Moderation in All Things


As I have stated in previous posts, our healthcare system is dominated by what I term the Big Three: Insurance Companies, Pharmaceuticals, Hospitals.  As with most communication, and by the fact that I am passionate about the need to re-vamp our healthcare approach, I may have sounded a little too strongly at how the system being dominated by the Big Three with focus on profits has a potentially adverse affect on the health of our country.

There is no question that the Three developed as the needs of our population arose.  Our Democracy is based on a capitalistic foundation.  Thus it would follow that pursuing profits would be an inherent part of any business.  We, as a country, also put great stock in the Scientific Community.  Thus it would follow that pursuing new means of coming up with cures would play a dominant factor in medicine.

However, as with any pursuit or endeavor in life, when the focus leans too much in one direction, it can have adverse affects on the opposite side and I do believe that at this stage, the focus of the Big Three has veered too much on the profits and finances, ultimately undermining the service side of their work.  If a doctor is required to bring X amount of $s into the “firm” and that can only happen by seeing X amount of patients in a given day and/or suggesting so many procedures or specialty visits, then the patient and his/her health is affected (not to mention the doctor’s, whose life has the added stress of having to bring in so much money).  Nowadays, often, young people go into the field of medicine because it assures a good living.  Even if a young person has gone into the field for idealistic reasons, ie, helping those in need, the demands of the system and the focus on the money side of things will quickly overwhelm the original intent of the young person going into the field.

When my grandfather practiced medicine, he was a General Practitioner.  He was the one that people went to if they had a tummy ache, or a toothache, or a wart, or were about to give birth.  If his patients didn’t have the money to pay, he might receive a side of ham instead.  If he did not have an answer, he would suggest a visit to someone who might have a more specialized background.  Litigation against doctors did not exist back then.  As far as I know, my grandfather never lost a patient on an operating table.  But people were much more accepting that death COULD be an outcome.

So the times they have changed.  But just as they have changed into this extreme scenario in which it is now considered natural to spend 15 minutes with a doctor and leave with a prescription and/or to try everything that is being offered to keep someone alive (regardless of statistics that may help families recognize that there is very little chance for survival),  maybe now is the time to re-focus our attention on the promotion of health, rather than playing catch up to ill-health and permit change to again occur.  (In fact, I believe the ability to change and see things in new ways is one of the elements that makes our country so great).

This, then, is the basis of my passionate writing on this subject.  Thus, just as I make the point that it is time for our system to moderate itself, I, too, plan to moderate my writings on the subject.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013



“Obama Care” summarized – part 4


…and so here is the final entry to the long story of trying to implement universal health care in the United States.

The opposition fought a dirty war, even incorporating racism to try and prevent the Health Care Reform Act from becoming law.  But politics is a dirty game and often has very little to do with us, the people.

The reality is that health care in this country has become so exorbitantly expensive, the system would become financially bankrupt were it allowed to continue in the direction it has been.   Thus, all the posturing by the opponents of the bill had more to do with buying time in order to figure out how to ensure their interests under the new system.  In the end, much of the original bill was watered down and implementing universal health care will be much more expensive than it would have been when originally considered.  However, some important laws did get passed and, hopefully, States will recognize the benefits to them.  Unfortunately, since so much of the focus on the part of big businesses is on how to take advantage of circumstances, (and by this I mean milk the system) we have become a society that is encouraged to look at how to take advantage of legislation.  I really do not know a remedy for this since the example in front of us is that one can get away with milking the system (Wall Street being the biggest example of getting away with….).

So, in the end, what is the Health Care Reform Act?  I think the following video will probably do a better job of explaining than I can.  So view and enjoy.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013



An American Tragedy: The Media


A few hours after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, a friend who knows something about electronics came over to my house to help me get my “media” center back on the air.  While he was fooling around with the wires, the television was on — probably all of ten minutes.  It was the news and clearly the news had been going on for quite some time.   You know, where the commentators are trying to fill air space and have repeated the same thing over and over.  BUT in the ten minutes that the television was on, I heard the commentator say: “We are not giving out names because the victim’s families have asked that their privacy be respected.”  This is being said as pictures of the faces of family members who have just received the news flash across the television.  In front of the nation, a person’s moment of unspeakable tragedy is flashed across the screen and the commentator is talking about respecting people’s privacy.

