Flood Related Health Issues

Flagstaff area home after Schultz Fire flooding

Schultz Fire Flooding, courtesy of Jim Anderson Photography

The recent flooding in the Flagstaff area related to the soil damage from the Schultz Fire has resulted in emergency response from professionals and volunteers alike to help home owners in their time of need.   This response is a wonderful example of how our community can come together very quickly.  Yet the conditions under which people have been working are not without risk to personal health and safety.

The Coconino County Health Department has identified the presence of coliform bacteria and E. coli in the flood waters of the Timberline area increasing the risk of intestinal diseases and hepatitis A.   Additionally, the naturally occurring presence of the bacterium Clostridium tetani in soil has also caused health officials to be concerned of the increased risk of tetanus.

While the intestinal diseases are more along the lines of regular food poisoning, with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, the more severe illnesses are the hepatitis A and tetanus.

Hepatitis A is an infection from a virus from the picornavirus family.  The virus infects liver cells  and causes inflammation of the liver (hepatitis).   Infection comes from the ingestion of things contaminated with fecal matter, including water.  How this might happen in the flooded areas in in the flood waters come in contact with home septic systems and become contaminated with fecal matter.  If a volunteer working in or around contaminated water inadvertently touches his or her mouth with a hand that’s been exposed to the contaminated water, the virus can enter that person’s blood stream and infect them.  The hepatitis A virus is very stable and can survive on hands for several hours and up to two months on dry surfaces.

Hepatitis A may not cause any symptoms other than feeling “a little off”, especially in children.  For most people, symptoms usually begin 15 to 30 days after exposure and include muscle ache, headache, loss of appetite, abdominal cramping, fever and malaise.   A few days later, jaundice develops.  Jaundice is the yellowing of skin, eyes and mucus membranes as bile from the infected liver begins to flow into the blood stream.  There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A other than to ensure adequate nutrition and rest to prevent permanent liver damage.

Tetanus is a condition also known as “lockjaw” because it’s primary characteristic is the involuntary and prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle tissue.   These contractions are a response to the neurotoxin produced by the spores of the tetanus bacteria once they infiltrate deep into the body through a cut or puncture wound.  While many people associate tetanus with “rusty nails”, the spores of the tetanus bacteria can be found nearly  anywhere, including soil.  The rust on the nail simply provides a convenient hiding place for the spores and the nail an effective mechanism to deliver the spoors deep into the tissue.

While tetanus can be treated, the process can be lengthy and its effectiveness is not assured.   In severe cases, tetanus can be fatal, despite treatment.

The best defense for both hepatitis A and tetanus is prevention.  There are effective vaccines for both conditions and people who live or are volunteering in the flood affected areas are urged to receive free vaccinations of both hepititis A and tetanus.    The Coconino County Health Department  is providing free vaccinations through Friday August 6th  to residents, volunteers and field workers in the Schultz Fire flood area.   Vaccinations will be offered at the Health Department on King Street and at Cromer Elementary School.

More information about the vaccines is available from the Coconino County Health Department at (928) 679-7222 or at their website by clicking here.

- Paul Kulpinski, LMT
Mountain Waves Healing Arts

Resources:

Coconino County

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Suite 101 – Microbiology

About Hepatitis

Mayo Clinic

Tetanus

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Naps: The Secret Ingredient to Health

I promise to do more afternoon napping.   What a wonderful thing.  The health benefits of napping are irrefutable. We require them of our children and yet in our society, an adult taking an afternoon nap is frowned upon.  Think of all of the phrases we have to denote laziness like  “sleeping on the job”.  You get “caught” napping.   And when you get “caught” you’ll rarely receive praise for doing so.   Adults tend to avoid naps because they are associated with someone being sick, depressed or just downright lazy.

The truth is that short afternoon naps are the best way to remedy daytime fatigue according the the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University.    Most mammals sleep in short spans spread through out the day and night.  The human species has adopted a habit of consolidating all of that sleep into one long span of about 7-8 hours per night.   Research has demonstrated that the circadian rhythm of our bodies is programmed to allow for two periods of intense sleep:  one from about 2am – 4am and the other from about 1pm – 3pm.  This cycle is not influenced by the lunch-time meal.  So to claim that the feeling of drowsiness is the result of what you ate for lunch is a fallacy.

So let’s take advantage of our natural desire to rest in the afternoon.   While I despise the term “power nap”, I do believe that it’s best to do a little planning around how to take your afternoon siesta in order to achieve the maximum benefit.

