Seniors’ Situation Room – Edition 14 by Dawn Ford

CFN – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) strikes a lot of people during the winter months. Interested to see how it affects seniors specifically, I went online to discover that there are many web sites devoted to seniors who have this disorder. Seniors and people with disabilities find it difficult to spend much time outdoors when the wind is chilly. It may be snowing and blowing and we have icy sidewalks to contend with as we plod along, hoping not to fall. Or we have to somehow steer a wheelchair along the cumbersome icy paths. Some people go from door to car to mall and don’t get much light exposure except from indoor sources in buildings. I called the EOHU to see what if anything is being done for shut-ins and those in nursing homes. I was referred to the Canadian Mental Health Association. There are two social workers who will be forwarding me more information on SAD and I will share the data as it comes in. In the meantime visit their web site for details.

One article I read said that the shorter days and longer nights disrupt our sleep -wake cycle. The increased darkness elevates the hormone melatonin, making us more prone to sleep and depression. The reduced sunlight may affect the serotonin production enabling depression. It sounds as though we haven’t a lot of control over this unless there is some intervention to help us prevent this disorder.

Symptoms of SAD include social withdrawal, decreased energy and concentration, lethargy, increased appetite, carbohydrate craving which could lead to overeating and weight gain, lack of interest in normally pleasurable activities and oversleeping. If you have any of these symptoms that linger it is wise to consult your doctor.

When the Moon restaurant opened I went in with friends for a snack one afternoon only to discover that they used peanut oil in their food. Allergic to peanuts I was out of luck for my snack and had to settle for coffee. I suggested to the waitress that there should be a big red peanut on menus in restaurants to alert people. I always ask and make sure I am not getting any food that I am allergic to, but sometimes we can forget and where there are children who might be eating, I am always a bit leery. I have a teenaged relative who also is allergic to peanuts and is supposed to carry an Epi-pen with him but he doesn’t always do it and doesn’t seem to see his allergy as a big deal. It could be. I have not been back to that restaurant because I cannot eat there but I happened to see one of their menu flyers and they have a peanut allergy alert on it. Thank you, Moon restaurant, for caring about people with allergies. Kudos

Statistics Canada has issued a report of the Canadian Community Health Survey on the nutritional problems of seniors. Having voiced my concerns in a few columns earlier about this problem, I went online to see the results of the survey. One of the web sites, the Windsor Star of Mar 25th, reported that one third of seniors are at risk (34%). What surprised me was that the article said that women were more at risk than men. I would guess they probably just burn out after cooking for so many years. Factors include geographical isolation, ability to drive, living alone, low income, diminished sense of smell and taste, poor dental health and certain medications.

Eat Right has launched a website The Nutri-eScreen which has 14 questions to show you how your current diet is affecting your health and how to improve it. I need to make some changes myself. It will be interesting to see what changes will be made to help seniors in this area.

I remember one lady in her late eighties who told me that she walked on good days (weather and health status) with her walker to Cornwall Square where she bought only enough groceries that would fit into her wire basket on the walker. When she couldn’t get out, she ate what she had in the apartment. In her purse she had a six month old perscription for new glasses but she couldn’t afford them. She said she could still play cards because the suits were big enough to read. Her dentures were worn down with no cusps left but she couldn’t afford new ones. She had problems chewing and didn’t like eating out because she didn’t know if she could chew properly and would be embarrassed. She said she had stomach problems occasionally because of her lack of good chewing ability. It must not be the nicest way to live on a daily basis.

One of my suggestions (in Edition 2)  for seniors living in apartment buildings was to modify the common kitchen area into a cafeteria and hire a cook for at least one meal, giving fresh food daily and a job to someone. Caterers could also be brought in during the change over or on a daily basis for those who want to take advantage of the meals.  I am sure there are some other good suggestions out there and if you have any please let us know.

