Caregiver USA Corporation’s Mission Stemmed from Personal Experience

Jinji and Shinji Yue’s decision to start Caregiver USA Corporation was rooted in personal experience with caregiving. Both men helped to care for their father when he was dying of cancer, and Jinji also helped care for his then future wife’s mother in her final days battling lung cancer.

“I was 16 when my father was diagnosed with liver cancer,” Jinji said. “Shinji was 20 and in the army, and he would get some nights off to come visit and help, but I was there every day.”

The family lived in Singapore, and there, at that time, most cancer care was delivered in a hospital inpatient setting.

“It was still very important for us to be there with him as much as possible,” Jinji said. “His chemotherapy treatments were very harsh, and he suffered a great deal from side effects, including extreme fatigue and frequent vomiting. We did our best to keep him as comfortable as possible.”

As they watched their father struggle and suffer, Jinji and Shinji suffered too.

“Caregiving is emotional,” Jinji said. “It’s very tiring, and our anxiety level was very high. During my dad’s first round of cancer treatment, I was in denial. The year before, my grandfather had passed, but he had been old, so while the loss was sad, it was expected at that point. But my dad should have had many more years of life left ahead of him. He had always been the pillar of my life. I thought he would recover.”

While initially hoping the cancer treatments would be successful, Jinji and Shinji and their mother saw growing evidence to the contrary.

“We saw his slow decline,” Jinji said. “Then, in his final two months, he was very frail and was in and out of consciousness. He died about eight months after his diagnosis. I was 17. It took me years after he was gone to accept the reality of losing him.”

About five years after losing his father, Jinji was a student at Ohio State University, working towards his bachelor of science in mechanical engineering.

“I received a call from my girlfriend, Siewling,” Jinji said. “She still lived in Singapore at the time. She called and told me her mom had just been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and had less than one year to live. I decided to take time off from school to go home and help care for her.”

Jinji was able to apply what he had learned through his personal experience with caregiving to help Siewling and her family.

“I saw the condition Siewling’s mother was in,” Jinji said, “And I Siewling and her brothers were in the same shoes I had been in. I suspected she had less than a year to live, maybe six months. She was in the hospital a lot, and I spent a lot of time there with her and her family. I tried to give advice and help out however I could.”

Fast forward to the present, and Jinji and Shinji are applying what they learned through their personal experiences with caregiving to help others.

“Having had the opportunity to care for two people who were dying let me appreciate tremendously what caregiving is all about,” Jinji said. “When we started Caregiver USA, we did so because there are a lot of people who need help with caregiving. In our experience, we just had family members rotating constantly, with no extra help, and we really could have used more assistance. Sometimes you just need a break. We wanted to offer more choices to find help. And we wanted to help ensure access to high quality help.

“We created a web-based platform, bookacare.com that allows those seeking healthcare services for themselves or loved ones to find, evaluate, hire and review qualified, experienced and accredited health-care professionals. Our services can be accessed conveniently online from a computer or mobile applications and through social media. Information is readily accessible via iPhones and tablets. We even provide the opportunity for caregivers and care seekers to review one another. Care seekers can enjoy peace of mind in hiring a caregiver who has received positive reviews, is insured and has passed an extensive background check. The caregivers who get the best reviews will be hired the most often, so they benefit too. “ Care seekers also can get to know their caregivers better before hiring them and welcoming them into their homes.

One way to improve the quality of caregivers available is to ensure they receive fair financial compensation.

“You get what you pay for,” Jinji said. “Many home care agencies have a very high turnover because nurses and nurses’ aides can barely earn a living wage. They receive inadequate pay and no benefits, and most of them operate completely independently, never interacting with their professional peers..

“Through our business model, we are able to help our caregivers receive fair compensation and feel valued. We empower them to perform at their best. As independent contractors, they are their own bosses. We also provide a lot of training to both our contracted caregivers and our full-time employees, and we can provide an office environment that encourages team interaction. This supports the goal of all of our caregivers knowing and living our core mission.”

Through bookacare.com and our brick and mortar agencies, Caregiver USA aims not only to lighten the caregiving load for families, but to provide a rewarding professional experience for its caregivers.

“The caregiving experience I had made me realize the importance of caregiving, its challenges and also its emotional rewards,” Jinji said. “Our mission is very simple. We want to create value and happiness in caring for others. You want to be happy when providing care. The drive to do so has to come from within. But then to avoid burning out in doing so, you need to be supported and rewarded.”

 

Strength Training Can Help You Look and Feel Younger

Looking for the fountain of youth? Pick up a set of dumbbells, a kettle bell or a resistance band. Strength training offers a multitude of benefits, including ramping up your metabolism to help lose or maintain weight.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it can also be very powerful in reducing the signs and symptoms of numerous diseases and chronic conditions, among them:

  • arthritis
  • diabetes
  • osteoporosis
  • obesity
  • back pain
  • depression
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Strength training can help you look and feel younger.

Strength Train to Maintain a Healthy Weight

The CDC asserts that strength training is crucial to weight control, because individuals who have more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate. Muscle is active tissue that consumes calories while stored fat uses very little energy. Strength training can provide up to a 15 percent increase in metabolic rate, which is enormously helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control.

Strength Train to Feel Better

Regular strength training can help improve balance and reduce fall risk, decrease arthritis pain and strengthen bones, thus reducing fracture risk. It can also improve glucose control, improve sleep quality and state of mind and support better heart health.

Common Questions and Answers About Strength Training

Following are some common questions about strength training, and answers from trusted sources:

  • Won’t strength training bulk me up?

