Many Floridians living with HIV/AIDS were living at or below the poverty level before economic times became rough. Drug costs continue to rise and some patients have conditions that prevent them from working.
Gan Fradin is a food and clothing bank operated by ARC/The Bob Rauschenberg Center for Living, a resource center for patients living with HIV/AIDS. Interim Executive Director Anna McDaniel says there’s a greater need than ever before.
“Last year we were providing food for just over 300 individuals a month. That was primarily our patient,” said McDaniel. READ MORE
Community agencies in Southwest Florida are starting up an initiative to improve health care for people in Immokalee. And they plan to do so by using the arts.
The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and University of Florida chose Immokalee as the latest site to develop an art in health care program. The initiative targets rural communities in Florida with widespread health issues that remain unaddressed.
The program plans to use all forms of art – from drawing to dancing – to improve people’s health in Immokalee.
Dr. Victoria Frehe-Torres is a psychologist with Collier Health Services and Florida State University College of Medicine, two of the local agencies involved in the project. She says she sees the important role of the arts in her own practice.
“As a psychologist, I do believe in the power of writing,” said Frehe-Torres.
“When you get your ideas, your thoughts, your suffering to a piece of paper –for a lot of people [the process] is very healing. That’s an example that I have of how the arts and health care come together for the wellbeing of the patient.”
The planning meetings for the project begin this week. Frehe-Torres says they hope to start implementing programs in the community next year.
The Arts in Healthcare for Rural Communities will hold a reception to introduce the project at 5:30 PM on Tuesday, December 5 at the FSU College of Medicine Health Education Site in Immokalee.
Having a mental or emotional illness can be debilitating on many levels. It can keep people from working, holding jobs, and being around others.
However, a rehabilitation program is aiming to fill those gaps.
Hope Clubhouse was founded in March of 2010. The Fort Myers program is for those living with severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, clinical depression, schizophrenia and severe anxiety. READ MORE
Jennifer Lee and her four year-old daughter Kristin check out the Halloween candy she brought home from school.
“Arlin was so sad that he couldn’t go trick-or-treating that I promised him we wouldn’t go either,” reminded Lee to her daughter. “No, he couldn’t go, because he was in the hospital, right?”
“No,” answered Kristen.
Lee’s seven-year-old son Arlin has been in a behavioral hospital in Orlando for almost two weeks. He lives with bipolar disorder and had reached a crisis point. The single mom drove her son three hours away from their Cape Coral home to get help.
Community health centers in Florida are set to receive more than 1 million dollars through the 2010 health care reform law. The aim of the funding is to help improve quality and access to primary care for those who need it most.
The federal government awarded money to more than 900 community health centers nationwide – including thirty-seven in Florida. Each received $35,000.
The funding is part of a larger push from the Affordable Care Act to strengthen centers such as Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida.
Spokesperson Bob Johns says their funding will go towards creating an Internet portal for patients to see their medical records and to contact physicians.
“The main reason is that we think it will result in better care,” said Johns. “Secondly, we think it will make us more responsive as health care providers. It will help us listen better and it will help us have better information from our patients.”
The Sarasota County Health Department and Collier Health Services also received the federal grant money. The three community health centers collectively served more than 145 thousand Floridians in 2010.
Author and mental health advocate Pete Earley will speak in Fort Myers Friday. For his 2007 Pulitzer Prize-nominated book “Crazy,” he followed mentally ill inmates for a year through the Miami-Dade prison system.
Earley, a former Washington Post reporter, began advocating for mental health issues after struggling to get help for his then college-age son with bi-polar disorder. His son had been arrested and put in jail.
Earley realized that this was not unique to his son. He says people who are mentally ill are almost four times more likely to be in the prison system than in treatment.
“If you have a mental illness in Florida, you shouldn’t have to get arrested to get help,” said Earley.
“We’ve kind of turned the mental health system into a criminal justice one – and that is wrong.”
Earley will be speaking at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater on Friday, October 7th. It is a fundraiser to benefit Hope Clubhouse, a local center for people living with mental illness.
Florida is becoming a friendlier state for patients facing serious illness, according to a new report on palliative care.
The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) graded each state on access to palliative care in its hospitals. According to the new report, almost two-thirds of Florida hospitals with 50 or more beds have a program in place – an increase from less than half in 2008. The same goes for hospitals nationwide.
“The good news is that over the last ten years palliative care teams have more than doubled,” said Dr. Diane E. Meier, director of the Center and co-author of the study.
“The bad news is that despite its enormous benefits to patients and caregivers, millions of seriously ill Americans still do not have access.”
According to CAPC, approximately 90 million Americans are living with serious and chronic illnesses. These include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The report finds Vermont and Washington DC to offer palliative care in all of its hospitals. Delaware and Mississippi were graded the lowest with only 1 in 5 hospitals having a program.
“I think there is a growing awareness of what palliative care is and how it can be integrated in acute care hospitals,” said Karen Washburn, Director of Lee Memorial Health System’s palliative care program.
She says more people are seeing it beyond the notion that it’s just “end-of-life care” and limited to hospice.
Palliative care teams focus on easing pain and symptoms. It emphasizes quality of life, rather than cure.
Studies show that palliative care improves patient satisfaction and saves the health care system money.
Still, a recent poll found that a majority of Americans don’t know what palliative care actually is.
A new report from the AARP assigned an economic value to family caregivers in the U.S. The study estimated their unpaid contributions to be approximately 450 billion dollars a year.
But there is no way to quantify the physical and emotional costs of their care. The burden of caregivers can apparently be so stressful at times it can cost them their lives.
Bonnie Dominguez became family caregiver in 2006 when she got “that dreaded phone call at work.” Her eldest son was injured in Iraq.
