Trending News

 

Dr. Anna Goldenberg, senior scientist in genetics and genome biology at SickKids, poses at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning in Toronto.

CHRIS DONOVAN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Inside the pediatric intensive care unit at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, an infant recovering from open-heart surgery is barely visible through the forest of whizzing and beeping machines that monitor his every vital sign.

In the old days, those vital signs – a baby’s heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels and other signals – would have flashed across a screen and then been lost to posterity.

But in 2013, SickKids began collecting and storing the data that emanate from patients in their 42 intensive-care beds. The unit now has more than two trillion data points in its virtual vault, far more than a mere mortal could make sense of.

That’s where artificial intelligence, machine learning and Anna Goldenberg come in.

On Tuesday, SickKids will announce the appointment of Dr. Goldenberg as the hospital’s first chair in biomedical informatics and artificial intelligence, a post funded in part by a $1.75-million donation from Amar Varma, a Toronto engineer and entrepreneur whose newborn son underwent surgery at SickKids six years ago.

The hospital’s fundraising foundation will match the Varma family’s gift, bringing the total donation to $3.5-million.

Dr. Anna Goldenberg.

CHRIS DONOVAN

The endowed position, the first of its kind at a Canadian children’s hospital, will help Dr. Goldenberg and her colleagues to expand their AI research with an eye to saving and improving the lives of patients.

“I feel like right now as a computer scientist, as a researcher in machine learning and AI, I can actually make a big difference in health care,” Dr. Goldenberg said. “It will take time, but I think we are getting closer and closer to seeing it happen.”

Among the projects that Dr. Goldenberg is keen to accelerate is one that would use AI to help predict when and in what part of the body a malignancy will develop in patients with Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a rare hereditary disease that predisposes people to cancer.

Another is based in part on those two trillion data points collected inside the pediatric ICU.

Working with Peter Laussen, the hospital’s chief of critical care, Dr. Goldenberg and her team used the beat-to-beat data from past patients to develop a computer model that can predict up to 70 per cent of cardiac arrests five minutes before the heart stops beating.

Dr. Peter Laussen, chief of the critical care unit at SickKids, checks on newborn patient Mason who is recovering from two open heart surgeries, on Jan. 8 and 9, after being born in Nov. with a congenital heart defect.

SickKids is now preparing to test the early-warning system at the bedside, Dr. Laussen said during an interview inside the pediatric ICU, where between 40 and 50 different physiological signals an hour were streaming from an infant boy named Mason. Less than a week earlier, Mason had undergone two open-heart surgeries to correct a congenital heart defect.

If the model works as planned, doctors would be able to use the five minutes of lead time to change medications or make other interventions to prevent a cardiac arrest. In cases in which prevention is not possible, at least the medical team would have time to prepare.

“Instead of it being a sudden event and we’re rushing to the scene, we [will have] people there, ready, organized and responding,” Dr. Laussen said. “That response is critical.”

Dr. Peter Lausse.  CHRIS DONOVAN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

For Dr. Goldenberg, the new appointment is a cherry atop an already impressive résumé – one she began building when she arrived in Kentucky in 1995 as a 17-year-old Jewish refugee from the former Soviet Union.

Despite hailing from a family of successful scientists and engineers, she couldn’t avoid the anti-Semitism that was rampant in her hometown of Voronezh in southwestern Russia, near the border with Ukraine.

Each day as Dr. Goldenberg walked to school, “I had to pass by a building that said, ‘Jews get out of our city,’ ” she recalled in an interview Monday. “When I was smaller [other children] would dump my bag into the toilet just because of my last name.”

After completing an undergraduate degree at the University of Louisville, she moved on to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where she completed her master’s degree and PhD in data mining and machine learning.

Before her new appointment, Dr. Goldenberg was already a senior scientist in genetics and genome biology at the SickKids Research Institute, an associate professor in the department of computer science at the University of Toronto, and the associate research director for health at the Toronto-based Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence. She is only 40.

The promise of Dr. Goldenberg’s groundbreaking work is part of what inspired the donation from Mr. Varma, a University of Waterloo trained engineer and entrepreneur who co-founded Autonomic, a software platform for connecting self-driving cars to smart infrastructure that was bought out by Ford Motor Co. last year.

“I’m excited for Dr. Goldenberg because this is really her chance to showcase her ability to do a lot of this stuff,” Mr. Varma said. “We need people like her that are willing to dedicate their life to this craft.”

Woman bursts into tears after receiving new engagement ring from husband of 67 years

 
 
 

WATCH: The moment the grandmother opens the box and sees the ring is captured on video.

 A A

Patricia May Johnson, 85, is really proud of her new engagement ring. It was the last thing she was expecting but after everyone opened their Christmas presents, the surprise awaited her.

At a family gathering on Dec. 23, in DeKalb, Ill., everyone was watching and waiting anxiously as Patricia opened her perfectly wrapped present gifted to her from her husband Don Johnson of 67 years.

Inside was a diamond engagement ring.

When Patricia opened the box, she burst into tears. Family members around her were in awe as the couple leaned in for a peck on the lips.

“She showed everyone. She almost blinds you with it showing it off,” her daughter Diane Hawkins told Global News over the phone.

Last May, Patricia’s ring went missing in her nursing home after she had taken it off due to an injury, and placed it in a jewelry box on her dresser.

Patricia had fallen and injured her left hand. It became too swollen for her to keep her ring on.

 

The old wedding ring that went missing after Patricia took it off because of an injury.

The old wedding ring that went missing after Patricia took it off because of an injury.

Diane Hawkins

“Dad asked me to take him shopping to buy Mom a new engagement ring and wedding band,” Hawkins added

The new wedding ring Don picked out for his wife of 67 years.

Diane Hawkins

But getting the new ring wasn’t an easy feat, says the couple’s daughter.

“We had to lie to get him out of the nursing home. We said Dad had a speech appointment,” Hawkins said. Her father has Parkinson’s disease, so it’s difficult for him to talk and move, she added.

Hawkins says Patricia wanted to join them since her parents are inseparable, but she insisted they go alone. Secretly, they went to the jewelry store and picked out the “perfect ring.”

“They are always holding hands. It’s adorable.”

Hawkins says she’s grateful for her parents’ lasting relationship but it didn’t come without hardship. Don originally proposed to Patricia in 1951 when he was going into the National Guard.

They organized a small wedding quickly before they moved to California. Then they moved back to Illinois where they started farming. They raised seven children. During the teen years, it was especially difficult, Hawkins admitted.

“The marriage was not without fights. It was your pretty normal marriage but I think it’s their love that just pulled them back together, always. Even if they are mad at each other, it’s not over a long period of time,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins says her mother’s advice is to never go to bed mad. And her father’s advice is to always do the right thing, no matter what it costs you.

Patricia now wears her ring proud and Hawkins says her mother is overjoyed.

 

Fibre does more than keep you regular, it can help protect against chronic disease

 
 
 

WATCH: The health benefits of high fibre foods

 A A

Fibre is good for you — and not just for your digestion.

Eating more fibre can lower your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and is associated with a reduction in certain kinds of cancer, according to a new review of studies on the subject.

The paper, commissioned by the World Health Organization and published in the Lancet on Thursday, reviewed 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials that examined the relationship between total fibre intake and disease risk. It found that in randomized trials, higher fibre intake reduced body weight and lowered cholesterol.

The people who ate the most fibre had a 15 to 30 per cent decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular-related mortality, less heart disease and deaths from heart disease, and fewer instances of stroke, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. While these studies relied on self-reporting of nutrition intake, which can be unreliable, the review’s authors are confident in the results — which are consistent with previous research.

“Our findings provide convincing evidence for nutrition guidelines to focus on increasing dietary fibre and on replacing refined grains with whole grains. This reduces incidence risk and mortality from a broad range of important diseases,” said study co-author Jim Mann of the University of Otago in New Zealand.

According to the study, adults should be eating at least 25-29 grams of fibre every day. Unfortunately, the paper’s authors write, most people globally eat less than 20 grams per day. The more fibre people consumed, the better the health outcomes in general, the authors found.

WATCH: Most Canadians not getting enough fibre

“Canadians, the majority, we don’t get enough fibre in general,” said Lillian Yin, a registered dietitian and certified bariatric educator in Abbotsford, B.C.

Fibre is an indigestible material found in plants, said Yin. “Because we don’t digest it, fibre will keep us full for longer, give us more satiety, and it also helps with managing blood sugars and in weight management.”

Soluble fibre, which is a bit “gummier” and is found in things like oats and beans, can help to reduce cholesterol. Insoluble fibre, like the strings found in celery, helps with regularity and protects against colon cancer, so it’s a good idea to have both in your diet, she said.

If you’re thinking about adding more fibre to your diet, Yin advises going slowly. “It’s a little more tolerable for the gut as well and gives it time to adapt to the increased fibre intake.” Drinking lots of water will help too, she said.

When it comes to finding high-fibre foods, she suggests trying a variety of different things to see what you enjoy. “Higher-fibre foods tend to be more of an acquired taste,” she said. “Over time, the industry has produced lots of refined products which are richer in flavour, it’s less gritty, the texture is a little bit different and people get used to that.”

You will develop a taste for fibre, though, she said.

“You’re going to get used to it. And then it’s hard to go back.”

Some high-fibre foods include whole grains like brown or wild rice and whole grain bread. Yin suggests looking for breads that have at least three grams of fibre per slice.

“Having half your plate being vegetables whenever you can, that adds some extra fibre there,” she said, adding that legumes, nuts and seeds are also good sources of fibre.

Fibre can also come from a supplement, which might be useful for some individuals, Yin said. “I would always start with food first because the food doesn’t have an isolated nutrient. It’s also filled with lots of vitamins and minerals and other nutritious food components that might interact with each other in ways that we don’t know yet.”

Some supplements, she added, can also contain sugar or flavourings, meaning that people with diabetes might not want to use them. And psyllium husks from the bulk food section might be cheaper than packaged fibre supplements.

If you have specific questions or concerns about introducing more fibre into your diet, Yin recommends consulting a medical professional.

 

Sharing is caring: Santa pours ‘milk’ down boy’s feeding tube in photo

 
 

WATCH ABOVE: Photo of Santa pouring milk down boy’s feeding tube goes viral

 A A

An Indiana mother hopes a viral image of Santa Claus pouring formula down her son’s feeding tube will raise awareness to kids with disabilities and their needs.

Beth Salzbrenner posted a photo Dec. 9 of her son, Austin Maners, on social media. The image featured a mall Santa sharing a cookie and pouring formula — from a milk bottle — down the boy’s feeding tube.

“Austin thought he was cool stuff sitting in Santa’s chair,” Salzbrenner said in a post. “This santa deserves to be recognized for his willingness to tube feed my little guy so that he felt included in sharing cookies with santa!”

The four-year-old boy has struggled with a feeding tube since he was nine months old, according to his mother. Austin has also been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder — a high-functioning form of autism.

Austin began eating orally again in September and his mother wanted “a memorial picture” to mark the big step forward. Salzbrenner told WANE that she got the image idea from a Facebook page she follows but struggled to find a Santa who could accommodate.

WATCH BELOW: Feeding tube gone, autistic boy reunites with mall Santa

Enter Bob Gudorf to save the day. Gudorf, or “Santa Bob,” appears as Santa Claus at the Glenbrook Square Mall in Fort Wayne. Austin’s mother said he was nervous and shaking for the photo.

“My first thought was ‘why not?’ I didn’t know what I was getting into, but why not, I’ll try anything,” Santa Bob said.

“It all worked out and I was just very pleased. The smile on his face, there again, just made my day.”

At this writing the photo had been shared more than 63,000 times, earning some 9,000 comments.

 

A 4-year-old autistic Indiana boy has become famous thanks to a mall Santa and a special moment involving a feeding tube.

A 4-year-old autistic Indiana boy has become famous thanks to a mall Santa and a special moment involving a feeding tube.

Iconic Group Inc via Storyful

“People are learning and seeing that there’s all different kinds of disabilities, and that kids can be treated normal even if they have a disability,” explained Salzbrenner.

Santa Bob and Austin have since reunited for a great, big hug and another smile from the jolly man.

“It’s part of Santa’s job to spread cheer wherever he can, and if there’s an opportunity, you gotta do it,” Santa Bob said.

Retiring McDonald’s employee, 50, blazed a path for others with Down syndrome

Russell O’GradyRussell O’Grady, a trailblazing McDonald’s employee with Down syndrome is retiring after 32 years of working in one fast-foot restaurant in Australia and becoming a local icon. (Wynn Visser/Jobsupport)

Published Wednesday, December 19, 2018 8:45AM EST 

In his 32-year-career, Russell O’Grady has become a local icon and delighted customers with his “cheery grin” at a McDonald’s restaurant in Sydney, Australia.

O’Grady, 50, was born with Down syndrome and has been working with the fast-food chain since 1986 —unwittingly becoming a trailblazer for people with intellectual disabilities with his long tenure.

Next to Ronald McDonald, he’s become one of the most iconic people at the restaurant in west Sydney. A colleague wrote in an email that he’s become a “bit of an icon locally.”

“Russell’s impact on people in his community is without doubt exceptional,” said Wynn Visser, assistant manager of Jobsupport, a program which helps find paid employment for people with intellectual disabilities.

“Everybody knows him and they really love him because he always stops to shake hands and say ‘Hi’ to everyone he knows.”

O’Grady’s decision to turn in his uniform is due in large part to health reasons that come with his age.

“As his family, our objective is to find him new activities to keep him both healthy and active in his community,” she said, adding he’ll now spend more time having dog therapy; and socializing with friends at the gym, bowling alley and local retirement home.

She said plenty of customers will miss O’Grady as many would regularly go into the restaurant just to see him.

“He has only told me he will miss seeing his friends at work (who are mainly young girls who make a fuss of him), his boss and all the people who call in to see him,” Visser said, speaking on behalf of O’Grady and his family.

When he was 18 years old, O’Grady became one of the first people to have access to Jobsupport program which helped shape his role and provided him vocational training.

“Russell’s tenure is truly remarkable,” Visser said, adding that the program partners with 75 McDonald’s restaurants in the country. On average, their clients with moderate intellectual disabilities work in the fast-food chain for nine years.

His long-standing time there hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2012, O’Grady was profiled on YouTube by Disability Employment Australia, an organization which represents the disability employment sector throughout the country.

Since then, he’s worked a variety of different tasks including cleaning and clearing trays, sweeping the floors, greeting customers, serving up orders and packaging party boxes.

100-year-old Ontario woman says one of keys to a long life is partying

 

WATCH: ‘I like to party’: Life lessons from a 100-year-old

 A A

Jamiran Ali isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Ali or “Ma” turned 100 on Tuesday, and is already thinking about hitting the dance floor on the weekend, one of her favourite pastimes. She is known for her dance moves, often to Bollywood music.

The Mississauga, Ont., woman is celebrating a century on Saturday, a milestone she has patiently been waiting for.

“I was waiting for this 100 all this time,” she told Global News.

“I said if I was going to make it, I would like to make 100… none of my family [members] made it to 100.”

Ali has 10 children, 30 grandchildren, 41 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren. Her husband died of a heart attack in 1992 and her son Jay died from a respiratory infection at the age of 45 five years later. Ali had lived with her son until he passed away.

Jamiran Ali in 1951. Photo provided by the Ali family.

Ma’s love for fitness

Ali’s life is nothing short from remarkable. Born in 1918 in Trinidad and Tobago, she immigrated to Canada in 1972 at the age of 46. Three years after settling in Ontario, she quickly became interested in fitness. She got her first job at a gym in 1975 in Toronto as a locker room attendant.

She monitored lockers, assisted people with towels and cleaned. During her downtime or in the mornings, she would go and use the gym’s equipment and started working out regularly for 18 years.

Ali told Global News at one point, she did 100 sit-ups in the morning — every single day.

“I would advise anybody to do that… it keeps you more firm and everything.”

Her passion for the gym trickled down at home. Ali used to keep aerobic steps and weights next to the TV and made sure she always fit a workout in.

In 2000, things changed for Ali. It had been years since the death of her son and husband, and Ali decided to venture out of the family home and move into a condo in Mississauga, a suburb outside of Toronto.

Ali was on her own. She cooked her own meals, sewed in her downtime and does most of her housework. This summer, she sewed herself a floral outfit, because she noticed floral was a popular print and even at 100, she manages all of her own medication and banking.


 Ali in September 2018. Photo provided by the Ali family.

She also loves to walk.

In the summers, Ali walks through four lanes of traffic to go to the mall to go shopping. During winter, she walks laps in the hallway at her condo four times.

Keys to longevity

There have been other stories of people sharing their secrets to living to 100, often around drinking wine or something more random like eating three chips per day.

But for Ali, her secrets are more simple. It’s about eating vegetables, fitting in a form of exercise and staying surrounded by loved ones. She still makes sure she gets enough sleep every night.

“I read and watch a little TV and around 11 to 12, I go to bed,” she explained. “Sleeping late is OK but I get up late in the morning.”

And besides dancing, she says partying in general keeps her going.


Ali, her daughter, her granddaughter and a great-granddaughter holding her great-great-granddaughter. Photo provided by the Ali family.

She has become somewhat of a neighbourhood celebrity at her condo, and family, friends, a social worker and even neighbours regularly check in on her. Despite living alone, she doesn’t feel isolated.

“When you are happy, you never feel alone.”

And when it comes to fully embracing 100, Ali says she is not ready just yet.

“I feel young — I don’t feel old at all.”

Retirement home residents furious over plan to build crematorium next door

 
 

Residents of a retirement home in Brisbane, Australia, are furious over city council’s plan to build a crematorium just metres from their residence.

According to Australia’s 9News, residents of Palm Lake Resort, an age care facility, are urging the city to nix the planned furnace, saying they don’t want to be reminded of the inevitable.

“I don’t want to think if my neighbour dies that I’m watching her being burnt across the road,” resident Diane Cordaro told the news outlet. “I know we have to have it, I realize that, but not in a built up area, take it away.”

If approved, the crematorium will be built just 30 metres away from where the retirement village is building a second phase, which in includes a nursing home.

“We all know we are going to go at some time or other but we don’t want to be reminded on a daily basis every time we go shopping and go past the furnace,” Ron Wells said.

Wells joined the chorus of residents who say the location is insensitive.

“Disgusting, absolutely disgusting,” resident Chris Dillon told 9News.

According to the proposal, the two-storey crematorium would be open five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will host a caretaker on the second floor, 9News reported.

The residents are also concerned over the history of the company that plans to operate the crematorium after the funeral director pleaded guilty in 2012 to falsifying documents about where bodies were cremated.

According to 9News, Anthony William James admitted to driving nearly 60 bodies, four at a time, seven hours from Brisbane to Rockhampton because it was cheaper to cremate his clients there.

Mental health help line sees 20 per cent jump in calls this year

CMHA Waterloo Wellington says 5,500 people called help line every month since May

 

CMHA W-W’s service line has been receiving around 5,500 calls a month since May, up from 4,500 calls earlier in the year. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

 

Calls for mental health and addiction supports have increased by 20 per cent in over the past year, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington.

The organization says since May, it has been receiving about 5,500 calls each month to its Here 24/7 service line. That’s up from 4,500 calls earlier in the year. 

“At first, we thought maybe it was just a spike,” said Brook Young, senior director of services. “But it’s been fairly consistent for the last few months.”

She told CBC News it’s hard to say why the number of calls has increased, but thinks it may have to do with the number of people struggling with opioid addiction and with the attention media has been giving addiction and mental health. 

“Our challenge on the other end, though, is how do we continue to meet the demand,” she said. 

Although Here 24/7 staff are managing to answer the calls coming in — with only a five second wait according to a CMHA press release — the high volume of calls is creating long waiting lists for services.

In Waterloo region and Wellington County, there are around 3,000 people waiting for mental health or addiction services funded by the Local Health Integration Network. 

Young says those individuals are waiting for everything from individual counselling to a psychiatric assessment to longer-term residential addiction treatment. 

Need an increase in funding

Depending on where they live and what services they are waiting for, their wait could be as short as a week to as long as multiple years. 

“Our service providers are working as hard and as fast as they can, but it’s hard to keep up,” Young said. 

Although they are seeing an increase in need, she said they haven’t seen a significant increase in government funding to meet that need.

“We’re talking with our funders daily,” she said. “We’re looking towards innovative partnerships, talking with local corporations about how might we do something differently to make sure folks are connected. I think it’s going to be an ongoing challenge in the province of Ontario, for sure.”

At a time when the provincial government is showing signs of fiscal restraint, she said agencies are “all waiting and seeing what that looks like for us.”

The Here 24/7 service line can be reached by calling 1-844-HERE-247.

He started as a tiny preemie at Sick Kids. He beat the odds and now he’s back at the hospital — as a doctor in training

First, as an infant, struggling to survive in the hospital’s NICU after being born 16 weeks too early and on the threshold of life.

Adam Shehata, 36, is a third-year medical student who came late to the field but says it’s a long-held dream to be a pediatric surgeon.
Adam Shehata, 36, is a third-year medical student who came late to the field but says it’s a long-held dream to be a pediatric surgeon.  (RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR)

Then, as a child, during weekly visits for his many follow-up appointments.

And later, as an adult, Shehata found himself back at Sick Kids for an unexpected visit, during which he and his wife learned their longed-for first pregnancy would have a devastating end.

But this week, Shehata entered the hospital, not as a patient or a parent, but as a doctor-in-training, a step toward fulfilling his long-held dream of becoming a pediatric surgeon at the renowned hospital.

“I’m fortunate for so many reasons, and much of it has to do with the care I received at Sick Kids,” Shehata says. “And now it’s a really nice feeling to know I can start to give back.”

Shehata, a third-year medical student at the University of Toronto, started his six-week pediatrics rotation at Sick Kids on Monday, Nov. 26.

That morning, during his subway commute to the hospital, Shehata found himself reflecting on what it meant to go back to the place that once saved his life. This time, and against the odds, he would be the one helping children.

Shehata hadn’t planned on making his thoughts public. But once he saw the big, illuminated Sick Kids sign towering above the main entrance, Shehata snapped a photo of the building’s facade and posted it on Twitter, along with several tweets briefly outlining his health journey.

His Twitter thread, which includes the following statement — “We can never truly know the impact we will have on other people’s lives” — has since been ‘liked’ more than 2,000 times and has generated dozens of comments. This is a lot of online attention for Shehata, who has roughly 350 Twitter followers.

“I think it’s the kind of story that people are longing for,” he says. “People are always rooting for the underdog. And though I don’t see myself in that position now, I certainly was an underdog when I was a baby, born at 24 weeks, with such long odds for survival.”

At 36, Shehata is a bit late to medical school; many of his classmates are in their early 20s.

But Shehata, who applied five times to med school before being accepted by the University of Toronto in the spring of 2015, knows he brings a host of skills.

Shehata is a professional pilot with a university degree in aviation business management. He also has a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.

While in his 20s, Shehata focused on his passion for aviation, earning his Class I Flight Instructor rating, which allowed him to teach commercial pilots how to fly, and then acquiring his airline transport pilot licence, which is needed to captain large commercial airliners.

Adam Shehata, 2 months old, in an incubator at Sick Kids. The Polaroid photo was taken Aug. 7, 1982.
Adam Shehata, 2 months old, in an incubator at Sick Kids. The Polaroid photo was taken Aug. 7, 1982.  (SUPPLIED)

But in 2010, at age 28, Shehata decided to become a doctor after a lifechanging experience that took place with his wife, Christina.

The pair, who had married the previous year, had been referred to Sick Kids after learning their unborn baby — their first pregnancy — had a severe heart defect. Shattered by the news, the couple were comforted by a pediatric cardiologist, who spent two hours helping them understand what it meant for a baby to have such a condition.

“We ended up losing that pregnancy,” Shehata says. “But that conversation with that physician inspired me to consider a career in medicine. He didn’t make the situation medically better for us, but the time he took and the way he explained things to us and his kindness … I knew I could be that person someday.”

Within months of their loss, Shehata was acquiring the high school and university credits needed to get into medical school. But despite top grades and his extensive aviation experience, Shehata didn’t make the cut at various schools.

Shehata then turned his attention to the law, another profession he believed had the power to change people’s lives.

He excelled in his studies at Osgoode Hall and was called to the bar in 2016. But still, he could not let go of his dream of being a doctor.

Shehata applied one last time to medical school. The same month that he was offered a job in aviation law at a downtown Toronto firm, he was admitted to the U of T’s faculty of medicine.

Three years later, and starting his pediatrics rotation at Sick Kids, Shehata knows he’s on the right path.

Shehata’s mother, Mona ElSayeh, is proud of her son and remains in awe of his success given the grim outlook at birth.

ElSayeh, who is executive director of a small Toronto charity called Access Community Capital Fund, recalls her and her husband’s fear in the moments after Shehata’s birth on June 7, 1982. Her son, born at 24 weeks and weighing just 660 grams (one pound, seven ounces) was unbelievably tiny and frail, his skin nearly translucent.

Doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital rushed the baby to Sick Kids, where doctors in the neonatal intensive care unit did everything they could to save his life.

Shehata, who initially relied on a ventilator to help him breathe, spent more than 120 days in hospital, and faced multiple health crises, including one remedied by a lifesaving blood transfusion.

Each day of his stay, ElSayeh or her husband made the hour-long trek from their home in Pickering to visit their son.

ElSayeh, who was heartbroken every time she had to say goodbye to Shehata, sleeping in his incubator, believes the constant care from the NICU staff has helped her son thrive — not just as a baby but throughout his life.

“Even though I was there every day, I couldn’t be with him 24/7. But I knew the nurses would take him out and cuddle him and treat him like any baby wants to be treated. I think that went a really long way in his development.”

After four months, Shehata went home on Thanksgiving weekend with his parents and older brother, Kareem.

Through much of Shehata’s childhood, ElSayeh continued to take her son to Sick Kids for weekly appointments with specialists to monitor his hearing, eyesight and growth and development. Doctors warned ElSayeh that Shehata would likely have physical disabilities and serious developmental delays due to his prematurity.

But though he needed extra help for some tasks, especially with his fine motor development, and did have to repeat third grade, Shehata surpassed everyone’s expectations.

ElSayeh says she knows he will make a good doctor, just as he is already a good son, husband and father. Shehata and Christina have a 7-year-old daughter, Amelia, who ElSayeh calls “the apple of my eye.”

After his first week of training at Sick Kids, Shehata is even more sure of his dream of being a pediatric surgeon at the hospital that once saved his life.

He knows it is a longshot. Once he completes medical school, Shehata faces at least seven more years of training and stiff competition for the handful of pediatric surgery spots in Canada.

But he also knows that he has beaten the odds once before at Sick Kids. And that he’ll be helped by his personal experience — as a patient and then as a parent at the hospital — coupled with his technical skills honed while a pilot and a lawyer.

It’s time, he says, for him to start paying forward all the kindness and care he has received in his life. And he wants to start at Sick Kids

Cannabis-savvy nurses help Canadians explore medical marijuana


Published Saturday, November 17, 2018 6:31PM EST
Updated Saturday, November 17, 2018 10:19PM EST

Gordon Bennett, 96, has been using cannabis oil to treat his arthritis pain. (CTV News)Gordon Bennett, 96, has been using cannabis oil to treat his arthritis pain. (CTV News)


Following the legalization of recreational marijuana, a growing number of Canadians are looking to experiment with cannabis for its medicinal properties. But with some doctors unwilling to prescribe the once-illicit drug, many patients are seeking clarity in the hazy world of weed by turning to nurses.

Like thousands of other Canadians, Gordon Bennett was prescribed opioids to ease his arthritis pain. But the problem, the 96-year-old says, was that they just didn’t work.

“I could hardly get out of bed,” Bennett told CTV News from his Ottawa home. “It was hell… I had pain in my back, I had pain in my neck, I had pain in my legs — every part of my body suffered.”

Wanting to see if medical cannabis could be more effective, Bennett hired registered nurse Susan Hagar of Nurse on Board — a group that bills itself as a “nurse-led health care navigation and patient advocacy service” — to help him find the right strain and dose.

“I thought it may have been possibly addictive, but I had the courage to go through it and I found that it was not in the least bit addictive,” Bennett, who is currently using cannabis oil, stated.

Having previously resided in a nursing home, Bennett has now regained much of his independence.

“I’m living again,” he said. “Right now, I am looking after myself in a big home, I have no trouble getting around, my walking has improved and I have no pain whatsoever.”

Cannabis has been legal for medical use in Canada since 2001. And while Health Canada warns of the negative side effects of smoking marijuana, patients have reportedly successfully used products like cannabis oils, edibles and vaporizers to treat everything from arthritis to anxiety to epilepsy.

But some doctors are still uncomfortable with medical marijuana and its limited scientific backing. That’s why nurses like Hagar are increasingly taking time to learn about how marijuana works to help guide cannabis-curious patients like Bennett.

“Nurses are on the frontline with cannabis these days because we are situated closest to the patients… We have that little bit of extra time to spend with them, to help them,” Hagar told CTV News from Ottawa.

“It is my sincere hope that cannabis and the use of cannabis becomes normalized, that we sort of get over the hangover that I believe people have from the past.”

Replacing opioids with cannabis

Anita Rosenfeld of Ottawa also hired Hagar to help her get off opioids and treat the “unbearable” pain she experiences from arthritis and spinal compression fractures caused by osteoporosis.

“The pain was excruciating to the point where I was in bed crying all day long,” the 59-year-old told CTV News. “Basically, I did nothing. I was housebound… It was totally encompassing and I had discussed medically-assisted death.”

With the help of Hagar, Rosenfeld — who had never dabbled with marijuana before — was eventually turned on to cannabis oil.

“As I started to take it in the proper fashion and up to the appropriate level, then I just started getting better and better and better,” Rosenfeld said.

“I’ve done more in the last two weeks than I probably did in two years. I have a fuller schedule. I have a life. I have happiness. I have joy… I am able to enjoy my life I am able to contribute in a way that I haven’t been able to for five years.”

Nurses are also behind a new online service called O Cannabis, where nurse practitioners can authorize medical cannabis use and offer patients ongoing guidance and support via video link or telephone from the comfort of their homes.

Morgan Toombs, who serves as the company’s CEO, says they have already helped nearly 10,000 Canadians.

“The feedback that we’ve been getting is just extraordinary,” Toombs told CTV News from O Cannabis’ Oakville, Ont. headquarters

“This is really why we all do the work that we do. People are getting better with medical cannabis and it’s so rewarding to hear their stories. It’s incredible!”

Finding the right product

Nurses like Hagar and Toombs insist their forays into the field of medical marijuana are by no means a bid to replace physicians, but a way to fill a gap created by a new medical tool and serve the patients who want to try it.

“Patients who have tried everything, and they’ve had a really hard time finding the right medicine for them, will have often approached their doctors and are not able to get access,” Toombs claimed. “Many physicians are uncomfortable prescribing medical cannabis and so they’ll come to a clinic like ours and they’ll get the care and the help that they need.”

What’s more, Toombs added, is that nurses can take the time to help patients sort through the myriad cannabis products to find one that works best for them.

“With medical cannabis, there is a lot of follow-up care that’s required for a patient to find their right dose, to find the right products for them,” Toombs added. “And so we all know how busy doctors are… We can help take the load off the physicians.”

Man with short-term memory loss uses notebooks to help him remember

Chen Hong-zhi’s notebooks are his life.

Nine years ago, Chen seriously damaged his hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with forming memories, in a traffic accident.

The 26-year-old has lost the ability to make and retain short-term memories. Instead, he painstakingly records his days in lined notebooks, crammed with entries in blue ink.

“I use the notebook to remember who I helped today, how much farm work I did, whether there was rain … the notebook is my memory,” said Chen, who lives with his stepmother, Wang Miao-cyong, 65, in a remote village in Hsinchu County, northwestern Taiwan.

“I once lost one of my notebooks. I was so sad that I was crying and asked my dad to help me find it.”

Since his father died four years ago, Chen and his stepmother have lived on a government disability allowance and a small income they get from farming fruit and vegetables, which they barter with neighbors, some of whom call Chen “notebook boy.”

A notebook of 26-year-old Chen Hong-zhi, who suffers from short-term memory loss, shows his daily notes at his home in Hsinchu, Taiwan, July 31, 2018.

A notebook of 26-year-old Chen Hong-zhi, who suffers from short-term memory loss, shows his daily notes at his home in Hsinchu, Taiwan, July 31, 2018.

Dr Lin Ming-teng, head of the psychiatry department at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, said Chen has made remarkable progress despite his extensive brain damage.

“From the X-ray, we can see a large part of his brain in black – these are the sections that were operated on after the traffic accident,” Lin said.

“After losing such a substantial portion of his brain, it is quite amazing for him to achieve what he is doing now,” Lin said, adding that Chen could only remember things he had done in the last five to 10 minutes.

Lin said the damage had also affected Chen’s ability to receive and process information.

“This has an effect on his relationship with his mother, too, as sometimes his mother cannot get over the fact that he forgets things,” Lin said.

 

Chen Hong-zhi, 26, who suffers from short-term memory loss, quarrels with his stepmother Wang Miao-cyong, 65, while writing his notes at his home in Hsinchu, Taiwan, August 17, 2018.

Chen Hong-zhi, 26, who suffers from short-term memory loss, quarrels with his stepmother Wang Miao-cyong, 65, while writing his notes at his home in Hsinchu, Taiwan, August 17, 2018.

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Wang longs to go back to her hometown in Indonesia, but she feels she cannot leave Chen alone.

“If I leave, who will take care of my son? I can’t imagine his future after I die.”

For now, Chen’s notebooks allow him to preserve some semblance of order in his life.

“October 26 go to Beipu alone, Chen clan organization, go find phone, go Catholic church, Citian Temple, 10:38 ZZZ,” reads one poignant note about a day he spent searching for, and praying to find, his lost mobile phone.

Ten days later, he found his phone, documenting the find in his notebook, of course.

 

Unfortunately, misperceptions about UTIs among the elderly are pervasive across health care. A positive urine culture is often equated with the presence of a UTI but the truth is that a positive urine culture is an expected finding among the elderly and does not necessarily mean an infection.

If you were to randomly test all seniors, up to half would test positive for bacteria in the urine — regardless of whether they felt sick or had any symptoms.
If you were to randomly test all seniors, up to half would test positive for bacteria in the urine — regardless of whether they felt sick or had any symptoms.  (LISA F. YOUNG / DREAMSTIME.COM)

If you were to randomly test all seniors, up to half would test positive for bacteria in the urine — regardless of whether they felt sick or had any symptoms.

More importantly, not all positive urine cultures are bad. New and emerging research suggests that bacteria in the urine can be protective against developing urinary infection by competing with other bacteria for nutrients (https://academic.oup.com/cid/article-abstract/65/10/1745/3978076?redirectedFrom=fulltext). Treating these good bacteria can even increase the chance of developing an actual UTI with all the usual painful and uncomfortable urinary symptoms (https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/55/6/771/345001).

But this new research has yet to reach all health-care providers. Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat the positive urine cultures of elderly patients even though they lack specific symptoms of a UTI. It’s an easy go-to diagnosis even when the problem may be more complex.

As a physician who cares for elderly patients, diagnosing seniors is anything but simple because of their multiple symptoms, health problems and medications. It’s even possible that last time they received an antibiotic for something similar, they got better. While these events can lead us to infer that the antibiotics were effective, more often than not, the illness would have run its course regardless.

Take the symptom of confusion among elderly patients. This is more likely to be related to dehydration, constipation, side effects of medications or other infections, rather than a UTI (https://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/BrowseByTopic/IPAC/Documents/UTI_Delirium_Mental_Status.pdf). A lot of health-care providers appreciate this, but once patients have a positive urine culture they find it hard to understand why they should not treat the bacteria found in the urine with antibiotics.

Many family members think the same way: what’s the downside of treating for possible UTI, just in case? Isn’t it better to be “safe” and give a course of antibiotics?

The reality is that antibiotics have their own set of complications. In my practice as an infectious disease physician, I see patients who develop severe allergic reactions or antibiotic-related diarrhea, both of which can be fatal in older adults. These outcomes are tragic, especially when the patients never needed the antibiotic to begin with.

Another harm: not only do antibiotics kill good bacteria that might protect against infection, they also select for the bad ones that are more difficult to treat. In my practice, when an infection arises in a patient who has already received frequent antibiotic courses, treatment options can be quite limited. Think of antibiotics like a game of cards where the goal is to keep some options in your hand for when you need to play them. This strategy is important for all of us to keep in mind when we decide whether or not antibiotics are the answer.

 

Canadian seniors less satisfied with quality of health care in international surveySeniors may face challenge accessing specialists, a new report suggests.

 

About 33 per cent of Canadian seniors live with at least three chronic conditions, a new report suggests.(Pixabay)

Nearly 33 per cent of Canadian seniors said they were dissatisfied with the quality of the health care they received, compared with an average of 24 per cent in many other countries, according to a new report. 

The Canadian Institute for Health Information‘s analysis released Thursday is based on results from the Commonwealth Fund’s 2016 survey of adults in 11 countries.

“Seniors depend on their primary health care provider a fair amount to help them coordinate care between the specialists and the hospital and home and they’re pretty satisfied with their primary healthcare providers and less satisfied with the healthcare system as a whole,” Tracy Johnson, director of health system analysis and emerging issues with CIHI in Toronto, said in an interview. “That may have to do with some of the access challenges that they face.” 

One of the biggest challenges was having medical results available when seniors get to their appointment. Another, Johnson said, was hearing conflicting or different information from health-care providers. 

As people are living longer, they may develop more chronic diseases. Yet the health-care system is still designed to deal with acute problems such as appendicitis or a broken bone that needs to be treated in hospital, said George Heckman, a professor at the University of Waterloo and a geriatrician who focuses on aging and cardiovascular disease.Heckman said. He was not involved in CIHI’s report.

In Canada, the health-care system has had trouble adapting to meet the needs of seniors with chronic conditions, Heckman said.

“The problem with chronic conditions is that you know they’re going to flare at some point. The flares usually happen over weeks. There’s an opportunity to identify a flare before it get bad enough and you have to end up in the hospital,” Heckman said. “That’s where the care coordination issues that have been highlighted in this report become more important.”

For instance, Heckman pointed to how a home care provider may notice a patient has breathing problems, but there’s no way to share that information with the primary care provider.

What’s more, health-care providers aren’t all using the same language. In contrast, Heckman pointed to Belgium, where home care providers do use the same terminology as other health-care providers, say for cognitive test results. All of them are able to update a patient’s electronic health record.

He said another potential solution is to embed specialists in family health teams with physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists to care for the most complicated patients. His research suggests that it improves how all the providers manage chronic illness, rather than the current model of sending faxes to specialists who book an appointment three months later.

But funding health-care providers separately makes it harder to shift money around to promote more integrated approaches, Heckman said.

The report includes good news about seniors living longer, accessing primary care such as family doctors, and having better self-perceived health than seniors in other countries, Heckman said.

 

Having more park benches encourages seniors to get outside. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The report’s authors looked at four areas of satisfaction with care:

  • Access to specialists.
  • Mental health.
  • Home care.
  • End-of-life planning.

Generally, Canadians reported better experiences with their primary health care provider than the international average, such as for their regular doctor knowing their medical history, involving them in medical decisions, spending enough time with them and encouraging them to ask questions.

Only 65 per cent have a health care professional they can easily contact to ask a question between doctor visits, the report’s authors said.

 

There’s an opportunity to identify a flare in a chronic condition before it gets bad enough to land someone in hospital, a geriatrician says. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

The fact that only two in 10 of those who care for seniors received government help is telling since home care is consistently touted as the solution to expensive health provision, said Stephen Katz, a sociologist at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. Katz studies aging and gerontology. 

Seniors’ safety outdoors

In an email, Katz said CIHI restricted its look at healthy lifestyle to diet, exercise and a sense of choice, without asking about access to safe environments or age-friendly transportation.

Heckman suggested that cities and communities design more age-friendly places to help seniors who have trouble walking distances. For example, if parks lack benches and aren’t well lit then seniors will stay inside instead of getting exercise and socializing with others.  

The CIHI authors also found: 

  • A third live with at least three chronic conditions.
  • 32 per cent take five or more regular medications.
  • 14 per cent face a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety.

The 11 participating countries were Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In Canada, the phone surveys were conducted by land line from March to May 2017 by Social Science Research Solutions. There were 4,549 respondents aged 65 and older. Due to small sample sizes, the territories were not included in the provincial results.

The Commonwealth Fund describes itself as a private U.S. foundation that aims to promote a high-functioning health-care system. CIHI is an independent, non-profit organization that provides information on Canadians’ health systems and the health of Canadians. 

 

‘People did this for us so we have to care for them,’ 8-year-old says at Sunnybrook Veterans’ Centre Remembrance Day ceremony

Remembrance Day ceremonies at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre drew an overflow crowd of several hundred people Sunday to honour veterans of the Second World War, the Korean and other conflicts on the centennial anniversary of the First World War.

Attendees included military veterans who call Sunnybrook Hospital’s care facility home, along with a strong showing of young people committed to remembering those who served.

 

Veteran John Kent watches the Remembrance Day ceremony honouring the fallen at the Sunnybrook Hospital cenotaph. The hospital is the largest veteran care facility in Canada.

 “People did this for us so we have to care for them,” said Alison Brandt, 8, after she and her mother presented a handcrafted message to 94-year-old Michael Boyer, who volunteered with the Canadian Army at 18 and saw combat in Normandy with the 4th Artillery Regiment during the Second World War.

Boyer is one of the 475 veterans who live at the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre in Toronto, the largest care facility of its kind in the country, and was one of several veterans who braved the cold to attend the centre’s outdoor cenotaph service. “I think a lot of people still remember,” Boyer said. “I appreciate it. It’s very kind of them.”

The sentiment was echoed by Richard Ratcliffe, a Korean War veteran who is also president of the Sunnybrook centre’s veterans council. He commented on the rich history of the facility, which was founded in 1948 at what is now the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and said “it is my hope that the youth will carry on the tradition forever.”

The ceremonies were also attended by the children of veterans who have lived at the Sunnybrook facility such as Cathy Vera Robson, who said her father Christopher enjoyed his time there and who said she attends Remembrance Day services at Sunnybrook every year.

Dignitaries including Don Valley West MPP and former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne were also on hand while 17-year-old FSgt Izaac Plourde of the 246 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron offered a Remembrance Day tribute, telling the cenotaph gathering that he struggles to comprehend the courage of veterans “who put their life on the line at such a young age.”

The Remembrance Day ceremonies were preceded by the planting of 47,500 Canadian flags by volunteers around the 90-acre Sunnybrook campus. In its eighth year, Operation Red Flag encourages Canadians to send a personal note of thanks and a donation to support veterans residing at the centre with “special extras” such as continued learning opportunities.

 

Young people can now text for mental health help through Kids Help Phone across Canada

Kids Help Phone is moving forward with the national rollout of a 24/7 bilingual texting mental health support service for Canadian youth.

Kids Help Phone is moving forward with the national rollout of a 24/7 bilingual texting mental health support service for Canadian youth.

Getty Images

Canadian youth can now access mental health support through a free bilingual texting service being rolled out across the country by Kids Help Phone.

The charitable organization is introducing the 24/7 texting support option through a service partnership with U.S.-based helpline and technology pioneer Crisis Text Line.

A pilot project begun in February in Manitoba and select provinces has logged more than 13,000 texting conversations between young people seeking help and trained volunteer crisis responders.

The pilot study showed the most common issues affecting young people were anxiety, relationships and feelings of isolation.

Twenty-four per cent of texters reached out because of suicidal thoughts.

The confidential service is accessible by texting TALK to 686868 for an English-speaking crisis responder and TEXTO to 686868 to reach a French-speaking counsellor on any text/SMS- enabled cellphone.

The texting service requires no data plan, Internet connection or app.

For many young people, a lack of privacy, unreliable Internet, and limited data plans make it difficult to communicate by phone.

Large-scale study finds loneliness may increase the risk of dementia

Loneliness Dementia RiskLoneliness could increase the risk of dementia, according to new research. (Dmitry Berkut / Istock.com)

Relaxnews 
Published Monday, October 29, 2018

New U.S. research has found more evidence to suggest that feeling lonely may be a risk factor for dementia.

