7 Most Common Nurse Retention Mistakes

I've met many of today's influential nurse leaders, human resource professionals and healthcare executives, and I've spoken to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of industry experts.

I've often wondered why these industry power houses all struggle with the same nagging issue – recruiting and retaining skilled nurses – and why they repeat the same disastrous mistakes. I recently discovered the answer to my question during a seminar by LeAnn Thieman, author of the best seller "Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul," during the Texas Organization of Nurse Executives Annual Conference.

The presentation inspired me to write "7 most common nurse retention mistakes," bringing together inspirations from the many experts I've met, including Thieman. I hope this simple, but meaningful guide helps organizations find practical solutions to the real problem of hiring and retaining quality nurses.

How many of the 7 most common mistakes can you recognize in your organization?

1. Inadequate staffing levels
Many hospitals today are struggling to find and retain nurses. The reasons are many: staffing cutbacks in the 1990s used to offset rising healthcare costs, a shortage of teaching nurses at colleges, and sometimes even less interest in the profession by Millennials. Despite the cause, the outcome is the same whenever there is a prolonged period of unequate nurse staffing levels. As existing staff members absorb the work load, stress increases and job satisfaction declines, resulting in greater turnover. And so the cycle continues. We've been contacted by hospitals that have tried for years to maintain proper nurse-to-patient ratios, but despite their efforts, the problem is worsened. They're frustrated; nurses are unhappy, and patient satisfaction sufferers, along with patient safety.

With all its complexities and constant change, today's healthcare environment requires a new approach. One focused on a multi-faceted recruiting and retention plan that begins by defining the proper nurse staffing ratios for your facility, sets recruiting and retention goals and uses proven short-term and long-term recruiting methods.

2. Training programs that miss the mark
Many clients find that although they have training programs in place, results are mixed. Nurse trainees are not as productive or satisfied with their new positions as hoped. Why? It may be because training is not sufficiently customized to prepare nurses for the full-range of duties and expectations that will ultimately determine success at their organization.

What better way to learn this than from a co-worker and fellow nurse currently succeeding in the job. I recommend our clients adopt a nurse preceptor program. Begin by asking yourself, "Who in my organization do I want more of?" Then narrow your candidate pool by determining who has the temperament to teach. These are your preceptors. They are strong nurses who willingly participate.

Keep in mind, a good nurse is not necessarily a good trainer. We teach all our nurse placements specific communication skills and learning applications to prepare them for preceptor roles. Look for these skills in your employees or consider training for them. Then, do not forget to adjust your preceptors' workloads to account for their new responsibilities, so they do not experience rapid burnout.

3. Cultural calamity
Every organization has dominant values, beliefs and attitudes that define it and guide its practices. A worker who believes in those values ​​strengthens the organization, as well as fellow co-workers. But, one who is out of step with company culture will bring down morale and inhibit your nurse team's effectiveness. In a high-stress, fast-paced environment where co-workers rely on a fully functioning team, cultural fit is critical. So, whether you're onboarding staff or relying on an agency to train traveling or international nurses, look for both a strong clinical and cultural program matched to your organization. Ask how nurses on assignment are trained, so you know they will fit smoothly into the US healthcare system and understand the needs of American patients. Are your nurseries on assignment prepared to effectively address Americans' health concerns and expectations of their healthcare providers? Do they understand the role of relationships and empathy?

Ensuring cultural alignment to your organization will strengthen your nurse team's performance and bolster long-term retention.

4. Lagging compensation and career opportunities
Not everyone is motivated by money, but recruiting and retention problems are all but guaranteed if your surcharge compensation package does not keep pace with market competitors. Keep in mind, compensation means different things to different people. So, whether it's salary, bonuses, flex schedules or time-off, know what your competitors are offering and match or except that to ensure you do not lose your best nurses.

5. Strategic planning that is not
The best nurseries are usually the hardest to recruit, and even tougher to retain. You need a plan. Engage all stakeholders in developing your strategic solutions, especially nurses on the floor. Think beyond your standard approach. Consider all options before deciding what works best for your organization. Are hiring bonuses viable? Will they help build a long-term, stable nurse team? What role will international nurses play? How will you measure the effectiveness of your strategies?

6. Boomers versus Millennials
By now, we all know that these two very different generations communicate, work and think, well … very differently. But, what does that mean to your organization and how have you prepared your nurse team? Developing relationships outside of our comfortable, niche groups is not natural for most adults – especially Boomers. After all, we've spent a lot of time developing certain styles and patterns, and we appreciate those that think the same. Without sufficient motivation, that will not change. Boomers must look beyond "the lack of work ethic" they see in younger counterparts, and Millennials must think beyond "Boomers just resisting change." To maximize each generation's contribution, your organization must help facilitate the dialogue that fosters understanding and appreciation for each group's contribution. Only then will you have a fully functioning, cross-national team.

