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Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Wellness tips for body, mind and heart

(Family Features) Each day offers new opportunities to make choices that impact your health and overall wellness. Though hectic schedules can cause many of us to let healthy habits fall to the wayside, it is important that we give our bodies the attention and care they deserve.

Consider these small steps to gradually improve your whole body and heart health, which can help you enjoy a happier, longer life:

Strike a balance. Take a simpler approach to the traditional idea of “dieting.” Balance calories in versus calories out with a combination of good food choices, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and regular exercise, such as walking or hiking. Incorporate low-calorie, naturally fat-free foods into your diet, such as new Dole Red Grapefruit Sunrise Fruit Bowls, which bring all-natural fruit together with 100 percent juice. They are a great way to start the day or just enjoy as a delicious snack. Grapefruit naturally offers a plentiful source of nutrients, including phosphorus, potassium and vitamins A and C.

Watch the middle. According to the Mayo Clinic, that extra weight you carry around the mid-section can cause serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Work to keep this common problem area in check by reducing caloric intake and increasing physical activity.

Skip the stress. While a little stress is part of being human, too much can be taxing on the heart. Find activities that engage your mind and naturally relieve stress such as knitting, crafting or working on a puzzle.

Dine in the a.m. Don’t let a rushed morning routine get in the way of enjoying a heart-healthy breakfast. A complete morning meal includes a combination of whole grains, protein, and fruits or vegetables. For a convenient, on-the-go option, throw an individually-sealed cup of Dole Red Grapefruit Sunrise in your laptop bag or purse. Each cup contains peak-of-ripeness, wholesome, peeled grapefruit and allows you to enjoy grapefruit all year around. Plus, they’re gluten free, contain no GMOs (genetically modified or engineered ingredients) or artificial sweeteners, and feature BPA-free packaging.

Drink more water. For your body to function properly, it needs the right amount of hydration. According to the Institute of Medicine, the average required intake for a male is about 13 cups, while a female requires about 9 cups. Switch out sodas and sugary drinks with water to reap its benefits, and to shave off extra “empty” calories that may contribute to weight gain.

Get routine exams. A yearly doctor’s examination keeps you more informed of your body’s ever-changing status, and it keeps your health care provider in the loop, too. Educate yourself and understand the import numbers for your heart, including blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.

A happy life starts with the right mindset and a few easy routines. For more ways to boost your body’s wellness and healthy snack ideas, visit www.Dole.com.

 

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Forget the pricey trip to the spa with simple DIY tips and tricks

HEA-Forget-pricey-trip-to-spa

 

(BPT) With a whole new year ahead, now is the perfect time to relax and refresh with at-home spa treatments that are easy, natural, luxurious and, best of all, affordable.

“Skin care does not have to be costly to be effective,” says Janet Little, director of nutrition at Sprouts Farmers Market. “By preparing your own body care products, you can have beautiful-looking skin, slow down premature skin aging and save money.”

As a matter of fact, you probably already have fresh and natural ingredients in your refrigerator and cupboards, or you can easily purchase them from a grocery store or health food store. These simple ingredients can eliminate dry skin, reduce wrinkles, banish dark under eye circles and relax sore muscles. The advantages of homemade skin care products include:

* Significant savings. Most of the products that you’ll use are already in your home, and are less expensive than department store-bought skin care products or spa treatments.

* Avoiding harsh chemicals. Artificial ingredients found in typical drug store beauty products may contain cancer-causing compounds that can penetrate the skin and potentially cause harmful effects.

* Always natural and fresh. Skin care products purchased in a store contain preservatives to avoid bacteria contamination and growth. On the other hand, when you prepare your skin care items yourself you get a fresh and natural batch every time.

* Easy and fun to make. Simple recipes take minutes to prepare, but can be just as effective as store bought products.

