Oct 12, 2017

Hey, Hospital Administrators: Be the First to Revolutionize the Healthcare System for Stroke Survivors

I have thoughts, good ones at that, even though I had a hemorrhagic stroke and a portion of my brain cells died, never to appear again. That's all right. I compensate with little tricks that make me able to pretend I have the brain I was born with. 

But just talk, no action has been the status quo with stroke survivors, even though they contribute to one of the most disabling conditions. So I'm going to dare hospitals to do this because no hospital has done it before--revolutionize healthcare for stroke survivors. 


Hospital Administration

Greetings and with all due respect to hospital administrators. You have a difficult job, keeping the balance between doctors and nurses (some of whom are un-balanced) and the rest of the staff running smoothly, or just running. You aren't afraid of suggestions, are you? Well, then, use your smiling (albeit even if you don't feel like it) visages to approach this thought. 

Your facility could be "on the map" even more than it currently is. Be the hospital that stands out from the rest if you follow this one revolutionary suggestion for stroke survivors.


Before I tell you what "it" is, don't tell me you can't afford it because, truth be told, it's the missing piece. Doctors and RNs and the rest of the staff don't need perks, like the spreads you lay out for them, to keep them loyal. Just saving on food alone could make this idea more of a reality. If they really want to help people, and I'm sure most of them do, they'll stay put in your hospital. And your salary more than justifies my proposal. Ready?

When a stroke patient is admitted, have a psych team at the ready as soon as the patient is awake and comprehending, who reads the survivor some strict rules every day for at least a week BEFORE therapy starts. Crying will most likely happen. And that's all right. Emotional release.

Let me give you background on this thought because I've been thinking about it ever since I had my stroke eight and a half years ago. 

I was depressed (it went on for a year, less and less after that) and thus, at times, I was non-compliant. I was in a coma for 8 days and didn't talk for 5 weeks. And that was the easy part. What's the tough part, you ask? From the time I started talking, I would always ask questions at Bacharach Rehabilitation in Pomona, NJ, questions that could have been answered by the not-yet-formed psych team before I started therapy.

Instead, a question to the therapist: "What happens if I don't do leg lifts?" 
An answer from the therapist: "Just do them, ok?"
An answer from the not-yet-formed psych team: "Do everything the therapist says or else you'll be in a wheelchair longer."

A question to the nurse: "Why should I wear support stockings?"
An answer from the nurse: "Because you should."
An answer from the not-yet-formed psych team: "Do everything the nurses say or else you'd delay getting better."

A question to the doctor: "Do I really have to wear the eye patch for double vision?"
An answer from the  doctor: "Didn't you comprehend what I just told you?" 
An answer from the not-yet-formed psych team: "Do everything the doctors tell you because they're trained to give you good advice."

A psych team. For at least a week. Every day. Before therapy starts. To get stroke survivors ready to bust their asses and cooperate with the staff. Who's ready? Anyone? Anyone? Contact me through email and I'll go anywhere in the continental US to make this happen. 

I have thoughts indeed.

Sep 25, 2017

Caregivers Should Take Notice; Those They Care For Should Demand More

One never knows when he or she will be a caregiver. I lived in New Jersey for 17 years with my ex-partner. In the 12th year, I got a hemorrhagic stroke and at first, he was my caregiver. Role reversal indeed. But soon it overwhelmed him, not to mention the dangerous risks that I took, falling many times because I craved to be independent. In retrospect, I was selfish and stayed longer than I should have. The relationship was doomed and I understood why. I believe he did, too. And soon, I had to seek other caregivers, for both of our mental states of mind.

I started this blog in 2010 to mentor stroke survivors and, truth be told, to mentor myself, in a cathartic way. By writing about brain trauma, I became a stronger person, and I have my mother and father to thank for that.

Anyway, one day, in 2017, I received this email from Sally:

"My name is Sally and I am writing because as a former Manager of a care home, I learned how demanding and complex caregiving can be. While it can also be rewarding in itself, caregivers need all the help and support they can get.

