Archive for the ‘illness’ Category

Seniors Don’t Have To Be Sexy To Have Sex

February 13, 2012

Studies have shown that 70 percent of men and 35 percent of women continue to be sexually active over the age of 70. Sexual interest continues throughout life and seniors today need to know that they can still be intimate during their golden years.

Here are the truths behind the myths regarding seniority and sex.

Misconception: Lack of interest in being intimate.

Reality: Sexual interest continues throughout life. Society tends to have an ageist concept of intimacy, feeling sex among seniors is inappropriate or unnatural. There are enough men for women who are interested and many social outlets for seniors to meet others with whom they can become intimate. These include various organizations or clubs, church groups, dance functions, etc.

Misconception: Inability to perform.

Reality: Complications from aging, such as having to take more medications with side effects and chronic illness, may interfere with sexual function, but they do not eliminate it.

Misconception: Sexual dysfunction cannot be treated.

Reality: Erectile dysfunction is not always an inevitable consequence of aging, but it can often be a result of medications or anxiety. A person’s overall health may also be a concern, so be sure to discuss any issues you are having with your doctor. Medication to alleviate this condition is an option but only with doctor approval.

Misconception: Common illness or disabilities warrants stopping any sexual activity.

Reality: Intimacy is possible for those who may have some medical issues. Those with bone and joint limitations; limited cardiac and pulmonary reserve; and cognitive disorders can have sex, it just may take some patience and creativity. Common concerns include:

Heart disease: risk is low for another heart attack to occur while being intimate; in fact, an active sex life may decrease the risk of a future heart attack.

Diabetes: one of the few diseases that can cause impotence. Once diabetes is diagnosed and controlled, however, potency in most cases may be restored.

Stroke: rarely damages physical aspects of sexual function, and it is unlikely that sexual exertion will cause another stroke. Using different positions or medical devices that assist body functions can help make up for any weakness or paralysis that may have occurred.

Arthritis: can produce pain that limits sexual activity. Surgery and drugs can relieve these problems, but in some cases the medicines used can decrease sexual desire. Exercise, rest, warm baths, and changes in position and timing of sexual activity (such as avoiding evening and early-morning hours of pain) can be helpful.

Prostatectomy: rarely affects potency. Except for a lack of seminal fluid, sexual capacity and enjoyment after a prostatectomy should return to the pre-surgery level.

Misconception: Seniors cannot contract STDs.

Reality: Anyone who is not practicing safe sex is exposed to the risk of contracting a STD. According to Today’s Research on Aging, adults age 50 and older accounted for 10 percent of new HIV infections in the United States in 2006. In 2007, 34 percent of adults age 50 and older were living with AIDS. Find the safest method that works best for you.

** Remember, sexual activity is normal, healthy behavior. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions regarding sexual activity. There are many ways to be intimate without engaging in sexual intercourse. Intimacy can also be achieved through touching, holding hands, long walks, dancing and other forms of shared experiences. Communication between partners is most important.

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Living With Chronic Illness During the Holiday Season

November 24, 2011

Holiday time is a time of enjoyment, family get togethers, and lots of good food. But for some people, especially those with chronic illnesses, holiday season is time of anxiety, tension, and even depression. For those who have a chronic medical problem, holiday time can even be more stressful. This blog was written by TONI BERNHARD who is a lawyer and author from southern California. 





In the U.S., we’re getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. Soon, people around the world will turn their attention to the holiday season. Chronic health problems can take a toll on relationships any time of the year. Most people have to experience unrelenting pain or illness themselves before they understand how debilitating it is, physically and mentally. Loved-ones (by whom I mean family and close friends) may be in some form of denial about what’s happened to you, or they may be scared and worried about the future. Bottom line, suffering from a chronic condition can be an ongoing crisis—for you and for those you’re close to.

