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Battling ALZHEIMER'S,Featured,HEALTHCARE

Caregivers deserve to have fun, too – here’s how

Categories: ALZHEIMER'S, Featured, HEALTHCARE | December 21st, 2010 | by Raquel | no comments

It is a sad fact but while people are partying and celebrating during the holiday season, some people are especially put under stress at this time of the year that can lead to burn out and depression. They are the caregivers. Especially affected are the caregivers of the terminal ill, the disabled and those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. And the sad thing is, most caregivers do not even realize the difficult condition they are in. They take it for granted that they have to perform their duty day in and day out. In the process, they are taken for granted.

According to radio talk show host Leeza Gibbons (source: USA Today):

“Most caregivers don’t even realize the kind of pressure they’re under. They often end up with life-limiting conditions as a result of the relentless stress.”

Gibbons experienced this first hand as she witnessed her mother slowly deteriorated with Alzheimer’s. Her family became dysfunctional as they watched their loved one slowly but surely fade away. But their sad story was what inspired them after their journey to set up Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and Leeza’s Place, a community gathering place that provides support for caregivers.

The magazine GRAND gives 8 tips for caregivers on how to make their holidays less stressful and even enjoyable. These tips were written by Dr. James Huysman, Executive Director of Leeza’s Place.

  1. Give yourself a wellness gift. Give yourself a health and wellness gift.  Get a checkup, an assessment for anxiety or depression, and/or a health screening. Find a therapist. Join a support group. Take care of your own personal health. It is the first step toward reducing the stress and strain of the season ahead.
  2. Ask for help and make sure you are open to accept it. Asking friends and families for help may be the hardest thing we face. As caregivers, we are way too quick to accept the role of hero, martyr or savior. Too often we have a “go it alone policy” and believe that we must take care of everything ourselves.
  3. Find a friend or make a friendship even richer.  Having a friend to provide conversation, support and assistance or for any holiday activity is a wonderful therapeutic approach to the holidays. Sometimes a friend is all we need: a safe sounding board so we can get some stress out. Sometimes a friend might even offer respite that can lift your spirits and make the season more enjoyable.
  4. Learn how not to take things personally. Sometimes when families get together we are “on our last nerve.” Make sure we realize that the people around us have their dramas and traumas too and their words, though hurtful, may have nothing to do with us. Sometimes the words may come from a person with stressful challenges of their own.
  5. Identify a supportive community of friends, families or spiritual gatherings. Many caregivers are concerned they are seen as a burden and are often reluctant to come out and be connected to the world around them. Sometimes they feel no one cares. By finding a community outside the family, caregivers know they exist in a community of loving people who want to help because they care.  
  6. Plan your family’s activities with thought throughout the season. Roles and responsibilities are extremely important to explain to all involved. Ongoing family conferences throughout the holidays help maintain the boundaries necessary to the caregiving process so that no one feels out of control or inadequate. This is vital and should be done in person and as frequently as needed. Holiday family conferences are like tune-ups used to maintain the family car. This car needs to drive well, efficiently and for a long time. Schedule these conversations regularly before the wheels fall off.
  7. Keep a gratitude list in a holiday journal filled with wonderful affirmations.  That is a mouthful for sure and no doubt as a caregiver you will take this item by item or as a personal project throughout the season. Any one of these exercises can shift your focus away from darkness and worry and help empower a caregiver to create a focus on gratefulness – and hopefully begin to see the large amount of abundance that there already is in being alive. This process will begin to inspire new avenues of thought throughout the holiday season.
  8. Find humor everywhere you go. “Laughter Is the Best Medicine.” This is an old expression popularized by Norman Cousin’s book “Anatomy of an Illness,” in which he describes his battle with cancer and how he “laughed” his way to recovery. Laughter is a great tension-releaser, pain reducer, breathing improver, and general elevator of moods. Humor is so very valuable and a great elixir to get us through difficult or stressful times. Try to see the humor in being a caregiver during the holiday season. Start now. “How do you tell a caregiver from anyone else? It is the person who jumps off a cliff and someone else’s life passes before their eyes. . .  Okay, not so funny. Make sure you find your own laughter to keep smiling in your own life. Your energy for others during the holiday season will only happen when you energize and empower your own life force today.

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Battling DEPRESSION,STRESS

When people are having a melancholic Christmas

Categories: DEPRESSION, STRESS | December 15th, 2010 | by Raquel | no comments

‘Tis the season to be jolly but not everybody is celebrating/has something to celebrate this Christmas. There are many reasons why people are melancholic rather than merry this Christmas. Let us look at the possible scenarios and see how we can help people in these situations.

Loss of a loved one. Loss of a loved person so close to the holiday season is hard. For a little child, the loss of a parent or sibling around Christmas is very sad situation. For a parent, losing a little child is a big blow. How we can help:

  • You can show sensitivity and understanding by downplaying your own Christmas cheerfulness when your bereaved friends are around.
  • You can provide distraction – a dog or a cat or a house pet to take care of, even if only temporarily.
  • You can let your bereaved friend take care of you – let them feel they are needed.

