Monday, May 30, 2016


Kale: Taking the first bite

Kale is a nutrient-dense, leafy green vegetable that is a good source of calcium, magnesium and vitamins A, C, E and K. Even with its stellar nutrient profile,  kale does not seem to rank high on the average person’s food preference scale and it is often avoided. Two major reasons for this are that kale and other dark leafy greens have a mild to sharply bitter flavor and traditional methods of cooking them (e.g. steaming and boiling) do not improve meal-time appeal.

There are many ways to improve the appeal of kale. For example, the sourness of citrus juice is a lovely contrast to the bitter undertones of dark green vegetables. Fats from dressings, oils, nuts, seeds and avocados do a wonderful job of masking the bitterness as well. Therefore, I encourage you to try a new way of preparing kale. Simply sauté for a few minutes (with flavorful additions such as onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, kumquats, etc.) or make a massaged kale salad by following the recipe outline below:

• Wash the kale, pat dry, remove stems, and tear the leaves into smaller pieces.
• Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt (1 tsp/8 cups kale), and massage until kale just begins to wilt.
• Then add: chopped avocado (2 avocados/8 cups kale), a squeeze of lemon juice (1 lemon/8 cups kale), and thinly sliced red onion.
• Massage once more until the avocado becomes a creamy dressing. Leave some chunks of avocado please!
• Season to taste with black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional.)

This spring, I demonstrated how to prepare this simple and delicious kale salad at the Know Your Farmer Fair in Windham. The event was a first annual collaboration between nonprofit organizations: GROW Windham and CLICK Inc. Both organizations are rooted in food justice, sustainable agriculture, community outreach, and small business development. During this event, I had the pleasure of meeting a mother and her daughter. The mother hesitated when I offered them a sample of the kale salad. She explained that, despite all of her efforts, her 4-year-old daughter would not try kale.

I explained to her daughter that the kale was made a special way. I asked her if she liked avocados, and she nodded her head. I showed her the avocado pieces in the salad and asked if she would like to try it. She said yes! Later, mom and daughter returned for the recipe and information about the farm who generously donated the kale.

Children (and adults alike) can be very particular about the food they eat. In addition to flavor, texture and overall mouth feel are very important things to pay attention to. For example, a child might not like the soft, moist texture of cooked broccoli but he or she might eat an entire bowl of crunchy raw broccoli with his or her favorite dressing. Another way to encourage children to try new foods is to use different cooking methods and pair new foods with their favorites. Also consider having your children help you in the kitchen.

Research shows that children who are more active in food selection and preparation will be more likely to try new foods. Food avoidance is often more than a generic dislike of the food itself. It is often a reflection of a child’s desire to be independent and to make their own food choices. So give your child the opportunity to have an active role in food selection and preparation by asking them to help you choose a recipe, and also to help you find the ingredients in the grocery store. Make it a scavenger hunt!

If you decide to take this step please understand that there are many factors that can contribute to a child’s eating behaviors. Children are very observant and learn food behaviors from parents, siblings, and other role models. Attention parents and guardians: If you want your children to be adventurous and try new, healthful foods, you need to be adventurous too!

Brenda Viens is a registered dietitian at Backus Hospital and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. 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 or e-mail Ms. Viens or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, May 23, 2016


Pet therapy: Healing methods that have gone to the dogs

Pet therapy isn’t just fun, fur and games. According to the Mayo Clinic, interaction with a gentle, friendly pet can result in many physical health benefits such as:

• lowering blood pressure
• releasing endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect
• diminishing overall physical pain
• producing an automatic relaxation response from the act of petting, reducing the amount of medication some folks need.

There are also many emotional health benefits:

• lifting spirits and lessening depression
• decreasing feelings of isolation and alienation
• encouraging communication
• providing comfort
• increasing socialization
• reducing boredom
• lowering anxiety
• helping children overcome speech and emotional disorders
• creating motivation for a person to recover faster

On their website, the risks of pet therapy have been addressed. The biggest concern, particularly in hospitals, is safety and sanitation. Most hospitals and other facilities that use pet therapy have stringent rules to ensure that the animals are clean, vaccinated, well-trained and screened for appropriate behavior.

It's also important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has never received a report of infection from animal-assisted therapy.

My friend Fran Poris volunteers in the Center for Healthcare Integration (CHI) at Backus Hospital. I asked her to share a little about her experiences as a certified pet therapist.

