Healthy Living in the North

Learning from Nana: Making small changes to prevent falls and stay independent

Old photograph of a woman.

Amy’s Nana taught her some valuable lessons on healthy aging and staying independent.

At 90 years old, my Nana still splashed her face 10 times each morning with cold water – a tip she once read in a fashion magazine from celebrity Marilyn Monroe to keep the skin free of wrinkles. After this morning splash, Nana would dress and prepare to leave the retirement home for ice cream with her boyfriend (the only eligible bachelor in the facility who still held a valid driver’s licence).

While the story is endearing, it also shares a valuable lesson about aging: none of us ever believe we really do age. We may believe we gain wisdom or earn some much-needed free time through retirement, but it is hard for any of us to imagine the physical changes to our body that lead to a loss of independence. Even at 90, Nana did not compromise her lifestyle. She and the family just found ways to manage some of the risks that accompany aging.

Change is hard at any age so it is important to plan for it.

This year, BC Seniors Falls Prevention Awareness Week is November 7-13. Falls pose the greatest risk of injury and hospitalization to adults over age 65. I want everyone to know there are things you can do to reduce the risk and maintain your independence.

FindingBalanceBC has 4 protective factors that can reduce the risk of falls:

#1: Exercise

  • The more you move, the more your body can support changes in balance.

#2: Annual vision testing

  • Yearly vision testing is covered by MSP for those people over age 65.

#3: Home safety evaluation

  • Keeping your independence is often a matter of making small changes at home. Think handrails, grab bars, walking aids, better lighting, etc.

#4: Medication review

  • Be sure to keep a current list of all medications you take to share with your health care providers.

We all have a role to play when it comes to the safety of our loved ones. When Nana’s boyfriend was no longer able to drive, for example, she just called us to take the two of them for ice cream! Even children can help by taking a safety superhero challenge!

What’s the saying? “It is not the years in our lives, but the life in our years that matter” (Abraham Lincoln)

Plan to make the small changes needed to stay injury free and independent for the longest possible time!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Sharing of cultural practices in health care transitions

“I can’t emphasize how important it is for health care professionals to take the lead in asking these questions (about cultural practices), in peeling back the layers of assumptions, and finding out specifically how we can assist and make any transition smoother. Things will go better if those questions are asked right away and then I’ve always found when that happens, those questions are met with relief almost and answers are immediate” -Coco Miller, Kitselas, Tsimshian Nation

Young boy carrying drum

A young drummer at a video launch event in Kitselas.

The Terrace/Kitimat and Area Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) is pleased to launch two videos that share information for health care providers about the Tsimshian, Tahltan, Haisla, Gitxsan, and Nisga’a peoples’ cultural practices and how they impact their health care needs.

In 2014-2016, Aboriginal Health provided financial support for each of the eight AHICs in the north to develop local cultural resources. Development of these resources was guided by the question: “If I were a new health care provider in Northern Health, what you would want me to know?”

The Terrace/Kitimat and Area AHIC produced the following videos which focus on cultural practices for important life transitions:

These videos cover important topics relevant for life events that often take place in the health system including:

  • the importance of families gathering and being together,
  • the cultural roles of the family,
  • the diversity of practices among families and Nations,
  • how Northern Health staff can support families and their cultural practices, and
  • the importance of communication between the patient/family and care providers.

“I think it’s very important to have family there and friends to be around us to support us, pray for us. They are there to feed us. Especially for the young ones to be there to witness what we have to go through during the time of a death. It’s very important for them to know how we feel and see the experience.” -Roberta Grant, Haisla Nation

Group of six adults with gift bags.

Celebrating the launch of the AHIC videos in Kitselas.

“The Grandmother comes to visit and is in the delivery room also. She will take the baby and examine the baby to look for any recognizable birth marks on the baby because, in our belief, our family comes back through reincarnation. An aunt of the father also needs to be in the delivery room because we have her role to be to cut the umbilical cord because this signifies their role as the father clan. The child is no longer just belonging to the mother’s family (the maternal family) but the child also belongs to the paternal family.” -Verna Howard, Gitxsan/Wet’suwet’en Nation

I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch these videos and share them with others. The information contained in these videos is an amazing gift from the Tsimshian, Tahltan, Haisla, Gitxsan and Nisǥa’a peoples.

I hope the videos inspire all of us to continue collaborating and learning and that you find them helpful in your life and your work.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, I encourage you to contact Lloyd McDames, the Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Terrace.

Another way to develop your understanding of First Nations and Aboriginal peoples is the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training, an online course by the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Find more work done by the AHICs from across the north in this booklet of local cultural resources.

 

Cultural practices around birth

Cultural practices around illness and death

Jonathan Cooper

About Jonathan Cooper

Jonathan Cooper is the Health Service Administrator for Kitimat. His role includes many aspects of health care responsibilities for acute, complex care and community services in Kitimat. Jonathan has been in this role approaching 8 years, during which time he has been actively participating in many health committees, including the Terrace, Kitimat & Region Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee. Jonathan immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom where he worked for the National Health Service. Jonathan enjoys outdoor pursuits, cooking, reading, and spending time with his family and children.

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Safe driving: Expecting the unexpected every day of the year

Halloween decorations

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

“Drive like it’s Halloween every night”

This was the name of the Parachute Canada & FedEx media release for Halloween safety in 2013. It is still a great message today.

In B.C., there are an average of 2,400 pedestrians injured and 58 killed in crashes every year. So while it’s a great reminder to be cautious on Halloween when we expect to see more children outside, safe driving is a habit, not a once a year trick-or-treat event. Safe driving is about expecting the unexpected on the other 364 days of the year.

Drivers every day, everywhere can:

  • Reduce distractions
  • Reduce speeds
  • Share the road

Children on Halloween night can:

  • Walk facing traffic
  • Walk down one side of the street then the other – don’t dart back and forth
  • Wear face paint instead of a mask

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

Join Northern Health to make safe driving a habit. And this Halloween, make your costume stand out – dress to be seen both on and off the roads.

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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La Leche League of Canada: Raven Thunderstorm talks about breastfeeding supports

Breastfeeding baby. Photo by April Mazzelli.The first week of October is World Breastfeeding Week in Canada! It is a great time to reflect on breastfeeding as an investment in healthy babies, mothers and communities. You can read more about World Breastfeeding Week here (and don’t forget to share your story for a chance to win a great prize!).

Yes, breastfeeding is natural; however moms need time and support to learn how. We are very fortunate to have individuals across the North who are passionate about breastfeeding advocacy and support. Raven Thunderstorm, from Terrace BC, is one such individual who wears many hats in the breastfeeding community: La Leche League Leader, birth Doula, and Childbirth Educator with the Douglas College Prenatal Program in Terrace.

What is a La Leche League Leader you may ask? Raven explains that the La Leche League of Canada provides mother-to-mother breastfeeding support through phone calls, emails or in person. Raven describes it as a safe place where any woman can get practical information about breastfeeding in a non-judgmental and supportive environment.  They host monthly groups on a variety of topics including benefits of breastfeeding, challenges, nutrition, and weaning. They also discuss some common myths and misconceptions about breastfeeding. For example, a common worry for new mothers is low milk supply, or that they won’t be able to produce enough for their baby. However, most moms are able to produce more than enough milk for their babies, as long as baby is feeding often and transferring milk effectively. It may be helpful to know that babies have tiny tummies – they start off as the size of a cherry! Also, a baby who seems fussy at the breast may be experiencing a growth spurt, and frequent feedings is actually your baby’s way of telling your body to make more milk – how amazing is that!

Raven’s interest in becoming a La Leche League Leader originated from her own experiences with breastfeeding her daughter while living in Iskut. She remembers that there were very little supports available for mothers in rural areas at the time, and in many areas that is still the case. She was fortunate to connect with a La Leche League Leader from Vancouver, and received valuable support over the phone. For women who may be encountering challenges with breastfeeding and are having difficulties accessing supports in their communities, Raven suggests picking up the phone and calling any of the La Leche League central telephone lines.

For information, resources and support visit the online breastfeeding community at La Leche League Canada Website, or find a La Leche League group  in your area.

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

As a Community Dietitian based in Terrace, Emilia supports 15 different aboriginal communities in the Nass Valley, Kitimaat Village and the Hazeltons. Emilia recently completed her dietetics internship with Northern Health as part of her dietetics training from the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about finding unique, client-centered approaches to supporting families in their current feeding efforts. In her free time, Emilia enjoys cooking, mountain biking and cross country skiing.

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What does breastfeeding mean to you?

lindsay470w

Public health nurse Lindsay with her two children.

Did you know October 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week in Canada?  This year’s theme is Breastfeeding: An Investment in Healthy Communities. It’s a great time to recognize and promote the far-reaching social, environmental, and health benefits of breastfeeding for babies, mothers, and resilient communities. I recently spoke to Lindsay Willoner, a public health nurse and mother of two, about her perspective of the joys of breastfeeding and what breastfeeding means to her and her children.

“As a working mother of two, very little has brought me more joy than being able to successfully breastfeed both my children to the age of 1 year old and beyond. Many times I felt undervalued, in all aspects of my life, as I know many mothers do, because both breastfeeding and being a mother have challenges that most mothers must endure. The sheer love and devotion between both mother and baby always amazes me. I find such comfort, warmth, and peace with still feeding my youngest who is now 17 months old. It is our time to sit, be still, slow down, and absorb the busy world around us. It is at these times that I find the most relaxation from a crazy, hectic life. Sometimes I think about how I will never get this time back with my growing baby, and to just be in love with every moment together is what’s most important to me.”

Thank you Lindsay for sharing your experiences with breastfeeding! Do you have a breastfeeding story or experience to share? Tell us what breastfeeding means to you, your family, and your community by entering Northern Health’s World Breastfeeding Week contest before October 7!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

As a Community Dietitian based in Terrace, Emilia supports 15 different aboriginal communities in the Nass Valley, Kitimaat Village and the Hazeltons. Emilia recently completed her dietetics internship with Northern Health as part of her dietetics training from the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about finding unique, client-centered approaches to supporting families in their current feeding efforts. In her free time, Emilia enjoys cooking, mountain biking and cross country skiing.

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World Breastfeeding Week: Share your Story!

preferred-bWorld Breastfeeding Week starts tomorrow and we want to celebrate!  I want to share some history about this important week with you, and be sure to read to the end to learn about our World Breastfeeding Week campaign starting today and your chance to win a breast milk pump!

World Breastfeeding Week, a week aimed at generating public awareness and support for breastfeeding, is celebrated annually around the world. While the official dates for World Breastfeeding Week are August 1 to 7, commemorating the signing of the Innocenti Declaration in 1990, many countries celebrate national breastfeeding week at a different time in order to increase public participation and attention. Much of Canada celebrates the first week of October, the 40th week of the year, to recognize the first week of life after nine months of gestation, when a baby begins to breastfeed.

The theme is set annually each year by WABA (World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action), and this year’s theme in BC is “Breastfeeding: An Investment in Healthy Communities.”

We all have a role to play to foster healthy infant nutrition and breastfeeding support across the north.

On a daily basis throughout British Columbia, support for women of all ages, races, cultures, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic circumstances helps them to meet their individual breastfeeding goals in their homes, communities, workplaces, schools, hospitals, community centres, and health care provider offices. Many of these resources can be found on the breastfeeding page of the Northern Health website. Other assistance can come from community support from friends, civic facilities, and workplace colleagues.

Share the story of your breastfeeding journey!

Breastfeeding is a natural and normal way of feeding infants and young children. But we all need support and guidance sometimes. Share the story of your breastfeeding journey to help support those who may need encouragement when facing their own experiences! We want to hear from all perspectives – whether you’re a mom, a dad, a partner, or a family member of a breastfeeding mom, your journey is your own!

All submissions will be entered into a random draw for one of two great prizes – an Ameda Purely Yours breast milk pump and a $40 gift card to Everything Baby.

Visit our contest page to enter, or share your story on the contest post on our Facebook page. Let’s help support every mom and family through breastfeeding!

Jeanne Hagreen

About Jeanne Hagreen

Jeanne has been a Lactation Consultant since 1993. She worked for Northern Health for 38 years, first as a nurse on the Maternal-Child Units, then 20.5 years as a Lactation Consultant. During this time, she also returned to school and earned her BSN from UNBC. Following her retirement at the end of September 2015, Jeanne has remained an active member of local, regional & provincial perinatal committees. She is also co-president of the BC Lactation Consultant Association. Jeanne was born in Whitehorse, Yukon and also lived in Campbell River, Victoria, Toronto and Vancouver. In 1975, she moved to Prince George with her husband and two small sons. In addition to her volunteer work, she is an avid knitter and reader. She enjoys living in the rural community of Salmon Valley with a small menagerie of animals, along with the wildlife that passes through her yard.