Another medical report issued on the news lately was that too much salt is killing us by the millions. I remember in the late 80’s Dr. Hans Diehl, Director of the Lifestyle Medical Institute of Loma, California, came to Cornwall to introduce his Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) diet. I attended and I remember it suggested , among other things, throwing away your salt shaker and the sugar bowl and reduce the bad fat. The Jade restaurant embraced the program and had a section on their menu for CHIP entrees. The program is still active. Follow this link for more info.

My friend Elaine continues to be with us at Hospice. She has been there for over 5 weeks…too nice to leave, I guess. Over the days and mostly nights for me, I have witnessed what TLC is really all about in the nursing profession. There are so many wonderful staff members that I hesitate to mention names, not wanting to leave anyone out. But I will tell you of one nurse in particular, who I have spent a little more time with, because she typifies what all the staff is about. Her name is Mary and she works nights. Mary has a distinct professional air about her which is reassuring and calming. You sense that she knows what she is doing and will know what to do should the need arise. She greets Elaine with a smile, a gentle voice and touch. She shows her concern for Elaine’s discomfort and pain. After tending to her patient’s needs with the help of another nurse, making sure Elaine is as comfortable as possible, she gives Elaine a little kiss on the forehead and sometimes a warm hug. This is the way the staff look after our loved ones at Hospice. It doesn’t get any better than this!

It has made me look back and wonder what kind of a nurse I was. The only patients I kissed were the babies on Pediatrics probably. I don’t ever remember giving anyone a hug except, again, on Pediatrics. I can see the difference in the level of TLC given at Hospice, where it is needed and is so comforting and reassuring to the patient.

One night I was trying to sleep on a hide-a-bed in the room but was very chilly. I don’t remember saying anything to Mary and the other nurse, but before long I had a much welcomed heated blanket on me. They take care of everyone and always with a smile.

When I get back to my normal routine, I want to be a volunteer at Hospice. I don’t know in what capacity, but I will see. Maybe you might consider being one also. They need your dollars, your time and your love.

Child Haven International are holding their big annual fund raising dinner at the Ramada Inn on Friday April 5th. Tickets are $60 per person and may be obtained at, or by calling 613-527-2829 for more information.

I have had, on occasion, some people say to me that they don’t know why I am concerned about kids in other countries, when we have so much need in our own country. Besides wanting to poke them in the nose, I compose myself and tell them that I don’t have any borders when it comes to children who need to be cared for in any country. As a matter of fact, I don’t have any borders when it comes to people period. I learned that from my mother many years ago. Luckily, neither does the incredible organization ‘Doctors Without Borders’ who go into any country and help where they are needed. My great-great grandfather came from England with his Irish bride. My maternal grandfather’s ancestry came from France and my maternal grandmother ‘s family was from Ramouski, QC. No provincial borders either. I have a close friend who came over in a boat at five years of age post war from Holland and another friend who is of German descent. What borders??

Hundreds of Black Crows have descended on the area in which I live and have been leaving nightly ‘presents’ all over my car and others. According to a gentleman at the EOHU, the Snowy Owls had arrived from the North looking for food such as a nice fat crow to eat. UGH!!. These crows congregate together on limbs narrow enough that they think the owls can’t get at them. The last one on the branch must shiver and shake with anxiety. The Grey Owls are around also but I don’t know what they eat … old crow too maybe. I don’t understand, since there are so many of them, why they don’t turn on the owl and all attack it … like you see on some of the grizzly nature shows on TV which I can’t stand to watch sometimes. The trees above my car have recently been chopped down to rid us of these nightly visitors and their unwelcomed gifts. Being a tree lover it made me sad to see two trees under the chopping block. I was hoping they could just be topped. Not much choice, apparently. Putting clay statues of owls on the trees didn’t help so the trees had to come down. The trees were not in good health anyway, I was told and would have come down in the spring. Still, two less beautiful trees on the planet. I guess that we will have to plant some more!

Here is a cute story about an old crow. Enjoy.


Have a good week, Dawn

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