What’s Your Morbid Hobby?

Life is full of “which is worse” scenarios. There’s the “death by fire” or “death by ice.” Here it is in the poem “Fire and Ice,” as could only have been written by the great American poet Robert Frost:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

The political parties have us vying for which is the worse social problem and no, it is not Planned Parenthood. I’ll tell you straight out I’m going with opioid addiction. The biggest threat to our nation. The biggest threat to our people. That’s right, the fact that many people don’t want to acknowledge even exists. And this is why it’s so dangerous.

One of my more morbid hobbies is collecting headlines that deal with opioid addiction and drug overdoses. I’ve been doing it for years, the pile is getting higher, but recently it’s been a real jackpot.

It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, I collected the rare articles of addicts who had fought through their addictions and made it. Addicts who had ultimately gone to college and gotten major degrees in major universities. One black American from an inner city who went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School. If I can dig the article out from my ever-growing pile, I’ll add the link here. There were articles about homeless who had gone into halfway houses and used that as a place from which to stabilize their lives, which included finding steady work and thus having a stable and proud income.

I clipped and sent these articles to send hope to a young relative of mine who was an addict and always feeling darkness. “See? You can do it too.” I’d like to think my hobby made a difference, helped this relative make good choices, but it seems like it did not. And now I cannot find the articles, even online.

Several years ago I would talk to a lot of my friends about this problem, and this pain of mine. On days when my relative was being arrested, or days when he was being released from prison, or days when he was beginning rehab and there was hope, I would sit in my seat during religious services and cry to myself. I’m not sure if anybody ever noticed my red eyes or my irregular breathing. If they did, they sure didn’t say anything. A few would tell me an aside about a relative who was an addict if I brought up the topic.

A few years back, my stepson died of an overdose of legally prescribed painkillers, shocking us all. He was a pleasure-seeker but he was not an addict. So my headline search and article clipping widened to include deaths by legally prescribed painkillers for things like, quite simply, pain. You know, those pain centers that are everywhere? Particularly in Florida?

Within the last few years, several parents in my community have lost a young adult child. Some of the parents have been brave and willing to confront this public epidemic. Others have not.

A few years later, after I was already personally grappling with this problem, the headlines expanded to include elderly adults who had been bankrupted by their addict children and grandchildren. I knew about this from personal experience, too.

The Untold Cost of the Opiate Epidemic: Elder Abuse

The headlines have continued to change over the years. In the last election, people started to care about the problem of “solving” the problem by throwing people in jail or prison. Were we creating solutions? Or new problems for even more people? A few times I sat in at a drug court. I saw young hopeless male adults. Five or so young adults would stand in front of the judge, who would ask them if they were on anything at that time. I saw them, in unison, lie. Five No‘s. I saw a pained grandmother as the judge would approve this one for drug court and that one – her grandson – to return to jail.

In the months and years after that, I started seeing headlines about large and small towns that were creating drug courts as a new approach.

This recent headline shows where we’re going, as a nation:

Life Expectancy in U.S. Declines Slightly, and Researchers Are Puzzled

Get this subheading!

African-American men gained 0.4 year of life expectancy in 2014, to 72.2 years.

My monthly AARP magazine is getting into the act, too, and not just about elder abuse by those seeking to get grandma’s retirement money in order to fund their heroin addiction. Once a place to find articles about cell phones and travel destinations for seniors, this 2011 headline was a first:

Boomers on Drugs

What you didn’t know about grandma!

Opioids and addiction are a national issue now because of the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes attempts to eliminate – just when America is acknowledging this deeply entrenched and growing problem – American’s ability to get detox and rehab not just for the rich, who can afford private pay rehab stays, but for the poor and middle class who cannot. The people who care about this are elderly, farmers, veterans.

About six months ago I sat at a forum in my town for high schoolers, the goal of which was to open up a discussion about opioid dependency and provide referrals for those who needed them, and so on. A few audience members asked questions, and the oldest was about 90 years old and he had become an addict after radiation treatment for cancer. Whoever we are, we are at risk. There is no safe corner.

Yes, this is no longer a problem that white Americans or educated Americans, and so on, can ignore, thinking erroneously that this is “their” problem and not “our” problem. There is no way to hide from this situation.

Sadly, my morbid hobby continues and my pile continues to grow. Urban, rural, east coast, west coast, white, black, young, old, rich, poor, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, we are one nation, drug addiction and opioid overdose does not discriminate, and neither should we.

More to follow.

