Tag: Brandy

The Fall

And I am not speaking of the Autumn!

To be honest, dear friends, I really agonised over whether or not to republish an item that I saw on The Conversation blogsite last Friday. For it has nothing to do with dogs, nothing to do with learning from dogs, and everything to do with being the ‘wrong’ side of 65 years old.

But then one day last week I was out watching some tree cutting being undertaken by Jimmy Gonzales and his crew and heard the phoning ringing in the house.

I ran for the steps leading up to the deck and missed the bottom step.

I fell but luckily managed to grab the handrails seconds before I could have smacked my head into the steps. However, it did scare me especially when I reflected that it wasn’t even 9 months since my medical emergency following my fall from my bicycle.

It confirmed the sense in republishing the item. Republished within the terms of The Conversation site.

ooOOoo

Before the fall: How oldsters can avoid one of old age’s most dangerous events

September 21, 2018

By four authors:

 Co-Director of Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging, Texas A&M University

  Research Scientist, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  Regents and Distinguished Professor, Associate Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives, Texas A&M University

  Adjunct Assistant Professor, Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Baby boomers, who once viewed themselves as the coolest generation in history, are now turning their thoughts away from such things as partying and touring alongside rock bands to how to they can stay healthy as they age. And, one of the most important parts of healthy aging is avoiding a fall, the number one cause of accidental death among people 65 and older.

The issue is growing more pressing each day. More adults than ever – 46 million – are 65 and older, and their numbers are increasing rapidly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in four older adults will fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury deaths among older adults. And, they are costly. Falls are responsible for an estimated US$31 billion in annual Medicare costs. This estimate does not account for non-direct medical or societal costs.

People who fall can lose their physical mobility for life, go into a hospital never to be discharged, require skilled nursing or other caregiver support, or become so fearful about falling again that they dramatically limit their daily activities.

The good news is that most falls are preventable, research has identified many modifiable risk factors for falls, and older adults can empower themselves to reduce their falls risks. This means there are opportunities to intervene in clinical and community settings to promote protective behaviors and improve safety.

A life-changing event

Falls can cause fractures, traumatic brain injuries and other conditions that require an emergency room visit or hospitalization. An older adult dies from a fall every 19 minutes, and every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall-related injury. About one in four falls results in needed medical attention, and falls are responsible for about 95 percent of all hip fractures. In addition to the physical and mental trauma associated with the fall itself, falls often result in fear of falling, reduced quality of life, loss of independence and social isolation.

shutterstock. Astrid Gast/Shutterstock.com

There is no single cause for falling. Falls can result from issues related to biological aging, such as balance problems, loss of muscle strength, changes in vision, arthritis or diabetes. Taking a combination of several prescription drugs can also contribute to falls. Lifestyle behaviors such as physical inactivity, poor nutrition and poor sleep quality can also increase the risk for falling. Environmental hazards inside the home, such as poor lighting and throw rugs, and outside, such as bad weather, standing water and uneven sidewalks, can create situations where falls are more likely to occur.

It takes a careful village

Because falls can be caused by many things, the solutions must also include a diverse set of systems, organizations and professionals. Toward that end, 42 active or developing state fall prevention coalitions, which coordinate initiatives and serve as advocates for policy development and community action, are in place. Their activities foster collaboration across the aging services network, public health and health care system. They do such things as host health fairs and fall risk screening events, fall prevention programs, and awareness-raising events to inform decision-makers and legislators about ways to make communities safer for older adults.

Here are some of the key objectives that the coalitions are working on to reduce hazards from falling:

  • Enhance clinical-community collaboration for programming.

There are many fall prevention programs offered in communities to promote healthful behaviors and to reinforce positive mental perspectives about falls being preventable.

People concerned about falling should contact their local Area Agency on Aging to find out where these programs are offered and which can be most beneficial. Also, seniors should ask their doctors about fall-related risk factors and what they can do to reduce risk. Communicate your concerns about falls with your health care team and social network, tell them about what you learn during your fall prevention programs, and report back about how they are making a difference in your life.

  • Manage chronic conditions.

About 70 percent of older adults have one or more chronic conditions, many of which can increase the risk for falling. For example, people with diabetes may have vision problems and problems with sensation in their feet. Also, the medications used to treat these conditions can increase fall risk. And, taking five or more medications has been identified with increased frailty and higher risk for falling.

