Parish Nurse Blog

  June 2016

               A welcome to Joe Flynn, PharmD, who will share our healthcare letters to the parish with Judy Gardner, Parish Nurse.  Joe brings an up-to-date perspective on medications and how we can use them responsibly.  We are fortunate to have his expertise published in the Communicator at various times during the year ahead. Welcome, Joe. 


Medications in the Elderly


Taking medications should always be done with caution, weighing risks vs. benefits to ensure the best outcome possible.  This is especially true as we age and our bodies do not process medications in the same manner.  Below I will outline strategies that can be utilized to prevent common mis-steps with medications in the aging population.


Insist on starting low and going slow.  As we age our body does not absorb, distribute, process, or excrete medications as well as in our youth.  It is important that you advocate for yourself when it is decided to start a new medication.  Request that your provider starts at the lowest possible dose and increases at a slow rate when deemed necessary. This will allow you to better understand how the medication will affect you and prevent unwanted side effects.


Help your provider avoid the prescribing cascade.  Medications are started to help treat a symptom.  Those symptoms can be due to a disease or infection but also from another medication.  It is very important to analyze any recently started medications and their common side effects to prevent your provider from adding medication on top of medication.  In many cases the issue can be resolved by removing a medication or decreasing a dose.  (Example: have allergies > take Benadryl > causes urinary retention > get prescribed a new med which causes light-headedness > patient falls and breaks hip > bad situation).


Frequent follow-up and monitoring.  This is important with both new and chronic medications you may have been on for many years.  When starting new medications there may be physical changes that may be expected (mild muscle pain, dry mouth) but there are some severe side effects that cannot be detected without lab work (high potassium, blood too thin). This is why frequent follow-up and monitoring are very important to ensure safety and efficacy.  Many medications are processed and/or excreted by our kidneys.  Kidney function declines as we age, which allows the medication to linger in our system and cause increased side effects. Even if you have been on the same dose for 10 or 20 years the dose may need to be decreased because you are aging.


 I cannot stress enough the importance of being your own advocate.  Healthcare professionals are all human and humans make mistakes.  Limiting these mistakes is of high importance to us all.  One crucial way to limit mistakes is having an accurate and up-to-date medication and allergy list.  This includes all over-the-counter and herbal medications one may be on.  As your medication list grows, the harder it will be to memorize, thus the importance of having a paper copy (or giving one to your loved one) and updating it frequently as changes are made. 


Together we can be a healthier community.


God Bless – Joe Flynn, Pharm D

APRIL 2016

Dear Members and Friends of the Church of the Holy Communion:


“Resolving to take it easier can be a healthier way to live”, quotes an article from The Magazine AARP. It purports that Gandhi once said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” But as we do things faster, are we not more efficient? On the other hand, don’t we sacrifice effectiveness and enjoyment for efficiency?

Please consider these ideas as you read the following Slow-Down Strategies.


Stretch in Bed

Don’t risk a fall by jumping out of bed quickly, becoming light-headed and stumbling.  Better to stretch your legs, bend them toward you and move them side to side, thus loosening hips and hamstrings that get tighter with age.


Take Your Time Brushing

45 seconds is not enough time to brush your teeth.  Dentists agree that you should brush for 2 minutes each time and floss regularly. Brushing quickly means brushing too hard against the gums. Research shows that gum disease is linked to heart disease and dementia. 


Delay Your Morning Coffee

Caffeine boosts your natural Cortisol (your stress hormone).  Because cortisol peaks about 30 minutes after you awake, delay your coffee a couple of hours.  Then have another coffee break in mid-afternoon when you have another cortisol dip. Caffeine improves both cognitive and perceptual motor skills and helps older adults stay focused on a task, as well as navigating crowds.


Strength Training Crucial to Healthy Aging

Keep your muscles, bones and joints strong; improve your balance; and prevent osteoporosis by doing strength training. Using “negative training” (moving slowly and deliberately in easy exercises) works the entire joint structure and results in more strength, stability and range of motion.


Defuse Anger by not Fueling It

Cortisol and Adrenaline are stress hormones that your body pumps out when you’re angry. Slow it down by going for a walk, listening to music, or taking deep breaths.  If everyone disengages for a time, there will be a better outcome.  If you are vexed by an email or tweet, avoid responding quickly.  Better to shut off the message and deal with it later.  Impulse-control does wonders. Write down your thoughts and feelings, in long hand, on paper.  Taking time to think helps you stay centered and healthier.  And that, after all, leads to a longer, happier life.


With love and care,                Judy Gardner, Parish Nurse                    April, 2016

March - 2016

posted Mar 2, 2016, 8:23 AM by Laurie DeGezelle

Dear Members and Friends of the Church of the Holy Communion:


I reread the weather forecast for March and realized we may have an early spring with tumultuous storms and unpredictable temperatures.  However, no matter what the weather brings, we may always enjoy a good book.  All we need to do is pick it up and begin our relaxing trip to another clime or become more aware of our own inner landscape.  The following book reviews are the top picks by Spirituality and Health reviewers for your springtime reading pleasure.


