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Health & Wellness

You Love Your Parents, But Will You Care For Them?
February 12, 2008

Murray Waldman http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/302511

I invite all readers to take the following quiz. Just answer yes or no to the following questions:

  • If your young child required a special diet that was quite expensive, would you be willing to cut back on family expenses to provide it?

  • If your child required expensive medications, would you be willing to provide them, even if it meant forgoing some family extras?

  • If your child were undergoing a test in hospital that was scary or painful, would you take the day off work to be with them?

  • If your child had been in hospital, would you take time off work to take them home if the discharge time was early in the morning?

  • If a slightly older child living on his own contracted a medical condition that made it impossible for him to live independently, would you modify your home so he could move back in with you?

  • If a somewhat older child became ill and was unable to support themselves, would you dedicate some portion of your income to help support that child?

Now, retake the test and for the word "child," substitute the word "parent."

Would your answers be the same?

In my experience, the answers to the two sets of questions are the same if you are a first-generation Canadian.

People who have recently immigrated to this country by and large feel the same obligation of care and support for their parents as they do for their children. Those of us who have been here a few generations often do not.

Exactly why this is I am not sure, but speak to any hospital discharge planner and they will tell you the same thing. The feeling of obligation to care for one's parents seems to fade as rapidly as one's accent from one generation to another.

In fact, the law supports this idea that we are obligated to care for our children but not our parents.

For example, several lawyers I spoke with said that a child, no matter how awful, must be supported by his parents, if he so desires, until age 18.

On the other hand, let's say your parents scrimped and starved to provide you with board and room and tuition so you could have a first-class education. As a result of those sacrifices, you are now making an enormous income as an investment banker.

If parents should fall on hard times and be unable to support themselves, could they sue you to provide them with the minimal requirements for life and health?

According to legal experts I consulted, the answer is, of course they can sue and although they would be supported by law, such cases are extremely rare.

The reason I raise this somewhat awkward question is that we as a society are going to be faced with a huge burden of providing the basic needs for our rapidly aging population, which is also acquiring a high rate of dementia.

The question that will have to be asked is this:
Is this burden solely the responsibility of the state or do families bear some responsibility for caring for their elderly and frequently incompetent parents?

Dr. Murray Waldman has been a family and emergency doctor, coroner, administrator and a rehabilitation physician.

Helping Our Kids Excel
Wednesday February 13 2008

The Peel District School Board will host Make a Difference in Literacy and Beyond: practical ways parents can boost their children's learning. The event happens Saturday, Mar. 29, at Mississauga Secondary School (550 Courtney Park Drive West, Mississauga). And as parents of school-going kids, we owe it to them to be there on the day.

A common topic of conversation in many new immigrants' drawing-rooms is the perplexing system of education Canada follows. Well, here's an opportunity to learn about the system. More, it can help parents help their children excel-- it is after all for the sake of our kids that many of us migrated in the first place.

There's no reason to not be there: this free learning event for parents of Peel board elementary and secondary students; there are more than 40 workshops to choose from; sessions are also being offered in Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi and Urdu; it's being held on a weekend.

Last year's conference attracted over 1,200 parents from across Peel. The event provides parents with useful tips and practical ways to help their own children and teenagers be successful in school. Parents will this year hear from Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, best-selling author and parent educator about tools for teaching children essential life skills and effective discipline strategies by focusing on a child's strengths. Workshops being staged address boosing your child's self-esteem; helping your child prepare for provincial tests; helping your child write with confidence, or succeed in math; improving literacy through physical activity; using technology to boost learning; and planning for success by helping your teen make the right career choice.

Peel Board parents interested in registering for the conference should visit the Peel board's website at www.peelschools.org† and click on "Parent Boosts Learning". Remember, we owe it to our kids to be there on the day, Saturday, Mar. 29.

An Overview of Talk Therapy
What is talk therapy?

Talk therapy is simply talking about what is bothering you. Talk therapy can be practiced with a friend or loved one, a family member, or a therapist. Talking about your problems can help you to spot things that are causing problems in your life. A person with a different perspective on your situation can help you decide how to fix the problems you are having, and how to deal with the things you canít fix. Through discussion, you can find ways to handle your problems so that the same issues wonít continually disrupt your life.

What are the three types of talk therapy?

Here are 3 common types of talk therapy. All of these can help people to feel better and live more fully.

Cognitive therapy helps you change harmful ways of thinking. If you tend to see things negatively, it teaches you how to look at the world more clearly.

Example: You drop by to see a friend, but she says she doesnít have time to talk. Your first thought is that sheís angry with you. This makes you feel worried and anxious. Soon you are trapped in a flood of negative thinking.

Therapy: Talk therapy can help you focus on your reaction to your friendís behavior. Perhaps what she said has nothing to do with you. Maybe she was having a bad day. Perhaps she was late for an appointment. Thinking of other reasons for her actions help you see the event in a more positive and accurate way.

Behavioral therapy helps you change harmful ways of acting. The goal is to get control over behavior that is causing problems for you.

Example: You were mugged, and now you are terrified of being alone in public. You canít go anywhere alone, and you are beginning to miss days at work and school.

Therapy: Talk therapy can help you to face your fears. Discussing your problems with a trusted person can help you do begin to overcome those fears and take control of your life.

Interpersonal therapy helps you learn to relate better with others. Youíll focus on how to express your feelings, and how to develop better people skills.

Example: You and your mother are not getting along. She doesnít approve of your significant other, or your group of friends. You feel that she is trying to run your life.

