Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Family Caregiving Stories:

Caring for a Chronically Ill Child

When JoAnne Colucci meets other third-grade moms in the parking lot waiting to pick up their kids after school, she’s used to hearing them discuss discipline problems or the typical childhood maladies like chicken pox or stomach flu. In contrast, the Palatine, Ill. mom speaks of intravenous tubes, the side effects of chemotherapy, multiple medications and her hopes that the school year will be free of extended hospital stays.

Her situation speaks volumes about what it is like for parents whose daily lives include caring for children with chronic illnesses.

Colucci’s daughter, Rosie, 8, was three when she was diagnosed with multiple conditions: Neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow in the nervous system, an inoperable brain tumor and obstructive hydrocephalus. Rosie also suffers from a half a dozen chronic conditions. In the five years that have followed, she has had 142 doses of chemo, and 13 surgeries. Rosie sees 13 specialists and has missed 70 days of school in first and second grade alone.

“I sat by her bedside alone in the MRI suite, knowing what they were looking for, a brain tumor, and I knew what could be coming next,” remembered Colucci. “But nothing could have prepared me for the wall of emotion that hit me when a team of three doctors approached me.”

Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, more than 35 miles away, would become Rosie and her mom’s second home.

When a child is chronically ill, the whole family feels the pain. Colucci tries not to talk about the stress on her family or the guilt, anger and sheer exhaustion and how some days she just feels like a machine, pushing ahead to keeping going.

“It’s very hard when you have a sick child,” she says. “It drains the family emotionally and financially. You are at the hospital all day with one kid and then you come home to your other child who needs attention too.”

Rosie’s 11-year-old sister Bella talks about the impact Rosie’s cancer has had on her life: 
“I have had to watch her lose her hair at the age of three and again at five,” she said. “I have seen her so sick and weak, I thought she would die. I have seen her throw up day after day. I have waited for her to come out of surgery and have laid with her before she went in (she has had 13 surgeries already and I know there are more to come); she is very brave. I have woken up in the middle of the night to find out my Mom had to rush my sister to the hospital, or woken up to find out they had already left during the night. I have gotten home from school to be greeted by a neighbor or one of my parent's friends because Rosie had to be admitted into the hospital. I never know just how long they will have to stay.”

Click here to read the rest of this story and to find out how Unfrazzle could work for JoAnne and and the Colucci family.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Family Caregiving Stories:

Chronic Pain and a Debilitating Illness: A Burden Often Shared By the Whole Family
Happier Days: Brett, David, Carla & Natalie

Carla Valentino knows all too well the toll pain can take on a person and their loved ones.

The Land O’Lakes, Florida 45-year-old was an active small business owner, wife and mother when she slipped and broke her ankle triggering a progressive chronic nerve disorder that has robbed most of her mobility and left her dependent on others. She has had to surrender her “mom” duties carpooling her children to school and their activities, along with running her business. On the worst days keeps her bedridden, and on the best, writhing in pain, but able to maneuver with crutches and carpool her children to school using her left foot.

What prisons Carla is called “Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy,” and it’s a chronic nerve disorder characterized by chronic severe burning pain, pathological changes in bone and skin, excessive sweating, tissue swelling and extreme sensitivity to touch. It’s considered the most painful form of chronic pain that exists.

She was just 40 when the accident and diagnosis happened. Her most brutal moment: “When my kids asked why I couldn’t play with them as actively as I used to,” she said.

Her husband, then her fiancĂ©, immediately jumped into the role of round-the-clock caregiver, cooking, taking care of the children and driving Carla to doctor and PT appointments. Her 81-year-old mom also comes to Florida periodically to help with the kids when she’s had a surgical or outpatient treatment, and one of her best friends helps carpool her kids to and from school and their after school activities.

Carla’s needs change from day to day. But in between doctor’s appointments and physical therapy, she keeps close observation on her pain and condition. She undergoes many forms of therapy including: structural energetic therapy, cranial and laser therapies along with chiropractic, hypnosis and yoga. Meditation, visualization and breathing exercises are part of her daily toolkit too. “It's challenging taking medication because it affects my system and clouds my mind,” she said.