7. Overly aggressive competitors
A client located in one state complained to me that, when he thinks he's winning the nurse-shortage battle, a competitor from a neighboring state stakes out in a nearby hotel, and recruits and interviews his nurseries – offering hiring bonuses and better work schedules. My response to that is refer to items 1 through 6 above.

New Businesses Are Just Like Babies

Have you ever noticed how some women get super excited about other women having a baby?

The minute they hear their friend is pregnant, they start planning the shower, thinking of colors and games, gathering all of the info they can so that the mommy to be knows that everyone is thrilled she is bringing a new little life into the world.

I get the same way whenever someone, especially a woman, tells me that she is planning to open a new business.

If she whispers to me "I've decided to start freelancing on the side", it's just like telling me, "We've decided to start trying!"

I love small business so much, I always want to burst open whenever anyone around me catches the fever.

I often go overboard with my ideas for them, their launch, their logos, their marketing plan, possible expansion strategies, how they organize their workflow … you name it. People have stopped me mid sentence lots of times. But I just get so darn excited. I can not help myself.

I tell you..it's a sickness!

I became a small business owner before I became a mother. After thinking about both babies and business, I realized that they are very much alike:

1) They both keep you up at night – Just like a little newborn that demands care and attention from it's exhausted, loving mother, a new business that inspires you from the gut will wake you up at two in the morning with ideas for any aspect of it. And it will not matter that you're tired!

It will demand that you care about it's every detail and push you to organize and plan all of them.

You will dream about the type of office bathroom experience you want your employees and customers to have. (yes … it is that serious!)

You will see your sign in your sleep. You will think of taglines and pitch ideas constantly. You will imagine what people will say about doing business with you.

You will be so in love and thrilled and full of passion, weeks will pass and it will only be then that you notice you have only slept three hours a night ten days straight. But you will not care!

That is what the initial drive feels like. Those special moments feeding your new little one in the still of the night are special for a reason. When babies and businesses are new, they pull forth an energy in us that is so seemingly endless, the likes of which we do not see in ourselves at any other time or for any other reason.

I love this aspect of the newness and I think that is why I prefer working with people in the start-up stage … I guess I become their 'entrepreneurial midwife'. I love the energy of the newness. The passion that people have, it just brings out something so beautiful and hopeful in them. You can see them in a pure way because you see their dreams. It's gorgeous and so, so special. And that drive to take care of everything in the beginning is just as special.

2) They change your life immediately, but it is for the best – No more staying out too late … less time to socialize with old friends (qualifier added: old). You've got someone to get home too!

I remember being an avid party rebel back in the day, before things all changed. It used to be very easy for me to go all day being as unproductive as I wanted to be and then top out the night with all kinds of distractions till dawn.

But things changed and it was definitely for the best.

Just like going out is harder because you just can not tear away from that beautiful new little face and those edible fingers and toes (and infant shenanigans are so much better than any TV I've ever seen), a new business will take over your social life. But usually, this is for the better.

You start to feel the feeling of fifteen minutes..in other words, time becomes super precious as you become more internally aware of it. You can sense it. Because of this, you will become a lot more productive and focused, because you do not want to waste a moment. Moments are now precious and then, you procrastinate a whole lot less.

And oh boy, when you see it take it's first steps (launch a new product) or say it's first words (marketing the first time where prospects actually connect), all of that productivity yields that you're changed your life in this way. (Let's not even talk about the first poop – or when the first client pays you money!)

But here is the main reason that this is better for your life: as soon as you see how productive you are becoming, you only want to enhance your productivity. You do not want anything to slow your roll. Do you know what this means? It means you start to protect not only your time, but also your 'bubble of influence'.

Your 'bubble of influence' or the people you tend to hang around, morph into a crowd that makes you better (parent and business owner). You will only want to be around people that encourage your new lifestyle and you will start to see and avoid those who discourage it or folks who are negative and always doubting you and your every move.

The 'old' friends start telling you how they do not see you anymore and how you've changed and that they do not know you anymore.

They are right … they do not. And, in the words of Martha Stewart, it's a good thing!

This is always a better way to live, for the sake of the babies and your business growth! Becoming more protective of your time and space allows all good things in your life to grow.

3) They both make you see the future in a way that you have never considered before – I enjoyed my life prior to becoming a mother and I had lots of fun and lived in quite a careful way before starting my first venture. I did not have a lot of worries about my actions affecting other lives or if I took a day off it was my prerogative, etc. My future was going to be just an extension of the present.

Maybe the backdrop or location would change. Maybe some new cast members would evolve in my life movie and its post-trauma sequels.