This question is most commonly asked by women who fear an overly muscular look. The truth is, to bulk up as a bodybuilder aims to do, you would need to spend a significant amount of time lifting very heavy weights and you would need to be eating a surplus of calories to support building serious muscle mass. You can easily find a strength training program that will help you gain just the right amount of muscle mass to crank up your metabolism and burn stored body fat so you actually end up leaner and tighter. If you combine strength training with a nutrition plan aimed at losing or maintaining weight you will find yourself losing weight or fitting into smaller sizes even if the scale doesn’t move much.

  • I walk/swim/take Zumba classes – isn’t that good enough?

The CDC reports that “While aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, has many excellent health benefits — it maintains the heart and lungs and increases cardiovascular fitness and endurance — it does not make your muscles strong. Strength training does. Studies have shown that lifting weights two or three times a week increases strength by building muscle mass and bone density.”

Still not convinced? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that an increase in muscle that you can’t even see can make it easier to do everyday things like get up from a chair, climb stairs, carry groceries, open jars, and even play with your grandchildren. Lower-body strength exercises also will improve your balance.

Michele Brannock, 69, of Upper Arlington, Ohio, picked up her first kettlebell six years ago. She worked with a trainer for six weeks to master proper form and said she has benefitted tremendously from for this particular form of strength training.

“I stand taller now,” she said. “My balance has improved, I have fewer aches and pains. I don’t have the tummy bulge anymore, and my back pain is completely gone. Nothing else I have done exercise wise has helped by back like training with kettle bells.”

So How Do I Get Started?

The National Institute of Health recommends doing strength training exercises for all of your major muscle groups on two or more days a week. You should not work the same muscle groups two days in a row. Your muscles need 48 hours or more to recover in between strength sessions. So you could either do a full-body strength training routine three days a week – for example, Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, or if you prefer to keep your strength sessions shorter, you might break them up into upper-body strength and lower-body strength sessions and work your upper body Monday, Wednesday and Friday and your lower body Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Strength training should complement rather than replace cardiovascular exercise, which is also important, as are balance and flexibility training. Here are more tips to help you look and feel younger:

  • Depending on your condition, you might need to start with very light weights – 1-3 lb. dumbbells. For exercises in which your bodyweight already provides some resistance – such as squats and lunges, you might not need to use weights at all – at first. Your goal should be to gradually increase the amount of weight you lift in order to continue to progress.
  • Choose a weight you can lift for 10-15 repetitions. Your first rep should not feel very, very hard, but your final rep should. You want to be able to complete 10-15 repetitions with good form – if you cannot; your weight is too heavy. If you can complete 15 reps and feel like you could still do many more, your weight is too light.
  • Take at least two counts to lift the weights and two counts to lower them.
  • Exhale as you lift the weights, and inhale as you lower them. If you cannot sync your breathing perfectly at first, do not stress about it – the most important thing is to never hold your breath while exercising.
  • Or, check out these recommendations from the CDC.
  • You can also join a local gym or recreation center, sign up for a group fitness class, hire a personal trainer or purchase an exercise DVD – or check one out from the library – if you want additional guidance.

5 Ways to Prevent Falls in the Elderly

How many of you are caring for the elderly, or are looking for part-time elderly care? It’s not easy. There are so many things to look out for, and so many challenges to face.

One of the biggest challenges is prevention of falls in the elderly. There are many other things to talk about when it comes to caring for the elderly but accidental falling can be a nightmare and is an ongoing plight feared by many. So how do we prevent falls in the elderly?

We know that falls, and the resulting complications, can be very dangerous for old people but they are also one of the most common risk factors – it’s just too easy to let them happen. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, “One out of three older adults (those aged 65 or older) falls each year but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.” So this problem is not only widespread, it is also hidden. Caregivers end up in a difficult position of having to prevent things before they can happen.

So, What Can We Do?

Many risk factors and prevention techniques have been identified in medical and healthcare literature, so let’s go through some of the more important among these. This might go a long way in saving the lives of our loved ones. Some of these risk factors are intrinsic and you may need professional help before you can notice them, for example, examination for back problems. Other factors are environmental and to some extent they cannot be controlled easily. But there are other factors that are within the power of caregivers – both formal and informal – to deal with.

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Some medicines can make a person dizzy or drowsy, or affect balance and co-ordination.

Medication

Forewarned is forearmed. Some medicines can make a person dizzy or drowsy, or affect balance and co-ordination. This applies to everyone, not just the elderly. Caregivers might not always be in a good position to know this – medical confidentiality and lacking pharmaceutical knowledge might hinder this. But the elderly or their legal representatives should be able to ask their doctors or pharmacists to identify those medicines (whether prescribed or over-the-counter) that increase the risk of falling. The doctors especially, should be able to tell whether any particular medicine is a risk to any particular patient.

Footwear

Remember that awful, horrible feeling when you wrench an ankle wearing thick soles on uneven ground? Think of this, only much worse, if an elderly person’s feet wobble too much wearing high heels with no ankle support. Backless shoes, even slippers with smooth soles, all pose a variety of footwear-related risks. In Asia, another type of footwear to worry about are the communal slippers used for many bathrooms (they could be wet, too). There are many ways footwear can be unsafe – they can interfere with a safe and proper gait, they can be too slippery, or they can be too large and be a tripping hazard. We should ensure our elderly not only have proper and safe footwear for going out, but also for using within the home – this is especially important for bathroom slippers since the elderly may need to access a potentially wet floor late at night, possibly without wearing their glasses, while urgently rushing to answer the call of nature.

