Posts Tagged awareness
American Diabetes Association 2017 State of Diabetes Breakfast
Last week, MINES attended the annual American Diabetes Association 2017 State of Diabetes Breakfast. While we were there, a few exciting things were happening. One of the best things that was going on was the conversation between local and national companies discussing the state of diabetes, wellness initiatives, employee support programs, and next steps in the fight against diabetes. After a bit of networking, the breakfast opened with a great talk from both the State of Diabetes Committee Chair, Joel Krzan, and the Colorado Lt. Governor, Donna Lynne. HUGE thanks to them and the ADA for all the critical work they do in helping fight Diabetes and fostering awareness and support across the country, not to mention hosting the event!
As you all probably are familiar with, the American Diabetes Association is the 2nd largest employer in Colorado, second only to the federal government. They lead initiatives across the state ranging from awareness campaigns, fundraising events, community service delivery, research funding, and advocacy for those suffering from the disease. You can find out more about the ADA and how you can support their efforts on their website, www.diabetes.org.
MINES was also one of a few companies this year to receive the designation of Health Champion from the ADA. This designation recognizes that MINES as a company has met the ADA’s “Healthy Living Criteria.” These criteria cover three distinct but interconnected areas of healthy living including Nutrition and Weight Management, Physical Activity, and Organizational Wellbeing.
MINES is very proud of this designation and recognition of our efforts as we strive to practice what we preach. As an Employee Assistance provider, we are constantly working with our clients to help support the wellbeing of their employees so it was only natural that we strive to create the same focus of employee and organizational wellbeing within our company. Some ways we support these areas include:
Nutrition and Weight Management
- Access to nutrition coaches
- Healthy employee culture encouraging healthy habits and eating
- Access to on-site exercise room
- Healthy MINES employee events including rock climbing and hiking
- Healthy Lunch events such as Yoga and Zumba activities
- Access to fitness coaches
- Wellbeing and resilience training
- Corporate culture focused on work/life balance
- Employee check-ins to gauge stress levels and other issues
The Mind/Body Connection
While we were there our very own COO, Patrick Hiester, had the opportunity to speak. He talked about the often co-occurrence of diabetes and mental health issues including depression and anxiety. He then went on to explain how these conditions can often have a huge cost for individual and an employer in terms of health care costs, lower productivity and work/life imbalance. The key takeaway from Patrick’s presentation was that employers can go a long way in supporting their employees that may have a co-morbid condition by approaching their healthcare in a fully integrated modality and support the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees equally. This could mean having wellbeing programs in place as well as an EAP to help support behavioral wellbeing and also identify systemic issues that may be magnifying any issues that employees may be dealing with in their lives.
Where do we go from here? MINES plans to continue to support both the physical and mental wellbeing of our employees just like we coach our clients to do. We will also continue to support the efforts of the ADA and other great companies and initiatives that mirror our own core wellbeing values.
If you would like to learn more about what you can do to support the ADA, take a look at two of the ADA’s current initiatives; Wellness Lives Here and the upcoming fundraising/awareness event, Tour de Cure.
Wellness Lives Here
As the ADA’s website states “This powerful initiative is designed to inspire and fuel our nation’s healthful habits at work and beyond. With year-round opportunities, Wellness Lives Here™ helps companies, organizations and communities educate and motivate people to adopt healthful habits to reduce the impact of type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses. For some, it means fewer sick days and higher productivity. For others, it means looking and feeling better. For everyone, the result is empowerment—Americans who are better able to control, delay or prevent Diabetes and related health problems.”
Find out more here: www.wellnessliveshere.org
Tour de Cure
This is a run, ride, walk, or be an “Xtreme Ninja” (obstacle course) event designed to raise awareness in the community, provide research support, and increase advocacy for those suffering from diabetes that may be discriminated against.
Find out more here: http://www.diabetes.org/coloradotourdecure
Finally, another huge thank you to the ADA and everyone that made this event possible. Together we can continue to fight the good fight and spread awareness of these critical wellbeing initiatives to help millions of people across the US and the world. And if you are a company that is looking for a way to support your own employees, please call MINES at 1-800-873-7138 and see how we can work together to make your workforce happier, healthier and more productive.
To your wellbeing,
The MINES Team
You may not know it, but November is the month to go purple! You will see buildings lit with the color purple and lots of publicity regarding Alzheimer’s disease, all to highlight November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and Caregiver Month. The tradition started back in 1983 when President Reagan (who died of Alzheimer’s disease) proclaimed the awareness month to call attention to this tragic disease. Back then, fewer than 2 million Americans had the disease, today that number is 5.4 million. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US and the only one in the top ten that cannot be prevented, treated, or cured. If the trajectory of the disease is not changed, by 2050, nearly 14 million Americans will be affected by Alzheimer’s.
So what exactly is Alzheimer’s disease? I have been working in the field of cognitive impairment for over 15 years and the number one question I am asked is “What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?” The best answer I can give is that dementia is an “umbrella” term much like the term cancer. There are many types of cancer and there are many types of dementia as well. Perhaps the easiest explanation is this….everyone who has Alzheimer’s disease has dementia, but not everyone who has dementia has Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is, however, the most common type of dementia, accounting for around 70% of all cases. The hallmark symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss, particularly short-term memory loss in the early stages. Vascular dementia (strokes that impair the blood supply to the brain) accounts for around 10% of dementia cases, and then there are other forms of dementia you may have heard of like Lewy Body or Frontotemporal dementia. Dementia is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severe enough to interfere with daily functioning. It is important to note that Alzheimer’s disease is not a mental illness. It is a disease just as we know cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or cancer to be physical illnesses. And while there is a certain extent of memory loss that is a normal part of aging, the memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are not a part of normal aging. Toward the end of this blog, I will list the ten warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease and attempt to differentiate between what is normal and what could be a red flag.
Why is this subject important to me? Aside from the huge public health and expense issue this presents for our country (and every other country in the world by the way), it affected my family personally. Three of our four parents in my immediate family were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease within a two year period. The disease changed everything for my parents, my family, and of course, for me and my priorities. My loved ones have now been gone for a few years, having lived for 16 years, 14 years, and 11 years with the disease. People ask me if I am relieved to be out from under the burdens of the disease. I tell them I am just warming up and will not rest until we find an end to Alzheimer’s. In the meantime, my quest is to help as many other families as possible who are dealing with this cruel disease.
A brief history of the disease
It might be a good time to switch gears and pause for a brief history lesson regarding Alzheimer’s. The disease was discovered in 1906 by a German doctor named Alois Alzheimer. He was presented with a 51 year old female we respectfully refer to simply as “Frau Auguste D.” Her husband brought her to Dr. Alzheimer’s clinic when she displayed irrational behaviors. Back then, it was usually, “off to Belleview for you” but Dr. Alzheimer was not buying it. He cared for her at his clinic until her death three years later and then discovered the disease during her autopsy. Without going into “Brain 101” too deeply in this blog, excess build-ups of two proteins (amyloid beta and tau) are present in Alzheimer’s patients. Now you may have the same reaction I have every time I tell the story of Frau August D…1906!!!!! What? It is 2015, why has this not been cured by now?
The disease is very complicated and it was only in the late 1980s that the scientific community realized that younger onset (diagnosis under 65) and regular onset (over 65) were the same disease. Several research and diagnosis breakthroughs have occurred in the past decade and while there is no treatment or cure that stops the disease as of today, I have never been more optimistic that a breakthrough is possible. Thousands of doctors and scientists around the world are working on the issue as we speak.
The high cost of the disease
You may not know that Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in our nation. This year, the cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients will be $226 billion (yes, with a “b”). $153 billion of that will be Medicare and Medicaid costs for care of Alzheimer’s patients. With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 everyday, we must put an end to Alzheimer’s. 1 in 9 of us will develop the disease past the age of 65. Nearly half of us will have the disease at age 85.
The workplace stats are equally disturbing. 85% of caregivers under 65 are employed. Alzheimer’s disease costs American business more than $60 billion annually, both in costs related to care and in lost productivity. 60% of working Alzheimer’s caregivers report that they have had to come in late, leave early, or take time off. 20% had to take a leave of absence. 13% had to go from full time to part time and 15% had to give up working entirely.
So I mentioned that November is Alzheimer’s Awareness and Caregiver month. Who are these caregivers exactly? There are over 15 million of us in the US. This year we will provide more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care. You History Channel buffs might think that ice road trucking is the most dangerous profession on earth, but I would submit that caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is the most challenging. Caregivers must navigate between making sure their loved one is protected from a variety of dangers (60% of Alzheimer’s patients will wander during their journey with the disease) and preserving their dignity. These are our parents, our spouses, our friends, and treating them like children is never appropriate although their behaviors may certainly test our patience.