But my future, though I always had big dreams, was not really solid until I was, what they call in poker, 'all in'.

Now, it was not that it could not be. Lots of folks I know who have decided to not have children are choosing to live a life headed for a future of greatness and impact.

That will be their baby and only real plans and real goal achievement will get them there, along with support, focus and true productivity.

And that's the real truth of the matter – ideas and dreams are very different from real plans and real goals.

There are too many 'want to be's' and not enough brave people who execute and actually decide what their future will really include. There is an indescribable shift of commitment that can not be denied once a person is 'all in'.

Immediately following your admission into parenthood and entrepreneurship (the FOR REAL entrance – not the fake 'I want to someday' stuff) you will see your future differently.

Ideas and dreams become your coach, inner guidance and your project manager. Time is not just passing. Time becomes your supervisor, managing the checklist for all of the items you have laid out on your blueprint specifically for that year and that month and that week.

Things get done.

And when you keep accomplishing all you set out to do, whether big or small, you become convinced that anything you WANT is within your reach.

So you start wanting more … and dreaming more. You get around others to talk about ideas and more dreams, which become projects naturally … and then you realize:

'if I set the goal for (insert your personal' good money 'goal) in sales per year, I can do (fill in the blank) and (fill in another blank) and even (fill in a big blank here)! This can really happen! I better get myself ready, because the way I am rolling along, this is going to be real … wow. '

Now, just stop for a second and consider the gravity of this shift in thinking. From: 'that would be nice if it happened' to 'this is really GOING to happen and it looks like it is on it's way to me.'

That's huge.

When that baby starts understanding things, connecting things and really learning things for the first time in front of your very eyes, it's not just cute. It is a confirmation of levels of development. It is really important that you see your baby is connecting the dots … for it's future.

Their future will be your future.

That is why the things you see for your own future now HAVE to happen and you become so sure they will. Your future will include so much more than it did before the Big Change, things you never thought about for your life before the Big Change. You enjoy the present but you are aching to see the future unfold with all of the new ideas and dreams, developments, life just gets sweeter.

Harder but definitely sweeter!

Babies and businesses are creations that evolve anyone willing to commit to them.

But you have to be committed.

Want to know why? Reread this post ~ 🙂

Are Your Managers Ready for Generation Y Employees?

Generation Y or the "Internet Generation" will dramatically change every aspect of your business in the next five years!

Change will be constant, rapid and revolutionary. Want proof?

First, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is putting all of their 1,500 courses on the Internet. MIT believes that the "disclosure of knowledge and information can open new doors to the powerful benefits of education for humanity around the world." That means students, educators and self-learners will be able to audit these courses when and where they want.

Second, Bob Lutz, General Motors Vice Chairman, has a blog to communicate directly with his customers. It is an invaluable way to get important information out to the market. It is also a vehicle for timely and accurate feedback. Other GM executives are setting up blogs to talk directly to and get information from their employees. By comparison, Microsoft has over 1,500 customer and employee blogs.

Third, YouTube is an Internet overnight success story. It allows people to upload and share videos over the Internet. To date they have 100 million videos on their site and receive another 65,000 per day. The company was founded in February 2005, and was never profitable. Yet, Google understands the potential of their technology and purchased the company nineteen months later for $ 1.65 billion.

While Gen X employees understand Internet, multitasking and instant communications, Generation Y members excels at use of these three tools, and they will use them to transform business. They will challenge every aspect of the workplace.

How do the different generational employees look managers?

B oomers: The boss is not always right, but the boss is always the boss. I will put in long hours to get ahead. If necessary, I will do so at the expense of my family.

Generation X: The boss is not always right, but I'm not going to be here very long. I watched my parent's jobs being downsized or outsourced so I do not have the same loyalty to a company they did. I'm not married to the company; I value my life outside of work.

Generation Y: The boss is not always right, but are they open to new ways to do business? Events like 9/11 and the Columbine High School shooting have taught us that life can be fleeting. The Internet as exposed us to new ways of approaching life and work. I want to flexibility, to be valued for my ideas and my work and I want time off to volunteer.

They are called Generation Y, as in "why," because they are constantly questioning the status quo. They are almost as large as the Boomer generation and are over 65% larger than the Generation X group. In the next twenty-five years 80 million Boomers will be retiring. As the Boomers retire, the Gen X employees will become the Gen Y's managers. However, because of their sheer size Generation Y will be the overwhelming influence in the workplace for the next fifty years.

Generation Y fully embraces technology. Today's twenty-year-old college graduate was only five years old when the Internet was developed in 1992. They have always had the world at their finger tips. They grow up with instant messaging, text messaging, cell phones, iPods, PDAs, MySpace, YouTube, multitasking and blogging. They think, and act, in terms of instant communications. While Gen X employees understand and used these vehicles, Generation Y is totally immersed in them.