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Concussion: There’s an app for that!

I’m sure many of us know someone who has suffered a concussion, or been unfortunate enough to experience one personally. I know several of my friends have been diagnosed with a concussion in the last few months alone.

Concussions don’t just happen in major car crashes and extreme hockey hits. A concussion is any blow to the body or head that causes the brain to move around inside the skull. This could be caused by a seemingly minor fall or hit, even where you don’t lose consciousness at all.

There are several red flag symptoms to watch for if you suspect a concussion. If you see any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Red flag symptoms of concussion

  • Neck pain
  • Increased confusion or irritability
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizure or convulsion
  • Weakness in arms/legs
  • Tingling or burning in arms/legs
  • Deteriorating consciousness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe or increasing headache
  • Unusual behaviour change
  • Double vision
App graphic

Concussion Ed is available in the Apple App Store as well as Google Play for Android devices. Concussion Ed is also available via a web-based version for Blackberry and Windows users.

If you or your child has been diagnosed with a concussion, physical and mental rest are important in making a full recovery. Parachute Canada has made learning about concussions and tracking healing easy with their new app, Concussion Ed.

Why download a concussion app?

Parachute Canada cautions:

the real dangers of most concussions occur when the injury is not recognized or is managed incorrectly. Returning to activities too early can put a child at increased risk for future concussions and serious complications.

The Concussion Ed app is designed to provide easy-to-follow information geared towards parents, youth, and educators. Concussion Ed can be used for anyone caring for a child who is suspected of having or recovering from a concussion. This app provides a format to share information with your health care provider to ensure the best care and recovery.

Concussion Ed features

  • Ways to prevent concussions
  • Recognize a concussion
  • Manage symptoms after a concussion
  • Track your recovery

Concussion facts

  • Concussions do not always include a loss of consciousness.
  • Helmets do not protect against concussions, but do protect from skull fractures.
  • A hit to the body can cause a concussion, even if the head was not hit.
  • The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be delayed up to weeks post injury.

Watch Concussion 101: A Primer for Kids and Parents then download Concussion Ed to learn more!

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

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Back to school: The connection protection

School bus

Back-to-school time reminds us of our connection to the built environment, school and playground.

This is the second year now where my daughter gears up for school and my son gears up to wait. My 4-year-old son has one more year at home before beginning his school journey in kindergarten in September 2017.

When I watch my 4-year-old wave to his sister as she walks to school, I am reminded of the many connections that exist at back-to-school time and how each of these connections will protect our family. Northern Health’s newly released Child Health Report would go so far as to say connection is one of the building blocks of health.

The first week of school is the perfect time to talk to kids about making new friends, showing kindness to others, and extending tolerance and acceptance. The pencils, patterns, and routines of a new school year help connect and ground our children to each other and the physical world around them in a way that the global community (internet and social media) cannot.

September and back-to-school season is a time to reconnect and connection can be a positive force in a child’s life for the long term. As parents, we can support the wonder, excitement and connection to education:

Back-to-school season also reminds us of our connection to the built environment, school, and playground. Motor vehicle crashes continue to lead the injury-related hospitalizations for children in the North. A community approach to safety develops our “connection protection”:

  • Make eye contact. Learn about pedestrian safety. Talk to kids while crossing the street about making eye contact or a connection with drivers. Look, listen, and be seen.
  • Use the crosswalk. Take the time to hold hands, connect, and walk with children while crossing; kids under age 10 are not ready to judge traffic safely and still rely on parents and drivers to protect them.
  • Slow down. Finally, view school zones as one last chance for an important connection. My 4-year-old thinks a 30 km/hr school zone is the slow zone by which he can wave goodbye to his sister for the day. For now, I will let him think that’s exactly what it is!
Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Is distracted driving really only about cellphones?

When I heard of the new distracted driving fines increasing, I have to admit, I was pleased. When I am on the road, I see countless people texting or talking on cellphones and I feel a little nervous driving alongside them.

