Tips for talking about giving up driving later in life

Dec. 4, 2014—“Hey, mom! I’m worried about your driving” doesn’t sound as cheery as “Happy holidays!” But if you’re concerned about an older person’s driving skills, a supportive family holiday gathering could make this difficult conversation a little easier.

That’s why the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) designated this Dec. 1 through 5 as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. It gives family and friends time to prepare for a discussion about safe driving—or giving it up—in advance .

Why aging affects driving

Just because someone is older doesn’t mean he or she should stop driving.

But skills needed for good driving, like fast reaction time or good eyesight, tend to decline with age. And older people are more likely than younger drivers to be taking multiple medications. Some of these drugs—either alone or in combination with others—can negatively affect driving ability.

No matter who is at fault in a car accident, risk of death or injury increases as a driver ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Like any other age group, however, older people need to go places . This means that taking away a driver’s license can in some ways take away a person’s independence—and a transportation solution may need to be found.

Keep that in mind as you prepare for the family talk.

Tips for having the talk

The support and insight of family—which can often be found during the holidays—can make it easier to make important decisions about an older relative’s driving. The AOTA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offer the following advice for families and friends who worry about an older person’s driving.

Get the facts. Ride with the person at different times of day and in different types of traffic. Observe what he or she does well and has trouble doing.

Look for other signs. Does your relative sometimes seem confused, forgetful or have trouble following instructions? Does he or she have trouble hearing or seeing? Any of these make driving a risk.

Have solutions at the ready. Come up with potential solutions for your loved one’s transportation needs. Do any local agencies offer transportation services? Can family members and friends volunteer driving services? Is public transit an easy and affordable option?

Have the talk. Start the discussion by talking about how much you care about your relative’s safety. Include the above information in the conversation. Listen to the person’s fears and concerns.

Seek an outside evaluation. Ask a physician to recommend a driver rehabilitation specialist (often an occupational therapist) who can offer an in-depth, outsider’s evaluation of your loved one’s driving.

If you’re planning on discussing driving ability with a loved one, the NHTSA has a free step-by-step guide to preparing, planning and having this important—and potentially life-saving—talk.


Got a kid with a cold? Be careful with medicine

Dec. 3, 2014—When kids catch colds, parents are often anxious to ease their pain, but how you treat a child’s cold is nothing to sneeze at. Before you decide how to treat your little one’s symptoms, take note of a warning recently emphasized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicines are not safe for children younger than 4 years.

Sweeping danger off the shelf

In 2008, drug companies stopped making OTC cold and cough medicines for babies and children younger than 2 years old. They did it because these medicines have harmed many young children. Often, kids got sick because they received too much of the medicine or took it when parents weren’t looking. Some children died.

OTC cough and cold medicines are still available for older children and adults. But now their labels warn caregivers not to give them to children under 4 years old.

Common cold symptoms can make kids miserable for the 7 to 10 days it takes most cold viruses to run their course. And the truth is, nothing—especially not antibiotics—can cure colds, and OTC medicines don’t make them go away any faster. But you can help your kids feel better by following these tips from FDA and the National Institutes of Health:

  • Encourage an ill child to rest.
  • Give sick kids plenty of fluids. Warm liquids can help soothe throats.
  • Try saline nose drops or spray. They help clear noses and avoid stuffiness.
  • For infants and kids under 1 year, use a bulb syringe with saline drops to remove mucus.
  • Set up a cool mist humidifier. It can help kids breathe easier. (Warm mist humidifiers don’t help—they can make stuffy noses worse.)
  • For aches and fever, give acetaminophen or ibuprofen exactly as directed.

Most kids’ colds don’t require professional medical care. But let your doctor know whenever a baby 3 months or younger shows signs of illness.

And these symptoms do warrant a call to the doctor:

  • Any fever above 99 degrees in a baby 3 months or younger
  • A fever of 102 degrees or higher at any age
  • Labored breathing, such as wheezing or fast breathing
  • Blue lips
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Ear pain
  • A cough that lasts more than 3 weeks

Also call the doctor if your child is getting worse instead of better.

And of course, no matter your child’s age, don’t hesitate to call for advice about any worrisome symptoms.

