Education, Humanity, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Hate & Racism: Gets us Nowhere!

Read this link! More companies need to express to their employees that hate and racism are unacceptable. No matter our socioeconomic status, our ethnicity, the culture we are from, the job we hold-we are all human and we all bleed red. What happened in Virginia last weekend should NEVER have happened!

One Holocaust was enough…Never again means just that…’never again.’

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” I could not agree more.

Education, End-of-Life, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Dying2Learn, Free Massive Open Online Course about Death and Dying…

An educational opportunity to look into if you are interested in learning more about death and dying. As a professional, one can never over learn. Free online courses are a wonderful opportunity to learn about a topic you know little about, to increase your professional skills, to ‘update your toolkit.’

Take a look!


Over the past two years, CareSearch has hosted Dying2Learn, a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) about death and dying. We created the course hoping we could provide a community platform for open social discussion and connection on death, dying and palliative care – something that at times can be hard to strike up a […]

via Does participating in an online course about death and dying make a difference? — Loss, Grief, Bereavement and Life Transitions Resource Library

Humanity, ICU

Noise Pollution in the ICU

Hola a tod@s, my dear friends.

Who and what generates noise in the ICU? Mainly people.Today, we talk about this interesting subject thanks to the article Noise pollution in the ICU: time to look into the mirror published in Critical Care in August 2014 and yesterday shared by our friend Carles Calaf in his social networks.Noise can have harmful effects on our patients, already vulnerable.

The study shows that more than half of all the acoustic energy in an ICU is due to the expression and human activities, and is potentially modifiable.

Strategies involving the adaptation of human behavior which can be very effective to reduce noise pollution in the ICU.

The contribution of each noise category for (A) the acoustic energy and 
(B) the number of predicted loudness peaks. Noise generated by or involving patients is excluded.

Immediately comes to my mind, is the first time my father was operated in a long history of cancer that began in 1996.

I remember that I was starting Medicine studies and I knew absolutely nothing. I went to the hospital to visit him the day after his first night at ICU, and I asked him: “How was the night, daddy? Have you got pain?” He replied me, staring with his deep blue eyes: “The pain is bearable, they gave me painkillers. What I could not fight was a rude conversation about football that two workers had at 2 AM. Sincerely I can´t understand: one is here died of fear, not knowing if I will live or die, and it seems that it doesn´t matter to the people. This is incredible.”

As on other occasions, I insist: the most important thing is to be aware of things. If we make them aware, we will be able to modify them.

We can lower the voice. We can customize alarms.
By Gabi Heras, ICU Physician
*Re-posted with permission from:
Book Review, Health Conditions/Diseases, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Addiction on Trial: Follow-up Interview with Dr. Steven Kassels

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Steven Kassels this summer re: his recently published book, Addiction on Trial: Tragedy in Downeast Maine, which posted to Social Justice SolutionsI enjoy reading and read a few books at a time, so this one appealed to me as a ‘fun read’ initially but went a step further as another theme in the book is addiction. So my fun read became enjoyably educational.

If you as a reader like crime, murder-mystery, courtroom drama, and dysfunctional family dynamics, then you will like this book. If you are a reader who wants to be educated with a refreshing approach, the interwoven theme of addiction will appeal to you as well.

The College of Atlantic is using the book in its Psychology and Counseling courses and Dr. Kassels hopes that the book becomes a teaching tool in other colleges and universities.  The characters are based on medical truths and by exposing the characters in such a realistic manner, the author demystifies and de-stigmatizes the meaning of addiction. But it does not stop there, going one step further to engage the reader in addiction’s medical, economic, psychological, and social impacts, while being entertained and enthralled by the egotistical yet likeable high-powered Boston attorney who travels to Downeast Maine to defend the heroin addict from away, who has migrated to Downeast Maine with hopes of starting life anew.

Discussions in the classroom focus on the individual characters, medical treatment options, psychosocial support, and benefits of talk therapy. In examining the wide range of personalities and situations that the book brings to life (relapsed heroin addict, enabling father, alcoholic parent, and the community’s reaction to the murder trial) societal biases and nuances are explored.

Dr. Kassels has had many speaking engagements, and most recently spoke in Baltimore at the Flight Attendants Drug and Alcohol Program which was attended by approximately 300 pilots and flight attendants. Earlier in December, he was invited to the Book Fair at the Union League Club in New York City.

Dr. Kassels will be speaking to the Coalition on Physician Education in Substance Use Disorders group in Spring 2015. This group includes academic deans who meet to discuss improving medical school curriculum. The idea is to utilize Addiction on Trial as a way to engage and educate medical students and hopefully to counter any prejudice early in young doctors’ training. Dr. Kassels believes that insufficient time is spent in medical schools educating about the disease of addiction, especially when so many illnesses are the result of substance abuse; much of which can be minimized or avoided if the underlying factor of addiction is diagnosed and treated proactively.

American Society of Addiction Medicine Magazine just published an article by Dr. Kassels, which further explains the impact he hopes to make on the medical community.

He participates either in person or by Skype in book club gatherings to talk about the characters, the trial, the sequel currently being composed, the complexities of addiction or a combination thereof. Should you be interested, please contact him to schedule a talk. There is no charge for his participation in your event; and in fact when books are sold at speaking engagements Dr. Kassels customarily donates his author proceeds and any honorarium to local charities, such as homeless shelters and addiction treatment centers. When speaking at book readings, his presentation is adapted to the type of audience and geographic region. You can easily listen to a book reading and medical discussion or other interviews at: An Evening with Dr. Kassels at College of the Atlantic.

If you are interested in reading the book, you have the option of paperback or hard cover versions; or an ebook through: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes. The ebook version is available for 99 cents through January 8, 2015 and the soft cover and hard cover book versions are on sale as well! The book has a 4.9 out of 5 star rating! It is a great book to curl up with over the holidays, and whether you wish to be entertained or educated or both, you won’t be disappointed.

By Victoria Brewster, MSW




Education, Healthcare, ICU

Listen to Patients First

Hello everybody, my dear friends:

Recently, I published in this blog the post, Transforming Healtcare Through the Power of Listening , to inform you that from 30 to 31 October is going to celebrate the European Listening and Health Conference (ELAHC) in Nijmegen (The Netherlands).

I thought that inscription fee was too expensive from someone from Spain, so I applied for a discount. Yesterday, Corine Jansen sent me an email to inform us that IC-HU Project friends will pay 242 euros/day (484 instead of 750 euros that really costs). You only need to say in which Spanish Hospital you are working and that you met the Conference through IC-HU Project. 

There will be patients sharing their stories, healthworkers talking about the power of listening, musicians from everywhere, the Ear Award in Healthcare in The Netherlands, and people from Germany, Japan, Sweden, India, United Kindom,  Netherlands, and the United States of America… 

Come on Spanish people! This is the program.

Finally, I want to share two documents more about this item:

– An article from British Medical JournalListen to Patients first. In this article, the author talks about how the Radboud Medical Centre has improved the strategy on security and quality thanks to take the innovative initiative of involving patients in making decisions, which has made them a benchmark of satisfaction and an example of empowerment.

– And the awesome Flipboard magazine Transforming Healthcare through the Power of Listening. Just visit it!

As we always defend from IC-HU Project, training is essential for humanizing Medicine, and we will inform you of all the initiatives that could serve us in this sense.

By Gabi Heras, ICU Physician
*Re-posted with permission from:
Aging/Gerontology, Book Review, End-of-Life, Grief/Grieving/Bereavement

What to Do about Mama?- Book Review

Book Review- What to Do about Mama? By Barbara G. Mathews and Barbara Trainin Blank

What I like about this book is the different perspectives on caregiving as there are many contributors. This provides any individual or professional reading the book with different scenarios, which include common situations and feelings.