"Now I work as the Content Manager for a small senior care site and I felt it was important we create a full resource guide for caregivers. It covers 30 essential sources of information and support for all kinds of caregivers."

She went on to say:

"Recently, I came across stroketales.blogspot.com and having read http://stroketales.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-caregivers-are-venting-and-stroke.html, I feel this is a subject you would like to cover."

Indeed I do, Sally. This advice comes from Sally who didn't have a stroke, but she nails it.
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Recovering From Stroke: How Caregivers Can Help

Stroke is by far one of the most devastating and sudden experiences that anyone can endure. Those who experience minor strokes have the challenge of rehabilitation, and some patients who go through major episodes of the medical condition face the horrific possibility of permanently losing vital cognitive and physical abilities. Regardless of the state a patient is in after suffering a stroke, recovery is possible with the help of patient caregivers. Here are three key ways for in-home nursing assistants to help their patients, and themselves, get through the stroke recovery process.

1. Stay Alert

It is probable that you've been given very specific instructions concerning medication. It is essential that they follow all stipulations outlined in their prescriptions to ensure a healthy recovery. Omitting even one regulation or falling behind schedule when administering medication can be detrimental to recuperating and may even be life-threatening.

Another area that requires the devout attention of the caregiver is in physical exercise and general mobility. It is possible and even recommended that stroke patients exercise on a daily basis so as to encourage proper recovery. Try and engage in light physical activity, but also be attentive to falls and injuries. It is quite common for those recovering from stroke to lose their balance while walking. You should not write off such incidents as part of the process, though, as every fall presents the possibility of a serious injury.

2. Encourage Good Nutrition

A person who has experienced a stroke is vulnerable to another attack. You should, therefore, eat meals filled with vitamins and other nutrients during breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is also important that you encourage those recovering from stroke to eat fruits and vegetables more often than they consume foods with empty calories. Chips, milk chocolate, and soft drinks are enemies to stroke recovery.

3. Engage in Self-Care

Sometimes caregivers are so focused on their patients recovering from life-altering experiences such as stroke that they forget to take care of themselves. Such behavior can be detrimental to both the giver and receiver since stroke patients heavily rely on their nursing assistants for support during recovery. Caregivers can improve and maintain health by:
Keeping up with doctor’s visits
Eating a wide variety of nutritious foods
Taking time away from the job or even seeking professional help if the stress becomes too great

If you are a caregiver, then it is important to do everything within your power to avoid burnout. Remember that your stroke patients need you in good health and are excited about the road that lies ahead of them for rapid recovery.
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Sally's advice, though, is not only for caregivers. It also is for the patients they care for who should demand, to the best of their ability, that their caregivers stay on track.

The 30 essential sources to which Sally alludes were written by Kristen Hicks, exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com. Click on the link to learn more about it
  1. https://www.usa.gov/federal-agencies/administration-on-aging
The Administration on Aging is a government organization specifically devoted to providing programs and services to help aging seniors continue living independently. While the organization is primarily focused on the well being of seniors, it includes an Office of Supporter and Caregiver Services that helps provide funding to families for resources to help with caregiving.

  1. Family Caregiver Alliance
The Family Caregiver Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides services and education programs, as well as doing advocacy work to help encourage government policy that’s helpful to caregivers.
  1. Caregiver Action Network
The Caregiver Action Network provides educational resources for caregivers and a forum to connect family caregivers with others dealing with similar issues.

  1. Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving
The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving provides support programs and training resources for caregivers, as well as advocacy to encourage greater institutional help for caregivers.
  1. National Respite Network
Sometimes caregivers just need a break. The National Respite Network helps caregivers find respite services that temporarily take over some of the caregiving tasks so family caregivers can take a well-needed break.

     6. Become A Caregiver

If you are looking to become a caregiver anywhere in the United States, look no further than caregivers.com.  They help get families and caregivers in touch quickly and easily and will ensure the family gets the best caregiver they can while matching the caregiver’s skill set to the right family.