What’s most frustrating is the fiercely independent Carla hates to ask for help. It’s important for her trio of caregivers – husband, mom and best friend – to be in-sync with what needs to be done so they can quickly jump in. That ranges from what doctor appointments on tap for the day to the kid’s soccer schedules.

Click Here to read the rest of this story and to find out how Unfrazzle could work for Carla and David Valentino.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Everything You Need to Know about Headaches

It is very difficult to know how best to help a family member or friend with a severe headache. Likewise, just as difficult to help yourself if you are the victim.

Either way, the more you know about headaches in general and the easiest ways to relieve them, the better. The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York has created a wonderful infographic that teaches you all about the different types and severity of headaches, and how to treat them.  (reprinted below with permission)

Of course, if you find that your headaches or those of the person you are caring for seem to persist without relief, then you need to see a doctor. Most primary care physicians can recommend a headache specialist if necessary. 

Headache: Everything you Need to Know
Headache: Everything you Need to Know infographic by MountSinaiNYC.

Check out Unfrazzled collection of Charts & Graphics 
for Caregivers on Pinterest

Friday, January 25, 2013

10 Best Foods & Supplements for Brain Health

If you are caring for or know someone with Alzheimer's or dementia then you realize how frightening and debilitating this disease can be. If you are like me, you want to do everything you can to prevent or at least delay the onset of cognitive decline in yourself. 

We know from many studies that people who regularly exercise (especially aerobic exercise) are less likely to develop dementia. Also, diet appear to be a factor.

Based on my own research and upon conversations I've had with doctors and nutritionists I've come up with a list of the 10 best foods and supplement for optimal brain health.

You'll notice that dark chocolate is not on my list. This is because the recent study published in the journal Hypertension and heavily publicized by the Daily News and others was a very limited study with few participants over a short period of time. It was really designed to measure blood flow and was sponsored by guess who, the Mar's candy corporation. 

There are many benefits of eating dark chocolate and I recommend it, but not particularly for brain health.

Here's my list: 

1. Water. 

Dehydration raises stress hormone levels, causing serious brain damage. The rule of thumb is you should drink at least 8, 8-ounce glasses a day. I think 10 is better.

2. Fish. 

DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, is the main component of brain synapses. 

A lack of omega-3 has been shown to diminish intellectual performance and is linked with dementia. If you don't eat fish, omega-3 is also found in walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds. In addition, you can take it as a supplement; 2000 mg a day is what I recommend. 

For a wonderful, downloadable poster on the best fish you can eat, click here.

3. Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables. 

The best of these, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, spinach, raspberries, brussels sprouts, plums, broccoli, beets, avocados, oranges, red grapes, red bell peppers, cherries, and kiwis. 

Five servings a day of fruits and vegetables is recommended which seems like a ton but isn't. A serving is only 1/2 cup. 

4. Complex Carbohydrates. 

For energy, your brain needs fuel, and the best choice is glucose. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, starchy vegetables and fruits digest slowly, providing a steady supply.

5. Green Tea. 

Ingredients in green tea (and to a lesser extent, black tea) slows the build-up of plaque in brains from amyloid deposits. And drinking tea is associated with mental alertness.

6. Eggs. 

Eggs are rich in choline, a fat-like B vitamin, which has been shown to enhance memory and minimize fatigue.

7. Alpha Lipoic acid (aLa). 

This powerful supplement is both water and fat soluble, meaning it enters all parts of cells to neutralize free radicals. It is the only antioxidant supplement that can easily get into the brain. There is some evidence it is useful in the prevention of strokes.

8. Acetyl-L-Carnitine. 

This is an essential contributor to the production of the neurotransmitter "acetylcholine," which is required for mental function. Double-blind clinical trials suggest acteyl-L-carnitine delays the progression of Alzheimer's disease and enhances the overall performance of people with the disease.

9. Phosphatidyl Serine (PS). 

Stimulates cells in your brain to make new dendrites and axons. People who take PS remember more names, faces, phone numbers, and written information.

10. Nattokinase. 

Derived from fermented soybeans, nattokinase facilitates better blood flow throughout the body.