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What You Didn’t Know about Grandma

Life is full of “which is worse” scenarios. There’s the “death by fire” or “death by ice.” Here it is in the poem “Fire and Ice,” as could only have been written by the great American poet Robert Frost:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

The political parties have us vying for which is the worse social problem and no, it is not Planned Parenthood. I’ll tell you straight out I’m going with opioid addiction. The biggest threat to our nation. The biggest threat to our people. That’s right, the fact that many people don’t want to acknowledge even exists. And this is why it’s so dangerous.

One of my more morbid hobbies is collecting headlines that deal with opioid addiction and drug overdoses. I’ve been doing it for years, the pile is getting higher, but recently it’s been a real jackpot.

It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, I collected the rare articles of addicts who had fought through their addictions and made it. Addicts who had ultimately gone to college and gotten major degrees in major universities. One black American from an inner city who went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School. If I can dig the article out from my ever-growing pile, I’ll add the link here. There were articles about homeless who had gone into halfway houses and used that as a place from which to stabilize their lives, which included finding steady work and thus having a stable and proud income.

I clipped and sent these articles to send hope to a young relative of mine who was an addict and always feeling darkness. “See? You can do it too.” I’d like to think my hobby made a difference, helped this relative make good choices, but it seems like it did not. And now I cannot find the articles, even online.

Several years ago I would talk to a lot of my friends about this problem, and this pain of mine. On days when my relative was being arrested, or days when he was being released from prison, or days when he was beginning rehab and there was hope, I would sit in my seat during religious services and cry to myself. I’m not sure if anybody ever noticed my red eyes or my irregular breathing. If they did, they sure didn’t say anything. A few would tell me an aside about a relative who was an addict if I brought up the topic.

A few years back, my stepson died of an overdose of legally prescribed painkillers, shocking us all. He was a pleasure-seeker but he was not an addict. So my headline search and article clipping widened to include deaths by legally prescribed painkillers for things like, quite simply, pain. You know, those pain centers that are everywhere? Particularly in Florida?

Within the last few years, several parents in my community have lost a young adult child. Some of the parents have been brave and willing to confront this public epidemic. Others have not.

A few years later, after I was already personally grappling with this problem, the headlines expanded to include elderly adults who had been bankrupted by their addict children and grandchildren. I knew about this from personal experience, too.

The Untold Cost of the Opiate Epidemic: Elder Abuse

The headlines have continued to change over the years. In the last election, people started to care about the problem of “solving” the problem by throwing people in jail or prison. Were we creating solutions? Or new problems for even more people? A few times I sat in at a drug court. I saw young hopeless male adults. Five or so young adults would stand in front of the judge, who would ask them if they were on anything at that time.  I saw them, in unison, lie. Five No‘s. I saw a pained grandmother as the judge would approve this one for drug court and that one – her grandson – to return to jail.

In the months and years after that, I started seeing headlines about large and small towns that were creating drug courts as a new approach.

This recent headline shows where we’re going, as a nation:

Life Expectancy in U.S. Declines Slightly, and Researchers Are Puzzled

Get the subheading:

African-American men gained 0.4 year of life expectancy in 2014, to 72.2 years.

My monthly AARP magazine is getting into the act, too, and not just about elder abuse by those seeking to get grandma’s retirement money in order to fund their heroin addiction. Once a place to find articles about cell phones and travel destinations for seniors, this 2011 headline was a first:

Boomers on Drugs

It’s a national issue now because of the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes attempts to eliminate – just when America is acknowledging this deeply entrenched and growing problem – American’s ability to get detox and rehab not just for the rich, who can afford private pay rehab stays, but for the poor and middle class who cannot. The people who care about this are elderly, farmers, veterans.

About six months ago I sat at a forum in my town for high schoolers, the goal of which was to open up a discussion about opioid dependency and provide referrals for those who needed them, and so on. A few audience members asked questions, and the oldest was about 90 years old and he had become an addict after radiation treatment for cancer. Whoever we are, we are at risk. There is no safe corner.

Yes, this is no longer a problem that white Americans or educated Americans, and so on, can ignore, thinking erroneously that this is “their” problem and not “our” problem. There is no way to hide from this situation.

Sadly, my morbid hobby continues and my pile continues to grow. Urban, rural, east coast, west coast, white, black, young, old, rich, poor, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, we are one nation, drug addiction and opioid overdose does not discriminate, and neither should we.

More to follow.

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TJ’s Weekly Household Haiku Challenge: “Vibrant”

Once again I’m inspired by TJ Paris and his weekly household item haiku challenge. This week’s challenge is the adjective, “vibrant.” TJ also has a new format for his haiku challenge. Check it out!