Carried out by researchers at Florida State University College of Medicine, the new study asked 12,030 participants, aged 50 and over, to report on their loneliness and social isolation.

The researchers assessed the participants’ cognitive status at the beginning of the study, and again every two years during the ten-year follow-up.

The findings, published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, showed that loneliness is associated with a 40 percent increased risk of dementia.

Participants who reported feeling lonely were also likely to have several other risk factors for dementia, including diabetes, hypertension and depression, and were less likely to be physically active and more likely to smoke. However, even after taking these risks into account, loneliness still predicted dementia.

The association was found across gender, race, ethnicity, education and genetic risk, and even among those who have regular social contact with friends and family.

“We are not the first people to show that loneliness is associated with increased risk of dementia,” said Angelina Sutin, the principal investigator on the study. “But this is by far the largest sample yet, with a long follow-up. And the population was more diverse.”

Sutin also added that loneliness can be different for different people.

“It’s a feeling that you do not fit in or do not belong with the people around you,” she explained. “You can have somebody who lives alone, who doesn’t have very much contact with people, but has enough – and that fills their internal need for socializing. So even though objectively you might think that person is socially isolated, they don’t feel lonely. The flip side is that you can be around a lot of people and be socially engaged and interactive and still feel like you don’t belong. From the outside it looks like you have great social engagement, but the subjective feeling is that you’re not part of the group.”

The study also highlights how loneliness is one modifiable factor where intervention can help reduce dementia risk.

“Most people might describe periods where they felt lonely and then periods where they didn’t feel lonely,” said Sutin. “So just because you feel lonely now, you don’t always have to feel this way.”

 

Couple confined to Trois-Rivières basement by caretakers, police say
2 suspects are expected to be charged in court Friday

Two suspects are expected to appear in court Friday in Trois-Rivières, and be charged with forcible confinement, extortion, uttering threats and assault, police say. (Radio-Canada)

Two people accused of confining and extorting a couple they were caring for are expected in court in Trois-Rivières today.

Local police say the victims, a couple in their 60s who are mentally impaired, were intermittently locked in the home while they lived with the suspects from September 2014 and June 2018. 

 

The woman in the couple did not return to the home after she received medical treatment for a fall in August 2017, and the man escaped nearly a year later, in June 2018. 

Sgt. Luc Mongrain said the delay between the two victims’ escapes might have been due to their vulnerability. 

“These were people who were psychologically manipulated. I can imagine they feared there would be consequences and reprisals,” he said.

He said the investigation began after local fire prevention services saw locks outside a door leading to the basement while they were inspecting the home last year.

Couple under woman’s care since 2009

Police had to meet several witnesses to corroborate the story and obtain arrest and search warrants, Mongrain said. The suspects, a man and woman in their 50s, were arrested Thursday at the home on Pics-Bois Street.

They are expected to be charged with forcible confinement, extortion, uttering threats and assault.

Mongrain said it appears the male victim escaped during a time where the door was not locked. The suspects tightly controlled the lives and finances of the couple, he said, but allowed them to go into town now and then.

He said the couple have been under the female suspect’s care since 2009, when they lived in Rimouski. In 2014, she moved to Trois-Rivières to live with her new boyfriend, the male suspect.

The couple moved with her. It is unclear whether they were being extorted while living in Rimouski, Mongrain said.

 

These are the 3 clear warnings signs of stroke all Canadians should know

 

WATCH: The Heart and Stroke Foundation wants people to know the four signs of a stroke by using FAST – face, arms, speech, time.

 

If you or a loved one suffered a stroke, would you be able to recognize the three key signs to take quick action?

Your face may be drooping, you may not be able to move your arms and your speech could become slurred or jumbled. While there are other symptoms of a stroke, health officials say these are the major red flags to pay attention to.

June is Stroke Awareness Month and a good time to remind Canadians of the major symptoms – when it comes to stroke, the faster you get to medical help, the better the odds of recovery.

“I don’t think people recognize the signs of stroke enough to know. This is a reminder that as soon as you see these symptoms you have no time to waste, you need to call 911 immediately. We now have a lot of newer therapies that work on patients with stroke but they’re time sensitive,” according to Dr. Patrice Lindsay, director of stroke at Heart & Stroke.

Lindsay told Global News that in the organization’s latest polling, over 40 per cent of Canadians said they knew someone who had a stroke.

But when they were asked about stroke signs, 40 per cent of Canadians admitted they didn’t know any of the symptoms of stroke. Only 24 per cent knew at least two signs and only six per cent knew three signs.

Health officials rely on the FAST mnemonic – the easiest way to recognize signs of stroke. It’s translated into several other languages and used globally.

Recognize the signs of stroke.

Recognize the signs of stroke.

Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation

Look at the person’s face, for starters to see if one-half is drooping or frozen in place.

Check to see if you or your loved one can raise both arms, or if they’re unable to move one or more limbs at all.

When it comes to speech, you could be struggling to make sentences or you could sound like you have a mouthful of marbles.

Time is crucial. Brain cells die at a rate of two million per minute after stroke, Lindsay warned. Restoring normal blood flow sooner rather than later makes a significant difference.

Drugs that help with clearing clots need to be administered within an hours-long window.

Other symptoms that aren’t included range from vision issues, such as blurry eyesight, to the sudden onset of a crippling, painful headache. They’re typically paired with the FAST symptoms, too.

Lindsay has invaluable insight into the plight of stroke survivors. She was 38 when she suffered a stroke while reading a bedtime story to her kids, 2 and 5.

“I was feeling unwell and within a couple of minutes, I lost feeling of my entire left side of my body. I couldn’t move my arm or leg. Luckily my husband heard me bang my other leg on the floor and called 911,” she recounted.

The ambulance arrived within minutes and she was rushed to a hospital that treats stroke emergencies.

Lindsay suffered a minor stroke. It took six months until she recovered full but she couldn’t drive at first and had to rely on friends and family.

There are 62,000 strokes recorded in Canada each year – 80 per cent of people survive.

Only 16 per cent of stroke patients who leave hospital get into rehabilitation right away.

There are certain risk factors for stroke that Canadians need to pay attention to, too.

The biggest risk factor is high blood pressure – 60 per cent of stroke survivors live with this chronic condition.

Diabetes is another risk factor. Atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat, is another medical condition that puts you at a greater risk of stroke, followed by lifestyle, such as a poor diet, lack of exercise, being overweight or obese and smoking.

 

Predicting Alzheimer’s disease with artificial intelligence

 

Researchers can now predict decline towards Alzheimer’s disease up to 5 years in advance thanks to artificial intelligence. Find out more with Global’s Laura Casella and computational neuroscientist Mallar Chakravarty.

Artificial intelligence is used in many different sectors, now researchers are using AI to predict when a patient’s neurological decline could be heading toward Alzheimer’s disease.

Mallar Chakravarty, an assistant professor in McGill University’s department of psychiatry and a computational neuroscientist at the Douglas Institute, sat down with Global’s Laura Casella to discuss how his team of researchers is using the new technology.

Alzheimer’s disease is currently detectable up to five or six years before diagnosis, but research suggests the brain’s degeneration may start up to 10 or 20 years earlier.

“A lot of attempts to find cures and drugs have had mixed success, so one of the best ways to treat the disease is well before it happens,” Chakravarty said.

Chakravarty set out not only discover who is susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease, but also to find people who are in a trajectory of decline toward the disease. He’s trying to make these predictions using “simple data that’s relatively easy to acquire.”

Publicly available data from about 800 individuals is integrated into the AI framework. That data includes MRI scans, a genetic marker that is heavily associated with risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and a simple cognitive profile. The artificial intelligence is then able to identify patients who are in decline regardless of diagnosis.

“They might be normal control, Alzheimer’s patients, or in the stage before Alzheimer’s called mild cognitive impairment,” Chakravarty said.

While it does not provide an official diagnosis, the prevention tool does help decipher when to start intervening. Chakravarty hopes the new tool will benefit all seniors and middle-aged individuals who want to identify if they are at risk for Alzheimer’s.

Researchers use the AI to learn and identify patterns in the data. The benefit of using an artificial intelligence is that the algorithm can be used on many different data sets.

“Sometimes what happens is you have a specific, large data set, and your algorithm is really good at finding patterns in that one data set,” Chakravarty said.

To test the accuracy of the algorithm, researchers input a separate set from a database in Australia. Chakravarty said it performed exceptionally well.

The next phase is to find if researchers can use the tool in a clinical setting or trial. Chakravarty found the data could also be used for multiple years after it is first collected to predict an individual’s neurodegeneration over time.

The primary goal of this new AI technology is to offer a personalized medicine perspective. If someone in their late 60s or early 70s is complaining of memory problems, researchers and doctors want some certainty if they are on the risk for decline.

 

Dialectical behaviour therapy: Selena Gomez is an advocate, but what is it?

 
 
 

ABOVE: Selena Gomez suffers emotional ‘breakdown,’ enters psychiatric facility.

Pop singer Selena Gomez recently entered a treatment facility to address her ongoing issues related to anxiety and depression, and is reportedly receiving dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), a complex type of therapy that was first developed to treat borderline personality disorder but is now used to treat a host of mental health conditions.

“DBT has completely changed my life,” she told Vogue in March 2017. “I wish more people would talk about therapy.”

But what exactly is DBT, and how does it differ from other forms of therapy? According to Dr. Shelley McMain, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and the head of the Borderline Personality Disorder Clinic at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), DBT is “a broad-based cognitive behaviour therapy” that has a “strong focus on acceptance.”

What is DBT?

DBT was originally developed by American psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 80s to treat patients with borderline personality disorder and chronic suicidal ideation. McMain said the first treatment study of DBT was published in 1991, which showed it was an effective treatment for people with borderline personality disorder — something people thought was previously untreatable.

DBT treatment, according to McMain, integrates two seemingly opposite strategies: acceptance of experiences and behaviours, and the skills to make change and better manage emotion.

“In practice, DBT therapists tend to move very rapidly between very opposite ways of engaging,” McMain told Global News. “On the one hand [they’re] conveying a very strong message of acceptance, and coupling that with a very strong emphasis or message to the individual that they need to make changes.”

How does DBT work?

DBT is based on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), a popular form of psychotherapy used to treat many mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, CAMH says. With CBT, people are taught to challenge and change their thoughts and behaviours. But with DBT, people are instead taught to accept their thoughts and feelings, while also learning techniques to deal with them.

DBT programs often require a one-year commitment, according to CAMH. There are shorter programs, however, which can help people manage their emotions.

When someone is undergoing DBT, they typically have both one-on-one counselling and group therapy. This is also what differs it from many other types of therapy, which are typically done in a patient/therapist-only environment.

“As it was originally designed, standard DBT is a comprehensive multimodal treatment, and there are four core modules,” McMain said.

“There’s individual therapy, there’s skills training — which is done in the often in groups — there’s also after-hour coaching so clients have the ability to contact therapists outside of regular hours, and there’s also a consultation meeting for clinicians which is held once a week, and that’s designed to treat the therapist.”

What is DBT used for?

DBT is now more widely used to treat other mental health issues including self-harm, depression, PTSD, eating disorders and substance abuse issues.

“Often, DBT is really geared towards people who have multiple, often complex, disorders,” McMain said. “Many individuals being treated with DBT may have comorbid personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, and meet criteria for a mood disorder or anxiety disorder.”

 

Many baby boomers and seniors turning to pot as alternative to prescription meds

I was at a barbecue this past summer with a group of other baby boomers, when someone brought up the use of medical marijuana.

Now, this was not a group of flower children who had continued smoking joints over the decades, but instead it was made up of professionals — some retired and some not — who had not regularly used pot since the 1960s or ‘70s — if ever at all.

As it turned out, and much to my surprise, pretty much everyone sitting around the outdoor fireplace that evening said they had turned to medical marijuana for pain relief or for help for sleep disturbances. One 65-year-old explained he takes cannabidiol after his beer-league hockey games for knee pain, while another said she was giving it to her elderly mother to help her sleep. Another said she used it to help her sleep after working graveyard shifts as a nurse’s aide and yet another said he was using it for chronic back pain. The one thing they all had in common was the fact they were using cannabis as an alternative to opioids and other prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Then two weeks ago I was at a birthday party when the subject came up once again and a woman in her late sixties, whom I had never met before, said, “I have a vape at home. I use it for pain relief and to help me sleep.” That was the last thing I had expected to come out of this very well-dressed woman’s mouth, but there it was. And once she confessed to using medical marijuana, the even older woman beside her also admitted that she too had “a vape at home.”

And whether it’s medical or recreational marijuana, what I’ve heard anecdotally and through interviewing dispensary owners, is that users of all ages are also turning to pot to cut down on their use of alcohol, narcotics and other recreational drugs.

Many believe marijuana and its derivatives do less harm to the body than drinking a bottle of red each evening. And with the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada scheduled for Oct. 17, many are looking forward to the day they don’t have to worry about getting busted for using pot. Of course, as with cigarettes or alcohol, there will be rules as to the where’s and how’s of using recreational marijuana, but it looks like the fear of getting busted for growing a plant in the basement will be gone.

That being said, baby boomers and seniors returning to marijuana should be warned the super strains grown today are not your grandma’s version of pot. But with some careful research and advice, they could be.

 

Medical guidelines in the works to clear up confusion about cannabis for seniors

Goal is to help steer medical professionals through possible risks and benefits of pot for seniors

 

The Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health is studying how marijuana affects seniors, including how it interacts with prescription medications and whether it increases heart rate and the risk of confusion and falls. Here, a resident of Hadarim nursing home in Kibutz Naan, Israel, smokes medical cannabis. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

The generation of Canadians who rocked out to the 1960s song Marijuana by Country Joe and the Fish are seniors now, and some of them are newly curious about the drug ahead of its legalization on Oct. 17.

But seniors, many of whom take multiple medications, also have questions about how cannabis will interact with their prescription drugs and otherwise affect their health

To try to address those and other questions, the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health is developing cannabis guidelines to help clinicians advise older adults.

Seniors’ concerns include not just interaction with prescriptions but also the potential of the drug to increase heart rate and the risk of confusion and falls.

And as with many health claims about cannabis, there hasn’t been enough scientific research done to make definitive claims.

“The marketing of marijuana has really overshadowed the science,” said Rand Teed, a drug and alcohol counsellor and consultant in Regina who is part of the coalition.

“The information that doctors have received so far has been quite confusing for them in many cases. Initially, Health Canada approved cannabis for use with anxiety, but in lots and lots of cases, cannabis increases anxiety.”

 

Rand Teed, a drug and alcohol counsellor and consultant in Regina, is working on a screening tool to help physicians spot cannabis dependence. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Teed is one of nine specialists from across the country looking to get to the bottom of how cannabis can affect seniors. Health Canada is funding the endeavour, and the specialists expect to release guidelines as early as the end of 2018.

The coalition’s goal is to help physicians run through all the possible risks and benefits with patients.

Weighing risks and benefits

Len Boser, a 65-year-old cannabis user in Saskatoon, said cannabis allows him to sleep better.

“[With pot], I can get a full night’s sleep,” he said.

 

It’s unclear whether today’s marijuana buds are necessarily stronger than the ones people smoked in the 1960s and ’70s, but some research suggests it is. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

Boser has used marijuana recreationally for 40 years. For the last three years, he’s also had a prescription from his doctor for cannabidiol, known as CBD, which is a compound derived from cannabis that he takes orally in the form of a tasteless oil.

Boser said CBD, which is currently only legal with a medical marijuana prescription, doesn’t get him stoned. Rather, he uses it to treat his chronic foot pain, depression and anxiety.

“It may not be for everyone, but I certainly encourage its use,” Boser said. “It certainly helps.”

​Preliminary studies have been published about the oil’s potential health effects, but scientists have said that there is not yet enough evidence to make sweeping claims about its health benefits.

“We don’t exactly know how cannabidiol works in the body,”  Robert Laprairie, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s college of pharmacy and nutrition, told CBC Newsin May.

“I think we really just need more research and more studies in order to demonstrate whether cannabidiol is or isn’t effective as a treatment for different conditions.”

Health Canada has also expressed concern over some of the therapeutic claims being made about cannabidiol.

‘Low and slow’

The coalition suggests if physicians determine that a patient could benefit from cannabis, they should prescribe it in the form of CBD, not tetrahydrocannabinol​, or THC, the main psychoactive agent in cannabis.

“Seniors are more at risk of experiencing harm related to cannabis simply because of age-related changes that they experience,” said Dr. Amy Porath, the director of research at the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction who is leading the team creating new guidelines.

“We hope this project puts the spotlight on this issue.”

Teed warns cannabis isn’t a cure-all, especially in the case of seniors.

“There’s been some confusion between getting high and getting well,” Teed said.

“If you randomly start to use something without getting some decent information and decent advice, you’re putting yourself at risk for creating some medical complications.”

 

Len Boser, 65, says cannabis has made a major difference in his life in terms of easing his chronic pain, anxiety and depression. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

So far, one of the biggest pieces of advice Teed has is to take it “low and slow.” He suggests that if clinicians determine that an elderly patient might benefit from cannabis, they should start them on small doses — in part because the drug is more powerful now than it was when they may have tried it in their younger days.

Spotting cannabis dependence

Not everybody agrees that today’s marijuana is necessarily more potent than strains of the plant consumed in the past, but Teed said some research indicates that in the ’60s and ’70s, marijuana buds commonly contained about six to eight per cent THC, while today, it can be between 20 and 30 per cent.

“That is a phenomenally different drug than you might have smoked when you listened to Country Joe,” Teed said about the ’60s group, whose song’s words include, “I like marijuana, I sure like to get stoned.”

“It can be emotionally dependent-forming very, very quickly.”

Teed is working on a screening tool to help medical professionals spot cannabis dependence.

Meena Pole, a family physician in Regina, has noticed a significant improvement in her elderly patients who use pot for chronic pain and severe anxiety. But she says she doesn’t prescribe or recommend the drug lightly.(Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Becoming reliant on marijuana is one of the biggest issues Dr. Meena Pole, a family physician, considers before recommending it.

In her Regina medical office, older adults are frequently making appointments to ask her how they can use pot to relieve their symptoms, including pain.

Using cannabis to cut down on medication

In some cases, Pole said, patients can replace traditional painkillers, such as opioids, with medical marijuana.

She said she has seen a significant improvement in seniors who have been able to use pot for chronic pain and severe anxiety, but she doesn’t prescribe or recommend the drug lightly.

“Is this going to relieve the symptoms that they’re having?” Pole said. “Is it going to decreases the number of medications or painkillers? … How is it going to affect their activities of daily living, and are they going to continue with their active lifestyle of day-to-day living?”

The bottom line is that she would like more medical guidance and believes the recommendations from the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health will be useful.

“If they come out with definite guidelines, this will definitely help me,” Pole said. “That can be helpful for many of the seniors to limit them asking us to prescribe for whatever they want.”

 

Personal support worker accused of defrauding patient: Halton Police

A personal support worker has been arrested for fraud by Halton Police.

A personal support worker has been arrested for fraud by Halton Police.

Halton Region Police

A personal support worker has been charged with fraud by Halton Police.

Police say between May 18 and June 11, the accused allegedly took two cheques totalling $8,000 from an elderly patient, and deposited them into her bank account.

Joelene Thompson, 33, of Brampton has been charged with fraud over $5,000 and uttering a forged document.

Police say her employment had been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

If you have personal support workers in your home, police recommend making sure all valuables and financial items are properly secured.

 

ALS drug approved by Health Canada could slow down progression of fatal disease

FILE PHOTO

Health Canada has approved a drug to help patients living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a debilitating disease that causes death within a few years of diagnosis.

The drug, called Radicava (generic name is edaravone) has been found to slow down the progression of the disease, allowing patients living with ALS the potential ability to live longer.

“Radicava slows the loss of physical function including speech, swallowing, handwriting, cutting food and others,” Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma, the company that made the drug, said in a statement.

The drug went through three clinical trials in Japan and South Korea, where 137 ALS patients were either given Radicava or a placebo. The group given Radicava experienced a 33 per cent reduction in the decline of their physical abilities compared to the placebo group, according to the statement.

“ALS is one of the most serious neurodegenerative diseases due to the crippling loss of function,” Dr. Angela Genge, director of the clinical research unit and ALS clinic, Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, said. “New therapies are most welcomed for patients and their families dealing with ALS.”

WATCH: Explaining ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, gradually causes muscle weakness and disability because the brain progressively loses its capacity to communicate with the muscles of the body.

Over time, patients living with ALS will typically experience a loss of their ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow, and eventually breathe.

Around 3,000 Canadians are currently living with the disease, according to the ALS Society of Canada.

Health Canada approved the drug through its “priority review process,” which accelerates access to drugs (the department reviewed and approved the drug in 180 days rather than 300).

The drug is also used to treat ALS in the U.S., Japan and South Korea.

 

Toronto hospital offers same-day hip replacement surgery

 

A Toronto hospital is taking an innovative approach to address growing demands for hip replacement surgery. Vanessa Lee explains.
 
 
CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Thursday, October 4, 2018 10:00PM EDT 

For people in need of hip replacement surgery, the outpatient process can take several days, but a Toronto hospital routinely gets patients from the operating room to their homes in just one.

Women’s College Hospital in Toronto offers same-day hip replacement surgery, a procedure that is becoming increasingly necessary as the country’s population ages and rates of obesity increase.

Kaori Noguchi has suffered from excruciating hip pain since she was diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia as a toddler. She had her first hip replacement as a child.

“Some days are better than others, but I’ve been limping for five years now,” Noguchi said.

When complications from her first hip replacement necessitated a second surgery, she was one of the patients at the Women’s College Hospital who received the same-day procedure.

Three days after her surgery, she is slowly beginning to walk around her house and pleased with the pace of her recovery.

“The perception of three days with morphine pumps so I get to go home with just a couple of regular painkillers seems…well, it’s a pleasant shock,” Noguchi said.

Experts say that it marks a significant change in outpatient care and could even save the Canadian health care system tens of millions of dollars.

“That frees up the beds for the people who need them,” Dr. David Urbach, the chief of surgery at Women’s College Hospital, told CTV’s Vanessa Lee. “Then we have less of this problem of gridlock in hospitals or what is often described as ‘hallway medicine.’”

According to a 2015 report from the Canadian Joint Replacement Registry, there were close to 50,000 hospitalizations for hip replacement surgery from 2013 to 2014, an increase of five per cent from the year prior. The median hospital stay length was four days — a big change from just over a decade ago, when patients were closely monitored for anywhere from a week to 10 days in hospital.

Doctors say that a shorter time in hospital has also led to a faster recovery.

“We found that the complications and issues after the surgery is not higher, probably even better,” Dr. Oleg Safir, an orthopedic surgeon at Women’s College Hospital, told Vanessa Lee. “One of the reasons is patients get to go home and stay in a comfortable environment.”

The biggest difference between the same-day hip replacement surgeries and those that require a lengthier hospital stay, surgeons say, is the anesthetic technique.

“We’re using certain special spinal as well as special blocks around the hip to freeze the area, so there is less pain after surgery and the patient’s muscles recover quicker,” said Dr. Paul Kuzyk, an orthopedic surgeon at Women’s College Hospital.

Earlier this year, Women’s College Hospital began testing out same-day knee replacement surgeries.

 

Brampton amputee Kebba Njai strives to become a Paralympian

Runner overcomes freak accident from six years ago

COMMUNITY Oct 06, 2018 by Iain Colpitts  Brampton Guardian
 
Kebba Njai

Kebba Njai, who lost his leg in a freak accident, is training in hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Paralympics. – Bryon Johnson/Metroland

Kebba Njai

Kebba Njai, who lost his leg in a freak accident, is training in hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Paralympics. With him is his coach, Harold Rose, from the Gazelles Track Club. – Bryon Johnson/Metroland

Kebba Njai

Kebba Njai, who lost his leg in a freak accident, is training in hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Paralympics. With him is his coach, Harold Rose, from the Gazelles Track Club. Oct 2, 2018. – Bryon Johnson/Metroland

Kebba Njai

Kebba Njai, who lost his leg in a freak accident, is training in hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Paralympics. – Bryon Johnson/Metroland

Kebba Njai

Kebba Njai, who lost his leg in a freak accident, is training in hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Paralympics. – Bryon Johnson/Metroland

1 / 5

Kebba Njai had a life-changing moment on May 15, 2012, but he doesn’t remember much about it.

It was three days after the Brampton resident turned 15, and he was helping his father and brother push a car that had stalled. Njai got into a freak accident when the tire exploded. Shards of the tire severed his left leg, and he also suffered a concussion and other injuries when pieces of it made contact with other parts of his body.

His leg was amputated, and he spent nearly two months in hospital, ready to give up on any hope of ever walking again.

“I was like ‘What is the point of a prosthetic? I’m not going to walk again anyway,'” Njai said.

The 2012 London Olympics began shortly after he was released from hospital, and that helped spark his ambition to become a Paralympian in time for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

In 2012, Oscar Pistorius made history by becoming the first amputee to compete in the Olympics. It showed Njai he could still make something positive out of his unfortunate injury.

“It was crazy how he was running with guys who were able-bodied,” said Njai, whose eyes start to beam as he thinks about Pistorius’s achievement.

Njai’s journey began with taking the first steps with his prosthetic, which was a challenge in itself.

“Everything was difficult; it was like I was learning to walk again,” said Njai, explaining how he started out walking at home and holding on to the couch for support. “My dad convinced me if I wanted to be better, I’d have to practise.”

Growing up in Gambia, Njai had dreams of becoming a professional soccer player, but that focus shifted to track and field when he attended a development camp for amputees and showed promise as a runner.

Again, he realized just how hard running was, when he began training with former Olympian Carlton Chambers in 2016.

“I did one lap, and it was so tough,” said Njai, who recalls not being able to walk back to Chambers after his first training session. “My leg was weak, and I wasn’t used to the length,”

Njai uses a similar type of running blade prosthetic that Pistorius used, except Pistorius’s start below the knee and Njai’s is above the knee.

Since he began working with Gazelles Track and Field Club coach Harold Rose in December, Rose is proud to say Njai has shaved three seconds off his personal best time and continues to overcome whatever boundaries that are in front of him.

When there are setbacks, Rose reminds Njai that “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was worked on every day.”

Before the next Olympics, Njai hopes to qualify for the 2019 Para World Championships in Dubai and the 2019 Para Pan Am Games in Peru.

As for overcoming any fears along the way — and Njai admits there have been many — Njai says having a strong support system is a must.

“It comes from believing in myself,” he said. “This kind of thing is scary, and it can depress you, but it’s all about being positive. You need the right people around you to motivate you.”

 

 

Dr. Gigi Osler, President of the Canadian Medical Association, in Winnipeg Manitoba, August 19, 2018.

LYLE STAFFORD/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Sir William Osler is commonly known as the father of modern medicine. When the legendary physician was president of the Canadian Medical Association in 1884, the profession was almost exclusively male and white.

Now, almost 135 years later, his great-great-great niece, Flordeliz (Gigi) Osler, is poised to become the president of the CMA and she, and the profession, could not be more different.

“Mine is the face of medicine now,” she says. “When you go to a hospital today, the face you are very likely to see is female and of a different ethnicity.”

 

As the demographics of medicine – and Canadian society more generally – change, so too must its leadership, Dr. Osler says.

“Diversity is important. And I’ve come to understand and appreciate that representation is really important too,” she says.

 

“I can’t tell you how people, how many women in particular, have said to me what it means to them to have someone like them in this position – a woman of colour, a woman with a family, a woman who strives for work-life balance.”

Dr. Gigi Osler, President of the Canadian Medical Association, in Winnipeg Manitoba, August 19, 2018.

LYLE STAFFORD/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Dr. Osler has also assumed leadership of the CMA, the group that represents Canada’s 85,000 physicians, residents and medical students, in the “Me Too” era.

“Physicians are starting to tell their stories and they are touching, shocking and horrifying, just as they are in other professions,” she says.

Dr. Osler, a Winnipeg native, is the child of immigrant parents; her father was a physician from India, and her mother a nurse from the Philippines. “So I have to qualify that I’m a relative by marriage, but I still wear the Osler name proudly.”

She studied medicine at the University of Manitoba and works today as an ear, nose and throat surgeon at St. Boniface Hospital and as an assistant professor at her alma mater.

Dr. Osler takes over the CMA at a tumultuous time. Medicine has changed markedly in recent decades and more dramatic changes are coming with the advent of genomics, artificial intelligence and more.

While patient expectations are growing, so too are financial pressures as governments try to limit physician costs. Rates of burnout, mental illness and suicide are soaring among doctors.

Against this backdrop, Dr. Osler says her priority will be promoting physician health wellness, and mental health in particular.

“Medical culture values self-sufficiency, stoicism and perfection,” she says. “We’re taught patients come first and that requires sacrifices but too often those sacrifices are marriages, families, our health.”

Dr. Osler says this is ultimately bad for patients or the health system. “If you’re not well, if you’re burned out, depressed, struggling, how can you serve patients to the best of your ability?”

Her message to fellow physicians echoes the one you hear during safety demonstrations on airplanes: “You have to put your own oxygen mask first.” And she is encouraged by the fact that attitudes are changing along with demographics.

“Some of the change is gender-driven, but some of it is generational,” she says.

“When I talk to younger male physicians, they have the same concerns as their female colleagues: They want to practice differently, they want to spend more time with their kids, they want work-life balance.

“It gives me hope things actually will change.”

 100-year-old Montreal tennis player on what keeps him on the court

 
 

WATCH: Dorval Municipal Tennis Club’s Claude Fung-A-Ling continues to rally after surpassing the century mark. As Global’s Dan Spector reports, Fung-A-Ling says his active lifestyle, family and diet help him play well beyond break point.

 A A

If you live to be 100 years old, what do you think your daily routine would be like?

How active would you be?

West Islander Claude Fung-A-Ling is 100 years old, and somehow he still plays tennis three times per week.

“I stopped competing when I was 80, but I kept on playing all this time,” he explained.

Fung-A-Ling says he’s been playing tennis for about 90 years. He’s a decorated player, having won his share of trophies.

“When I was about 47, I won the Quebec Senior Championships. Then I went to Ontario and played there, and I won that five times in a row,” he told Global News.

Even though his competitive days are over, he has no intention of slowing down. People at the Dorval Municipal Tennis Club are in awe of him.

“My first reaction is inspiration,” said club manager Raymond Lefebvre. “It’s not the fact he’s playing good tennis or bad tennis. It’s the fact he inspires passion.”

“It’s one thing to be alive at 100. It’s another to be hitting the ball at 100, isn’t it?” said Jay Bochner, who has played with Fung-A-Ling before.

“I never thought of reaching 100, I just lived,” said the centenarian.

View image on Twitter

This is Claude Fung-A-Ling. He’s 100 years old and plays tennis 3 times a week. He doesn’t drink or smoke, and he eats cabbage, broccoli and zucchini every day. I need to eat more cabbage.

Fung-A-Ling only stopped skiing at age 90. According to his daughter, he skied on his 90th birthday. As the story goes, Fung-A-Ling never bothered with chairlifts.

“It made sense to him to climb up the hill, because you would get more exercise,” explained daughter Margaret Fung-A-Ling.

So how does he do it? He believes his diet is one key aspect. He rarely eats red meat.

“When I was a youngster, I’d eat avocado on toast, not eggs or bacon or stuff like that,” he said.

“He has cabbage and spinach and broccoli almost every night,” said his daughter.

The 100-year-old says he never got into smoking or drinking, either.

“Neither, even as a youth I stayed away,” he said.

Love has helped too. He’s been with his wife for 67 years. He’s the one who takes care of her.

“I’m more busy now doing caregiver chasing, my wife needs that,” explained Fung-A-Ling.

His family and friends seem to be in a constant state of admiration.

“Everything seems to be enlightened when he touches it. I’ve never seen anything like that, to be honest with you,” said Lefebvre, who regularly plays tennis with him.

“I’m really proud of him,” said his daughter. “He’s been a model for our family. He inspires a lot of people.”

Fung-A-Ling believes that through science, he might even be able to get younger as he gets older.

“Longevity science has advanced. The aging process can’t only be slowed down, they’re talking about reversing it,” explained the trained engineer.

Fung-A-Ling says he will continue to play tennis until he can no longer walk on the court.

 

How to cope with anxiety after a traumatic event

Written by Alexis Dobranowski

I wasn’t on the Danforth on July 23 when a gunman opened fire.

I didn’t hear the shots or see the chaos or have to take cover.

But I am shaken and still thinking a lot about the shooting in my neighbourhood and other mass violence incidence in our city.

I live just steps from the Danforth but I still haven’t been there, even though I keep telling myself I should go…to honour the victims, to support the neighbourhood, and to heal. I have been avoiding crowds and the subway. I jump when I hear sirens. My mind wanders: Could it happen again?

Do other people feel the same? Is it normal to feel anxious after something like the Danforth shooting occurs in my neighbourhood?

Yes, said Dr. Ari Zaretsky, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Sunnybrook. He said it’s very normal to feel anxious after an event like the Danforth shooting or April’s van attack — even if you weren’t there or personally involved.

“In general, the closer in geographic proximity to the event, the more likely you are to feel anxious because you experience a more personal sense of violation of expectations of safety,” he explained.

This anxiety might show up in the form of chronic worry and rumination (reviewing the events over and over again), muscle tension, headaches, poor concentration, startle response, insomnia and panic attacks.

“Panic attacks are sudden bouts of intense fear and dread that reach a crescendo in minutes,” he said. “During that time the person experiences some of these symptoms: palpitations, shortness of breath, feeling unreal, lightheadedness, tingling and tunnel vision.”

While some anxiety is normal after this type of event, he added, it becomes an issue if it is persistent (it sticks around for weeks not just a few days) and impairs your day-to-day functioning.

“That’s when we start to ask: Is it negatively affecting your sleep, appetite, ability to enjoy activities, concentration at work and social relationships?” Dr. Zaretsky said. If so, it is time to seek some help from a healthcare professional or counsellor.

In the meantime, talking to someone you trust can help, he added.

“Remain physically active and stay socially connected,” Dr. Zaretsky said. “Maintain your sleep and activity schedule.”

One of the classic signs of anxiety is avoidance, he said. This can include restricting travel, avoiding specific places or not thinking about certain things that cause upset or anxiety. In the short-term, this can be helpful.

“There is no need to emotionally flood yourself with exposure to that upsetting event, like over-exposure to media or going to an exact location where a traumatic event occurred,” Dr. Zaretsky said. “But in the long-term, it is more healthy and adaptive to not avoid. Don’t restrict your movements. Get back to your routine and go to the same parts of the neighbourhood as you did before the traumatic event.”

Human beings in general are resilient creatures and the most common outcome — even after very traumatic events — is that people will cope and be OK over time, he said.

“However, some people will continue to feel anxiety, and it is believed that these individuals are more sensitive to the effects of trauma for complex biological and psychological reasons,” Dr. Zaretsky said. “These people are not weak. They simply need psychological support and with that support, they will generally also get better and cope.”

So, Toronto: it’s OK to feel anxious. Let’s talk about it. We are not alone.

For me, my next step after talking to Dr. Zaretsky will be to ask a friend to join me for a walk in my neighbourhood (update below), so that I can talk about these feelings more, and try to get back to my routine.

If you need to talk or need support about this traumatic event or others, here are some resources below.

Resources:

Girl with 3D-printed hand throws first pitch at Blue Jays game

The Rogers Centre and the Toronto Blue Jays welcomed a girl with a 3D-printed hand to throw the first pitch.
 
Kayla Goodfield, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, August 7, 2018 7:03PM EDT 
An eight-year-old girl with a 3D-printed prosthetic hand threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday night as the Toronto Blue Jays took on the Boston Red Sox.

Hailey Dawson, who was born in the United States with Poland syndrome, has pitched at 24 out of 30 Major League Baseball stadiums.

Poland syndrome is a birth defect that leads to missing or underdeveloped muscles on one side of the body. She is missing her right pectoral muscle and three fingers.

PHOTOS

“I’m throwing the first pitch out for every single Major League Baseball stadium for fun,” the young girl said while standing on the field at the Rogers Centre with her prosthetic hand decorated with the Blue Jays logo.

Hailey Dawson was asked to throw out the first pitch at a Balitomore Orioles game back in 2015 for the first time after receiving her prosthetic hand from the University of Las Vegas Nevada.

In an interview with CTV News, Hailey Dawson’s mother said her daughter received the prosthetic hand about four years ago.

“When she was three I saw an online video about two guys who invented this robotic hand so at four years old I emailed the University of Las Vegas Nevada and asked them if they would build this for Hailey because I thought students would be a great fit for her to work with and they said yes,” Yong Dawson said.

Yong Dawson said her daughter does not wear the prosthetic hand all the time.

“Initially it was a function issue for me – I wanted her to have it so she could hold handle bars on a bike but it eventually evolved into a confidence thing because when she puts it on she garners a lot of attention and her classmates and everyone thinks it’s cool so it’s helped her with her self-esteem and confidence.”

The young girl, sitting beside her mother, said she is never nervous going up to the mound in front of thousands of baseball fans because she has always loved the sport.

Her mother said their family is always at the ball park since Hailey Dawson and her brother both play baseball and their father coaches.

Down syndrome didn’t stop this man from growing a $4M sock company with his dad

 
 

WATCH: Father-son sock business has a mission to spread happiness

A father and son team have grown their year-and-a-half old sock business into a $4 million empire called John’s Crazy Socks – all based on a simple mission statement, to “spread happiness”.

Twenty-two-year old John Cronin, who has Down syndrome, was graduating from high school and trying to figure out his next steps in life when he decided he wanted to go into business with his dad Mark Cronin.

Mark and John brainstormed on ideas, like a “fun store” or a food truck, but neither of them could cook.

They decided on selling socks because John was always on the hunt for funky, cool socks.

“John had worn crazy socks his whole life. That was his thing,” Mark said.

“Why socks? Because it’s fun, it’s colorful, I like to be creative and I want to see wonderful things here. It lets me be me,” John said.

The two launched John’s Crazy Socks on December 9, 2016.

Even though John has Down syndrome, “Down syndrome never holds me back,” John says, with his fist in the air like a flying superhero.

John even designed the company’s Down Syndrome Super Hero Socks, with a portion of its sales going to charity.

John is the face of the company and puts sock orders together, while his father takes care of its business side.

“We’ve been able to create 35 jobs – 18 of those are held by people with differing abilities. We’ve raised over $135,000 (USD) for our charity partners,” Mark explained.

“Our customers are happy. We have over 10,000 online reviews – 96 percent of those are five-star reviews – and we’ve done a lot of work, a lot of business. We’ve shipped over 115,000 orders and earned over $4 million in revenue.”

Through their website, a video that went viral on The Mighty’s Facebook page and a friendship between John and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, John’s Crazy Socks has grown its inventory to more than 1,900 pairs of socks for sale from socks designed by John and various vendors around the world.

Tiny balloon catheter stops bleeding, has life-saving impact in trauma patients

Emergency Sign
 
Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, July 12, 2018 12:01AM EDT 

TORONTO — By the time Gaven Mayo got to a Montreal hospital after a bullet from a high-powered rifle ripped through his thigh, he had lost a massive amount of blood and by his own account was hovering between life and death.

But the 27-year-old from the Kahnawake First Nation attributes the fact that he didn’t die to a simple device that can immediately arrest severe bleeding, giving surgeons time to repair the damage from traumatic injuries and saving lives that otherwise might have been lost.

“On the way to the hospital, I was still basically losing blood the whole way,” he said Wednesday from his bed at McGill University Health Centre, where he has been recovering for the last six weeks while waiting for transfer to a rehabilitation centre. “After I arrived at the hospital, they said I had lost about 80 per cent of my blood.”

Mayo declined to talk about how he got shot, but said the bullet passed through his leg, breaking his femur and ripping into his femoral artery — the major blood vessel in the leg.

He might have fatally bled out were it not for MUHC doctors using a newly adopted device, a balloon catheter that is inflated inside the aorta — the body’s major artery — to halt all blood flow below the level of the diaphragm.

The device — known as the ER-REBOA catheter — is made of a thin flexible tube topped by a tiny inflatable balloon, which is fed into the femoral artery in the groin before being snaked into the aorta, in the same way an angioplasty catheter is introduced to open up blocked coronary arteries in people with heart disease.

“The job of the angioplasty balloon is to dilate the artery to get it to open up; this one is to just occlude the artery and block the flow (with) the balloon so you stop bleeding,” said Dr. Andrew Beckett, an MUHC trauma surgeon who introduced the ER-REBOA device to the hospital.

Beckett said it takes only two minutes to get the catheter inserted and the balloon blown up, buying critical time for surgeons to get a patient to the operating room to repair a smashed organ or pelvic fracture, for example, that has caused a severe hemorrhage.

“You’ve got a window of about 45 minutes to an hour to get control of the bleeding and get the balloon (out),” he said. “These are very sick patients and in a lot of cases, if you don’t get the balloon up, the patient can exsanguinate in five minutes.”

The device is designed not only to stop bleeding in the lower half of the body, but to keep blood circulating to the brain, heart and lungs, he said, adding that once the balloon is inflated, a hemorrhaging patient’s dangerously low blood pressure normalizes and their heart rate comes down.

“This is a treatment for hemorrhagic shock,” said Beckett. “When you’re having hemorrhagic shock, it’s like a whole-body stroke or heart attack.”

Beckett, a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Canadian Medical Services and chief of general surgery and trauma for the Canadian military, was responsible for introducing the catheter to his hospital after hearing it discussed, especially in relation to U.S. combat injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Once the device received Health Canada approval in late 2017, trauma doctors at MUHC began training in its use, said Beckett, who believes the Montreal hospital is the only one in Canada employing the hemorrhage-stopping tool so far.

He said U.S. doctors have used the catheter more than 2,000 times, resulting in “a lot of spectacular saves,” including women who have experienced ruptured uteruses due to motor vehicle accidents. The Canadian military has also used it in Iraq.

The device has been employed on the battlefield to stave off bleeding in military personnel injured by IED blasts, allowing them to be stabilized enough to have them airlifted by helicopter to a field hospital.

“We’re not ready for this in Canada yet, but some countries like the United Kingdom have put the catheter in pre-hospital environments and brought the patients to trauma centres,” Beckett said.

Without the device, surgeons would have to crack open a patient’s chest in order to clamp the aorta, an invasive procedure that is hard on patients and takes many weeks to heal.

“This is a much more elegant technique,” he said. “By allowing us to rapidly control bleeding, (the catheter) saves lives, requires fewer blood transfusions and reduces morbidity associated with major open surgery.”

Mayo, an iron worker who has a five-year-old daughter, believes using the catheter saved his life.

“To be honest, I believe I would be dead. I’m extremely grateful that they decided to use that.”

Donors urgently needed, says Canadian Blood Services

 

Canadian Blood Services says 23,000 donors are needed by July 2, 2018.

Canadian Blood Services says 23,000 donors are needed by July 2, 2018.

Canadian Blood Services

Summer is a time for beaches and barbecues. Rick Prinzen says donating blood should be a summer must-do item as well.

Prinzen is the vice-president of donor relations for Canadian Blood Services, and he says summer is a challenging time for blood donations. CBS says more than 23,000 donors are urgently needed by July 2 to ensure patients have access to blood and blood products.

“The summer is a time for family to relax and enjoy themselves,” Prinzen said in a press release. “Yet, the need for blood and blood products is constant. The need for blood does not take a holiday.”

One woman, Kiran Benet of Brampton, Ont., says she’s grateful for blood donors, as her 15-year-old daughter required 28 blood transfusions, in addition to a stem cell transplant.

“At age 10, Cierra was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a rare blood disorder in which the bone marrow fails to make enough viable blood cells,” Benet said in a CBS press release. “Life turned upside down for a couple of years until a genetically matched volunteer stem cell donor was found. Today, Cierra is preparing for her Grade 9 exams and recently celebrated her birthday. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of donors willing to help people like us.”

Visit blood.ca, download the Give Blood app or call 1-888-2-DONATE to find a nearby donation site. Walk in appointments are also available at all locations.

Blood pressure medications recalled due to contamination with potential carcinogen

 
 

WATCH: Blood pressure medications recalled by Health Canada.