Note: Beware there are many branded brain health supplement combinations on the market that make all sorts of dubious claims. Many of the ingredients in these supplement have been shown to benefit brain health, but only in much, much larger doses than is found in these pills. 

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What to DO if you are caring for someone with the flu

If you are caring for a loved one with the flu, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself and others. The main way that flu viruses spread is from person-to-person in droplets of coughs and sneezes. Flu viruses may also be spread when a person touches droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands. 

To prevent spread it is important to remember hand washing and to cover your cough or sneeze.

Supplies to keep on hand

  • Thermometer
  • Soap
  • Disposable gloves
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60-95% alcohol)
  • Paper towels
  • Tissues
  • Facemasks and N95 respirators
  • Bleach
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Oral rehydration solution, or water, if unavailable
Reducing the Spread of the Flu

Get your flu shot(s) every year for the best chance of protection from the seasonal flu virus. Take these common sense steps to reduce the spread of germs:
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid or minimize contact with people who are sick (a minimum six feet distancing is recommended).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to prevent germs from entering your body.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with tissues when you cough and sneeze. Put used tissues in a wastebasket and then wash your hands.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow.
  • Disinfect door knobs, switches, handles, toys and other surfaces that are commonly touched. You can use a bleach solution that contains ¼ cup of bleach for every gallon of water. Mix new solution each time you clean. You may also choose to use a commercially-produced surface disinfectant.
  • It is okay to wash everyone's dishes and clothes together. Use detergent and very hot water. Wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.
Taking Care of the Ill
The person who is ill with the flu should stay in a room separate from common areas of the home and avoid contact with others as much as possible. The person should stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone without using fever-reducing medicines.
  • Give fever-reducing medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Do NOT give aspirin to children or teens that have flu-like symptoms.
  • Make sure the person who is ill receives lots of fluids and rest. Prevent dehydration by encouraging liquids at the first sign of the flu and follow these tips:
  • Give ice and easily digested foods such as soup and broth.
  • If the person has diarrhea or vomiting, give fluids that contain electrolytes. These are available at your pharmacy or grocery store and should be labeled “oral rehydration solution,” which is different than sports drinks.
  • If drinking liquids makes nausea worse, give one sip at a time until the person can drink again.
  • Persons ill with the flu should consider wearing a facemask, if available and tolerable, when they are sharing common spaces with other household members.
  • Check with the person’s healthcare provider initially about whether antiviral medication is recommended, or if fever persists, to determine if antibiotics are needed. Ensure all medications are taken as prescribed by the health care provider.
  • Designate only one adult to be the caregiver. People at increased risk of severe illness from influenza should not be caregivers. If this is not possible, caregivers at increased risk should wear a facemask or N95 respirator.
Get medical care right away if the person who is sick
  • has difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • has purple or blue discoloration of the lips
  • is vomiting and unable to keep liquids down
  • has signs of dehydration such as dizziness when standing, absence of urination, or in infants, a lack of tears when they cry
  • has seizures (for example, uncontrolled convulsions)
  • is less responsive than normal or becomes confused.
Taking Care of Yourself
When parents and caregivers deal with crisis situations calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children and/or the people for whom they are caring. Taking care of someone else may cause you to lose sight of your own health or condition; remember to be mindful of your needs as well:

  • Practice healthy habits to help maintain your body’s resistance to infection, including:
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Exercise at least 3 times a week.
  • Manage stress.
  • Get enough sleep and rest.
Caring for someone else, especially if they have a chronic condition, can cause considerable stress. Common symptoms of stress include:
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or aches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Skin problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression, frustration and overreactions
Dealing with stress
  • Ask for help
  • Make sure to express feelings to people you trust.
  • Get into a regular schedule including 7 to 8 hours of sleep, exercise and time to relax for yourself.

Stay Informed

It is important to stay informed about changes to guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC Web site ( posts regular updates to public health recommendations regarding a number of public health threats, including H1N1 (swine flu). Your local public health department is also a reliable source for information.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

What to do if you are sick with the flu

1. Know the signs and symptoms of flu. 

Symptoms of flu include fever or chills and cough or sore throat. 
In addition, flu symptoms can include runny/stuffy nose, body aches, 
headache, fatigue, weakness, diarrhea, or vomiting. 

