Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Single parents with cancer get help

Even if you have no helpmate, you can get sick. Then what—what about the income, the kids, the treatments, the phone trees?

Out here in Scottsdale, we have a group called Singleton Moms to help out.

This was started in 2006 by two women who watched a 32-yr-old friend succumb.

More than 100 single parents (some men) have been helped.

They bring in maids to clean, they bring meals, they negotiate with the bureaucrats.

Each year they have a fundraising ball.

Maybe you could start something like this?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Customized" knee replacement

There are already “male” and “female” knee assemblages. Now, docs have invented the Signature Knee.

The Signature Knee is still a metal-on-metal replacement joint, but one crafted to the patient’s individual knee structure.

Before, docs did not know what they would find inside the knee, so they had to have several sizes available.

Now, the doctor and an engineer look over the patient’s MRI or CT scan and calculate the best places to drill into the femur. These plans then go to a manufacturer in Belgium where a model of the knee is built with a laser.

It takes the doc less time, and the savings offset the cost.

Some patients walk the same day.

I do think much of medicine will be more individualized—genetic tests to see which drugs will be most effective and so on. This sounds like a step in that direction.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The shampoo wars

Americans sent billions down the drain last yr. In the form of shampoo.

Did you know of the cheap stuff is just as good as the pricey? You don’t have to buy at the salon.

And buying at Walmart is even cheaper.

Suave or White Rain is about a buck at W’s--$1.25 in the grocery store.

To really save money, use less. For long hair—a nickel-size amount, less for short hair.

This is especially true for salon stuff—it’s very concentrated.

Generally speaking, the lower cost ones work as well as the premiums. It might be worth more, though, to get a color-preserving shampoo.

We go to the Dollar Store and get that coconut stuff, which leaves my hair very shiny, along with some cheap conditioner.

I never rinse and repeat…that uses twice as much. Where did that get started anyhow? Someone had a genius marketing idea there. Where else do you do things twice?

Always give the dog seconds? Brush your teeth, then load up the brush again? Wash your clothes--OK, once more?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Honey is money

Yes, it comes from a bee’s bee-hind, so to speak, but it’s delish and has many good properties and uses.

First, it has antiseptic properties—you can make a bandage with honey inside for infections. They even recommended it when my kid had MRSA. Try to get Manuka UMF honey for this.

It’s pure energy—yes, a carb, but one spoonful can help you run faster and endure. It’s absorbed fast!

Put it on toast or in tea for a morning jumpstart.

It’s full of antioxidants—put some in water with lemon and drink each day. It may also have anti-cancer properties.

Hangover? Combine honey, orange juice and yogurt to chase the yuks.

It’s also good for sore throats.

Honey and vinegar are good for arthritis.

Honey and cinnamon—can stop hair loss and bad breath.

You can also make a moisturizing facial mask with it.

Sticky but good for ya.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Does a patient know best?

Laura Landro, WSJ, Nov 7, 2011, says come next fall, hospitals can lose 1% of their Medicare payment if they miss quality care goals or patients give them a bad rap.

Thus—hospitals are putting personnel through customer-service training.

Patients like cleanliness, quiet and someone who listens.

The hospitals are therefore adding massage, reflexology and concerts.

Some hospitals are also instituting a program I heard about decades ago—HEART. This stands for hear the concern, empathize, apologize, respond and thank.

Some hospitals also issue “Lavender Alerts”—for families that are stressed out.

All this is to the good. People with good English skills would also be a plus. And I am not a huge fan of the hospitalist system under which your care is turned over to a strange doctor, sometimes with limited social and language skills, for the duration of your stay.

I know this is supposed to be a plus—but it has never been one for me. I had to get a hospitalist almost physically shanghaied to my room and told him, “You have to talk to me!”

Another time, a hospitalist put our mother in restraints because she was inconvenient.

Still, many experts and some doctors say patients don’t really know what is great and what isn’t. I guess there are exceptions from what you think would be best—I know many big city trauma centers in the worst parts of town and oldest buildings are the best places to be taken.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shaking hands with food

People are always wringing their hands over what to eat or not eat, what is “bad” and what isn’t.

Food is body fuel. But it is also a social ritual—and one of life’s great pleasures.

