Why You Need to Know Your Family

We all know that we can reduce our risk of disease by eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and refraining from smoking.  We also need to realize the importance of knowing our family health history.

A family health history is a record of medical information about a person and his or her close relatives.  This includes information from three generations including children, brothers, sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents and cousins.

Knowing your family’s health history allows you to identify diseases you may be at risk of developing.  Having this information gives you the opportunity to work with your doctor and to take the action needed to keep you and your family healthy.

At the age of 63, I am able to review my past medical history and easily correlate it to my family history.  In the past couple of years, I have experienced two major diagnoses to which I was predisposed because of my family history.  I did know that there were some cases of breast cancer in the family. However, I did not realize the number of close relatives who had dealt with this disease.  I have always had annual mammograms which was how my breast cancer was discovered. I may not have done anything differently, knowing the family history, but I certainly would have been diligent in having the mammograms and exams performed as ordered and in a timely manner.  I am happy to say it was caught early and I have been successfully treated.

Recently, I was also diagnosed with low pressure glaucoma.  The doctors are telling me that someone in my family had or has this disease.  It is genetic.  I know of no one in my family with a medical history of this disease.  It could have been someone who suffered an early death; therefore, the disease did not have time to develop. Or, it may have been someone in the past of whom I am unaware. The importance of this information is that low pressure glaucoma can be difficult to diagnose because your eye pressure remains normal while damage is occurring to the optic nerve.  The loss of vision is gradual. Therefore, a person may not be aware of the vision loss until significant damage has taken place. Such was the case in my situation.  If I had been aware of a family history of glaucoma, I would have relayed the fact to the doctor. This information would have prompted further testing.  If the glaucoma had been caught earlier, my vision loss would have been much less.

After experiencing these situations, I realized the significance of my family health history and my health. I wanted to share with you how genetics has impacted my life. I hope that knowledge of my experience will encourage you to learn your family health history. Hopefully, it will enable you to take better care of yourself. This family information should be shared with your doctor and may aid in early diagnosis of a disease.  Early diagnosis can lead to more successful treatment of the disease.

Family health history can also identify people who are at a greater risk for common diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  This information can encourage lifestyle changes which will help you to avoid or successfully manage diseases to which you may be predisposed.

Each year, since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day.  He encourages people to talk about, and to write down, the health problems that seem to run in their families.  Although you cannot change your genetic makeup, learning about your family’s health history may help to ensure a longer, healthier future for you and your family.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.


Suicide is a difficult subject but it is an issue about which we need to know more.  It is important to understand the behaviors and to know the signs you may observe in a person who is considering suicide.  The good news is that you have the ability to make a difference and save a life.  Suicide can often be prevented.

Over the past months, it has been very disturbing to hear of a number of suicides in our area and in our country.  There are few people who can say they have not been affected by a family member, friend or acquaintance who has either attempted or completed suicide.   You may have thoughts of suicide yourself and don’t know how to get help.  Although suicide is never the solution, there are people who feel it is their only way out.  What can we do to change this situation and help those in need?

The highest suicide rates of any age group occur among people aged 65 years and older.  Men account for 84% of suicides in the elderly population.  Risk factors are different with older people.  Depression is the main factor in most suicides. In addition, many of the elderly also suffer from social isolation, loss of a spouse, medical illness, family problems, financial trouble, physical disability, chronic pain, misuse of alcohol or medication. These issues may leave a person feeling helpless and hopeless.

The warning signs include:

–       Loss of interest in activities that were usually found enjoyable

–       Less social interaction, poor self-care and grooming

–       Lack of compliance with medical care and treatments

–       Experiencing a significant personal loss

–       Feeling hopeless, helpless and worthless

–       Putting affairs in order, disposing of valuables and changing wills

–       Obtaining lethal weapons or hoarding medication

–       Being pre-occupied with death and lack of concern for personal safety

–       The most significant risk factor that needs to be addressed is a person’s expression of suicide intent

How to prevent suicide:

–       Ask the person if they are thinking of suicide.  (This can be very difficult, but very important.)

–       Listen to what they have to say and encourage them to let their feelings be known.  (You may need to be persistent.)

