Health
Thursday, November 20, 2008
 
Today is the Great American Smokeout
By Anthony Policastro, M.D

There are some annual events that everyone knows about and anticipates. These include holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. They also include things like the Super Bowl. However, there are many other annual events that are not well known. They are also not looked at with great anticipation for that reason. One of these events occurs on the third Thursday in November. It has been occurring for over 25 years. It is called "The Great American Smokeout". The idea behind the event is to set a date for smokers to think about quitting. One fact about giving up smoking is that it is easier to do when a specific date is picked. This allows that specific date to be set. Smokers cannot quit until they decide that they want to. Many cigarette smokers have no desire to quit. This is an opportunity to help convince them that perhaps it is time to set a date to think about starting down that road. They may not be successful. However, until they take the first step in deciding that it is time to do something about their unhealthy habit, they will never get there. Some smokers want to quit. However, they keep delaying trying to do so. The Great American Smokeout offers them an opportunity to set a particular date to start. Nicotine addiction is a difficult one to break. It requires a great effort on the part of the smoker. It also requires significant support from those around the individual. That support must come in the form of continued encouragement. The encouragement is most important for the first seven days. Those are the days when the urge is the strongest. It is related to the physical withdrawal from the nicotine. Unfortunately that urge to return to the addiction never does disappear. The psychological need continues for long after the smoker quits. That is why many smokers quit repeatedly before they are finally successful. What it means to the non-smokers is that they must be supportive of efforts to quit. That is true for The Great American Smokeout. There should be encouragement in advance. There should be encouragement on the day itself. One of the goals should be to have confirmed smokers become smokers who are trying to quit. The other goal should be to help those who are trying to quit become ex-smokers. Both of those goals require support. That support must not end the day after the Great American Smokeout. It must go on full force for the next week until the physical addiction is conquered. At that point it can take the form of positive reinforcement to the individual that has succeeded. We should think about the significance of having this annual event exactly seven days before Thanksgiving. Just think how many more things a family can be thankful for if there is one less smoker in the household. The individual can be thankful that he/she will live longer. He/she can be thankful that their family will not lose them to one of the many premature deaths that cigarettes cause. Spouses can be thankful that they will not become widows or widowers as so many other do every year. Children can be thankful that they will not lose their parents to cigarette related death. Children can also be thankful that their parents will live long enough to see their grandchildren. Grandchildren can be thankful that they will have an opportunity to be very spoiled by their grandparents. Smoking affects our lives in so many ways. It deprives us of loved ones prematurely on a regular basis. It makes the quality of life for patients with emphysema miserable for years before their deaths. The Great American Smokeout offers an annual opportunity for smokers and non-smokers to work together to ensure our families can celebrate the well-known and highly anticipated Thanksgiving holiday in a more meaningful fashion.

Grieving is tough during the holidays

It's simply not the most wonderful time of the year for everybody, particularly for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. At the Family Support Center's "Lunch Bunch Workshop," Dr. Judy Pierson, Ed.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist & Bereavement Counselor, discussed why the holidays are so difficult and what can be done to lessen the burden. Dr. Judy pointed out that the holidays are stressful during the best of times. "There's too much and too little, too much to do and too little time, too much to buy and too little money. There are unrealistic expectations for perfection: the perfect meal, perfect decorations, perfect gifts, and perfect family visits. Some people long for the magical feelings of childhood or to belong to that 'Hallmark family' and suffer the disappointments of nostalgia never equaling holiday realities or of family problems that don't magically disappear during the holidays." Especially when coping with a loss, Dr. Judy recommends that you allow yourself to be imperfect and do less. With the focus of the holidays on traditions, memories and family gatherings, your feelings of grief will be intensified and there's no way to avoid the reality of the absence of this person. Rather, you need to make space for it and surround yourself with people who understand your feelings and who can support you. Be honest about how you feel and what you are able to do. Don't go to every event. If you do, address the 'elephant in the room'–the fact that Dad's not here or Mom's not here, acknowledging the loss.