Make sure you have a thermometer available to check your temperature 
if you feel ill, and over-the-counter medications 
containing ibuprofen or acetaminophen 
to treat fever and flu symptoms. 

Make sure that you follow dosing guidelines 
and don't mix different multi-symptom cold and flu medications.

2. Stay home if you are sick, except to go to a health care provider's office.

Don't go anywhere for at least 24 hours after there is no longer a fever or signs 
of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, 
or are sweating). 

This should be without the use of fever-reducing medications 
(any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). 

Staying away from others while you are sick 
can prevent others from getting sick too. 

Ask your spouse, caregiver or friend to check up on you 
and to bring you food and supplies if needed. 

Having a "flu buddy" will make sure you know who to call 
if you need help, 
and will limit the number of people 
you might expose to the flu virus. 

Call your doctor or health care provider for advice 
if you think you might need medical attention. 

Actually, call them anyway!

Ask about taking an anti-viral treatment such as Tamiflu 
(oseltamivir phosphate).

Before taking Tamiflu, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or nursing. 

Let your doctor know if you have kidney disease, heart disease, 

respiratory disease, diabetes, or other health conditions 
that may have weakened your immune system. 

Also tell your doctor about any medications you are taking 
or if you've received a nasal-spray flu vaccine 
in the past 2 weeks. 

If you have an allergic reaction or a severe rash with Tamiflu, 
stop taking it, and contact your doctor right away. This may be very serious. 
The most common side effects of Tamiflu are mild 
to moderate nausea and vomiting.

3. Stay in a separate room and avoid contact with others while you are ill.  

(See this CDC document: Make a Separate Sick Room, if You Can)

If someone is helping to care for you wear a mask, 
if available and tolerable, 
when they are in the room. 

Try to maintain a 6 foot distance from others 
if you are unable to wear a mask. 

Do not go to work or any scheduled event 
if you have a flu-like illness, until you are no longer likely to spread the virus. 

4. When coughing or sneezing cover your mouth and nose with a tissue.

Dispose of the tissue in a trash can,
wash your hands immediately.

5. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. 

Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective 
if soap and water are not available. 

It is good idea even if you aren't sick to carry a small bottle of Purell 
with you during flu season. Use it frequently. 

6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. 

The average person touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth 
more than 200 times a day! 

For most of us this is an unconscious act, but if you think about it 
and notice how many times you do it, 
you can learn to minimize this and thus avoid spreading the flu virus.

You can avoid "re-infecting" yourself. 

7. Drink plenty of clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks, fruit juices 
and electrolyte beverages) to keep from becoming dehydrated.

Plenty of water when you have the flu is 10-to-15 8 ounce glasses a day. 

Avoid coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks 
because they will dehydrate you even more. Don't even think 
about drinking wine, beer or other spirits. 

8. Contact your doctor or health care provider AGAIN right away:

➨If you are having difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

➨If you feel pain in your chest.

➨If you have sudden dizziness or confusion, 
severe or persistent vomiting, or are getting worse. 

You should also seek medical attention if your flu symptoms improve, 
but then return with fever or more severe cough.

For more information visit or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

(This chart prepared by David Bunnell, 
based on information from the CDC and Washington & Lee University.)

Don't have the flu? See our chart: How NOT to Get the Flu

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

The coming digital health revolution:
How the U.S. Women's Cycling Team beat all odds and what this means to you
U.S. Women's cycling team pursuit
No one really expected the U.S. to be much of a factor in the first ever Women's Team Pursuit Cycling event at the Olympics in London this past summer. And when Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch and Lauren Tamayo finished in 3:19.727 for the silver medal eyebrows were raised.

Many fans suspected the worst. And why shouldn't they? 

Lance Armstrong's "confession" during the Oprah Winfrey interview just confirms what we all know too well. All too many of the championship cyclists and super-star athletes who excel in baseball and other sports use illegal, performance-enhancing drugs. 

But the U.S. Women's Team took an entirely different approach during the months of hard training leading up to the Olympics. Instead of dope, they turned to science and digital gadgets.  The secret of their phenomenal success was based on physiological, nutritional and even emotional benchmarks. 

With the aid of a support team of family and sports scientists, the cyclists were able to optimize their training by making adjustments in what they ate, how deeply they slept and even how they dealt with the routine stress of daily life. The goal was to get the best workouts possible during training camp; to build up strength, endurance and mental toughness to a peak just in time for the Olympics. 

The tools, the methodology, and the digital health science behind this represent a breakthrough in health, fitness and personal well-being that can be applied to everyone, not just athletes. 

Luckily, the story from training camp through the Olympics and afterwards was filmed for a revealing, behind the scenes documentary called Personal Gold.  The film makers, Olympic athletes Sky Christopherson, Tamara Christopherson and Adam Laurent have poured their own money and time into the project and it is nearing completion. But they need a little help. 

The world needs to see this film! 

In order to finish Personal Gold and get it into distribution, a fund-raising campaign has been launched on the cloudfunding website IndiegogoFor as little as $15, you can help the filmmakers raise public awareness to a new, exciting way for athletes to achieve peak performance without drugs, and for ordinary people to maximize their own health, mental and physical. 

Plus, you'll get an autographed team photo of the U.S. Women Cycling Team thanking you for your support of the film and drug-free sport. 

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Leeza Gibbons: The 10 Commitments of Caregiving

Leeza Gibbons, former co-host of Entertainment Tonight is now the co-host of “America Now,” the nightly syndicated TV news magazine and the TV show “My Generation” (on PBS stations).  One of the greatest gifts in Leeza’s life has been the opportunity to honor her mother's legacy and her family's journey through her mother’s Alzheimer's disease. In 2002, she created The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and its signature program Leeza's Place, offering free services for family caregivers who are caring for someone they love who is sick or dying. The 10 Commitments are republished here from the Leeza's Place website.
Before undertaking any effort in life, such as these commitments, always know that perfection is a false goal. Perfection in caregiving should be avoided at all times. These Ten Commitments were created only for caregivers committed to the concept of “doing your best, no more nor less.” These are just suggestions to assist you on your caregiving journey.
As the FAA says, when the plane gets into trouble and the life saving equipment falls from the upper compartment, you take the oxygen first and then give it to your child. With only 19 seconds of useful consciousness in such a situation this approach gives both of you a chance of survival. 

Caregiving is no different. At its base, caregiving is an experience of confusion, challenge and mixed emotions. Love for your family member and the satisfaction you derive from helping may create a situation where one sacrifices their lives at the “alter of caregiving.” That sacrifice gives rise to conflicting emotions such as guilt, stress, anxiety and a host of other mental health challenges. It is imperative as a caregiver to take care of one’s own mind, body and soul by taking the oxygen first.
Caregivers are no different than others in that we tend to make assumptions about other people and situations before actually having gathered all of the neede information. In fact, when we make an assumption we are really passing judgment without even realizing it. 

How often do we assume that our loved one knows what we know, or knows what we need or desire to have happen, when if fact we are not all psychic? The result of this is often misplaced anger or resentment. Let’s make a sincere effort to garner all the details before we make assumptions.
Roles and responsibilities are extremely important to explain to all involved. Ongoing family conferences maintain the boundaries necessary to the caregiving process so that no one feels out of control or inadequate. 

This is a vital and should be done in person and as frequently as needed. Family conferences are like tuneups used to maintain the family car. This car needs to drive well, efficiently and for a long time. Schedule these conferences regularly, before the wheels fall off.
Social isolation can detach and separate a caregiver and give rise to a wide variety of stresses for those taking care of a loved one. Isolation is dangerous because it cuts off family members from outside help and support they need to cope with the stresses of caregiving. Isolation makes it harder for outsiders to see and intervene in a volatile situation. 

Support groups help caregivers feel less isolated creating strong bonds of assistance and friendship. Participating in a support group helps caregivers manage stress by sharing their experiences and helping to improve caregiver skills. It may also help you to face that some problems have no solutions and that accepting the situation is reality. Join a Caregiver Support Group today.
Taking things personally is about self-importance, “the maximum expression of selfishness,” where we assume everything is about “me.” As a famous author once said, “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” The actual words said by your loved one are not what is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that are touched by what was said.

Murphy's Law is a popular adage in our culture which broadly states that things will go wrong in any given situation. In American culture the law was named after an engineer working for a brief time on USA rocket sled experiments. No doubt if you are a caregiver than Plan A needs to be made but has to be followed up by Plan B, a contingency plan. 

Recognize what you can and cannot do, define your priorities, and act accordingly. Turn to other people for help - your family, friends, and neighbors. Prepare clear written list of tasks for anyone who may offer assistance. Planning ahead is vital as it gets all on the same page, allows your loved one to feel safe and to have continuity, lessening their anxiety. What if I go before my loved one does? The answer is plan ahead!

Shame and stigma have tragic consequences. Caregivers with mental health challenges fail to see help for themselves because of the shame associated with their condition. 

As a result of this feeling many think they will experience some form of discrimination, whether in the workplace, from health insurance plans or in social settings. They must get help for their behavioral issues in the same manner they would get help for any other other medical condition. Though a loved one is surrounded by medical and behavioral complications at all times, matters get much worse if the caregiver represses their own mental health issues and keeps it in a closet. 

There is a high need for ongoing assessments for depression, anxiety, fear, alcohol usage and many other challenges. Often shame and stigma prevent vital access to in-depth evaluation of those on the caregiving path. There is no biochemical difference between a disease of the brain and a disease of the heart.

A full complement of support services that address the caregiver and the recently diagnosed exists in every community. The quality and the extent of such a continuum of resources may vary but just know that neither a caregiver nor their loved one has to be alone. 

Supportive services may include medical, behavioral, legal, dental and various psycho-educational support groups Investigate community resources that might be helpful. If there is a Leeza’s Place in your community, consult a Leeza Care Advocate or attend meetings and ask other caregivers for the resources that have helped them. If there is not a Leeza’s Place in your community try our Caregiver Connection Line.
Empower yourself and your family using experiential approaches to memories. Take time to “remember.” Get away from it all while relaxing with yourself and your loved ones. Use photography journaling, scrapbooking, holiday decorations or any other means to associate with the endearing “stories” of the family. 

If there is a Leeza’s Place near you, make sure you schedule time for LMTV, Leeza’s Memory Television. The caregiver and the care receiver can find common and connective ground in the face of the best and worst of times. Making sure that all members of the family are included is vital in this process. 

This is a great time to bring children into the process of honoring their elders and allows loved ones to connect in a valuable way. Keeping what emerges out of such a dynamic process is a great way to honor sacred memories and bridge the generations.
“Laughter Is the Best Medicine.” This is an old expression popularized by Norman Cousin’s book “Anatomy of an Illness,” in which he describes his battle with cancer and how he “laughed” his way to recovery. His hypothesis and the subject of many studies suggest that there are positive effects to be gained from laughter as a great tension-releaser, pain reducer, breathing improver, and general elevator of moods. 

It sounds miraculous, is not proven, but studies continue. In short, humor therapy is valuable and it helps us through difficult or stressful times. Try to see the humor in being a caregiver. Try writing on a card “Have you laughed with your loved one today?” and placing it in a conspicuous place in the bathroom or kitchen. Read funny books or jokes, listen to funny tapes or watch humorous movies or videos that make you laugh. 

Try it and you’ll like it!

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Monday, January 14, 2013

How to confront your alcoholic parent(s)

Did you know that 2.5 million U.S. adults over the age of 65, nearly 17%, have alcohol abuse problems?

While a large group of these adults have been excessively drinking for many years, nearly 40% become alcoholic late in life. Their alcoholism may have been triggered by changes in their lives such as reduced income, retirement, death of a loved one, loneliness, worries about health and problems going to sleep.

As people get older, the absorption rate of alcohol goes up so they become intoxicated much faster than when they were young.

When alcohol is combined with medications, there can be many adverse reactions and even a small amount can impair coordination, judgement and reaction time increasing the risks for accidents at home, work or while driving.

Children of alcoholic parents are increasing finding themselves in the situation where they feel compelled to do something about their parent or parents' drinking. 

This is not easy, of course. Where do you start, what do you say?

The video above, produced by the Huffington Post tries to answer these questions. It delves into this topic and discusses the best intervention options. Host Nancy Redd is joined by Jeff Jay, co-author of "Love First: A Family's Guide to Intervention"; Julie Bowden, a therapist and co-author of "Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics"; Erin Harkes, a singer/songwriter; and psychotherapist Wendy Foreman.

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Visit the Unfrazzle website 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Flu Prevention: 3 steps you need to know

How NOT to Get the Flu

Wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice

Recommended article: The New York Times, January 11, 2013: As the Flu Rages, Caregivers Suffer

Recommended article: The New York Times, January 18, 2013: Tough Flu Season in U.S., Especially for the Elderly

Step 1. Get Your Flu Shot

Contrary to what you may have heard, you cannot get the flu from a vaccination. The flu shot contains killed viruses. Getting a flu shot does not guarantee that you won't get the flu, because matching the vaccine with the viruses from any particular year is difficult. However, if you do get a flu shot and come down with the flu sometime during flu season, the vaccination will reduce your risk of dying. In fact, the risk is reduced even more if you get shots in consecutive years.

Before you get a flu shot:
  • Get plenty of sleep. A lack of sleep prior to getting a flu shot reduces the vaccination's effectiveness.
  • Do not take aspirin, NSAIDS (such as Ibuprofen) or COX-2 inhibitors, as these also reduce the vaccination's effectiveness.
  • Notify your doctor if you are allergic to eggs. Flu vaccine is cultivated in eggs and could potentially produce an allergic reaction.
  • Don't procrastinate. Get vaccinated today!

Step 2. Build Up Your Immunity

There are 4 important ways to do this:

1. Get 8 hours of sleep every night.
Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your immune system, so get plenty of sleep to boost your immunity to illness. If you have trouble sleeping, trying the following:
    • Sleep in a cool, dark room.
    • Use a sleep mask.
    • Turn off the TV one hour before you go to bed.
    • Meditate.
    • Don't worry about little things.
    • Try taking melatonin.
2. Exercise
Regular exercise has been proven to boost the immunity system. To be most effective exercise for at least 45 minutes, 5 times a week.

3. Eat healthy foods. 
A healthy diet is important for good health and immunity to illness, so eat five or more helpings of fruits and vegetables every day. Include plenty of beta-carotene rich foods such as apricots, carrots, papayas, cantaloupe, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and mangoes. If possible, eat two or more meals a week of fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. Eat plenty of garlic and spicy foods, as well as raw yogurt and/or take probiotics.

4. Take supplements  
Choose immunity-building vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, including a multivitamin, zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, selenium and alpha lipoid acid. In addition, try turmeric, garlic and CoQ10 supplements.

Step 3. Avoid Infection

The flu is contagious one day before symptoms appear and up to 5 days afterwards. Droplets from the mouth and nose spread influenza, so when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or touches any surface, the virus is spread. In addition, viruses can live on a cold surface for three days. Follow these guidelines to reduce the risk of infection:

1. Wash your hands frequently.
If you are unsure about how long is “long enough,” wash your hands for the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice. Make sure to wash your hands before eating, after sneezing or coughing in your hands, after shaking someone's hand and after touching anything at all that could be contaminated. To get the maximum benefit use hot water, soap and a follow-up hand sanitizer such as Purell. 

2. Avoid touching anything that could be contaminated.
Flu season is a good time to be somewhat obsessive about not touching contaminated surfaces. Try not to touch things that are used frequently by others, such as doorknobs, handrails, “community” keypads or pens. Consider wearing gloves when pushing a shopping cart, or using a paper towel to open the door of a public restroom after you have washed your hands. Carry a hand sanitizer with you (and use it frequently) and train yourself to not touch your nose, mouth or eyes.

3. Avoid "droplets."
Avoid crowds if possible, and stay away from people who are coughing or obviously sick. Try to fly less frequently, as one sick person on an airplane can infect all passengers.

4. Buy a flu mask. 
In case of an epidemic, you'll be prepared. 

Note: this chart was created by David Bunnell and reviewed by Dr. Frederic Vagnini.  

See our chart: What to do if you have the flu

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