Avoid weekend migraine “triggers”

Dear Chris, I seem to get migraine headaches on the weekends, but I can’t tell why that would happen to me so regularly? What do you say? - Lisa in Libertyville,

Dear Lisa, Depending on which research you believe (I always believe the research that supports what I always thought and ignore the rest), some people do experience weekend migraines. Experts theorize this might be due in part to changes in sleep and diet patterns, stress levels, and caffeine.

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10,000 Steps to Better Fitness | Winter Wellness | January is Blood Donor Month


How to walk 10,000 “steps” to better fitness.

By Chris Hammerlund

The most useful suggestion for activity or exercise is the one that matches up to your life most naturally.

But that's the question with exercise isn't it? If your desire to exercise doesn't cause you to change your life, then how can it possibly make a difference? The underlying truth is that exercise seldom works if you simply drop an artificial exercise regime on top of a sedentary lifestyle expecting it to be a lifechanger. Something has to change. As in you have to change a little.

The hottest concept in fitness these days gradually morphs exercise into a natural part of your life - a slightly “new” life based on activity
It's called the “10,000 steps a day” program. Some corporations have adopted it for their employees, but anybody can use it.

Here's the theory. Even total couch potatoes take a predictable number of steps each day. Fit people do the same. The difference in the number of steps is not so much a function of exercise. It's a function of how they life their lives.

So, how many steps each day translate into the likelihood of fitness. The answer is about 10,000 which sounds like a lot. But even couch potatoes average about 2,000 a day. It takes about 2,000 steps to walk a mile and so 10,000 steps is about five miles.

To reach 10,000, you don't have to quintuple the total from one day to the next. But add 500 steps every day. The object is to increase the daily rate. A good walk with the dog will work wonders. Buy a pedometer and track your steps. They'll add up.

So, here's the good part. There are hundreds of ways to “walk” by doing other fun things besides walking. Here some equivalencies of common physical events that translate into steps:

Aerobic dancing (low impact) - 115
Aerobics (intense) - 190
Aerobic step training, 4" step (beginner) - 145
Backpacking (no load) - 155
Backpacking with 10 pound load - 180
Backpacking with 30 pound load - 235
Badminton - 150
Basketball (game) - 220
Basketball (leisurely, non-game) - 130
Bicycling, 10 mph (6 minutes/mile) - 125
Bowling - 55
Canoeing, 2.5 mph - 75
Cross-country snow skiing (leisurely) - 155
Cross-country snow skiing (moderate) - 220
Cross-country snow skiing (intense) - 330
Cycling, 15 mph (5 minutes/mile) - 200
Cycling, 5 mph - 55
Dancing (fast) - 175
Gardening (heavy) - 155
Gardening (moderate) - 90
Golfing (with a cart) - 70
Handball - 230
Housework - 90
Ice skating (leisurely) - 95
Mopping - 85
Mowing - 135
Painting - 80

Ping Pong - 90
Racquetball - 205
Roller skating (moderate) - 150
Rowing machine - 180
Running 8 mph (7.5 minutes/mile) - 305
Running 10 mph (6 minutes/mile) - 350
Scrubbing the floor - 140
Scuba diving - 140
Shopping for groceries - 60
Skipping rope - 285
Snow shoveling - 195
Snow skiing, downhill - 130
Soccer (competitive) - 195
Squash - 205
Stair climber machine - 160
Stair climbing - 140
Swimming (25 yrds/minute) - 120
Swimming (50 yards/minute) - 225
Swimming (75 yards/min) - 290
Tennis (doubles) - 110
Tennis (singles) - 160
Vacuuming - 75
Volleyball (leisurely) - 70
Washing the car - 75
Water Skiing - 160
Waxing the car - 100
Window Cleaning - 75

OK, so I am NOT going to wash windows to get in better shape. That's worse than jogging.

Visit the American Red Cross website for more information and to learn how you can help.