Baby Boomers changed the culture on civil rights, woman's rights, and gay rights. Their world was shaped by the Cold War. The members of Generation Y were born after the Civil Rights Act was passed (1964), the gay rights movement started (1969), the first woman sat on the US Supreme Court (1975), and the Berlin Wall came down (1990). The struggles many of us remember are accepted facts in their world. Generation Y individuals overlap diversity as an accepted norm and until recently knew nothing about war. Their world has always included diversity.

Each of us has memories of some recent tragic events: the Oklahoma bombing, the Columbine High school shooting, the World Trade Center bombing, and three wars-Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terror. If you were a thirteen to fifteen year old, how would these events shape your thoughts about the future? In a practical way These Generation Y's remain optimistic.

Generation Y members are group-oriented, confident, goal-oriented and civic-minded. They have a more worldly view than Generation X'ers. These new employees have been coddled by their parents. As children they received trophies for simply participating on a team. Parents told them were special and capable of doing anything. Their non-school activities were scheduled (eg, karate, soccer, etc.), and their parents were not afraid to call a teacher, coach or boy Scout leader if they did not think their child was being treated fairly.

Generation Y kids have been raised with instant communication, unrealistic feedback and rapid decision making as the norm. They believe they have the world in the palm of their hand. And, with their knowledge of today's technology they do.

So what can your managers do to get ready for Generation Y employees? Generation Y employees want to be heard and valued by their company when they start with your company. They place a high value on family and flexibility and will volunteer their time to cause them feel are important. They are fearless and not intimidated by titles or corporate organizational charts.

They love variety and are not afraid of change. If they think they have a good suggestion they will take ownership of the idea. And, they will not be afraid to take the idea up the corporate ladder to be heard.

Successful companies must find ways to harness the new employee's talents, integrate them into the company and turn ideas into a competitive advantage. Progressive companies understand that learning is a two-way street. Generation Y employees will revolutionize internal and external communications. Companies have a lot to teach the Gen Y's, but they have a lot to learn from them also. That will be difficult in rigid, highly structured companies.

Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric, stated that "… ebusiness knowledge is usually inversely proportional to age and rank." Hiring, challenging and retaining good employees have always been the hallmark of successful companies.

Successful companies today must develop a culture of learning, sharing and embracing change. They will employ two-way mentoring, blogging, new training platforms, and new ways of hiring and promoting people.

Training Generation Y employees will change. Boring, all-day seminars will become less frequent. Generation Y employees will text message their friends during those seminars. They need the information in the seminar, but companies will have the training available in different platforms and in smaller "bite-sized" portions. These training modules will be downloadable to an employees' Blackberry, iPod or computer. The employee will view the sessions at home, or on a plane or listen to them in the car driving to an appointment.

This is an exciting and dynamic time for business! Change will be constant, rapid and revolutionary.

Generation Y employees will change how we look at hiring, turnover, mentoring, performance reviews, employee orientation, retention issues, and how we communicate with our employees and customers. Are your managers ready for this new employee?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. A new employee takes approximately six months to "learn the routes," and they will probably leave the company within four years. How will your managers take full advantage of the Generation Y employee's creative energies?
  1. What systems within your company need to be reviewed to take advantage of these upcoming changes?
  1. How can you dramatically change the way you communicate with your customers and your employees?

Nursing Shortages to Worsen As Baby Boomers Age

Many baby boomers hit an important milestone last year. Those earliest boomers born at the start of 1946 turned 70, and are now turning that age at a rate of 10,000 people per day for the next 18 years. The Census Bureau also indicates that for the first time in history the aging populations of 65 and older will double that of children (ages 5 and under) worldwide within the next 3 years. This has broad implications on health care and nursing, both now and well into the future, especially as there is already a shortage of nurses.

As the nursing industry deals with this worrisome shortage. * Nursing schools are trying to meet the demand by expanding their programs and offering accelerated coursework; however, it is still projected that there will be a massive scarcity of Registered Nurses (RNs). So where will these shortfalls happen? What states, people and fields will be affected most?

The Growing Problem

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the demand for RNs in the work is expected to increase 16 percent to 3.2 million jobs in 2024, one of the highest of any industry in the US Unfortunately; 1 million RNs will be reaching retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years. So, who will replace these retirees and make up for the anticipated demand? That's not clear yet.

Educating Nurses

The AACN reports nursing schools across the country have only seen a 3.6 percent increase in enrollment, where near enough to meet the planned demand of nurses in the coming years. Compounding the problem is the lack of qualified faculty. The AACN reports 64,067 qualified nursing school applicants were turned away in 2016 due to a lack of faculty.