The next thing to occur on this news channel was hearing the commentator opine that “this person was a very sick, sick individual.”  As she said this, pictures of the SWAT team were being flashed on the screen.  These men all looked like White Supremacists with their shaved heads, assault guns and hand guns galore hanging off their bullet proof vests and in their hands.  And I asked myself:  ”What planet am I on?”

That the National Rifle Association (NRA) continues to put forth their argument that as citizens of the United States, we have a right to bear arms because the second amendment (written prior to our having a standing army let alone assault weapons) says so [should we be attacked by a foreign nation] is bad enough.  But then to have the media expound non-stop with pictures that, quite frankly, feed into the high drama with the same intensity that one might experience watching a movie and thereby adding a glamorous twist to such a horrific act is the tragedy we need to look at.  Not to diminish by any means the tragedy of the shooting.  Yes, we need to focus on the gun laws and re-consider what the second amendment is truly about.  But we also need to reflect on how the news media helps to enhance these acts.

The television is in our living room (or kitchen or bedroom or family room).  Wherever the television is, it is in the middle of our hearth, the place we call home, our safe haven.  And yet, if we turn it on, and a majority of the people in the United States watch some television, many do so addictively, we are subjected to many intrusions into that sense of safety.  To see again and again the same shots, whether it be big burly SWAT teams or pictures of the victims looking innocently out at the camera, or a plane going into one of the Twin Towers, our world is being intruded upon in a most profound way.  Our psyches are being influenced into a belief that we live in an unsafe world.  We do and we don’t.

Oh yes, it is media’s job to let us know what is happening.  And, of course, one outcome is that on a national level, people are responding with outpourings of sympathy for the victims and their families and their community.  That is good.  We might even FINALLY see some changes in the gun laws in this country.  But we are not looking at the long term effect that seeing something played over and over again may have.  There is so much that we accept, including this 24 hour news service, as being something that is necessary.  If, in fact, there were news that was worth anything for the most part being shared, then maybe it could be justified.

But an outcome with media’s insistence of playing something over and over and over again is that the sense of unease and insecurity gets hammered into our psyches to such an extent that we begin to feel alienated from our fellow citizens, our neighbors.  We close ourselves off from feeling a societal connection with those around us.  And, although there have been many studies demonstrating a causal effect between violence on television and violence in real life, no one seems to be asking the question of how much of the attention that is given to these heinous acts might encourage others to commit them in turn?

We speak (although have as yet to take any action) about putting a cap on the types of guns individuals are allowed to carry.   I believe we should also put a cap on how much the news media is allowed to enter our lives, because it does have an influence through its continuous presence in our lives, –and mostly not for the better.

I will end with a great quote I saw on Facebook: One failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all take off our shoes at the airport. Thirty-one school shootings since Columbine and no changes in our regulations of guns –John Oliver

Oh, and as I was scrolling down to find this quote, I saw a headline that apparently FOX News told their newscasters that they were not allowed to mention gun control in their coverage of the most recent shootings.  Hm.  But speak inane nonsense for hours on end……

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012


“Obama Care” Part 1, The History


Since President Obama has been re-elected, I decided that I had better educate myself on the question of the Health Care Reform Act and find out what is really at stake.  I do believe that the only way the President will get the support he needs to make this initiative successful is if he and his Administration educate the public with the same energy and coordination that they used for his election and re-election.  For my part, I will begin with the history of the universal health care question in our country and move forward.

Many people think that the whole question of universal health care was “pushed” on us  by “this” president.   Untrue.  Universal health care has been a topic of discussion since the turn of the century — the 20th century.  Yes, since the early 1900s.  Why is it that the idea of universal health care has not been embraced by our country, the only advanced nation in the world not to have universal health care?  The answer to that question has many components.  Jill Lepore, in an article  she penned December 7, 2009 for the New Yorker, wrote that a group of economists which included Louis Brandeis, Jane Addams and Woodrow Wilson formed a committee they called the Committee on Social Insurance.  By 1915, the committee had drafted a bill to provide universal medical coverage.  At the time, the American Medical Association enthusiastically supported the idea and by the end of 1916, the idea was presented to Congress for their approval.

According to Lepore, part of their presentation lauded Germany as the great example to be emulated.

