral cavity, which includes lips, tongue, gums, lining inside the lips and cheeks, and the floor or roof of the mouth; the oropharynx, which includes the back one-third of the tongue, the back of the throat, and the tonsils; the nasopharynx, the area behind the nose; the hypopharynx, lower part of the throat; and the voice box.

The sixth most common cancer in the world, oral, head, and neck cancer affects more than 100,000 people each year in the United States.

According to The National Cancer Institute, there are several risk factors:

•  Tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use are very important risk factors for oral, head and neck cancers, particularly those of the tongue, mouth, throat and voice box.
•  Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted disease, has recently emerged as a leading cause of oropharyngeal (tonsil and base of tongue) cancer, particularly in non-smokers and younger age groups.
•  Family history or exposure to radiation.  While anyone can develop thyroid cancers, these are considered factors that may increase the risk.

Some early signs and symptoms may include:

•  A red or white spot in your mouth that doesn't heal or that increases in size
•  Sore throat or swollen tonsil
•  Changes in your voice
•  A lump in your neck
•  Persistent earachwe
•  Difficulty swallowing

It is important to note that the symptoms described here can occur with no cancer present, but having a thorough examination by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician can rule out any issues.

Speaking of that, Backus Hospital will offer a free head and neck cancer screening on Thursday, April 24, provided by ENTspecialists Gregory Lesnik, MD, Thomas Lesnik, MD, and Steven Green, MD.  Dentists also participating in the screening include Edward Yates, DDS, Richard Martin, MD, DMD, Robert Strick, DMD,  and Sami Yousuf, DDS. The screening will take place, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the hospital’s main entry level conference rooms at 326 Washington St. in Norwich. No appointments necessary; walk-ins welcome.

Last year more than 150 people were checked at the Backus screening – it’s easy, free, and might even save a life.  For more information about oral, head, and neck cancer, visit www.ohancaw.com.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

 

Sometimes, out of tragedy, comes awareness


On Wednesday, April 2, the Fort Hood Army base in Texas was rocked by a shooting that left four dead and 16 wounded. Since then, military officials revealed that the alleged shooter, Ivan Lopez, was being assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a mental illness that has become associated with veterans of war.

PTSD is a debilitating mental disorder that can affect people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event, such as abuse, assault, disasters, accidents, or wartime. Those suffering from PTSD may experience a wide range of symptoms including flashbacks, nightmares, sleep disturbances, or panic attacks. They may seem irritable and explosive, or detached and avoidant. Here are some more facts about PTSD:

•  We don’t know exactly who will develop PTSD. After a traumatic event, it is common to develop an acute stress reaction, but only a small percentage will go on to develop PTSD. Various factors such as genetics and a history of prior trauma seem to play a role. A traumatic brain injury, such as those experienced in battle when soldiers are exposed to explosive devices, is likely to increase the risk of developing PTSD.
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•  PTSD affects men and women, children and adults. Although women are slightly more likely to suffer from PTSD, men are susceptible too. Similarly, PTSD can affect people of all ages. Children may not display classic symptoms of PTSD, but instead may show regression in behavior or other behavioral problems.

•  People with PTSD may self-medicate. What looks like a drug or alcohol problem on the outside may stem from deeper seeded issues. People with mental illnesses like PTSD often self-medicate with alcohol or prescription or street drugs. PTSD is also known to have a high degree of correlation with other mental illnesses (co-morbidity), such as major depression and anxiety disorders.

•  PTSD, like all mental illnesses, is treatable. There is often a misconception that treatment doesn’t work; on the contrary, between 70% and 90% of individuals that receive treatment for mental illness have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of therapy and medication.

Jonathan Chasen, MD, is an Associate Medical Director at Natchaug Hospital, a Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network affiliate and Eastern Connecticut’s leading provider of intensive behavioral health and substance abuse treatment. This column should not replace the advice of your provider. To watch a video on post-traumatic stress disorder, visit www.natchaug.org.



Monday, April 07, 2014

 

The benefits of adding the “out” to your workout


As we emerge squinting and stumbling from our hibernatory caves, we get our first taste of delicious sunshine and smile. Spring is here — and not a moment too soon. We’ve officially made it through a very tough winter.

At this time of year, we are naturally drawn to the outdoors, and with good reason. Not only do we want to drink in all of that warmth and blue sky we’ve been missing, but mankind has an innate physiological need to connect with nature.

While I’m sure that most of you can appreciate how good you feel after spending time outside, you may be unaware that studies are beginning to show just how important nature is to our health. Research has demonstrated that regularly spending time outdoors can reduce stress hormone levels and release endorphins. It can enhance our immune systems and balance our moods. Amazingly, recent studies have shown that it can even boost our ability to fight cancer.

And those are just the benefits of being outside, even if it’s just to sit quietly in the grass and listen to the sound of chirping birds and swaying tree branches. Exercise itself boasts many of the same advantages as quiet time in nature, so just imagine how the bonuses multiply when you exercise outside. Cha-ching!