–       Limit their access to any means of suicide such as firearms and stock piles of medications.

–       Treat the depression and work to improve the other issues that may have put the person at risk for suicide.

–       Get professional help by contacting her/his physician, mental health provider or calling the suicide hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

We recently held an in-service at the Farrar Home entitled “Suicide Awareness and Prevention”.  This three hour training program was presented by a “Safe Talk” representative whose teenage son had completed suicide.  Needless to say, he was an insightful educator.  Our staff was trained to recognize behaviors a person may exhibit which could lead to suicide.  They were given suggestions on what they can do to help.  This type of training is invaluable when it comes to helping an individual in crisis.  I would highly recommend this program.  We all need to take the time and make the effort to learn how to help.   You can make a difference by understanding the warning signs of suicide, learning how to communicate with the person and knowing how to get the appropriate help for the person at risk.    Suicide Is Never The Solution.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.

Taking Care of Cancer

I am a cancer survivor; I’m sure many of you can say the same thing.  For years, cancer has been a plague on our society.  Almost daily, the word cancer is used by many of us in talking about ourselves, our family or our friends.  We all know of someone who has fought cancer and survived or others who have lost their battles with this terrible disease.  Cancer has the potential to destroy a person’s life along with causing great pain for her or his loved ones.  Fortunately, the incidence of cancer in our population has decreased in recent years, along with an increase in the survival rate.  Cancer is no longer the death sentence it used to be.  If a cancer cannot be cured, it can often be treated, allowing the person to live a productive, satisfying life.  This is the direct result of remarkable medical advances along with healthy lifestyle changes.

So what actions can we, as individuals, take, to help us in the fight against this devastating disease?  In researching this subject, I found there is a lot we can do to make a significant difference in reducing the occurrence of this illness. How we live our lives has a huge impact on cancer as well as on other diseases.  In a Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins, I found some interesting information that I would like to share with you.  To start with, cancer is a disease of the mind, body and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit is an essential weapon in the fight against cancer.  Individuals who are angry, unforgiving and bitter are stressing their bodies and compromising their immune systems.  A loving and forgiving spirit helps a person relax and enjoy life.  We need to laugh a lot each day!  Your immune system will improve and your risk for cancer will decrease.

In our bodies, we all have cancer cells which may surface when our bodies are stressed due to poor lifestyle choices.  Many of us are not aware of the significance these choices can have on our health.  The good news is that we have the ability to change our behaviors and lifestyles in a manner that will drastically reduce our risk for cancer.  The Mayo Clinic states we should take comfort in the fact that some simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference.  The following is a list of some of the most important choices we can make to decrease our risk for cancer and to live a healthy life.

  1. Do not smoke or chew tobacco. Avoid second hand smoke. These are some of the most important things people can do to reduce their risk for cancer.  Fortunately there are a number of smoking cessation products and strategies to aid us in quitting.
  2. Make the necessary nutritional changes. Base your diet on vegetables, fruits and foods from plant sources, such as whole grains and beans. Limit fat, sugary drinks and caffeine.  Obesity predisposes a person to a number of cancers including breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney cancer.  Limit your alcohol consumption.  Alcohol not only adds calories, but increases your risk for breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver cancer.
  3. Physical activity can help to destroy cancer cells. Exercising daily and deep breathing will oxygenate our blood which helps to wipe out the cancer cells. The general goal is to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
  4. Protect yourself from the sun. Skin cancer is one of the most common and most preventable cancers. To lower your risk for skin cancer, avoid midday sun, stay in the shade, cover exposed areas, use sunscreen as directed, and avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.
  5. Talk to your doctor about immunizations to protect you from certain viruses that may lead to cancer. The Hepatitis B and the HPV vaccine can be life savers for high risk adults.
  6. Practice safe sex and avoid risky behaviors such as the sharing of needles.
  7. Regular self examinations and cancer screenings can help to diagnose cancer in the early stage when treatment is most likely to be successful.


Johns Hopkins reports that due to producing cancer-causing chemicals, no plastic containers or plastic wraps should be used in a microwave. No plastic water bottles should be placed in the freezer.