Shortages by State

Who will feel the nursing shortage the most? By 2025, several states will experience the brunt of the nursing shortage according to Becker's Hospital Review including: Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Maryland, Nevada and Washington.

Shortages by Specialty

Certain nursing fields will suffer larger shortages than others because they are the fastest-growing fields by 2022. These fields, according to Nurse Journal, include: nurse midwife, nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse, psychiatric nurse, trauma nurse and travel nurse .

Traveling nurses are – and will continue to be – one of the highest fields in demand, particularly in certain major US cities like Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Houston and Chicago, as reported by LRS Healthcare.

Preventing Tooth Decay in Babies and Children

The statistics concerning tooth decay in children are an eye-opener for many parents. It is estimated that 5 percent of babies will exhibit some form of tooth decay by the age of 9 months while 15 percent will have cavities by the time they reach their first birthday. The rate increases with age so much so that approximately 40 percent of children 12 years of age and older will suffer from moderate periodontal disease.

With such poor statistics, the obligation of parents to prevent tooth decay in their children can not be overemphasized. After all, parents must serve as role models and look after the welfare of their children when it comes to matters of health, of which dental health is a big part. Keep in mind that good dental health is closely associated with good nutrition, good immunity and good mental well-being.

Start During Pregnancy

What many mothers do not realize is that good oral health starts from the moment their babies are conceived, both for mother and child. This is because strep bacteria from dental diseases can be transmitted from the mother to the baby in the womb. Thus, pregnant women are advised to practice good dental practices before and after delivery.

Upon birth, your baby will pick up the strep bacteria from the genitourinary tract while pick-up of said germs after delivery happened from kissing and direct contact with infected saliva. Studies have proven that mothers with frequent strep oral infections because of poor oral hygiene are more likely to infect their babies. Thus, in preventing tooth decay among infants, the mother must be very conscious of dental health.

Breast Milk and Infant Formula in Caries

The most significant modifier in the prevention of tooth decay in babies and children is their diet. Breast milk per se will not lead to tooth decay until such time that solid foods are introduced, in which case, dental hygienic must then be introduced. However, when your child is bottle-fed and carries a filled bottle in his mouth during the day and sleeps with one in his mouth at night, then there is a higher likelihood for inviting tooth decay and the strep bacteria into his mouth.

Alas, when your baby is on a solid food diet along with breast milk, research has unexpectedly shown that it is 10 times more likely to cause cavities than infant formula! Regardless of whether your baby is on breast milk or on infant formula, you must ensure that your child's teeth undergo several cleaning times each day preferably with a soft toothbrush, provide the appropriate fluoride toothbrush and start professional dental checkups starting at 1 year of age .

Start Early with Good Oral Hygiene

Of course, the best way in preventing tooth decay among children is to start them young on good oral hygiene. You have to teach them how to brush their tea after every meal, use dental floss to clean between the teeth and eat only nutritious food. Sweets like chocolates, candies and soda must be kept to a minimum since their sugar contents are magnets for caries.

It is your responsibility as a parent to ensure that your child adopts healthy oral hygiene at an early age. This way, you are assured that they will be able to take care of their teeth even without your help.

Teenagers – Inside the Teenage Brain

Recent research on the human brain provides parents with shocking new evidence to possibly explain the sometimes irrational, illogical and impulsive behavior of teenagers. Brain researchers can now scan the live teenage brain to observe and examine why these curious and perplexing creatures make so many impulsive and egocentric decisions, that may sometimes lead to risky behavior.

As it turns out, brain development during the teenage years is radically more active and dynamic than previously thought. During these years, the part of the brain that requires a person to make responsible decisions, understand consequences, and process problem-solving is under heavy construction, and much of the time dysfunctional. Even though the brain is almost physically mature, the gray matter in the thinking part of the brain (pre-frontal cortex) is still making connections . So teenagers are left with most of the information reaching their brains being processed in the emotional part (limbic system).

Information processed in the limbic system, without benefit of higher level processing in the pre-frontal cortex, may result in impulsive, egocentric, and possibly even risky, behavior. Because of this ongoing construction in the thinking part of the brain, a teenager is, many times, not capable of fully processing information that is necessary to make responsible decisions. Combine this brain challenge with a teen's temperament, maturity level, developmental stage and environmental impact, and it begins to become understandable because parents may find this time so exhausting and frustrating.

Realizing that major construction is going on inside the pre-frontal cortex of the teenage brain does not excuse inappropriate or irresponsible behavior from the teen. But understanding the teenage brain is crucial to figuring out how to interact with it. For the teenager, this time in his or her life can be a creative and emotional roller coaster ride with plenty of thrills and chills (and maybe some spills), but for parents it can be just nerve-wracking and terrifying. Healthy communication and effective discipline are what a teenager needs to help navigate this important time, especially since the brain is not yet necessarily ready or capable to face all of the inevitable challenges, without support.

