The stark reality is that more and more Americans each and every day find themselves taking on the role of caregiver for a family member. This can present immense physical and emotional challenges. The first steps suggested here can help you find some balance as you navigate your caregiver journey.
(BPT) - Caring for a loved one with a chronic illness is something millions of Americans do every day. Whether it is a parent, spouse, extended family member or friend, the stress of caring for another adult can take a toll.
"I have to do absolutely everything for her," explains Anthony Cowels, whose 71-year-old wife, Florence, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986. As he watched her disease progress, his caregiver responsibilities grew. What's more, for some of the years Cowels also cared for his elderly parents, compounding his responsibilities.
"It has been a long journey of caregiving," says Cowels, 70. "I try not to let it overwhelm me. I always look for ways to do better." Cowels learned to care for both himself and his wife better through useful tools, education and friendship and by joining a caregiver support group. He says he can "interact with others who identify with my situation.”
Family caregiving: A growing trend
Cowels represents a growing number of Americans who care for older or aging loved ones. About 41 million family caregivers in the United States provided an estimated 34 billion hours of care to an adult with limitations in daily activities in 2017, notes the AARP report Valuing the Invaluable: 2019 Update. What's more, as the population ages, caregiving demands are increasing while the pool of potential caregivers is decreasing.
As the Valuing report states, "Americans will have more older relatives or close friends to potentially care for than children in about 15 years. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that, by the year 2035, adults ages 65 and older will outnumber children under the age of 18 for the first time in U.S. history. This fundamental demographic shift is the result of the aging of the U.S. population, increasing longevity, and a declining birth rate. "
Caring for yourself
In addition to helping with self-care activities like bathing, dressing and going to the bathroom, family caregivers today often perform complex medical tasks, including wound care, giving injections and handling medical equipment. The tasks that were once provided in hospitals and health care clinics are increasingly the responsibility of family and friends, who are often given little training or support.
While many family caregivers often report positive feelings in their role such as a sense of purpose or connection with their loved one, it often comes with feelings of being overwhelmed. Exhaustion, worry, loneliness and financial stress are common challenges caregivers face. If you also work a full-time job, it can be even more difficult to balance your needs and responsibilities.
While you may not achieve perfect balance, it is important to prioritize your physical and mental wellbeing, so you can be there for the person you care for. These first steps can help you find some balance as you navigate your caregiver journey:
It is important for family caregivers to stay mentally and physically healthy so they can provide the best care possible to the growing number of people who need support. For helpful tips and caregiver resources, visit www.aarp.org/caregiving.
If you’re among the millions of people in the United States who suffer from a chronic illness, you may use “sharps” to manage your medical condition at home or on the go. Consider this information about sharps and steps for safe and proper disposal.
Understanding Medical Sharps and Safe Disposal Options
(Family Features) If you’re among the millions of people in the United States who suffer from a chronic illness, you may use “sharps” to manage your medical condition at home or on the go. For example, many people with diabetes self-inject at least two insulin shots every day, and conditions including allergies, arthritis, cancer, infertility, migraines and psoriasis, among others, may also require the use of a sharp to administer medication.
A medical term for devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin, sharps may be used at home, at work and while traveling to manage medical conditions. Examples of sharps include:
However, disposing of those medical sharps safely may be a concern. In fact, in interviews conducted by SafeNeedleDisposal.org with sharps users, people who use needles and lancets to manage their medical conditions believe it is their responsibility to dispose of sharps safely, but lack clear, factual information on how to do so. Existing information does not always personalize disposal guidelines for people in every state or locality.
“SafeNeedleDisposal.org helps people in the United States make sense of safe sharps disposal options nearest to their home, work or wherever is convenient,” said Larry Ellingson, vice president of the National Diabetes Volunteer Leadership Council. “This resource is much needed for people who regularly use needles to manage health conditions like diabetes and want to do the right thing with their used sharps.”
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sharps not disposed of properly may cause injury. Consider these three steps for safe and proper sharps disposal:
For more information on safe disposal of sharps, visit SafeNeedleDisposal.org.
Photos courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
A typical course of action for people who are feeling a little under the weather is to visit a doctor who will prescribe one or more medications for them. However, more people are turning to home remedies when they need relief from minor illnesses. Some physicians are even willing to prescribe natural products, herbs, and certain types of food for patients who suffer from chronic maladies. When fending off minor illnesses, there are a number of home remedies you might wish to try before resorting to pharmaceuticals.
