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“Loneliness” by Board Member Miriam Peterson

Since I’m on the Women’s Information Network’s board, I get immersed in the various public health topics that we work to deliver.  Currently that topic is loneliness.  And as I considered how we might formulate a genuine, insightful seminar on loneliness that would reach those who would benefit most, I thought about how many kinds of life events that precipitate loneliness.

There is loneliness after the loss of a significant other, which can happen at any age and for many different reasons from divorce to death to living apart for school or work.  There is loneliness due to illness or age or a disability that isolates.

Then I thought about my own loneliness.  I feel lonely because I seem to have lost who I am, my identity.  I am lonely for my ‘lost self.” I am now in my 70’s, retired from a demanding career in management.  When I was working I knew who I was.  Now I’m not sure.  I have many titles: wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend – but those titles tell me who I am to others – not who I am to myself.

When I ask myself who are you NOW, I cannot answer the question.  I struggle with my identity. I’ve tried sorting myself out by defining what I like to do.  Is what I like to do – ultimately who I am? I’ve also made a list of what I don’t like (which seems to be the longer list!)  Perhaps this situation I’m in resonates with you too.  Most women spend a lifetime involved to the hilt in other people’s lives and then suddenly (or it at least it feels sudden), there we are, empty nest, grey hair and glasses staring back at us from the bathroom mirror.  I find that I must recover a sense of self, or create a new one.

Every time I go by a cemetery these days I think about buried treasure – all the creative things – treasures – that they never did or made, got buried with them.  Buried treasure.  Have I not been paying attention?  Is there some passionate interest in myself, some creative child in me that I have censored or discouraged?  It will take courage to go back to the childlike pattern of learning.  It’s like learning to walk – stumble, fall, crawl awhile, try again.  Failure goes against the grain of my ego.   The watercolor I did looks foolish.  I made a stain glass window but had cuts on every finger for weeks (and my soldering was shabby).  I wrote a novel but my fame as a novelist didn’t catch on.  Is it time to try again?

The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight.  The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.  I went on a walk just now, around the pasture with my husband.  Beautiful October day – perfect actually.  I paid attention. I saw possibilities everywhere.  There were creatures so tiny I couldn’t even see them that had built a maze of tiny cobwebs so intricate NASA scientist could stand to learn something from them.  I went to my compost pile and raked back the pine straw covering.  Nature had turned coffee grounds, bell pepper trimmings and a hundred other stinky things into the richest, blackest dirt I have ever seen!  Amazing.  If tiny brainless creatures can do that – I am virtually unlimited!

I went back and looked in the mirror.  I decided that today, my identity is observer.  I am paying attention.  Tomorrow who knows?  My plan is simple.  Develop interests in life as I see it, in people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people.  In other words, I plan to forget myself.

I hope you will plan to join us in February as we continue the discussion on loneliness and look at it honestly from all sides.

Arthritis Workshop Presentations

Thank you to all those who attended our last workshop, “Kick Pain in the Kitchen as well as the Medicine Cabinet.”  We had quite a few requests to share the information presented by Dr. Bushnell, Cala Dittmer and Amber Todd.  They have graciously agreed to let us put their presentations on our website.  Below are the presentations.  Thank you again to everyone who made this workshop a success.

Click the presentation link to view a pdf copy of each presentation.


Dr. Bushnell – arthritis presentation




Cala Dittmer – nutrition presentation




Amber Todd – exercise presentation


A little SOY goes a long way

Written by Alix Devine, Purple Trumpet Marketing

April is National Soy Foods Month. There are many ways to incorporate soy into your diet. Some traditional soy foods include soymilk, soy nuts, edamame and even soy protein powder.

Soy protein is used in baked goods such as cookies, bread and crackers. It helps improve texture, helps hold moisture, reduces crumbling, and enhances nutrition. Soy is also used in breakfast foods, such as hot cereal and breakfast bars. To improve nutritional value, it is also used in pasta.

