DiversityNursing Blog

Medical Volunteers Help Terminally Ill Patients Visit Their Favorite Destinations One Last Time

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Mar 11, 2015 @ 02:48 PM

A Dutch organization called "Ambulance Wens" (Ambulance Wish) fulfills the last wishes of terminally ill patients free of charge thanks to its 200 medical volunteers.

The company says, "There are still too many patients who die without getting to close everything. One of those reasons is the inability to achieve certain desires because the patient is no longer mobile and other existing facilities are inadequate for this purpose."

Special ambulances and stretchers help transport the patients safely and comfortably. Typical excursions include a visit to the beach, a visit to a neighbor who is also no longer mobile, and various places where the patient has special memories.

This woman's final wish was to visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

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Another woman enjoys the view from her favorite vacation destination in Tuscany.
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This gentleman asked for one last view from the Euromast observation tower.
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And this man asked to see the mills in Kinderdijk one last time.
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Amsterdam is not the only place doing such wonderful things. A hospice outside Seattle made an old forest ranger's dying wish come true.

"Ed expressed one last hope to the hospice chaplain: He wanted to commune with nature one more time."

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As the hospice wrote on its Facebook page, "People sometimes think that working in hospice care is depressing. This story ... demonstrates the depths of the rewards that caring for the dying can bring."

Source: www.sunnyskyz.com

Topics: life, health, healthcare, medical, hospice, terminally ill, patient, treatment, care, wishes

World's Oldest Woman Misao Okawa Celebrates 117th Birthday

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Fri, Mar 06, 2015 @ 09:47 AM

Yagana Shah

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The oldest woman in the world, Japan's Misao Okawa, celebrated her birthday today (it's actually March 5), and though she's also one of the oldest people to ever live, the 117-year-old insists living this long is really no big deal.

Okawa celebrated her birthday a day early wearing a pink kimono at her nursing home and was presented with a bouquet of flowers. When asked about how she felt about reaching the milestone birthday, she simply said, "It seemed rather short," but added she was "very happy."

Okawa is one of the five documented people born in the 1800s who are still alive today (she was born in 1898). Okawa's predecessor was also Japanese. It's estimated that Japan has around 58,000 centenarians -- the highest of any country in the world. It's no surprise as Okinawa, Japan is considered to be a "blue zone" where extreme longevity is quite common. It's believed that their plant-based soy-rich diet -- as well as exercise and plenty of sunshine -- all contribute to residents' long lives.

As for Okawa, she's said that eating well, getting her eight hours of sleep at night and knowing how to relax are what have kept her going so long. But today, she was a little more nonchalant about her 117 years on the planet, saying she's not so sure what the secret to longevity is. "I wonder about that too," she said.

Many happy returns of the day, Misao!

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

Topics: life, oldest woman, birthday, health

America's 9 biggest health issues

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Jan 05, 2015 @ 11:20 AM

By Sanjay Gupta

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After an incredibly busy 2014, during which health stories like Ebola, new food nutrition label rules, and the debate about the right to die sparked by Brittany Maynard dominated the headlines, it's now worth looking at what we may be covering in the next 12 months. 

So, in no particular order, here's my take on the nine big health stories to watch for, and the questions they will likely raise, in 2015.

Doctor shortage. There aren't nearly enough of us to care for the U.S. population. By some estimates, the country is already short of tens of thousands of doctors, a problem that will only get worse as the demand for care increases with our aging population. That could mean longer wait times for you when you need to make an appointment. But that also means policy makers will have to consider questions like: Is there a way to increase the number of residency training slots? Are there other health care professionals who can reasonably fill in the gaps? Will the nation's quality of care go down? How can the country avoid a situation where only the wealthy will be able to afford quality care? 

Hospital errors and infections. Hospital mistakes and infections are still one of the leading causes of preventable death (indeed, some studies suggest "hospital-acquired conditions" kill more people than car accidents or diabetes). 

True, a recent study showed the rate did get better this year, saving tens of thousands of lives. But what else can hospitals do to prevent these mistakes and infections? Can technology like e-prescriptions and electronic health records prevent problems that most often occur: the mistakes caregivers make with a patient's drugs? 