Being physically active can help seniors have better balance and reduce the risk of falls. wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com

While health care access and utilization are important for chronic disease diagnosis and management, 90 percent of health care happens outside the health care setting. Therefore, older adults need to manage their diseases better. To do this, however, they often need help. For starters, they should discuss the side effects of all medications with their doctors and also how best to adhere to prescribed treatment regimens, such as when to take medications, whether to take with food and whether there are possible interactions of one medication with another. Seniors also can consider enrolling in evidence-based disease self-management programs to improve their knowledge and confidence to manage their conditions as well as enhance lasting skills for goal setting and action planning, such as being physically active for 30 minutes a day for five days a week.

  • Alter the physical environment.

About 44 percent of falls occur inside the home. In-home risk factors for falls can include dim lighting, clutter on floors, throw rugs and ottomans, missing railings, uncovered wires and extension cords, children and pets underfoot and unsafe bathrooms. A unsafe bathroom is one with an inappropriate toilet height, high shower or bathtub walls and no grab rails.

To identify possible risks in the home, the CDC created a user-friendly safety checklist that can safeguard older adults by eliminating environmental hazards.

  • Maintain healthful behaviors.

Daily lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity, nutrition and sleep quality can influence fall risk, and these are never too late to change. Interventions can be successful for people of all ages. Among the most important is physical activity, namely safely performing lower-body exercises to increase strength, balance and flexibility. Additionally, seniors should work with their health care team to have medications reviewed and eyes checked regularly. Also, they should ask about their vitamin D levels and possible nutritional supplementation.

ooOOoo

Yes, when it comes to being more careful on our feet once again our dear dogs offer us a much better way: Have four of them!!

Just look at the ease of our dear Brandy scampering through the woods yesterday morning!

Our dear, sorely-missed Pharaoh demonstrating the advantages of four feet!

So my good people – you be careful out there!

Trees and drought.

The scientific findings of how the height of trees affects their ability to cope with drought.

I subscribe to the online Physics World website and a recent article tickled my fancy. Because it was supported by what we see here at home.

That is that shorter and taller trees do not handle drought conditions as well as medium-height trees.

First the article and then some supporting evidence from home.

ooOOoo

ECOSYSTEMS
RESEARCH UPDATE

Medium-height trees survive drought best

04 Sep 2018

Courtesy iStock_MilosJokic.jpg

Forests with canopy heights of around 18 metres are more resistant to the effects of severe drought than those with shorter and taller trees, according to researchers in China and the US.

In the past, studies have disagreed on whether forests with lower or higher canopies will be more likely to make it through prolonged spells of hot, dry weather. The discrepancy has made it difficult for forest managers, who need to know which tree heights to encourage to ensure the highest growth and survival rates during extreme drought.

Study leader Peipei Xu at Beijing Normal University in China and her colleagues believe the issue is increasingly pressing. “Climate data indicate that warm areas of land are increasing, and the warmed areas are also drying,” says Chuixiang Yi at the City University of New York, US. “Hot-dry-induced forest mortality poses a significant global concern for the future as carbon dioxide continues to rise and the climate continues to warm.”

Xu, Yi and the rest of the team aimed to quantify the relationships between canopy height, growth and survival rates during drought accurately for the first time. They analysed data gathered during a severe drought in the southwestern US in 2002 that showed the effect on the ring widths of tree trunks, a useful indicator of their yearly growth. In addition, satellite data revealed how the density of vegetation changed over the course of the drought; the team used this to calculate both leaf growth and tree mortality rates.

The results revealed that trunk and leaf growth under drought conditions increased with canopy height for trees shorter than 18 metres but decreased with height for trees taller than 18 metres. “Our results indicate that both high and small trees have relatively low drought resistance,” says Yi.

After establishing these relationships, the researchers could determine the biological mechanisms governing tree growth and survival during drought.

“All organic matter in a tree is formed on the leaves at the top of the tree by photosynthesis,” Yi explains. “Tall trees have a longer water transport path from roots to leaves and [it’s] more difficult to overcome tissue resistance and … gravity, particularly under dry conditions. The roots of small trees are short, and their abilities to access water and nutrient supplies unavailable to the surface soil layer are extremely limited.”

The researchers believe that using their results to inform the active management of canopy structure could safeguard vulnerable forests. As climate models predict hotter, drier droughts becoming more commonplace, this could be essential to combat forest dieback – a phenomenon that will also drive climate change.

“Our findings provide insights into how to manage forests or plant what trees to increase forest drought resistance in facing hot-dry climate conditions to mitigate climate change,” says Yi.

The team reported the findings in Environmental Research Letters (ERL).

ooOOoo

So turning to home.

Here are a couple of photographs of tall trees to the Northern side of the house that are clearly showing some stress.

A tall fir tree that is due for removal because it is clearly dead.

oooo

Another tall tree, this time a pine, showing signs of stress.

oooo

Now in stark contrast look at the trees in the photo below. (Oh, that’s the smoky summit of Mount Sexton, elevation 3,829 ft., in the distance.)

Medium-height trees that border the Northern side of our driveway from the road to the house.

As our taller trees are felled each year we are planting new young trees, two for every tree felled, in one of our grass fields.

Because it is not just Jeannie and me, and all the wild birds, who love our trees!

Do you know, I feel the need to pee!

oooo

This seems to have a good smell about it!

oooo

Ah! That’s so much better!

Will close with another photo with a tree in it taken a few nights ago.

We must never, ever lose our trees!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Forty-One

Just one very domestic, doggie scene!

Some days Jean takes an afternoon nap.

One day this last week, it was last Wednesday, Brandy decided to join Jean.

Although I tried ever so quietly to steal into the bedroom without making a noise, Brandy did notice! Of course!

oooo

oooo

oooo

Then last Thursday afternoon I took a couple more  when Brandy was sleeping on the tiled floor of our dining-room adjacent to the kitchen.

The first one is more or less a crop of the full image while the second one is greatly edited including applying some ‘sharpening’. (I use Picasa.)

oooo

Plus a couple more from earlier times!

oooo

Then the final one showing Brandy the day he was ‘rescued’ and brought home.

Brandy’s first look at his new home from the back of the car in the garage. April 10th, 2016

What a wonderful animal he is!

Shit Happens!

A very inspirational essay from George Monbiot.

It is said that there are only two certainties in life: Death and Taxes.

I think that is one short: The Unexpected. As in Death, Taxes and The Unexpected!

As evidence of The Unexpected, one could put falling off one’s bike or being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Or the many other ‘hiccups’ that are an attribute of the real world that we humans live in. Put in the words of the street: Shit Happens!

Now read this very inspirational essay from George Monbiot. Republished here with Mr. Monbiot’s very kind permission.

ooOOoo

Unprostrated

16th March 2018

I have prostate cancer, but I’m happy. Here’s how.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 14th March 2018

It came, as these things often do, like a gunshot on a quiet street: shocking and disorienting. In early December, my urine turned brown. The following day I felt feverish and found it hard to pee. I soon realised I had a urinary tract infection. It was unpleasant, but seemed to be no big deal. Now I know that it might have saved my life.

The doctor told me this infection was unusual in a man of my age, and hinted at an underlying condition. So I had a blood test, which revealed that my prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels were off the scale. An MRI scan and a mortifying biopsy confirmed my suspicions. Prostate cancer: all the smart young men have it this season.

On Monday, I go into surgery. The prostate gland is buried deep in the body, so removing it is a major operation: there are six entry points and it takes four hours. The procedure will hack at the roots of my manhood. Because of the damage that will be caused to the surrounding nerves, there’s a high risk of permanent erectile dysfunction. Because the urethra needs to be cut and reattached to the bladder, I will almost certainly suffer urinary incontinence for a few months, and possibly permanently. Because the removal of part of the urethra retracts the penis, it appears to shrink, at least until it can be stretched back into shape.

I was offered a choice: radical surgery or brachytherapy. This means implanting radioactive seeds in the parts of the prostrate affected by cancer. Brachytherapy has fewer side effects, and recovery is much faster. But there’s a catch. If it fails to eliminate the cancer, there’s nothing more that can be done. This treatment sticks the prostate gland to the bowel and bladder, making surgery extremely difficult. Once you’ve had one dose of radiation, they won’t give you another. I was told that the chances of brachytherapy working in my case were between 70 and 80%. The odds were worse, in other words, than playing Russian roulette (which, with one bullet in a six-chambered revolver, gives you 83%). Though I have a tendency to embrace risk, this was not an attractive option.

