Take Care: Prep Your Health Tips for Caregivers

A male caregiver holds the hand of an older woman.

November is National Family Caregivers Month when we celebrate the various and dedicated caregivers in our lives.

Caregiving is an important public health issue that affects the quality of life for millions of individuals. Informal or unpaid caregivers (family members or friends) are the backbone of long-term care provided in people’s homes. While some aspects of caregiving may be rewarding, caregivers can also be at increased risk for negative health consequences. These may include stress, depression, difficulty maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and staying up to date on their own medical appointments.(1)

Emergencies can happen unexpectedly and create more stress for a caregiver. Having supplies set aside and a plan in place can help caregivers cope with disaster-related stress, allowing them to focus more on the health and safety of the person they are caring for.

Caregiver Preparedness & Planning

There are many ways caregivers can prepare themselves and the person they are caring for before an emergency arises. They include stocking up on emergency supplies, learning practical caregiving skills, having a plan, and staying informed.

Care Packages

Family caregivers should talk to the healthcare provider of the person they care for to identify essential supplies that are important to stock up on before an emergency. In addition to food, water, and prescription medications, other personal needs(2) might include:

  • Incontinence undergarments, wipes, and lotions
  • A cooler or insulated bag to keep medications cold
  • A current list of medications and dosage details
  • Copies of important paperwork
  • Recent photos of the person
  • Warm clothing and sturdy shoes
  • Medical equipment and devices, including eyeglasses, hearing aids, and hearing aid batteries

For more information on how to prepare for emergencies, visit the Prepare Your Health website.

Learn Practical Caregiving Skills

Caregivers provide care to people who need some degree of ongoing assistance with everyday tasks on a regular or daily basis. For some caregivers that may include helping with bathing and dressing, paying bills, shopping, and providing transportation. It can also involve emotional support and help with managing a chronic disease or disability.

According to a report from the Home Alone Alliance, many caregivers also manage medications, help with mobility devices, prepare special diets, dress wounds, and perform other tasks typically done by healthcare professionals.(3)

Most people assume that caregivers know how to do all these things, but the truth is most don’t. While caregivers might receive some instruction at discharge, most said they needed more training.(2) It is important that caregivers work with doctors to learn how to safely perform tasks that may need to be done at home if medical services are unavailable because of an emergency.

Develop a Care Plan

A care plan is a document that summarizes a person’s health conditions and current treatments for their care. A plan should include information about the person’s health conditions, medications and healthcare providers, emergency contacts, and a list of caregiver resources.

Caregivers should ask the healthcare provider of the person they care for to help complete the care plan and—at the same time—discuss with them advanced care plan options and resources that are available to help make things easier for you as a caregiver.

It is important that everyone involved in caregiving for a person is familiar with the details of the care plan and the Emergency Action Plan. An Emergency Action Plan should identify where to go with the person receiving care, what supplies to take, what evacuation routes to follow, and who will take them. Caregivers should learn more aboutTalking about respite care emergency plans and register for evacuation assistance programs in the care recipient’s area.

Caregivers should update the plans every year or as the health of or medications prescribed to the person they care for change.

Respite & Self-Care for Caregivers

Although caregiving can be fulfilling, it can also affect caregivers in different ways. Caregivers can experience physical and mental strain from the stress of keeping up with their responsibilities. They can have problems sleeping and changes in appetite; feel anxious, depressed, and lonely; and experience other health problems. Over half (53%) of caregivers indicate that a decline in their health compromises their ability to provide care.(1) Caregivers of people with dementia or Alzheimer’s are particularly at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and lower quality of life compared to caregivers of people with other chronic conditions.

Respite and self-care are two ways of caring for yourself when caring for another.

Respite Care

To be a good caregiver, caregivers need to take care of themselves and learn healthy ways to deal with stressful situations, such as emergencies. One way they can do that is to make sure they take consistent breaks from caregiving responsibilities. This is called a respite.

Respite care allows the caregiver some time off from their caregiving responsibilities. Short breaks can be a key part of maintaining your own health. Research shows that even a few hours of respite a week can improve a caregiver’s well-being.(4)

Self-Care

Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s necessary if you are a caregiver. It’s important that caregivers take care of their physical, mental, and emotional health. Here are some ways that caregivers can better take care of others by first taking care of themselves.

  • Find a support group in your community that you can rely on when you start to feel overwhelmed. If you’re not able to leave your loved one at home but need emotional support, an online support group might be a good option. Be careful not to give out detailed personal, medical, or financial information to anyone online to protect against fraud or scams.
  • Speak with a doctor if you feel anxious or depressed during these tough times. It is okay to ask for help. Go to yearly doctor appointments if you can and stay on top of yearly vaccinations to stay healthy.
  • Eat healthily, stay active, and get enough rest. About half of caregivers don’t get enough restful, continuous sleep, making them feel tired and leading to poor quality of life.

During times like the present, caregivers need more support than ever. Having to social distance with family and friends and worrying about exposing the individual they are caring for to COVID-19 can cause more stress. It is important to lean on each other in different ways by staying connected and knowing that our communities have many resources available to each of us during tough times.

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/index.htm
  2. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/disaster-preparedness-alzheimers-caregivers
  3. https://healthjournalism.org/blog/2019/07/report-caregivers-tackling-complex-medical-tasks-with-little-training/
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/caring-for-yourself.html

Resources

Prep Your Health: How to Manage Diabetes in an Emergency

A woman tests her blood sugar using a blood glucose meter.