10 tips for Winter Wellness

  1. Go for a walk even when the weather is really cold – your body has to work overtime to get warm and you may burn up to 50% more calories than you would on the same walk in summer! But remember, go a little slower until you get warm and keep up the hydration.
  2. If you find it hard to get motivated to exercise in winter…just think of spring and how much harder it is to get back into shape rather than maintain your fitness throughout the winter.
  3. Be aware of tendonitis and stress fracture if you don”t exercise in winter and expect to pick up where you left off after a whole winter with no exercise.
  4. Instead of picking up a cup of hot chocolate to keep yourself warm, try a herbal beverage.
  5. Gain an interest in indoor sports as opposed to cycling and jogging outdoors. Don”t forget that swimming at an indoor pool is an option for a great cardio workout!
  6. The cold air and indoor heaters can dry out your skin. Make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of water each day and use moisturizers throughout winter.
  7. Buy some indoor plants to soften up the dry atmosphere caused through heating. Indoor plants give off moisture and oxygen and the colours will brighten up a dull day outside.
  8. Caught a cold or flu? If the infection is above the neck (nose, throat) you could be OK to complete a low intensity workout. However, if you have symptoms that are worse than an average cold (chest congestion, muscle aches), exercise will only make you worse and delay your recovery. Rest is the best medicine.
  9. Wear the right clothes when exercising in winter. Polypropylene is the perfect fabric to wear underneath a tracksuit, which will provide great insulation but minimise moisture loss. Gore-Tex is a fabric used widely for providing protection from the rain and wind.
  10. Feel like sitting on the couch with a video and snacking on a cold, wet day? Reach for a protein bar or packet of soy nuts instead of high energy, high fat snacks.

Source: https://www.healthstatus.com/health_blog/wellness/10-tips-for-winter-wellness/

November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness National Diabetes Month

Assured Healthcare recognizes client and veteran, Fergal Patrick Gallagher, as we celebrate Veteran’s Day on November 11th.

Fergal at the Washington Monument

Fergal at the Washington Monument

Ask the Nurse - 'Holiday reality check' gives aging parents a safety net


Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, it is smart to be aware of changing roles with aging parents.

You have the full turkey dinner at your mom and dad's house. You do the cooking as you have for the last few years because mom is not quite up to pulling off such an event by herself as she did when she was your age.

So you get to do the honors. It it exhausting but satisfying. All your kids will be there. Aunts, uncles and cousins, too.

Mom and dad are getting older now, and you're always concerned about them because they are living on their own. In recent days, you have become very sensitive to the changes that age can impose. It's the price of being a caring adult child. But this was the first year you started to pay special attention to them this way.

These had been those years when your roles had shifted subtly, and you took pride by helping them in ways they used to help you.

One of these days you'll be the one who makes “the decision”. When will it be time for residential assisted living or in-home help to keep them safe? Or perhaps it's a more systematic method to organize their outings or regularly monitor their domestic needs.

You know it's no longer merely a question of chronological age to think of these issues. But life conditions change. Health changes. Fitness changes.

But how do you know when to pay special attention and what you should be looking for?

As it turns out, there are good tools to help you. Those of us who train in-home nurses use a checklist of symptoms and clues. Over the next few weeks as you ratchet up to the whirlwind of Christmas or Hanukah, I'll offer the “holiday reality check.”
If you are worrying about missing some basic signs, here are five categories from the “reality check.”

  1. Is your parent starting to have difficulty with basic tasks? Is walking and talking becoming a stressful chore? And does getting dressed every day seem difficult?
  2. If there are stairs in their home, do they have a problem getting up and down easily? Even on the main floor, do they find it more difficult every day to move from room to room? Is it harder for them to organize how they cook and eat?
  3. Is their personal hygiene becoming more unpredictable? Do they bathe as often as they once did or do they seem sloppy when they once were fastidious about personal appearance and dental hygiene? Perhaps they're not worrying about their hair being combed and washed.
  4. Check around the house to see if they are tending to basic household chores. If they have piles of unopened mail and unpaid bills, it's a sign. If they have regular medications, maybe they are managing it less effectively. Check for low food supplies; dents and scratches on their car. One telltale sign is a growing number of cigarette burns on furniture or carpets.
  5. Then there are significant changes in basic good health. Do you see weight loss, difficulty sleeping, hearing loss, bed-wetting, and bruises from falls, or skin burns from cooking accidents? Do they spill more items during cooking than seems explainable? (Some of us have always been clumsy.)

