This has been a complex year; downright difficult for many people.
Yet this is a season of hope and joy. (Not the happy, exuberant, all is perfect kind of joy; the hope in the one-true-God type of joy).
“Joy isn’t like happiness which is based upon happenings or whether things are going well or not. No, joy remains even amidst the suffering. Joy is not happiness. Joy is an emotion that’s acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful. It could be described as exhilaration, delight, sheer gladness, and can result from a great success or a very beautiful or wonderful experience like a wedding or graduation but the definition of joy that the world holds is not nearly as amazing as biblical joy but joy is also gift.”
Why is Christmas so special? Christmas is the birth of the joy and a demonstration of God’s love for each of us:
For those who lost loved-ones who were senselessly murdered
His love endures forever
For those whose loved ones were killed in the hurricanes
His love endures forever
For those whose loved ones were killed in the fires
His love endures forever
For those who lost loved ones from any means
His love endures forever
For those whose lives were turned upside down by natural disasters
His love endures forever
For those who experienced major disappointments
His love endures forever
For those who are disillusioned by the political divide in this country and elsewhere
His love endures forever
For those who are disgusted by the reports of harassment
His love endures forever
For those who feel like they are spiraling out of control
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are going to face terrible trials in this life. No one is exempt. Yet we are given countless opportunities in this life to experience God’s never-ending love. That is where we find the peace and joy.
We need a hero! People are dying at alarming rates. Who is your favorite superhero? Have you ever dreamed of being a superhero? Can you picture yourself as a hero? [I’m curious, in your vision, are you wearing a superhero cape? What color?]
The need for a hero
The rate of overdose and overdose deaths is rising rapidly. It is hard to even fathom this epidemic. In particular, overdose rates with opiates are skyrocketing. Opiates are pain medications such as oxycodone, Percocet®, Oxycontin®, hydrocodone, Vicodin®, methadone, Fentanyl®, and more. An illegal opiate that is readily available is heroin. Now there are batches of heroin that are ‘cut’ with other drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanyl (used to sedate elephants). These mixtures are getting more and more dangerous.
The way these drugs are fatal are that they stop the breathing process. At low doses, for the treatment of pain, most people take prescription opiates and are fine. As the pain lessens, the use of the opiate should lesson. However, for some people the brain starts to beg for more and more. As the brain gets huge amounts of excitement through neurotransmitters such as dopamine, the rest of the body says, ‘Whoa, that is way too much!’ The body stops making its own supply of these neurotransmitters and it shuts down the receptors that move them along. So, it takes bigger and bigger doses to get the same effect. And, if someone suddenly stops taking the drug, withdrawal starts. This is a terrible feeling with nausea, vomiting, chills, agitation, anxiety, muscle aches, yawning, and more.
Not everyone who takes an opiate for their pain will ever feel this rush of excitement and have their brain demand more. One of the many problems right now, is there is no way to know who will get this rush of excitement that can lead to addiction and who won’t. People with a risk for addiction some in every age, gender, size, race, financial pattern, level of education, and geographic area.
There are many available statistics. Here are some from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.
As many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids long term for noncancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction.
Every day, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.
How you can be a hero
To be a hero, you just need to carry and know –
to give Narcan® to someone who has overdosed on an opiate.
Naloxone is a medication that can block the receptors to opiates. When given, it puts the person is immediate withdrawal. If someone has overdosed and is either sound asleep and can’t be woken or has stopped breathing, naloxone can block those receptors and wake them up. If the overdose very recently occurred, it can help breathing start again. Naloxone can save the life of someone who has overdosed!
Outside of a healthcare setting, there are two products regular people are likely to use to save a life.
If you suspect an overdose, try to wake the person. When they don’t respond to shaking and talking to them, try rubbing their breastbone with your knuckles. If no response, TREAT!
The sudden withdrawal from the medication might cause the person to vomit or two be very surprised and angry. It does not feel good to be in sudden withdrawal.
