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Resources for Caregivers

There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.” – Rosalyn Carter

Caregivers often hide in plain sight. They make up a substantial portion of the United States population. In the US alone, there are over 40 million unpaid caregivers for adults over the age of 65. We tend not to realize the strain put on an individual who cares for a loved one. Instead, we see only the selflessness with which they provide care. Unfortunately, there’s often more going on than we recognize.

Caring for a loved one can be overwhelming, particularly when providing care for a spouse. It’s important to understand and utilize the resources available to you as a caregiver. Here are some great resources for caregivers:

VA Caregiver Support

If you provide care for a veteran, the Veterans Administration has a number of resources available to you. Services offered include mentoring, diagnosis-specific tips and guidance. Additionally, help is available to care for your loved one so that you have time to care for yourself. Many of these services are provided at no cost.

Diagnosis-specific Support Networks

Many organizations offer online support networks for patients and caregivers, focused on specific diagnoses. These support networks typically have segments dedicated to the unique needs of caregivers. Some of the organizations offering these support networks include:

Local Support Groups

Hospitals often host support groups on a variety of topics. Some are diagnosis-specific. Others focus directly on caregivers. It can be quite helpful to connect with individuals who have had similar experiences to yours. Contact your local hospital to find out what support groups they host and when they meet.

An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.” – Unknown

As a caregiver, it’s important not to neglect yourself. The resources above offer support so that you can care for yourself, too. Additionally, you may speak with your healthcare provider for more resources. Remember, taking good care of yourself is part of providing care to another!

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How to Spot a Stroke

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke. Every four minutes, someone dies.

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for about one out of every 20 deaths.

As many as 80% of strokes may be preventable. But if someone is suffering a stroke, one of the most important factors is time. Knowing the signs of stroke, and what to do in that situation, could save a person’s life.

All you need to remember is F-A-S-T.

F: Face Drooping

Look at the person’s face. Does one side droop? Do they feel numbness on one side of their face?
Action item: Ask the person to smile. Is their smile lopsided or uneven?

A: Arm Weakness

Does the person feel numbness or weakness in one arm?
Action item: Ask the person to raise both arms above their head. Are they able to lift both arms? Does one arm drift downward?

S: Speech Difficulty

Is the person making sense when they speak? Are their words slurred?
Action item: Ask the person to say a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Can you understand what they say?

T: Time to Call 9-1-1

If any of these symptoms are present, call 9-1-1 immediately. Tell the operator you think someone is having a stroke. Do this even if these symptoms disappear. Time is critical, so it is important to get them to the hospital right away. Be sure to note the time when the symptoms appeared.
Action item: Call 9-1-1!

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Physical Therapy and Respiratory Failure

Physical therapy can play an important role in many patients’ recoveries. And this holds true for patients who are on ventilators as well.

Studies have shown that early movement in patients on ventilators – like sitting, standing, and even walking – can provide better recoveries.

Physical therapists can help patients on ventilators begin moving as soon as possible. This may include progressing from arm movements to sitting on the edge of the bed to even walking down the hall. This is all while the patient is still on a ventilator.

If it doesn’t sound like an easy feat, it’s because it’s not. It requires determination from the patient. Often, it also requires the help of several healthcare professionals to ensure the patient’s safety.

But, it’s worth it.

Every step the patient takes – literally and figuratively – provides for a better chance of recovery.

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3 Tips for Keeping Yourself Flu-Free

It’s that time of year again…flu season. With the constant risk of catching the virus, educating yourself can be the key to being flu-free.

The flu typically is spread when someone who has it coughs, sneezes, or talks. Droplets from his or her mouth spread to the mouths or noses of people nearby. Additionally, you can catch the flu from touching an object that has flu germs on it, and then touching your mouth or nose.

Once flu germs get inside the body, they go to the respiratory system. There, they attach to those cells, essentially turning them into more flu germs. That’s when your immune system begins to fight back. It does so by creating two different proteins that attack the virus – cytokines and chemokines. Cytokines multiply to help fight off the virus. Chemokines create white blood cells (called T cells) to help fight against the virus, as well.

Eventually, the fever that comes along with the flu is your body’s way of killing off the virus.

As it turns out, many symptoms you feel from the flu aren’t the virus itself. Rather, it is your immune system working to fight it off.

While it’s great that your body has the ability to fight the flu, the best defense is always prevention. To keep yourself flu-free, try these 3 tips:

  1. Get a flu shot. This vaccine is the number one way to keep the flu out of your body.
  2. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: wash, wash, wash your hands. When you wash your hands, you wash flu (and other) germs away, limiting your risk of catching them.
  3. Last, keep the surfaces clean in your house to help remove any flu germs.
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Wash the Germs Away

We’ve heard it all before – wash your hands often, especially during flu season. But does hand-washing really keep you from getting sick?

The short answer is, yes!

Washing your hands with soap can kill bacteria and viruses that are spread through individuals or objects such as door knobs. When you don’t wash your hands, little actions, such as touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, can put you at risk almost immediately for an illness, providing the germs access to enter your body.

What is interesting to note, however, is that washing your hands with warm water doesn’t kill any more germs than washing with cold water.

In fact, recent studies have shown that the temperature of hand-washing water doesn’t affect the amount of germs being washed away. The only time that a certain water temperature would kill more germs is if the water was boiling (212 ℉), in which case, it would burn and damage your hands.

So what’s the most effective way to wash your hands?

  1. Wet your hands with water.
  2. Pump soap to a cupped hand.
  3. Lather and rub your hands vigorously for about 20 seconds. Be sure to get in between fingers.
  4. Rinse all soap off of hands.
  5. Dry your hands well with a towel. Germs can be more easily transferred to and from wet hands.
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Life-Saving Mechanical Ventilation

Mechanical ventilation, also known as artificial ventilation, is a life-support treatment that’s used to help people when they can’t breathe on their own.