None of these signs by themselves mean your parent needs nursing help. Everyone has accidents and trends in their behaviors.

But it's equally important to know how to read signs that someone you love needs support and help.

If you are beginning to wonder if some level of private duty nursing help would make their lives better, be sure to review our Top 7 things to consider when choosing a Qualified Home Care Provider.

November is American Diabetes Month and National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month


Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. It can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems if it’s not controlled. One in 11 Americans have diabetes – that’s more than 29 million people. And another 86 million adults in the United States are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

To learn more, visit the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org

November is also National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. To Learn more about the disease and how to support patients and their caregivers visit Dementia Day by Day at www.dementia-by-day.com and The Alzheimers Reading Room websites at www.alzheimersreadingroom.com.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.

The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. A mammogram – the screening test for breast cancer – can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Make a difference! Spread the word about mammograms and encourage communities, organizations, families, and individuals to get involved.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a collaboration of national public service organizations, professional medical associations and government agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness, share information on the disease and provide greater access to services. Visit AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation for more information.

The cure is close but not close enough

Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

Dear Chris: Because my mother had breast cancer, which obviously makes me concerned about my own health, I am devoted to the activities of the breast cancer awareness organizations. Every year those of us who participate in walks and fundraisers always wonder if we are getting closer to a cure. It would be the dream we've sought for years. Are we close? Rose in Lincolnshire

Dear Rose: I remember from school days a mathematical trick that went this way: You are 50 miles away from the end of the train line and every day the train goes half way to the end. If we are 25 miles away after the first day and 12.5 miles on the second day, how long will it take to reach the end?

The trick answer is “never.” That's because by cutting the trip by half in each increment, mathematically the train never gets to the end, only 50 percent closer than it was yesterday.

So how close are we to a cure for breast cancer? The real answer is closer than we were yesterday and not as close as we'll be tomorrow. You can read 50 different assessments of current research and see the same answer. That's because not only is breast cancer a horrific event in a woman's life, the disease itself is far more complicated than other devastating diseases for which cures were relatively straight forward once researchers found the key -  polio, measles and smallpox, for example.

As for breast cancer, there is no widely accepted understanding even for what causes it.

In each of its many stages, breast cancer acts slightly differently and needs different treatment approaches. It goes slow; it goes fast; it stays in one spot and then moves all over the body. It plays hide and seek.

But if I had to guess, there will be something that looks like a “cure” but we might be years away from it being available to women. This either raises your hope, or makes you more fearful.

In 2010 Cleveland Clinic cancer research leader and immunologist Vincent Tuohy announced the broad outline of a vaccine that he said would be the first draft of a cure. It had worked in mice. The next step would be human trials. The drug hinges on harnessing the protein mechanisms inside cells that turn on some triggers and turn off others.
The Cleveland researchers say flatly that it works almost perfectly, or has in mice. But cures that work on mice don't always work on humans.

The only hitch is that a woman needs to be 40 and older to avoid involving lactation which interferes in the process. Theoretically, it would save millions of lives. That announcement in spring 2010 sent shock waves through the nation's media. It was reported everywhere. But there has been little news since because the research project needed to raise another $16 million to launch human trials.

But even Tuohy, and many other researchers worldwide who support him, says that a finished vaccine is at least a decade away. Clinical trials take time and intense care to make sure they are valid.
Researchers of Tuohy's reputation don't say the “cure” word unless they are very sure. He has stuck by his assessment that “breast cancer is a totally preventable illness.”

So, we are close. Very close. But we're not there yet.

I still count this as a giant reason for hope, and there have been times when hope hasn't been matched with the evidence.

September is Fruit & Veggies and Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is Fruit & Veggies Month

Eating fruits and vegetables has many health benefits. People who eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help lower their risk for:

  • Some types of cancer
  • Heart disease, including heart attack and stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity

Fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat the recommended amount of fruits every day.
Fewer than 1 in 10 adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables every day.