Each interaction with a teenager will affect the development of his or her brain, helping the teen make connections in the pre-frontal cortex. During this time of heavy construction, the teenage brain needs focused and intentional support and teaching to help form and solidify these hopefully healthy connections. Parents can benefit from the understanding that there's much work that can be done while the teenage brain in still under construction and with proper perspective and effort, a teenager can learn to be less impulsive and egocentric, and make better and more responsible decisions.

As parents decide how to more effectively communicate with the developing teenage brain, it's vital to also consider who a child actually is, and what kind of parenting styles the child is exposed to. Most of us are the result of an even dose of nature and nurture, and understanding the nature of who a child is, and how his or her surroundings have affected that child, can help parents formulate more effective techniques when facing challenging situations during the teenage years.

The nature of a teenager is a complex and fascinating combination of temperament, stage of development, personality, maturity level, and social connection. In addition, parents need to consider the teenager's emotional health (self esteem) and relational health (to what degree have the teen's closest relationships positively affected his or her development).

And then there's parenting styles. Healthy and effective parenting (described as authoritative), can help the positive development of the teenage brain. Using healthy communication tools like active listening, reframing, timing of teaching moments, I-messages, etc. and effective discipline tools like healthy limit setting, consequences, picking and choosing battles, few rules, etc. can greatly help the teenager's pre-frontal cortex develop solid connections to enable responsible behavior.

For more information on understanding the complex nature of who a teenager is, how his or her brain developments and processes information, and to practice new and easy-to-learn healthy parenting tools, please visit: ResponsibleKids.net

© 2008 Marty Wolner, BA, CPE, ICF, PACA

Alzheimers Prevention and Brain Health

First I want to assume that you are reading this because you are starting to worry just a little bit about your memory and the possibility of Alzheimers later in life. You're not the only one-there are 72 million baby boomers taking turns on line every day looking for information, help and hope for the Alzheimers prevention. You may have noticed long time friends or people at work maybe your own spouse decline right before your eyes. It's more than a little scary knowing you could be there too; so we look for answers.

Brain fog is not necessarily an indication of Alzheimers, Age Associated Memory Impairment (AAMI) or any form of dementia. But it is a good indication that your brain health needs attention. It could be that any number of things or a combination of things could make all the difference; but it is up to you to take action. Clearing up the brain fog could very well be the first step in Alzheimers prevention.

A recent study of baby boomers concluded that 62% share Alzheimers as their biggest fear of growing old. Not heart disease, not heart attack, not stroke, not cancer but Alzheimers. I found myself in that group. I also discovered that among doctors, men and women who see more pain, suffering and disease than any other segment of the population, they would prefer anything to Alzheimers.

Alzheimers is characterized by elevated levels of beta-amyloid peptides that cause plaque to build up in the brain. The plaque causes the neurons to shrivel and tangle (fibrillary tangle) which results in the synapses from firing neurotransmitters to relay information through out the brain.

The increase in this disease among people under 65 is increasing at an alarming rate. Alzheimers prevention is the only course of action we can take at this point as there is no known cure for the disease.

So do you bury your head in the sand and hope you get to dodge this bullet or do you take the necessary steps to be healthy and mentally alert your entire life? The good news is that what you do to enhance and improve the most important organ in your body will enhance and improve your entire body. BUT if you think that this disease is just inevitable to some people keep your affairs in order it may become a self fulfilling prophecy.

If on the other hand you want to reduce your risk and increase energy, focus, concentration, memory and overall brain fitness here are several steps to take to make that happen.

First change your diet: there are some foods that do so much to create and maintain brain health they have to be included in a brain healthy diet. Eat whole grain foods that contain the bran, germ and endosperm. Eat apples, yes; an apple a day does keep the doctor away. Include more berries in your diet, all sorts, but the darker the better.

It also turns out that fish really is brain food you should eat fish 3 to 5 times per week; salmon, tuna, herring etc. And remember the tough vegetables- cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Yes I know- you hate that kind of stuff- but you are an adult now and Alzheimers prevention is your objective.

On the other hand if you have been avoiding nuts because of the fat content you can quite worried nuts are good for you, the right fat, good slow metabolism, they help you feel full. Along with nuts include all kinds of dairy products but make them low fat when possible.

Eat more greens, the darker the better, spinach, turnip, kale etc. Yes I know …. But remember who you are and what your objective is. Add soy to your diet, it's especially good for Alzheimers prevention.

