Health Scan

Smith solutions for caregivers of people with dementia

Caregivers or family members of a senior living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia will be able to learn valuable solutions at two free support groups being held on Thursday, March 7, at Smith Crossing in Orland Park and Tuesday, March 12, at Smith Village in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood.

The hour-long meetings at the continuing care retirement communities both begin at 6:30 p.m. and are open to the public. Before the meetings end, light refreshments will be served.

On March 7, Smith Crossing at 10501 Emilie Lane in Orland Park (enter at 104th Avenue and 183rd Street) will hold a Q&A session led by social service director Amy Majcina and resident service director Katie Liston. The two said topics likely to come up include how to communicate with your loved one, what to do if they start "sundowning" and how to know if they are in pain. Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling 326-2300.

At the March 12 meeting at Smith Village, 2320 W. 113th Place in Chicago, social service director Tom Zarzycki will screen the movie "He is Doing This to Spite Me." The film is a journey of the paths taken by several caregivers and how they deal with their loved ones.

To reserve a seat, call (773)474-7300 or respond online at

The Kid's Doctor

By Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Don't panic amid flu frenzy

"Flu Frenzy" is rampant in Dallas, where I practice, and across the country. It's certainly been a very busy flu season and one that started earlier than usual in the southern part of the country. Texas has been hit especially hard. I started seeing flu cases in my office at the end of October.

That being said, if you look at statistics over the past few years, January and February are typically the peak months of flu season. These are usually the busiest months in our clinic, and this year it seems there's not a child who doesn't have a cough or cold, and many have a fever lasting a few days. Nevertheless, don't panic!

We've been lucky for several years with light flu outbreaks, so this year's tough flu season seems especially bad. Fortunately, the majority of children I'm seeing with flu symptoms are handling the virus very well (like many childhood viruses) and actually don't appear to be too sick.

Typically, the children I'm treating are running 2-4 days of fever, many running temperatures as high as 102 or 103 degrees, which is not unusual with the flu. They have coughs, congestion and scratchy throats. Older kids are also complaining of feeling "achy." But they are still drinking fluids, appear well hydrated, and when their temps come down with the help of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, they're able to play, watch movies, or even run around the waiting room. With a practice of 13 pediatricians, we've seen literally hundreds of kids with the flu (both types A and B) but haven't had to hospitalize any of them.

Parents should always watch their children for respiratory distress or prolonged fever, but most children may be treated symptomatically. Remember, fever is your friend, and higher temps don't necessarily mean a sicker child.

While 29 pediatric deaths have been reported to date, due to secondary complications from the flu (even one death is too many), the majority of people developing serious complications from the flu are elderly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that this winter "is shaping up to be a worse than average season and is especially bad for the elderly."

The best way to prevent the flu is to make sure any child over the age of 6 months gets a flu vaccine. With the early start of flu season, and the fact that many people are now heading out to get vaccinated, the vaccine given to children from 6 months and 2 years old has become harder to find. The live flu mist vaccine given to healthy children over 2 years old seems to be more readily available. Call your doctor to check on availability.

Historically, we still have 6 to 8 weeks of flu season to go, so if your child is not yet vaccinated, get busy! While it's not guaranteed to prevent the flu, it's definitely the best protection available.

( Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show. Submit questions at

Mayo Clinic

Take steps to help sharpen your memory as you age

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Is it true that there are things I can do to prevent memory loss as I age? I'm 48 and feel like my memory is very poor compared to just a few years ago.

ANSWER: Commonly, memory becomes less efficient as we age. Although there's no surefire way to prevent memory loss, you can take steps that may help. If memory loss begins to interfere with your day-to-day activities, though, or if changes in memory concern you, talk to your doctor.

As people get older, the number of cells, or neurons, in the brain decreases. That decrease can make it harder to learn new things or remember familiar words or names. You may have difficulty recalling names of acquaintances, for example, or trouble finding your reading glasses or car keys. Some people become concerned that those memory lapses could signal the beginning of Alzheimer's disease or dementia. That's rarely the case.

A number of lifestyle changes can often help sharpen your memory. First, stay active physically and mentally. Physical activity increases blood flow to your body, including your brain, and that can help your memory. So, take a brisk walk, or go biking, swimming or skiing. Do whatever you enjoy to stay active on a regular basis.

Physical activity helps keep your body in shape, and intellectual activity can do likewise for your brain. Reading, writing, attending movies or plays, playing games or discussing current events can be mentally engaging activities. Again, find the activities you like, and stick with them.

Second, stay or get involved in a social network. As you get older, avoid the tendency some people have to withdraw from others. Interact with your family and friends, civic organizations, a faith or other community. Being with others can help lower your risk of depression and reduce stress. Both may have a role in memory loss.

Third, eat a healthy diet. In general, a diet that keeps your heart healthy can do the same for your brain. Such a diet typically includes whole grains; lean meat, poultry and fish; and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Also, drink plenty of water and limit the amount of alcohol you drink, as dehydration and too much alcohol can both lead to confusion and possibly memory loss.

Fourth, stay organized. You can structure daily activities to decrease the likelihood that you will forget what you need to do or where something is located. Making lists, putting items away where they belong and getting rid of unneeded clutter can help. Finally, as much as possible, focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking may feel efficient but can become stressful and distracting. Neither is good for your memory.

If you try these lifestyle changes and memory still seems to be a significant problem, or if you're worried about recent memory changes, make an appointment to see your primary care doctor. The doctor can discuss your symptoms with you and review your family medical history and medications or dietary supplements you're taking. In some cases, memory loss can be a side effect of certain drugs. Your doctor may also talk with you about your stress level or any major life changes you've experienced.

