NeuroHealth: Our brains, spines, nerves & minds are all connected. Now you can connect to the latest info from the University of Michigan’s neuro & mental health specialists, and neuroscientists, all in one place.
Caregivers all agree: Focusing on yourself when you’re caring for a loved one is difficult at best. But caring for yourself and doing what’s needed to stay happy and healthy are important to your success as a caregiver and in avoiding caregiver burnout.
Here are some tips to make sure you’re the best you can be, despite the emotional and physical challenges of caregiving:
Take time to do small things that bring simple pleasures: Take a walk, listen to music, engage in a hobby or bake a favorite dessert — anything that makes you happy.
Pamper yourself with a massage, pedicure, yoga class – whatever makes you feel relaxed and renewed.
Take care of your body: Eat a well-balanced diet and be sure to get enough sleep. Take naps when you need to. Exercise as much as possible – but realize that even a short, brisk walk is helpful to your mind and body.
Don’t lose your sense of humor. Call a friend who makes you laugh, read a feel-good book or rent a light-hearted movie. Continue reading →
Michael Seyffert, M.D., a neurologist and U-M psychiatrist-in-training, is also a flight surgeon in the Air National Guard.
Veterans’ issues get special focus during Veterans Day week, but Dr. Michael Seyffert focuses on the brains of our recently returned service men and women, and veterans from past conflicts, all year round.
He’s in the last year of psychiatry training at U-M, after more than a decade in practice as a neurologist and sleep specialist. That gives him a double perspective on the brain.
Meanwhile, his service as a lieutenant colonel and flight surgeon in the 127th Wing of the Air National Guard at Selfridge Air Force Base, and experience treating patients on the psychiatry service at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, helps him understand the demands of military service and the challenges veterans face.
At a recent outreach event, I asked people to name something they could do to reduce their risk for developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The most common answer that I received was, “do crossword puzzles.”
While crossword puzzles and other brain games are great for your mind, another important and effective way to reduce your risk of dementia is with physical activity. Numerous research studies have linked regular physical activity to a reduced risk of experiencing cognitive decline and developing dementia.
How does it work? Use it or lose it! As we age, our brains tend to shrink. Physical exercise, however, counteracts this process and actually enables our brains to grow new neurons. In fact, brain imaging studies comparing the brains of active versus inactive adults have found the brains of active adults are larger, especially in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is responsible for memory. Continue reading →
Donna Poole, recovering from her aneurysm surgery at U-M early in 2013.
This is part 2 of a two-part blog entry submitted by U-M brain aneurysm patient Donna Poole. Read Part 1 here.
On the day of my aneurysm surgery, my family waited for many hours as Dr. Gregory Thompson and his crew took me apart and put me back together.
The big words for what happened in surgery are right-sided supraorbital craniotomy for aneurysm clipping. Essentially, it involved immobilizing my skull, cutting through skin and scalp, drilling through my skull, opening the protective membranes that surround the brain, and gently continuing down until they got to the aneurysm on the anterior communicating artery at the bottom of my brain.
Later, Dr. Thomspon told me later that the aneurysm was so close to rupturing he did something he seldom does. He used a temporary clip. He then used three permanent clips to deprive the aneurysm of its blood supply.
When the surgical team finished they backed their way out, using four way flashers. OK, kidding about the flashers. But when it was done, they closed the skin with temporary staples. Our daughter counted 48 of them. I wish I had saved them but didn’t think to ask for them at the time. They may have come in handy for deck repair.
The staples in my head looked like a zipper, making me a proud member of what our aneurysm support group calls the Zipperhead Club. I also have 13 pieces of permanent hardware in my head.
The surgical team sent me off to the ICU with instructions for frequent “neuro checks”: that’s hospital code for bug the patient with questions day and night. After repeatedly answering the same questions I decided the serious team of University of Michigan doctors and nurses needed a laugh.
So, when they asked for the umpteenth time if I knew what hospital I was in, I answered I was at Ohio State. There was a moment of shocked silence… before the room exploded with laughter. Dr. Thompson said, “I was going to tell you that you were one of my favorite patients, but not now!”
I loved the competent, compassionate U-M neuro nurses, especially the sweet, short one with the Scottish accent. She challenged me to do what I needed to do to get out of the hospital and sent me home with a hug and a kiss. Hug a nurse the next time you get a chance.
A mere 48 hours after surgery found me home in bed, with flowers, meals, calls, cards, gifts, and visits from family and church family surrounding me like a blanket of love.
A month ago, I marked six months since surgery. Unlike many aneurysm survivors I do not have serious handicaps, but I am not exactly as I was before.
Things that were simple before confuse me now. I cannot smell, which comes in handy because of the mountain of manure that sits behind our backyard. Nothing tastes the way I remember, but it doesn’t stop me from eating. My balance is still a bit off, and my short-term memory problems could give three comedians enough material for full-time work.
They tell me that it takes 18 months for complete healing, so I fully expect to make more progress.
Mostly, I am grateful. I am grateful to God, and to the skilled doctors and nurses, especially Dr. Thompson, my gifted and gracious surgeon. I am grateful to my husband who did so much for me when I could do so little. I am grateful to my children and grandchildren for their help and their humor. I am thankful for our church family. I am grateful to my online aneurysm family, the Facebook support group, 868 members strong and growing daily.
Hover over this image to pin it to your Pinterest board.
Most of all I am happy to be alive. I celebrate love and laughter every day. My aneurysm was, in many ways, a gift to me. It reminded me, in a way I will never forget, that life is too short for anything but love.
It is love that makes me holler to you, “Watch out!” That aneurysm fast ball can hit you next. Be aware of the symptoms. You can learn more on the site of the Joe Niekro Foundation.
Take your loved ones out to a ball game. Hug them tightly and tell them you love them. If a fast ball reaches the stands, you decide what to do. Either catch it and get it autographed, or duck!
Read and share the brain aneurysm symptoms shared in this post.
For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.
U-M brain aneurysm patient Donna Poole today, with her granddaughter
Part 1 of 2
Life surprises us with many kinds of stray balls. Take Joe Niekro, one of the top knuckleball pitchers in history with 221 career wins. Even he couldn’t outplay the stray ball of an aneurysm that exploded in his brain on October 26, 2006. He died the next day at age 61.
I am not a sports fan, but I see Joe’s name every day when I log on to Facebook and visit the aneurysm support group page that carries his name. During this Aneurysm Awareness Month, I hope his story and my own can help others.