Give colds the cold shoulder

To help kids dodge some of this season’s cold viruses, encourage them to:

  • Wash their hands often. Scrub for 20 seconds in warm, soapy water
  • Avoid touching their eyes, mouth or nose with unwashed hands
  • Steer clear of people who are sick


Eating Healthy at the Holidays

Eating healthy at the holidays can be a struggle for anyone – people bring holiday cookies to work, there’s an office party seemingly every day and family get-togethers center on food. It’s especially difficult for people trying to watch their weight or lose weight. Katie Wolff, Memorial dietician, offered tips for eating healthy at the holidays Dec. 2, 2014 on KIT 1280.

How do I manage holiday parties?

  • Get involved. There’s usually a sign-up list for coworkers to volunteer to bring dishes. You can sign up to bring one healthy dish, giving yourself and everyone else at least one good option to enjoy.
  • Come prepared. If the party is during lunch, eat a healthy breakfast and plan for a healthy, mid-morning snack, such as an apple or a protein bar.
  • Use a small plate. You’ll eat less.
  • Plan your attack. Don’t load up your plate with foods that are fried or high in fat, such as those with a lot of cheese or cream. Fill half your plate with fresh fruits and veggies, and devote ¼ of your plate to starches and ¼ to proteins. Also, be sure to control your portion sizes.

What about desserts?

There are healthy dessert options that allow you to indulge your sweet tooth.

  • Look for yogurt and fruit. Dip fruits, such as strawberries or bananas, in chocolate to satisfy a sweet tooth and get that hint of chocolate.
  • Substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil or butter, or for sugar.
  • Share a dessert – splitting one in half allows you to enjoy it with half the guilt.

A few basic tips for healthy eating at the holidays:

  • Control portion sizes.
  • Find creative ways to make modifications where you can.
  • Forgo those treats that aren’t your favorites. Hold out for your favorites so that you can still enjoy your traditions at the holidays.

And with healthy eating, come a few other things your body needs to stay healthy at the holidays.

  • Get plenty of exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Plan ahead to manage your stress.

For more tips on healthy eating, visit or

What’s more nutritious? Home or school lunches?

Dec. 2, 2014—There’s a food fight going on in America’s school cafeterias—between school-prepared lunches and lunches packed at home. And according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, the school lunches are winning—at least in rural Virginia—by offering more nutritious choices that are less likely to contribute to childhood obesity.

According to background information in the study, about 40 percent of America’s schoolchildren eat lunches brought from home. So this study is a heads-up for parents to pack their child’s lunch with a more nutritious punch.

About the study

For 5 consecutive school days, researchers compared packed lunches brought from home to lunches available through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) at 3 elementary schools in rural Virginia. They focused solely on kindergarten and prekindergarten kids because at that age, food preferences are still developing and can still be influenced.

During the study week, researchers evaluated 562 packed lunches and 752 school lunches. The packed lunches were significantly higher in:

Saturated fat
Vitamin C (probably due to the prevalence of fortified fruit drinks)

Compared to school lunches, the packed lunches were significantly lower in calcium, fiber, protein, sodium and vitamin A. Packed lunches were also less likely to contain fruit, vegetables, milk, and juice with no added sugar. They were also more apt to include items that can contribute to higher body mass and, ultimately, childhood obesity: sugar-sweetened beverages, savory snacks (like chips) and desserts.

Overall, the school lunches were more nutritious than the packed lunches. One key reason: NSLP schools are required to offer foods that, over the course of any given week, meet nutrition standards based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This means that these menus must stick to specific calorie limits and include fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The researchers noted that although the school lunches had more sodium, they met current federal standards. Acceptable sodium content is being lowered gradually to allow food manufacturers time to reduce sodium and give students time to adjust to lower-sodium entrées.

Limitations of the study

Researchers did not measure actual consumption of food. Also, because this was a small study of young students in predominantly Caucasian rural counties, the results might not apply to older, more ethnically diverse or urban student populations.

For more information, listen to the-editor-in chief of the journal interview an author of the study.
The take-home message

Eating habits develop at a young age and can set the stage for a lifetime of good health—or for serious health problems, like obesity. Packing nutritious school lunches is one way parents can influence kids’ food choices and help them maintain a healthy weight.

To boost the nutritional value of a packed lunch, try including:

Sandwiches made with whole-wheat bread
Fresh veggies (green peppers, snap peas, baby carrots) with hummus
Fresh or canned fruit instead of sugary desserts

It’s also wise to skip savory snacks and swap sugar-sweetened drinks for a thermos of water or a carton of milk purchased at school.

Get more ideas for healthy eating at

Tips for managing grief during the holidays at “Can We Talk?” speaker series

Learn tips for managing grief during the holidays at Memorial’s “Can We Talk?” speaker series

(Yakima) – The holidays can be a time of joy and celebration for many, but for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be especially difficult.

Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital offers tips to make grieving through the holidays a little easier.

Memorial’s “Can We Talk?” speaker series this month focuses on grief at the holidays. Speakers will offer ways to manage your expectations while still honoring your loved one – recognizing that every person grieves differently and at a different pace.

The talk will be at 11 a.m. Dec. 18 at the Harman Senior Center, located at 101 N. 65th Ave.

“Can We Talk?” is a monthly speaker series offering tips to start the difficult conversation about preparing for end of life. Topics include hospice and palliative care, opportunities for volunteering, Medicare and more.

World AIDS Day: Is an AIDS-free generation possible

Dec. 1, 2014—As people across the planet continue to be infected with HIV, the thought of an AIDS-free generation may seem far off. However, this year’s World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 strives to educate people about HIV—the virus that causes AIDS—and encourage a future where AIDS no longer exists.

What is World AIDS Day?

The theme of the 2014 World AIDS Day is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-Free Generation.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), biomedical options are bolstering efforts to curb HIV through prevention, testing and treatment. But while new HIV infections are declining, the overall infection rate is still too high.

The rate of new infections is especially high for some groups, according to CDC. For example, of the 47,500 Americans newly infected in 2010:

  • 63 percent were men who have sex with men
  • 44 percent were African Americans

CDC is working to decrease these numbers with targeted efforts. It continues to expand prevention services for these groups.

According to CDC, individuals can greatly lower their risk of HIV infection by :

  • Knowing their HIV status and the status of their partners
  • Not engaging in sexual activity with multiple partners

While taking these steps is imperative to prevention, CDC also urges people at high risk for HIV to learn about additional ways to prevent HIV and talk to your doctor about them:

  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP): Taking antiretroviral medications before HIV exposure can reduce the risk of infection for people who routinely have unprotected sex with someone who might be HIV-positive.
  • Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP): Taking antiretroviral medicines as soon as possible after possible exposure to HIV can also help prevent HIV transmission.

Prevention, testing and treatment are key to reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

Reducing your risk

Taking steps to prevent HIV transmission is something we can all do. In an effort to help create an AIDS-free generation, use World AIDS Day to renew your commitment to protect yourself and others.

In the United States, HIV is mostly spread through sex or sharing drug needles. You can reduce your risk of getting HIV by making safe decisions.


What’s in a kiss? About 80 million bacteria

When you share a kiss, you’re sharing affection. But according to new research published in Microbiome, you’re also sharing up to 80 million bacteria.

A smooch for science

Researchers aimed to study the relationship kissing has on the human microbiome—an ecosystem of more than 100 trillion microbes, like bacteria, that live in our bodies and play an important role in human health.

The microbiome is shaped by genetics, diet, age and the people with whom we interact. And the mouth is a warm, moist hotbed for a bunch of this microbial activity. It’s home to more than 700 varieties of bacteria.

To explore the relationship between lip locking and bacterial exchange, researchers studied the kissing behavior of 21 couples who were visiting a zoo in Amsterdam.

Participants completed questionnaires about their kissing behavior. Then, researchers took swab samples to analyze the bacteria on people’s tongues and in their saliva.

Researchers also asked the couples to kiss in a controlled experiment to measure the transfer of bacteria. One member of the couple drank a probiotic beverage that contained health-promoting bacteria. Then, the couple shared an 10-second intimate kiss—with full tongue contact and saliva exchange. Researchers took multiple samples to see if certain bacteria from the drink transferred between the partners during the kiss.

The researchers compared the similarities of the samples between partners and between unrelated participants. They also studied the differences between a person’s own samples.

They found that while an intimate kiss can swap up to 80 million bacteria, kissing may not have that much of an effect on a couple’s shared microbes, unless they kiss intimately at least 9 times a day. And although the microbes on the tongue were more similar in couples than in unrelated participants, the researchers suggested that this similarity could be less related to kissing and result instead from living together, having the same diet or sharing personal-care habits.

What to make of mouthy microbes

So is the bacterial exchange in kissing a bad thing? Not necessarily, according to the American Academy of Microbiology. The human body has up to 3 times more bacterial cells than human cells, and they are essential for things like:

  • Digesting food.
  • Synthesizing nutrients.
  • Preventing disease.

Researchers are still investigating exactly what makes up a healthy microbiome. But these are some things to think about next time you share a smooch. To learn more, read the full study in the journal Microbiome.