Together, you and your doctor can sort through the issues that may be contributing to memory loss and decide on the best course of action. - Ronald C. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

( Medical Edge from Mayo Clinic is an educational resource and doesn't replace regular medical care. E-mail a question to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or write: Medical Edge from Mayo Clinic, c/o TMS, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y., 14207. For more information, visit 

The Wine Guy: Apples are good, even better soaked in wine

Best of The Wine Guy

The Wine Guy
with Anthony Scarano

There exists a beverage that is a food, medicine and antibiotic. It provides vitamins and minerals, is good for your heart, thins the blood and dilates blood vessels. It stimulates the flow of gastric juices and other necessary bodily secretions, regulates the bowels and helps maintain muscle tone.

What is it? Well, anyone who has been reading this article knows it is wine, a health tonic that very well may be the elixir of life or the fountain of youth. Drunk in moderation it is a body cleanser and blood purifier, and can help relieve constipation, sluggish liver, dropsy and dyspepsia.

Another unsuspecting food that has innumerable health benefits is the humble apple, which contains vitamins B1, B2 and C and is good for arthritis, rheumatism, gallstones and bad breath. They are also an excellent source of fiber. Eat them raw, skin and all, and chew them well to bring out the richest flavor and make the vitamins as assimilable as possible for the body. Apple juice provides many of the benefits mentioned above, but as a liquid contains no bulk and does not help regulate the bowels or eliminate bad breath the way the whole fruit does.

Eat an apple with your lunch every day - two is even better - and make sure your children do, too. When was the last time you ate an apple? Tsk, tsk. You can avoid taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs by eating this wonderful fruit, because these pills can't do what the apple can.

For a supremely tasty and healthy treat, skin and seed an apple, cube it, and let the pieces soak in a glass of wine. Sounds good, doesn't it? If you can't wait to try it, do it now! Why wait? Peaches, pears and berries of all kinds are also great soaked in wine.

Now that you have learned about the wonderful medicine you can find in the produce section at your local grocery store, are you promising to eat them every day for the rest of your life? It is your loss if you don't.

Anthony Scarano is not a doctor. He is an 88-year-old Evergreen Park resident, winemaker and certified naturopath. Suggestions in this space are solely the opinions of Mr. Scarano based on years of independent study and personal experience, and may not be beneficial to health. Wine should be consumed in moderation, as overindulgence maybe harmful to health.

Dee Woods: Take a closer look at 'smart' claims

By Dee Woods

Were police officers really handcuffing those women who would not allow their electric meters to be replaced with "smart meters?"

That's exactly what I saw.

It seems a group of residents of Naperville gathered volumes of data on the new electric meters that are scheduled to be installed in every village and city throughout the country. The federal government has appropriated billions of dollars to utilities to induce them to install the new meters, which emit what are known as RF waves. Utility companies claim the meters have been proven safe, but there is conflicting information from both medical and scientific sources.

The meters emit short-pulsed RF bursts around 9,600 times a day with a maximum of 190,000 daily transmissions. Opponents are concerned about the cumulative effect of the additional RF waves. They explain the waves can flood an entire room or home with RF radiation.

While some people claim there is an opt-out clause, a closer look shows the utility makes it very expensive for homeowners to opt out.

It's not as though these Naperville moms are looking for trouble. In fact, they have researched for quite some time and have their own excellent website with research posted.

I spent several days reading about the issue, but I have been reading bits and pieces for several years. What I found was that the meters have caused hundreds of fires. It appears there were no biological effect studies on the possible risks of the meters to living organisms.

The meters allow the electric company to measure every piece of equipment a resident is using, and there is a privacy factor involved because the meters can tell when resident are not home.

There are also additional measures and add-ons that will allow electricity usage to be controlled. What would this do to household equipment?

I have read the information posted by the utilities that claim the meters release fewer waves than cells phones, yet I've seen video of tests that show just the opposite.

In Toronto, after 10,000 of the "smart meters" were installed, it was discovered 80 percent of users had higher electric bills. I asked my own relatives who have had the smart meters installed on wooden posts away from their immediate homes, and they both informed me their bills increased after the installation.

What concerns me most are the additional RF waves. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine is asking for "immediate caution regarding smart meter installation." Doctors have expressed deteriorating conditions in some patients who seem to be more sensitive to the RF waves. Other hypersensitive patients are having sleep difficulties and are being awakened during the night, especially those people in houses where meters are outside the bedroom walls.

When you consider how we are all being bombarded daily with RF waves from so many sources, natural as well as television, microwave, computers, Wi-Fi, cell phones and other such meters, could yet another RF device be the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back?"

An additional concern I've read of is the susceptibility of the meters to be hacked. The problems associated with the "smart meters" is they are not secure and are susceptible to viral "worms." Entire regions could be susceptible.

So it seems there are privacy issues, health issues, security issues and expense issues as well as many unanswered questions. In the past, I've written about studies conducted in the U.S. and overseas that indicate cell phones, especially with usage among children, do present health hazards. In these cases, it is always up to the individual to use common sense and discretion, but in the case of the "smart meters" it would appear there is no choice.

There seem to be far too many questions about these meters and far little biological research before implementing them. I love technology, but when billions of taxpayer dollars are offered to utilities and so many questions are raised about fires and health issues, maybe we should take a closer look.

Dee Woods is available to give presentations about alternative health treatments and healthy living. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .