Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gifts for special needs kids

Money is tight, but kids still want gifts. What about special needs kids? Do you need to get all elaborate and do a lot of research?

Elisa Mintz Delia, a play therapist at Kennedy Krieger, says this is not necessary.

Choose toys based on the child’s interests. Ask what the kid likes, if the child can communicate that way—or see what toys he or she chooses.

Choose toys that build skills—Legos, fingerpaints.

Try to match the developmental level—say a 13-yr-old has the skills of a 1-yr-old—give a rain stick, not a rattle.

Think if a toy will build confidence—or will it be frustrating.

Make sure toys conform to safety standards.

Color is also a factor, I think. Toys should be fun!

Sometimes—remember—kids play with the box, not the toy.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Let's see--about that hospital run

Here is the note I sent the hospital about my mother's and our experience. I thought you might be interested:

...Regrettably, there were many things about my 94-yr-old mother's three-day stay that did not impress us and even alarmed us.

My sister and I have cared for her for 16 yrs--and we are old, too, with health and joint issues.

Thurs AM, Mom was uncommunicative and vomited. She also could not speak--garbled. She lives in a group home five mins from us--we decided to let them call the EMTs. We wanted her at BD Hospital--which is in her Advantage Plan. They insisted they were not allowed to take her there because there was no "neuro facility." We ended up at (your place)--where they said she had irregular heartbeat, which they named as atrial fib--I have that, hers might be, who knows. They made no mention of her speech in triage (the neuro part). I was the one who asked about TPa (big-time clot buster)--the doctor sort of blew it off--must be within 4 hrs, who knows how long ago this started, etc.

Although she had heart issues, they put no leads on her--I had to ask. They let her drink water, then many hours later, would not give her any Jello or pudding--it was way past lunch. They told us the ER had no food--which we know is not true. The CT scan showed normal aging. They wanted to admit her--out of network--this was a hassle, which I hope was settled that her plan would cover it. There was no need I could see for her to be at your hosp, but whatever. She had a UTI--and we think this accounted for much.

Upstairs (many hrs later), we spoke to Dr XYZ, went over the DNR options, and we never saw him again. We did have confidence in him, tho--at least he spoke with us.

We repeatedly asked to speak to the hospitalist Dr ABC--we saw him strutting around the nurses ordering MRIs for everyone, he saw us outside her room, never came over. We never saw Dr EFG, the neurologist, either.

There were issues over her swallowing--they did a bedside test and the therapist could not recommend soft foods without a modified barium swallow--which we reluctantly agreed to, and she passed and then could spoon up her own food soon after. Basically she had an expensive test to eat Jello.

She is home now--talking much better, wobbly, ate her own dinner last nite.

We talked to the hospice people but don't think she is there yet--may get a home health aide to help her caregiver.

I would like to praise two people...her nurse A kept in touch with my sister and me and when she said she would call, she did. We appreciated that. A man in the ER named B watched me all day hanging on the walls to walk and when it was time to go to the upstairs room, he turned up with a wheelchair and insisted I ride. That was great.

Otherwise, your treatment of us oldies--I would give it a C.

I am also calling records and getting her chart, readers--do you always do that? Good idea.

PS--That pix is not my mother. My Mom looks like Betty White.

Epilogue--Some VP from the hosp sent me a certified letter saying basically--nuh-uh, we did everything perfectly. I don't know why I even bother to complain. Older people will never be respected. He completely ignored that his hosp was a so-called Stroke Center and no one ever mentioned stroke, and also that the hospitalist doctor told the nurses (at least they said he did) not to page him to talk to family. He told this VP dude that oh, gosh, he didn't know any family wanted to talk to him. He SAW us.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bear with me--emergencies

We had to go to the ER with my 94-yr-old mother Thurs—the usual wait of hours. Probably a stroke.

My sister and I at the bedside are old, too, get last priority. I bitched—but I am muted from having some weird problem or reaction—very dizzy. I thought I would end up in the next bed.


Not good.

Why are people in ERs so hard to deal with? One orderly who had seen me all day clinging to the wall to walk, brought a wheelchair and insisted on pushing me to Mom’s room when she finally got one. I resisted but it helped. So I take back my mean comments.