Antibiotic resistance. It has been called public health's "ticking time bomb."The World Health Organization calls antibiotic resistant infections one of the biggest threats to global health today. Each year, at least 2 million peoplebecome infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die each year. Most of these deaths happen in health care settings and in nursing homes. How can we respond? Well, research teams around the world have already started searching for the next generation of infection-fighting drugs. But it remains to be seen if time will run out, sending us back to the beginning: a time before antibiotics, where even a cut that becomes infected could kill you. 

More do-it-yourself health care: apps and technology. Technology has made do-it-yourself patient care much easier. This goes beyond just a patient's ability to look up their symptoms online. There are apps to help with autism, apps that can simulate a check-up, apps that can monitor conditions. Wearables can motivate you to walk more or sleep more or check a diabetic's glucose level. But how does all this helping yourself make your health care better? How much is too much? And what does this mean for your privacy? After all, the health care industry accounted for 43% of all major data breaches in 2013. Meanwhile, although 93% of health care data requires protection by law, some surveys suggest only 57% of it is "somewhat protected." What could this mean for your privacy and personal information if security doesn't get better? 

Food deserts. While not everyone agrees with the term food desert, the USDA still estimates 23.5 million people live in these urban neighborhoods and rural towns with limited access to fresh, affordable, healthy food. Without grocery stores in these areas, residents often have to rely on fast food and convenience stores that don't stock fresh produce. It takes a real toll on their health. Families who live in these areas struggle more with obesity and chronic conditions, and they even die sooner than people who live in neighborhoods with easy access to healthy food. More farmers markets are now accepting food stamps and many nonprofits have stepped in to try to bring community gardens and healthy food trucks to these areas, but so far it's not enough. Will cities offer incentives to grocery store chains to relocate to these neighborhoods?  How else can this system be helped? 

Caregivers for the aging population. We are heading into a kind of caregiver crisis. The number of people 65 years and older is expected to rise 101%between 2000 and 2030, yet the number of family members who can provide care for these older adults is only expected to rise 25%. This raises a series of related questions, not least who is going to step up to fill the gaps? Will cities that don't traditionally have strong public transportation systems add to their routes? Will developers create more mixed-use buildings to make shopping and socializing easier to access? Could the government create a kind of caregiver corps that could check in on the isolated elderly? Who will pay for this expensive kind of safety net? 

The cost of Alzheimer's. Currently about 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's. That number is expected to double every 20 years. With a cure some way off, what can be done to ease the emotional and financial burden on families and communities affected by the disease? The Alzheimer's Association predicts that by 2050, U.S. costs for care will total $1.2 trillion, making it the most expensive condition in the nation. How will we be able to afford the costs of caring for this population? What can the country do to achieve the goal the White House set for preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer's by 2025?

Marijuana. With the growing acceptance of weed, we can expect that more laws will change to allow medical and recreational use of marijuana. How will the rest of the laws in this country adjust? For instance, Washington state is coming up with a Breathalyzer-type device to check if drivers are high. But it will be interesting to see how readily available these devices are going to be. Will legalization improve the scientific understanding of the long-term consequences of the drug? What other uses could this drug have to help those who may need pain relief most?

Missing work-life balance. Americans spend more time on the job than most other developed countries. We don't get as much vacation, we don't take what vacation we have, and we are prone to working nights and weekends. This stress has a negative impact on Americans' health. What are companies doing to help? What technology can change this phenomenon? Will millennials who say work-life balance is a bigger priority than other generations rub off on the rest of us? What can we personally do to find a better balance? 

We may not be able to answer all these questions in 2015, but we sure will try. And the health team and I look forward to exploring these issues with you in the coming New Year.

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: life, work, 2015, marijuana, New Year, doctor shortages, antiobiotic resistance, food deserts, caregivers, apps, technology, health, healthcare, nurse, doctors, population, Alzheimer's, medicine, treatment, hospitals, Americans

Stray Dog Credited for Christmas 'Miracle' Cancer Cure

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Dec 29, 2014 @ 10:42 AM

By LIZ NEPORENT

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Adopting a stray dog while in the midst of battling a disease that was deemed incurable hardly seems like the best timing, yet that’s exactly what Bill Hogencamp and his wife Kathy decided to do.

They believe that decision helped save his life.

Hogencamp, an 84-year-old semi-retired architect from Phenix, Alabama, was diagnosed with incurable cancer of the gall bladder, liver, colon and the lining of his abdomen back in May. Doctors told him he wouldn’t live to see Christmas.

“I have seven children and I’ve traveled all around the world,” Hogencamp said. “I thought if this is it, then this is it.”