 

Again, her eyes gleam!

Either the chemo’s working

Or all our prayers are.

 

roses

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Rosemary and Lemon: Aromatherapy for Seniors, Alzheimer’s Patients (and You)

Rosemary_white_bgReblogged from “Mom, Me and Elderly” by Jane Hanser:

“There is no cure for Alzheimer’s” I read again and again. I’ve alternated between accepting that claim and refusing to accept it. Scientists promise a cure in the future, but what about now? Even if there is no cure currently, maybe it’s possible to stop its progression. This – stopping the progression of Alzheimer’s – is in itself a blessing and this is my goal for my elderly mom.

I think about my semi-annual teeth cleanings and how difficult it is to remove plaque! Ouch! (It is so much easier to not allow the plaque to build up in the first place.) Regarding my own high cholesterol numbers, my physician explains you cannot remove the plaque, you can only stabilize it (with statin medications such as Lipitor) so it doesn’t break off and cause heart failure. Or its buildup can be contained by smart eating. But plaque in our brains? Research is now being done in mice to try to successfully remove plaque from their brains but that remains long off for humans.

When it comes to my elderly mother, my mission is to halt the progression of this disease, while she can still get pleasure from life and from our company, and to stop this dreaded disease from further debilitating her mind and robbing her of her intellect and memory. When Aricept had to be discontinued due to gastrointestinal side effects, I discovered that the Exelon patch bypassed that issue, as it is transdermal, and she’s been on an effective dose of the Exelon patch for months with minimal side effects.

Still, necessity mandated that I venture once again into cyberspace, alwyas looking for something I had missed before, or something new, and this time I found a study done by faculty at the Tottori University, Yonago, Japan, which used the essential oil rosemary. Rosmarinus officinalis. The same rosemary that we use for cooking to make food smell yummy? The same herb that I have growing in my garden? The study also used the essential oil of lemon. In this study, the two essential oils, rosemary and lemon, were added to water in a diffuser. Both are presumed to have properties that, by traveling through the nasal cavity, and thus avoiding being broken down in the liver, directly affect the hippocampus or amygdaloid body, which is in charge of discharging neurotransmitters. A compound in rosemary, 1,8-cineole, causes an increase in a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. It is the breakdown of these neurotransmitters which causes the lapses in memory and cognition.

AROMATHERAPY? I do yoga and all, but I have my limits in this wellness craze. Talk to me about wellness and all, and you’ve lost me!What did I have to lose? What does my mom have to lose by trying this?

I ordered a diffuser, ordered the essential oils, and we went to work. The morning aid comes in to give my mom her meds and follows the protocol indicated in the study, exactly. She puts just enough water in the diffuser that the oils diffuse in under two hours, while my mom goes back to sleep. She sleeps as close to the diffuser as possible because she loves smelling the sweetness. Pretty interesting from somebody who insisted she had no sense of smell. Is there something in this essential oil is igniting her sense of smell?

If there’s any water left over, in the evenings she holds the diffuser close to her nose and just breathes in the vapors. She loves the sweet smell. And as a bonus it may actually be helping to WHAT the neurotransmitters.

Is it affecting, or improving her cognitive functioning and her memory?

I believe so.  I maintain a log of what she does, what she says, and have been keeping this for months now. We also have a week-at-a-glance book that her aids and she fill in daily. In the last 5 weeks I’ve seen little deterioration, and extraordinary improvement. In addition to the Exelon patch (which, by the way, is designed to block the enzymes that break down the neurotransmitters), she is also taking the doses of coconut oil (see next blog post.)

Doubtful? Read the Japanese study for yourself by following the link above. If your parent or spouse is suffering from Alzheimer’s, what do you have to lose? What does he or she?

As for the rosemary growing in our garden, I have snipped off some branches and every now and then take a deep whiff. A big inhale… AHHHHH! And while inhaling I think about how much my brain loves this…..  Suddenly rosemary is one of the most beautiful smells to me.

And this is over-the-counter! The same type of naturally-growing plant that pharmaceuticals often try to mimic in their medications. I still don’t like to label myself a “naturalist” or get into terms like “wellness” but I’m open to the wisdom of trying these long-coveted medicinals and aromatics, naturally growing plants.

With Alzheimer’s, a nasty disease that usually results in death, it’s best to take an all-inclusive approach. And remember, it takes 15-20 years for the symptoms of Alzheimer’s to appear. So why wait until there’s been an Alzheimer’s diagnosis?

Rosemary and Remembrance. Do some of nature’s own healing aromatherapy with the sweet-smelling scents of rosemary and lemon.

