Friday, January 28, 2011

Health Care and Toddlers

Toddlers are tricky — they've grown enough to have their own ideas and wants, but their bodies and emotions haven't kept pace, according to Children age 12 to 24 months usually fall into this category as they begin to walk, or "toddle", until they are more fully developed children. Often, this stage is referred to as the "terrible twos." Development of their mental and physical skills for parents can be a huge challenge in the early months of the toddler stage.

Children in general require a lot of attention, but particularly in this age bracket as everything is new, exciting, and totally unlimited to the toddler's capability and interest to explore. Parents must be vigilant, and the process to raise toddlers is not easy. But, since that has been the way of life for thousands of years, just about any normal Mom and Dad can handle it. Lots of good info can be found at

The toddler stage is very important in a child's life. It is the time between infancy and childhood when a child learns and grows in many ways. Everything that happens to the toddler is meaningful. With each stage or skill the child masters, a new stage begins. This growth is unique to each child. Children have their own time-table. During the toddler stage, most children learn to walk, talk, solve problems, relate to others, and more. One major task for the toddler is to learn to be independent. That is why toddlers want to do things for themselves, have their own ideas about how things should happen, and use "no" many times each day.

The toddler stage is characterized by much growth and change, mood swings, and some negativity. Toddlers are long on will and short on skill, according to the National Network for Child Care (NNCC). This is why they are often frustrated and "misbehave." Toddlers, bursting with energy and ideas, need to explore their environment and begin defining themselves as separate people. They want to be independent and yet they are still very dependent. One of the family day care provider's greatest challenges is to balance toddlers' need for in-dependence with their need for discipline. Toddlers are very concerned with their own needs and ideas. This is why you cannot expect them to share.

Toddlers sometimes get frustrated because they do not have the language skills to express themselves. Often, according to the NNCC, they have difficulty separating themselves from their parents and other people who are important to them. Adults who work with toddlers often find it helpful to appreciate toddlers' need to do things their way. Usually between two and one half and three years of age, children begin to take an interest in being toilet trained, and by age three they are ready to be known as preschoolers.

By this age, most children are toilet trained, have developed verbal skills, are continuing to be more independent, and are taking an active interest in the world around them. The toddler stage can be a difficult for adults, especially new parents, and toddlers. An understanding of this stage of development can make it more fun for everyone. Some of the characteristics of toddlers for three main areas are: physical (body), social (getting along with others) and emotional (feelings), and intellectual (thinking and language) development. Remember that all toddlers are different and reach the various stages at different times.

According to child expert, Heidi Murkoff, every day of your toddler's life brings new experiences — from the wonderful (introducing crayons to your tot) to the joyful (buying that first pair of shoes) to the sometimes puzzling (where did that imaginary friend come from?). Here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions that help out with various toddler issues: .

And, according to, getting your increasingly independent child to potty-train, behave in public, and actually like vegetables is no small feat. Toddlerhood brings as many frustrations (is that crayon on the wall?), as it does joys ("Look Mom! I did it all by yourself!"), so you'll need a helping hand along the way.

There is a wide range of "normal" growth. Between the ages of 2 and 5, the average child grows about 2½ inches taller each year, and also gains 4 to 5 pounds each year, according to the USDA. You and your preschooler's doctor are partners in maintaining your child's health. Your preschooler's growth over time is an important sign of good health and nutrition.

Visit your doctor regularly. As part of the visit, the doctor will weigh and measure your child. He or she can then plot your child's information on a growth chart. Over time, the curve of the growth chart will show your child's growth pattern and whether height and weight growth are increasing at the same rate. Your doctor will monitor the growth chart to be sure your child continues to follow the same "curve" over time and the growth pattern does not unexpectedly change. And more info can be found at this website: .

According to Meghan Lambert, a Research Coordinator with Public Health Foundation, she has authored a 33,000 word guide that covers preschool child nutrition, snack foods for preschoolers, food safety tips, as well as a healthy balanced diet, various food groups, physical activity, nutritional needs during pregnancy and breast feeding, nutrition for the preschool children and more. You can find the article here:

Healthy Diet & Lifestyle, Food Groups, Nutrition Before & During Pregnancy, Child Nutrition, Physical Activity , and a section covering preschool child nutrition: .