Therapy: Talk therapy can help you see your motherís point of view. Perhaps she feels you donít spend time with her anymore. Finding new ways of talking to your mother helps you both feel better.

Remember that talk therapy doesnít have to be difficult. The simple act of discussing your feelings allows you to gain new insight and perspective. Talk therapy can also help to enrich your life by bringing the people that you love closer to you.

Damping the Desire to Drink
By Greg Miller
ScienceNOW Daily News
14 February 2008


For some alcoholics, booze provides an addictive thrill. For others, alcohol is a balm for stress and anxiety. A new study identifies a drug that may be particularly effective for treating the latter group. The drug, which blocks receptors for a neurotransmitter involved in stress responses, substantially reduced cravings in a group of rehabilitating alcoholics.

The most widely used drug for treating alcoholism is naltrexone, which blocks feel-good opioid receptors in the brain. But recent research has found that naltrexone tends to work best for the roughly 20% of alcoholics who start drinking early--before age 25--and who get hooked on alcohol because of the kick they get from drinking, says Markus Heilig, a researcher at the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Maryland. The drug is less effective for the other 80% of alcoholics, who typically develop alcohol dependency later in life and drink mainly to relieve anxiety. Heilig and colleagues hypothesized that drugs that blunt stress responses in the brain might be more useful for treating this more common kind of addiction.

In a paper published online today in Science, the team describes experiments with a drug that blocks a receptor for substance P, a neurotransmitter involved in signaling pain and stress. The drug, known as LY686017, had proved safe in previous clinical trials for depression but hadn't been effective enough to continue development, Heilig says. The researchers selected 50 volunteers, all recovering alcoholics who'd scored high on a questionnaire that measures anxiety, and gave half a daily dose of LY686017; the other half got a placebo pill.

Those who got the drug scored consistently lower on a standard questionnaire that gauges alcohol cravings over the course of the month long experiment. To examine the volunteers' resolve under stress, the researchers staged mock interviews with three stern-faced assistants in white lab coats. Each volunteer had to give a 5-minute presentation to convince the "committee" that he or she was the perfect person for a dream job and then had to do 5 minutes of difficult mental arithmetic. After this ordeal, volunteers were given a small container of their favorite tipple to handle and sniff but not drink. In the placebo group, blood tests revealed high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and questionnaires exposed serious alcohol cravings. Cortisol levels and cravings were substantially lower in the volunteers who were taking the drug.

"I think it is an exciting story," says neuroscientist Selena Bartlett of the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco. The work meshes well with a growing realization that people become dependent on alcohol for different reasons, she says. "It feels like we're heading for a sea change for new therapies for alcoholism."

Always Bundle Up In The Cold? You May Still Get Sick, Expert Says
Mon Feb 25 11:47:44 2008

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Feb. 25 (AScribe Newswire) -- Contrary to what your mother always told you, heading out into the cold without your hat and gloves won't guarantee a case of the flu later, says a Purdue University nursing professor.

Unfortunately, bundling also doesn't offer much protection from the viruses currently sweeping the nation, says Pam Aaltonen, an associate professor of nursing and public health.

"Being chilled does not lead to illness," Aaltonen says. "Colds and influenza are caused by viruses. They are equal opportunity infectors, which means you can get sick even if you always wear a coat and hat or if you live in a warm climate. In fact, there are only a handful of states that are not experiencing widespread flu right now."

What can people do to protect themselves from illness or speed recovery if they are already sick? Aaltonen offers these tips:

- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Dehydration makes your entire body work less efficiently, decreasing your ability to fight off disease. While soda isn't a great choice, Aaltonen says there are drink options for those who want something other than water.

"Coffee and tea do count for hydration purposes," Aaltonen says. "Just be mindful of the caffeine, if that is an issue for you, and how much sugar you use."

- Hydrate the air, if you can. It turns out hydrating the air around you can help fight off disease, whether or not you're already sick.

"Dry air dries you out each time you breathe, and you lose some of the effectiveness of your respiratory tract to block the diseases in the air," Aaltonen says.

- When others are sick, keep your (three-foot) distance. The three-foot rule is the maximum distance that most droplets containing viruses travel when a person sneezes or coughs.

"Of course staying three feet away from people isn't always practical," Aaltonen says. "We have school desks closer than that, but it's a good rule to try to follow when you know people are sick."

- Get a flu shot if you haven't and don't avoid one next year just because you became sick after taking it this year.

"Flu shots are excellent protection against illness," Aaltonen says. "Each year flu shots are formulated to fight against three types of influenza, what we think of as two A types and a B type. This year, flu season has suddenly gotten worse because certain strains have mutated. That is going to happen sometimes, but the shots do offer you more protection than no shot at all."

- If you're the one who is sick, be considerate. Disposing of used tissues for the sick puts healthy people at a higher risk of infection, so keep a wastebasket near, Aaltonen says.

"It's also important to cough and sneeze into a disposable tissue or your sleeve," she says. "Coughing into your hands just transmits those germs to the phone, refrigerator door and hundreds of other shared surfaces."

- Wash your hands, get adequate sleep, eat a balanced diet and exercise. It turns out your mother was right about the ability of all these things to prevent illness and speed recovery.

"Just doing one of these things may help you remain well or recover more quickly, but combining proper hand washing with a good diet, exercise and rest essentially arms the body with a shield against disease," Aaltonen says. "They are the best things you can do to be healthy year round."

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