Category Archives: Healthy Living

Mental Health in a Pandemic

Cathy Sneed, LISW

Not many of us have lived through times like these before. Cathy Snead, Senior Life Solutions Therapist for Ringgold County Hospital, outlined some strategies for keeping you and your family mentally strong.

Children
Children have become isolated from some friends and family. Routines have changed, they’re fearful of the virus, and are often spending too much time in front of a computer. Parents can start with the basics and provide a healthy diet and time for exercise and p l a y . “Parents should watch for behavior changes like wanting more time alone, Solutions Therapist acting out verbally, or behavioral outbursts,” said Cathy. “If you are aware of these kinds of changes, seek out expert help as early as possible. Ask a counselor for advice on how to speak with your child. It’s important to listen openly and to encourage them to feel safe asking for and accepting help.”

Parents
Children are not the only ones affected. Parents are being pulled in many directions as they try to work from home while they tend to children and perhaps elderly parents as well. If you or your spouse are experiencing mood changes, wanting to isolate, having crying spells, or are having difficulty concentrating, it’s most likely stress related. Along with counseling, Cathy recommends self-care. “Self-care is being aware of your personal needs,” she explains. “It’s important to make time for yourself to prevent burnout and fatigue during stressful times.” She adds that it’s normal to feel depressed occasionally, but if it continues for extended periods of time, seeking professional help is a good plan. “I suggest they start with their primary care physician to rule out a medical complication,” advised Cathy. “If there are no medical concerns, a mental health professional can help identify techniques and strategies that will work best for the individual.”

Seniors
Seniors are being isolated for the sake of their own physical health, whether they’re in assisted living or in their own homes. They’re missing church, social activities, family visits, and regular meals and routines. According to Cathy, depression in seniors can be mild, evidenced by a low mood, lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy, or insomnia. Major depression affects a person’s thinking and can have them overstressing the negative, having inflexible rules, and taking responsibility for bad events. “Seniors may also experience generalized anxiety, chronic worry, while feeling uptight and restless,” she added. “These are all symptoms that can be exasperated by experiencing the current pandemic.” Friends and family members can offer emotional support and encouragement by listening with intent, offering to take the depressed person to the doctor or medical provider, and sharing validation for their feelings. It’s clear that mental health is as important as physical health. During these trying times, it’s critical that we keep our eyes on each other and watch for signs of stress and anxiety. If you or an older adult need help, or to speak to a professional, contact Senior Life Solutions at 641-464-4468.

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Vaccinations prevent disease

Diseases like polio, measles, mumps, and chickenpox have almost been eradicated by parents choosing to vaccinate their children and prevent them from getting sick.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States earlier this year, it’s been easy to dismiss the other illnesses that can affect ourselves and our children. Because of vaccines, diseases like polio, measles, mumps, and chickenpox are no longer the health threats they once were. But the reason they’ve been almost eradicated is because parents have made sure to vaccinate their children and prevent them from getting sick. According to Katie Willcox, D.O., both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have noticed a decline in vaccinations this year, primarily due to fears of COVID-19. “It’s understandable. Parents don’t want to bring their children into a doctor’s office or clinic. But it’s critical that we stick to the recommended immunization schedule,” she said. Dr. Willcox explained that the schedules are set so the immunizations are received when they are most effective. “It’s really important not to delay.”

Newborn babies get the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth. Then, beginning at two months old, they start getting routine vaccines including: Hib (Hemophilus influenza), Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR); chicken pox, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, among others. “Some parents worry that we give their babies too many vaccines at once,” said Dr. Willcox. “But there is no data to support any issues related to giving multiple vaccines at one time, and in fact it has been shown to improve immunity when certain vaccines are administered together.

Most children receive their vaccines in the first year of life and continue through preschool at the age of four or five. At that point, they’re all set until they reach the age of 11 or 12. “We’ve started recommending Gardasil to prevent the Human Papillomavirus and the meningococcal vaccine for meningitis, with a booster again at age 16,” she said. “Our nurses here at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic do a good job of keeping up with our patients’ immunizations. As children get older, they often get the vaccines during sports physicals when they’re needed.” Dr. Willcox emphasized the importance of 100% participation in a community when it comes to vaccinating children. “We have a way to prevent these communicable diseases that are transmitted from person to person. If we don’t have enough people participating, it doesn’t work. Vaccines protect our children.”

For more information, contact your medical professional, or schedule an appointment at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic: 641-464-4470.