More later…I hope, anyhow.

Oh--and my daughter blew out her knee--we are taking her with us to the ER today. But she can't help me, now...ack.

Oh and the dog is also sick.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Playgrounds for adults

Winnie Hu, NYT, June 29, 2012, says New York is testing playgrounds for the taller set—grownups. These already exist in Florida, Washington State, and other places.

Basically, these are outdoor gyms.

These came from China and parts of Europe where bounding about outdoors is almost required.

Didn’t these used to be called par courses?

They have chin up bars, mats, sometimes chess boards. They are cheaper than kids’ playgrounds.

Probably a good idea. Why not? Unless the bullies or druggies move in.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

P-ew, baby it's you

Amy Taxin, AP, writes about pheromone parties. In NY and LA, singles attend parties with a slept-in t-shirt to be sniffed by other party goers.

Humans can sniff out scents leading to weaker offspring.

The t-shirts are put in a plastic bag—people sniff in the bags and if they find one they like, a photographer projects the person’s pix on the wall so the owner of the shirt can see their admirer before owning up to the shirt.

One party goer bypassed t-shirts that smelled ordinary for those that smelled unique—spicy, rather than baby powder.

Half a dozen couples hooked up.

Smells are very evocative.

What’s next for Facebook—scratch ‘n’ sniff?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Survival Kit for seniors

Have I mentioned I think the term “seniors” applies to last year in HS?

Anyhow, Kent State did a study that I guess showed older people were stupid because 90% didn’t think they were at risk from heat.

We stay inside…so…

Of course, it is possible (as the East Coast showed) for the air conditioning to go out, so maybe a Senior Survival Kit would be thoughtful.

First, even with the air on, you can lose water through sweating you don’t even feel as sweating. I can get tired and nauseated and realize I need a glass of water, even though I am inside and dry.

Plus, you feel less thirst as you age.

So if you know someone older, maybe you want to help them out by assembling water, copies of prescriptions and insurance cards (if the paramedics do come), phone numbers of docs, broad spectrum sunscreen, multivitamins (for stressed immune systems), and a battery-operated fan.

Help older people close blinds, go out only in the morning, eat three meals, but keep them light, and push water and juice.

Check in on people living alone. Then stay and do chores for them (I added that).

We put water in Mom’s hand and she drinks it. Heck, we do that to ourselves. Boy is water boring.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Five seconds to DEATH! Or not

I love the Five-Second Rule. If you drop something, even something moist, and grab it within five seconds, it won’t accumulate enough deadly germs and bacteria to make you sick.

I am sticking to that.

When my kid was a baby, she had a pacifier and at first we washed it off when it fell, then in about a week, we said, “More antibodies” and stuck it back in her mouth.

She lived!

But now—some buzzkills at Loyola says anything that drops is instantly contaminated.

The new rule, they say, should be when in doubt, throw it out.


But the professor says even he employs the five-second rule sometimes. If the item only gloms onto 1,000 bacteria and it takes 10,000 to make you sick, well, you dodge one.

Of course, you could be sensitive—the doctor added—not one to give up, apparently. He also said if something fell in the toilet, the rule should not apply. This guy does not relent.

One thing he was clear on—don’t lick off that pacifier. I never did that. I did everything else, but not that.

I would say a potato chip on a table—probably OK.

A wet piece of candy into street goo—maybe no longer edible.

Did someone pay for this study? That is truly sickening.

Friday, July 20, 2012

How to get kids to eat veggies

When my daughter was a sprout, she loved artichokes. She would sit in her high chair and scrape home-made orange Hollandaise (made by her dad) off the leaves with her few little white teeth that had some in.

It’s not that we were such fabbie parents—it was that it tasted good and was fun to do.

Now, she’s grown but buys kiwis—she loves them and I can only tolerate.

Birds Eye is trying to help Moms push the veggies. The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior did some studies at Cornell on getting tots to eat veggies.

Birds Eye hooked up with iCarly and Nickelodeon to push this food group.

One thing that came out of this is—don’t give up too soon. A kid may like a veggie one day, spurn it the next.