When I think of distracted driving, I think cellphones. I think of that phone call I have been waiting for that happens to come in as I am driving home. I think of the buzz of a text tempting me to just take a peek while the red light seems to go on and on.

What I didn’t really consider is the passing of water bottles to the backseat because my children are acting like they have been days without water as a distraction. I did not consider the radio surfing to find the right song a distraction. These all take my eyes off the road and my mind away from driving, even for a few precious and seemingly harmless seconds. Although the actual law is for handheld electronic devices, when it comes to preventing injury and death, distracted driving is anything that distracts you from driving, period.

Cellphones are the most common distraction for drivers and are thought to be the cause of high numbers of car crashes and fatalities in recent years. In fact, in 2011, distracted driving caused more car crash fatalities in B.C. than impaired driving. We have good evidence that cellphones and driving do not mix, but what about other distractions? It’s curious that I had only framed distracted driving around cellphones. I am sure I am not the only one.

I am not saying that it is impossible to change the radio station while waiting patiently for the light to change. What I am saying is that maybe we should be looking at everything that distracts us while we navigate a 1500 kg complex machine while moving at speeds up to 120 km/hr with our loved ones beside us. When I first earned my licence, I remember feeling humbled in my responsibility to navigate my car in complex scenarios and to keep myself and those around me safe in potentially dangerous situations. With so many years of driving under my belt, I am a confident driver but, dare I say, a bit lacking in remembering my responsibility as a driver to stay focused and attentive.

This summer while I am driving out to the lake, I will enjoy the sunshine and the songs on the radio about summer, but will commit to being more attentive than I have as of late. I will continue to not let a cellphone distract me, and will also plan ahead to ensure that other people or circumstances will not take my focus away from the road.

Join me in making this commitment to not get distracted while driving and keep our loved ones safe this summer!

 

Distracted driving in B.C. (ICBC)

Distracted driving in B.C. (infographic) ICBC

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

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First Nations books: Children’s books exploring the Northwest Coast

Library bookshelf

The hunt for the perfect children’s book can be a challenge! When you are next searching, be sure to check out the collection of vibrant, beautiful books featuring local First Nations stories!

The hunt for the perfect children’s book can be a challenge. The number of options available can be overwhelming. In British Columbia, especially in the North, we are lucky enough to have access to culturally diverse reading material to offer our children.

Where I live, books featuring the Northwest’s vibrant First Nations cultures provide an opportunity for members of these communities to share their culture with others. In addition, for First Nations children, having materials that feature their local culture allows them to see images they are able to identify with and relate to. While it is also important to expose children to topics and subjects outside of their culture (broad background knowledge is important to later reading comprehension) having relatable materials can be a great way to transmit important information to the next generation.

The problem? Sometimes these books are not quite at the level that we need for a particular child. Rather than writing them off, though, try adapting the books to make them “just right” for your child’s level of development!

Garfinkel Publications has published a lovely series of books about exploring the Northwest Coast. Titles include Where is Mouse Woman?, Goodnight World, and Learn & Play with First Nations and Native Art. The images in these books are beautiful and very eye-catching for young children. Many of these stories are great for toddlers as there are lots of labels and not too much text.

How to adapt for the older preschool child? Try describing the pictures in more detail, or have the child make up a story for the images on the page. The picture provides them with a topic and allows them to practice using different kinds of sentences. It also gives the adult a chance to provide additional information that might not be in the book.

One of my personal favourites featuring a Northwest story is the book Raven: A Tricktser Tale from the Pacific Northwest, by Gerald McDermott. This book is a recounting of a traditional Haida story of how the sun came to be. The story is beautifully written but can be a bit long for some preschool children. Try simplifying the story, sticking only to the key elements (this means you will have to preread and do a bit of planning). As your child grows, you can add in more of the story or choose just a few pages (whichever ones your child is interested in) to discuss.

The great thing about books is there are many ways to read them. Feel free to be flexible in your story time to make whichever books you like work for you and your child.


Learn more about Northern Health’s Speech and Language Program.

Jackie Taylor

About Jackie Taylor

Jackie is a speech and language pathologist living and working in Queen Charlotte, Haida Gwaii. She grew up on the opposite coast (Saint John, New Brunswick) and graduated from McGill University in 2011. When she isn’t working, Jackie enjoys running and taking her dog for swims in the ocean.

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