Toomey, C. In Search of Buddha’s Daughters

                        A Modern Journey Down Ancient Roads

    Tracing her journey around the world, the author describes the world of Buddhist nuns in Nepal, Burma, Japan, North America, and Europe.  From practicing kung-fu to accepting literary prizes for erotic fiction, the nuns bring a “sense of defiance” even as they demonstrate resilience and generosity in the face of oppression.  Part travelogue and part Buddhist history, this memoir reflects on the author’s search for personal healing.


Newberg, A. MD & Waldman, M.R. How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain.

    The authors describe five common elements of enlightenment: ”a sense of intensity, unity, clarity, and surrender, and a permanent large-scale change in our awareness, behavior or belief system.”  The authors show great interest and respect for a variety of ways of training the mind and in joining science and spirit. 


Altman, D.  Clearing Emotional Clutter  Mindfulness Practices for Letting Go of                                    What’s Blocking Your Fulfillment and Transformation

    The author is a practicing psychotherapist, a former Buddhist monk, and an adjunct faculty member of the Interpersonal Neurobiology program at Portland State University.  He describes the term, ‘emotional clutter’ to include: “anxiety, road rage, lack of self-acceptance, and a slew of communication and relationship issues.” Combining mindfulness teachings with research findings produces “a useful guide to living our lives in a lighter, less burdened way.”


Covington, D.  Revelation A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World

    A childhood in Birmingham, Alabama, during the American civil-rights movement gave the author first hand experience with “the lasting sensory impressions that violence makes on people.”  His book is filled with personal stories of his life and that of his family, and weaves them with stories of his travels to violent places such as Mexico, Syria, and the American South. Although searching for signs of faith and hope, he observes religious strife and brutality.  He writes of people who believe that life has meaning despite the terror around them. 


With love and care,               Judy Gardner, Parish Nurse                    March, 2016

                        Cohen, Mowe & Wagner( march/april 2016)

Happy New Year!

posted Jan 11, 2016, 12:28 PM by Laurie DeGezelle   [ updated Jan 11, 2016, 12:45 PM ]

Dear Members and Friends of the Church of the Holy Communion:


Happy New Year!  It’s that time of year when we have the opportunity for a fresh start.  I’m working on my New Year’s resolutions.  I hope you are, too.


I just read an article in “O” magazine, entitled “The Science of Success”.  It reviewed a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology that concluded, “Those who set resolutions are more than ten times likelier to sustain a change in behavior than those who do not set yearly objectives”.  Even if you slip up a bit, you may end up further along than if you didn’t try.


Creative Positive Plans


By developing “if-then” plans, you are more likely to succeed in sticking to your resolutions.  Researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that how you craft the second part of your statement can “keep you on course or knock you off”.  Instead of focusing on what’s “off-limits”, enjoy the things that you can have.  Example:  If Bobbi brings her scrumptious cupcakes to church coffee, then I will choose the fruit salad that Chuck made.  It’s a satisfying solution.


“Healthify” a Guilty Pleasure


The constant push-pull between what you should do and what you want to do can be exhausting.  Example:  You should exercise and eat right, but you just want to be a couch potato, watch TV and eat chocolate ice cream.  Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard say, “Combine your ‘shoulds’ with your ‘wants’ to lessen regret and increase follow-through”.  Participants in their study who wanted to regularly exercise were 51% more likely to do so if they had a “gripping novel” to listen to only while exercising.  I should walk almost every day, but sometimes I just want to stay in my cozy bed.  I’m more likely to walk in the morning if I know my friends are going to be there too.


Redefine Success


“Before you embark on any life changes outline a range of positive outcomes that could result, and don’t aim for perfection”.  This is the sage advice of Ben Michaelis, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York City.  He distinguishes between the pursuit of excellence and the pursuit of perfectionism.  He recommends asking yourself, “What do I want to learn?”  You can learn from any experience and nothing needs to be seen as a total failure.  So let’s be adventuresome.  I resolve to try something challenging that will enhance my health.  How about you?


With love and care,


Judy Gardner, Parish Nurse


Gratitude - December 2015

posted Dec 14, 2015, 2:28 PM by Laurie DeGezelle

Dear Members and Friends of the Church of the Holy Communion:

November was a wonderful month with unseasonal warm weather and celebrations of All Saints Day and Thanksgiving.  We worshipped together as
we remembered those we loved and who filled our lives with much happiness  We also gathered together to give thanks for all who are with us now
and to share our bounty with others who are in need.  We acknowledged our blessings and expressed our gratitude to those around us.

Gratitude, derived from the Latin word gratia, means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness.  It is an appreciation for what w4e have received. We can
acknowledge the goodness in our lives, the fact that much of that goodness comes from outside ourselves, is larger than ourselves, and helps us
connect to other people, to nature, or to a higher power.

Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or
thinking they can't feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met.  Gratitude helps people refocus on what they are instead of what they lack.

