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Crucial for health system, many caregivers are struggling financially and emotionally, report says

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They come from all walks of life, young and old: millions of Canadians who are unpaid caregivers for aging parents, children with a disability or a sibling with a chronic illness. Yet a new survey reveals many are struggling, often in isolation, trying to fulfil a critical role with not enough support from the health-care system.

Results of the Ontario-based survey of 800 caregivers aged 16 and older, released Thursday by the Change Foundation, paints a picture of people often thrown unexpectedly into a role for which they typically aren’t trained and one that has major effects on their physical and mental health, relationships and career paths.

“Family caregivers provide the vast majority of care that happens in between appointments with physicians or in between hospital stays or different interactions with the health-care system,” said Christa Haanstra of the Change Foundation, an independent health policy think-tank dedicated to enhancing patient and caregiver experiences.

“There’s a lot more health care happening in the home, provided in large part by family caregivers,” said Haanstra, noting that caregivers are often invisible in the health-care system, with their contributions going unrecognized as well as unrewarded.

“We really think about them as the glue that keeps the health-care system together.”

Financial and emotional toll

The online survey, conducted in May by the polling firm Pollara Strategic Insights, found that caregivers overall appreciated the time spent with their loved ones and believed they were improving their lives.

But 61 per cent admitted they took on the role because they believed they had no choice, with many at times feeling trapped, helpless, frustrated and overwhelmed.

The survey found 36 per cent of caregivers felt depressed and 33 per cent were resentful of their role, with almost half overall saying caregiving had negatively affected their ability to have personal time, engage in travel or enjoy a social life.

One-third said they had experienced financial costs due to caregiving, including out-of-pocket expenses, time off work and turning down career opportunities. Eight per cent lost their jobs due to caregiving responsibilities.

“Family caregivers are providing care to almost everyone — siblings, parents, children — and they cover diseases across the spectrum,” said Haanstra, who has a young child and also helps care for both her aging parents and a relative with a chronic illness.

“Obviously, the largest group is caring for people with health-care issues related to aging, Alzheimer’s being one of them, frailty being another.

“But we are also talking about providing care to people with cancer, with disabilities, mental illness, chronic diseases of many varieties and acute illness, post-injury or accident,” she said, noting that an estimated 28 per cent of Canadians over 15 have taken on a family caregiver role.

‘Completely dependent’

One of those people is 25-year-old Stephane Alexis of Ottawa, Ont., who helps his parents care for his younger brother Torence, who has cerebral palsy and is non-verbal.

“He’s completely dependent, he needs help with feeding, changing, even turning in bed,” Alexis said of Torence, 22. “He’s a pretty heavy dude, so there’s a good amount of lifting involved.”

Alexis, who attends a private photographic arts college, helps out after school and on weekends attending to his brother’s needs, but their relationship goes far beyond that.

“He’s completely dependent, he needs help with feeding, changing, even turning in bed,” Alexis said of Torence, 22. “He’s a pretty heavy dude, so there’s a good amount of lifting involved.” (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

“I love my brother a lot. I love spending time with him. He’s funny, he makes me laugh.”

But Alexis admitted that even being a part-time caregiver comes at a cost. He’s often exhausted, has little time to socialize with friends, and has had to put some life goals on hold.

“I was planning on moving out [of the family home] relatively soon, but I feel like I can’t do that. I can’t leave and just let my parents fend for themselves.”

He’s frustrated there’s so little support from the health-care system: the family receives only 15 hours a week of help from two social services agencies.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s really any funding for home care. They kind of just leave you out there,” said Alexis, who believes his brother’s quality of life is “better at home” than it would be in a publicly funded residence for people with special needs.

“Why not use some of that money that you would be investing in a residence and use some of that money for home care?”

‘I was worn to a frazzle’

For Don Mahood, frustration with the health-care system began when he was trying to get a diagnosis for his wife Mary Charlotte, who had been experiencing worsening memory problems for some years, forcing the registered nurse to give up her job.

“I tried to get her diagnosed with the doctor with difficulty,” Mahood, 76, said from London, Ont.

“You’d get to the doctor and say my wife has some dementia. He would give her a test and talk to her for maybe 10 or 15 minutes and tell me she’s perfectly fine. Anyone with Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages, can really mask it.”

Caregivers gathered at Dundas Square in Toronto in May to demand better working conditions. (CBC)

Mahood finally got a referral — a year later — to the Aging Memory Clinic in London, where doctors in 2012 confirmed his wife had Alzheimer’s.

For the next six years, Mahood was Mary Charlotte’s 24-7 caregiver, until his wife of more than 50 years was moved to a long-term care facility about a year ago.

“At the end, I had to dress her, bathe her. I had to do everything, she couldn’t brush her teeth,” he said. “When I look back, I don’t even know how I did it myself.

“I was worn to a frazzle.”

Though caring for his wife was a labour of love, the disease put an end to their plans to spend part of their retirement years in Florida. Mahood also had to give up activities such as playing hockey, and his social life faltered as long-time friends dropped by the wayside.

“So my friends became others that were going through it … I would never have survived if I hadn’t belonged to support groups. That really saved my life in a sense.”

Haanstra said such stories, along with the survey results, demonstrate that the health-care system must do more to support caregivers and make it easier for them to access existing services.

“They’re willing to do it, but we can’t just send them home with no support and no information and expect that they’re going to succeed.”

Margin of error was not applicable to the survey findings because of its online methodology, the researchers said. But the margin of error on a representative sample of 800 people would be +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.

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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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