     7. Benefits Checkup
Navigating the system of benefits available to seniors is tough, and many seniors leave potential aid or money on the table because they don’t know it’s out there for them. The Benefits Checkup site makes it easier to quickly see what benefits are available in your area that you or your loved one are likely to qualify for.

     8. Family Care Navigator
The support resources available to caregivers vary based on your geographic location. The Family Care Navigator helps you hone in on what programs and organizations are specifically available to you in your state.

     9. National Volunteer Caregiving Network
The National Volunteer Caregiving Network helps connect volunteers that want to help others in their communities with the seniors or people with disabilities that need that help. Volunteers help with things like transportation, errands, and home repairs.

     10. Lotsa Helping Hands
Lotsa Helping Hands is another website that helps connect volunteers with caregivers in their area that need some extra help. Caregivers can put the help they need on the website’s calendar and available volunteers step in to provide help with tasks like meal delivery or rides to appointments.

     11. Eldercare Locator
The Eldercare Locator is a resource provided by the Administration on Aging to help seniors and caregivers find trusted professionals to help with the various services seniors commonly need, like home modifications and legal assistance.

     12. Well Spouse Association
Many senior caregivers are spouses taking care of their partner. The Well Spouse Association helps senior caregivers in this position tap into a larger community of other caregivers taking care of a spouse.

     13. Find Support Groups
Most communities have a number of support groups that caregivers can attend to find others struggling with similar challenges. Often, these support groups are specific to the particular issue your loved one is dealing with, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s support groups. These groups can be an invaluable resource for finding other people who understand what you’re going through and having a healthy outlet for your feelings.

     14. Senior Day Care
Adult day care lets you drop off your senior loved one for the day while you work or run errands and trust that they’ll be in the care of trained staff. Senior day care also gives seniors a chance to socialize and stay busy in a new environment for the day, which many seniors start to need more as they age.

     15. In-home Care
In-home care professionals come to your home for a set number of hours to help out with the care your loved one needs. You can hire in-home care workers to provide basic around-the-house help, or home health care workers to provide health care to your loved one.

     16. Assisted Living
While many families hesitate to take the step of moving a senior loved one to assisted living, sometimes it really is the best choice for everyone. Assisted living facilities have staff available all hours of day to help with the ADLs seniors often need assistance with.

     17. Respite Care
If you don’t want to take a step that feels as permanent as assisted living, but you know you need a break, respite care can take the caregiving duties off your hands for a temporary period.  

     18. Meals on Wheels
A big part of taking care of someone is making sure that they get enough meals each day to stay healthy. For overwhelmed caregivers, that’s not a small task. Meals on Wheels can help fill in with that part of your job in order to take one more thing off your plate.

     19. Independent Transportation Network
Once your loved one can no longer safely drive, getting them out to appointments and social events becomes another difficulty to manage. ITN helps seniors access affordable transportation options that provide the level of help seniors often need.

     20. LongTermCare.gov
LongTermCare.gov is a government website full of educational resources to help people plan for long-term care and understand the options and benefits available to them.

     21. Guide to Veteran’s Long-Term Care
Veterans have even more potential benefits to tap into than most other seniors. If your loved one is a veteran or the spouse of one, this website can help you understand the benefits available to them.

     22. National Institute on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Caregiving Resources
A growing number of people provide care for Alzheimer’s patients, who require a distinct set of skills and knowledge to properly care for. The NIH provides educational materials to help caregivers learn what to do and expect.

     23. Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Center     
The Alzheimer’s Association is one of the leading authorities on the disease. Their website provides a wealth of information on caring for Alzheimer’s patients based on up-to-date research on the subject.

     24. American Heart Association’s Resources for Caregivers
Heart disease is another common illness seniors face. The American Heart Association provides some educational tips for caregivers helping a loved one with heart disease.

     25. Cancer Caregivers Resources

The American Cancer Society likewise provides resources to loved ones of cancer patients to help provide the main information they need to take care of someone suffering from cancer.