It DOES feel good to be alive!
Call 911 to continue the person’s care and to help them into rehabilitation.
Note, depending on the opiate dose that was taken, after 2-3 minutes the person might need another dose if they go back to sleep. This is SUCH a brief description. Call us to talk about this in more detail at 410-472-5078, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us at www.medsmash.com/contact.
What is our role in this sad, alarming epidemic? Why is this happening? What are so many people struggling with addiction?
Are addicts bad people? Are they being punished? Are they ‘those people’? Before the addiction, were they different from you and your family?
I know many have these opinions about ‘them’.
I challenge you to respond with compassion and love for all people. Until a discovery is made of the ‘addiction gene’ or addiction identifier, each and every person prescribed an opiate beyond the time or dose needed for their pain or experimenting with an opiate could find him/herself instantly struggling with addiction.
I know some of you will disagree with the following, and I would love to hear from you.
I wonder how much of the current opiate addiction overdose epidemic is a sign of our stressed out time and how much is a challenge for us to demonstrate the length we will go to be compassionate and care for each other.
And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
I encourage you to rise to the occasion to show compassion, learn more, and save lives. You can contact me at email@example.com
Now that it is fall, let’s talk about falls. September 22 (or the first official day of fall each year) is national Falls Prevention Awareness Day. This year we have some new resources to learn about and to celebrate.
Every year very unintended falls, those slips that come out of nowhere, lead to deaths, fractures, hospitalizations, and need for assistive devices. In addition, fear of another fall leads to changes in day-to-day activities. One ‘little oops’ can take someone from doing all they want to do to needing assistance and having restrictions. No one wants that.
Falls Risk Factors
Besides snow, ice, and rickety steps there are so many things that can increase your risk for falling. Below are a few.
Those that make you sleepy
Those that relax you or change your mood
Those that make your blood pressure drop too low or too suddenly
Those that make your blood sugar dip too low
Many pain medicines
Any medicine that makes your mouth and eyes really dry
Most of the over-the-counter sleep aids
Anything that makes your legs hurt
Pain in general
In your home
Pets that get under your feet
Vision problems or glasses that don’t fit or aren’t the right prescription
Using a cane, crutches, or walker in the wrong way
Wow, and this is just a partial list!
New Falls Prevention Resources
That is why I am so excited to tell you about some new resources from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). They released last summer the Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries (STEADI) toolkit. The toolkit can be found here: http://www.cdc.gov/steadi/patient.html. You can find a checklist for your home. This will help you identify and fix any risks you might not have known about. There is a checklist to complete before you go to the doctor. It will help your doctor determine how much fall risk you have. The specific resources in the toolkit I encourage you to pull up are:
Stay Independent questionnaire
What Can You do to Prevent Falls brochure
Check for Safety home assessment guide
The STEADI toolkit has now been joined by a new toolkit that focuses more on the role of medications, medical conditions, and your physical function. This toolkit is the result of a collaboration between the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists and the National Council on Aging. This ASCP/NCOA resource was announced on National Falls Prevention Day. It will be first unveiled in a webinar for pharmacists on October 18. You can learn more at the ASCP website.
Also, on the 2016 National Falls Prevention Day, the CDC has released new statistics about the realities of falls in the US. You can learn more here.
Let us provide a comprehensive assessment of your falls risks today! Your preventative steps today can keep you active in the future. You can contact us at www.medsmash.com/contact.
Falling, especially after age 50 can change the course of the rest of your life. No wonder so much effort is put into preventing these falls.
What about falling away from what we’re called to do as Christians? Have you ever done something so terrible you feel like life will never be the same? Have you gotten caught up in activities that you later realize are not what God would want you to do? How far away did you fall?
How did you feel when you realized you had fallen away?
It’s often a big life event that reminds us that we fell away from God. Sometimes it’s an illness or birth of a child or death of a loved one. Sometimes it’s loss of a job or the end of a marriage.
