Category Archives: Vitamin D Deficiency

Only Child on seniors health and poverty living

Mulling over health care costs and seniors

Mulling over health care costs and seniors

It doesn’t matter where you live – if you are a senior living in poverty, you can bet your health will suffer and can be worse than if you have money. I’m not saying that being wealthy prevents cancer or heart disease. There are certainly many other factors weighing in here.  But I am saying that if you live below the poverty level, there are many age-related medical conditions that could be stopped or at least improved if you could just afford to pay for them.

So much for universal health care. That is a myth, even in Canada and Great Britain which are supposed to have health care coverage. I live in Ontario, Canada, and over the last few years, what is covered by our provincial health care plan (OHIP) has shrunk. Here is a summarized list of what is NOT covered by OHIP from the official site.

Services NOT Covered by OHIP

  • Ambulance transportation services if not deemed medically necessary (maximum cost of $240).
  • Routine eye examinations for people between the ages of 19 and 65.
  • Glasses and contact lenses.
  • Some physiotherapy may be partially covered or not at all.
  • Routine dental services such as examinations, fillings, cleanings and non-surgical extractions.
  • Podiatrists are only partially covered by OHIP.
  • Paramedicals such as chiropractors, massage therapists, naturopaths, podiatrists, acupuncturists and osteopaths.
  • Necessary emergency medical treatment obtained outside of Canada (e.g. while traveling) is only covered on a very limited basis; it is highly recommended to have travel insurance protection if traveling outside of Canada. Out of province ambulance costs are not covered.
  • Prescription drugs, although assistance MAY be available (see below).
  • Any cosmetic surgery.
  • Semi-private and private rooms in a hospital.

– See more at: https://www.healthquotes.ca/OHIP-Ontario.aspx#sthash.pbM8hhZK.dpuf

But not included in this generalized list are some blood tests, such as tests for Vitamin D deficiency and Candida (the latter was covered until the early 2000s). Vitamin D deficiency can be a problem, especially in winter, when there is less sun to be exposed to, something I found out the hard way nearly five years ago. And no, I didn’t go to a doctor’s about it or I would have been hit with the cost of a blood test. I did my research online and figured the extreme pain in my leg bones wasn’t arthritis (pain wasn’t in the joints but in the calf bones) was Vitamin D deficiency. So after a few weeks of massive daily doses of Vitamin D, the pain went away. Now, starting in November and until at least the end of April, I take very large doses of Vitamin D, daily.

Which brings me to something else not covered by healthcare – Vitamins, Minerals and other supplements that not only aid in your health, but in some cases get rid of the health problem. Most months what I spend on food is in a “race” with health supplements for highest amount spent.

And yes, there are private drug plans, but if you live below or near the poverty level, you just can’t afford them. Who says Canada doesn’t have a two-tier health plan? It is just not the usual definition of a two-tier health plan.

However, those of us who live below the poverty level in Ontario, have some government help with the Ontario Drug Plan for Seniors – you get all prescriptions free and waive any druggist fee. The down side is you have to re-apply each year based on your Net Income as filed and assessed by Canada Revenue, If you are living a bit above the poverty in Ontario, you  might get partial help, i.e. pay the first $100 for prescriptions, then after that pay a nominal druggist fee for filling the prescription. Again, it is set-up as an annual thing based on your income. So living in poverty (for the next year) guarantees me no prescription costs for my eye drops – absolutely necessary or my left eye will go blind.

And being over 65, I now don’t pay for any visits to my ophthalmologist and optometrist. But I do pay for glasses. Which is why I kicked up a big fuss when I had to have replacement sunglasses because the original ones had a broken connection to the glasses, just over a year old. Not only was this particular glasses style no longer made, the one-year warranty was up. So full price here. No wonder I complained to the store (Hudson’s Bay Optical) manager and he credited me with half the cost.

No wonder I have very bad feet problems. No wonder I am cranky a lot.

Speaking of poverty levels. There is a big gap in what is considered the poverty level for singles living alone in Ontario, Canada and the United States.

In the United States:

“Over 25 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure—living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($29,425 per year for a single person).” See Economic Security for Seniors Facts.

Compare that with Ontario’s $19,330

These are both annual incomes.