Hogencamp chose to undergo treatment even though his doctor told him there was no hope, he recalled. In October, he had an operation to remove three large tumors.

Eleven days after his surgery, his wife was on her way to pick him up from a rehabilitation facility when she spotted a small white dog wandering down the middle of the road, in danger of being hit by a car. Although she was in a rush, she said something compelled her to stop and rescue the pup.

“He walked past six other cars right up to the side of my car and put his paws up on the door,” she recalled.

While his wife was hooked on the cute little dog right away, Hogencamp needed some convincing.

“I hadn’t had a dog in twenty years and I had no desire to have a dog,” he said. “I kept saying we need to find his owner.”

Despite an extensive search and nearly a dozen false leads, the Hogencamps were never able to track down the dog’s owner. They learned from a vet they visited during their search that he was a Maltese, probably around 6 years old, fixed but not chipped.

Besides, the dog very quickly won Hogencamp over. They soon became inseparable.

Whenever Hogencamp sat down, the dog -- who they named Mahjong after Kathy’s favorite card game -- would jump in his lap. Whenever Hogencamp napped, Mahjong would curl up next to him. When Hogencamp returned home after being out, Mahjong would hop onto his hind legs and dance with joy.

As he and his wife settled into life with a dog, Hogencamp underwent chemotherapy. Just before the holiday he received some miraculous news: Tests showed that he was now cancer free.

The doctors are at a loss to explain this amazing turn of events, Hogencamp’s wife said. But she said the family believes that Mahjong has played a huge part in her husband’s recovery.

“The dog seemed to know right away that Bill was sick and it was his job to take care of him -- and Bill knew it was his job to take care of the dog,” she said.

Hogencamp agreed. He said their relationship gave both him and the dog a sense of purpose. Although he knows he owes much of his cure to great medical care and a lot of luck, he said that he is convinced the little white dog was sent to him to help him get better.

As they celebrate Christmas, Hogencamp said he has two final chemotherapy treatments. He said he’s spending the day with friends, family and of course, Mahjong.

“My life has been a miracle,” Hogencamp said. “And now Mahjong is part of that miracle.”

Source: http://abcnews.go.com

Topics: life, rescue, dog, operation, stray dog, miracle, diagnosed, tumors, health, doctors, cancer, treatment, surgeries, cure, Christmas

Most Americans Agree With Right-to-Die Movement

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Dec 08, 2014 @ 02:26 PM

By Dennis Thompson

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Already-strong public support for right-to-die legislation has grown even stronger in the days since the planned death of 29-year-old brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard, a new HealthDay/Harris Poll has found.

An overwhelming 74 percent of American adults now believe that terminally ill patients who are in great pain should have the right to end their lives, the poll found. Only 14 percent were opposed.

Broad majorities also favor physician-assisted suicide and physician-administered euthanasia.

Only three states -- Oregon, Washington and Vermont -- currently have right-to-die laws that allow physician-assisted suicide.

"Public opinion on these issues seems to be far ahead of political leadership and legislative actions," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll. "Only a few states have legalized physician-assisted suicide and none have legalized physician-administered euthanasia."

People responded to the poll in the weeks after Maynard took medication to end her life in early November.

Maynard moved from California to Oregon following her diagnosis with late-stage brain cancer so she could take advantage of the state's "Death With Dignity Act." Her story went viral online, with a video explaining her choice garnering nearly 11.5 million views on YouTube.

A "poster child for the movement," Maynard helped spark conversations that allowed people to put themselves in her shoes, said Frank Kavanaugh, a board member of the Final Exit Network, a right-to-die advocacy group.

"I think it is just a natural evolution over a period of time," Kavanaugh said of the HealthDay/Harris Poll results. "There was a time when people didn't talk about suicide. These days, each time conversations occur, people think it through for themselves, and more and more are saying, 'That's a reasonable thing to me.'"

The poll also found that:

  • Support for a person's right to die has increased to 74 percent, up from 70 percent in 2011. Those opposed decreased to 14 percent from 17 percent during the same period.
  • Physician-assisted suicide also received increased support, with 72 percent now in favor, compared with 67 percent in 2011. Opposition declined from 19 percent to 15 percent.
  • Sixty-six percent of respondents said doctors should be allowed to comply with the wishes of dying patients in severe distress who ask to have their lives ended, up from 58 percent in 2011. Opposition decreased from 20 percent in 2011 to 15 percent now.