November is National Diabetes Month

About 34.2 million Americans live with diabetes, meaning their bodies don’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin they make to turn food into energy. In either case, the result is too much sugar in the bloodstream. Over time, this can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.(1)

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).(1)

There isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, but losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active can help. Taking medicine as needed, getting diabetes self-management education and support, and keeping healthcare appointments can also reduce the impact of diabetes on your life.(1)

Emergency Preparedness

The everyday self-management of diabetes can be challenging, but it is doable with support from your healthcare team, family, teachers, and others, along with education, self-care, and personal preparedness. Self-managing diabetes during a disaster or emergency is more difficult but not impossible if you are prepared.

Emergencies and disasters can have widespread and long-lasting impacts on the availability of medical supplies, medications, and services. For all these reasons, it is important that you prepare your health by having an emergency supplies kit.

Gather Your Personal Needs

Personal needs are items that you cannot do without in an emergency, starting with the basics of food and water.

Because hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can happen quickly and must be treated immediately, people with type 1 diabetes are encouraged to keep items that contain sugar (e.g., glucose tablets, juice boxes, honey, hard candy) with them at all times, including during an emergency.

Hypoglycemia is most often caused by too much insulin, waiting too long for a meal or snack, not eating enough, or getting extra physical activity. Hypoglycemia symptoms are different from person to person but can include shakiness, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, blurred vision, sweating, and weakness or fatigue.(2)

Prepare Your Prescriptions

Managing blood sugar levels and making sure your body gets enough energy can be tough during an emergency. Be prepared in case supplies and medicines are hard to get and to store.Having type 2 diabetes increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Based on what we know at this time, having type 1 or gestational diabetes may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

  • Contact your doctor or pharmacist to talk about creating an emergency supply of prescription medications. Some states have emergency prescription laws that may allow pharmacists to dispense insulin in emergency situations.
  • During an emergency, you may need to use a different insulin brand or type instead of your regular insulin. You should work with your doctor if you need to switch insulin brands or types, but that might not be possible in crisis conditions. In that case, follow this emergency guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), monitor your blood sugar closely, and contact your doctor as soon as possible.(3)
  • Invest in a cooler and reusable cold packs to help keep medicines cold. Try to keep your insulin as cool as possible, but make sure not to freeze it. Insulin that has been frozen can break down and will be less effective.(3)
  • If you use an insulin pump, you may be able to substitute another short-acting insulin for your usual insulin (see FDA’s emergency guidance). Check the instructions for your pump to see which insulin types will work. The FDA guidance also explains which insulin types you can use instead of your usual insulin if you need to switch from using your pump to using injectable insulin (taken with a needle).(3)

Store Medical & First Aid Supplies

Having an emergency supplies kit with medical and first aid supplies can be vital during an emergency when you might not be able to go out and buy more.

  • Call a diabetes educator to get support and guidance on how to buy diabetes supplies, including single-patient-use insulin pens and syringes, and store them properly.
  • People with diabetes are more vulnerable to infections. Pay careful attention to the health of your feet and keep a fully stocked first aid kit ready to treat any wounds.
  • Have extra supplies for your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor, supplies to check your blood sugar (i.e., testing strips, lancets), and extra batteries for your devices.

Making sure you have an emergency supplies kit ready with supplies can seem daunting, but a little prep can help lessen the stress during an emergency.

Resources

References

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Seeing is Believing: The Art of Moulage in Emergency Preparedness

A first responder tends to a person with a simulated (or mock) injury during an emergency response exercise.
(Photo credit: FEMA, 2015)

Moulage is the art of applying realistic, mock injuries for the purpose of training emergency response teams, medical, and military personnel.

Good special effects in movies are effective because they make illusions seem real. Making simulated injuries seem real helps first responders better prepare for the real thing.

Moulage is the French word for molding. It started as the art of applying mock injuries for educational purposes. The practice of moulage dates to the Renaissance when wax models were used in the study of human anatomy.

As technology and medicine evolved, photographs and plastic models eventually replaced wax models, and the term “moulage” came to represent the art of using advanced makeup techniques to simulate injuries. Today, it’s used as a training tool for emergency response, medical, and military personnel.

Classical Art with Practical Applications

Moulage is a 16th-century art form with 21st-century applications. It is often used in emergency response training and exercises to simulate the kinds of injuries first responders are most likely to see after events like natural disasters, explosions, and hazardous materials incidents.

“Moulage adds layers of complexity and realism to exercises,” said Richard Brewer, a moulage artist at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP). “Simulated injuries such as lacerations, burns, and bruises helps CDP create realistic, immersive disaster training scenarios for students.”

Brewer explained that an average full-scale exercise at CDP includes about 130 simulated “victims.” Sometimes as many as 250 victims are needed to “flesh out” an exercise scenario and achieve training objectives. He said takes a team of two to four artists to apply moulage for such large-scale exercises.

Moulage artists, Brewer said, use molded silicone and everyday foods, like oatmeal, coffee grounds, chocolate syrup, and grits, to create many of the physical reactions and injuries. Artists use materials like these to make up people and manikins to look like they have teary eyes, runny noses, burns, lacerations, gunshot wounds, and amputations. Antacids are used to imitate foaming at the mouth.

Brewer said amputations and other serious wounds are the most challenging wounds to simulate. Building materials such as glass, wood, and metal rods are used in the creation of blast wounds. Minor abrasions and burns are the easiest to create.