The authors also describe their own care giving experiences. For Barbara Matthews, she became a caregiver for her mother-in-law. Ten years after her father-in-law died, her mother-in-law came to live in her hometown. At first, the response was no, but as health problems began to appear, the move happened. A family meeting with all helped “seal the deal” for her to relocate and be closer to family to have assistance as needed.

Another health crisis occurred creating a cycle of hospitalizations and rehabilitations. She then moved in with Barbara and her husband on the first floor of their house. Increasing assistance was added as her mother-in-law required it. Eventually, hospice services were put into place which also gave Barbara a break (respite) from providing total care.

For Barbara Trainin Blank, she was the caregiver for her mother who lived quite a distance away.  After her father’s death, her mother began presenting with forgetfulness which progressed. Her mother did not want to go to a nursing home or residence and Barbara did her best to honor this by having assistance come to her mother’s home environment. She became a long distance caregiver, an advocate, an organizer, and in some ways an unpaid care manager-organizing all the details of her mother’s life from medical appointments, to home care workers, arranging transportation, etc.

Caregiving itself has a different definition for each individual providing it. It is hard work from what I have read in the book and witnessed myself in interactions with clients and family. While I have children myself, caregiving for an adult is very different.  The needs of a child can be more or less than the needs of an adult and much easier to carry/lift a child than an adult! Also, as Barbara pointed out to me, for her an important difference between caregiving for children vs. care giving for older adults is that the first is a hopeful process preparing the child for a good future and the second is a process of trying to make life as comfortable as possible for the aging adult as they proceed toward the end of life.

Some common themes in the book are:

Care giving responsibilities:

Local or long distance caregiving?

Alone in acting as a caregiver or shared responsibility?

Potential tasks: financial care, physical care, respite, paid caregivers, volunteers, professional assistance.

Caregiving profiles:

Some quit their jobs to provide caregiving to a spouse or other family member. Some are trying to balance work with raising a family and caregiving (sandwich generation), some are alone in their caregiving role while others have siblings or other family member’s support/assistance. Some are caregiving locally and some long distance.  It is difficult to watch a parent, spouse, child or friend deteriorate and age, just as it is difficult for the person this is happening to, to admit they are aging and deteriorating, and need help.

Roles and Responsibilities:

If you can, define what the person needs assistance with: IADL’s Instrumental Activities of Daily Living; cleaning, meal preparation, shopping, transportation, finances, medical appointments, medication management, communication and/or ADL’s- Activities of Daily Living; bathing, toileting, dressing, feeding, ambulating(mobility). Determine who is assisting with what and whether the individual in question will allow the assistance.

Caregiver emotions and need for self-care:

This to me should be a no brainer; everyone needs some help and should be open to accepting and asking, but it is not easy for everyone to do so.

Self-care should be regularly scheduled as much as possible into the daily and weekly routine.

  • Arrange or accept assistance from family, friends, agencies/organizations, paid companions or homecare workers, and perhaps volunteers.
  • Take vacations or days off if you cannot go away on vacation (financial reasons, other commitments)
  • Give yourself a night off every once in a while.
  • Schedule your own appointments and keep them for medical reasons and check-ups, beauty salon appointments, to go grocery shopping, etc.

Regarding emotions and support for the caregiver:

  • Look into support groups whether run by professionals or volunteers.
  • Seek assistance of a counselor or therapist if you think it would help.
  • Call or schedule coffee breaks or lunches out with friends to talk.

Family Relations:

Communication is important between family members, between professionals and family, between other caregivers, and one person needs to be the designated person as the main contact. As a professional, I can state it is easier to have one family member to talk to, to share information with. If a phone call will not work or is not possible, then a group email addressed to the main contact with the other family members cc’d is another option. This way everyone is in the loop and aware of what is happening and the information is written.