     26. National Parkinson Foundation Caregiver’s Resources
The National Parkinson Foundation provides a number of resources to caregivers of seniors who have Parkinson’s. They also offer a helpline for caregivers that have questions.

     27. Caregiver’s Home Companion
The Caregiver’s Home Companion is a website that includes forums to connect caregivers to one another, and resources that cover many different aspects of caregiving, from the spiritual to the practical.

     28. Next Step in Care
Next Step in Care provides guides for caregivers that help them figure out how to work with health care providers to figure out the next step for their loved one when facing complicated decisions and transition periods.

     29. AARP’s Caregiver Resources
In addition to the many resources they provide for seniors, AARP also provides planning guides and other educational resources for the caregivers that help care for seniors.

     30. Video Caregiving
For those that prefer to learn by video rather than reading, Video Caregiving provides a number of films to help caregivers learn the skills they need.

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And one more thing before I go: not everyone is suited for caregiving. It shouldn't be a source of shame. Wrong job is what it is. Caregiving takes patience, understanding, and compassion for angry, frustrated, and low self-esteem patients who are your clients. If you don't have all three, and it's a family member, find an option in the list. If not, quit. Just because you want to have something to do and make money is not a reason for caregiving. Heed my words. They are spot on.

Sep 14, 2017

Portland and Pittsburgh: Tales of Two Very Different Cities

As a stroke survivor, I've moved around a lot though Portland, which is 3000 miles away from where I started, is the biggest leap. (https://stroketales.blogspot.com/2017/07/first-impressions-of-portland-oregon.html) I lived in Pittsburgh for over 3 years before coming to Portland. But except for the two cities starting with P and the vast number of bridges, the two cities are very much different. The first 5 examples that came to my mind immediately follow.

One of 1000s Pittsburgh gear

1. Everywhere you look, day or night, you will see at least one sports memorabilia in Pittsburgh--Pirates (baseball), Penguins (hockey), and/or Steelers (footballs). Pittsburgh is obsessed with sports. Bumper stickers and flags, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and more abound. Portland is best known for the Trail Blazers (basketball) and the lesser known Timbers (soccer) and Pickles (baseball), the latter two because they're sort of minor league. Portland is hot on the Blazers, but no sports stuff anywhere to flaunt that I've seen.


And the debate goes on

2. In Pittsburgh, everything was placed in plastic bags when I went shopping. So I was shocked, even though in retrospect I shouldn't have been, that Portland only uses mostly paper. Portland is esoteric in the area of the environment whereas Pittsburgh, originally a blue-collar town known for its steel mills, isn't concerned mostly at all. The debate, plastic vs paper, goes on. Paper bags take more energy to manufacture than plastic, even though paper bags are easier to recycle, and so forth. So the one thing you see in Portland is the re-usable shopping bag; not so much in Pittsburgh.
 

Pittsburghese, anyone?


3. Pittsburghese and Portlandese are very different aberrations, reflecting the culture thereof, or not. You decide for yourself.

(If you listen to Jack Pearson, played by Milo Ventimiglia in the acclaimed "This is Us" which takes place in Pittsburgh, he gets those expressions perfectly said). Going to Portland made me say to myself, a couple of times, you're not in Kansas anymore.

Ten examples follow for each.

Pittsburgh:

Jagoff = Jerk
Sprinkles = Jimmies
Yinz = You 
Stillers = Steelers
Nebby = Nosy
Coort = Quart
Lah-see = Lousy
In-ur-es-tin = Interesting
Hahs = House
Dahn-tahn = Downtown

Portland:
Brewmoo = relating to any number of theaters that serve beer
The mountain is out = It's a nice day
Spendy = Expensive
I'm going to Freddies = Local store Fred Meyers and Portland's version of Target
The Couve = Nickname for Vancouver, Washington, which is just north of Portland
Stumptown = Originally another nickname for Portland for all the loggers who once lived there
Nordies = Short for Nordstrom’s, a major upscale retail store located downtown and in a few area malls
Puddletown = Nickname for Portland because of all the rainfall it receives
PillHill = The hill that houses OHSU, the teaching hospital, Dorenbeckers (children’s hospital) and the VA Hospital
Stillers = Steelers, the beloved football team