The good news? Communities, health professionals, businesses, and families can work together to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Visit the Produce for Better Health Foundation for tips on quick recipes for healthier eating.

Ask the Nurse – Don't let your kids be blimps

Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

Dear Chris: Help! I have to figure out meals for grandchildren when they visit. But my son has no good advice. When we're eating out, what should I buy them?

Chris: My seven grandchildren don't always appreciate that I am a nurse.

To begin with, I don't feed them from a commercial menu guaranteed to turn them into fat-as-a-redwood-log adult. I like my large unmovable redwoods in forests, not on my sofa. The entire world of advertising always paints the best-tasting pre-prepared food as the best for you, too. Which, of course, is a giant pre-prepared fib.

Some food tastes good because it's packed with fat and empty calories. On the other hand, eat enough of it and nothing else, and it will kill you stone cold dead.

In my experience, overweight kids often turn into overweight adults. The way I look at it, it's hear-me-now or see the cardiologist later. So what's the worst?

Here is my Fatal Foursome, the absolute worse for your kids.

SunnyD Smooth Style (16 ounces, 260 calories, 60 grams sugar): Don't mistake SunnyD for orange juice or anything else natural unless you think 5 percent real is “real.” It's just a lot of water with a lot of sugar dissolved in it. Buy your kids a package of Oreos. It has less sugar. Cap'n Crunch (1 cup 146 calories, 2 grams fat, 1 gram saturated, 16 gram sugars, and 1 gram fiber): As food, this is an empty suit. It's a waste of time. There are a few added vitamins that are required by the government but it's a totally unnatural collection of unrelated components, most of which is corn flour coated by food colorings yellow 6 and 5. If your children have attention issues, this will make them jump off the ceiling like cats on speed.

Oscar Mayer Maxed Out Turkey & Cheddar Cracker Combo Lunchables (680 calories, 22 grams fat, 9 grams saturated, 61 g sugars, 1,440 mg sodium): You'd think a company with an old-timey name like Oscar Mayer wouldn't do this to kids. It's gastronomic assault and battery. This junk has nearly half of a second graders' daily calorie allotment with more than twice the sugar and fat of a Snickers.

Burger King Kids' Double Cheeseburger with Small Fries and Coke (1,100 calories, 52 grams fat, 17.5 grams saturated, and 1.5 g trans, 1,870 mg sodium): Double your beef; double your kids' budding heart disease. If you feed your child this meal more than once a year, just paint the word “Goodyear” on his side and let him float over football stadiums. Your child would have to be a world class triathlete to burn that many calories.


Tips for Avoiding Back-to-School Illness | Ask the Nurse on hand washing

Afraid of illness? Wash your hands ALREADY!

Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund
President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

He came in at 6 p.m. as he normally does and sat down for dinner. Thursday. Pasta. Jim and I have been married for 40 years. I still like him, which should tell you something. Actually, I like him a lot. “Have you washed your hands?” I asked. He gave me that look. 

“No, but I don't really need to because they're clean. Don't you remember? Accountants never get dirty.” I gave him the look back. “No, they are not clean.” 

“So, he says, “you're being a nurse tonight aren't you?” I was, and he knew better than to fight me. “Yes,” I said. “It's who I am. It's what I do.” So, he got up and headed down the hall to wash his hands.
And if you're mom never gave you the rules about handwashing, here's my personal favorite tip. It takes about 30 seconds of good lathering to kill the germs. It just so happens that's how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” just the slow way Marilyn Monroe did it when she serenaded President Kennedy.
Now, here are five things you should know about washing your hands, and, for pity sakes, lather up every time: This is a filthy planet. The germs that can kill you (or at least make you so sick you're not sure you want to live) are everywhere. Everything you touch - people, objects, surfaces -- will pass along the germs. If you wash once a day, you're just asking for trouble.

