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Step out for diabetes

HEA-Step-out-for-diabetes-Seth-BensonSeth Benson looks pretty much like any other sixth grader. But unlike most kids his age, he battles a disease every day that not only limits what he eats, but his ability to participate in regular school acivities.

Seth, the son of Heather and Thomas Benson, was diagnosed a year ago with type 1 diabetes, often called juvenile diabetes. And, on Saturday, October 11, he will be walking in the “Step Out for Diabetes” walk and fun run in Grand Rapids to raise funds to combat this life-changing disease.

According to WebMD, Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Insulin’s main role is to help move certain nutrients, especially sugar, into the cells of the body’s tissues. Cells use sugars and other nutrients from meals as a source of energy to function. In people with type 1 diabetes, sugar isn’t moved into the cells because insulin is not available. When sugar builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, the body’s cells starve for nutrients and other systems in the body must provide energy for many important bodily functions. As a result, high blood sugar develops. Over time, the high sugar levels in the blood may damage the nerves and small blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys, and heart and predispose a person to atherosclerosis (hardening) of the large arteries that can cause heart attack and stroke.

Seth must be monitored closely, but Heather said that he handles it pretty well. “He makes several trips to the office during class to have his sugars tested. He also has to take his lunch to the office so he can get his insulin injections based on what he picked out that day. Sometimes, depending on his sugar level, he cannot participate in gym class or other physical activities. Classroom snacks also have to be taken to the office so he can get dosed.”

Basically, he gets a dose of insulin for everything he puts in his mouth. This makes eating out, something kids enjoy, difficult. “We count carbs for everything. Buffets are not an option or a lot of fast food or restaurants. Halloween can be tricky, as well as family gathering or any situation where there is homemade food,” explained Heather.

But Seth still gets to enjoy kid activities. He plays rocket football, is a Boy Scout, and this past summer went to The American Diabetes Camp for kids. He has to be careful though, because if he gets sick with a cold or injured, his sugar is hard to manage.

“We want nothing more than to find a cure for this disease, and are hoping it will be in his lifetime!” said Heather. “That’s why we are walking in the Step Out Walk on Saturday, to raise money for a cure.”

The money Seth is raising goes to help find a cure. If you would like to donate, go to stepout.diabetes.org and click on donate. Then search for a team, and type in Seth’s Saints.

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October is breast cancer awareness month

pink-ribbonAmerican Cancer Society recommendations for early breast cancer detection in women without breast symptoms

 

Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.

Current evidence supporting mammograms is even stronger than in the past. In particular, recent evidence has confirmed that mammograms offer substantial benefit for women in their 40s. Women can feel confident about the benefits associated with regular mammograms for finding cancer early. However, mammograms also have limitations. A mammogram can miss some cancers, and it may lead to follow up of findings that are not cancer.

Mammograms should be continued regardless of a woman’s age, as long as she does not have serious, chronic health problems such as congestive heart failure, end-stage renal disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and moderate to severe dementia. Women with serious health problems or short life expectancies should discuss with their doctors whether to continue having mammograms.

Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional preferably every 3 years. Starting at age 40, women should have a CBE by a health professional every year.

CBE is done along with mammograms and offers a chance for women and their doctor or nurse to discuss changes in their breasts, early detection testing, and factors in the woman’s history that might make her more likely to have breast cancer. The chance of breast cancer occurring is very low for women in their 20s and gradually increases with age. Women should promptly report any new breast symptoms to a health professional.

Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should report any breast changes to their health professional right away.

Research has shown that BSE plays a small role in finding breast cancer compared with finding a breast lump by chance or simply being aware of what is normal for each woman. Some women feel very comfortable doing BSE regularly (usually monthly after their period) which involves a systematic step-by-step approach to examining the look and feel of one’s breasts. Other women are more comfortable simply feeling their breasts in a less systematic approach, such as while showering or getting dressed or doing an occasional thorough exam.

