Monday, August 29, 2011

Grateful to Give Back: An Interview with Pathways Volunteer, Bill Jennings

Pathways Home Health & Hospice recognized Bill Jennings of Milpitas, California for outstanding volunteer service by honoring him with the Kennedy Award. Bill has been a volunteer at Pathways Home Health & Hospice since 2006, and is an active member of both bereavement and patient care teams.

A retired trainer with Sony Electronics, Bill has found many opportunities to adapt his professional skills to his volunteer work at Pathways. He uses his interpersonal skills when visiting patients and their families, where he provides companionship, and comfort. He uses his technical skills by creating and maintaining two databases for tracking the non-profits’ bereavement library and Integrative Therapies practices.

We recently sat down with Bill to ask him a few questions about his volunteer experiences at Pathways.

What does being a Pathways volunteer mean to me? 

  • Self fulfillment, personal growth
  • Appreciation from the patients and family you serve
What type of volunteer work do you do and which do you like the best?

  • Hospice visits for companionship with patients and caregiver relief
  • Bereavement calling to families who have lost a loved one
  • Integrative therapies committee
What would you say to those who are considering volunteering at Pathways?

  • So many opportunities to give back
  • What skills do you have that you would like to share with others?
We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today.  Thank you, Bill! 

Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteers often find that their greatest satisfaction comes from contributing to the wellbeing of others. They also have the opportunity to apply their talents in fields different from their usual work. For some, volunteering may even lead to a new career. Their gifts of time, energy, and skills fill a unique role that only they can provide. Many volunteers tell us that they learn from working with other dedicated professionals and volunteers.

Finding Your Niche at Pathways

To explore volunteer opportunities at Pathways, call the Manager of Volunteer Services in your area, or visit the “Apply to be a Volunteer” section of our website. After completing an application, you’ll meet with a representative from Volunteer Services to help you find your place at Pathways.

Contact Pathways

In Santa Clara County: 408.773.4219; in Alameda; Contra Costa Counties: 510.613.2017; and in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties: 650.808.4604.  Or visit us online at

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sitting is a Risk Factor for Death

Spending Leisure Time

If you get home from work and want to plop down in a chair for the evening—think again.  You may want to take a break, but get moving again.  A study of more than 120,000 people found that those who spend at least 6 hours of their leisure time sitting died sooner than those who sat less than 3 hours.

People who sit a lot and exercise little are at even higher risk of death, and the effect is stronger for women than men.  The death rate was about 40% higher in women, and 20% higher in men.  The least active women were 94% more likely to die and the least active men were 48% more likely to die.  (100% would mean you were twice as likely to die.)

The study was conducted by the American Cancer Society over 14 years and looked at people 50-74 years old when the study began in 1992.  The main risk linked to sitting was heart disease.

“It is beneficial to encourage sedentary individuals to stand up and walk around as well as to reach optimal levels of physical activity,” according to the study’s authors.  The findings appear in the July 2010 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Melanoma: Look for the Ugly Duckling

Atypical Even for Atypical

A group at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York found that moles in the same person tend to look alike, but a malignant melanoma will often look different from the individual’s mole pattern—the “ugly duckling sign.”

Identifying pigmented moles that look different from a person’s other moles—“even in those with multiple atypical nevi,” said Dr. Ashfaq A. Marghoob, is a practical way to spot malignant melanoma. His research was published in the Archives of Dermatology.

Marghoob and his colleagues had 34 people with varying levels of expertise identify ugly duckling moles in patients with several atypical moles. Participants included 8 mole experts, 13 dermatologists, 5 dermatology nurses, and 8 non-MD medical staff members.  They were shown photographs of the backs and close-ups of moles from 12 patients who had five melanomas, at least eight atypical moles and 140 benign pigmented moles.

All five melanomas and benign moles were identified as different by at least two thirds of the participants.  Investigators concluded that the usefulness of the ugly duckling method in malignant melanoma skin cancer screening by general health care providers and lay persons “should be further assessed.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Managing Pain Without Medication

In addition to medication for pain, there are other things we can do to reduce pain.  Usually these are used in addition to medicine or while waiting for the medicine to work.  But if a resident refuses pain medication, using these techniques may help.

Alternatives to Try

Distraction:  This is an effective technique.  It’s as though the brain can only pay attention to one thing at a time.  Talking, watching TV, playing games or looking at photo albums are some examples.  If the pain is severe, these will not work.

Deep breathing / relaxation exercises:  Guide the person in deep, slow, rhythmic breathing.  There are many relaxation recordings available that are easy to follow.  You can suggest to family members that they purchase relaxation recordings and furnish a listening device.

Cold:  A cold pack (gel pack, ice pack, or zip bag with crushed ice) helps inflammation or muscle ache.  Wrap the pack in a towel; do not put the ice pack directly on the skin.  Even if this does not relieve all pain, it may help to numb the area somewhat.

Warmth:  A warm tub bath or warm packs can relax muscles that have tightened due to pain.  A warm, wet washcloth applied directly to the affected area may help.  Covering the cloth with plastic will help retain the heat longer.

Massage: This is an excellent way to distract from pain and relax tense muscles that make the pain worse.  Lotion may reduce friction.  You do not have to massage the painful area.  Massaging another area of the body may distract the mind from pain.

Prayer / meditation: Some people find this very comforting and perceive less pain during prayer.  There may also be rites or rituals that could comfort the resident.  Ask family members about this.

Music: Music is another form of distraction that research has shown relieves pain.  It does not matter what kind of music, whatever the resident likes will work.  Again, family members can help provide information about musical tastes and recordings and a CD player.

Energy work / therapeutic touch: These are hands-on techniques in which the practitioner places his or her hands on the resident’s clothed body to achieve a transfer of energy.

Acupressure / acupuncture: These techniques apply pressure or needles to specific points on the body to relieve discomfort in other areas that are associated with those points.

Reflection / life review: Those nearing the end of life often want to reflect on the events of their lives and the people they knew.  Asking about family members or the resident’s youth or birth place may assist in starting this kind of life review.

Pets: Research shows that pets improve mood, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and may serve as a good distraction from pain.

Innovative Program at Pathways

Pathways Hospice patients can take advantage of our well developed Integrative Therapies program.  It provides innovative therapies such as guided imagery, comfort touch, music therapy, aromatherapy, massage, and pet therapy.  These therapies are shown to reduce agitation in residents.

If you are interested in learning more about the Integrative Therapies program at Pathways, talk to Pathways staff, or visit our website:  The Resources section includes downloadable information and simple tips for incorporating Integrative Therapies in your daily life too!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Men, Women, and Pain

Rigorous research has concluded that men have a higher threshold for pain.  In a large-scale prospective study of 700 patients conducted by physicians from Tufts-New England Medical Center and San Ignacio Hospital, Bogata, Colombia, researchers examined post-surgical morphine use.  After adjusting for type of surgery and age, women had higher levels of pain intensity throughout the study than men, requiring an average of 30% more morphine on a per-weight basis than men to attain a similar decrease in pain intensity. 

Research results have been mixed, some finding that men required more morphine after surgery than women.  A very large Chinese study found women used significantly less morphine when using patient-controlled analgesia post-operatively, indicating that cultural, ethnic or genetic factors may account for differing research results.  But in animal models, male rats exhibited greater analgesia than female rats to equal doses of opioids.

The researchers wrote that, “Sex differences in pain perception have been attributed to a different socialization process for men and women that influences bodily experience and the willingness to communicate distress. Hormone variations could also in part explain sex differences in pain experience and response to morphine.”