  • Every year, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections kill more than 3.5 million children under five around this world. These figures could be cut dramatically if handwashing with soap were widely practiced.
  • Diarrhea is responsible for children missing millions of school days every year. A recent study suggests that hand washing with soap at critical times could help reduce school absenteeism by around 42 percent.
  • With proper use, all soaps work about the same at removing germs. Worry about the H1N1 virus, if you wish. But worry more about dirty hands.
  • A child dies ever 3.5 seconds on Earth. Most die from lack of care as simple as they and their parents washing their hands often every day.

Tips for Avoiding Back-to-School Colds and Flu

1. Create a Regular Sleep Routine

The nights before school starts can be exciting as kids eek out that last little bit of summer vacation and make plans for the school year ahead. That makes it all the more important to help them begin working their way back into a normal sleep routine before the big day. Quality, restful sleep is crucial to immune system wellness. Researchers at the University of San Diego say even modest sleep deprivation can reduce the body’s immunity by 30 percent.

After children reach a certain age, it can be difficult to dictate a sleep routine. Instead of trying to force a lights-off policy, try to lead by example. If you get enough sleep for your unique needs, they are likely to do the same.

2. Share the Power of Probiotics

Probiotics, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, are 'friendly' bacteria in our intestines and increasingly recognized for their importance not only in maintaining a healthy digestive system, but for supporting the body's natural defense mechanisms. Whether you choose to use supplements or include probiotic-rich foods (like yogurt) in your family’s diet, you’ll feel better knowing that studies have shown that probiotics can support the body's normal resistance to bacterial and viral infections.

3. Consider Food Choices

Did you know that eating foods high in sugar and fat can suppress the immune system? Think carefully about the foods that will support health and the vitamins and nutrients they contain, like vitamin C. A well balanced diet will help your child maintain a strongimmune system, so stock up the pantry withhealthy foods and be sure to include them in lunch boxes and after school snacks.

4. Teach Proper Hand Washing Technique

Little reminders to "wash your hands!" are a great start, but most kids don't wash their hands as often or as well as they should. Because hand-washing is the first line of defense against the cold, flu, and other contagious illnesses, it's valuable to remind children how and when to do it. Encourage hand-washing before handling food, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. Teach children to use warm water and work up a good soapy lather. Scrub for about 20 seconds (that's about two rounds of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat") rubbing between fingers, under nails, and over the backs of hands.

5. Encourage Kids Not To Share Utensils and Cups with Friends

Kids naturally love to share, but it's not a good idea to share eating utensils with friends, especially during cold and flu season. Since viruses and bacteria are easily transmitted through saliva, this is one type of sharing that you should teach your child to avoid.

6. Get tissues for your issues!

Encourage children to cover their mouths with a tissue when they cough or sneeze and to dispose of the tissue themselves. No time to grab a tissue? Encourage younger children to "catch" their cough in their bent inner elbow, not in their hand. Older kids can be taught to act like they're holding a cape across their face like Dracula. Teach your children to wash their hands immediately after coughing or sneezing. Ask the teacher to mention overing noses and mouths in the classroom, too!

Helping kids learn how to avoid bringing home the back-to-school cold is no picnic, but if your child gets sick then chances are you and the rest of your family members will also become ill. Follow these tips to give everyone a better chance of staying safe and healthy this year.

Here's 12 more tips to make sure your school year starts off well:

7. No tissues? Sneeze and cough into your elbow and encourage friends to do the same.

8. Avoid the germy spots, like the water fountain spout.

9. Backpacks carry more than books. Wash them!

10. Exercise!

11. Keep surfaces clean. Encourage a daily desk wipe down.

12. Manage stress. Create a daily homework schedule that leaves room for play!

13. Avoid sharing hand towels. Who knows if the other hands that use them are always clean

14. Give yourself some space.

15. Get fresh air! Take a break to breathe deep.

16. Hydration, hydration, hydration.

17. Do I have to separate you two? If you’re talking to the hands and face, then yes. Avoid touching the mouth and nose.

18. Look to the sky. A bit of sunshine can work wonders.

Source: http://www.seventhgeneration.com/raising-kids/how-help-your-kids-avoid-back-school-cold

August National Immunization Awareness Month

Immunization, or vaccination, helps prevent dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases. To stay protected against serious illnesses like the flu, measles, and pneumonia, adults need to get their shots – just like kids do.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention  Immunization Guidelines

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Immunization Guidelines

National Immunization Awareness Month is a great time to promote vaccines and remind family, friends, and coworkers to stay up to date on their shots.