In conclusion, although we all have cancer cells in our bodies,  we have the ability to keep them inactive for the most part.  Unfortunately, there will always be that incidence of cancer occurring in someone who has lived a good and healthy life.  We don’t have all the answers, but it has been proven that good lifestyle choices can make amazing improvements in our health and in our lives.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.

What You Need to Know About Osteoporosis

Like most of us, I want to maintain control of my life as much as possible. The older I become, the more I realize that there are many things over which I do not have control. Thankfully, I still have a number of issues I CAN control to help me make my life the best it can be. Osteoporosis is one condition that I have successfully avoided, so far, with exercise, diet and medication.

Osteoporosis (OP) can have a devastating effect on a person’s life. Not only can it cause pain, broken bones and disfigurement, it can also shorten your life. Now that I have your attention, I shall tell you the good news about OP.   With early diagnosis and treatment, it can often be controlled, allowing a person to live a healthy, comfortable life.

What is osteoporosis? OP is the most common form of bone disease. During our early years, our bones are continually growing and our bone mass increasing. Usually in a person’s early 20’s he/she begins to lose bone mass faster than it is created. Consequently, as we age, our bones tend to become more porous and may become weak and brittle.  A fall or even mild stresses such as bending, coughing or rolling over in bed can cause a fracture.  I have often had a resident wake in the morning with back pain which is followed by a diagnosis of compression fracture of the spine. The hip, the wrist and the spine are the most common sites for fractures caused by OP.

What are the risk factors? OP affects men and woman of all races, but is most prevalent among white and Asian women who are post-menopausal. As we age, the risk of OP increases. Having a family history of OP along with a history that includes hip fractures puts a person at a greater risk for this disease. Individuals with smaller frames are also at greater risk for OP, because they have less bone mass upon which to draw as they age.

Other factors that may play a part in this disease include: hormone imbalances and certain medications; dietary factors such as low calcium intake, eating disorders, and gastrointestinal surgery; sedentary lifestyle, excessive use of alcohol and tobacco.

What is the treatment for OP? We are fortunate to have treatment for this potentially debilitating disease. If you have any of the above mentioned risk factors, it is important to talk to your doctor about the diagnosis and the management of OP. Your doctor will be able to make the diagnosis by reviewing your history and by giving you a bone density test. This test is a painless, low level X-ray scan, which can quickly determine the condition of your bones. If necessary, your doctor will outline a treatment plan for you to control your bone loss and to increase your bone density.

People of all ages can protect their bones and prevent OP by exercising and eating a healthy diet. It is essential that you get the proper amounts of calcium along with vitamin D, which helps your body to absorb the calcium. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, salmon, sardines, soy products, calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice. The main source of Vitamin D is sunlight. If necessary, you doctor can prescribe additional calcium and vitamin D to ensure you are getting the therapeutic amounts.

In conclusion, I feel we need to take responsibility for all areas of our lives including mental, physical, social and spiritual well- being.  We need to lead our lives and not let our lives lead us.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.

Are You Safe in Your Own Home?

That is an important question that we all need to ask ourselves.  As we age, safety in our homes can become even more of an issue for some individuals due to physical and/or mental limitations.  Older people who have accidents in the home are usually performing everyday activities.  Diminished eyesight, weakened muscles and poor balance are some of the reasons seniors need to take special care.  Harvard Medical School reports that accidents at home are among the leading causes of injury and death in the United States.  Statistics show that the chance of dying because of complications related to a home accident begins to rise at the age of 65, and then jumps significantly.  At the age of 75 and older, a person is almost 4 times more likely to die as the result of a home accident when compared with a person 65-74 years of age.  I thought that information was quite dramatic and a wake-up call some of us might need.  After working with the elderly population for over 30 years, I have often heard of people living in extremely unsafe situations.  All we need to do is listen to the news and read the paper to know how tragic a home accident can be.

The good news is that there are ways to make our homes safer.  As I researched this topic, I found a number of changes people could make in their environments that would lessen their chances of accidents. The most common home accidents are falls from ladders or stairs, and trips and slips on floors.  Fires and burns are second in accident frequency, along with asphyxiation from smoke or toxic fumes.