“I was a special education teacher for 37 years. In my last year of teaching, I brought my Bearded Collie puppy Quincy (named after a former student) to school with me so my fifth graders could read to him. The program was so popular that all the fifth graders, not only my students, wanted a chance to read to him.”

“Quincy and I have volunteered at schools, libraries, nursing homes, Center for Hospice Care and at Backus Hospital. When I clip Quincy’s nametag and blue leash onto his collar he knows it is time to work.”

“There are places Quincy likes to visit more than others. One of those places is Backus Hospital. Quincy can hardly wait to jump out of the car when he sees where we are going and his tail wags enthusiastically. He loves when people pet him, talk to him and scratch his back. Quincy, being motivated by food, loves when patients give him treats that I provide for him. The first year that we volunteered, I brought dog treats for patients to give him and Quincy gained 10 pounds! Now I bring kibble from his dinner and that works equally well.”

“People often think that pet therapy is just for patients. Not so. Quincy makes doctors, nurses, staff and visitors feel happy as well. Many people have told me that we made their day with our visit. Patients too ill to talk often place their hands on Quincy’s head to pet him or just smile when they see him next to their beds. Patients who have pets at home are especially grateful for a visit from Quincy. They miss their pets and tell me stories about their animals.”

“Just like people have their favorites, so does Quincy. He has even formed bonds with favorite patients. He enthusiastically wags his tail and snuggles up to his favorites waiting for a scratch behind his ears or on his back,” Poris said.

It’s hard not to smile at that image. It helps us to visualize man’s best friend as a healer with paws and fur.

Alice Facente is a community health education 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 or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, May 16, 2016


Therapy that’s music to our ears

Haven’t we all had the experience of listening to music and suddenly sensing a change in our mood? I’m sure all of us can recall feeling a flood of emotions when hearing a song associated with a joyful, exciting, or even sorrowful time in our life.

When you think about it, we have all been engaging in a form of therapy in our lives — music therapy — in a variety of ways. We listen to music in our cars, during commutes to work, at the doctor’s office, in waiting rooms, while shopping in stores, performing household chores, and more. Personally, I could never keep up with the mandate for daily exercise if I didn’t have music to accompany me on the treadmill. And music is at the core of the increasingly popular Jazzercise and Zumba exercise programs.

According to WebMD, music therapy is the use of music to gain physical and emotional healing and wellness. This can involve listening to music, music-making, or both. Some of the health benefits associated with music therapy are:

• Reducing stress
• Easing anxiety
• Decreasing depression
• Promoting relaxation
• Increasing concentration
• Boosting immune system
• Decreasing blood pressure
• Elevating mood
• Alleviating pain
• Helping express feeling

There are numerous studies detailing the effect of music on children with autism spectrum disorders, on infant development, management of the pain associated with childbirth, cancer, burn treatment, physical rehab, to reduce discomfort during dialysis, and to promote sleep.

In older adults with Alzheimer's, dementia, and other mental disorders, research suggests that music therapy can reduce aggressive or agitated behavior, reduce symptoms of dementia, improve mood, and improve cooperation with daily tasks, such as bathing.

As always, check with your health care provider before adding or substituting a complementary or alternative therapy like music therapy to your conventional treatment regimen.

Alice Facente is a community health education 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 or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, May 09, 2016


From one nurse to another

There are almost 3 million nurses practicing in the United States today, so chances are you or someone in your family has chosen this profession. Most nurses would agree that it is a privilege to travel with patients on their healthcare journeys. I asked a few of my nurse friends and colleagues to share some of the things they have learned in their nursing career.

Jessica Vanase, Backus Breast Care Navigator Nurse said, “People trust nurses. A lot. The trust that patients put in your hands is an enormous responsibility, and you have to be on your game every day you work.” She also said, “The best thing I can do is teach a patient how to advocate for themselves, find legitimate information, and take charge of their own health conditions.”

Lisa Bazinet, Eastern Region Manager of Cancer Care Services, said, “Being a nurse is really, really hard work. It’s not like an episode of ER or Grey’s Anatomy. You often see the nurses in these shows on break or in the cafeteria. That is the Hollywood version of nursing. Nurses are never in the cafeteria sipping coffee or on break. It never happens.”