Talk to friends and family members about how vaccines aren’t just for kids. People of all ages can get shots to protect them from serious diseases.

Download your copy of Immunization Recommendations:

0-6 year Immunization Recommendations (English)

0-6 year Immunization Recommendations (Spanish)

7-18 years Immunization Recommendations (English)

7-18 years Immunization Recommendations (Spanish)

19+ years Immunization Recommendations (English)

19+ years Immunization Recommendations (Spanish)

National Safety Awareness Month | Ask the Nurse

Ask the Nurse answers: Here's how to look better guys

Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

Question: I'm a 50-year-old man and I'm starting to worry about my appearance. Where do I start? What can I do besides plastic surgery to get rid of the lines and jowls? BILL IN MUNDELEIN

Chris: So you want to stay youthful and maintain your best look, but not sure how? What if you're a middle aged man? You've had an entire life of people telling you that you shouldn't worry about aging because it's all inevitable, right? So, you're starting to look like your grandfather, but you'd rather not.

OK, so you're willing to take a little advice, but let's not go all New Age. You're a real guy who wants some real guy solutions to feeling better and looking better. So just sit back and relax. Let me do all the medical research.

1. Get some sleep.

Chronic sleep deprivation adds years to your face. Here's why: The extraocular eye muscles are exercised during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and could atrophy when not used. Use it or lose it. This may contribute to the circles beneath your eyes after a poor night's rest. If you can't sleep, then don't go low-carb at dinner. Men who consume carbohydrates before bed have significantly longer REM sleep cycles than when they ate a low-carb meal.

2. New skin.

Shaving in the morning actually stimulates the creation of new skin cells. As you age, your cell-renewal process slows. By age 50, the cycle to make new skin takes twice as long as it did when you were a kid. Your skin also gradually looses collagen, the spongy protein beneath the epidermis. That produces wrinkles and sagging, particularly around your eyes, where the skin is thinnest. Try Retin-A (tretinoin) or retinol or L'Oreal Paris Men's Expert Vita Lift Anti-Wrinkle & Firming Moisturizer. Just don't let your wife see it.

3. Lose just a little.

Don't want to lose your marbles later? Lose some calories now. Eating less can reduce markers of inflammation and insulin resistance, which are suspected risk factors for mental decline.

June is National Safety Awareness Month

Each year, thousands of older Americans fall at home. Many of them are seriously injured, and some are disabled. Falls are often due to hazards that are easy to overlook but easy to fix. 

Download this checklist  from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help you find and fix those hazards in your home.

Download this checklist from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help you find and fix those hazards in your home.

National Physical Fitness Month | Ask the Nurse

Be prepared for a strong-willed person to be strong-willed.

by Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare and "Mother"
Last segement in a four part series about Christine Hammerlund and her Mom.

For a woman who spent decades raising six children, three girls and three boys, and making every meaningful decision in her life, it doesn't make sense for her to give up that independence without a fight.

Sure, Mom was slipping and had been for years. But she was still the person who ran her family. There can be challenges, but caring for her now is among the greatest blessings I could have been given. These years will be important to me forever, and I don't plan to come up short for her.

Just because she now suffers from dementia, do not expect her too become some soft, pliant victim. She still will fight for herself. She's your mom, isn't she?

With my Mom, there was no doubt that resentment was part of the process. We had to take my mother's car away from her and she was upset about it for years.

She had a caregiver that came into her home two days a week. We increased that to three days a week and finally five days a week. She didn't think it was necessary. She would tell me that she ran out of things to talk to the caregiver about, and she had sent her home. My attempts to talk to her about it would turn her angry and defensive.

One important thing: Mom didn't want to be told what to do. Never did. Never will, I would guess. She wanted to be asked and still does. Sound familiar?