The following is a list of general safety measures that should be in place in your home:-

– Avoid throw rugs.  If you use them, make sure they are skid proof and lay flat.

– Keep stairways clear and well lit.  A sturdy handrail, at least on one side of the stairway, is a must.

– Have proper lighting throughout the house.  Use night lights to avoid stumbling in the dark.

– Keep the house clean and clutter free with furniture arranged for safe walking.

– Bathtubs and showers should have grab bars and non-skid strips or mat.

– Electrical cords should be placed out of high traffic areas to avoid tripping on them.

– Keep all appliances clean and in good repair.  Have your furnace cleaned and serviced yearly.

– Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed throughout the house and tested periodically.  Batteries should be changed every year.

– Water temperature should be set at 120 degrees or less.

– Never leave food cooking unattended or cook when you are tired.  Never wear loose fitting clothing while cooking.  Keep flammable items such as towels, curtains and aprons away from stoves.

– Keep stove and oven clean and free from grease.  Be sure handles of pans are secure and turned toward the center of the stove.

– Keep fire extinguishers in the kitchen and other areas of the home.  Learn how to use them and keep them maintained.

– Have a written evacuation plan, identifying two ways out of every room, and practice it.

– Get signed up for Lifeline Medical Alert to provide immediate service in an emergency.

– Know how and when to call 911 in an emergency.

This list outlines just some of the ways you can eliminate hazards in your home.  It is always good to talk to the experts if you have concerns or questions.  The fire department is more than happy to give advice to those who need help.  They can give you information on where to place your smoke alarms and give you information on the use of fire extinguishers.  Family and friends can also help you to accident proof your home.  The changes are usually not costly but you may need some help to get things done.

If you are living in an unsafe environment and do not have the means or ability to make it safe, you owe it to yourself to make a move.  Do not wait for an event that leads to a tragedy.  Talk with your doctor and family to get a list of your options.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.


How About That New Year’s Resolution?

We are now into February, and if you are like me and most of the population, you have probably not had success in keeping your resolution.  Don’t feel bad, I do have the solution.

Where did this New Year’s Resolution idea originate?  After a bit of research, I found that New Year’s Resolutions have a religious origin dating back to the medieval era.  People reflected upon their wrongdoings over the past year and looked to change their lives in the New Year by making specific resolutions.  They would also seek and offer forgiveness.  Those are certainly not bad ideas and probably why the practice continues today.

I was interested to learn what the most popular resolutions are. The top ten are as follows:  Lose Weight; Get Organized; Spend Less; Save More Money; Enjoy Life to the Fullest; Stay Fit and Healthy; Learn Something Exciting; Quit Smoking; Help Others Follow Their Dreams; Fall in Love and Spend More Time with Family.  Those resolutions do sound like some great ideas to help a person improve one’s life.

The problem with New Year’s Resolutions, as many of us come to realize this time of year, is that few of us actually achieve our goals.  About forty percent of us make resolutions each year and the success rates vary.  Thirty nine percent of people in their twenties succeed in their resolutions, while people over the age of fifty only have a fourteen percent success rate.  These statistics indicate that we appear to be setting ourselves up for failure when we make New Year’s Resolutions.  So, what are we supposed to do?

There are many simple changes you can make at any time which will promote happiness and health.  They do not require a lot of money or time, just desire and motivation.  I shall list a few that might appeal to you.

1. – Reach Out and Touch Someone –Literally.   Physical contact is an automatic stress reliever.  Hugs and holding hands can be therapeutic for both of you.  A massage can actually boost your immune system and make you more content.

2. – Be giving.  Find ways to give to others.  Volunteering, spending time talking and listening to a person in need will make you feel better about your own situation.   You will soon realize that you can make a positive difference in the lives of others.

3. -Maintain Good Relationships with Family and Friends.  Do not neglect the important people in your life.  Give the time and make the effort to maintain regular visits and communications with those you love.  These are the people who will be there for you during life’s challenges.

4. -Get Out of Your Rut.  Do something different.  Challenge yourself.  Learn a new hobby such as knitting or painting.  Walk a different route. Shop in a different store.  Go on a mini vacation.  These are great ways to recharge your mind and body.  Research has shown that experiences make us happier than things.