That crisis can come to a head during the holidays when people’s expectations of one another are high and when stress levels for everyone are likely to be off the charts for any number of reasons—health, financial, relationship issues. If you’re like me, during the rest of the year, you carefully limit interactions with others in order to manage your symptoms; on a typical day, your most complex decision may be to choose between showering and shopping! But when the holidays arrive, you’re suddenly thrust into the middle of a lively and chaotic social scene where you’re expected to participate in a range of activities, often for days in a row. A bit of advance warning to loved-ones can go a long way toward minimizing stress levels over unrealistic expectations.
I know that this piece won’t apply to everyone. One of the heartbreaking consequences of living with chronic pain and illness is that some people are unable to be with loved-ones at all during the holidays, either because people are too disabled by their pain or illness to be able to gather with others, or because family and close friends having drifted out of their lives. I know the pain of that isolation; I’ll be writing about it in my next piece.
For those of you who are able to gather with others, the holidays can be a recipe for double disaster—the increase in activity exacerbates your physical symptoms, while coping with sadness, frustration, and maybe even guilt about your physical limitations gives rise to emotional pain. No wonder many people with health problems dread the approaching holidays.
If you’re one of the many people with chronic health problems who don’t look sick, the initiative is with you to make your condition visible. Here are some suggestions for helping loved-ones understand what your life is like and for giving them a heads-up on what to expect from you during the holidays.
Share information with them from the Internet or from books
Often the best way to educate loved-ones about chronic pain and illness is to use a neutral source because it takes the emotional impact out of the communication. A quick web search will yield a host of organizations devoted to every conceivable medical problem. Print out select pages or forward a few links to family and close friends. Alternatively, if you have a book about your condition, photocopy the pages that cover what you’d like them to know about you. In your accompanying note, keep it “light”—you could joke that “there won’t be a test.” But also make it clear that this favor you’re asking is important to you.
Write a letter
Many years ago, two friends of mine were in couples therapy. They weren’t able to speak to each other about their marital problems without one of them shutting down emotionally and the other reacting by shouting recriminations. Their therapist told them to write letters to each other expressing their feelings and their concerns about the marriage. It turned out to be a major first step in healing their relationship.
If you decide to write a letter, be sure it’s not accusatory. In composing it, use the word “I” more than the word “you.” Without complaining, express how difficult it’s been for you to adjust to this unexpected change in your life and how you wish you could be as active as you once were during the holidays.
You could briefly describe what your day-to-day life is like, including how unpredictable your condition is which means that you can’t know for sure how you’ll feel on the day of the actual gathering no matter how much you rest in advance. (This is the hardest concept for most loved-ones to comprehend—that we can spend weeks before a big event in full “rest mode,” but still feel very sick when the day arrives.)
I would end by telling them what to expect from you during the holidays—that you may have to skip some events, that you may have to excuse yourself right after eating to go lie down, that you may have to come late and leave early. In my experience, spelling out my limitations ahead of time is helpful not just to others, but to me, because I find it much easier to exercise the self-discipline it takes to excuse myself from a room full of people if I know that at least some of them are already expecting it.
P.S. It will be tempting to send an email, and if you have a lot of people you want to communicate with, it may be the most feasible way to reach everyone. But one thing’s for sure: people will read a handwritten letter, antiquated document that it’s become!
Find that ONE ally and enlist his or her help
If you have just one close friend or family member who understands what you’re going through, enlist his or her help in explaining your condition and your limitations. Before the holidays start, you could ask your ally to talk to loved-ones on your behalf or to be present when you talk to them. Ask your ally to be supportive if you have to excuse yourself in the middle of a gathering, or even to let you know if you’re wilting (as we call it in my household). It’s so helpful for me to be “prompted” by my ally because, when I start to overdo things, adrenaline kicks in which fools me into thinking I’m doing fine. But using adrenaline to get by just sets me up for a bad crash later on.
Your ally may be a close friend or family member who’s just waiting for you to enlist his or her help. Think long and hard before you decide there’s no such person in your life.
In the end, you may have to recognize that some loved-ones may never accept your limitations
Some family and close friends may refuse to accept that you’re disabled by pain or illness. I know this from personal experience and it hurts. Try to recognize that this inability is about them, not you. Don’t let their doubt make you doubt yourself. Your medical condition may trigger their own fears about illness and mortality, or they may be so caught up in problems in their own lives that they’re not able to see their way clear to empathize with you.
Just as you can’t force people to love you, you can’t force people to accept you. But getting angry at them just exacerbates your own symptoms. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself from allowing their lack of understanding to continually upset you. Think of it as protecting yourself from another chronic condition: chronic anger.
The physical suffering that accompanies chronic pain and illness is hard enough to endure without adding emotional suffering to it. When I feel let down family or close friends, the first thing I do is acknowledge how much it hurts. Then I reflect on the many possible reasons for their behavior. Finally, I work on genuinely wishing them well. These three steps immediately lessen my emotional suffering.
As you experiment with these suggestions, treat yourself kindly. Don’t blame yourself if one of them doesn’t work out. Instead, give yourself credit for having had the courage to try! My heartfelt wish is that your loved-ones come to understand and accept your limitations, but that if they don’t, you’ll be able to accept them as they are without bitterness.

