When The Chickens Come Home To Roost …

To a degree, I think we are all procrastinators. Some of us are worse than others. Many just don’t want to face specific subjects or decisions. And while the latter may make you feel uncomfortable, the alternative is much worse. Emergencies force us to think quickly, make decisions and act (sometimes instinctively as well as boldly). Emergencies happen. That’s life. It could be an accident, or a natural disaster. Perhaps, your health takes an unexpected turn. If you are lucky, you get the opportunity to address those things left undone. If you aren’t, the wake of your emergency becomes a chaotic nightmare for loved ones. No matter your age, or your health, there are a few things that everyone should have just in case this scenario arises. Because sooner or later, the chickens usually do come home to roost.

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To provide some insight into what you need, here’s a checklist to consider:

  • Disaster Checklist, i.e. for coping with tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, flooding, etc.
  • A Will
  • A Healthcare POA (Power of Attorney)
  • A Financial POA
  • Designated Caregiver (if needed)
  • End of Life Planning, i.e. a DNR (Do Not  Resuscitate), funeral arrangements, burial, cremation, etc.

Communication is vitally important. This is no time to be shy, or skittish. It is important that your family and friends know your wishes. In the event of an emergency or death, they will have a better idea of how to make decisions on your behalf. Since these decisions aren’t easy ones, the more information that you can provide ahead of time is essential. Make sure they know where to find the above documents, who your attorney is, your physician, your designated caregiver, etc. 

Your needs, following an emergency, can vary. The type of care you may require can, too. These needs can range from the short-term assistance of a caregiver to a permanent skilled-nursing facility. When you discuss these topics with your family, it is easy to let your heart (and theirs) over-rule your mind. Do your best to make logical, practical decisions that will meet your needs and be feasible for family/friends to carry out. For example, if you need a short-term caregiver, you may instantly think of your adult child taking the Family Leave Act. But can he or she financially afford to do so? A better solution might be an In-Home Care Provider.

End of Life issues are difficult. Providing care, during this time, is a challenge for everyone involved — even your doctors. Beyond physical treatment, there are also the psychological and social issues of the patient to consider. These issues often times involve family members as well. Patients, in this stage, are dealing with a lot. Pain often drives their decision-making. Many are suffering from anxiety and/or depression. They are coping — not living. Some are better at this than others. They may long to be in control of their disease, their life, etc. And each, no matter their situation, deserves dignity. It isn’t easy on the patient, or those around him/her.

Last, but not least, remember that emergencies for lack of a better description are emotional roller-coasters. They can bring the best and the worst out, in each one of us –patients as well as loved ones. No two are ever the same. Emergencies vary. Experiences will vary. Patients vary. Needs, treatment, response, side-effects, etc., will too. And relationships also vary. Your sibling’s experience with a parent may not be yours. Parents often times raise children, differently. Age, divorce, abuse, changing social norms, gender, etc., can play a role in this. Still, it is feasible to have siblings with different experiences and feelings. Estrangements happen, for a multitude of reasons. So try to respect each other, at this time. Additional stress and tension won’t help anyone. Seek patience instead of hostility. Work together, if at all possible, for the good of the patient. And if someone needs space … help them to find it. This is both a family journey and a very personal one. For better or worse, both are traveled. May God bless …

 

Reference Links: 

https://estate.findlaw.com/living-will/healthcare-power-of-attorney.html

https://estate.findlaw.com/planning-an-estate/durable-financial-power-of-attorney.html

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/chronic.html

https://www.healthcentral.com/slideshow/emergency-preparedness-with-chronic-illness

https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/

https://getpalliativecare.org/whatis/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1764519/

https://www.familyassets.com/nursing-homes/resources/skilled-nursing-vs-nursing-home

https://www.apa.org/topics/death/end-of-life

https://www.ajmc.com/journals/evidence-based-oncology/2015/april-2015/palliative-and-end-of-life-care-issues-challenges-and-possible-solutions-in-the-united-states-

*Photo by Brianna Santellan on Unsplash

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Holistic Approaches To Chronic Illness

Holistic Medicine is a different approach to healing … one that considers all facets of human nature – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Doctors, who embrace this approach, believe that the whole person is made up of interdependent parts and if one part is not working properly, the others will be negatively affected. In other words, the imbalance/s (physical, emotional, or spiritual) will impact their overall health. They believe the key to achieving one’s best health depends upon attaining a proper balance in life — not just focusing on symptoms and writing prescriptions. But can this approach work when treating Chronic illnesses?