“Germany showed the way in 1883,” Fisher [one of the committee members] told his audience. “Her wonderful industrial progress since that time, her comparative freedom from poverty . . . and the physical preparedness of her soldiery, are presumably due, in considerable measure, to health insurance.”

However, in April 1917, the United States declared war with Germany,  killing, along with some German soldiers, any move towards Universal Health Care which was now being correlated as a product of Germany.

In Lepore’s article, we learn that:

In California, where the legislature had passed a constitutional amendment providing for universal health insurance, it was put on the ballot for ratification: a federation of insurance companies took out an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle warning that it “would spell social ruin to the United States.” Every voter in the state received in the mail a pamphlet with a picture of the Kaiser and the words “Born in Germany. Do you want it in California?” (“If you are opposed to a thing these days,” one frustrated health-care advocate wrote, “the cheapest way to attack it is to call it ‘German.’ ”) The people of California voted it down. By 1919, John J. A. O’Reilly, a Brooklyn physician, was calling universal health insurance “UnAmerican, Unsafe, Uneconomic, Unscientific, Unfair and Unscrupulous.”

Hm.  This certainly sounds familiar, although these days, the word German has been replaced with the word socialist.

Fast Forward to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.  Once again, universal health care was bandied around as a right of all citizens.  But opposition came, in the form of Southern Senators (who were mostly Democrats at the time, because Abraham Lincoln had been a Republican), concerned about the implications that a National Health Insurance (NHI) might have in their segregated societies.  They aligned themselves with Republican senators and brought the American Medical Association (AMA) into the fold to put a block to this.  President Roosevelt, concerned that other New Deal reforms would not pass if he pushed too hard on NIH, dropped it.

However, after World War II ended, President Truman tried to implement the national health insurance once again. His plan proposed a single insurance program that would cover all Americans with public subsidies to pay for the poor.   Once again, according to an article published by the Kaiser Foundation:

Southern Democrats in key positions blocked Truman’s initiative, partly in fear that the federal involvement in health care might lead to federal action against segregation at a time when hospitals (in the South) were still separating patients by race. [The irony of the fact that it was President Obama who successfully brought universal health care into law is not lost on me.]

Also “an increasingly powerful AMA opposed National Health Insurance believing that physicians would lose their autonomy, be required to work in group practice models and be paid by salary or capitated methods.  In addition, business and labor groups were not supportive, nor was the emerging private health insurance industry. “

Now the opposition was becoming stronger.  The area of health care was being recognized as a potentially huge money making enterprise by the business class.  But the government continued to plug away at the idea of universal healthcare.  President John F. Kennedy presented the concept in the form of health care coverage for all those on Social Security.  This was in 1962.  President Lyndon B. Johnson was able to pass legislation creating Medicare/Medicaid programs to provide comprehensive health care coverage for people aged 65 and older, as well as for the poor, blind, and disabled in 1965.  At this point, healthcare related spending started to skyrocket.  Health care became a lucrative business.

In 1971, confronting the escalating costs of healthcare, President Richard M. Nixon backed a proposal that would require employers to provide a minimum level of health care for their employees, while maintaining competition among insurance companies, keeping medicare/medicaid for those over 65 and creating a pool insurance coverage for self-employed individuals.  Senator Teddy Kennedy at the time was promoting a universal health care coverage directed and financed entirely by the government.

In hindsight, President Nixon’s proposal might have helped to contain health care costs.  The issue that was being challenged by Senator Kennedy was that President Nixon’s program supported private insurance companies as the providers of health insurance.  Kennedy’s proposal would take health care out of the private sector.

The debate that occurred between President Nixon and Senator Kennedy probably best epitomizes the struggle our country has had throughout its existence [go back to the acrimonious exchanges between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton].  The debate has always centered around the rights of the citizenry and the rights of businesses to thrive and keep this country moving forward economically.  What the debate never seems to quite latch onto is that there are some areas that are service areas by nature and other areas that fit under the intent of business.  Health care is a service area.  It should not be a money making enterprise.  When the focus is on making money, the focus is no longer on service.    [to be continued....]

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012



2030, A Novel By Albert Brooks


I read an interesting book last week.  “2030” is a novel written by the comedian and actor Albert Brooks.

The novel is set in the year 2030, hence the title of the book.  Brooks’ does a brilliant job of depicting what life might look like twenty years from now if the life we know now continues down the path it is going.