It would be easy to curse my luck and start to ask “why me?”. I have never smoked and hardly drink; I have a ridiculously healthy diet and follow a severe fitness regime. I’m 20 or 30 years younger than most of the men I see in the waiting rooms. In other words, I would have had a lower risk of prostate cancer only if I had been female. And yet … I am happy. In fact, I’m happier than I was before my diagnosis. How can this be?

The reason is that I’ve sought to apply the three principles which, I believe, sit at the heart of a good life. The first is the most important: imagine how much worse it could be, rather than how much better.

When you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your condition is ranked on the Gleason Score, which measures its level of aggression. Mine is graded at 7 out of 10. But this doesn’t tell me where I stand in general. I needed another index to assess the severity of my condition, so I invented one: the Shitstorm Scale. How does my situation compare to those of people I know, who contend with other medical problems or family tragedies? How does it compare to what might have been, had the cancer had not been caught while it is still – apparently – confined to the prostate gland? How does it compare to innumerable other disasters that could have befallen me?

When I completed the exercise, I realised that this bad luck, far from being a cause of woe, is a reminder of how lucky I am. I have the love of my family and friends. I have the support of those with whom I work. I have the NHS. My Shitstorm Score is a mere 2 out of 10.

The tragedy of our times is that, rather than apply the most useful of English proverbs – “cheer up, it could be worse” – we are constantly induced to imagine how much better things could be. The rich lists and power lists with which the newspapers are filled, our wall-to-wall celebrity culture, the invidious billions spent on marketing and advertising, create an infrastructure of comparison that ensures we see ourselves as deprived of what others possess. It is a formula for misery.

The second principle is this: change what you can change, accept what you can’t. This is not a formula for passivity. I’ve spent my working life trying to alter outcomes that might have seemed immovable to other people. The theme of my latest book is that political failure is, at heart, a failure of imagination. But sometimes we simply have to accept an obstacle as insuperable. Fatalism in these circumstances is protective. I accept that my lap is in the lap of the gods.

So I will not rage against the morbidity this surgery might cause. I won’t find myself following Groucho Marx who, at the age of 81, magnificently lamented, “I’m going to Iowa to collect an award. Then I’m appearing at Carnegie Hall, it’s sold out. Then I’m sailing to France to pick up an honour from the French government. I’d give it all up for one erection.” And today there’s viagra.

The third principle is this: do not let fear rule your life. Fear hems us in, stops us from thinking clearly and prevents us from either challenging oppression or engaging calmly with the impersonal fates. When I was told that this operation has an 80% chance of success, my first thought was “that’s roughly the same as one of my kayaking trips. And about twice as good as the chance of emerging from those investigations in West Papua and the Amazon”.

There are, I believe, three steps to overcoming fear: name it, normalise it, socialise it. For too long, cancer has been locked in the drawer labelled Things We Don’t Talk About. When we call it the Big C, it becomes, as the term suggests, not smaller, but larger in our minds. He Who Must Not Be Named is diminished by being identified, and diminished further when he becomes a topic of daily conversation.

The super-volunteer Jeanne Chattoe, whom I interviewed recently for another column, reminded me that, just 25 years ago, breast cancer was a taboo subject. Thanks to the amazing advocacy of its victims, this is almost impossible to imagine today. Now we need to do the same for other cancers. Let there be no more terrible secrets.

So I have sought to discuss my prostate cancer as I would discuss any other issue. I make no apologies for subjecting you to the grisly details: the more familiar they become, the less horrifying. In doing so, I socialise my condition. Last month, I discussed the remarkable evidence suggesting that a caring community enhances recovery and reduces mortality. In talking about my cancer with family and friends, I feel the love that I know will get me through this. The old strategy of suffering in silence could not have been more misguided.

I had intended to use this column to urge men to get themselves tested. But since my diagnosis, we’ve discovered two things. The first is that prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer to become the third biggest cancer killer in the UK. The second is that the standard assessment (the PSA blood test) is of limited use. As prostate cancer in its early stages is likely to produce no symptoms, it’s hard to see what men can do to protect themselves. That urinary tract infection was a remarkably lucky break.

Instead, I urge you to support the efforts led by Prostate Cancer UK to develop a better test. Breast cancer has attracted twice as much money and research as prostate cancer, not because (as the Daily Mail suggests) men are the victims of injustice, but because women’s advocacy has been so effective. Campaigns such as Men United and the Movember Foundation have sought to bridge this gap, but there’s a long way to go. Prostate cancer is discriminatory: for reasons unknown, black men are twice as likely to suffer it as white men. Finding better tests and treatments is a matter of both urgency and equity.

