Archive - June 2018

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Learning Through Arthritis
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Building Resilience and Hope in Children and Youth
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Talking to Youth About Marijuana

Learning Through Arthritis

By: Daniel Regan

arthritis_tips_Live Well Lamoille

At 72 most of my squash-playing days are behind me. Although I took up the game, a fast-moving racquet sport, too late in life, there was plenty of time, apparently, to pound on my joints. Soccer, before squash, had taken its toll too. Arthritic changes started showing up at least ten years ago on my ankle. In 2016, osteoarthritis of my left hip was bad enough for me to walk away from a consultation carrying a binder entitled “Preparing for Your Hip Replacement.”

I returned it to the clinic two months later. In the meantime, I had decided to try physical therapy combined with modest amounts of over-the-counter medication. Today, more than two years later, I have “graduated” to a prescription medication, but continue to work out one to two hours almost daily. Luckily, my current schedule allows that. I check in with a superb PT, who is an acute observer and listener, every three or four months for a “tune up.” Although others will choose differently, my road to an eventual joint replacement will be as gradual as she–and I–can make it.

No one chooses arthritis, although worse afflictions can be imagined. More than 54 million Americans, plenty of whom live in Vermont, live with doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Of those, more than 30 million have osteoarthritis, the most common form of disability in adults. If arthritis sufferers conveyed what they’ve learned from their experiences, the pooled knowledge would constitute a valuable life studies curriculum.

Here are some of the life lessons I think I’ve learned from living with arthritis:

  1. Revel in a good day, do what you can to endure a worse one; but try not to read too much into either. Unless one is extraordinarily lucky, or unlucky, the day-by-day trajectory is neither clearly up nor down. I don’t need a weather app, for instance, to provide painful confirmation that the barometric pressure is falling; but tomorrow the skies may clear. An overall trajectory may well exist, but each particular day need not reflect it.
  1. Appreciate the small pleasures of life. I take real pleasure in walking even short distances with something like the stride I remember. There are analogues in every sphere of life.
  1. Learn to accept assistance, but try to gauge what you really need. I use a sock aid, but only for the foot I struggle to reach, and am considering using a single hiking pole for longer walks. For life in general as for arthritis, it’s important to accept necessary assistance; but it’s also worth remembering that the Beatles sang about “a LITTLE help from my friends.” It’s a good idea, to the extent possible, to push yourself.
  1. Move! When life is less than stellar, passivity and inaction are apt to take over. Long-term, this is exactly the wrong response to life as to arthritis. On the other hand, although I try to move through the initial pain in anticipation of relief, if it’s too much and I need an easier day, I take it—without second guessing myself.
  1. Relax. Time is especially precious, compared to when I was 20; but no particular moment is indispensable, really. In particular, not every second must be used productively. Waste some time, shamelessly, allot extra time for tasks; and minimize multitasking, unless you really, really like having the news on all the time. Arthritis and life require a dual sense of time–as both precious and dispensable–and the ability to move back and forth between them.
  1. Seize any opportunity to examine what is at the core of your identity. I had to ask—am still asking—myself to what extent my sense of self is wrapped up in moving as I had before. More generally, what makes you you? And without a particular attribute or capacity, how could you reinvent yourself? That act of remaking oneself is also an exercise in humility.

It is also an exercise in empathy. Overall, living with arthritis has heightened my empathy for those—the many people–who move as gracefully as they can through life with pain either external or internal.

Building Resilience and Hope in Children and Youth

By: Scott Johnson, Lamoille Family Center

In a 2017 article co-authored by Boston Pediatrician, Bob Sege, MD, PhD, et al., the authors highlight recently released data about fostering healthy childhood development by promoting positive experiences for children and families. The article recognizes that many families experience hardship and adversity, and they point to research about the importance of balancing those adversities and early life traumas with positive experiences that can grow hopefulness. The piece is called: Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) With HOPE* New Insights into the Role of Positive Experience on Child and Family Development, and the full article can be found at this website: https://www.cssp.org/publications/documents/Balancing-ACEs-with-HOPE-FINAL.pdf.

Assuring healthy outcomes for children is important and complicated work. Families, communities, schools, and workplaces all play a role in the support and development of healthy children. The Lamoille Family Center works across the Lamoille Valley region (Lamoille County plus the towns of Craftsbury, Greensboro, Hardwick, Stannard, and Woodbury), fostering hope and positive outcomes for children, youth, and families.

One way we build hope and support healthy lifestyles is through our “Send a Kid to Camp” program. Initiated as a celebration of the Family Center’s 40th anniversary three years ago, this highly successful program supports local children who otherwise would not be able to afford a summer camp experience. International expert and researcher on childhood trauma, Michael Unger, PhD, believes that camps can play a critical and positive role in a child’s trajectory.

