Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What is a Health Maven?

To the right of this post you will see a Health Maven Badge that was given to me by Wellsphere. Wellsphere’s Health Mavens provide free answers to millions of health seekers

In these difficult economic times, it’s comforting to know there are medical and patient experts out there who care enough to answer health questions online for free. Dr. Geoff Rutledge, MD PhD, Wellsphere’s Chief Medical Information Officer, told reporters today about the new Health Maven Program, which connects volunteer doctors, psychologists, nurses, personal trainers, expert-patients and other experts with health seekers who are looking for answers. Anyone with access to the Internet can get their health questions and concerns answered quickly and at no cost at

Health mavens are carefully selected, knowledgeable, health experts who are committed to helping others live healthier, happier lives. Hundreds of Health Mavens have volunteered to join the program and answer questions, with new Mavens signing up every day. “We’re witnessing an incredible growth in the number of people using the Internet to find health information” said Wellsphere’s CEO Ron Gutman. According to an iCrossing research repot, for the first time in history people with health questions are more likely to turn to the Web for answers than to their doctor. “Recognizing this trend among our users, we assembled the world’s leading network of over 1,800 medical and patient experts to share their experiences and expertise with’s almost 3 million monthly visitors. We are humbled by the experience, expertise and genuine care these wonderful individuals share every day with people who come to Wellsphere looking for answers” said Gutman.

In addition to providing a wonderful service to people seeking answers to their health questions, the Health Maven program allows participating medical professionals and patient experts to broaden their impact by sharing their experiences and expertise with a much wider audience, and to get the recognition they deserve. Here are a few of their comments:

"Being a Health Maven gives me the opportunity to interact directly with the Wellsphere community. It's been a lot of fun and professionally it's incredibly rewarding." - Melissa McCreery, PhD

"Wellsphere has taken caring to a new level and I'm glad to be a part of it," - Kathleen Blanchard, RN

"I enjoy being a maven - it seems that doling out advice and answering questions seems to be my calling in life." - Lynn Dorman, PhD

To find out more about the Health Maven program, please visit

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Coping as a family caregiver

When your family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the long journey begins. Often times people are in the early stage of Alzheimer's disease long before they are diagnosed. You are dealing with your own issues and your plans get put on hold and suddenly you find yourself dealing with their problems and wondering when you are going to get your life back.

As time goes by things will begin to get increasingly difficult and unpredictable, You don't know how the condition would progress so you begin living one day at a time and make the most of it. Caregiving is hard work, and it will begin to affect you emotionally, mentally, physically and socially. At times you will find yourself having to deal with anger and frustration and the other emotions that go along with them.The stress and the fatigue will make you become depressed. Crisis after crisis will arise, but you can't let yourself go. If you are not taking care of your needs, and you are eating a poor diet because you are not finding time to eat, sleep deprivation becomes an issue. All of this is a recipe for sickness. there are time when you will begin to experience exhaustion.

The most difficult day comes when your loved one no longer recognizes who you are. Don't become discouraged if they seem afraid of you or treats you like a stranger, it is because they don't recognize who you are any longer and is unsure of your intentions towards them.
Remember it's nothing personal they are acting out of fear and uncertainty. Dealing with memory loss can become very trying because you will be asked the same questions over and over and they will tell you the same thing over and over. Try to have patience and be humorous and take everything in stride.

When caring for your Alzheimer's patient it is very easy to let go of your former life,
given the many responsibilities you are juggling. Shutting yourself away might seem like the best thing to do as your loved one disease progresses and requires more care and attention.
It is common among caregivers exposed to stress to isolate themselves. But isolating yourself is not good, your mental and physical health suffers. Interacting with others helps you to see things differently and you tend to find solutions to your problems much more easily. Your problems can seem worse if you don't have anyone to discuss them with.

Stay in touch with family and friends and make friends with other Alzheimer's caregivers and especially former caregivers who have traveled that road before. If someone offers to help don't say no and don't be shy about asking for help when your responsibilities seems overwhelming. Why won't you accept help offered? Are you self conscious or perhaps ashamed of your loved ones condition? As you interact with other caregivers you will find out that what seems strange to you is a norm for Alzheimer's patients.

So if you have been isolating yourself its time to change that, because it has long term effects.
When you have lived in isolation while taking care of your loved one, after they would have passed away you continue to live that way because it has become the norm for you.
It takes Herculean effort to break out of that pattern, so stay connected. its the best thing you can do for yourself.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Caregiver Survival - Don't Be Manipulated by "Shoulds"

As the number of people diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness increases; the army of caregivers will increase. There is a continuum of caregiver roles from part-time help to round the clock caregiving. Caregivers are often family members until a time comes that the patient is too ill or too difficult to handle on a daily basis. Caregivers are vulnerable and manipulation is one of the big traps experienced by caregivers.

You would think that at the moment the patient got sick caregivers are put into a hypnotic trance abandoning their sense of free will. Everyone knows that the caregiver enters the role with one intention, helping the patient get well and maintain the highest quality of life. The manipulation comes in when the patient and the community superimposes the word "should" on the actions of the caregiver. In a never ending effort to provide the best possible care caregivers will often abandon their instinct for what is the right thing to do with an unspoken majority vote from other family member and friends.

