Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday Round-Up, Blogathon Version

Well, we're half way through the 2013 Blogathon and I've gained some new followers and readers. I'm pleased with the number of people who have been looking at my posts. Some conversations have been started, which is always good. People don't have to agree with each other - opposing points of view are always appreciated as long as they are respectful of others'.

So, what's been happening in the Blogathon realm this week?

Because my children are not children anymore, I don't tend to read blogs about parenting issues. I will read the odd post every now and then if it catches my eye or if someone recommends it, but it's not something that is on my radar at this point. So, this week I made an effort to check out some parenting bloggers who are participating in this year's blogathon.

I tend to lean towards bloggers who admit they're not perfect parents, that life gets in the way sometimes, and that stuff happens, rather than ones that tell you how to be a perfect parent. In fact, I'm glad that blogs didn't exist when I was parenting young children because I'd be even  more paranoid of screwing up than I already was. Anyway - here are some of the parenting blogs I read and liked this week. If you go over for a visit, please consider leaving a comment and tell the bloggers how you ended up there.

Mean Moms Rule. I *love* Denise Schipani's take on motherhood and I like to think that if we had been at the same stage at the same time, we'd have been soulmates. I've read her blog before simply because I've seen Facebook posts about them from friends we have in common. If you only read one parenting blog for real life stuff, this is it.

The Dancing Egg by Caren Chesler is another must-read but for different reasons. I find her posts make me think about issues I hadn't considered before - like all the stuff we accumulate, visiting a theme park, and yelling. Sometimes I feel sad after I've read a post, because I'm reminded of the things that have passed and that I maybe could have done differently. But, it's not a bad sad, if that makes sense.

Mamahh: Navigating the Labyrinth of Motherhood One Breath at a Time is written by Jennifer Derryberry Mann. I haven't read too many of her posts because I just discovered her blog this week, but it looks interesting. I wish I did have something like this when I was struggling through the early childhood parenting years. Jennifer wrote in  her "about" page: "Jenni is the creator of, a meditation on self-care for the wondrous, winding journey through the labyrinth of motherhood. The blog has a simple yet profound purpose: It’s a daily reminder to {breathe, mama}. Through the amazing moments and the awkward ones, and in times both sublime and stressful, there’s nothing quite like a sweet deep breath to bring you into the marrow of the present moment."

Running for Autism is exactly what it sounds like it's about. Kirsten Doyle writes about her life and parenting a child who has been diagnosed with autism, as well as her love of running.

And what about this blog? Did you miss anything? Here is a list of this week's posts:

11 Months and Counting - Fitness Report
Quebec Revisits Right To Die
Your Medications: Keeping Yourself Safe  - a guest post
4 Questions to Ask if Your Child's Doctor Recommends a CT Scan
11 Tips to Keep Outdoor Spaces Safer for Seniors
Fireworks Beautiful, But Handle With Care

Friday, June 14, 2013

11 Months and Counting - Fitness Report

Eleven months ago I joined a gym located right around the corner from me. It's not the first time I've joined a gym. I've tried before to get fit. I've never been particularly physically active, but now because I work from home and don't go out of my way to get exercise, other than going for walks, I knew I wasn't getting the exercise I needed. I knew I wasn't fit. I'd also gained some weight and I just didn't feel comfortable in my own skin.

So, on July 1, I began revamping my eating habits. They weren't terrible, but they weren't great either. I realized that all the other times I had failed at my attempts to live a healthier lifestyle, I was changing too many things at the same time. So, I figured that by changing my eating habits first and getting my body ready for physical activity, I'd be giving myself a better chance at success.

How have things changed over the past 11 months? Well, on July 11, 2012, I couldn't complete 20 minutes on the easiest level of the elliptical. I did do some weights, but then I went home and collapsed, reminding myself how much I hated to feel so tired.

I went six days a week for four and a half months. Friends were advising me not to go that often, but I know myself. I knew that if I didn't go every day, I would find excuses not to go the days I was supposed to. I've been there. I've done that.

Finally, in the new year, I cut down to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as my regular days. I could do extras if I wanted, but I had gotten into enough of a routine to know that I would stick with the three days per week thing.