Don't feel guilty if a moment of fun takes you by surprise; you know your loved one would want you to have moments of happiness. Understand that music is a strong trigger of emotions and memories and that it is everywhere during the holidays. Drink in moderation, remembering that alcohol may be around in abundance leading to the temptation to drink too much. Carry something that belonged to your loved one with you to help you feel connected to that person--your husband's watch, your wife's ring, a scarf, etc. You don't even have to tell anyone about it, which recreates an intimacy that you had with that person. If there are roles the deceased used to play, you should figure out who is going to take over that job. You might want to simply cut out traditions, but try to keep each person's favorite part of the holidays. Plan ahead and think about what's going to be helpful to you or what nurtures you. Educate the people around you about what you need. Tell people how they can help you; they will appreciate it. Trust your own instincts rather than what people think you should do. Set limits and say no. If it's too hard, don't go to events, this year. People will understand. Cut down on your shopping or skip it altogether this year. Use gift certificates. If your loved one had a favorite book, give it to everyone on your list. You might create some rituals to remember your loved one. Place a candle and photo of your loved one on a table and ask each person to write down or share how that person lives on within them. Create a Memory Book from photos, letters, or favorite stories. Buy angels for the Christmas tree or decorate ornaments in honor of that person. Tie a message to a balloon and release the balloon, symbolically sending that message to them. Finally, realize that the anticipation is almost always worse than the actual experience. Anticipation might last two months, but the holidays pass quickly in reality. And remember that the most important part of the holidays is that it is all about love. Ironically, we grieve because we have loved and been loved.

Nanticoke raffles game system The Look-In Glass Shoppe at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will raffle a Wii gaming system console that includes a CD with five sports games, two nunchucks and two remotes (retail value $350). Tickets are on sale at The Look-In Glass Shoppe (located within Nanticoke Memorial Hospital) from Nov. 14 until Dec. 15 at noon. Tickets cost $5 each or five for $20. The drawing will be held at noon on Dec. 15. All proceeds from The Look-In Glass Shoppe benefit Nanticoke Health Services. For more information about the raffle, call 302-629-6611, ext. 4955.

Stroke and Osteoporosis Screening Life-Line Screening will be at the Nanticoke Senior Center on Dec. 10. The site is located at 310 Virginia Ave. in Seaford. Appointments will begin at 10 a.m. Screenings are non-invasive. They help identify potential health problems such as blocked arteries and irregular heart rhythm, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and hardening of the arteries in the legs, which is a strong predictor of heart disease. A bone density screening to assess osteoporosis risk is also offered and is appropriate for men and women. Register for a Wellness Package with Heart Rhythm for $149. All five screenings take 60 to 90 minutes to complete. For more information regarding the screenings or to schedule an appointment, call 1-877-237-1287 or visit us on the web at lifelinescreening.com. Pre-registration is required.

CASA seeks volunteers The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program of the Family Court needs qualified adults to serve as CASA volunteers. CASA volunteers are trained members of the community who are appointed by Family Court judges to speak up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in Court proceedings. As an official of the Court, the CASA volunteer conducts an independent investigation into the child's life and provides information and recommendations to the judge in the case. CASA volunteers work with attorneys, social workers and family members to find a safe and permanent home for each child. CASA volunteers have varied professional, educational, and ethnic backgrounds. They are selected on the basis of their objectivity, competence and commitment. Each volunteer must complete initial training. Casework supervision is provided by full time program coordinators from the Family Court staff. In the last year, CASA volunteers served over 600 children in Delaware. For more information, call the CASA office in Family Court at 302-855-7410 or 302-855-7411. Applications are now being accepted for 2009 training sessions.

Short joins Easter Seals Anna Short, of Laurel, joins Easter Seals Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore as director of Adult Day Health Services at the Georgetown facility, following the recent retirement of Sally Beaumont. Before joining Easter Seals, Short held positions as the director of New Horizons Adult Care and director of Rehab and Human Services at the Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill in Smyrna. She has also served the three public nursing facilities with the Division of Public Health's Long Term Care Section.