Drug manufacturers are recalling several medications containing the ingredient valsartan, according to a press release from Health Canada on Tuesday.

The drugs being recalled are used to treat patients with high blood pressure to prevent heart attacks and stroke, and also for patients who have had heart failure or a recent heart attack.

An impurity, N-nitrosodimethlamine, was found in the valsartan used in these medications, supplied by a Chinese company, Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals. This substance is a potential carcinogen that could cause cancer over the long-term. Exposure to high levels of NDMA can also cause liver damage, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The European Medicines Agency is also reviewing the medication and there are recalls of these medications across Europe.

Health Canada advises consumers to keep taking their valsartan-containing medicine, but to check with their pharmacist to see whether their medication is being recalled. If you are taking an affected medication, you should contact your health care practitioner as soon as possible to discuss your treatment options.

Here’s a list of the affected medications, provided by Health Canada. For a complete list including drug identification and lot numbers, visit their website:

  • TEVA-VALSARTAN/HCTZ TABLETS PP 30s
  • TEVA-VALSARTAN/HCTZ TABLETS (Bulk)
  • ACT-VALSARTAN 40MG FC TABLETS 100
  • ACT-VALSARTAN 80MG FC TABLETS 100
  • ACT-VALSARTAN 160MG FC TABLETS 100
  • SANDOZ VALSARTAN 40 MG
  • SANDOZ VALSARTAN 80 MG
  • SANDOZ VALSARTAN 160 MG
  • SANDOZ VALSARTAN 320 MG
  • SANIS VALSARTAN 40 MG
  • SANIS VALSARTAN 80 MG
  • SANIS VALSARTAN 160 MG
  • PRO DOC LIMITEE VALSARTAN 40 MG
  • PRO DOC LIMITEE VALSARTAN 80 MG
  • PRO DOC LIMITEE VALSARTAN 160 MG
  • PRO DOC LIMITEE VALSARTAN 320 MG
  • SIVEM PHARMACEUTICAL ULC VALSARTAN 40 MG
  • SIVEM PHARMACEUTICAL ULC VALSARTAN 80 MG
  • SIVEM PHARMACEUTICAL ULC VALSARTAN 160 MG
  • SIVEM PHARMACEUTICAL ULC VALSARTAN 320 MG

N.S. girl with cerebral palsy saves baby brother from drowning in pool

CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Tuesday, July 3, 2018 4:59PM EDT 
With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Heather Butts

A 9-year-old Nova Scotia girl with cerebral palsy is being hailed a hero for saving her baby brother from drowning in their family’s backyard pool.

“You don’t need to be able to walk and talk,” Lexie’s grandmother, Nancy Comeau-Drisdelle, told CTV Atlantic. “You can still make yourself heard and you can still help. And yes, she did save his life.”

Comeau-Drisdelle and Lexie’s mother, Kelly Jackson, had been getting ready for Lexie’s ninth birthday party at the family’s Dartmouth home while Lexie, who uses a wheelchair to get around, watched them work from the kitchen. When Lexie’s 18-month-old brother Leeland woke up from a nap, their mother went upstairs to get changed.

“Mum brought him downstairs for me,” Jackson, a mother of three, said. “We didn’t communicate about, oh the door isn’t locked.”

With Leeland in the kitchen, Comeau-Drisdelle turned around for a few seconds — and that’s when the little boy slipped out the back door.

“And the scary thing is that he opened the door and closed it behind him, and he had never opened that patio door before,” Jackson said.

Realizing that her baby brother could be in trouble, Lexie started shrieking.

“She’s yelling and she’s pointing at the door, and I realize Leeland’s not with her,” Comeau-Drisdelle recalled.

“All of the sudden, I’m upstairs and I hear her screaming like bloody murder,” Jackson added. “We’ve never heard her scream like that.”

Comeau-Drisdelle quickly rushed into the backyard.

“I took off outside and I’m not seeing him,” Comeau-Drisdelle said. “I ran, and he’s right by the edge (of the pool) and I took him out.”

Leeland coughed up some water, but was otherwise fine, his family said. He was later taken to hospital as a precaution.

Within two days of the incident, the family also installed a fence and a locked gate between their house and pool.

As Jackson shared the story with CTV Atlantic, Lexie beamed. It will be, the family says, a birthday to remember.

“I hugged her, I cried and I still thank her every day,” Jackson said. “Because honestly, in that matter, two seconds makes a huge difference.”

For her quick and heroic actions, Lexie recently received awards from Halifax Regional Police and her local MLA . Later this week, she will also be honoured at Halifax City Hall.

With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Heather Butts

 

Burlington man with MS breaking barriers of disability, receives master’s degree

The 66-year-old recently graduated from Athabasca University. He received his master’s in education from the Alberta-based, online distance educational institution.

Aside from his age, that might not seem like anything out of the ordinary but consider that Benson’s grad ceremony was held at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington.

Oh, and his “classroom” for about the last year of studying was a room in the Intensive Care Unit at the lakeside hospital.

His “desk” was a special chair equipped with technology that allowed him to use a computer despite almost no mobility save for his head and a bit of movement in his arms.

Before that there was the little issue of him almost dying.

Suffering from late-stage multiple sclerosis (diagnosed in 1976; in remission from 1977-95) and Multifocal Motor Neuropathy (diagnosed in 2006), Benson had been living in the Brant Centre long-term care home, adjacent to Jo Brant hospital, for about 18 months when he aspirated (breathing complications) on April 9, 2017, and was found unresponsive.

“I was rushed to the emergency department at Joseph Brant Hospital and then transferred to the ICU,” recalled Benson.

“For a week or so I was heavily sedated and the (medical) team walked a tightrope to bring me back. I woke up one morning to a nurse saying, ‘Welcome back, Paul.’

“This was the first day of my new life.”

He was grateful to be “cognitively intact” although he required a ventilator to support his compromised lung function. He had a tube down his throat (tracheostomy) and needed a small plastic device (Passy Muir Valve) to enable him to speak.

Essentially a quadriplegic, Benson required a mobile wheelchair, the ability to control it and, most important to him, the technology to allow him to continue reading and “writing” — for his pleasure and to quench his desire to pursue post-secondary studies.

Among the assistive technology that has proved to be indispensable to Benson is a wireless head-controlled mouse. It replaces the standard computer mouse for people who cannot use or have limited use of their hands.

A Tracker Pro headmouse translates movements of Benson’s head into mouse pointer movement.

He can also use his left arm enough to initiate a left click on the computer screen. He has splints on each arm to improve limited finger movement.

Benson’s speech dictates text and controls some aspects of his computer; he’s able to select items by voice via Dragon Naturally Speaking software. He has a microphone set up by his right cheek.

“The first important piece was the Passy Muir Valve. Up to then (hospital staff) didn’t know he had an accent,” Thelma Reynolds, Benson’s younger sister, jokingly told the Post while standing beside her brother in his ICU room.

The valve redirects airflow through the vocal folds, mouth and nose enabling voice and improved communication. The part’s manufacturer also says it improves swallowing and oxygenation.

Benson, a former resident of both Oakville and Milton, says that upgrades to his wheelchairs over time have been through “considerable support” from the March of Dimes and the MS Society.

The charity Ceridian Cares has provided him with portable suction equipment and a battery-operated compressor for when he is mobile outside the hospital.

Put all the hardware and software together and it gives Benson what he needs to explore the outside world while mainly remaining in the confines of the hospital.

“I describe myself as probably the only person to be happy to be in the ICU,” he says.

One of Benson’s external influences and inspirations is Canadian educator, activist and writer Catherine Frazee.

“I applaud her work in spreading the message of just what is possible regardless of the barriers that those labelled as ‘disabled’ may face,” he said of Frazee, who appeared in the 2006 National Film Board of Canada documentary Shameless: The Art Of Disability.

“… I think Catherine is an inspiring person, and she has been leading the fight for a new view of those with disabilities and their ability to contribute in their communities when barriers to participation are reduced or eliminated,” said Benson.

Now he wants to do his part to encourage others with limited mobility.

“… (I’m) sharing the message that so many possibilities now exist for people to interact with the world through appropriate use of advanced technology, even from a hospital room. Many more opportunities now exist to pursue meaningful activities with these kinds of support mechanisms, and the right team behind you,” Benson told the Post in an email.

“I feel that sharing this information is important so that more people become aware of what they can accomplish despite the challenges they may be facing. I hope that this focus on supporting the whole patient will become an increasingly common feature of long-term hospital care.

“My care team is now used to setting me up in my wheelchair, with my computer in front of me, so that I can get on with my ‘work day.’”

Still, it took Benson a long time to realize his academic goals.

When he was a young adult in his native England he “flunked out” of a mechanical engineering program. Subsequently, in his final year at another English school he got sick and had to leave. At age 25 he was diagnosed with MS.

“I was told to find a job I could do from a wheelchair.”

He eventually got a certificate in computer programming and then a diploma in accounting and finance, all done in Britain. Much later he earned a certificate in adult education from Brock University at Sheridan College.

His biggest academic achievement, the master’s degree, was earned over more than a decade, mainly between 2007-11 Various health issues forced Benson to abandon his studies between 2011-16.

In 2011, he said one of the most significant developments was having to give up driving a car “as I changed ‘vehicles,’” switching to a wheelchair.

Benson was in a position to resume his studies in late 2016.

As he finally approached the end of his master’s degree studies, his professor at Athabasca University was prepared to exempt him from doing the final task in the program, a one-hour presentation, but Benson didn’t want special treatment.

“I was absolutely prepared to present. She was concerned my voice wouldn’t hold up.”

He said that with the help of his Personal Support Worker, Jacqueline DeRubeis, he got through it.

“She helped me with my last course. If I had computer issues or had documents that needed scanning,” DeRubeis did it, he said. “From desktop to laptop, she set up everything for me.”

Benson’s U.S.-based sister Thelma Reynolds, who spent six weeks by his side after he his crisis at The Brant Centre, said she was amazed that her older brother was able to get into long-term care quickly and now the level of ongoing care he receives at Jo Brant.

She’s particularly impressed by the work done on his hands and arms by his by physiotherapist.

“I know we wouldn’t get (all) this in the (United) States. We’d all be bankrupt.”

She’s not surprised that Paul has earned a master’s degree from his hospital room.

“He has a brain and a half and a memory that keeps going.”

Benson presented the final task for his master’s degree from his chair in his ICU room on March 19. He passed.

His graduation ceremony was set for June 8 at Athabasca University in central Alberta, but that wasn’t a viable option for Benson due to his need for a wheelchair and other medical considerations while flying.

So the hospital’s ground floor acted as his grad venue on May 25. Benson was decked out in a traditional graduation gown while a group of family, friends and hospital staff attended.

What’s next for Benson?

He figures since he’s been given extra time in life, and has all his faculties, he might as well use that to work on a second master’s degree.

He has enrolled in Athabasca University’s Integrated Studies program; he begins this September.

“I now wish to learn more about how to advocate for those who have not been as lucky as me, and who currently face barriers to achieving their goals.”

Peter Cipriano donates $10 million to transform care for seniors through the Centre for Seniors Health at Sunnybrook

Jun 28, 2018

Seniors Health

TORONTO, ON – A landmark donation of $10 million by Peter Cipriano allows Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre to re-invent care for seniors. The Peter Cipriano Centre for Seniors Health will create a first-ever patient-centred model of care to keep seniors healthy and in their community.

Shared across Toronto, Ontario and then Canada, the new model will increase the wellbeing of seniors nation-wide, while reducing demands on the health-care system. As a nation, Canada faces a growing challenge to manage the health of its seniors, given the country’s rapidly aging population and the current fragmented approach to their care. By 2020, one in four Ontarians will be over 65 and many will have complex medical and social needs. A new approach is needed.

Mr. Cipriano, the founder of Goldpark Group, knows first-hand the health-care challenges of seniors through the experience of caring for his own parents. Sunnybrook’s comprehensive and holistic approach to geriatric medicine convinced Mr. Cipriano of the need, more than ever, to invest in specialized care for seniors.

Now, he lends his name to the Peter Cipriano Centre for Seniors Health, a custom-designed space where Sunnybrook experts will pioneer a new model that offers fully coordinated care organized around the needs of patients and their families.

The Peter Cipriano Centre for Seniors Health will test this new outpatient model, which begins with an integrated, patient-first approach. The Centre will create a personalized plan to manage the care of each patient, coordinating the roles of geriatricians and hospital experts with primary care physicians and community and family supports. The goal is more efficient and compassionate care that keeps seniors independent and in their own homes while reducing health-care costs.

To achieve this vision, the Peter Cipriano Centre for Seniors Health will expand on the existing strengths of the Sunnybrook geriatric medicine program. The 13,000-square-foot custom-designed facility will be created through a total redesign and refitting of existing space based around the needs of seniors.

The Centre will offer outpatient services including comprehensive assessment, rehabilitation, system navigation, caregiver support and education on the health needs of seniors. Additional services will include eye care, psychology and audiology.

To respect the patient and family’s time and effort, medical specialists from across the hospital will come to the Centre to see patients during a defined block of time. An on-site rapid referral clinic will allow seniors with more pressing issues to be seen and treated within 24 to 48 hours, diverting approximately 2,000 patient visits a year from the Emergency Department.

Senior-friendly features of the facility will include oversized exam rooms, a heated and covered driveway for drop-off and pick-up in poor weather, and the latest in comfort and safety features.

“Bringing a frail and unwell parent to see multiple specialists on multiple days is hard on the parent and difficult for the family member,” said Mr. Cipriano. “The new Centre for Seniors Health will introduce a better way to care for seniors, putting patients first so they can stay healthy. I am honoured to be able to make this happen in the Cipriano name.” The Centre will also serve as a research and education hub where clinicians will study and optimize this new model of care. They will actively share their findings with other Toronto hospitals, across Ontario and Canada, while continuously introducing improvements to ensure seniors receive actively managed and personalized care.

Mr. Cipriano supports clinician education at Sunnybrook, ensuring fellowships include a rotation in geriatric medicine so graduates have direct knowledge of the complexities of this field. The Centre will expand the education capacity of Sunnybrook to train students from various disciplines at all levels to gain knowledge of the unique health challenges of this growing population.

“Sunnybrook is immensely grateful for Peter’s vision and commitment,” said President and CEO Dr. Andy Smith. “At Sunnybrook, we are inventing a future where seniors are cared for with respect and dignity so they can remain in the community for as long as possible. It will be a win for patients, for families and for the health system, thanks to the Peter Cipriano Centre for Seniors Health.”

Planning for the Centre is advanced, with an anticipated opening date of spring 2020.

 

Toronto’s CN Tower unveils new upgrades aimed at accessibility

THE CANADIAN PRESS | POSTED WEDNESDAY, JUN 27TH, 2018

593482582001_5802177169001_5802168198001-vs
 
 

Toronto’s CN Tower has unveiled upgrades that it says are aimed at making the attraction more accessible to visitors.

It says the renovations are the most significant in the national landmark’s 42-year history.

The upgrades include floor-to-ceiling windows with no railings, a feature that helps provide universal access for everyone, including those with mobility challenges.

A new glass floor has also been installed directly above the tower’s original glass floor, providing a two-tier vertical view toward the ground.

Adam Vaughan, a Toronto MP at a ceremony unveiling the upgrades, says everyone benefits when accessibility is part of the design process.

Canada Lands, the Crown corporation managing the CN Tower, says the Rick Hansen Foundation will complete an accessibility certification of the tower.

The tower first opened to the public on June 26, 1976, and for years it was the world’s tallest freestanding structure, with a height of 553.3 metres.

Pickering girl named a ‘Champion’ for conquering her heart defect

 
Olivia Chan (right) uses her play stethoscope to "listen" to the heartbeat of her father, Justin Chan (left).

Olivia Chan (right) uses her play stethoscope to “listen” to the heartbeat of her father, Justin Chan (left).

Jasmine Pazzano

When Adrian Liu went for a routine ultrasound scan during her first pregnancy, she received news that would change her and her family’s lives: there was something wrong with her baby’s heart.

“The left side of her heart wasn’t functioning at all,” said Liu. “It’s very overwhelming… when you’re about to become a parent, you think everything’s going to be normal.”

Doctors diagnosed Olivia Chan, Liu’s daughter, with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, defined by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a severe congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is underdeveloped.

When she was one week old, Chan endured open-heart surgery — the first of three she received at SickKids hospital in Toronto throughout her lifetime. “Because the surgeries are done when she’s a baby, there could be developmental problems. She could develop slower than the average child.”

Although her heart will always be a little bit different, Chan is now in stable condition. “She does pretty much all of the same activities that her peers do,” said Liu of her daughter, who loves to ride her bike and read.

“SickKids helped me with my heart,” Chan said.

To celebrate Chan conquering her condition, SickKids awarded her with the title of their 2018 Children’s Miracle Network “Champion.” Every year, the CMN’s member hospitals select one patient to demonstrate the journey families and their children take to overcome illnesses or injuries as well as to show the advances made in Canadian health care.

“[Chan] is [a] very outgoing little six-year-old,” said Heather Mills from the SickKids Foundation. “[She] is a child just like any other child, and any child can end up here at SickKids and it’s not something that we want, but it’s a reality.”

“It makes me feel proud and happy that I’m chosen to be the champion,” said Chan.

Chan is one of 12 “Champions” picked by hospitals across the country who had the chance to visit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa last month. They also had the opportunity to travel to Florida to visit Disney World and to meet “Champions” from the U.S.

In hopes of helping other sick children, Chan hopes to someday become a doctor. She says she loves to play with her doctor’s kit, and she uses her play stethoscope to “listen” to her family’s heartbeats.

“We really feel like we have a success story,” said Liu. “[She] has turned out to have a happy, healthy life.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

 

Canada’s oldest blood donor says it’s all gain, no pain after decades of giving

 
Beatrice Janyk, 95, donates blood at Canada Blood Services in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 18, 2018. According to the organization, Janyk, who began donating blood after her late husband was involved in a sawmill accident in 1947, is Canada’s oldest blood donor.DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER — Beatrice Janyk credits vitamins, 12 hours of sleep a day and a busy mind for allowing her to donate blood regularly for most of the last 70 years.

At 95, Canadian Blood Services says Janyk is the country’s oldest blood donor.

The great-grandmother and Coquitlam, B.C., resident has been donating blood since the late 1940s and says she has no plans to stop.

“You betcha, ’till I’m 100. I’ll be 96 in August,” Janyk told reporters Wednesday before donating blood at a Canadian Blood Services centre in Vancouver, where she was recognized as Canada’s oldest blood donor.

Janyk has advocated for blood donation since her now-deceased husband Bill was injured in a sawmill accident in 1948 and nearly died from a hepatitis infection he later contracted from contaminated blood. Though she was forced to stop donating blood at age 71 in Canada due to an age restriction, Janyk continued in 2005 after it was lifted.

When she could no longer donate blood in Canada, Janyk rolled up her sleeve at the Bloodworks offices in Bellingham, Wash., and was awarded a celebratory pin for donating 20 gallons of blood. Canadian Blood Services says that’s the equivalent of 170 donations in Canada.

Janyk, whose blood type is O-positive, says she takes no medications so her blood can be used for children and infant transfusions, adding that makes her incredibly proud.

“I hope I’ve saved a baby, because I take no medication, but (take) seven vitamins every night.”

Canadian Blood Services spokesman Marcelo Dominguez says Janyk is a paragon of the agency.

“It is an example we hope others will want to follow,” he said, as Janyk’s family surrounded her. “We’re all very lucky to have you. It’s the perfect time for our organization to say thank you to a donor like you, who has been giving blood and saving lives for decades.”

Janyk says her secret to youth and happiness is going to bed early, getting up early, and keeping busy throughout the day. An avid cribbage player, Janyk says she doesn’t take naps and tries to keep busy with crochet, needlepoint and making rosaries.

Janyk says her proudest achievement is the family she’s created. Her son Barry Janyk, a former mayor of Gibsons, B.C., spoke glowingly of his mother.

“I don’t know why, but I think we’re more proud of her, because all I can say is if I was 95 and still giving blood, I think that’s an accomplishment in anybody’s world.”

Along with her sons Barry, Robert, and Bill, Janyk was joined by her grandson Garrett, and granddaughter Britt Janyk, who skied with the Canadian Olympic team.

The great-grandmother’s message to anyone afraid to give is simple: “No pain, 20 minutes, then you’ll gain.”

 

The Rock on Depression: ‘You’ve Got to Talk About It, and You’re Not Alone’

Dwayne Johnson is changing the way men talk about depression.

  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been vocal about his mental health issues
  • The Skyscraper star opened up about his experiences with depression on ITV’s Lorraine
  • Earlier in 2018, Johnson opened up on Instagram about his mother’s suicide attempt when he was 15

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has quickly become one of the biggest names in Hollywood opening up about depression.

The Skyscraper star appeared on ITV’s Lorraine recently, and a discussion of his newborn daughter led to Johnson talking about his lifetime battles with mental illness.

“Depression doesn’t discriminate, and I thought that was an important part of the narrative if I was going to share a little bit of my story of the past,” he said.

“Regardless of who you are or what you do for a living or where you come from, it doesn’t discriminate, we all kind of go through it. If I could share a little bit of it and if I could help somebody, I’m happy to do it.”

Johnson noted that the conversation — and ongoing stigma — around depression needs to change with men. “There’s just a DNA, a wiring in us and a constitution that oftentimes doesn’t let us talk about when we’re scared or vulnerable or things like that,” the actor said.

“It’s kind of like what’s been deemed as ‘toxic masculinity.’ You’ve got to talk about it and you’re not alone. I was an only child and I kept that bottled in, deep, deep. It wasn’t good, so [I am] happy to share my story.”

Earlier in 2018, Johnson opened up about his family’s history with mental illness in a lengthy Instagram post detailing his mother’s suicide attempt when the actor was just 15.

“Struggle and pain is real,” he wrote. “We’ve all been there on some level or another.”

The Rampage star then took to Twitter to further explain his own battles.

“We all go thru the sludge and depression never discriminates,” he wrote. “Took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”

Dwayne Johnson

@TheRock

Got tons of responses to this. Thank you. We all go thru the sludge/shit and depression never discriminates. Took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone

Dwayne Johnson opens up about depression battle, mom’s suicide attempt

Dwayne The Rock Johnson has opened up about his secret battle with his mental health after suffering from depression for decades.