Now, on June 11, 2013, I can (and do!) complete 20 minutes on the elliptical, with resistance, without any trouble. I do my weights and machine exercises, and then I finish off with 20 minutes on the exercise bike. When I'm done, I'm tired, but not wiped out. I've lost almost 30 pounds and several inches. And I have muscles! I also got back on my bike and am enjoying the feeling of being outside, riding along the canal.

Several people predicted that with this exercise, I would have more energy because that tends to be the way things go. My fibromyalgia doesn't allow for that, I'm afraid. I still am quite fatigued, but I seem to be able to handle it better and I do have more energy when I'm doing a specific task, like going for a walk.

So folks, don't give up if you've not succeeded at previous attempts at getting fit. I was an out-of-shape 51-year-old last year. I'm an in-shape 52-year-old today!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Quebec Revisits "Right to Die"

The right to die - four words that evoke strong feelings. Assisting someone to commit suicide is illegal in Canada, as is euthanasia. Right to life is above all. But what about those who don't want to continue living the life that the law has made inalienable, undeniable? What about those who are going to die, often a painful, drawn out death, who wish to end life on their own terms, rather than that given to them by God or nature, depending on their beliefs?

Whenever a topic like this is discussed, there is talk of the slippery slope. This was brought up during the legalization of abortion - what this slippery slope abortion would lead to. And so there is fear that assisted suicide - legalized assisted suicide - would be the start of a very bad slide in our society.

Let's look at the arguments:

A person should be in control of his or her life and if there comes a time that this person decides that life is no longer worth living, the end should be permitted and even assisted, if needed. This italicized part is important because many people who are at the stage that they want to give up, can no longer face living another day, also cannot end their life on their own.

The argument for legalized assisted suicide is that the person's desire to stop suffering is paramount. It is this person's decision and no one else's. Often, when this is discussed, the issue of euthanizing animals and beloved pets comes into the forefront. After all, as a society, it is frowned upon to allow an animal to suffer and we often feel it is best to euthanize them, put them out of their misery. Many a pet owner can tell you how difficult and painful this decision is, but they are always told that they have done the right thing. Their beloved pet, a loved part of their family, is no longer suffering. And then people ask, if we can do this for the animals we love, why can we not do it for the people we love?

The counter argument is that we cannot, as a society, allow people to take another's life. While the idea may start with the best of intentions, helping someone end suffering, it could balloon into lives being taken because caregivers no longer want to provide care or there is no one left to provide the care.

As for people deciding that they want to die, there are some who argue that many times, this desire to die is temporary, such as untreated clinical depression. And if the underlying cause is treated properly, these people can go on to live full and productive lives - something that would not have been possible if they had been allowed to ask for help to die.

So, now what?

The Canadian province of Quebec has reopened the debate on the right to die. They are studying the possibility of making it legal to help someone commit suicide - under strict guidelines. They include:

- The patient must express the desire to die several times over a prescribed period of time.
- Two doctors must agree that the patient is sound and able to make this decision.
- A doctor has to be willing to give the injection.

It sounds simple enough, doesn't it? So why is it so difficult? Perhaps because we, as a society, don't treat dying with the dignity and the care that it needs and deserves. We spend so much time and money fighting death, that patients suffer needlessly for longer than they may have if the fight to save them hadn't been so aggressive. We also fear that with our aging population, that it is our seniors who will be targeted. After all, they are usually the sickest and frailest of our society.

Death is a part of life. It happens. It's inevitable. Death isn't necessarily a failure of the doctor or the healthcare team and this is where we have our problem.

Palliative care (hospice) resources are lacking. The number of hospice beds are sadly inadequate as are the number of healthcare professionals who specialize in caring for patients at the end of life.

I worked in palliative care for a few years. It is a very, very rewarding type of care. It allows you to help the patients and their families live their final days as well as they can. But I did come across some patients whose physical pain was very difficult to control, whose quality of life was not one that I would have wanted. I've had family members come to me and say, "why can't we do to our loved ones what I could do to my dog if he was suffering?" I had no answer, other than it was against the law. We do have the right to refuse treatment that will lead to death, we can have advance directives, but we don't have the right to cause death.