Also, it's no wonder that small children sometimes become frightened when visiting the doctor's office, according to After all, there are plenty of adults out there who are anxious about visiting the doctor, too. Here are 10 ways to calm your child’s fear of the doctor:

1. Take your child to your appointments: Once your child realizes that even big people have to go to the doctor, she won't feel so singled out. Plus, she'll get to see what to expect from a visit and may consequently feel better next time she has to pay a visit to her own doctor's office.

2. Accentuate the positive: Your child can sense when you're nervous and anxious, so try to be relaxed and confident. If you remain calm and collected, chances are greater that he will, too. Keep a positive tone when you are talking about the doctor's office and act excited about his visit.

3. Educate your child: Look for books and DVDs about doctors and pediatric checkups. This way your child can identify with other children that go through the same feelings. Don't get too technical, simply explain that every child has to go to the doctor and point out that the doctor is a nice person who keeps kids healthy and safe.

4. Talk about it: Casually discuss the doctor, the doctor's office, and the nurses. Comment on how nice the staff is, how they have such great books and toys in the waiting room, and how they give out stickers, a lollipop, or a surprise after a visit.

5. Be honest: Be truthful about what is happening. Tell your child that something might hurt a little. "The doctor is going to give you a shot now and you will feel a pinch, but afterwards it will feel better."

6. Keep it together: Don't get upset or impatient with your child. Remember that your child is frightened and uncertain. Tell her that it's OK to cry, but that it is important to sit still for the doctor, or the exam will take even longer.
7. Plan a post-visit outing: Give your child something to look forward to after the visit. Plan a trip to the playground, an outing to the ice cream parlor, or a visit with one of your child's friends as a fun follow-up to a trip to the pediatrician.

8. Make your child comfortable: Bring along a comfort item such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Let your child, if she's old enough, choose what she'll wear on her doctor's visit. Even suggest bringing something that she can show to or share with her doctor (her favorite book, a flower from your garden, and so on).

9. Play doctor: Role playing can do wonders for an anxious toddler. Buy a toy doctor's kit and encourage your child to practice playing doctor on his stuffed animals or you. Knowing how things work will help your child feel more comfortable during the exam.

10. Talk to your pediatrician: Discuss your child's fears and how to alleviate them with your pediatrician. A good pediatrician should be understanding of your situation (that's her job—to treat and work with children!). If your doctor doesn't show the level of concern that you would expect or is not sensitive to your child's needs at the next visit, it may be time to think about changing physicians.

Toddlers are exciting, and these children are at a special age to learn and grow. Spend time as a parent or care giver to interact with them, love them, and provide the nurturing care they need. It may be tough to meet all the demands you have in life when toddlers are on the scene, but the days spent with this age group is fun. You also will have many teachable moments. Cherish those times and the children in your care, for they are precious.
Until next time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Health Care and Mad Cow Disease

Mad cow disease is the popular term for "bovine spongiform encephalopathy" (BSE), a fatal neurodegenerative disease in cattle that causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord. The disease is transmitted by tiny micro-organisms known as prions, according to Five known human prion diseases exist, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, as well as six non-human diseases, including scrapie, chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease (which sometimes jumps to humans through contaminated meat).

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the nature of the transmissible agent is not well understood. Currently, the most accepted theory is that the agent is a modified form of a normal protein known as prion protein. For reasons that are not yet understood, the normal prion protein changes into a pathogenic (harmful) form that then damages the central nervous system of cattle.  