I’ll be covering more on Seniors and poverty in future posts.

Comments, please. I would also like to hear from those living outside Canada and outside the United States.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Health, Health Seniors, Healthcare coverage, Only child, Poverty, Seniors, Vitamin D Deficiency

Only Child on Seniors and Falls

Only Child and Mom before the arthritis took its toll on Mom

Only Child and Mom before the arthritis took its toll on Mom

My late mother had a few scary falls as she neared senior’s age and the short time after when she was still alive. I remember her falling going up the basement stairs. She was watching a TV show and they were offering a prize. You had to phone in right away to win. So Mom charged up the stairs.

Shortly after she had a phone extension put in downstairs.

But the really bad falls came after she got arthritis, particularly the last year of her life. She fell on the three steps at the entrance to her sister’s farmhouse. This was a new house, not some rambling old structure. The killing fall came a few months before her death. I was out with friends and when I came home she told me she had fallen off the vanity bench in her bedroom and banged her head.

Flash forward almost four months. One Saturday morning I got up – not early – and found no coffee on and Mom not even up. She was still in her bed and as we later learned in a coma. I called the family doctor who rushed over. He figured she’d had a stroke and called an ambulance. By that time my fiance had arrived and the two of us rode in the ambulance with Mom. The doctor followed.

Mom had a brain aneurysm so the doctors operated on her brain. She never came out of the coma and died five days later.

The official cause of death was brain aneurysm, but I know her falls from arthritis killed her.

Apparently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees with my falls assessment. According to them, 2.5 million get treated in hospital emergency because they fell. Hip fractures aren’t just from old arthritic bones but 95 per cent of the time it’s a fall that causes the hip fracture.

Scary stuff. And I’m well on the way in the falling down department – even going back to soon after I moved back to Toronto. It seemed that every winter I fell outside – in slush, on ice. And I was in my early 50s then. Of course I complained to the city, to the Mayor, about the city workers not doing their job cleaning the streets and sidewalks property (one was at a major intersection).

Now, I’m falling in the summer. Tripping over paper hanging wire left by some careless jerk on the sidewalk. Even tripping over the large black walnuts dumped by squirrels in my lawn. For the latter I landed on soft grass and in a bed of black-eyed susans. But both the squirrels and the unknown jerk got cursed.

Inside the house I’ve fallen a few times, missing a step – on carpeted stairs. Then there is the bathtub. When I finally got my main handyman Mike here on Friday, I had him install two hand bars on the tub wall. And I will continue my practice of holding onto railings when going up and down stairs at home and in subway stations. Particularly the latter as my son fell down a few subway stairs and broke his ankle earlier in the summer. He is 37.

The CDC offers several tips to help prevent falls. Besides the bathroom bars, they also include getting your eyes tested annually (which I do), check for carpets you could trip over; check with your pharmacist for any medications you are taking that could make you sleepy or dizzy. And take extra Vitamin D. We don’t get enough in the nearly sunless winter months. I know that for a fact as three years ago I suffered from Vitamin D deficiency. Some days the pain in my bones was so bad I could hardly walk. I knew it wasn’t arthritis as the pain wasn’t in my joints but in my calf bones. Upping the Vitamin D dose a lot fixed that one.

So, you need to be vigilant about falls and possible causes. That won’t cover the weird like picture  hanging wire. Maybe the action here is to make sure you don’t just leave loose or carelessly throw something that someone could trip over.

God won’t necessarily have your back. That 95 per cent statistic proves that.

Read more of the CDC article at

http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Falls prevention, God, Health, Health Seniors, Mother, Old Age, Only child, Seniors, Seniors and falls, Vitamin D Deficiency, winter falls

Only Child on healing through gardening

Only Child looks forward to quiet time on the patio in the back garden.

I need to garden now to heal. And the weather and the garden itself look promising.

Monday, I saw the first robin of the season. The robin was moving across my front yard. The lawn hasn’t yet turned green, but in the back clumps of tulips and hyacinths are poking above the ground. I need colour, so yesterday I “dragged” my legs over to the local garden centre and bought two potted pansies. I put one on the picnic table on the backyard patio and hauled out a small table for the veranda and placed pansy plant number two there. Already I’ve been sitting outside to eat breakfast and lunch. Now with daylight saving time, dinners outside will soon follow.