How do I feel about assisted suicide? I don't know. As I said, I've had these conversations with families who were in the midst of it. I've also worked on hospital floors where I saw doctors fighting their hardest to save someone who we knew, deep down, couldn't be saved - that their actions were only drawing out the inevitable, causing more pain for everyone involved.

But I also had a brother who did take his life; he died after years of mental anguish drove him to commit suicide. He died alone, thinking that no one loved him.  That will always haunt me. No one should die alone. But his pain, his illness would not have qualified him for assisted suicide.

Do I believe in the slippery slope that could result in legalized assisted suicide? Yes, that I do believe in. I do believe that if this ever does become legal, we will have to be so very, very careful to ensure that no one who doesn't want to die, no one who is unable to state it because of dementia or unconsciousness, will die. I do fear that we may get much more than we bargained for.

Related news stories:

Euthanasia in Quebec: Physicians group denounces right-to-die legislation

Quebec introduces controversial 'dying with dignity' bill

Quebec tables bill on medically assisted death

‘Demands of Quebec society’ behind controversial right-to-die bill, junior health minister says

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Your Medications: Keeping Yourself Safe - A Blogathon 2013 Guest Post

A guest post by Jane Neff Rollins, MSPH

As I head off to my college reunion tomorrow, I am packing what I need for a five-day trip, including my medications. I take only one prescription drug, for an underactive thyroid gland. But I also take two nutritional supplements – Vitamin D (because my last blood test showed that my level was too low) and Calcium (which is recommended for all women my age – 61). Because I sometimes have trouble remembering whether I’ve taken a given pill by the time mid-afternoon rolls around, I transfer my gel caps and tablets to a calendar box, a plastic box that has smaller boxes with hinged lids labeled M, T, W, Th, F, Sa, and Su for the days of the week. If the Tuesday box is empty, and it’s Tuesday, I know I’ve taken my allotment for the day.

According to the Partnership for Health Care Excellence, a Massachusetts not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping patients be more actively engaged with the health care system, we should all keep our tablets and capsules in the original pill bottle or package.

So I’m a bit of a scofflaw when it comes to that bullet point, but I do follow all their other recommendations for medication safety. To learn what they are, download the PHE fact sheet: "What you can do to take your medications safely."

If you take lots of meds, it’s a good idea to schedule a “brown-bag checkup,” either from your primary care doc or your local pharmacist. You put all of your prescription and over-the-counter meds, and any nutritional supplements or herbs you may take, into a brown paper bag and bring it with you.

Your doctor or pharmacist will double check to see:

  • If you are taking the correct dosage at the right intervals
  • If you are using pills that are expired, or have been discontinued or recalled
  • If you are taking pills prescribed by two different doctors that do the same thing
  • If anything you take (Rx, OTC or “natural”) might interact poorly and cause side effects

Taking charge of your health care by knowing what medications you take, and working with your doctor or pharmacist, will help ensure that you are taking medications safely.

Jane Neff Rollins, MSPH, is the author of the upcoming book “Health Care Navigation 101: Get the Health Care You Deserve.” She also trains working adults to navigate the health care system effectively and blogs at Jane takes complex ideas and makes them easy to understand for consumers and health professionals. Her medical writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Reed magazine,, medical journals, and trade magazines.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

4 Questions to Ask if Your Child's Doctor Recommends a CT Scan

You may have seen on the news that a new study was just published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, reviewing how radiation doses from CT scans need to be adjusted even more and done even less frequently on children in order to lower their risk of developing radiation-related cancer later on in life. The researchers  discussed how children are smaller than adults and don't need as much radiation for their CT images as do adults, among other issues. This finding, of course, makes sense.

The study goes on to say that by reducing radiation doses and reducing unnecessary exams, the long-term cancer risk for children who have these tests could drop as much as 62 percent. We do know that exposure to radiation, even from medical exams like CT scans (also called CAT scans) can increase a person's later-in-life risk of developing some sort of cancer. Fortunately, as technology is adapted and more is learned, newer guidelines and modern scanners are providing for less radiation exposure than ever before, particularly among children.