The long row of carts

4. The food carts in Pittsburgh are mainly around the college campuses and downtown. Young adults who frequent them on college campuses mostly can handle the greasy concoctions like pizza, Chinese, and burgers that come from there. Everyone else usually takes Pepto-Bismol or facsimile. In Portland, however, the trucks are a cut above, dedicated to serving, in each individual truck, food like Asian Fusion, intricate wraps, a wide assortment of bubble tea, and Voodoo doughnuts, for example. They are parked in clumps, 15 to 20 food trucks, in many locations that aren't around college campuses or downtown only and, sometimes, they are parked in the middle of nowhere. But Portlanders know where they are. Throngs of them frequent the carts wherever the carts are.

Jackpot: Beard AND man-bun
5. The guys that sport beards in Pittsburgh, for the most part, keep them groomed. But not in Portland. The north westerners apparently don't give a flyin' frig about their beards and are more interested in having one at all than not. Thus, you see unkemptness beard-wise all over Portland. Young and old have beards in hippie-like fashion that are straggly and nearly halfway down the chest. The other things you see all over the place in Portland are man-buns. In order to have a man-bum, the hair must be at least shoulder length in order to pull it up for a bun. Man-buns and ponytails are different, the latter just gathered with a tie and once it's up, allowed to hang loose. Man-bans, IMO, are more sophisticated and skillful than a ponytail. In Pittsburgh, I hadn't seen one man bun ever. But in Portland, they're all over the place.


I was a fan of Pittsburgh, but the scenery is better in Portland, and the food for that matter. And the man-buns, of course.







Aug 18, 2017

The Solar Eclipse and Danger to Your Eyes: Shameless Scam or Ultimate Truth?

Hoo-hah! Everybody loves a party, or an excuse for one. So the Solar Eclipse is coming on Monday, August 21, and there's parties galore, even a festival in Solartown, Oregon, The campsites are all sold out. And as one Press Release says, "There is nothing like the spectacular phenomena of a Total Solar Eclipse. One part beautiful, one part mystical, and one part mathematical, a Total Solar Eclipse is an experience that inspires the mind, body, and spirit and demonstrates the elegant nature of our cosmos." Sounds pot-i-ful.

No one ever died of smoking pot. I imagine the festival will have its share. Pot is legal in the state of Oregon, so it would a shame if everybody who smokes a lot falls asleep and misses the eclipse. Just sayin'.

Anyway, everyone is buying specially designed glasses to watch it, unless they are foolish and wait to see what happens. More on that later.

The total eclipse can be seen first in Oregon where I live all the way to South Carolina along the trajectory listed below (all others, partial). Oregon, where there's a 3-hour time difference with the East coast, will get an influx of people watching it because that's where it starts.

Oregon has a problem with wildfires, so the eclipse may not be seen if wildfires are around. Check the weather, too, across the trajectory for your viewing. If Mother Nature doesn't cooperate, cloudy skies would keep you from the fascination and you'll have to wait until 2045 to see it again.



And now the eye danger. All of my ophthalmologist and optician friends agree: If you don't wear the special glasses, and I'm not talking sunglasses, you will damage the sensitive retina.

"Filters that meet the ISO 12312-2 standard reduce the sun's brightness to a safe and comfortable level, like that of a full moon, and block harmful ultraviolet and infrared radiation as well," said Rick Fienberg of the American Astronomical Society. "Solar filters that meet this standard are about 100,000 times darker than ordinary sunglasses, and sunglasses don't block infrared radiation." 

If you look through the glasses and the sun is too stark, hazy, out of focus, or if you can see household lights, the glasses are not safe. The only thing you should be able to see is the sun itself through a safe solar filter.

There it is. The conclusion? Not a scam. It's real. Don't be a daredevil. Wear the solar filter glasses. Otherwise, goodbye, vision. Unless you get lucky, which nobody is in this case.