Sweet potatoes, one of natures most perfect and complete foods over all, is particularly good for brain health. So do not save then for the Holidays; eat them often.

Beans and legumes, there are many varieties and they are all very good for you and good for your brain. Tomatoes are another incredibly healthy fruit for over all health, especially the brain.

How to Choose the Best Senior Care

It can be hard to admit when you get to an age where you have trouble with tasks that were once simple. You do not want to burden anyone, but taking care of your home plus running errands is starting to become overwhelming. Maybe you've started to forget things and you're afraid of what might happen. What do you do?

Luckily, today's options for senior care are better than ever. It's easy to find a care plan suited for your specific needs.

First, identify which type of living arrangement fits you best. There are a number of different care options.

Types of Senior Care

– 55+ communities generally offer the most independence. You may rent or own your home within the community, and there are usually amenities and activities suited for your lifestyle.
– An independent living facility, or senior housing, also offers you the freedom and comfort of a private residence, but some assistance with daily tasks may be offered.
– Memory care facilities can help take care of you if you are suffering from Alzheimer's disease or have other memory-impairing conditions.
– Assisted living is a good option if you need a little more help with day-to-day chores. Usually meals, laundry, and cleaning are provided, but you still have your own space.
– If you require 24-hour medical support, nursing homes (now known as Skilled Nursing Facilities) have around-the-clock nursing staff to ensure you're always cared for.
– Hospice facilities offer compassionate, skilled care to make the transition easier for you and your loved ones.

Choosing a Facility

Once you decide which type of senior care is best for you, do some research to find communities or facilities you like. Factor in the location, the amenities you prefer, and what fits your budget. Narrow down the options to a small list.

It's very important to visit a facility's site before you make the decision to move there. Make a list of questions before you go. Some questions might include:
– Does the location match the advertising?
– How does the environment fit my lifestyle?
– What is the overall atmosphere?
– Do the other residents seem content?
– Are the public areas comfortable and clean?
– Is the staff friendly?
– Do the staff seem to listen to my concerns?
– Can my family easily visit?
– How close are my preferred doctors and hospitals?
– How much privacy and independence will I maintain?

No matter what level of care you need, chances are that you will find the perfect senior care facility for you. Be proactive, do your research, and be honest with yourself about your needs and abilities. Most importantly, find a place that makes you feel comfortable. At this stage in your life, you deserve to relax and let someone else help you.

Robots In Hospitals – New Challenge For Nurses and Health Care Professionals

Three insect-like robotic arms reaching into the chest cavity of the patient lying on the surgery table hum quietly while … the surgeon is sitting in a near remote-control booth, carefully directing the delicate operation from a distance with a 3-D precision that was not possible before.

Or, here is the 5-feet high porter robot with blinking lights, moving slowly on its rubber wheels through the crowded hallways of a hospital … it is quietly waiting for the elevator to arrive so it can deliver the blankets it's carrying to the nurse station on the top floor …

Such scenes will become increasingly frequent in the hospitals of the future.

But guess what? Such a development was prophesied over a hundred years ago by the early pioneers of the 19th century political economy – that in a capitalist market, any given set of manual skill will eventually get replaced by machines for higher productivity and profits. And that creates both new pressures and opportunities for the healthcare work to renew itself through new training and career planning.

The inevitable trend is already visiting our hospitals in a form that will certainly impact the way our nurses and healthcare professionals will be trained and employed in the near future: robots are taking over an increasing number of functions, ranging from critical surgical operations to the delivery of various items around a hospital.

Robots, whether used in delicate surgery or just to carry goods around the hospital, are here to stay. This trend will eventually both present new challenges for some of our nurses as well as provide them with new and exciting venues to ratchet their credentials to new heights of professional excellence.

That's why in our hi-tech future, the education and on-the-job training of our nurseries will be more important than in any other period in history.

How Baby Boomers Can Find Themselves Again After Life-Altering Events

Do you feel like you need to find yourself again? Baby boomers can go through a lot of major life changes that throw your sense of self. Retirement, caregiving, empty nest syndrome, divorce, or the loss of a loved one can change your life forever.

After my mother's death, I got a letter from the hospice bereavement coordinator that helped my family care for my mother in her final days. They acknowledged that family members who have spent most of their time caring for their loved ones for months or perhaps years often ask themselves after their death, "Where do I go?" Egypt "What do I do?"

That's exactly how I felt after my Mom died. I was the primary caregiver for my Mom who had Lewy Body dementia, a combination of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's that rendered her helpless both physically and mentally. Being a caregiver was the hardest job I've ever had – by far. When she passed away, I assumed that while I would grieve for my Mom, I would also feel a sense of relief that my job was finished and my life could get back to normal.