In his novel, a cure for cancer has been discovered.  One outcome is that the aging boomers continue to age healthily, oblivious to their effect on the rest of society, particularly the young.  The boomer characters in the novel seem to have a slightly arrogant outlook that they deserve what they have and to hell with the rest of society.

Of course this attitude stimulates resentment in the following generations.  They recognize that the good life experienced by their parents and grandparents is no longer available to them.

Businesses have developed around keeping people in comas “comfortable” for as long as their brain waves continue to be registered.  Either the government or private pay or both keep these “corpses” alive at considerable cost but the controversy over pulling the plug continues to rage.

The President-elect in 2030, the first Jew to be elected, Matthew Bernstein, has run on a platform of looking into the whole question of this aging society.  The young are beginning to really resent the “olds” and the “olds” are defined as anyone over 70.

Although Brooks’ seems to meander off towards the end of the book, maybe as does life or even a French movie, the landscape he paints with his pen not only accurately depicts the America of today, but precisely because of that, a very convincing tomorrow, which is what I really appreciated about the book.

In this world, the health care reform act has not worked out the way everyone had hoped.  Because of this, individuals still can’t pay their health care premiums, still get caught in the bureaucratic mire if confronted with a physical injury or illness.  The poor remain poor and the rich live their lives oblivious to even the plight of their own children.

The United States is in debt up to its kazoo. Although money remains the accepted tender of exchange, most people recognize that it has no value at all.  And yet, the rules continue to exist insisting that everyone continue to accept it as a valuable entity (sort of like the olds and the nearly-deads in the book).

In re-reading my summary of the book, it sounds like a rather depressing book, but I did not find it to be so.  I was quite impressed at Brooks’ ability to hone in on those areas that are causing our society to get bogged down.  But throughout the book, in spite of these heavy burdens, there is always a ray of hope for change, in this case via China.  And, in spite of a major disaster, the book does reflect the resiliency of human beings and the capacity to re-build.

I heartily recommend this book for those who might be interested in at least one person’s take of where our society might be twenty years from now.  With our present circumstances being what they are, I, for one, did not feel Brooks’ landscape was too far out.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012


Healthy Living?


Recently, my niece sent me a link to a post in the New York Times about a gentleman who had been diagnosed with incurable cancer back in 1979.  Instead of undergoing expensive chemo treatments, he decided to return to the island in Greece where he had been born and die among his family there.  But, in spite of expectations, the gentleman not only did not die, but his cancer went into remission.  Thirty-three years later,  he is  still alive.  What could possibly have made this be the outcome?

According to the author, Dan Buettner, longevity on the island of Ikaria, where this gentleman’s family originated,  is higher than other parts of Greece and other parts of the world. Buettner has been part of a group that has been looking at different parts of the world to determine what makes the inhabitants of some areas more likely to live longer.  These areas have been dubbed the “Blue Zones” and the island of Ikaria is one such place.

So what was so special about this island?  The answer is surprising and not so surprising:

Ikaria, an island of 99 square miles and home to almost 10,000 Greek nationals, lies about 30 miles off the western coast of Turkey. Its jagged ridge of scrub-covered mountains rises steeply out of the Aegean Sea.

The air and the sea are factors.  But so is diet.  The population on Ikarea eat things like olives, garbanzo beans, lentils, potatoes, garden products from their back yard, as well as wild greens.  They make their own sourdough bread. They drink wine in moderation, eat meat in moderation,.  Honey is a regular part of their diet as is goat’s milk and goat product.  And they all drink a tea from the herbs on the island which includes wild mint, Artemisia, and rosemary. Plus coffee.  Very little sugar, no processed foods.

But probably the most interesting factor is how they spend their days.  Clocks and watches are just not a part of their lifestyle.  People get up when they want to.  They do their work, whether it is gardening or helping someone build a home.  Then the village takes a long nap in the afternoon.  In the evening, they stay up late, chatting or doing other relaxed recreational activities with friends.  No one on the island is particularly interested in money or the making of it.  Their exercise consists of walking up and down the steep roads of the mountain like island.

