Jump start your mojo (for caregivers)

I work with sick kids, like, really sick kids. Their health and developmental issues flow into every aspect of their lives from something as seemingly simple as eating or sleeping to socializing and even just meeting milestones or being able to function on a daily basis.

They are in and out of hospitals and have challenges thrown at them from every angle every day. I personally know of babies that have had 6 surgeries before their first birthday. Could you imagine having a surgery approximately every 3 months of your entire life? It’s a life few can imagine.

There is a certain kind of stress that comes along with being a nurse or caregiver of any kind to children like this. Parents, especially, have to put their own lives and health on hold just to keep their little ones afloat let alone thriving.

We’ve all been overwhelmed. Peds physicians, NP’s, social workers, nurses, etc have all had days that have been incredibly overwhelming.

Maybe you are one of them? A parent of a child with special needs or caregiver to anyone really. Maybe you struggle with your own health issues, mental or physical.

There are days when we have to just put one foot in front of the other and try not to think too far ahead or too deeply about it all but instead just get through it.

However, sometimes those days turn into weeks and then months where you’re just trying to get through it all.

If you’re there you know what I mean. The things you once thought were fun don’t excite you anymore. Socializing feels like work. You haven’t exercised or done anything beneficial for your own health for weeks. You’re tired all the time or just feel like you’re running on fumes. You’re own health may be suffering. You’re on edge or maybe just apathetic.

If that’s the case, I have some tips for you. I’ve been there myself and can relate. I can only share with you what works for me as I’m not a psychiatrist or counselor and don’t know your personal situation. But maybe something will help. So here goes.

I can’t stress this enough. If you have trouble sleeping due to anxiety or other reasons it is time to address them. If it takes you forever to fall asleep or you wake up multiple times during the night it is imperative you get a handle on this before you end up with a full blown sleeping disorder. Lack of sleep might be due to stress, hormones, a sleep disorder, shift work (or having to get up many times to care for your loved one), physical pain, restless leg syndrome or many other reasons. I doubt that your family doctor is going to have the time to help you figure it out. They might prescribe a sleeping pill that may or may not help for a while. It is time to examine your lifestyle and investigate what factors are keeping you from sleeping peacefully for the hours that you need. A psychologist might help if you can’t figure it out for yourself. I’ll try to make a post on this some time because I’ve struggled with it a lot myself and have been on different meds (to help me fall and stay asleep and some to help me stay awake), have had sleep studies, etc to help me with my own sleep issues and I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned if it helps someone.

In the meantime, think about how much sleep you need and what’s preventing you from getting it then work on those areas as diligently as you can. How can you expect yourself to function let alone help anyone else if you’re sleep deprived?

In nursing school they teach us not to give “false hope.” It’s not healthy or beneficial to tell parents their paralyzed son or daughter may one day walk again, for example (and in some cases we need to be totally realistic such with this example). But not giving false hope never jived with me. I mean, what is “false” hope, really? Hope is hope. I totally understand the concept but happen to believe that hope is a beautiful thing.

Having a child born with physical or mental issues seems so unfair. These are innocent babies who deserve the whole world that we are talking about.

We have to have faith and hope in something and that there are good reasons that we cannot understand for these things to be happening. To see a child (or anyone) suffer and struggle almost daily would just be too much to handle if it were all for no good reason.

I don’t even like it when physicians give a life expectancy to kids. Unless the child is actively going downhill and nothing can save them, it is ridiculous to say that a child with any given disease will probably live for only so long.

Case in point: When I had my son at 29 weeks gestation 33 years ago, I recall being told that 25 weeks gestation or less was, at that time, considered to be a non-viable fetus. When he was born they intubated him to save him. Luckily for us he was large for gestational age and had no lasting complications. Fast forward 30 years and I was taking care of a baby that was born at 24 weeks and weighed one pound. She has health issues today but has many good days too. She has a family she loves who love her, enjoys playing and interacting with people and is very much ALIVE.

I had another peds patient recently who was given a life expectancy of 30 years old. I told the parents not to dwell on it too much because anything can happen in 30 years. I told them the story I just told you. If the little baby girl I was taking care of was born 30 years ago, they would have allowed her to die naturally rather than try to save her. None of us really know how many days or years we have left. What doctors can give us is a best guess based on how long people have lived with certain conditions IN THE PAST.

Where do we draw the line on what is true hope or false hope? What is good hope vs bad hope? It’s ridiculous to me. Everyone has a different belief system and I, for one, will never shatter someone’s hope no matter if I personally believe it or not. We are all entitled to believe what we believe. Furthermore, I’ve seen miracles happen on so many occasions. Real miracles. Cases where people outlived their life expectancies by years and years. Cases where parents were told their child wouldn’t survive without a surgery who not only survived but healed. Cases where babies had very little eye sight developed sight.

So have hope. Live for hope. Spread hope. Don’t live a life of depression and anxiety waiting for the day everything falls apart. Instead be grateful already for the wonderful things to come. And if the worst should happen, as we know it sometimes does, know in your heart you never gave up and lived every day to the fullest, all the time believing in your child and yourself and the doctors and scientists and God, if you believe. Because feeling hopeless is the worst feeling in the world and no one deserves to feel that way.