5. – Nurture Your Spirituality.  Worshiping and socializing with your religious community can provide you with great comfort and peace of mind.  This community will also serve as a network for support and assistance in a crisis.

6. –Eat Right, Exercise Daily and Get Enough Sleep.  These are the crucial components to good health.  The more effort we put into accomplishing these tasks, the better we will be, physically and mentally.

7. – Enjoy Life. You need to have some play in your day.  Sharing fun times with family and friends who make you smile and laugh can add years to your life.

In conclusion, I would say, forget the New Year’s Resolutions.  I suggest we live life one day at a time.  Every morning we can resolve to do what it takes to make it the best day possible for ourselves and others.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)


It is a real disorder.  This is the time of year when a number of people begin to suffer with its symptoms.   Twenty percent of the population is reported to experience many of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, (SAD).  My father used to say everything was fine as long as “the old sun ball was shining.”  My favorite day is December 21, because the days start getting longer and brighter.  June 21 always brings to me the realization that we are going in the other direction.  Consequently, we will have less light in our days.  How many of us say, “At least the sun is shining.”  Do we all suffer from SAD?  Probably to some degree most of us are negatively affected by the lack of sunshine in our days during the winter months.

Many who are affected do not understand what they are experiencing.  They may not realize that there is help out there for them.  We have all heard about SAD, but what exactly is it?  SAD is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, usually in the fall, and continues until the beginning of summer.  Less common is the reverse situation. This occurs when a person starts feeling depressed in the spring and feels better during the fall and winter.  I will concentrate on the winter edition because we are at the beginning of that season and it is definitely the most common.  Along with depression, symptoms of this disorder include feelings of hopelessness and anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal, lethargy, appetite changes, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating.  Factors that may increase a person’s risk for SAD include being female, living far from the equator, family history, and having a history of depression.  People between the ages of 15 and 55 are most at risk for this disorder.

What causes SAD?  The specific cause for this disorder remains unknown.  Most likely, it is thought, that genetics, age and your body’s natural chemical makeup all play a role in developing the condition.  Some specific factors which are also considered to be instrumental in the development of this disorder are:

–  Your biological clock, known as circadian rhythm.  The lack of sunshine in fall and winter may disrupt your body’s internal clock.  Your circadian rhythm is disrupted because your body does not know when it should be asleep or awake.  This disruption often leads to depression.

–  Serotonin levels.  Serotonin is our “feel good” hormone.  It is felt that reduced sunlight can cause a drop in this chemical in our brain and that may trigger depression.

–  Melatonin levels.  Melatonin is a natural hormone that plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.  A change in seasons can disrupt this hormone balance and cause problems with mood and depression.

As I previously said, most of us enjoy a sunny day more than a dark day.  When do our feelings become serious enough to see our doctor for advice and treatment?  If you feel down for days at a time and you are having difficulty getting motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, it is probably time to talk to your doctor.  If you are experiencing this along with any of the other symptoms mentioned above, you owe it to yourself to get professional help.  Avoid trying to “stick it out until summer.”  Life is too short for us to sacrifice any of it to a disorder that can be managed.

What is the treatment?  After a person is professionally diagnosed, a treatment plan will be discussed.  It is usually not reasonable for most of us to relocate to a sunnier climate. Therefore, we need to use the resources we have available that can make us feel better.  Light therapy (phototherapy) is one of the most popular treatments and it is very effective.  This is achieved by using a light box to mimic outdoor light.   The light causes a change in the brain’s chemicals linked to mood.  Antidepressant medications are often beneficial for people with severe symptoms.  Psychotherapy is also useful for some people who need help to find healthy ways to cope with the symptoms of SAD and manage stress.

Anyone who has experienced any of the symptoms of SAD, to any degree, should benefit from the following advice:

–         Make your surroundings sunnier and brighter.  Trim trees to allow more sunlight into the house, open blinds, keep lights on and when possible, sit closer to bright windows while at home or at work.

–         Get outside.  Take a walk, go to a park and sit on a bench to soak up the sun.  On a colder day, you can do the same if you dress properly for it.