Sometimes, women are so concerned about “doing it right” that they become stressed over the technique. Doing BSE regularly is one way for women to know how their breasts normally look and feel and to notice any changes. The goal, with or without BSE, is to report any breast changes to a doctor or nurse right away.

If a change occurs, such as development of a lump or swelling, skin irritation or dimpling, nipple pain or retraction (turning inward), redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin, or a discharge other than breast milk (such as staining of your sheets or bra), you should see your health care professional as soon as possible for evaluation. Remember that most of the time, however, these breast changes are not cancer.

Women who are at high risk for breast cancer based on certain factors should get an MRI and a mammogram every year.

This includes women who:

Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of about 20 to 25 percent or greater, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history (such as the Claus model – see below)

Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.

Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, and have not had genetic testing themselves.

Had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30 years.

Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes.

The American Cancer Society recommends against MRI screening for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 15 percent.

There is not enough evidence to make a recommendation for or against yearly MRI screening for women who have a moderately increased risk of breast cancer (a lifetime risk of 15 to 20 percent according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history) or who may be at increased risk of breast cancer based on certain factors, such as:

Having a personal history of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), or atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH)

Having dense breasts (“extremely” or “heterogeneously” dense) as seen on a mammogram.

If MRI is used, it should be in addition to, not instead of, a screening mammogram. This is because although an MRI is a more sensitive test (it’s more likely to detect cancer than a mammogram), it may still miss some cancers that a mammogram would detect.

For most women at high risk, screening with MRI and mammograms should begin at age 30 years and continue for as long as a woman is in good health. But because the evidence is limited about the best age at which to start screening, this decision should be based on shared decision-making between patients and their health care providers, taking into account personal circumstances and preferences.

There is no evidence right now that MRI is an effective screening tool for women at average risk. While MRI is more sensitive than mammograms, it also has a higher false-positive rate (it is more likely to find something that turns out not to be cancer). This would lead to unneeded biopsies and other tests in many of the women screened, which can lead to a lot of worry and anxiety.

The American Cancer Society believes the use of mammograms, MRI (in women at high risk), clinical breast exams, and finding and reporting breast changes early, according to the recommendations outlined above, offers women the best chance to reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer. This approach is clearly better than any one exam or test alone.

Without question, a physical exam of the breast without a mammogram would miss the opportunity to detect many breast cancers that are too small for a woman or her doctor to feel but can be seen on mammograms. Mammograms are a sensitive screening method, but a small percentage of breast cancers do not show up on mammograms but can be felt by a woman or her doctors. For women at high risk of breast cancer, such as those with BRCA gene mutations or a strong family history, both MRI and mammogram exams of the breast are recommended.

 

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Flu fighters: Busting six sickening flu myths

HEA-Flu-myths(BPT) – Ready for this year’s flu season? You may think you know a lot about flu prevention and treatment – but being wrong about the flu can make you downright ill. Here are six myths about the flu, and the truth behind them.

Myth 1: Cold weather will give you the flu.

Fact: Although flu cases commonly peak in January or February, and the “season” usually lasts from early October to late May, it is possible to get the flu at any time of year. During cold weather, people are inside in confined spaces for greater amounts of time. This, combined with bringing germs home from work or school, creates more opportunities for the flu to spread.

Myth 2: If you’ve had a flu shot, you can’t get sick.

Fact: It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccination to fully protect you, and you could catch the virus during that time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since the flu vaccine protects against specific strains expected to be prevalent in any given year, it’s also possible for you to be exposed to a strain not covered by the current vaccine. Finally, the vaccine may be less effective in older people or those who are chronically ill, the CDC says.

Myth 3: Once you’ve treated a surface with a disinfectant, it is instantly flu free.

Fact: Disinfectants don’t work instantly to kill germs on surfaces. In fact, some antibacterial cleaners can take as long as 10 minutes to work. And they have to be used correctly. First, clean the surface and then spray it again, leaving it wet for the time specified on package directions. Anything less and you may not kill the flu virus, exposing yourself and others to illness.