Eating kiwi for dinner may be the remedy you need if you find it difficult to sleep at night. Studies have shown that eating a kiwi or two an hour before turning in for bed at night can result in sleep that is both deeper and longer in duration. One reason kiwi is likely to aid with sleep is its high serotonin content. A lack of serotonin has been correlated with insomnia. In addition, kiwi is rich in folate, which is also needed for healthy sleep patterns.
Cloves possess a compound known as eugenol that has both antibacterial and anesthetic properties. These qualities make clove an excellent selection to numb the pain of a toothache and reduce the swelling and puffiness from infection. Cloves are rich in antioxidants, and their antimicrobial properties help to clean the affected area around the tooth.
Cloves are not the only food that can be used to treat a toothache. There is an array of other natural antibiotics for tooth infections that you can try before resorting to seeing a dentist, especially if you are trying to save money.
The best way to avoid acid reflux is to avoid items like fried food, high-fat beef, and sodas. One food you should add to your diet if you are prone to acid reflux is apples. Eating an apple or two a day will provide you with enough pectin to benefit from the acid-absorbing properties of the compound. Apples also contain tartaric and malic acids, which will fight against juices from the stomach that flow in an upward direction. Sweeter apples like organic red ones are the best choice to lessen the symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). They're considered an alkaline food option.
Both patients and traditional medical practitioners have become more aware of the positive benefits of using organic food for medicine. The three foods mentioned above have proven their usefulness at combating specific illnesses. You might find them a great substitute for pharmaceutical medications.
Looking for ways to live a healthier lifestyle? We recommend this article next!
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffers from a chronic illness that requires using needles or sharps outside of the doctor’s office, you may question how to dispose of them safely. There is plenty of information available, but the proper disposal method may be different depending on where you live, work or travel.
How to Safely Dispose Needles and Medical Sharps
(Family Features) If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffers from a chronic illness that requires using needles or sharps outside of the doctor’s office, you may question how to dispose of them safely. There is plenty of information available, but the proper disposal method may be different depending on where you live, work or travel.
To help ensure people who use needles and sharps at home or on-the-go know how to dispose of them easily and safely, NeedyMeds, a national non-profit organization that provides health care information to consumers, developed tools at SafeNeedleDisposal.org.
“Most people want to do the right thing, but they need specific, succinct information on safe sharps disposal,” said Richard J. Sagall, MD, president of NeedyMeds. “For local guidance presented in a way that is easy to follow, our website is a one-stop-shop.”
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sharps that are not disposed of properly may cause injury. In order to increase awareness and minimize risk, people who use sharps are encouraged to learn more about local regulations and disposal options.
In many states and communities, people who use sharps may dispose of them by following these three simple steps:
“Some locations have different disposal regulations, which may require people in those areas to take used sharps to special collection points,” Sagall said. “SafeNeedleDisposal.org helps people learn how to get rid of used sharps safely, wherever they happen to be.”
To learn more about disposing used needles and sharps safely, visit SafeNeedleDisposal.org.SOURCE:
Heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke are among the most common causes of illness, disability and death in the United States. These chronic conditions and the factors that lead to them can be more common or severe in minorities, including Hispanics, but there are services available that can help people living with chronic conditions coordinate care services and lead to better outcomes and higher satisfaction.
Chronic Conditions More Common in Hispanics
(Family Features) Heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke are among the most common causes of illness, disability and death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These chronic conditions and the factors that lead to them can be more common or severe in minorities, including Hispanics.
For example, 4 out of 10 Hispanics die due to heart disease or cancer, and they are 50 percent more likely to die due to diabetes than Caucasians, according to the CDC.
If you are a Medicare beneficiary with two or more chronic conditions, ask your doctor about CCM and see if you’re eligible for connected care, including services such as:
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Health Resources and Service Administration introduced the “Connected Care” campaign to help raise awareness about the benefits of CCM. The campaign has free resources, including an animated video in English and Spanish that can help you learn more.
Talk to your doctor to see if CCM is available to you and visit Medicare.gov to learn more about the benefits of the program.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
To help shed light on the growing national problem with opioid drugs, Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist, lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.
(BPT) - While a decade ago you may not have heard much about opioids, today they make headlines daily. The nationwide epidemic crosses generations and socioeconomic lines, and it's affecting your family, friends and neighbors.
"Opioids have long been used clinically to treat pain, but prior to the 1990s they were primarily reserved for patients with a limited life expectancy, such as for someone with cancer or in a hospice setting," says Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist. "The potential problems associated with long-term use were secondary considerations."
To help shed light on this growing national problem, Dr. Hooten lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.