Even hospice patients can have hope for as many good days as possible, pain and stress relief and a pain free death.

No one can do it alone. I mean NO ONE. We can’t live this life alone. We would have literally died if left alone when we were born. We all needed love and someone to teach us from the very beginning. We simply need each other. That’s why we have every kind of profession imaginable. Each one of us has special gifts and talents. We’re given those to help each other. There is no shame in receiving any kind of help you need. Whether it is a babysitter, house cleaner, someone to vent to, a personal trainer, someone to help you manage your finances, a psychologist, physician, coach of any kind, motivational speaker, you name it.

Being brave, strong or so independent that you deny help when it’s offered to you is actually quite foolish.

I used to tell my hospice patients who were very stoic or had an ego to allow others to help them because the helpers needed something to do. People need to feel they are contributing. This allowed my hospice patients to let their ego relax and not feel threatened by any help they received. But I also believe it is true.

If someone offers to help you, accept it. Be grateful you have them in your life. If someone says they want to help but don’t know how then tell them how! Let them bring you a meal, cut your grass, babysit for an hour so you can take a long hot bath or exercise or just come over to have a cup of tea! If no one offers readily then seek help on your own if you need it. As I mentioned above there is a profession in just about any area of your life that you need help with that can help you.

Remember to take care of yourself too. I know self-care is really popular to talk about right now but I think it’s for a reason. Life can be really stressful and hectic. Lots of things are always happening at once. For many reasons life can get really complicated. People are starting to realize that there is no shame in taking care of yourself but it’s actually necessary. It’s ok to say no for your own sanity. It’s ok to ask for help or have a mental health day.

I don’t think this is a trend. We are not meant to pay bills then die. I think people are starting to open their eyes and realize that how we speak to and treat ourselves is significant. If we are kind to ourselves and love ourselves that love flows out into the world. If we’re always thinking and feeling the worst we project that out also. We all deserve to be happy.

Surround yourself with positive people. Be a positive person. Think about how you want to feel and live your life then cultivate your life so that only the things that support your goals are in it. Don’t let anyone else drag you down.

I hope this helped someone. Please give me a like and follow if any part of this was in any way beneficial to you.

Candida Overgrowth Awareness

Lots of people are walking around with vague but disturbing symptoms and can’t figure out why they feel so drained and sick all the time.

They may be able to function but the energy and motivation is lacking or they tend to be a person who gets sick all the time with colds, have allergies or lots of GI symptoms (especially bloating). They can’t quite pinpoint the cause and doctors can’t find anything wrong (because quite frankly they aren’t looking for candida overgrowth).

Check out the symptoms below and see if any of them sound familiar.

If you have several of the above symptoms (especially if you consider yourself a carb addict) it is worth a try to eat from the candida diet. I’ve linked a bunch of good information below if you want to delve into the causes, treatments and what research is being done about candida.

The good news is that the damage it has done can be reversible. But remember…

This diet is not easy. If you have candida you are well aware that trying to cut carbs and sugar sometimes feels as bad as it would to deprive yourself of air. That candida wants to live and needs sugar and carbs for its survival. This diet is killing those little jerks. You have to be stronger than they are!

The foods list is here but I’ve made a cheat sheet for shopping purposes.

(This list is phase one of the candida diet, by the way. After a while on the above list you can start to incorporate other foods. You want to add things slowly so you can tell what intolerances you have or what food aggravate your symptoms. This list is where you start though. I highly encourage delving into this link to read a lot more about it.)

A general guide of food to avoid is at this link.

I’m on a water fast right now (which I’ll also blog about) but plan to start this diet as soon as my fast is complete. I, personally, know that I need to reboot my gut health because I have actually been diagnosed with candida overgrowth and leaky gut.

I’ve put it off because, quite frankly, my symptoms weren’t bad enough for me to stick with it. The candida makes you want carbs so badly and it’s difficult to start or stay on this diet. However, when people suffer enough they are usually more open to change. That’s where I am now. The bloating, nausea, inability to lose weight and constant fatigue has finally taken its toll on me.

If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired you may want to give this a go as well! Unless you have other health conditions that restrict the way you eat like diabetes, kidney disease, etc, it’s a safe and healthy way to eat in which you’ll not only get rid of candida overgrowth but can start to heal leaky gut, if you have it, as well as lose weight and feel better overall.

Let me know if you’re going to try it!

I’ll post my progress under the category/tag “journal/personal” if you want to follow!

May you be happy and well,

Here are some interesting things to read:

CDC says antifungal resistance is a real problem.

Amy Myers, MD explains candida overgrowth

For the nerds like me. How they are studying Candida albicans.

Scientific proof that candida affects the immune system

Good information about candida and holistic treatments

How to beat dry skin for good!

There are a lot of types and reasons for dry skin:

  • Winter dry skin from lack of moisture in the environment.
  • Dry hands from use of detergents or chemicals
  • Chronically dry heels
  • Flaky dry skin from sun exposure
  • Facial dryness from using strong products like Benzoyl Peroxide.
  • Dry cuticles from using hand sanitizer or biting your nails.
  • Rough, dry hands from working with your hands
  • Being born with skin on the dry side.