If you’re including antibacterial cleaning in your flu-fighting efforts, look for a product that works much faster, like Zep Commercial Quick-Clean Disinfectant. Available at most hardware and home improvement stores like Home Depot, Quick Clean Disinfectant kills 99.9 percent of certain bacteria in just five seconds, and most viruses in 30 seconds to two minutes. To learn more, visit www.zepcommercial.com.

The flu virus can live up to 24 hours on surfaces such as counters, remote controls, video game controllers, door knobs and faucets. Use a household cleaner that disinfects to clean these high-touch surfaces to help prevent your family from spreading the cold and flu.

Myth 4: You got vaccinated last year, so you don’t need a shot this year.

Fact: Like all viruses, flu viruses are highly adaptable and can change from year to year. Also, the strains vary each year, so the vaccination you got last year may not be effective against the flu that’s active this year. In fact, it most likely won’t be effective. The CDC recommends that people who are eligible for the vaccine get a flu shot by early October.

Myth 5: You got the flu shot, wash your hands frequently and disinfect religiously – you’ve eliminated your risk of flu exposure.

Fact: We don’t live or work in sterile environments. Germs are brought home every day on items like messenger bags, cell phones, notebooks, shoes – even on your clothes. If someone in your home gets sick, or is exposed to someone with the flu, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and discard the tissue in the trash right away. Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Remember that germs spread through touch, so avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Myth 6: Getting the flu isn’t that big of a deal.

Fact: It could be. Last year was the worst flu season since 2009, the CDC said, and during the week of Jan. 6 to 12, 2013, more than 8 percent of all deaths nationwide were attributable to flu and flu-related pneumonia. In addition to making you miserable, flu can make existing medical conditions worse, lead to sinusitis and bronchitis and even pneumonia.

Bottom line: if you are not feeling well, avoid making yourself and others around you sick by staying home.

 

 

 

 

 

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What You Should Know for the 2014-2015 Influenza Season

HEA-Flu-take3-press-1

From the CDC

 

When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?

The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. between December and February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

What should I do to prepare for this flu season?

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. While there are many different flu viruses, the seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the main flu viruses that research suggests will cause the most illness during the upcoming flu season. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, ideally by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins.

In addition to getting vaccinated, you can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.

What should I do to protect my loved ones from flu this season?

Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available in their communities, preferably by October. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for serious flu complications, and their close contacts.

Children between 6 months and 8 years of age may need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected from flu. Your child’s doctor or other health care professional can tell you whether your child needs two doses. Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age, you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu.

When should I get vaccinated?

CDC recommends that people get vaccinated against flu soon after vaccine becomes available, preferably by October. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.

Those children 6 months through 8 years of age who need two doses of vaccine should receive the first dose as soon as possible to allow time to get the second dose before the start of flu season. The two doses should be given at least 4 weeks apart.

What kind of vaccines will be available in the United States for 2014-2015?

A number of different manufacturers produce trivalent (three component) influenza vaccines for the U.S. market, including intramuscular (IM), intradermal, and nasal spray vaccines. Some seasonal flu vaccines will be formulated to protect against four flu viruses (quadrivalent flu vaccines).

Are there new recommendations for the 2014-2015 influenza season?

Starting in 2014-2015, CDC recommends use of the nasal spray vaccine (LAIV) for healthy* children 2 through 8 years of age, when it is immediately available and if the child has no contraindications or precautions to that vaccine. Recent studies suggest that the nasal spray flu vaccine may work better than the flu shot in younger children. However, if the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available and the flu shot is, children 2 years through 8 years old should get the flu shot. Don’t delay vaccination to find the nasal spray flu vaccine.

How much flu vaccine will be available this season?

Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, so supply depends on manufacturers. For this season, manufacturers have projected they will provide between 151-159 million doses of vaccine for the U.S. market.

When will flu vaccine become available?

Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, so the timing of vaccine availability depends on when production is completed. If everything goes as indicated by manufacturers, shipments may begin as early as July or August and continue throughout September and October until all of the vaccine is distributed.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines are offered by many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers, and even by some schools.

Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get a flu vaccine somewhere else, like a health department, pharmacy, urgent care clinic, and often your school, college health center, or work.

For more info visit www.cdc.gov/flu/.

 

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Where to get a flu shot

 

 

The Kent County Health Department offers four locations:

  • Fuller – 700 Fuller Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • North County – 4388 14 Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341
  • Sheldon – 121 Franklin SE, Ste. 130, Grand Rapids, MI 49507
  • South – 4700 Kalamazoo Ave SE, Kentwood, MI 49508

Call (616) 632-7200 weekdays from 8-12 or 1-5 to make your appointment.

Fees: $39-$55 for injectable vaccine and $41 for FluMist (nasal).

They will bill Medicaid and Medicare for adults and children, but they do not bill private insurance. Children 18 years and under may qualify for free or reduced cost vaccine. Qualifying for this special program will be assessed at your appointment.

Flu shots are also available at area pharmacies:

  • Rite Aid 4166 17 Mile Road Ne, Cedar Springs, 696-9040

Vaccines: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, HPV, Meningococcal, MMR, Pneumococcal, Shingles/zoster, Td, Tdap, Varicella

  • Meijer 3700 17 Mile Rd Ne, Cedar Springs, 696-4610

Vaccines: Flu Nasal Spray ($32.99), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, High-Dose Flu Shot, HPV, Meningococcal, MMR, Pneumococcal, Quadrivalent Flu Shot ($32.99), Shingles/zoster, Td, Tdap, Trivalent Flu Shot ($27.99), Varicella

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MDA offers flu Shots to those affected by muscle disease

 

MDA’s online Flu Season Resource Center helps families prepare

The Muscular Dystrophy Association is offering assistance with the cost of flu vaccines for individuals affected by muscle disease, including muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular diseases.

MDA offers this service annually for adults and children living with muscle disease who, because of compromised respiratory function, including difficulty coughing or clearing fluid from the lungs, are at increased risk of serious and possibly life-threatening complications from the flu.

Through MDA, individuals affected by muscle disease can receive a flu shot through their local MDA-sponsored clinic, or they can receive reimbursement from MDA (up to $35) for the cost of flu vaccines received from licensed health professionals, including those located at retail pharmacies.

“We can’t keep flu season from coming, but there’s a lot we can do to prepare and help protect everyone from its impact and complications,” said MDA Executive Vice President & Chief Medical and Scientific Officer Valerie Cwik, M.D. “All strains of the flu can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening illness for those living with a muscle disease. We encourage families to learn more about how to prevent influenza and prepare for the coming flu season.”

Families and individuals served by MDA can visit MDA’s Flu Season Resource Center at http://mda.org/flu-season-support to receive up-to-date information and tips for flu prevention, what to do should infection occur and how to obtain a vaccine through MDA. 

Flu seasons are unpredictable and can begin as early as October, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people get their flu vaccine as soon as it is available in their area. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to be protected from the flu.

For more information about obtaining a flu vaccine, individuals affected by any of the diseases in MDA’s program may call their local MDA office at (800) 572-1717.

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Changing course: a second degree and second career 

Debbie Robles, recipient of the Hospice of Michigan Second Degree-Second Career Nursing Scholarship, prepares for her nurse licensure exam and a new career in hospice and palliative care.

Debbie Robles, recipient of the Hospice of Michigan Second Degree-Second Career Nursing Scholarship, prepares for her nurse licensure exam and a new career in hospice and palliative care.

Debbie Robles was drawn to the nursing profession at a young age. She recalls dressing as a nurse for career day in elementary school, and also caring for her sick grandmother and great-aunt as a young adult. But as an 18-year-old college student, a nursing degree just wasn’t something she could pursue.