Accoding to Buettner, there are about a dozen factors that lead to the longevity factor:

Enough rest; unprocessed fresh foods; walking up and down the hills; time plays no role in people’s lives; you live in a community that will look out for you and for who you will look out; because everyone knows everyone’s business, less likely to be a victim of crime; at day’s end, you and your neighbor’s will share a medicinal cup of tea; you will also share a glass or two of wine with those same neighbors;  and your spiritual as well as social sense of belonging will be nourished by going to church every Sunday.

I count about a half dozen:

Good food, good friends, enough rest, socialization, spiritual nourishment, and exercise.

Although I have all of that, except rest, I also have ridiculous demands on my time.   Hm.  Maybe time to think about moving onto a small island 30 miles to the West of Turkey!

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012


The Times They are a’Changin’


As a boomer, I have seen many changes in our country, both good and bad.  The world I inhabited as a child no longer exists and we have been transitioning every since.  But, and this is going to be considered a political entry by some, I have to admit that I am very worried by where our country seems to be heading these days.

I spent my youth overseas.  I lived in third world countries and in war-torn countries.  I lived in countries that had the shadow of communism looming over them and countries that were developing their own identity of the word Democracy.  All told, there is nothing, absolutely nothing in this country that resembles any of the countries that I just described having lived in.  Yet, this year, more than any other year, I am hearing the words “socialism” and “circumventing the Constitution”and “undermining our religious rights”

Ironically, President Obama, the individual t0 whom these outcries are being hurled, is more centrist in his approach than President Nixon, a Republican, was.  Where our country was at the time of President Nixon’s tenure (and, by the way, he was very involved in the whole mass hysteria that existed in the late ’40′s early ’50′s, during the Joe McCarthy “Red Scare” in which people –including Ronald Reagan– turned against their friends in the hopes of avoiding being turned in themselves — wait, that only happened in the Soviet Union, didn’t it?  Oh.  I guess not).  But back to Richard Nixon being more liberal in his position while in the White House than President Obama is today.  More than likely this was because President Nixon had more freedom to maneuver than has President Obama.  The vitriol that exists in today’s politics is at an all time high.   We live in a time where the President of the United States has been so disrespected by the opposing party, the regular Joe, and by certain media outlets that I, for one, wonder just how long our form of government will be able to continue to exist.

But what is most frightening to me is that the “Republican” party has become so radicalized that they have citizens defining patriotism by their position on abortion and insisting that if one does not buy into the party line, then they need to step aside.

I feel frightened over the fact that money now becomes the basis by which elections are run rather than by the people’s votes.  For a country that certain news agencies just a few months ago claimed to be on the verge of bankruptcy, the amount of money spent on this election is staggering.  And yet, as a people, we are not focusing on this.  Instead the focus is on whether or not President Obama is a Socialist; whether or not he is a Muslim; whether or not he is an American; whether or not giving the woman the right to choose is a choice white males have a right to impose on the women of this country; and, whether a gay couple has the same rights as a conventional couple do.  The first three are downright stupid, and yet, people in this country and in their ignorance actually believe all three about President Obama.  The last two speak about the basic rights of American citizens, an item inherent in our Constitution, if not always followed by society in general or communities over the last couple of centuries.  In other words, these, for different reasons, should not even be the focus of this election.

I actually believe that our constitutional rights and maintaining our rights as free citizens in a democratic form of government is what is at stake here and that a bunch of red herrings are being used to distract the general populace to this fact.  I also think, that as a population, we have become too big and too comfortable to do anything about it.  Oh, in my day, I did hold up placards in huge marches against the war in Vietnam (yes, I am one of those); I worked to increase the pay of workers being given less than minimum wage; and I worked for the candidates I thought would best represent “Da’ People!”  But in the end, I have become part of the generation that has metastasized the American Dream to new heights of consumption, the group who can’t live without their Starbucks Latte.

Our founding fathers warned us that we needed to keep church and state separate.  Yet more and more “political” entities are appearing, claiming to be a knowledgeable source for understanding our government and they turn out to be run by ultra-conservative, right-wing religious groups.  The National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS) is such an example.  While googling the Constitution, their name came up as an educational entity in the area of the Constitution.  It was clear to me after the third page, that they were pushing an agenda.  But not knowing whether the agenda was one I wanted to embrace or not, I did further research.  Someone who is not a political science major, as I am, or who has not taken an active interest in American politics for thirty years, as I have, might not have wondered and might have taken the information presented as being based on scholarly input.