According to, only certain animals can get BSE — people don't actually get mad cow disease. However, experts have found a link between BSE and a rare brain condition that affects people, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Researchers believe that people who eat beef from cows that have BSE are at risk of developing a form of vCJD

A shocking recent new study by the University of Zurich Hospital has found that mad cow disease can be transmitted through the air, according to Natural News. Prior to the study, it was believed that humans could only be infected through consumption of food products from infected cows, contaminated surgical instruments or blood transfusions. The new findings raise serious questions about airborne transmission risks, particularly among people who work in science labs and meat and animal feed facilities. Most infectious diseases are spread by bacteria or viruses, which use genes to copy themselves. But prions are a third form of disease discovered in 1982, and they're made only of misfolded proteins. The misfolded proteins convert healthy proteins into long fibrils, which in turn create more prions until the host dies from destroyed brain and nervous tissue. Prion symptoms appear suddenly months or years after infection and are 100 percent fatal. The prions appear to transfer from the airways and colonize the brain directly because the immune system, which prevents the passage of prions from the digestive tract to the brain, does not recognize airborne prion infection. More research should be done to confirm these findings.

When people have vCJD, cells in the brain die until the brain eventually has a "sponge-like" appearance, according to During this time, people with the disease gradually lose control of their mental and physical capabilities. To date, very few people have been diagnosed with vCJD. By October 2009, only 217 cases of this rare condition had been reported worldwide. Of these, most were identified in Britain. Several of the people diagnosed with the disease outside Britain — including two cases in the United States — had a history of exposure in Britain. Experts believe that the people got vCJD after eating beef products from cows that had BSE. Because vCJD is relatively new and extremely rare, experts are still learning about it.

However, researchers believe that the disease is not contagious among people. In other words, you cannot get vCJD from someone else who has it, according to Kids Health. At present, it appears that the main way people get the disease is from eating contaminated meat. Experts don't yet know exactly how long the incubation period is for vCJD (in other words, how long it takes from the time a person contracts it to the time that symptoms first appear). However, they do believe that it takes years, if not decades, from the time someone is exposed to the disease until the first signs appear. After the first signs appear, the brain can deteriorate within a year. At this time, there is no known treatment for the disease.

Current testing in the US only samples a small number of brains from all cattle slaughtered for human consumption, according to Testing of brain tissue takes more than a week to deliver results. This testing is done only after the animal has been presented for slaughter. European countries use fast tests to screen many more slaughtered cattle than is done in the US. Results are obtained overnight as carcasses await approval in refrigerated warehouses before entering the food stream. Live animal tests may provide valuable information about the level of BSE in all animals, including downer cattle and cattle aged 24 months or older (those most at risk and in whom BSE is found). However, currently there is no sensitive and reliable live animal test for BSE. Thus, given the limitations of the tests available today, certain tissues of cattle infected with BSE may contain the BSE agent before a diagnostic test could indicate that the animal has BSE. Therefore, there is a great need for a sensitive and reliable test that can be done on live animals or on cattle that have been slaughtered.
According to, in affected cows, the changed proteins are found in the brain, spinal cord, and small intestine. There is no proof that these changed proteins are found in muscle meat (such as steak) or in milk. When a cow is slaughtered, parts of it are used for human food and other parts are used in animal feed. If an infected cow is slaughtered and its nerve tissue is used in cattle feed, other cows can become infected.

People can get vCJD if they eat the brain or spinal cord tissue of infected cattle. The risk is substantially greater. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) causes the brain to become damaged over time, and it is always fatal. Symptoms include:

--Tingling, burning, or prickling in your face, hands, feet, and legs. But there are much more common illnesses that cause these same symptoms. Having tingling in parts of your body does not mean you have vCJD.
--Psychotic behavior.
--Problems moving parts of the body. As the disease gets worse, a person is no longer able to walk.

There is no single test to diagnose vCJD. Doctors may think that a person has vCJD based on where the person has lived and the person’s symptoms and past health. Imaging tests, such as an MRI, may be done to check for brain changes caused by vCJD. Researchers are now trying to develop a blood test that looks for vCJD. But no blood test is available at this time. A brain biopsy is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of vCJD, according to WebMD.

You can make choices to lower your risk for contracting vCJD from contaminated beef, according to eMedicineHealth. Here are some options:
•Eat poultry and fish, or choose a vegetarian diet.
•Avoid beef products that may contain bits of spinal cord or brain tissue. These include ground beef, sausage, and hot dogs. Solid pieces of muscle meat are less likely to be contaminated. Bone-in cuts such as a T-bone steak and intestine are more risky.
•If traveling to countries where BSE has been detected, such as the United Kingdom, Europe, Portugal, and Spain, don’t eat beef. Avoid having a blood transfusion overseas.
•Milk and milk products are not thought to be affected or a means of transmittal.