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The simple answer is “Yes, it can!” Many Chronic illnesses can be effectively treated and managed with a Holistic approach. A few examples are:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic Pain
  • Kidney Disease
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Auto-Immune
  • Parkinson’s Disease

According to the American Holistic Health Association (AHHA), there are 4 major factors that impact our health: Heredity, Environment, Medical Care and Lifestyle. Of these four, Lifestyle has the most influence — approximately 50%! And lifestyle can be changed! The success stories are endless!

If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about Holistic Medicine, you can visit the American Holistic Health Association’s website at https://ahha.org for additional information, referrals, etc. There is life with a Chronic illness. As a person who lives with more than one of them, I can assure you that the answer isn’t always in a prescription bottle. Sometimes, it comes from where you would least suspect. And optimism is always key to finding the right balance that works for you!

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/what-is-holistic-medicine#1

https://ahha.org/selfhelp-articles/principles-of-holistic-medicine/

http://icpa4kids.org/HPA-Articles/holistic-approach-to-chronic-illness.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5847356/

https://www.cnn.com/2014/01/10/health/secrets-pain-free-life/index.html

https://ahha.org/

*Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

Consider The Caterpillar …

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with a Chronic illness, you probably aren’t thinking about gardens … or flowers … or caterpillars. You may be too overwhelmed to focus on much of anything, except your disease. And that’s understandable.

Often times, the diagnosis falls on a patient like a ton of bricks. You may be angry. Perhaps, you feel inadequate? Scared? Changes to your body, your lifestyle, your abilities, even your mobility, hit with little warning. Pain can be a battle all its own. You weren’t prepared for it. You may even be angry.  And you aren’t alone. 

Approximately, 157M people will be living with a Chronic illness in America by 2020. Millions more, globally. In fact, these illnesses are projected to account for 75% of all deaths worldwide. Chronic illness, or non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are now the biggest health issue that we face. So, proper diagnosis … treatment … and management are vital. And your mindset is equally important. 

 

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“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” — Chuang Tzu

 

Many patients develop additional health issues, i.e. anxiety, depression, etc., as their lives become more complicated. Some may even feel as if their life is over — defeated by a condition that they neither wanted or asked for.  If this describes you, please, try to keep your perspective.

Build a Support System that includes your doctor/s, family and friends. Discuss your concerns, openly. Make the necessary changes. Be patient with yourself and your illness. Maintain an optimistic outlook. It does make a difference. And on the tough days … even weeks … remember the fate of the caterpillar. You too can fly, again — even soar — despite your Chronic illness. Change isn’t always a bad thing thing. Often times, it can bring out the very best in each of us!

 

Reference Links:

http://www.nationalhealthcouncil.org/sites/default/files/NHC_Files/Pdf_Files/AboutChronicDisease.pdf

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/healthcare-future-multiple-chronic-disease-ncd/

https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/2_background/en/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/optimism-and-your-health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23510498

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups/chronic-illness

*Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

 

 

The Benefits Of Chocolate?

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. A day that often involves flowers and/or sweet indulgences. Some of you may have enjoyed a decadent dessert, after dinner. Others may have gotten a nice box of truffles, as a gift. If this describes you, then take heart. There are benefits to eating chocolate. Healthy ones, at that!

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Cocoa, the key ingredient of chocolate, reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) and can raise your good cholesterol (HDL). This can help to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. 