Sometimes the caregivers direct my Mom's activities for the day, not giving her a choice, and she balks at that. Understand that my Mom is not able to make decisions for herself but she wants to have a say, usually she'll go along with whatever I say as long as I say it respectfully.

I'd say that's what makes her Mom.

The Case for Physical Fitness


by Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare

Deciding to step up your physical activity is a great move for your health. It will take you to exciting destinations - like elevating your mood, increasing your energy, improving your sleep, and helping you manage stress.

Elevate Your Mood

With skyrocketing costs, hectic schedules, and the stressors of everyday life, it's easy to develop a glass-half-empty mindset. But daily exercise - aiming for at least 10,000 steps - can help you see your glass half full by:

  • Releasing endorphins - hormones that help boost your outlook
  • Alleviating depression and reducing anxiety
  • Balancing levels of serotonin, which creates a more stable frame of mind.

Increase Your Energy

Have you ever started your day energized and ready to go, only to be crashing by mid-afternoon? Many people experience this dip in energy. Not only is it a problem in how you feel, it also can hinder your work performance. You can beat the slump with consistent walking habits.
More effective than any caffeine drink, exercise can provide long-lasting energy. In a recent study, previously inactive people increased their energy by 20% and reduced fatigue by 65% through a regular workout routine. When you're physically active, your body actually responds by generating more energy.

Improve Sleep

Head outdoors and walk in the daylight - it can regulate your body's production of melatonin at night, allowing a deeper, more relaxing sleep. Studies also show that physical activity 3-4 hours before you go to bed can promote better quality sleep and a restful night.

Manage Stress

Everyone has stressors, and some may not be quickly or easily solved. In fact, some sources of stress may never go away. So what do you do? Get moving! Walking helps manage stress by:

  • Promoting a positive mindset; a good attitude is a serious force against stress
  • Giving you time to clear your thoughts and work through what's bothering you
  • Managing your instinctual fight-or-flight response and providing a healthy way to expel negative emotions.

Aerobic activity (walking, running, swimming, or cycling) and flexibility workouts (yoga or Pilates) both reduce stress.

A Winning Strategy

The physical benefits of exercise are well known - it's your biggest weapon against weight gain and helps prevent many conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. But exercise also offers benefits that can't be measured on a scale or by a doctor - like mood, stress, and energy levels. Improve your outlook and your health with a fun, flexible walking routine.

Ask the Nurse and Preserving Dignity | Alcohol Awareness Month

They're losing enough; don't take their dignity too.

by Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare and "Mother"

Part three of a four part series about Christine Hammerlund and her Mom.

When a person becomes less capable of caring for themselves - or even functioning as a thoughtful adult - your first reaction as a loving adult child is to take away every choice they have. Don't.

Don't treat Mom as if she was a child, even though her behavior is childlike. It is very important to maintain their dignity.

My Mom is a very dignified person. She's has earned the right to have that dignity respected and supported.

Especially with dementia it is hard to tell what a parent is absorbing, and what they are not.

I've found with Mom that she remembers more clearly when it is important to her. So, if you talk down to her, she'll react negatively. Again, I try to give Mom some household responsibilities that she can handle to help her feel she's a vital part of the family.

It is very important to me that Mom continues to do what she can for herself for as long as possible. I think it strengthens her independence and preserves her dignity.

Next month, part four and the final piece in our series: It's your Mom. You didn't expect her to surrender her sovereignty did you?

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Be aware of how much alcohol is being consumed.

Be aware of how much alcohol is being consumed.

Drinking too much alcohol increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and some types of cancer.

If you are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking:
• Limit your drinking to no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.
• Keep track of how much you drink.
• Choose a day each week when you will not drink.
• Don’t drink when you are upset.
• Avoid places where people drink a lot.
• Make a list of reasons not to drink.

If you are concerned about someone else’s drinking, offer to help.

For more information visit National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence website:

Celebrating Spring and March | Ask the Nurse: forgetting the life you lived

The pain of forgetting the life you lived

by Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare and "Mother"
Part two of a four part series about Christine Hammerlund and her Mom.

