Tips for Staying Healthy This Winter

According to the cover story of the AARP Bulletin, the COVID-19 global pandemic delivered one important lesson that we should all acknowledge. Our immune systems are in trouble.

The medical term for this is ‘dysregulated’, or to keep it simple, our immune systems are not working as they should, i.e. intelligently. Far too often, they are unable to distinguish between a harmless and harmful invader, leaving us at risk. And there is much concrete evidence of the dilemma.


Autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system attacks itself, are rising 4 to 7% every year. Three of the most common are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes, however, there are over 80 autoimmune disorders identified.

Food allergies now afflict one in ten adults. Our immune systems are over taxed to a large extent due to a changing environment. We are exposed daily to thousands of chemicals that were not in our environment 50 years ago. In some cases, chemicals are immune activators meaning they cause inflammation and others are immune suppressors – making us more susceptible to disease!

Chronic inflammation. Of those hospitalized for COVID-19, 34 % had diabetes, 42% were obese, and 57% had high blood pressure. Chronic inflammation is a common factor in all these conditions and many more. Our immune defenses are working overtime, 24/7.

Aging certainly plays a significant role in the dysregulation of our immune system. According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are among adults over 65. The good news for seniors, however, is that only 10% of the decline in immune function is due to aging alone. In fact, there are many older people who have stronger immune systems that some younger people.

WHAT TO DO? – A Healthy Lifestyle Rocks

Taking these many factors into account, one obvious conclusion is that the answers comes down to lifestyle. Health professionals recommend:

  1. Eat unprocessed foods as much as possible to reduce the toxic chemical load and give your immune system a break. Michael Pollan, the highly respected author of In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto suggests we simplify our diets by eating real food. If we must eat processed foods, read the label. Look for those with 4 – 5 ingredients vs. 30. Gravitate to fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains that aren’t prepackaged with preservatives, hydrogenated fats, added sugars, artificial flavors and colors.
  2. Reduce your level of stress. Seventy to 90% of conditions treated by primary care physicians are linked to stress. It is a powerful suppressant of our immune system. So, the importance of daily movement can’t be overemphasized. Yoga, tai chi, and walking are a few simple forms of highly effective exercise that require no equipment or travel. Ideally, make exercise fun. You’ll be more inclined to do it if it puts a smile on your face.
  3. Finally, let’s talk about the importance of meditation and rest. It is nature’s medicine. The body needs to rest to repair itself. A good night’s sleep not only heals us from the stressful influence of the day, it recharges our body for the day ahead. As a supplement to the rest of sleep add meditation. Scientific research published in the most prestigious journals validate the tremendous benefits of a daily meditation practice.

I have seen the influence of deep healing rest not only in my own life, but in the lives of friends and those that I’ve taught to meditate over the last 40+ years. Meditation is an antidote for stress. During the practice of Effortless Meditation, the mind becomes calm and the body rests more deeply than in sleep. Our muscles relax, breathing softens, and stress and anxiety melt away. And many find they begin to sleep better than ever, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.


It is widely understood that the negative impact of chronic stress accumulates over time. This is one significant reason that the highly stressed U.S. population has been hit so hard by COVID19. Fortunately we are not victims, we have the power within us to be far healthier by making some of the lifestyle choices mentioned here. Self-care begins at home and it’s simple.

Be well, and feel free to contact us if you need assistance or have questions.

Greg Schweitzer, MBA. DAy


Virtual and in-person classes are available.

Does Mom Need a Nurse or a Health Aide?

I often hear people use the term ‘nurse’ to describe the person who comes to the house to help mom or dad bathe and get dressed three or four times a week. There’s apparently a lot of confusion out there between what home health aides and nurses do.

The person who helps your loved one bathe and dress is typically a Home Health Aide (HHA) or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). There are other titles and designations for this type of help, but HHA and CNA are two of the most common.

While many HHAs have a high school diploma or a GED, formal education generally is not required to be an HHA. Home care agencies typically provide their own training programs. Some states do offer a training and certification process to become a certified home health aide, or CHHA.

CNAs must pass a state licensing exam to be certified. This requires a formal training program offered by community colleges and vocational and technical schools. Candidates must learn basic principles of nursing care and complete several hours of supervised clinical training.

HHAs and CNAs working in the home setting may assist with bathing, dressing and other self-care and hygiene needs. As needed, they may also grocery shop, prepare meals, help clients eat, perform light housekeeping and provide occasional transportation.

In healthcare language, both CNAs and HHAs are considered “Unskilled” help. By definition, “Skilled” services are functions that must be performed by a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN).

All states require RNs to earn at least an associate degree, but some employers prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees. RNs must also be licensed to practice, a process that requires that they complete an accredited nursing program, lasting from two to four years, and pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN.

LPNs must complete a state-approved training program, often in the form of a diploma, certificate or associate degree. The majority of programs can be completed in one year, although some offering an extensive nursing curriculum may take longer. Individuals must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses, or NCLEX-PN.

While the differences between RNs and LPNs are beyond the scope of this article, both are qualified to provide more advanced care than HHAs and CNAs. In general, nurses may administer medication, perform wound care, create and implement detailed care plans, and collaborate with doctors and other members of your loved one’s healthcare team.

Hiring an HHA or CNA is usually one of the first steps in planning to keep your loved one safe at home. They are typically employed at a home care agency in your area and are private pay (meaning not covered by insurance).

Nursing care may or may not become necessary as certain health conditions progress and are often ordered by your family doctor. When ordered by a doctor for a specific illness or condition, nursing services are generally covered by health insurance. There are also private duty nurses that can be hired by an individual patient, their family, or an agency. They are not necessarily under the direction of a physician and their salary is paid by the individual.

It’s important to make an accurate assessment of your loved one’s needs and obtain the proper level of  help to keep them safe and healthy at home. Many times family members are overwhelmed by the prospect of figuring things out, or have differing opinions about what’s best for mom and dad. This often results in family strife, leading to inertia and nothing gets done until there’s an emergency. If this is the case in your family, it may be wise to hire a professional health advocate to perform a comprehensive and objective assessment for the family.

Contact Cathy Abreu, RN, BCPA at or 484-548-0201

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Tools for Interacting With People Who Have Dementia

Dementia is a general term for a loss of memory and other thinking abilities that is serious enough to interfere with activities of daily life. It has many causes, the most common cause is Alzheimer’s disease.

A diagnosis of dementia can have a huge impact on a person’s life. Someone recently diagnosed with dementia is likely to experience a range of emotions. These may include grief, loss, anger, shock, fear, disbelief and even relief from finally understanding their diagnosis.

Living with dementia presents many challenges for patients and their families. As a family member, friend or caregiver, there are specific ways we can interact with people with dementia that can increase the quality of our interactions and decrease many common frustrations.

Interacting with People Living with Dementia

• Slow your pace and allow time for the person to process and respond
• Simplify sentences or choices
• Ask one question at a time
• Speak clearly and calmly, be patient, listen
• Avoid arguing or embarrassing the person
• Seek to understand the person’s reality or feelings
• Gently redirect to another environment or subject as needed

We can all work together to spread dementia friendly practices by partnering with advocacy groups, state agencies and regulators to learn more about, follow and encourage dementia friendly practices in our communities.

People living with dementia still need the same things we all do – love, support, connection, community and engagement. It’s important to always remember that although someone with dementia may behave differently, they still deserve to live with dignity, respect and at their highest possible quality of life.

Contact Cathy Abreu, RN, BCPA at or 484-548-0201 for more information on living with and caring for people with dementia. Visit us online at!