So many people know of someone touched by brain disease that this month’s designation as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month is especially relevant.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s, a severe form of dementia, are devastating brain diseases that impact families across the world. As people live longer, the prevalence of brain diseases increases because the risk of developing dementia and similar diseases rises with advancing age.
Your career as a nurse means you can have a direct impact in your personal and professional life on the ravages of this disease. As a nurse, you can learn more about how patients with Alzheimer’s might react in unfamiliar situations (like a health care facility or hospital) so you can offer them even more effective care. You can also learn more about the signs and symptoms to help people who might be concerned about loved ones’ behavior or lapses in their own memory. You can also ease fear by debunking some of the common myths of Alzheimer’s (like that Alzheimer’s is only something elderly people get).
In your personal life, your authority as a nurse can help others in your life who might come to you privately with concerns. You can offer the reassurance and guidance that comes from learning more about brain diseases.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these are a few warning signs to notice:
- Memory lapses that disrupt daily life
Lots of people forget where they put the car keys. It’s troublesome if they can’t remember what the keys are for.
- Trouble completing normal tasks
It’s normal to forget how to get to the restaurant you only go to once a year. Getting lost while heading to the regular supermarket should be a red flag.
- Distinct mood changes
Getting a little grouchy at the end of a long day with family is okay. A sharp, noticeable change in normal mood is something to pay attention to.
- Confusion about time and place
In your office, a patient might not remember they are due for a tetanus shot. A patient who can’t tell you why they are in your office is showing warning signs.
As a medical professional, you always focus on prevention, but there is no proven treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s. However, it’s never too late to encourage activities that are good for overall brain health including a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, exercise, social interaction, and remaining interested in many activities whether that’s an interest in a certain historical period, trail walking, kickboxing, building model airplanes, or learning the intricacies of the stock market. Keeping your brain busy is good for your brain health.
One of the toughest things nurses face is caring for themselves, and eating for optimal nutrition at work is especially problematic. Filling up on whatever is around can actually zap your energy and lead to longer-term health problems. And a recent study proves the grab-and-go in the break room is challenging for everyone.
A recently published study by the American Society for Nutrition shows that relying on food in the workplace might actually hurt your health. In a time crunch, buying quick take out in the cafeteria, granola bars or candy bars at a vending machine in the hall, or a juice or soda for a pick-me-up can wreak havoc on everything from your blood pressure to your weight.
Even if you resolve to spend nothing on food at work, you aren’t out of the woods. The candy dish that remains filled with tiny pieces of chocolate, the birthday cake for a coworker’s big day, and the party leftovers that appear in the kitchen or break room all add unexpected calories to your daily or weekly total.
The study’s author, Stephen Onufrak noted in his presentation abstract the dietary quality of foods obtained in the average work setting of the study provided less nutrition and a higher ratio of sodium and fats than healthy guidelines recommend.
Even worse, you often aren’t even aware of what you’re eating. A few small cookies barely make a dent in your hunger, but easily pack a lot of fat and calories to your day with little nutritional value. And because nurses work a physically demanding job, eating on the run is pretty common. Sometimes you think it must be better to grab a slice of coffee cake than nothing, and sometimes it is better to do that. But planning ahead and having a yogurt that’s just as fast to eat, string cheese, whole-grain crackers, or a handful of dried fruit and nuts that provides fiber, protein, and a few vitamins to boot is a better choice and provides longer lasting energy.
If it’s the social aspect of workplace eating that appeals to you, just be aware of your intake. Allocate what you are willing to splurge on and what you won’t really miss. Advocate for healthier choices when food is supplied for meetings, lunches, or celebrations. Also be your own cheering section. Take the time to stash your favorite snacks in your bag so you can feel social, but still fuel your body with healthy foods. As with any behavior change, it helps to enlist support. Find a buddy who can help you resist the urge to nosh on whatever is closest at hand.
With healthier eating comes many benefits, but feeling better is one of the biggest benefits of all.
For 41 years, nursing assistants have celebrated National Nursing Assistants Week during June. Career Nursing Assistants Day on June 14 kicks off the week of honoring the nursing assistants who care for elderly or disabled patients, especially in long-term care facilities, hospice care, home care, or nursing homes.
According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, nursing assistants are a vital connection to patients as they help them with the basic care and activities of daily living. They help patients feel cared for and comfortable, while also providing the essential hands-on care that keeps patients healthy. While helping patients do things like bathe, eat, or gain movement, they are also able to form trusting relationships. Nursing assistants spend so much time with patients they are able to get to know them and learn about their lives.
When patients are away from the comforts of their home or far away from family and friends, nursing assistant s give a companionship so necessary for feeling better. They provide a gentle care from which patients and residents feel respect and a sense of belonging. When nursing assistants greet them by name and ask about their health or their physical ailments, they are taking an assessment of how the patient is doing on a basic physical level. Those are assessments that are essential to the medical team that oversees the patient.