Bottom Line: The holiday season can be a tremendous source of anxiethy for those who have a chronic medical problem. Try a few of these ideas and suggestions and you, your family, and friends can put the celebration back into the holiday season.

Toni Bernhard is the author of “How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers,” winner of the 2011 Gold Nautilus Book Award in Self-Help/Psychology and named one of the best books of 2010 by Spirituality and Practice.
She can be found online at http://www.howtobesick.com

Suffering From An Illness? Get a “Do It Yourself” Attitude

June 26, 2011

This post comes from an E-mail by Dr. Neil Niemark.  Anyone with that first name has to good writer!  🙂

True Health Means Making Every Day Precious
We all crave a greater sense of health and vitality in our lives. We all yearn for a deeper sense of inner peace and serenity. In order to achieve these noble goals, we must learn how to make every day precious.
How do we do this? By realizing that we are the architects of our own lives. Though it is so “natural” to want to blame other people or external events for our unhappiness, we are truly responsible for our own happiness.
What is the most powerful way to make every day precious? It is by developing a passionate involvement with life; participating fully in our own personal growth and development.

Vitality, serenity and inner peace do not come from living life on the sidelines, but rather from playing the game of life with all the gusto we have. We must engage life fully by moving towards our dreams and choosing the legacy we wish to leave.

We need to live life passionately, to live life as it’s unfolding, to live life on life’s terms. Not to shyly approach life, but to move into it. Living passionately does not mean living loudly or boisterously. It may be a quiet, peaceful way of being. But it is YOUR unique way of being, one that honors the fear and the suffering, but does not allow that fear or pain to immobilize us.

The Zen poet David Whyte speaks of passion beautifully, rendering images of fire, when he says: “We want the fire that warms, but we refuse the fire that burns.” We want a full and filling life (the fire that warms), but we refuse to expose ourselves to the risk and the suffering involved (the fire that burns) in etching out that life.

There have been engaging studies done on the healing power of participation. Dr. Charlene Kavanaugh, from the University of Wisconsin Medical School, compared a group of severely burned children who received standard nursing care with another group who were taught to change their own dressings. Those who had an active role in their care required less medication and had fewer complications.

Another study on participation was done in Palo Alto, where a group of asthmatic children were taught about their disease and the drugs used to control it. These children were encouraged to decide for themselves when they needed their medication. The results were amazing. These children missed far fewer days from school and their average rate of emergency room visits dropped from one per month to approximately one visit every six months.

The simple act of “participating in getting well” activates our healing system and begins our movement towards greater physical health. But this is not easy, is it? It means that we must get off our “if’s, and’s or but’s” and actually be involved. Most of us don’t want to do the work it takes to get well. We’d rather slack off, and then when we’re sick or ill, go to the doctor and get a bag of pills, a quick fix, or a magic bullet.

Norman Cousins, the great writer, says: “We regard the doctor as the miracle man who can wave his prescription pad over us like a magic wand and provide us a presto remedy. We expect the surgeon’s knife or the prescription pad to replace the personal discipline required to maintain good health.”

Dedication to getting well is a big commitment. This reminds me of a humorous joke about a girl who gets engaged and says to her girlfriend: “I’ve been wanting to get married for so long, but you know what, now that I’m engaged, I’m really a little scared.” “You should be,” said the girlfriend. “Getting married is a big commitment. Seven or eight years can be a very long time!”

There is no quick fix. True healing (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) requires a life long commitment to the process of getting well. True healing requires dedication, discipline and hard work. So participate in getting well by developing a passionate involvement with life. Make every day precious and let the fire warm you, even though it may burn you at times.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Every day, for the next week, write down one special thing that you can do to “make every day precious.”

Be well. In body and soul,

Neil F. Neimark, M.D.

www.TheBodySoulConnection.com