What’s more, researchers have observed that people who exercise outdoors perceive their level of exertion as lower and their sense of enjoyment higher than those exercising at the same intensity indoors. Imagine that. You’re working out harder (and reaping all the rewards of a more intense workout) without even feeling it, all while having more fun. Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

Yep, this one’s a no-brainer. So in the spirit of spring, re-introduce yourself to Mother Nature. She’s missed you.

Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Monday, March 31, 2014

 

What to expect when you're NOT expecting

 
Under normal circumstances, asking a woman when she is expecting a baby is a happy occasion.  However, if a woman has gained some weight and is not pregnant, it’s her worst nightmare.  This scenario happened to a good friend of mine and was the motivation she needed to lose 30 pounds.  Sometimes we just need a motivator. Here are some helpful hints to help women — and men — to lose those extra pounds:

•  List your reasons to lose weight.  Unless your doctor warned you that there would be dire health consequences if you don’t lose weight, here are some solid reasons we can all appreciate — to feel better, to get healthy, and to feel more energetic, just to name a few.  Whatever your reasons, write them down and post them on the fridge, where you can see them everyday.

•  Reward yourself for achievements.  Whether it’s getting a manicure, downloading some new iTunes, or going to the latest movie, reward yourself for incremental achievements, just not with a pint of double chocolate ice cream or half a pound cake.

•  Buddy up with a fellow dieter.  This is important for support and to share your successes and failures.   Sometimes you won’t feel like exercising or taking that power walk, but if you’ve pre-arranged to meet someone and do it together, you won’t want to disappoint your buddy.

•  Create a diversion.  Too many demands on your time can result in mindless snacking. Take a moment to put on the brakes. Stand up and look out the window, or step outside.  Focus on the view, the weather, and how you feel. Give yourself a few minutes to be in the moment and to assess if you really are hungry.

•  Take it slowly.  Make small changes so you don’t get discouraged.  Last year, I wrote about my husband and his co-worker’s ill-considered food choices when I am working late.  That public exposure was the motivation for both of them to make small changes in their food choices.  Last week, my husband told me instead of peanut butter and jelly on white bread with diet soda they will snack on fresh fruit and cut up veggies with water to drink.  They still admit to occasionally indulging in bologna on potato bread, but these small steps are big victories towards healthier eating. 

These are some strategies to stay motivated – each person needs to find what works for them. One last tip — don’t congratulate a woman on her pregnancy unless you are absolutely sure she is expecting!

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, March 24, 2014

 

A few fun health facts to ponder


After taking on a very serious topic in last week's column (see below), I feel compelled to write about something a little lighter this week — maybe even a little frivolous.

Here are some fun health facts, gleaned from various internet websites: 

•  It takes 10-15 minutes of laughter a day to burn up 50 calories.

•  Cockroaches can live for nine days after their head has been cut off.  (Source: funfactz.com)

•  The most pushups ever performed in one day was 46,001 by Charles Servizio. (Source: Wikipedia.com)

•  The chances of you dying on the way to get your lottery tickets are greater than your chances of winning. (Source: funfactz.com)

•  A sneeze generates a wind of 100 miles/hour, and a cough is expelled at 60 miles/hour.

•  An adult produces about 25,000 quarts of saliva in a lifetime, enough to fill two swimming pools.

•  It is not possible to tickle yourself. The cerebellum, a part of the brain, warns the rest of the brain that you are about to tickle yourself. Since your brain knows this, it ignores the resulting sensation.

•  People have the tendency to chew the food on the side that they most often use their hand.

•  About 10% of the world’s population is left-handed. 

•  The average sperm cell swims at eight inches per hour.

•  Your pet isn't the only one in the house with a shedding problem. Humans shed about 600,000 particles of skin every hour. That works out to about 1.5 pounds each year, so the average person will lose around 105 pounds of skin by age 70. (Source: www.health.howstuffworks.com)

•  Researchers have found that more than 2,000 different species of bacteria live in our belly button. (Source: abcnews.go.com)

•  Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.

•  Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. It was the fashion in Renaissance Florence to shave them off.

•  There are as many hairs per square inch on your body as a chimpanzee. (source: wellspringdaily.com)

•  By age 60, 40% of women and 60% of men will snore. While snores average around 60 decibels, the noise level of normal speech, they can reach more than 80 decibels. Eighty decibels is as loud as the sound of a pneumatic drill breaking up concrete. (Source: howstuffworks.com)

•  The brain operates on the same amount of power as 10-watt light bulb. (Source: wiki.answers.com)

•  If you didn’t have valves in your body, when you stand up all the blood in your body would literally fall downward, filling your feet and legs up.  (Source: crazyhealthfacts.com)

•  You see your nose at all times, your brain just chooses to ignore it.

Researchers say adults laugh 15 times a day on average, but children laugh about 300 times a day. Hopefully, some of these fun health facts helped you meet your laugh quota for today.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

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