Of course, we want to do everything we can to reduce any risk of our children of causing cancer, but it is important to understand that as impressive (and important) that 62 percent reduction in risk is, the chances of developing radiation-caused cancer are low to begin with. That's not to say it doesn't happen, it does. But it isn't common, so this needs to be kept in mind when looking at the numbers.

So, why is this study important? It's a reminder that not all CT scans that are ordered may be necessary. It's a reminder that not all facilities that do these scans on children are using calculations that are appropriate for their pediatric patients' size. And it's a reminder that we need to ask questions and understand why tests are being done on our children.

The American College of Radiology released a statement yesterday, in response to the study, in which it said: "Diagnostic scans reduce the number of invasive surgeries, unnecessary hospital admissions, and the length of hospital stays. However, they must be used judiciously, when indicated, and when the needed information cannot be obtained in other ways, in order to minimize radiation exposure to all Americans - particularly children.

Keeing this all in mind, what is a parent to do? There are four questions that parents should ask when a doctor recommends that their child undergo a CT scan:

1- What benefit will there be from having this scan performed? (Why do it?)

You want to know what the doctor is looking for and why the CT scan is the right test for this.

2- Is there any other exam that would be equal to or better than a CT scan?

You want to learn if a regular x-ray or an MRI, which doesn't use radiation, could be be performed instead of the CT scan with equal or better results.

3- Will the radiation dose be adjusted to account for my child's size?

One issue that affects radiation exposure is that not all tests are properly calibrated for children, particularly if the facility does not see many pediatric patients and are not experienced in dealing with children of various ages and sizes.

4- Is the facility ACR accredited?

The ACR accreditation involves surveying of medical imaging equipment to assess that it meets industry standards and that the radiologists who are interpreting the findings are qualified to do so, reducing the chances of more exams being ordered on the same patients.

There is no doubt about it. Exams such as CT scans do save lives. But we need to be sure that the people doing these tests are doing them properly, that the equipment is maintained properly at at the most recent standards, and that the proper exams are being ordered for the right reasons.

Monday, June 10, 2013

11 tips to Keep Outdoor Spaces Safer for Seniors

It’s summer time! And if you live in a colder part of the country, summer often means it’s outdoor time for both family and friends. This added living space may mean you may entertain more or you just might move your usual activities, like eating dinner, outside for a few months.

If you have an older parent or friend with limited mobility who will be joining you in your outdoor space, be it a patio, a deck, or a balcony, there are a few safety issues you might want to take into consideration to reduce the risk of injuries.

Here are some tips to help you keep the fun in summer time:


1- Good lighting helps keep people safe inside and outside. For outdoor lighting, be sure the lights are secured and highlight any possible obstacles, such as stairs, ramps, or furniture. If there are shadows that can make the obstacles hard to see, you may want to add some lighting to those areas.

2- If you don’t like the idea of having bright lights on all over, consider using motion-sensing devices to trigger your lights. This way, when someone approaches the area, the lights go on as needed. An added bonus is that you don’t have to worry about turning off lights after everyone has gone inside.

3- You may have seen small lights on steps. These can be very useful, especially in places where you might not want full bright lights. Small lights can be placed on the stair risers themselves, or along the step sides.

Remove obstacles

The smallest things can be a tripping hazard for anyone, not just someone with limited mobility. Here are some of the more common ones:

Extension cords
Outdoor carpeting
Uneven patio blocks

4- Extension cords for lights, sound systems, or other electronics can pose a tripping hazard. If you need to use lengthy cords, it’s best to fasten them along a wall or railing, out of foot reach.

5- Outdoor furniture is often not as stable or heavy as indoor furniture. Many have wheels on them to make them more portable, easier to move around. This has a drawback: if a guest loses his balance, he may reach for one of these pieces of furniture for support. If there are wheels or the furniture is light, it may push out from underneath, causing a fall. If your furniture has wheels, see if they can be locked, to prevent this type of accident. If the furniture is very easily moved, it’s best to keep it along the walls or railings.

