Dancing in the Rain

familySometimes something happens in life that causes an instant shift in perspective.  That is what happened to me recently when I attended a conference for parents of children with a cancer called neuroblastoma.  The reason I was at that conference is that I have a grandson who has this form of childhood cancer.  Being in that place with all of those parents who have kids that are fighting for their lives made me see life a little differently.

Many of us go along in a blissful state of ignorance about the tremendous amount of suffering and pain that is happening around us. I know I have lived that way for long stretches of time. But being in a room full of families who all have a kid fighting cancer puts it front and center. During one particular point in the conference I saw two sets of parents desperately write down the information that was being shared about a clinical trial for kids who have failed traditional treatment. And something happened inside me.

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This is “Every Body Deserves a Massage Week”

TherapyWhat began for me as an occasional treat has become a regular part of a holistic plan to manage chronic pain. Anyone who has chronic pain knows that drugs are not the answer. We must put together a toolkit of ways to manage it-and massage is one of the things in my toolkit.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association-the therapeutic benefits of massage continue to be researched and studied. Recent research has shown the effectiveness of massage for the following conditions.

  • Cancer-related fatigue.
  • Low back pain.
  • Osteoarthritis of the knee.
  • Reducing post-operative pain.
  • Boosting the body’s immune system functioning.
  • Decreasing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Lowering blood pressure.
  • Reducing headache frequency.
  • Easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • Decreasing pain in cancer patients.

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Stay Independent with Age

Independent Living“Independence is happiness” ~Susan B. Anthony

This simple quote embodies a powerful truth. The pursuit of happiness is a basic drive, and fueling it is the desire to be masters of our own fate – to stay independent with age.

As we age, independence depends on maintaining functional status, mentally, physically, and emotionally. In spite of changes that come with age, there are some things we can do to help maintain our own highest level of independence.

The number one thing on that list is exercise. A recent study by the National Institute on Aging showed that older adults who participate in a regular exercise program, including strength training, moderate aerobic exercise, flexibility and balance components maintained functional abilities. And that is the name of the game when it comes to independence. The number one reason for requiring assistance is the need for help with the activities of daily living.
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Summer Pleasures

TC-MC Garden 2Perhaps because the winter was so long and well-white-the summer this year seems especially colorful to me.  The garden is in full bloom and the rain drops shimmer like Christmas tinsel in the light of the moon. Watermelon, bike rides, ice cream, long walks, the farmers market, flip flops, the water taxi on the Chicago River, and lots and lots of time in the garden are but a few of the delights of this season. More than any other season, summer seems to be filled to the brim with simple, summer pleasures that all add up to color and light and pure joy.
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Weight Loss-You can Keep it Off

indoor activitiesLast week Dr. Mehmet Oz received a great deal of news coverage related to his testimony in Washington. The issue? His promotion of weight loss supplements. I don’t know all the facts about this case, but really- it is not the point. The point is weight loss.

The United States has a 60 billion dollar weight loss industry that consists of many market segments including: diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, health clubs, commercial weight loss chains, meal replacements and diet pills, diet websites & apps, medical programs (weight loss surgery), low-calorie dinner entrees, diet books, and exercise DVDs. Translated-a lot of people will pay money to lose weight.

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The Longest Day

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJune 21st is The Longest Day. On this day, the sunlight hours are at a maximum in the Northern hemisphere, and night time is at a minimum. It is also officially the first day of summer or what is referred to as the summer solstice. According to the internet, “Solstice” is derived from two Latin words: “sol” meaning sun, and “sistere,” to cause to stand still.

On The Longest Day, the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging teams around the world to come together with a day of activity to honor the strength, passion and endurance of people facing Alzheimer’s. Held on the summer solstice, June 21, 2014, this event calls on participants to raise funds and awareness to advance the efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. After getting this call to action, I started thinking about “the longest day” and what that really means for those living with dementia and their care partners. On the Alzheimer’s Association’s website, there are many numbers to take in. 44 million people living with Alzheimer’s worldwide, 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., 15,500,000 caregivers in this country, and every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s disease. Staggering–almost too staggering to comprehend. But these are not the only numbers my thoughts turned to when I heard about the Alzheimer’s Association’s “the longest day”. Continue reading

The Power of Stories

138300588This past weekend I attended the annual charity Gala for Wish of a Lifetime with whom Brookdale has a partnership. Together we grant wishes for older adults. This year’s Gala theme was “The Incredible Are of Aging”. The Gala program featured dramatic readings of stories from recent wish recipients. One, an elderly man who had carried an inspired musical piece for decades, who was given the opportunity to finally hear his piece performed, giving full voice to his inspiration for the world to hear. The music embodied his relationship with his father, his creative longings, and his unspoken dreams.

Another, a 91 year old woman who had always dreamed of being a pilot-but life had gotten in the way-had the opportunity to fly. She had put her dream aside to raise a family, but had used it as fuel to survive a life threatening illness, and finally realized it with her family surrounding her. These stories bring hope that dreams can come true, that it is never too late, that things come full circle. There too are the stories of veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, who are making a pilgrimage to Washington D.C. to see their memorials, and make final peace with private memories long locked away.

These are but a few of the stories that are told by our older generation. Everyone has a story, but none as full of meaning and completion as those of our elders. They are important for us to hear, for them to tell and for all of us to reverence. Continue reading

This Sun Safety Week-Take a Good Look at Your Sunscreen

Club Hill 4It is common knowledge that too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer. And, there are other consequences to too much sun. I had dinner with an old friend recently and was struck by how beautiful her skin looked for someone in her early 60s. I asked her what skin care product she was using and she said she used nothing special. Her secret? She has always protected her skin from the sun by wearing sun screen and hats. She has never had sunburn and has rarely been tan. This is a word for young women, stay out of the sun!

I, like many, did not heed that advice. In fact in my tween/teen years, I baked in the sun with nothing but baby oil on my skin. And I had my share of sunburns-which puts me at risk for skin cancer and premature skin aging. I do longer practice sun worship, better late than never.

To prevent sun damage, experts recommend protecting your skin from UVA rays on a daily basis. This can be done by avoiding exposure, wearing sun protective clothing and of course using sunscreen. But, not all sunscreens are created equal, and there are so many on the market that deciding which to use can be daunting. Continue reading

Geriatric News June 2014

Dr-kevin-smallEffectiveness of Cranberry Capsules to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections in Vulnerable Older Persons: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo - Controlled Trial in Long-Term Care Facilities (LTCF)

Caljouw MAA, van den Hout WB, et al: The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2014;62 (January): 103-110.

BACKGROUND: Cranberries contain compounds that have anti-adhesion activity against Escherichia coli bacteria and may have antibacterial activity against other pathogens, but data showing benefit in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs) in institutionalized patients is lacking.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the effectiveness of cranberry capsules for preventing UTIs in older persons in LTCFs.

DESIGN: Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.

PARTICIPANTS: Subjects aged ≥65 years living in LTCFs in the Netherlands. Continue reading

Memorial Day Message

SGXGGY_still_exThis year on Memorial Day we honor those Veterans who have sacrificed for so much for our freedom. While those who have passed on in battle are at rest, their families and friends still bear the scars of their loss every day, prolonging the sacrifice and making the responsibility of remembering them that much more important.

In Brookdale independent living, assisted living and Alzheimer’s & dementia Care communities, we serve numerous veterans, many of them from “The Greatest Generation” that served during World War II. During my years of knowing these amazing people I have heard so many of them recount their battlefield experiences. A recurring theme in those accounts is survivor guilt. The question, “why them and not me?” has been with many of these vets all of their lives. Continue reading