But because of their close proximity to people, nursing assistants are also able to ask about the favorite foods of patients or residents, their upbringing, how they celebrated milestones, and family and friends who were once or are still close to them. They may get to know the visitors who come often and are able to hear and share stories with them. With that kind of knowledge, nursing assistants have many topics of conversation they can use to engage patients. Their familiar presence becomes reassuring and comforting as a patient’s moods may go up or down or as their physical discomfort increases or decreases.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for this role will continue to rise at a faster-than-average rate. Those looking to get into this career field will find plenty of opportunity to offer compassionate and skilled care to populations that needs it most. The median salary of $27,500 annually will fluctuate with location and demand, and you’ll need to pass a competency exam. Like other jobs in the medical or care field, the work can by both physically and emotionally demanding, but the rewards of caring for patients and making a difference in their lives is great.
Help celebrate National Nursing Assistants Week by noting and thanking nursing assistants for the tremendous work they do.
There is no denying that a mental health stigma exists. People who suffer from depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, or even psychosis sometimes feel the pressure of that stigma so greatly, they fail to talk to anyone about it and, in effect, deny themselves treatment that can help them feel better.
Nurses have a pulse on this particular health issue that makes patients feel especially vulnerable. On May 30, everyone is invited to join a Twitter chat about mental health issues hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. At 2 pm EDT, you can use #MHMChat to follow and participate with many top associations and organizations who are closing out Mental Health Awareness Month with the conversation.
Mental Health America is an excellent resource for nurses who want to refer their patients to ways they can take steps for better mental health or also to find ways to improve their own. Those interested in finding out steps they can take to care for their mind and body to help support mental health will find suggestions through the Fitness4Mind4Body campaign. Tips on diet and nutrition (like ensuring proper nutrition and even the importance of certain vitamins and minerals) or the role of stress in mental health can offer effective pointers.
As a nurse, you can ask questions and really listen to your patients to determine if they are struggling with mood changes or psychological struggles. Maybe they don’t admit to feeling sad, but they comment about snarling at colleagues. Or a patient who admits to having trouble sleeping and then can’t get out of bed in the morning for work or other commitments might be trying to reveal information without admitting to mental health struggles. Still others, who might feel a general unease or fear for example, might not even know they are having real problems that can be helped with treatment.
This is also a good time to take stock of your own mental health. Nurses are under enormous stress on the job and don’t always get a chance to eat well, sleep much, or exercise at all. All of those factors can contribute to compassion fatigue, anxiety, depression, and a general decline in mental health.
Luckily, as many work to reduce the stigma of mental health issues, help remains available. Even for patients who live in remote areas, help can be found online or over the phone if they have those connections. The National Institute of Mental Health offers information for getting help that can be accessed by many.
As the month comes to an end, reach out to people in your life to help them if they are struggling. If you are struggling, show yourself some compassion and get help. The results can be life changing.
No one ever wants to hear a diagnosis of cancer, but when it happens, oncology nurses are the rock-solid support many patients turn to. As the latest numbers show cancer continues to be a steadily rising health concern, oncology nurses will continue to play an essential role to patients and families.
May is Oncology Nurses Month and honors all the ways oncology nurses help their patients navigate a road they never expected to travel. Oncology nurses have duties that help patients understand a diagnosis, become educated about options and treatment, and adjust to a terminal prognosis or one that includes living a life after a cancer diagnosis and as a survivor.
The National Cancer Institute states “In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease.” However, as cancer treatments become more effective, oncology nurses are also caring for the increasing number of cancer survivors.
According to the Oncology Nursing Society, this year’s theme “The Art of Caring, The Science of Care,” highlights both the reassuring guidance and compassion nurses show as well as the intricacies of cancer treatment.
Patients and their families often need time to absorb a diagnosis of cancer, and oncology nurses are there to help them figure out what to do next. As treatment advances, they are there to offer support, give exceptional care, and prepare patients for any treatment side effects. If a patient’s diagnosis is terminal, they are able to help them adjust and live life comfortably. Oncology nurses help patients understand the medical treatment they need and the various options they might have available.
But through all the medical decisions, these nurses also offer compassionate and knowledgeable care. With the rapid-fire developments in cancer treatment, oncology nurses must stay up-to-date on the cutting edge treatments that might become available to their patients or in advising patients on how to reduce cancer risks. They are a shoulder to lean on and a valuable resource for families. They are able to help patients manage pain and discomfort, offer advice for dealing with unpleasant side effects, and report any adverse side effects of treatments.
Oncology nurses also are on the front lines, hearing patients concerns and helping to guide them through insurance issues. They ask if patients can afford the treatment and what alternatives they may have. But they are also able to hear the fear and listen to the concerns of patients and their loved ones.
Because oncology nurses are working so closely with patients, they see exactly how cancer can have a devastating impact on lives and families. From this viewpoint, they are excellent advocates for cancer policies in government, in insurance, and in research. Oncology nurses have a valuable and respected voice to help create changes in policies that impact cancer patients.
This month as oncology nurses reflect on the vast scientific knowledge they possess to the deep wells of compassion and empathy they use to support their patients, they can be reinvigorated by the reasons they go into the field. Patients and families depend on their steadfast care and the reward for this field are great.