6- Keeping the furniture clustered in one area also reduces the risk of people bumping into the pieces or tripping on a table or chair leg.

7- If you have outdoor carpeting, check it regularly to be sure it’s not lifting along the edges or bubbling near the center. If there are signs of wear, watch that area to make sure it doesn’t split and cause a tripping hazard. Some people place mats at the front of the door so people can wipe their feet. Ensure that the edges or corner of the mat don't curl up.

8- If your patio is made of stones, these should be inspected for shifting. All the stones should be as flush with the ground as possible, to reduce the risk of tripping.

Stairs or steps

9- Patios and decks that have stairs or just go up a step can pose a risk for falls for anyone. You can reduce the risk by installing solid hand bars to both sides of the steps.

10- If stairs are a barrier, you may need a ramp for better accessibility to your patio or deck. If a permanent ramp is not an option, there are different styles of portable ramps available. Don’t forget that backdoors often have a step over them to get outside. This may need a ramp too.

11- Gates are also a good safety feature if you have stairs – they’re not just for young kids. If you have people on your deck, particularly if they use a wheelchair or walker, it could be easier for them to get too close to the edge of the stairs and fall. A gate would decrease this risk.

It’s fun to do things outside, particularly if you can’t do so all year round. But don’t forget the safety issues, because the last thing you want is for your outdoor fun to turn into tragedy.
Do you have any safety ideas to add?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fireworks Beautiful but Handle With Care

Few things make huge crowds gaze admiringly at the sky like fireworks. A well orchestrated fireworks show is a beauty to behold. I live in Montreal, where the Montreal International Fireworks Competition is a perfect example of how the beauty of explosives can be mixed with the beauty of music to create a magical evening. But not all fireworks displays are so well coordinated or safe. Most, I dare say, are homemade, neighborhood endeavors, which can be dangerous.

June 1 to July 4 is Fireworks Safety Month in the United States. Every year, an estimated 9,000 fireworks-related injuries, mostly burns and eye injuries, are reported. According to the American Association of Ophthalmology, one-quarter of those eye injuries result in permanent loss of vision or blindness. And children are at the highest risk:

Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those fifteen years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. For children under the age of five, seemingly innocent sparklers account for one-third of all fireworks injuries. Sparklers can burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause a third-degree burn.

In 2006, a study published in the journal Pediatrics, reported that over a period of 14 years, 85,000 children had been injured by fireworks. Their average age was almost 11 years old and 78 percent of those injured were boys. Not all who were injured were doing setting off the fireworks: at least 22 percent were bystanders.

The most common devices that caused injuries were firecrackers, causing 30 percent of the injuries, followed by sparklers or novelty devices (20.5 percent of injuries) and then aerial devices.

The eyeball was the most commonly injured body part (21 percent), followed by the face (20 percent), and the hands (20 percent). The most common injuries were burns.

Emergency action:

So what do you do if someone is injured by fireworks?


- If a chemical has splashed into the eye, flush it with clean water as soon as possible.
- If an object is in the eye or punctured the eye, do not try to remove it. If you can put a small paper cup or something similar over the eye, this could provide protection until you get to the emergency department.
- Do not rub the eye.
- Even if the injury affects one eye only, cover both eyes. This helps reduce the eye movement (as the uninjured eye moves, the injured one will too, perhaps increasing the severity of injury).


- If the burn is first or second degree (red, blistering, but not black or charred), the usual course of action is to stop the burning process as quickly as possible with cold water - not ice water. If running water isn't possible, you can use a clean cloth for a cold compress, gently over the area. Do not press down on the skin.
- If blisters form, do NOT break them. This could introduce infection into the area.
- If you are going to cover or wrap the burn, be sure you do not use something that has lint or bits of cotton that can come off and stick to the skin. The best bandage is a sterile gauze.
- Watch closely for signs of infection (increased pain, fever, oozing from the burn). If you have any concerns, seek medical advice.
- Third degree burns must be treated as a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 for emergency help.

Fireworks can be a wonderful way to finish off a fun day, a way of celebrating what has passed and what will be. They are beautiful to behold. But they are also dangerous and must be treated with caution and respect.