If you second guess it every second, feel guilty, hang your head, confess to people, you are leaving a lot of pleasure on the table, so to speak.

I am a big woman, always have been…I eat what I like now, don’t do the scale deal, and am trying to enjoy life. I worry, too, though—that my low income and ramen lunch EVERYDAY is wasting my time on earth with crappy, boring food.

Also I don’t cook. And my stove is on its last legs anyway…well, burners.

A columnist in our paper wrote that even though she is a perpetual dieter, she is going to eat some holiday goodies. So there!

This does not mean a whole ham or batch of cookies—but some tasty stuff.

Preferably free—at someone else’s house.

And maybe a beverage—same terms.

Join me?


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Presents for poor old folks

We are on a, ahem, limited budget, and I needed kitchen sponges for months before springing for them—kept putting them in the dishwasher to no visible effect.

My daughter was ribbing me—“I heard you in your room saying sponges, sponges.”

Banner Hospitals in this area has some ideas for us broke oldies for the hols.

First, if you know someone older who may not get to the store much or is snacking on crackers and so on for meals, look into what hot meal programs are available—just finding out for someone can be a gift!

Do they need help paying monthly bills—sit down with them and go through the mess.

What about a computer and a couple of lessons?

A booklet of coupons for rides places?

Toothpaste, floss, shampoo, that sort of thing. It may sound weird to offer that, but it might be welcomed.

Canned food? Make those shelves look loaded! (No--not cat food--unless the person has cats.)

Also a new sweater for turned-down thermostats.

And don’t forget to throw out the hook—invite them to parties and holiday meals.

Sometimes just calls are nice—if you are “wealth challenged” yourself.

Once, when I was WAY younger, someone gave me a huge carton of oranges…It seemed like a weird gift, but we ate them all! It was memorable—and yes, a little weird.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Be realistic--the blues may sneak up

First, get this straight. If your family is more Jerry Springer than Rebecca at Sunnybrook Farm, you are not alone.

The holidays are tough, because family members are thrown in a room together sometimes. The big wad-up, as one woman I know calls it. Alcohol may be served. Uh-oh.

Also, you are supposed to be cheery and thrilled. You must be! What is wrong with you?

Uh, no money to buy presents, age-old gripes, perversity, who knows.

Too much sugar, food tox from rich delicious stuff, too little sleep, stomping around malls…it adds up.

Then when it’s formally over, you feel let down. Drat—not even irritation and exhaustion to look forward to.

Some tips from Banner Hospitals in Phoenix:

Remember, it’s about a birth, a great past moment.

Don’t expect much to change from last year.

Invite people who will pitch in and help. Let the slugs go to their own party (Banner did not say that, I did).

Go look at lights other people put up if you don’t feel like doing it.

Yes—it’s the end of the year, a natural time to sort of sum up and if the sum isn’t what you want, well, regroup.

You get another try.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Exercising for two

We get a supplement from a local hospital in our paper, and today it quoted Tiffany Weathers, MD, an OB-GYN with Banner Ironwood Physicians on exercising while preggers.

Generally, she says, if you are healthy, you can continue to exercise. It strengthens muscles for pushing and is especially helpful if you develop diabetes during gestation.

I walked a lot—I COULD walk a lot then, well, waddle… The hip ligaments open up and soften, so you sort of roll along.

If you have been exercising all along, you can continue—maybe not the marathon like that gal of a couple of weeks ago. Walking, yoga, light aerobics.

If you have any of these problems, ask the doctor:

Preterm labor in the past.

Vaginal bleeding.

Cervical problems.

Leaking of fluid.

Shortness of breath.

Dizziness or fainting.

Slowdown of baby movement.

High blood pressure.

Do not ride horses, waterski, scuba dive, ski at high altitudes, lie on your back a lot, work out hard in hot weather.

I have already heard hot tubs are not a good idea—you don’t want to cook the little guy or gal.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fat banking

Finally, some good use for fat.

Hope you didn’t just eat, but Wendy Schmid, Harper’s Bazaar, says the new hot happening, darlings, is banking your fat. Or more accurately, freezing it and paying someone to hang onto it.

Not fat—think of it as “cosmetic filler.” You can get someone to spackle into into your wrinks at a distant time.