Tripping / Slipping Hazards

We already mentioned smooth-soled shoes as a slipping hazards. But there’s more. The bathroom is a particularly dangerous place for the elderly when it comes to a fall risk. The floor can be smooth and wet, and placing loose rugs may do nothing to solve this problem – they might even increase the risk of slipping (remember how frequently the elderly may need to use the bathroom at night). Bathrooms often also have little kerbs, especially at the shower areas that are naturally often quite wet. Try to use rugs with a rubberised underside, to prevent elderly users from slipping on them, and of course try to keep the floors dry. Rough surfaces or rubber mats are another potential safety measure.

But that’s just the bathroom. Falls can happen anywhere in the house or outside it, so watch out also for objects cluttering the floor, uneven ground, slopes, and smooth surfaces.

Walking assistance such as walking sticks is a great way to prevent falls in the elderly.

Assistance

Now, this might be a bit difficult. So far, we’ve talked about removing problems, or learning information. That’s not expensive. But sometimes we may need to make some investments for the long term. We don’t really need to wrap our elderly in tons of cotton wool everywhere they go, but it would help if grab rails or other supports are installed in the more important places, such as indoor stairs or places that may often have wet floors, like the bathroom. Walking aids should also be chosen carefully. A walking cane for the elderly should not be too heavy, and should be adjusted to the correct height so that a cane-assisted walking posture does not itself turn out to be a falling risk.

Diet

Protein, calcium, essential vitamins and water. All these sound very commonsensical. However, what an elderly person needs for a suitable diet may not be the same as what healthy middle-egd adults need. Some changes are common to all elderly – for example, switching to softer foods. Moreover, a healthy diet can go a long way to prevent numerous other problems that increase the risk of falling. Diet also needs to cater to a person’s specific medical issues, for example, seniors with blood pressure issues or suffering from diabetes may also need special care diet-wise, to prevent fainting spells from suddenly standing up.

Health Care Decisions For A Loved One With Alzheimer’s

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, which is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2015, more than 15 million caregivers provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of care for those who have this disease. Early detection can allow you to get the maximum benefit from available treatments, participate in decisions about your care and planning for your future and access care and support services for you and your family.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s, it is important to make an appointment with your/your loved one’s primary care physician. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, so the chief treatment goals are to:

  • maintain quality of life
  • maximize function in daily activities
  • enhance cognition, mood and behavior
  • foster a safe environment
  • promote social engagement, as appropriate

One key decision you will need to make or help your loved one make, is whether care should be provided at home or in a healthcare facility. As making the appropriate health care decisions for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is important.

Michele Lynn and her sister had to make that decision when their mother, now 99 years old, was diagnosed with dementia 10 years ago. Her mother spent a short period of time after diagnosis in her own home.

“Mom and my sister both lived in New Jersey at the time, and I was in Ohio,” Ms. Lynn said. “My mother is very strong-willed and had a great desire to be independent. My sister visited Mom every day and felt that as a retired person she should care for Mom herself. We talked about the responsibilities my sister would have. I emphasized that my sister would not have family support close by. She would be responsible for hiring and monitoring help. Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s is a 24/7 job. It would have been nice if we could have had a companion during the day to help with Mom, but ultimately, as the disease began to progress, we decided that it was in everyone’s best interest to find a good Alzheimer’s care facility.”

Ms. Lynn’s mother spent eight years in a small memory unit in New Jersey.

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What’s your health care plan for a loved one with Alzheimer’s?

“Then, my sister moved to Florida, and I found the right home for Mom in Ohio,” Ms. Lynn said. “I had full responsibility for selecting her residence. I was looking for somewhere that would offer peace and quiet; and cleanliness and the attitude of the staff were very important to me. At one place I visited, I heard members of the staff standing around, complaining; at another the floor in the dining area was filthy. The place I selected was beautiful and clean, and the attitudes of the staff were amazing.”

All was well for the first year and a half that her mother lived in the memory unit at that facility, but then things changed.

“I had to get very demanding about training for the staff and how certain procedures were handled,” Ms. Lynn said. “My mother fell and was badly hurt, and I heard four different versions of what had happened. I also found out that men were trying to get into her room, seeking interaction. Mom was falling in the middle of the night. After installing an exterior lock on the door, the falls stopped. Other lapses in care occurred. I acted as an advocate not only for Mom but for other residents, too. All of the patients deserve respect and attention. Just because someone has dementia doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of what is going on around them.”

Ms. Lynn emphasizes that just because your loved one is receiving professional care, that doesn’t mean they don’t still need you.

“You have to be there and listen and pay attention,” she said. “You have to remember that you are trusting staff with a precious being who won’t be here forever. Advocate for your loved one to ensure they are safe.

“Do the things your loved one likes to do. Do what you can to bring them joy. My mother loves flowers, so I bring flowers that we arrange together. She lights up. I also arrange for musical groups to sing for the residents. Music is a wonderful therapy for memory patients.

“I’ve also never stopped finding outside help. Hospice has become involved as Mom has declined. They provide an extra set of eyes and ears for my mother. They also provide me much-needed support. It’s important for me as a caregiver to get personal support.”

Pamela Williams, now a registered nurse, previously worked as a nurses aide in an advanced Alzheimer’s unit at a long-term care facility and also cared for her grandmother at home after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. She agrees with Ms. Lynn that a support system is so important when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

“We were fortunate because she was diagnosed pretty early,” Ms. Williams said. “She had a really great physician who put her on a couple of medications that really helped to slow the process. At first she mainly just needed help with medication management, laundry, cooking and cleaning. My parents lived right next door, and my aunt and uncle lived just a mile and a half away. One of my sisters and one of my cousins was still in town, so we had a great family support system. I moved in initially, and when I moved out my parents moved in with her, choosing her house over their own since hers was all one level and they knew that at some point, she wouldn’t be able to go up and down the stairs in their home.”