Kids have favorites, though—for boys, it’s corn. For girls, broccoli. Then come carrots, green beans, potatoes and tomatoes.

Mom used to say just eat three bites. What do you think of that approach?

Also—don’t be afraid to put on a little butter or ranch. It really helps. Kids also love to dip.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I said to do swimming strokes “correctly”…uh

Down below someplace, I talk about swimming injuries and counsel you to have an expert watch your strokes.

But now I see the conventional swimming advice may be wrong. Sharon Begley, Reuters, July 18, 2012, says Olympic swimmers would do well to follow their instincts to be really really fast.

Remember how we learned to form our hand into a tight cup to pull water while doing the crawl? Well, a professor of mechanical engineering at Duke says separate fingers and toes—make a wider “paddle.” Apparently the water is still pulled and pulled faster.

As for the backstroke, a propeller like sculling motion was recommended, but now a paddle—a deep catch stroke—seems faster.

Michael Phelps does the deep catch.

As for kicking, they have learned that 90% of the power comes from the ankles and feet—make your legs floppy like a dolphin's fluke.

Fun to at least try some of this, what?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mature skin...do you like that word?

Mature skin…do you like that word?

I hate senior, mature, codger, biddy, old, elderly, etc. Maybe experienced is OK.

I digress. Most old people I know are not mature at all—they whine, write rants like this, and so on.


Cara Hedgepath, USA Today Weekend, writes about how to apply makeup to what’s left of our faces.

She quotes Sandy Litner and Lois Joy Johnson, authors of The Makeup Wakeup, on how to slap some warpaint over cracks.

Move your blush to the top of your cheekbones from the apples of your cheeks.

Trade in your base for one that’s lighter in texture and tone.

Bag the metallic shadows—stick with a peach or honey.

Stick with dark eyeliner if you use it—black, brown. Forget green, blue and purple.

I use lipstick for blush—I should probably be shot.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I have a friend with migraine headaches (don’t we all have at least one, if we ourselves are not the sufferer?).

She used to spend time each month lying next to the toilet with her cheek on the cold tile floor.

Thirty-six million people in this country have this disorder—a group of neurological symptoms rather than a headache.

Migraines usually occur on one side of the head (although they can come on both). Nausea, vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light and sound, or weird numbness can accompany. In a third of cases, the pain may be preceded by a shimmery aura.

Men can get these, but they occur three times more often in women. They can also run in the family.

You need to figure out what your triggers are—maybe keep a journal. Go to NIH for more info-- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001728/

There are therapies—ranging from pills or injectables to acupuncture and massage.

The cold bathroom floor is not the only approach.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Yes, even swimming can injure

Is it safe to go in the pool? Well, sure—basically. You always think of swimming as easy on the joints and if you can avoid breathing water, you’re good to go.

Stuart Elkowitz, MD, Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group, in Carmel, NY, does remind us that swimming is repetitive motion. Especially if you swim competitively.

Swimmer’s shoulder is the most common injury, due to overuse or poor technique. You can use the shoulder 2,000 times in a 5-8 mile workout.

The biggest strains come from freestyle, butterfly and backstroke.

Correct technique is vital. Have an experienced swimmer watch you and highlight mistakes.

Don’t abruptly increase workouts or length of workouts.

Also look out for swimmer’s knee—this is usually from the breaststroke kick—that frog kick, which can create excessive external rotation. To avoid this, change up and do different strokes. Even take part of the year off from the breaststroke.

Another injury is to the neck. Don’t over rotate—just enough to clear the surface so you can get a breath.

Elkowitz also says never swim alone or when tired. Do core strengthening exercises. Warm up and cool down.

Swimming is great exercise—and it’s pretty easy to prevent injury.

I wish I were doing it right now!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Feeling a little nice today?

Doing something for someone else alters brain chemistry—it feels good and it’s good for your health. It releases the chemical oxytocin—just like snuggling a dog.

Now, you know I am not a gooey positive thinker type. I don’t even think there is a glass—much less that’s it’s half full, unless it's half-full of poison or something really expensive.

But I have been known to do little things for people—but these only count if you don’t tell people. Ooops.