"The very large -- more than 4-to-1 and increasing -- majorities in favor of physician-assisted suicide, and the right of terminally ill patients to end their lives are consistent with other liberal social policy trends, such as support for same-sex marriage, gay rights and the decriminalization of marijuana, seen in the results of referendums and initiatives in the recent mid-term elections," Taylor said.

Support for the right-to-die movement cut across all generations and educational groups, both genders, and even political affiliation, the poll found.

Democrats tended to be more supportive of right-to-die legislation, but 56 percent of Republicans said they favor voluntary euthanasia and 63 percent favor physician-assisted suicide.

Kavanaugh was not surprised. "People think of this as a liberal issue. But I find that as I talk to [conservatives], you can appeal to them on the basis of 'get the government the hell out of my life,'" he said.

But the public is split over how such policies should be enacted, with 35 percent saying that the states should decide on their own while 33 percent believe the decision should be made by the federal government, the poll found.

"Most of the people I know in the field whose opinion I put stock in don't feel there's ever going to be federal movement on it," Kavanaugh said. "You're just going to have to suffer through a state-by-state process."

Kavanaugh does believe this overwhelming public support will result in steady adoption of right-to-die laws.

"I think this will become the ultimate human right of the 21st century, the right to die with dignity," he said. "There are good deaths and bad deaths, and it is possible to have a good death."

Despite increasing public support for assisted suicide, stiff opposition remains in some quarters.

"Assisted suicide sows confusion about the purpose of life and death. It suggests that a life can lose its purpose and that death has no meaning," Rev. Alexander Sample, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, said in a pastoral statement issued during Maynard's final days.

"Cutting life short is not the answer to death," he said. "Instead of hastening death, we encourage all to embrace the sometimes difficult but precious moments at the end of life, for it is often in these moments that we come to understand what is most important about life. Our final days help us to prepare for our eternal destiny."

Todd Cooper, a spokesman for the Portland archdiocese, said the debate over assisted suicide touches him on a very deep level because of his wife, Kathie.

About 10 years ago, she also was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She endured two brain surgeries, two years of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation therapy, and remains alive to this day.

"If she'd given up the fight for life, she wouldn't be here," Cooper said. "That doesn't necessarily happen in every case, but it gives hope for those who struggle to the very end."

source: www.medicinenet.com

Topics: life, pain, choice, assisted suicide, Right-to-die, nursing, nurse, cancer, hospital, patient, death

CPR Phone Guidance Boosts Cardiac Arrest Survival, Study Says

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Nov 17, 2014 @ 12:21 PM

By Maureen Salamon

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Talking bystanders through CPR methods for a cardiac emergency during a 911 call can significantly boost survival rates, a new study suggests.

State researchers in Arizona examined the aggressive use of so-called pre-arrival telephone CPR guidelines -- step-by-step dispatcher instructions on administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation before trained rescuers arrive -- and found that it bumped survival of cardiac arrest patients from about 8 percent to more than 11 percent.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart's normal rhythm abruptly stops, and the organ can no longer pump blood and oxygen to the body. It can be triggered by a heart attack, but the two conditions are different.

Lead researcher Dr. Ben Bobrow said the type of focused intervention studied in his home state -- not only training telephone dispatchers but measuring bystander CPR outcomes and circling back to 911 centers with feedback -- is not done uniformly on a national basis, despite American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines.

But he hopes the results of his study, scheduled to be presented Saturday at the AHA meeting in Chicago, will promote that ideal.

"We believe strongly that this may be the best, and most efficient, way to improve survival rates across the country," said Bobrow, the medical director of the Bureau of EMS and Trauma System for the Arizona Department of Health Services. "Cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death, and as a country, despite tons of efforts ... this has not improved."

About 359,000 people in the United States suffered sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting in 2013, and more than 90 percent of them died, according to the AHA.

The heart association also has reported that 70 percent of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac arrest emergency because they don't know CPR or their training had lapsed.

Bobrow and his colleagues analyzed more than 4,000 audio recordings from 911 calls over three years from eight Arizona dispatch centers. That information, paired with emergency medical services (EMS) and hospital outcome data, showed that providing telephone CPR instructions prompted a jump in the number of bystanders implementing CPR, from 44 percent to 62 percent.