First you need to choose the length of your nap to avoid waking feeling groggy.  This is because of the natural cycles that you experience during sleep.   A full sleep cycle lasts for about 90 minutes.  The second half of the cycle (after about 45 minutes in), produces the deepest stages of sleep.  That’s why you’ll want to take a nap that is less than 45 minutes, or longer than 90 minutes to avoid waking in the middle of the deep states of 3 and 4 stage sleep.

Sleep researchers have found that the shorter nap (even those as short as 20 minutes) will increase alertness and concentration upon waking.  The longer naps beyond 90 minutes with the slow wave REM sleep will enhance creativity.  So you might also consider the desired effect you wish to achieve from your nap to help determine the length of the nap.

The most ideal place for a nap is a safe, quiet and comfortable place where you can lie down.  It takes about 50% longer to fall asleep when you are sitting.  Have a light blanket on hand to avoid becoming chilled.  Don’t make yourself too warm or you might oversleep.  If oversleeping worries you, use an alarm clock.

If you find it difficult to relax enough to get to sleep during the afternoon, consider playing a soundtrack of nature sounds, gentle music or white noise.   You might also use an eye cover to block out any excess light during your nap.

Still think that naps are for wimps?  Then consider this:  research on airline pilots demonstrated that a simple 20 minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 54%.  Napping also reduces stress, lowers the risk of many common diseases like heart attack, stroke, diabetes and weight gain.   Healthy adults on average can achieve full rest with a total of 7-8 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.  However,  your age and general health condition does affect the amount of sleep needed to be fully rested.   Click here to see how much sleep you need.

If you think your getting enough sleep, then take the Sheep Dash test which is a fun way to measure your reaction time related to how rested your are.  You might be surprised.

Once you see your results with the Sheep Dash, consider planning in a 30 minute nap 2-3 times per week into your afternoons.   If your still struggling with the idea of loafing during the day, then instead of napping consider doing a 30 minute meditation.    You might find that a little laziness goes a long way to being more productive!  Sweet dreams!

- Paul Kulpinski, LMT

References:

The Sleep Research Centre

HelpGuide.org

The Boston Globe

7 Simple Rules for How to Take a Nap

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The Dismissed Dandelion

Dandelion FlowerMy mother, a horticulturalist, often reminds me that a “weed” is a plant growing in a place where you don’t want it to grow.  By that definition, any plant could be a weed.   For most people however, a weed is a valueless plant of which the perfect example is the dandelion.  At best people consider it a “beneficial weed“.  If we only knew – or at least remembered – what our ancestors knew about this herb, we might take a second look at what’s growing in the cracks of the sidewalk.

What our ancestors knew is that dandelions are powerful herbal medicine.   The oldest mentions of the dandelion was in the 10th and 11th centuries by Arabian physicians.   Traditionally, the dandelion leaf and root have been used to treat disorders of the liver, gall bladder and kidney.   Preparations of dandelion were employed as a tonic for poor digestion and rheumatism.

What we know today is that the dandelion leaves are diuretic which can aid in kidney and urinary conditions, but at the same time are high in potassium which is a mineral that is eliminated by the kidneys especially with increased urination.   The leaves and root have also been shown to increase bile production of the gall bladder by up to 40%.   (One note of caution, because of this dandelion should not be used if bile ducts are blocked and should only be used under the supervision of a physician when gall stones are present.)

We also know that the dandelion root is a mild laxative which can help in sluggish digestion and is also anti-inflammatory which can help with the irritation of the connective tissue of rheumatism and fibromyalgia.

Dandelion leaves are rich in many vitamins and minerals – and with some minerals even out supply spinach in nutrients!  For example, a cup of dandelion leaves provides 112% of the USDA recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A (more than carrots), 32% of Vitamin C, and 535% of Vitamin K.

The plant is a perennial – which means that the same root will produce a plant season after season.  The entire plant is edible with its bitterness varying through out the season.  For example, the leaves are best harvested early in the spring or when the first young leaves of the plant emerge, before the flowers appear.  As the leaves get older during the summer, they are increasingly bitter which is a turn-off for the tastes of most people.  Later in the fall, after a frost, the leaves again lose much of their bitterness and can be harvested again.

The leaves can be used raw to compliment salads or sauteed with other greens or vegetables.  Boiling the leaves first will also help to make them more mild tasting, but will also leach out much of their nutrients.

The yellow flowers of the dandelion are also edible.  Stick to the yellow leaves and remove any of the green parts of the base of the flower and the stem.   Many people eat them raw in salads or saute them as with the leaves.  But another variation is to batter them and fry them just as you might with a squash flower.   The flower can also be brewed into an herbal tea or even fermented into a dandelion wine.  In Japan, pickled dandelion flower is quite common.

The root is best harvested in the fall when it is at its highest nutrient content and the least bitter.  It can be cooked much like any other root vegetable, in stews and soups as well as roasted.  In fact, the roasted root can then be ground and brewed as a coffee substitute!  It is said that the taste is nearly identical to coffee, without the caffeine.

From my mother’s perspective as a horticulturalist, the dandelion is a beneficial plant to other crops.  First, the flowers are highly attractive to honey bees which use the pollen to make honey.  Additionally, the strong tap root can help break up dense soil and aid more shallow rooted plants, like tomatoes, gain deeper purchase into the softened soil.  Additionally, dandelions tend to increase surface soil fertility, not decrease it as the deep tap root draws nutrients up from the deeper layers of earth thereby benefiting neighboring plants, not competing with them.

So before you reach for the weed-killer the next time you step over a dandelion, take a second look at this amazing plant.   Hopefully, you might instead reach for the scissors and harvest some leaves or flowers and try them during your next meal.

- Paul Kulpinski, LMT

Resources:

Botanical.com

Common Dandelion

Encyclopedia of Herbs

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Wikipedia

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The Pain of Losing Weight

It’s a myth that Americans are obsessed with losing weight, according to Benjamin Radford.   He says that “if Americans were truly committed to getting fit and losing weight, they would eat less and exercise more”.   Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  In fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2004 that two thirds of Americans are overweight, while only one third of Americans get regular exercise.

This underscores Radford’s point, that American’s really aren’t interested in losing weight.  In his article Fat and Happy:  Why Most People Don’t Diet, he cites a 2002 Glamour magazine survey of over 11,000 readers who were asked what they would be willing to give up to lose weight permanently.  The findings:  75% would not give up eating dessert, 41% would not pay $3000 to be permanently thin, and 25% would not give up anything to lose weight.

What’s concerning is how this attitude is affecting the rise in childhood obesity.   Results from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey showed that children will eat what their parents eat.  Surprised?  More specifically:

- Teens are 40% more likely to drink soda every day if their parents do the same.

- Teens are 16% more likely to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables if their parents do the same.

- 48% of the teens who have parents that drink soda daily also eat fast food at least once a day.  Of the teens whose parents did not drink soda daily, only 39% of them ate fast food daily.

- 45% of the teens whose parents did not eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables ate fast food daily.   Only 39% of the teens whose parents eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables reported eating fast food daily.

This year, the CDC reported that 37% of children (age 2 – 19) are over weight and 16% of them are obese which puts them at a higher risk for health issues like type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  What’s more alarming is that 50% of those children became overweight before reaching the age of 2 and 90% by age 5!

The lead researcher in this study, Dr. John Harrington says, “this study indicates that we may need to discuss inappropriate weight gain early in infancy to affect meaningful changes in the current trend of obesity”.

But it seems that it’s just too painful for adults to do that, for themselves and for their children.

Results from a study published in this month’s issue of Clinical Pediatrics, show that 71% of parents have a false perception of their child’s weight.   Of the 150 children aged 2 – 5 years participating in the study, about 1/3 of them were overweight or obese, yet 85% of all of the parents reported their child as being “about the right weight” to a written question.  Researchers also used drawings of various body sizes and asked parents to identify the body size that most closely matched their child.  20% of the parents with overweight or obese children actually chose the drawing representing a body that was below healthy body weight!

Who are we fooling here folks?  It’s time to get brutally honest with ourselves about our relationship to food and our avoidance of exercise.  We keep looking for the cause of our overweight condition around us, instead of looking into the mirror to avoid the pain of the current reality.  But facing that reality is the first step to making new choices in the moment.  Not only do we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children to recognize the outcome of our food and exercise choices.

The good news is, you can begin making new choices right now – once the pain of staying overweight begins to outweigh your fear of the pain of exercising and changing your choice of foods.

- Paul Kulpinski, LMT

Resources:

Parents Lowball Heavy Tots’ Weight

Parents Blamed for Childhood Obesity

Fat and Happy:  Why Most People Don’t Diet

Chubby Babies May Become Obese Teens

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Something to Drink with That?