–         Exercise regularly.  Physical exercise helps relieve anxiety and stress, which often increase the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.  Improving your physical fitness can make you feel better about yourself.  This benefit may help to improve your mood.

In conclusion, a review of this disorder and its associated treatments, indicates that the treatments used to control this condition will help you, in many ways, to live a healthier, happier life.

–         Stick to your plan of treatment including medications and medical appointment.

–         Take proper care of yourself by getting enough rest and give yourself time to relax.  Regular exercise and a healthy diet are keys to helping many mental and physical health problems.

–         Manage your stress by learning techniques to lower your stress.  Give yourself a break by having some “me-time”.

–         Socializing is important to avoid feeling down.  Make an effort to connect with your friends for support.  It is therapeutic to have a shoulder to cry on or someone with whom to share a laugh.

–         Take a trip if possible.  A break during the winter can be extremely beneficial. Anticipation of the trip may be as rewarding as the experience itself.

We encourage our residents at the Farrar Home to keep their rooms well lit, to raise shades during the day and to go out, when possible, with family and friends.    Daily exercise and socialization are also an important part of our program.   Light boxes and special lamps have also been useful for some of our residents.

I look forward to seeing smiles on everyone’s face this winter because you are taking good care of yourselves.  We are in a colder, darker climate than many, but we are also very fortunate not to be victims of extreme weather.  We need to be thankful for what we have and make the best of each day.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.



The Amazing Power of Positive Thinking

Are you a person whose glass is half empty or half full?  Are you optimistic or pessimistic?  Believe it or not, these are very important questions to ask yourself.  If you are one who struggles with negative thoughts and negative self talk, your overall health may be at risk.

Negative emotions and feelings are known to generate harmful toxins throughout the body. Anger, envy, jealousy and fear prompt the endocrine system to create poisons in the blood.  Anxiety, depression and doubt can also produce dangerous substances which have a detrimental effect on a person’s mental and physical condition.   Lengthy negative emotions are even more dangerous for your health than active, sudden negative feelings.  It is a fact that negative emotions can cause anxiety and will shorten a person’s life.  Those who anger easily and are under constant stress are often people who develop heart disease and other illnesses.

When people think that something unpleasant is going to happen to them, it is more likely to happen because it is reflected in their unconscious.  This is called “a self-fulfilling prophecy”.   Amazingly, about 70% of all illnesses are psychosomatic, or caused by mental stress.

On the other hand, positive thinking and an optimistic attitude helps to reduce stress and consequently, improves your health and well-being.  Positive thinking people have fewer heart attacks and in general, less illness.  So, if you are a negative thinker with a pessimistic attitude, is there any hope for you?  Yes!

The good news is that you can learn positive thinking skills.  This does not mean you live an unrealistic life and ignore life’s less pleasant situations.  Positive thinking means you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way.  You need to think the best is going to happen, not the worst.  For some, this is easier said than done.  But really, what do you have to lose.  God forbid, you think the best will happen and you are wrong.  You have wasted all that time feeling positive about something.  How can that hurt you?

While doing some research on this topic, I found the Mayo Clinic promotes the idea of positive self-talk.  Throughout the day a person has an endless stream of unspoken thoughts running through their head.  These thoughts can be negative or positive.  How can you turn a negative thought into a positive one?  Just do it!  There is no situation that is all negative.  You have to find the positive and focus on that aspect and try to diminish the negative.   This may not be easy for many, but it is worth it.  I have always heard, “there is a silver lining in every dark cloud” and it is true.

Some tips to overcome negative thoughts include meditation and yoga.  Smile, surround yourself with positive people, change the tone of your thoughts from negative to positive, don’t play the victim, help someone.  Remember that no one is perfect and allow yourself to move forward.  Sing, list five things you are grateful for and read positive quotes. What do you have to lose?  Be good to yourself and give this a try.