Moulage Like the Masters

Food is a favorite medium of moulage artists and shows up in many moulage recipes. If fact, you may have some of the items already in your pantry. Here are some examples of recipes used by moulage artists.(1)(2)

How to Make Fake Blood

  1. Add 4 tablespoons of red food coloring and 4 drops of blue food coloring to 16 ounces of red-colored dish soap. Mix well.
  2. To apply, use a spray bottle mixture or pour it to create a dripping effect. Apply only below the neck due to avoid irritating the eyes.

How to Simulate Vomit

  1. Combine water, dry oatmeal, and one drop of green food color to a desired consistency and color in a small bowl.
  2. Add corn, peas, raisins, or other solid matter if desired.
  3. Spoon desired amounts beside the simulator’s mouth and dab traces on the side of the face. Do not allow the mixture to enter the mouth, nose, or airways.

How to Simulate a Bruise

  1. Crush a combination of old blue, purple, aqua, and green eye shadow with half the amount of red blush into a fine powder.
  2. Use a round rouge or make-up brush to apply.

People dressed up in costumes and makeup are a familiar sight on Halloween night. Unfortunately, events like costume parades and trick or treat can be high-risk for spreading viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

How to Have a Healthy Halloween

Many traditional Halloween activities can increase the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Take steps to protect yourself and others, such as finding lower risk ways to participate in Halloween and trick or treating; for example:

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters by giving out treats outdoors or setting up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take, if possible.
  • Bring hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol with you, and use it after touching objects or other people. Parents should supervise young children using hand sanitizer.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats.
  • Wear a mask if you are age 2 or older (children under the age of 2 should NOT wear masks). A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask and should not be worn over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not part of your household.

If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Learn more ways to protect yourself and others during holiday celebrations at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

References

(1) https://www.cert-la.com/downloads/moulage/moulage-recipes.pdf

(2) https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/content/uploads/sites/23/2016/05/PRE-025-RecipesForDisaster.pdf

Resources

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

#BeCyberSmart: 5 Ways to Protect Your Health Tech

A stethoscope on top of a laptop keyboard.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Technological advances have made the field of home-use medical devices one of the most exciting in medicine. New technologies are being applied to all different types of devices, including those that are implanted, worn, and used at home or in health care settings. The result is safer, timelier, and more convenient patient care. But progress in the field has created new cybersecurity concerns.

Cybersecurity Incidents: A Public Health Issue?

Cybersecurity incidents are not as obvious a public health hazard as natural disasters. We’ve had less practice with cybersecurity incidents than, for example, a hurricane and its effects on personal and public health and safety. But just like a more traditional response to a disaster, we must prepare for all types of cybersecurity incidents and their consequences.

Cybersecurity incidents can happen by accident and impact a full range of systems, devices, and infrastructure that may have nothing to do with computers. Cyberattacks are incidents perpetrated by unauthorized actors who have malicious intent. Cybersecurity incidents can have negative effects that go beyond stolen information and threaten people’s health and safety.

Cybersecurity & Medical Devices

In the effort to make medical devices that can make managing a chronic health condition easier, manufacturers are designing devices that connect to the Internet, hospital networks, and even other medical devices. For example, a patient with an implanted heart device can now be monitored remotely and without visiting a doctor’s office.(1)

However, the same thing that makes these devices “smart” is also what makes them vulnerable to incidents that could impact the safety and effectiveness of a device and the health and wellbeing of people who rely on them.

#BeCyberSmart

Cybersecurity does not fall squarely on the shoulders of the government. It is a team sport. Every American has a role to play. Here are five simple ways you can #BeCyberSmart with personal health technology:

  1. Stay informed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all medical devices. If a medical device’s software has a weakness that might make it vulnerable to a cyberattack, the FDA may issue a cybersecurity safety communication that includes information about vulnerabilities and recommended actions for patients, providers, and manufacturers.
  2. Register your device. Even though it’s an extra step, registering a medical device with the manufacturer may help them reach you more quickly when there’s an urgent need to send out important information about the device, including software updates and safety communications.
  3. Update your software. Technology evolves over time, so software for your medical device will need to be updated. Medical device manufacturers can update a medical device for cybersecurity when needed and often do so by providing software updates.
  4. Look for glitches and report issues. A device that is not working as expected could be a sign that something isn’t right. Don’t ignore it. If you suspect that there is an issue with your device, notify your health care provider, the device manufacturer, and report the issue to FDA’s MedWatch.
  5. Share information. Educate your family or caregivers about your medical device. If a device isn’t working properly for any reason, someone who is already familiar with it may be able to help you recognize and report an issue. This is especially important if you aren’t very tech-savvy. Also, make sure your family knows how to reach the health care provider who prescribed the device in case you cannot.(3)

Medical devices are intended to improve health and help people live longer, healthier lives. But any medical device that runs on software and relies on a wireless or wired Internet connection is at risk, especially if the device is older and wasn’t made with cybersecurity in mind. Device makers, hospitals, facilities, and individuals, including patients and caregivers, must work together to manage cybersecurity risks.

References

Resources

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Photographers Capture the Great Outdoors in Miniature Masterpieces

A collage of staged photos created by several Instagram users. The photos use toys and food to recreate scenes in nature.
Following stay-at-home orders, professional and amateur photographers, including (from left) @stevint, @Erinoutdoors (top), @mikerigney (bottom), @Erinoutdoors, @albakerphoto (top), and @Erinoutdoors (bottom), used food, minifigures, and other household items to recreate scenes from nature that they then shared on Instagram with the hashtag #OurGreatIndoors.