Always follow common sense guidelines when there is possible exposure to this disease, especially if you are traveling overseas or outside of the United States. Since there is no known cure or tests to determine possible infection, and vCJD is a sleeper disease, you may be at risk and not know it for some time. If you or a loved one experiences symptoms similar to the disease, see a physician immediately for proper diagnosis. Chances are, the resulting health care issues may be found to be other medical problems, but always seek the advice of medical professionals when you experience unusual physical or emotional problems.
Until next time. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Health Care and Lactose Intolerance

Many Americans suffer from an intolerance to dairy products, and some even are so allergic that encounters with milk, ice cream, cheese, or any dairy item can cause anaphylaxis and possible death. Lactose interolerence is a medical condition that has health care implications and should be addressed by your doctor or a medical practitioner. Most people suffering from this malady see it as an inconvenience and are able to deal with it by watching their diet. Serious conditions require more vigilant care and dietary restrictions.
Lactose intolerance is the inability or insufficient ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which is produced by the cells lining the small intestine. Lactase breaks down lactose into two simpler forms of sugar called glucose and galactose, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Not all people with lactase deficiency have digestive symptoms, but those who do may have lactose intolerance. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate some amount of lactose in their diet. People sometimes confuse lactose intolerance with cow milk allergy. Milk allergy is a reaction by the body’s immune system to one or more milk proteins and can be life threatening when just a small amount of milk or milk product is consumed. Milk allergy most commonly appears in the first year of life, while lactose intolerance occurs more often in adulthood.
After eating foods with lactose in them, you may feel sick to your stomach, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH). Some illnesses can cause these same symptoms. If you have these symptoms after you eat or drink milk and milk products, see your doctor. You may also have:

--Swelling in your stomach.

Your doctor may do a blood, breath or stool test to find out if your problems are due to lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is not serious, according to the NIH. Eating less food with lactose, or using pills or drops to help you digest lactose usually helps. You may need to take a calcium supplement if you don't get enough of it from your diet, since milk and foods made with milk are the most common source of calcium for most people.

Some people become lactose intolerant as children, according to the NDDIC. In others, the problem starts when they are teenagers or adults. Lactose intolerance is rare in babies. Premature babies may be lactose intolerant for a short time after they are born. Lactose intolerance is common in certain areas of the world. Certain groups are more likely to be lactose intolerant:
•Asian Americans.
•African Americans.
•American Indians.
•People with southern European heritage.

People of northern European descent are least likely to be lactose intolerant, according to the NDDIC. If your small intestine has been damaged, it may produce less lactase enzyme, causing you to become lactose intolerant. The small intestine can be hurt by the following:
•Diseases such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Although the body’s ability to produce lactase cannot be changed, the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be managed with dietary changes. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate some amount of lactose in their diet. Gradually introducing small amounts of milk or milk products may help some people adapt to them with fewer symptoms. Often, people can better tolerate milk or milk products by taking them with meals. The amount of change needed in the diet depends on how much lactose a person can consume without symptoms. For example, one person may have severe symptoms after drinking a small glass of milk, while another can drink a large glass without symptoms. Others can easily consume yogurt and hard cheeses such as cheddar and Swiss but not milk or other milk products.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend that people with lactose intolerance choose milk products with lower levels of lactose than regular milk, such as yogurt and hard cheese. Lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk and milk products, available at most supermarkets, are identical to regular milk except that the lactase enzyme has been added. Lactose-free milk remains fresh for about the same length of time or longer than regular milk if it is ultra-pasteurized. Lactose-free milk may have a slightly sweeter taste than regular milk. Soy milk and other products may be recommended by a health professional. People who still experience symptoms after dietary changes can take over-the-counter lactase enzyme drops or tablets. Taking the tablets or a few drops of the liquid enzyme when consuming milk or milk products may make these foods more tolerable for people with lactose intolerance. Parents and caregivers of a child with lactose intolerance should follow the nutrition plan recommended by the child’s doctor or dietitian.