When a person is put on a ventilator, a tube is placed into the patient’s mouth or nose and down the windpipe. When the tube is placed down the windpipe, it’s called intubation. The ventilator blows gas through it to the person’s lungs, either assisting breathing or doing all the breathing for the patient.

A ventilator isn’t painful, although sometimes the inserted tube and the blowing of air into a person’s lungs may feel uncomfortable. Sedatives or pain medications may be given to help make a person more at ease.

A ventilator can provide higher levels of oxygen than what can be delivered by other methods. It also can help hold the lungs open so the air sacs don’t collapse. It’s important to note, however, that ventilators don’t fix the condition that led to the patient needing it.

Ventilators help support the person’s breathing until other treatments become effective.

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Pancreatitis Explained

Most people recognize the disease name “pancreatitis,” but many don’t actually know what it means. Does this sound like you? If so, here’s what you should know:

The pancreas is a large gland that plays two main roles in aiding your digestive system:
1. It secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine to help break down food.
2. It releases hormones into the bloodstream to help regulate the way your body processes glucose (sugar) from food.

Pancreatitis is when your pancreas is inflamed, occurring when these digestive enzymes are activated before they’re released into the small intestine. In turn, the enzymes irritate and inflame the pancreas, which causes damage.

Pancreatitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including alcohol, gallstones, cigarette smoking, family history, abdominal injury and abdominal surgery.

There are two types of pancreatitis – acute and chronic. Acute is a sudden inflammation and lasts a short time. Chronic pancreatitis is less sudden and long-lasting. The symptoms for both are similar, but there are a few exceptions.

Acute Symptoms:
• Upper abdominal pain, that may extend to back or worsens after eating
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Fever
• Increased pulse
• Abdomen tenderness

Chronic Symptoms:
• Pain in upper abdomen and back
• Unexplained weight loss
• Loose stools with noticeable fat

The easiest ways to prevent pancreatitis are to limit your alcohol intake, eat healthy, exercise often, and don’t smoke.

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How Immunizations Help

Contrary to popular belief, immunization is more than getting a shot from the doctor’s office. So, how does the process of immunization affect your immune system?

In your body, there are white blood cells. These cells have the job of protecting your body from viral infections. When necessary, these white blood cells become a giant army to ward off any unwanted viruses or diseases.

Once a virus has been defeated, some types of white blood cells “remember” the virus, and how to defeat it when it enters the body again.

To create vaccines to a certain disease, scientists use dead or weak strains of the disease. The vaccination gives a body’s white blood cells a “taste” of that specific virus, so they know how to fight it off if that virus ever enters the body.

The vaccine itself does not cause the virus, but it can strongly affect your immune system, because it helps the body fight off certain diseases.

Additionally, by getting vaccinations and living in a community where others get vaccinations, it causes “herd immunity.” This means that members of the community who are too young or too weak to receive that vaccine also receive protection from the disease because it’s unlikely to spread through a group of people who have immunity to the infection.

So immunization isn’t just important for you, but also for the people around you!

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Sleep After a Stroke

Recently, researchers have found that insomnia may be a long-term effect of a stroke. But what does that mean for those who have had a stroke in the past?

Well, simply put, it means that the road to recovery may take a bit longer than expected.

After a stroke, there are many physical, emotional, and cognitive changes in a person. It all depends on what part of the brain was damaged, but frequent physical changes may include dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) or hemiparesis (muscle weakness on one side of the body).

If a stroke survivor develops insomnia, the rebuilding and healing of muscles can’t occur, which can lead to a slower recovery. Additionally, without this needed sleep, individuals may notice more emotional changes (such as crankiness) and cognitive struggles (such as difficulty concentrating).

If you’ve had a stroke and now experience insomnia, there may be options out there for you to get better sleep. These options include meditation and breathing exercises, trying to follow a stricter bed-time schedule (going to bed and waking up at the same time each day), and making sure to keep your bedroom dark and comfortable. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician.

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Got Milk?

Not only is milk and other dairy delicious, but it’s been proven to increase bone growth and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.

The recommended daily amount of dairy is 3 cups for both men and women above the age of 19, and it definitely has its benefits. For example, calcium you receive from eating dairy can improve bone mass, and the vitamin D from dairy can help regulate the calcium and phosphorus in your body, which leads to stronger bones.

Wondering how you can “get more milk” and other dairy in your diet? Try following these 5 easy steps:

  1. Start Your Day with A Bowl of Cereal
    A bowl of cereal with low-fat milk is a simple way to increase calcium and vitamin D to strengthen your bones and teeth.
  2. Try a Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
    Sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious. Cut up some fresh fruit, and mix with a bit of your favorite yogurt. The yogurt not only has calcium, it also has probiotics which can help the digestive system.
  3. Add a Slice of Cheese (or 2) to a Sandwich
    By adding a slice of cheese to your usual BLT, you will be improving your health by adding multiple vitamins, such as vitamin A and vitamin B12, to your diet, along with calcium.
  4. Pair Your Favorite Fruits or Veggies with Cottage Cheese
    Healthy and appetizing, cottage cheese with produce is a great mix. Not only do you get the calcium and protein of the cottage cheese, but you also get the benefits of the fresh fruit or veggies.
  5. Make it a Goal to Drink at Least One Glass of Milk a Day
    Maybe the easiest way to get more dairy in your diet is by making it a personal goal to drink one glass of milk per day. This will give you a helpful (and healthful) routine, while improving your bone and teeth health and maintaining bone mass.
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