In observance of National Preparedness Month, the Center for Preparedness and Response (CPR) will publish posts in September that highlight ways people and organizations are helping to “create community” where they live.

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

When outdoor photographers stay indoors, anything can happen. A climb across pancake mountaintops drenched in maple syrup. A trek through baking soda snow in rosemary winter wonderlands. A paddle down huckleberry rivers in ice cream sundae canyons.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, photographers are having to find new outlets for their creativity. Some have turned to crafting miniature landscapes modeled after the great outdoors.

These mini masterpieces are catching the attention of thousands on social media and inspiring both professional and amateur photographers to try creating tiny worlds of their own. The trend first started with one photographer’s curiosity and creativity.

As a full-time travel photographer, Erin Sullivan (@Erinoutdoors on Instagram) spent about a third of her time on the road. When travel shut down in February, Sullivan found a new way to bring the great outdoors into her Los Angeles apartment.

“When I was little and couldn’t fall asleep at night, I used to imagine little adventures under my sheets,” Sullivan said. “I would look at the scale of things and imagine, ‘what if I could shrink myself and go on an adventure here.’”

Following stay-at-home orders, Sullivan thought about how to push herself creatively and stay connected to travel without leaving her apartment. She challenged herself to create believable outdoor scenes using household items and model train figurines.

Sullivan’s creative process began with a rough sketch of the landscape. Next, she headed to the pantry to find foods or recognizable objects, and finally put it all together into one flavorful photo.

“The landscapes do not necessarily replicate the exact place, but the feeling or emotions I had when I was there,” Sullivan said.

Following her first miniature photograph in March, Sullivan challenged viewers to create their own indoor adventure with the hashtag #OurGreatIndoors. Since then, her Instagram following has nearly tripled.

With attention from across the globe, little did she know these miniature figure photographs would change her world in a big way.

Inspired by Sullivan, Stevin Tuchiwsky (@stevint) staged miniature outdoor landscapes from his home in Calgary, Alberta. The #OurGreatIndoors post challenged him to replicate some of his past outdoor photographs of Banff National Park, Cape Breton Island, and the Silfra dive site.

Tuchiwsky’s favorite miniature figure photographs captured a deep-sea dive from his bathtub. With his camera protected in a fish tank, he built the scene with rocks from a nearby river and toweling from his linen cabinet.

“One of the best parts of photographing the miniature figurines was getting creative and improvising with what I had around the house,” said Tuchiwsky, a civil-engineer technologist and outdoor lifestyle photography hobbyist.

The miniature photograph recreated a visit to Iceland and brought back a lot of memories for him. “Especially during the pandemic, people can use creativity and the outdoors as an outlet to alleviate stress and showcase their inner selves through art,” Tuchiwsky said.

Miniature figure photography also brought back memories for Al Baker (@albakerphoto), a freelance landscape photographer in Las Vegas. Sullivan’s photographs resurfaced childhood memories of building model baseball stadiums, and he decided to give the #OurGreatIndoors challenge a try.

For Baker’s favorite photograph, the creative process began with gathering and crafting each element in the mini-scape. He tried to get as detailed as possible, even searching for a toy whale that was to scale with the miniature diver.

When it was time to shoot, Baker set up the tripod and camera and used a telephoto lens to adjust the depth of field and compress the background. With the frame positioned, Baker goes back and forth between the camera and the scene to place figurines.

“My favorite part is making the scenes as realistic as possible and when I finish the photo, my imagination just comes to life,” Baker said.

For Mike Rigney (@mikerigney) a marine engineer and outdoor photography hobbyist, the creative process involved less planning and more experimenting.

Living on a boat in San Diego didn’t offer much space for his miniature landscape photography with all the props and tiny figures. But after messing around with bubble wrap packaging remnants, Rigney found inspiration to create one of his favorite miniature photographs of a Mendenhall ice cave.

However, in some cases, the places exist only in his imagination. “As a photographer, these miniatures are an opportunity to take photos exactly how I want to and ‘travel’ to places I’ve never been before,” Rigney said.

For many photographers, miniature landscape photography is a great way to practice mindfulness.

Dr. Don (DJ) Stanley (@djstanleyphoto), a chiropractor in Moorpark, Calif., said both hobbies and the outdoors are very supportive of emotional and mental health, which is especially important during the pandemic. Outdoor experiences have health benefits such as lowering anxiety, lowering blood pressure, and improving overall wellness, Stanley said.

“The healing aspect of the outdoors is very prevalent and meaningful in my life,” Dr. Stanley said. “Even though I am not accessing the outdoors as much as I did before the pandemic, I am still able to connect with both nature and creativity through my photography.”

This trend is even starting to positively impact businesses that sell model figurines. In the model railroad industry, sales typically slow down over the summer and peak during the holiday season. But over the past few months, both experienced modelers and newcomers to the hobby have had more time to channel their creativity while in quarantine.

Paul Christel, co-owner of a model railroading business, said online sales tripled in March and April this year. Another online model train retailer store estimated quadruple sales compared to all summer seasons prior and sold more in April than any other Christmas season.

The model figurine business will likely continue to grow since many photographers said they plan to work on their miniature masterpieces, even after they return to traveling.