According to the NIH, you can change your diet to manage your symptoms. Most people with lactose intolerance do not have to give up milk or milk products. You may be able to tolerate milk and milk products if you observe the following steps:

•Drink small amounts of milk—4 ounces or less—at a time.
•Drink small amounts of milk with meals.
•Gradually add small amounts of milk and milk products to your diet and see how you feel.
•Eat milk products that are easier for people with lactose intolerance to digest, such as yogurt and hard cheeses like cheddar and Swiss.

Rarely, people with lactose intolerance are bothered by small amounts of lactose, according to the NIH; and some boxed, canned, frozen, packaged, and prepared foods contain small amounts of lactose. These foods include the following:

•Bread and other baked goods.
•Waffles, pancakes, biscuits, cookies, and mixes to make them.
•Prepared or frozen breakfast foods such as doughnuts, frozen waffles and pancakes, toaster pastries, and sweet rolls.
•Boxed breakfast cereals.
•Instant potatoes, soups, and breakfast drinks.
•Potato chips, corn chips, and other packaged snacks.
•Prepared meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and lunch meats.
•Salad dressings.
•Liquid and powdered milk-based meal replacements.
•protein powders and bars.
•Certain candies.
•Non-dairy liquid and powdered coffee creamers.
•Non-dairy whipped toppings.

According to the Mayo Clinic, your doctor may suspect lactose intolerance based on your symptoms and your response to reducing the amount of dairy foods in your diet. Your doctor can confirm the diagnosis by conducting one or more of the following tests:

■Lactose tolerance test. The lactose tolerance test gauges your body's reaction to a liquid that contains high levels of lactose. Two hours after drinking the liquid, you'll undergo blood tests to measure the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. If your glucose level doesn't rise, it means your body isn't properly digesting and absorbing the lactose-filled drink.

■Hydrogen breath test. This test also requires you to drink a liquid that contains high levels of lactose. Then your doctor measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath at regular intervals. Normally, very little hydrogen is detectable. However, if your body doesn't digest the lactose, it reaches your colon and ferments, causing hydrogen and other gases to be released, absorbed by your intestines and eventually exhaled. Large amounts of exhaled hydrogen measured during a breath test indicate that you aren't fully digesting and absorbing lactose.

■Stool acidity test. For infants and children who can't undergo other tests, a stool acidity test may be used. Undigested lactose ferments in the colon, creating lactic acid and other acids that can be detected in a stool sample. The lactose tolerance test and the hydrogen breath test may be dangerous for infants and children who can't tolerate high levels of lactose required for those tests.

Much more detailed information about home remedies and foods, treatments, and medications can be found at the Mayo Clinic site for this health care issue: . Additional websites will have a host of information about lactose intolerance and how to deal with it. So, when you think this may be an issue with you, and you appear to suffer the symptoms, it would be in your very best interest to visit your doctor and get tested for the possible outcome. People with this malady live very happy, healthy lives and accordingly adjust their lifestyles.
Until next time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Health Care and Pre-schoolers

Children under the age of elementary grades, including Kindergarten, are considered pre-schoolers. These kids can range in age from 6 months to 5 years in most cases based upon the age limits accepted at pre-schools. Some child care facilities that are sponsored by churches or other registered institutions are typically much stricter on admittance requirements due to liability and other concerns. Pre-schoolers require alot of individual attention, and they can be a handful if personality and individual characteristics require special needs. When you put more than just a few in a room together in a pre-school environment, the child to worker ratio is greater than in regular school classrooms.
As your child grows into early childhood, his world will begin to open up. She will become more independent and begin to focus more on adults and children outside of the family. He will want to explore and ask about his surroundings even more, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Your child's interactions with family and those around her will help to shape her personality and individual ways of thinking and moving. During this stage your child will be able to ride a tricycle, use safety scissors, show awareness of gender identity, help to dress and undress himself, play with other children, recall part of a story, and sing a song.