Each caregiver or main contact has their own definition of “doing one’s part.” Caregiving one’s parent(s) is not easy and can be difficult at times as the child-parent dynamic changes. It is reverse roles and now the adult child is parenting the adult parent!

I have worked as a case manager with older adults for 14 years and fortunately I have known most of my clients for that length of time. It is hard to watch someone become frailer. I imagine it is more difficult and more emotional for a family caregiver re: a parent, child, spouse or other family member.

Barbara Matthews shared with me that over the past year of working on her social media sites, this “caregiving in a nutshell” definition has evolved:

Caregivers get involved with care giving to meet a need, solve a problem, or deal w/ a crisis.  The situation often improves—for a while.  Many times caregivers do not take into account the process of aging cannot be controlled, needs will increase—sometimes over many years, or how heavy the burden can/will become.  Therefore, it is important:  to have realistic expectations about care giving, to be prepared for the unexpected, to communicate expectations clearly to the “others” and to develop a care giving contract of shared responsibility to be signed-off on by all.

The book is worth reading and is very comprehensive.

By Victoria Brewster, MSW

Education, Neuroscience, Neuroplasticity, Neurolinguistic Programming, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Brain Matters: Youth, Learning, and Development

I had the opportunity to attend an excellent conference today put on by Quebec Federation of Home and School Associations, Inc. As I am a member of the Home and School Association at my kid’s school, I was made aware of this conference by an email and had the opportunity to attend representing our school.

The topic was Brain Matters: “Optimizing the Brain for Learning” by Michael Quinn, BSc. who is a Neuroscientist and Educational Consultant. The title hooked me in and I was not disappointed. He also had an amazing accent as he is originally from England; a bonus!

Neuroscience, the plasticity of the brain, and how the brain absorbs our memories, our emotions, and past experiences fascinates me. I took 4 pages of notes and now have a new ‘need to read’ book list. Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience by Sally Satel and Scott Lilienfeld, Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer, and Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey- here I come!

Two reference organizations to review are: The Dana Foundation in the USA and The Wellcome Trust in the UK; focus of neuroscience to improve education and up-to-date research. A great way as a teacher or other professional in the school is to involve the emotions-tell stories, focus on positive things and point out the good-this goes a long way in helping students to remember what is being learned in the school environment. Exercise was also described as having an amazing effect on students learning. Kids cannot sit at their desk for 6 hours without movement or physical activity, and they need to take breaks; just as adults do in the work environment.

Some methods to help students learn (of any age) is to ‘chunk’ the information together, use elaborate encoding techniques and make it multi-sensory. The more senses used, the more likely one is to remember! Circadian rhythm was also discussed and in listening to how the body goes through the day in different temperature states along with optimal learning times being discussed made sense to me. It describes the ‘afternoon slump’ that students and adults might face in the school or work environment; the sleep-wake cycle. A “master clock” in the brain coordinates all the body clocks so that they are in synch. Circadian rhythms are produced by natural factors within the body, but they are also affected by signals/cues from the environment.

Optimal learning time is in 50 minute to 1 hour blocks with a 10 minute break. It was suggested to break down large projects into smaller segments, plan regular breaks, get up and move on your break, schedule meals and relax during this time or socialize-do not rush through eating.

I also learned that ‘blue light’ stimulates the brain and can assist in the learning process which is great during the day-but I did not know that computers, iPods, smartphones and such give off this blue light and if one is on electronics at night-it stimulates the brain and so one is less sleepy. Turns out there is an app/program that one can download to reduce this blue light on computers and laptops, F.lux and for the iPhone or iPad.

I plan to go back to my kid’s school and share all the information I learned with our Home and School Association and am eager to see it be implemented in the classroom environment. Teachers, professionals, and principal’s need to hear this presentation and be open to change. It is amazing what can happen when parents and teachers are focused, willing to work together, and learn together; it is for the betterment of the kids and makes learning easier and fun.

By Victoria Brewster, MSW