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What are the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s? 

Eventually, her grandmother’s care needs increased.

“She began to need help with bathing and other personal care,” Ms. Williams said. “That is definitely something you need to consider if you plan to care for your loved one at home – that is a daily need, and a personal one. By then I was living a mile away and would drive over once a day to help my parents with her. I was a nurses aide at the time and was more comfortable with it. She was my grandmother, and I loved her and was happy to help.

“As her needs progressed, at times my parents would get stressed out and need a break. If you are a caregiver and you don’t have family and friends close by who are willing and able to offer respite care like we did, I think it is so important that you seek out other resources. Contact your Area Office on Aging or whatever resources your community has to offer.”

Ms. Williams points out that care needs will change and increase over time, and it is important to be prepared for that.

“Know that even if symptoms are mild early on, they will get worse,” she said. “We were very lucky that my Grandma wasn’t aggressive, never got sundowner’s, never wandered, but I saw these symptoms in others at work. Some of the patients I cared for forgot how to walk, how to speak. Their care needs were extensive. New symptoms can present at any time, and that can change the course you need to take. There is no cure for this disease, so inevitably, there will come a time that you will either need to find a healthcare facility with an Alzheimer’s unit for your loved one or you will need resources to support you as a caregiver. Don’t wait for that to happen – research those options before you have a desperate need for them so you can take your time and make the right decisions for your family.”

Signs of Alzheimer's are not to be mistaken with age related changes

Living with Alzheimer’s – is more than just memory loss.

Following are 10 warning signs that you or a loved one might have Alzheimer’s:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

For more details on each of these symptoms, visit Alzheimer’s Association‘s website.

How can you tell the difference between Alzheimer’s symptoms and typical age-related changes? The following chart from the Alzheimer’s Association can help:

Signs of Alzheimer’s Typical age-related changes
Poor judgment and decision making Making a bad decision once in a while
Inability to manage a budget Missing a monthly payment
Losing track of the date or the season Forgetting which day it is and remembering later
Difficulty having a conversation Sometimes forgetting which word to use
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them Losing things from time to time

There is a wealth of information available through the Alzheimer’s Association website, or by calling the association’s 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900. You can also jump right to a section of the website that will help you map out a personalized action plan for your family at https://www.alzheimersnavigator.org.

Serenity For Seniors

An aquarium stocked with colorful tropical fish does the trick.

Happiness is watching the pretty things go by – and these seniors were full of eager anticipation as they watched me set up an aquarium at their day care center. Their faces lit up when I released into the once neglected tank, dozens of tiny fish – brilliantly hued neon tetras flitting merrily with multi-colored guppies.

All it took to transform the tank were a few packets of gravel, a dozen aquatic plants, a filter pump, an under-gravel air stone, and an overhead light. And, a deft eye and hand to place the entire lot in a pleasing arrangement. Half-a-day’s work and hey presto, the magic of an undersea world was up and running… adding new life literally to the recreational needs of the center’s seniors.

Mrs. Richards (not her real name), who is 95, likes to spend a few minutes each day watching the fish, especially when they rush to the surface during feeding time. “They are so beautiful… I see they have been growing slowly, but steadily, over the last few weeks.”

Watching the fish in an aquarium brings her a sense of serenity, says Mrs. Richards.

Some dental clinics have taken to placing aquariums in their waiting area. Watching the fish can be effective in reducing anxiety in patients awaiting dental surgery, according to medical studies.

This is especially true in elderly patients who experience reduced muscle tension and lowered pulse rate after watching the fish before going in for treatment.

Sure, maintaining the cleanliness of the aquarium and making sure the water is balanced for the well-being of the fish, can be hard work, in addition to making sure that they are fed regularly.

Fish can also get distressed when the water gets too hot or too cold, or if there is not enough light.

But the effort to maintain the aquarium is worth the while, especially when it brings benefits – the calming effect and a feeling of serenity that it bestows on elderly people when time hangs heavy on their hands.

A Purdue study in 2009 shows that aquariums had a good influence on the nutritional intake of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients exposed to the aquaria averaged an increase of 17.2 per cent in the amount of food they consumed. Weight also increased significantly, and the patients required fewer nutritional supplements.

In addition to the nutritional benefits, there was also a noticeable decrease in physically aggressive behaviors among the patients.

Feng shui advocates also say that moving water is considered beneficial in balancing “chi”, and a well maintained aquarium in the right location increases wealth and luck.

What next? Perhaps a koi pond in the open area outside the day care room, where flowering plants already abound. Seniors sitting around a koi pond may well feel refreshed as they enjoy a spot of sunshine, watching the graceful sight of swimming koi.

Ways to Prepare for Surgery

The thought of having a surgical procedure done can be daunting and you can definitely do without the additional stress. One way to ease the mind is to know what to expect and being aware of the right post-surgical care. Here we look at the various ways to prepare for surgery.

Do Your Homework

“In an ideal situation, you want to do as much research as you can,” said Sandra Le, a breast cancer survivor who underwent two mastectomies roughly a year apart. “The more people you talk to, the more you understand.”

Questions Ms. Le recommends asking your surgeon or potential surgeon include:

  • Where will the incision be, and what will it look like?
  • Is there any chance I can see pictures of surgeries you have performed so I can get an idea of what things will look like?
  • What are the possible risks associated with this surgery?
  • What will my activity restrictions be after surgery?
  • When will I be able to drive?
  • Are there any particular movements I will need to avoid and for how long?
  • What can I do to help speed up my recovery?
  • Will you walk me through the surgery so I can better understand the process?
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One way to prepare for surgery is to address your concerns with your surgeon or nurse.