Three and four-year-old children are often called preschoolers. Preschool children want to touch, taste, smell, hear, and test things for themselves. They are eager to learn. They learn by experiencing and by doing. Preschoolers learn from their play. They are busy developing skills, using language, and struggling to gain inner control. Preschoolers want to establish themselves as separate from their parents. They are more independent than toddlers. They can express their needs since they have greater command of language, according to the University of Illinois. Fears often develop during the preschool years. Common fears include new places and experiences and separation from parents and other important people. You can expect the preschool child to test you over and over again. He or she might use forbidden words and might act very silly. Preschoolers may still have trouble getting along with other children and sharing may still be difficult. Because of their developing imaginations and rich fantasy lives, they may have trouble telling fantasy from reality. They may also talk about imaginary friends. Preschoolers need clear and simple rules so that they know the boundaries of acceptable behavior. More info about development by age can be found at this site: .

According to the CDC, positive parenting helps stimulate growth in pre-schoolers. Here are some examples:
•Continue to read to your child. Nurture her love for books by taking her to the library or bookstore.
•Let your child help with simple chores.
•Encourage your child to play with other children. This helps him to learn the value of sharing and friendship.
•Help your child’s language by speaking to her in complete sentences and in “adult” language. Help her to use the correct words and phrases.
•Be clear and consistent when disciplining your child. Model the behavior that you expect from him.
•Help your child through the steps to solve problems when she is upset.
•Give your child a limited number of simple choices (e.g., what to wear, play, eat for snack).

Mothers of pre-schoolers deserve a lot of credit for handling the daily needs of their children. Support groups like MOPS are vital to help these women survive the day. As a mother, the early years of being a mom are just as foundational to you as they are to your baby, and they're filled with unique needs that other moms instinctively understand. If you need help and information, MOPS is a great resource. More info about this organization and what it offers can be found here: .
As your pre-schooler becomes more independent and increases her interaction with the outside world, it is important that you and your child are aware of ways to stay safe, according to the CDC. Remember, safety first! Here are a few ways to protect your child:
•Tell your child why it is important to stay out of traffic. Tell him not to play in the street or run after stray balls.
•Be cautious when letting your child ride her tricycle. Keep her on the sidewalk and away from the street and always have her wear a helmet.
•Check outdoor playground equipment. Make sure there are no loose parts or sharp edges.
•When your child is playing outside, keep watch over him at all times.
•Practice water safety. Teach your child to swim but do not leave them unsupervised in the pool.
•Teach your child how to interact with strangers and how not to interact.

Parents of pre-schoolers know that this age group has special needs, and the more information available to you to help raise them successfully the better your opportunity you have to provide well-rounded growth for your children. The internet has many websites to find material that is very helpful, including the following sites: ; ; ; ; ; There are many more.

When your child is potty trained you have the option of sending her to preschool, according to Most preschool programs last a half day and provide structured activities and some preliminary studies to prepare your child for kindergarten. Preschool is not required. Your child doesn't need to go to preschool to get into kindergarten. For most children, however, preschool can be great. It helps your child make the transition into an expanded world of people and experiences. Very few mothers can consistently provide a structured program of kid-centered activities like those you will find in a preschool. You would drive yourself crazy even trying. And in your immediate neighborhood it's often hard to come up with playmates of appropriate ages for your kids.

According to Family Education, you don't want to be overly paranoid about your choice of a preschool, but it is possible that your child may not be receiving proper care. If your child consistently resists going to the preschool and shows fear, pay a surprise visit to see what goes on when parents are not expected. Children should not be yelled at or spanked by workers or staff. Nor should they be left unsupervised and ignored. You are looking for a positive environment that will be an extension of all the good things you can give your child. You are the consumer. If the preschool does not meet your standards for your child's well-being, do not second-guess your feelings on the matter. Act. Pre-schools are usually registered by the state, even if they are small home based businesses. Do your homework first, and get referrals from other parents. Good pre-schools often have waiting lists, and typically are not cheap. Costs can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars per month depending on how many children you have at the pre-school.