A place called BioLife Cell Bank in Dallas will do the honors.

While they don’t exactly recommend “banking” the gunk in your 20s just for later use, they do say stem cells are less potent if you suck it later.

No, you don’t get liposuction—it damages the cells.

They use other techniques—a, pardon the expression, soda can’s worth can last a lifetime.

It costs $2500 for “removal.” Then count on $1700 for the first year of storage and $200 a year after.

Then, some doc has to squeeze it back in at some point.

Does it hurt? Only the walletectomy.

Still, I have found that just having a fat face smooths those wrinkles amazingly well.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The wasted bucks REALLY stinks

According to Loyola, the US is winning against the evil smoking habit. Fewer people are starting, and 3 million quit a year. Still, a fifth of adults smoke. My kid is among them. She apparently started when she was 12—love those parochial schools chockful of naughty peers .

Anyhow, now that we are struggling economically (she is still at home), I took note of the fact that a pack a day runs $3,300 a year!

And it’s bad for ya, you might have heard--cancer, heart disease, blah blah.

A year after quitting, the excess risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.

Twenty minutes after quitting, Loyola said, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Twenty minutes? That makes no sense…

Moving on…

Eighty percent of lung cancer is thought to be from smoking. Quitting even 25 years before does not help ya.

That Chantix stuff can really cause you problems… Don't you love the commercial that says this stuff is great, you can still smoke for a week?

This is a mixed picture. It’s best to try to quit, I guess…think of the money if nothing else.

But I also get irritated by the national nannies who won’t let you work for them if you smoke at home and otherwise try to mind your business.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Can be many causes of knee pain

Ralph Wilson, an orthopedic surgeon in Gilbert, AZ, wrote in the Chandler Republic, Nov 9, 2011, that even a finding of “bone on bone” meaning cartilage is all worn away in the knee may not be the cause of knee pain. People with bone on bone can have no pain.

Other causes of pain could be psoriasis, sciatica, or an arthritic hip. Gout can also cause it.

A Novocaine shot in the hip can help the knee in some cases.

This may mean back x-rays in addition to knee x-rays, as well as blood tests. Maybe even an MRI. That is the one I never want to get!

So I limp on.

Psoriasis? I have that. Let me check that out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Mother's little helpers

ABC News had a story on how moms are too freaked out these days to sleep without a pill.

How to make the mortgage, will the kids have a better life than the parents, why aren’t the schools teaching them anything…you can get in a hamster wheel of thoughts at night.

Especially in this disgusting economic calamity or whatever it is.

A 2007 study by the National Sleep Foundation found that three in 10 women use some sleep aid a few nights a week. This is twice as common as men doing it.

I sometimes take a melatonin. But others are taking the Big Boys—Ambien, Lunesta, Klonopin.

One woman said she was “always plugged in”—could not turn it off. She wakes in the middle of the night—and it’s all over for that night.

Some things to try instead of meds…If necessary learn to leave dishes in the sink and just go to bed.

Give yourself a half hour to unwind.

An hour before bed, make a to-do list for the next day. Then you won’t do that in your head in bed.

Put away the devices.

Get out of bed if you can’t sleep.

Even warm milk is worth a try.

I listen to my audiobooks…on an MP4 player—only the screen is lit. Turning on lights reboots you. Not good.

Monday, November 07, 2011

I used to think this was dumb

I used to hear older people say all their friends were dead. I thought, wow, bummer. Now, some of mine are. And others have drifted off.

It didn’t help that I moved away from my home of 35 yrs to help take care of my own aging mother. It’s hard to keep up. Oddly, some friends from college are more in touch than people I knew in Washington more recently.

Of course, they have done studies—if you have friends, you are more connected to life and live longer. Something like that.

Recently, the Arizona Republic did a story on friending people as you grow older. They had some suggestions for getting friends.

First, you can join a career group, such as the local chamber of commerce.

You could volunteer—get out, meet people.

Go to community events.

Take a class. In DC, we had a thing called First Class—short classes in this and that.

You could maybe find friends on a social site. A couple of people called me from Facebook, asked me to lunch, then never really did it.

The best thing of all is to smile when you are out—it’s a friend magnet.