As the person moves through Early, Middle, and Late Stage Alzheimer’s, behaviors can become more and more challenging. Just as we caregivers learn to handle one behavior, it disappears and another one emerges. Caregivers take lousy care of themselves due to stress and worry. They balance medical, legal, financial, and family dynamic issues that are complicated and emotional. 74% of caregivers report being somewhat to very concerned about their own health. So…if you know a caregiver of a person with dementia, give them a hug in November, better yet, offer to help them pick up groceries, rake leaves, or treat them to a spa day; they will be eternally grateful.
You also may not know that women are at the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease. 2/3 of Alzheimer’s patients are women. The prevailing thought has been that this is because women live longer than men and the number one risk factor is age. New studies are underway to further investigate whether there are other factors that may make women more predisposed to the disease. Over 60% of Alzheimer’s caregivers are women as well. Perhaps the most startling statistic is that a woman over 60 is twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as breast cancer.
10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s
So now…as promised and if you are still reading this!… what are the common symptoms or early warning signs of Alzheimer’s? The Alzheimer’s Association lists ten of them. I will mention them all briefly and give a few examples from my own family experiences.
- Memory loss – not just forgetting the name of some movie star in an old film, but the type of memory loss that disrupts daily life and causes people to live in “sticky-note-ville.” Alzheimer’s erases short-term memory first so recently learned information may not be maintained like it was before.
- Changes in planning and problem solving – We all mess up a detail now and then but we are able to adjust and work through the issue. Many early-stage Alzheimer’s patients do very well as long as they stick to a routine. When problems arise, however, their ability to compensate is limited.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks – We’re not talking about forgetting how to reprogram the thermostat and having to refer to the manual, we are talking about commonly performed tasks. An example would be my Mom who started taking 30 minutes to unload the dishwasher due to confusion.
- Confusion with time or place – We all forget what day it is occasionally but get ourselves back on track quickly. An Alzheimer’s symptom example might be someone who goes to the same activity each week but now cannot remember the route to take to get there.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships – In other words, Alzheimer’s patients do not see things the way we do. They may suffer from a lack of peripheral vision (which is why driving becomes an issue) and may not be able to identify how close an object is to them.
- Problems with speaking or writing words – We all forget a word occasionally but we are quick to substitute another one that makes sense in the context of our conversation. My Dad, however, would become very frustrated when he couldn’t think of any words to describe his watch or wallet.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps – We all lose things and if you find your lost keys in the pocket of the jacket you wore two days ago, that makes sense. If you find them in the freezer, that could be a sign that something is wrong.
- Decreased or poor judgment – We all make stupid decisions from time to time – to err is human as they say. But Alzheimer’s patients may lose the basic judgment to know when a scammer is taking advantage of them or they may buy an expensive item they simply can’t afford.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities – The person may be “hiding out” to avoid family, friends or work associates from noticing that they are having cognitive issues. We all “check out” occasionally but a noticeable difference in someone’s social interaction may be a cause for concern.
- Changes in mood and personality – We are not talking about the typical “set in my ways” or “you kids get off my lawn” type crankiness. We are talking about changes in a person’s demeanor that are significantly different and unusual compared to their baseline behavior.
It’s time to lift the veil on Alzheimer’s
I could write for hours on this subject (in case you can’t tell by now) but I want to close by urging anyone reading this who has a friend or loved one with warning signs to see a doctor immediately to discuss symptoms in the context of their overall health. Many people are hesitant to discuss the subject but there are three reasons to do so. First, it might not be Alzheimer’s at all, there are many other conditions that present symptoms that may be similar. Secondly, if it is Alzheimer’s, perhaps a clinical trial would be appropriate; the care during these trials is excellent and the scientific community really needs participants. And finally, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s allows the patient to express their wishes while they still can and it also allows family members to become knowledgeable about the disease, plan for the future, and learn the valuable caregiving skills they will need to maintain the highest quality of life for all involved throughout the journey. In other words, you want and need to know…no matter what.
I hope this information and my story helps draw attention to this disease and an appreciation for caregivers during the month of November. Please help spread the word during National Alzheimer’s Awareness and Caregiver month. And please know that we here at MINES and Associates recognize the family and workplace pressures of having a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Help, education, and coaching is available for employees who are balancing their responsibilities at home and at work.