If you are fortunate to be the parent of a pre-schooler, cherish those days with your child. They see Mom and Dad as superheroes, and show unconditional love to you. Pre-schoolers are like sponges, too. They soak up everything around them. Make time to be a parent, even if your job demands that you use a pre-school while you are at work. Pre-schoolers grow up fast, and before you know it they are going to elementary school. And your time with them will wither as they grow older. Children are precious commodities, and they must be treated with love and care. As a parent, you have limited opportunities to make an impression on your children. Pre-schoolers look to you as their chief provider and caretaker. Laugh with them, learn with them, and most of all love them. They don't last forever. So, don't blow it.

Until next time.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Health Care and Dementia

Have you ever been with a senior citizen or loved one that has started to exhibit signs of mental failure, such as memory loss, disorientation, or unusual emotional distress? They may be experiencing something known as dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease, according to It is a descriptive term for a collection of symptoms that can be caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain and mental functions. People with dementia have significantly impaired intellectual functioning that interferes with normal activities and relationships. They also lose their ability to solve problems and maintain emotional control, and they may experience personality changes and behavioral problems such as agitation, delusions, and hallucinations.

While memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, memory loss by itself does not mean that a person has dementia. Doctors diagnose dementia only if two or more brain functions - such as memory, language skills, perception, or cognitive skills including reasoning and judgment - are significantly impaired without loss of consciousness, according to MedicineNet. There are many disorders that can cause dementia. Some, such as Alzheimer's disease, lead to a progressive loss of mental functions. But other types of dementia can be halted or reversed with appropriate treatment. With Alzheimer's disease and many other types of dementia, disease processes cause many nerve cells to stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die. In contrast, normal aging does not result in the loss of large numbers of neurons in the brain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause, but common signs and symptoms include:
■Memory loss.
■Difficulty communicating.
■Inability to learn or remember new information.
■Difficulty with planning and organizing.
■Difficulty with coordination and motor functions.
■Personality changes.
■Inability to reason.
■Inappropriate behavior.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that if these symptoms occur, see a doctor if you or a loved one experiences memory problems or other dementia symptoms. Some medical conditions can cause symptoms of dementia and are treatable, so it's important that a doctor determine the underlying cause. Early diagnosis is also important so that treatment can begin before symptoms get worse. If the diagnosis is a dementia that will progressively worsen over time, such as Alzheimer's disease, early diagnosis also gives a person time to plan for the future while he or she can still participate in making decisions. If a cause of dementia has already been diagnosed, talk with a doctor if symptoms seem to be getting worse.
According to, dementia is most common in elderly people; it used to be called senility and was considered a normal part of aging. It's now know that dementia is not a normal part of aging but is caused by a number of underlying medical conditions that can occur in both elderly and younger persons. In some cases, dementia can be reversed with proper medical treatment. In others, it is permanent and usually gets worse over time.

Dementing disorders can be classified many different ways, according to MedicineNet. These classification schemes attempt to group disorders that have particular features in common, such as whether they are progressive or what parts of the brain are affected. Some frequently used classifications include the following:

--Cortical dementia: dementia where the brain damage primarily affects the brain's cortex, or outer layer. Cortical dementias tend to cause problems with memory, language, thinking, and social behavior.
--Subcortical dementia: dementia that affects parts of the brain below the cortex. Subcortical dementia tends to cause changes in emotions and movement in addition to problems with memory.
--Progressive dementia: dementia that gets worse over time, gradually interfering with more and more cognitive abilities.
--Primary dementia: dementia such as Alzheimer's disease that does not result from any other disease.
--Secondary dementia: dementia that occurs as a result of a physical disease or injury.