How do you know if you have fallen too far? Could you fall so far that there is no return to God?
It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.
Amazing news! You are saved through amazing grace! There is absolutely nothing you can do that can separate you from God.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, you can fall and hurt your body in a way that can’t always be fixed. But, if you decide to come back, you CAN NOT fall so far away from God that you can’t return. We are so blessed! God is so good!
Image source: National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, United States Department of Health and Human Services
Now we turn to end-of-life care. Last blog we talked about the U-turns available in your life and health. These can help you feel better and live healthier. We learned you can still make changes that have a positive impact on your overall health.
We can’t stop it. We won’t be able to turn it around. There are a number of conditions that at this moment have no cure or way to get rid of them.
When we run out of options, then the end of life becomes our focus. This is peaceful for some. It is frightening and a huge struggle for others. It impacts not only the person diagnosed but also all of their friends and family. Each person involved deals with a number of feelings during this time. There can be guilt, fear, conflict, regret, and grief, among others.
The support of others, education about what is happening, and sources of comfort are critical.
Resources for end-of-life
Following are some resources for everyone involved in end-of-life care.
Support groups – There are support groups for most common diagnoses, for people with the diagnosis and for caregivers and family members, and for various stages of the condition.
Caregiver stress and burden – Caring for a loved one near the end of life can be emotionally and physically exhausting. There are many resources that provide assistance (such as in-home care agencies) or respite (short term stays while the caregiver takes a break).
Caregiver care – A caregiver can’t fully care for their loved one if they don’t also take care of themselves. Emotional, physical, and spiritual health need attention during this demanding time.
Resources – Your community will have various agencies available to provide numerous sources of help. These include direct healthcare, legal guidance, financial aid, spiritual support, placement options, and more. If the person nearing end-of-life is over age 65, your local Agency on Aging could be a valuable source of lists of the resources available in your area.
Palliative care – This is care that is focused on comfort and support to accomplish goals toward the end of life.
Hospice is one form of palliative care. Your hospice organization can support you, provide education about current and future changes, and help you with preparation for all involved.
When the end-of-life can be anticipated (vs suddenly taken), there is an opportunity to prepare and fully live those final months or days.
Most of us grew up before influenza (flu) shots were recommended for nearly everyone. We lived a lot of years just fine without them. Sure, we got sick for about a week sometimes, but we lived through it and got right back on track with our daily lives.
In 2013-14 less than half of eligible people in the country obtained a flu vaccine. For those who were vaccinated, there were 7.2 million fewer people sick with the flu, 3.1 million fewer doctor/clinic visits for flu, and over 90,000 fewer hospitalizations. In particular, there were 55% fewer hospitalizations in people over age 65.
This year (2015-16) the strains of flu covered in the vaccine are even better matched to the dangerous strains expected to cause illness this year. So, this year’s effectiveness will be better than 2014-15.
There are some common beliefs about flu vaccines that are NOT TRUE. Two key myths are:
The flu vaccine will make me get the flu
The flu vaccine causes problems like autism
The TRUTH is:
The flu vaccine is not a live form of the flu virus. It is a killed version that will stimulate your immune system to build resistance against the flu.
Many studies have been done that consistently show vaccines are not the cause of the rising number of children with autism. (Unfortunately the real cause(s) have not been found).
You have some options when getting your flu vaccine.
Regular vaccine in to your upper arm muscle.
High dose vaccine in to your upper arm muscle (approved for people at or over age 65).
Note, there is a live attenuated nasal vaccine. This is for people ages 2-49. There are several reasons why people may not be able to take the nasal vaccine, however, so please talk with us at Meds MASH and/or talk with your doctor about whether this option is good for you.
Be sure to let your doctor and whoever gives your vaccine if you are allergic to EGGS. Note, this is not a reason to avoid vaccination. There is a vaccine you can get. You will be watched more closely for a few minutes after your vaccine.