There are many health benefits to having soy in your diet. It helps reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol and increasing flexibility of blood vessels.  The FDA stated “25 grams of soy protein in a daily diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol can help reduce total and LDL cholesterol that is moderately high to high”.

Soy has all the amino acids that one’s body needs to make protein. Some good sources of calcium are soy milk, tofu and soybeans. Soy is also a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium copper and manganese, omega 3, omega 6, b vitamins, fatty acids and polyunsaturated fat. Soy beans are being studied for relieving menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, maintaining healthy bones and helping prevent prostate, breast and colorectal cancers.

Soy protein also comes in powdered form called soy protein isolates. It is a dry powder that has been separated from other parts of the soy bean. It is made by de-fatted soy bean flakes that have been washed with either alcohol or water, which removes most of the sugars and dietary fibers. It contains all the essential amino acids and high protein for growth. After this process, 90 – 95% of the isolate is protein and almost carb free. Soy protein isolates have no cholesterol and little to no saturated fat.

Now that you know more but soy, would you consider adding more of it to your diet? If so here are some recipes to get you started.


Attention Arthritis Sufferers: An Exercise Prescription Might be the Remedy

By Elly Wagner, Berry College Graduate and Exercise Specialist

Could an exercise prescription be as important as a prescription for medication?  The 54 million Americans with arthritis could reduce pain and the likelihood of a fall with appropriate activity.

Exercise can stabilize joints through balance, flexibility, and strength training.  It can also reduce the pain by increasing the fluid within our joints.  There is no need for a gym membership or fancy equipment to reduce arthritis pain.  Performing an array of exercises in the comfort of the home will do just fine.  Read on to find out how.

Find yourself making excuses for not exercising?  “I don’t have time,” “there’s no place to go,” “I don’t know where to start.”

Being active could actually reduce arthritis pain. More importantly, a 2013 study revealed that being more physical activity may reduce the risk of problems related to balance, stiffness and falls.  In this population study of 4,305 older adults, those who exercised regularly were 37% less likely to experience a fall. According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans aged 65 and over will fall this year.  Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.

Why do individuals with arthritis fall? 

Arthritis pain can lead individuals to avoid movement and reduce confidence in activities requiring mobility.  Management of arthritis through exercise is a key factor in reducing falling and pain.

As arthritis progresses, pain becomes worse.  Symptoms of osteoarthritis, particularly joint swelling and pain, are important risk factors for falls. When critical areas of movement are inhibited, muscles begin to weaken.  When muscle weakness increases, so does hesitation with every step.  Weakness and pain can cause unusual ways of moving which alters one’s center of gravity and increases the chance of falling.

Why would doing something like exercise have any influence on my arthritis?  Can’t medications solve all my problems? 

Exercise can do a several things arthritis medications cannot do.  Exercise stimulates new bone tissue growth.  With new growth, comes higher bone density, this means your bones become stronger and allow more force with each step.  Exercise can also increase everyday balance and flexibility.  This reduces movement hesitation and fall risk, by having an awareness and confidence of the placement of one’s body in space.  Lastly, exercise can directly reduce arthritis symptoms by increasing lubrication in and around the cartilage of the joint– decreasing weight and pressure on joints.   An increase in liquids around joints will reduce pain, and bones no longer grind on each other.

What am I supposed to do? I don’t live near a gym and I have no idea what exercise is best!

Inaccessibility to workout facilities is a huge problem for people across the country.  However, moving around in the home can be just as helpful as going to a gym. Having a personal trainer may be helpful, but not everyone can afford one.  There are several exercise programs available that can be performed in the comfort of the home.  Like what?

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise that follows gentle fluid motions.  It offers pain release and improved balance.  Other balance exercises include single leg stand, tandem leg stand, and chair stand.  Yoga is another great exercise to reduce pain and increase balance and flexibility.  Easy yoga moves include forward fold, cobra, extended leg balance, and seated spinal twist.  So find a nice, comfy floor in your house and start practicing! These may not mean much to those not familiar with yoga terminology.