Another important point Lisa wanted to make is, “It’s OK to cry if your patient dies. Many of us were taught not to get too close to your patient — ‘it’s unprofessional — keep your distance.’ I feel differently. Having that emotional connection with that patient and their family makes their loved one feel special and cared for- not merely a diagnosis or a room number. Making these special connections is why I became a nurse in the first place. There’s nothing more rewarding than making that difference in the lives of people in need!”

Liz Fracchia, an APRN at Backus Hospital told me, “Kindness always matters; whether it’s appreciated or not doesn’t matter.” Her advice for new nurses is, “Always do the right thing for your patients, for your family, and for yourself. If you follow this rule you will never regret it.”

All of the nurses I surveyed felt that injecting humor into healthcare encounters can be positive and promote healing. “Laughter is the best medicine” seems to be a common theme. Lori Surber, Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator at Windham Hospital shared some very humorous insights. She said, “I have become the best co-pilot for road trips since nurses are known to be able to go without using the restroom for an entire 12 hour shift.”

Amy Dunion, Director of the Center for Healthcare Integration (CHI) agrees: “Humor goes a long way, but love goes all the way.” Always the optimist, Amy also adds, “You never know when something miraculous is going to happen.”

Nurses have many roles, all with varying challenges that we must meet on a daily basis. But providing comprehensive quality healthcare requires enormous team effort; from patients, doctors, nurses, medical assistants, dietitians, aides, respiratory and physical therapists, lab and x-ray techs, pharmacists, and many more. A smart nurse values and acknowledges the importance of every other member of the team.

Most of us love being a nurse and couldn’t imagine being anything else. National Nurses Week is May 6-12 this year, a time to pause and celebrate the nurses in your life. I am proud to a part of the nursing profession and concur with Nurse Amy Dunion as she declares, “We’re all in this together.”

Alice Facente is a community health education 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 or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, May 02, 2016


Use your head for bicycle safety

Let’s face it —there are few things more fun for children than riding a bicycle. It offers freedom, fun and fresh air exercise. Since we all want to keep kids as safe as possible, here are some basic safety tips we should all be aware of:

• Always wear a properly fitting helmet.
Ride on the right side of the road in the same direction as traffic. Go with the flow, not against it.
• Always ride with both hands on the handlebars. Carry books and other items in a bicycle carrier or backpack, not in your arms.
Avoid riding at night. It makes sense that it’s more dangerous riding at night because of the inability to be seen by others. Wear clothes that reflect light and are easily seen in daytime, dusk, dawn, nighttime, or foul weather.
Observe rules of the road. Don’t ride into a street without stopping, swerve into traffic that is coming from behind, or run stop signs.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, more children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to biking than any other sport. Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent — yet only 45 percent of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet. On their website, they have a simple saying: "Use your head, wear a helmet." It is the single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury and death from bicycle crashes.

Actually, it’s not just children; everyone, regardless of age or cycling experience, needs to wear a helmet every time we ride.

I asked my friend and colleague Renee Malaro, RN, Backus Hospital’s Trauma Program Manager to shed some light on the issue of bike safety. I was hoping she would be able to say she has not encountered many bicycle-related injuries in the ER, but sadly that’s not the case.

Renee says that according KidsHealth roughly 300,000 kids go to the emergency department every year due to bike related injuries and this area is certainly not immune to this statistic. There are accidents and there are predictable events, and unfortunately it is easy to predict that every year we will receive patients with bicycle related injuries, she says. Of these injuries the most severe cases often include head injuries that may cause significant brain injury resulting in a need for hospitalization, life altering changes of daily routine or even worse death.

“What cannot be predicted is whether while riding a bicycle control will be lost due to going downhill, hitting an object on the road, sidewalk or path that is being ridden, or if that vehicle may not be able to stop in time if they happen to see you coming into the road. I urge every parent to ensure your children know the safety tips for riding safely and model the behavior that may save your life as well. I cannot agree more and think it is worth repeating that helmet use is the single most effective way to reduce bicycle-related fatalities as Safe Kids Worldwide suggests,” Renee says.

Renee is coordinating the 12th annual Backus Safety Camp on Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Backus Hospital parking lot. Representatives from the police, fire, ambulance, health departments and more will be on hand to talk about safety in a fun and interactive event. Kids will be fitted for free bicycle helmets while supplies last. All are welcome.

I recently saw a big gentleman sporting a T-shirt with a great slogan, also appropriate for the Safety Camp: “All bikers big and small, biking safety is for all.”

Alice Facente is a community health education 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 or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?