Opioids are prescribed for various reasons
Opioids are used to treat a variety of pain disorders. While they are commonly prescribed after an operation, opioids are also used to treat a host of chronic pain conditions including musculoskeletal, abdominal, pelvic, and neuropathic pain.
Length of use varies
"Following surgery, up to one in four patients may use opioids longer than anticipated," says Dr. Hooten. "How long, exactly, depends on several clinical factors."
He notes that after an operation, a patient might use opioids to manage acute pain for three to five days.
"When opioids are used for acute postoperative pain, patients should try to use the lowest possible dose." After this short time period, opioids should be replaced with non-opioid pain medicines including Tylenol scheduled to be taken every six hours."
There are alternatives for pain management
There are many alternative options for chronic pain. Dr. Hooten suggests talking with your doctor about:
* Non-opioid analgesics (non-opioid pain medications).
* Interventional treatments such as image-guided spine injections or nerve blocks. * Acupuncture.
* Low-impact exercise such as walking, yoga, Pilates. Consider working with a physical therapist to develop a structured exercise program.
* For advanced pain treatment, spinal-cord stimulation can disrupt the pain stimuli and provide sustained pain relief.
* Work with a pain psychologist who can help teach individuals how to use specialized behavioral and cognitive techniques that could lead to improvements in daily functioning and quality of life.
Opioids can be deadly if misused
"Approximately 90 people per day die in the U.S. from a prescription opioid and/or an illicit opiate overdose," says Dr. Hooten. Many of those are accidental overdoses. “People who take prescription opioids will inadvertently mix them with benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium and Xanax). Dr. Hooten warns that these two drug classes should never be taken together, as the combination can suppress the central nervous system and put the individual at risk of an accidental overdose.
Addiction can happen to anyone
As Dr. Hooten notes, “No one plans to get addicted, but it happens. Using opioids requires a high level of vigilance for the signs and symptoms of addiction."
There are many signs of over-reliance or misuse that families should be aware of. These include an increased preoccupation with the drug, concern about the timing of the next dose or refill, hiding use of the drug, and signs of intoxication like slurred speech and excessive sleep.
If you notice these warning signs, alert your loved one about your concerns. "This might be enough to prompt a change," says Dr. Hooten. "Otherwise relay this information to the prescriber and tell them what’s going on. They can take the correct next steps."
For more information on pain medication and alternatives, or to make an appointment, visit www.mayoclinic.org.
(BPT) - When Chrystal Graham of Alpharetta, Georgia was diagnosed with relapsing Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2009, she was 27-years-old and no stranger to coping with life’s challenges. Having dealt with the loss of her mother to illness, Graham knew she could manage her way through almost any type of adversity.
“When I heard the words MS, I thought to myself, ‘there is nothing that can be given to me that I can’t handle,’” said Graham. “However, I still had moments of doubt, wondering how this could happen to me and how I was really going to confront it.”
Graham set about learning as much as she could about MS, a disease where your immune system attacks the fatty coating called the myelin sheath on nerves in the brain, spinal cord, and eye area, which causes scars to develop and prevents the nerves from communicating as they should. This communication breakdown creates a range of symptoms from mild to severe, and from temporary to permanent.
The truth is, no two people experience MS exactly the same way. Some common symptoms are problems with memory, attention, problem solving and vision; problems with balance and coordination; depression or mood swings; sexual issues; muscle stiffness and spasms (spasticity); weakness; bowel or bladder problems; pain and fatigue. Currently there is no cure for MS, people living with this overwhelming disease have it for life.
Graham admits that learning to cope with a lifelong disease can be daunting, so she focused on cultivating a reserve of inner strength to help her overcome any challenges she encountered. “I had to dig deep within myself to find the strength and grace to live with this disease,” she said. “I tend to be resilient and optimistic, and there’s a lot of strength in that, but I also find strength from my family and friends. They are my core of support, helping me get through difficult times, while cheering me on through the great times.”
Graham’s support network provides her with the encouragement to continue enjoying the same hobbies she had pre-diagnosis – writing, blogging, and doing yoga with her daughter.
As an MS LifeLines Ambassador, Graham shares her inspiring story about finding inner strength in a video gallery at MSLifeLines.com/MyStrength. Sponsored by EMD Serono and Pfizer, the video gallery showcases real stories from people with MS discussing where they find strength in their lives.
MSLifeLines provides education and support to people living with relapsing MS and offers a variety of resources for both people with MS and their caregivers. Individuals impacted by MS in any way can learn more about the disease and free resources available by visiting www.mslifelines.com or calling 1-866-783-5189.
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