Another important factor in preventing arthritis and falling is strength training.  This includes body weight resistance, which is using the body’s weight to strengthen muscles.  Some body weight exercises include straight-leg lifts, which is lying on the back with one knee bent and lifting the opposite leg and holding for 5 seconds.  This exercise will strengthen the quadriceps.  Another exercise is hamstring curls.  For this, stand up and hold the back of a chair, one leg will be straight and bend the other knee so that the heel is pointing toward your buttocks.  Hold this position for 5 seconds, release and switch.

Strength training also incorporates use of resistance training with free weights.  One exercise is Bicep curls. which can be done using dumbbells, rice bags, or soup cans.  Raise one arm at the elbow lower, and switch.  Strength training becomes a crucial factor when considering the importance of muscles on our everyday lives.  The stronger the muscles, the more stable they will become.  Having opposing muscles groups stabilized will make for safer movement, and a healthier body.

No one wants to fall, but with the progression of arthritis in millions of adults across the world, falling is becoming more prevalent and can lead to being bed-ridden.  Thankfully, there is a way to reverse the progress and reduce pain. Exercise can stabilize joints through balance, flexibility, and strength training.  It can also reduce the pain by increasing the fluid within our joints.  There is no need a gym membership or fancy equipment to rid yourself of the pain.  Performing an array of exercises in the comfort of the home will do just fine. Don’t let arthritis take away your freedom of movement, get moving and start living.


You Are What You Eat!

March is National Nutrition Month. The declaration makes me think of the familiar phrase, “You are what you eat.”  Food growing, preparation, inspection and presentation are a hot topic in documentaries, magazines and cooking shows.  My late father gave me a wellness focus on food before it was fashionable or trendy.  He was always trying to get me to eat tomatoes and watermelon—(I still dislike both), or nibble on nuts.  The absolute worst of his behaviors was his insistence on the importance of eating oatmeal– first thing in the morning!  Needless to say, when I was a child, the importance of getting essential nutrients escaped me.

Daddy took nutrition counseling to a new level when he became a grandfather. He continued to raise his own vegetables and encourage my children to eat them.  Hydration was also an important theme.   To hear him tell it, my children never had enough water to drink—even though one son preferred water to soda.

The most memorable comment he made however, was one day at lunch.  My sons and nephews were gathered for lunch and inhaling some form of junk food with their sandwiches.  My Dad looked over….checked out one of their biceps and said…..”You have potato chip muscles!” To little boys wanting to look all big and bad—this was an insult and the connection of food with muscles was a new concept.

The boys laughed, but years later as they tried to lift weights and build healthier bodies—the phrase stuck.  Even today as I unearthed an old article I had written  with the title,” Potato Chip Muscles”, my 32 year old son came by, saw it and declared, “RHRR RHRR—their pet name for their grandfather.” His phrase stuck as a reminder about the perils of eating junk food and mindlessly choosing what we eat each day.

We are now in an age of technology where much nutritional messaging is in our face.  Much of it is slick marketing to get us to purchase food plans to lose weight or to order some magic herb or potion to stop pain or increase our memory or vitality.

As a nurse, I realize many diseases are caused by inappropriate food choices—think obesity or anorexia.  Other issues are caused by poor food choices—diabetic coma, vitamin deficiencies or combinations of some foods or supplements with medications.  What many people do not realize is the relationship between our food choices and the development of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis—- to name a few.

Foods we once thought were healthy are no longer healthy.  For example, our perception of red meat and milk as being high in protein and “good” for us is now being challenged.  Yes protein is good, but saturated fats are bad.  Meat, particularly red meat, is to be avoided or absolutely minimized because of the environmental footprint as well as the relationship of meat and inflammatory diseases such as clogged arteries and cancer.   White meat and fish are also now under the scientific gun.  They may not be much better than red meat—however, they have better marketing.