Here are a few easy, at-home spa recipes that will leave you glowing:

Gentle exfoliant

* Brown sugar is a natural and affordable exfoliant with many health benefits, while grapeseed oil gently and deeply moisturizes skin without clogging pores.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix together with your fingers. Apply to face and body by rotating in a circular motion. Rinse off with warm water.

Firming facial mask

Egg white is great for tightening and toning skin and helps shrink pores. Yogurt is packed with vitamins and proteins, which promotes strong wrinkle-free skin.

Ingredients:

1/2 tablespoon vitamin E oil

1 tablespoon yogurt

1 egg white

Whisk together. Massage onto face and neck. Leave on for at least 20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.

Avocado-honey facial mask 

Avocados are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, perfect for hydrating and great for moisturizing skin. Honey acts as a natural humectant, boosting skin’s hydration and is also a wonderful skin lightening agent.

Ingredients:

1/2 avocado

1/2 cup honey

First, place a cloth in warm water and apply to your face to open the pores. Mash avocado until creamy, combine with honey and apply to face for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse off with warm water, then use cold water to close the pores. Use once a week.

Wrinkle reducer

Banana is wonderful as an anti-wrinkle treatment.

Ingredients:

1 over-ripe banana

Mash 1/4 banana until very creamy. Spread all over face and leave for 15-20 minutes before rinsing off with warm water followed by a dash of cold. Gently pat dry.

Under-eye circle treatment 

Grated potatoes can lighten under-eye circles. Potatoes contain an enzyme called catecholase, which is used in cosmetics as a skin lightener.

Ingredients:

1 potato

Cheese cloth

Run one spud through your food processor and stuff the raw mash into a piece of cheesecloth. Apply to the area directly beneath your eye – don’t let the potato juice come in contact with the eye itself – and leave for 15 to 20 minutes. Wipe away the starchy residue.

Tired and aching muscle relaxer

Epsom salts and essential oils are known for their powerful ability to sooth sore muscles and relieve aches and muscle pain.

1/2 cup Epsom Salt

5 drops lavender essential oil

2 drops chamomile essential oil

Place Epsom salts in a mixing bowl and add drops of essential oil. Mix ingredients together and add to a hot bath.

 

 

 

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Sweet strategies for a healthier you

Watermelon Pistachio Sundae

Watermelon Pistachio Sundae

Family Features

 

When celebrating the past and looking forward to the future, the New Year is a perfect time to set goals for a better, healthier you.

Setting yourself up with a strong nutrition foundation is essential for long-term success. An expert on helping others attain healthy lifestyles, registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer offers these four time-proven skills for permanent weight loss and health management.

1. Balance calories

Seek the right mix of calories in from your diet, versus calories out from exercise and daily activity. Your goal is gradual weight loss of no more than two pounds per week, which ensures you lose fat weight, not water or muscle weight. Daily exercise is a must to maintain the loss. If you can’t lose weight on at least 1,500 calories a day, you need to move more, not eat less.

2. Focus on plants

Emphasize colorful fruits and vegetables, with at least half of every plate heaped with produce. Complement with whole grains and moderate amounts of foods that are calcium-rich (nonfat or low-fat milk) and iron-rich (extra-lean meats, chicken, fish or legumes). Snack on watermelon cubes rich in vitamins A and C, as well as the antioxidant lycopene. This juicy treat is available all year, even in the winter. In addition, a real food such as watermelon contains at least two of the magic three ingredients for weight loss: protein, water and fiber. These nutrients fill you up before they fill you out, so you are satisfied on fewer calories.