Researchers continue to investigate the health effects of positive thinking and optimism.  They feel at this time the benefits include:

-Increased life span

-Lower rates of depression

-Lower levels of distress

-Greater resistance to the common cold

-Better psychological and physical well-being

-Reduced risk of death from heart disease

-Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Over the years at the Farrar Home, I have found that residents and staff with positive outlooks on life do much better in all areas.  It can be challenging to find the good in a difficult situation, but it is there.  We should all try to do this not only for ourselves, but to help others focus the wonderful things in their lives.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.

Dealing with Dementia

State Of Dementia

You wake without your passport in a foreign city:

Jet lagged, not sure of the day, the time.

You have the wrong clothes, the wrong money.

Your do not know the language, the way to go home.

On the street people rush about, busy, important.

They jabber over your head.

You need a bathroom, don’t know how to ask in this tongue.


Author: Mary Damon Pelletier


As we grow older, it is normal to forget things and then to remember them later.  Misplacing items, finding yourself in a room and wondering why you are there, and becoming weary of work, family and social obligations, fortunately can be attributed to some normal changes with aging.  I have found myself dealing with some of these issues.  Remembering names can also be a challenge.  I use the alphabet to trigger my memory with pretty good results.  If you are like I am, dementia is not a subject which is fun to talk or write about.  Unfortunately, as our population grows increasingly older, this disease is becoming more prevalent.  Therefore we need to understand dementia and how to deal with it, to make our lives the best they can be.


What is dementia?  Dementia is a general term for a decline in a person’s mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.  Alzheimer’s Disease accounts for approximately 70% of the cases.  Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common type of dementia.  There are other medical conditions such as depression, medication side effects, excess use of alcohol, thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies that have symptoms of dementia, but can be treated and are reversible. That is why it is so important to see your doctor if you notice any decline in your mental ability. Many dementias start out slowly and gradually get worse.  Early diagnosis is very important since it allows the person to get the maximum benefit from available treatments and time to plan for the future.

What are the symptoms of dementia?  Symptoms may vary, but having a significant impairment with at least two of the following mental functions would be considered dementia.

–         Memory (loss that disrupts daily life)

–         Communication and language (trouble following or joining a conversation)

–         Ability to focus and to pay attention (difficulties with money, cooking and poor concentration)

–         Reasoning and judgment (poor decision making)

–         Visual perception (problems with reading, driving, and judging distance)


What causes dementia?  Injury to brain cells interferes with their ability to communicate with each other.  This damage may be caused by a stroke or as in Alzheimer’s Disease, high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells make it hard for brain cells to stay healthy and communicate with each other.  Consequently, a person’s thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected.  Our brain is made up of many regions that control different functions, such as memory, judgment and movement.  When any of these areas are affected, a person cannot function normally.  Most often the brain’s center of learning and memory is the first to be impaired.  Therefore, memory loss is one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.

What determines a dementia diagnosis?  Unfortunately, there is no one simple test to determine if someone has dementia.  Doctors need to make the diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementias based on a thorough medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests and careful review of a person’s day-to-day function and behavior.  Psychological testing may also be done. 

What is the treatment and care for a person with dementia? Depending on the cause, there are drug treatments that may temporarily improve the symptoms.  Non-drug therapies can also be used to alleviate some of the symptoms of dementia.


What are the risk factors and methods for prevention of dementia?   Age and genetics are two major risk factors for dementia that cannot be changed.  As we grow older, we have a higher possibility of acquiring some form of dementia.  Having a family history of dementia is thought to increase our chances of developing this disease.

The good news is that researchers believe there are three areas on which we can work to delay or prevent the onset of dementia.

–         Cardiovascular risk factors:  Because our brain is nourished by blood vessels, anything that can harm these vessels deprives the heart and brain of vital food and oxygen.  Vascular dementia is caused by this type of damage.  This type of dementia can also compound the symptoms of other dementias such as Alzheimer’s Disease.  You can protect your brain and heart by keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar within the recommended limits.  Maintaining a healthy weight also decreases the stress on your cardiovascular system. As always, it goes without saying, the elimination of smoking would be one of the best things a person could do to improve his or her circulation and overall health.

–         Physical and mental exercise:  Evidence suggests that regular physical and mental exercise may help lower the risk of some types of dementia. Increasing the blood and oxygen flow to the brain by increasing your activity has a direct benefit to the brain cells.  Always check with your doctor for the appropriate exercise plan to suit your needs.  Word games, computer games, reading and socializing can be a wonderful way to keep your mind active.

–         Diet: Keeping your heart healthy is one of the most important ways to keep your brain healthy.  The appropriate diet will help to ensure that the heart is able to maintain the proper circulation to make certain the brain is well nourished.  A heart healthy diet consists of relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats.

Nobody wants to think about the possibility of having dementia. However, it is reassuring to know that there are ways of improving your health and decreasing the possibility of developing dementia.  During my years at the Farrar Home, I have witnessed many residents with some form of dementia.  I have often seen improvement in their conditions when they receive the proper treatment.  Working with medical professionals to maintain control of your health, regular exercise (both physical and mental), an appropriate diet and, sometimes the use of prescribed medication are ways to ensure you are doing all that you can for yourself.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.

Mr. Shantilal Shah

I recently attended a memorial service for a very special man. During the thirty years I have worked with the elderly population, I have learned a great deal. Needless to say, I have met many wonderful people. Mr. Shah was not only wonderful, he was exceptional.

I have heard there are a few special people who walk among us. They can and do make a positive difference in the lives of many individuals in this world. I believe Mr. Shah was one of those special people and I feel blessed to have known him.  When I was with Mr. Shah, I felt that I was in the presence of a Holy Person who was close to God. He was never judgmental. He always showed care and concern for his fellow man.

On several occasions, Mr. Shah met with me at the Farrar Home. We discussed social issues and eldercare in the United States, India (his homeland) and the world in general. Caring for all people, he worked not to better his life but the lives of others. His infectious enthusiasm always left me wondering what I could do to improve the lives of other individuals.

Mr. Shah smiled frequently and always seemed at peace. Above all, he was a teacher. I loved being with him and learning from him. I soon realized that he was a person who had, in psychological terms, reached “Self Actualization”. This term, according to the theorist, Maslow, describes someone who has attained his full potential in all areas of his life. I shared this fact with Mr. Shah during our last visit.

My friends and family were aware of the impact Mr. Shah had on me. I would repeat to them everything I was able to remember that he had talked about. I wanted everyone to experience his remarkable impact.  All who knew this man spoke of him in a similar way. We felt we were better people for having known such a remarkable person.

Mr. Shah was a scholar and a writer. The following quotes express some of his thoughts.

Charter for Happy Living

  1.  Look to the positive aspects of life; “The best is yet to come”.  Difficulties and problems make you stronger and wiser.
  2. Discipline and organize yourself; do not procrastinate; do your best in whatever you do, without worrying about the result; hard and honest work is always rewarded.
  3. You cannot enjoy life if you are not healthy; money cannot buy health.  Money cannot buy relationship, either; love can.  Be ambitious but not greedy.  Your real lasting wealth is your character and your values; they represent your inner strength.
  4. Try to help others; joy of giving is always better that joy of taking.  Anything that is not shared is lost.
  5. Love is the greatest weapon.  Your children need your unconditional love; they cannot get it from anyone else. When they reach 16 they become your friends.  Grand parenting is different from parenting; you have a lot more time to get involved with your grandchildren’s homework and extra-curricular activities and character building.
  6. Have at least a few good friends before whom you can open up and unburden yourself.
  7. Always listen to your conscience; you will get the right advice.  Then, do not worry about what others say.
  8. Do not expect anything from anyone, even from your own children, much less from others even in return of something good done to them.
  9. After your children are married, the bottom line is: are they happy?  And not how much money they make or how much they care for you.   Let them lead their lives and raise their children their way.  Do not give unsolicited advice unless it is compelling.
  10. Learn not to be lonely even though you may be alone; reading, gardening, music painting, social and community work keep sadness and depression away.  They help your maintain your identity.

More to share:

“Do your best.  Leave to God the rest”.

“Purity of mind and purity of soul mean happiness”.

“Love is the best discipline in raising children”.

“Ego is ejecting God out”.

“Your greatest strength is your Character and Credibility”.          Shantilal Shah 1921-2013

I believe Mr. Shah has given us wonderful advice on how to live our lives. Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.