One of the obvious effects of even moderate dementia is that a person afflicted by it forgets.

Forgets events. Forgets faces. Forgets names. Forgets facts.

But the deepest fear for a thoughtful, independent person is to lose the memory of everything in life that mattered. To have all the rich events and experiences wiped away. It is a fundamental loss of humanity that dementia inflicts. It is a deep fearsome pain in the soul to confront that future.

There are a few things that really surprise me and continue to baffle me about Mom's dementia.

I can't always anticipate what she clearly remembers and what she forgets. She talks a lot about her life as a child, but can't remember her husband of 40-plus years or her children's names or when her birthday is.

She often asks me if I remember the neighbor down the street when she was growing up.

Most of the time she accepts that her memory is fading, but sometimes she cries because she realizes that she remembers less and less. Dementia is not painless.

Mom often asks me the same thing over and over again. I try to be patient and answer as if it were the first time she asked. I would advise those caregivers out there to never say, “remember you just asked that question and I answered you” because they don't remember. It is painful and depressing for seniors to realize they can't recall or retain new information.

Some of that missing information involves decisions that had been carefully considered and decided.

When she first moved in with me, she constantly talked about going home, and I had to explain to her that she would not be able to return home. She now suggests that infrequently.  She often tells me it is fine to leave her alone and that she'll be OK. But I have caregivers with her during the day, while I work; so she is never alone.  She hasn't totally accepted her functional limitations and often asks me what she can do to help me around the house. She wants to feel useful and helpful, and I struggle to give her small chores such as setting the table for dinner and folding the laundry. Because of her poor eyesight, she is unable to help with any of the cooking.

Look for Part 3 of this special series next month: They're losing enough; don't take their dignity too.

6 Healthy Reasons to Love Spring

Birds are chirping. Flowers are blooming. The good news is that all the things we love about spring are surprisingly good for us!

Extra daylight. Springing forward for daylight saving time feels rough the day after, but once you’re recovered from a night or two of sleep deprivation, the benefits are far-reaching. In addition to giving us more time to spend outdoors and serving as a natural mood booster, that extra hour of light may help reduce traffic accidents and fatalities.

A healthier home. During warmer weather, open your windows and let the sunshine in while you spring clean, declutter, and organize your home.

A spring-cleaned diet. Sweep the cobwebs about of your cold-weather diet with a dose of fresh spring produce.

Outdoor exercise. If winter is too cold and summer is too hot, spring is just right for outdoor exercise.

No more winter skin. Gone are the freezing temps and harsh winds that wreak havoc on your skin and hair.

Spring break! Have you taken a break yet? Whether at home or away a break from routine and daily stresses can reduce risks for diseases such as breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as help manage stress long-term.

* Referenced 6 Healthy Reasons to Love Spring article by Annie Hauser

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with this healthy green Monster Veggie Burger

Veggie burgers often get a bad rap, but this wholesome recipe will change your mind. Made with chick peas, veggies, and just the right amount of seasoning, these patties are loaded with both flavor and good-for-you perks.

1 15-oz. can Progresso chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed
1 egg
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. coarse (kosher or sea) salt
1 c. chopped fresh spinach
1/2 c. shredded carrot
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 c. Progresso panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp. canola oil
Toppings, as desired (avocado halves, cilantro leaves, cucumber slices, tomato slices, sweet pepper strips, lettuce leaves)
Sauces, as desired (spicy mustard, Sriracha, ketchup, citrus vinaigrette)

In food processor bowl, place chick peas, egg, garlic, smoked paprika, coriander, cumin, and salt. Cover; process with on-and-off pulses about 45 seconds or until nearly smooth. Stir together bean mixture, spinach, carrot, and cilantro until well combined. Stir in bread crumbs. Shape mixture into 4 patties, about 3 1/2 in. in diameter and 1/2 in. thick. In 10-in. nonstick skillet, heat 2 tbsp. canola oil over medium heat until hot. Cook patties in oil 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until brown and crisp. Serve veggie burgers stacked with toppings and drizzled with sauce. Makes 4 servings. Recipe provided by Betty Crocker