3. Eat regularly

When you eat these calories is also important. Large, infrequent meals result in big-time hunger, which can cause you to lose control of your appetite. Eating regularly and when you are comfortably hungry keeps you in control of your appetite, allowing you to make wiser decisions. Here is an example of a day’s menu:

• Breakfast: 100 percent whole grain cereal topped with nonfat milk and berries

• Mid-Morning Snack: A bowl of watermelon with a 6-ounce tub of low-fat yogurt

• Lunch: A turkey sandwich on 100 percent whole grain bread, baby carrots and an apple

• Mid-Afternoon Snack: 1 ounce of nuts with a glass of watermelon juice

• Dinner: Grilled salmon, baked sweet potato and green peas

• Evening Snack: 2 cups air-popped popcorn and 1 cup of fat-free hot chocolate

4. Commit to Health: Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is not just a certain figure or a number on the bathroom scale; it is a lifelong commitment to be the best and healthiest you. This plan requires a lifetime commitment; not to lose weight and keep it off, but to modify habits so they support health and maintain the best weight for you for life.

For sweet recipes to help you stay on track, visit www.watermelon.org.

 

Watermelon Pistachio Sundae

Servings: 6

1egg white, lightly beaten

2tablespoons maple syrup

2teaspoons brown sugar

1/4teaspoon salt

1cup roasted, salted and shelled pistachios

6watermelon scoops (using ice cream scooper)

6scoops raspberry sorbet (using ice cream scooper)

1cup marshmallow sauce

 

To candy pistachios, preheat oven to 300ºF. In medium mixing bowl, combine egg white, syrup, brown sugar and salt. Stir in pistachios until evenly coated. Spread on foil lined baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes, stirring once, until crisp and lightly browned. Cool. Break apart.

 

Using ice cream scooper, arrange watermelon at bottom of 6 sundae cups or martini glasses. Top with scoops of sorbet. Drizzle sauce over sorbet and sprinkle candied pistachios over sundaes and serve immediately.

 

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Keep up the good work this winter

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Pro basketball star Skylar Diggins shares her indoor fitness game plan

Family Features

 

While the winter may make for a tempting time to curl up on the couch, adapting your routine is essential for year-round well-being, whether you’re a professional athlete or an average person looking to stay on top of your game.

“As an athlete, I am just like everyone else. When it’s dark and cold outside, it can be harder for me to stay motivated to keep up with my workouts,” said women’s professional basketball star Skylar Diggins. “But hibernating in the off season isn’t an option for me, nor should it be for anyone who wants to stay in shape year-round.”

As the days grow colder, follow this advice from Diggins to stay fit:

Power up with protein. It’s important to give your body the proper protein to fuel your workout—both before and after exercise. Protein drinks are one way to reward your muscles and power your body for intense exercise.

Banish boredom. A great way to change it up is signing up for new gym classes or bringing a buddy for motivation. Add variety by doing short reps of different circuit exercises to make workouts more efficient and fun. By alternating reps of speed ropes with walking lunges with weights overhead and high knees, you can incorporate cardio and strength training into one rewarding, un-boring gym session.

Keep it close to home. Whether you’re snowed in or stuck inside a hotel room, fight the urge to skip your workout by keeping it quick and simple. Great abs don’t need a gym, just a little bit of floor space. One of Diggins’ favorite ways to keep a toned stomach is alternating reps of sit-ups with bicycle crunches and side planks. You can also incorporate jumping rope and doing an “indoor run” by walking up and down the stairs.

Don’t make excuses. This time of year is busy for everyone. Maximize your time by doing little things when you can, like calf raises in the shower, choosing the stairs, or repeating lunges until you get to the other side of a room. Keep a light set of hand weights under the couch for a quick arm workout during your favorite TV show.

For more tips to keep your routine fresh and fun while indoors this winter, check out Rockin’ Refuel on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rockinrefuel.

 

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Alcohol Poisoning Deaths 

HEA-Alcohol-poisoning-infographic_970px

Three out of four are middle-aged

 

Binge drinking can have serious health consequences. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women, and five or more drinks for men on an occasion.

Binge drinking can have serious health consequences. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women, and five or more drinks for men on an occasion.

Teens and young adults often get the rap for abusing alcohol through binge drinking. However, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health, a new vital signs report, from the Centers from Disease Control, showed that a different age group has an even bigger problem with it.