I will ride this out. I will own this disease but I won’t be defined by it: I will not be prostrated by my prostate. I will be gone for a few weeks but when I return, I do solemnly swear I will still be the argumentative old git with whom you are familiar.

http://www.monbiot.com

ooOOoo

It appears to be a unique aspect of the human mind. I am referring to our ability to worry about the future, to struggle to break away from ‘habitual’ responses to unanticipated crap coming along, to see the glass as half full as opposed to half empty, and so on, and so on.

Oh, to be like our dear, sweet, wise dogs.

Just let the world roll by!

Surfacing to a new world!

Slowly returning to normal!

As many of you read, last Friday I was discharged from the PeaceHealth Sacred Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon and returned home around 4pm.

It was quite a week as these photos demonstrate. (The background to the event is here and here.)

How I looked still in ICU on Boxing Day. Photo taken by neighbour Dordie who came up with Jeannie to visit me!
General view of a very happy chap!
Photo taken on last Wednesday after I had been transferred to the Department of Neurology.

So!!

It is important that I take it very gently and that means, inevitably, that my blogging is going to be very ad-hoc. Possibly for a few weeks!

The next important step is returning to the hospital this coming Wednesday to have the staples removed and a further cognitive check.

But I shall be OK and thank you all for your interest and concern in my escapade!

All of the dogs, especially Brandy and Cleo, are watching over me! (Over and beyond being loved beyond measure by Jeannie!)

Brandy – as pure as it gets!
Cleo living, and sleeping, in the present moment.

A Very Happy New Year to you all!

Book Two!

November is book-writing month for me.

Thus, good people, I shall be distracted for much of the month because despite the fact that book number two is a non-fiction book, as was my first, I am still using National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) as my motivational tool to achieve 50,000 words before the 1st December. Ergo, November’s focus is on writing an average of 1,666 words a day, not blogging.

Last time, with my book Learning from Dogs, I did share much of what I was writing each day both in 2014 and 2015. This time I will not.

However, I would like to share the draft Introduction to this second book that I wrote yesterday.

ooOOoo

Introduction

It was a beautiful late-October evening. Not a breath of wind stirred the branches of the tall pines that soared up into the night sky around our house. Even a half-moon high in that sky out to the South didn’t diminish the mystery and magic of the stars that seemed to go on forever. It never ceased to fascinate me how wonderful it was to lose one’s mind in a dark night sky and ponder on the fact that in that instant, in that moment of my life, I was seeing the light from a star that had been travelling for hundreds or thousands of years.

Thus it was this evening around 9:30pm when I had gone outside with all our dogs for their nightly leg-stretch before bedtime. Our six most beautiful dogs: Ruby; Cleo; Sweeny; Pedy; Oliver; and Brandy. There I was utterly oblivious to the sniffing and rustling in the piles of newly fallen Autumn leaves that were everywhere because so quickly once outside the house I had looked up above my head to that night sky and become lost.

But to be returned to this very sweet present moment when ever so gently I felt Brandy’s soft shoulder touch my lower left thigh and then lean into me in what was so characteristic of him.

I lent forward and placed the side of my face alongside Brandy’s warm, furry face and became as lost as I was in that starry sky. Now, however, it was as real and tangible a loss, if one could describe it as such, as that night sky above was as unreal and mysterious. For it was me being lost in the love that Brandy was sending me, in his breathing, in his posture, in his closeness to me, in his whole demeanour and in my own deep emotional loving reply to Brandy.

Then it clicked. A philosophical click that was as bright and clear as that fabulous half-moon.

This is how I would introduce my book. The book that I had committed to write in the month of November. The book that I was going to start writing the next day but hitherto hadn’t a clue as to how I was going to set the scene.

For my next book was an exploration into the relationships that dogs and humans form with each other.

Brandy’s story since he had been part of my life, and the life of my sweet, dear Jean, was a story of just how incredible, glorious and special the love between a human and a dog can be. How the weeks and months since that fateful day on the 9th April, 2016 when we first met Brandy had given me the inspiration to go as far as I could in describing and understanding what having a dog in one’s life truly meant.
Welcome to The Dog And I.

ooOOoo

So hope all you good people will understand if my blogging activity is varied and replies to responses likewise a bit ‘up and down’. It is likely I will be re-posting quite frequently items that have previously been shown on Learning from Dogs.