“Camps help children feel in control of their lives, and those experiences of self-efficacy can travel home as easily as a special art project they carry in their backpack. Children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem-solvers in new situations long after the smell of the campfire is forgotten.”

The Family Center works with local schools and sister agencies to identify children who want to go to camp but whose families cannot afford to send them. In the camp’s second year, we were able to send 45 kids – almost double the number of kids to camp from the inaugural year. This year we are on track to treat 59 kids to outdoor and other fun camp experiences.

Here’s what one mother said about her son’s first camp experience:

“He came home from camp grinning ear to ear! Though it will take many months for him to tell us all about camp, he did say, ‘I have SO many friends, him and him and him and her. I don’t know their names but they are my friends.’ As we drove away from Camp Thorpe he was waving and people were waving goodbye and telling him they’d see him next year. I never ever imagined there would be a camp for him.”

We look forward to hearing from more kids this year with their stories about their summer experiences. Building hope in children is the best part of our jobs, and we believe these are smart investments in our future.

Talking to Youth About Marijuana

By: Jessica Bickford

It is widely known that Act 86, which legalizes possession of marijuana by adults, takes effect on July 1st.  In my work with Healthy Lamoille Valley, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with community partners and there is an overwhelming concern for our youth as this law increases opportunities for youth access to marijuana. With this in mind, I want to share a few well-vetted resources to help youth, parents and community members.

What are we talking about? The first step in understanding the impacts of marijuana is to understand the drug.  This site from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens is particularly helpful and is designed be shared with your teen.  https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana

How do we talk to youth about it?  Talking with youth can feel difficult. Parentupvt is a great tool that provides sound advice and suggestions: http://parentupvt.org/how-can-i-help-prevent-it/talk-about-it. They also have infographics on marijuana: http://parentupvt.org/resources/infographics.

On the evening of June 5th, the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department, Healthy Lamoille Valley, and Blueprint for Health are partnering with area middle and high school students to share a community forum: “Effective Communication with Youth.”  Learn more at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/3rd-annual-opiate-forum-presents-communicating-effectively-with-youth-tickets-45909426330.

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has a Youtube tutorial with communication tips for parents: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FThKH0SEDeI

What are the guidelines around use and storage of marijuana? As with any legal drug, including alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, and soon to be marijuana, we all have a role to play in safe, responsible storage and use. Act 86 provides very specific details on how and where adult use marijuana can be used and stored, as well as the quantities an individual can possess. In a nutshell, Act 86 only allows for use in a home residence, with some restrictions. Users are responsible to keep it away from anyone under the age of 21. (In fact, providing marijuana to minors has the same penalties as providing alcohol to a minor – up to a $2,000 fine and up to 5 years of prison time, per minor.) Those who have it or grow it are required to keep it secure where children and youth cannot access it, meaning locked up and out of sight. Users are not to drive impaired. Marijuana cannot legally be sold. https://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018/Docs/ACTS/ACT086/ACT086%20As%20Enacted.pdf

What do you need to know about marijuana and pregnancy? We know that alcohol and tobacco can cause some serious risks and complications to unborn children. It’s logical that marijuana can have risks as well. Check out more information at https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/pdf/Marijuana-Pregnancy-508.pdf

How can I learn more and do more to prevent youth use? Healthy Lamoille Valley is working with Michelle Salvador at the Vermont Department of Health to host a community evening in June. Watch Healthy Lamoille Valley’s website for emerging details! Join us as we review the implications of Act 86 and then break into interest groups (parents, youth, educators, landlords, employers, etc.) to explore how we can prevent youth use and support area children and families.

Looking for more resources?

CDC Marijuana Use and Teens: https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/pdf/Marijuana-Teens-508.pdf

CDC Marijuana Use and Driving: https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/pdf/Marijuana-Driving-508.pdf

SAMSHA’s Marijuana Page: https://www.samhsa.gov/atod/marijuana

Vermont’s Marijuana Impact Assessment: http://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2016/12/ADAP_HIA_Marijuana_Regulation_in_Vermont_Exec_Summary.pdf

Our partners at Mount Ascutney Hospital created a good summary of Act 86 legalization.  If you would like a copy please send your request to Jessica@healthylamoillevalley.org.


Jessica Bickford has worked as Coordinator of Healthy Lamoille Valley for a little over two years, where she has enjoyed writing for their blog. Writing for Copley’s community blog is a natural extension of this experience! Healthy Lamoille Valley focuses on making healthy choices easy choices, realizing that when we have access to healthy options we are less likely to choose behaviors that are harmful. Prevention is really a lifestyle of wise choices that enable us to live life to the fullest.