This last question, Ms. Le notes, is probably the most important question you can ask.

If you have time to do so, Ms. Le recommends seeking out opinions and advice from other patients who have been through the procedure you are facing.

“I scoured the Internet,” she said. “I searched through forums and review sites for any information I could find about my doctors. I also trusted in my husband’s evaluation of the surgeon. I was so blessed that my husband, Walter, is a physician because I truly felt lost the entire time. I have some understanding of medicine since I used to work as a registered nurse. However, as I faced my surgeries, I was quite emotional and could not quite grasp everything that was being discussed. If you have a friend or relative who works in the medical field and whom you feel comfortable asking to accompany you to your medical appointments, doing so can be very helpful.”

Expect the Unexpected

Even after you’ve done your research about what to expect from your surgery, remember that things don’t always go exactly as planned. Be prepared for potential complications, advised Shelley Dawn Johnson, who has had several surgeries but was caught off guard when one particular procedure did not go as expected.

“I was scheduled for what was supposed to be a very simple laparoscopic procedure,” she said. “It was an exploratory surgery with just two tiny incisions to go in and look around and try to find the source of my terribly painful periods. I hadn’t even mentioned the surgery to anyone other than my husband, since I expected to be home hours later. I’d been told this was going to be an easy, in-and-out procedure.”

Ms. Johnson had previously had two C-sections, and it turned out the source of her pain was adhesions from those surgeries.

“When my surgeon made the incision in the standard place the surgery called for, he nicked an artery,” Ms. Johnson said. “The artery wasn’t supposed to be there, but thanks to the adhesions, everything was kind of stuck together. My simple outpatient procedure turned into an open procedure to stop the internal bleeding. I woke up to the news that I had been opened up, had lost a lot of blood, would probably need to be transfused and was facing a hospital stay of at least five days.”

She hadn’t arranged for anyone to help with her two children, then just 3 and 6 years old, because she’d expected to return home the same day. And because her surgery wasn’t scheduled, there was no bed available for her on the OB/Gyn floor, so she ended up on an understaffed general post-surgical floor. The nurses there did not specialize in OB/Gyn and didn’t understand what some of her post-surgical symptoms meant, dismissing a real medical issue as anxiety.

“When you are scheduled to have surgery, you just never know what might happen,” she said. “So I think it is important to carefully discuss all possible risks of surgery with your doctor beforehand, and to prepare for the fact that any of those things could actually happen. At the same time, you still have to go in with a positive attitude and in a healthy state, mentally and spiritually. You should be prepared for the unexpected but still hope for the best possible outcome, because your attitude will affect your recovery.”

Here are some simple ways to prepare for surgeryPrepare for Your Recovery Period

Whether you are scheduled for a complex procedure or a simple one, Ms. Johnson and Ms. Le advise preparing for your recovery period and lining up help in advance. You can also follow their advice if you wish to help someone you know who is facing surgery.

  • Arrange for help with children, including driving your kids to and from school and activities.
  • Clean and de-clutter your house so it will be easier to maintain while you are on activity restriction.
  • Make freezer meals or allow someone to start a Meal Train or Sign Up Genius to allow friends and family members to sign up to bring meals for your family while you recover. (If you want to do this for a friend facing surgery, be sure to ask first to see if they are comfortable having meals brought to them, and be sure to ask about preferred drop-off times and methods as well as any food allergies or other dietary restrictions. And for those who want to offer sustenance but do not cook, be sure to share a list of favorite restaurants for which gift cards can be purchased).
  • Keep in mind that you might have dietary restriction during your immediate recovery period. Be sure to stock your kitchen with light snacks such as Jello, popsicles and other easily digestible food, including crackers, which can help with nausea.
  • Consider scheduling some sessions with a professional house cleaner. If you want to offer this as a gift to someone facing surgery, be sure to ask first if this would be a desirable gift, as some people just aren’t comfortable having strangers in their home.
  • When you come home from the hospital, keep your post-surgery instructions and doctor’s phone number by your bed. Alert your doctor immediately with any concerns.

Many people feel uncomfortable asking for help, so if you know someone facing surgery, don’t wait for them to ask you for help – just offer – even if they turn down your offer, at least they will know you are thinking of them, and sometimes simply knowing that you care and are concerned can be a wonderful gift on its own.

Not all surgeries are planned in advance. Some are emergent, but in the case of a scheduled surgery, you can take advantage of the opportunity to carefully plan and prepare for both your procedure and your recovery.

Digital Dementia: The Silent Effects of Technology

We have plenty to owe to the effects of technology. Without it, we’d probably be still sending each other messages by pigeons. However, overusing these digital devices that we’ve come to love and adore can also bring about dire consequences, which includes digital dementia.

If you’ve never heard of digital dementia or what exactly it entails, you don’t have to worry. We talked to Dr. Judy Lee from Wellness of Life Chiropractic to run you through the nitty gritty details of this growing health epidemic.

What is Digital Dementia?

The term “digital dementia” was first coined in 2012, from a book published by a German neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer. He describes it as a worrying trend on “how overuse of digital technology is resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities” comparing the symptoms to those of head injuries or psychiatric disorders.

What Causes Digital Dementia?

An online community dedicated to Alzheimer’s has described digital dementia as when a person develops a heavy reliance on their electronic devices. By limiting your memorizing of information with modern technology, this will hamper the development of the right side of your brain. As this houses your creative and imaginative thought processes, this will lead to mental deficiencies such as inattentiveness, short memory span, and depression.

