Wednesday, June 13, 2012


My mother-in-law didn’t have a big appetite.  I believed that she needed to eat more to keep up her strength.  I learned that a lack of appetite, with a complete disinterest in food, can be a real challenge to any caregiver.  It will take patience, understanding and real persistence to see that your loved one gets a well-balanced diet.
     Your doctor will give you any dos and don’ts for the patient’s diet, so be sure to check with them before making any changes.
     A poor appetite can be caused by a number of things.  Sometimes difficulty swallowing or nausea causes a patient to push away the food tray.  Their sense of smell and taste can be altered by illness or medication.  Then there is depression or pain, causing the patient to leave their food uneaten.  Sometimes even a dry mouth makes it difficult to eat.  Of course, when your patient is weak and in poor physical condition, these obvious factors play a big part in how they will eat.  If the patient has dentures and loses weight, their mouth can shrink and the dentures won’t fit right anymore.  Ill-fitting dentures can cause pain and sometimes sores in the mouth.  It is reasonable that when your mouth is sore you lose interest in food because chewing hurts. It may take relining the dentures to make them more comfortable.  A visit to your dentist will help.
     Medications too can trigger a loss of appetite.  Some medications will give the patient a sour stomach or make the patient feel full.  Nobody wants to eat if their digestion is bad.  Medications can also trigger constipation, which also takes away the appetite.
     A hiatal hernia is common in elderly people and can cause gas or heartburn.  Your doctor can prescribe medication that will alleviate the excess gas and the heartburn.  A bland diet also helps.
     Be sure you check with your physician or dentist to treat any of these conditions.
     You can help the patient enjoy their meal a little more by joining them at mealtime with a little conversation, instead of just leaving the tray on the table.  If you make mealtime a social time, chances are they will eat more and feel better.  Bring them to the dinner table, if you can.  No one likes to eat alone and it helps keeps them in touch with the family.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


     St. John’s Wort is a strange name for an herb.  It is said to be an antidepressant and good for reducing stress.  Now this is something that we can all use.  As a caregiver, you know what stress can do.  This is an herb that might just help relieve nagging stress.  It is available as dried leaves and flowers,concentrated liquid, extract, oil, ointment, capsules and prepared tea.  Studies have found that St. John’s Wart might help relieve mild depression and anxiety.  Try a cup of tea made from one to two teaspoons of this dried herb in a cup of boiling water, steep for fifteen minutes.  If you are sensitive to the sun, be sure to check with your doctor before using this herb.  Also if you are taking a prescription antidepressant, be sure to get your doctor’s approval before using it.
     If you need a boost in the afternoon, try yogurt and fruit to give you a spurt of energy.  This snack contains just the right balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat to provide the energy you need to get through the day.  About eight ounces of yogurt and fruit should do the trick.
     If you are feeling blue, take a leaf out of Popeye’s book and eat your spinach.  It is thought that a deficiency of folic acid may cause depression.  Eat one cup of spinach a day to get your folic acid.  You need about 180 micrograms a day.  You can get additional folic acid from munching on leafy green vegetables, whole wheat foods, peas and beans.
     How about a cup of dandelion tea?  It is said that it will help you lose weight.  It may not be good for the lawn, but it’s good for you.  It is high in natural potassium, vitamin A. calcium and iron. The root and leaf are both known to build and restore energy and aid digestion.  In tea form, it serves as a mild diuretic and helps the body flush out the kidneys, eliminating excess fluid and, of course, weight.
     For a simple upset stomach, try a handful of dried blueberries.  They contain both an antibacterial compound and a sticky substance that soothes your tummy.  Take about two teaspoons of dried berries and wash them down with a little water.  Be sure to use dried blueberries they are the best.
     Of course, everyone has heard that chicken soup is good for colds, but have you tried spicy food for nasal stuffiness?  It works.  They say that bananas help heartburn and cranberry juice is good for a urinary tract infection.  Did you know that chocolate is good for the blues?  Sounds good to me.
     There are some combinations of herbs that could take the place of prescription drugs.  When I was researching herbs for my husband, I found that a combination of valerian, skullcap and hops helps with insomnia.  Valerian is said to be a tranquilizer, while skullcap relaxes the mind.  Hops help with restlessness and act as a nervine for insomnia.  Of course, always check with your physician first.
     Papaya, ginger, peppermint and wild yam are good for the digestive system.  I have tried chewing papaya pills to help with heartburn.  It works like a charm and it won’t hurt you---besides it tastes good.
     There are natural foods that can be eaten to help some complaints.  Apricots are rich in minerals, especially iron, and so are raisins.  They are also good for constipation.  They are high vitamin A and they are good for the blood and skin.
     Blackberries are good for diarrhea and help cleanse the colon.
     Grapes are a good blood builder, very good for anemia and are said to be an anti-tumor food.
     Try some of these.  They may make a difference in your life.  These are all nutritious snacks for your patients too.  They’re worth a try, but check with your doctor before beginning to take any herbs or vitamins or giving them to your patient.