As a nurse, I’ve seen them all. I was certified as a wound nurse, worked for a dermatologist and a plastic surgeon so I know about skin.

Here’s my nursing advice (Does it take the place of seeing a doctor? No. Could it help you until you can get there? Most likely, yes).

My disclaimer here is that if you have any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, pain, heat, discharge or odor, these tips are not for you and will not help you. You need to see a doctor right away. If you have any signs of allergic reaction such as swelling, hives, itching, redness you should also see your doctor so it doesn’t turn into an infection and you can find out what your allergic to.

Furthermore, if you have anything more than just dry skin such as a wound or clinically diagnosed eczema, psoriasis, etc, this post is also not for you.

Ok, shall we begin?

Dry Skin:

1. No hot water. Bathe when necessary only.

Hot water exacerbates dry skin. If you don’t have dry skin, you will if you continue to take very hot showers or baths. It strips the natural layer of oils your body has produced on your skin for protection. (This layer is called the acid mantle).

2. Use Ivory. Pits and privates only.

You do not need to soap up your whole body. Bacteria and body odor occur in the armpits and gential areas.

3. Olive oil in the bath.

One teaspoon does the trick.

4. Olive oil after bath while skin still wet.

Towel dry but try to mostly pat to keep the olive oil on. This is key: lotion and oils do not ADD moisture, they work by keeping moisture in. If you put lotion/oils on dry hands they are a lot less effective (but better than nothing).

Very Dry Skin:

All of the above plus…

5. Apply lotion 2-3 times per day to driest areas.

Use lotion that contains “dimethicone.” It helps seal in the moisture. A brand I like is Aveeno.

Extremely Dry Skin:

All of the above except: skip step 5 and replace with step 6.

6. Apply Aquaphor instead of lotion morning and night on the driest areas.

Avoid Aquaphor in creases of the skin such as groin or under breasts. Avoid using any lotions, creams or ointments in between your toes as it will cause a fungal infection.

Use Aquaphor on dry hands, arms and legs. It may be uncomfortable to have ointment on during the day. If that’s the case, apply at night. For better results, cover the area. Your legs can be covered with long socks or an ace bandage wrapped (not too tightly). Your arms can be covered with cotton sleeves. Even if you don’t want to wear a full shirt you can cut the sleeves off of a cotton shirt and use them to cover your arms or legs.

Miscellaneous:

  • Drink enough water. Chapped lips and dry skin are a sign of dehydrated skin. Drinking water helps. If your skin is dehydrated, you might be dehydrated inside as well.
  • Use sunscreen regularly, not just when your going to the beach or park.
  • Wear gloves if you work with your hands. Mechanics: wear gloves when you can. Gardeners, outdoor workers of all kinds, woodworkers, etc. wear gloves when you can. I realize it’s not always possible. Use extra lotion whenever possible if you can’t wear gloves.
  • Wear appropriate gloves if using any chemicals. This includes regular household cleaners. Bleach and other cleaners will strip the natural acid mantel (oils your skin produces) in a hot second.
  • Keep skin covered when outdoors to avoid the elements.
  • Wear a hat to protect your head and face when working or playing outdoors.
  • Avoid peak sun when working outdoors.
  • Be aware of hidden chemicals. Read labels of all products you put on your skin.
  • Wash hands thoroughly of any chemicals after you’ve used them but don’t over wash hands in general.
  • For dry cracked heels, exfoliate them with a pumice stone or special tool used for this and sleep with Aquaphor and socks for a few nights. (Be sure to avoid putting any lotions, creams or ointments between your toes).
  • For those thick dry heels that tend to get painful cracks: cleanse and dry well. Make sure the area is thoroughly dry. Inspect it to make sure it’s nothing more than a crack from dryness and there’s not an open wound (any drainage or redness around it, etc). Carefully apply a drop or two of super glue right into the crack. Yes, Super glue . Then, being careful to not get super glue on fingers, pinch the skin closed until dry. This should last a couple of days before having to repeat it. It’s a tip learned from working for a dermatologist. Use at your own risk and don’t blame me if you glue your fingers to your heel or cannot differentiate between a wound or dry heel crack. Use your best judgment or go to your doctor if you feel the need. if you’re afraid to use superglue you can try “New Skin” or “Wound Seal.” They even sell a brand for pets called “3M Vetbond Tissie Adhesive.”

A tiny story here. Once an elderly gentleman came hobbling into the dermatologist’s office with very painful cracked heels. He was really miserable since it was affecting the way he walked this wasn’t as active as he had been. Doctor gave him the super glue tip. He came back for a follow up. He started dancing with a big smile on his face. It was wonderful. Such a simple, inexpensive fix.

Also, super glue was originally made in 1942 to seal wounds quickly on the battlefields during WW2. The original formula didn’t work as well as they’d hoped for that purpose but today surgeons use a variation of the same idea. It works really well too. I’ve seen it a lot!

There you have it!

I hope this helps!

If you like posts like this please give it a like. If you have any suggestions for future health lists let me know in the comments!

Be happy and well!