Last week I wrote about the need to properly chew your food to aid in complete digestion.  One of the important parts of chewing your food is to allow the enzymes in your saliva to begin breaking down the molecules in the food to prepare it for digestion in the stomach.  As I was researching this, the question that kept coming up for me was what is the effect on digestion when you drink a beverage with a meal?  Think about it, while the beverage is usually an after thought:  “would you like something to drink with that?”, they are usually inseparable:  milk and cookies; coffee and donuts; tea and scones; 64 oz soda and a burger with fries.   So what does the milk do when we try to digest the cookie?  So this week, I went in search of an answer.

While I love milk and cookies, I’m usually a water drinker with meals.  So in order to simplify my task, I chose to research the effect of water on digestion.  How simple could that be, right?  Wrong!

It turns out that there is no clear consensus on the effect of drinking water – or any beverage for that matter – with a meal.  There are some that say don’t do it.  There are others who say it doesn’t matter.  Even my physiology text book just glosses over the ingestion of water in the stomach and mentions that the small intestine absorbs liquids and any that is left over is absorbed in the large intestine.   Big help.

Bleary eyed, I had to venture back into the realm of chemistry, not one of my favorite subjects.   We digest our food though two mechanisms, mechanical – chewing, stomach churning, etc – and chemical.  In the stomach, the chemical process of digestion occurs with the production of gastric juice which is a highly acidic liquid that contains digestive enzymes, mucus and hydrochloric acid.  Its job is to begin the digestion of proteins and kill any bacteria that may have entered along with your food.

The production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach comes from the synthesis and combination of chloride and hydrogen ions.  (Watch it happen here)  Regardless, the gastric juice is highly acidic, in the range of pH of about 1-2.   Water has a pH of about 7 on average, making it neutral, but more basic than gastric juice.  So it stands to reason that if you drink water, the gastric juice becomes less acidic as it is watered down and therefore less effective in digestion.  However, the stomach will react to the dilution by producing more gastric juice to balance the pH to the proper acidic level.  So I don’t believe that water in the stomach creates any problem with digestion.

Where water (or any beverage for that matter) can have an effect is back up in the mouth.   It would stand to reason that drinking a beverage would also dilute the effectiveness of saliva on its ability to break down the molecules in the food and that additional saliva production would be ineffective, since the food remains in the mouth for a relatively short time.  More importantly, in the act of chewing, saliva production is increased and actually eliminates the need for a beverage to “wash the food down”.

Yet, when we use a beverage in this fashion, not only do we loose the benefit of the chemical digestive action of the saliva, we are also more likely to swallow larger chunks of food that have not been properly chewed thereby setting up the potential for increased symptoms of indigestion farther down the line.

So my conclusions to all of this is to first maintain proper hydration by drinking plenty of water through out the day.  Then, drink a beverage (preferabally water) in between bites.  That means, chew your food well until you can’t distinguish what you are chewing by the textures in your mouth, then swallow.  After that,  feel free to rinse your mouth with a sip of water or what ever beverage you’ve chosen.  Avoid the temptation to fill up your mouth with food and then hope to dilute it with a drink in order to choke it down in one gulp.  That’s a recipe for a belly ache!

- Paul Kulpinski, LMT

Additional References:

Structure and Function of the Body, Eleventh Edition,  Thibodeau, Gary A & Kevin T. Patton.

MadSci Network

Chemistry Explained

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Chew on This!

When does your body begin digesting the food that you eat?

For many people, their first reaction is to say something like “oh, about an hour after eating”.   At first this may seem to make sense, after all isn’t that what that rule about no swimming for an hour after eating is all about?

The truth is that digestion begins the moment you put your food into your mouth.  The mouth, teeth and saliva are the first step in the lengthy digestion process.  But as the typical answer to the question above illustrates, we tend to see food in our mouth as eating and everything else after swallowing as digestion.

The digestive process involves both voluntary action and involuntary action.  Swallowing is voluntary, but everything after is involuntary through the automatic process of our stomach, large and small intestines, pancreas, liver and gall bladder.   Its during this voluntary part of digestion where poor habits create problems down the line.

Choking is one of the first problems that can arise because of poor chewing habits.  More than 10,000 children under the age of 14 wind up in the emergency room each year because of it – about 1700 of them are from choking on hot dogs alone.  It’s such a problem that the American Academy of Pediatrics have called for hot dog manufacturers to redesign the shape and texture of the death-tubes into something less lethal – ingredients not withstanding.