The Flavanols found in chocolate can lower blood pressure and improve your overall vascular function. Flavanols are a type of Flavanoid. These are plant-based antioxidants. And antioxidants protect the cells in your body from the damage caused by free radicals. Dark chocolate contains more flavanols (45%-80%) than Milk chocolate (5%-7%). Dark chocolate is also packed with minerals, i.e. zinc, iron, selenium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, etc. So, choose your chocolate wisely!

If eating candy isn’t your thing, consider drinking some hot cocoa. A study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that drinking 2 cups of hot cocoa a day led to increased attention, cognitive functioning, processing, etc. Wow! This can help guard against memory loss. It may even help to prevent illnesses like Alzheimer’s. Adding marshmallows and/or cinnamon is strictly your choice.

I admit, it all sounds too good to be true. But we now have research telling us otherwise. Some research has even linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Exactly how much of a role it plays is still being studied. One last note, chocolate does contain calories. Too much consumption can lead to weight gain. So, as with other foods and drink, it’s important to eat in moderation (1-2 ounces or 30-60 grams RDA). Here’s having a truffle to your health!   

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/healthy-chocolate/faq-20058044

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cocoa-sweet-treat-brain-201502057676

https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/flavonoid-chocolate-8424.html

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/823208/Chocolate-Alzheimers-Cocoa-boosts-blood-flow-to-the-brain-new-research

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270272.php

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/nutrition/chocolate-10-health-reasons-you-should-eat-more-of-it/

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm

*Photo by Kyaw Tun on Unsplash

The Greatest Of These Is Love …

We usually talk about Chronic illnesses and treatment, management, awareness, etc. But, for a moment, let’s talk about others effected by the disease — family and especially caregivers. 

No matter the patient’s age, or the specific illness involved, a Chronic condition effects more than one. Family members must also cope. Some may worry about genetic factors. Others may feel guilty, if they live far away. A few may have difficulty accepting the diagnosis at all. Caregivers, God bless them, are juggling everything — the needs of the patient, the family, doctor visits, medications, work, etc.

It isn’t unusual for a caregiver’s life to be drastically changed, by their new role. Some will put their careers on hold — hoping for a return to normalcy in a short time. Others literally see their professional careers end, as the role of caregiver consumes every minute of their day. Many allow their own health and well-being to go on the back-burner. This often creates additional health issues (for the caregiver). Weeks turn into months … then into years. It takes a toll. The caregiver finds himself or herself doing things they had never imagined doing, i.e. administering shots, buying diapers for a parent, protecting the patient’s rights, or watching a child suffer with pain. There is nothing easy about being a caregiver. It is a very mentally, physically and emotionally challenging role. And previous experience in no way means that you are adequately prepared for being a caregiver, again. Each patient, each illness, is different. 

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“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” —             1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

Twice, in my life, I have had the privilege of being a caregiver. I use the word “privilege”, because in some ways it was rewarding, i.e. close-knit talks, deepened relationships, special moments, etc. It was also highly stressful and at times downright scary. My first experience as a caregiver was for my father, 1989-1990, as he battled cancer. The second for my mother, in 2008, when she battled cancer.

Despite the common denominator, they were two vastly different experiences. My father was terminally ill, upon diagnosis, with lung cancer. He ate anything that he wanted and pretty much did anything he wanted, until his death. No medications to administer (seriously). No use of oxygen (seriously). His radiation treatments also went well. He truly lived every moment of life to the fullest. We should all be so lucky. I realize that, now. But at the time, I lived in high anxiety of what might happen. My mother was just the opposite. With Mom, everything that could go wrong … did go wrong. I charted over 20 medications, daily. She had every unusual side-effect to chemotherapy that a patient could have. No nausea or hair-loss (seriously). In the end, she was beating the cancer but succumbed to the worst of these side-effects (a pulmonary embolism or blood-clot). It was frustrating and heart-wrenching. The last thing that she asked of me was to sing. So, I sang … and sang … as she drifted into an unconscious state … gasping for every breath. I would rest for a couple of hours and start singing again … tears streaming down my cheeks.  Then, I’d pause … pray hard … and sing some more. This went on for 10 days. And by the grace of God, I managed. I was with her, voice and all, till the end.