Sullivan said she hopes the miniature figurines can tag along on her adventures and add to her travel photography. But right now, she has some ideas that she’ll revisit when she’s ready … or hungry for more.

Home Health Program Seeks to Improve Access to Support Services, Information

A male paramedic performs a health check outside on a man sitting in a chair.
Paramedics bring visual and educational materials and equipment to check patients’ vitals, conduct blood tests, and administer EKGs during Mobile Integrated Healthcare Program home visits. This photo was taken in 2016 before the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo credit: JOHN STARKS/DAILY HERALD, 2016)

In observance of National Preparedness Month, the Center for Preparedness and Response (CPR) will publish posts in September that highlight ways people and organizations are helping to “create community” where they live.

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

Paramedics in Elgin, Ill., stop at the home of an elderly man who was recently discharged from the hospital for uncontrolled diabetes. They first check the man’s vitals, including blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and then review information about his condition and treatment plan with him.

As part of the Mobile Integrated Healthcare (MIH) Program at Advocate Sherman Hospital, a free support program offered primarily to elderly patients with chronic diseases who need additional home health support, these paramedics are helping to narrow the health literacy gap.

Paramedics use weekly one-on-one home visits to help optimize health outcomes among community residents whose low levels of health literacy could put them at increased risk of getting COVID-19. CDC defines health literacy as an individual’s ability to understand basic health information and services to make informed health decisions.

Beyond providing sources of information, MIH paramedics bring a personal touch, serving as an additional support system for patients. This is part of the reason why Sara Larson, a nurse at Elgin Family Physicians, refers patients to the program.

“This program makes patients feel like someone cares about them,” said Larson. “It makes a big difference to see patients’ realities in their homes and adapt their care accordingly.”

Home visits are also opportunities for patients to review their health information and ask questions outside of the hospital, she added.

MIH works with patients who have been hospitalized at least once for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, asthma, pneumonia, or heart failure. It is the only hospital-based paramedicine program in the state.

Tina Link, manager of community outreach at Advocate Sherman and MIH program director, said the program was started to reduce the number of visits to emergency departments for issues that could be managed at home. Issues such as getting prescription refills and not knowing what medication to take.

“There’s a knowledge deficit,” she said. “Some patients don’t know where to go or who to ask. But they know the hospital is open and someone will take care of them.”

Paramedics teach patients how to navigate the health care system so they can understand their conditions and make informed decisions about their care. The goal of the program is to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and decrease costs.

Last year, MIH successfully lowered hospital readmission rates for their program participants by 58%, according to data provided by Advocate Sherman.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the importance of this program. Both the elderly and patients with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to CDC.

“Especially with COVID-19, we don’t want people in the hospital who don’t need to be here,” said Jill League, community wellness coordinator at Advocate Sherman, who actively oversees the MIH program. “We want our patients to know how to control their condition so that they can stay home, stay healthy, and have a better quality of life.”

In the five years since the program’s establishment, Link and League agree this year is one of the most impactful. After the onset of the pandemic in March, they said they immediately integrated COVID-19 information into MIH’s curriculum. Paramedics cover COVID-19 signs and symptoms, safety guidelines, and how to self-quarantine.

Program participants have been responsive to this mission. Link said she has noticed patients becoming more conscious of their health and behaviors. They acknowledge that their medical history may put them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and are eager to work with the paramedics to better understand their health.

“COVID-19 does not just target a certain population,” said Link. “It’s new for everyone and we’re all at risk, so we’re all in this together.” The universality of the pandemic encouraged patients not only to keep themselves healthy but also to protect their neighbors.

MIH has navigated the barriers of limited mobility and uncertainty this summer to offer patients safe, personalized health care in their own homes. Paramedics wear appropriate personal protective equipment and follow proper hygiene protocols between home visits, as recommended by the CDC.

Advocate Sherman’s intervention has not only successfully improved health literacy in Elgin but also has bridged together providers and patients to shape a resilient, well-informed community during these unprecedented times.

Hero Hobbyist: Student Prints Face Shields for Special Education Organization

Boy holds up a face shield he made on a 3D printer

In observance of National Preparedness Month, the Center for Preparedness and Response (CPR) will publish posts in September that highlight ways people and organizations are helping to “create community” where they live.

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

Twelve-year-old Vince Radlicz quickly morphed his 3D printer into a face shield-maker in March, spurred by the needs of a neighbor and nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

As cases continued to rise, he didn’t rest until hundreds of his creations had been delivered to hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities across the city and its suburbs free of charge.

“Some of them went as far as California. It kind of snowballed after we first started doing it,” said Vince. He added that it felt amazing to help people just by doing something he loves.

An incoming seventh-grader at South Middle School in Arlington Heights, Vince received the printer as a Christmas gift two years ago and quickly honed his 3D skills through an assortment of projects ranging from making miniature cars to game pieces.

“One time Vince made some game pieces for a game that allowed only four players,” recalled his mother, Donna Radlicz. “We have six people in our family, and he made two more sets of game pieces so the whole family could play.”

Now he makes only plastic face shields that cover the whole face, protecting health care workers and anyone else who uses them (in combination with a mask) from not only spreading germs but also from exposure to germs from others.

This summer, the Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization (NSSEO) joined that list of clients and asked him to make an additional 100 face shields for staff and students at their various partner schools to wear once classes begin in the fall.