As anyone with a working pair of eyeballs might have guessed, Johnson has said that he primarily deals with sadness by exercising.

“My knee-jerk reaction to sadness is some sort of action,” he said during the Rampagepress tour. “I like to go do something. For me, the going to do something, it sounds boring and cliche, but it is what it is with me, I gotta hit the gym.”

He’s on to something. Studies have shown that getting active can cut a person’s risk of depression by 19 percent. But what’s important is recognizing you have a problem in the first place. If you ever notice one of the eight symptoms of depression, there are numerous ways to seek help for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

 

84-year-old man receives degree after 14 years at Trent University

 

Victor Parker, 84, received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Indigenous Studies at Trent University in Peterbrough on Wednesday.

They say you’re never too old to go back to school and for Victor Parker, 84, of Toronto, he did just that.

He has commuted by way of foot, subway, GO train and bus to Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., at least once a week for the past 14 years — typically more than a three-hour trip, each way.

On Wednesday, that journey took Parker to the stage at the Bata Library, where he received his third degree — a Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous studies.

“I have been very concerned with how we, Canadians, have been treating and behaving towards Indigenous peoples,” said Parker.  “I was thinking ‘what can I do now to help change things around?’”

 

 

How a DeMar DeRozan tweet sparked a mental-health dialogue in sports

Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan, seen in Toronto on April 25, has recently spoken about the loneliness and darkness that often follows him and how family and basketball act as his escapes.

FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

What started out as DeMar DeRozan’s seven-word tweet during the NBA all-star game weekend, ‘This depression get the best of me,’ has kick-started a dialogue across North America about mental health and athletes.

The Toronto Raptors all-star guard pulled back the curtain on something few rich and famous athletes disclose publicly – his own mental well-being. Since then, DeRozan has spoken about the loneliness and darkness that often follows him and how family and basketball act as his escapes. DeRozan’s disclosure inspired Cleveland Cavaliers centre Kevin Love to speak out about his own struggles, penning an article in The Players’ Tribune.

Their frank talk prompted the NBA to request meetings with both players, to discuss how the league can further encourage mental wellness for players and staff, as well as for the kids who participate in its NBA FIT and Jr. NBA programs.

 

While the Raptors were in New York to play in March, DeRozan met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s president of social responsibility and player programs.

The results of those meetings will be first seen this week, when the NBA unveils a powerful television spot that stars DeRozan and Love speaking openly about their struggles with mental health.

Launching on NBA broadcasts on May 1 and running throughout the playoffs, the public-service announcement features testimonials from the two basketball stars, part of the NBA’s league-wide efforts to encourage mental wellness for players, staff and fans.

The league had some mental-health resources available for its players and staff, and had been working on total health with health-care partner Kaiser Permanente. The league was also partnering with the NBA Players Association to build a new, independently run mental-wellness program that is scheduled to launch next season.

So when DeRozan and Love began to speak openly about their own personal experiences with mental health, it re-enforced to the NBA the importance of the issue, and offered the opportunity to weave the real-life stories of two star players into the efforts.

Both players agreed to film the testimonials, parts of which will be used in the PSA and on a new website the NBA will launch this week, full of mental-wellness links and resources for the public. The league also hopes the two men will play a role within its new mental-health program when it launches, perhaps having Love and DeRozan speak to other players, similar to those players featured in the NBA’s rookie-transition program.

“Even DeMar didn’t fully understand what he was about to get into when he first tweeted that out. But he soon realized that once he opened the door, he was very willing to walk through it,” Behrens said. “When those guys went public with their stories, they really accelerated for us the importance of getting this message out and being more robust in what mental-health resources we were offering. Obviously when you have two all-stars and extraordinary people on and off the court, the ability to tell their stories and help other people was one that we really are so grateful for.”

 

Employees with autism: How they can be an asset to any company

 

Employees on the autism spectrum can be very detail-oriented, experts say.

 
 

Robert Eric Martin sees his autism as an asset in his job as a software tester. With his impeccable attention to detail and drive to work, he’s succeeded at his job at a software development and IT company that he’s had for a year now — and he’s loved every moment of it.

As a software tester, it’s Martin’s job to edit coding on the back end of websites, which correlates almost perfectly with what the 21-year-old took in college, which was interactive design and development at George Brown.

“The way my family describes it is that once I get focused on something, it’s kind of hard for me to stop focusing on it,” Martin explains. “So if we’ve got a long project ahead of us, once I get into the project, I’m going to stay focused on it for a long time.”

His colleagues, Martin says, have been supportive. Describing everyone as nice, the subject of Martin being on the autism spectrum has never become an issue among his colleagues or in the workplace.

“[Robert] has a very analytical mind,” Demodaran says. “He knows what has to be done.”

This was the first time Demodaran took part in a job fair geared toward people with autism, and he says it’s taught him a lot about employees with autism in the workplace.

“It is very good if we can give more opportunities to people,” Demodaran says. “They have the capacity to perform, but each individual is different. You just have to find out how you can get that individual to perform. So it’s like a learning curve and it takes a little bit of patience. I’d say it take about six months to know how to really start working with them. You’ve just got to treat them as normally as possible.”

Demodaran’s goal is to train employees with autism and equip them with the skills they need so that they can be placed at larger companies.

And what Demodaran wants other companies to know is that they need dynamic strategies in place when it comes to supporting employees of all kinds in the workplace.

Xavier Pinto, organizer of the job fair, agrees. “The whole world is changing and it’s time that strategies change along with it,” he says. “Workplaces need to help people focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities.”

Pinto’s eight-year-old son inspired him to start the job fair. His son, Pinto says, is on the autism spectrum, and as a father he’s doing everything he can to make sure his son gets the same opportunities as everyone else.

This year’s job fair, an annual event now in its second year, takes place on April 20 in Toronto.

READ MORE: Individualized funding for children with autism expected to cost $2.8 million

The benefit of hiring workers on the autism spectrum, Xavier says, comes down to their fine sense of detail, which many businesses can take advantage of.

“Each case of autism is very different and unique,” Pinto explains. “For example, my son he sees the fine details that we don’t — he has a whole other different perspective that we don’t have. There are a lot of industries that need the attention to detail and different perspectives that can bring out out-of-the-box thinking.”

According to Laurier Mawlam, executive director of Autism Canada, challenges that autistic adults may face include sensory processing and executive functioning skills. Some people on the spectrum, she says, are highly sensitive to lights, noises, textures and smells. This can be overstimulating and distracting.

Despite their challenges, however, people on the spectrum offer a variety of skills that businesses can take advantage of, like being detail-oriented and offering different perspectives, Mawlam says.

“They will likely thrive in a workplace that has understanding among their employer and fellow employees, and when accommodations are made so they can feel comfortable in the work environment, with clear expectations,” Mawlam adds. “Furthermore, when people on the spectrum have a job position in which they are motivated and interested, they often have the skills to excel farther than people who are not on the spectrum.”

In fact, a report by Capgemini found that there’s an urgent growing talent gap in cybersecurity and that the best place to recruit talent is among the autism community.

“Thinking outside the box is about understanding the transferable skills,” said Mike Turner, chief operating officer at Capgemini Cybersecurity, in a statement. “For example, people on the autism spectrum are fantastic at pattern spotting and are often blessed with numerical and problem-solving skills, attention to detail and a methodical approach to work — all useful traits for cybersecurity best practice.

Based on 2015 numbers by the Public Health Agency of Canada, one in 66 Canadian children and youth have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Boys are also about four times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls


Canada looks south for help to solve EpiPen shortage

 

HEALTH HEADLINES: EPIPEN SHORTAGEX
 

Canada said on Tuesday it is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to access supplies of Mylan N.V.’s EpiPen emergency allergy antidote amid a growing shortage that has spared the United States.

EpiPens deliver a potentially lifesaving dose of the generic drug epinephrine via an automatic injector. They are made at a single Pfizer Inc facility near St. Louis, Missouri.

Last week, Pfizer notified consumers in Canada and Britain that the device is in short supply due to manufacturing problems. In response to a Reuters query, Pfizer said there was no shortage in the United States and that Mylan decides how EpiPens are allocated to different countries.

The restricted supply is particularly worrying to doctors and families in Canada, where no alternatives to the EpiPen are sold. Health Canada has told consumers to use expired EpiPens and call 911 in an emergency if they have nothing else.

WATCH: Learn more about the EpiPen shortage in Canada

“There’s not a robust supply in Canada. And there may not be for a while,” said David Fischer, president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. He said some Canadians had trouble accessing EpiPens starting in February.

“We’re all perplexed about the whole concept of this worldwide shortage that does not involve the U.S.,” Fischer said.

The U.S. market is the most lucrative for EpiPen, where a two-pack of the generic injectors retails for $300. In Canada, a single EpiPen can be bought for $100, while the UK National Health Service price for a single dose is closer to $38.

Health Canada, the government health department, is discussing with Pfizer and the FDA ways to minimize the impact of the shortage, “including exploring access to international supply,” Rebecca Purdy, a Health Canada spokeswoman, said.

Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Kerri Elkas said the company “is working diligently to increase production and expedite shipments to Canada as rapidly as possible.”

Officials at Mylan and the FDA were not immediately available for comment.

RECALLS, MANUFACTURING LAPSES

Meridian Medical Technologies Inc, the Pfizer unit that manufactures EpiPens, has been hit by a series of manufacturing problems. In March 2017, Mylan recalled tens of thousands of devices after complaints that some failed to activate.

In September, Meridian received an FDA warning letter saying it had failed to thoroughly investigate product failures or take corrective actions until the FDA’s inspection. At the time, Mylan said it did not anticipate any impact on EpiPen supply.

Health Canada said four companies have authorization to sell epinephrine auto-injectors — Kaleo Pharma, Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc and Lincoln Medical Ltd — but none are currently marketing them in the country.

READ MORE: EpiPen shortage for 0.3 mg dose, to be resolved by March

In the UK, two rival products are approved for sale from Danish drugmaker ALK-Abello and from Valeant’s Bausch and Lomb division.

In Toronto, Amy Morrell keeps four EpiPens to protect her 5-year-old son from a life-threatening peanut allergy. She keeps them at home, at his school and in his backpack.

She has not had trouble yet filling a prescription. But if supply were disrupted, she said, “it just wouldn’t be acceptable.

“We wouldn’t be able to leave the house,” she said. “It would be life-changing – for him, and for us.”

Creatively addressing ALC needs in the GTA

A shuttered Toronto hospital has reopened to provide specialist care for 150 alternative-level-of-care (ALC) patients transitioning out of area hospitals.

In an unusual move to address bed shortages in acute-care wards, the Humber River Hospital’s Finch Avenue site has been renovated to serve as an intermediate-care facility for patients waiting to return home or for other forms of care in nursing or palliative care homes or rehabilitation centres.

Five hospitals — Humber River Hospital, North York General Hospital, Southlake Regional Health Centre, Mackenzie Health and Markham Stouffville Hospital — will each staff and operate their own 30-bed units at the Reactivation Care Centre as an extension of their own hospitals. The centre started accepting patients in early December 2017.

The newly refurbished centre aims to provide highly specialized care, including activation therapies designed to support patients’ transition to home or health care facilities more suitable for their needs. Optimizing patients’ strengths and abilities outside the acute care setting is expected to lead to better health outcomes for them, as well as to reduce hospital backlogs and free up beds for people with acute care needs.

Some 3,000 beds in Ontario hospitals (about 16% of the total) are occupied by ALC patients, who don’t need acute care services and have been discharged but remain in hospital, waiting for a bed to become available at a facility that offers the appropriate level of care. The shortage of long-term care and home care spots means that frail, elderly patients are occupying hospital beds for an average of 68 days as they wait for alternatives.

That creates overcrowding, capacity issues and significantly longer wait times up the line as far as the emergency department. This situation becomes especially challenging during peak flu season, and the challenges are expected to continue to grow as the population ages.

The CMA applauds this innovative solution to reduce wait times in acute care facilities while providing better care for ALC patients in more appropriate settings. In recognition of the growing demand for complex care as our population ages, the CMA recommends that governments invest in residential care infrastructure, including retrofit and renovation. The new Reactivation Care Centre, operating on a site that was closed in 2015 when Humber River Hospital opened its new state-of-the-art facility, is a step toward meeting that goal.

More broadly, the CMA advocates for a pan-Canadian seniors strategy funded by the federal government to deal with Canada’s aging population. With provinces and territories facing individual economic challenges, a federal approach will ensure system renewal and better health care delivery across the country.

Further, the CMA calls on the federal government to convene an all-party parliamentary international study to explore how elderly persons could avoid inappropriate acute care and how their caregivers could be supported.

Seniors, leaving the house daily may help you live longer

Published
We’ve all been there: confined to our homes for days, or even weeks, thanks to the dreaded flu or some other ailment. When you’re finally able to go outside, there’s no feeling quite like it. And for older adults, this seemingly simple pleasure could be life-saving.

 

Researchers say that leaving the house daily may help older adults to live longer.

New research finds that older people who leave their homes every day are likelier to live longer than those who remain indoors, regardless of their health status or functional capacity.

Lead study author Dr. Jeremy Jacobs, from the Hadassah Hebrew-University Medical Center in Israel, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

According to a 2015 study, approximately 2 million older adults in the United States never or rarely leave their homes, primarily due to functional difficulties.

Not only does this have implications for their physical health — due to lack of exercise, for example — but it can harm their psychological health, too. Research has shown that those who are confined to their homes are more likely to develop depressionanxiety, and other mental illnesses.

For their study, Dr. Jacobs and colleagues set out to investigate whether or not the frequency with which an older adult leaves their home might be associated with mortality.

Staying indoors linked to greater death risk

The research included 3,375 adults aged between 70 and 90 years. All adults were enrolled in the 1990–2015 Jerusalem Longitudinal Study.

As a part of the study, participants completed questionnaires about how often they left their homes each week. They were divided into three groups, based on their answers: daily (six to seven times weekly), often (two to five times weekly), and rarely (less than once per week).

Mortality among the participants was assessed from 2010 to 2015.

The researchers found that older adults who left their homes on a daily basis were at the lowest risk of death, while those who rarely left their homes had the highest mortality risk.

“What is interesting is that the improved survival associated with getting out of the house frequently was also observed among people with low levels of physical activity, and even those with impaired mobility,” says Dr. Jacobs. “Resilient individuals remain engaged, irrespective of their physical limitations.”

These findings also remained after accounting for the participants’ social status and other medical conditions, including visual impairment, diabetesheart diseasehigh blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease.

 

While the precise reasons behind these findings were not explored in the study, the scientists note that getting out of the house frequently gives older adults the chance to engage with the outside world.

Previous research has shown that people who spend more time outdoors — particularly in natural environments — may experience lower levels of stress and improved physical and mental health.

What is more, going outdoors provides greater opportunity for social interaction, which studies have linked to better overall health and well-being in seniors.

So, it seems that simply going outside to chat with the neighbor or taking a quick trip to the local grocery store could do the world of good for older adults’ health.Even in your 70s, it’s not too late to start working out

File photo (Getty Images)

Three years ago, she couldn’t do a single push-up and certainly had never heard of a “reverse fly.” Today, Solveig McCulloch, 79, can do 10 push-ups easily and rocks her five-pound dumbbell flys.

“I am definitely stronger, and my balance and flexibility are better, too,” said McCulloch, who at 76 started exercising regularly for the first time: twice-weekly strength training and daily walking.

Working out was not a trend for McCulloch’s generation. That said, the National Council on Aging reports that more than 50% of seniors are active at least four times per week.

It’s never too late to start working out, D.C. sports medicine doctor Justin Mullner said: “You can see dramatic benefits from exercising in older adults.”

These benefits include prevention of osteoporosis and muscle loss, as well as improved blood pressure and blood-glucose levels. Government guidelines suggest adults over 65 should get at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, per week and do muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups twice a week.

 

Exercising can be a double-edged sword for someone who is 65 or older as the risks are greater, Mullner said. A fall can lead to a hip fracture for someone with osteoporosis, and falls are the most common cause of injury in older Americans. The risk of cardiovascular disease (such as heart attack) also increases with age.

First, clear any new routine with a doctor. (This is recommended for all ages.) Then solicit advice from resources such as the National Institute on Aging (go4life.nia.nih.gov), a trainer or a doctor about what kind of routine is appropriate for you, Mullner said.

“It’s so individual. What are the goals? What are the limitations?” he said. “What do you like to do? What will you keep doing?”

That’s where someone like Stephen Burgett comes in. The personal trainer in Washington, D.C., helps identify goals and designs programs that help clients stay injury-free while working on endurance, strength, balance and flexibility — all important components of fitness.

“The first thing I do is an assessment. I look at their range of motion, their movement patterns, how well they sit and stand,” Burgett said. He uses that information to design a workout program.

For clients who lose their balance easily, he might look at strengthening the gluteus, because hip muscles are crucial for balancing. Gluteus muscles can be strengthened with the gluteus bridge (lying on your back on the floor, feet planted close to the hips and lifting the hips) and squats.

Many older adults have weak back muscles, causing them to hunch forward. Burgett might have them do a seated row (a pull motion) and a squat with a shoulder press to strengthen the upper back.

Burgett might also include planks for core strength, to help with posture, and a modified pull-up that strengthens the upper back.

“People, especially if their baseline is low, will see increased strength quickly, I would say within a month,” Burgett said.

The goal of body composition changes — looking cut, for example — takes much longer and requires nutritional changes, he said. Generally speaking, though, older adults are very different from the younger set when it comes to fitness goals.

Young people are often looking to improve athletic performance or attain a certain aesthetic. For seniors, fitness is often a way to stay independent: strong enough to lift boxes off shelves, walk up and down stairs, carry groceries, and do laundry.

“It’s about functional fitness,” said Mullner, who recommends tai chi and yoga for seniors as a way to improve balance and proprioception, or spatial awareness and the ability to move effectively and efficiently. Those are key in preventing falls.

McCulloch agreed about the quality-of-life improvements.

“I can lift things like garbage bags and packages. And gardening has become much easier. I can do it without taking breaks. I can dig holes and bend over without any problems,” she said.

Although she is not looking to be in a bodybuilding competition anytime soon, she did show her grandkids how a push-up is done, and she has expanded her routine to include power yoga. And just a few years ago, she didn’t know what a downward dog or pigeon pose was. Now they’re among her favorites.

– Gabriella Boston is a fitness trainer and freelance writer. She can be found at gabriellaboston.com.


 

Being unaware of memory loss may predict Alzheimer’s disease: Canadian study

About 25,000 new cases of dementia are diagnosed every year in Canada, according to Alzheimer Society Canada.

About 25,000 new cases of dementia are diagnosed every year in Canada, according to Alzheimer Society Canada.

 

 

Just because someone has difficulty remembering things, it doesn’t necessarily mean that what they’re experiencing is a symptom of dementia, a new Canadian study says.

But if the person is not aware of the memory loss (a condition called anosognosia), then they are more likely to progress to Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) say.

 

READ MORE: Alzheimer’s disease hits women harder than men, especially in this age group

“If patients complain of memory problems, but their partner or caregiver isn’t overly concerned, it’s likely that the memory loss is due to other factors, possibly depression or anxiety,” lead author Dr. Philip Gerretsen, clinical scientist in CAMH’s Geriatric Division and Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, said in a statement. “They can be reassured that they are unlikely to develop dementia, and the other causes of memory loss should be addressed.”

 

Sometimes, if the patient doesn’t feel they have any issues with their memory, it is the caregiver or partner that is more likely to be distressed by the situation. When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, lack of such awareness is tied to being more of a burden on caregivers, researchers said.

But that unawareness of the illness paired with memory loss (known as mild cognitive impairment) can be assessed using questionnaires.

To find this out, researchers looked at data on 1,062 people between the ages of 55 and 90 from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). Of those, 191 people had Alzheimer’s disease and 499 had mild cognitive impairment, while 372 served as part of the healthy comparison group. This is believed to be the largest study of its kind.

At the same time, researchers also wanted to find the parts of the brain that were impacted in impaired illness awareness. They looked at the brain’s uptake of glucose, which brain cells need to function. However, glucose uptake is impaired in patients with Alzheimer’s.

What researchers found using PET brain scans was that those who had impaired illness awareness also had decreased glucose uptake, like age and degree of memory loss.

The study was published this week in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

This isn’t the only study to have questioned previously held beliefs about Alzheimer’s.

A study by Florida State University in September found that personality changes aren’t often a predictor of clinical onset of Alzheimer’s.

Up until now, scientists and physicians debated whether or not changes in one’s personality and behaviour appeared before the onset of the disease. But after looking at data of over 2,000 people between 1980 and 2016 from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, researchers in this study found no evidence of such a link.

In fact, researchers said that the personality of the study’s participants remained stable even up until the last few years before the onset of mild cognitive impairment.

However, while personality change was not an early sign of dementia, certain personality traits (like high levels of neuroticism and low levels of conscientiousness) are still risk factors for dementia.


Ignoring your eye health can lead to bigger problems down the road

 

Up to 80 per cent of vision loss is preventable, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Up to 80 per cent of vision loss is preventable, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

 

Linda Maendel can’t remember when or how she injured her right eye, but it took years for the 55-year-old to finally correct her blurry vision physicians said was caused by some sort of trauma.

At first, however, no one knew what the problem was, forcing Maendel to hop between eye specialists, which all tried their hand at solving her vision problem with temporary fixes.

 

 

First, it was glasses, but they didn’t work. Next were contact lenses, which only worked for a few years. It wasn’t until recently where her ophthalmologist suggested a corneal transplant, and three months ago her vision finally began improving.

“Things are going very well,” Maendel says. “My vision has improved but it is still a bit blurry, but that’s understandable as it can take up to a year for it to be fully clear. I’m just very grateful for skilled surgeons and organ and tissue donors.”

 

Maendel has always been very vigilant about her eye health, she says, and goes for regular checkups – something she’s done even before the surgery too.

But not all Canadians are like Maendel.

According to Dr. Setareh Ziai, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Ottawa Eye Institute, vision is one part of the body many people take for granted.

“People don’t always think about their vision until something goes wrong,” Ziai says. “It’s then when you realize how important it is to you.”