(See also: BBC: What Does Rosemary Do To Your Brain?)

Close Call

A true story.

A beautiful Sunday morning in May was a splendid time to volunteer in my community to help pull invasives from a city park. I was wearing gardening gloves but not a long-sleeved shirt. Several mornings later, my entire torso including my back, one leg, my neck and my face above my cheekbone were severely inflamed and broken out. The Benedryl I took didn’t do anything. The cortisone cream didn’t do anything. Everything was itching and my eyes were now beginning to itch. I drove myself to Urgent Care, where I was given an IV of Prednisone, Benedryl and Pepsids. The rash began receding. Doctors prescribed four days of Prednisone and four days of an antihistamine.  When I was steady on my feet, I was discharged. The Starbucks a few doors down was a cool relaxing haven, where I enjoyed a mocha frappuchino to feel good and to ensure I was awake enough to drive home.

Three days later the redness was down but still severe. Back to the Urgent Care I went. This doctor gave me an Rx for ten days of Prednisone, 20 mg in the morning, 20 mg before bedtime, plus pepsids in the evening before bed.

Several days later I had an appointment with my dermatologist. I was seated in the reception room, waiting. Tapping tapping tapping my leg.  An assistant came out and said, “Jane?””That’s me” and I got my belongings and headed to follow her. We went into an examination room.

“Your name and date of birth”?”I’m exactly the same person who I was 60 seconds ago when you called my name. I assure you I haven’t switched with anybody since then.”

“Are you alright?” she asked.

Of course I’m alright. “It’s these questions that are the problem.”

I continued. “You ask our name and date of birth when we check in. Five minutes later you ask our name. One minute later you ask our date of birth. It’s not you. It’s this whole medical procedure. They keep asking us the same question. When exactly do you think we are switching identities?”

She asked if she could get me some water. Smart move.

In the quiet of the reception room, I realized I’d been fighting with everybody I met for the last few days. I was fighting with people on the telephone, people on the street. I was not alright.

After the appointment, I headed over to the CVS to fill my new prescriptions for more steroid creams to be applied to my skin. This dermatologist told me to take all 40 mg of the Prednisone in the morning, because the Prednisone, which has a long half life, if taken at night remains in my system through the next day.

At the CVS pharmacy, I bumped into my friend there.

Somewhere along the line she mentioned that people who are on Prednisone get really wired. It would have been nice if ONE physician had told me this. And the creams were, I still did not know, going to be adding even more steroids to my system.

My friend invited me to go to the park with her and her husband.

“No, thanks. I need to relax.  I need to focus on ONE thing. I need to work the LAND. I need to create something that will grow.” I would work on my vegetable garden. Even if I wasn’t calming down physically, at least I wouldn’t be getting into fights. “I’m going to go home and plant my vegetable garden.”

I kept on, while people milled about all around us. And besides. Who knows. If I drive anywhere, I could get pulled over, and a cop will hear me being really irritated and belligerent. And if I were black, he’d have me arrested for insubordination. And he’d take me to jail and place me in a holding cell and I’d be strapped to a chair in a cell.” My speech was getting faster and faster. “And then they’d taser me since I wouldn’t be able to calm down. And then I’d be dead.” I stopped abruptly at this revelation.

I had seen the program on Don Lemon’s program last week. The black man from Nigeria, Matthew Ajibade, had been a foreigner student here, studying in an American university. Several years ago his family had discovered he’d been suffering from bipolar disorder. He was on medication to control it. One day, he didn’t take his medication and he and his girlfriend got into a struggle. The police were called and he became combative with the police. The girlfriend told them he was bipolar and he needed her meds. She even went and got the meds and handed them over to the police, stressing to them that he needed to be given his meds and he needed to be taken for psychiatric care.  The police took him to the police station instead. They booked him and put him in a cell, strapped him to a chair. They never gave him his meds. Then they tasered him. He died. To this day police have not released the police report to the public, and his family is suffering.

So that’s all it takes. An awful skin rash because I was volunteering to help rid my city parks of invasive vines and lots of Prednisone and other steroids to make my system go uncontrollably hayware and there was not a thing I could do to control my heightened irritability. The police wouldn’t care what I was taking or for what reason.

“Do you want to go to the park with us?” my friend asked again. “We’re going to sit by the pond.”

“Sounds lovely.”

***

Post Script: I found a physician, a family friend, who told me that Prednisone produces adrenalin-like symptoms and to wean off of it slowly, and he told me exactly how to do it. Who knew? It took one full week to stop experiencing that uncontrollable anxiety.