Other than that, the American Posture Institute believes the prolonged periods of looking down on your screen will cause you to have a dominant flexor posture, where your shoulders and head are slumped forward in a C-shape. This posture will potentially lead to a cerebral dysfunction in the long term, which restricts the blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain and contributing to the symptoms of digital dementia.

Who Usually Suffers from Digital Dementia?

Adults who have had too much screen time, youngsters engrossed with their entertainment system, or even children who toy around with their parents’ mobile devices are all at similar risk of developing digital dementia.

“The more time a person spends staring at an electronic screen,” Dr. Lee explained, “the higher their chance of suffering from postural distortions and nervous system imbalances in the long run.”

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Many of us are unaware of digital dementia and how it comes about with the effect of technology

What Are the Early Symptoms of Digital Dementia?

Early symptoms of digital dementia include deterioration in mental capacity, including memory, concentration and attention span. Individuals may find themselves in difficulty to recall number patterns, directions or even names.

Early symptoms of digital dementia include deterioration in mental capacity, including memory, concentration and attention span. Individuals may find themselves in difficulty to recall number patterns, directions or even names.

In other cases, they might exhibit postural disorders, such as the forward head posture, where the head is passively slumped forward due to them looking down at their mobile screens for extended durations.

“These symptoms, while minor at first, can develop into something much more serious over time as they age,” Dr. Lee explained. “The progressive condition can bring about a range of degenerative mental effects, such as a lack of motivation, coordination and social seclusion.”

How to Reduce the Risk of Digital Dementia?

By significantly reducing the time spent on electronic devices, individuals can cut down on their chances of falling victim to digital dementia.

Dr. Lee also advised in delaying the introduction of technology to young children, as it will prove useful in preventing an early onset of developmental issues and cognitive decline when they grow.

“Lastly, by identifying and correcting any underlying postural disorders can help reduce the risk of digital dementia,” she added. Postural disorders include hunching, slouching or a swayed back.

Is There a Cure for Digital Dementia?

Fortunately, digital dementia isn’t something that’s permanent. However, an affected individual must adopt an active role in both prevention and control should they wish to combat the disease.

“If possible, try to visit the library to gather needed information instead of relying on the Internet,” Dr. Lee advised. “You can also pick up a few physical exercises to promote good body health and improve your blood flow.”

“Of course, there will be times that avoiding the effects of technology will be near impossible with our current work environment,” she commented. “In that case, consider taking breaks in between to stretch your legs and let your brain work a little on something else.”

However, should you feel that your condition is something that won’t be simply cured by a few lifestyle changes, Dr. Lee highly recommends visiting a chiropractor to get your posture checked.

“Postural distortions are often connected to problems with our nervous system functions, including digital dementia,” she shared. “Correcting these can be vital in improving your overall nervous system and brain health.”

The 4 Common Types of Dementia

Did you know that dementia is not one disease, but a name for many different brain diseases?

Before the late 1800s, dementia was an umbrella term for many types of unrelated mental illnesses, and there was very little medical understanding from ancient times. The haphazard developments in medical knowledge in this field are why we have many different conditions, lumped under one word. It is an unfortunate legacy, especially when combined with the social stigma and the wrongful association with natural aging.

Today, medical research endeavor to unravel the intricate web of dementia so we can have a better understanding of these diseases, in the hope of prevention and one day – a cure. Though there are many types of dementia, the most common ones are Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Disease Association.

1. Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s is a “type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, behavioral and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life”, according to Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease makes up some 50%-70% of dementia cases – there is a clear organic process of deterioration. The early symptoms of Alzheimer’s are difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events, as well as apathy and depression. As it progresses, symptoms include impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

 

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What are the common types of dementia?

2. Vascular dementia/ Multi-infarct dementia

Previously known as post-stroke or multi-infarct dementia, vascular dementia is caused by problems in the brain’s blood supply, often after a series of strokes or bleeding in the brain. The location, number, and size of the brain injury determine how the individual’s thinking and physical functioning are affected. The early symptoms of vascular dementia are impaired judgment or ability to make decisions, plan or organize. Memory loss is not a common initial-stage symptom in people with vascular dementia as it is in people with Alzheimer’s.

3. Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

DLB is a type of “progressive dementia that leads to a decline in thinking, reasoning and independent function because of abnormal microscopic deposits that damage brain cells over time”, as per Alzheimer’s Association. Medical science doesn’t know what causes DLB, but it is specific enough – there is cognitive decline and can only be confirmed by a post-mortem brain histology that shows Lewy bodies in the neurons. People with DLB often have early symptoms such as sleep disturbances, well-formed visual hallucinations, slowness, gait imbalance or other parkinsonian movement traits. Memory loss and thinking problems are also common symptoms in DLB as it is in Alzheimer’s.

4. Parkinson’s disease dementia/ Mixed Dementia

Alzheimer’s Association explains Parkinson’s disease dementia as an “impairment in thinking and reasoning that begins in a region that plays a key role in movement”. Changes in the brain gradually spread and initially affect mental functions, including memory and the ability to pay attention, make sound judgments and plan the steps needed to complete a task. An estimated 50 to 80 percent of those with Parkinson’s eventually experience dementia as their disease progresses, according to Alzheimer’s Association. The average time from onset of Parkinson’s to developing dementia is about 10 years. If dementia develops, symptoms are often similar to dementia with Lewy bodies.

Mentioned above are only some of the common types of dementia, and up-to-date there are over nine types discovered. As different types of dementia can have similar overlapping symptoms, it may be difficult to diagnose dementia just by the symptoms alone. Take note of the signs and early symptoms of dementia. People with deterioration in cognition and personality should seek medical help upon the onset of symptoms. Alzheimer’s Disease Association offers help through programs and support services for patients and their families.