He survived an IED blast, but was burned on 85 percent of his body. Dominguez and her youngest daughter Maline had to move to Texas for a year to care for him while he recovered in an army hospital.
“The year after that, I came home and I encountered a different kind of situation here,” said Dominguez. “The caregiving continued, just in a different way.”
Dominguez sits at the dining table in her Lehigh Acres home beside her 81-year-old mom, Marie Bem. It’s her day off from work, but it hardly feels like a day off.
She takes away the half-eaten plate of food when her mom signals she’s done.
“Mom always said, ‘I don’t care if I have a heart attack and die, I don’t care if I have this, I just don’t want to get Alzheimer’s.’ And that’s the one thing she got blessed with,” said Dominguez.
When Bem was diagnosed in 2007, Dominguez became her full-time caregiver. The single mom juggles her job at the local airport, running the house, and caring for her mother.
She is one of the 62 million Americans each year caring for a family member. While their work is unpaid, it does come at a price – not to their loved ones or the health care system, but to the caregivers themselves.
Gary Barg is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Today’s Caregiver based in Fort Lauderdale.
“The most frightening statistic is, according to Stanford University, 40% of caregivers dealing with cognitive disorders in their loved ones will die before their loved ones do –solely due to the stress of family caregiving,” said Barg.
He was inspired to start the magazine after an experience helping his mom care for his grandparents.
“And those were the most intense, painful, life-and-death experiences, around-the-clock, never-sleeping two weeks that I lived as a helper to a family caregiver.”
Studies show that caring for an ill family member or friend can be harmful to the person’s own health. The job is stressful and it takes a mental, physical, and emotional toll.
Bonnie Dominguez says she knows that very well.
“Sometimes I would just start crying, I was at my wits end,” she said.
Mae Greenberg is a mental health counselor based in Miami who runs a caregiver support group.
“As much as somebody really loves the person that is ill, just the constant demands can bring them to the point of exhaustion,” she said.
“There is that grieving of the loss for what their life was before their time was filled with all of that.”
A lack of support is not only detrimental for caregivers, but also the country.
The AARP report finds family caregivers to be vital for the health care system and the economy. The value of their work is approaching the amount the government spends on Medicare.
Without them, the economic costs of health care would skyrocket.
“So it’s very important that these caregivers have an outlet so they can continue to care for their loved one, “ said Nancy Green-Irwin, executive director for Senior Friendship Centers of Lee County.
Senior Friendship Centers provides services to seniors and caregivers alike. The AARP report calls for more resources for caregivers to lessen the strain of the job.
Before heading to work, Bonnie Dominguez drops her mother Marie off at the Centers’ adult day care.
It gives her peace of mind that her mom will be safe and around other people while she’s at her job. It also removes some of the pressure.
“It’s hard sometimes, [but] we make it work,” said Dominguez.
“I have to be there—which is OK. When I was little she had to be there for me.”
Dominguez worries about herself, but said it’s tough not to worry about others first. She relieves some her stress by getting a massage from her chiropractor and playing scrabble on the phone with a friend.
Dominguez said she’s glad to spend time with her mom, but is thankful for the resources that give her respite.
Southwest Florida will soon be training doctors in its local hospitals.
Lee Memorial Health System and Florida State University College of Medicine unveiled plans for a medical residency program in Fort Myers. It will be the first of its kind in Southwest Florida and the only one between Tampa and Miami.
The program will be for medical graduates who are specializing in family medicine.
The announcement comes at a time when the state and country are experiencing a shortage of physicians – especially in primary care.
Although more medical schools are starting up in Florida, there are not enough residency programs to keep these new doctors in the state. Florida ranks 43rd nationally in the number of medical residents trained.
Lee Memorial Health System President Jim Nathan says the aim of this program is to bring more physicians to the area.
“By being able to have a training program here, we will be able to not only develop physicians that are trained in our community, but hopefully will want to stay in our community,” said Nathan.
Medical school graduates must complete residency training in their chosen specialty before they can practice medicine independently.
The FSU-Lee Memorial Health System program plans to bring in six residents starting in July 2013.
A drop in seasonal donors coupled with a nationwide slowdown has created a critical shortage of blood throughout the region.
Recent demand has left the Naples-based Community Blood Center with a mere three day blood supply.
“We had a few blood drives over the weekend and we used a lot of those resources by Tuesday morning,” says Lauren Rosen, community relations manager for the CBC, an affiliate of Naples Community Hospital Healthcare System.
It’s estimated more than 12,000 pints of whole blood are donated annually by the residents of Southwest Florida.
But, when local snowbirds return home for the summer, a reliable source of blood donors is lost.
Nationally, about one third of eligible adults make regular blood donations.
And, what’s donated locally stays local and immediately goes out to area hospitals, according to Rosen.
While all blood types are needed, Rosen add, there’s a particular shortage of negative typed blood.
“Somebody has an Rh negative blood type, that means they don’t have the Rh factor within their blood, then they can only get a negative. If you have positive blood like I am, A positive, I can receive O+, A+, A- and O- blood. So, if you’re a positive blood you can receive negative blood but if you’re negative, you can only get a negative,” says Rosen.
Donate to win
CBC wants to encourage new blood donors to give, so it’s giving away a trip for four to Busch Gardens to one lucky donor.
“We want to give somebody something special to look forward to for taking time out to save three lives with just a single pint. Having a drawing is just another way of taking the fear out of giving blood that people have,” says Rosen.
Donors as young as 16 can give blood, with their parent’s approval.
And, donors may give a pint of blood about every two months.
Each pint is separated into its component parts … red cells, platelets and plasma –and may potentially help three different patients.
Blood drives are being held this weekend at the Hollywood 20 Cinemas in Naples.