Instead, I felt lethargic, depressed, and yes, lost after she died. My life, my thoughts, and my feelings had revolved around the care of my mother. I discovered that when your roles change drastically, you lose a sense of who you are. Your self-image is shattered.

This uncomfortable feeling can happen whenever you go through a major change in your life. Perhaps you've recently retired or become an empty nester. After dreaming of all the things you'd do when you had more time after child returning and working 9 to 5, you feel lost instead.

Remember, although you may no longer be a caregiver, part of a couple, an employee, or full-time parent, you are still 100 percent you. You just need to find that person again.

How?

ALLOW YOURSELF TO MOURN

If you have suffered a loss, be kind and patient with yourself. Acknowledge your feelings instead of sweeping them under a rug. Everyone is different. Emotions can range from anger, loss, guilt, sadness, lethargy, regret, confusion, and depression.

Whether you lost a loved one, a stranger in divorce, or a job, you may have lost your lifestyle and identity as well. It's okay to mourn that loss.

However, be careful not to isolate yourself during this process. You'll need a network of support. Healing may mean lots of heartfelt prayer, talking out your feelings with a support loved one, and / or focusing your energy in a healthy activity you enjoy.

LET IT GO

Avoid getting stuck in all the "I should have …" or "I wish …" feelings that often comes with grieving but can interfere with your recovery. Do not allow sorrow, stress, resentment, or bitterness to become a way of life. Take all that negative self talk out of your head like, "I've lost everything" or "My life is over." The fact of the matter is that your life is not over; it's just a new beginning for you.

The goal is not to wallow forever in negative feelings but to move on, be there for the people who need you, have a meaningful and productive life, and enjoy living once again. Be grateful for what IS working in your life right now. Live in the present and focus on the positive. Learn from your experiences and prepare yourself for the next exciting chapter of your life.

REDISCOVER YOURSELF

It's easy to get lost in caring for your family and children or elderly parents or nurturing a career. You may have given up a lot of things that you enjoyed. Make time to get to know yourself again.

"To move your life forward, it has to start by focusing on yourself," wrote Mark Branschick, MD in an article, Seven Ways to Thrive After Divorce, for Psychology Today. "Use this precious opportunity to rediscover who you are." Think of this time in your life as an adventure to explore the real you. "

You can lose sight of your unique gifts if you're focusing on what you do not like about yourself or your life. Think about your qualities and skills and how you can best use them. What really makes you happy? What really matters to you? What do you feel is your true purpose in life? What hobbies and activities did you enjoy before becoming a caregiver, a married couple, or a parent? What is it that will make you excited to get out of bed every day? Make a list of what you can do to reach your goals.

Rediscover what welcomed you fulfillment, satisfaction, fun, and joy as a way of rebuilding yourself and your life.

REINVENT YOURSELF

My life changed overnight and that can be disconcerting. In my case, we had recently moved into a new home we had built to be closer to my Mom (who unfortunately died the week before it was finished). My husband and I went from being empty nesters to a house full of grown children and grandchildren. Plus, I had to find new clients as a freelance writer and begin working again. It was a tumultuous year in other ways as well. My mother-in-law lost her fight against ovarian cancer and my son began going through a nasty divorce and custody battle.

Let's get real, between all these events and changes in my life, I was shaken. I felt fragile and scared depression for the first time in my life.

It's been a journey, but I am beginning to recover and heal. In the process, I'm learning to embrace all the new changes in my life. My new job writing magazine articles does require meeting strict deadlines, but the subjects are fun and it's exciting work. We are a multi-generational family living together, but I've come to enjoy having the cocoon of family love around me during this difficult time. My oldest son is going through many of the same emotions as I am as he finds his way after divorce and we've connected on a whole new level. When our three grandchildren are with us, they bring us joy and keep us young.

So, do not be afraid of change. Get out of your comfort zone and discover a new side of yourself. Maybe that means a new career, trying a new sport, traveling to a new place, changing your hair, or taking classes. Shake things up a little.

EMBRACE YOUR NEW ROLE

You will go through several stages before this step can happen. However, the time comes when you make a choice. You can move on and discover possibilities that a life change presents you or get stuck in negative emotions.

Find a way to put one foot in front of the other. If you can move forward, you'll probably see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know this from experience.

In time, you'll reconnect with old friends or make new friends, go to work, back to school, or volunteer, rediscover what once you thought you joy, enjoy new adventures, and find your way. You'll look at the changes in your life in a positive way, feel more confident and in control, and become more productive and optimistic about your future.

The time will come when you will find yourself again, embrace your new role in life, and feel like your new shoes are a good fit. You will breathe a sigh of relief. Life will never be perfect but eventually you will not have to struggle so hard to "make your life work" again. It just will.