Positive attitude helps in cancer fight

Math teacher, athletic coach, and cancer survivor, Brett Ruggles is surrounded by his family

Regular, routine health screenings are recommended for all adults, usually beginning at the age of 40. Checks for colon and prostate cancers are standard for men as they age. However, one type of cancer, testicular, is the most common malignancy found in young men, ages 15 to 35. There are no screenings for it and in most cases, there is no pain. Bruce Ricker, D.O. advises young men to “know their bodies and be aware of any changes.” For one testicular cancer survivor, Brett Ruggles, pain and discomfort were what drove him to be checked out seven years ago. The Mt. Ayr High School math teacher and basketball and softball coach said, “I started to feel a lot of pain. As males, we don’t talk about things like this. I kept thinking it would go away. It was January and it was basketball season. I thought I could get through it, but then everything started to hurt.” He went to his doctor and got an ultrasound and a pregnancy test. “Here’s an interesting thing,” he said. “I took a pregnancy test! If it comes up positive, you have cancer. Mine was positive.” Once he was diagnosed, he said the staff at Ringgold County Hospital sprang into action. “I went to the front of the line for all testing,” he recalled. He was quickly scheduled for surgery. “I had to announce to the basketball team that I was stepping away for a week or two. It was a tricky time. That team will always be special to me.”

Brett had Stage One, non-seminoma testicular cancer. After his surgery in January in 2013, he went through two cycles of chemotherapy beginning in early March. Like many cancer patients, he suffered hair loss and almost daily nausea. “On one of the hardest days, I remember I was typing lesson plans. I put my hands on my head and my hair was falling out in clumps. Out came the clippers and we shaved my head. I thought, this is for real.” Even on the darkest days, Brett always felt he could fight the cancer. “I remember getting home and thinking, it’s going to take a bigger bus than this to knock me down!” He missed some school days, games, and parent-teacher conferences. “My immune system was so low. And it was prime flu season at school.” But he has made a full recovery and credits his care at RCH and the hospital in Des Moines along with his positive attitude. “I never thought I would lose this battle,” he said. While he was going through treatment, he ran into author Jon Gordon who had written the book, “Feed the Positive Dog.” “I believe it. You must stay positive and fight. I had a T-shirt made!”

Brett had a lot to fight for. With a wife and three children, a high school full of math students, basketball and softball teams, there are plenty of people looking up to him. He was only 32 years old when he was diagnosed. “It’s usually a young man’s disease,” he said. “I was literally on the outside edge for this.” He admitted that when it comes to these personal types of cancers, no one wants to talk about it. “I take a different approach. I joke about it. I bring it up in class. I talk to my guys about the idea of checking themselves. I tell them that if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right. I want everyone around me to understand that it’s ok to talk about.”

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – What you need to know

Ringgold County Hospital, an affiliate of MercyOne, continues to closely monitor the international situation concerning COVID-19. COVID-19, originally referred to as 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCOV), recently discovered in Wuhan, China. Cases of COVID-19 are appearing across the globe, and we are monitoring the virus to help keep our communities healthy.

At Ringgold County Hospital, we are following guidance provided by the CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health to screen patients for symptoms including fever and respiratory signs as well as the patient’s travel history and exposure to those who have traveled. If a person is found to have symptoms and travel history, Ringgold County Hospital will isolate the patient and alert the Iowa Department of Public Health to coordinate testing. 

If you begin to experience symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19, call your primary care provider before coming in.

What are COVID-19 symptoms?
Coronaviruses are respiratory, meaning most people who have a Coronavirus will have a cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, and fever. 

In 80% of patients, COVID-19 causes only mild cold symptoms. The elderly, and those with pre-existing medical conditions appear to be more vulnerable to the virus.

If you begin to experience symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19, call your primary care provider (contact Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic at 641-464-4470) before coming in.

How do people get Coronavirus?
COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, similar to the flu – through the air from a cough or sneeze of someone who has the virus.

It may be possible a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object which has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. 

How can we prevent the spread of COVID-19?
To help prevent the spread of all viruses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth. 
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

Should we wear facemasks to prevent COVID-19?
The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain like grocery stores and pharmacies. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. Learn more about cloth face masks.

If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, follow the steps below to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community:

  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor
  • Stay home except to get medical care
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
  • Wear a facemask
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday
  • Monitor your symptoms

10 ways to manage respiratory symptoms at home – print instructions

Additional Information
More information about the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa can be found on an IDPH website dedicated to the outbreak. Iowans can also call 2-1-1 to get answers to questions about COVID-19. The hotline is staffed 24/7. For the latest CDC guidelines, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Diet Affects Colon Health

Katie Routh, Dietitian

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in cancers that affect men and women. The colon is the final part of your digestive tract. Since it’s part of the digestive system, the food you eat is an important factor in the health of your colon. Do you want to keep your colon healthy? 
• Eat a nutrient-dense diet
• Include more fiber-rich foods

Eating a nutrient-dense, high fiber diet not only keeps the walls of your colon strong, but it can also prevent hemorrhoids or pouches in your colon. Katie Routh, Ringgold County Hospital dietitian adds, “It also may prevent colon polyps, and potentially, cancer.” A typical American diet is low in nutrient density with larger portions of processed meats and refined grains, such as breads and cereals. “Our mid-western diet tends to be lower in nutritional value,” says Katie.

Fiber-rich foods, like fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts and seeds, are also more nutrient-dense.
And the fiber keeps you regular and controls the amount of bacteria in your colon. “The nutrients in those foods also may be beneficial in preventing digestive diseases as well as other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and help you manage your weight,” says Katie. When increasing fiber in your diet, do it gradually, and drink plenty of water.