Keep Calm and Be Mindful? Part Two

Self-compassion: can I be kind to myself?

As M. Scott Peck, author of the New York Times bestseller The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth said, “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Naturally, this sounds a lot easier to accept in print than reality but alongside my attempts to be more mindful on a daily basis, I have found self-compassion the most crucial and empowering in understanding and accepting that life is hard, so we should not be harder on ourselves.

I do believe that we are often our best and worst critics, and at times we may take tough love a bit too far when we are too quick to judge and even condemn ourselves for our thoughts and actions. The result – a somewhat downward spiral emotionally and spiritually that yields no good for anyone. Let’s face it, everyone has different stressors in life but that is no reason for us to forget to be kind to ourselves.

I have observed that while many people openly promote consideration and compassion for others, more can be done to start with ourselves by being less unkind in our choices of words used and be slower to label our actions and inner thoughts. Even though we think that others don’t hear them, our minds and bodies are conditioned by the way we frame our thoughts so let’s do ourselves a favor and practice some self-kindness. This could take the form of simple steps such as:

  • Saying something kind to yourself each day when looking into the mirror or walking on the way to work or home.
  • Penning a few encouraging words in a journal or in the notes section of your handphone and reflecting on them afterward in between breaks.
  • Keeping a ‘happy box’ of memories comprising compliments and kind words others have shared about you over time and looking through them once in awhile. This may seem a tad bizarre but it does wonders for your soul (provided it does not become self-infatuation). I am an old school so I keep a physical box of cards and handwritten notes sent to me over the years for old times’ sake. Recently, I’ve progressed to snapping pictures of them before they fade away and that way I get to keep them handy on my phone too. If you prefer, you can start by keeping screenshots of encouraging and kind text messages that someone sent as well.

‘Mindfulness is practiced non-judgementally’

“Expectations just keep getting higher, you just need to manage them.” I first heard this comment 17 years ago and it keeps resonating with me because there is no denying this, especially when people are involved or should I say especially when the family is involved.

Where expectations exist, judgment almost follows immediately – it is such a reflex instinct that seeps into our daily lives without us even paying close attention to it.

I struggle the most with this aspect of mindfulness because I am prolific in judging everyone around me and I genuinely believed that others were doing the same to me so it’s just the way the world worked. However, as time passed, this habit became toxic and I needed to do something about it, fast.

This whole business about expectations spiraling was a double-edged sword and it hit me only after I lost a loved one in my life. Suddenly, I blamed everyone around me for not showing enough help, concern, and support during this lowest point in my life and I criminalized them for what they did or did not do and even what I assumed they thought. Secretly, I had become a travel agent for guilt trips and it became so painful facing them when I had so much bitterness. It also did not help when other family members joined the ride adding spice to make things worse.

Eventually, it took me close to three months to ease out of the pain and talk to a friend about all this judgment I was inflicting on my family, my friends and myself. I realized that:

  • Expecting anything from anyone can do more harm than good: in general, I found this a handy reminder. It is always so much more meaningful and gratifying to receive offers of help or concern when you don’t or least expect it. Instead, setting expectations on friends and family may get you more disappointed and worn out. I am certain that I have let people down before so why should I judge them more than I was ready for?
  • The beauty of the earlier point is the fact that you can apply it to yourself as well: as long as you feel genuinely happy doing something for someone else, go right ahead and if you don’t, then free yourself from the fear of being judged by others. This is truly liberating as it gives you the option to respond rather than living up to expectations, imagined or otherwise.
  • Being open in using the disclaimer “please don’t judge me for xxx” can be a useful lead in conversations with others. This has become a common catchphrase among close friends when we share certain stereotype views or deep-seated beliefs that most people are generally not comfortable discussing openly. I have found that this gives people a sense of assurance as a conversation starter and if anything, it encourages an open dialogue, tilting the attention more towards safe sharing rather than hasty judgments.

‘Mindfulness is knowing what is on your mind’: especially when you’re stressed

“How am I supposed to know what’s on your mind?”

I have known many people who wished they could read minds – but alas that special power continues to elude us. But we could start with something more tangible by getting to know our own mind a little better ☺ Knowing one’s mind takes more than intuition to simply decipher matters of the mind as we evolve over time. To make things more challenging, stress complicates and often clouds our minds. Some of the ways I have tried to obtain greater clarity of mind are:

  • Putting the “ME” in Meditating: I have to admit that I fell asleep rather often as I tried meditating so I needed to find another way of spending this alone time with myself. So, I adapted it and chose to verbalize my thoughts in a quiet space on my own. This was a lot more useful to concentrate on my key thoughts and developing a comfort level to speak my mind.
  • Seeking my center: now and then, I need some time away from everyone just to be alone and be with my thoughts while doing simple activities. For some of my friends, trekking does wonders as the natural setting is so serene that it conditions them to spend time with their own minds and focus on getting from one point to another. For me, it’s a hybrid between window shopping and people watching. For some strange reason, these two activities provide an ideal context for me to calm down and collect my thoughts as I observed who and what was around me.
  • Penning it all down into words: this works for me since I’m a journal enthusiast so it all comes down to putting my thoughts into words, especially when I am stressed. It helps me develop a comprehensive discussion with my thoughts while considering some realistic solutions to reduce the stressors. More importantly, it makes for really authentic reading on hindsight.

Is Mindfulness the Way To Go?

I believe it is and after seven months of living in moments of mindfulness, I am a lot calmer and appreciative of this state of awareness. Given my personality and passion for life and people, mindfulness takes me a step closer to helping myself before I attempt to help others as an educator, communications practitioner, and just a fellow human being.