The report indicates that alcohol poisoning kills an average of 77 people in Michigan each year, and three in four of those deaths involve adults aged 35-64 years.

“This study dispels the common notion that youth and young adults have the biggest problem with binge drinking,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, chief medical executive of the MDCH. “It emphasizes the need for comprehensive solutions to reduce binge drinking among all ages, including community prevention strategies, screening and counseling by health care providers, and substance abuse treatment when necessary.”

Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women, and five or more drinks for men on an occasion. The more you drink, the greater your risk of death. Nationally, alcohol poisoning causes an average of six deaths each day, and most deaths occur among men and non-Hispanic whites. American Indians/Alaska Natives have the most alcohol poisoning deaths per million people. Alcohol poisoning deaths are caused by drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. This can result in very high levels of alcohol in the body, which can shutdown critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature—resulting in death.

MDCH is currently working to improve public health surveillance about excessive alcohol use and related health outcomes among Michigan residents. In addition to these efforts, MDCH supports state and local public health activities to reduce alcohol poisoning deaths by preventing binge drinking. Some of these activities include partnering with police, community groups, health departments, and health care providers to reduce binge drinking and related harms, monitoring the role of alcohol in injuries and deaths, and supporting proven programs and policies that decrease binge drinking.

MDCH also allocates funding to Prepaid Inpatient Health Plans to support prevention, treatment, and recovery services provided at the local level to persons at risk or with substance use disorders related to alcohol use and abuse.

The Vital Signs report is available at www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns.

 

 

 

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Flu may have contributed to nine deaths in Kent County 

 

The Kent County Health Department announced last week that preliminary testing shows complications from influenza virus may have contributed to nine recent deaths. Six of these deaths were individuals from Kent County; three were from neighboring counties. There are over 1900 reported flu cases in Kent County so far this season.

“Most of the deaths reported to us have been elderly patients with pre-existing medical conditions,” says Adam London, Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recently reported that this year’s flu is particularly hard on older adults. “It is so important for us to check on our elderly family members, friends and neighbors, even if it’s just a daily phone call. We also should remember that the flu can also have a deadly impact on the young and those with compromised immune systems. You can protect others by protecting yourself: get a flu vaccination.”

The total number of flu cases reported to KCHD as of January 10, 2015 was 1,976.  New cases reported during the week ending January 10, 2015 was 355, compared to 581 during the previous week, and 625 during the week ending December 27, 2014.

The flu can have serious complications for children under the age of five, the elderly, and people with already-weakened immune systems. Signs and symptoms can include:

• Fever

• Chills

• Cough

• Sore throat

• Runny or stuffy nose

• Muscle or body aches

• Headaches

• Fatigue (very tired)

• Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age to protect against flu viruses. The Kent County Health Department seasonal influenza program provides vaccinations for all individuals six months of age and older. The cost of the vaccine ranges from $39-$55; FluMist nasal spray (a live, preservative-free, four strain vaccine) is available for $41.

Children from six months through 18 years who have no insurance, or who have insurance that doesn’t cover vaccines, will pay a sliding scale administration fee of up to $23. The Health Department can only bill Medicaid and Medicare; private insurance is not accepted. Cash, check, MasterCard, Visa, or Discover are accepted.

To make an appointment at any of their four clinic locations, call (616) 632-7200. You can also schedule online at www.stickittotheflu.com. Most primary care providers and many local pharmacies also provide influenza vaccinations and can bill private insurance.

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Consumer Alert: Lose weight, not money 

 

Health memberships

From Bill Schuette, Michigan Attorney General 

In 2014, the Michigan Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division received 61 complaints from consumers about fitness centers. The majority of the complaints involved discrepancies between what consumers say they were told by sales personnel and what the signed contract actually guaranteed. In particular, consumers reported the written cancellation procedure frequently differed from what they were told by the salesperson.

Consumers also complained about high-pressure sales tactics and feeling rushed to sign contracts. Take the time to review all contracts carefully, prior to signing, to confirm that all promises made by the salesperson are written in the contract. Also, make sure you understand your contractual obligations. Many consumers mistakenly believe that if they are no longer using the fitness center, they can discontinue payments on the contract.

Use caution when considering very inexpensive lifetime membership offers or “free” memberships. These offers are often used to raise money quickly and may be a sign of financial instability of the fitness center. That life membership could be cut short by a terminal financial illness at the center.

How to avoid common health club membership pitfalls

Considering the following suggestions will help you make a wise decision and may help you avoid common problems with fitness center memberships.

1. Doctor’s OK. Check with your doctor prior to beginning a fitness program.

2. Visit. Stop by the club during the times you would normally use the facility to determine if it is overcrowded. Examine the facility for cleanliness and the condition of the equipment.

3. Budget. Carefully consider the cost of the membership and whether you can afford to make the necessary payments. If the services of instructors and/or trainers are provided, inquire about the training qualifications of the staff and whether you will be charged for the service. Do aerobics or other classes require additional fees?

4. Free trial period. A long-term contract may not be right for you. Ask whether a month-to-month or other short-term contract or trial membership is available.

Regardless of the length of your contract, ask if you can pay monthly. If the club closes you may lose less money.

5. Cancellation and Refunds. Make sure you understand the cancellation and refund policies before signing the contract. What happens if your move, are injured, or get a serious illness? Also, what happens if the fitness center goes out of business? A “lifetime” membership is really only good for the lifetime of the business, not your lifetime.

6. Read any contract carefully before signing. Don’t be rushed prior to signing any contract; take your time and make sure you understand all of the contract terms before signing. Ask for an unsigned contract to take home and review.

After you sign your contract, make sure you keep a copy. Some companies may ask you to pay additional fees on top of what you have already paid or have agreed to pay for your membership. If you are asked to pay additional fees, make sure that is allowed under your contract. You may be asked to pay fees that are not mandatory for you to keep your membership in good standing. This should be made clear to you by the company; if it is not clear, call the company and ask about the fee before you pay.

7. Shop around and background check. Ask friends or relatives for recommendations. Search for reviews online and contact the Consumer Protection Division to find out if complaints have been filed against the health club you are considering. If there are several health clubs with the same name in your area, find out whether all of the locations will honor your membership.

8. Exercise caution. If the club is advertising an unrealistically low price, be cautious.

9. Closing or changing ownership. Immediately reference the Attorney General’s Business Sudden Closure consumer alert. If the business changes ownership but remains open, ask the new owner for a contract containing the same terms as the one you have. Unless the new owner is honoring your old contract, you can’t be required to join the new club. If you cannot get written confirmation that your old contract will be honored and the new business refuses to provide a satisfactory resolution, file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division.

10. Shop Smart! Be an informed consumer to make sure the only weight you lose s not from your wallet.

CONTACT THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR HELP

If you encounter problems when you enter into a new health club membership contract, or are having problems with a health club membership you have had for a while, you may contact the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection Division, to ask questions or file a complaint. Direct any questions or complaints to:

Consumer Protection Division

P.O. Box 30213

Lansing, MI 48909

517-373-1140

www.michigan.gov/ag

Fax: 517-241-3771

Toll free: 877-765-8388

 

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Expert advice on enticing kids to eat their fruits and vegetables

HEA-Getting-kids-to-eat-more-fruits(NAPS)—As many parents know, kids can be picky eaters. And according to a recent study, moms are concerned that their kids aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables.

“We found that moms understand the health benefits of fruits and vegetables but struggle to get their family to eat them,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., RD, president and CEO, Produce for Better Health Foundation. “Today, Americans are currently eating less than half of the recommended cups of fruits and vegetables each day.”

To better understand the situation, the Produce for Better Health Foundation conducted its annual research on “Moms’ Attitudes and Beliefs Related to Fruit & Vegetable Consumption.”

The study found:

Ninety percent agree that a diet that includes fruits and vegetables may help their child avoid obesity.