There is growing concern about adding antibiotics and steroids to caged animals and growing them in very unsanitary conditions.  The dairy industry touts milk. In reality, only infants given breast milk actually benefit from milk.

So….what to make of all this?  Food has become very complicated.  The food pyramid many of us knew long ago with meat as the main course, supplemented by two vegetables and bread is no longer recommended for optimum health.  Now, 5-9 fresh fruits and vegetables are recommended as our daily intake and meat intake needs to be limited.

Why?  A vegetarian diet has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation, cancer and heart disease.  It is not without risks if adequate protein in the form of beans or legumes or a bit of culinary research is not involved.

There are a number of documentaries that might be of interest.  For example, “Forks over Knives,” or “What the Health?” provides compelling reasons to take food seriously.   I would recommend having a look at both of them to increase awareness of the long term effect daily meal choices have on our long-term health.  Most of us base our food choices on tradition and the familiar.  The other major influence is less well known—the impact of corporate lobbying on food growers which affects food quality and availability.

Agribusiness and the food industry has played a major role in determining what we eat by advertising campaigns and food policy lobbying at the national level.  The food industry tends to popularize brands and foods that are unhealthy.  (Think golden arches, or the dazzling array of commercials with a bigger version of a hamburger with higher and higher layers of cheese and bacon.–or  think about pizza with additional cheese now also in the crust.)  When is the last time you saw a celery commercial in prime time?

Unhealthy fats, salt and sugar is present in almost every product in the average grocery store.  Foods available are based on food industry economics and policy. Most food products revolve around corn and wheat products.  These are grown in a big way by agribusiness to supply the beef, chicken and pork industries or to make popular cereals and crackers. What looks like a dizzying array of choices in the grocery store actually boils down to a few products– all with a corn or wheat base.  Could this be related to our obesity epidemic or sudden gluten intolerance?

It is very hard to change eating patterns, our social milieu and habit structures.  Motivation to take food seriously starts with awareness and small steps.  The first is to begin to explore the scientific studies and look for patterns. So….what to do??

Look at the documentaries suggested earlier. I promise they will make you think differently about what you are eating.  Begin with growing a tomato or pepper plant or two, Buying produce at local farmer’s markets. Limit meat to flavoring rather than as the main course. Eat one salad a day and at least two fruits. Read the labels of foods—You will be shocked at how much sugar and salt you are getting even when you think you have made a healthy choice.  Try keeping a food diary for one week.  See if you even get close to 5-9 fruits and vegetables each day.  Have fun!

March Is Colorectal Cancer Prevention Month

“Preventable. Treatable. Beatable!”

Colorectal cancer affects both men and women in almost equal numbers.

It is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

There are several screening methods available, making the disease highly preventable.

This part of the body is not generally talked about in polite conversation.  In fact, it is almost taboo.  Much embarrassment accompanies discussions such as color of one’s bowel movements, frequency of bowel movements, associated pain, bleeding, consistency, or other very personal questions.

Yet we must talk about this personal space of our body, risk factors, testing and normal verses abnormal signs of disease development.  Why? Because this is a disease that can be prevented…or diagnosed in a treatable stage.

This year over 142,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and an estimated 50,830 will die of the disease.  Don’t be one of the statistics because you are shy or worried about having the dreaded colonoscopy.  It is a small inconvenience, so put on your big girl panties –or perhaps get ready to take off those panties in order to protect yourself.

So….what do you need to know?  For individuals at average risk, screening should begin at age 50.  If older than 75, ask your health care provider if you need to continue getting screened.

Don’t wait for something to go wrong or change from your normal. Remember, it is always best to get screened BEFORE you have any symptoms. Most cancers take years to develop and that is our window of opportunity for early detection and treatment.

At age 50, a colonoscopy should be scheduled.  No, it’s not fun, but neither is cancer.  Actually, getting prepared for the test is the difficult part.  Generally, several days prior to the procedure all aspirin and anti-inflammatory medications must be discontinued.  Two days prior, a low residue diet is ordered.  The day before the test, only have clear liquids are allowed and a large quantity of a medicated liquid must be ingested that causes a “bowel cleansing.”  Interestingly enough, this beverage is called, “Go Lightly.”  In actuality, it is “Go Heavily.”