This winter may have been the warmest in years in southern Ontario, Canada. But it also turned into one of my worst winters for physical health problems – two viruses in a month, acting as catalyst for a severe Vitamin D and Calcium deficiency causing extreme pain in the bone below my knee.  Hence the dragging my legs to and from the garden centre.

So, I repeat, I need to garden to heal. I need to get outside more in the sunshine. I need to remove the dead tops of last year’s perennials so this year’s perennials can appear and blossom. I need to turn the soil. I need to plant seeds – once my seed order comes through. Like nearly everything else, preparing the seed order and mailing it got put on the back burner until it threatened to burn. I need to tour the garden and see the wonder of what is happening. I need to sit out more in the garden, on the patio and on the veranda. Then I can receive the gift of Vitamin D from the sunshine and my leg will continue to heal. Just going outside into the garden, and buying the pansies lifted my spirits.

Gardening is therapeutic. As Anne Marie Chaker writers in The Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304620304575165831058222608.html, many nursing homes and hospitals are incorporating gardening of some sort – even just sitting out in the garden – as a way to heal. Being in a garden can change moods from bad to good and lower the stress level. When I yank out weeds, I pretend I am yanking my problems out of my life. That gets interesting when I superimpose a person (or persons) who have been making my life hell. But it beats yelling at the person, and afterwards I feel at peace and many weeds now lie in the compost or yard waste bin.

Studies show the therapeutic value of gardening. Two studies published last year in Issues in Mental Health Nursing (2011;32(1):73-81) showed that depressed individuals involved in a 12-week horticultural program with a three-month follow-up found the severity of their depression decreased. Participants felt the program was meaningful and influenced their life. (Pub Med http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21208054)

Horticultural Therapy, although emerging as a trend in healing therapy, is not new. Dr. Benjamin Rush, who signed The American Declaration of Independence, said that gardens held “curative effects” for mentally ill people. (See http://www.ahta.org/content.cfm?id=history). There are national therapeutic associations such as The American Horticultural Therapy Association (http://www.ahta.org)  and The Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association  which defines horticultural therapy (in part) as “Horticultural Therapy (HT) is a formal practice that uses plants, horticultural activities, and the garden landscape to promote well-being for its participants.” (See http://www.chta.ca/about_ht.htm for more information about horticultural therapy). Also see the CHTA’s links page (http://www.chta.ca/links.htm) which gives a bird’s-eye view of horticultural therapy in practice in Canada.

Meanwhile, back in my Toronto garden, I can’t wait to spend many hours digging, planting, pulling weeds, collecting flowers and arranging them in vases inside, and sitting back and enjoying the colours, scents and sights. Maybe gardening as healing is intuitive. My late mother also started early in her garden and I followed her. For some reason I equate our gardening with religion. Perhaps I was close; it wasn’t the religion so much but the healing of mind, body and spirit. As I write in my memoir in the chapter titled, “Practising Gardening and Religion”

In April, when the first tulip showed its face in the flowerbed under the living room window, Mom had to get out in her garden and do her vegetable, fruit and flower business. In the beginning, Mom and I moved in tandem with the garden and religion like we found parallels in them – both had beauty, filled us with awe, seemed to bring some order and ritual to our lives: plant seeds in spring and be rewarded with beautiful flowers and bountiful vegetables and fruit in summer; go to Mass and communion on Sunday and be rewarded in life with only good. For some of that time, Dad was still around to join us.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, Copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

And a footnote to last week’s posting on what memoir writing means to me… My guest blog, “Writing from the Heart,” about writing short personal essays/memoir for print and online publications appears on the Networds blog at http://www.networds.ca/Blog/content/writing-heart.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Gardening and depression, Gardening health benefits, Healing through gardening, Horticultural Therapy, Memoir writing, Only child memoir, Stress, Vitamin D Deficiency

Only Child feels the pain – physical

Only child works through the pain

Physical pain seems to be the norm in our lives. Age doesn’t matter. It seems we can do all the healthy things (or not) and we still get “hit” with pain. I’m not talking about one-offs such as toothaches or labour pains; I mean acute and chronic pain. But I’m noticing something. Those of us in pain are not taking it lying down without a fight.