Most people with disabilities are not inherently at increased risk of becoming infected with or having severe illness from COVID-19. According to CDC, however, the risk might be increased for people who have limited mobility or who cannot avoid coming into close contact with others who may be infected, as well as for people who have trouble understanding information or practicing preventative measures like handwashing and social distancing.

“Some students are in wheelchairs, some are in diapers, and some need assistance with feeding,” said NSSEO assistant superintendent Julie Jilek. “We’re looking at using face shields in combination with face masks to provide that little extra protection when we do have to break that barrier to work with students.”

NSSEO superintendent Judy Hackett said her organization has provided programming in Illinois for more than 50 years to students with severe disabilities that occur in less than 1% of students in the U.S. Unfortunately because these students’ needs are so significant, it’s sometimes difficult for educators to maintain the 6-foot social distancing that is recommended during the pandemic, she said.

Many of those students might also have compromised immune systems. Hackett said the organization always strives to provide a safe learning environment, but the pandemic has “put an accent mark on the fragility of life” and emphasized how important it is to customize safety measures to each student’s needs.

Using his own 3D printer and one borrowed from the Arlington Heights Memorial Library where his mother works, Vince first 3D-printed a frame for each of the face shields. The rest of the construction had to be done by hand. In a makeshift assembly line strewn across his family’s kitchen counter, he hole-punched clear plastic sheets from an office supply store, snapped them into place on each frame, and fastened everything together with two rubber bands around the back.

Nearly a month had passed by the time Vince finished the 100th face shield for NSSEO, but he was modest about the undertaking.

“A lot of it is automatic, so we don’t really have to do half of the work,” he said.

When he first began making face shields, it took three hours to 3D-print each frame. After a few tweaks, he’s now able to churn one out in a third of that time.

Joy Borkowski, a nurse from the Miner School in Arlington Heights—one of NSSEO’s programs—reached out to Vince’s family to request face shields after she saw a post in their town’s Facebook group. Though she had never met Vince, some of the students within Vince’s school district go to her school.

“I think it was a little closer to home for him to know that some of the face shields were for kids with disabilities in his own neighborhood,” she said.

Borkowski said that Vince refused payment for his work, despite several attempts to convince him otherwise. He donated any money that did find its way to him, including what NSSEO gave him to cover the cost of materials, to Mount Sinai Hospital to provide lunches for the staff.

Borkowski, who has sewed nearly 3,300 masks herself during the pandemic, is not one to take no for an answer, however. As a personal thank-you, she gave Vince a homemade face mask with the logo of his favorite baseball team—the Chicago Cubs.

Along with the completed face shields Vince sent to NSSEO in August, Vince included a handwritten note with directions and a small diagram showing how to wear them.

“We find him to be a great inspiration,” said Hackett. “We spend much of our time and emphasis on helping students find their voice, passion, and life’s work . . . and Vince shows that in his work ethic at such a young age.”

Jilek added that her organization struggled to find reasonably priced personal protective equipment that would arrive before the start of school. She said it was particularly challenging because school districts across the country were trying to buy the same items at the same time.

That is until they met Vince.

“The pandemic has been devastating to so many families who have lost loved ones, and to our economy,” said Hackett. “But there are silver linings in people like Vince who have stepped up and said, ‘How can I help others in my community during this?’”

Give & Take Bins Serve as Small-Scale Food Pantries

A person reaches into a plastic bin filled with nonperishable food and other supplies

In observance of National Preparedness Month, the Center for Preparedness and Response (CPR) will publish posts in September that highlight ways people and organizations are helping to “create community” where they live.

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

Customers stared at Beatriz Echeverría in the grocery store. She filled her cart with vegetable oil, rice, beans, and other foods, conscious of looking like a hoarder stocking up to weather the pandemic. By the time she and her son, Nacho Pavón, piled all their goods into their car, the haul filled the trunk.

But they weren’t hoarding. Echeverría and her son were redistributing the items around the city of Evanston, just north of Chicago, through a system of mini-food pantries housed in boxes called Give and Take Bins.

“This is a good, practical thing that you can do in your spare time,” said Echeverría, an Evanston resident. “You know it’s effective because you’re actually filling the bins and you’re actually going to the store to get the food.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the country in March, Evanston neighbors and activists created the network of bins to support growing needs in the community. These weather-proof containers placed on porches, in yards, and at schools are filled by volunteers who donate food, cleaning supplies, menstrual products, and other necessities. Anyone may take items from the box, free of charge.

Evanston, like Chicago, is located in Cook County, where more than one in 10 people were food insecure before the pandemic, according to 2018 data from Feeding America. Food insecurity spiked nationwide, however, as a result of COVID-19. Relative to predicted rates for March, food insecurity doubled in April and tripled in households with children, reported an analysis from the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

“I feel like the need is there,” said Stephanie Mendoza, a facilitator of the Give and Take Bins program. “There’s a huge need.”

The existing need grew as COVID-19 shut down some local food pantries run by seniors, a population that is at increased risk for severe illness from the virus. Some people couldn’t go to grocery stores, and those who could often encountered empty shelves, said Michele Hays, another program facilitator.

The Give and Take Bins were a “more nimble way” to get food and other necessities to neighbors in need, Hays said. Volunteers spread the word about these bins through a Facebook page that Mendoza advertised in local parenting, COVID-19 support, and Latinx Facebook groups. There’s also a Google map showing all the bins’ locations, and a QR code to the map is placed on some of the bins.