The goal is to pass clear liquid instead of brown stool or liquid.  This means the bowel is clean and can be well visualized.  It is essential that the bowel is cleansed of all waste in order for the gastroenterologist to be able to visualize the lining of the colon.

Before the procedure you will be given an anesthetic and basically sleep through the test. The purpose of the test is to inspect the entire colon through a long flexible tube (the colonoscope) that is inserted into the rectum. This tiny tube has a video camera at the tip that allows the doctor to detect polyps or any abnormalities or cancerous changes.  Polyps can usually be removed, or at least sampled to determine if any of the cells are abnormal.

See the Mayo Clinic picture below and go to their website for complete details about the procedure, prep, procedure and results.

The good news is that this test is usually only necessary every TEN years.  If polyps are discovered, or other risk factors or abnormalities are present, more frequent testing may be required.  As with most cancers, lifestyle can increase or decrease one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer.

What things increase the risk?
• Being over the age of  50
• Smoking
• Being  overweight or obese, especially when fat is present around the waist
• Being inactive
• Drinking alcohol in excess
• High intake of red meat (such as beef, pork or lamb) or processed meat (such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs or cold cuts)
• A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
• A personal histories of inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
• A family histories of inherited colorectal cancer or inherited colorectal problems.

How can you reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer?

• Be physically active for at least 30 minutes, at least five days a week.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
• If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman or two drinks a day if you’re a man.
• Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains to help you get and stay healthy.
• Eat less red meat and cut out processed meat.

Fill out the form on the site:  https://preventcancer.org/a-guide-to-preventing-cancer/ to download the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Guide to Prevent Cancer®!

Remember…..your daily choices are the biggest influence on your health.  Choose wisely and be an active participant in your own healthcare.



The Empower Youth Program

I would like to announce that WIN has received a scholarship that gives us the license to offer this program for a year.  We want to bring as many members of the community together as possible and bring the education coordinator for the iEmpathize organization to Rome to conduct the program.  Organizations can then apply for their own scholarship and licensure without the expense of individually bringing the education coordinator to their facility.  We hope to offer this program in May.  If you are interested, please contact me via e-mail.  baker8483@comcast.net    Read the program description from their web site that is printed below.  Let me know your thoughts.

  iEMPATHIZE:  Mission: We equip adults to empower youth to eradicate exploitation.

People often want to know how iEmpathize manages to get exploitation prevention programming in front of youth at schools and other youth-serving environments. It’s true that in less than two years, The Empower Youth Program  exploitation prevention resource – has been ordered for use in nineteen states. That’s one hundred orders serving more than 8,000 youth in schools, juvenile corrections, after-school programs, group homes, homeless outreach, faith communities, and more. So how do we get it out there?

The answer is simple: Through collaboration and relationship with people like you, who are concerned about the trend of exploitation that so many youth run up against each day. Your commitment to youth’s right to preventative strategies means that we aren’t relegated to only recovering and rehabilitating youth after they’ve already been exploited. We can help them before it gets that far. Teachers, parents, community leaders, legislators, victim advocates, law enforcement personnel, teenagers: the list of people who have engaged to bring program to communities around the U.S. is lengthy and profound.

Your commitment excites us! That’s why we’re always looking for ways to expand the ways we help you do what you do best. So in 2016, we launched Advocacy Workshops to help task forces, coalitions, human trafficking advocacy organizations, and other community-based empathizers get the resources you need to make advocating for prevention easier, more effective, and totally achievable.

In August, we brought an Advocacy Workshop to Tacoma, Washington through Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking. Thanks to the amazing work that FWCAT is already doing, they hosted two days of workshops for school personnel and other like-minded organizations to learn about The Empower Youth Program and advocacy strategies. The result is that The Empower Youth Program has now already been ordered for almost 3,000 youth and counting in the Tacoma/Seattle area!

