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‘It can be isolating’: How caregivers handle the stress and find support

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CHICAGO—Sandra Dennis recalls moving into her father’s Englewood home after he started showing signs of dementia in his late 70s. She recalls the mental and physical drain of caring for him, including a back injury requiring surgery.

Dennis, 65, now lives in Richton Park, and tends to her daughter who suffers from health issues related to pulmonary hypertension. She tries to balance those duties with self-care, including keeping her shoulder healthy after a torn rotator cuff also required surgery.

According to AARP, 40 million American adults support ill, disabled or aging family members with needs like bathing, meal preparation, shopping, and help with medical and nursing tasks.
According to AARP, 40 million American adults support ill, disabled or aging family members with needs like bathing, meal preparation, shopping, and help with medical and nursing tasks.  (Metroland file photo)

“It can be isolating. It is stressful, but you do it because it’s someone you love,” Dennis said. “But it takes a toll on you physically and mentally.”

Her story is one of many.

According to AARP, 40 million American adults support ill, disabled or aging family members with needs like bathing, meal preparation, shopping, and help with medical and nursing tasks. They navigate the health-care system on their loved ones’ behalf and advocate for them when talking to doctors and care facilities, all to help family members stay at home.

AARP data from 2015 reported 1.56 million caregivers in Illinois — 330,000 in Chicago. And according to the AARP Public Policy Institute, more millennials are assuming the mantle of caregiver. These people often alter their own daily routines and put their lives on hold to ensure a loved one has the support they need. The role can be highly stressful and isolating, but as caregivers step out of the shadows, more and more resources are becoming available.

“You have been a caregiver, you are caregiving or you’re likely to become a caregiver … This is something that’s going to impact all of us at some point in our life,” said Dr. Jean Accius, vice-president of AARP’s Public Policy Institute. “Family caregivers across the country are, in many ways, invisible to the system, and they’re having to do a lot of the complicated responsibilities of caregiving with little to no support.”

Park Ridge resident Denise Brown has been a caregiver for her 87-year-old father and 83-year-old mother since 2004 and created a resource for others with her website Caregiving.com. It features blogs, daily online chats (holidays included), podcasts, webinars and more. Brown has conducted an informal, ongoing survey of caregivers for more than two years and found their average stress level to be 4.15 out of 5.

In July, an elderly Niles woman fatally shot her seriously ill husband and then herself because, according to police, she struggled to care for him. Brown said such events speak to the stress of caregiving.

“We can sometimes think no one will understand how hard this is or what really goes on during the day,” Brown said. “The emotional toll of caregiving can be significant; it is isolating and lonely, and we really want people to know that there is support for them and there’s understanding and there is help. They don’t have to go it alone.”

In her effort to provide resources, including the National Caregiving Conference Nov. 8-11 in Rosemont, Brown also partners with Embracing Carers, a global initiative launched in 2017 that aims to increase awareness and discussion about the needs of caregivers. A recent survey conducted by the organization found that 47 per cent of caregivers have feelings of depression, and almost 57 per cent feel they need medical care/support for a mental health condition (i.e. depression, anxiety, stress) because of their role.

Accius says assessing your needs as a caregiver and reaching out for help are key. It’s also important to have a conversation with family and the loved one being cared for upfront. Pose questions such as: What are your family member’s end-of-life preferences? As a caretaker, what do you need to have a high-quality life yourself?

“The point is to have a conversation with the person (being cared for) or the family members to come up with a plan that takes into account (their needs) as well as the skill sets in the family, so it’s really a team-based approach,” Accius said. “This is an issue that cuts across ideology, class, income, race — the whole nine yards. There’s an army of people — an organization of resources — out there to support you, and we want to meet you where you are.”

Brown said it’s smart to look for resources on “your best day” — a time when help is least needed. She offers five things to keep in mind during the journey.

— “If you are struggling, it’s not because you are failing. It’s because what you’re doing is really hard.”

— If you need help and aren’t sure where to start, reach out to your doctor, local area agency on aging, a disease-specific organization like the Alzheimer’s Association, a social service agency like United Way, or your employer’s Employee Assistance Program.

— If the doctor you contact can’t offer suggestions, nudge him or her to create a list of resources. Tell the doctor and staff, “I know I’m not the only one. … You’ll be doing us all an amazing service.”

— Find ways to relax. “If we can find even just a few minutes in our day to release the worries, even if it’s just for five minutes to relax, that can help us,” Brown said.

— Make self-care a priority. “We have a tendency to think that we’re not doing enough,” she said. “I think it’s important for us to sit still for a few minutes every day and know that we are doing enough — that our work and our caring and our love is enough.”

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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