Also—don’t expect to much. Just do it to do it.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Doctors--lie down till the thought passes

I can’t see well (thanks to medical care I opted to succumb to), and never could drive, so even a routine doctor visit means getting a ride from my sister, who is willing, but I don’t want to wear out the option.

Then comes the paperwork—I don’t want to put my Social…that is discussed. Then the scale—yes, all ills, every one, stem from excessive size—so this is a big issue. I will not get weighed. Blah blah…that is not pleasant.

Then the long wait in the “little room.” Cold in there.

Then the doctor comes, eager to write a script, diddle with the computer, turf me to an expensive specialist—I don’t even have the $35 copay, people, but do the referral in case my ship ever comes in.

Say I get my hands on $35, then another ride…then the specialist…first the scale…nope—blah blah... Then probably an x-ray or test, meaning a ride, waits, etc.

Then try to get the results—no news does not mean you are OK, it may mean the test was done in the wrong name, it’s on someone’s desk, etc.

They want you to come back for another copay to hear the results—no, just tell me on the phone.

THEN, a recommended approach. But what if that is something I have tried that failed me (warfarin, for instance). Try physical therapy before anything more drastic? Good idea, but rides…I would need many rides.

Surgery? Lose weight first? We have discussed already.

Ack. I hate this. Why do they want us to live so long anyhow—they can’t afford us anyway.

Just writing this makes me feel like Jabba the Noncompliant Hut!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dutch psychologist fudged

Eat this—no wait, that will kill you. Take this supplement…or wait a sec, maybe…

Who knows what to do anymore.

All we have is the faint hope that some smart scientist is spending countless lonely hours and shepherding swarms of assistants to gather data and trying to find out what works, what’s what, and what we should do.

Then—inevitably—we chip at it—did a corporation pay this researcher to nudge results its direction? Were there enough people in the study? Was it designed well? Does it mean squat? Was the study even done or was it pure fiction?

Benedict Carey, NYT, Nov 2, 2011, writes about some dude named Diederik Stapel, Tillburg University in Holland, who is being questioned about studies he did on hypocrisy, racial stereotyping and advertisements.

He, of course, hopped on a website immediately and beat his sorry little chest…”I have failed as a scientist and researcher… yick yack.”

He published more than 150 papers with “sexy” results that got publicity. He was “lord of the data,” never let any other researchers examine it (two-thirds of Dutch researchers say they don’t).

Two thousand American researchers studied by the Harvard Business School found that 70% said—anonymously—that they had cut some corners.

Statistical errors were another widespread problem. Math, people, math!

Maybe saying most people are foaming racists is “softer” than saying everyone should be piling in the vitamins, but both are sloppy!

You are wasting my time, people, and dragging down big salaries while doing it. I don’t like it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Growing pains are real

Gremlyn Bradley-Waddell, AZ Republic, Nov 2, 2011, writes that 25-40% of kids experience “growing pains.”

Usually these aches and cramps come in the night and are below the knee.

Often these arise after a very physical day. About all that can be done to prevent them is good quality, supportive shoes.

If these pains continue or extend into the morning or pop up during exercise—you might want to tell the doctor.

In the meantime, some attention, massaging the area, or some ibuprofen can help.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Smelly house

Remember those house-a-tosis ads? I always think of that when I walk in—is it EW or EAU?

There is such a thing as occupancy odor—I wrote about this once for WebMD. It’s BO, PO (pet odor), fresheners, cooking, products, etc.

Febreze did a study—people don’t clean 75% of their porous surfaces—couches, rugs, pillows—regularly. These soak up stinks and hold them.

Smell is directly linked to emotion. Smell a perfume—WHAM, you think of the guy you were with or the woman who wore it.

Now, EPA people can grab some air and analyze it. They found people could not describe a smell but could tell you how it made them FEEL.

Experts say add a pleasant smell—no smell at all is described as unpleasant.

The smell you add can affect you. Peppermint lowers the error rate on boring tasks.

Osmanthus, a new, made-up scent from Asia—fruit and floral—is hot now—most people like it.

Sooo…when you come home today, see how your house makes you feel. I often feel I need more cat boxes.

Jeez, Star--don't you ever give up on the disgusting.