We live in times of sound bytes and pundits.  No one does their homework.  Most newscasters, who at one time did their own research, now read what is on the teleprompter with only a general sense of the story they are “reading” to the public.  Welcome to 24 hour/7 days a week news streams.  Then you have the opinions spewed by people in the field.  Again, we watch a group of people who have done very little homework and are only interested in pushing their opinions.  In fact, by writing this blog, I also fit the profile of this day and age.

So we listen to pundits and “news” agencies that tell us what is happening and we (some) believe that is what is happening.  We do not know what is happening.  We only know what we are told is happening.   That makes us very vulnerable to falling victim of the following words written by someone who lived this reality:

The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked. [9/11?]  Denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism [Iraqi war?] and exposing the country to danger [removing regulators in the financial arena and the media?].  It works the same in any country.” Hermann Goering, Nuremberg Diary (1946)

We all need to vote Tuesday, November 6.  We may or may not still have some influence over events by doing so, but until it really is apparent that we have lost the premise of what the founding fathers put forth as a form of government, we should continue to assume our responsibilities in ensuring its continued existence.

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Antibiotics:  A regular part of our lives.  We get a tooth pulled, we are given antibiotics.  We have surgery, we are given antibiotics.  We have a stomach ailment, we are given antibiotics.  We have a cough, we are given antibiotics.  We have diarrhea, we are given antibiotics.  We have vague feelings of not feeling well, we are given antibiotics.  We have a viral something, we are given antibiotics.  Antibiotics have become as common in our lives as getting a yearly check up.

And yet, ……

Often, there are side effects that can be very harmful to our systems.  Often, the antibiotic prescribed is too potent for the particular ailment.

In an article written by Jane E. Brody for the New York Times, we learn in great detail some of the terrible repercussions of poorly prescribed use of antibiotics.  Ms. Brody cites that fluoroquinolone is the ingredient that causes innumerable unwanted side effects. :

Part of the problem is that fluoroquinolones are often inappropriately prescribed. Instead of being reserved for use against serious, perhaps life-threatening bacterial infections like hospital-acquired pneumonia, these antibiotics are frequently prescribed for sinusitis, bronchitis, earaches and other ailments that may resolve on their own or can be treated with less potent drugs or nondrug remedies — or are caused by viruses, which are not susceptible to antibiotics.

In an interview, Mahyar Etminan, a pharmacological epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia, said the drugs were overused “by lazy doctors who are trying to kill a fly with an automatic weapon.”

I don’t know about lazy or not.  If in fact lazy is the reason, we have a major problem in our medical system.  But we might be talking about ignorance, not laziness.  If that is the case, we have an even greater problem in our medical system.

Ms. Brody continues:

Adverse reactions to fluoroquinolones may occur almost anywhere in the body. In addition to occasional unwanted effects on the musculoskeletal, visual and renal systems, the drugs in rare cases can seriously injure the central nervous system (causing “brain fog,” depression, hallucinations and psychotic reactions), the heart, liver, skin (painful, disfiguring rashes and phototoxicity), the gastrointestinal system (nausea and diarrhea), hearing and blood sugar metabolism.

The rising use of these potent drugs has also been blamed for increases in two very serious, hard-to-treat infections: antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (known as MRSA) and severe diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile. One study found that fluoroquinolones were responsible for 55 percent of C. difficile infections at one hospital in Quebec.

A friend of mine, who had been on antibiotics, became a welcoming environment to the C. difficile.  My mother-in-law developed severe diarrhea while she was living in an assisted living facility.  No one could figure out why.  She had just gotten off a regiment of antibiotics, but, of course, no one suspected that as being the cause since antibiotics are beneficial, right?  Luckily for us, my friend had learned that her problem was being caused by C. difficile and she apparently had a brilliant doctor who suggested that Pepto Bismol would take care of the problem, which it did.  We gave my mother-in-law Pepto Bismol and lo and behold, her diarrhea, which had been going on for months, stopped!

Unfortunately, there are no studies out there to solidify the direct link between the fluoroquinolones and the C. difficile.

Fluoroquinolones carry a “black box” warning mandated by the Food and Drug Administration that tells doctors of the link to tendinitis and tendon rupture and, more recently, about the drugs’ ability to block neuromuscular activity. But consumers don’t see these highlighted alerts, and patients are rarely informed of the risks by prescribing doctors.