With the guidelines in place, the average amount of time elapsing between a bystander's call to 911 and the first chest compression in CPR dropped by 23 seconds, to 155 seconds.

"This research shows . . . that even the simplest of interventions, like having someone on the other end of a phone guide you [in CPR], can result in a remarkable difference of outcome," said Dr. Vinay Nadkarni, a spokesperson for the AHA, who wasn't involved in the study.

"That change is possible with a cellphone and our own two hands," added Nadkarni, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "It's within our grasp."

Nadkarni said that Bobrow and his team had done an "excellent job" in helping 911 dispatchers in Arizona use certain phrases to prompt quick action among bystanders who witness a cardiac arrest.

For example, before the intervention, dispatchers typically asked 911 callers if anyone was available to perform CPR, or if they would be willing to. After the Web-based and live training, the revised script emphasized the importance of dispatchers directing callers to start CPR, saying something like, "You need to do chest compressions and I'm going to help you. Let's start."

With the apparent success of this approach, Bobrow said he and his team have asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider implementing it on a national scale. Funding for such a program is needed, he said.

"It would be an incredibly inexpensive intervention for how many lives it would save," he said. "We estimate conservatively that it would save several thousand lives per year. It's not complicated stuff . . . and the beauty of the 911 system is that it already exists."

Research presented at scientific conferences typically has not been peer-reviewed or published and results are considered preliminary.

Source: www.medicinenet.com

Topics: life, study, 9/11, CPR, survival, step by step, cardiac arrest, health, patient

My Right To Death With Dignity At 29

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Oct 08, 2014 @ 11:18 AM

By Brittany Maynard

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Editor's note: Brittany Maynard is a volunteer advocate for the nation's leading end-of-life choice organization, Compassion and Choices. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Dan Diaz, and mother, Debbie Ziegler. Watch Brittany and her family tell her story at www.thebrittanyfund.org. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- On New Year's Day, after months of suffering from debilitating headaches, I learned that I had brain cancer.

I was 29 years old. I'd been married for just over a year. My husband and I were trying for a family.

Our lives devolved into hospital stays, doctor consultations and medical research. Nine days after my initial diagnoses, I had a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of my temporal lobe. Both surgeries were an effort to stop the growth of my tumor.

In April, I learned that not only had my tumor come back, but it was more aggressive. Doctors gave me a prognosis of six months to live.

Because my tumor is so large, doctors prescribed full brain radiation. I read about the side effects: The hair on my scalp would have been singed off. My scalp would be left covered with first-degree burns. My quality of life, as I knew it, would be gone.

After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left.

I considered passing away in hospice care at my San Francisco Bay-area home. But even with palliative medication, I could develop potentially morphine-resistant pain and suffer personality changes and verbal, cognitive and motor loss of virtually any kind.

Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that.

I did not want this nightmare scenario for my family, so I started researching death with dignity. It is an end-of-life option for mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. It would enable me to use the medical practice of aid in dying: I could request and receive a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable.

I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family.

We had to uproot from California to Oregon, because Oregon is one of only five states where death with dignity is authorized.

I met the criteria for death with dignity in Oregon, but establishing residency in the state to make use of the law required a monumental number of changes. I had to find new physicians, establish residency in Portland, search for a new home, obtain a new driver's license, change my voter registration and enlist people to take care of our animals, and my husband, Dan, had to take a leave of absence from his job. The vast majority of families do not have the flexibility, resources and time to make all these changes.

I've had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.

I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don't deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?

Now that I've had the prescription filled and it's in my possession, I have experienced a tremendous sense of relief. And if I decide to change my mind about taking the medication, I will not take it.

Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.

Now, I'm able to move forward in my remaining days or weeks I have on this beautiful Earth, to seek joy and love and to spend time traveling to outdoor wonders of nature with those I love. And I know that I have a safety net.

I hope for the sake of my fellow American citizens that I'll never meet that this option is available to you. If you ever find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, I hope that you would at least be given the same choice and that no one tries to take it from you.

When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, "I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever's next." I will die upstairs in my bedroom with my husband, mother, stepfather and best friend by my side and pass peacefully. I can't imagine trying to rob anyone else of that choice.

What are your thoughts about "death with dignity"?

Source: CNN

Topics: life, choice, nursing, health, nurses, health care, medical, cancer, hospital, terminally ill, brain cancer, medicine, patient, death, tumor

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