“I paid my way through college and had to work several jobs to pay the bills,” Robles explains. “The nursing program required a lot of time, homework and use of a car that I didn’t have. Instead I chose to pursue a math degree. Math always came easy to me, and I knew it wouldn’t be as time intensive, allowing me to work more.”

Robles graduated from Franciscan University with a bachelor’s degree in math along with a teaching endorsement. She went on to lead a successful career teaching middle school and high school and even working as an adjunct math professor at Grand Valley State University.

Eventually, Robles decided to put her teaching career on hold while she and her husband started a family. Five children and 11 years later, Robles was ready to go back to work and found herself back in the classroom where she intended to take a couple biology classes to keep up her teaching certificate and to expand the subjects she could teach. That’s when the stars began to align for her and a career in hospice and palliative care began taking shape.

“As I started to talk with other students in my class, I learned that GVSU offered an accelerated second-degree nursing program, and the two classes I was taking were both prerequisites for the degree,” Robles says. “I went home that night and told my husband ‘This is what I want to do.’”

GVSU’s second-degree nursing program is offered through its Kirkhof College of Nursing and targeted toward individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university and wish to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing. Students are admitted to the full-time, 15-month program once per year, applying in January for a May start.

By the end of her first semester back in college, Robles had made her decision to pursue the nursing degree when she learned her 69-year-old father was diagnosed with late-stage sarcoma. With no treatment options available, her father died within weeks of diagnosis.

“As I reflected on this experience with my dad, it struck me that in the health courses I’d been taking, the focus was on treatment and saving lives. No one talked about death and what to do when treatment wasn’t available,” Robles recalls. “Death is inevitable, but it’s something nobody wants to talk about.”

Shortly after her father died, Robles learned that Hospice of Michigan offered a Second Degree-Second Career Nursing Scholarship through GVSU. Responding to a shortage of nursing students interested in end-of-life care, HOM established the scholarship in 2009 to provide the funds and the opportunity for students like Robles to change their career path.

“I was amazed when I found out about the scholarship program,” Robles said. “Not only did I stumble across the second-degree nursing program, but then I found out there is a scholarship available for the exact type of medicine I had recently decided I wanted to go into. I knew then that hospice and palliative care is what I was meant to do.”

With funding provided by HOM, the scholarship, which was created to nurture future registered nurses in the field of hospice and palliative care, awards recipients full tuition, a stipend and a nursing residency with HOM that provides first-hand experience. After the student graduates and passes the licensure exam, he or she will enter into a two-year agreement to work as a full-time nurse for HOM.

“Since many students study nursing right after high school, the idea of a career in palliative care doesn’t interest them,” said Dr. Michael Paletta, executive director of the Hospice of Michigan Institute. “Offering the Second Degree-Second Career scholarship to those seeking nursing as a career change later in life allows HOM to reach students who may be more interested and comfortable with a career in hospice and palliative care. Scholarship recipients will receive top-notch training both in the classroom and in the field. To date, we have given three scholarships and have nursing students practicing around the state.”

Robles applied and was delighted to be selected as the 2013 scholarship recipient. She graduated from GVSU’s nursing program this summer and is currently studying for her licensure exam.

“The first-hand experience I’ve had working with HOM through my education has reassured me that this was the profession I was meant to be in,” Robles says. “I’m very excited to begin my new career and couldn’t be happier that it’s with Hospice of Michigan.”

For more information about Hospice of Michigan and its Second Degree-Second Career Nursing Scholarship visit www.hom.org.

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Michigan monitoring for cases of enterovirus

 

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is receiving reports indicating an increase in severe respiratory illness in children ages 5-17 across the state. MDCH is working with local health departments and hospitals to investigate these cases. At this time, Michigan has no confirmed cases of Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) associated with the national outbreak, but MDCH is forwarding samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing.

Nationally, clusters of EV-D68 infections have recently impacted the pediatric population in multiple states. Original reports described clusters of illness in Missouri and most recently Illinois. The majority of those cases had a previous medical history of asthma or prior wheezing. Currently, suspected cases are also being investigated in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah.