Good Housekeeping had a few such ideas. One was take a bouquet to the hospital—the nurses can give it to someone without flowers.

Know someone who’s broke—buy them a summer pool pass.

Let cars merge ahead of you for one month, then another month.

Put a sticky note in a public bathroom reading: You Look Gorgeous!

See a soldier dining alone—pay the check.

Become an organ donor on your license.

Fill out comment cards—praise employees. (My kid did this once about a nurse in the ER and they gave the nurse an award for it!)

Talk to a wallflower at a party.

A friend of mine from college is sending me back little notes I sent him 40 yrs ago. I am touched he saved them. And it’s fun to see what I was up to.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Safe tans--no sun anyplace

Joshua Fox, founder of Advanced Dermatology Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, says no tan is safe if it involves UV rays.

But we knew this, right?

Yet—tanned skin is one of the most highly rated aspects of attractiveness.

Fox and his colleague Meryl Blecker Joerg, MD, say self-tanning (as opposed to sun tanning) products in airbrush form, creams, or towels are constantly being improved.

They say the Oopa Loompa Orange look is now gone. A plant-derived carb binds to proteins on the skin’s surface causing them to darken.

Also being churned out—preparations based on walnut shells, paraben-free products, coffee bean extracts, and other “natural” products.

The biggest risk is thinking the self tanner is protecting you in the sun—you still need to use a block.

As for tanning beds—where do you think you are—New Jersey? Fugeddaboutit.

PS I read a story in Allure by some spray tanning professionals—the people who spray your nude self—and they talked about how nervous people were about their bodies. I dunno—made pasty white sound OK to me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New/old fun--archery

I remember loving archery at camp—those huge oilcloth targets over a straw backing. The strain of pulling the bow. The weird language—noccing, fletchings, etc.

Now, since THE HUNGER GAMES, it’s back—and not just for backwoods hunting.

Here in little old Chandler AZ, there is a summer school with archery in it. The state Fish & Games Dept has a program for archery in the schools.

It may be offered before and after school, too.

Archery is fun and teaches control and hand-eye coordination. It’s also competitive.

See if your kid is interested. Or maybe you are.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Are you ready to get all extreme?

You need extreme fitness to even think about some of the killer contests out there—such as Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, and Tough Mudder.

Participation in these events is up 85%!

Tough Mudder is billed as the toughest event on the planet.

These are not for the casual jock, says Joel Buckalter, MD, founding partner of Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group in Carmel, NY.

Massive understatement.

The Tough Mudder is based on British Special Forces exercises, covering 10 to 12 miles with 35 military obstacles. These include mud bog, ice bath, barbed wire, you name it.

Lacerations and fractures send participants—who pay for this—to nearby ERs.

To prepare, you need a combo of resistance training, high-intensity cardio, and flexibility work.

First-timers should walk or run three days a week, with resistance on alternate days. Circuit training is also good.

Go to the websites—see what is involved. Train for the events on there. Stay hydrated, of course.

The idea is not to win or beat a time—just to finish.

That should tell you something.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Bullying can occur at camp

If your kid has been dealing with bullying issues at school, sending him or her to camp might not be the solution.

Bullies can arise anywhere, according to Jennifer Caudle, DO, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of the New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Even cyberbullies can reach kids in the woods, thanks to all the electronics.

According to the CDC, one in five HS kids had been bullied on school grounds, with slightly less—16%--being tortured from cyberspace. Females twice as often as males.

Talk to your child about this—ask them if they have experienced this.

The two rules are treat everyone with respect and report bullying activity to an adult.

Kids have no way to put this in perspective from their young vantage point—in other words, they can’t see that the bully will eventually become a miserable loudmouth manager or isolated hedge fund guy—so young kids can actually end their own lives over their misery at being lied about or teased.

End their lives. Dead. So talk about this with your kids.

I once wrote an article on this for WebMD—and my own child remarked, “Oh, yes, I have gone through this.” I never knew.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Hospice for the "hip"

Hip hip—not end of your leg hip. Holly Ramer, AP, writes that hospice is gearing up for the boomers and they want more than someone to hold their hand at the end.