And, oh yea, ski and snowboard season is upon us….be sure you and your friends and family wear helmets – your brain is your most precious and irreplaceable asset!
Associate, MINES and Associates
Taking care of the ones you love
Often times, people who step into a caregiving role for one reason or another, are inexperienced in this critical role. There are a lot of unanswered questions: How do you talk to someone who has just been diagnosed? How do you support them in the best possible way? And one of the toughest questions: how do you take care of yourself through all of it? It is natural to want to help your family and friends, especially when one of them has been diagnosed with a serious disease like cancer, these are people that you love and cherish. In order to help them most effectively it is important to go into a caregiving role with specific goals and expectations in mind.
What to say to a recently diagnosed loved one?
So what do you say to a loved one that has been recently diagnosed with cancer or another life threatening disease? The answer is, surprisingly, not much. To avoid being overbearing it is important that you make sure your loved one knows that you are there for them but only as much as they need or want. Educate yourself about the diagnoses and the type of cancer/disease that they have so that you can understand what they are going through. Avoid using that knowledge to offer unwanted advice by insisting they try this or that, just because you read about it online. Oftentimes the best thing you can do is simply spend time with them and share their feelings by offering a shoulder to cry on. Avoid being judgmental or being overly optimistic by saying things like, “you’ll be fine,” or “you’ll get better, don’t worry about it.” These sorts of things can make them feel like you don’t actually understand the gravity of the situation or understand their feelings; instead, simply assure them that you are there for them.
Here are some “do says” and “don’t says” from cancer.net to get you started:
Some options to help show your care and support:
- I’m sorry this has happened to you.
- If you ever feel like talking, I’m here to listen.
- What are you thinking of doing, and how can I help?
- I care about you.
- I’m thinking about you.
Some examples of phrases that are unhelpful:
- I know just how you feel.
- I know just what you should do.
- I’m sure you’ll be fine.
- Don’t worry.
- How long do you have?
Care-giving can be a long, difficult road, so it is important that you are prepared and know the best, most practical ways to help and support your loved ones. First, as mentioned above, it is critical that you research their cancer diagnoses, treatment courses, side-effects, and anything else that you may be concerned about. This will help you be a more effective support source. Once you have a better understanding of the situation you can help your loved one seek out the best treatment, with the direction of their doctor of course. Rely on the experts but use your education to ask good questions to manage expectations on treatments and to know when a second opinion on things may be appropriate.
Aside from helping with the logistics of care, you can also make a huge difference by offering help in other areas of their lives. To make things easier, instead of simply telling them that you are there if they need anything, take the burden off of them and offer to do specific things they may need. These can be things like offering to walk their dog, do the dishes, go to the grocery store or pharmacy for them; be specific and timely and you will be a huge help to them without being overwhelming.
Make sure that you are truly present for them. Offering company and a way to take their mind off of their condition is also critical. While nothing you can say or do will cure them or make their treatments any easier, having someone that is there to talk things through and to gain emotional and spiritual support from can make all the difference. It is also important to try and take the attention off their condition from time to time, while supporting their wellbeing. Think about exercising with them to the extent that they are able, make time to watch a movie or play a game together, or do whatever other activities they are able to enjoy without over-exerting themselves. And most importantly try and make them laugh. Being light, silly, and breaking the serious tone can work wonders by creating fond memories together and maintaining a positive outlook day to day. Another important goal to all of this is to make things as normal for them as possible. Do not treat them as though they are fragile creatures. They are the same person that they have always been to you; make sure to remind them of that.
Being a caregiver or go-to person for someone with a chronic illness, especially for a loved one, can be extremely draining, both physically and emotionally. It will be critical that you take care of yourself as much as you take care of your loved one. The most common areas were caretakers’ wellbeing is affected include; trouble sleeping or finding time to sleep, poor eating habits and lack in meal preparation time resulting in less healthy diet, lack of time to exercise or lack of motivation to be active, being unable to stay in bed when sick, and also the failure to keep up on their own medical needs and doctors appointments. All of these can be detrimental to your personal wellbeing so it is imperative that you take steps to limit your stress and maximize your self-care as much as you are able. Some ways that you can manage this include asking for help. Don’t be afraid to ask others for assistance now and again. Be specific in how they can help you and let them decide what they are willing and able to do for you. Even little things like someone willing to cook a dinner for you or the one you care for once a week can make a big difference.