Alzheimer disease is the most common cause of dementia, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Persons with Alzheimer disease lose functioning neurons (nerve cells) in areas of the brain dealing with cognitive function and memory. They also experience buildup of abnormal proteins in some brain cells. Alzheimer disease affects mostly older adults but can sometimes begin in younger individuals. The cause of Alzheimer disease is not known, but risk factors for Alzheimer disease include family history, a specific gene, and advanced age.
Also, according to JAMA, vascular dementia is usually caused by strokes over a period of time that affect blood flow to areas of the brain related to memory and thinking. Some neurological diseases, such as Parkinson disease (a brain disease that causes tremors and muscle stiffness) and Huntington disease (an inherited disease that causes abnormal movements and dementia), can cause dementia because of their effects on brain tissue. Symptoms like those of dementia may be caused by many other factors, including medications and some illnesses. A careful evaluation by a doctor is important to look for treatable causes.
Diagnosing dementia can help the person and his or her family members seek help from available resources, according to JAMA. There is no cure for Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia. Some prescription medications may help slow the progression of dementia during treatment. Your doctor can help you decide if medication may be worthwhile. Medical research on Alzheimer disease and the other dementias may someday help in prevention, early recognition, and more effective treatments.
Caring for an individual with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia can be challenging and, at times, overwhelming. Frustration is a normal and valid emotional response to many of the difficulties of being a caregiver. While some irritation may be part of everyday life as a caregiver, feeling extreme frustration can have serious consequences for you or the person you care for. Frustration and stress may negatively impact your physical health or cause you to be physically or verbally aggressive towards your loved one. If your caregiving situation is causing you extreme frustration or anger, you may want to explore some new techniques for coping, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.

When you are frustrated, it is important to distinguish between what is and what is not within your power to change. Frustration often arises out of trying to change an uncontrollable circumstance. As a caregiver of someone with dementia, you face many uncontrollable situations. Normal daily activities—dressing, bathing and eating—may become sources of deep frustration for you. Behaviors often associated with dementia, like wandering or asking questions repeatedly, can be frustrating for caregivers but are uncontrollable behaviors for people with dementia. Unfortunately, you cannot simply change the behavior of a person suffering from dementia. When dealing with an uncontrollable circumstance, you do control one thing: how you respond to that circumstance. In order to respond without extreme frustration, you will need to:
--Learn to recognize the warnings signs of frustration;
--Intervene to calm yourself down physically;
--Modify your thoughts in a way that reduces your stress;
--Learn to communicate assertively;
--Learn to ask for help.
Much more detailed info about this particular topic related to providing care for dementia patients can be found at this site:

Patients with irreversible dementia are eventually unable to care for themselves and may require round-the-clock care, according to the Neurology Channel.  An estimated 2 million people in the United States suffer from severe dementia and another 1 to 5 million people experience mild to moderate dementia. Five to eight percent of people over the age of 65 have some form of dementia and the number doubles every 5 years over age 65. The prevalence of dementia has increased over the past few decades, either because of greater awareness and more accurate diagnosis, or because increased longevity has created a larger population of elderly, which is the age group most commonly affected. It's estimated that as many as 35 million people throughout the world have some type of dementia.

Dementia is a very serious condition that results in significant financial and human costs, according to eMedicineHealth. Many people with dementia eventually become totally dependent on others for their care.
Although people with dementia typically remain fully conscious, the loss of short- and long-term memory are universal. People with dementia also experience declines in any or all areas of intellectual functioning, for example, use of language and numbers; awareness of what is going on around him or her; judgment; and the ability to reason, solve problems, and think abstractly. These losses not only impair a person's ability to function independently, but also have a negative impact on quality of life and relationships. Dementia is the leading reason for placing elderly people in institutions such as nursing homes.

Many older people fear that they are developing dementia because they cannot find their glasses or remember someone's name. According to eMedicineHealht, these very common problems are most often due to a much less serious condition involving slowing of mental processes with age. Medical professionals call this "benign senescent forgetfulness," or "age-related memory loss." Although this condition is a nuisance, it does not impair a person's ability to learn new information, solve problems, or carry out everyday activities, as dementia does. Unless the brain is stimulated with ongoing activity, such as learning new things, it is likely that deterioration of brain functions advance with age. But dementia is an actual illness, not just brief forgetfulness.
When symptoms of dementia begin to show up, it's time to get checked out by the family doctor. Delaying that medical exam will further augment the problems. But, don't be guilty of avoiding whatever health care precautions can be instituted to save the patient or at least delay the illness advancing in the brain. Taking care of dementia patients or loved ones who have these patterns of behavior is very stressful. Work with your health care professional to get the best medical advice available and assistance to handle the responsibilities associated with dementia patients.
Until next time.