Researchers have determined ways to "cultivate" gratitude.  Some are:

            Write a thank you note.            Express your enjoyment and appreciation of what that person
                                                             has done for your.  Send it or take it to them.

            Thank someone mentally.        No time to write?  Think about the person who did something nice
                                                             for you and mentally thank them.

            Keep a gratitude journal.         Write down your thoughts about the gifts you receive each day.

            Count your blessings.             Each week write down and reflect on what went right or what you
                                                            were grateful for.

            Pray.  Meditate.                      Prayer can be used to help cultivate gratitude and mindfulness
                                                           meditation can help focus on that for which you are grateful.

During Advent, let us express our gratitude for our church family and place of worship, by pledging to give generously of time an talents in the New Year.

With love and care,

Judy Gardner, Parish Nurse
December 2015

Reducing Stress

posted Oct 9, 2014, 10:08 AM by Tom Harries

Dear Members and Friends of the Church of the Holy Communion:


I feel especially happy when September rolls around and I don’t have to worry about teaching anymore.  Even though I loved my students and all the excitement of taking them into various hospital settings, every year I would experience knots in my stomach as I stressed out about having all my classes perfectly prepared.  I never really paid attention to learning some simple stress reducers.  Perhaps now would be a good time to try one or more of the following “Top Five Stress Reducers” recommended by the Mayo Clinic in the Fall 2013 edition of Hometown Health.


Try The Following…

1.    Get moving:  Any kind of activity relieves stress by releasing endorphins.

Walking, gardening, biking, house cleaning, etc. make you feel good and help you focus your mind.


2.    Focus on the moment:  Five-minute meditation sessions can help.

      With your eyes closed, focus on inhaling, exhaling and

            releasing stress.  This can make a difference in a hectic day.


3.    Let it out:  Express yourself to let stress out.   

            Write in a journal or share your feelings with a trusted friend.  Social

            interaction helps provide support and distraction at the same time.


4.    Catch some zzz’s:  Sleep gives your body and mind a chance to recharge.

            Make the effort to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.


5.    Lose yourself in music:  Listening to music or playing an instrument helps

            manage stress by reducing stress hormones and muscle tension,

            as well as providing mental distraction.


Add to the stress reducers the following adage by Julie Fuimano, author of the life manual and confidence builder, The Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery and Acceptance.


            “If you rush through life, you avoid being yourself.  Give yourself permission to be a human being rather than a human doing.  Give yourself time to reflect and experience your feelings.  When you have time to breathe and reflect, you let the creative juices flow and you are able to synthesize the information and ideas that surface.  You’re also able to recognize issues that need your attention.  When we are too busy doing, there is no time to consider the possibilities.”


With love and care,           Judy Gardner, Parish Nurse               September, 2014


Mood up when the temp is down

posted Dec 14, 2013, 10:36 AM by Tom Harries   [ updated Dec 14, 2013, 10:45 AM ]

Dear Members and Friends of the Church of the Holy Communion:

How has your mood been affected this winter? Have the below zero temperatures and icy roads increased your anxiety and feelings of exasperation? Do you rely on sunny days and blue skies to keep you feeling in good humor?

Some exciting research linking food and mood suggests that it is possible to “eat your way to a better mood.” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry published 2012 research findings indicating that certain foods seem to be especially helpful in promoting feelings of wellbeing and calm, while others help prevent deficiencies that lead to symptoms of depression, insomnia, or mood instability.

It’s possible to include healthy foods in your diet to help you gain and maintain a healthy mood. Low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables and fruits rich in anti-oxidants, wholegrain cereals and breads, beans, low–fat dairy products, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts and fish promote good brain health. Five specific super-foods that boost your mood are:

Bananas: loaded with Magnesium, boosts resistance to stress and decreases anxiety; Vitamin B6, promotes mental alertness; and Tryptophan, an amino acid, promotes the brain’s production of Serotonin, thus producing feelings of calm and wellbeing.

Mussels: rich in DHA, an essential fatty acid associated with better mood and lower risk of depression, lessens negative thinking, and impulsivity;

Vitamin B12, critical for healthy mood, focus, and memory; andSelenium and Vitamin B2 to promote mood stability.

 Brown Rice: a complex carbohydrate that increases Seratonin and provides Vitamin B1 (thiamine), supports a better mood.

Spinach: rich source of Folate, reduces agitation, promotes sleep, and supports a healthy nervous system. It is also rich in Magnesium that reduces anxiety.

Sunflower seeds: have high levels of Vitamin B1, Tryptophan, and Selenium to  stabilize your mood.

Reduce your consumption of foods that affect the brain and brain function such as: Coffee, Alcohol, highly processed foods or foods with high levels of chemicals or produced with hormones, high levels of sugar, and unhealthy fats. Try consuming more healthful foods and enjoy a happier disposition.

With love and care,    Judy Gardner, Parish Nurse 

    (March 2013) Mind, Mood & Memory, Massachusetts General Hospital 9,3.

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