We asked Brenda Shaw, co-founder of FWCAT to share what the Advocacy Workshop achieved for her community.

iEmpathize’s program, Empower Youth,  is a powerful tool to encourage empathy and empower youth and the community to demonstrate care for one another. It covers the subject of exploitation — from bullying to human trafficking.

Although the iEmpathize material is very user-friendly and easy to facilitate, our facilitators gained much greater understanding of the program by having their Education Director come to Seattle and share her passion and the vision of iEmpathize.  Her knowledge of the issue was valuable when sharing with those that might not have a clear understanding of human trafficking on a local and national level.

iEmpathize’s tips for facilitating the material were very valuable, but most importantly, they shared information that reinforced the program and the need for empathy and the ending of exploitation. The presentation is very engaging and their style draws people to share their experiences. They create an environment that allows open discussion among the group.

When we operate alone, we are limited. But through collaboration, the sky is the limit. As Van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Hidden in Plain Sight

While reading the Rome News Tribune several weeks ago, and then almost daily, I became very angry, then very sad.  Unfortunately, it convinced me that a project I am working on with the Women’s Information Network, Inc. (WIN) is even more urgent than I had originally thought.

What did I read?  First I came to an article that described the arrest of a middle school science teacher and girls’ soccer coach sentenced to 15 years in prison for sending pictures of his genitalia via Snapchat to 12 and 13 year old students in his class!  On the very next page was a story about a dentist in Polk County fined for sexual exploitation of a child. The investigation of his home found images classified as child pornography. This week another man was arrested for assaulting a young girl.

The relationship of pornography and child abuse and sexual trafficking are stunning!  The arrests that are occurring literally in our back yard make the problem undeniable.  Something must be done to open the eyes of the public at large and to protect our most vulnerable population of children. For us older individuals, the mysteries of computers—never mind “Snapchat” is foreign.  This MUST change!!! As the newspaper article reported, both criminals used technology for their crimes.

Well, you may think child pornography is bad, but it’s not that pervasive.  Oh, but it is. Sex trafficking is a $32 billion industry in the United States.  The demand for children for these productions begins in communities where our innocent or desperate girls are lured with promises of modeling careers, being taken care of, or being provided affection and protection.

This stage of recruitment is called “luring.”  It has been reported that runaways and homeless girls are picked up by traffickers within 48 hours of leaving home. If you are more affluent, don’t be secure.  Homecoming queens and “nice” neighborhoods are not immune.  Your mental image of a prostitute or pimp is probably quite outdated.

Sex trafficking is the fastest growing crime, second only to drug crimes.  It is less risky and more profitable.  Unlike drugs, once a girl is lured and “broken in,” she can be sold multiple times.  She has most likely been drugged, abused or beaten and is too ashamed and intimidated to report her captor—so there is little evidence for a conviction—like a bag of weed or crack pipe.

Traffickers have been reported targeting their minor victims through telephone chat-lines, clubs, on the street, through friends, and at malls, as well as using girls to recruit other girls at schools and after-school programs.  (Georgia Department of Education)  Our children are vulnerable because they trust people familiar to them, or develop “relationships” on line that convince them to take compromising pictures of themselves that will become used as “sextortion” or abduction.

There is a demand for sexual services and pornography by members of every community in this country.  There is a profit to be made and individuals willing to use others for their own benefit.    It is called “Modern Day Slavery.”

Prostitutes (now called victims in the Georgia code) do not have to walk the streets—they can be ordered on line and available within 30 minutes.  Those in the world of pornography and trafficking say it is as easy as ordering a pizza!

We as a community must come together to denounce sexual exploitation– much like the Mothers Against Drunk Driving condemns driving under the influence. Everyone must become aware of the risk factors, signs of trafficking and hot line numbers for reporting suspicious activity.  Your observation might just save a child from a life of humiliation and bondage. I have learned that whether individuals are actually sold, or used by a trusted member of the community, the negative effects last a lifetime.