I’ve been in some kind of acute or chronic pain for 30 years. I suppose I come from it honestly, the pain part anyway. As I write in my memoir about my dad and his cancer, I realize the pain he suffered.

Then Dad gets recurring headaches that escalate into one big throbbing hurt at the top of his head. It must be torture to bend over the toilet bowl to puke out his guts while his head drums to the same painful beat. He becomes weaker and spends most of his time in bed. Our family doctor sends him to the hospital, this time St. Michael’s.

Those are the bad old days, when cancer treatment wobbles in its infancy and has only two prongs – slice or burn. The doctor chooses the fire of radiation to try to destroy the cancer seeds. Daily, Dad is wheeled into the treatment room and blasted for 20 minutes with volts of radiation straight into his brain. Clumps of hair fall out, and his head resembles an abstract quilt with the white batting sticking out.

(Excerpt from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

Individuals with cancer are good examples of those in pain.. True, there are so many more options than when my father had cancer in the late 1950s and 1960s. But I see these good examples in the determination and guts of those with cancer today, for example, many walk in marathons for cancer research. The news has countless stories about the courage of children with cancer. Children getting cancer is something I think is totally wrong, something I can’t quite get my head around. But that is for another post.

My pain started with migraines thirty years ago. Despite postponing some work assignments for the demeral-gravol shot in the hip and crawling into bed  (temporarily) to sleep it off, I didn’t give up on my life. The migraines (which are long gone, thanks to the treatment of a doctor at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto’s pain clinic; he later became head of that clinic). Suffering migraines became a turning point in my life – migraines started my writing in the health area, which I still do (Example, see http://www.samcraw.com/Clippings/OHThePain.html, copy of my story originally published in Body, Mind & Spirit).

I’m not going to bore you with a history of all my pain episodes, but I want to mention the current one because many people may have it but don’t know they do. I have a Vitamin D deficiency and one of the symptoms is severe bone pain in one leg, just below the knee, so we’re not talking arthritis. I also have a digestive disorder which causes malabsorption. The best Vitamin D source is the sun filtering in through your skin; so far I’ve been okay in summer as I’m outside a lot in my garden, walking, and at outdoor festivals. But for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, winter brings little sun and much cold weather. Despite this winter’s somewhat milder climate (in some parts of Canada), most of us do not spend much time outdoors. We bundle up, so our skin isn’t exposed much in the winter. So we have to take Vitamin D3 supplements, but if we have malabsorption those supplements have a hard time getting absorbed into our system.  I have a friend who takes from 3,000 to 5,000 IU’s daily (depending on the season) of Vitamin D and so far she’s had no side effects. Over the weekend, I just bumped mine up to 2,500 a day and began taking digestive tablets.

Studies in the United States and the United Kingdom show there is a dearth of Vitamin D deficiency in people of all ages – from children to seniors. A University of Minnesota study showed the count at 100 per cent to 55 percent with five people having no Vitamin D in their bodies; in most cases the symptom was undetermined muscle or bone pain (See http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/4836.php). In the last few years tests for Vitamin D deficiency have skyrocketed (See http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-07-13-vitamin-d-tests_N.htm). It’s a simple blood test folks; I recommend you ask your doctor for one if he or she doesn’t already do it as part of your annual medical check-up.

Meantime, I think my leg pain may be decreasing. I’ll find out for sure when I go for my daily walk. Walking outside tends to up the pain. And I’m hoping to still be able to start my Yoga class this Thursday evening – a gentle stretch Yoga with meditation, specifically for those recovering from injury and illness. Yes or no to Yoga, I will continue to apply what has kept me going through my pain: determination, passion in what I do, perseverance, and plain old stubbornness, a trait I inherited from my Dad.

Dad’s cancer went into remission – for the time being. I’ll leave you with how he rejoiced at this.

…one day when mother and I walk into his [hospital] room, Dad smiles at us.

“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says.

(Excerpt from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

Tell me your pain stories and how you cope.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Bone Pain, cancer, Health, Only child memoir, Pain, Vitamin D Deficiency, Vitamin D tests, Yoga