Health issues. There is nothing like health problems to dampen the holiday spirits. This is hard enough for adults, but much more for a child who is stuck in a hospital bed while his or her friends go Christmas caroling. How we can cheer them up:

  • Visit, call, visit. My husband’s grandma, who is 90 years old, broke her leg from a fall the other week and had to stay at the hospital. She lives in another country 260 km away, but we visited her on that first weekend after her admission, braving the snowy road conditions. Boy, was she happy to see us, chuckling at my husband’s joke that her ice hockey career for this season at least is over. We called almost every day afterwards even after she was transferred to a rehabilitation clinic, where she will stay till after New Year.
  • Donate. Donate time and money to cheer up the sick during the holiday season. I know somebody who runs a Toys for Tots fund drive every Christmas for a public hospital in Manila, Philippines. It is not only the kids but also other hospital patients who need cheering up during the holidays. The elderly, with no family to visit them, are especially lonely during this season of cheer.

Stress and responsibilities. It is not only the patients who need cheering up this season. Their caregivers need our help as well. Let us face it: taking care of the sick is a big burden both physically and emotionally. Here is what we can do to help them:

  • Time off. Giving caregivers time off even if only for a few hours is the best gift you can give them. A whole free day without responsibilities would be a special treat.
  • Moral support. Luckily, there are groups providing support for caregivers the whole year but more so during the holiday season. Some caregiver support programs can be found at:

the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and Leeza’s Place,

Stand Together for AD: Strength and Support for Alzheimer’s at www.alzheimersdisease.com/.

I’ll be bringing you some more tips on caregiving in the coming days.

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Battling Featured,HEART AND STROKE

`Tis the season for heart attacks?

Categories: Featured, HEART AND STROKE | December 14th, 2010 | by Raquel | no comments

‘Tis the season for joy and cheers … and cardiac events. Okay, I don’t want to dampen your high spirits during the holidays but it has been shown again and again that there is a distinct spike in the number of heart attacks during December-January, particular around Christmas and New Year. According to WebMD, there has been generally an overall 5% increase heart-related deaths during the holiday season based on mortality statistics from 1973 to 2001. Let us look at the reasons why.

Is it the weather?

The winter season does have some adverse effects on our heart health. The cold weather causes blood vessels to constrict, which in turn elevates blood pressure. Blood clots also occur more easily. Extremely cold temperatures and physical exertion put too much burden on the heart. These are the ingredients for coronary heart disease and heart attacks.

Is it the holiday season?

A study published in circulation reported:

“The number of cardiac deaths is higher on Dec. 25 than on any other day of the year, second highest on Dec. 26, and third highest on Jan. 1.”

And this pattern is not only true in the cold northern parts of the US. The same trend has been observed in Los Angeles where winters are not necessarily freezing. Some hypotheses put forward by health experts are:

  • People delay consulting their doctors despite feeling ill until after the holidays, mainly to avoid disrupting holiday festivities and travel plans.

“People just tend to put off seeking medical help during the holidays. They tend to wait till afterwards, which I think is a mistake.”

  • GPs are not easily available whereas hospitals and emergency clinics are short-staffed during the holiday. These can lead again to delay in treatment as well as decrease in the quality of care of those who decide to go to the hospital.
  • The holiday season is simply a very unhealthy season when people eat too much, drink too much, forego on exercise, get too much stress and get too little sleep.

“People tend to gain weight during the holiday season and take in more salt, which can put additional stress on a weakened heart.”

However, all the risk factors that may lead to increased heart attacks at this time of the year are actually modifiable. Dr. Robert A. Kloner, a researcher at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles and a professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California gives us the following tips:

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Battling ADDICTION,CANCER,HEART AND STROKE

Your guide to drinking alcohol during the holidays

Categories: ADDICTION, CANCER, HEART AND STROKE | December 14th, 2010 | by Raquel | one comments

`Tis the season to be jolly… and tipsy? Well, the holiday season is full of parties. And parties are full of alcohol.

Research studies have reported conflicting findings on the benefits and hazards of alcohol. On the one hand, low to moderate alcohol, especially red wine, is said to have cardiovascular benefits. On the other hand, even just a little sip of alcohol may increase ones’ risk for breast cancer.

So what should it be this holiday season? Complete abstinence or unlimited imbibement?

Well, in this post we give you some resources on how to drink to your health this season:

The MD Anderson Cancer Center gives the follow tips in their Guide to Drinking Alcohol:

Stick to the recommended serving size.

There may be varying opinions about the health effects of alcohol but there is one thing that every expert agrees upon: heavy drinking is to be avoided and binge drinking can kill you. So sticking to the recommended size makes sure you had enough. “The National Cancer Institute recommends that women have no more than one drink per day and men have no more than two drinks per day.”

Select low-calorie options.

Alcoholic drinks are literally swimming in calories. And when it comes to calorie content, cocktails and eggnogs are the champs.

Stay away from 100-proof liquor and spirits

Now, not all drinks are created equal when it comes to alcohol content. Spirits and liquors are especially strong on alcohol. So take it easy on that vodka.