Now, says one hospice director, hospice helps people go golfing, drives them to the casino or out to dinner.

More than a million and a half people got hospice care in 2010. That’s twice the number from a decade before.

Mostly the service is in the person’s home—periodic visits. Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance is down with this.

Usually a doctor says you have six months or less left and you are not pursuing life-prolonging treatment.

Hospice used to be mostly for cancer patients—now that population is only a third.

A flood of boomers is coming. Hospice is changing. Workers hope the hip boomers will take charge of end of life just like they did the natural childbirth movement at the beginning of life.

They make hospice sound pretty OK—but I can wait a spell.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Summer a bear for dogs

Everything you do in summer, a dog does wearing a fur coat.

Tufts has some tips for keeping Rover (was any dog named that—ever?) safe and woofy this summer.

Of course, we know loud fireworks scare some animals—same for thunder storms.

Cookouts can be dangerous—those shish kabob sticks, for one. A dog won’t pull the meat off—a dog will just wolf the whole deal. Ouch for you when you see the vet bill—not to mention ouch for the pooch.

Bones, especially chicken bones, can fracture and stick through intestines.

Garlic, chocolate, grapes and raisins are dog no-nos.

Don’t let everyone at the barbeque feed the dog people food—a little is OK, but it adds up fast.

When it’s hot, and especially hot and humid, push the water. Put in ice cubes. Be sure there is shade for the dog to lie down. Never close a pet in the car, even with the window cracked (which does basically nothing in seriously hot weather).

Ah, common sense—so magnificently uncommon!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


When I was a kid, we had guns around and my family loved explosives. Some people are just like that.

One of my brothers became a park ranger with many police duties. We all went to the gun range.

And fireworks! Well—that was the best day of the year. My dad had an old cannon his dad brought back from the Spanish-American War—he anchored it with sandbags and fired it on the Fourth. Of course, the police showed up instantly—and then started helping him!

The first sound you used to hear on the morning of the Fourth was pop…poppopopop—kids setting off firecrackers. Now—we are all so civilized, you don’t hear that. Yes, even in Arizona.

But if you are still an outlaw or have a streak of bad, you must be a little cautious. Never let young children hold even the littlest fireworks.

Don’t get them if they are illegal where you live.

If the device is in brown paper—it may be made for professionals—pass it by.

Even a sparkler is 2,000 degrees. Ouch!

Don’t bend over the firework while lighting it. Scatter fast!

If it fizzles, don’t touch it. Don't touch it for hours--maybe not until the next morning.

Keep a bucket of water or hose handy.

Humans will be humans—the more they say not to, the more you want to.

Monday, July 02, 2012

ACTIVATE your bod

This is a bev with an owner’s manual. You twist the top and some yummy flavor and vits disperse into the water. This is to prevent the vits from losing potency by sitting around in the water.

Twist, shake and—sip.

The bottle is fun and the A, B5, B12, C and E along with other healthy ingredients have an intense fruity taste.

It also comes in different combinations providing you with immunity, rehydration, skin cell or other specialized supports.

All for $1.99 per. My daughter loved the aggressive taste more than I did—but it was an interesting experience. Try it. Go to www.activatedrinks.com.

I think the bottle was smarter than I am.

Power is out! Now what

Bonnie Berwick, Washington Post, July 1, 2012, addresses the huge power outage in the Washington DC area. In some areas of suburbia, the power may be out a week!

What about the refrigerated or frozen food?

A free standing freezer, closed the whole time, can stay acceptably cold for 2-4 days.

Get some dry ice or several frozen packs and put perishables in a well-insulated cooler. A 50lb block of dry ice will keep the contents of an 18-ft freezer cold for 2days.

Not all partially defrosted food is dangerous—if kept below 40 or with ice crystals, beef, veal, ground meat, casseroles, soups, cheeses, flour, and frozen meals are probably OK.

If dairy, poultry, meat, seafood, fresh pasta, soy meat substitutes and leftovers have been 40 degrees or more for more than 2 hrs—toss them.

Never taste food to see if it’s OK—and don’t rely on smell.

Have a big barbeque for meat. I added that—why not?