While I’m not trying to promote hot dogs here, maybe the problem isn’t with the food, but rather how we eat it.   It seems to me that the choking problem is best addressed by teaching our children how to chew.

Digestion is a complex process.  Chewing starts that process by grinding food into small bits, creating more surface area for the enzymes in saliva to do their job.  Salivary amylase and lingual lipase are both enzymes in your saliva that begin uncoupling carbohydrate and fat molecules respectively while the food is still in your mouth!  The more you chew, the longer the food is exposed to these powerful enzymes and the more complete your digestion will be.  Additionally, saliva lubricates the esophagus, making swallowing easier.

When you try to swallow with minimal chewing, assuming it made it to your stomach without choking, the larger food pieces are too big to be broken down farther by the stomach.  As they travel through the rest of the small and large intestine, they become breeding grounds for excess bacteria which can produce gas, bloating, cramping and other symptoms of indigestion.

Research has revealed that the simple act of chewing triggers the brain to release hormones that activate the other organs of the digestive system so they are ready to receive the food you are about to swallow.  The stomach begins secreting hydrochloric acid, the pancreas puts other enzymes and bicarbonate on stand-by for secretion into the small intestine all while the food is still being chewed in your mouth.   Digestion is a “de-assembly line” that is carefully coordinated, where one stage is dependent upon the previous stage for it all to work properly.   Trying to rush it by inhaling your food without enough chewing is like showing up early to a house party while the hosts are still in the shower.

While the old wisdom of my grandmother to chew 40 times before swallowing has some merit, each type of food will require a different amount of chewing.  For example, yogurt requires a whole lot less chewing than broccoli (yes you should chew your yogurt, re-read the previous paragraph again).   Most experts agree that  you’ve chewed enough when you can no longer identify the food in your mouth by its texture.  If you’re chewing on a ham sandwich with lettuce and tomato and you can still distinguish between the meat, bread, lettuce and the tomato, then keep chewing.

Not only will you experience better digestion and the resulting better absorption of the nutrition, but you’ll enjoy your food by experiencing the complex tastes that are unlocked in your mouth by your teeth and saliva.  But that also requires that you pay attention to what you are eating and how you are eating it.   Maybe that’s the real key to chewing, being mindful while you are eating.

If we teach our children to pay attention to what they are eating and eliminate competing distractions while they are eating, then maybe the number of food related choking incidents can be reduced and the people at the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council can sleep better at night not having to worry about how to redesign the shape of a hot dog.  Bon appetit.

- Paul Kulpinski, LMT

References:

Your Digestive System and How It Works

The World’s Healthiest Foods

Macrobiotic Guide

FitSugar

AskDrSears.com

USAToday

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Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Parents

By the nature of my profession, I’m a caregiver.  While I have professional experience in care giving, I do have personal experience as well.  I have children and know what it means to care for their safety, health and well being, but I have, thankfully, yet to experience what it feels like to provide 24/7 care for the safety, health and well being of my parents.   My experience with caring for an adult relative is limited to some short term care for my grandfather  while he was bed-ridden for a couple of months in the home of my parents shortly before he died.  Sure I assisted him with eating, staying comfortable and even changing diapers from time to time, but his regular care was really on the shoulders of my parents – I guess my role was more of the way grandparents relate toward grandchildren:  love them and then give them back to the parents when they’re tired of participating.  So it’s safe to say that I’m no expert in understanding the complex emotions of caring for one’s aging parents full time, yet I believe that I have understanding in how to be a care giver and maintain your own well being.  That’s what I hope to help you with in this blog posting.

Many care givers report feeling overwhelmed by burnout after a while.   While it might be tempting to say that this is only natural, I would contend that burnout doesn’t have to be the norm.  Burnout comes from the feeling of being depleted of your personal energy which prevents you from to continuing on.   Burnout implies that you’ve taken your accumulated personal energy and expended it on the person you are caring for.   I have found that this is a mistake to care for someone in this way.  Your energy is for you.  In order to care for another for any length of time, you need to become aware of and enhance your ability to channel and direct the life energy that exists freely in nature toward the person you are caring for, without tapping into your own store of life energy.