Enteroviruses are very common viruses; there are more than 100 types. It is estimated that 10 to 15 million enterovirus infections occur in the United States each year. Symptoms of EV-D68 infection can include wheezing, difficulty breathing, fever and racing heart rate. Most people infected with enteroviruses have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, but some infections can be serious requiring hospitalization.

Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. There is no specific treatment for EV-D68 infections but supportive care can be provided.

Young residents with asthma are encouraged to be vigilant in taking their asthma controlling medications. Further, Michiganders can protect themselves from enterovirus by taking general hygiene precautions:

• Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.

• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.

• Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, EV-D68 was first identified in California in 1962. Compared with other enteroviruses, EV-D68 has been rarely reported in the United States for the last 40 years. There is no vaccine for it.

For more info about it, visit www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/about/EV-D68.html.

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Fly & Remember

Each September, Hospice of Michigan encourages families across the state to decorate and fly kites during community events to celebrate the lives of those who have died.

Each September, Hospice of Michigan encourages families across the state to decorate and fly kites during community events to celebrate the lives of those who have died.

Celebrating the lives of those we’ve lost

Even though Judy Fleming’s father died three years ago, she takes comfort knowing he lived a good life and died a peaceful death in his home with family around him. While she has made peace with his death, she often finds herself missing him and looks for an opportunity to remember and feel connected.
“Even after we learn to cope with the grief of losing a loved one, there is no promise we will stop missing them,” said Karen Monts, director of grief support services at Hospice of Michigan. “And for some of us, we don’t want to. In fact, people often say the fading memory of those we love can be the hardest things to cope with.”
To offer the bereaved an opportunity to remember and celebrate the legacy of their lost loved ones, HOM will hold nine community-wide Fly & Remember memorial events throughout Michigan in September. Attendees at these free annual events have the opportunity to personalize a kite in memory of their loved one and then to fly it in that person’s honor. Anyone who has experienced a loss is welcome to attend, not just those who died under Hospice of Michigan care.
“Fly & Remember is an uplifting event that provides people with time to remember their loved ones and reflect on their life in a positive and productive way,” Monts explains. “Memorializing loved ones who have passed allows the bereaved to keep the essence of their loved one alive. It is important to remember that coping with grief isn’t about forgetting your loved one, it’s about getting to a place where you can find peace with the loss and happiness in the memories you once shared.”
In an effort to keep the memory of her father alive, Fleming has attended Fly & Remember each year since his death. She also brings her mother, who is looking for ways to hold on to memories of her husband of 65 years.
“Instead of typical kite decorations, my mom and I write a letter to my dad on the kite,” Fleming said. “When we fly it, we feel like we’re sending him a message.”
“The Fly & Remember event has become a wonderful day to remember and celebrate my father,” Fleming adds. “When I fly the kite I feel connected to him and a sense of peace falls over me. I’m reminded that he’s gone to a better place.”
Fleming says that in addition to memorializing her father, there is an overwhelming feeling of support by those who attend. “The event is very welcoming. I see many of the same people attend each year, and I’ve become friends with some of them,” Fleming recalled. “There are people there that I can talk to and even cry with; and they understand where I’m coming from.”
Each community hosting a Fly & Remember event plans to partner with other organizations and offer unique activities, such as live music and reading of poems. Events will be held:
•    Saturday, Sept. 6, in Manistee
•    Monday, Sept. 8th in Boyne City
•    Friday, Sept. 12, in Lake City
•    Saturday, Sept. 13, in Gaylord
•    Saturday, Sept. 13, in Royal Oak
•    Tuesday, Sept. 16, in Ann Arbor
•    Tuesday, Sept. 16, in Grand Rapids
•    Thursday, Sept. 18, in Traverse City
•    Saturday, Sept. 27, in Alpena
“These events offer something for all members of a family,” Monts explained. “In addition to the spiritual healing it offers adults, it offers kids a healthy way to remember those they’ve lost and creates an opportunity for them to open up and talk about it.”
Fly & Remember registration information and location specifics can be found on http://hom.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=FLY_and_Remember.
For those who can’t attend, HOM is also offering families the opportunity to make a donation and fly a virtual kite in memory of a loved one. The virtual experience also gives friends and family an opportunity to post messages of support and share memories of the deceased.
Fly & Remember, which was first held in 2009, is just one of many ways that HOM works with patients and patient families to offer support, strength and guidance through the emotional challenges of loss. For more information on HOM grief support and memorial events, visit www.hom.org.