As the primary caregiver you know the person best. You understand the illness, have probably accompanied the patient to doctor visits so you have the big picture and you make decisions based on that information.

Being a caregiver is different from parenting another person. No one needs another mother or father, but when the patient takes on the role of helpless victim, the caregiver is often expected to pick up the slack. This doesn't serve the patient or the caregiver. Part of the role of the caregiver is to be a catalyst for action. It's about helping the patient stay engaged in life, not just doing their laundry or cooking or meal.

Caregivers are often manipulated into being indentured servants. Remember this is an equal relationship. You're matching the patients need with your desire and willingness to help. Volunteer caregiving, as in the case of family members, is very different from paid caregiving. Paid caregivers, unless the patient is hostile or overly demanding are not there to have a voice, they are there to make the patients life easier. Volunteer caregivers have other motivations and sometimes love and duty are the downfall of the family caregiver.

Avoid manipulation by keeping open communication with the patient's healthcare team. Ask them what the patient should be capable of accomplishing on their own and let them do it. Don't try and "save" the patient. Manipulation needs to stop before it starts. It's a very difficult cycle to break out of and unfortunately it creates an unhealthy dependency on the part of the patient. There may come a time in the disease process when that dependency is warranted, but make it the exception not the norm.

As a caregiver you have been enlisted to be a part of the patient's journey to wellness. It's easy for caregivers to fall prey to the "shoulds" that family and friends offer as loving suggestions. If that's how friends and family feel, then allow them to provide that part of the caregiving. Stick to your guns because it's your relationship with the patient and healthcare team that should be driving the caregiving bus, not public opinion.

Caregiving is a difficult task; make it easier by receiving our special report "The 5 Pillars of Health and Healing. As a special bonus receive the multimedia program "Instilling Hope for Health" The report and multimedia program are FREE, make your caregiving experience easier and from a place of love not obligation, go to


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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Caregiving Etiquette - Ten Do's and Don'ts

Moving through the caregiving world with grace and ease is no simple skill. However, having good manners will carry you a long way.As a caregiver we spend our day interacting with family members, friends, and everyone on the Care Team.

Common sense tells you that the people you are closest to warrant an extra measure of consideration. It takes good manners to sustain the love and respect between caregiver and care-receiver.


1. Encourage family members and friends to show respect and deference to the care-receiver. For example, the care-receiver's visitors should be treated politely as honored guests.

Noise from the TV, radio, etc., should be kept to a minimum. The care-receiver's rest hour should be respected. Telephone messages should be carefully taken, and mail given to him/her unopened.

2. Preserve the care-receiver's feelings of independence. It is important that the care-receiver have control of her/his own money-as long as she/he is capable of managing it.

3. Use your imagination and put yourself in the care-receiver' shoes. Be understanding and find a way to harness your frustrations.

4. Focus on the care-receiver's needs and not your own. Talk to your parent. Try to understand how he/she sees it.

5. Let go of unreasonable hopes. Recognize that your parent won't or can't change.

6. Express warmth and concern toward the care-receiver. This is especially important when the care-receiver has a poor self-image and many feelings of inferiority. A good caregiver must provide reassurance.

7. Be a good listener. Many times the care-receiver may simply want you to listen.

8. Smile a lot. Be a good friend and companion.

9. Keep confidences. Avoid repeating matters that will not be welcomed by others.

10. Maintain your self-composure and avoid stress. Practice your coping skills in order to maintain your composure and balance.


1. Don't treat your parent like a child. Even if your parent reverts to childlike behavior, he/she always needs to be treated with respect and dignity.

As the parent's dependence increases, it is natural for adult children to find themselves unable to communicate in familiar ways.

2. Don't criticize the care-receiver for occasional forgetfulness and other signs of growing older.

3. Don't take sides with other family members in disputes or arguments. It is better to be known as someone who is fair and noninterfering.

4. Don't let an angry situation become emotionally or physically abusive. Step out of the room for a cool down. Seek outside help.

5. Don't neglect the care-receiver. Make sure your parent gets to all appointments, takes medications as scheduled.

6. Don't discourage the help of others. There can never be too much help.

7. Don't assume that the care-receiver has nothing to contribute.

8. Don't compare what you are doing to what everyone else is doing. Every job in a caregiving situation is important.

9. Don't underestimate the power of touch. As people age or their illness progresses, there is less human contact. A hug, kiss or pat on the shoulder can enhance the situation.

10. Don't treat your parent/family member like an alien. When there are several persons in the room be sure to include the care-receiver in the conversation. Do not talk about him/her in the third person as if he/she wasn't in the room.

A good caregiver is genuine and cares about the dignity, welfare, and feelings of their care-receiver. Good manners are based on good character, which translates to kindness and compassion.

Rebecca Colmer is eldercare advocate, author, speaker, publisher and caregiver. For more caregiving tools, visit Caregiving Tools

Article Source: Ezine Articles Expert-Rebecca Sharp Colmer

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