Sleep is another huge concern. Remember that if you are sleep deprived you not only become a less effective support-giver, but you actually can become a danger to yourself and the ones you care for. Make sure that you are getting adequate sleep. Ways to help with this include setting a maximum amount of time that you can spend with your ill loved one. You may feel the need to be by their side 24/7 but that is just not realistic. Remember that you are human and need to take care of your own needs as well, as much as you would like to be superman. Set sleep goals and take a nap or go to sleep early if you are feeling tired.
Do not feel guilty if you need to re-energize by taking time for yourself. It is not a selfish thing to still engage in your favorite hobbies, social activities, and exercise routines. Setting goals is a good way to accomplish this. List them out if you have to but make sure that you are still striving for things in your own life. Set certain exercise goals, or goals for a certain number of hours of sleep each night. By making time for yourself it will not only give your mind a break, but will make you a more effective and energized source of support when you reconvene with your sick loved one.
Don’t forget that while you may be thinking about your loved ones’ care and doctors visits, do not let yourself forgo your own care. Annual exams with your physician, dentist visits, prescription regimens, and any other care you normally undergo is still just as important as it was before your loved one was diagnosed. Aside from just being important to maintaining your own health, seeing your doctor also affords you an opportunity to seek their professional opinion on how to limit stress, improve your diet, and otherwise limit the impact of the caretaker issues that you may be dealing with.
Finally, remember that you are not the only one that is going through this dire situation. There are many other people that may be in the exact same situation as you. Don’t be afraid to seek out social groups either locally or online. Be open-minded to going to a support group to connect with others that can lend an ear or even a helping hand. It also helps to talk with people who have experience dealing with the same issues as they can understand what you are going through better than most others and could even be the source of some meaningful new friendships.
Through this whole process it is important to accept the fact that some people get better and some are not able to recover. Your loved one may be on the road to recovery and will one day be all better; but, in some cases death is inevitable and it’s important to be prepared to say goodbye. Grief, when dealing with a long term illness, is a lot different than that of a sudden death, primarily because there is period of time where there is an expectation of death. In their book “Saying Goodbye,” Dr. Barbara Okun and Dr. Joseph Nowinski detail the grieving process from diagnosis to death in 5 phases:
Phase 1: Crisis
This stage begins with the diagnosis of the serious or terminal disease. A crisis is created in the lives of those involved. Anxiety and fear are the most prevalent emotions during this phase. The best thing to do in this phase is to remove as much of the unknown as possible by researching the disease itself, treatment options, and what to expect throughout the rest of the process.
Phase 2: Unity
This stage is when the person who was diagnosed and their friends and family accept the situation and begin to come together and define their role going forth. It is important to define what the needs/capabilities of each person is and be open and honest with all involved.
Phase 3: Upheaval
Upheaval occurs as the life changes brought on by the situation begin to create issues and difficulties with in the social circle of family and friends. Frustrations, guilt, and resentment can surface creating animosity between friends and family members. During this stage it is important to maintain open communication and try your best to let go of negative feelings as they arise.
Phase 4: Resolution
This stage occurs once the ill person has reached a point where recovery is no longer an option and death becomes a reality. Family members and friends begin to accept the reality of the situation. This is where the real grief starts and various people will have a stronger reaction than others. It is important to let everyone grieve in their own way and not pass judgment. This phase is important in that it may be the last chance to resolve issues between yourself and the dying, recall good memories of the times you spent together, and to say any last words you have before they pass. Seize the opportunity when you can.
Phase 5: Renewal
The final stage begins after the person has passed on, usually at their funeral. This can be an extremely confusing time as everyone grapples with the reality of what happened and their own mixed emotions. But this is the time where you can begin to try and focus on the good times you spent with them, and decide how you will remember them and honor their life in a positive light.
Source: Saying Goodbye by Barbara Okun, Ph.D. and Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D. by arrangement with Berkley Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc, Copyright © 2011 by Harvard University.
These descriptions are just a brief overview. For a full description of the phases please visit http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/saying-goodbye.htm
Whew, okay heavy subject I know, but it is one that we could all face at some point in our lives. If you or someone you know is dealing with this in their lives and needs help, please seek out support groups online or at a local cancer center, or consider seeking professional counseling. If you have an employee assistance program through your employer, it can be a great resource that can provide guidance, help finding information, and referrals to counseling.
To Your Wellbeing,
American Cancer Society