To find out what items people most needed, Hays conducted an informal poll in her mutual aid group and came up with a list of suggested donations. Volunteers may print that list and attach it to the bins. Now, with about 25 boxes placed around the city, a box is within “at least a few blocks’ walking distances for just about most people,” Mendoza said. Based on census data, Hays suggested locations for new bins, such as near the parking lot of the local high school.

Anyone may fill the bins; anyone may take from the bins. Volunteers emphasize stocking bins with culturally specific foods in certain areas.

“We would buy, I don’t know, like Sazonador, which is a typical Latin American seasoning. We would buy pinto beans. We would buy things that were very specific of certain groups,” Echeverría said. “People, if given a chance, they’ll take the foods they’re used to.”

While there’s a large need for food, Mendoza said the items that disappear quickest from the bin on her front porch are menstrual products, soap, and toilet paper. These can’t be bought with a SNAP card or Illinois Link card, and they’re often not found at food pantries, either.

“Folks who get food stamps can’t use that money to buy cleaning supplies. They can only use it for food,” said Alyce Barry, a volunteer who manages a box near her home.

Barry recalls starting a bin as soon as she heard about them. Though Hays said she’s received reports that bins are being used less, Barry said her bin is seeing more traffic now than it did earlier this year. She wishes, however, that there was a way to know for sure what the individuals using her bin need, rather than being so distant.

“Before the pandemic, I was of the opinion that ways like this of helping the community weren’t a very good idea because they are so detached,” Barry said. “Racism and a lot of other social ills are the results of people who have being distant from the people who don’t, and this is just another way of being distant. But unfortunately, with the pandemic, that all changed.”

Volunteers also keep their distance to respect the privacy of their neighbors who use the boxes. Barry hasn’t spoken to anyone who uses her bin, because she doesn’t want to embarrass them. Mendoza once saw a family taking items from her bin as she was arriving home, but she said she kept driving down the street as if the house wasn’t hers.

Hays and Mendoza said this program has grown “organically,” fueled by the passion, generosity, and ingenuity of volunteers and community members who often solve problems without supervision to keep everything running smoothly. They insist the program doesn’t require a lot of central coordination and that it’s easy to participate in something like this.

“Anybody can do it. You don’t even have to be in Evanston,” Hays said. “You can do it wherever you are just with stuff that you have in-house — whatever the bin is that you have in your basement that you store stuff in.”

Once boxes are set up, volunteers don’t even need extra income to be what Hays and Mendoza call a “box fairy,” or someone who fills a bin with donations, unbeknownst to the facilitators.

“To be a box fairy, you don’t even necessarily have to buy things, you can just go around and take stuff out of the [bins] that are full and put them into the ones that are empty,” Hays said.

The Give and Take Bins program isn’t without its flaws — occasionally, bins go missing and have to be replaced. Most bins hold only non-perishables, though there are a couple of coolers. Fresh food placed in the bins often spoils, and volunteers remove those items.

Still, the bins are having an impact: They continue to be emptied — and filled. Volunteers see the impact in small ways. Hays met a man at the local homelessness organization drop-in center and he said he had used the box at her house. Once, her neighbor came over to take a few things as she was filling the bin. Someone wrote a thank-you note on a torn-off corner of a shopping bag and left it in a box.

In early July, Mendoza’s children left some chalk on her front steps. When she went outside, she noticed someone had written a chalk message on the lid of her bin: “Gracias.” Finding that, she said, was “just heartwarming.”

September is Public Health Laboratory Appreciation Month

September is Public Health Laboratory Appreciation Month graphic featuring Flat Labby character

Hi! I’m Flat Labby! I had hoped to meet you earlier this year, but the past few months have been hectic for everyone. I know it’s been challenging for all of you personally and professionally. So I would like to officially introduce Public Health Laboratory Appreciation Month and say thank you for your hard work and determination!

This month is a celebration of public health laboratory heroes. Check out some of the fun activities below to celebrate APHL member labs and colleagues, and learn more about me, Flat Labby!

Don’t forget to share the fun on social media with #ThanksPHLabs and #FlatLabby:

Where did Flat Labby come from? Read my story!

Flat Labby Adventures
Do you want to share your scientific adventures with a new best friend? Look no further, I’m right here! Let’s get out of the lab and show everyone what you’re up to. Take me on a hike or to a fun event and photograph me in that environment. Have a comment or message to share? Let me help you!

Learn how to Flat Labby and print out these cool cut-outs:

Coloring Pages
Need to relax and get your creative brain moving? Print out one of these fun coloring pages. Grab some markers and colored pencils and bring me to life! Express your enthusiasm for public health labs, or just use me to brag about your art skills on social media!

Labby Letters
Send a letter of gratitude to your staff, coworkers, family and friends. It’s easy with these fun fillable letters. Just type in your sentiments of gratitude, save the file and print or email them to your favorite lab employees.

Celebration Ideas

  • Create a VidHug Video
    VidHug makes it easy to compile video messages from many people – a great way to say thanks from everyone! Create a video for your lab staff, or have your staff make one for another lab. Include me, your Flat Labby, in the VidHug action! Don’t forget to share your videos on social media using #ThanksPHLabs and #FlatLabby.
  • Public Health Laboratory Appreciation Kudoboard
    We’ve created a Public Health Laboratory Appreciation Kudoboard webpage where everyone can share their appreciation for public health labs and their tireless staff! Post your messages of gratitude and good vibes for everyone to see!
  • Customize Flat Labby’s T-Shirt
    Did you notice that one of my t-shirts is blank? The Flat Labby Cool cut-out page has a blank t-shirt, so you can create a funky, one-of-a-kind logo or design! Get everyone involved and have a contest for the best shirt!
  • Get Social (At a Distance)
    Comment and post on social media about your favorite lab staff. Don’t forget to include me, Flat Labby, with your most recent at-home “science project” or with your lab crew at the bench, and use #ThanksPHLabs and #FlatLabby when you post!