Until antibiotics are more closely scrutinized, I always check the “allergic to” box.  I think I am safer and will probably remain healthier that way.


© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012

Anticholinergic Medication and Our Aging Population


A friend sent me a study which was reviewing the side effects of anticholinergic medication in older Americans.  [for a list of medications that contain anticholinergic properties, please follow this link.  You may wish to review this list, particularly if you are taking any medications].

The study cites that

“patients older than 65 years are prescribed a mean of 6 medications [emphasis added].  Age related pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic changes increase the risk of adverse effects and interactions.”

Further, according to this study,  there are

“medications  that are considered inappropriate in adults older than 65 years. “


“12 to 21% of older patients in the United States use such agents.”

The study further expounds that

“medications with Anticholinergic properties have frequently been cited in the literature as causing an increase in adverse events.  Such conditions often lead to consequences such as falls, impulsive behavior and loss of independence.  Higher rates of cognitive dysfunction and delirium are found in patients experiencing a greater Anticholinergic load.

“The study created an Anticholinergic Risk Scale (ARS) specifically to review cognitive dysfunction and delirium. The objective of this study was to determine if the ARS score could be used to predict the risk of anticholinergic adverse effects in a geriatric evaluation and management (GEM) cohort and in a primary care cohort.”

In other words, would prospective older primary care population patients taking medication with anticholinergic properties who experienced similar side effects potentially experience the increased adverse effects of multiple use or cumulative amounts of anticholinergic remnants in their system that their older counterparts do, i.e. cogtnitive impairement, delirium.

They found a direct correlation between increased adverse effects and increase in age and, potentially, use of more agents containing Anticholinergic properties.

I have written about this before but I find that  the topic is so important because we have become a country of drug users.  Our doctors have become the pushers and the pharmaceuticals are the source.  The above study claims that the mean number of pharmaceuticals taken by the average 65 year old is six.  Most of these pills have side effects.  combine them and the side effects increase exponentially.

I write about this because these statistics are frightening to me.  I write about this because, knock on wood, God willing and the Creek don’t rise, I do not take any pharmaceuticals.  In fact, one day a couple of years ago, I was at the eye doctor.  The intake nurse asked me my age.  Her second question: “What medications are you taking?”  I replied, “None.”  Her head shot up and she looked at me.  She replied, “None?”  I said, “None. Is that unusual?”  She replied, “You are the first person who has ever given me that answer.”  !!! Wow! I guess it is unusual.


© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012



Just when you think that a trend is moving in one direction, things change and new stats indicate a different direction.  So two articles ago, I wrote about a rise in divorce with those 50+.  then last week, I wrote about the trend in senior retirement homes. Last week, however, an article in a recent AARP newsletter indicated that multigenerational households are increasing.

I know that my parents were of a generation that looked forward to their children leaving home so that they would be free to do what they wanted.  Maybe that was just my parents.  But I think it was a trend with the generation that came of age around World War II.  There was such a focus on mobility and freedom that in some situations, almost perversely, having children and being “tied down” with family was antithetical to the promises that came with mobility and freedom.

The AARP article claims that since 2010, there has been  an increase of nearly 1 million households  [to a 4.4 million level] that hold at least three generations under one roof.  The reasons are evident and are cited in the AARP article as follows:

For many, the benefits of family living far outweigh any disadvantages.  It can decrease isolation, increase savings, ward off depression, foster connections between generations, and reduce stress overall.

How much of this trend has come about because of the financial downturn that has been occurring in the U.S. since the crash of the summer of 2008 is difficult to determine.  But there is no question that it is partially a factor.  The after effects of the 2008 crash are still being felt and, according to all the predictions of financial gurus, after shocks will continue to be felt for some time to come, since, continuing with the earthquake analogy, that financial crisis was at a 9.2 level.

It will be interesting to see which trends of my three recent articles will be the more prevalent in the next twenty years.  Maybe there will be enough room for all the trends.  I guess it will become a status symbol to move into an expensive, country club like extended living facility for those with money.  The multi-generational circumstances will fit the profile of the middle class and the couples divorcing.  And then, of course, there will always be the exceptions to the rule to remind us that predictions are a wobbly science at best.

© Yvonne Behrens  2012