Monday, June 4, 2012


     We are all coming to the realization that there must be a better way to good health than always taking prescription medicines.  There are so many side effects to some prescription medicines that our quality of life is suffering.  More and more people are looking for alternative care.  Mother Nature has given us herbs that can do what prescription drugs do, without harming us or building up a resistance to a drug we will need in the future.
    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go to the doctor---you should.  But for the small things, like sinus, menopause, achy joints, headaches, Mother Nature has some remedies you could try.  It sure beats medication that makes you go through your day in a fog.
     It is worth a try.  In looking for something that could help my husband with some of the aches and pains of a dialysis patient, I read a reference guide called Herbal Health by Louise Tenney, M.H.  She gives a complete guide to the use of natural remedies.  I found it very enlightening.
     There are many natural remedies that really work.  A few years ago I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about, if you asked me about echinacea.  Now I know that taking it when I feel a cold coming on is helpful in warding off a cold.  In fact, I take it every day.  A growing number of physicians are now open to trying some of these natural remedies.
     Of course, you shouldn’t replace a doctor’s care by self-treating with natural remedies.  In fact, you should never begin any herbal or vitamin therapy without the approval of your doctor.
     Remember that you should be a little skeptical about the claims made by the herbalist.  Not everyone has the same results from these herbs, but it is definitely worth a try.  The Food and Drug administration looks at all drugs, but they don’t check out herbal and vitamin products with the same eye.  I did find a few home remedies that caught my eye.
     Hot peppers are good for the heart.  Capsaicin, the ingredient in hot red peppers, has been used in Eastern medicine to soothe ulcers, improve circulation and speed up sluggish bowels.  German researchers have found that capsaicin goes to work in the bloodstream, forming clot-dissolving stimulant that prevents clots that can cause heart attacks or strokes.  Capsaicin is also helpful in protecting the heart by suppressing the liver’s production of cholesterol.  You know that we are all trying to keep our cholesterol lower.
     Onions can help prevent cancer.  According to a study in the journal Gastroenterology, half an onion a day can lower the risk of stomach cancer.  In a study, those who ate half an onion daily had a lower risk of stomach cancer than those who ate no onions at all.  Onion contains vitamin C, fiber and the phytochemical allium, which are thought to protect the body against carcinogens.
     Tension headaches can be relieved by moistening the fingers with a few drops of lavender oil and massaging your temples with a circular motion.  Use the same motion behind your ears and then up and down the back of your neck.  It will relax your muscles and ease the tension in these areas.
     If you are prone to migraine headaches, you may want to try feverfew.  Feverfew is said to reduce headache and migraine pain because it prevents blood vessels from dilating.  There have been several studies that have shown it to be effective in reducing the number of migraines as well.  It is suggested that you take three 125 mg capsules three times daily.