Story Time
Check out these inspiring stories about laboratory scientists:

Celebrate the Essential Work of Public Health Labs
Did you know that September is also home of several other related public health awareness celebrations? What a great time to recognize your crew’s essential contributions!

  • National Preparedness Month #BeReady
  • National Newborn Screening Month #2020NBS
  • Food Safety Education Month #FSEM
  • Get Ready Day (September 15) #GetReadyDay
  • National Health IT Week (Date TBD) #NHITweek
  • World Rabies Day (September 28) #WorldRabiesDay

The post September is Public Health Laboratory Appreciation Month appeared first on APHL Lab Blog.

It’s National Radio Day, Over.

Hand turning knob on vintage radioAugust 20 is National Radio Day (#NationalRadioDay), an annual observance dedicated to the invention and history of radio.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The same could be said for radio. Radio was in its heyday and remains—more than a century later—an effective medium of mass communication.

For a long time, radio was a critical (and in some cases the only) medium for communicating to vulnerable and at-risk populations of people who lived in hard-to-reach places. It still is in many parts of the world.

In present-day Africa, radio is popular, in part, because it is readily available and easily accessible throughout the continent. For some people living in remote and rural communities, radio might be their only connection to the wider world.(1)

In addition to serving the everyday news and entertainment needs of listeners, radio is also a powerful tool for broadcasting crisis and risk communication during a natural disaster, disease outbreak, or other emergency.

Radio remains a useful communication tool, but it is also important to acknowledge that times have changed and—with it—technology and people’s preferences for how they receive news and information. Today, there are many ways to stay informed during an emergency.

Local TV & Radio

Emergency preparedness, response, and recovery begins and ends at the local level; so, it is only natural that you look to local television and radio for information in an emergency.

Local broadcasters help federal, state, and local officials keep communities informed in disasters and emergencies. Use of local television and radio to give people advanced notice of an event (e.g., severe weather) and communicate instructions (e.g., evacuation orders, road closures, and shelter information) can save lives.(2)

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is one way local broadcasters can help keep their communities informed in an emergency. EAS is a national public warning system commonly used to deliver important emergency information to affected communities over television and radio stations. EAS messages consist of an attention signal, audio announcement, and digitally encoded end-of-message marker delivered through local TV and radio.(3) Most EAS alerts are sent by the National Weather Service in response to severe weather events, but state, local, territorial, and tribal authorities also send alerts.

FEMA, in partnership with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and NOAA, is responsible for implementation, maintenance and operations of the EAS at the federal level.

Cellphones

Cellphones are in the hands, pockets, and bags of most individuals in the country. (4) They provide quick and invaluable access to news and entertainment and can be a lifeline during and after an emergency.

FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) allows public safety officials to leverage this lifeline. A component of IPAWS is the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) System. The WEA System relies on the pervasiveness of cellphones to keep people informed with emergency alerts that appear like text messages on compatible mobile phones. Authorized public safety officials use WEA System to send geographically targeted message to people who are in warning or affected areas. Alerts emit a loud, high-frequency sound or vibration meant to alert the smartphone owner to an emergency message.

Since 2012, the WEA has sent more than 49,000 emergency messages that have alerted users to weather emergencies, evacuation orders, and AMBER alerts. These messages are a critical resource and avenue for saving lives. (5) As of July 2020, the AMBER Alert Program has credited WEA messages with the successful recovery of 75 children.

WEAs are a free service that don’t require a subscription. To make sure it is turned on, you can search for “WEA” or “Emergency Alerts” in your settings or reach out to your cellphone carrier to make sure it is provided. You can opt out of alerts about imminent threats to safety or life and AMBER Alerts about missing children but cannot block emergency alerts issued by the President of the United States.

Social Media & the Internet

Seeking out sources of good information is part of smart preparation.

When there is a public health emergency, the information disseminated by reliable organizations and government sources can save lives. It is important to keep in mind that although there are many sources for good information, there are others that could be spreading false information whether intentional or unintentional.

A big part of staying informed in an emergency is knowing where to turn for timely, consistent, and reliable information. Here are some tips on how to do that.

  • Bookmark the websites and webpages of trusted sources of information.
  • Follow trusted sources on social media, including handles run by CDC, state and local public health departments, and your local National Weather Service Forecast Office on social media.
  • Beware of and help dispel rumors and misinformation, especially on social media. The administrators of some social media handles will take advantage of a disaster or emergencies to spread inaccurate information on social media. Look instead for posts from verified accounts, like those associated with your state and local health departments and emergency management agencies.

For many years, the radio was the best way to communicate and receive information, but times have changed and so has technology. Today we have faster forms of communication and the ability to respond quicker in emergency situations.

Related Reading

References

  1. https://www.undrr.org/news/radio-times-disaster
  2. https://www.fcc.gov/general/disaster-support-broadcasters
  3. https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/fema_emergency-alert-system_fact-sheet.pdf
  4. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/mobile/
  5. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-emergency-alerts-wea

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.