So go ahead, have fun on this journey of awareness and be mindful of how you evolve as a person.

If you are still keen to find out more about mindfulness, you may want to check out these resources as well – I know I will be!

Keep Calm and Be Mindful? Part One

Quit Telling Me to Keep Calm….I’m Mindful of It!

I’m hardly a fan of these ubiquitous ‘Keep Calm’ posters, just because you see them almost everywhere and almost anything goes after the first two words. Or maybe it is because I have an aversion to the words “keep calm”. The reason is simple.

It gets personal, almost always when people around me start telling me to be calm when I’m about to explode or implode. The well-meaning colleagues, friends and loved ones around me have been sensitized to my moods, dislikes and can easily spot how my temper gets ignited. I am not going to deny it – my temper is not high (but it is seeing better days now). And the toughest part of it all is that I am caught between showing my anger and concealing it, simply because I worry about how others view and judge me. So either way, it seems like I faced a losing battle for a long time.

Sometime last year, my close friend Erin mentioned that she was pursuing a Masters of Science in Studies in Mindfulness and I was a little too polite to express my inner thoughts of “why on earth would anyone study a subject like that?” I kept my opinion to myself and heard more from her about the practice of mindfulness and realized that she was very committed to it.

Seven months ago, she invited me to attend a session on mindfulness, and I am glad I kept an open mind despite not knowing what to expect from it. It introduced the key concepts of mindfulness and explained the stereotypical views attached to the practice of mindfulness. There, I decided to give it more thought, and before I knew it, there seemed to be an exponential growth in articles, media coverage and talk about mindfulness everywhere I looked. If you’re keen on finding out more about how to practice mindfulness and its benefits, you would be pleasantly surprised to know that there are many options available in Ohio. Just check out the three possible resources links here:  

Mindfulness: A Matter of Myth and Fact

It became clear to me that mindfulness as a practice was gaining currency in education, mental wellness and the corporate spheres where thousands of articles were written recommending best practices maximizing the value and benefits. But the underlying premise seems to radiate from oneself. I am certainly no scholar or trainer in mindfulness, so the focus of this article is merely to share how mindfulness has helped me in being kinder to myself by intentionally keeping an open mind regarding how I manage my thoughts, emotions, and actions, especially in coping with stress and relating to others.

I started by finding out as much as I could about mindfulness and cleared up some of the previous misconceptions that I had, such as:

  • Myth: mindfulness is synonymous with religious practices, fact: it is widely practiced across the secular world.
  • Myth: mindfulness is all fluff and worthy of attention only if you have too much time on your hands, fact: practicing it does, in fact, save you more time, headache and heartache.
  • Myth: mindfulness is a flavor of the month and a passing phase, fact: it has been around for as long as 2500 years.
  • Myth: mindfulness can be a perfect panacea to all your problems, fact: there is no such thing – mindfulness is a valuable tool to complement stress and problem-solving techniques (medical or non-medical).

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, “mindfulness” is defined as awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”

As I read this quote, a few keywords jumped out at me, and I thought it fitting to describe my experience with mindfulness based on them.

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What is Mindfulness?

Keeping Yourself In Mind

  • ‘Mindfulness is awareness…on purpose.’Being aware is simply a state of being conscious about something, being informed or attentive. Achieving awareness of purpose suggests a keen intent to direct that sense of awareness. In other words, taking the effort (and time) to be meaningfully conscious of facts, events, people or anything in our surrounding.As an educator and communications practitioner for the past two decades, I have met countless individuals who could have benefitted so much, just by increasing their awareness of the things and people around them. These people include 50-year-old team managers as well as 17-year-old youths who face challenges being mindful of their environments and their struggles with stress. Often, awareness is the last state of mind they want to embrace because it’s hard work and the truth sometimes hurts. Almost always, these individuals genuinely believe that they are aware of the problems they face but are very reluctant to consider their options in solving these issues and making small changes. I know because I’ve been there.It’s no mean feat being aware of your authentic self- perhaps because we doubt that we know ourselves well and we struggle to accept all of ourself. As part of this state of purposeful awareness, I have chosen to discuss two sub-components of consciousness, namely self-awareness and self-compassion as these two aspects seem vital to opening up to oneself before practicing mindfulness.Self-awareness: try walking in someone else’s shoes?

    One of the things that typically irk me when feedback (usually negative) is provided, is when the accompanying comment is “please don’t take this personally because it’s not.” My internal response to that used to be “HOW CAN IT NOT BE PERSONAL WHEN IT IS ABOUT ME????” yes, in full SCREAMING UPPERCASE.

    It was hard, and I needed to calm down, I just didn’t need to hear it coming from someone else. So I asked myself:

  • If hearing from someone else was so difficult, could I take it coming from myself? Well, I would never know unless I tried it. So I did – and it took some time being mindful that this was when my sense of empathy kicked in, both for others and more importantly, for myself. I wanted to intentionally consider the reasons and feelings of others when processing my emotional responses before taking any action.
  • Am I able to walk in someone else’s shoes and see their view? To do that, I needed to get comfortable in mine for starters. So I would honestly explore my emotions and actions and whether there were certain emotional minefields triggered with the feedback. After all, that knowledge would only be transparent to me, based on my experiences, upbringing, and beliefs.
  • Can I be humble enough to consider the reasons that the specific feedback was shared, to begin with? If I considered the intention and behavior of the sender (of the feedback) and I was able to see that the motivation was to build me up rather than tear me down – it became a lot clearer that I was better off moving forward rather than moping around. The litmus factor that helped here was to consider the sender’s relationship with me (either professionally or personally) to help discern their intentions either over a period of time or from a one-time session.

To be continued…..