Even though it may not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, Ziai believes that, overall, Canadians find eye health important to their well-being.

“Because access to eye health examinations is pretty good across the country – especially in larger centres – I think Canadians are pretty adept at having their eyes examined, especially those who have medical conditions,” she says. “And I think the newer generation of parents, I’d say for the past 20 years, have been really good at ensuring that their children are examined early on.”

But as Oct. 12 marks World Sight Day, Ziai and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society want Canadians to know the importance of prevention and early detection when it comes to eye health.

According to CNIB – a Canadian agency and organization dedicated to assisting those who are blind and live with vision loss – few people realize that about 75 per cent of vision loss is preventable. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, puts that number as high as 80 per cent.

It’s estimated that about half a million Canadians currently live with significant vision loss, and every year 50,000 additional Canadians will lose their eyesight, CNIB reports.

Worldwide, the WHO estimates that 285-million people are visually impaired.

Eye health, Ziai says, is important to keep on top of because it can be an indicator of other health issues.

“When your pupils are dilated, we have a direct view into the nervous system of the eye,” she says. “It’s the only part of the nervous system that we can examine. So we can see diseases such as hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes and many different blood disorders.”

Both prevention and early detection are key when it comes to eye health, Ziai explains.

To prevent eye issues from developing, Ziai suggests doing a few things: wear protective eyewear when outdoors, prevent projecting objects (like removing rocks before mowing the lawn) and practice proper contact lens care if you wear contacts.

But sometimes conditions can develop due to other factors.

The most common symptoms people ignore, Ziai says, are signs of floaters or spots in vision, decreased vision in one eye, halos around lights and double vision.

While these can be indicative of many health issues, these symptoms can be signs of a retinal tear or detachment, for example.

“Floaters and flashing lights are common complaints,” she says. “A lot of the times that can be benign but what we need to do is to make sure it’s not caused by something like a retinal tear or detachment, which can affect the vision long-term.”

She adds, “Some ocular conditions – if you were to become a victim of one of those, you’d have symptoms severe enough that you would rush yourself to a hospital to see an ophthalmologist. But other conditions are silent diseases, and some like glaucoma, for example, many people won’t even know they have it if they’re not examined for it by either an optometrist or ophthalmologist.”

 


 

De-escalation is a trained skill and a team effort

When someone’s mental health or emotional crisis leads them to aggressive behaviour, they’re likely driven by fear.

 
There are many ways to help someone in a heightened emotional state. They can be offered a glass of water, something to eat, a blanket or nicotine replacement such as gum. Or, they might be offered choices — where to sit within the room, or whether they want the lights on or off.
There are many ways to help someone in a heightened emotional state. They can be offered a glass of water, something to eat, a blanket or nicotine replacement such as gum. Or, they might be offered choices — where to sit within the room, or whether they want the lights on or off.  (DREAMSTIME)  

When you come across somebody who is agitated, aggressive and yelling, your first instinct is probably to run the other way. But there are ways to effectively engage an agitated person to help them calm down so you can have a conversation and hopefully help them. This skill is called de-escalation.

In my work as an emergency department psychiatrist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), I’m part of a team working to de-escalate people experiencing a variety of psychiatric symptoms.

It might sound simple, but de-escalation is a skill that requires training and experience to get comfortable using specific strategies. It also takes a team to help ensure everyone’s safety — I don’t recommend anyone try it alone.

Usually, it takes the form of communication, but there are lots of things we do to help someone in a heightened emotional state. We might offer the person a glass of water, something to eat, a blanket or nicotine replacement such as gum. Or, we might offer them choices — where to sit within the room, or whether they want the lights on or off.

The first thing to keep in mind is that when someone’s experiencing a mental health or emotional crisis, if they’re behaving in an aggressive or threatening manner, they’re probably scared. Their actions are driven by fear, rather than a desire to harm anyone.

Many of the people we see in the emergency department are experiencing psychosis — a set of symptoms that makes it difficult to distinguish what’s real from what’s not — and have paranoia fuelling their aggression.

It’s important to recognize these ‘escalated’ expressions are often acts of defence. They may believe their life or the lives of family members are in danger. Or, they may believe their loved ones are conspiring against them and wish them harm. Those kinds of beliefs would be scary for anyone to live with.

It’s also important to find common ground with someone who may be in need of de-escalation in order to gain their trust. Find something to agree with them about — like the kernel of truth in what the person is saying or a principle. If possible, avoid saying “no” or disagreeing with them.

For example, imagine a person comes to the emergency department and believes they’re being pursued by someone who wants to hurt them. The person is carrying a knife because they believe they need it for their own protection. Instead of saying “No weapons allowed here, give it to us or we’ll call the police,” I might say: “I’m so glad you’re at the hospital. You’re in a safe place now. We’re going to hold on to the knife for you, so that we can all be safe. Let’s sit down and talk.”

In the field of mental health, we use trauma-informed care. This framework assumes that all of the people we care for have been traumatized at some point in their lives. We know the experience of just coming to the emergency department — whether on one’s own or with police — is traumatizing.

Because of this, we’re mindful about the language we use and how we interact with our patients so that we don’t run the risk of re-traumatizing them or making their symptoms worse.

If you have a friend or family member with a mental illness or an addiction, CAMH offers a range of supports and educational resources.

We hear of too many incidents of family members who end up injured — or worse — while trying to manage an escalating situation with a loved one experiencing psychosis. Call 911 sooner than later if you have safety concerns — for yourself or anyone else.

Here in Toronto, we’re fortunate to have Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCIT), which partner registered mental-health nurses and specially trained police officers to respond to emergency calls when someone’s experiencing a mental-health crisis. An MCIT will go to a call with a Primary Response Unit, which helps ensure everyone is safe.

Dr. Brittany Poynter is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. She is also the clinical head of the Gerald Sheff and Shanitha Kachan Emergency Department at CAMH. Doctors’ Notes is a weekly column by members of the U of T Faculty of Medicine. Email doctorsnotes@thestar.ca.

 
 

I can’t cope with pressures of holidays, mom’s dementia: Caregiver SOS

Accepting your role as a dementia caregiver will help you deal with the emotions of your larger-than-life stresses.

 
Getting a little help from loved ones can help ease the stress of providing care for a family member with dementia. Taking a break will often allow you the energy to get through the next period of caregiving.
Getting a little help from loved ones can help ease the stress of providing care for a family member with dementia. Taking a break will often allow you the energy to get through the next period of caregiving.  (DREAMSTIME)  
 

It is my turn to do family Thanksgiving dinner. I feel like I can’t cope with my job, kids, entertaining or my mom who has started having more issues with her dementia.

The squeeze you feel is clearly palpable in your question. The responsibilities of being a parent, a caregiver and holding down a job are tough. You unfortunately have joined a large group of people who are under the “larger-than-life” stress of being a dementia caregiver.

The first part of dealing with this is really getting to a point of accepting your role. It is no small role and has implications for you and your family.

It is important to realize that the job of caregiving is not a short-lived one. It is a long and serious commitment. It often lands on someone when they are not fully prepared to deal with it. This role requires more energy and time as the disease progresses.

The other reality is that you will get better at it as time goes on. Depending on your situation — and mom’s — it may affect your finances. It is also likely going to affect your job at some point, either in a practical, emotional or monetary way. I know it sounds like all bad news at this point, but truth is that if you plan for it correctly and take it on with proper supports, it is very doable. Many caregivers report a sense of accomplishment and pride in spite of the difficult journey.

It is imperative that you don’t do this job alone. Education and support from a professional who understands is important to have. They could be a family practitioner, specialist or Alzheimer’s support organization. As well, your family and friends are part of the solution. You need to make sure that you have your kids, spouse and siblings on board for the journey. That means a family meeting. It can make the difference to have everyone join together and even spell out his or her limitations aloud.

The other reality is that you need to be aware of the signs of burnout and of stress that are beyond the daily norms. Some of these signs are ongoing sleep issues, eating problems, hopelessness, anxiety, depression, physical issues, as well as poor resistance to illness. It is common to hear of caregivers not doing things for themselves and neglecting their own health and well-being.

Now, back to Thanksgiving and your stress. You need to ask for help. Often, many individuals view asking for help as a sign of weakness. In the case of dementia, if you don’t ask for help, you are going to be overwhelmed. Maybe Thanksgiving can be at someone else’s home this year and you can help out with cooking? A new format may be necessary. This is the start of reconsidering how you do many activities as a family and with mom and her illness.

You also may need to get away for a break on your own. That will allow you the energy to get through the next period or caregiving. Sometimes a short escape with proper eating and sleep can set you on your way; time to set yourself on the path of better health and focus.

Get organized. I regularly counsel caregivers who are organized and who have good skills delegating and taking on tasks. They manage better. Perhaps your spouse or a sibling can help you formulate some plans. If you don’t have someone, a professional can surely help.

Go get the medical attention you need. That persistent cough or lingering stomach ache needs attention. You need to model self-care to your family too. Kids are resilient and if you let them know that you are in a tough bind they often rally. The Alzheimer Society has great resources on explaining the illness to your children. Don’t try to sweep it under the rug.

Thanksgiving is a meal. It is a time to connect as a family and give thanks for what you have and what you share. Start by sharing the caregiving journey and plan for it to be a more productive and healthier one for you all.

Nira Rittenberg is an occupational therapist who specializes in geriatrics and dementia care at Baycrest Health Sciences Centre and in private practice. She is co-author of Dementia A Caregiver’s Guide available at baycrest.org/dacg Email questions to caregivingwithnira@baycrest.org


 

Task force recommends against colonoscopy for routine colorectal cancer screening

SHERYL UBELACKER, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Colorectal cancer screening
Task force recommends against colonoscopy for routine colorectal cancer screening. (Fotolia)
 

TORONTO — Colonoscopy should not be used for routine screening of colorectal cancer in patients with no symptoms or family history of the disease, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care advises in updated guidelines issued Monday.

Instead, the task force strongly recommends that low-risk patients aged 50 to 74 be screened for colorectal cancer using stool-based testing every two years or sigmoidoscopy every 10 years.

Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible scope allows the doctor to view the lower portion of the colon and rectum, not the entire colon as is the case with colonoscopy.

Stool-based tests look for signs of blood that may indicate cancer in the large bowel.

The guidelines are not aimed at Canadians who have symptoms that might point to colorectal cancer or those who have a genetic predisposition for the disease, said task force member Dr. Scott Klarenbach of the University of Alberta.

“These are for people who might not know they have the disease,” he said from Edmonton. “So if you can effectively screen and detect the disease at an early stage, there’s good evidence to suggest that you can prevent the bad things from happening. You can reduce morbidity and mortality due to colorectal cancer.

“And that’s why we think these recommendations are so important, because for population health, they can have a big benefit if we can detect these cancers early enough and prevent them from causing people to die.”

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer in men and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in women. In 2015, an estimated 25,000 Canadians were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and approximately 9,300 died from the disease.

The task force, which bases its advice on the latest available results from clinical trials, strongly recommends stool-based testing or sigmoidoscopy for adults aged 60 to 74, but its recommendation is weaker for those 50 to 59.

“And that’s only because the incidence — that is the number of people with cancer — changes with age,” said Klarenbach.

“For those who are over the age of 60, the incidence of cancer goes up dramatically and they’re more likely to have a larger absolute benefit from screening,” he said. “But many people who are younger, over the age of 50, they might decide after discussion with their primary-care provider that they would like to get screened as well.”

The task force also advises against screening asymptomatic patients age 75-plus because of their shorter life expectancy and a lack of evidence showing a benefit from the tests.

One reason for the weak recommendation for screening patients aged 50 to 59 is that a small percentage of fecal blood tests can provide false-positive results, which can cause anxiety as well as the need for a followup test — typically a more invasive colonoscopy, said Klarenbach.

“You’re less likely to pick up real disease because it’s less common (in that age group). Whereas, when you’re a little bit older, you still have that false-positive risk but you’re going to pick up much more disease.

“So it’s weighing those risks and benefits.”

The guidelines update the task force’s previous 2001 advice, which recommended fecal testing every one to two years or sigmoidoscopy every five years in asymptomatic adults.

The new Canadian guidelines are similar to the 2008 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation that adults aged 50 to 75 should be screened for colorectal cancer using a fecal blood test or sigmoidoscopy, but they differ in one major way.

While the U.S. group recommends colonoscopy as a screening tool, its Canadian counterpart does not believe there is sufficient evidence to support that advice.

Although clinical trials are underway to look at how colonoscopy stacks up against stool testing and sigmoidoscopy in reducing cases of colorectal cancer and deaths from the disease, Klarenbach said results are not yet available.

Dr. David Armstrong, incoming president of the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology, said it’s important to note that the guidelines are directed at primary-care physicians so they can advise patients who have no symptoms and a low risk for colorectal cancer.

“If people have symptoms — if they have bleeding, abdominal pain — if they have a family history of colon cancer, those are people in whom colonoscopy is the way to go,” Armstrong, a gastroenterologist at the McMaster University Medical Centre, said from Hamilton.

Many gastroenterologists, he said, would argue that colonoscopy is not only a means for diagnosing cancer, but it’s also therapeutic in that it allows doctors to remove polyps that are potentially tumours-in-waiting.

“It prevents small lesions from becoming large lesions,” said Armstrong.

“The challenge from the point of view of task forces or guidelines is to say how does that translate into practice and do we have the evidence to support that?” he said.

“That’s why we need the studies.”

The guidelines, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, are available online at canadiantaskforce.ca.

 

 


 

The economic cost of surgery wait times

BY MICHEL KELLY-GAGNON

While most Canadians would agree on the human cost of waiting for surgery and other medical treatments in Canada, few realize that there is also an economic cost in addition to the frustration, pain and stress for individuals and their families.

According to a Fraser Institute study published last year, the surgical wait times in the country cost Canadian patients a combined $1.08 billion in lost time and productivity in 2011. The report calculated the average value of time lost during the work week for each of the estimated 941,321 Canadians waiting for treatment in 2011. The main conclusion of the study is that the rationing of health care not only hurts Canadians’ quality of life but also their wages and productivity.

When one considers the human cost and the economic cost of the health care system in Canada, it is clear that we are getting poor value for the money. A reduction in the waiting time for health care services would thus benefit all Canadians — but how could we achieve this goal?

Simply putting more money into the system will not work and will be counterproductive.

The OECD has since 2001 been monitoring 13 developed countries in terms of their ability to tackle excessive waiting times for elective treatments — and guess what? Whereas more than a decade later many of these countries have made considerable progress in reducing waiting times, Canada is now at the bottom of the list.

Why? Mainly because we still refuse to deliver publicly funded services through a combination of public and private hospitals.

Research shows that the countries with the most effective policies have introduced competition and allowed patients to choose between providers. Money follows the patients, and both public and private institutions vie to attract them with quality care. Contrary to our system, they have the right incentives to improve their services and deliver them in a timely manner.

In a country like Germany, where the health system is publicly financed and more than two-thirds of hospitals are either private for-profit or private not-for-profit, wait times are not a problem. Not only that, but patients do not have to pay more for health care. The amount of services covered by the state is somewhat higher than in Canada, and no one is being discriminated against because of financial means, wherever they choose to get their treatment.

Isn’t it time we learn a thing or two from other OECD countries’ health care management experience?

–Michel Kelly-Gagnon is president of the Montreal Economic Institute. The views reflected in this column are his own.


 

745,000 hackable pacemakers need software updates

A doctor is seen examining the X-ray images of a patient's pacemaker in the radiography department at the Casa di Cura San Feliciano hospital, in this arranged photograph in Rome, Italy, on Monday, July 23, 2012.

A doctor is seen examining the X-ray images of a patient’s pacemaker in the radiography department at the Casa di Cura San Feliciano hospital, in this arranged photograph in Rome, Italy, on Monday, July 23, 2012.

Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

A staggering 745,000 pacemakers could be hacked – if they don’t get a firmware update.

The manufacturer, Abbott, has issued a firmware update that has “additional security measures” for the pacemakers.

The pacemakers were made by St. Jude, which was acquired by Abbott in 2017.

 

The security measures include data encryption and the “ability to disable network connectively features,” the company said.

Health Canada has been monitoring the issue, but says the device meets the “stringent” requirements for safety and effectiveness.

“Health Canada has been working with the manufacturer when it was made aware of the issue in January 2017 to adequately and appropriately mitigate the risks associated with the identified cybersecurity vulnerabilities,” spokesperson Adriana Willson said in an email.

“After reviewing the matter with the company, Health Canada has determined that the risks of cyberattack are being adequately mitigated.”

The Department of Homeland Security told the BBC that only a “high skill” hacker would be able to exploit the cyber vulnerabilities.

The company stressed that there was no reports of unauthorized access to patients’ devices, but that the firmware update is part of the company’s commitment to keep their products safe and secure, officials said in a release.

“All industries need to be constantly vigilant against unauthorized access,” Robert Ford, executive vice president of Medical Devices, said.

There are small risks to updating the device (a less than one per cent chance of complications) so both the FDA and the company recommend talking to your physician at your next scheduled appointment.

 


Couple dreams of being reunited after 6 years apart

Toronto woman, 79, on waiting list since January to join husband, 87, in long-term care home.

 
Jennifer Brown and her husband Karl Froehr, at Lakeside Long-Term Care Centre. Froehr lives at Lakeside and Brown would like to join him, but she is on a waitlist and there is no way to predict when a room will become available.
Jennifer Brown and her husband Karl Froehr, at Lakeside Long-Term Care Centre. Froehr lives at Lakeside and Brown would like to join him, but she is on a waitlist and there is no way to predict when a room will become available.  (VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR) | 
 

Jennifer Brown and Karl Froehr would like to be together for the rest of their lives, making the best of the years they have left.

They want to hold hands, share meals, watch films, talk about the arts, politics, music and books — but a string of circumstances has been keeping them apart for almost six years.

Froehr, 87, lives at Lakeside Long-Term Care Centre. The airy and spacious facility in the west end of Toronto provides the round-the-clock care he needs after a severe stroke in early 2012 seriously impacted his movement and his speech. He has been at Lakeside since last summer and in long-term care since the stroke, following a period of rehabilitation.

Brown, 79, resides in a downtown co-operative. Health issues, she admits, are making daily tasks increasingly difficult. She would like to join him at Lakeside and said she has been on what is known as a priority wait-list since January.

The months tick by.

And still, they are apart.

“Next year I will be 80,” Brown said. “I think it is remarkable I have done this for six years and haven’t lost my mind.”

Brown and Froehr met with the Star at Lakeside to talk about the anguish the separation has caused them. They also wanted to raise awareness of the financial and emotional stresses facing aging couples who want to enjoy their senior years in Toronto.

“Not his, he just blooms. I’m not exactly blooming,” she jokes.

Canada’s seniors have been identified as a vulnerable group, in terms of housing needs, by the federal government. The forthcoming National Housing Strategy will include housing supports for seniors, though the details have not been announced.

The money will come from a National Housing Fund worth $5 billion and dedicated to helping vulnerable people, including those with addiction and mental health issues, find and keep homes.

In the meantime, private rental costs in Toronto continue to climb, as do the costs and wait-lists for retirement homes across the province.

Toronto’s centralized wait-list for social housing — which includes Toronto Community Housing units, co-ops, private non-profit housing and subsidized rental housing — has nearly reached 100,000 households, or more than 183,000 people. In 2017, 31,000 senior households were on that list.

Jennifer Brown and her husband, Karl Froehr, have been together for more than 30 years and Brown is keen to join Froehr in the long-term care home where he has lived since he had a stroke in 2012.
Jennifer Brown and her husband, Karl Froehr, have been together for more than 30 years and Brown is keen to join Froehr in the long-term care home where he has lived since he had a stroke in 2012.  (FAMILY PHOTO)  

Froehr and Brown have been together for more than 30 years. They met in an airport terminal, both headed to New York, but got so swept up in conversation they accidentally boarded a flight bound for Chicago.

They did not become a couple until years later, and built a life based on mutual respect and fondness for sports, travel, literature and the arts and humour. They got married in 2003 because, said Brown, they wanted to throw a party.

In Froehr’s unit at Lakeside, by the time they speak of the love and respect they have built over three decades, they are pointing out the obvious.

Brown is a gregarious and private woman with a self-deprecating and salty sense of humour.

“Some of this is a surprise to you,” she said to Froehr, after revealing the stress she has been under.

Froehr, formerly fluent in German and French and somewhat familiar with Italian and Spanish, shared his views using careful and deliberate English.

Much of his communication is done with his eyes. When he looks at Brown, they glow.

“We got extremely lucky with love,” she said.

He turned to her. “Oh, absolutely, absolutely. That is so nice that we have it together.”

There are 36 long-term care homes with 5,879 spaces under the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), which covers much of the city, according to a September 2017 report.

Lakeside has 128 beds and most people can expect to wait at least 18 months for a private room. Getting a basic room can take more than four years. At Lakeside there are 126 people waiting for a basic room and 44 for a private and about two beds become available each month, the report showed.

Because her husband is in care, Brown has some priority and her wait time is expected to be shorter, but she said staff simply can’t tell her when a bed might free up.

People trying to enter long-term care are usually asked to choose five potential spots. If a bed becomes available, the person has 24 hours to take the spot and just five days to move in, under rules set out in the Long-Term Care Homes Act.

“If a potential resident is not able to move in within that time frame it is considered a failed admission and the client is removed from the waitlist and the process would begin with another potential resident,” explained Megan Primeau, communications manager with the Toronto LHIN, via email.

Lakeside is obligated by law to adhere to these rules, as are all long-term care homes.

The act affords some flexibility to the five-day rule, for example if somebody is too ill or injured to move or if there is an outbreak of disease at the facility.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is asking for feedback from the public on proposed amendments in the Long-Term Care Homes Act that should make it easier for couples to reunite.

The five-day window is not being reviewed.

That unpredictable wait time, coupled with the five-day time frame, means Brown can’t give notice at her co-operative, plan to pack, or sell or store her possessions. Nerve damage in her feet and spinal issues make it hard to stand and walk, much less move belongings, she said.

Windmill Line Co-op requires members to give “at least two calendar months plus five days’ written notice,” according to their bylaws, posted online. The general manager wouldn’t comment about a particular resident, or co-operative policies, but said members are welcome to raise issues with him and one has already done so about this issue.