WIN has been working for several months on learning more about this problem in order to develop an awareness program for the community at large and for middle school students in particular. Waiting until high school is too late—the average victim is now 11-13 years of age. Through my work with the Georgia Commission on Women and lobbying day at the capitol last week, I now have enough solid information and resources to start the process.  I need everyone’s help.

How?  Help us gather groups together for educational programs, provide places to hold classes, post billboards with hot line numbers, work with law enforcement to get the required hotline numbers and resources posted in all hotels, restaurants and public areas. Give us an opportunity to offer the iEmpathize program to our middle school children.  This is a prevention program I just received licensing to use for a year.  It is being utilized in 19 states.  For content details go to iEmpathize.org

Schedule an educational program for all your employees.  Delta airlines just educated 50,000 of their 80,000 employees to help identify victims because they are moved from state to state.  During the recent Superbowl sex trafficking sting, 522 “johns” and 30 pimps were arrested.

We are a large medical community.  National reports say 80-90% of victims come in contact with a health professional, but are not recognized as being a victim of trafficking. Detecting the warning signs and symptoms should be in the curricula for all health professionals and part of the required continuing education.

Everyone has a role to play—hair stylists, manicurists, hotel managers, mall managers, law enforcement etc.  The list is endless. These girls are “hidden in plain sight.” Learn what to look for.  If a behavior strikes you as suspicious, ask the simple question, “Are you safe?”  Keep the National Sex Trafficking Resources hotline handy and post it anywhere you can get permission to do so. The number is: 1-888-373-7888.   https://humantraffickinghotline.org

Thinking About The Unthinkable

hour glassBy Sharon Baker, BSN, MN, CWHNP
President & Founder, Women’s Information Network, Inc.

This year I read a book entitled, “Being Mortal” by Dr. Atul Gwande.  I don’t remember who recommended it to me, but it articulated many of my observations, experiences, and feelings based on my decision to pursue a career in nursing.  When I was a 20 year old student, I was assigned to care for individuals with incurable diseases, unexpected injuries, or sudden death.  It didn’t take long for me to discard the invincibility mindset that is typical of younger people.  It made me a believer that death and dying is real and doesn’t always give a warning notice or only happen to the elderly.

Our society promotes denial of these realities by removing everyone except health care professionals from the unpleasant sights and chores associated with taking care of a deteriorating or expiring body.  I worked in a nursing home the last three years of my career.  This experience made it impossible to deny the many scenarios that can be present at the end of life.  For those outside the health field, the initial brush with death usually results from a health crisis within the family.  We are rudely awakened from our denial by a tsunami of issues that we have never contemplated.

We are unprepared for all the questions that haven’t been addressed and decisions that must be made while in crisis mode.  Now, we have to deal with the problem and want information, even if we are frightened of the subject matter.

If we are uncomfortable with someone else’s death, the thought of examining or preparing for our own death is too startling to consider. Unfortunately, this ostrich approach robs us of having any control on the setting where we will be treated, the type of care we might receive, or determination of our preferences regarding how intensive we want our treatment to be.  The legal and financial chaos our irresponsibility causes may take years to untangle.

So, I increasingly wonder why we are so reluctant to find an expert in end of life that would be the equivalent of a CPA to help us with our taxes. As the saying goes, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.”  Both are inevitable experiences.  To seek an expert to assist with our personal tax issues is considered intelligent.  Having an expert help guide us through the end of life paperwork and questions is avoided and almost viewed superstitiously as casting an unpleasant spell that will make our death more imminent.

Just try to have a conversation with someone about whether they have stated their preferences for their last days, or if their will or advance directives are completed.  This will quickly result in a change of topic.

So we remain a people uncomfortable talking about the subject of dying, even with those we love the most.  Being an informed patient, having all documentation in place and having it shared with relatives or our surrogate decision-makers prior to a crisis, can make our life and everyone else’s much less stressful.  It may be our greatest gift to our children.