Ninety percent agree that a diet with more fruits and vegetables promotes their family’s overall health and may prevent disease, now and in the future.

Ninety percent agree that a diet that includes fruits and vegetables may help promote well-being of mind and body.

Eighty-nine percent agree that more fruits and vegetables plus more physical activity means the family can be at its best.

There’s been a steady improvement over time in the level of ease moms reported regarding their ability to access fruits and vegetables for their families at restaurants and quick-service restaurants.

Setting out a fruit bowl, having vegetables cut up and ready to eat in the refrigerator, and finding ways to hide produce in other foods are some of the ways to get more fruits and vegetables into a family’s diet. The research also found that kids tend to eat more produce when they are involved in the growing, selecting and preparing of food. To get kids more involved, Pivonka provided these tips:

1. Let kids get involved in planning meals for the week and challenge them to find ways to make sure a fruit and vegetable are included in each meal. Remember, canned, frozen and dried fruits or vegetables, in addition to fresh, are all great options!

2.Get kids involved in using produce to make juices or smoothies. It can be a fun activity for kids to use a blender or juicer to show them there are other ways to eat your fruits and vegetables.

3.Teach kids about produce that’s in season and how to select the best produce. Take them to a farmer’s market to talk with growers. This also provides a great opportunity to try new produce they didn’t know they enjoyed.

4.Starting a backyard garden can be a great way to get kids interested and involved.

Families looking for ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in their meals can go to www.morematters.org to find delicious recipes and additional tips.

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Families urged to provide safe sleep space for infants during holidays  

During the holidays, residents often travel away from home to gather with family and friends. For families with infants, holiday travel can be particularly hectic with many details and packing essentials to remember. That’s why First of Lady of Michigan Sue Snyder and the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) are reminding families of the importance of safe sleep environments for infants as they prepare for holiday travel.

“With the holiday travel and time spent with family, it’s important that parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others remember to plan a safe place for baby to sleep,” said First Lady Snyder, a safe sleep advocate. “Making a safe sleep environment a priority whether at home or on the road will help ensure no families have to experience devastating grief or loss this holiday season or throughout the year.”

MDCH Director Nick Lyon added that “families can help keep their babies safe and healthy by making sure they are always placed on their back in their own crib to ensure safe sleep and a happy holiday.”

Last year, nearly 150 babies died in Michigan because they were placed to sleep in places that were unsafe. To protect babies this holiday season, MDCH urges parents and caregivers to make sure their baby or the baby in their care has a safe place to sleep, for naptime and nighttime, at home and as you travel.

Michigan families are encouraged to follow these safe sleep tips:

The safest place for baby to sleep is alone, in a crib, bassinet or pack-n-play.

When traveling, take a pack-n-play with you to make sure that you always have a safe sleep space for baby.

Use a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet.

“Bare is best.” There should be nothing in baby’s sleep space—no pillows, blankets or toys.

Baby should sleep on his or her back, for every sleep time, naptime and nighttime.

Avoid covering baby’s head or overheating. Consider using a sleep sack or footed sleeper.

Tragically, every three days in Michigan, a baby dies while sleeping in an adult bed, on an armchair or couch, while sleeping with pillows or blankets, or while sleeping with adults or other children. Remind everyone who cares for your baby, including babysitters and family members, how to keep baby safe while sleeping. Don’t wake up to a tragedy this holiday season.

To learn more about how to keep your baby or the infant in your family safe this holiday season, visit www.michigan.gov/safesleep.

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Grieving in the Internet Age

Charlie Waller and his mother Abigail.

Charlie Waller and his mother Abigail.

Charlie Waller loved trick-or-treating, pirates, his kindergarten class at Marble Elementary, his sister, Esther, and so much more during his all-too-brief life.

He died last December from an inoperable brain tumor that slowly robbed him of his ability to play, to walk and to see, but never his kindness. His parents, John and Abigail, have turned to the Internet to help them harness Charlie’s spirit and his kindness by launching a new social media campaign, #CouragetobeKind, in Charlie’s honor.

Charlie, a patient in Hospice of Michigan’s pediatric program, battled his illness for two-plus years, all with the help of family, friends, and a supportive care team. Throughout this experience, John and Abigail relied on social media to keep far-flung family and friends informed of their son’s condition. Abigail launched a blog where she shared imaginary letters to her son, chronicling their journey with courage, profundity and poignancy.

With help of Abigail’s father, they launched the nonprofit Art for Charlie Foundation to raise both awareness and funds for pediatric hospice. Facebook and Twitter accounts were opened to amplify the site and promote its annual art show and sale, as well as this year’s statewide conference on pediatric hospice and bereavement support.

“Social media has become a strong outlet for public mourning,” said Karen Monts, director of grief support service at Hospice of Michigan. “It allows people a medium to express their feelings when experiencing a significant loss, and it also provides an opportunity to ensure the memory of a lost loved one isn’t forgotten.””

When counseling the bereaved, Monts often refers to the Six Tasks of Mourning, as defined by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, grief educator and author of Healing the Bereaved Child. Monts explains that social media can help in achieving each of Wolfelt’s tasks:

Task One: Need to acknowledge the reality of the death. When family members hear word of a loved one’s death, many immediately turn to social media as they process the news. The reality of someone’s passing becomes clear when seeing the details of the death, finality of funeral details, and posts of love and support by family and friends.

Task Two: Need to approach the pain of loss while being supported. Social media not only provides a platform for the bereaved to express pain, but it also gives family and friends the opportunity to offer words of support, which validates and normalizes the grief they feel.

Task Three: Need to remember the person who died. Through blogs, posts and picture sharing, there are countless ways that the bereaved can use social media to share memories of their loved ones. Feedback from family and friends also lets the bereaved know those memories are treasured by others.

Task Four: Develop a new self-identity. This is often one of the more challenging tasks of grief. What role do you play in life now that your loved one is gone? Through open discussion of the deceased life on social media, the bereaved can develop a better understanding of the many roles the deceased played in the lives of others. The bereaved can use that information to determine the new roles they will take on in their own life.

Task Five: Searching for meaning in what has happened: When a loved one dies, it may prompt questions regarding the purpose of life and how such a tragic event could happen. Social Media allows the bereaved to express their questions, concerns and doubts while providing reassurance as one searches for a new sense of purpose or clarity.

Task Six: Experience continued support in future years. Social media provides the perfect medium for the bereaved to share feelings of grief, regardless of how long it’s been since a loved one died. It might be recognition of a birthday or an anniversary of death, or it could be a simple statement like “Really missing my mom today. “Not only does expressing these feelings help the bereaved, but family and friends who see this public expression often respond with encouraging words.

Monts adds that in addition to helping cope with grief, social media can simply provide the bereaved with a needed distraction. However, even with all the benefits, she warns that there can be negatives to using social media in the grieving process.

While publically expressing grief may be helpful to one family member, seeing these reminders on social media may be difficult for a family member who grieves more privately. While Monts advises people to consider others when expressing grief publicly, she believes the benefits of social media in grieving far outweigh the cons.

For the Waller family, social media continues to be a source of solace, education and hope. The launch of their Courage to be Kind social campaign acknowledges Charlie’s gentleness and wisdom in advocating kindness to all.  Wise beyond his years, he argued for tolerance for those who were unkind, explaining that some children (and adults, we would add) have to learn to be kind just as they have to learn their ABCs.

The vision of the campaign is that it will create a system to allow people to report acts of kindness anonymously on social media.  To learn more about Charlie’s story and #CouragetobeKind, visit artforcharlie.org.

Hospice of Michigan offers a variety of grief support and educational services. These programs are available to all families involved with Hospice of Michigan, as well as the community at large. For more information, visit www.hom.org.

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