Aside from the alcohol, however, liquors, especially dark ones, contain other compounds that may be toxic and cause severe hang over, according to researchers at Brown University. Thus, bourbon will probably give you worse hang over symptoms than vodka. Take note though that vodka is far from harmless. According to Brown researcher Damaris Rohsenow

“People did feel sicker the morning after bourbon than after vodka, but they still feel plenty sick after drinking all that vodka.”

Stay away from the sweet drinks.

This one’s from me. I had the bad experience once of imbibing too much white martini. It was quite sweet and quite palatable to the tongue unlike other liquors. The morning after was something I would never forget.

Sweet drinks make you forget they are still alcohol. The Spanish Sangria is another sweet and cheap drink. So are the so-called “alcopops”, a kind of alcoholic soda. Beware of these sweet temptations.

Non-alcoholic drinks are probably best.

Okay, you knew this is coming, right? But it is great to know that in every party and restaurant, there are non-alcoholic alternatives that look like the real ones. I love mocktails – non-alcohol cocktails – and alcohol-free beer. In the coming posts, I will bring you some links to recipes of the best non-alcoholic cocktails.

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Battling DEPRESSION,Featured

X’mas stress and depression: tips for prevention

Categories: DEPRESSION, Featured | December 24th, 2009 | by Raquel | one comments

`Tis the season to be jolly, tra la la la… But the holiday season can bring not only good mood and goodwill but stress and depression. The holiday season in the US starts can start as early as November at Thanksgiving until New Year. In Europe it starts from early December till 6 January, the feast of the 3 Kings. In an Asian country where I was born, Christmas starts when the month’s name ends with “-ber”, e.g. as early as September! It goes without saying that the holiday season can become too long and although many of us start off quite happy and gay, we get burned out towards the end of the season, what with too much shopping, too much cooking and baking, too much wining and dining, too much celebrating. It puts a burden on us financially, physically, as well as emotionally. It can cause strain in our personal relationships, our professional life, thereby tipping over that ever precarious life-work balance. It is no wonder that the holiday season can end in stress and depression. Fortunately, there are ways and means to prevent these. Health experts at the Mayo Clinic give us some good advice.

The first step is to recognize the most common holiday triggers that lead to a meltdown and immediately try to diffuse these triggers. The second step is to take control of the holidays and not let the holidays control you. The Mayo Clinic experts give us some 10 concrete steps to avoid stress and depression this holiday season

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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Battling ARTHRITIS

Weight Loss, Osteoarthritis and Your Christmas Recipes

Categories: ARTHRITIS | December 23rd, 2007 | by Gloria Gamat | no comments

Tomorrow night will be Christmas Eve and you most likely have your recipes memorized and the ingredients all bought in preparation for the food you will serve your family on Christmas.

What if there is an arthritis patient in your family? Then you have to put that into consideration when planning your meals for the holiday. Not only arthritis, but what if there is a diabetic or an hypertensive person in the family?

If that is the case then I always recommend cooking healthy foods to be on the safe side. Let not be the holidays be an excuse to forget that particular diet you were following in lieu of your condition — diabetes, hypertension, arthritis…etc.

One more thing I would like to remind you of: your weight. If you have arthritis, being overweight or obese is not going to help you. Being close to your ideal weight will surely reduce your risk for osteoarthritis. (Read more about the osteoarthritis-weight association from Johns Hopkins.)

Being overweight is a clear risk factor for developing OA. Population-based studies have consistently shown a link between overweight or obesity and knee OA. Estimating prevalence across populations is difficult since definitions for obesity and knee OA vary among investigators.

Data from the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HANES I) indicated that obese women had nearly 4 times the risk of knee OA as compared with non-obese women; for obese men, the risk was nearly 5 times greater. (ref. 6) In a study from Framingham MA, overweight individuals in their thirties who did not have knee OA were at greater risk of later developing the disease. (ref. 7)

Other investigations, which performed repeated x-rays over time also, have found that being overweight significantly increases the risk of developing knee OA. (refs. 8 and 9) It is estimated that persons in the highest quintile of body weight have up to 10 times the risk of knee OA than those in the lowest quintile. (ref. 5)

Case in point: mine. Earlier this year, I weighed a whooping 165 lbs. I am barely 5 ft. tall, so I know that is too far from my ideal weight. When my osteoarthritis (OA) symptoms attacked in mid-August, my weight made it even worse. I changed my eating habits and now I weigh 135 lbs. My OA is better, not only due to my changed diet but also because of the meds, vitamins and other therapies I am taking. The symptoms are less and I don’t suffer as much as I used to.

At 135 lbs., by BMI says I’m still a bit overweight. While I am convinced I need to shed more weight, this holiday season is an odd against that goal. Despite that, I am keeping myself from overeating. I definitely do not want to regain all those pounds I lost.

SO. If you are arthritic like me. remind yourself to eat healthier, not only this holiday season but for all times.

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LAST FIVE POSTS

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: ADDICTION

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: ALHEIMER's DISEASE

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: CANCER

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: DEPRESSION

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: DIABETES

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: HEARING LOSS

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: HEART and STROKE

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: OBESITY

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: SCHIZOPHRENIA

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: STRESS

  • BATTLING THE MONSTER: VISION