In private rentals, tenants are typically required to give at least 60 days notice, but landlords can agree to break a lease.

Brown pays $929 a month, from her government pension and retirement income funds. Froehr’s pension covers most of his room and board, a small amount is subsidized and he is given $146 a month, a set amount known as a comfort care allowance.

Brown said his children help with expenses, when they can, but she handles the bulk of his extra needs and costs, including trips on WheelTrans to visit him and appointments, clothing and the roughly 20 books he reads every month. She says she also manages any outstanding financial or legal affairs.

“My life consists of taking care of Karl and trying to survive . . . and I am still laughing.”

Jennifer Brown and husband Karl Froehr have lived apart for almost six years since Froehr suffered a stroke. Brown now longs to join him at Lakeside Long-Term Care Centre, but has been on a wait list since January.
Jennifer Brown and husband Karl Froehr have lived apart for almost six years since Froehr suffered a stroke. Brown now longs to join him at Lakeside Long-Term Care Centre, but has been on a wait list since January.  (VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR)  

But worrying about his needs, money, her own medical appointments and trying to plan a move has exhausted her, she said.

“Frankly, I am close to giving up.”

Seniors pay to live in long-term care, but the rates are set by the government and nursing and support care workers are covered. All basic long-term care rooms, or ones without private washrooms, cost a maximum of $1,819 per month and private rooms cost a maximum of $2,599.

David Jensen, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said the government is aware of the stress and anxiety couples can experience when separated, as a result of one person being placed in long-term care.

“Ensuring not only the safety but also the well-being of all residents living in long-term care homes across the province is a strong priority for this government,” said Jensen.

The proposed amendments to the Long-Term Care Homes Act include designating a bed, to make sure spouses can join their partners faster, or separate wait lists for couples who want to be reunited in long-term care homes.

Members of the public can review the amendments and offer feedback until Oct 26. If approved, they would go into effect Jan. 1.

Brown hopes to be with Froehr soon at Lakeside, but until then the bills and frustration will continue to pile up. It isn’t, she has said, how they want to spend the rest of their lives.

“We have been apart for six years. I think we deserve to go out together.”

Froehr, she explained, said it to her a slightly different way.

“You and me. Forever. We go together.”

 Report calls for new understanding of palliative care for people with cancer

Overview of CPAC report: “Call for new perspectives on palliative care in Canada” 

The Partnership report sheds new light on the value of palliative care, and how it can enhance the quality of life for patients and their caregivers. Many studies demonstrate that introducing the palliative approach as part of a comprehensive treatment program has measurable benefits for patients. It is linked with better symptom control, reduced anxiety and pain, and more support for a patient’s social, emotional, and spiritual needs. It can also lead to fewer unplanned trips to the emergency ward, and shorter hospital stays.

Some key recommendations from the Partnership report include:

• Cancer patients who could benefit from palliative care should be identified, assessed and referred earlier in their treatment program.

• All Canadians with cancer should get the best possible palliative care when they need it, and in the place of their choice.

• Community-based supports should be available to allow patients to spend their final days in their preferred setting.

“There are strong studies that show early integration of palliative care improves peoples’ quality of life, and their satisfaction with care,” says Dr. Deborah Dudgeon, a senior scientific leader at the Partnership. “Unfortunately, what is happening now is that it is often only in the last few weeks of life that people’s palliative needs are being identified and addressed. We are selling people short when we see palliative care only as end-of-life care.”

How we view palliative care in Canada has changed substantially from its roots in the 1960s hospice movement. More than half a century ago, Dame Cicely Saunders developed a holistic approach to pain management to ease the suffering of her dying patients in London, England. She introduced the idea that pain was not just physical, but also social, psychological and spiritual.

Today, the definition of palliative care has expanded and evolved. With studies showing the benefits of a palliative approach, it is being introduced earlier in the course of an illness in conjunction with other treatments. Palliative care has changed to become a supportive service for those living with serious illness, as well as those in the last stages of terminal illness.

A nurse for more than 25 years, Dr. Kimberley Widger spent the first 15 years of her career working mostly with children who had cancer in hospitals across Canada and the United States.  She has seen how early integration can improve quality of life and ease the suffering of young patients and their families.

“Palliative care is not about death. It is about living well in the face of whatever illness you have,” Dr. Widger says. “It is focused on making sure you live life to the fullest in the midst of receiving treatments that may be aimed at curing the illness or extending life for as long as possible.”

Since completing her doctoral studies, Dr. Widger has conducted research on pediatric palliative care both at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and across the country, and teaches nursing at the University of Toronto. Over the years, she has seen a growth in specialized palliative care teams across the country. There remains, however, a startling gap in access for young patients. Her studies have found that just one in five children who might benefit has access to specialized palliative care. In the case of adults, the figure is closer to one in two.

“Kids are lagging behind,” Dr. Widger observes. “Looking at programs across the country, referrals were very late. Children who live in lower-income and rural areas are also much less likely to get specialized palliative care. We live in a country that values equal health care for all.  So if there is a bias in who gets palliative care and who doesn’t, that is a big concern.”

As president of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, Dr. David Henderson knows there are gaps in the system that will not be closed overnight. He notes efforts to improve access to palliative care, especially outside main city centres, are underway. New certifications and training programs are being launched to provide health professionals with additional expertise in palliative care. There are also initiatives to encourage a broader understanding of palliative care within the health care system.

“Canada is a huge country and very rural in so many places, and so the reality is you are not going to have that full team everywhere,” Dr. Henderson says. “The key is to have access to the type of care as much as possible, and if you get really rural whoever is there knows how to contact the care team for advice.”

The authors of Palliative and End-of-Life Care note that the data available in Canada focus more on end-of-life care, whereas what is needed are data that also focus on palliative care, what is the level of symptom burden, and do patients receive palliative care when they need it and where they live. They highlight the importance of developing a national strategy for data collection, to ease inequities in the system.

Dr. Henderson adds that palliative care is best delivered by an interdisciplinary team that can expand or reduce in size depending on family and patient needs over time. These teams bring together family doctors, home care nurses and spiritual care providers with palliative care specialists such as doctors and social workers.

Health care providers have seen how palliative care can enhance the quality of life for Canadians living with a serious illness. The plan is that, in the years to come, more family physicians and oncologists on the front lines will come to understand and value its worth for patients and their families.

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.


 

Ontario relaxes rules on supports for people with disabilities

BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS

The legislature at Queens Park on Oct. 16 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL/Fred Lum

Ontario residents with disabilities are seeing major changes to provincial programs offering financial support and medical coverage.

Effective Friday, the government is loosening some of the stringent rules governing the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW). The two are the primary social support systems for disabled residents, although Ontario Works assists non-disabled residents as well.

One of the most notable changes significantly relaxes the rules concerning how much money recipients are allowed to have as assets or savings before having their benefits clawed back.

Singles receiving ODSP will see their asset limits jump from $5,000 to $40,000, while limits for couples will climb from $7,500 to $50,000.

Individuals using Ontario Works will see those limits quadruple from $2,500 to $10,000, while couples’ limits triple from $5,000 to $15,000.

The government is also increasing the limits on how much ODSP or OW recipients can receive in a year as cash gifts.

Among other changes going into effect is a two per cent increase in monthly social assistance benefits for both programs.

Program users and advocates hailed the changes as definite progress for a system they say had long lagged behind the needs of those who relied on it. But they said the changes still fall short of what’s needed.

In particular, they cited the small increase to social assistance benefits.

Individuals on ODSP, for instance, receive just $1,151 per month, including a maximum shelter allowance of $489. The total monthly income for couples on ODSP is currently set at $1,688.

Kyle Vose, chair of the ODSP Action Coalition, said the changes that took effect Friday represent a necessary and welcome first step to overhauling the program.

“We are grateful for what we’re getting and for the changes that are being made,” said Vose, who cited the increase to asset limits and cash gifts as among the most exciting of the changes.

Those were long-standing sore points within the community, he said.

Ron Malis, a financial advisor focusing on people with disabilities, agreed.

With the previous limits, if a social assistance recipient were to receive an inheritance that would put them over those low thresholds, they would have to isolate the money in a registered disability savings plan or other exempt asset in order to keep receiving monthly aid, Malis explained.

Going over the limit, he said, could result in short or long-term suspension of benefits.

If people wanted to access some of those funds for reasons not related to their disability, they would then run afoul of another set of rules — those governing cash gifts and voluntary payments.

Under the old system, both ODSP and OW recipients were barred from receiving any cash gifts greater than $6,000 over a 12-month period. Malis said this would include withdrawals from trusts or other exempted savings vehicles.

The new rules are raising the cash gift limit for both groups to $10,000. But Malis said the change is not in line with the more substantial increases to asset limits.

“You increase the size of the water barrel, but you do not allow people to open the tap much more than is currently possible today,” Malis said. “It makes things so complex for people who are struggling.”

Still, Malis praised the measures as significant progress, though he argued the Ontario government could have followed the lead of provinces such as British Columbia. Asset limits there were recently raised to $100,000 without limits on cash gifts.

Graeme Dempster, a spokesman from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, said Ontario is looking to B.C.’s approach to see if it’s an appropriate blueprint for future changes.

“We do not know yet how that affected clients or if that is the appropriate amount to which the limit should be increased,” he said. “This policy change in British Columbia gives us an opportunity to see how results there can inform future changes to ODSP, which we are always looking for ways to improve.”

Dempster said the ministry recognizes the need to “fundamentally change social assistance.” A reform group is slated to release recommendations on the issue this fall.

At least one group is calling for more drastic improvements than those that went into effect Friday.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty called the two per cent boost to monthly payments “measly” and said it falls well short of what’s needed, particularly when contrasted with the roughly $1,900 people with disabilities could expect to receive under Ontario’s basic income pilot program.

Other changes taking effect are modest increases for ODSP recipients living in remote communities, relaxed ajudication rules for people re-entering either ODSP or OW, and the addition of batteries and mobility device repairs to the list of items covered under the ODSP health benefits plan.


 

Three Ontario nursing homes ordered to stop new admissions because of substandard care

The crackdown on three Ontario nursing homes came this week after the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care ordered each to “cease admissions.”

Jane Meadus, a staff lawyer at Toronto’s Advocacy Centre for the Elderly legal clinic, says new legislation likely won’t become law until early 2018  (EMMA MCINTOSH / TORONTO STAR) | ORDER THIS PHOTO

By MOIRA WELSHInvestigative News reporter

Wed., Oct. 4, 2017

Three troubled Ontario nursing homes — including a Mississauga home — have been ordered to stop accepting new residents due to substandard care.

The crackdown came this week after the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care ordered each to “cease admissions,” meaning no new residents are allowed to move into the homes.

The order affects two facilities operated by the Sharon Village Care Homes chain, Tyndall Nursing Home in Mississauga and Earls Court Long Term Care in London, along with a home from the Caressant Care chain in Fergus. Both companies sent written statements to the Star, saying they will work with the ministry to resolve the problems.

The cease admissions orders are not common. Of Ontario’s 630 long-term care homes, roughly five a year are stopped from accepting new residents.

In Hoskin’s Oct. 3 letter to Schlegel, he called the results of the recent ministry inspection of Tyndall and Earls Court are “deeply concerning.”

The ministry has “determined that there is sufficient risk of harm to the residents’ health or well-being to warrant a Cease of Admissions,” Hoskins wrote.

He highlighted problems at the London home, Earls Court, saying ministry inspectors found the staffing plan does not meet the residents’ care needs. “As a result, residents did not receive the care required,” Hoskins wrote.

Proper staffing of Ontario long-term care homes in general has long been a complaint among workers, families and the residents who suffer from lack of care.

Tyndall nursing home, located on Eglinton Ave. E. and Dixie Rd., had its annual inspection last January. The public report showed that inspectors spent 13 days in the home and found 51 violations, including problems with toileting, food, the use of restraints and communication with residents.

Earls Court in London had a “cease admissions” order in 2016, which Hoskins cited in his letter to Schlegel. In its most recent inspection, posted online, the ministry found 20 violations. Caressant Care Fergus had 14 violations in its most recent public inspection report.

The minister’s letter to Caressant Care president James Lavelle noted inspectors found “repeated” examples of resident neglect and a lack of cleanliness in the home and its furniture, but did not provide specific details.

Hoskins also said the home had not complied with previous ministry orders related to managing residents with “responsive behaviours” and the prevention of falls.

In both letters to Caressant Care and Sharon Village, Hoskin said, “As the president of a corporation that owns places that residents call home, you are entrusted with an enormous responsibility to provide high quality, dignified care to our cherished elderly family members, and our most valuable friends and neighbours,” he wrote.

In a written statement emailed to the Star, Caressant Care said its management team is “working closely with the ministry to address certain compliance deficiencies. Our first priority is to provide a high level of care to our residents.”

A statement from Schlegel, of Sharon Village Homes, said the ministry has “temporarily ceased” admissions “in order that we can rectify some areas of non-compliance. We support the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, in their efforts to ensure the public of high quality care in all Long-Term Care homes in the province.”

These orders were filed a few days after the government introduced legislation that, if passed, would create tougher enforcement against nursing homes. The legislation would include hefty fines for corporations, ranging from $200,000 for first time offence and $500,000 for subsequent offences.

It is currently in first reading and, if passed, likely won’t become law until early 2018, said Jane Meadus, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.

Unless the Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act becomes law, the “cease admissions” is one of the ministry’s best weapons, said Meadus.

“Clearly, these homes are not able to clean up their act,” Meadus said. “The ministry has no choice but to say if you can’t meet the requirements then we can’t let you accept new residents.”

She said cease admissions orders are considered serious action taken after repeated violations of provincial care regulations, because fewer residents can mean ministry funding cuts for the affected homes. It also impacts Ontario’s long waiting list, removing beds for residents who need a place to live.

“I think that with all the problems we are seeing in the media with long term care homes, the ministry if finally getting the message,” Meadus said.

In a statement to the Star about the ministry action, Hoskins said, “. . . it is completely unacceptable that these operators are not meeting the province’s standards. The distressing practice of failing to meet provincial standards will not be accepted in Ontario.”

 


Dementia study gives motivation to address hearing loss

We should gently but firmly push for others to use aids if they need them. Their cognitive health may depend on it.

By JUDITH TIMSONCurrent affairs

I am fascinated by a new study in the medical journal The Lancet that shows that if you prevent or manage age-related hearing loss, you may decrease your chance of getting dementia.

Dementia, the Lancet study reminds us, is not an “inevitable consequence of aging.” But for many of us, hearing loss sure is.

The Lancet’s commission on dementia came up with nine “potentially modifiable health and lifestyle factors” that might help prevent dementia.

Hearing loss is labelled the second most important factor, after good childhood education.

Why is this important?

Many of us have cared for beloved elders, some of whom have stubbornly resisted the necessity of hearing devices — “I can hear just fine, dear” — and yet these elders can, as a result of perfectly normal age-related hearing loss, unnecessarily slip into social isolation and cognitive distress.

Not all problems can be addressed as readily as hearing loss. We should gently but firmly push harder for them to use hearing aids if they need them. Their cognitive health may depend on it.

Here’s another key reason the hearing loss/dementia connection is important: We baby boomers are just coming up on our own not-so-golden “I’m sorry, what did you say?” years, in which words that were once clear during conversations, especially in crowded rooms, are now muffled.

For some of us, noisy restaurants have become unbearable. You want to see cranky, try four boomers, a bottle of fruity rosé and multiple fruitless requests to a smirking young waiter to please — please — just turn down the damn music. Even the waiter gets cranky.

Paradoxically, the volume on our own radios and other listening devices can sometimes rival the noise level of that scary “Amber Alert ” notification.

I’ve been scolded by my millennial adult children for how loud my car radio sounds, as if I am jazzing myself with Kendrick Lamar instead of sedately listening to CBC afternoon show Here and Now host Gill Deacon cracking a few jokes. (Her jokes are pretty good.)

I may have had an unfortunate head start on the erosion of my once-acute hearing after suffering a concussion two years ago.

All I know is that at a recent crowded and glitzy media event, where the champagne after party was held in a hotel antechamber, the main sound I heard was that of buzzing bees.

“Boy some people were really drunk at that event,” a friend told me later. I wouldn’t know. All I heard was those damn bees.

That’s all the bad news, folks.

The good news is there’s never been a cooler time for aging boomers to wear a hearing device. Think Bluetooth! Think every young person you know prancing down the street with a listening device in their ear. They seem cool, so why can’t we?

One of the most glamorous boomer women in Canada uses an auditory device. Karen Kain, 66, former prima ballerina, and now artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada, has for the past few years, worn a device in one ear to correct a heredity condition. Now, she says, “I don’t have to strain at all to hear conversations.”

A music producer I know in his 60s who doesn’t want his name used (professional discretion) says for a while he was “too freaked out” about his hearing loss to even get tested. When he finally did, “it confirmed my fears.” He decided to give hearing aids a go and “it was like a blanket had been lifted. I sort of wish I had done it sooner.”

With sleek and tech forward (and yes, sometimes expensive) devices, boomers are getting what they want, says Rex Banks, Director of Audiology for the Canadian Hearing Society.

“We are slowly being able to understand what the baby boomers want from hearing and health care. Our clients are searching for convenience, value in pricing, and a high level of expertise. Certainly the new style of hearing aids, and their compatibility with Bluetooth technology, are a match for the diverse and active lifestyle they want to live.”

The Canadian Hearing Society confirms that aging is the No. 1 cause of hearing loss and “the incidence of hearing loss is poised to climb dramatically as our population ages. (The number of adults aged 65 and over in Ontario is projected to be 4.1 million, or 23.4 per cent of the population, by 2036.)

Stats show almost 46 per cent of people aged 45 to 87 will have hearing loss. That’s a lot of irritable restaurant diners asking for the music to be turned down because they can’t distinguish the conversation from the ambient noise.

Aging gracefully always sounds a lot easier than it is. We are still an anti-aging society. My generation has gone to remarkable lengths to look young, feel young and even think young.

But you can’t project vibrancy, connection and glowing good health if your response to someone you meet socially is “What did you say?”

My deepest fear is that someone will confess something sad to me in a crowded noisy room — say losing a job — and just taking a guess, I will respond “Good for you!”

Now that we know that managing any hearing loss may also help stave off dementia, why wouldn’t we be proactive and get help?

I am almost looking forward to wearing a wire.

 

Judith Timson writes weekly about cultural, social and political issues. You can reach her at judith.timson@sympatico.ca and follow her on Twitter @judithtimson

 


U.S. drug maker ordered to slash prices in Canada, pay back millions

Soliris can cost as much as $500,000 dollars a year, depending on a patient’s condition and weight.

MICHAELQUIRK/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

The maker of the one of the world’s most expensive drugs has been ordered to slash the price of the medication in Canada and pay back millions of dollars in revenue that the country’s drug-pricing regulator has deemed “excessive.”

In a landmark decision released Wednesday, a panel of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) ruled that Connecticut-based Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. charged more for a rare-disease treatment called Soliris than Canadian law allows.

The decision followed a rare public hearing earlier this year on allegations of excessive pricing of a drug in Canada.

 In the vast majority of cases, pharmaceutical companies accused by the board of overpricing their patented drugs agree to pay back the money through voluntary agreements that are akin to out-of-court settlements.

The hearing also marked the first time that some provincial health ministries and the private health-insurance industry intervened at a PMPRB panel hearing, a sign of growing alarm about the eye-popping prices of rare-disease drugs.

Alexion fought the regulator, saying it had not raised the price of Soliris since the drug debuted in Canada in 2009 at a level the board considered acceptable for a breakthrough drug with no competitors.

The only thing that changed in the ensuing years was the foreign exchange rate, Alexion argued.

The company vowed to seek a judicial review of the ruling.

 

“The PMPRB Panel wants to penalize Alexion for changes to currency exchange rates, which are beyond our control, and seeks to apply a newly-invented pricing structure that is not supported by applicable law,” Daniel Palmqvist, general manager of Alexion Pharmaceuticals Canada, said by e-mail.

“If upheld, the Panel’s decision will have serious implications for future innovations and investments in the development and availability of therapies for Canadian patients with devastating rare and ultra-rare diseases.”

Soliris is a medication that treats paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS,) a pair of chronic and life-threatening diseases that affect only a few hundred Canadians.

Soliris can cost as much as $500,000 dollars a year, depending on a patient’s condition and weight.

The regulator had alleged that, beginning in 2012, Alexion started selling Soliris at the highest price among the seven countries against which the board benchmarks prices, even the United States, which generally has the highest drug prices in the world.

In its 75-page decision, the hearing panel found that Alexion’s prices broke the rules. The panel ordered Alexion to immediately lower the price of Soliris to no higher than the lowest price among the seven comparator countries.

 

The panel also ordered Alexion to pay back the excessive revenue in an amount that has yet to be determined.

The money would go to the federal government.


 Ontario therapeutic riding centre brings smiles to children and youth with disabilities

WATCH ABOVE: Windrush is a therapeutic riding centre in Campbellville. It started more than 40 years ago by an incredible woman who trained in England with the British Horse Society. Lesley Ridout-Gauer brought back the knowledge of top-notch horse care and what riding can do for children and youth with disabilities.

 

Lesley Ridout-Gauer got her first horse when she was 12. She trained in England with the British Horse Society and brought the knowledge of quality horse care back to Canada.

“My horses are everything to me,” said Ridout-Gauer.

Her dream was to help people with physical or developmental disabilities achieve personal growth through riding. That dream became a reality more than 20 years ago when she founded Windrush Stable.

“I have always loved working with people with disabilities. My father was a principal of a vocational school – I think it was just in my blood.”

Riding a horse is quite beneficial for someone with special needs, according to Ridout-Gauer.

“(The horses) can emotionally bring them out of their shell. They can make (the participants) feel important because they don’t judge. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what you can or cannot do – they just love you the way you are,” said Ridout-Gauer.

“Physically there’s a whole lot they can do as far as core strengthening and helping your balance – it’s multifaceted.”

The centre, located in Campbellville, Ont., has strict standards when it comes to safety. The stable offers private lessons with only experienced instructors, focusing exclusively on one rider per lesson.

“They understand both horses and they understand people with special needs … it’s that combination that makes Windrush so special,” said Barry Citren, the father of Daniel Citren, a student at the centre.