Let me explain it this way.   Someone’s house is burning, so the fire department is called and the fire truck arrives (that’s you, the caregiver).   On the fire truck, there’s a tank of water (your personal energy).  But the tank on the truck can only hold 500 gallons of water, not nearly enough to put the house fire out.  It might be enough to get the first hose line filled with water and make a start on the attack, but the house will keep burning  and the water on the truck will run out unless a bigger source of water is tapped.  That’s what happens when someone feels burnout – they’ve used up their 500 gallons.  The fire department knows this so they’ve conveniently placed fire hydrants through out the town to provide them with that limitless supply of water (the life energy in nature).  So the firefighters connect the truck to the fire hydrant and then water flows and flows, never even drawing on the 500 gallons of water that came with the truck!   After some time and effort, the fire is put out.

At this point you might be thinking, I didn’t even know that I could do this let alone know where to find a fire hydrant to plug into.  Where do I start?   The first step is in developing a daily practice of centering, grounding, being in the moment or what ever you want to call it.  It is in this daily practice that you become familiar with your energy and sensing the energy that exists all around you.  Some people experience this energy as a shiver, or an electrical tingle, or a buzz – it’s unique to you and with regular practice you’ll discover how it feels for you.  But more importantly, you’ll begin to recognize what is your energy and what is the energy of another.  This also applies to knowing what you are feeling emotionally and recognizing when you are being influenced by the emotion of another.  This is important in care giving because while you are caring for another, your emotional and energetic fields can easily become entangled with the person you are caring for.  When you are finished providing care, you need to be able to untangle your energy from the other so that you finish with the energy you started (a full tank of water).  Many care givers unknowingly leave some or all of their energy with the person they are caring for and even worse, may at times take some of the energy of the other person with them!  It’s important to start and finish your day with a clean emotional and energetic field in order to preserve your own health.

You’ll have to find your own way to discovering how your energy feels to you.   This process is what can be described as spirituality, which is your relationship to the divine (in what ever form that means to you).   You might find that spiritual connection through your religious practice, yoga, exercise, meditation, or something like mindfulness based stress reduction.  It’ll be unique to you and you are the only one who can say what is the correct avenue to explore it.  But I encourage you to begin exploring today, because if you are in the middle of caring for an elderly parent you need it now more than ever.  If you are fortunate enough not to need to provide care to your parents, begin your practice now and practice, practice, practice.  You’ll likely need it at sometime in the future.

Discovering your spiritual connection requires time-off from providing care.  If you are presently caring for someone, that may seem like a “Catch-22″.  That’s why it’s important that as a care giver you have a support network that can step in to relieve you so you can restore yourself.  Back to the fire truck example, even if your tank stays full, you still need to change out the hoses and clean the dirt off the truck from time to time so it can function flawlessly.   Look at it this way.  When you are at the beach, there is a lifeguard on the stand watching over you while you swim, ready to dive into the crashing surf and pull you out at a moment’s notice if you get into trouble.   Well, at some point that life guard had to train to learn the skills of saving people from the water.  That lifeguard had to exercise and physically condition him/herself to be capable in the physical challenges of the job.  They had to get plenty of rest the night before so they are ready at a moments notice.   All of this had to happen when they are not on the lifeguard stand, which means while they were training and conditioning and sleeping, someone else had to be on the lifeguard stand!   The lifeguard has a support network so that while they are restoring themselves, someone else is on duty and when they are on duty the other guard is training, conditioning and sleeping.  The same goes for you as a care giver.  You can’t be on the guard stand 24/7.  That’s the fact that you’ll have to accept for yourself.   The quality of your care giving will suffer if you try to stay on duty all of the time.

Finally (and I believe that this is the most difficult part for most), is that you can’t be vested in the outcome.   The firefighter knows that he/she didn’t start the fire, they are there to help put it out and whether they help or not the fire will go out at some point.   As for caring for an aging parent, care giving involves recognizing that it’s not about me as a caregiver.  As a caregiver, I can only provide the best care within the limits of my ability and have to recognize that my ability is not a reflection on my level of love or respect for the person I am caring for.   The caregiver needs to remember that they didn’t create the condition that the person they are caring for is experiencing, but they are there to help and whether they help or not the situation will end at some point.  There is also no shame in calling for reinforcements maybe with more skilled care on site or even in a facility that can provide better care than you are able to.    Sometimes making that decision is the best care you can provide someone.

Below are some other resources that you might find useful in helping you maintain a balance for yourself and your own life while providing care for another.  My best wishes in your efforts.

- Paul Kulpinski, LMT

5 Ways to Ease the Stress of Caring for an Aging Parent

Caring for Elderly Parents:  5 Tips for Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

Keeping Love Alive While Caring for Aging Parents

Staying Sane When Caring for The Disabled

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