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EarthTalk®

According to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly half of American kids aged eight and under consume potentially harmful amounts of vitamin A, zinc and niacin because of excessive food fortification. Photo by Andy Melton, courtesy Flickr

According to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly half of American kids aged eight and under consume potentially harmful amounts of vitamin A, zinc and niacin because of excessive food fortification. Photo by Andy Melton, courtesy Flickr


E – The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that much of our food—including cereals and snacks eaten by children—is actually over-fortified with excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals that can be dangerous to our health?
             – Diane Summerton, Waukesha, WI
Added nutrients in the processed foods we eat could indeed be too much of a good thing, especially for kids. According to a report from non-profit health research and advocacy group Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly half of American kids aged eight and under “consume potentially harmful amounts of vitamin A, zinc and niacin because of excessive food fortification, outdated nutritional labeling rules and misleading marketing tactics used by food manufacturers.” EWG’s analysis for the “How Much Is Too Much?” report focused on two frequently fortified food categories: breakfast cereals and snack bars.
Of the 1,550 common cereals studied by EWG, 114 (including Total Raisin Bran, Wheaties Fuel, Cocoa Krispies, Krave and others) were fortified with 30 percent or more of the adult Daily Value for vitamin A, zinc and/or niacin. And 27 of 1,000 brands of snack bars studied (including Balance, Kind and Marathon bars) were fortified with 50 percent or more of the adult Daily Value for at least one of these nutrients. EWG researchers based their analysis on Nutrition Facts labels on the various food items’ packaging.
“Heavily fortified foods may sound like a good thing, but it when it comes to children and pregnant women, excessive exposure to high nutrient levels could actually cause short or long-term health problems,” says EWG research director Renee Sharp, who co-authored the report.  “Manufacturers use vitamin and mineral fortification to sell their products, adding amounts in excess of what people need and more than might be prudent for young children to consume.”
Sharp adds that excessive levels of vitamin A can lead to skeletal abnormalities, liver damage and hair loss, while high doses of zinc can impede copper absorption, compromise red and white blood cells and impair immune function. Also, too much vitamin A during pregnancy can lead to fetal developmental issues. And older adults who get too much vitamin A are at more risk for osteoporosis and hip fractures.
EWG suggests it’s time to overhaul our food labeling system to better account for how ingredients may affect children as well as adults. “In other words, when a parent picks up a box of cereal and sees that one serving provides 50 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A, he or she may think that it provides 50 percent of a child’s recommended intake,” says EWG researcher and report co-author Olga Naidenko. “But he or she would most likely be wrong, since the Daily Values are based on an adult’s dietary needs.”
EWG is working on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to update its guidelines for Nutrition Facts to better reflect how foods affect children as well as adults. In the meantime, parents might want to consider scaling back on fortified foods for their kids in favor of so-called whole foods (unprocessed, unrefined fruits, vegetables and whole grains) that deliver the right amounts of nutrients naturally.
“Research consistently shows that the nutrient amounts and types found in whole foods provide optimal nutrition as well as least risk,” says Ashley Koff, a registered dietitian and a former ad executive for kid’s cereals and snack bars. “We owe it to parents and kids to make it easiest to choose better quality foods.”
See EWG’s “How Much Is Too Much?” report, www.ewg.org/research/how-much-is-too-much.
EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com.

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