We all know that in a matter of minutes the world as we know it can be shattered.  One phone call can confirm an incurable disease or notify that a loved one was killed in an automobile accident.  Yet we deny the fact that the mortality rate for EVERYONE is 100%.

If illness or death occurs in our circle of acquaintances, we frequently feel very uncomfortable about what to say or do. So, we frequently avoid them and say nothing.  This leaves our closest friends and relatives isolated and feeling lonely in a time of desperate need to talk about their deepest hurts and concerns.

I encourage everyone to “suck it up” and get the facts, paperwork, and skills to be a better decision-maker regarding their own critical life decisions and learn to be better communicators with all those individuals most dear to us. Come join The Women’s Information Network, Inc. on September 27, 2016 for our workshop entitled:  “Life:  The Final Chapter….Write Your Own Ending.” This seminar is designed to provide the documents that need completion, ways to communicate about this topic and resources in our community to provide assistance when needed.  For more information go to: infoforwomen.org   Registration is $20.  Students  $10.


Life: The Final Chapter – Write Your Own Ending

By Sharon Baker, BSN, MN, CWHNP
President & Founder, Women’s Information Network, Inc.

More people in the baby boomer generation are reaching age 65 – some 10,000 a day until 2030 (Pew Research Center, 2010). I happen to be one of those this year. As usual, each milestone for my generation causes social change. The most recent to attract my attention is the book Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gwande. At first, I thought the primary reason for my interest was because of my occupation as a nurse practitioner, and how often I experienced the realities of Dr. Gwande’s book lived out in a nursing home where I worked prior to my retirement.

However, I soon learned that just like other previously unspoken topics, (think natural childbirth, fathers in the delivery room, menopause, sexual assault, etc.) my interest in death and dying is a trend. Boomers usually first get initiated into the end of life processes through the death of our parents or other family members. One thing gained from this experience is usually the certainty that we don’t want our last days to happen the same way. There are far too many loose ends.

When assuming responsibility for anyone during the end of life process, we are suddenly forced to realize how much we don’t know. For example: What legal/financial documents are needed or need completing? Where are they? What is the prognosis? What are the treatment options? How do I talk to someone who is dying? Where can I get help taking care of my loved one? How much will it cost? Does my insurance cover it?

Our society’s sanitation of dying and the discomfort with the topic has left us woefully unprepared for an event we know will inevitably occur. If we are sensible, we do not act like ostriches, but instead poke our heads out of the sand and explore this scary topic to learn the roadmap for what needs to be done before a crisis in our own life renders us unable to literally have a voice.

As with most issues of the boomers, we are not a passive group! Just as Lamaze classes taught us what to expect, more people realize that learning some details about an upcoming situation makes it less frightening. Having time to digest information and construct a personalized plan makes us calmer and feel more in control.

After reading Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gwande, I began to seriously look for tools to help me articulate and document how I would like my “Last Chapter” to be. To my delight, I’m finding workbooks that pose many questions and situations that have helped me write my wishes and enabled me to share them with my sons.

Probably the most important question for anyone is, “what happens when I die?” Knowledge of common fears, wishes, symbols, language, and behavior can help all of us to glimpse the important journey from this life to the afterlife.

I’m finding the stories helpful on a very practical level and reassuring on a spiritual level. Join WIN in learning the answers to the questions you have not yet thought about asking.

On Tuesday, September 27, 2016, from 1 P.M – 5 P.M., The Women’s Information Network, Inc. is hosting an event called “Life: The Last Chapter – Write Your Own Ending.” The event will include a panel of speakers and workbook outlining the important documents needed for end of life decisions. Following the presentations, all speakers will be available for an informal question and answer session during a reception (reception is from 4-5 pm) with light refreshments.

Registration is required and the cost is $20.00. This fee includes the program and a workbook of materials. Call 706-506-2000 or e-mail baker8483@comcast.net to register. Visit here for more information and to register/pay online.