If you know a caregiver, then you know the love that he or she so unselfishly gives. You may know a few of the burdens that they are carrying, i.e. responsibilities to the patient, their family, their job, etc. You may even know some of their fears. So, please, let them know that you care. Offer to sit with the patient, for a couple of hours. Ask if there is an errand that you can do for them, i.e. pharmacy, supermarket, etc. Drop by with a warm casserole for dinner. It may sound silly, but you’ve just taken a task off of their “to-do” list. You have lightened their load and offered support. Many caregivers will never ask for any help. They have their reasons. And, often times, they will neglect themselves before they do. But you can give them the little boost that keeps them going. Because without that caregiver, rest assured, things would be much worse.  So, give them a break … a hug … show your appreciation … share some love. They need it, as much as the patient does!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784

https://caregiveraction.org/resources/10-tips-family-caregivers

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/taking-care-yourself-tips-caregivers

https://www.stoptheclot.org/about-clots/faqs/faq-blood-clots-cancer/

Living Heart-Healthy

It’s February, my friends! Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. And retailers are stocked with an array of gifts. Couples are making plans for a special evening. Or, maybe, an indulging get-away? Singles are contemplating their next move. And florists, God bless them, are getting ready to work over-time. Romance is definitely in the air — melting this polar vortex. Some enjoy this time of year. Others loathe it. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Amid the excitement, many of us seem to forget that the heart is more than emotions. It’s about sustaining life. So, for a moment, put down that fancy box of truffles and think. Are you and your loved one living “Heart-Healthy”

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No matter your age, diet and exercise are two key components of living Heart-Healthy. If you (or your loved one) need to lose some weight, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a great way to start! Watching your salt intake is also important. If you are already living with heart disease, then you probably know how crucial these things are to your health and well-being. It’s vital to make changes that will strengthen your heart. 

This isn’t difficult. Start with a commonsense approach. When you eat, at home or in a restaurant, use portion control. An average serving of meat, fish or chicken is 2-3 ounces.  So, skip that 16-ounce T-bone on the menu and order the 6-ounce filet instead. It’s a little more than average, but not excessive. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Try whole-grains like oats, corn, barley, cracked wheat or quinoa. I highly recommend the latter — WOW! Limit your fats. And, occasionally, treat yourself to something special, i.e. a candy bar, a slice of cheesecake, ice cream, etc. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, with your results!

Exercise, like eating, can be done with a simple commonsense approach. Walking is an easy way to get started. It doesn’t require equipment, or a gym membership — just a comfortable pair of shoes. It also provides couples with an activity that they can share as well. A 30-minute walk takes little time, or effort. But the benefits, physically and emotionally, are endless. If you would prefer something else, talk to your doctor. He or she can discuss exercise options that are safe and effective. Reducing sedentary living is your goal. You can do this!

Let’s be honest. We all have bad habits, in some form. But there are simple ways to overcome these behaviors:

  • Identify Cues. What triggers your bad habit?
  • Disrupt. Once you recognize these cues, you can help throw them off-track!
  • Replace with a good behavior. The new behavior, i.e. a piece of fruit instead of cookies, will prevent your brain from going into auto-pilot.
  • Keep it simple. It will be easier to make the change/s.
  • Think long-term. Remember why you are doing this — a healthier you!
  • Be persistent. Soon your changes will feel like the norm.

Whether Cupid has taken aim at you or not, feel the love this month. Think beyond Valentine’s — beyond February. Love yourself. Think of ways to take care of your health. Make the changes. Positive behaviors will lead to a happier you. A healthier you. And if your loved one will join in … well, that’s the real heart of the matter. So, talk about it. Invest in your future. Take the Heart-Healthy journey, together. You’ll be glad that you did!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702

https://wholegrainscouncil.org/definition-whole-grain

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/how-to-break-bad-habits-and-change-behaviors

https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/smoking

*Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash