Thursday, March 28, 2013

Beta Testers Wanted!

"Caregivers are constantly faced with never-ending tasks. It is often difficult to keep all the caregivers informed and coordinated. Unfrazzle is a simple smartphone app that can make a difference in the lives of caregivers. It is our attempt to bring some serenity to this chaos." 
--Rajiv Mehta, Unfrazzle Founder & Developer

After months of development, testing and retesting, Unfrazzle is now in beta and we have a need for a few more beta testers.

Unfrazzle is a simple app that works on an iPhone (an Android version will be released a bit later). It is a task management and task sharing tool that is designed to give you peace of mind. 

With Unfrazzle, tasks are not forgotten. Reminders can be set to let you know when something needs to be done. Checkmarks tell you when tasks have been completed. And tasks can be assigned to other people in your Unfrazzle circle of family or friends. 

To help beta testers get started with Unfrazzle, we created a video User Guide that uses a simple caregiving example to show you how to set up Unfrazzle. You can see the User Guide by clicking here

We are looking for a few people who are caring for themselves or their family members. They also need to be willing to talk to us about their experiences with Unfrazzle, letting us know what they liked or did not like.

If you, and other members of you family, would like to participate in the Unfrazzle beta test, please email and tell us the following:

  • What is your caregiving situation? Who do you care for? Family member(s)? Friends?
  • Will others in your circle (family or friends) join you in the Unfrazzle beta?
  • How do you think Unfrazzle will help you? What difference might it make?
Once again, this is for iPhone users only. The Android version of Unfrazzle will come out later.

We are very excited to be at this stage of Unfrazzle's development, and with a little help from our beta testers, we believe will have a very effective app that will really make a difference in the lives of caregivers. 

Won't you help us out? 

Monday, March 25, 2013

REDUCE Your Risk of Cancer

Live a Healthy Lifestyle 

Don’t smoke: Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world.
Maintain a healthy body weight: Obesity is on course to 
overtake tobacco as the leading cause for cancer in the United States. 
Reduce stress: Emotions and cancer are connected. Men who are depressed have been found to have more pancreatic cancer. 
Nurture positive thoughts and emotions. 
Exercise often: The incidence of all forms of cancer correlates 
with a lack of physical fitness. 
The American Cancer Society says at least 30 minutes a day 
of dedicated exercise above and beyond 
the usual activities of daily life 
on five or more days a week is needed to reduce your cancer risk. 
Regular exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer in women.

Get plenty of sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to a breakdown 
in immunity, which in turn makes your body 
more susceptible to cancer. 
Get some sun: Twenty minutes of sunshine 
a day can reduce your risk. 
Use sunscreen: If you’ll be in the sun for a longer period, 
and get an annual skin exam from a dermatologist. 

Eat the Right Foods

Eat your veggies: Simply eating more vegetables and fruits 
could eliminate about 20 percent of cancers.  
Eat less fat: By avoiding animal products,
you can double this number, preventing two of every five cancers, 
according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

 Eat Less Meat: No more than 18 ounces of red meat per week. 
Every additional 1.7 ounces increases your cancer risk by 15 percent.
Avoid grilled, broiled, and fried meat.  
Never eat processed meat: Every 1.7 ounces of processed meat
consumed per day increases 
the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent. 
Be a Vegetarian if you can: Vegetarians have dramatically 
lower cancer rates, as much as 50 percent.  
Cut back on dairy: Men who consume 2½ servings or more 
of dairy per day are 30 percent more likely 
to develop prostate cancer.

Go Soy: Men who drink soy milk more than once a day 
have a 70 percent reduced rate of prostate cancer. 
Less calcium: High calcium diets are also associated
with higher prostate cancer risk.  
Avoid: Sugar, salt, moldy food, alcohol, and saturated 
and hydrogenated oil. 
Use olive oil: Populations with an olive oil rich diet, 
such as Mediterranean cuisine, have a lower incidence of cancer.
Greek women have a much lower rate of breast cancer.

Eat cancer-fighting foods: Garlic has been shown 
to be an effective inhibitor of the cancer process. 
Drinking three or more cups of green tea a day 
reduces the likelihood of stomach and esophageal cancer. 
Other cancer-fighting foods include: tomatoes, 
whole grains, citrus fruits, blueberries, apple peels, kale, spinach, fava beans, soy, onions, squash, sweet potatoes, apricots, grapefruit, grapes, lemons,mangoes, papayas, peaches, 
persimmons, strawberries, tangerines, 
and curciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, 
brussels sprouts and bok choy. 
Increase fiber intake: High fiber diets are associated 
with lower colon cancer rates.

Take Supplements

Take vitamins: It is impossible to get adequate nutrients 
for optimal health from diet alone. 
Take a multivitamin with 800 mcg of folic acid.
If you drink alcohol, take additional folic acid.

Take additional cancer-fighting supplements: Selenium 
has been shown to have the ability to slow 
or even stop cancer growth. Take it with vitamin E. 
Probiotics promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon and reduce the conversion of bile acids into carcinogens.
Vitamin D suppresses angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels that nourish the growth of tumors. 
Take 1000 IU a day. Consider taking CoQ10, omega-3, milk thistle, palmetto (men only), nattokinase, acetyl-L-carnitine, extra vitamin C, 
alpha lipoic acid, zinc, and beta-carotene.

Avoid Toxins

Avoid industrial areas: Industrial toxins have estrogenic properties which may be at the root of increased 
breast cancer and other cancers. 
Limit the use of skin and cosmetic products: The average American is exposed to 100 distinct chemicals 
from personal care products a day. Many of these are hormone-mimicking agents, and many are known carcinogens. 
Avoid products containing parabens, 
which have been detected in human breast tumors. 
Beware of personal products containing phthalates, which soak into the skin, accumulate and are suspected to contribute to cancer.

 Don’t dye your hair: People who use hair dyes 
at least once a month
for a year may be more likely to develop bladder cancer.  
Throw away your Teflon: Don’t cook with pans 
coated with nonstick chemicals.  
Limit radiation: Be aware that radiation accumulates 
in the body and avoid unnecessary CT scans such as full body scans. Get mammograms from radiologists at academic medical centers. 
Avoid unnecessary X-rays. 
Avoid: asbestos, chlorinated tap water, electric and magnetic fields, pesticides, PBDEs, and phthalates.


This chart was prepared by David Bunnell and reviewed by Dr. Frederic Vagnini. It is presented as information only and not intended as a substitute for advice from your medical doctor.

Want to know more about Unfrazzle?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Better Way to Die?

When my son-in-law Charles died last week, I realized my wife's 2 1/2 year caregiving journey had come to an end. 

Those endless days of sitting with Charles in chemotherapy, going to doctor visits, hunting down a pharmacy that carried his pain medication, buying groceries, running errands, arranging for him to see relatives in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, making sure someone else checked up on him when she couldn't...all these things and a thousand more were over. 

She's going to be stunned at how much time she has, I remember thinking.

It was really hard seeing Charles so thin and so weak. 

Charles had a chiseled, rock-hard body. He was a martial arts black belt, he taught yoga classes and ran marathons. He could do the splits. 

Because he was so strong, so determined to beat cancer, and always upbeat, smiling and saying he felt fine, many of his relatives were convinced he would win the battle--they didn't visit with him as much as they now wish they did.

The good news though, for Charles, for my wife, myself, his two daughters, close friends and relatives was he chose to spend his final days in home hospice in his own apartment. He was only at the hospital for two nights, during which he repeatedly said, "I just want to go home." 

My previous experiences with death have involved watching people spend prolong stays in the hospital and sudden, unexpected accidents. Both were horrible and I hope to never experience them again.

Home hospice is another matter. 

Home hospice doesn't make dying wonderful, but if we simply have to die, this is the way to go. For Charles, like his hospitalization, his home hospice was only two days. The median time for others is 19. 

Still those two days were remarkable for all the friends and relatives who trekked to his apartment from near and far. They came to visit and some stayed to help care for him. While he drifted in and out of consciousness, Charles was aware enough to know who was visiting him and near the end who was talking to him on the phone. 

I remember looking up from where I was sitting in the next room and seeing a group of male friends hanging around his bed, which we had set up in the living room. Charles' jumbo screen TV was on and they were loudly joking about some recent NFL trades that were being discussed on ESPN.

It was just the kind of conversation Charles loved and I saw a flicker of a smile on his face. It was the last time I saw him smile, a moment I'll never forget. 

Would this have happened at the hospital?

At the hospital I imagine the nurses would have told the fellas to tone it down or the fellas would have been too intimated in the first place.

When death finally came, at least 10 of Charles' closest friends and relatives were gathered near his bed and his youngest daughter lay beside him. The TV was still on, only now it was tuned to a music channel, an instrumental version of "Beyond the Sea" was playing. 

We decide to leave Charles in the bed overnight before calling the mortuary. For the next several hours other friends came to see him and those of us who wanted to got to spend time alone with him.

Because so many of us had had a chance to say goodbye and to be with Charles we decided it wasn't necessary to have him embalmed for a viewing at the funeral parlor. Just as home hospice had seemed so natural, no chemicals seemed natural too.

I will be forever grateful to the hospice people who made this happen. 

From now on, I will be an advocate for home hospice. It is a great thing that Medicare covers this service, which is not just for the dying but also for the relatives.

Hospice care is available only to people who are likely to die within 6 months. It is based on a philosophy that accepts death as an inevitable outcome for a patient with a terminal illness.

Hopsice involves a team caregiving approach to the final days. The hospice program provides a doctor, visiting nurses with special training, a "spiritualist" if you want one, therapist, and sometimes a homemaker. Family members can received fully paid grief therapy for up to a year after their loved one dies.

Hospice care saves money because providers (nonprofit and for-profit) receive $144.91 a day for their services, whereas hospitalization in an intensive care unit can cost $10,000 a day, including drugs, equipment and staff. 

More and more people are opting to die at home, surrounded by loved ones, rather than in a hospital, attached to tubes and monitors. This is a good thing. 

If you want to learn more about hospice, here are some links:

          Next Step in Care 
          Mayo Clinic: End of Life  
          National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization 
          Hospice Foundation of America

Want to know more about Unfrazzle?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Caregivers Corps: An Idea Whose Time is NOW

President John F. Kennedy meeting with Peace Corps volunteers
Sensing an urgent need to show people in the "Third World" the generous, caring side of Americans as well as expose young Americans to other cultures, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps 52 years ago (March 1, 1961). 

It was an idea right for the times and it has endured.  In the words of Peace Corps volunteer John Roberts, who served in Somalia, the Peace Corps has proven to be "the most effective tool ever invented for people-to-people interactions."

Today we have another urgent need. As a society, we need to address the caregiver crises being brought about by the aging Boomer population and by the fact people are living longer lives. Already there is a dire shortage of professional caregivers and at any one time 60 million Americans are caring for a family member or close friend.

Janice Lynch Schuster, senior writer for the non-profit health systems research Altarum Institute, has launched a petition on the White House website to "Create a Caregiver Corps that would include debt forgiveness for college graduates to care for our elders."  

The following article, which she originally posted in the Disruptive Women in Health Care blog, does an excellent job of explaining the need for a Caregiver Corps and some of the details how it might work. 

The Caregiver's Corps -- let's do it!

by Janice Lynch Schuster 

I recently participated in a Twitterchat (#eldercarechat), where someone raised the question of what we want government to do to improve the lives of the nation’s 60 million family caregivers. Someone suggested creating a Peace Corps-like program to recruit new graduates to serve family caregivers. I immediately volunteered to launch a petition to do just this, and wrote one on the White House website, which encourages civic engagement.

My petition is very short. It seemed to me that in the context of trying to raise interest and garner signatures, I needed to be to the point. It reads:

We petition the Obama Administration to: Create a Caregiver Corps that would include debt forgiveness for college graduates to care for our elders.

More than 60 million Americans are family caregivers. They face challenges. Health suffers. Finances suffer. Families suffer. Aging Boomers will overwhelm our caregiving resources. Let’s create a Caregiver Corps, that would marry college debt forgiveness with programs that place recent graduates with families and aging services providers. Let’s bridge the generational divide that promotes ageism. Let’s do it!

One of my Twitter followers admonished me for my lack of detail. Without it, she said, no one would would take me seriously. The idea is in its early stages, and would require thoughtful analysis and number-crunching by experts. But in the meantime, here’s the general idea for it.

Why We Need a Caregiver Corps

Several demographic trends are creating a future that will leave families and our beloved elders overwhelmed, exhausted, and bankrupted by the challenges of living with old old age–that is, living past 80–with multiple chronic conditions that will, no matter what they do, kill them. In any given year, some 60 million Americans serve as family caregivers to another adult, someone who is either old, disabled, or both. (And millions more care for children and young adults who live with serious disabilities, and face even more challenges in terms of education, employment, and so on.)

These families will run square into a medical system that is not prepared to care for them in the ways the need most. These individuals might sometimes need rescue and cure—but they will more often need long-term supports and services, and help with things like transportation, hygiene, and food. And while they’ll have plenty of access to ICUs and new hips and knees—they will be shocked and disheartened by the costs of all the things they will need to pay for on their own: private-duty nurses, for instance, and home care; transportation and food and skilled nursing care. Unless these families spend-down to become Medicaid beneficiaries or have adequate long-term care policies, their costs will be out of pocket. And those costs will be beyond reach for most middle-class Americans.

In the meantime, the social services agencies meant to serve aging Americans continue to be devastated by short-sighted budget cuts. Sequestration alone, one estimate suggests, will eliminate 800,000 Meals on Wheels in the State of Maryland.

And there will be few people to provide the hands-on care that these adults will need. The nation faces a profound shortage of people trained in geriatric care, from geriatricians to nurses to direct care workers. These shortages stem, in part, from the relatively low pay geriatricians earn, and the outright unlivable wage direct care workers receive. By one estimate, by 2030, when all of those Boomers are in their dotage, there will be one geriatrician for every 20,000 older adults.

A Caregiver Corps: Hope—and Help—for Us All

What’s a country to do? Launch a Caregiver Corps, a program modeled on similar valuable, successful, and long-lived efforts, such as the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Teach for America. The program could recruit volunteers: high school graduates not trained for the workforce; college graduates facing a tough economy and huge undergraduate debt; and older adults, those healthy enough to want to remain in the workforce and contribute to others’ well-being.

Volunteers could sign up for a year or two. In exchange for their service, they could earn tuition credits to cover the cost of college; they could receive some degree of loan forgiveness, to lessen their burden of debt; they could be paid a stipend that acknowledges the value of their work. They could be assigned to community-based organizations that serve older adults, such as Area Agencies on Aging, non-profit health care institutions, social services agencies, and others.

While volunteers could offer enthusiasm, compassion, and insight, they could also learn the kinds of skills required to care for an older adult and his or her family. They could learn about the public policies that affect that care. They could acquire medical and nursing skills—the kind of skills family caregivers use routinely in their daily routine. They could be exposed to older people, and bridge the generational gap that splits our country on this demographic. In the end, they might even be inspired to pursue a career that features caring for one another.

That, it seems to me, is something Americans have always done best—and will have to do more, as we all reach our own old age. Developing people who have the skills, resources, and motivation to help us in our self-interest. And it is in theirs, too. Millenials face the highest unemployment of any group in the country, and finding ways to become marketable, employable adults is critical to their own security and future.

So, let’s try it. Let’s create a Caregiver Corps. Let’s get the Administration to think about it, and weigh in. It’s time, really, to move forward. We need 150 signatures to push the petition to the public pages of We the People. Please take a moment to add yours:

Questions or ideas for Janice? You can email her directly:

Want to know more about Unfrazzle?